Sample P16 from Margery Finn Brown, "A Secret Between Friends," Redbook, 116: 4 (February, 1961), 104-110. A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,001 words 639 (31.9%) quotes 3 symbolsP16

Used by permission of Redbook. 0010-1790

Margery Finn Brown, "A Secret Between Friends," Redbook, 116: 4 (February, 1961), 104-110.

Typographical Errors: shouders [0630] encylopedia [1450]

Header auto-generated for TEI version

Unimpressed , the dog plopped on the sand . Quint couldn't blame Maggie for disbelieving . For eleven days they'd done the same thing , leaving the cottage quietly before breakfast , before Esperanza Beach got jammed with tourists and beach balls and show-offy lifeguards . The swirling sand made Quint's limp more pronounced . They walked slowly past the sherbet-colored cottages -- eleven lemon , nine mint , seven orange -- around the curve to a deserted stand with an `` Eats '' sign jiggling in the wind .

Now they were in friendly territory . Nobody around . Nothing but sand and a ridge of rocks sloping jaggedly to the water's edge . His rock was to the right of a V-shaped inlet , a big , brown , lumpy rock trailing seaweed whiskers . His rock was special because no one on the beach could see him here . Here he was enclosed and safe . ( If a dragon or a sea monster came along , didn't he have a red Swiss hunting knife on his belt -- ten blades and a corkscrew ? ?

Here was a perfect place to lie down and make believe . He was Canute controlling the waves . He was a knight of the Round Table , `` Sir Quintus the Brave '' , slaying evil spirits and banshees and vampires and witches with warty noses . ( One good thing about a suit of armor , his leg wouldn't show . ) He was the first astronaut on the moon , chosen because of his small size and intrepid nature . He was six feet one like his father , with big hands and a hairy chest , a man the weak and persecuted would turn to . Fearless . Every night when he wanted a drink of water , didn't he practice being fearless by not turning on the bathroom light ? ? A dark bathroom can be pretty scary , and he'd creep back to bed , proud of himself , thinking : Tomorrow , for sure , I'll go down to the rock and keep my promise to Dad .

He hadn't intended to make the promise . It happened two weeks ago , the night before his father left on a business trip to South America . Every piece of the nightmare was clear , in place ; ; and when he woke up , his father was saying , `` Stop screaming , Quint . It's all right . Stop shaking '' .

He could remember the feel of his father's big hands , the thump of his father's heart sending out signals -- regular , like radar . `` Let's talk about the beach . Son . While I'm gone you get brown and fat as a pig , hear ? ? Look , I can put two fingers between the cords in the back of your neck . Dr. Fortman says swimming would help your leg . He says you're limping more than you need to '' .

`` How does he know ? ? Big dumb nut . He never had polio '' .

In the light from the bedside table his father looked so worried that the promise spilled out . `` You just wait , Dad . When you get back I'll probly be swimming better than Victoria . Wait and see , Dad '' .

Victoria was fourteen months younger than Quint , a head taller , and could lick any boy or girl on the beach . He called her `` Fatso '' . She called him `` Stuck-up -- that's why nobody plays with you , Mister Stuck-up '' . Or , what was worse , she prayed for him out loud at bedtime : `` Please , Lord Gord , please give my brother the strength to go swimming like he promised '' .

`` She's got a nerve '' . Quint said now to the clouds . Strength began to zip up and down his chest . He felt strong as a giant . He unlaced his high brown shoes and took off the metal brace on his leg . He wadded his sweat shirt into a ball and stripped down to his swimming trunks .

`` Goolick , goooolick '' , creaked a sea gull .

`` Aw , shut up '' , he said .

He stood on the rock , a skinny , dignified boy surrounded by the ocean . The wind bored a hole between his shoulder blades , and when he looked at the choppy waves coming and going and crossing each other he could see his head down there , bleeding , wedged between the rocks and the waves .

I can't go in . I'm scared of the nightmare .

Shivering , he put on his clothes . And shivering with shame , he crawled to the narrow end of the rock and spat into the water .

`` Watch it , big shot '' , a hoarse voice yelled back . She was holding on to his rock with one hand . She smelled of peppermints . She wore a bathing suit like his mother's , no straps on the shouders .

`` Why didn't you duck '' ? ? He snapped . `` This is my rock '' .

`` Isn't '' .

`` Is '' .

`` Isn't '' .

`` Is '' .

She was sore as a boil . `` Ever hear of squatter's rights '' ? ?

`` Sure . They started with the Kansas-Nebraska Bill of eighteen '' --

`` Mister Big Britches , aren't you '' ? ?

`` I'm Mark Gordon Peters the Fifth . They call me Quint '' .

`` Then why don't you stop squinting '' ? ?

`` I said Quint . That's short for Quintus . Quintus in Latin means '' --

`` I can speak both kinds of Latin , smart aleck '' . Her cough sounded like cloth ripping .

`` You shouldn't smoke so much '' , he said , unconsciously imitating Victoria's holier-than-thou voice .

`` I don't smoke '' . She was horrified . `` Do you '' ? ?

`` Hell , yes '' . Not having said `` hell '' before , he stumbled a bit before gathering momentum . `` Sometimes eleven , fourteen a day '' .

`` If I was your mama , I'd wop your tail off '' .

`` My mother never wops me . I've got this leg brace '' .

She seemed so unimpressed that he was obliged to roll up his blue jeans so she could see his brace .

`` Dingy-looking '' , was what she said . `` Why don't you paint it red and white like a barber pole '' ? ?

`` Because maybe I won't have to wear it always . Dr. Fortman says if I exercise my leg more , maybe I can use a cane when I'm big '' .

