I’LL EXQUISITE DAY you, buddy, if you don’t get down off that bag this minute. And I mean it,” Mr. McArdle said. He was speaking from the inside twin bed – the bed farther away from the porthole. Viciously, with more of a whimper than a sigh, he foot-pushed his top sheet clear of his ankles, as though any kind of coverlet was suddenly too much for his sunburned, debilitated-looking body to bear. He was lying supine, in just the trousers of his pajamas, a lighted cigarette in his right hand. His head was propped up just enough to rest uncomfortably, almost masochistically, against the very base of the headboard. His pillow and ashtray were both on the floor, between his and Mrs. McArdle’s bed. Without raising his body, he reached out a nude, inflamed-pink, right arm and flicked his ashes in the general direction of the night table. “October, for God’s sake,” he said. “If this is October weather, gimme August.” He turned his head to the right again, toward Teddy, looking for trouble. “C’mon,” he said. “What the hell do you think I’m talking for? My health? Get down off there, please.” Teddy was standing on the broadside of a new looking cowhide Gladstone, the better to see out of his parents’ open porthole. He was wearing extremely dirty, white ankle-sneakers, no socks, seersucker shorts that were both too long for him and at least a size too large in the seat, an overly laundered T shirt that had a hole the size of a dime in the right shoulder, and an incongruously handsome, black alligator belt. He needed a haircut – especially at the nape of the neck – the worst way, as only a small boy with an almost full-grown head and a reedlike neck can need one.
“Teddy, did you hear me?”
Teddy was not leaning out of the porthole quite so far or so precariously as small boys are apt to lean out of open portholes – both his feet, in
fact, were flat on the surface of the Gladstone – but neither was he just conservatively well-tipped; his face was considerably more outside than inside the cabin. Nonetheless, he was well within hearing of his father’s voice – his father’s voice, that is, most singularly. Mr. McArdle played leading roles on no fewer than three daytime radio serials when he was in New York, and he had what might be called a third-class leading man’s speaking voice: narcissistically deep and resonant, functionally prepared at a moment’s notice to outmale anyone in the same room with it, if necessary even a small boy. When it was on vacation from its professional chores, it fell, as a rule, alternately in love with sheer volume and a theatrical brand of quietness-steadiness. Right now, volume was in order. “Teddy. God damn it – did you hear me?”
Teddy turned around at the waist, without changing the vigilant position of his feet on the Gladstone, and gave his father a look of inquiry, whole and pure. His eyes, which were pale brown in color, and not at all large, were slightly crossed – the left eye more than the right. They were not crossed enough to be disfiguring, or even to be necessarily noticeable at first glance. They were crossed just enough to be mentioned, and only in context with the fact that one might have thought long and seriously before wishing them straighter, or deeper, or browner, or wider set. His face, just as it was, carried the impact, however oblique and slow-travelling, of real beauty.
“I want you to get down off that bag, now. How many times do you want me to tell you?” Mr. McArdle said.
“Stay exactly where you are, darling,” said Mrs.