The Writers Voice
Favourite Literary Website
A Fine Time to Die
Clarkson-Danforth was born with two silver spoons
in her mouth;
was an heiress to two family fortunes. Her mother's
family were Clarkson's,
(her mother had been Lady Clarkson in a previous
marriage). Her father's
were merely rich. The combination of money and the
aroma of royalty,
distant) destined Priscilla to be the juiciest plum
in Locust Valley.
When the family chauffeur drove her to her final
ballet class, when her
coming-out party candles were extinguished, and the
echoes of the cotillions
faded away, the time came for a proper young lady
to consider marriage.
Priscilla and her family were faced with a long
list of eligible males and
young men able to clear the Clarkson-Danforth
social bar were considered.
list grew smaller and smaller as the bar was raised
until only a few
remained. From time to time Priscilla would venture
a girlish opinion, but
left the important decisions to her parents.
With their advice and consent, Priscilla eventually
Worthington, a faceless blond heir to the 'Cheese
Easy' family fortune, whom
remembered meeting in tennis class. Tony was the
impeccable fruit of an
elaborate and multi-branched family tree, but
rather than try the patience
trying to read this story, it may be simpler to
refer to the hero and
of this sad tale as the Worthingtons of Locust
Their wedding at the Chapel of Divine Privilege was
an outstanding social
event in the spring of 1954, and the reception at
the Locust Valley Country
which followed was a major upper crust occasion. It
recalled to some the
extravagant parties hosted by Jay Gatsby across
Manhasset Bay only a
before. A conservative estimate of the invited
guests was well over 4000
Fin-tailed Cadillacs and goggle eyed Rolls-Royces
quickly filled the various
parking lots and driveways, and the club was forced
to park many of them on
manicured greens and fairways of the country club.
The starry eyed newly-weds spent the better part of
a year touring Europe,
and it would be difficult to find a baggage porter
from Portugal to Greece
hadn't been lavishly tipped for making sure their
luggage was waiting for
in the most expensive suites in the finest hotels
of Europe before they
arrived. They were unimpressed with the art
treasures of the continent, the
architectural masterpieces were in states of decay,
the priceless canvasses
poorly lit and it was difficult to find anyone who
spoke proper English.
returned to Locust Valley in the summer of 1955,
and immediately plunged
into a whirlwind of social engagements.
Tony's elderly father was Abel Worthington, the
inventor and major
stockholder of a company called 'Cheese Easy.' He
tried without success to
in the manufacture and distribution of cheeses,
while, at the same time,
various hostile conglomerates with nationwide
control of packaged food vied
takeover of this spreadable and very profitable
product. The elder Abel
bravely to stem the proposals, but the stockholders
of 'Cheese Easy' could
resist the increasingly lavish offers made by
'Consolidated Curd.' In
despair, Abel Worthington threw in the sponge and
It had been the elder Worthington's fondest hope
that Tony, with family
cheese in his blood, would inherit some of the
love, drive and commitment
possessed, but cheese did not rub off on Tony.
After the marriage his
were concentrated elsewhere.
Like so many wealthy men living on the North Shore
of Long Island, Tony's
passion was focused on horses. Many well-to-do men
who rode the gentle
Locust Valley preferred their horses to their
wives, their children and even
the source of their wealth. Tony played polo,
chased foxes, bred horses, and
traded in them as a man might buy and sell rare
works of art.
No children issued from the immaculate union of
Tony Worthington and
Priscilla Clarkson-Danforth-Worthington. When Tony
was not astride his
"Summerbund," he was seeing to her grooming or
trading stories and drinking
his fellow horse lovers in the Jockey Club. If "Summerbund"
was in rut or
otherwise unavailable, he would suddenly remember
he was married and search
Priscilla only to find her on the phone, or
involved with the day-to-day
activities of the "Friends of the Unchained Word"
and too busy to talk to
It would be a mistake to assume this was the only
reason for their
infertility. The causes went far deeper. The forces
that motivated their
irreconcilable. They had no siblings, neither of
them were forced to share
affection, consequently they never looked for it.
Their childhood playthings
were as fresh and new as the day they were
purchased, and in a similar
their emotions and compassion for humankind were
untapped and as naive as
those of children. Tony would look at Priscilla
would look away whenever either of their parents
hinted at the continuance
the family line. They slept, not only in separate
beds and in separate
but at opposite ends of a long dark corridor in
their seventeen bedroom
in Locust Valley. In the rare moments they passed
each other within or
the walls of Worthington Manor they would nod
pleasantly and chat about
nothing more substantial than what the weather
The concept of children was inconceivable to them.
The technique of their
procreation was ludicrous at best and loathsome at
worst. The birthing of
was primeval, and their fostering .... well! Who
has time for such nonsense
there are so many more pressing things to do in
As a result, Tony gave Summerbund his full
attention, and Priscilla's
commitment to her "Friends of the Unchained Word"
was all consuming.
"Friends of the Unchained Word" held its weekly
poetry reading every
the book lined library of Worthington Manor. Nearly
seventy lady lovers of
literature would come and listen to poetry read by
noted living poets.
