An hour later, he was at 45 East 82nd Street taking the elevator up to Buzzy’s.
Once outside her door, Adam rang. But there was no answer. As he turned to leave, the door opened. A little man he had never seen appeared. Neither young nor old. He looked like Sam Hop from the laundry on 80th Street.
“They gone. You wait,” he said.
“Where are they?” Adam asked.
“Nee-ham. They come back soon. You wait,” the man repeated.
So Adam sat on the big green couch in the living room and waited. The minutes passed and he became more and more restless. He was supposed to stay over. Jack and Viola were off. And here he was with an unknown man, in an apartment with no other sign of life. This was not what he had expected.
But then his sensitive ears heard the elevator gate open. And voices!
And then, a bark? A woof?
The door opened. The Breckenridge’s came in. They were preceded by a bounding snow white dog of immense size.
“He’s mine,” Buzzy exclaimed, with an engaging grin. “His name is Polonius.”
Buzzy was thin and beautiful. Her face was perfect. There was never a time when she did not look as though she was meant to be exactly where she was. Doing exactly what she did. Whatever it happened to be. She and Adam were almost the same age.
“He’s new, just a puppy. A Great Pyrenees. We went all the way up to Massachusetts, practically to Boston, to get him. He is very wise, though a bit of a troublemaker.”
“Rather like you,” Buzzy’s mother, Celia Breckenridge, said to Adam.
“Polonius? A puppy?” Adam said.
Buzzy ran up to Adam and started tickling.
“Stop it!” he screamed. “You know I can’t stand to be touched without warning.”
But now Polonius bounded toward Adam and placed his formidable paws on the boy’s shoulders, bobbing his giant head up and down within inches of Adam’s flinching face. The Pyrenees’ well-lubricated tongue threatened to drench Panflick with gobs of Polonius spittle. “Get him off me!” he yelled.
“Return him.” Polonius needed no further prompt. He backed off and looked up at Adam, as if to say, “What next?”
“Who is that man?” Adam asked, moving back to the couch.
“Boon Wah?” Celia responded.
“I assume so.”
“He is our new helper. He’ll be sleeping out back with you.”
Celia Breckenridge never said things outright. It was part of her strange bond with Adam that each knew exactly what the other meant even though the words were, more often than not, opposite in their implications.
“Excellent,” Adam answered.
It turned out Boon Wah was more than a helper. He was a cook of no mean achievement. Celia, Buzzy, Adam and Wanda, Buzzy’s younger sister, sat down to a quite delicious meal of shrimp toast, wonton in hot oil, cold noodles in sauce, hacked chicken and a selection of dim sum.
Sated, with Polonius taking a peaceful rest at Celia’s feet, they played Monopoly until bedtime.
After good nights were said, Adam retired to the little maid’s room off the kitchen. He slipped on his pajamas, brushed his teeth at the small basin and then opened the door and walked through the pantry, past the living room and down a long hall. The second door on the right was Buzzy’s.
He opened it softly and entered.
There were two beds on adjacent walls joined at the head. Adam crawled into the vacant bed. Buzzy was already tucked in.
“Where’s Polonius?” he asked.
“With mom,” Buzzy said softly. “I need to talk about something.”
“Proceed,” Adam said.
“I think I’ve figured out why mother lets us —
“Function like an old couple?”
“Be together this way.”
“She recognizes destiny. She accepts it.”
“No. I don’t think so. I think she and your father Melchezedek — “
“What? Had something going on a long time ago, before we were born?”
“How do you know?” Buzzy rose and sat cross-legged on her bed looking at Adam in the darkness. “Do you think so?”
“I read minds. It was something she said,” Adam replied. “About not seeing very much of my father lately. As if any of us does.”
“Yes,” Buzzy whispered excitedly. “I think something did happen, maybe when we were one or two, or before we were born. And then it was over. And somehow our families remained friends.”
“And your mother is sentimental,” Adam said. “It’s funny. We’re not old enough to have an affair, quite apart from being married.”
“But you think I’m right. Right?”
Buzzy lay back down. Adam rolled over on his left side and elbowed up.
“I think you could be right and that your mother is weirdly wonderful to me. But I also think whether they did or not is unimportant in the scheme of things. I mean us.”
“What was Mildred doing back then? What was my father doing?” Buzzy asked. “I wonder if they …”
“Mildred was building trucks for Uncle Sam. She has lots of beaus. Half our weekend guests are in love with her. You father was working day and night and having headaches. I doubt they ever did anything.”
