At 5:00 pm on the day I began helping Myra in the garden, Tommy arrived home and removed his blue service uniform and bathed and put on a white cotton dress shirt and pink Bermuda shorts and suede athletic shoes with no socks. He could have been living in Darien, Connecticut, in that outfit, with the rolled-up sleeves that fell away gracefully from his thin forearms, and with his narrow, elegantly muscled legs sparsely covered with golden hair. He walked into the kitchen, a room still bright at 5:20 pm. Myra had mixed up a batch of powdered lemonade, which he preferred to the kind she knew how to make with real lemons and sugar and water. There was such a lovely feeling of coolness about a room Myra had cleaned and arranged in which Tommy stood wearing his Bermudas and drinking lemonade.
"You want to throw around a baseball?" he said. "Hey! You deaf? Mary. Baseball?"
"No, all the other people named Mary."
I ran and got my glove and joined Tommy in the backyard, which Myra had mown short the way he liked it.
"I'm gonna pitch first for a while. You squat down over there, and when you catch ëem, just toss ëem back lightly. If there's time before dark, you can pitch a few also."
I squatted and Tommy, holding the ball, got himself up into the sequence of preparatory attitudes of the major league pitcheróscuffing at the ground with the toe of one shoe, hands behind him, left side toward me; staring down the opponent, which, since there was no batter, was me; left foot back, arms up over and behind his head, arms coming down as the left foot came forward and up; right arm back, left foot toward me, left foot planting in the grass, left arm pointing at me, body pivoting, right arm releasing the ball in my direction. He went through some staggering, spinning motions, which I paid attention to instead of watching the ball coming at me. The ball hit me in the forehead.
"You're supposed to catch that. You all right? Yeah, you're okay. Let's try another. Toss it back."
I threw a wild one over his head that he had to run for. He came back and pitched another viciously hard one at me, which I caught, stinging my hand. I chucked another wild oneóeven farther this timeóand he ran and got it and really tried to wound me with his next pitch. We went on in that vein for an hour. I didn't care if I got hit by his pitches. The pain distracted me from my other concerns.
After an hour, Myra tiptoed into the backyard with her hands behind her back and her head slightly bowed and stood between Tommy and me, just out of the ball's pathóshe was another one who probably would not have minded if she'd been hit; would not have noticed was more like it, in her case. Though she had come to indicate in some way that we should go inside for dinner, she did not speak.
Tommy said, "Is there something we can help you with dear?"
"Dinner's ready," she said, as if dinner had come into being without agency.
The game of catch became another of that summer's routines.
When was dinner was over I rejoined Paul in the ark little cave that was our private space. In the hour after dinner he liked to keep the electric lights off so he could watch the natural daylight drain from the air and from each object in the room. Paul didn't like to speak during the darkening of the room, so I sat by him in silence, idly tickling the bottoms of his feet. Then, in the darkness, his rigorous mental conditioning of me would begin again:
"Let's say you're on a desert island with one other person
"Let's say you're in a burning house
"Let's say you're driving a train headed for a busload of schoolchildren
"Let's say you reach the age of ten and stop being able to think"
Evening came to its ritual end when Myra entered and said "Time for bath." I would then turn on the light in the room, and Myra would carry Paul to the bathroom as if he were a damsel in distress and she the brave hero, only in this case the damsel, while being bathed, always got an erection.
So now you know about Paul and Tommy and Myra and me, and the little life we all had together.