Short Story Wednesday: A Nice Day at The Beach

Short Story Prompt: “The Swimmer” by John Cheever

It’s a beautiful summer morning when you arrive at the beach. You thought you would get here early for some Me-time, just you and the sand and the water and the sun. And your companion, of course. But the beach is already beginning to fill with its daily allotment of sun worshippers.

You find just that right spot in the sand. Not too close to the water and not too far away. You throw your towel down and raise your umbrella for some protection from the heat. You turn to your partner and ask them to glop some SPF 50 on your back. Don’t want to get a burn, just a nice tan, so you can prove to your friends that you spent a day at the beach. They rub you down like some greased pig, ready for a luau. You laugh at the thought and ask, “Where’s the pineapple?”

Your companion gives you that look they always give you when they haven’t a clue as to what is going on in your head. It’s good to give them a little mystery. Makes life interesting on a boring kind of day.

Last time you were here, you spread out on the sand like some cowboy in an old Western. The Indians staked him there for ant bait. You were sun bait and you didn’t bake nicely. You burned like a piece of toast left too long in the toaster. No amount of butter would save that toast and no amount of lotion soothed that burn. You’re not about to let that happen again. No, you’ve come prepared. You have your SPF 50 and you have your umbrella. It’s going to be a nice day at the beach.

Now it is your partner’s turn to be greased. You squirt some of the fluid on your hands. It’s got a nice cool feel to it. You rub their back and admire their lean physique as you do, how straight their back is, the muscles in their arms. Makes you happy that you don’t have to be ashamed of the person you’re with. Makes you feel like others can look at you with envy, their minds whispering, “Gee, why can’t I be so lucky?” When you finish, your companion leans over and gives you a thank-you kiss. Then they head for the sea.

You look out at the water, glistening from the light rippling across the small waves that come in from the sea. It makes you feel that there is magic in the world. That water reaching out toward the end of the world where the unknown exists. What great liners have followed that highway. The great ones like the Titanic and the Queen Mary. What ships have taken boys off to war on foreign shores. What sailors have followed the stars to discover exotic lands. What chantys the sailors have sung to pass their time in the rigging, searching, hoping for a South Sea island and some Polynesian girl to seduce. What sail boats have gone out to sea, freeing their captains of the troubles that all landlubbers face, giving them a sense of the grandeur and the awesomeness of nature.

The surfers are beginning to climb onto their boards and head for a distant wave. The swimmers splash and yell. Your companion returns and urges you to come on into the water. It’s such a beautiful day for a swim. But you’re enjoying things just the way they are, not a trouble in the world. You’re here on the beach and that’s enough as the morning makes its drift toward noontime.

You turn and see the lifeguard on his perch behind you. He is like some eagle, searching for his prey, waiting for his chance to prove his bravery. He turns his glasses slowly up and down the beach, like some doll on a carousel. His motions are like the movement of the music of a slow waltz.

Just what is he searching for? That woman with the large breasts he can meet and convince that he is her knight in shining armor? That girl on her first school break from college? That opportunity to yell at a swimmer that they have gone too far? To return to the shore so he won’t have to come and get them and ban them from the beach? Does his eyes search for the fin of that shark that is readying for its attack?

Or maybe he too is dreaming of the tall ships that went far into the world and never returned. Of pirates that haunted the seven seas, searching for their bounty. Maybe he is thinking of Captain Bligh and Mr. Christian and Tahiti. Maybe he is building a story of ships that search the stars. Maybe he isn’t a dreamer at all. Just some boy trying to make enough money to save for the fall. Then he will be able to eat through the next year of college. Or maybe all of these things run through the eagle’s mind.

Or maybe he is thinking, “God, when do I get a break? I gotta go pee. I gotta go pee bad.”

Next Wednesday’s Short Story: “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe

If you want to find out what God has to put up with,

get a cat. We have three. A Mama Peaches, a Sister Princess who thinks she is God’s gift to cats and Buster the Mighty Buzztail. I’ve always heard that cats are the independent sort. They are–they sure don’t like hugs or petting the way dogs do. But they do like to be around their humans from time to time. Perhaps it gives them a break from the hunting life or the sleeping life they love. And all those kitty dreams they have.

