She set her hand atop mine, pressing down until I felt the bone beneath her flesh. âThe Epicureans believed pleasure was a virtue, didnât they?â
âTrue enough,â I said, retrieving my hand.
âYou wonât allow me to experiment with pain. Am I supposed to run screaming from pleasure, too?â
âDepends on what you mean by pleasure. An Epicurean would be the first to argue that hedonism is both degrading and dangerous.â
Londa blew a bubble that looked like a pink cantaloupe. She let it pop, returned the strands to her mouth, and smiled. âIâve got the whole fucking weekend ahead of me. Thereâs no telling what I might do.â
ON SATURDAY MORNING I filled my backpack with trail mix and juice boxes, then hiked to Casa de los Huesos, where I found everyone assembled on the lawn for croquetâDonya, her tutors, plus a rangy Asian man and a ruddy, zaftig woman, whom Henry introduced as, respectively, Chen Lee, âa cook with Szechuan credentials,â and Rosita Corona, âa gardener with a green thumb on each hand.â Omar sat on his haunches just beyond the midfield stake, ready to referee. Donya offered me the blue-striped malletâme, the washout at soccer, badminton, volleyball, kick the can, and every other athletic activity save tree climbing. I told her Iâd rather watch.
The game was barely ten minutes under way when I realized that the four adults were arranging for Donya to win. They deliberately missed wickets, allowed her to retake bobbled shots, and declined to roquet her ball even when that was the only rational tactic. I wondered how this pathetic charade was supposed to further her moral education. Did Henry and Brock really believe that a sham victory would help give Donya a superego?
When at last the contest reached its predictable conclusion, Donya the winner and still champion, Henry shouldered his own backpack, bulging with luncheon delicacies secured in Tupperware containers, then announced that he and I were about to go rambling around the island in imitation of Robinson Crusoe.
âI want to come, too!â Donya shouted.
âSorry, cupcake,â Henry said.
Storm clouds gathered above the childâs head. She screwed her features into a cameo of disgust and hurled her croquet mallet onto the grass. âYou never let me do anything !â
âGuess what, pumpkin?â Brock said, strolling nonchalantly up to Donya. âA special package came yesterday.â
âWhat special package?â she demanded shrilly. âWhat was in it?â
â Indoor voice, Donya,â Brock admonished her, â indoor voice.â
âBut weâre outdoors. â
âLetâs say we go open that special package,â Brock suggested, stooping into a leapfrog position. Donya jumped onto his shoulders, swinging her legs around his neck. He rose, grasped her ankles, and started toward the villa. âI think it might be the bumper cars for our amusement park.â
âGiddyap!â Donya cried. âGiddyap! Giddyap!â
As I followed Henry across the croquet field, barely resisting the temptation to hook my instep under the wickets and loft them into the air, he informed me that in fact the narrative of Robinson Crusoe was much on his mind these days. Heâd recently hit on a concept for a childrenâs show, Uncle Rumpusâs Magic Island, centered on a castaway who spends his days combing the beach for whatever flotsam and jetsam might help him to survive. Being part of a larger artifact, each piece of junk he finds proves perplexingâtable leg, bicycle chain, umbrella frame, clock faceâand so Rumpus enlists his young viewers in interpreting each treasure, thus presumably enhancing their powers of inference.
âI think the Nickelodeon people will go ape,â he said. âI just need to show them a couple of spec scripts.â