the older man said. A smile grew against his face.
Mayann said as if to a child: "Thank you. I'm happy you have
met him now, I did want to talk. I wanted to ask if you had found your way in the
Then the older man said: "Please?"
"The cemetery. I know the grave is hard to find. The
cemetery has grown so much since then. And they've changed it, the west gate used to be
the main gate, now it's not and they've let it rust; it isn't used any more. The grave is
difficult to find from the main entrance now unless you know where it is. But it's the
only one with red roses. Did you have trouble? Could you find someone to help you?"
The older man said: "... No. No, miss."
"You did find it?"
The man said: "We do not know."
Mayann frowned. "Pardon me," she said. "Please,
it's my fault . . . I don't understand you."
"We do not . . ." the man said, "we . . . do not
go there. We do not know this cemetery."
Mayann's eyes watered before she said: "Oh." She said:
"Forgive me. I am not usually so
awkward. . . How could you go, knowing . . . that is, knowing no one at all in the
city? Not even father, of course, how could you go? You're all alone here. I beg your
pardon, I should have realized."
The older man looked at his feet and then he looked at his
friend. But the beautiful man was staring at Mayann; he had his mouth open.
Mayann said: "Well then, I'm doubly glad we have met. Now
you can go with me . . . I go every Sunday afternoon. We can go together. I take white
roses to my mother and I take red roses to the other grave. Will you come with me on
The older man said: "We . . . ah . . ." The beautiful
man said: "No."
"... No?" Mayann said.
"No. We are leaving soon."
The older man sucked his breath in through his nose.
"Yes," the beautiful man said, "we are leaving
before this day, Sunday... scusatemi, signorina. We must leave. Ci scusiamo di
tutto, signorina. Piacere, signorina . . ."
Then Mayann's hand was out and the men had bent over it
and sooner than anyone could move they were gone.
The men were never seen again.
Mayann watched after them. She watched the empty doorway.
Behind her, Mrs. Wainscott said: "My dear, what a
Mayann turned, her face sad. She sat in her place by her father.
Two dishes clinked and then some glasses. Sounds rushed into the
vacuum of no sound.
Mrs. Wainscott came to the table with a long white linen napkin
dangling from her hand. Edmund remained standing. Mrs. Wainscott said to Mayann:
"Don't get up, please. You mustn't worry. You really mustn't . . . Those men were
just pretending to be who you think. You shouldn't have humiliated yourself in front of
them that way. You really . . ."
"She didn't humiliate herself," Mr. Wainscott said,
approaching from behind.
"Well, but she shouldn't have spoken to them at all. They
were not what they were pretending, they . . ." Mrs. Wainscot was a long embarrassed
woman; she leaned over and patted the air around Mayann and the napkin bounced.
"Thank you," Mayann said. "Yes, thank you. I see
"How about some wine, Edmund?" Mr. Wainscott said.
"No, thanks," Edmund said. "We don't drink much
wine." Standing behind her chair, he pressed close against Mayann's back. He put one
hand around each of her shoulders.
"Oh, you. Come on," Mr. Wainscott said. "A half
"... Well," Edmund said, "maybe. Today we might.
Thanks, yes; but just a half. We believe in keeping to the middle of the road. Don't we,
"Thank you," Mayann said.
"We believe that nothing too much can happen to you . . . if
you stick to the middle of the road. We try to prove it. Right, Princess?
"Yes," Mayann said.
"... What's wrong?" Edmund said, low.
"Nothing," Mayann said. But she did not smile.
"He was what?"
"He was so ashamed," she said.
Mr. Wainscott burst out laughing. Edmund chuckled with him.
"I should hope," Mrs. Wainscott said. "My dear, I
should hope. Shamed would have been the least of it if I had told him what I had in my
"What did you have in your mind?" Mr. Wainscott said.
"You?" He laughed.
Different voices caught the laugh and used it for other things.
and there was a quick merriment in the room, held, passed around, blown with the smoke in
small tufts of clouds that floated into a thin blue layer under the ceiling. The layer was
of laughter and smoke.
Mayann whispered: "I shamed him so."
Edmunds hands tightened on her shoulders while Mr.
Wainscott went on laughing.
It was not that it was easier for Mayann to
sit straight. She could not have sat any other way.
The delicate sharp-honed humming cut through the hospital with
one last note and ended.
