After the Vanbeck story came out, I had no trouble at all interviewing my best friend Heidi Glueck’s family. (It’s pronounced like Glick, and mean kids at school have called her Hick Glick.) Heidi isn’t very academic, so she still hasn’t been much help with the CSN, but she is very loyal, and sits in our living room for hours while I slave over the newspaper. Then she rides her bike with me over to Dad’s shop where we run them off, and most times “helps” me deliver them. (It doesn’t go any more quickly with her along, but she’s help to my soul.)
Heidi is thirteen too. And through her I am experiencing all of the agonies of our age without actually suffering them myself. That’s difficult to explain very simply. What I mean is, she fell in love with a twenty-year-old when she was ten, (he didn’t know), while the closest I’ve come to falling in love is the crush I have on the Sweeneys’s half-Québécois nephew, Jeanot, who visits a couple of times a year from some tiny town in the Maine wilderness.
He’s tall and wide-shouldered and dresses like a lumberjack. He has a big jaw and a smile that never leaves his face. His black hair swoops crazily over his forehead and shades his Prussian-blue eyes. He uses his hands when he talks, and his speech is legato, with an accent that makes me shake with silent laughter, because of the way he grins while he talks and the way he exaggerates certain sounds that must be difficult to pronounce. And he has an unusual way of composing his sentences, suggesting that he thinks in French and then translates into English. So far I haven’t even hinted to Heidi that I’ve noticed him, but I’ve seen her watching me watching him.
She worried over pimples when she was eleven, she gets jealous over every advantage that any other girl possesses, and she tells it all to me in rapid hushed tones wherever we are. She sat on our living room floor while I typed the newspaper one day and told me everything Tommy Blaise said to Angela Holswarth (they’re both sixteen) at the Little Italy street dance, even though Heidi herself was vacationing eight hundred miles away at the time this racy conversation took place.
But to my friend Heidi, it’s ever so real and very, very important. If a boy ever talks to me the way Tommy talks to Angela, I know right where to kick him. Heidi, meanwhile, yearns to have someone talk to her like that. To be honest, even with myself, I know I’m eventually going to grow weary of her constant anxiety.
But I expect I’ll remain loyal to her for life, both because she’s so vulnerable and truly looks up to me for wisdom and comfort, and because when she’s in the mood for fun, she and her family can’t be beat.
The interview with the Glueck family was fun to do. I wore my dark green silky blouse and a light green skirt which made me feel like a professional interviewer. The clothes set off my dark but slightly reddish hair, which I wore loose in a banana clip.
Heidi’s mother and father had me in stitches. They carried on a make-believe argument the whole time. Missus Glueck said something about the green wallpaper in their bathroom. Mister Glueck looked at her with surprise and said: “What green wallpaper? The bathroom is brown.”
Missus Glueck asked him whose bathroom wallpaper he had been staring at all these years, and on it went.
Later Missus Glueck asked him if he knew how long her fingernails were. (She kept her fists closed when she asked.)
“Oh, they’re long!” he replied. So, before she opened her hands she asked him whether they were usually painted or not.
“They’re kind of long and usually a rosy red,” Mister Glueck said confidently.
Heidi’s mom then opened her hands to show the backs and the nails, and of course her nails weren’t long or painted at all. They looked like my mom’s: close-cut and slightly rough. But then Missus Glueck leaned over to her husband and squeezed him fiercely, a big smile lighting up her face. “That’s really the way you think of me, isn’t it, Steve!” she laughed. He just looked dopey and happy, because really that’s what he is.
Missus Glueck told me to be sure and report how happy they are in their family — how caring father Steve is and how glamorous he thinks his wife Annette is. So I reported that. And while I believe it’s true, I think the reason that he didn’t know his own wallpaper or his wife’s hands is simply that he isn’t very observant. And that, I suppose, means not that he doesn’t care, but that his is not a suspicious personality. If he were suspicious or a worrier he’d look for things to upset him.
I think that also explains why his kids’ whereabouts are of no great concern to him. Maybe he trusts them too much. Missus Glueck is more concerned, but they both work long days, and Heidi spends a lot of time with me. I’m beginning to think that if Heidi manages to reach adulthood without getting into a lot of trouble, it’ll be only because I kept her from it. I won’t blame myself if she runs amok, but it does tend to dictate my best behavior whenever I’m with her.
Heidi takes after her father. She trusts everybody. She also loves a party, just as he does. So one day, when I was lamenting that people on our street don’t seem interested in getting to know each other — nobody knocking on our door asking to be interviewed, for instance, Heidi wheeled to face me for a charged moment, then grabbed my shoulders and, shaking me, shouted: “Suzanne! A party! Let’s throw a party for everyone on Clover Street! The Fourth of July! No! People have other things then . . . The First of August! A picnic! You can . . . !”
I squirmed free, and I think my glare stopped her in mid-shout. She thought I didn’t like the idea, that the shiver which had obviously run up my spine was one of inscrutable anger.
“It’s an inspiration!” I finally managed to blurt, and she let out her breath so she could relax from her fear of my initial reaction.
Quickly we planned it. It could be an annual picnic on the first Sunday in August. On the McLogues’s front lawn? Hardly. Besides, we live at one end of the street, and the Gluecks live at the other. The solution? We decided we’d ask the police to barricade the middle block of Clover Street to traffic. We could hold it right in the street. We’d ask everyone to bring a picnic table or camping table and chairs. (Later we found we didn’t have to do that.) We’d get some to bring their barbecue grills. (Didn’t have to do that either.) Everyone would bring something to cook.
I though maybe we could hire a clown to walk around. But Heidi, maybe for the first time in her life, was truly thinking.
“No! Not a clown! Listen! Doesn’t Mister Lewden — you know, Amos Lewden — do a sort of magic show?”
“He’s creepy,” I said. “Besides, he just knows a few tricks to make kids think he’s a genius.”
Heidi ignored me: “Mister Vanbeck can say a prayer! Mister Ardrill can bring some of his — hey, yeah! A crafts show too! Mister Ardrill and his model boats that really sail, Missus Sweeney and her baby buggies, Missus Hemple and her crocheted dolls . . . ”
I was thinking too: “Mister and Missus Kaye make jewelry. Missus Schottweiller paints Indians — she could bring some paintings!”
“We’ll need a tent for stuff like that,” Heidi broke in. “It could rain, you know.”
All at once we despaired. Then we looked at each other and brightened simultaneously. And as I said “My . . . ” Heidi said “Your . . . ” and together we shouted “ . . . dad!”
It was a half hour later before we could get him into the office at RENTandRUN. Incoherently at first and both jabbering at once, we spilled our idea in front of him like puzzle pieces being dumped onto a card table. But gradually he took on a smile and came to stand between us and then he hugged us both long and tenderly.
Standing back, he finally said: “May I have the honor of providing all of the gear that will be required to make this idea a success?” Heidi cried a little, but I just beamed.
The Clover Street News – Chapter 1 – Chapter 2 – Chapter 3 – Chapter 4 – Chapter 5 – Chapter 6 – Chapter 7 – Chapter 8 – Chapter 9 – Chapter 10 – Chapter 11 – Chapter 12 – Chapter 13 – Chapter 14 – Chapter 15 – Chapter 16 – Chapter 17