much admired Hitler. (Okay, it didn’t say they were party members.)
Why had I scoffed? Phoebe had accused me of having the overconfidence of the elite. Cause of all the evil in the world.
And then I found myself reading around in that volume (W for
Windsor) of the Britannica, a reference source my parents had always
condemned. Wallaby; warbler; Wellington, Duke of; Wright, Orville
and Wilbur. I got lost in the pages all morning. I came home and told
my roommates that the Battle of Waterloo was really very nearly won by
Napoleon’s side. I was so pleased to know this.
And that was how I talked myself into going back to school. In fact,
school was nothing like that. It was all about writing papers and arguing
theories, about naming concepts and identifying principles. I took poli-sci and economics and even some physics. UMass had fees, but I could
pay them in pieces. It took me six years to finish. Trudy, my girlfriend at
the end, was a bartender, and she brought home a bottle of Jack Daniels
to celebrate. “What a lot of bullshit a degree is,” I said, knocking back a
shot, but I had my pride in the thing. I wrote to my mother (I could do
that) and my brother and my sister to tell them. My sister had two kids
by then, not that I’d much noticed.
I was still driving a cab. I’d gotten held up at gunpoint once, in the early
years, and I’d had my share of raving passengers, but I might’ve kept at
it forever. I liked it fine. Out of the blue, my sister wrote to say she and
her husband were coming to Boston for something, would I have lunch
I wrote back yes.
Trudy made fun of me as I got cleaned up to go. (I was definitely not
taking any girlfriends this time.) I shaved with care, slicked down my
hair, put on a decent sweater. “Mister Power Elite,” she said.
“Nations tremble,” I said.
I was supposed to meet them in the restaurant of their hotel, which
meant mediocre food, but what did I care? What I didn’t realize until I
walked into the room was that they had their kids with them. A little
guy in a sailor cap was sitting in a high chair next to Cecie, and Cecie,
plumper now, was putting a spoon in his mouth. She leaned up to kiss
me and said, “Dad doesn’t even want me to talk to you.”
Her husband, whose name I had forgotten, said, “But we’re extremely
glad to see you. Thanks for coming out.”