Sister0313Curled up on my lap, Sister snores. (But she has to choose to crawl up on my lap.) And she loves boxes to crawl into, the bigger the better. When we give the cats a treat–a can of cat food instead of the regular dried they normally eat–she is the one who will lick the spoon and the can. There are times she’ll look at me and her eyes will say, “Who the hell do you think you are?” Other times her eyes will say, “I’m so glad you’re my human.”

Buster the Mighty Buzztail likes to be left to himself. He’s a great one for running outside at Buster0313night. And he loves water. In the middle of a storm, he’ll be out in the rain, going, “Wow. This is so cool.” Then he’ll run into the house and expect me to dry him off. He loves that. When he sleeps in the house at night, he’ll wake me up at three in the a.m., wanting out. I’ll follow him through the kitchen. He’ll stop at the back door and take a gander at his bowl of food, then he’ll let me know that he needs a snack before he goes out. I have to stand there, at three in the morning and half asleep, and I have to watch him eat. He will settle for no less.

PeahesMama Peaches was a feral cat. She was half starved when she showed up at our back door with her two kittens. Since I am in no way a cat person, I had to be persuaded to take the three of them in. Since then, Peaches has enjoyed the good life. She is very sensitive, very skittish. She’ll run off for a day, then show back up at the house. She eats but never a lot. But from time to time she’ll crawl up on my lap or my bed and lie there, feeling for all the world that she is at peace and is loved. As she is. She’s earned her reward, a safe home and the right to go and come as she feels.

So there you have it. Three cats who live at our house. But what does that have to do with God?

I have come to realize that in a relationship between human and cat, God is the human, we are the cats. He lets us roam free and independent. He watches out for us but doesn’t interfere unless we are in real danger. We run wild and free and go chasing things the way cats do. But when we need a lap to lie on, He’s there.

Here’s one of my favorite poems about cats. It was written by Christopher Smart:

For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry (excerpt, Jubilate Agno)

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.
For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For fifthly he washes himself.
For sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For tenthly he goes in quest of food.
For having consider’d God and himself he will consider his neighbour.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day’s work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord’s watch in the night against the adversary.
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction, if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness, when God tells him he’s a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.
For the Lord commanded Moses concerning the cats at the departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt.
For every family had one cat at least in the bag.
For the English Cats are the best in Europe.
For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
For the dexterity of his defence is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For he is tenacious of his point.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
For he knows that God is his Saviour.

A little Friday extra: Dear Mr. President

Prompt: Historical Fiction Rant from the Daily Post Writing Challenge.

I don’t usually post on Fridays but I couldn’t resist this. It was just too too. Got the idea from Marissa Bergen’s blog, Glorious Results Of A Misspent Youth, and her post today, “Abigail Biggs’ Pig”. I have been following her blog for a while and I can highly recommend it. Thanks for the idea, Marissa.

Dear President Washington,

You went and did it. You made Tom Jefferson the Secretary of State. Can you believe it? He thinks he’s smarter than everybody else. Reading all them books. Show off. Me, I didn’t get past kindergarten and it ain’t hurt me nary a bit. Next think you know he’ll be wanting everybody to speak French.

You know what the Bible says about Graven Images. What did you do? You went and hired that Alex Hamilton for Treasury. Now we got ten dollar bills with his face on it.

That John Adams for Vice President. Can you believe it? There ain’t a bit of vice in that old coot. He wouldn’t know a party if it up and bit him.

And what’s this about a whiskey tax. I gotta tell you my moonshine tastes fine without no tax tacked on.

Then you allowed those toothpaste ads on the copies you sent out of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I know you have to pay for the guvmint somehow. But those toothpaste ads are just atrocious. “You’ll wonder where the yellow went When you brush your teeth with Termitadent.” Why didn’t somebody tell me them were real termites? You need to get the FDA involved. Tell them my mouth is still so yellow that my neighbors are calling it Ol’ Yeller. And now my teeth are gone.

You know how much it costs to have a set of choppers made out of good solid oak? Well, it’s a lot. Almost as much as my wooden leg.

That’s about it. You were such a great general. Our beloved “Great Stone Face”. At Valley Forge, my buddies and I were recommending you to be the first face they put on Mount Rushmore. Now you went and done all this. I am so disappointed I am thinking about voting for that scoundrel, Aaron Burr, in ’92.

