Alexis von Konigslow
april 2015 // the capacity for infinite happiness
The following is an excerpt from The Capacity for Infinite Happiness published by Wolsak & Wynn
If an Old Man Appears, You Have to Follow
Harpo Marx, 1933
Harpo felt tugged along, like he was attached to a string and someone at the other end was pulling. He felt like one of those wooden ducks with wheels that tenement families gave their kids instead of pets, and, right now, the string was leading him on a tour of the waterfront.
He slowed, to test it out, and there it was again. So off he went.
His life wasn’t working. That was the lesson learned, the great discovery. He was very different from his dad, and his father had been by far the better man. But he couldn’t think that much about it right now because he was feeling pulled into the woods.
He hurried along the path, up a gentle incline full of weeds and spots of light like pennies that were less bright now than when he’d started out. It must be getting late. He must be getting hungry. Harpo slowed as he passed the lodge’s canoe shed, then tripped over a broken oar, propelled forward again. No water sports. He tried to stop at the equipment shed, but found himself stumbling forward faster instead. No fishing either. That one was okay. He hadn’t had the stomach for fishing since that trip to Montauk anyway. Now he could hear the bustling of the people who’d been packed in the lodge last night like saltine crackers in a great tin can. He’d bet they were whooping it up on the waterfront now, with their deck chairs and bathing suits and the little martinis with snaking orange peels. His brothers were probably out there. They might be missing him. He kept moving.
Finally, in a clearing, Harpo stopped and felt no desire to move forward. The rope was slack. So he sat down on a fallen tree. He didn’t know what to do next. He needed to change his life. That was clear. But how did you do that? He slapped his pockets, felt for the notepad and pen. There were concrete things he could be doing. He could write to Susan. He’d brought paper after all. He could pretend he was practising his letters, everyone laughed at that line. He could combine the two. Right now L was his favourite letter, L for love, but no, that wasn’t enough to justify all that postage. Besides, he’d have to write more than one letter to fix the mess he’d made. Susan was sore. He just hoped she wasn’t moving on. Or he could try to write another script instead. Maybe the Marx Brothers weren’t as finished as everyone said.
Harpo sighed. His father would have known what to do.
At least he’d finally made it to the lodge that everyone talked about. He was here because this was where he belonged. He was here because he couldn’t go anywhere else. He was a Jew. The other resorts wouldn’t take him. He was really here because there were beautiful women around. One more wild weekend. One final blowout. One last three-day-long party and he’d consider settling down, finally, just like Frenchie had wanted. And in the meantime he wouldn’t have to feel all alone. He’d just have to get himself ready. He’d just have to work himself up to it, if he wanted to go on a proper bender with his brothers.
So he sat back. He could see the lake a little bit, or was that the river, and a sunset, a streak of wicked orange spread over a purple sky, a layer of marmalade over raspberry jam.
© 2015 Alexis von Konigslow