Suburban Soliloquy #81

Time and

Part One: Some rough notes for my next
Soliloquy #81.

The one etching I have left from that day is by Paul Geissler [1881-1965] and it hangs on the wall in my study. It shows a man using a long, pointed stick to pick through the garbage gathered
in the gutter of an old city a century ago. My fondness for the piece is enhanced by the story of my finding it in the garbage. The others I no longer remember well, except that one was of a fountain.

When I was living in Brookline, Massachusetts, a town adjacent to Boston, my future first wife became angry with me for reasons I can no longer recall. She sent me home to my own apartment. En route home I took a circuitous path to explore neighborhoods I'd never seen. It was during this meandering that I found a pile of trash on the curb. My impression was someone had died and all his or her belongings had been gathered and disposed of in a cavalier manner. I had pulled from the trash three etchings, matted and framed. There were also wedding pictures. I don't remember if I took the photographs away, as I should have done, if only to dispose of them in a more respectful manner. After all, whoever these people were, they were now my benefactors. I kept one of the three etchings. Before we were married, my first wife-to-be talked me out of at least one of the other etchings. Her argument was that if she hadn't lost her temper and sent me home at that propitious moment, I would never have stumbled on this little treasure haul. I think I gave her the second etching as a gift after our divorce.

Part Two: Research for my Soliloquy #81.

Last night I went into my notebook-journal to refresh my memory as to the details. The etchings were all framed and behind glass, wrapped in The Boston Globe from April 4th, 1955, but one had been torn open and I caught a glimpse of it. I found them on the 16th February 1976, twenty-eight years ago. According to my journal entry, I went back the next day in hope of finding more. While I didn't find any other etchings, I found photographs, in particular two, large black-and-whites, studio shots from Kagan Art Studio in Brooklyn, New York. The first was a wedding portrait, the man in top hat and tails, the woman in a white gown spilling across the floor towards the camera. They stood stiffly erect, unsmiling, the woman holding an immense bouquet with both arms. In my notes it reads, "I assume, but could never know, that these people are my benefactors."

The second photograph was of a little child, a baby, posed in a high chair and again unsmiling. Someone had written on the matte that held the photograph, "Love from Herbert Dooskin." It might have even been written by the child, himself, as the printing was large and sprawling.

At this point, according to my journal, a woman pulled up in a new car and began taking bundles out. "Very attractive and amiable, a sincere smile on her face at all times. Skinny. Dressed plainly in jeans and shirt." She couldn't be sure, but she knew of an elderly doctor that had just died, his wife having died not many months prior.

I didn't save the photographs, but my written memories inform me that back in 1976 I brought them home to study for a while, dispatching them with difficulty and melancholy. Having freshly reviewed my notes, I did an Internet search and found three listings in the United States for people named Herbert Dooskin. I left messages on all three answering machines, but no one has called me back. I guess I am entitled to keep the etching.

Part Three: Epilogue to my Soliloquy #81.

Herbert Dooskin returned my call. My words stumbled as I tried to explain to him - what, that I was picking through the trash of his recently deceased grandparents twenty-eight years ago and might now be in possession of a small piece of his inheritance? How would I even know if he is the same Herbert Dooskin? But he is. He is all three Herbert Dooskins with whom I left telephone messages, my having found his home, his business, and his summer residence. And as I described the photographs, less from memory and more from my notes, he was apparently looking at identical prints.

Mr Dooskin was startled and excited. There is no mistaking his joy upon learning he will now have some possession of his grandparents, a memento, to pass on to his grandchildren. And so the return of the etching has been arranged. I will get to see copies of those same images I so reluctantly discarded years ago, of his grandparents marrying and photographed in Kagan's studio, and of him in a highchair. I have tentatively arranged to meet him and his wife Ruth, and to deliver the etching.

Bruce Bentzman

This essay is number 81 in a series of regular reports from the life and times of Mr Bentzman. If you've any comments or suggestions, the writer would be pleased to hear from you.
Mr Bentzman's collection of poems, "Atheist Grace" is available from Amazon, as are "The Short Stories of B.H.Bentzman"