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By FrainI Brum
y immy wrestled with the rusty door of his '67
j' Chevrolet. For fifteen years, he thought, I've
been driving this damn wreck. But not much
longer. This is going to be the year of Jimmy Cooney.
Jimmy had put a great deal of thought into his cur
rent line of work. While he had started selling skate
boards only weeks before they joined the list of forgot
ten fads and had invested in citizens band radios when
he should have been looking forward to Sony Walkmen,
this time he was sure he was right on top of the market.
Bomb shelters were coming back.
He contemplated all of the reasons for their resur
gence as he drove along Route 119 towards Greensdale.
Amidst the forgotten, deserted factories of Fall River, he
prophesied a full-scale nuclear war in Nicaragua. He saw
a nuclear holocaust in the Middle East when he gazed at
the shopping malls of Richfield. And when he looked
into the large display windows of the car dealerships off
the road in Greensdale, he envisioned a new, wealthy
lifestyle for Jimmy Cooney.
Jimmy reached over to the passenger seat and grabbed
a white sheet of directions he had written out when on
the telephone with George Springer that morning. He
alternated glances at the road and at the almost unintel
ligible scrawl in his lap. Left at the stoplight before the
service road to the airport. Good. That would be just a
minute or so up the road.
The well-polished, seductive facades of the buildings
in Greensdale's small commercial district gradually flat
tened and softened into the short, dark-leaved trees and
dying tobacco plants of Bloomfield. These, too, shrank
and disappeared until all that remained were barren
stretches of hardened soil and brown grass. And then,
as oddly and suddenly as the appearance of a redwood
in the desert would be, the community of Hoppesville
Jimmy looked once again at his directions as he turned
onto Soundview Avenue. He commended himself for
attaching an address to the description of the Springers' .
home, for their house was a cookie-cutter clone of the
houses surrounding it split-level, aluminum-sided
boxes with the same placements of windows, doors and
garages. There were very few trees, an especially
peculiar feature for a New England neighborhood. The
land had obviously been leveled by contractors looking
for the easiest methods of construction. There was little,
save an occasional variation in color, to distinguish one
home from another. No individual identity except for
the small, black, wooden digits nailed to the mailbox at
the end of each flawlessly tarred driveway.
Jimmy laughed because he knew that this neighbor
hood was nothing like the kind that awaited him. Roll
ing green lawns, brick walls, sculptured fountains and
backyard pools. Yes, all of it, all of that happiness and
distinction would someday be his. And George and Alice
Springer were going to help him see to that.
Frank Bruni is a sophomore political science major
from Avon, Conn.
Jimmy remembered what his mother used to tell him
time and time again. 44 If you put your castles in the air,
make sure you build foundations under them." Jimmy
had never doubted her wisdom. He was, he thought,
moments away from the beginning of the brickwork.
As Jimmy twisted the key in the ignition and heard
the motor of the car die, he felt his stomach float, his
bowels waver. He reached into his pocket and pulled
out a comb and a roll of breath mints. After popping
three one had to be absolutely sure in matters of such
importance mints into his mouth, he reached up to
the rear view mirror and watched his face slide sideways
into it. A few clean sweeps with a comb, he thought; and
I'll look like a million. I'll be able to talk a priest into
A Christmas wreath hung on the Springers front
door. Jimmy checked his digital watch for the correct
date. November 15, just as he had thought. Some peo
ple, he thought, jump the gun.
Jimmy lifted his arm to knock on the door, but ber .
fore his fist had even begun to descend, the door swung
open to reveal a tall, lean man with only a few locks of
silver hair and a pair of glasses with large round lenses
which accented the enormity of his blue-gray eyes.
44 You must be Mr. Cooney." The old man thrust his
right hand forward. 4 'George Springer. I've been watch
ing for your car for some time now. Been looking for
ward to talking with you."
George's abrupt appearance and alacrity left Jimmy
speechless for a few seconds. "Um, oh, excuse me. I'm
Jimmy Cooney." He laughed one of his friendly, hope
fully ingratiating laughs. "It's great to meet you, Mr.
Springer." . . . -
George's smile revealed the absence of several teeth.
