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the novel o+f


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Title:O+F
Author:JohnMoncureWetterau
ReleaseDate:February9,2004[eBook#11005]
Language:English
***STARTOFTHEPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKO+F***
Copyright(c)2003byJohnMoncureWetterau


O+F
JohnMoncureWetterau

Copyright(c)2000byJohnMoncureWetterau.

LibraryofCongressNumber:00-193498
ISBN#:Hardcover0-7388-5815-3
Softcover0-9729587-1-1
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Thisisaworkoffiction.Names,characters,placesandincidentseitherarethe
productoftheauthor'simaginationorareusedfictitiously,andanyresemblance
toanyactualpersons,livingordead,events,orlocalesisentirelycoincidental.
ThisbookwasprintedintheUnitedStatesofAmerica.
Acknowledgements:
CoverartbyMajoKeleshian.IwanttothankMajo,SylvesterPollet,andNancy
Wallaceforsufferingthroughearlyversionsofthebookandforofferinguseful
suggestions.ThankstoFrancoisCamoinandtheVermontCollegeMFAprogram
forgivingmeagoodshovedowntheroadtofiction.AndthankstoEllenMiller
forherconsistentencouragementandsupport.
forRosy

1.

Tall.Darkhair.Nosealmoststraight.Mouthcurvingaroundprominentteeth.
Beautiful,Oliverrealizedastheireyesmetperfectly.
"Francesca,sorryI'mlate,"anotherwomansaid,guidingtwogirlsintothenext
booth.
"Ijustgothere."
"Hi,Mommy."Francesca'ssmileturneddown,traveledaround,andturnedup
independentlyateachcorner.
"Hi,Sweetheart.Turnaround,now."
OneofthegirlswaslookingtentativelyatOliver,holdingthetopofthebooth
withbothhands.Hewavedather,raisedhiseyebrows,andbenttohiseggs.


Toast.Nothingliketoast.Hewipeduptheremainingyolk.Where'sthehusband?
ProbablyoneofthosejerksinaLandRover.Abadgolfer.Cheats.Christ.Oliver
dranktherestofhiscoffeeandpreparedtoleave.Asheslidsidewaysacrossthe


greenplasticseat,heagaincaughtthewoman'seyes.Theywerecalmand
questioning,brownwithdeepeningcentersthecoloroftheinnerheartofblack
walnut.HestoodandnoddedintheJapanesemanner.Noonewouldhave
noticed,unlessperhapsforherfriend.
Hebuttonedhiscoatbeforepushingopentheouterdoorofthediner.Theairwas
damp,tingedwithcarexhaustanddiesel.Thefirstflakesofanortheaster
coastedinnocentlytotheground.Francesca—whatasmile!Sheremindedhim
oftheyoungSinatrainFromHereToEternity,awkwardandgracefulatthe
sametime.Thefriendwasheavierandlookedunmarried,acareerteacher,
maybe.Problemsonshortleashesyappedaroundherheels.Olivershrugged,
pulledawatchcapoverhisears,andwalkedtowardtheOldPort.
Acarpulledover."OliveOil!"GeorgeGoodbeanshouted."Wantaride?"
"Takingmylifeinmyhands,"Oliversaid,gettingin.
"It'sagooddaytodie,"Georgesaid.
"Aren'tweromantic."
"Artistsliveontheedge,OliveOil.Wheretheviewis."Apickuppassedathigh
speed,hittingapotholeandsplatteringmudacrossthewindshield."Moron!"
Georgereachedforthewiperswitch.
Thestreetreappeared."Ahh,"Oliversaid,"nowthere'saview."
"Whyisit,theworsetheweather,theworsetheydrive?"Georgeasked.
"Dunno.Itisn'tevenbadyet."
"Assholes,"Georgesaid.
"Yeah.Iboughtsomeblackwalnut,"Oliversaid."Ijustsawawomanin
Becky's;shehadeyesthesamecolor."
"YouwantIshouldgoback?"
"I'mtooshortforher,"Oliversaid.


"Youneverknow.SomeofthoseshortpeopleinHollywoodhavebig
reputations."
"They'restars,"Oliversaid."I'mjustshort."
"Whatareyoudoingwiththewood?"
"Haven'tdecided—maybeatable."
"I'mgettingintocasting.Yououghttocomeover;I'mgoingtotryoutmy
furnace."
"Castingwhat?"
"Bronze.Smallpieces."
"Hey,whoa,letmeout."Oliverpointedattheferryterminal,and
Georgestopped.
"Yeah,comeonovertomorrowmorning,ifyou'renotdoinganything."
"O.K.,I'llsee."
Georgebeepedtwiceanddroveintothethickeningsnow.Oliverboughtaticket
forPeaksIsland.Theferrywasnearlyempty,cheerfulwithitshighsnubbow
paintedyellow,whitesuperstructure,andredroof.Itwasnotasspiritedasthe
redandblacktugsthatherdtankerstotheMontrealpipeline,nothingcould
matchthetugboats—buttheferrywasclose;ithadthehumantouch,adorythat
couldn'tstayawayfromcheesecake,broadinthebeam,resolute,proofagainst
thecoldrollersoftheouterbay.Aftertwolongblasts,theferrychurnedaway
fromthewharf.Alineofgullsontheleesideofarooftopwatchedthemmove
intothechannelandgatherspeed.
Twentyminuteslater,theferryslowed,shuddered,andstoppedatthePeaks
Islandlanding.Oliverwalkeduphilltothemainstreet,unsurewhyhehadcome.
Habittookhimaroundbyhisformerhouse.Nolightswereon,nosignof
anyonehome.Hecontinuedaroundtheblock,surprisedathisdisappointment.
Hehadn'tseenCharlotteforsixmonthsandhadnoreasontoseehernow.He
consideredthisoveracupofcoffeeatWill's.Itwasnaturaltocheckin
sometimeswitholdfriends.Imean,weweremarried,hetoldhiscup.