Well, you give Mrs. Washington a big howdy for me. I know you been wanting a kid. Just want you to know there’s this new-fangled technique called in vitro fertilization. Maybe it can help y’all have that little one.

Here’s hoping we’ll be seeing you at the Mount Vernon Fireworks for the Fourth next year. You always do a good do.

Your s truly,
John Q. Public

******
Dear John,

I received your letter. It’s always good to hear from the folks back home.

I heard the news and I just wanted to say how sorry I am that you lost that girl friend of yours. I can’t believe she couldn’t tell you face-to-face. She had to tell you in a letter. And she had to light out with that no-good Daniel Boone. I would send the FBI after them. But the CIA has told me they are now out of United States jurisdiction. They went to some place called Kentucky.

Them were some darn good recommendations you made. I have convinced Tom Jefferson not to read in public. I also am recommending to Congress that no French be spoken in the United States at all, except when that French fella de Tocqueville comes for a little sit-down.

We’ve heard your complaint about Alex’s image on the sawbuck. Secretary Hamilton said that he talked to the Almighty Himself. God told him to put those images on the paper money. You know how it is. There is no arguing with the Almighty. ‘Course I am not much for paper currency. I only take gold for payment in kind.

I do apologize for John Adams’ frown. I’ve tried everything and nothing will turn that frown upside down. Not even a night of sex with Abby. And you know how close he and Abby are? They’re like two peas in a pod.

Now the whiskey tax, we can do something about. We are repealing it. Instead we’re going to institute a gasoline tax. Since automobiles haven’t been invented yet, that tax won’t cost folks an arm and a leg. Oh, sorry about the wooden leg. I told you to get out of the way of that cannon ball at Yorktown. But you just wouldn’t listen.

I agree with you about Termitadent. I tried it myself and lost my wisdom teeth. We are having the FDA look into the matter.

To compensate for the damage, I have asked Congress to pass a G. I. Bill. All veterans of the war with the Redcoats will receive one set of choppers free. You’ll just have to pay the postage. I asked my Postmaster General Ben Franklin to belay the cost. Then he started quoting me from Poor Richard’s Almanak. I just couldn’t shut him up.

I did send your recommendation about Mount Rushmore over to the Interior Department. They told me that Abe Lincoln was going to be first. They are still mad about that cherry tree that used to be on the White House lawn. I keep telling them that I didn’t chop it down. It was Aaron Burr. But no, they won’t believe me. They are still mad about that intern. I can’t tell you how many times I have said that I did not have sex with that woman. Won’t nobody believe me?

Thanks for the recommendation about the in vitro. Martha is looking into it. Unfortunately she does not like needles. I can’t even convince her to get that tattoo of King George 3 on her butt. She doesn’t understand that it was part of the treaty we signed with the Brits in ’83. But I am working on her.

Looking forward to the Big Do come next Fourth. As always, we will have some surprises. And Willie Nelson has finally agreed to come and host the thing.

Always smiling,
George Washington
Father of your Country

Short Story Wednesday: One Man’s Frog Is Another Man’s Prince. Rufus, That Is.

“Super-frog Saves Tokyo” by Haruki Murakami

Since the beginning of time, there have been witches. Some believe that Adam’s first wife, Lillith, was one because she taught the healing arts to the human race. Some even say that there are good witches and bad witches. They put Lillith in the good witch category. They also put Glenda from “The Wizard of Oz” and Samantha of the tv series “Bewitched” on the good witch side of the line.

These same folks say that Morgan le Fay started out a good witch. After Arthur knocked her up, she became a single mom. Arthur told her, “That’s not my kid. He looks like Merlin.” Morgan ended up on the wrong side of the tracks. These theoreticians also point out that the Witch of the West in Oz was definitely bad witch material.

As I say, these are theoretical speculations. My take on things is that there is no such thing as a bad witch. And I know you’re going to bring up that Snow White episode. It wasn’t that the Queen was a bad witch. She was just so sensitive. The reporter who wrote the Snow White story, probably Miss White’s p.r. agent, forgot to include the details of how Snowy used to rub the Queen’s nose in how gorgeous she was. Well, I am here to tell you, dear Reader, Snowy may have been Miss Universe beautiful but she had a mouth on her that would make a construction worker blush. And not just blush. But blush purple.

