Going Home Pete Hamill
Pre-class Work I
Read the text once for the main idea. Do not refer to the notes, dictionaries or the glossary yet.
They were going to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. There were six of them, three boys and three girls, and they got on the bus at 34th Street, carrying sandwiches and wine in paper bags. They were dreaming of golden beaches and sea tides as the grey, cold spring of New York vanished behind them. Vingo was on the bus from the beginning.
As the bus passed through New Jersey, they began to notice that Vingo never moved. He sat in front of the young people, his dusty face masking his age, dressed in a plain brown suit that did not fit him. His fingers were stained from cigarettes and he chewed the inside of his lip a lot. He sat in complete silence and seemed completely unaware of the existence of the others.
Deep into the night, the bus pulled into a Howard Johnson's restaurant and everybody got off the bus except Vingo. The young people began to wonder about him, trying to imagine his life: perhaps he was a sea captain; maybe he had run away from his wife; he could be an old soldier going home. When they went back to the bus, one of the girls became so curious that she decided to engage him in a conversation. She sat down beside him and introduced herself.
"We're going to Florida," the girl said brightly. "You going that far?"
"I don't know," Vingo said.
"I've never been there," she said. " I hear it's beautiful."
"It is," he said quietly, as if remembering something he had tried to forget.
"You live there?"
"I was there in the Navy, at the base in Jacksonville".
"Want some wine?" she said. He smiled and took a swig from the bottle. He thanked her and retreated again into his silence. After a while, she went back to the others as Vingo nodded in sleep.
In the morning they awoke outside another Howard Johnson's and this time Vingo went in. The girl insisted that he join them. He seemed very shy and ordered black coffee and smoked nervously, as the young people chattered about sleeping on beaches. When they got back on the bus, the girl sat with Vingo again. After a while, slowly and painfully, he began to tell his story. He had been in jail in New York for the last four years, and now he was going home.
"Are you married?"
"I don' t know."
"You don't know?" she said.
"Well, when I was in jail I wrote to my wife. I said, 'Martha, I understand if you can't stay married to me.' I said I was going to be away a long time, and that if she couldn't stand it, if the kids kept asking questions, if it hurt her too much, well, she could just forget me. Get a new guy—she's a wonderful woman, really something—and forget about me. I told her she didn't have to write to me or anything, and she didn't. Not for three-and-a-half years."
"And you're going home now, not knowing?"
"Yeah," he said shyly. "Well, last week, when I was sure the parole was coming through I wrote her again. I told her that if she had a new guy, I understood. But, if she didn't, if she would take me back she should let me know. We used to live in Brunswick, and there' s a great oak tree just as you come into town. I told her if she would take me back, she should tie a yellow ribbon to the tree, and I would get off and come home. If she didn't want me, forget it, no ribbon and I'd understand and keep going on through."
"Wow," the girl said. "Wow."
She told the others, and soon all of them were caught up in the approach of Brunswick, looking at the pictures Vingo showed them of his wife and three children. Now they were 20 miles from Brunswick, and the young people took the window seats on the right side, waiting for the approach of the great oak tree. Vingo stopped looking, tightening his face into the ex-con's mask, as if fortifying himself against still another disappointment. Then it was 10 miles, and then five, and the bus became very quiet.
Then suddenly all of the young people were up out of their seats, screaming and shouting and crying, doing small dances, shaking clenched fists in triumph and exaltation. All except Vingo.
Vingo sat there stunned, looking at the oak tree through his misty eyes. The tree was covered with yellow ribbons, 30 of them, 50 of them, maybe hundreds, a tree that stood like a banner of welcome, blowing and billowing in the wind. As the young people shouted, the old con slowly rose from his seat, holding himself tightly, and made his way to the front of the bus to go home.
Read the text a second time. Learn the new words and expressions listed below.
n. the act of coming nearer 接近
v. to wake up
n. a flag 旗帜
v. to rise and roll in waves due to wind 飘扬；翻腾
v. to talk fast in a friendly way 聊天
v. to keep biting repeatedly because one is nervous
adj. to hold one's hands or teeth together tightly because one is determined or angry
v. to make (sb.) join with one in 使卷入，使参加
n. joy, great happiness 兴奋，得意
n. a former prisoner 刑满释放人员
n. state of being 存在
v. to be the right size or shape for sb. or sth.