Jealousyisasymptom—liketheeffectsofdrought.Owltoldhimthatonce.They
hadbeenstandingontheclubdock,havingoneoftheirrareconversations.He
wastellingOwlaboutKiersten,howshewouldn'ttakehimseriously,hersmile
alwaysforGary—stareverything.Owl'svoicewassympatheticbutwitha
dissatisfiededge,asthoughhewereimpatientwithorimprisonedbyhis
superiority,histenureatBrown,hisaluminumboat,oneofthefastestonthe
sound.
Oliverneverthoughttoaskforanexplanation,andthen,sadly,itwastoolate.It
wasyearsbeforeheunderstoodOwl'sjealousypronouncement.Hewasn't
jealousanylonger,certainlynotwhereKierstenwasconcerned.God,she'd
driveneverybodycrazy.Territory—nowthatwasdifferent.Youwantyourown
territory,yourownmate,yourhouse,yourspace.Itstillpissedhimofftoseehis
oldgaragesurroundedbyMike'smessypilesofbuildingmaterials.Buthewasn't
jealous.Charlottewasbetteroffwithouthim;shehadachild,finally.
Thewaitresshadatolerantsmile.ThankGodforwaitresses.Heleftabigtipand
gotbackontheferry.
SnowwasdriftingagainstbrickbuildingsasOliverwalkedintotheOldPort.He
decidedtostopforapint.Deweyswasbusy;peoplewerepackingitinearly,
findingstrengthinnumbers."AGuinness,"heordered,"forthisfineMarchday."
Samsetadarkglass,overflowing,onthebarinfrontofhim.Oliverbent
forwardandslurpedamouthful."YoucouldliveonGuinnessfoam,"hesaid.
"Andtheoccasionalpieceofcheese,"Samsaid.PattiPagewassinging,"I
rememberthenightofTheTennesseeWaltz..."Hervoice,thefiddle,thestately
waltztoldtheoldstory:"stolemysweetheartfromme..."Onewayoranother,
soonerorlater,wearealldefeated.Oliverfeltaswellofsadnessandthe
beginningofliberation.
"God,whatasong,"hesaidtoMarkBarnes,whohadcomeupbesidehim.
"Classic.Howyoudoing,guy?"
"Hanginginthere."Morepeoplecamein,stampingsnowfromtheirboots.Patti
PagegavewaytoTomWaitsbeltingout,JerseyGirl."Anotherclassic,"Oliver
said.TragedywasjustoffstageinJerseyGirl,momentarilyheldatbaybysex
andloveandhope."Alldownhillfromhere,Mark."


"Lifeisfine,myman."
"What?Mustbeanewdancerintown.Howdoyoudoit,anyway?"
"Innatesensuality,"Marksaid."Oneglanceacrossacrowdedroom..."
"Yeah,right.Myroomsarecrowdedwithwomeninblackpantswhohaveeyes
onlyforeachother.Although,IdidseeabeautyinBecky'sthismorning.Had
twolittlegirlswithher—-andafriend."
"Whatkindoffriend?"
"Aladyfriend,notablackpantser,I'mprettysure.Francesca,hernamewas."
"Francesca?Tallchick?Goodlooking?"
"Iwouldn'tcallherachick,exactly.MorelikeaMadonnaby
Modigliani."
"Yeah,Francesca.ShelivesinCapeElizabeth.Iwasinayogaclasswithher
once."
"Ioughttotakeyoga,"Oliversaid.
"Theratioisgood,man.Francesca.Thatwasyearsago.Shemarriedsomeguy
whoworksforHannaford's."
"Iknewit,"Oliversaid.
"Theycan'thelpit,"Marksaid."Theyhavethisnestingthing."Dancerscameto
Portland,walkedaroundtheblockacoupleoftimes,andmetMark.Sixto
eighteenmonthslater,theymarrieddoctors.
"Didyoueverthinkofsettlingdown?"Oliverasked.
"I'mtrying,man.WhodoyoulikeintheNCAA's?Duke?"
"Noway.Robots,"Oliversaid."Smug.Bredtowinfrombirth."
"Igotahundredonthem."Markmademoneyhelpingexecutivesscalethejob
ladder.Hewasamusedandironicaboutit.Theyknockedthemselvesout;hegot


thedancers—foratime.
"Hey,Richard!"
"Mark...Oliver...Thebossletusoutearly."Pleasedwiththisstatement,
RichardO'Grady,whoacknowledgednobossbut"TheManUpstairs,"shuffled
tohiscustomaryplaceatalongtableontheothersideofthebar.Hewasbright
eyed,slight,andstooped,asurvivorofdiabetesandseverearthritis.
"Amazingsmile!"Oliversaid.
"Aworldauthorityonbloodchemistry,"Marksaid."You'dneverknowit—in
hereeverynightdrinkingscotch."
"EverynightbutSunday,"Oliversaid."Iaskedhim,onetime,wherehegotthat
smile.Ithoughthe'dsaysomethinglike:itwashismother's.Hesaid,'Don't
know.'Thenhesaid,'Useit!'Itwaslikeacommandhe'dbeengiven."
"Nottoomanyaroundherethathaven'thadadrinkonRichard,"Marksaid."I'm
outahere.Duke,man."
"Boo."
"Oliver,"Richardcalled,"Helpmewiththisplowman'slunch."Oliversatona
woodenbenchacrossthetablefromRichard.
"I'llhaveabite,"hesaid."What'shappening?"
"Oh,theusual,"Richardsaid."Palaceintrigue.Toomanychemistsinonelab.I
shouldn'tcomplain;theydoagoodjob."Hebentoverthetableandloweredhis
voice."Oneofthesupervisorsisabitrigid.Ihearaboutit,youknow.I'vetried
totalktoher.It'sdelicate."Hebrightenedashestraightened."I'msendingherto
aconferenceinAmsterdam.Maybesomethingwillhappen."
"Thatwouldbetheplace,"Oliversaid,cuttingaslabofStilton.
"Howareyoudoing?Working?"
"Inbetweenprogrammingprojectsatthemoment,"Oliversaid."Notsurewhat
todonext.SometimesIwonderwhat'sthepointofdoinganything."


