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F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)

Esquire (November, 1939)

"How long does the doctor think now?" Mary asked.  With his good arm
Martin threw back the top of the sheet, disclosing that the plaster
armor had been cut away in front in the form of a square, so that
his abdomen and the lower part of his diaphragm bulged a little
from the aperture.  His dislocated arm was still high over his head
in an involuntary salute.

"This was a great advance," he told her.  "But it took the heat
wave to make Ottinger put in this window.  I can't say much for the
view but--have you seen the wire collection?"

"Yes, I've seen it," his wife answered, trying to look amused.

It was laid out on the bureau like a set of surgeons' tools--wires
bent to every length and shape so that the nurse could reach any
point inside the plaster cast when perspiration made the itching

Martin was ashamed at repeating himself.

"I apologize," he said.  "After two months you get medical
psychology.  All this stuff is fascinating to me.  In fact--" he
added, and with only faint irony, "--it is in a way of becoming my

Mary came over and sat beside the bed raising him, cast and all,
into her slender arms.  He was chief electrical engineer at the
studio and his thirty-foot fall wasn't costing a penny in doctor's
bills.  But that--and the fact that the catastrophe had swung them
together after a four months' separation, was its only bright spot.

"I feel so close," she whispered.  "Even through this plaster."

"Do you think that's a nice way to talk?"


"So do I."

Presently she stood up and rearranged her bright hair in the
mirror.  He had seen her do it half a thousand times but suddenly
there was a quality of remoteness about it that made him sad.

"What are you doing tonight?" he asked.

Mary turned, almost with surprise.

"It seems strange to have you ask me."

"Why?  You almost always tell me.  You're my contact with the world
of glamour."

"But you like to keep bargains.  That was our arrangement when we
began to live apart."

"You're being very technical."

"No--but that WAS the arrangement.  As a matter of fact I'm not
doing anything.  Bieman asked me to go to a preview, but he bores
me.  And that French crowd called up."

"Which member of it?"

She came closer and looked at him.

"Why, I believe you're jealous," she said.  "The wife of course.
Or HE did, to be exact, but he was calling for his wife--she'd be
there.  I've never seen you like this before."

Martin was wise enough to wink as if it meant nothing and let it
die away, but Mary said an unfortunate last word.

"I thought you liked me to go with them."

"That's it," Martin tried to go slow, "--with 'them,' but now it's

"They're all leaving Monday," she said almost impatiently.  "I'll
probably never see him again."

Silence for a minute.  Since his accident there were not an
unlimited number of things to talk about, except when there was
love between them.  Or even pity--he was accepting even pity in the
past fortnight.  Especially their uncertain plans about the future
were in need of being preceded by a mood of love.

"I'm going to get up for a minute," he said suddenly.  "No, don't
help me--don't call the nurse.  I've got it figured out."

The cast extended half way to his knee on one side but with a snake-
like motion he managed to get to the side of the bed--then rise
with a gigantic heave.  He tied on a dressing gown, still without
assistance, and went to the window.  Young people were splashing
and calling in the outdoor pool of the hotel.

"I'll go along," said Mary.  "Can I bring you anything tomorrow?
Or tonight if you feel lonely?"

"Not tonight.  You know I'm always cross at night--and I don't like
you making that long drive twice a day.  Go along--be happy."

"Shall I ring for the nurse?"

"I'll ring presently."

He didn't though--he just stood.  He knew that Mary was wearing
out, that this resurgence of her love was wearing out.  His
accident was a very temporary dam of a stream that had begun to
overflow months before.

When the pains began at six with their customary regularity the
nurse gave him something with codein in it, shook him a cocktail
and ordered dinner, one of those dinners it was a struggle to
digest since he had been sealed up in his individual bomb-shelter.
Then she was off duty four hours and he was alone.  Alone with Mary
and the Frenchman.

He didn't know the Frenchman except by name but Mary had said once:

"Joris is rather like you--only naturally not formed--rather

Since she said that, the company of Mary and Joris had grown
increasingly unattractive in the long hours between seven and
eleven.  He had talked with them, driven around with them, gone to
pictures and parties with them--sometimes with the half comforting
ghost of Joris' wife along.  He had been near as they made love and
even that was endurable as long as he could seem to hear and see
them.  It was when they became hushed and secret that his stomach
winced inside the plaster cast.  That was when he had pictures of
the Frenchman going toward Mary and Mary waiting.  Because he was
not sure just how Joris felt about her or about the whole

"I told him I loved you," Mary said--and he believed her, "I told
him that I could never love anyone but you."

Still he could not be sure how Mary felt as she waited in her
apartment for Joris.  He could not tell if, when she said good
night at her door, she turned away relieved, or whether she walked
around her living room a little and later, reading her book,
dropped it in her lap and looked up at the ceiling.  Or whether her
phone rang once more for one more good night.

