A Wonderful Stroke of Luck by Ann Beattie Read Online (FREE)
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“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.”
—THE DALAI LAMA
LaVerdere’s Leading Lights, a.k.a. The Honor Society. There were many organizations for overachievers at Bailey Academy, but being selected for LaVerdere’s group gave them nicknames and an identity. They belonged to him. And, very important, he was more young than old. At Bailey, some students’ studies involved an emphasis on mathematics (the Math Majors Club was their Honor Society; its members were known informally as The Brains). There was little gossip about Dr. Timothy Ha, who was in charge of that particular club. He looked right through you outside of class, hurrying, always hurrying toward his flashy red sports car. Dr. Ha was a teetotaler. The Brains spread the word that LaVerdere gave the Honor Society students wine. He didn’t. It was sparkling nonalcoholic cider. LaVerdere had gone to Columbia, then Oxford. The persistent rumor was that he’d had a wife who’d died of pneumonia in England.
An hour or so before, Ben had gone with Jasper (sulking, in the backseat) and Jasper’s father, Mr. Cabot, to pick up Jasper’s new drug prescription. In math class, as he’d studied the computation on the blackboard, Jasper had “seen something” and stood up to whirl along with the 3-D vision. Jesus. Ben could understand how they could be a pain in the ass. Dr. Ha was certainly not up to even the most exquisitely polite human interaction, let alone a student’s going Sufi on him in class. When they’d returned, there’d been a very awkward moment when The Man had second thoughts after dropping them off; he’d pulled on the handbrake, jumped out of the car, and blurted, “Jasper, I’m just so sorry, so really sorry, that your mother and I couldn’t work things out. If I’d known about the breast cancer I’d never have left. It’s your mother who won’t have me back.”
Jasper had pushed the bag he was holding toward Ben as if it had suddenly become too heavy. Then he’d stepped forward and awkwardly embraced his father before turning and running onto the campus. Talk about being left holding the bag. “It’s okay,” Ben had said lamely to Jasper’s father. “Good to see you, Mr. C. Okay, well, see you again, then. Okay.” The Man had said nothing; he’d only pressed his palms to his eyes before jumping through the still-open car door into the driver’s seat and racing away. His hat lay on the ground. Jesus, what had The Man been thinking, wearing a beret with a white shirt and sweatpants? Ben had picked it up and stuffed it into his pocket. At some opportune moment—though when could that possibly be?—he’d return it.
When Ben and Jasper walked into the Honor Society meeting, LaVerdere was already holding forth: “Talk’s overrated. We see an example of this in our current president, George W. Bush, who cannot articulate a comprehensible thought—though politicians who preceded him, such as the estimable Gerald Ford, who pardoned President Richard M. Nixon, were notorious for actually falling on their asses.” LaVerdere’s hands shot into the air.