The Static of the Spheres
Chapter 3: Bathtub Games
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T WAS NOT UNUSUAL for Eliza and Mr. Beaker to look after me for an evening
when I was spending a weekend at Gumma and Guppa’s. For many years,
they would stay with me on Saturday nights while Gumma and Guppa went out
to play bridge with friends.
I was, throughout my childhood, required to take a bath sometime between dinner and bedtime, and Eliza took on the responsibility of bathing me when she and Mr. Beaker were taking care of me on one of those Saturday nights during my earliest years. Mr. Beaker left this responsibility to her gladly, and he would spend my bath time in the living room, smoking his pipe and reading. Eliza invented a number of bath time games over the years. My favorite of these was making soapsuds landscapes. We would work up a lather of suds in the tub together, enough so that the suds covered the water entirely. We would spend some time smoothing the layer of suds so that it completely and evenly covered the water, with the exception, of course, of the spot where I, sitting, projected through the layer of suds. Then, moving and shaping the suds with our hands, we would create a landscape around me. There might be mountains in the distance near my feet, a winding road, conical evergreens, a river. The renderings of the features were never very precise, and they began to decay as soon as they were constructed, from the bursting of the soap bubbles and the pull of gravity. By the time the little village in the valley had been constructed, for example, the mountains had sunk to the level of the plain, and the river would be nearly indistinguishable. To appreciate a completed soapscape, one had to be able to see the mountains as they had been when they were new and to imagine that they were better formed than they really were.
As I grew and aged, the pleasure that I took in soapsuds landscapes and Eliza’s other bathtub games began, as one might expect, to shift from the aesthetic to the erotic.
On that important New Year’s Eve, my parents were going to a celebration in our neighborhood, and Gumma and Guppa were going to some kind of wingding that someone in their set was throwing, perhaps a New Year’s Eve bridge tournament. When Eliza learned about their plans, she volunteered to stay with me at Gumma and Guppa’s.
“We won’t be going anywhere anyway,” she told Gumma. “Dudley thinks that New Year’s Eve celebrations are not at all the right way to usher in the new year. He says that in the Orient people make a point of planning, as the old year wanes, what endeavors they wish to undertake in the coming year, and then in the first moments of the new year they do a lick of work on each of these undertakings, thereby ensuring that they will prosper throughout the year, and this, he feels, is a much wiser way of beginning a year than a lot of drunken whoopdedo.”
So it was that on New Year’s Eve Eliza and I were in the bathroom, shaping a soapsuds landscape, while Dudley was in the living room, making a list of endeavors that he hoped would prosper in the coming year. Eliza and I had been at work for a while. The room was steamy. Droplets covered the mirror and the chrome fixtures. The droplets commingled and grew and ran suddenly down erratic courses. Eliza’s cheeks were rosy with the heat. Damp strands of her blond hair fell across her eyes. She blew up at them to get them out of her way or pushed them up with the back of her hand, keeping the soap out of her eyes. She bent over the tub, working at shaping the soapsuds. Her damp blouse clung to her breasts. Her hand grazed my thigh while she was shaping suds into a peasant cottage, and we glanced at each other simultaneously. There was a look in her eyes that I had never seen before.
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Little Follies 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.
“My Mother Takes a Tumble,” “Do Clams Bite?,” “Life on the Bolotomy,” “The Static of the Spheres,” “The Fox and the Clam,” “The Girl with the White Fur Muff,” “Take the Long Way Home,” and “Call Me Larry” were originally published in paperback by Apple-Wood Books.
Little Follies was first published in hardcover by Crown Publishers, Inc., 201 East 50th Street, New York, New York 10022. Member of the Crown Publishing Group.
For information about publication rights outside the U. S. A., audio rights, serial rights, screen rights, and so on, e-mail the author’s imaginary agent, Alec “Nick” Rafter.
The illustration at the top of the page is an adaptation of an illustration by Stewart Rouse that first appeared on the cover of the August 1931 issue of Modern Mechanics and Inventions. The boy at the controls of the aerocycle doesn’t particularly resemble Peter Leroy—except, perhaps, for the smile.