Are You Alienated, Jealous, Adaptable, Loveable
. . . Haunted?
I am rewriting my Are You stories, as they were among my earliest pieces, and featured writing tics (too much stage business, too much adoration of P. G. Wodehouse), that I’ve abandoned, or at least toned down, with experience.
A sojourn in St. Petersburg creates an odd resonance for Minta Castelberry, touring this most European of Russian cities, with her mother-in-law. Here the women find themselves accosted by the insinuating stranger, John Emmett. Emmett insists on telling his story, and Minta soon finds his arrogance hides a melancholy soul…and finds herself invested in his quest. Then she finds this crossing of paths is no coincidence.
Gabriel Pinion loves Eva.
They have not been married long, and busily self-employed, Gabriel has made a habit of dismissing their awkward communication, totting up his wife’s mannerisms and counting this personality. When Eva inherits her grandmother’s clock, and in the valuing of it, discovers McFadden Presby, the Baroque mechanism rings changes that leave Gabriel aware only that one can’t stop a thing set in motion.
Beloye has made her adjustments. Quarters with Dan, who likes life just fine, (or more accurately, has come to terms with his level of resentment towards it), are a little close. Her almost-sister-in-law Nola, having reached a state of truce with Dan’s brother Arnold, brings Stenner onto the scene. Technically, and for more than one good reason, Beloye should not get involved with Stenner. But she begins to think freedom, the yearning for it, is not subject to being reasoned away.
A story within a story. 1928, the year of the Republican convention that nominated Herbert Hoover for the presidency. Reporter T. O. Mulhall’s train is stalled on the way to Kansas City via St. Louis. He crosses paths, In a small Illinois town, with Alfred Oliver—and Oliver’s protégé, aspiring actress Paulette St. Genevieve. Stuck sharing one of the Bay Tree House’s poorly ventilated rooms, the trio make small talk, leading to Oliver’s account of the infamous (or as infamous as his own exclusive coverage could make it) Bradshaw case.
Daisy wants to lose George, gain a modest fortune, and move to Florida. She exerts her influence on the Bradshaws’ live-in handyman, Oland Coleman. Oland’s grip on reality is a little weak…but his view perhaps not so far from the iron-clad expectations of his small-town milieu.
Powell Kenzie has wandered, living the life of a vagabond, since his discharge from the army. The year is 1948. He finds himself in a small town, by watchman Lloyd Guy given temporary berth in the remains of the Drybrook works. On the hill opposite the highway that divides them, is the empty Drybrook house. Powell, taken with an urge to settle, conceives a plan to prove his usefulness. He meets Heinz Rohdl, an immigrant chemist, a man seemingly insane. Then a visitor named Summers arrives to tell a ghost story. Powell finds an ally in Isobel Gilshannon, wife of Dennis Tovey. Tovey himself is of a disreputable local clan, and proves not altogether a friend.
Christmas, 1939. Mabel aspires to the stage, Dexter to whatever good thing comes along next. A stranger with largess to bestow accosts them on their way home from the movies, and the holiday’s dinner plans with Mabel’s Aunt Ernestine get a shake-up.
from Are You Alienated.