A History of Polo Shirts

Lots of news coming soon for the June launch of my novel, The Rocky Orchard.  Meanwhile, full speed ahead with the next novel, tentatively titled The Reading.  Here is a new snippet:

 

students

Tom gestured to a one of the guys who lounged at his feet.  “This is my roommate, Dave.  He’s a genius.  Certified.  148 IQ.”

Dave tilted his chin very slightly, made a nanosecond of eye contact, and uttered a barely audible “Hey” while neither opening his mouth nor moving his lips.

“Hey, Dave,” I said back.  Giving him the once-over, I had no trouble believing that he may well be a genius.  I just wasn’t sure what that meant, in the real world, I mean.  It made me think of one of the college visits that I’d gone on.  I don’t know what in the world about me, at least as it had been translated onto a college application, said to the folks in charge, “Let’s put her with the engineers!”  After the official meetings and tours were completed, I was supposed to head off to one of the dorms for a slice of authentic college life – in this case, having dinner in the cafeteria and hanging around afterward with a group of freshman engineering students.  I don’t even know where to begin.  Honestly, it seemed as if they must have been sent by a casting agency, because a more universally pale, socially awkward, tic-laden, mismatched plaid-wearing group of young men (and one virtually silent woman) could not possibly have come together without someone pulling the strings.  I loved them.  I wished that they could stay on that floor of that dorm for the rest of their lives, because I understood that they would never again, once they left their mutual companionship behind, they would never have a community of people who got them – who accepted their quirks unconditionally and who spoke their language.  It made me want to adopt them.  But because I knew it was completely unrealistic for a seventeen-year-old to adopt a group of engineering students, I wished for them to stay right where they were.  I settled for staying up most of the night playing a highly odd game with the one guy who everyone referred to as the certified genius.  We moved little pieces of purple plastic back and forth on a palm-sized triangular playing board.  I had absolutely no idea what was going on, but the magnitude of Ken’s delight at having a willing partner – well, it seemed like the very least I could do.  You don’t see that kind of unbridled joy every day, even if the bearer of that joy had never worn a pair of matching socks in his life.

Dave had a similar look.  He would have fit right in with the engineers, though they had been – within the limits of their own world – loud and gregarious and very friendly to me, though a lot of their friendliness lay in the range of unselfconsciously batting around math jokes at one another.  Dave looked as if he had never been comfortable anywhere, at any time.  He was doing his best to appear as normal as he could manage.

play-girl-kicking-ball

Also, Dave was wearing a polo shirt. I had literally never seen a kid my own age wearing a polo shirt.  Well, except for Danny, the kid who lived across the street diagonally from Mom and me.  Every so often, his grandpa would take him out to dinner at the grandpa’s country club.  I didn’t have much of an idea what a country club was, but all of us neighborhood kids had a highly unfavorable impression.  Danny would have to break off the from the neighborhood scene when his mother called him.  A while later, he’d come back out with his strawberry blond hair neatly combed and plastered to his scalp.  He’d have on a bright white polo shirt that radiated the pungent smell of bleach.  Worst of all, he’d had to trade in his worn and beloved sneakers for a polished pair of penny loafers.  We’d all stand around with him while he waited for his grandpa to pick him up and take him to dinner at the club.  We kept a respectable distance – bouncing our balls, straddling our bikes, kicking little pebbles – while Danny stood stock still for fear of getting a single speck of dirt on himself. We felt deep solidarity with his misery for being forced to give up a beautiful summer day, but more, for being forced to be someone different than the Danny that we knew.

shirt.danny