His voice has the right quality—quiet and plainspoken, sincere—and he perfectly embodies the mental image I have of Phinneaus. Naomi Watts 21 Grams , The Painted Veil , The Impossible , with her affinity for characters who find the strength to go on in the face of both physical and mental anguish, would be a good candidate for the adult Alice.
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Posted by Marshal Zeringue at PM. Newer Post Older Post Home. Follow by Email. Comments Atom. The glare of sunlight off the crisp pages gave her a headache, but she stayed where she was, letting the heat paint her skin a tender pink. She kept reading, holding her breath after each stanza, focusing on the language, on the precise meaning of the words, regretting that she could only imagine what had been meant, as opposed to knowing with any certainty.
I lie like land used up. If she asked, Thomas would decipher the poem for her, without resorting to the coddling speech adults so often used, choosing vague words and pretending confusion. The two of them had fallen into the habit of bartering knowledge whenever she visited. He schooled her in jazz, in bebop and exotic bossa nova, playing his favorites for her while he painted—Slim Gaillard, Rita Reys, King Pleasure, and Jimmy Giuffre—stabbing the air with his brush when there was a particular passage he wanted her to note.
In turn, she showed him the latest additions to her birding diary—her sketches of the short-eared owl and American wigeon, the cedar waxwing and late warblers. She explained how the innocent-looking loggerhead shrike killed its prey by biting it in the back of the neck, severing the spinal cord before impaling the victim on thorns or barbed wire and tearing it apart.
Sidbey had penned onto the earlobe of one. You, Alice, Thomas said, are my most reliable antidote to boredom. She peered through the birch trunks toward the back of the house.
The Gravity of Birds Summary & Study Guide Description
If she waited too long before knocking, he might start working, and then she risked interrupting him. His manner would be brisk, his sentences clipped. He was like a feral animal that way, like the cats at home she tried to entice from behind the woodpile and capture.
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She would never have gone over without an invitation—one had been extended, after all, in general terms—but even so, she had found it best to approach him cautiously. They knew exactly who he was. So people pay him to drink their booze and make eyes at their daughters and sit in a chair sucking on the end of a paintbrush. Nice work if you can get it.
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You can hardly blame the young man for that. When she woke the next morning the first things she saw were their suitcases lying open-jawed on the bedroom floor, spilling things yet to be unpacked. The swimsuit she grabbed from the clothesline and tugged onto her body after breakfast pulled like rubber against her skin, still damp from their ritual swim at dusk the night before.
Why are you being such a pill? When Alice was younger, her father had fashioned a rough mask from evergreen needles and lake grass glued to a rotten shell of pine bark, shed like a skin. He secured it to the end of their canoe with heavy yellow cord, telling Alice their ancient Dutch relatives believed water fairies lived in the figureheads of ships, protecting the vessels and their sailors from all manner of ills—storms, narrow and treacherous passageways, fevers, and bad luck.
Kaboutermannekes he called them. Natalie, locked in place on the rocky shore, did not look like she would protect any of them from anything. Alice lounged on the dock that first morning, listening to her parents talk about all the things they might do with the day. They never moved from their chairs, only shifted from one hip to the other, their skin smeared white with contrails of suntan lotion, their eyes invisible behind dark glasses, their fingers intertwined until they traded sections of newspaper or reached for their Bloody Marys.
Neela, come here right now. The paint on the door was tired brown fading to gray, cracked and buckled as alligator hide, chunky flakes of it falling to the ground as she brushed against it. The wet of it soaked through, cooling a patch of her skin, but the rest of her body felt like a thing on fire, all twitchy and skittering. She rocked on her heels, holding her books to her chest. When she touched the doorknob it felt electric in her hand, hot from a shaft of sunlight slicing between the pines.
She held on to it, letting it burn against her palm. Alice looked up through the maze of branches knotted overhead, to the bright washed sky. Her head swam, and she held the doorknob more firmly in her hand.
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Her father pulled himself up from the weathered Adirondack, causing the dock to sway slightly beneath them. You must know Myrna.
As my wife will tell you, Mr. Bayber, it can be useful to have the acquaintance of someone so. A wicker basket piled with grapes swayed in one of his hands. An apology for Neela, here. Too sure of himself and too tall. And he stared at them—something her mother constantly admonished her not to do—but nonetheless there he was, staring at them quite deliberately and making no attempt to hide it, as if he could see past their fleshy outlines and deep inside them, into the places where they hid their weaknesses and embarrassments. You must come over for cocktails! What charming, attractive children you have!
Living next door to someone completely untrainable sounded like salvation. Pleased to meet you. Well, no one seems sure of her parentage. I have my suspicions, but, being a gentleman, one hesitates to make accusations. Neela starts up with an earsplitting racket whenever we drive past. My parents have owned this property for decades, but have too much leisure time on their hands to actually vacation. Relaxation is very hard for the rich. Her father choked on his Bloody Mary before laughing and slapping Thomas Bayber on the back.
I paint, as you may be able to tell.
Alice wondered what they looked like to a stranger. The sister who was lovely; the other who was smart; a father with an expression grown increasingly somber through the years; a mother who knew how to achieve a certain degree of balance among all of them. They could be any family she knew. Thomas nodded, his expression thoughtful. I wonder, would you let me sketch you? All of you together, I mean. I can only paint this idyllic scenery so many times.
Birches, hemlocks, the gulls and woodcocks, boats tacking back and forth across the lake. How exciting! Who knows? Someday it might be worth something. She wondered why he hesitated. And this is Natalie, our oldest. Odd, considering Natalie was long accustomed to being the center of attention.
She had the shiny, polished look of a new toy.
The Gravity of Birds: A Novel
Her appearance drew gawky young men to their front porch in droves, each of them hoping to be favored with a task: fetching lemonade if Natalie was warm, retrieving a sweater if she felt a chill, swatting at bugs drawn too close to her dizzying gravity. Her failure to attempt to charm, or even acknowledge Thomas Bayber was surprising. Even more surprising was the fact that neither of her parents admonished Natalie for her rude behavior or insisted she say hello.
And Thomas Bayber, for his part, seemed equally unaware of Natalie. Thomas, are you there? Her mother was meeting summer friends for a game of bridge.