Saturday, December 10, 2011

Chapter 12, Day 5, part 2, Croquet and Schmoozing

This is an unfinished chapter

Chapter 12, Day 5, part 2, Croquet and Schmoozing

When Rune and Eilyn wandered back down the trail to the party grounds, the games were in full swing.  Dr. Otis and some of his graduate students were holding out against Dr. McHaggerty and his TAs and grad students in a raucous game of volley ball.  Larry, Dr. Tedeschki, Dr. Hawk and Dr. Warner were playing a modified version of feather bowling with crow feathers gathered below the crow’s nest across the street at the edge of the 300-acre swamp.  Because of the breeze, they had weighted the crow's feathers with small lead sinkers to keep them from blowing away and were using croquet balls.
A bunch of kids were playing badminton the front year—there were four nets strung across the wide front lawn.  People were playing horseshoes in three parallel pits and the undergrads were milling around, playing softball, volleyball, and some apparently playing a rowdy game of sardines.  And some were just laying about chatting and sucking down brews. No one seemed to be paying attention to whether the underage kids were drinking or not.  There certainly seemed to be enough beer for everyone, including the kids.
Elizabeth and a number of the faculty wives were playing croquet (apparently, they had plenty of balls). Sashaying past the dessert table, Rune and Eilyn helped themselves to a handful of brownies, chocolate chip cookies and lemon bars and headed over to join the ladies at croquet.  They were just starting up a new game.  Melanie Sampson joined them, and cramming a brownie in her mouth, Rune asked her about her Italian heritage. Melanie said that her grandparents were from Northern Italy and had mostly blond hair and blue eyes, like the Swiss and Germans.  Rune replied that she too had some of that Northern Italian blood.
Rune and Melanie talked about their family trees and the international connections of their relatives ((say this better!!?)) until a low, angry voice caught their attention.  Rune looked up to see Dr. Otis dragging Eilyn by the arm away from the group of croquet women. He was apparently trying to speak quietly, but there was such urgency and anger in his voice that Rune could here every word.
"Where were you," Dr. Otis asked, "and who were you with?"
Rune remembered that Dr. Otis's back had been to them playing volleyball when they'd come down the trail together.  If Dr. Otis thought that Eilyn might be having a liaison or an affair at the picnic, with whom did he think it might be? She counted off all the professors in her mind; all were accounted for in volley ball, feather bowling and other obvious activities.  The male TAs too, were caught up in their activities in plain sight.  Did he think Eilyn was bisexual?  Or fooling around with undergraduates?  Or making drug deals?  Or what?  Rune was confused.
She sidled a little closer, pretending to chase a croquet ball she'd accidentally hit toward them.  She wanted to hear Eilyn's response.  
"I was with Rune," Eilyn said, in quiet, confident voice, sounding relaxed.  "We had some female stuff to talk about, you know, girly things."
"Like what?" Dr. Otis hissed.
"Who likes whom.  What to do when you're being hassled by a man who doesn't interest you . . ."
"Who's hassling who?  Is it you? Or Rune?"  Rune was wondering if she and Eilyn had talked about McHaggerty at the movies and afterwards or something else--she didn't remember any mention of McHaggerty.
"Eilyn, it's your turn," Elizabeth called in a loud voice, and Eilyn turned away from Dr. Otis and went over, calmly surveyed the croquet balls, and gave hers just the right whack. Rune noticed her jaw was a little tight and her eyes slightly more squinted than usual.  Dr. Otis stood nearby until someone from the volleyball game called and he walked, somewhat reluctantly, it seemed to Rune, back to the game.  Apparently, the volleyball players had just taken a short break for dessert and coffee and were ready to roll again.
Rune, standing beside Elizabeth, told her what a great picnic it was, as always was.  Elizabeth smiled and Rune asked her about her upcoming show.  Elizabeth was an artist and art professor. Her two main areas of expertise were printmaking and huge abstract paintings, but she dabbled some in all the visual arts and taught not only at Syracuse University, but also taught nature art classes at Beaver Lake Nature Center and other venues.  
Years ago, Rune had learned that Elizabeth was five years older than Dr. McHaggerty.  She was in her late fifties and although still an attractive woman, was beginning to show her age.  She was thin and frail-looking, but Rune knew she was not as frail as she looked.  Her hair was grey and moving toward white, especially at the temples.  Her eyes were a sparkling grey.  Her figure was shapely and her breasts small and still erect. Rune had seen both photographs and paintings of Elizabeth naked, not only at McHaggerty's, but in various art shows and other local venues.  She a regal bearing.  Rune liked best Elizabeth's own self portraits, especially the rather abstract ones where the naked figure emerged for contemplation only to those who took the time to examine the paintings carefully.  The body was all there, all it's parts, and in the right positions, but disguised by slashes of color and odd contrasting shapes.
Once, Rune had asked Elizabeth why she posed nude and she said it was only fair that if she asked others to do it, that she do it too.  After that, Rune had posed nude for her a number of times, both for Elizabeth alone and for her figure drawing classes.  Elizabeth paid her, and the money was nice too, a small supplement to her scholarships.  So, now naked paintings and sculptures of Rune, too, decorated galleries and people's homes, and she had seen them as far away as Cape Cod and Acadia in Maine.  Rune's breasts, larger and heavier than Elizabeth's, already at 22 ((?)) drooped more than Elizabeth did at 58 or however old she was.  Rune thought, ruefully, that when she was 58, she would look like those horrid playboy cartoons of the old women with the terrible pendulous breasts. ((Do the math with McHaggerty’s age and Elizabeth’s))
Elizabeth told her about her newest work, upcoming shows and openings and invited her to come and serve wine.  Rune agreed.  Any excuse for a party was fine with her.  And she loved Elizabeth's work, so she would enjoy an opportunity to see it.  