Poets can be difficult. There is no shortage of
them to be sure, but they
have little concept of time and they cannot be
trusted to be where they say
will be at the time they should be. Priscilla,
therefore, spent many hours
tracking them down by phone and making travel
arrangements for them.
the chauffeur, would eventually have to search for
them in Grand Central
or La Guardia Airport and deliver them safely and
on time to Worthington
Manor for the Thursday afternoon reading. They
would arrive bringing cartons
their thin privately printed volumes for sale, most
of them hard cover bound
delicate shades of purple, pink and mauve.
Occasionally a crisis would arise .... The phone
would ring ....
"The Worthington residence."
"I'll take it Thelma -- Oh, Paula! I knew it would
be you. Yes three this
afternoon -- stay for tea .... What? Oh, didn't you
know? He canceled, can
imagine? .... Well the police called and asked if I
knew him .... Yes, the
police! Picked up for car hijacking of all things.
My carte-de-visite was in
pocket .... and after all I've done for him. Not
something you'd expect from
poet is it? .... well of course I have! I've always
got an ace in the hole.
XYLOPHONE! Isn't that splendid? .... Yes in person
.... Xylophone dear, it's
Greek .... EX-ell-OFF- a-knee .... yes one name,
just like Dietrich and
We've certainly come a long way since Edna Saint
Vincent Millay dear. What's
that? 'sexual orientation'? .... I really don't
know, my dear, she must be
the other. Perhaps it won't come up."
On that particular Thursday Tony, as always, had
his own agenda. Summerbund
needed new shoes and he had to be there for the
shoe-in. Esposito, the
blacksmith, the very same Esposito used by the
Briggs Stables at Belmont was
"Oh, sure!! She's a fine filly, Mr. Worthington,
but look at them shoes on
her feet. Steel shoes. Street shoes like the ice
man's horse? No way to
fine animal, Mr. Worthington! -- See these here
shoes? These is a fine mix
duraluminum, aluminum and steel. Steel for the
strength, aluminum for the
and duraluminum for the lightness of it all. $750
bucks -- plus
It's a small price to pay for a sassy filly like
this, Mr. Worthington."
"Can you do it now, Mr. Esposito?"
"Soon's I get these shoes on Lord Byron, Mr.
Worthington. Mr. Roland just
ordered a set."
Summerbund, a normally taciturn filly, was
delighted with her new shoes. Her
feet felt lighter than air, and as she capered
about the paddock she would
occasionally look down and admire them. A stable
boy called to her and she
to see him carrying Tony's saddle. Behind him
walked Mr. Worthington in his
riding habit, "Can't put his own saddle on me --
well, you can't choose your
masters," she thought -- she hoped he would be able
to keep up with her, she
going to wear him out today.
Tony Worthington could feel the spring in
Summerbund's step immediately. On
the first few jumps over the low bar, she seemed to
soar like a winged
There was a brief moment at the apex of each jump
when both of them were
weightless, and they seemed to pause in midair, as
though time had stopped
counted to three. At the beginning of each jump,
Tony would grip the
Summerbund with both knees and just before the leap
he would rise in the
with her. She would jump as though she was not
mounted -- almost as though
had lifted her over the bar.
He patted the side of her powerful neck and
whispered, "Good Girl,
Summerbund." She shook her head and snorted as
though to say, "It was
They cantered at a measured pace along the
carefully raked paths,
"TOBOGGAN-TOBOGGAN-TOBOGGAN" -- Tony counted off
the rhythm as he stood in
with his knees bent. There was no weight on
Summerbund at all. How great it
to have such a relationship with an animal who
responds to the slightest
of her master with eagerness and joy.
"Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross," or maybe even
"Ida Lupino and Gregory
Peck." It was the same cantering rhythm as the blue
limericks he remembered
from military school.
He turned Summerbund left and they headed out
through the uncut fields where
the grass was high and untracked. There was a stone
wall he remembered next
an abandoned ice house. Tony and Summerbund saw the
stone wall at the same
time. She snorted once and increased her speed
without waiting to be asked.
"Good girl!" Tony shouted. They would be the last
words Tony would speak in
this world. He rose in the saddle, his knees
gripping Summerbund tightly,
in her exuberance, she broke into a gallop and
soared over the fence far
than she needed to .... again, there was that
moment -- that supreme moment
when horse and rider were weightless.
In the coolness of the late afternoon, Tony caught
a glimpse of a rising
moon through the leafless trees ahead of them. "How
beautiful!" he thought.
At the same time, two thin electric cables flashed
across his line of sight.
They were like fine lines drawn with a pen. They
cut his vision of the moon
two, and before instinct could warn him of their
danger he felt a chill,
as ice across his throat. No pain, not a bit of
pain, but a sense of
great height and at the same time a depth more
profound than he had ever
experienced. For the briefest of moments he saw a
horse and a rider pass
"It would be perfect," he thought, "but why does
today have to be Thursday
Priscilla will be furious."
Critique this work
Click on the book to leave a comment about this work