Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut
© J. D. Salinger, 1948
IT WAS ALMOST THREE O’CLOCK when Mary Jane finally found Eloise’s house. She explained to Eloise, who had come out to the driveway to meet her, that everything had been absolutely perfect, that she had remembered the way exactly, until she had turned off the Merrick Parkway. Eloise said, “Merritt Parkway, baby,” and reminded Mary Jane that she had found the house twice before, but Mary Jane just wailed something ambiguous, something about her box of Kleenex, and rushed back to her convertible. Eloise turned up the collar of her camel’s-hair coat, put her back to the wind, and waited. Mary Jane was back in a minute using a leaf of Kleenex and still looking upset, even fouled. Eloise said cheerfully that the whole damn lunch was burned – sweetbreads, everything – but Mary Jane said she’d eaten anyway, on the road. As the two walked toward the house, Eloise asked Mary Jane
how it happened she had the day off. Mary Jane said she didn’t have the whole day off; it was just that Mr. Weyinburg had a hernia and was home in Larchmont, and she had to bring him his mail and take a couple of letters every afternoon. She asked Eloise, “Just exactly what is a hernia, anyway?” Eloise, dropping her cigarette on the soiled snow underfoot, said she didn’t actually know but that Mary Jane didn’t have to worry much about getting one. Mary Jane said, “Oh,” and the two girls entered the house.
Twenty minutes later, they were finishing their first highball in the living room and were talking in the manner peculiar, probably limited, to former college roommates. They had an even stronger bond between them; neither of them had graduated. Eloise had left college in the middle of her sophomore year, in 1942, a week after she had been caught with a soldier in a closed elevator on the third floor of her residence hall. Mary Jane had left – same year, same class, almost the same month – to marry an aviation cadet stationed in Jacksonville, Florida, a lean, air-minded boy from Dill, Mississippi, who had spent two of the three months Mary Jane had been married to him in jail for stabbing an M. P.
“No,” Eloise was saying. “It was actually red.” She was stretched out on the couch, her thin but very pretty legs crossed at the ankles.
“I heard it was blond,” Mary Jane repeated. She was seated in the blue straight chair. “Wuddayacallit swore up and down it was blond.”
“Uh-uh. Definitely.” Eloise yawned. “I was almost in the room with her when she dyed it. What’s the matter? Aren’t there any cigarettes in there?”
“It’s all right. I have a whole pack,” Mary Jane said. “Somewhere.” She searched through her handbag.
“That dopey maid,” Eloise said without moving from the couch. “I dropped two brand-new cartons in front of her nose about an hour ago. She’ll be in, any minute, to ask me what to do with them. Where the hell was I?”
“Thieringer,” Mary Jane prompted, lighting one of her own cigarettes.
“Oh, yeah. I remember exactly. She dyed it the night before she married that Frank Henke. You remember him at all?”
“Just sort of. Little ole private? Terribly unattractive?”
“Unattractive. God! He looked like an unwashed Bela Lugosi.”
Mary Jane threw back her head and roared. “Marvellous,” she said, coming back into drinking position.
“Gimme your glass,” Eloise said, swinging her stockinged feet to the floor and standing up. “Honestly, that dope. I did everything but get Lew to make love to her to get her to come out here with us. Now I’m sorry I – Where’d you get that thing?”