Unpublished Novel: Excerpts from Part Two, Chapters 17 and 18

Chapter Seventeen: Bob’s Novel: Breck & Vee To Bed

First sunshining Saturday morning in June Breck was meeting Vee at Billy Martin’s for brunch. It was early so he decided to walk the whole way.

He loved to walk, holdover from childhood, long hikes he’d loved with his father Burke. When visiting the family still living on R, they’d cross the street and hike through Montrose Park. Down Lover’s Lane, under Buffalo Bridge, all the way to the Zoo – then all the way back home to Georgetown.

He and his Dad had walked everywhere. Out to the ball park, up to Chain Bridge, all over. The old man still walked to work in good weather. Proud of his hiking ability, Burke liked to curse the automobile as the scourge of civilization.

“People don’t know what their legs are for. They have gear-shifts for brains and their asses are broader than their shoulders. A five-mile hike and a kiss good-night would put half the college boys in this country in the hospital.”

Breck swung at a fast gait down MacArthur Boulevard, and set to thinking about Vee.

He was genuinely glad Vee was going to have the baby. It was to be his child, though he had not sired it. It had been conceived through no coupling of his. He had been involved in no nocturnal strivings with this girl whose figure would distend with the coming of the child. Yet it was his child. It was all those children whose seed had not implanted. Of all the countless sheets he had
despoiled, he had brought forth no child. Of all the times he had thrust his body forward to meet the upcoming surge, and had emptied a part of his manhood in leaping, twitching spurts to quell the writhing beneath him, to still that quavering, convulsive command — not one partner, not one of the scented, well-groomed, articulate, desirable, healthy females had complicated his spasms
with that common chemical reaction that would have bestowed upon him the primal accolade of Father.”

[Dare I edit this surge?]

In all the countless sheets he had despoiled, where his manhood had thrust and emptied out to quell the convulsive commands beneath him, not one partner, not one of those desirable, healthy females had complicated his spasms with that common chemical reaction, the one most desired. So he was genuinely glad Vee would have the child. Though not of a seed he had implanted, conceived in no nocturnal striving of his own, it would be his child.

He quickened his pace towards Vee and the babe awaiting, thinking of the helpless, tiny… without a father yet. They had to get married, as soon as possible. He thought of Chris and Lou, deprived of their father. His child would never lose him. That baby will goddamned well have all the father he or she could handle — Breck would see to that.

Breck felt a certain nobility in his concurrence with the child’s life. His mind was uncomplicated by any religious inhibitions, but the basic ethics of his childhood adhered to his shirt-tails and clung there. Like grease on a white flannel suit, he smirked to himself. He thought longingly of the white flannel suit he used to own.

[Bob, haberdashery is not in order here. Don’t we all think longingly of that mythic suit? What I’m interested in is how one might ‘goddamned have all the father… she could handle.’ ]

Breck trotted up Wisconsin to Martin’s, getting a last bit of exercise in… saw Vee through the mullioned window and waved.

She looked more than fine, in a tailored white blouse and beige linen skirt. He decided she belonged on a menu.

The air-conditioning was icy and so was the beer. They talked of the future, how Vee wanted to set him up in business. He’d always wanted to run a bar with a decent restaurant, a place like Martin’s, could that ever be copied.

“I have over fifty thousand dollars and it should be invested.”

“Have you been to ‘The Pen and Pencil’ in The City?”

“The City?”

“New York, dear. On West 44th Street. Great old hangout for writers from the Times. I’d love to have a place like that!”

He was amazed by her guilelessness, her trust in him. From handling loans at the bank he was familiar with the high mortality rate of inexperienced operators. Experienced operators too, for that matter.

So somewhat guiltily he talked on and on, trying to convince a love-struck woman who didn’t need to be convinced of his stability. She was going to write him the check without a backward glance.

Vee brought up how annoying it was to pay the rent on her tiny house. She was hoping to buy something in Georgetown! He dropped all his reservations, waxed enthusiastic and regaled her concerning old favorite home-town streets.