She tried to focus her eyes on the screen; then on a fly that was
squatting on the other side cleaning its front legs. She focused through the screen out
over the bright ground behind the oak-past the gray strings of swirled moss hung sleepily
like bats in green shadow. The far earth was hazed and the grass was burnt. Day-old rain
steamed up to the sun. But the top earth was already dusty; blistering orange had spread
over the ground.
Mayann pulled back her point of vision to the screen. It was lost
there now. The fly was gone. The screen had no center and no end. The screen beat gently
against her eyes, evenly light and dark and lighter, with her own pulse. The moan of the
fan behind her was in the disappearing day. And the screen beat between her and the sheets
of orange that shone and burned like hell-shadows from the dying sun in her eyes.
Edmunds wide hand came between her and the candle. He
lifted the candle in its long fluted-silver stick and put it on the bookcase over her
head. "No," he said. Then he said: "Don't touch fire. Fire burns."
Everybody told her she was tall for her age, but thin; but
beautifully proportioned, they said; she will make a beautiful young lady someday. She was
five years old and two weeks.
Edmund put a hand under each of her armpits and raised her off
the floor. He bent her back and dangled her there, himself laughing--Mayann's hair shaking
straight down behind. Then he sat her in the big upholstered armchair that was red and
firm and mountainous.
Edmund pushed up his coat sleeve. He unbuttoned the round gold
cufflink and turned the cuff back and back again. "Look," he said. He held his
arm down for her to see.
On the inside of the arm there was a place where the hair could
not grow. A spotchy place, shaped unshapen like milk spilled on the carpet. The skin there
was too pink and it shone too slick for skin. It was a little like the wax drops as they
fell from the pink Christmas candle.
Edmund said: "See that? There? You see?"
"Daddy is for babies, not for friends."
"... Yes, Father."
"That's better. See that?"
"That's the place where I got burned. See what it did?"
"How?" Mayann said.
"I'm telling you. When I was a little boy I spilled some hot
grease on me. It burned me."
"The same thing," Edmund said. "Heat and fire. One
makes the other; fire makes heat and heat makes fire. But it all burns. Don't ever touch
fire. Stay away from it. And from the hot heat."
"When is it hot?" Mayann said.
"... Well, when it's red. When a thing gets too hot it just
The chair was red.
Mayann looked up at the candle, long and yellow, in silver; and
at the pointed oval flame set on top. The flame was orange.
She shook her head.
"Now, look," Edmund said, "you don't have to
understand about it now. Just believe father."
"I would like to feel it," she said.
"I felt it once, I lit a match by myself and I felt the
stove in the kitchen; it was nice."
"No," Edmund said.
"No," he said, "nice to stay away from. Only if
you don't get too near, see? If you get near you get burned. Fire burns." He stepped
to the side and took the candlestick again. Then he squatted with it in front of her.
After that he took her wrist and held her hand up two feet away from the flame. "Out
here it feels nice," he said. "Here. But no closer." He let go her wrist.
Mayann looked at him.
"1 just want to feel the burn once."
"No," Edmund said. "You mayn't. Fire burns, fire
burned father on his arm."
"Grease," Mayann said.
Edmund said: "It's the same thing, I told you. You don't
have to feel it. It hurts, it's not nice. You don't ever have to feel anything that hurts;
father felt those things already; he knows. You don't ever have to get hurt. Father got
hurt for you, he won't let you get hurt. You don't have to feel it at all, you just
Mayann looked back at the candle. She closed her fingers flat.
Then she couldn't see the flame. But the light came right through between her fingers and
made the skin there glow like the sun through a red lollipop. The warmth of the flame was
When she separated her fingers and saw the flame again, it was
shivering: laughing at her.
Two flies, both on her left, faced in the same direction, one
higher, both on the outside; with granulated eyes; two flies were on the screen. They had
big busy heads, twirling them. One was praying--the silly one.
It takes a certain kind of fly to pray; not the kind that knows.
Behind her there was another nurse in the room, undertalking to
Mrs. Rhale. "Dignity . . . real . . . loves . . ." "Yes. Oh, yes."
"... only know a person, really by how they behave . . . difficult moments in
life." "Oh, yes."
It takes a certain kind of fly to pray. Fire burns.
Nurses can turn red if they get hot enough, but they don't burn.