It wasn’t that these witches were wicked or evil. Or even bad. They were simply the got-up-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-bed kind of witches. We all have our bad days. Admit it. You know it’s true. Even the Dwarves had their Grumpy. You know you wouldn’t want to tangle with you on one of those days. You don’t believe me. Just ask your wife. Or husband, if you are so inclined.

Now that we have got that settled, we can move on to our tale. Doris woke up one gray, cloudy day in the Kingdom of Abengale. She was having one of those kind of lives that day. A Wednesday, I believe. First off, the day was gloomy on top of gray and cloudy, and that just didn’t sit right with her.

Secondly she did not get an Invite to the eighteenth birthday party of Prince Rufus, son of King Rufus the 27th. It wasn’t that she liked birthday parties. She didn’t. Doris was not a people person. Didn’t like people at all. She would rather hang out with her five cats any day than associate with people. Besides that, she would need to buy a new fancy-dancy dress. On her witch’s salary, they were way too expensive for her. She just wanted to feel included. To add injury to insult, all the hoity toity witch society witches received Invites. So why. Not. Doris?

Why not Doris? she asked herself. She asked the universe too. But the universe being the universe, it wasn’t answering.

She gathered up her skirts and made down the road toward the king’s castle. She came upon an old man. He sat on a bench under an umbrella, sipping a cup of tea. “Morning, Tootsie,” he said. He wasn’t specifically calling Doris a Tootsie. He called everybody Tootsie. He continued, “With that look on your face, you look like you gotta go pee real bad. Too bad there ain’t an outhouse within several miles of this place.”

Doris was not up to being trifled with. At least, not by no fool of an old man. “Why don’t you just shut your face and let me be on my way. I have urgent business to attend to.”

“What have I got here? A witch showing off her witchiness. What you going to do? Turn me into a frog?” The old man laughed.

Doris was so angry at this fool of a fool that there was smoke coming out of her ears. She pulled her wand out of her dress pocket and pointed it.

“Young lady, you don’t scare me,” the old man said, grinning the biggest grin you ever did see. “Go ahead and turn me into a frog.”

Doris was taken aback. A witch points her wand and folks tremble. So how come this old coot wasn’t trembling?

“Go ahead and do it,” he urged her on. “I double-dog dare you.”

Doris wasn’t sure what to do. Like people who don’t know what to do, Doris did nothing. She sat down on the bench next to the oldster and gave him one of her questioning looks.

“Why are you not afraid of my wand?”

“’Cause I don’t think you can throw one of your spells at me.”

An inquisitive look filled Doris’ face. “Why not?”

“Because I am already under a spell.”

“You are?” Doris could usually tell when another witch had entranced a creature. How had she missed the signs? The old man didn’t have the usual be-spelled signs.

“Yes I am. Can’t you tell?”

“No,” Doris said. “Who put the spell on you?”

“A frog witch.”

“I don’t believe you. I’ve never heard of such a creature.”

“Just because you haven’t heard of such a being, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”

“That’s true. So tell me about this frog witch. If there is such a thing.”

“Oh, there is such a thing,” the old man emphatically said. “You see, I used to be a frog.”

“Funny. You don’t look like a frog.”

“It’s been years since I was turned into a human by a frog witch. My froginess has worn off.” There were tears in the old man’s eyes.

“I see your point.” Doris was becoming fascinated with the old man’s story. She didn’t believe him but she was fascinated. “So tell me about this frog witch.”

Finally the old man had found someone to listen to his tale of woe. “Once upon a time I was a prince among frogs. I was so high and mighty with my princeness I wasn’t about to listen to anybody. Even a witch.”

Doris thought of the slight the king had given her. Not inviting her to Prince Rufus’ birthday party. “I can understand that.”

“So I threw this magnificent party to celebrate myself. Invited everybody in the frog kingdom. Everybody except for one.”

“The frog witch?”

“The frog witch,” he affirmed. “She was none too happy. I mean, she was none too happy. So yadda yadda yadda here I am.”

“What’s a yadda yadda yadda, dearie?” Doris asked.

“Don’t call me dearie. I hate that. My mum used to call me that.”