Martin hadn't worried about any of these things in the first two
months of their separation when he had been on his feet and well.

At half-past eight he took up the phone and called her; the line
was busy and still busy at a quarter of nine.  At nine it was out
of order; at nine-fifteen it didn't answer and at a little before
nine-thirty it was busy again.  Martin got up, slowly drew on his
trousers and with the help of a bellboy put on a shirt and coat.

"Don't you want me to come, Mr. Harris?" asked the bellboy.

"No thanks.  Tell the taxi I'll be right down."

When the boy had gone he tripped on the slightly raised floor of
the bathroom, swung about on one arm and cut his head against the
wash bowl.  It was not so much, but he did a clumsy repair job with
the adhesive and, feeling ridiculous at his image in the mirror,
sat down and called Mary's number a last time--for no answer.  Then
he went out, not because he wanted to go to Mary's but because he
had to go somewhere toward the flame, and he didn't know any other
place to go.

At ten-thirty Mary, in her nightgown, was at the phone.

"Thanks for calling.  But, Joris, if you want to know the truth I
have a splitting headache.  I'm turning in."

"Mary, listen," Joris insisted.  "It happens Marianne has a
headache too and has turned in.  This is the last night I'll have a
chance to see you alone.  Besides, you told me you'd NEVER had a

Mary laughed.

"That's true--but I AM tired."

"I would promise to stay one-half hour--word of honor.  I am only
just around the corner."

"No," she said and a faint touch of annoyance gave firmness to the
word.  "Tomorrow I'll have either lunch or dinner if you like, but
now I'm going to bed."

She stopped.  She had heard a sound, a weight crunching against the
outer door of her apartment.  Then three odd, short bell rings.

"There's someone--call me in the morning," she said.  Hurriedly
hanging up the phone she got into a dressing gown.

By the door of her apartment she asked cautiously.

"Who's there?"

No answer--only a heavier sound--a human slipping to the floor.

"Who is it?"

She drew back and away from a frightening moan.  There was a little
shutter high in the door, like the peephole of a speakeasy, and
feeling sure from the sound that whoever it was, wounded or drunk,
was on the floor Mary reached up and peeped out.  She could see
only a hand covered with freshly ripening blood, and shut the trap
hurriedly.  After a shaken moment, she peered once more.

This time she recognized something--afterwards she could not have
said what--a way the arm lay, a corner of the plaster cast--but it
was enough to make her open the door quickly and duck down to
Martin's side.

"Get doctor," he whispered.  "Fell on the steps and broke."

His eyes closed as she ran for the phone.

Doctor and ambulance came at the same time.  What Martin had done
was simple enough, a little triumph of misfortune.  On the first
flight of stairs that he had gone up for eight weeks, he had
stumbled, tried to save himself with the arm that was no good for
anything, then spun down catching and ripping on the stair rail.
After that a five minute drag up to her door.

Mary wanted to exclaim, "Why?  Why?" but there was no one to hear.
He came awake as the stretcher was put under him to carry him to
the hospital, repair the new breakage with a new cast, start it
over again.  Seeing Mary he called quickly.  "Don't you come.  I
don't like anyone around when--when--Promise on your word of honor
not to come?"

The orthopedist said he would phone her in an hour.  And five
minutes later it was with the confused thought that he was already
calling that Mary answered the phone.

"I can't talk, Joris," she said.  "There was an awful accident--"

"Can I help?"

"It's gone now.  It was my husband--"

Suddenly Mary knew she wanted to do anything but wait alone for
word from the hospital.

"Come over then," she said.  "You can take me up there if I'm

She sat in place by the phone until he came--jumped to her feet
with an exclamation at his ring.

"Why?  Why?" she sobbed at last.  "I offered to go see him at his

"Not drunk?"

"No, no--he almost never takes a drink.  Will you wait right
outside my door while I dress and get ready?"

The news came half an hour later that Martin's shoulder was set
again, that he was sleeping under the ethylene gas and would sleep
till morning.  Joris Deglen was very gentle, swinging her feet up
on the sofa, putting a pillow at her back and answering her
incessant "Why?" with a different response every time--Martin had
been delirious; he was lonely; then at a certain moment telling the
truth he had long guessed at: Martin was jealous.

"That was it," Mary said bitterly.  "We were to be free--only I
wasn't free.  Only free to sneak about behind his back."

She was free now though, free as air.  And later, when he said he
wouldn't go just yet, but would sit in the living room reading
until she quieted down, Mary went into her room with her head clear
as morning.  After she undressed for the second time that night she
stayed for a few minutes before the mirror arranging her hair and
keeping her mind free of all thoughts about Martin except that he
was sleeping and at the moment felt no pain.

Then she opened her bedroom door and called down the corridor into
the living room:

"Do you want to come and tell me good night?"

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