"Oliver..."Richardremindedhim,pointingatthesmokyceiling,"you'vegotto
trustTheManUpstairs.It'sHisplan."Thiswouldbetoocornytotakeifit
weren'tcomingfromRichard.
"IwishHe'dletmeinonit."Olivertookalongswallowofstout.
"I'lltellyouwhatIdowhenIfeelbad,"Richardsaid."Ifindsomebodywho's
worseoffthanIam,andIdosomethingtohelphimout.Orherout.Worksevery
time."HeturnedtowardSamandheldonecrippledhandintheair."Overhere,
Sam,whenyoucan."Oliverdidn'tthinkintermsofotherpeople.Herelatedto
themasrequired,buthisfocuswasinward.HeimaginedRichard'sprocess:let's
see,Ifeelbad;therefore,it'stimetofindpersonXwhoisworseoffthanIam
andhelphimout.Orher.Hecouldpictureeligiblepersons,buthestumbledon
thehelppart.Whatdidhehavetooffer?Wasadollarbillgoingtomakea
difference?Hefeltblockedfromthepartofhimselfthatmightcontainhelpful
thingshecouldpassalong.
"Ilikethischutney,"hesaid,"goodwiththischeese.Whatwasyourfatherlike,
Richard?"
"Greatguy,"Richardsaid.Hesloshedthescotchandicecubesaroundinhis
glass."I'lltellyouastoryaboutmyfather.Hecouldn'ttelltime.Someonegave
himawatch,buthedidn'twanttolearn.Hewasproudofthewatch,woreit
everyday.Heusedtogotopeopleandsay,'I'mhavingalittletroublereading
this,'andthenhe'dholdhiswristup."Richardraisedhisarmproudlyoutinfront
ofhim."Andhe'dsquint,asifhehadeyetrouble.'Oh,it'saquartertonine,'
they'dsay."Richardthrewbackhisheadandlaughed."Mydadwasagreatguy
—couldbarelyread,alwayssinging.Heworkedonthedocks."
"Hi,Richard."Athinwomanapproached.Shehaddarkeyesandbleached
blondehairpulledintoatightponytail.
"Hi,Sally.Howareyou?"
"O.K."

"DoyouknowOliver?"
"Seenyouaround,"shesaid,appraisinghim.Oliverfeltaboutafouroutoften,
maybeathree.


"SallyworksatMercyHospital.Thatcigaretteisn'tdoingyouanygood,you
know."
"Nag,nag,nag."
"Yougotoneforme?"Richardlituptheroomwithhissmile.
"Oh,Richard!"Sallyfeltinherpursewithonehand.
"Whatareyoudrinking?"Richardasked.
"I'llseeyouguys,"Oliversaid,slidingtotheendofthebenchandstanding.
Sallytookhisplace."Thanksfortheeats,Richard."
"Staywarm,"Richardsaid.
Aplowrumbledby,asOliversteppedoutintothestorm.Hefolloweditalong
thewhiteemptystreet.HeconsideredstoppingatGiobbi'sRestaurant,buthe
turnedupDanforthandwalkedtoStateStreetwherehelivedinasecondfloor
apartmentonthelastblockbeforetheMillionDollarbridge.
Verdiwaswaiting.Hejumpedfromthewindowsillandmadeafussbumping
againstOliver'slegs."Hungry,arewe?"Oliverbentoverandstrokedhimfrom
headtotail."Yes,verylargeandveryfierceisVerdi.Veryfierce."Verdiwas
brownandblack,heavyset,withalargetomcat'sheadandyelloweyes.He
paddeddeliberatelyovertothelengthsofwalnutleaninguprightinonecorner
oftheroomandscratchedluxuriously,stretchingfulllength,asthoughhehad
beenwaitingtodothisforsometime."Aieee!Swell,Verdi."Oliverhunghis
coatonapegandgathereduptheboards.Forthemoment,helaidthemonthe
table.Thecatwasirritated."Howaboutsomenicepine,"Oliversaid."Much
betterthanwalnut.I'llgetyouanicesoftpieceofpine.Inthemeantime..."He
openedacanofsalmonFriskies.
Verdiate,andOliverrefilledhiswaterdish.Theboardswerebeautiful.He'd
beenrightaboutthecolorofFrancesca'seyes.Therewasanactualblackwalnut,
alargeone,attheedgeoftheparkingareabehindhisbuilding.Itshadedhis
kitchenwindowduringthesummeranddroppedhundredsoffurrygreen
walnutsthatweregatheredbysquirrelseachfall.Oliverhadplantedsixwalnuts
inyogurtcontainers.He'dletthemfreezefirst,doneeverythingright,butnone
ofthemcameup.Theseedswerefinickyforsuchapowerfultree.Maybethey


