Hurricane - Part I
By Charles Bane, Jr.
At exactly dawn, a very young man, perhaps twelve years old, stood at the rail of an Italian liner in a worsted wool suit and watched the island of Puerto Rico rise from the sea. He was not awed, but stood gazing at the sight with the unearthly poise of a soldier who has escaped death in battle and now witnesses the fires of artillery that can do him no harm.. He returned to the ship's library, and spared no more time looking at the sea. For Collier--his first name--the spectacle of the ships' arrival was of a piece with the vastness of a life in city and country that was populated entirely by beings unlike himself. He had learned to live among them with the grace of his breeding, and a stoic acceptance; but his pallor betrayed to his uncomfortable family and to servants and friends that he was stemmed like the shortest lived of the field. Once, Mrs. Hargrave had appeared at the family's brownstone with her car and driver. Blanketing him, she had taken Collier to the horse races and spoken carefully, but without pity, as she plied him with hot chocolate. He found a photo of her in his mother's dressing room, and taking it to his bedroom, took the photograph from its frame and placed it under his pillow.
His father appeared at the door of the Adriano's library and the two left the ship, and taxied to the Imperial. Here perhaps, the father thought, the boy would rally. He looked at his son as twilight appeared at the window of their suite. The sun was open shirted here; it spread its arms wide as its torso descended into the water. They would be driven tomorrow into the hills. It would be an entertainment, like the historians and authors the father invited to lunch with the boy at the Century Club. Each had looked at Collier with an all too familiar gaze, and visibly softened. The great historian Bixby had told Collier--to the boy's sympathetic delight--that Franklin Roosevelt had been mocked by classmates at Groton, for his rarefied accent. And eyeing the boy carefully, he told him that Roosevelt had overcome, through force of will, paralysis and a secret dread of fire.
At eight o'clock sharp the following morning, their driver appeared in the lobby. It was a hot day; father and son were in suit and tie. Their driver left old San Juan and motored towards the hills. The road steepened the moment they left the city. The brazen light of the previous night was pirating and shook chests of gold and stones across the boy's face through the window of the taxi. In Spanish, their driver spoke of the island. He told the man and boy in his back seat that their like had ruined the old city, save for Sundays, when islanders could walk past the sleeping casinos to early Mass. He said he did not mind fasting before Communion for the pleasure after, of quesito and sweet black coffee. He told them the hills were richer than the father's watch chain; and he said that he was nervous today, for there were signs of a coming hurricane. He turned onto a secondary road, hoping for an easier climb and less burden on his engine.
Charles Bane Jr. is an American Poet. Curbside Splendor published his first book The Chapbook (July 2011) and will publish his second book New Poems (October 2012) via Concepcion Books, a new Curbside imprint.