“I’ll go to a realtor on Monday morning! Let’s take a walk and see if there are any signs up…”

“It’s a little too warm for walking right now…”

But Martin’s was getting noisy, Georgetown U. students in the next booth over, feeling their oats and yelling. She suggested they go, mentioning she had just had an air-conditioner put in…

‘Let’s get a six-pack and try it out, then!’

Glancing at her cheeks incarnadined, Breck wondered if that had been too rough. He felt the old breathlessness under his ribs. Today was going to be the day.


Breck was in the bathroom, his bladder twitching nervously. He flushed the john, washed and rewashed his face and his hands, cursed his lack of self-control. It was just that he wanted this to be so right. He combed his hair unnecessarily, extinguished the light, and joined her.

She was fooling with the stupid air-conditioner, marking time. She turned to face him, framed in the window. She was flushed, looked him in the eye, waited expectantly.”

[Redundant, ‘waiting expectantly,’ in the margins Dad wrote ‘Cut, Rewrite all’ so let’s see…]

He approached her, stopped. She took a deep breath, that wondrous body seemed tense, drawn to capacity, as the strings of an archer’s low bow. He held out his arms, she streaked to him, the arrow discharged. She hit him with that flat stomach, writhed against him, breasts, pelvis straining for domination as she pressed desperately, wriggling, kissing him hungrily, her tongue hot, surprisingly long and darting…

He braced against the delightful assault, ran his hand over her bottom. She had nothing on under her skirt except her garter belt, she was ready for him, the cool smooth skin of the dimpled derriere exploded his last control.

He pried himself loose, tore off his clothes. She watched him, wild-eyed, more animal than human. Slowly, deliberately, her breathing audible, she ripped her blouse down the front, ignoring the buttons. Flip, switch, kick, bra, skirt, shoes.

His heart raced as she advanced on him, nude except for the sleek hose and frilled suspender belt, crouched, fumbling with the snap on the belt, moaning aloud from deep in her chest, the surprisingly deep breasts swinging.”

[ Dear Bob come on you know, unlatch the stockings first. Then take off the legendary garter belt… But if there aren’t any panties, why take any of this off?]

Then the delicious shocking moment when all that bare flesh meets your own, equally bare, is conjoined, fastened one to the other.”

[…so very new-writerly, feeling you have to describe every instant.]

Swollen, ready to explode, he slips between her legs, holds her for an instant, throws her on the bed. The sheets were smooth, cool, her body warm, sleek. Astonishing how few beautiful women remain beautiful with their clothes off. This was a jewel. If she didn’t kill him…

Her grip on him was tight, painful. Seeing him wince, she released him, began to love him, cooing, to fondle him, murmuring, his throat was full, his back arched as her manipulations, tender, tender, brought a roaring in his ears, a forgetfulness as the entire world focussed, sharply, on his loins.

The pressure changed, the light evocative touch became something else, wet, warm, slippery, and the edge of sanity disappeared, he opened his eyes, looked into the thick curly expanse between those dreamlegs, the eclipse was complete, the soft hair nuzzled his nostrils, she was wet, scalding hot, they tumbled all over the bed, the crescendo rose, and she under him, clutching him, berserk.

The first lunge was the goal instanter. She was sobbing now, joyfully, as he tried to kill her, punish her, no stopping, there, again, don’t stop, slowly now, her hands behind her head, purring , talking with her hips, now, again, cyclonic, tearing at one another, outdoing one another, and it was over, the golden lassitude was coming.

Great God, what a tiger. She was kissing him, their faces were wet, she reached down and drew the sheet over his hips, snuggled close.

No, it wasn’t quite over.

The air conditioning was terrific.


[Love the last line, very John O’Hara, so modern and off. Bob wrote ‘See note’ at the end of this section. Can’t locate any note. This is really not half-bad as a description of fucking. After “If she didn’t kill him” I only added two periods and three paragraph breaks. Otherwise it seems Bob worked very well towards Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness/run-on madness… ]

Afterwards, they smoked, and Breck talked about his family. His love for his father Burke gleamed through the brief narrative.

