197: Marie, the Peterses’ maid . . .
Little Follies, “Call Me Larry,” Chapter 11
MARIE, THE PETERSES’ MAID, made my heart go pit-a-pat the moment she first appeared in one of the adventures, pushing the kitchen door open with a beautifully rounded hip, stepping into the dining room on those long and luscious legs, carrying a tray of blueberry pancakes, just as, I’m sure, she made the hearts of most of the boys who read the Larry Peters books beat faster whenever she appeared. Marie never figured very prominently in the adventures themselves, though she would pop in now and then. Ordinarily, she was left at home when the pace of the action picked up, and we wouldn’t see her again until the end of the book, when the adventurers—tired, possibly injured, but always victorious—returned to Kittiwake Island and sat down to another big meal. Most of my ideas about Marie came from outside the books themselves, from other sources and from my imagination. There were, however, one or two scenes in which Marie appeared that have remained sharp and clear and brilliant in my memory. I am willing to bet a sizable sum that any reader of the Larry Peters books will recall one of those scenes immediately and vividly if I merely end this sentence with the phrase tub of Jell-O.
In The Flying Aspidistras, Kittiwake Island is invaded by a squadron of thugs and goons in the pay of an evil manufacturer of rubber house plants who is planning to move into the gewgaw business, and Marie and Larry are bound hand and foot and set adrift in a leaking rowboat. As the water in the rowboat rises, and Larry and Marie confront the likelihood that the next few minutes will be their last, Marie tells Larry that what makes her saddest is the thought of the many things she hoped to do in the life that she had imagined still stretched out before her like a long highway, with mysterious stretches hidden behind curves or over hills, with forks and crossroads where she might have, on impulse, veered from the broad, well-traveled way and so on.
“Well,” said Larry, “I guess that road into the future has come to a dead end.” He laughed bitterly, and then his voice softened. “I’m sorry that you won’t get to do all those things, Marie,” he said gently.
“So am I,” said Marie. Her voice caught, a shudder ran through her, and she swallowed hard.
“Say,” said Larry, forcing a lighthearted tone into his voice, “suppose you could do just one of those things. What would it be?”
“One?” asked Marie. “Oh, my goodness. One? I don’t know, I—”
“What’s the first one that pops into your head?”
“Oh, well,” said Marie. “The first one that pops into my head? I—oh, I don’t know—I—well—I’ve always thought it would be fun to—you know that big claw-foot tub in my bathroom?”
“Sure,” said Larry. He blushed as soon as he had spoken, for he had on many an evening climbed the apple tree outside the window of Marie’s bathroom in the hope of catching a glimpse of her while she bathed in the claw-foot tub to which she referred, and had, in fact, succeeded on a number of occasions.
“Well, I’ve often thought that it would be fun to draw a nice hot bath in that tub and then stir in—oh, you’ll laugh at me.”
“No, Marie, I won’t,” said Larry. There was so much genuine compassion in his voice that Marie was able to continue without embarrassment.
“Well,” she said, “I’d stir in about—oh, I guess, two or three dozen packages of Jell-O.”
“Jell-O?” asked Larry. His heart had begun to beat at a faster rate.
“What’s your favorite flavor?”
“Raspberry,” said Larry, in a hoarse whisper.
“I’d stir in all that raspberry Jell-O and then slip off my nightgown and settle into the tub.”
“Oh my God,” said Larry. His heart beat pit-a-pat.
“I’d rest my head on the edge of the tub and lie there in the warm water and just relax while the water cooled and the Jell-O firmed around me—”
“Oh,” said Larry. “Pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat,” said his heart.
“—shaping itself to every inch of me—”
“Ah,” said Larry. His heart was beating now with a small, sharp pain, as if a thorn had lodged in it.
“—and perhaps I’d fall asleep. When I woke up, I’d be enveloped by Jell-O, snug in a tub of Jell-O, resilient raspberry Jell-O, molded to me, embracing me as no lover ever could, as not even a hundred lovers could embrace me at once.”
A sound something like a sob came from Larry.
“And then, very softly, I would call out, ‘Help. Help me, Larry.’”
“What?” asked Larry. “What?”
“And you would open the door of the bathroom—”
“—and you’d be holding—now, don’t laugh—”
“What would I be holding? What?”
“A spoon. Oh, my God, a spoon.”
“Not a big spoon. A little spoon, a demitasse spoon.”
[to be continued on Thursday, February 16, 2022]
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In Topical Guide 197, Mark Dorset considers Erotic Fantasies: Marie in The Adventures of Larry Peters from this episode.
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