Late one evening, I looked out and saw Annie standing in the knee-high grass, her hands in die back pockets of her jeans, staring dreamily at the building.I joined her and slipped an arm around her waist as I did so.“Oh, love,” she said, turning and laying her head on my chest. “One day I want to travel around the country, in nohurry, no hurry at all; I want to stop and explore old buildings, walk through them and listen to my footsteps—funny old houses with porch pillars and turrets…”On our honeymoon, in New England, we passed an elegant old home painted anolive green with white friifi and shutters, and a turret, like a medieval castle, obviously unused.“Maybe we could rent the turret,” I said to Annie.“ril bet the lady who owns it has her hair in a tight bun and hasn’t smiled since 1933. I can just hear you. *Excuse me. Ma’am, we’d like to rent your turret.’ *Why young man, I’m shocked, I’m not that kind of girl.’”Annie and the turret fade away and I am wide awake, my senses tense as if I’m hiding from soldiers. I ease out of bed and dress quietly.
I feel a little like a werewolf as I slip out the motel door, leaving Salinger asleep,his head gray on the white pillow, dividing it evenly. The night air, sweet with the smells of sunmier, has a high-country chill to it. The sky is cloudless and might be a lake reflecting stars and a golden sickle of moon.I walk from the motel down the highway and into town, down Third Street as far as the school, back up to Lake Street, over to Second, and down past the Graham Apartments, a massive natural-stone building where Doc and Alicia lived in one unit and rented two others. The apartments are built on the site of the old Rood Hospital, where Doc first practiced medicine in Chisholm, where he was doctoring when he met and married the young school teacher, Alicia Madden. I walk across to Third, look at the school again, then return to Lake Street, completing my circle. I walk slowly, staring at the silhouettes of the trees and houses dark against the pure sky, knowing that much of this cannot have changed since Doc last saw it. He has been gone only fourteen years. I scuff along the boulevard of the sleeping street like a boy reluctant to reach school. The toes of my shoes are damp with dew.Then, as I approach the Graham Apartments for the third time, a door closes softly and a figure moves smartly down the steps of the southernmost entranceand turns in the direction of the town—toward me. There is no doubt in my mind thatit is Doc Graham—I’ve seen a picture of him at eighty, in the f959 Chisholm High School yearbook, which is dedicated to him. “Because most of all you are our friend today, as you have been the friend of our parents and grandparents before us… His mind is a storehouse of Blue Streak campaigns and memories ofhis own baseball career. Our school doctor, whose studies have won him national renown…”He is about seventy-five, I decide in the split second I have for decision making.