hadtopassthroughasquirrel."Biologyiscomplicated,"hesaidtoVerdi.
Thekitchenhadbeenamasterbedroomintheoriginalhouse.Theappliances,
counter,andsinkwerearrangedalongonewallandpartofanother,leaving
plentyofspaceforatableinthecenter.Thewalltotheadjoininglivingroom
hadbeenmostlyremoved;thetworoomsfunctionedasone.Stepsledtoa
landingandthentoanatticbedroomwithaviewoftheharbor.Therewasa
fireplacethatherarelyused.Inonecorner,asmalltableheldacomputersystem.
Oliversatatthekitchentableandrantheheelsofhishandsalongthewalnut.He
enjoyedmakingthingsfromwood:easyshelves,chests,acradleoncefora
weddingpresent.Hehadatablesawandarouterinthebasement,buthekept
histoolsunderaroughworkbenchthathehadbuiltalongonewallofthe
kitchen.A"Workmate"stoodinthelivingroomnearthedoortothehall.
Usuallyitwascoveredwithmail.
Thetouchofthewoodwasreassuring.Deepinthegrain,inwhatmightbemade
fromthegrain,wassomethingiconicandalive,morealivethanwhatcouldbe
saidaboutit.Olivertookparticularpleasureinfinishingashelforachest,hand
rubbingthesurfaceandseeingthepatternsofthegrainshineanddeepen.He
wouldhavetobuylegsifheweregoingtomakeatable.Orlearnhowtousea
lathe.Hedidn'thavealathe.Maybehecouldmakeasmallbox—tohold
somethingspecial.Hecouldgiveittosomeone.
Who?Awaveoflongingsweptoverhim.Whowouldcare?Hehadanimpulse
toputhisheaddownonhisarmsandgiveup.
"Therearenocowardsonthisship!"God,hehadn'tthoughtofthatforyears.
HishighschoolEnglishteacherhadsaidit,loudly.Itwasthepunchlineofawar
story.TheteacherhadaccompaniedacoupleofhisNavybuddiestothebowof
theirship;oneofthemwasbraggingthathewoulddive.Thecaptainhadcome
upbehindthem,askedwhattheyweredoing,andthenorderedthemalltodive.
Apparently,ithadbeenahighpointofsortsinhisteacher'slife.
"Nocowardsonthisship,Verdi,"Oliversaid,standing.Toast.Tea.WhenOliver
wasupset,heturnedtofood.Hehadahighmetabolismandatewhathewanted.
Hisbodylookedchubbyonitsshortsquareframe,buttherewasmoremuscle
thanfatunderhisskin;hecouldmovequicklywhenhewished.Hehadawide
seriousmouthwithstrongteeth.Hiseyebrowsandhairwereblack.Hiseyes


werelargeanddarkbrownwithlidsthatslantedslightlyacrossthecorners.
Womenlookedathimandwerepuzzledbysomethingthatwasdifferent.He
almostnevergotintoit.
"OliverMuniPrescott,"hehadtoldafew."OwlPrescottwasmystepfather.My
fatherisJapanese—Muni,hisnameis—Inevermethim."Thetoastpoppedup.
Oliverbuttereditandlaidonmarmalade.Heputthetoastandteaonatrayand
carrieditupstairs.Hismattresswasonthefloornexttoawindowsetlowinthe
wall,undertheeaves.Helaydown,munchedtoast,andwatchedthesnow
fallingandblowing.Whenheturnedhishead,thewindowwaslikeaskylight.
Motheriscoming,heremembered.Theimageofhismotherwithherflamboyant
blondehairwasreplacedimmediatelybythatofFrancesca—quiet,natural,and
nolessforceful.
Hefinishedthetoastandheldthemugofteaonhischestwithbothhands.He
couldseeFrancesca'seyesinfrontofhim.Theywereaskingsomething,andhe
wasanswering.Herquestionwasmorecomplicatedthanhehadthoughtat
Becky'sDiner.Weretheythesame?Wasshebeautiful?Washeforreal?He
relaxedandalignedinherdirection.Theanswerwasreassuring."Yes,"hesaid.
Heliftedhisheadandsippedtea."O.K.,"hesaid.

2.
Theskywasbrightblue,thewindgustyoutofthenorthwest.Oliversquintedat
thefreshsnowbanksonhiswaytoBecky's.Sunglasses—shouldhaveworn
sunglasses.Hehadoatmealandablueberrymuffin,drankcoffee,andlistenedto
thewaitresseschatterabouttheirdates.Francescadidnotcomein,butherimage
remainedvivid.Hewaited,notsomuchforherasforsomethinginhismoodto
change,toseeifitwouldchange.Itdidn't.Hecontinuedtofeelslightlyexcited,
asthoughhehadsomethingtolookforwardto.Francescahadmethimina
centralplace.Wasitaplacethattheymade,shelteredbetweenthem?Orwasita
placeinsideeachofthemthatwassimilar,moreaccessibleineachother's
company?Whereveritwas,Oliverknewthathewantedtogothereagain.
Hewalkedhome,shoveledouthisJeep,startedit,andscrapedthewindows,
thinkingthathe'dseewhatGeorgewasupto.Hecouldhavewalked,butthere


wasn'tmuchcatfoodleft.He'dshop,maybetakeadrive.
GeorgehadaloftinawarehouseatthefootofDanforthStreet."Heythere,
Oliver"hesaid,openingthedoor."Bigday—FoundryGoodbean!"
"Ibroughtsomebagels,"Oliversaid.
Georgerubbedhishandstogether."Comesee."
Nearabrickwall,athirtygallongreasedrumstoodonasheetofasbestos-like
material.Twocopperpipesmadearightangletoitsbase.Onecamefroma
propanetankinacorner;onewasconnectedtoanairblowerdrivenbyan
electricmotor."Tada!"Georgesaid,liftingoffathicktopthathadaholeinits
center.Oliverlookeddownintothedrum."Iusedastovepipeforaform—cast
refractorycementaroundit."Thedrumwassolidcementaroundthespace
wherethestovepipehadbeen.
"Slickcity,"Oliversaid.
Georgepickedupasmallobjectfromatable."TheFlyingLady,"hesaid.He
helditbetweenhisthumbandforefingerandswoopeditthroughtheair.Oliver
lookedcloselyatawaxfigureofatrapezeartist.Herbrownarmswereheldout;
herbackwasarched.
"WonderWoman."
"I'vegottomakethemold,"Georgesaid,"burnouttheinvestment."
"Investment?"
"GoopystuffthatpacksaroundTheLady.ThenIfireitinakiln.Thewaxburns
anddisappears,leavingahardceramicmold."
"Aha,"Oliversaid,"thelostwaxprocess."
"MeandCellini,"Georgesaid."Here,makesomething."HehandedOlivera
sheetofwax."Nottoobig.I'llcastitwithTheLady.There'sknivesandstuff."
Hepointedatoneendofthetable."Andotherkindsofwax.Usewhatyou
want."Hebegantomixtheinvestment.


