From J R, Which is a Good Book

In this scene J R, an eleven year old entrepreneur, is trying to get his teacher Mrs Joubert (who has just learned her estranged husband took her son out of school and left with him), to organize a field trip to a museum so he can use the trip as an excuse to arrange a business meeting.

“I mean there’s so much stuff…he got the half step ahead,  —like did you ever think Mrs Joubert everything you see someplace there’s this millionaire for it?

—Is that all you think about!

—Sure I mean look back there. . . he’d blocked the door by way of opening it for her with his back against it, bringing the wind in, —like right now someplace there’s this water fountain millionaire and this locker millionaire and this here lightbulb one I mean like even the lightbulb there’s this glass millionaire and this one off where you screw the, oh wait wait a second. . . Down that bright empty corridor the telephone rang in the booth, —could you just wait up for me a second Mrs Joubert . . . ? But she reached past him to push the door leaving him off balance there a foot in each direction where the wind brought in a wrapper from a Three Musketeers candy bar —see I just , just, okay wait a second I’m coming . . . and he ran up against her on the steps.

—Just stop and look for a minute! she caught an arm round his shoulders, —just stop and look . . . !

—What? at what . . .

—At the evening, the sky, the wind, don’t you ever just stop sometimes and look? and listen?

—Well I, I mean sure, I . . . He stood stiff in her embrace, his armload holding her off between them, —like it’s, I mean it’s like getting dark real early now . . .

—Yes look up at the sky look at it! Is there a millionaire for that? But her own eyes dropped to her hand on his shoulder as though to confirm a shock at the slightness of what she held there. —Does there have to be a millionaire for everything?

—Sure, well, well no I mean like . . .

—And over there look, look. The moon coming up, don’t you see it? Doesn’t it make . . .

—What over there? He ducked away as though for a better view, —No but that’s Mrs Joubert? That’s just, wait . . .

—No never mind, it doesn’t matter . . .

—No but Mrs Joubert . . . ? The wind blew her from behind, seemed to blow him after her whirling the leaves up before them toward the station’s lights, —like I just wanted to ask you are we going on another field trip soon?

—To a bakery yes, she said over a shoulder, —I’m sure there’s a millionaire for that too.

—No but wait I meant like some museum. . . he was up beside her again, — like that one at New York where we . . .

—The Metropolitan, no the home economics class is going in to see their costume collection but you wouldn’t . . .

—Like do you think I could go along? I mean it sounds . . .

—You?

—Sure I mean it sounds real interesting, like it’s all these olden time clothes and all? I mean that sounds real in . . .

—No don’t be silly  no you’re not in the sewing, is that the train?

—What those lights? No that’s over on the highway hey Mrs Joubert? did you ever hear of the Museum of Natural History?

—Of course but . . .

—See well anyways I was thinking like we’ve been having about Alaska and these her Eskimos and all? he came on near a trot beside her, —and like you know in our book Our Wilderness Friend? there’s this picture of this exhibit they have in there of these stuffed Eskimos? see so I was thinking . . .

—What?

—Of these here, wait you’re right in a puddle . . .

—What did you say? exhibit of what?

—Like didn’t you see that picture? These here stuff Eskimos that shows how they live and all these here handicrafts they, what’s the matter . . .

—Do you really think that? can you, God can you think that? That they’d take Eskimos and, and . . .

—Sure well no I mean I, I mean like these other pictures they have in there of these exhibits that look real alive like these here stuffed wolves and all I . . . His voice was gone, buried in her breast with his burning cheek where she held him hard for the moment it took him to twist free enough to gasp —holy . . . to drop from reach to one knee wiping his free hand across his face, —what’s the matter anyhow I mean why does everybody always . . . and he broke off for the sound of the train above, —but hey? he called after her.

—No goodbye goodnight I can’t wait . . .”

– William Gaddis, J R, pages 473-75

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