this far from home there are reminders, like camera flashes or shooting
pains. On the streets, in the plazas, on the open-decked ferries, he is
constantly sighting Maureen: any tall lively blonde, any sunstruck girl
with a touch of the brazen. German or Swedish or Dutch, there she is,
again and again. Today she happens to be an American, one of two girls
at a nearby table. Jack has noticed them too, Paul can tell, though both
men pretend to read their shared paperday before yesterday's Times.
By no means beautiful, this girl, but she has a garish spirit, a laugh
she makes no effort to stifle. She wears an eccentrically wide-brimmed
hat, tied under her chin with a feathery scarf. ("Miss Forties Nostalgic,"
Maureen would have pegged her. "These gals think they missed some grand
swinging party.") Little good the hat seems to have done her, though:
she is sunburnt geranium pink, her arms crazed with freckles. The second
girl is the beauty, with perfect pale skin and thick cocoa-colored hair;
Jack will have an eye on that one.
The girls talk too loudly, but Paul enjoys listening. In their midtwenties,
he guesses, ten years younger than his sons. "Heaven. I am telling you
exquisite,"says the dark-haired girl in a husky, all-knowing voice. "A
sensual sort of coup de foudre."
"You go up on donkeys? Where?" the blonde answers eagerly.
"This dishy farmer rents them. He looks like Giancarlo Giannini. Those
soulful sad-dog eyes alone are worth the price of admission. He rides
alongside and whacks them with a stick when they get ornery."
"Oh just prods them a little, for God's sake. Nothing inhumane. ListenI'm
sure the ones that hump olives all day really get whacked. By donkey standards,
these guys live like royalty." She rattles through a large canvas satchel
and pulls out a map, which she opens across the table. The girls lean
"Valley of the Butterflies!" The blonde points.
Jack snorts quietly from behind his section of the Times.
"Don't tell the dears, but it's moths."
Paul folds his section and lays it on the table. He is the owner and publisher
of the Yeoman, the Dumfries-Galloway
paper. When he left, he promised to call in every other day. He has called
once in ten and felt grateful not to be needed. Paging through the news
from afar, he finds himself tired of it all. Tired of Maggie Thatcher,
her hedgehog eyes, her vacuous hair, her cotton-mouthed edicts on jobs,
on taxes, on terrorist acts. Tired of bickering over the Chunnel, over
untapped oil off the Isle of Mull. Tired of rainy foggy pewtered skies.
Here, too, there are clouds, but they are inconsequential, each one benign
as a bridal veil. And wind, but the wind is warm, making a cheerful fuss
of the awning over the tables, carrying loose napkins like birds to the
edge of the harbor, slapping waves hard against the hulls of fishing boats.
Paul closes his eyes and sips his ice coffee, a new pleasure. He hasn't
caught the name for it yet; Jack, who is fluent, orders it for him. Greek
is elusive, maddening. In ten days, Paul can say three words. He can say
yes, the thoroughly counterintuitive neh.
He can wish passersby in the eveningas everyone here does himkalespera.
And he can stumble over "if you please,"something like paricolo
(ought to be a musical term, he decides, meaning "joyfully,
but with caution"). Greek seems to Paul, more than French or Italian,
the language of love: watery, reflective, steeped in thespian whispers.
A language of words without barbs, without corners.
When he opens his eyes, he is shocked to see her staring at him. She smiles
at his alarm. "You don't mind, I hope."
"Mind?" He blushes, but then sees that she is holding a pencil in one
hand and, with the other, bracing a large book on the edge of her table.
Her beautiful companion is gone.
Paul straightens his spine, aware how crumpled and slouched he must look.
"Oh no. Down the way you were. Please."
"Sorry. How was I?" Paul laughs. "A little more like this?" He sinks in
the chair and crosses his arms.
"That's it." She resumes her drawing. "You're Scottish, am I right?"
"Well thank God she hasn't mistook us for a pair of Huns," says Jack.
"Not you. You're English. But you," she says to Paul. "I can tell, the
way you said little, the particular
way your t's disappeared. I'm wild
about Scotland. Last year I went to the festival. I biked around one of
the lochs. . . . Also, I shouldn't say this, you'll think I'm so typically
rudely American, but you look, you know, like you marched right out of
that Dewars ad. The one, you know, with the collies?"
"Collies?" Paul sits up again.
