Edith’s Diary

Free Edith’s Diary by Patricia Highsmith

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Authors: Patricia Highsmith
Mickey’s, a popular seedy bar on Main Street, where kids Cliffie’s age could have soft drinks but weren’t supposed to be sold beer? Gert fairly boasted about Derek’s conquest of an eighteen-year-old assistant of the family dentist in Trenton. Had Brett ever had a talk with Cliffie about the facts of life?
    ‘But – what’m I supposed to tell him? At his age,’ said Brett, looking nearly as blank as Cliffie did sometimes. ‘After all, his voice has already changed. Fourteen —’
    ‘Well – don’t you think it’s a little funny he’s never had a girl friend, not even a crush —’
    ‘He wouldn’t necessarily
tell
you,’ Brett interrupted.
    ‘Oh, Brett! Kids phone. They write letters. It —’
    ‘Kids these days are illiterate.’
    ‘It even crossed my mind he might be queer, I swear.’
    Brett laughed heartily. ‘I doubt it from the way he borrows my razor. Trying to scrape up a beard.’ Brett shook his head, still grinning. ‘Honey, did you manage to pick up my shoes today? That heel job?’
    Edith had.
    ‘All right, Edie, I’ll take him out camping – this next Saturday. I promise.’
    Edith imagined an overnight camping trip, the two of them talking across a bonfire. Man to man. Edith smiled at the triteness of it, but it must work sometimes, or people wouldn’t keep trying it, or talking about it. She knew Brett considered it a sacrifice of his weekend time. Brett liked his own little projects, liked reading and making notes for a book he intended to write on the origins of war.
    ‘But if it’s self-confidence you’re talking about again, I’m afraid I can’t inject him with that,’ Brett said.
    So Brett and Cliffie went off the following Saturday after lunch, equipped with sleeping bags, tarpaulin, flashlights, the Winchester .22, sandwiches, alcohol stove, instant coffee, a thermos of soup, a big jug of fresh water. Edith relished her hours alone (except for George), even declined an invitation from the Quickmans next door for Saturday dinner. Brett and Cliffie were back Sunday evening around 8, dinnerless, but Edith had not eaten as yet. Cliffie looked as usual, grinning, taciturn, as he switched on the television before even removing his nylon jacket. Only Brett was – somehow – not his usual self, a little tense, maybe a little angry. Edith knew something had happened. Had Cliffie recounted a saga of erotic conquests, all fantasy, Edith wondered.
    Brett was close-mouthed until he and Edith were ready for bed, their bedroom door closed.
    ‘I woke up this morning and found him standing over me with the gun,’ Brett said. ‘Funny – isn’t it?’
    The gun. The .22, Edith thought. She could imagine Cliffie pointing it. Smiling? ‘Joking, you mean.’
    ‘Oh, I dunno.’ Brett threw off his bathrobe. ‘I didn’t like it. Sure, I tried to smile. Sure. Had his finger on the trigger!’ Brett was whispering, though Cliffie was downstairs in his back corner room. Suddenly Brett laughed. ‘Anyway, I’m safe. I think.’
    Was it real, Edith wondered. Of course it was real, what Brett had said, the gesture, the lightweight gun which could kill at short range. Edith was not sure Brett had got around to discussing the facts of life. She was not going to ask him about that.
    Somewhat to Edith’s surprise, Brett wanted to caress her, to make love. That was real, that night.

6
    When Edith put the telephone down, she climbed the stairs slowly, walked down the hall to her workroom, and after a few seconds, realized that she was staring at her diary. It lay atop some stacked magazines at the lower left end of the bookshelf under the bay window seat. Today was a day to make an entry, she thought. When had the last entry been? Four or five months ago, perhaps, and she couldn’t even remember what had prompted it. Something happy? What?
    She had just received a phone call from a Mr Coleman or Colson in Trenton, saying that Cliffie had been caught with an answer paper in the room where

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