it. She said, "I could write their music. You never talk about their music."
"Its all wind instruments," I said, clowning.
"OK," she said. "A wind quintet. No clarinets. They're too sticky for Thorn. Flute, oboe, bassoon ... horn? English horn?Trombone? Yes, they'd have trombones...." She wasn't clowning. She did write a wind quintet for Thorn.
Her definiteness about her plans infected me. It was catching. I began seriously thinking about what I would do if I could. Whether I wanted to go the medical route, or go into biology and work up to the place where bio and psychology interact, or go straight into psychology. They all fascinated me. They were all related, but you couldn't study them all at once, you'd just flounder. The question was where to start. Where to build up a solid foundation of knowledge on which you could balance ideas. It wasn't exactly a modest ambition. But what I had learned from Natalie was that you could have a very immodest ambition if you went after it methodically.
All that, talking about our plans, and music and science, and Thorn and Gondal, was great. Sometimes she played me a new bit of the Thorn Quintet. She had an old cornet trumpet she'd picked up for a dollar at a rummage sale, and she'd blow at it with her cheeks getting red and her eyes popping out, trying to let me hear a theme. I'd played cornet for one year in sixth grade in the school band, my entire musical career, but I could do about as well as she could. We fooled around with it and made it do all sorts of peeps and squeals and farts, and I performed "The Isle of Capri," sort of. Once I drove her out to her Saturday job at the music school and hung around while she put the kids through their Orff Method, which was also great. Everybody had a xylophone or a bell or wood blocks, and when they all got going, fourteen six-year-olds with all that equipment, it was move over, Mick Jagger. She insisted that they learned music theory from it. I suggested that what they mosdy got was a good time, and considerable hearing impairment if they kept it up long. Then we drove back and had a shake and French fries on the way and got to her house and her father was there.
He didn't exactly say hello to me. He said hello to her, and looked at me.
And I got red and the smile came onto my face, the smile I wish I could stamp on. And I remembered that I was in love with Natalie. And so I couldn't say anything to him, or to her. I got sticky and uptight, and pretty soon I went home, where it was a lot easier and more comfortable to be in love.
I only saw Natalie three or four times in the couple of weeks after that. And when I did it was much less enjoyable. I kept wondering things like whether she had ever had another man friend, and what she planned to do about men in amongst her other plans, and what she thought about me in that particular way, and not daring to ask her any of it. The closest I got was once when we were walking the fat off Orville again in the park. I said, "Do you think people can combine love with a career?" It came out and sort of hung there like a corpse. It sounded exactly like a question out of some magazine for Homemakers. Natalie said, "Well of
they can," and gave me an extremely peculiar look. Then Orville met a Great Dane on the path and tried to kill and eat it. When that was over, we had gotten past the stupid question. But I kept on being sort of solemn and moody. As we were coming home, Natalie said in a sort of wistful voice, "How come you never do the ape act any more?"
That burned me. That really burned me. When I got home, I was in a foul mood. What I want to do is take this girl suddenly in my arms and kiss her and say "I love you!" and what she wants is for me to jump around with a banana peel looking for fleas in it.
I worked myself up good and proper. I resented her for being so friendly and matter of fact, and I deliberately thought about the way her hair looked when she'd just washed it and