Authors: T. C. Boyle
T. CORAGHESSAN BOYLE
In memory of my own lost father
After such knowledge, what forgiveness?
âT. S. Eliot,
In the Seventeenth Century
At Nysen's Roost
Among the Kitchawanks
WAHWAHTAYSEE, his wife
MINEWA, their daughter
MOHONK (MOHEWONECK), their son
JEREMY MOHONK (SQUAGGANEEK), son of Katrinchee Van Brunt and Mohonk
At Van Wartwyck
IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
At Kitchawank Colony
At the Shawangunk Reservation
MILDRED TANTAQUIDGEON, his wife
JEREMY MOHONK, their son and last of the Kitchawanks
HORACE TANTAQUIDGEON, Mildred's brother
In Van Wartville
ROMBOUT VAN WART, eleventh heir to Van Wart Manor
CATHERINE DEPEYSTER VAN WART, his wife
DEPEYSTER VAN WART, their son and heir
JOANNA VAN WART, Depeyster's wife
MARDI VAN WART, their daughter
STANDARD CRANE, son of Peletiah
TOM CRANE, son of Standard
He began to doubt
whether both he and the world around him
were not bewitched.
“Rip Van Winkle”
On the day he lost his right foot, Walter Van Brunt had been haunted, however haphazardly, by ghosts of the past. It began in the morning, when he woke to the smell of potato pancakes, a smell that reminded him of his mother, dead of sorrow after the Peterskill riots of 1949, and it carried through the miserable lunch break he divided between nostalgic recollections of his paternal grandmother and a liverwurst sandwich that tasted of dead flesh and chemicals. Over the whine of the lathe that afternoon he was surprised by a waking dream of his grandfather, a morose, big-bellied man so covered with hair he could have been an ogre out of a children's tale, and then, just before five, he had a vague rippling vision of a leering Dutchman in sugarloaf hat and pantaloons.
The first ghost, the ghost of the pancakes, was conjured by the deft culinary hand of Lola Solovay, his adoptive mother. Though Walter was only midway through his fourth year when his natural mother succumbed to the forces of bigotry and misguided patriotism, he remembered her chiefly for her eyes, which were like souls made flesh, and her potato pancakes, which were light, toothsome, and drowned in sour cream and homemade applesauce. Lying abed, waiting in the limbo between dreaming and consciousness for the alarm to summon him to his hellish job at Depeyster Manufacturing, he caught the scent of those ethereal pancakes, and for just a moment his mother was there with him.
The ghost of his grandmother, Elsa Van Brunt, was also mixed up with the scent of food. He unwrapped the liverwurst on white Lola
had concocted for him in the penumbral dawn, and suddenly he was ten years old, spending the summer on the river with his grandparents, the day as dark as December with the storm sitting atop Dunderberg Mountain. His grandmother had got up from her potter's wheel to fix his lunch and tell him the story of Sachoes' daughter. Sachoes, as Walter knew from previous episodes, was chief of the Kitchawanks, the tribe that was flimflammed out of its land by the founders of Peterskill-on-the-Hudson back in the days of the Colony. At that time, the Kitchawanks, who were, generally speaking, a lethargic, peace-loving, oyster-eating clan of layabouts and bark-hut builders, owed fealty to the fierce Mohawk to the north. Indeed, so fierce, so savage, so warlike and predatory were these Mohawk that a single brave could be sent down to collect tribute, and Manitou have mercy on the tribe that failed to feast him like a god and laden him with
the Mohawk called themselves, people of the place of flint; the Kitchawanks and their Mohican cousins called them
people who eat people, a reference to their propensity for roasting and devouring those who failed to please them.