“Adam, I think Mom lets us be such good friends because she sees us as herself and your father. Only — “
“I just said that. I also think it’s because we are we. We are special,” Adam said. “I vastly prefer you to your mother, by the way. Though I do appreciate her wit. For that matter, I do not care why your mother approves. Just as long as she does.”
“I heard about your encounter at school.”
“You what! How?”
“Ann Alexander’s brother is in your class. She called yesterday before we went to Needham.”
“The redheaded wonder? What’s in Needham?”
“Poil de Carotte. Polonius was in Needham.”
“Hold my hand, “Adam said, extending his free arm.
Buzzy reached over her head. Adam took her hand. “Ah, yes. That’s nice. I saw a child marriage in my old neighborhood a few years ago. People younger than us, married.”
“We’ll never do that. I mean as adults. Now tell me about your encounter at school.”
“The Tweaker is hopeless. Cruelty in the classroom. I decided no more and that was that.”
“What did he do exactly?”
“He pulled my hair.” Adam gently touched the hair on the back of Buzzy’s neck. “Right here. He grabbed my hair. Twice. Once when I was not paying attention and then, much more viciously, when I said I was not the only one.”
He held her hand once more.
“Not the only one? What did you mean?”
“I am not the only one paying no attention. I am not the only student dying of boredom. I am not the only one who would do well to simply read what I want without having to pay attention to all that.”
“What were you not paying attention to?”
“Well Adam, arithmetic is not exactly unimportant. I’m sorry he tweaked you twice.”
“He also shoved me into a corner. I had no alternative but to respond.”
“Aren’t you afraid of worse things? Getting expelled? Being hurt more?”
“I did not consider the consequences. He was upon me with his hot, angry breath. I was cornered. Something overtook me. I was very cool and I knew I could stop him.”
“Yes, that is what Annie said. People noticed. Remarkable.”
“What will happen now?”
“We’ll see on Monday. I would prefer to attend Brearley with you, as you well know. Or we could both go to Dalton. We’d be together there. No bullies, I bet.”
Buzzy withdrew her hand, turned onto her side and faced the wall.
Adam heard her even breathing. He turned over too. There in the silence with his best friend in all the world, he felt profound peace. One by one, thoughts of the Tweaker, the country, Parousia and Vermont state troopers coming to his family’s Manhattan apartment to finalize Adam’s criminality, vanished in the soothing penumbra of his and Buzzy’s private world.
He woke hours later from a sweat-inducing dream.
Buzzy was gently pulling his hair.
He could see through the shaded window it was dawn.
“What ungodly hour is it,” he moaned. “I just had a horrible dream.”
“Ssssh,” Buzzy whispered. “What? Tell me.”
“A fight. Where we change for gym. I am all alone. The bullies Slake and Adamov are there. I think they are coming for me. But instead they start to fight each other. Madly. Arms flailing like windmills, smashing, smashing, pounding, pounding, hurting each other. Their faces are red. They keep beating and beating. I am very scared. That’s it. Just that.”
“You were talking in your sleep,” Buzzy said. “You woke me.”
“I was? No. You made it up. I never talk in my sleep.”
“Do you want to know what you were saying? You kept repeating the same thing.”
“There is no health in us. There is no health in us.”
“It’s from the program,” Adam said.
“Church. It’s a prayer. Confession. Printed in the program they hand out.”
“Do you really believe that?”
“It’s about the only thing I do believe. If there was any health in us, there would be no tweaks. Or Fuhrers. Or death, maybe.”
“I heard father come in, in the middle of the night.”
“I am talking about something your father and his black bag can’t cure,” said Adam.
The telephone rang. They heard Dr. Breckenridge talking softly. Then morning noises: a shower, steps in the hall.
“Shhh,” Buzzy whispered.
“This is so strange,” Adam said softly. “Your mother lets us be chums and your father knows nothing.”
“Or maybe he knows and doesn’t care. Your mother wants the Chinaman to think I am asleep in the other maid’s room.”
They heard the front door to the apartment open and shut.
“Do you remember when we were running around like fools in Pickinsboro at the end of the war?” Adam asked.
“VJ Day? You mean what my sister said.”
“She still can’t stand us.”
Adam stood and prepared to leave.
“I still don’t care what she thinks. I do what I want.”
“Yes,” said Buzzy. “I would say you are very lucky.”
“I know,” said Adam, blowing a kiss from the door.
In some ways, he thought, moving down the hall.
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