                Elizabeth was on Peter Schilja's graduate committee.  He took classes from her.  And it was Elizabeth’s classes, among others, that Rune had added to her busy schedule as an undergrad and now missed in her graduate program.  She asked Elizabeth if she could sit in on her classes occasionally.  Many of the longer studio classes were in the afternoons when Rune had her field trips and labs, but there were few mornings, evenings and weekends.  Elizabeth told her she would give her a print-out of her schedule of classes, though they both knew she could look it in the catalog or online.
                The next round of balls took Rune to stand next to Karen Kilmer.  Karen was the entomology department office secretary and her office was kitty corner across from Rune’s.  Rune's official mailbox was in the office behind Karen's desk, so Rune was in and out of there multiple times a day already, in the short time she'd been there.  To alleviate the traffic around Karen a bit, and to save herself the time on hurry-days, Rune had attached a wipe off message board, a pad of paper and a pen and a basket to her door for various kinds of messages.  Some of the professors had fancy professional plastic baskets that hung over their door, but Rune had found in someone's trash a perfect woven basket that must have been used as a file basket at one time, and she hung that over the door.  She’d also found in the gutter near her apartment some flower barrettes, the pinch on kind, and she'd pinched these onto the back left corner of her basket to make it look homier and more welcoming.
                Karen was only a couple years older than Rune, but she already had four children.  She worked until 3:00, most days, so she could go home, make dinner and be with her kids.
                Rune liked Karen, she had one of those bubbly personalities Rue wished she had.  Although Rune was usually cheerful, she felt morose compared to Karen.  Of course, Karen’s cheeriness could wear on her when things weren't going well. 
                Rune asked Karen about her kids.  Karen got out the latest bath of photos in a little booklet form the photo store.  There were big grins, scraped knees, loose teeth, new oversized teeth, splashy swimming scenes, badminton.  Almost at the end, like an afterthought, was a picture of Karen's husband Mike with his boat and another of him with a big fish and a big grin.  If those pictures were any indication, the children were a hugely important part of Karen's life.
                Rune wanted to have kids someday, but maybe two.  Not four.  She couldn't imagine four.
                She asked Karen what else was new and learned they had a new larger house out in Baldwinsville, within bicycling distance of the children's school and where there were walking trails through the woods.  She asked Rune if she would come out and help her identify the plants in the yard and in the nearby woods and Rune said she would.
                "There's lots of mushrooms," Karen said, "and insects."
                ((Add Karen Kilmer to the character list, she will reappear again in the reception of threatening later etc))
                "Where're your kids now?" Rune asked.
                "They're home with Mike, Eloise is sick, just a little earache and stuffiness, you know, a head cold.  She's kind of snotty and icky, so Mike said he'd stay home with them.  I came because Dr. McHaggerty invited me, maybe because I'm friends with Eilyn and Larry and you."
                Karen was new since Rune had been here before, and even if she had been there, Rune didn't have an office on the second floor when she was an undergrad.  But even though Rune had only known Karen about two weeks, she liked her and enjoyed her company.  She sometimes leaned on the side of Karen's desk or in the doorframe of her office and chatted with her just because she was nice.  Or because Rune was avoiding something she didn’t want to do to.
                The next round of ball whacking had Rune standing by Mrs. Z (and she said . . .)
                Then Mrs. Warner said . . .
                Rune noticed Karen and Eilyn standing together talking.
                When the game ended, Rune was thirsty and headed for the drink coolers.  She decided what she needed wasn't beer or wine coolers or woodchuck cider or lemonade or coke, but water.  She took a bottle of Poland Spring water.  She knew that even if it started out pure way up there in Maine, those plastic bottles out-gassed toxins into the water.  Still, it was handy and she was thirsty.
                When she looked up, she saw that Bart was standing beside her.  He reached for a beer, and pulled out a Heineken.  "Bart," Rune wheedled, “I don't want a whole beer; may I just have a sip of yours.  He handed it over and Rune took a gulp and handed it back.
                "Sip?  Sip!?!" Bart exclaimed, in a voice of fake offense, “you almost drank the whole thing in one gulp."
                "Well, take another," Rune said, smiling sweetly.  "That was all I wanted."
                "Any excuse for a party," Bart said, helping himself to a second beer.

add to this chapter (or in the earlier chapter with Eilyn):

Ø  interactions with McHaggerty and the girls and women, either here or in the earlier chapter with Eilyn.
Ø  introductions to other major characters.

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