As I Was Saying

My kids suggested that a return would be beneficial for me.  So here I am, in the town of my childhood… Pequot Landing, Connecticut… in the section known as the Village, a mile as the crow flies from Long Island Sound and the ‘beach community” and another mile in the other direction to the Post Road, and yet another mile to I-95. I am sitting on a bench in a triangle known as McClellan Park. Calling this slice of land a park is perhaps a stretch; but as a boy I would ride my bike here with my friends and weave in and out of the benches placed strategically around a statue of the Union General George McClellan.  Invent games to our heart’s delight.  We would go over to Nelson’s Pharmacy buy our baseball cards, occupy a bench to trade our cards and chew bubble-gum.  And to a little boy McClellan Park was as good as it gets.  There will be more to tell of my memories of this place, and my time here… that will wait for another day.  And as I sit in my favorite bench with its perfect orientation to the noon day sun, I watch passing cars and listen to the sounds of today…

“I am telling you I was there…”

“I thought you said that you were going over to the Flanagan’s to return their lawnmower which you’ve had in your garage for three years.”

“Yes, that’s true…”

“Well, I think it was about time.  I mean three years?  And here it is… Michael may have to go to that re-hab place again.”

“Re-hab?  You’re mixing Michael Flanagan with Michael Flynn over on Olmstead Lane.  The Flanagans are selling their house and moving to Bozeman, Montana.  I think Becky is getting a position at the University and Michael is along for the ride.  He probably won’t need the lawnmower there either.  And why are you bringing the mower back?  Surely Richard could have dropped it off on the way to the golf course?”

“Yes, I know…”

“Stop right there! You’re always making excuses for Richard.  He could have just as easily taken the mower over to the Flanagans so that you didn’t have to, and besides, what was so important about going to the bank on a Saturday?  I mean it’s such a nuisance driving to the Village on a Saturday in July when all the ‘summer people’ are out and about.”

“A nuisance.  I couldn’t agree more.”

“Yes, but…”

“No buts!  It’s a nuisance I say!  You can’t find parking.  Lines everywhere you go.  Bratty snot nosed kids running into the street, or leaving their bikes on the sidewalks so you can’t even walk from Nelson’s Pharmacy to the bank!”

“Yes, the bank…”

“I was in Nelson’s the other day and who should walk in?  Why, it was Fran Tishman from our Class.  Although I think her married name is Blaine.”

“As I was saying… I was in the bank when this man walked in with a pelican under his arm…”

“That’s not right… it’s not Blaine, it’s Beckstoffer.  Yes, Beckstoffer.  He’s a mechanical engineer of some sort.  Was a mechanical engineer… he’s dead now.”

“Maybe that’s why Fran is back in town?  She always took an interest in Timmy Sutherland, and now that Betty left him?  Well… do I have to draw you a map?”

“Nonsense, Fran couldn’t stand Timmy… she liked Tommie Pfinster!  And besides, Tommie has been living in Oregon for years!”

“So, let me finish… who expects to see a man walk into the Standard Savings and Loan with a pelican…”

“Tommie Pfinster.  Tommie Pfinster… now there’s a story!  His family had all that money.  Do you remember?  Always the best cars.  Vacations here and there.  And when Tommie got into trouble, the old man paid off the cops and the judge.”

“The judge… big time!”

“So… this guy is in the bank…”

“Tommie gets into Lake Forest College…”

“You mean his old man ‘buys’ him into Lake Forest College”

“You’re probably right.  And for Tommie it was party, party, party all the time.  And probably a new girl every weekend!  Study?  Study what?  How to inherit all that money?”

“You know… I think the money came from his mother’s side.  I think she was a Mellon or a duPont.  Tommie’s father just landed in the ‘ice cream’ and went along for the ride.”

“The ice cream!”

“Look… would you expect a hold-up guy to have a pelican under his arm?”

“Sure! Fran Tishman liked Tommie!  What girl wouldn’t want to fall into some ice cream?”

“Well… maybe Fran didn’t know that Tommie was in Oregon.”

“Let me tell you about Oregon.  Strange people live there.  They are not like us.  You wouldn’t want to live there.   Strange weather pattern. There are some parts of North Carolina that wouldn’t be bad… Oregon?  Never!”

“He was probably hiding the gun under the pelican…”

“My cousin lives in Chapel Hill and I went and visited her there last year.  It was lovely.  Maybe a tad too big what with all the college students and all.  But lovely nevertheless.”

“What was that about a peacock?”

“Pelican.  It was a pelican.”

“Do you remember the Peacock Ball in High School?”

“The Peacock Ball!  Do I remember?  Hah!  Do you remember that dreadful date that I had?”

“It was a pelican…”

“Pelican?  No, his name was Peterson.  Ricky Peterson!”

“I remember him!  He used to sit in back of me in Modern European History and he would make this disgusting ‘bathroom sounds!’  It was so gross.  What did you ever see in him anyway?”

“He was wearing black…”

“All the guys were dressed in black!  It was the Peacock Ball!  Girls in gowns and the boys in tuxedos.”

“No. The man with the pelican.”


“Say what you will.  Ricky Peterson looked great in a tux!”

“No!  The stick-up guy who came into the Standard with a pelican!  I was there!”

“A stick-up at the Standard!”

“Heavens!  What did he look like?”

“He was white.  Although it might have been a she.  I have trouble telling the difference between male and female.  It was white with a big bill, small beady eyes, webbed feet and not smelling great.”

“Didn’t smell great?  Sounds like a low type to me.  Someone connected with ‘summer people.’  One of those foreign au père’s who probably didn’t shave under her arm pits or use deodorant!”

“No, it was the pelican!”

“Pelican?  Pelican!  Dear girl whatever are you talking about?”

“As I was saying… After I dropped off the mower I went over to the Standard to convert all my change.  You know how the Standard has one of those machines that counts all your coins?  Well… Richard puts all of our change into those cardboard tubes that Lagavullin Single Malt comes in.  You know what I’m talking about?  So there I am with two tubes, and they weigh a ton!  I am at the ‘coin-o-matic’ minding my own business when in comes this guy dressed in black with a pelican under his arm, and real polite he takes out a pistol and announces that this was a hold-up and no one will get hurt if we remain quiet and don’t do anything brave or stupid.  The only people in the bank at that time was me, Gladys Caulkins, Milton Goodkind the electrician, two summer people who I don’t know, the three girls behind the counter and Mr. Teasdale the manager.  Not like I was going to do anything brave… I just hoped that he wasn’t going to take my loaded Lagavullin tubes!  No, nothing of the sort!  He firmly said that he wasn’t there to trouble us and that he was only there to rob from the capitalist oppressors and usurpers.  Well, luckily, I suppose, the bank keeps sacks of money, probably marked of course, just for such emergencies, and Mr. Teasdale dutifully hands over three sacks of marked cash.  And the robber, who kept that pelican under his arm the entire time, THANKS US, and says that he means us no harm.  Thanks us!  Can you imagine! And before he gets to the door to make his getaway, Gladys Caulkins stops him and says that she has always loved pelicans, and she opens her pocketbook and gives him a twenty dollar bill!  Can you imagine!

“Gladys Caulkins!  That Communist!”

“Can you imagine!”

“You know… I am just remembering… Fran’s husband was named Blackstone, not Beckstoffer… and he wasn’t a mechanical engineer, he was an accountant.  But he’s still dead.”

“Dead!  Can you imagine!”

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