For a moment, Jimmy let himself take a liking to this
old man with such a charmingly whimiscal appearance,
but then he reminded himself that this was business,
and there was no room for sympathy or any other
potentially dangerous emotion where business was con
cerned. 4 'Please, Mr. Cooney, come in. My wife, Alice, is
making a fresh pot of coffee. It'll take that winter chill
out of your bones. November's a nasty month. The cold
creeps up on you faster than you know it." George,
laughed and Jimmy echoed him. We'll get along fine,
Jimmy thought. We'll get along just swimmingly. He let
the image of a new car a Ferrari, perhaps pop into
Jimmy wiped his shoes on the bright green WEL
COME mat inside the frontdoor. Looking up, he took
a quick survey of the Springers' home. Traditional
no, make that boring furniture, distinguished only
by its orderly arrangement. A simple brass chandelier
hung in the dining room to the left while the center of
attention in the living room to the right was a large
mahogany coffee table, around which the couch and
chairs were arranged as symmetrically as possible. Pow
der blue carpet screamed out from beneath the furnish
ings in both rooms.
"You have a lovely home, Mr. Springer," Jimmy
said. "Your wife has a real eye for coordination,
44 Yes, she does. She's a wonderful woman. Thirty
years together yeah, it's been that long and every
moment's been a pleasure. I'd like thirty more of the
same. That's one of the reasons I called you."
Jimmy immediately recognized and appreciated
George's willingness to open up, his generosity of self.
Jimmy knew he could use it to his advantage. 4 4 And
where is your wife? I assume you'd like for her to join
in our discussion. It's certainly a matter of the utmost
. importance," Jimmy said. Mentally, he patted himself
on the back. Jimmy Cooney, he thought, you're an elo
"Alice, come on out here and join Mr. Cooney and
From nowhere, a loud voice announced Alice Spring
er's presence in some nearby room. "Oh! I didn't hear
him come in. I'll be out in just a second."
Jimmy.smiled. 4 4 I'm looking forward to meeting your
44Oh, Mr. Cooney, please forgive me," Alice Spring
er's invisible presence rang out once again. "I didn't
welcome you to our home. Please, make yourself as
comfortable as you'd be at your own mother's place.
I'm coming out in just a bit with some coffee and I've
even rounded up a few cookies; Give me just one
Jimmy opened his mouth, expecting, as always, to
have the perfect response on hand. Instead, he felt his
body fill with warmth and melt to a chuckle. 4 'Thank
. . .thank you, Mrs. Springer. That'll be just fine."
Mr. Springer began to walk into the living room and
gestured Jimmy to follow him. "Mr. Cooney, please
don't call us by our last names. I'm George and my wife
is Alice. I really do insist."
"Fair enough, but then I'm Jimmy. I too insist."
Jimmy took a seajt in the chair next to the couch on
which George sat. It may not look like a whole lot, Jim
my thought, but this furniture is comfortable. Lived in.
Jimmy looked at George. The old man's eyes still
sparkled with a blueness which refused to dim, a blueness
which suggested youth and innocence and betrayed the
reality of old age. Catching Jimmy's gaze, George smiled
and shrugged. Jimmy started. Damn it, he thought, this
guy's just trying to make me forget what I came here
for. But I'm here to make a sale. And I'm going to
make a sale.
"Mr. Springer I mean, George I've brought
some information which elaborates on the pamphlet
you must have seen before you contacted me." Jimmy
pulled a manila folder from beneath his sport jacket.
He never used a briefcase. Didn't believe in them.
Thought they were too formal, made the customer
Jimmy's eyes leaped from the folder when a small
woman suddenly emerged from behind the swinging
' door off the dining room. She moved frenetically, read
justing a vase on this table and a photograph on that
one: Her features a short, wide nose, lips with all of
the color and apparent softness of youth, and camel
colored eyes grew more and more distinct as her tiny
frame approached Jimmy in a weaving, stop-and-go
fashion. Then, just when Jimmy could see her well
enough to feel a vague familiarity with her presence, she
came to an abrupt halt, opened her mouth wide and then
4 Literary Supplement Thursday, November 10, 1983