Oliverlaidthewaxonthetable.Withoutthinking,hecutouttheshapeofa
heart.Hecutfourshortpiecesfromalengthofspaghettishapedwaxandmadea
squareletterO.Itlookedstupid."Canyoubendthisstuff?"
"Heatit,"Georgesaid."There'sanalcohollamp."
OliverwarmedanotherpieceofspaghettiwaxandmadeanovalO.Hestuckit
ontheheartandaddedaplussignandtheletter,F."Avalentine,"hesaid.
Georgemadeatreeofwax,twoincheshighwithadoubletrunk.HestuckThe
FlyingLadyononetrunkandtheheart,upright,ontheother.Usingmorewax,
heplantedthetreeinacircularrubberbase."Letmehavethatflask."Hepointed
atasteelcylinderaboutsixincheslong.Heslippedthecylinderoverthewaxes
andtightlyintotherubberbase."There."Hepouredcreamyinvestmentintothe
flaskuntilthewaxeswerewellcoveredandtheflaskwasnearlyfull."Afterit
sets,youpeeloffthebaseandfiretheflask."
Theysatinafarcornerandhadcoffee.
"Sowho'sF?"George'seyesgleamed.
"Francesca,"Oliversaid."Idon'tknowher,really.She'stallandmarried."
Georgeshookhishead."Can'tlivewith'em;can'tlivewithout'em."
Hetookalargebiteofbageltoeasethepain.
"Youdoallright,"Oliversaid.
"Oh,youknow..."Georgethrewonearmintheair."Theartistthing.They're
curious.They'reallcurious,OliveOil."
"WhathappenedtoMarcia?"
"Oh,Marcia!"Georgerolledhiseyesanddeflatedsomewhat."Shehadallergies,
itturnedout.Dust.WhatcanIsay?"
"Shewasgoodlooking,"Oliversaid.
"Oh,yeah,Marcia!"George'svoicetrailedaway."Look,"hesaid,"it'sgoingto


takeawhiletogettheinvestmentready.Whydon'tyoucomebackaround
seven?Thenwe'llcast."
"Outasight,"Oliversaid.
HedrovetoShop'NSaveandstackedtwodozencansofsalmonFriskiesinhis
shoppingcart.Hefoundaboxoffancyteabiscuitsthathecouldoffertohis
mother.SheandPaulwerestoppinginPortlandthenextnight.Theyalways
stayedattheHolidayInn,butshewouldwanttocomeoverandmakesurethat
hewasn'tlivinginfilth,hadcleantowels,andsoon.Shewouldsniffaroundfor
afemalepresence,andthenshewouldlookatPaul;Paulwouldsuggestthatthe
sunwasovertheyardarm;andtheywouldgotoDiMillo'sfordinner.
Oliverturnedhisshoppingcartaroundtheendofanaisle,swerved,andstopped
toavoidbumpingintoFrancesca'sfriend.Shewasstudyingthepastasauces,one
handrestingonhercart,onehandonherhip.Herjacketwasopen.Oliver'seyes
lingeredonhersolidbreastsandtightredsweater.Shelookedathim.Hecleared
histhroat."Notmuchchoice,"hesaid."IfoundagoodsauceatMicucci's—the
onewithagreatpictureoftheowner'sgrandmotherwhenshewasyoung.It
wasn'tthatexpensive,either."Hewasbabbling,startingtoblush.Hereyes
narrowedandasmallsmilepushedatthecornersofhermouth.
"Yes,"shesaid."Micucci's."
"Greatplace,"hesaid,rollingby,pretendingtobeinahurry.God,thewoman
wassomekindofmenace.ButsheknewaboutFrancesca...Andthosebreasts.
Heclungtothecartandlethisvisionblurastheredsweatercamebackinto
focus.Heblinkedandjoinedacheckoutline.Askinnywomaninfrontofhim
putagallonjugofvodkaonthecounter."Notabadidea,"hesaid.Shelookedat
him,smiledasthoughshewereonatwosecondtapedelay,andthenfrownedas
sheconcentratedonpaying.Herarmsandlegswerelikesticks.Hewondered
whatshe'dhadtoputupwithandifshehadanyonetoputupwithher.Hedidn't
reallylikevodka,butheoughttogetsomethingforGeorge.Whatdo
foundrymendrink?Redwine?Ale?Thewomanpickedupenergyasshe
wheeledhercarttowardtheparkinglot.Keepgoing.Goodluck.
Hedrovehomeandputawaythegroceries.Hewentdowntothebasementand
broughtupapieceofpinewhichVerdiignored."Really,it'smuchbetter,"Oliver
argued.Thephonerang.