“Then don’t call me Tootsie. My name is Doris.”

“Nice to meet you, Doris. My name is Rufus,” the old man said.

“Rufus? But the king and the prince of Abengale are named Rufus.” Doris had begun to like this fellow, but now she wasn’t sure.

“Yes, Rufus. You see, the author of this story can’t seem to come up with another name for royalty. He’s not very original that way.”

“I see what you mean. Doris isn’t much of a name for a witch either. I bet the frog witch was named Doris.”

“Actually she wasn’t. Nobody knew her name so we all called her the frog witch.”

“Ain’t that just like an author,” Doris said. “They’re all the same. Treating we characters like dirt. No wonder the frog witch was unhappy.”

“Oh, it wasn’t the name. She really didn’t care about that. It was the wart itch. She had a bad case.”

Doris was starting to getting a little bored with the conversation. She had a party to go to and she was wasting time with this old codger. She stood up and said, “Listen, I have to go.”

“Do it behind the bushes over there. I don’t want to see no witch doing her business.”

“Not that kind of go. I have a party to crash. So is there anything I can do for you before I go?”

“Get me some frogs to kiss. Maybe one of them will be a frog princess. Then I can go back to being the same old lovable Rufus I used to be.”

“Sorry. No can do.” Doris pushed her wand back into her dress pocket.

“Why not?”

“Witch’s union rules. One witch cannot undo another witch’s spell. It’s the way of things. And we can’t help with the undoing either.”

Of course, it wasn’t true. Doris was lying. After all, she was a got-up-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-bed kind of witch. So Doris went on her way.

‘Course you know the rest of the story. Doris went up to the castle and crashed the prince’s party. She pulled out her wand, pointed it at the prince and fired. Funny thing though. The wand spell backfired and hit Doris in the buttocks.

Bing!

Doris looked around her and everybody was so much bigger than she remembered. Then she saw herself in the mirror. She was a frog. The last the party saw of Doris, she was off to the pond, croaking her protests.

What had happened? you ask.

King Rufus knew the way of witches. After all, he had been responsible for getting a witch to turn his older brother into a frog so he could be king. The night before the party, he sprayed his son, Prince Rufus, with some Anti-hexidant.

Seems Doris, now a frog, passed by the old man one day. He threw out his net, caught her and forced her to kiss him. Big mistake. Think of the worst tasting thing you’ve tasted and triple it. That would be the taste of Doris’ kiss. Then his lips puffed out and soon he was nothing but a set of lips. Anyway that is the last we saw of the old man or Doris.

The moral of this story: Don’t kiss no frogs. It can be lethal.

Next Wednesday’s Prompt: “The Swimmer” by John Cheever.

Damn that Rachmaninov. Especially on Thursdays

Noel Coward’s “Brief Encounters”, directed by David Lean.

How a brief encounter can change a life, especially if it’s Thursday and Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto # 2 is playing on the soundtrack. It’s in a train station where Alec and Laura meet. She has something in her eye and he gets it out. Of course that is what a doctor would do, and since he is a doctor, he does just that. He is a general practitioner come to Milford for a day of work at the hospital and she is a housewife come to town for some shopping and a movie. It is a Thursday and she’s happily married until he tells her, “You can never be dull.”

For several Thursdays they meet in passing. Then suddenly one Thursday the doctor and the housewife, happily married, are having way too much fun as they set off for the movies. On the way back to the train station, he slips his hand around her arm. Then it is tea as they wait for their respective trains. He talks about his desire to make the world a better place. Then there’s that damned Rachmaninov and you know there’s unhappiness in store for her. And possibly him.

“May I see you again? Next Thursday?” he pleads. She resists, then relents. She watches his train leave, realizing how dangerous things may be getting as she speaks his name to herself. “Alec.”

Laura, it would have to be a Laura, takes her train home and her boy has had an accident. She feels guilty. But the accident is not serious. She confesses to her husband that she met a strange man and offers to invite him to dinner to show her husband it was harmless. Her husband seems not to care, saying that it would be an inconvenience. Why don’t she invite him to lunch?

Alec doesn’t show the next Thursday afternoon as she waits for him, half-hoping that he will not show. She goes off to the movies, then it’s back to the train station and tea. She leaves the station to catch her train. As she takes one last look around her, she sees the good doctor running toward her. “I’m so sorry,” he says. Of course, he is. They always are in these kinds of movies. He explains why he is late and she is relieved. Now her walls drop like the walls of Jericho.

