A SENTIMENTAL MEMORY

At the end of DunceCap by Alison Bundy, there’s this story, “A Sentimental Memory”:

I

IN 1925, EXACTLY one decade before my mother was born, the handsome Mosjoukine stood by the sea, ready to enter the Casino and win. I was sitting, at the time, on the marble steps of the Cafe Rialto, facing the boardwalk–an ugly child in an unspeakable white dress and bonnet, playing with painted wooden toys. To be precise, I was two years old, had set the stiff horse in the little yellow cart, and was commencing, in a rage of boredom, to knock him on the snout with a red rectangle. Then M. stopped before me to contemplate the doors that opened to the Casino’s hall, and I saw his fine eye fill with integrity and luck. He had a marvelous pallor, and I knew women fell when he walked. The sea extending out behind him seemed nothing when he stood by it, and I felt I was at the boundary of a strange bright land.

Is there a puzzle whose solution is simply the fact of the puzzle’s existence? When M. bowed his head slightly and set off toward the Casino, I formed my skirt into a kind of pouch, installed my toys therein, and followed.

II

NOW LOVE is fine, but luck is better. A lucky man gets what he wants and more; he is an emblem of positive possibility. The forest is set up for him to walk through. And, whereas a man in love may dream of his beloved and not notice the passing of time, a man in luck can stop a clock. He is also popular: for, just as luck is his vehicle, so people think he might become their vehicle, and aid them in achieving their myriad desires.

In short, the lesson says a man in luck is a good dream made real. The reason ladies fell before M. was because he produced in them a powerful nostalgia for something they had never had.

III

SO I WENT into the flamboyant and cruel Casino. A great crowd circulated on the floor, and I became lost in it, emerging some time later without my toys, onto a small flight of stairs, where I stood taking a view. I could see I was late, but maybe not too late. M. had money stuck in his ears but had not yet turned coy. I had plans to attach myself zealously to him, and cling like a leech, and I started toward his table just as he stood up from it. The ladies clustered about him but he made his way through. Now is my chance, I thought, and as he came near I lifted my arms and opened my mouth to speak.

At that time, a shadow fell over me, and my heart stopped, and I was unable to say what I had to. I was resuscitated some thirty-six years later, and tell this story not for money, but out of love, and to slow the passing of time somewhat.

DunceCap is published by Burning Deck.