[Ahem, so not bedroom talk. Possibly an incorrect placement of Breck’s biographical material…
Wrong time to have the guy waxing gushy over ‘Pop’…]

“During the Depression we lived down on Canal Road, in those days also known as Hell’s Little Acres. There were ten of us in two bedrooms and an attic, where I slept with my little brother Val and three cousins. My parents shared a bedroom with my mother’s brother, who worked a night shift.”

[Now why would you tell this classy dame, after the first coupling, the tale of your working-class histoire? We could start a new chapter with this, since the next big section segues into childhood reminiscence.]

“One day my mother and Uncle Jimmy had a disagreement; he told her that if she ‘didn’t like it, tell your damned husband to do something about it.’

“I waited outside for my father to come home, I couldn’t wait to tell him about it.”

Breck was lost in thought; Vee prompted him, ‘What happened then?’ She was leaning on one elbow, cigarette aloft.

Breck sighed, “Nothing. He looked for one instant as though he might be ready to kill. Then he looked at me, put his arm around my shoulder, messed up my hair and said, ‘Just forget it, son. Everything’s going to be alright.’

“I’ll never forget how he could just smile; even though I’d witnessed what seemed an ultimate humiliation.”

Vee cuddled Breck and smiled into his eyes, “So he was a gentle man!”

“Yes, he was. He had no real job, three kids, and was dependent on an arrogant mother-in-law for bed and shelter. He really couldn’t do anything but suffer it. And drink.”

“But you still loved him – after that.”

“I loved him very deeply. Well, I still do!”

“Breck, you talk so tough sometimes, you’re so damned brash, but I always knew that underneath it all you’re a big old soft-hearted sucker.”

Breck did not reply, went on staring at the ceiling and grimacing slightly, still in the past. Vee tapped him on the nose, her smile was tender, “Hello, sucker.”

“Hello you carnivorous blonde.”


Chapter Eighteen: Breck’s Parentage & Childhood

Georgetown in the day of the boy Burke – that would be 1900, into the 1920’s – was a lively township. The Carraway clan contributed heavily to the lore of that little burg, nestled inside the District of Columbia. Exemplary had been Burke’s father, the illustrious Cartwright Carraway, who transformed his chosen profession of taxicab driver into something of a flamboyant art.

As one of the very few such drivers in Georgetown, he carried himself with all the haughty disdain of a Mississippi river-boat pilot, picking and choosing fares as he deigned. His perceived dignity of the calling, however, in no wise accounted for the renown he garnered along the cobblestones.

For old ‘CC’ was a famous gadfly. Possessed of a good tenor voice, this dandyish reprobate was often seen leaning along his high-riding, motorized-hansom’s fender, rakishly serenading the public-domain damsels of 35th Street. And as with other riders of the night, he was reputed to be a fast man with a dollar. Few were the primal confederates incapable of disengaging the price of some liquid cheer from this reed-thin, magnetic favorite.

Meanwhile, the separation from that busy pocket of any outlandish sum involving a new pair of shoes, for one of his eight children, was a circumstance designed for prolonged debate, with much weighing of supportive factors. As with many singular apparitions ofthis kind, ‘CC’ was loved more in the saloons than at home. Many a night his wife Cecily hopelessly rewarmed his dinner-plate.

[An apparent emotional necessity prevails here… of glamorizing, possibly even fictionalizing such qualities of his grandfather as a ‘dandyish reprobate.’ Bob’s excessive euphemisms, and assorted roundabout fanciful verbiage to describe the simplicity of his abusive grandfather… betokens a mentality averse to just calling that spade a spade. What would be duller? Since that father of his father must appear at all, he needs must be another “colorful character”’

[As well, recollect with me Bob’s father, Chase — who constantly asserted that he was an orphan. To this day I’m not certain if that were true, but it may have been, in his own mind, if his father was a bastard womanizer, tavern flunky, child-neglector… Meanwhile, as Bob would have it –]

Burke grew up to revel in the sparkled emanations from his electric father, and to love that adult delinquent as any boy loves a sprightly father.