"Oliver?ThisisJenniferLindenthwaite."
"Hi,Jennifer."
"I'mcallingfortheWetlandsConservancy."
"Oh,IthoughtyouwantedtotakemetoAtlanticCity."
"Rupertmightnotlikethat,"shesaid.
"Isupposenot,"hesaid."Ah,well..."
"Canyoudosomeworkforus,Oliver?Ourmailinglistisinhopelessshape.We
boughtacomputer,butnooneknowshowtodoanythingbuttypelettersonit."
"Youwantmetosetupadatabase?"
"Isupposethatiswhatweneed."
"Howsoon?"
"Umm..."
"Yesterday,right?"
"Well,sometimesoon,atyourconvenience."
"Asithappens,"Oliversaid,"I'vegottimeinthenextcoupleofweeks.How
aboutifIcomeoverTuesday,say—aroundnine?"
"Thankyou,Oliver.You'reasweetheart.Seeyouthen."Jenniferhungup,and
Oliverlookedatthecomputer."Can'tbuyFriskiesonmygoodlooks,"hesaid.
Thatwashowworkcameinforhim—twoweekshere,sixmonthsthere.Hegot
by,barely.
Thedaydriftedalong.Hetookanap,watchedabasketballgameonTV,and
cleaned,minimally,forhismother'sinspection.Atseven,hewalkeddownto
George's.
"Foundrymen'sRed!"hesaid,holdingupaliterofMerlot."Foundryworkers,I
shouldsay."


"Goodtiming."Georgerummagedforglasses,foundone,andhandeditto
Oliver."Theguestgetsthecleanglass."Hewashedoneforhimselfandfilled
themboth."Cellini,"hetoasted.
"Pavarotti,"Oliverresponded."AndothergreatItalians.Didyouknowmy
motherisItalian?"
"Somepeoplehavealltheluck."
"Yeah,"Oliversaid."Shewasasingerwhenshewasyoung."
"Probablycooks,too,"Georgesaid.
"Yeah."
"Jesus,OliveOil."
"She'scomingthroughthisweekend.SheandPaul,herhusband.Theygoto
Quebeceveryyear."
"GoodeatinginQuebec."
"Youbet,"Oliversaid."Shelikestodressup.Theyhaveagoodtime."
"Wow,"Georgesaid."Idon'tthinkmymomhasboughtadressintwentyyears.
Saysshe'stoooldforthatfoolishness."
"Mymomistooold,butitdoesn'tstopher."Helookedatthefurnace.
"So,whatarewedoing?"
"We'reset,"Georgesaid.Theycrossedtheloft,andhehandedOliverapropane
torch."I'llturnonthegasatthemaintank.Youlightit.There'stheblower
valve."Hepointedtoaroundhandlemountedbetweentheblowerandthepipe
thatledtothefurnace.Oliverlitthetorchandkneltbythefurnace.Georgestood
bythepropanetank."Hopethisworks.Youready?"
"Doit."
Georgeopenedtheline,andOliverangledthetorchtipdownintothefurnace.
Nothinghappenedforseveralmoments.Therewasawhooshingsound,and


Georgesaid,"HolyMama!"Ablueflame,thesizeofabeachball,wasbouncing
underthewoodenceilingjoists.Oliverconcentrated.Air.Hereachedbackand
grabbedtheblowervalve,twistingitcounter-clockwise.Almostimmediately,
theblueflamelowered.Hecontinuedopeningthevalve.Theflamepirouetted
irregularlydownaninvisiblecolumn,drawntowardthefurnace.
"Air,"heshouted."Notenoughairuntilitgotwaythehellupthere."
"Keepgoing,"Georgesaid.
Theflamereachedthetopofthefurnaceandbegantowhirlinatightspiral.It
plungedinside,roaringandspinningathighspeed.Thefloorshook."Jesus,"
Georgesaid.
"It'slikeaGoddamnbomb,"Oliversaid.
Georgeputaningotofbronzeintoacarboncrucibleandgrippedtheedgeofthe
cruciblewithlongtongs.Heloweredthecrucibletothebottomofthefurnace.
"Putthetopon,"hesaid.Oliverliftedandpushedthetopoverthefurnace.The
roaringbecamemuffled,contained.Itfeltsafer."Nicegoing,abouttheair,"
Georgesaid."Ithoughtweweregoingtoburntheplacedown."
"Physics,"Oliversaid.Georgelookeddownthroughtheholeinthetop.
"Nothingyet."Hestoodback.Afewminuteslatertheingotbegantoslide
towardthebottomofthecrucible."Thereshegoes,"Georgesaid."It'sworking."
Heopenedthedoorofthekiln,and,usingadifferentsetoftongs,extractedthe
flask.Hesettheflask,glowingcherryred,upsidedowninaflatpanofsand.He
shutoffthegasandunpluggedtheblower."Thetop,"hesaid,handingOlivera
pairofheavyglovesandpointing.Oliverworkedthetopoveroneedgeofthe
drum,tippeditdown,androlleditontothreebricks.
Georgereachedintothefurnacewiththelongtongs.Heliftedthecruciblefrom
thefurnaceandwalkedwithcarefulstepstotheflask.Holdingthelipofthe
crucibleovertheflask,hetippedhisbodytooneside.Thebronzepouredlike
goldensyrupintotheholewherethewaxhadbeen,quicklyfillingthemold.
Georgeloweredthecruciblebackintothefurnace.Aftertheroaring,itseemed
unusuallysilent."Intense,"Oliversaid."Nowwhat?"Georgepickedupthehot
flaskwiththesecondpairoftongsanddroppeditintoabucketofwater.There


wasaburstofsizzlingandbubbling,anditwasquietagain.
"Thetemperatureshockweirdsouttheinvestment.Itchangesstate—toasofter
stuffthatwecangetoffthebronze."Georgepouredthewaterintohisbathtub
andrefilledthebucketwithcoldwater."Stillhot,"hesaid.
Theydrankwinewhiletheflaskcooled.WhenGeorgecouldholdtheflask,he
pushedtheinvestmentoutofthecylinderandchippedatitwithascrewdriver.A
hipappeared."TheFlyingLady,"Oliversaid.
"Damn!"Georgesaid,chippingandprying.Gobsofoatmealcoloredinvestment
fellaway."Notbad!"GeorgehelduptheLadyandtheheartontheirbronzetree.
"Wecutthemoffand
polish..."
Anhourlater,filledwithwineandasenseofaccomplishment,Oliverwalkedup
DanforthStreet.Thebronzeheartwassolidandheavyinhispocket.Hewarmed
itinhishand,feelingtheO,theplussign,andtheFoverandoveragain,a
mantrasaidwiththeballofhisthumb.Whenhegothome,heplacedtheheart
ononeofthewalnutboards,fedVerdi,andwenttobed.
Helaythererememberingthebronzepouringintotheheart.Abitofhimhad
pouredwithit,andanexchangehadtakenplace:somethingbronzehadentered
himatthesamemoment.

