The Ten Weeks: Week Eight (31 January-6 February): Before Texting, We Actually Had to Talk on the Phone

The setting of the novel The Ten Weeks was exactly forty years ago. This is one of a series of excerpts from the novel, one for each week (except for Weeks Two and Three, which were combined).

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Alemara Academy was a little less than halfway between Alemara town and Driscoll, which meant that it was out by itself. Although it was only about three hundred metres from the sound, it was beyond the best of the long, broad beach that made the town famous. They pulled up through the school’s front entrance.

“That school in Aloxa has a lot better set-up than this dump,” Jack remarked, recalling Beran-Williamstown’s better physical plant.

Pete looked at his watch. “The girls should be around there somewhere about now. I wouldn’t take their trip for anything, even with these landlubbers we’re stuck with.”

The tennis courts were on par with everything else at the school. The fences, windbreakers, bleachers and asphalt courts themselves had seen better days. Their team was there and practising. Point Collina’s team had to take the entire day off from school for this match, and although the Academy team was home this year, the 1100 start time dug into their own academic schedule. The home team cleared the courts long enough for the visitors to practice while the coaches and captains met to figure things out.

The two teams came out, shook hands, and the matches began. The Academy was competitive in a few slots but Point Collina’s team depth worked against them. One of the Academy’s less proficient players was Raymond des Cieux, who unlike Carla had not taken lessons from his sister. Raymond was at the bottom of the singles ladder and Jack was at third, so while others were playing Jack came over and motioned to Raymond to pull away from the bench and talk with him.

“You still glad you’re not on the Point this year?” Jack asked Raymond.

“It’s all right up here,” Raymond replied. “But it’s better than the Point.”

“I gotta kinda hard question for you?”

“Hard question? For me?”

“Yeah.” Jack hesitated. “How is the best way to ask your sister out?”

“You could try telephoning her,” Raymond calmly answered him.

“Nobody likes a. . .I know that. What I mean is, how do I do it so she won’t say no?”

“You’ve had a lot of girl friends. One of them must have said no. I haven’t had too many, but some of them have said no to me. So what’s the big deal for you?”

“Well, man, from what I hear, when she says no, it hurts. Besides. . .I don’t know how to say this, but I’ve never asked a girl quite like her out before.”

“She is unique,” Raymond agreed.

“So, what does she like? And don’t like?”

“She likes fine food, like we eat at home. So you should consider a nice place, like the Resort, where she can order something reasonably good and perhaps have a little wine without too many questions.”

“Does she drink a lot?”

“Not much. And only with meals. It is the way we were brought up. She is not the kind to go out and get drunk like the last girlfriend you had.”

“You would bring that up.”

“You might also try going to Mass with her—she likes that in a boyfriend.”

“That’s going to be hard.”

“Why?”

“Because my old man hates the Catholic Church. It’s cool with me. My sister Cat’s already in trouble for going there with her friend Terry Marlowe.”

C’est tres triste. . .you are passing some very sweet women by when you miss Mass. Take your sister’s friend—now that’s a girl I’m afraid to ask out.”

“How come?”

“Because she comes from such a great family, and she is so tall and beautiful—Papa says she reminds him of the women he used to see in Indochina.”

“Vietnam?”

“Yes, my family lived there when Madeleine was born.”

“She was born in Vietnam?”

“She was. We’ve lived in many places.”

“Cool. So you’re chicken, too.”

Raymond looked at the ground. “I guess so.”

“Just give me her phone number,” Jack finally said. Raymond went and borrowed a pencil, wrote it on a piece of scrap paper, and handed it to Jack. “Thanks,” Jack said.

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