Sample P23 from Barbara Robinson, "Something Very Much in Common," McCall's, 88: 11 (August, 1961), 172-174. A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,043 words 463 (22.7%) quotesP23

Used by permission of Barbara Robinson. 0010-1800

Barbara Robinson, "Something Very Much in Common," McCall's, 88: 11 (August, 1961), 172-174.

Typographical Error: Pyhrric [0440]

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Under normal circumstances , he had a certain bright-eyed all-American-boy charm , with great appeal for young ladies , old ladies , and dogs . Today , he looked like an Astronaut who had left his vitamin pills on the bureau and spent six months in space : hollow eyes , hollow cheeks , hollow stomach . Breakfast , he thought . A shot of orange juice would make everything seem better . He looked around his little Eden : bureau , bed , table , chair , two-burner stove . Then he remembered .

`` You share a refrigerator '' , Mrs. Kirby had said , and somehow , at midnight , after the long drive from New York in pelting rain , that had sounded reasonable . In the cold light of day , it seemed a lunatic arrangement . Share bath , maybe -- but share refrigerator ? ? She had explained it -- something about summer people's eating out and not enough space in the units . And where was the thing ? ? He remembered seeing it last night , when he put away his small store of bachelor-type eatables . Ah , yes -- his half of a refrigerator stood outside , on the `` curving veranda '' between Unit Number Three and Unit Number Four .

It was still raining , and Mrs. Kirby's cottages bloomed through the gray haze like the names they bore , vivid blue and green and magenta . Charlie downed his orange juice and one of the long , skinny green pills , his spirits as damp as the day .

This vacation had seemed like a good idea last week , when his doctor had prescribed it . `` Take a full month '' , the doctor had said . `` Lots of sun , lots of rest . The red pills are a vitamin-and-iron compound . This is a sleeping capsule . The others will make you a little more comfortable until you get it licked . You young men get to be my age , you won't take flu so lightly '' .

Charlie had accepted the diagnosis without comment . The doctor could call it anything from flu to beriberi ; ; but Charlie knew what was wrong with him and knew , too , that there was no pill to cure it . He had loved and lost Vivian Wayne to somebody else , had watched her marry the somebody else , and had caught a bear of a cold by kissing the bride good-by forever , which was really piling it on . He had caught , too , like an ailment , a confirmed distrust of women . Once burned -- scalded , really , because Vivian had given him every encouragement -- forever shy . From now on , his was going to be a man's world : the North Woods , duck blinds at dawning , beer and poker and male secretaries .

Meanwhile , he had this miserable cold , and as he leaned against the refrigerator , watching the rain make sandy puddles at his feet , the doctor's prescription for lots of sun seemed like a hollow mockery . In these damp circumstances , he was an odds-on bet to develop pneumonia .

He looked up to see Mrs. Kirby , awesome in a black-and-yellow polka-dotted slicker , bearing down on him . `` Three-day blow '' ! ! She bellowed triumphantly . He had noticed before that the natives seemed to regard really filthy weather as a kind of Pyhrric victory over the tourists . `` Fine , day after tomorrow '' , she added .

`` I hope so '' , he said . `` I've got this cold . Thought I'd bake it out in the sun '' .

`` Ah '' . She studied him briefly . `` You've got a peaked look . Better get in out of the wet '' .

Charlie forbore to mention that the wet was somewhat universal , Peony being less than weatherproof . As for its being fine , day after tomorrow , he had the unhappy conviction that it would never be fine again , with Vivian lost to him forever . He could imagine her at this minute , honeymooning in Nassau with what's-his-name , lounging on golden sands , looking forward to a life of unalloyed bliss . All Charlie could look forward to was a yellow pill at noon , a salami sandwich for lunch , and a lonely old age -- if he lived that long .

He leafed through the light reading provided by Mrs. Kirby for her guests : four separate adventures of the Bobbsey Twins ( At the Seashore , At the Mountains , On the Farm , and In Danger ) and several agricultural bulletins on the treatment of hoof-and-mouth disease in cattle , hideously illustrated . He dozed , only to dream of Vivian , and woke , only to crash into the night table , bruising his other shin . He took a yellow pill , only to choke on it , and went for the salami , only to find something alive in the refrigerator -- something pink and fuzzy .

His first thought was that Mrs. Kirby , in her mania for color , had dyed a cat and that cat had somehow managed to open the refrigerator door and climb in ; ; but on further investigation , the thing proved to be a sweater , of the long-hair variety that sheds onto men's jackets -- pale , pale pink and , according to the label , size thirty-four . He thought about it for a minute , could find no reasonable explanation for the presence of a sweater in the refrigerator , got the salami , bread , and a Bermuda onion , and put the whole thing out of his mind .

Next morning , he found a note in the refrigerator . `` Would you mind wrapping your onion '' ? ? Said this note . `` The smell permeates everything '' ! ! Everything being the sweater , a lipstick case , and a squirt bottle of Kissin' Kare pink hand lotion . The note paper was pink , too , and the handwriting small and dainty and utterly feminine . Not that he had supposed , considering the evidence , that he was sharing this refrigerator with a member of the Beach Patrol . He scrawled `` Sorry '' across the bottom of the note and then , against his better judgment , added : `` Don't you eat '' ? ? He didn't want to encourage anything here ; ; but on the other hand , he didn't want her swiping his salami .

`` Not onions '' , came the answer the following day . `` Ugh '' .

Must have really smelled up her sweater , he thought , and wondered idly just why she kept the sweater fast-frozen . But then , as he well knew , women are not guided by logic or common sense . Take Vivian . Yes , take Vivian . Somebody had .