Nurses never burn.
"Im not a nurse," Miss Duff said,
"I'm a nanny, l'm a British nanny."
"Yes," Mayann said.
"Call me nanny."
"Right you are," Miss Duff said. "Now let us get
our boots on, there's the dear."
Mayann said: "Nobody wears these but me; girls don't wear
high boots, not even Evelyn Wisterwood and she's crippled, l can't run in high
"You don't have to run," Miss Duff said. "There is
no saying you have to run. Our daddy just wants us to go for a walk with him. Not
"Father. Daddy is for babies."
"I call him father."
"Did he tell you to?"
"Right you are," Miss Duff said. "Father."
The first boot was for the left foot. It was thick and lined with
rabbit fur. It was hard to put on and it came all the way up to her knee; then it zipped.
Then it cut under her knee. It weighed a lot.
Mayann said: "I would like to run in the snow."
"You might fall," Miss Duff said, panting. She was
working the other leg into the other boot.
"1 would like to fall."
"I would like to feel the snow."
"Make a snowball," Miss Duff said. She squatted down
and sat on the carpet. "This here is a bit of a struggle. New boots are always a bit
of a struggle until they get used to us. Remember that. I'm new to you too, but not a
boot. Ha ha."
"1 don't want to touch it," Mayann said. "1 only
want to feel it."
"Yes, dear," Miss Duff said. "Now simply hold it
out stiff and point the toes, but not too much. Simply hold it out stiff."
"1 am," Mayann said.
"Right you are," Miss Duff said. "Well done you.
Nanny doesn't want us hurt. Zippy-wippy. There, now."
Mayann let her heavy feet rest on the carpet. "I would like
to fall in the snow," she said.
"Because why ?"
"That's not a reason," Miss Duff said. "What a
silly idea; fall in the snow, indeed. If we slip and fall down, we hurt ourselves. Even in
the snow. Besides the snow is too cold. Then we catch cold."
"Fire is too hot," Mayann said softly.
"Right you are," Miss Duff said. "Fire is too hot
and the snow is too cold."
"Oh," Mayann said.
"Do you know what our daddy, I mean our father told nanny
when nanny came to work for him? Do you know what he told nanny we always do? And why we
always do it?"
Miss Duff wrinkled her face. "What?"
"We always stick to the middle of the road. So nothing can hurt
The wrinkles all went upward. "Quite right," Miss Duff
said, "how did you know?"
"1 know," Mayann said.
"It was what my mother said."
"Oh. Do we remember our mother?"
"No," Mayann said.
"Erm. Well. Never you mind, now let's get nanny up on her
feet. Nanny must go on a diet. Nanny weighs too much. There we are. Never you mind, you
have two mothers now. Aunt Sarah and nanny."
Mayann said: "No."
"I don't want a mother."
"... I didn't hear you right, love."
"My mother is dead. 1 don't want a new mother."
"Well. Erm. Dad-uh-Father is waiting downstairs to take us
out to the park to play with the other little girls. Then we come back and have fried
chicking for lunch."
"Chicking," Miss Duff said, "lengthen each word to
Mayann said: "1 can't play with these boots on."
"Yes you can," Miss Duff said. "Try. Everything is
a question of trying; if we try we can do anything we want to in life. Did our
dad-uh-father explain to us how when be was young and be was playing at mountain climbing
in the snow in Italy, he sat down too long and froze his, he sat down and froze
"Yes," Mayann said. "He showed me."
"He can't have, love," Miss Duff said. "Not there.
He couldn't even show nanny. It's in an unfortunate place," she said.
"I know. I saw it."
"He showed me."
"How? Never mind, l don't want to know. Now off we go
downstairs. Father is waiting."
Mayann leaned with a hand on the back of the chair while she
stood up. Then, when she was sure of her balance, she clumped across the high-tufted
carpet to the door.
"Aren't we going to kiss our nanny goodbye?"
Mayann clumped around in a half-circle and came back.
"The-ere now. Thats right. Now don't we want a new
"No," Mayann said, heading for the door.
"Well. Poor dear Aunt Sarah."
"Aunt Sarah is an aunt," Mayann said. She opened the
"...I'm not an aunt."
"No," Mayann said. "You're not."
"Well? . . . What am I"
Mayann said: "A nanny." She went out and closed the
door after her.
She closed it with one arm.