Excerpt from Cool Nation

Here is the final section from the chapter titled “The Invasion.” The other sections are on the sidebar, lower right.

The Invasion (Part 5)

Seth dove and I dove and alone together we swam and splashed in the chlorinated depths of the blue-white pool. Closed off from the world by a stockade fence, the pool was surrounded by hydrangea and clematis and hollyhocks, flowers that Mrs. Drummond tended with that intense sort of sadness that was so much hers. We swam and swam, throwing beach balls and tennis balls and splashing his older sisters in their checked bikinis, until finally Mrs. Drummond, with her platinum hair and dark eyes and quiet voice, came out and said: �Do you boys have to be so loud? Do you?� Then she would retreat to the barbituric-amphetaminic shadows of her home, the house always cool, the blinds drawn, the black housekeeper forever busy keeping their inventory of stuff dusted and clean.
Mrs. Drummond often spoke to us like strangers, and in her beauty she seemed to me unapproachable, almost unknowable. She frightened me also, for once I had come upon her in an upper hall, having been sent upstairs for towels, and she was weeping, passing through the hall and weeping. She looked at me, I at her, and she said Oh Petey, then went into her room and closed the door. I stood before it a moment, then went back out into the sunlight and heat. I never mentioned to Seth what I�d seen, for I knew I had seen a family secret.
Mrs. Drummond drove a Lincoln with suicide doors, Mr. Drummond drove a Lincoln with suicide doors�each with a magnetic Christ on the dash, for the Drummonds were Catholic. Every year they had new Lincolns, always white, hers a convertible, his a hardtop. And every Sunday they went to Saint Ann�s for Mass, dressed immaculately in the fashion of the Kennedys, Mr. and Mrs. Drummond no doubt hungover from whatever party they�d attended the night before.
All their children were girls except for the youngest and the oldest. The oldest, Keith, was everything to us. Although only in thirteen he was like a god, Lindsey Lahski always at his side, swimming with him or smoking cigarettes with him or under the tiki lamps at night making out on an air mattress, Seth and I watching through the slits in the fence as his hand stole up beneath the smallish brassiere, then down to the thighs, only to be repelled and finally slapped and then the girlish: �No! I told you no.�
�No. I said no and I mean no. No.�
�Nikki Robinson does.�
�Good. Go to her then.�
Getting up and buttoning her blouse. He pulling her back down onto the mattress, murmurs of apology, then the making out all over again. Keith promised us he would bang her the next year, when they both turned fourteen. We believed him. He was our idea of a god.
Keith and Seth had their rooms in the basement�not like Jackie�s simple room, but rooms that were sleek and enormous and well furnished, with big windows that looked out onto the pool and tennis court, and each with their own bathroom too. Keith was allowed to smoke in his room, and also to swipe his father�s old issues of Playboy, which we would spend hours searching for some sign of pubic hair. We couldn�t find any. Seth said they would never show that anyway. Keith said they would someday, but we didn�t believe him.
Keith hung out with some kind of gang that was an assembly of similarly bored punks, who in the woods behind the Indian Heights Country Club supposedly sniffed glue in their shack and gang-banged girls and drank beer. There were rumors also that they rumbled with the rough boys on the Missouri side, but I didn�t believe it. They were none of them like my brother, who had rumbled, and had the scars to show for it. They were just disaffected suburban brats whose idea of tough was a streetlight broken or a carton of Camels stuffed into a jacket and out the door.
Seth�s father we rarely saw. When we did see him his tipsiness was as obvious as that of the drunken whistler on his bar: the little figure that had one arm around a lamppost and that whistled �How Dry I Am� whenever you put a coin in the slot. Even when sober Mr. Drummond�s deportment belied a habitual intoxication that seemed to be there as much out of habit as substance. Oddly the deportment rarely changed regardless of how much he drank: he smiled just as much, told as many jokes, and remained in his own way as distant to us as Mrs. Drummond. His children he seemed to look on as a curious if accidental result of his marriage�accidents that he apparently hoped someone else would raise. The rest of us, his children�s friends, were virtually nameless and faceless to him, although he did on occasion associate the right name with the right face.
He was a car dealer, or rather owned a Lincoln/Mercury dealership that other people ran for him. All that the dealership required to function apparently was his occasional smiling presence, the closing of a sale or two, and his appearance in the late-night television ads that ran repetitively and idiotically on Fridays and Saturdays. The ads were poorly conceived, poorly produced and abysmally acted, and of course brought him a flood of business, keeping him and his family buoyed with Lincolns and booze and stuff throughout all those strange, distant, far-gone years.
I loved the Drummond house and I feared it, fearing it for reasons I didn�t understand so much as felt. Whenever I left it to go home though, across the pasture to our simpler house and simple cars and abundance of love, I felt grateful for what we had and who we were. I liked the Drummond�s pool, I liked the tennis court, I liked the big house with its white furniture and wet bars and frigid rooms, but I didn�t want it, and I don�t think Seth wanted it either. He had it though, whether he liked it or not, and that would ultimately prove to be his greatest curse too.

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