Now , if this were Vivian next door to him and if , for some obscure female reason , she kept her clothes in the refrigerator , they would not be pink . They would be black or white or horse-blanket plaid , chic and splashy , like Vivian herself . Pink , Vivian once had told him , was for baby girls , and grown-up girls who wore pink were subconsciously clinging to their infancy .

`` Why does this girl keep a sweater in the refrigerator '' ? ? He mused aloud .

Eh '' ? ? It was Mrs. Kirby , making her toilsome way along the veranda , laden with a clattery collection of mops , brushes , and pails . `` What's that you say '' ? ?

`` Oh , nothing . Just glad the rain's stopped '' .

`` Oh , yes . Just look at that sky . Be a scorcher by afternoon '' .

`` I hope so . I've got this cold '' .

`` So you said '' . She scrutinized him . `` My , you're peaked . You want to watch out that you don't get burned to an ash , first sunny day . I must remember to warn the girl next to you in Larkspur . That pale kind's the worst '' .

That pale kind , Charlie thought . Hardly an inviting description . But then , neither was peaked . He could hear Mrs. Kirby now , warning her pale guest against sunburn . `` I spoke to the fellow next door , too '' , she might say . `` He's that peaked kind '' .

Surely there was a better word . Charlie looked in the mirror . Run-down , iron-poor . He looked more closely . Frail , feeble -- peaked . Clearly , two damp days with the Bobbsey Twins had done him no good .

The sun , blazing hot as prophesied , was far from kind to Mrs. Kirby's varicolored properties . When Charlie came up from the beach for his four-o'clock pill , the whole establishment ( gaudy enough when seen through mist and fog ) looked like a floodlit modern painting -- great blocks of dizzy color , punctuated at regular intervals by the glaring white of five community refrigerators . This weekend , he thought , he would look around for some more subdued retreat , with Cape roses , maybe , at the door . He could not imagine a flower's being brave enough to grow beside Peony , Larkspur , and the rest .

The sweater was gone from the refrigerator , and in its place was a large plastic bag , full of wet pink clothes . No wonder she was so pale , wearing all those cold clothes .

He got a red pill and a beer and then , on impulse , transferred the rest of his salami to her side of the refrigerator and scrawled `` Be my guest '' on the wrapping . It gave him a good feeling .

`` M-m-m . Thanks '' , was her answer the next day . The note was propped against his pill bottles and bore a postscript : `` You're not at all well , are you '' ? ?

`` I've got this cold '' , he wrote . Not that it was any of her business .

`` It's none of my business '' , said the next note , `` but my Aunt Elsie used to take lemon juice and honey in hot water for a cold , and she lived to be ninety-six . I mean , she's still living , and she's ninety-six . Why don't you try that '' ? ?

`` I don't have a lemon '' . He had to write very small to get it on the bottom of the scrap of paper .

By the next morning , she had turned the paper over . `` Gee , neither do I '' .

Charlie grinned . She didn't sound like a pale girl . She sounded a little like a redhead . But then , redheads are often pale .

He stuck his head in Mrs. Kirby's little rental office . `` I guess that redhead next to me took your advice . I haven't seen her on the beach '' .

`` You won't , if you're looking for a redhead . She's got browny hair '' .

He spent that afternoon on the beach , looking for a pale , browny-haired girl in a pink bathing suit . There were pink bathing suits on blondes , and browny-haired girls in red or black or green bathing suits . There were a sprinkling of daring bikinis and a preponderance of glorified tank suits . Up on a dune , he saw a girl , all by herself , sitting on a camp stool before an easel and absorbed in her painting . He paid little attention to her because she was a redhead and because she was wearing white -- one of those bulky , turtle-neck sweaters . On the beach , there were pale girls and not-so-pale girls . And he saw them all as he walked up and down .

At two that morning , he was still walking -- up and down Peony , up and down the veranda , up and down the silent , moonlit beach . Finally , in desperation , he opened the refrigerator , filched her hand lotion , and left a note . `` I've got this sunburn '' , said the note , `` and I used some of your hand lotion . Hope you don't mind '' .

`` Of course I don't mind '' , she answered . `` You're having a miserable time , aren't you ? ? Use all the lotion you want , and for goodness' sake , stay in out of the sun for a couple of days '' .

This was a very warm , sympathetic girl , he decided . Sympathy is a fine quality in a woman . Now Vivian , for instance , was not too long on sympathy . She felt , and said , that sympathy only made people feel sorry for themselves ; ; it was a tough world , and you had to be tough to hold your own . He didn't know what was so tough about Vivian's world , slopping around Nassau with what's-his-name . Suppose what's-his-name got a sunburn ? ? Charlie couldn't see Vivian offering any hand lotion . She might peel him , once the worst of the agony was over .

Charlie spent the next two days in his pajama bottoms , waiting for the fire in his back to subside , and used generous quantities of the hand lotion .

Correspondence passed back and forth .

`` How's your sunburn now ? ? The only thing , this lotion has glycerin in it , and that whitens the skin , so if you're so anxious to get a tan , you may not want to use it '' .

`` I'm not that anxious , but maybe that's why you're so fair '' .

`` That Mrs. Kirby ! ! I'll bet she told you I was puny , too . How's your cold '' ? ?

`` Broiled out . She didn't say you were puny . Are you ? ? What's puny '' ? ?

`` Puny goes with pale and peaked . Do you have anything to read while you're shut up ? ? There are two things here about Surviving in the Wilderness , and a book called ' Tom Swift and His Speedy Canoe ' ; ; but the picture of Tom Swift is pretty sinister . Also the canoe '' .