3.
"Mythic,"OliversaidtoPaulPeroni,thenextafternoon.Theyweresittingatthe
kitchentablewithhismother.PaulwasweighingtheheartinhispalmasOliver
describedthebronzecasting.Oliver'smothertookanotherteabiscuit.
"Nevertoooldforavalentine,"shesaid,seemingtonotetheabsenceofafemale
presenceintheapartment.
"Yes...No..."Paulansweredthemboth.Hewasmediumsized,sinewy,and


graying—surprisinglylightonhisfeetforsomeonewhoinstalledslabsof
ornamentalmarble.
"It'ssonicetoseeVerdiagain.Kitty,kitty,"shecalled.Verdistretchedand
remainedinthecorner."Ohwell,bethatway,"shesaid,straightening.Lipgloss,
touchesofeyeshadow,andherfullwavyblondehairbroadcastfemalenesslike
alighthouse.Thegoodbodycouldbetakenforgranted.Youmightaswell
assumeit,themessageflashed,cuzyousureashellweren'tgoingtobelucky
enoughtofindout.SheandPaulwerewellmatched."IknewIwasonto
something,ourfirstdate,"she'dtoldOliver."IwascooingaboutMichelangelo
andPaulsaid,'yes,butheusedshittymarble.'"
ShelookedpointedlyatPaul."Sun'sovertheyardarm,"hesaid.
DiMillo'swasuncrowded.Theysatatawindowtable,ordereddrinks,andtalked
asboatsrockedquietlyinthemarinaandanoiltankerworkedoutwardaround
theSpringPointlight.Oliver'smotherbraggedabouthisniece,Heather,andher
latestswimmingtriumphs.Shecomplainedaboutthelongwinterandhow
crowdedtheConnecticutshorehadbecome."Itmaybecrowded,"Oliversaid,
"butyougetdaffodilsthreeweeksbeforewedo."
OliversippedhissecondGlenlivetandlookedbackfromthedarkeningharbor.
"IwishIhadknownmygrandfather,"hesaidtohismother."Irememberwhen
hedied.Iwaseight,Ithink."
"Yes,youwereinthirdgrade,"shesaid."Itwassad.HewaslivinginParis.
Whenhewrote,Icalledhimatthehospital—buthedidn'twantmetocome.He
saidthathewantedmetorememberhimashewas."
"Whenwasthelasttimeyousawhim?"Oliverasked.
"Oh...I..."ShelookedatPaul.Heraisedhiseyebrowssympathetically."I
guessInevertoldyouthatstory,"shesaidtoOliver."Itwasalongtimeago.My
sixteenthbirthday,infact."Shesighed.
"ItwasatNice,ontheRiviera.Hearrangedapartyonthebeach—wine,great
food,fireworks...Afterthefireworks,hegavemeabamboocagewithawhite
doveinside.
"'Thisisyourpresent,Dior,'hesaid.'Youmustletitgo,giveitfreedom.'I


openedthecage,andthedoveflewupintothedark.'Verygood,'myfathersaid.
Hehuggedme.Thenhesaid,'Now,wewillsaygoodbye.Youaregrown,andI
willnotbeseeingyouandyourmotheranymore.Begoodtoyourmother.'He
huggedmeagainandjustwalkeddownthebeach—intothenight."
Oliverwatchedtearsslidedownhismother'scheeks.
Sheliftedanapkinandwipedawayhertears."Hewasveryhandsome."
"Noneedofthatshit,"Paulsaid.
Theyweresilent.
"Paul'sright,"Oliversaid.
"MymotherpackedupandbroughtusbacktoNewHaven.Welivedwithher
folksforawhile."
"GoodoldNewHaven,"Paulsaid.
"Now,yourfather..."ShesmiledatPaul.
"Helikedtheladies,"Paulsaid.
"Whatdidhedo?"Oliverasked.
"Hewasastonemason,madehisownwine,raisedhell.FoughtwithUncleTony
untilthedayhedied.Theyweretight,though—don'tletanybodyelsesay
anythingagainstthem.Bocceball.Jesus."Paulshookhisheadandhelduphis
glass."Life,"hesaid.
"Yes,life."Oliver'smotherraisedherglass.
"Comingatyou,"Oliveradded.
"Us,"Paulsaid.
Theytouchedglassesandgotonwithashoredinneroflobstersandclams.
OliversaidgoodbyeinDiMillo'sparkinglot.Hewalkedhomeimaginingthe
sixteenyearoldDiorDel'Unziowithhermouthopenasthewhitedoveflew


