A good many years later, not long after the outbreak of the Second World War, when Seymour and I had just recently moved into a small New York apartment of our own, our father—Les, as he’ll be called hereafter—dropped in on us one evening on his way home from a pinochle game. He quite apparently had held very bad cards all afternoon. He came in, at any rate, rigidly predisposed to keep his overcoat on. He sat. He scowled at the furnishings. He turned my hand over to check for cigarette-tar stains on my fingers, then asked Seymour how many cigarettes he smoked a day. He thought he found a fly in his highball.
At length, when the conversation—in my view, at least—was going straight to hell, he got up abruptly and went over to look at a photograph of himself and Bessie that had been newly tacked up on the wall. He glowered at it for a full minute, or more, then turned around, with a brusqueness no one in the family would have found unusual, and asked Seymour if he remembered the time Joe Jackson had given him, Seymour, a ride on the handle bars of his bicycle, all over the stage, around and around. Seymour, sitting in an old corduroy armchair across the room, a cigarette going, wearing a blue shirt, gray slacks, moccasins with the counters broken down, a shaving cut on the side of his face that I could see, replied gravely and at once, and in the special way he always answered questions from Les—as if they were the questions, above all others, he preferred to be asked in his life. He said he wasn’t sure he had ever got off Joe Jackson’s beautiful bicycle. And aside from its enormous sentimental value to my father personally, this answer, in a great many ways, was true, true, true.