n. a strong building(s) used for defending an important place 要塞；usually capitalized as part of the name of a town, e.g. Fort Lauderdale in para. 1
v. to make sb. feel physically or mentally stronger; to strengthen 使……更坚强
n. a person; a fellow
n. a prison
v. to hide the truth about sth;
n. originally a false face one wears to hide one's face; Here: an expression that hides one's true feelings
adj. Here: full of tears 蒙眬不清的
n. a kind of tree 橡树
n. permission for sb. to leave a prison, on the condition that he promises to behave well 假释
v. to go back or away because one is afraid; Here: to stop paying attention to what is happening around you and give all your attention to your own thoughts
n. narrow strips of cloth, often made of silk and used to decorate gifts 丝带；缎带
v. to shout in a loud high voice when one is excited
v. to put a mark on sth. that can not be removed 沾上颜色
v. to be greatly surprised or shocked 目瞪口呆
n. a large swallow 一大口
n. levels to which the sea reaches on land 潮汐
v. to become tight or make tighter
n. a complete victory or success; a feeling of great pride or joy because of success or victory
adj. not knowing or realizing what is happening
v. to disappear
int. (informal) an expression of surprise when one is deeply impressed or surprised 哇！
adv. the usual written form of a casual pronunciation of "yes"
A Homecoming of a Different Sort
Jeff and I had many conversations during the year, but I will always remember the time he told me about his family. His mother, a loving, caring woman, was the one who held the family together. She died shortly before Jeff graduated from high school. His father, a successful physician, cold and stern in Jeff's words, had firm beliefs that a person would never make a valuable contribution to the world unless they attended and graduated from college by the age of twenty-three. His father had even paved the way for Jeff to attend the same college from which he had graduated, and had offered to pay Jeff's entire tuition and living expenses. As an active Alumni Association member, he was excited that his son would someday follow in his footsteps.
Jeff was twenty-seven and a successful business planner at a Fortune 500 company—without a degree. His passion was skiing. When he graduated from high school he decided to decline his father' s offer and instead move to Colorado to work with a ski patrol. With pain in his eyes Jeff told me that he still remembered the day he told his father he was going to give up college and take a job at a ski resort. He remembered every word of the short conversation. He told his father of his passion for skiing and for the mountains and then of his plans. His father looked off into the distance; his face became red. Then came the words that still echoed in Jeff's mind: "You lazy kid. No son of mine is going to work on a ski patrol and not attend college. I should have known you'd never amount to anything. Don't come back in this house until you have enough self-respect to use the brains God gave you and go to school!" The two had not spoken since that conversation.
Jeff was not even sure that his father knew he was back in the area near where he grew up and he certainly did not want his father to know he was attending college. He was doing this for himself, not for his father. He said it over and over again.
Janice, Jeff's sister, had always remained supportive of Jeff's decisions. She stayed in contact with their father, but Jeff had made her promise that she would not share any information about his life with him.
Jeff's graduation ceremony that year was on a hot, sunny day in June. As I walked around talking to people before the ceremony, I noticed a man with a confused expression on his face.
"Excuse me, " he said as he politely approached me. "What is happening here today?"
"It's graduation day, " I replied, smiling.
"Well that's odd," he said, "my daughter asked me to meet her at this address." His eyes sparkled and he smiled. "Maybe she completed her associate' s degree and wanted to surprise me!"
I helped him find a seat and as he left me he said, "Thank you for helping me. By the way, my name's Dr. Holstrom."
I froze for a second. Jeff Holstrom. Dr. Holstrom. Could this be the same person I had heard about over the last year? The cold, stern man who demanded his son attend college or never enter his home again?
Soon the familiar music could be heard. I turned around in my chair to get a glimpse of Dr. Holstrom. He seemed to be looking for his daughter amongst the graduates on stage. Speeches were given, the graduates were congratulated, and the dean began to read the names of the graduates.
Jeff was the last person to cross the stage. I heard his name being announced "Jeff Holstrom." He crossed the stage, received his diploma from the college president, and, just as he started down the stairs from the stage, he turned toward the audience looking for his sister.
A lone figure stood up in the back of the audience—Dr. Holstrom. I'm not sure how Jeff even saw him in the crowd, but I could tell that their eyes met. Dr. Holstrom opened his arms, as if to embrace the air around him. He bowed his head, almost as if to apologize. For a moment it seemed as if time stood still, and as if they were the only two in the auditorium. Jeff came down the stairs with tears in his eyes.
"My father is here, " he whispered to me. I smiled.
"What are you going to do?" I asked him.
"Well, " he said, "I think I'm going home."