upwardandthenwithherhandtohermouthasherfatherwalkedaway."No
needofthatshit."HewasgladPaulwasaroundtotakecareofhismother.She
wasvulnerableunderthebigsmile;Oliveroftenfeltvaguelyguiltyand
responsibleforher.
Shehaddonethesamethingashermother:hookedupwithanexoticstranger—
MuniNakano,propersonofaproperJapanesefamilyinHonolulu.But,his
motherhadn'tstuckaroundforsixteenyears.She'dcomebackfromHawaiito
Connecticut,pregnant,andeventuallymarriedOwlPrescott.Theyraisedhim
andAmanda,hishalfsister.HismotherhadmadeagoofitinNewEngland.
OnlyonceinawhilewouldsheshowsignsofherItalianchildhood."Topolino
mio,"sheusedtocallhimwhenhewaslittleandshe'dbeenpartying.
Hepouredanightcapandputonatape—ColtraneandJohnnyHartman.I'm
wastingmylife,hethoughtsuddenly.WhatamIgoingtodo?Heknewthathe
neededtochange,butitseemedhopeless.Helookedatthewalnutboards.
Maybeabox...
Hesketchedalittlechestwithahingedtop.Heerasedthestraightbottomlines
anddrewinlonglowarches."That'sbetter."Thetopshouldoverhang.Shouldits
edgesbestraightorrounded?Straightwasmoreemphatic;hecouldalways
roundthemafterwards.
Hecouldmakeeachsidefromasinglewidthofwalnut.Dovetailedcorners.A
smallbrasshaspandlock.Whynot?Hecouldmakethewholethingoutofone
eightfootpieceandhavetwoboardsleftoverforsomethingelseorforextraif
hescrewedupthedovetails.
"Hereyougo,"hesaidtoVerdi.Hereplacedtheoffendingpieceofpinewiththe
originalscratchedwalnut."NothingbutthebestforTeamOliver."Helookedat
theheart."TeamO."Verdiforgavehimwithoutmoving."Bedtime,"Oliversaid.
OnMonday,Olivercutpiecesforthesides,top,andbottomofthebox.He
boughtadovetailsawandmadeseveralcardboardtemplatesforthejoints.It
wasawayofthinkingaboutthem.Theyweretricky,hadtointerlockperfectly,
oneendmale,oneendfemale.
"Whathaveyoubeenupto?"JenniferLindenthwaiteaskedonTuesdaymorning.
"Makingabox,"Oliversaid.


"Oh,that'sexciting."
"It'sharderthanitlooks—forme,anyway."
Jenniferwantedhimtolookatherandnotatanimaginedbox.Shewasasolid
blonde,Nordic,withbroadcheeksandabigsmile."IworryaboutRupertwhen
hedoesthingsaroundthehouse.Somethingusuallygoeswrong."
"Ah..."Oliversaid."Aminorflaw."
"Rupertiswonderful,"shesaid."Now,themailinglist.Hi,Jacky."Oliverturned
andwasastonishedtoseeFrancesca'sfriendinthedoorway."Jackyisoneofour
volunteers.Shedoesalotofthemailinglistwork.Ithoughtyoucouldwork
togetheronthis.Jacky,thisisOliverPrescott."
Jackysteppedforward."JackyChapelle,"shesaid.Shehadstrongcheekbones
anddarkblondehair,cutshortandsweptback.Hereyeswerehazelcolored.She
hadawingedmessengerlookthatlightenedherdirect,almostblunt,expression
andherpowerfulshoulders.
"Uh,hi."Olivershookherhand."Didyoufindanypastasauce?"
"Eventually."
"Oh,"Jennifersaid."Youknoweachother."
"Notexactly,"hesaid.Jenniferlookedathimclosely.Hellisbeinginoneroom
withtwowomen,Owlsaid.Oliverclearedhisthroat."Where'sthecomputer?"
"Justdownthehall."Jenniferledthemtoanotherroom."Letmeknowifyou
needanything."
"Well,"Oliversaidastheywereleftalone.
"Youdon'tlooklikeaprogrammer,"Jackysaid.
"Thankyou."
Sheshowedhimaboxoffilecards—themailinglist."Hereiswhatwehave.It
wouldbenicetobeabletoprintmailinglabels,andweneedtokeeptrackof


whohascontributed."
"Sure,"Oliversaid."Andprobablysomeotherthings."
"Yes,"shesaid."Someofthemembersaresummerpeople.Weneedtoknow
theirwinteraddresses."
"What'swinter?"
"LaborDaytothe4thofJuly,"shesaid.
"TheMaineweknowandlove,"Oliversaid."Wecankeepindividualwinter
startandenddatesforeachname,usedefaultsifwedon'thavetheinformation."
"Right,"shesaid."Ideally,thelistwouldinteractwithotherprogramssomeday.
Ithasmembersonit,andpeoplewhoaren'tmembersbutwhoareinterested.
Also,mediapeople.Andlegislators.Sometimeswesendspecialmailings.I
supposewe'llneedsomekindoftypecode."
"O.K.,"Oliversaid.Theydiscussedrequirementsandagreedtomeetthe
followingSaturdaymorning.Jackyleft,andOlivergaveathumbsupsignto
Jenniferwhowastalkingonthephone.
Notabadlittlejob,hethought,drivingbacktoPortland.He'dbeenitchingto
askJackyaboutFrancesca,butsomethinghadstoppedhim.Hewantedtoknow
Jackybetter.Shewassureofherselfandmovedcomfortably.Herbreastswere
invadinghisconsciousness;hefoundithardtothinkaboutFrancescaatthe
sametime.
Thatafternoon,hebegancuttingthedovetails.Ittookconcentration;hourswent
by.Butwhenhefitthefirsttwoendstogetheritseemedasthoughithadbeen
onlyafewminutes."Allright!"hesaid,leavingtheattachedpiecesonthetable.
Verdicameinlookingsatisfied.Theweatherwaswarmer,muchbetterfor
prowling.Moresnowwaspossible,butthechanceswereagainstit.Oliverput
awayhislongjohnsforthewinter."Probablytooearly,"hesaidtoVerdi,"butso
what."
Thenextmorning,ashewaitedforaseatinBecky's,hesawafamiliarfigurein
abooth.Shewasfacingawayfromhim,buthewasfairlysureitwasFrancesca


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