|Leaving Small’s Hotel|
YOU CAN READ
Disturbing the Field
MY USUAL EARLY HOUR I sat at the computer to do some work on the passage
that I would be reading in the evening, but it was Albertine who wrote:
IN THE AFTERNOON, I walked up to Albertine at the desk and said, “Let
me take you away from all of this, at least for the afternoon.” She
protested, pleading work, but I pointed out that with only two guests staying
at the hotel, this was the perfect opportunity to refresh ourselves before
the hordes arrived for the weekend. I took her by the hand and led
her to the dock, and I thought I could feel her spirits lighten as we approached
it. I pumped the launch, she started it up, I cast us off, and with
Albertine at the wheel we escaped the confines of Small’s Island.
She was smiling all the way across the bay.
I WAS A BOY, there was quite a lot of interest in flying saucers.
This was the popular name given to unidentified flying objects that were
supposed to be the ships of voyagers from other worlds. Though they
were called saucers, they resembled hubcaps. There was also quite
a lot of interest in hubcaps at that time. (Since then, interest
in flying saucers, inhabitants of other worlds, and hubcaps has declined.
Today, it is limited to isolated groups of fanatics. Things change.)
I make no claim to having been immune to these popular enthusiasms, will deny neither the modest collection of hubcaps that I’d accumulated nor the flying-saucer detector that I built from plans in Cellar Scientist magazine.
The detector was a simple device: just a few pieces of wire, a compass needle, a battery, and a bulb. The plans included two diagrams: a “pictorial” and a “schematic.” Here is the pictorial, drawn from memory:
Here is the schematic, also drawn from memory:
You see the difference. The pictorial depicts the thing
as we would see it if it were assembled by a professional using the highest-quality
components, but the schematic is a depiction of the essence of the thing;
instead of showing the thing, it shows the point of the thing,
its function and meaning, the ding an sich. The pictorial
is an attempt to represent the object, but the schematic is an attempt
to represent the ideal underlying the object. All the electrical
projects I built in my boyhood career as a builder of electrical projects
included in their instructions both types of diagram: one for the realists
and one for the idealists, the dreamers.
IN BED that night, awake, I found that I was afraid of moving to
Foggy Cove. In my sleepy mind, I heard myself asking myself, “Is
that all it will add up to, a little house on a side street in Foggy Cove?
You won’t have come anywhere from a tract house in Babbington.”
“Try to lie still and go to sleep,” said Albertine.
“Sorry,” I said. “I will try.”
“Think about Manhattan.”
“What makes you say that?”
“It’s what you told me the other night.”
“Oh. Yeah. I forgot. Albertine?”
“Do you keep a diary or anything?”
“I keep the log. You know, my log of what happens here at the hotel. You know that.”
“Sure, but I mean something private. Your private thoughts.”
“No. Why do you ask?”
“Just wondered,” I said. “Good night. I love you.”
“I love you,” she said.
For a long while I thought about Manhattan.
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Leaving Small’s Hotel is published in paperback by Picador, a division of St. Martin's Press, at $14.00.
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Copyright © 1998 by Eric Kraft
Leaving Small’s Hotel is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogues, settings, and businesses portrayed in it are products of the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
Leaving Small’s Hotel was first published on May 11, 1998, by Picador USA, a division of St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10010.
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