events of the day over breakfast. And strangers treated him differently
in her company: maître d’s, flight attendants, opera ushers. He was now
an object of envy, or so he fancied, a man on the arm of an attractive
younger woman. No longer that slightly peculiar, bejowled old geezer
who asked for a one-person table and extra crackers with his soup.
Of course, over all of this joy hung Shirley. Shirley—their common
bond, his unwitting falsehood. He recalled tales of celebrated impostors: Martin Guerre returning to Artigat, the Tichborne Claimant demanding his inheritance. They must have been made of stronger stuff
than Kappelschnitzer, because he found that his conscience gnawed at
him. Strolling along the Battery as sunset descended, watching the sea
lions feed at the Coney Island Aquarium, sharing the blue-plate special
at “their” Greek bistro in Astoria—“their” meaning his and Shirley’s—
he felt a burning need to unburden himself to Marilyn. How could he
claim to love this woman while denying her the most intimate secret of
But what could he possibly tell her?
She’d think he was daft. That he’d fallen on his head.
One lazy Sunday morning, over sturgeon and nova at Barney Green-
grass, she reached across the Formica tabletop and patted his hand. “You
never talk about Shirley,” she said. “You’re allowed to, you know.”
He nodded. “I guess I’m afraid to.”
Marilyn lifted his hand to her lips and kissed his fingers.
“Oh, Arnold,” she said. “When you’re ready.”
But he was too enamored—too smitten—to be ready. Although each
day he dug a deeper grave, drew a longer hanging rope, forged a heavier
chain of deception. And whom was he hurting anyway? Not Shirley,
surely. He’d never even met her. And what harm was he doing Marilyn
if she never found out? If anything, the cruelty lay in sharing the truth
about his “marriage.”
Yet his conscience . . . his conscience . . .
Such was Kappelschnitzer’s state of mind, three weeks later, when
he ran into Fritz Wainwright outside the faculty club. More than two
months had elapsed since the headshrinker’s confession. A month of radio silence. Could his old pal be second-guessing his candor? (He made
a mental note to reassure him.) But Wainwright betrayed no unease, and
the two strolled together across the medical school plaza toward Mount
Hebron’s main atrium. It was late May; invalids and orderlies on lunch
break basked along the curtilage of the hospital.