He'd been born, he'd always say, in the calm eye of a hurricane.
They climbed across the rocks toward the house they’d left bright in the dusk.
A unity, marriage, made of discrete parts. Lotto was loud and full of light; Mathilde, quiet, watchful. Easy to believe that his was the better half, the one that set the tone. It’s true that everything he’d lived so far had steadily built toward Mathilde. That if his life had not prepared him for the moment she walked in, there would have been no them.
The drizzle thickened to drops. They hurried across the last stretch of beach.
[Suspend them there, in the mind’s eye: skinny, young, coming through dark toward warmth, flying over the cold sand and stone. We will return to them. For now, he’s the one we can’t look away from. He is the shining one.]
Lotto loved the story. He’d been born, he’d always say, in the calm eye of a hurricane.
[From the first, a wicked sense of timing.]
His mother was beautiful then, and his father was still alive. Summer, late sixties. Hamlin, Florida. The plantation house so new there were tags on the furniture. The shutters hadn’t been screwed down and made a terrific din in the wild first passage of the storm.
Now, briefly, sun. Rain dripped off the sour-orange trees. In the pause, the bottling plant roared five acres across his family’s scrub-land. In the hallway, two housemaids, the cook, a landscaper, and the plant’s foreman pressed their ears to the wooden door. Inside the room, Antoinette was aswim in white sheets and enormous Gawain held his wife’s hot head. Lotto’s aunt Sallie crouched to catch the baby.
Lotto made his entrance: goblinesque with long limbs, huge hands and feet, lungs exceeding strong. Gawain held him to the light in the window. The wind was rising again, live oaks conducting the storm with mossy arms. Gawain wept. He’d hit his apex. “Gawain Junior,” he said.
But Antoinette had done all the work, after all, and already the heat she’d felt for her husband was half diverted into her son. “No,” she said. She thought of a date with Gawain, the maroon velvet in the theatre and Camelot on screen. “Lancelot,” she said. Her men would be knight-themed. She was not without humour of her own.
Before the storm hit again, the doctor arrived to sew Antoinette back together. Sallie swabbed the baby’s skin with olive oil. She felt as if she were holding her own beating heart in her hands. “Lancelot,” she whispered. “What a name. You’ll be beat up for sure. But don’t you fret. I’ll make sure you’re Lotto.” And because she could move behind wallpaper like the mouse she resembled, Lotto is what they called him.