“Lucknow,” “The Plymouth Inn” and “North of the Presidentials”

Issue 38 by Ron Tobey

“Lucknow,” “The Plymouth Inn” and “North of the Presidentials”

Lucknow

My cousins and I bunk in the impromptu nursery

cribs crowded together with a sewing machine

and drapery fabrics and unfinished curtains

near the sunset bedroom originally Olive Plant’s,

across from the Roosevelt room and the guest bath

white porcelain tile, needle surround shower, fixtures of brass.

I protest removal from the family reunion

whisky and cigarettes and billiards

balls released from the triangular rack

at cue ball’s impact

into one another crack and slam

scattering across the table’s cloth covered slate

Four Roses Bourbon, ginger ale, and ice

clinks in highball glasses.

My father and the men brag about cue stick skills

the women in blouses and long skirts

sit on the bench legs crossed

by the marbled fireplace

and on stuffed chairs

beneath the antlered deer head

laugh about men

talk about their children

in the recreation hall

player organ with a hundred shelved rolls

Tiffany case clock near entry to the living room

calendar dials of

sun and moon and stars rise and fall

Tiffany dinner chime

by the oak door to the octagon dining room

castle atop Lee Mountain.

Nana supervised dinner preparation

and infant grandchildren

who will be put to bed

crawl to pull teeth out of the polar bear rug

mouth open waiting to be fed.

During the party, grandfather

In gray business suit

pants lifted by suspenders

tie held by a pin

works in his office off the carriage entrance

his Abenaki grandmother framed black and white on the desk

of the estate he bought in 1941.

In September’s afternoon light

photographs are taken

the family on the front terraced lawn

by the pool with the fountain

the view to Winnepesaukee.

Grandfather and Nana pose center of the lineup.

Mother standing next to him, father wears his brown Army uniform

after Basic Training, thin, no jacket, shirt collar open.

His rifle company ships in a week

to the Italian front.

Plymouth Inn

One class A steam engine could do it all

Plow the track from Boston to Montreal,

I watched from a green leather upholstered chair

Arriving passengers climb granite block stairs

From the cream-colored brick station down the hill,

Baggage carts, water and coal to refill,

Streams of white vapor hissing, the locomotive

By the long platform with arched portico

Protecting passengers today from snow.

Mother walked me holding my hand

Each day to watch the rocking train

Round the rail curve from Ashland

Pulling into view then slowing

Bell clanging

Bell clanging

As if it stopped just for us.

Is Daddy on this train?

He never was

I did not know

In the Army Italy Germany

Wounded twice

When he would come home.

Who would cross the street to enter the Inn,

Push the wood framed glass door to the lobby?

The engineer of the south bound train,

A traveling salesman of whiskies and cigars,

The middle-aged woman who lived nearby

And owned an investment office in Boston,

Tourists going to the new ski slopes

Where refugee Austrian instructors

Taught Alpine techniques based on stem christies?

Telegraph operator second shift?

The hotel baggage room off the lobby

Was the wartime telegraph office

Tapping news, deaths, and emergencies.

Landline key, radio key, repeater,

Relay, register, rolls of narrow paper,

Stationary for pasting messages.

When the register clattered alive

Lobby conversation became subdued.

I did not know why.

North of the Presidentials

Pinup poster on the wall, creased with folds,

Clustered pin holes

A young black woman in swimsuit poses

Smiles encouragement to soldiers

Eighteen years after the war.

A black peep mag in a bureau drawer

Pulp paper already yellow

Fingerprinted by seasons of men

Who wrote their names on bedroom walls

Etched slogans with penknives

On wooden desk and chairs,

“I love you Shurine”, “I miss you Clare.”

Black cooks, dishwashers, wait staff

Arrive from Florida hotels mid-June

To prepare the kitchen for the resort’s opening,

Sleep short nights on sagging single beds

In the black men’s employee dorm.

I arrive early to work on the golf course

To clear winter debris from storms

Repair greens install ball washers

Whip grass straight up for cutting

Kill moles on the putting green

With a hammer at 5 AM

When they began to burrow.

In the wood frame dormitory

My room was in the northwest corner

Second floor above Priscilla Brook,

I sit in a rocker on the porch, evenings,

Fireflies swarm after twilight

Rising into the canopy of trees

Frogs chirrup nearby in vernal pools

Insects scrape their wings in unison

Answering passion’s call.

The dark buildings of the resort

Squat nearby, dowagers without consort.

When the white men’s dorm opened

I move in with other workers.

The rooms smelled musty

Of wet plaster board, old carpets, wood mold,

Aromas soon masked in evening drinking fetes

I would not join,

Whiskey and salty crackers and sausages

Deviled Ham

God forbid Spam

The single electric ceiling light off

A can of Sterno chafing fuel flickers.

In the tiny crossroads village,

The women employees’ dormitory opened last,

A three-story building with a large reception room

Fronted by a porch:

Waitresses, housekeepers, musicians, salesclerks

Office staff, receptionists, hairdressers, swim instructors

Child day-caretakers, tennis instructors,

Tight blue jeans, short shorts and skirts

White socks and tennis shoes

T-shirts, colored and pattern blouses,

Perfumes, shampoo, makeup

Conversation, laughter, flirting, gossip,

Portable record players

Saturday evening hops

In the village community house.

About the Author

Ron Tobey

Ron Tobey grew up in north New Hampshire. He now lives in West Virginia.