lowell, redux

September 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Lowell was the last scion of a legendary family. Which was really too bad for the family. Or so it was said.

All through his house, there were pictures of his relatives, shaking hands or playing croquet or air-kissing on the decks of schooners with prominent figures in politics, in business, in Hollywood, in belle lettres. They were a fixture in the big leagues, his family; let it never be said that they weren’t. The newest pictures were glossy, but if you went down the hallway, past the fountain, around the left wing of the aquarium, and up two staircases, you would see the photographs age backward — his ancestors in the risible garment of past decades, the pictures appearing more and more faded — until you came to the little-visited study, at which point the photographs were replaced by oil paintings of his great-great-grand-aunt and Andrew Jackson on horses, the former looking quite petrified with terror at having been put there without so much as a mint julep to steady her nerves.

And then there were pictures of Lowell: toting a caterpillar backpack; peeking out from under the brim of his mother’s flowered hat; drawing lashes on his eyelids while someone else, a well meaning teacher’s aide, drew biceps on his skinny arm. Then older: cutting up magazines for their pretty pictures; modeling a gold bracelet and enormous jade button earrings; looking longingly at a playmate, a virile older specimen for whom he had twice, in the course of his schooling, consented to be robbed of his allowance and pencil pouch. Then older still: laughing with his hand on a tutor’s thigh; smoking his mother’s Virginia Slims; holding a sunflower and a violin bow against a blue-painted wall. In the last, the crowning achievement as far as he was concerned, he was photographed looking very serious, touching the halo of plastic thorns on his head. His white loincloth had his monogram on it, and his nipples bled red marker from where he had been pierced with Judas’s spear.

These were in the family photo album, and were little paged, by either his parents or himself.

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