In a different fashion Burke loved the quiet woman who had borne him. He retained from her a tenderness that was more substantial than the maudlin sentimentality which passed for kindness in the father. He had a deep respect for the unglamorous woman who sustained him and the rest of the brood in the shadow of the spotlight that always followed his father’s whirling, kinetic

[… am compulsively underlining the instances of the colorful guy… whereby ‘sparkled emanations’ inspired ‘love [for] that adult delinquent,’ a ‘sprightly… electric father’ possessing a ‘whirling, kinetic force’ are all symptoms of the denial.

[For in this wise might my father Bob as well rewrite his own wild-living propensity.]

The boy Burke was a handsome, slender boy who fought in the alleys of Georgetown with the best of them; worked on an ice-truck; broke a leg playing football, and became known as ‘Snowbird’ Carraway because of his quickbreaking drive shots in the old Grace Church gym.


He left school early – everyone left school early in Georgetown – dreaming of becoming an artist, a painter, couldn’t afford more than one year at Corcoran Art School, became a sign-painter instead. He courted and married Margaret Schmidt, a local belle, nice girl, hard-working and a prize catch for a wife.

The night Breck was born CC ferried his son crosstown to Uncle John’s, to borrow money to pay the doctor. John was the pundit of the tribe, a wealthy recluse who’d made a fortune gambling. He retired at age 35 to sit on his Avon Place porch swing, smoke long panatelas, and die a half-century later.”

[Egads more color. And wouldn’t you know, we never hear of this Uncle John character again.]


During the Depression Burke Carraway’s family lived down on Canal Road, a slum just past Georgetown known in those days as ‘Hell’s Little Acre.’ There were ten people in two bedrooms and an attic, where Breck slept with his brother Val and three cousins. His parents uncomfortably shared a bedroom with his mother’s brother, who at least worked a night shift.

The degradation broke his father’s heart and eroded his pride. Five kids jammed together in that stuffy attic, with a slop-bucket for a toilet! And who could forget the night his cousin had wiped his ass on Margaret’s powderpuff?

Margaret’s mother was a stumpy, rope-sinewed, sharp-tongued old woman, sniffing Burke for whisky on his breath, counting out a few greasy bills on a faded oilcloth. She was a Tartar, a hard woman, but always came home with a bag of penny candy for the children from the five and dime: brimful of nonpareils, licorice babies, cherry-flavoured candy coins.

His mother Margaret and her brother, Uncle Jimmy had a disagreement one day, and he told her that if she didn’t like it, she could tell her husband to do something about it.

Breck waited outside for his father to come home, he couldn’t wait to tell him about the fight.

But Burke didn’t do anything. Nothing but looking for one instant as though he could kill. Then he put his arm around his son’s shoulder, messed up his hair and said, ‘Just forget it, son. Everything’s going to be alright.’

Breck never forgot how he could smile even though he’d suffered what seemed an ultimate humiliation. But Burke had no real job, three kids, and was dependent on an arrogant mother-in-law for bed and shelter. He really couldn’t do anything but suffer it. And drink.

[I could not find out what this fight was about, but it must have been a rotten insult for it to have been such a big deal, that Bob’s father Chase (in the novel, Burke) had a hard time passing on beating his brother-in-law Jimmy senseless.]

After the argument the Carraways found the wherewithal somehow to move to M Street, at the start of Key Bridge where the traffic snarled. In an apartment over a drugstore is where Breck’s little brother Richard was born.

[Then a bad neighborhood, fringe, industrial, now where million-dollar condos reside.]

Breck was in the third grade, and had discovered the printed page. Little Hero, Tarzan, and a new comic strip called Flash Gordon. The Georgetown Public Library opened its doors, and he was the first child to have a library card. He would never forget to the first two books he withdrew, oddly dissimilar: ‘Pinocchio,’ and ‘The Three Musketeers.’ He had enjoyed Collodi’s fable immensely, but was transported by the maneuvers of the incomparable D’Artagnan. To have friends like Athos, Porthos and Aramis!