She spouted a mouthful of water into the air . `` A cane's mighty handy . Someone's walking past , you want to stop him , zoooop , snag him around the neck with the crook in your cane . Or say a waiter brings you a bowl of soup with a dead fly in it -- all you got to do is bannnnnng , stooooomp your cane on the floor . Hey , will you look at that '' ? ?

Maggie had shaken himself awake and was licking the sand off his stubby whiskers and his long plume of a tail .

`` That's some dog . What kind '' ? ?

`` Part collie , part wire-haired terrier '' . Quint glared . He always did when people asked .

`` Holy mackerel , that's the most unique dog I ever saw '' , she said firmly .

`` His real name's DiMaggio , only we call him Maggie because he has to take tranquilizers . He's braver than he looks . He's been sick lately . Last Tuesday he went on a ham jag '' .

`` A what '' ? ?

He would have told her , but Victoria was yodeling . That meant `` Mama wants you Quint . Come home or I'll come find you '' .

`` I gotta go . Even though this is my rock , you can use it sometimes . I come early in the morning '' .

`` So do I . See you around , Mister Squint '' .

That was how they started being friends . They met next morning and all the mornings thereafter . Same time , early , before the fog burned off , because she didn't like the sun ; ; it made her blister . Her name was Sabella , and the strip of seaweed around her neck was an emerald necklace the King gave her as a token of his undying love .

`` You going to marry the King '' ? ? `` No . He's got a long beard and picks his teeth with a fork . My hair is what he's nuts about . Naturally curly hair runs in my family . Personally , I prefer straight hair like yours , but as they say on the Continent , ' What can one do ' '' ? ?

`` Which continent '' ? ?

`` Name one , I been there '' . Japan , she said , smelled pugh because people let dead fish lie on the beaches till the fish got hard as rocks ; ; then they scraped off the mold and made fish soup . Pugh . Camels in Tripoli had harelips . Near Galway the tinkers drove their caravans down to the beach and sang and drank and fought all night . As for dancing -- holy mackerel , he ought to see the gypsies in Jerez ; ; they danced on the sand till your blood got hot and danced with them .

`` Really '' . Quint smothered a yawn . She made better pictures than any book he'd read , but he didn't say so . Artfully , as the days went by , he found occasion to tell her that his father had won the Navy Cross in the Korean War ; ; that his baby sister could spit up through her nose when she felt like it ; ; that he personally had an IQ of 141 and was currently reading the Mushr to Ozon volume of the encyclopedia .

`` Books are for schnooks '' . She skipped a piece of water at him and laughed , a funny , hoarse laugh he liked to hear .

Nobody ever appreciated his jokes as much as Sabella . ( `` What did one tonsil say to the other tonsil ? ? Let's get dressed up -- the doctor's taking us out tonight '' . And `` What time did the Chinaman go to the dentist ? ? Tooth-hurty '' . ) Encouraged by her giggles he imitated Maggie who was crazy about ham . He described the ham decorated with pineapple and cherries , cooling on the porch . He snuck up on the ham like Maggie , gumming it with soft , stumpy teeth , then panting with thirst , lapping up the water in the lagoon , swelling up like a balloon , staggering home to be sick , while his mother said , `` That does it . That dog has to go '' .

`` Say , you're quite a comic '' , Sabella said admiringly . `` Ever thought about going on the stage '' ? ?

He hadn't . But it was such a nice thought that he nodded his head . `` Either that or a veterinarian '' .

`` Better make up your mind , son '' , Sabella said . `` You can't serve cod and salmon '' .

Sometimes they argued . She said sharks have no bones and shrimp swam backward . His encylopedia agreed with Sabella . Next morning he tied a bunch of sea daisies with string and threw them across the V-shaped inlet to the rock where she was swimming around . Boy , could she catch ! ! Like Willie Mays in the outfield .

`` Nobody gave me flowers before . Thank you , Quint '' . Her face turned pink with pleasure and a smothered cough . `` You can always tell a real gentleman -- they got a certain je ne say quok '' .

Sometimes they didn't talk at all . He daydreamed on the rock while she swam and splashed around . Once when she asked why he never went swimming and he answered , `` Don't feel like it '' , he was tempted to tell her about being scared . But Victoria began yodeling just then and he went home , carrying Sabella in the back of his head , not thinking about her , just knowing she was there , smiling , smelling of peppermints . As for his promise -- oh , he had plenty of time , buckets of time .

Wednesday morning it happened . They were eating breakfast . `` We beseech thee , Lord Gord , to bless this food '' -- that was Victoria saying grace while the baby sprayed raisin toast on her plastic bib . Same old breakfast till the phone rang , making his mother's voice shake with excitement .

`` Your Daddy's in San Francisco '' , she told them . `` He says he'll be here on the one-o'clock plane . Fifteen days early -- isn't that wonderful '' ? ?

`` Yeah , keen '' . A cave seemed to be opening in Quint's stomach .

`` Children , we'll have to get organized . The baby can have an early nap . Victoria , I want you to -- ''

Quint closed the screen door quietly so Maggie wouldn't be scared . `` Hurry up , we're late '' , he said , noticing with a chill how gray the sky was this morning , the fog like a rope along the horizon , the choppy waves sending off sheets of blue and Kool-Aid green .

The cave in his stomach hurt . He had to go into the water . He'd tell Sabella about the nightmare . It had started two years ago when he was in an iron lung . What caused it , he didn't know . The metal collar gagging his neck ? ? Sweating so much ? ? The unbearable weight on his chest ? ? All of it together meant drowning . The first time the nurse took him out of the lung , she said if he got frightened , she'd put him back for a second .