Selected Poetry: 1974-
a story by
Paul Seifert, M.D.
Published: MY LEGACY
Volume II, Number 8-C
Megan McCready skipped along the plush carpeted hallway of the second floor of a ski resort in central Vermont. She periodically defused the static electricity from her body by slashing her room key across every third doorknob. A series of wall hangings, depicting scenes of old Venice, briefly caught her eye as she passed. "Probably by Cannoretto, or maybe Tintorelli," she thought. She would have to ask Daddy. He knew all of the Italian painters.
Megan reached the midpoint of the old resort, where the central hallway opened into lounging and table game areas. Two motionless old men sat hunched over a game of chess, as if frozen in their poses. A spiral, marble-stepped staircase, with delicate wrought iron railings, led from an alcove to the upper and lower floors.
Megan passed a family of skiers in sleek ski suits as they trudged along to the galumph of ski boots, their boards clacking as they struggled toward the slopes and a few last runs. Megan interrupted her progress toward room 287 long enough to let them pass, acknowledging their gratitude with a slightly affected bow.
She was supposed to be skiing herself, but she had skipped her lessons that afternoon because of Eric, her ski instructor. The earlier part of the week had been super fun. Eric was such a fox. Megan had fallen instantly in love with him right from the beginning. But then this morning, during the free time before morning lessons, she had spied him from the ski lift necking in the trees of Kath's run with that sexy little Austrian ski instructor, Gretchen. Megan had been so mortified she had almost forgotten to get off the lift. She would loved to be ground up in the machinery like that dumb kid in the Cheever story that Daddy had read to her last week, but Eric would never have known that he had been the cause of her death, so it would not really do her any good. Megan had refused to sit with him during hot chocolate break. Unfortunately, Eric had only concluded that Megan had been sick or something. It did not appear he had garnered a clue as to what was really bothering her.
"Men!" she thought, as she reached the wing of rooms where the handles of the doors began to become even more ornate.
At least the afternoon had been fun, despite Megan's shattered love life. She and Oliver Morgan had spent the rest of the day in the pinball room. After they had exhausted their supply of quarters, Megan had discovered a way to get free games out of the machines. First, it was necessary to rub one's feet against the carpet to build up static electricity. Then, by touching the wire mesh covering the speakers at the sides of the machine with one of those little wire holders that are used to attach lift tickets to a skier's jacket, the game was somehow reset. Oliver thought Megan was a genius and born electro-physicist. She could not get him to stop mooning over her like a sick calf. Boys her age are so childish.
Daddy and Mother were still out on the slopes. Daddy loved to ski. He almost always stayed out until the lifts closed at five. Megan glanced at her watch. It was ten minutes after four. She intended to dress for cocktails and dinner this evening in the finest outfit she had with her--the burgundy blazer with silk blouse and suede skirt that Daddy had gotten for her at Saks during his last trip into New York City.
Megan loved going for cocktails before dinner in the elegant lounge called The Slopeside. She could not wait until Eric came in tonight, so she could taunt him with her outfit. The blazer made her look sophisticated and very grown-up. She had been practicing her walk for months now. Megan was planning a special visit to the powder room this evening that would be perfectly timed so that Eric could not help but notice her. He would regret his treachery! She just hoped he would say something to her.
"Why, Eric," she would respond, "I am so sorry, but I just cannot spend any time with you this evening."
Cocktails at the Slopeside were great fun. Marlene, the waitress, was just wonderful. The other children were always clamoring for "kiddie cocktails," but Marlene always served Megan a "young person's cocktail," with extra grenadine. Marlene had informed Megan of this "special treatment" in a whisper on the day of the McCreadys' arrival.
"The usual, I presume," Marlene would suggest, with a knowing wink in Megan's direction, when the McCreadys arrived at The Slopeside.
"Yes," Megan would reply, with as much charm in her voice as in Mother's, "and with the imported grenadine, please."
"Excellent choice!" Marlene would remark, after taking Daddy's and Mother's orders.
It was nice sitting around the glass topped tables in the comfortable chairs, letting the stiffness from skiing gradually loosen from one's muscles, while watching the shadows inch up the slopes into the trees as the sun set behind the mountain.
Megan liked to get Daddy and Mother to play word games, as they sipped their cocktails. One of them would write a word on a cocktail napkin. The others would then have to use it in a sentence, or give some other example of its meaning. Megan loved Daddy's illustrations best. Sometimes, if he was in the right mood, he would just go on and on about a word, telling them all kinds of interesting things about it. Megan assumed that writers like Daddy felt that way about words.
Her favorite the day before had been "poignant."
Oliver Morgan, who was always trying to impress her, had told Megan at lunch that she had a very poignant personality. So she had written "poyneyant" on her napkin, and had passed the word around.
Mother had corrected the spelling and had used the word in a sentence: "We will all feel a very poignant regret when this ski trip is over," she had written.
"Interesting word," Daddy had said. "Poignant, like Joyce's poignant description of hell in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. How does that go? Walls four thousand miles thick. The damned piled so high they cannot move enough to remove a worm gnawing at their eyes. Fires that give off no light. A place completely devoid of love. But, the fire is the most poignant aspect," Daddy had suggested. "A fire that never consumes and that never ends."
Daddy had reached over and had tickled Megan playfully, nearly spilling her cocktail.
"So, you should be good!" he had admonished, his voice filled with mock foreboding, "Or else the devils of hell will torment you most poignantly!"
Megan reached room 287 and inserted her key into the lock. She was startled momentarily when the chain lock snapped taut, barring her entrance to the room. She pushed at the door once again without success. She then checked the room number to see if she had possibly made some mistake. But then she realized that such a supposition was ridiculous, since the key had worked.
"Daddy? Mother?" She called through the crack, not really expecting a response.