His parents were amazed at the voracity of his reading, and so were his teachers. He began to write, furiously, plagiarisms of pulp sports magazines, and even idealized romances. But he suffered agonies of mortification when his teacher, Mrs. Ebel, read his book reports and compositions aloud in class.

Once when he couldn’t get to the library in time to do a book report, he invented a book, and wrote up a report on it. He was terrified when Mrs. Ebel asked to see the book, “It sounds so interesting!’ Fortunately she forgot to follow upon that.

He was highly sensitive to the stares of his fellow students, but secretly thrilled too – that they had begun to regard him as something of a freak.

[A freak, eh – intelligent boy, a heavy reader, an aspiring writer… a freak.]

Breck still had his crystal set, which brought in, miraculously, accounts of his current idols in baseball: the Duke Blue Devils with Eric Tipton, the Senators, with Bibulous Buck Newsom, and the callow Buddy Lewis. Radio didn’t cost anything.

Breck hoarded tight-wrapped newspapers, between the woodshed and the outhouse (where old Jack the mournful and pungent hound slept) to buy fall’s school supplies. All summer long the pile rose and served as Breck’s hopeful bank.

In back of the house the heavily-wooded hill rose steeply back, and swept up to the cart-racks and the Negro settlement on Holly Hill. Here the yellow open-air streetcars swung over the trestle on their way to Glen Echo. Here he shivered as he approached the sad nigger-shacks to collect the dimes for the Daily News. His father Burke walked with him ‘for the exercise,’ but Breck knew that Burke knew that he was afraid. He accepted the companionship with a highly indifferent shrug. But his father was there. He understood.

Understood too when a car ran over his battered basketball! Burke immediately went out and bought him a new one. The family could ill afford that, but despite the squalling vilification of wives and mother-in-laws, against the encroachment of male luxury… His father had refused to discuss the matter. Breck had considered this the height of nobility.

[To buy necessary luxuries, rather than pay rent… this could be carved on a Sellers’ tombstone.]

Though his mother Margaret had always been safely near, and gentle, compassionate and solicitous, Breck’s best early remembrances were of Burke.

When Breck was in the fifth grade they were living on 35th Street in a small apartment house set snug between two schools – the Fillmore on the south, and the gleaming new Gordon Junior High on the north. There was a fine, broad expanse of sidewalk in front of the Fillmore, and at 6 o’clock on a weekday evening he would go to S Street and wait for the Glover Park bus to discharge
his father.

When Burke alighted he was slumped and tired-looking. But as soon as he discerned Breck, waiting for him — as he loved to tell Margaret — “As if he were about to wag his tail,” he would brighten up. After a wearisome day of changing golden letters on pebbled glass doors, he’d dash across the street, a delighted smile on his handsome features, put his arm around Breck’s shoulders
and stroll on home.

Breck often recollected that suffused warmth of happiness, his faithful vigil at the bus-stop amply rewarded, the feeling that his Dad really loved him.

He did not know then that he had discovered one of the secrets of living: that happiness came from bringing a smattering of happiness to others.

[Daddy’s editorial note at this last paragraph: CORN.

[Alas the difficulty of expressing positive emotion without verging into a field of banality. Happiness is a bore; tragedy is exciting; conflict is to be desired over peace; all those conundrums of the author, who wants to convey joy, but finds herself in that grey sludge of the slave cerebellum that wants stimulation above all. What’s racy – what shocks – surely not a boy and his father hand in hand.

[…More on the very early years of Georgetown childhood, being poor, then rich, then poor again rich again.]

They had escaped the racking poverty of M Street and Canal Road by the time Breck was fourteen and in junior high school. The family rented a tall roomy house on R Street. Heaven! Electricity! A room of his own! Sheer, unfettered delight.

A whole new world! Respectability. The walk to his new school, Western, was one block instead of a mile and a half. In the first month he led an assorted procession of mostly indifferent boys through the high-ceilinged monstrosity he considered a very palace. He developed an air of casual sophistication about the amenities of life: gas stoves, electric refrigerators, the brand new radio in the dining room (a dining room!)