The next Thursday they are at the movies and then a lake. They take a boat and are on the water. And there’s Rachmaninov. And they are having a bloody good time.

Tea again in a boat house and they are quiet. Then he says the words. You know, the words that always doom happily marrieds to a life of unhappiness. “I’ve fallen in love with you,” Alec the doctor says to Laura the housewife, and they are no longer two married people. They are desperately doomed people. You know it, and they know it. And the fun they’ve had is over. There is no more fun for Alec and Laura. Just misery and betrayal.

Why must these kinds of movies be so sad, so tragic? Why couldn’t it be two unmarried, readily available people, falling desperately in love, who have the encounter that becomes a lifetime of happiness? Oh, we’ve seen that movie before too and it is “Love Story”. The woman dies at the end, and it too is sad.

That they are unmarried and happily in love doing all the things that happily-in-love people do, that is what Laura dreams about as she catches her train for home. But the reality is that now her life is a lie. And it is a Thursday lie, this lie she tells her husband. She calls a friend to cover for her. “And I’ll do it for you,” she promises at the end of the telephone conversation.

Another Thursday and the two lovers are together again, having dinner in a hotel dining room. No sex as far as we know, but they might as well have had sex for all the guilt she is feeling. The two go off into the country for a drive. He talks of his love for her and they are on a bridge. This kind of thing always seems to happen on bridges, and a bridge in the country on a lovely afternoon is the best place for it to happen. The next thing you know it is night and they are saying their good nights, longingly. It is such a desperate kind of good night.

There’s that Rachmaninov and it is hard to resist Rachmaninov. Especially if it’s night and it is raining and you are in need of refuge from a marriage that has become, of all things, boring. She misses her train and follows him back to a nearby flat where he is staying with a friend. She runs up the stairs and knocks on his door. He opens the door and invites her in.

She is about to fall into Alec’s arms when suddenly his friend returns and comes in the back way. She leaves without being seen. But the doctor’s friend picks up her coat and hands it to Alec and says, “You have hidden depths.” He says other things, showing his disapproval. Alec follows Laura, leaving his friend’s disappointment behind him.

The next scene we see is Laura running down the street. It is night and there’s Rachmaninov. She’s missed her train and telephones her husband to tell him she will be late getting home. She lies. She is with a librarian friend whose mother is ill, She hangs up and wanders the streets for three hours and then she is back at the train station. The doctor shows up and they argue.

“Could you really say goodbye? I love you, Laura, and I shall love you to the end of my life. This is the beginning of the end of it all.” It is a desperate speech. He tells her that he will be leaving England and soon unless she tells him to do otherwise. She doesn’t. They both know that it is the only way out. But let’s have another Thursday. She takes the train home, and again there is Rachmaninov playing that damned Concerto # 2.

The following Thursday there is again a drive in the country and more Rachmaninov. Then they are having tea in the train station, struggling to get up the courage to say goodbye. And having tea, there is all this sadness filling the movie. You just know that this can’t end well. You’ve seen enough of these movies and they never end well. “I do love you with all my heart and soul,” Alec says to Laura one last time. “I want to die,” Laura says to her doctor.

A woman acquaintance of Laura’s intrudes and forces herself on them. She joins them for tea, interrupting their sadness with her talk. She can’t seem to stop talking. Alec gets up to catch his train. As he leaves, he squeezes Luara’s shoulder for one last goodbye. Then he walks out of the station. It’s over, but how can it be over? Laura’s heart is dying, and when the woman goes to the counter to retrieve her tea, Laura leaves the station. She starts to jump under a train, possibly his train, that is passing but she doesn’t. She returns to the station and almost faints.

Then she is in the living room of her home with her husband and Rachmaninov is playing and her husband comes over to her in her chair where she has been dreaming. He says, “You’ve been a long way away. Thank you for coming back to me.” He doesn’t say, “Back to us.” He says “Back to me.”

David Lean’s first movie that he directed totally alone is over. It is the beginning of David Lean’s ascendancy and Noel Coward’s decline. Already we see the potential of what is to come.