There was none.
"Not again!" she commiserated aloud, brimming with frustration. They were supposed to be skiing!
Megan started pacing back and forth outside the room. Ordinarily, she might have just returned to the pinball room, but she really wanted to get into the suite so she could get ready for cocktails, and for Eric. There was not all that much time. If Eric were to be in The Slopeside at all, he would be there just after lift closing.
Megan leaned back against the wall with her hands clasped behind her back. Her chin was directed sharply toward the ceiling. She found herself sighing with impatience from time to time.
A houseguest ambled by, obviously noticing the look of utter frustration on Megan's face.
"Forgotten your key?" the houseguest asked sweetly.
"No!" Megan snapped back sarcastically, dangling the key before the woman's face. "My parents just insist upon making love every day at this hour. I cannot get into my room!"
"Oh, dear!" the woman replied, looking aghast as she quickly moved off down the hall. She gave Megan several suspicious looks in the course of her retreat.
Megan resumed her fruitless pacing.
Just then, old Mrs. Worthington happened to come by. Mrs. James Allen Worthington III had become a fixture of the place for the McCreadys. She was more than a little eccentric. "Why on earth would a little old lady, probably in her seventies, want to come to a ski resort anyway?" Megan wondered. Mrs. Worthington was always asking people if they would mind if she joined them for breakfast or dinner. What could one really say? Who could be unkind to a lonely old widow? All of the staff knew of her, it appeared. By her own admission, she came to this resort every year, during the very same week. She apparently insisted upon staying alone in the resort's most exclusive suite. Evelyn--Megan's favorite dining room server--had mentioned on the sly that old Mrs. Worthington had been coming to the resort for over forty years. Evelyn predicted she would probably continue to do so until the day she died. None of the staff had ever been able to find out exactly why she came back every year, despite a lot of prompting.
"Are you having some trouble, dear?" Mrs. Worthington asked, as she approached.
Megan leaned over in the direction of the old woman's ear. Although Daddy's poignant description of Joyce's poignant depiction of hell flashed through her mind ever so briefly, she could not abandon the temptation to engage in a bit of playful perversity.
"My parents are making love in there," she said in a whisper, pointing toward the door.
The expected shock that Megan thought would immediately materialize on old Mrs. Worthington's face did not appear there. In fact, the old woman's face remained blank. She stood there, peering without emotion at the partially cracked door.
Megan--feeling all of the day's frustration welling up inside her--decided to up the ante a little more.
"Yes, they will be at it for hours. Mother is multiply orgasmic, you see. I have read all about these things in magazines."
Megan had--in fact--read about multiple orgasms, but she had no idea what they were, or whether her mother actually experienced them.
"I see," said Mrs. Worthington. The older woman had a look on her face that began to bother Megan McCready considerably. She wished the old woman would respond in some way, even with the irritation Megan had expected. Megan began to fear that she might have carried things too far.
Megan nervously pushed at the door, softly tensing and then relaxing the chain lock. Mrs. Worthington seemed to be a completely different person than her usual talkative self. An expression of infinite sadness had come over her face. She continued to stare at the door without speaking, as if she were in some kind of trance. Looking at Mrs. Worthington, Megan began to panic. She thought perhaps the old lady was having a stroke, and that she--Megan--had caused it.
Megan was considerably relieved when the door was suddenly closed from within. There was a slight clinking sound, as the chain lock was removed from the latch.
The door opened. Mother stood there in her robe. She immediately tried to do something with her tousled hair, when she noticed Mrs. Worthington standing in the hall.
"You should come in and change, Megan," Mrs. McCready suggested. "I'm sure you don't want to be late for cocktails."
Megan was only too happy to escape through the open doorway into the refuge of the family's suite.
The two older women stood confronting one another. The soft features of Mrs. McCready's face were relaxed. Her cheeks displayed a faint crimson flush.
"I hope Megan has not been disturbing you, Mrs. Worthington," Mrs. McCready said, at some loss for something more appropriate to say.
"Oh no," said Mrs. Worthington, whose face remained vacant. She still seemed lost in thought, as if her mind were somewhere far away. Finally, the older woman turned and slowly walked away. Mrs. McCready stood watching her retreat for a few moments. Mrs. Worthington looked very tired. Her eyes were directed passively toward the floor.
Some moments later, Megan felt her mother sit down on the bed beside her. Mrs. McCready began to gently massage her daughter's neck and back. Megan burrowed her face deeply into the pillow, not certain how to deal with the emotional upheaval she was feeling.
"Bad day?" Mrs. McCready suggested.
Megan shook her head affirmatively, afraid she might cry if she tried to say anything.
Neither Megan nor her mother spoke for several moments.
"Mrs. Worthington is very lonely, isn't she, Momma?" Megan said, breaking the silence.
"Yes, I suspect she misses someone very deeply, don't you?"
Megan did not respond immediately.
"Does love always make you unhappy, Momma?" she asked, finally.
Megan could feel her mother's gentle caress.
"Love can be wonderful, Megan," Mrs. McCready assured her. "You will see," she added gently.
"I hate Eric!" Megan said spitefully.
"Eric--your ski instructor? Why, I thought you had a tremendous crush on him?"
"Not any more!" Megan said emphatically.
"I see," her mother said with compassion.
There was another pause.
"Do you think Mrs. Worthington would mind if I paid her a visit, Momma?" Megan asked.
"I would imagine she would be delighted to have your company," Mrs. McCready suggested.
"I think I'm going to invite her to have cocktails with me tonight," Megan said forcefully.
Megan flipped over and looked up into her mother's pleasantly smiling face. She suddenly experienced a most poignant sense of relief.
Mrs. McCready winked conspiratorially at her daughter.
"Don't forget to order the imported grenadine," she said warmly.