This was a happy period. He socialized avidly for the first time, was pleased to find he had talents. Accepted by his contemporaries because of his affinity for sports, new vistas opened for him. New friendships gave him entry into homes presided over by Army officers, government officials, and professional people who dressed well all the time, and spoke so kindly to him.

He was astounded by the disparity between these lives and his own so meagerly furnished one. He never forgot the time he went to meet his pal Humphrey, at his father-the-doctor’s pastel townhouse on O Street. “After dinner,” Humphrey told him to come.

Breck rang the bell at 5:30, his repast well-digested. Hump had chores to do and wondered at Breck’s confusion. Breck went away, waited on Wisconsin, fretful wandering in an out of shops until nine! For three-and-a-half hours! Before they could begin their excursion?

These fine twilight hours he considered foolish and indolent to dissipate. At first. But it came over him that the candle-lit obscurity and musty wine decanters made a leisurely ritual. The mother of the family wasn’t even doing the cooking. This forced a lasting impression. Such lives were completely unrelated to the plebeian victualizing of Margaret’s kitchen. He found himself
ashamed of the workingman’s routine enacted by his honest good family.

But he couldn’t help it. Now he wanted something glamourous, and that meant rich.

By February the fuel bills at ‘the mansion’ totaled more than the rent itself. A more reasonable refuge was sought. Breck’s despair had been limitless. He hadn’t passed even one year in his mansion. And thus he discovered that a sampling of something better than one’s usual fare explodes those new vistas into every corner of a present reality, ruins the shorter view, the child’s humility.

Anyway, he never viewed another home in quite that same manner. Impermanence had cast its pall on his bed: whenever he might be against all odds happy, it would certainly change again.

Moving is a tragic, deadly significant thing for a child. The resistance to change is generally considered to be an adult province, but this is fallacious. Breck felt the pangs of separation, the new residence is a flat across the street from Montrose Park. Four city blocks from ‘the mansion,’ and a different world. Even though it was all one to him (he pretended) there was that refusal to integrate. Miles were walked to dissemble, idly, with cronies from the old neighborhood, on the old

If the family had known then what this modest place would be valued at, thirty years hence, they might have tried to purchase it. But they always expected to be moving. Breck would grow up, they’d get a smaller place, and so on. The Carraways were always moving.

[The Sellers were always moving. How I longed for a house that never changed. In the seventeen years I spent with Bob and Gloria we lived in seven different apartments. I wandered through nine apartments in New York. Before I came at last to this Mesa Marquesa, and haven’t moved away from here in twenty-four years. Never will.]


Yes, happiness can read like a bore; tragedy is always thrilling; all those conundrums of the author, who wants to live peaceably, but finds herself in that grey sludge of the slave cerebellum that craves stimulation above all…

Thus, Bob: when I was suffering the tragedy of being thrown out of a prestigious college for lack of payment, all his fault… where I had garnered two happy years of a classical education… there he was, a colorful old reprobate who laughed at my tears, “Where’s that intellectual strength when you need it?” whilst raising yet another glass, at the bar of Clyde’s in Georgetown or whatever other joint, that freak who was there to remind me:

“No great writer ever had a happy childhood.”

I think this may have been another bloodie quote from one of his bloodie idols, Hem or Fitz, both of whom I loathed.

Thus: his dysfunction, his poverty, his stupidity and laziness, were all somehow DESIGNED to create me a genius! My fury was such that I would have gladly seen him wither and die at my feet. Yes, the fucked-up Sellers clan should be PLEASED to be fucked-up!

But I hadn’t yet gotten the hang of the realm, it seems.

I would have traded, in an instant, that happiness he scorned, and failed to manifest, for the deprivations of genius. With a deep sense of betrayal, there I was, out on the sidewalk at the age of nineteen, with my bachelor’s half-finished and $100. in my wallet. No, I hadn’t the hang of the realm. Banal happiness would never be my fate.

So with every worldly ambition dashed, I was within months in a one-room apartment in New York City, at an ad agency’s secretary’s desk. I became a failure too at an office job. As was proper. For I was cursed, destined to be one of the poetical unemployables.