Saturday, January 14, 2006

Joe: January 17, 1943

Sunday Afternoon--All is quiet and peaceful--three hard-working soldiers are enjoying a siesta--inaudibly, thanks be, correction four; one is studying a dictionary--a victim of three new words-a-day disease, probably; another is painfully writing a letter--not me, I enjoy writing letters which begin Mary dear.

The only sound is the humming of the fan in one of the barracks’ as it blows out warm currents of desert air. Fortunately, my mind is miles and miles away. watching a dark head buried in a book of scientific lore; otherwise there would be five siesta-ers. A pair of blue eyes looks up from the heavy book, which I can now observe to be entitled Physiology for Students of Home Economics, but resolutely look down again on page 47--only 281 more. Alongside the printed book is another--a notebook which, at last, is completed; although, here and there, its contents are not clear--I wish that Peggy wrote clearer but borrowers can’t be choosers and only he last three quarters is copied. What is this? The diagrams in the notebook are but black and white--no crayon colored charts.

If it were but a picture all would be still. But no, I can hear the sound of grinding teeth--do I have to interpolate that they are white and were noticed by me in that period from August to November--as the ideal cell battles with a sarcolena with a lonely neuron looking on. Wait, another sound can be heard. A voice--yes it’s Kenneth’s--is saying, “Mary, Mary, did you hear how a moron powders her nose. No? There were five morons and they all ordered Coca-Cola, the other one ordered milk.” Another sterner voice is heard: “Frank, stop marching around, your sister Mary is studying. Sit still,; here’s a new Superman book to read.”

What is the focus point of all this solicitude doing? She’s making progress: a page is turned over, eyes race over page 48 and reach halfway down the next page. They stop then, puzzled--how did that New Mexican jackrabbit get tangled up in the carotid artery? Back to page 47 and ye old physiology textbook is turned face down and a hand--a left hand reaches for the notebook. This time the eyes are resolute; they ignore a bracelet whose blue stones are earnestly trying to reflect the glory of its owners eyes. Page after page is flipped by--ah here it is, the circulatory system. “The heart is a wonderful instrument: it pumps thirty billion times during the allotted span of three score and ten years...” The owner of these studious blue eyes pauses to absorb into her mind all this concentrated knowledge about the heart. Alas, that pause was fatal--her mind leaps to a consideration of other facts about hearts which are not contained in any textbook.

Mary! What is the use of my being in Queens Village this Sunday afternoon when you persist in wandering to a warmer Sunday afternoon out in the desert. I’ve glided from the New Mexican plateau to the lowlands of Long Island so you could study. After all, it’s only two days until the 19th and well you know Monday and Tuesday will be the two busiest days for the priorities and export license department; Pete will probably keep you working overtime Monday night; it always happens that way. Well, I’ve done my best, Mary--New Mexico it is.

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