Lemon squash and heat

I told them I could be free by the twenty-first and that I’d come home the twenty-second. (June.) But everything went better than expected – I had all the examinations corrected and graded and back at the office by ten the morning of the twenty-first and I returned to the apartment feeling so footloose, so restless that I began to have some second thoughts. It’s only a five hour drive from the University to the ranch, if you move along – if you don’t stop every fifty miles for orange juice the way we used to, Judith and I, our first two years in college, or at bars, the way we did later, after we’d studied how to pass for twenty-one at under twenty…

I did say I’d be home by the twenty-second, and I had unconsciously cleared the way by the twenty-first, which in June is the longest day of the year. After I got back from taking the examinations to the office, it began to feel like it. I walked around the apartment and looked two or three times inside the refrigerator, so cold, so white, so bare, and more times than that out the big west window at the bay with the prison islands in it…

It was increasingly clear to me that I didn’t intend to spend another night, at least not this one, in the apartment. There were all kinds of indications: I stripped the sheets off my bed and put them in a laundry bag; and I folded the cover over the keyboard of the piano, a piano which was held mine, but which I’d scarcely touched, as they say of pianos, since Judith, who owned the other half, went to New York…

By three that afternoon I was halfway home, and sitting in a bar, one of the ones we used to stop at in the old days. It was quite dark and air-cooled and I had in hand a lemon squash with vodka in it in deference to my grandmother who hates the smell of alcohol on anyone’s breath – particularly girls’ breaths.


The opening of “Cassandra at the Wedding” by Dorothy Baker. Republished by Daunts in a new edition, and unputdownable. The plot trigger is the wedding of Cassandra’s twin, Judith, and although the guardian bizarrely reviewed it as “a dark comedy about marriage”, it’s really an examination of family. Published in 1962, it’s deeply evocative of South California ranch life, endless orange juice and Ivy League graduates of the time.

One comment

  1. Shirl · April 30

    Have GOT to get this!


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