The following story is part a new feature, the serialization of our columnist Wayne Weedon’s fictional work, Vectors. Wayne is a brilliant writer whose style consists of simple declarative statements that stick in your mind as he leads you through an intricate web of circumstances to reach the lesson he set out to teach.
Chapter 3: A Slow recovery
The next morning, when I opened my eyes, I remembered I was in Mr. Graham’s bed. Through the open door, I could see him puttering in the kitchen. When he saw I was awake he told me to go clean myself up, while he made me something to eat. I did as I was told. I still felt a little woozy, but I managed to eat a soft-boiled egg with a piece of toast and a cup of tea. I didn’t resist when he told me to go back to bed.
I woke up for the second time around ten. I needed to go to the washroom. Mr. Graham wasn’t at home. I guessed he must have gone to the store for something, and I went back to bed. I immediately fell back to sleep. When I awoke again, I could hear Mr. Graham whistling softly in another room. I found I was now wide awake, and I didn’t feel like going back to sleep. I debated whether I should get up; I still felt weak, my head was throbbing, and my muscles ached. Mr. Graham must have heard me rolling around the bed; he came in and suggested I should get up to eat. After I ate my lunch, he suggested I go back to bed where he would read to me. I was too weak to disagree, so I crawled back into bed, closed my eyes, and let him carry on. I was convinced he would be reading a boring book. It started off with some quote from Macbeth; you know… that Shakespeare play we had to take in grade nine. The quote was all about a guy with insomnia. I wondered if this was Mr. Graham’s idea of a joke.
The main part of the book started off with a teeny-bopper girl named Freddy. I thought, what a stupid name for a girl and on top of that she makes homebrew. How odd is that? I was positive this would be a Pollyanna type of story. Without knowing it, after a while, I started getting interested in what was happening, and when, at supper time, Mr. Graham said he was going to heat up the soup, I wanted to hear more of the story. I suggested he should continue reading and we could eat a little later. He overruled me, telling me I needed my nutrition to get better. I was annoyed. I didn’t like him trying to boss me around.
Mr. Graham brought me my supper in bed, he went to the kitchen table to have his. From where he was sitting, we could see each other, and we chatted as we ate. After I had my soup and half a sandwich, I coaxed Mr. Graham to continue with the story. I couldn’t believe it, Mr. Graham read right through until almost eleven o’clock. I was tired and half asleep when he rose from his chair, lightly caressed my head, and kissed me just above my eyes as he had previously done. That night I dreamt about Freddy, Griselda, and other characters from the book.
The next morning, after breakfast, I didn’t want to come right out and ask for more of the story, so I casually brought the subject up. He told me he had chosen this book because the author was much like me. This author failed high school mathematics several times and, because of this, he wasn’t allowed to obtain a degree from any Canadian university. Despite being ignorant about mathematics, in Mr. Graham’s opinion, this author became the best novelist in Canada. I asked Mr. Graham if he thought he could be successful in teaching this author maths. He replied, with the right tutor, anyone can easily master mathematics.
The title of the book was Tempest Tost, written by some guy with the first name of Robertson. Can you believe that? Mr. Graham told me this author’s first name was William, but he preferred to use his middle name, Robertson. It all sounded so zany, but I couldn’t help asking for more of the story.
Incredibly, Mr. Graham read to me almost the entire next day. Eventually, he told me to go for a shower while he changed the bedding. I was too weak to resist. He had this thing about changing sheets regularly when you’re sick. He even insisted I change my pyjamas and the idea came to me he was going to wash my soiled pyjamas. I wondered if that was his fetish.
The routine of Mr. Graham reading to me continued. At night he started making me cocoa before I went to sleep, and when he tucked me in, he would always give me the same gentle rub on my head followed by a kiss above my eyes. I started to look forward to it. Soon, we came to the end of Tempest Tost and Mr. Graham started reading Leaven of Malice, the second book of a trilogy. It was while reading this book, Mr. Graham explained how everyone, including him and me, were in the habit of putting on various personas, different ones for different people. We were always acting out parts to impress or manipulate people. He gave the example of people raising the pitch of their voice when they speak to children and lowering it when they speak to someone in authority, such as a doctor or a magistrate. He stated we live three lives, public lives with various personas, private lives, again with different personas, and secret lives that most of us do not admit to, sometimes not even to ourselves. The author’s descriptions of various characters showed how individuals used these various personas. He did this in a subtle way, but I’m certain no reader could miss the point. Two characters in particular, Mathew Snelgrove, a lawyer, and Walter Vambrace, a university professor, were caricatured so clearly it was humorous, but also disconcerting, since I, as a reader, was compelled to question my own behaviour, as well as the behaviour of people I knew.
The reading went fast and before we knew it, we were reading the last book of the trilogy, A Mixture of Frailties. I found this book especially disconcerting. In this book’s characters I could see myself and I could see my family, and this gave me nightmares. I never realised how stupid my family, including myself, looked to outsiders. I wrote down this author’s name; it’s Robertson Davies, and he is sardonic and cruel, but in a humorous way so you can’t ignore him.
It was on a Friday when I first got up for the whole day. The following week was to be reading week so there would be no school. I had missed handing in papers, and I missed a test. Mr. Graham told me he had spoken to my professors, I could hand my papers in late, and take an alternate test. He then told me he would continue with reading after I had a shower. He suggested I should get properly dressed; I had been in pajamas too long. He stated, he would read first, and later, if I felt up to it, I should go out for a walk and get some fresh air.
After my shower I looked for my jeans, I couldn’t find them. Where did Mr. Graham put them?
(Continued next month:
Chapter 4, A Girl goes wild)