"Oh, sorryMadison Avenue nonsense. They show this shepherd, I mean
a modern one, very tweedy, rugged, kind of motley but dashing, on the
moors with his Border collies. Probably a studio setup out in L.A. But
I like to think it's real. The shepherd. The heather. The red phone boothcall
box, right? . . . Inverness." She
draws the name out like a tail of mist, evoking a Brigadoon sort of Scotland.
"I'd love to have one of those collies, I've heard they're the smartest
"Would you?" says Paul, but leaves it at that. Not long ago he would have
said, My wife raises colliesnational champions, shipped clear to
New Zealand. And yes, they are the smartest. The most cunning, the most
"Hello here you are, you truants you."
Marjorie, who's marched up behind Jack, bats his arm with her guidebook.
"We're off to maraud some poor unsuspecting shopkeepers. Lunch, say, at
half past one, convene in the hotel lobby?" Paul waves to the others,
who wait beyond the café awning. They look like a lost platoon
in their knife-pleated khakis and sensible hats, bent over maps, gazing
and pointing in all directions.
"Tally ho, Marj!" says Jack. "Half one in the hotel lobby. Half two, a
little siesta; half three, a little . . . adventure. Pass muster with
"Right-oh," she says, saluting. She winks, accepting his tease.
This has become their routine: The first full day of each new place, Marjorie
directs an expedition for souvenirsas if to gather up the memories
before the experience. While the others trail happily behind her, Jack
and Paul read in a taverna, hike the streets, or wander through nondescript
local ruins and talk about bland things, picking up odd stones to examine
and discard. Paul buys no souvenirs. He should send cards to the boyshe
did when they were in fact boysbut the kinds of messages adults
send one another on postcards remind him precisely of the chatter he dislikes
so much at drinks parties or sitting on a plane beside yet another, more
alarming breed of strangers: those from whom you have no escape but the
There's one on every tour, Jack says of Marjorie: a den mother, someone
who likes to do his job for him. And Marj is a good sport, he says, not
a bad traveler. He likes her. But she exasperates Paul. She is a heroine
out of a Barbara Pym novel: bookish, dependable, magnanimously stubborn,
and no doubt beneath it all profoundly disappointed. At an age when she
might do well to tint her hair, she's taken up pride in her plainness
as if it were a charitable cause. She dresses and walks like a soldier,
keeps her hair cropped blunt at the earlobes. She proclaims herself a
romantic but seems desperately earthbound, a stickler for schedules. Jack
tells her again and again how un-Greek this attitude is, but she is not
a when-in-Rome type of tourist. ("Right then: three on the dot at the
Oracle, tea time!" Marjorie, sizing up Delphi.)
She turns now and waves to her regiment, strutting through the maze of
tables. Jack smiles fondly. "O gird up thy loins, ye salesmen of Minotaur
tea towels!" The American girl laughs loudly, a laugh of unblemished joy.
When the war ended, when Paul shipped back to Dumfries from Verona, he
found out, along with his mates, that half the girls they'd known in school
had promised themselves to Americanseven, God forbid, to Canadians.
Many were already married, awaiting their journey across the Atlantic
with the restless thrill of birds preparing to migrate. Among them were
some of the prettiest, cleverest, most accomplished and winning of the
girls Paul remembered.
Maureen might have been one of those brides, if she'd chosen to be. But
Maureen, pretty, outspoken, intrepid, knew what she wanted. She did not
intend to wager away her future. "Those gals haven't a clue what they're
in for, no sir. The man may be a prince, sure, but what's he hauling you
home to? You haven't a clue, not a blistering clue." She said this to
Paul when she hardly knew him. Paul admired her franknessthat and
her curly pinkish blond hair, her muscular arms, her Adriatic eyes.
When Paul came back, he was depressed. Not because he missed the war;
what idiot would? Not because he lacked direction, some sort of career;
how thoroughly that was mapped out.
Not even because he longed for a girl; for someone like Paul, there were
plenty of prospects. He was sad because the war had not made him into
what he had hoped it wouldworse, he came to realize, what so many
similar fools hoped it would. He supposed he could assume it had made
him a man, whatever that meant, but it had not given him the dark, pitiless
eye of an artist. All that posturing courage (all that aiming, killing,
closing your eyes and haplessly pretending to kill but rarely knowing
if you had); the simultaneous endurance and fear of deaththe dying
itself heard in keening rifts between gunfire or in continuous horrific
pleadingsall those dire things, Paul had thought when he shipped
out, might plant in him the indelible passion of a survivor, a taut inner
coil like the workings of an heirloom watch. He had told this rubbish
to no one and was grateful to himself for that much. Of the virtues his
father preached, discretion began to seem the most rewarding: it kept
people guessing and sometimes, by default, admiring.
Mornings he spent at the paper: proofing galleys, answering telephones,
cataloguing local events. He learned the ropes as his father expected.
But after a late lunch at the Globe, often alone, he might wander into
the bar, lose all sense of time and obligation. At night he sat in a neglected
room of his parents' large cold house and tried to write short stories.
Paul was a good reporterlater he would win awardsbut everything
he tried to conjure from his heart sounded mealy and frail when he took
it out to read in the morning.
The first year after the war was a time of modest anticipation. There
was immense relief, drunken cheer, a stalwart sense of vindication. But
the people he knew were careful not to voice grand expectations. When
Paul stood back to consider the girls he courted, their dreams seemed
to him self-consciously stunted; to be fair, so was his enthusiasm for
Maureen was not one of the girls from school. She worked at the Globe,
sometimes as cook or barkeep, sometimes as a maid for the upstairs rooms.
Always variety, she said. Always good company. Maureen flowered in the
company of men. On nights she took the bar, she'd smoke, pour tall whiskeys,
and hold her own on politics and farming. She told Paul without hesitation
exactly what she thought of his father's editorial opinions. ("Ah, the
specially elegant ignorance of gentlemen!" she crooneda remark that
made him smile for days.)
One winter night after dinner, when his sisters had a dance show turned
up so loud that it made his work more discouraging than usual, Paul took
his father's Humber and aimlessly cruised the town, stopping at last in
the High Street.
The night crowd at the Globe was rural, more working class than the customers
at lunch. Feeling sorry for himself, despising his unshakable sense of
superiority, Paul drank too much and argued too sharply. He knew now that
it was just a matter of time before he'd give it up: "the fiction of the
fiction," he'd come to call it. At closing time he was the last man in
the bar. He had no desire to face the cold, to be hit by the disappointment
of no one's company but his own. He watched Maureen wipe the snifters,
lock the till, polish the bar to a glassy sheen.
from Three Junes byJulia Glass Copyright 2002 by Julia Glass. Excerpted
by permission of Pantheon, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without
permission in writing from the publisher.
Junes is a vividly textured symphonic novel set on both sides of the
Atlantic during three fateful summers in the lives of a Scottish family.
In June of 1989, Paul McLeod, the recently widowed patriarch, becomes
infatuated with a young American artist while traveling through Greece
and is compelled to relive the secret sorrows of his marriage. Six years
later, Pauls death reunites his sons at Tealing, their idyllic childhood
home, where Fenno, the eldest, faces a choice that puts him at the center
of his familys future. A lovable, slightly repressed gay man, Fenno
leads the life of an aloof expatriate in the West Village, running a shop
filled with books and birdwatching gear. He believes himself safe from
all emotional entanglementsuntil a worldly neighbor presents him
with an extraordinary gift and a seductive photographer makes him an unwitting
subject. Each man draws Fenno into territories of the heart he has never
braved before, leading him toward an almost unbearable loss that will
reveal to him the nature of love.
Love in its
limitless formsbetween husband and wife, between lovers, between
people and animals, between parents and childrenis the force that
moves these characters lives, which collide again, in yet another
June, over a Long Island dinner table. This time it is Fenno who meets
and captivates Fern, the same woman who captivated his father in Greece
ten years before. Now pregnant with a son of her own, Fern, like Fenno
and Paul before him, must make peace with her past to embrace her future.
Elegantly detailed yet full of emotional suspense, often as comic as it
is sad, Three Junes is a glorious triptych about how we learn to
live, and live fully, beyond incurable grief and betrayals of the hearthow
family ties, both those were born into and those we make, can offer
us redemption and joy.
was awarded a 2000 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in fiction
writing and has won several prizes for her short stories, including three
Nelson Algren Awards and the Tobias Wolff Award. Collies,
the first part of Three Junes, won the 1999 Pirates Alley Faulkner
Society Medal for Best Novella. She lives with her family in New York
City, where she works as a freelance journalist and editor. Three Junes
won the 2002 National Book Award for Fiction.