01:25:29 am on
Saturday 19 Aug 2017

Castle Bonnie
AJ Robinson

Bonnie Merrill was her name. She was the grandmother of my best friend, Dailis. Her cottage sat right next to his.


Bonnie was a constant in my life on Martha’s Vineyard.

I saw Bonnie Merrill a great deal over the years that I lived in the Campgrounds, on Martha’s Vineyard. She was one of the constants of my youth, like Uncle Bert and Aunt May, too. Bonnie stayed until after my mom and I left. Throughout the rest of the year, she lived in Florida, which, when I was a kid, was a far off exotic land of alligators and rocket ships.

In many ways, Bonnie reminded me of my Aunt Marny. She was a kind, gentle soul. I never remember her becoming angry or even raising her voice. I would imagine her children might take issue with my assessment of her temperament, but then so would I as regards my own mother! Isn't that always the case?

Bonnie lived in a cottage that was a little different from the standard. It was a bit bigger, which, looking back now, was a bit unusual, as she was a widow, living alone. I think she needed the larger place because of all of the guests she used to entertain.

It seemed that every summer Bonnie Merrill had someone new staying with her and she loved it! I often dropped by to sit and chat with her. I loved the unique aspects of her cottage.

First off, she had a backyard, which was a bit of a rarity. What made her backyard special was that it was essentially a dead end alley. Now, I realize that, to the adult mind, the response to such a detail is “So what?”

As kids, we played games. We played war, cops and robbers; whatever we could imagine. Thus, the backyard qua dead end alley, for us, was golden.

Not only was it a dead end, but it was L-shaped. This meant the end, of the alley, stretched around and behind her place, out of sight. Talk about a cool hiding place!

That wasn't the best part. The fence separating her yard from the Virtue's was a metal mesh. You couldn't climb it and you couldn't squeeze through it, even a very small thin kid couldn't. It gave cover.

The alley fence was absolute perfection! I know that statement might sound strange, but, once again, think of it from the perspective of a child. When we were playing war or some other action game, complete concealment was actually dull. I mean, come on, what was the point? No, you had to hide, partially; there had to be the chance of someone seeing you, a hint of danger, the need to check, constantly, over your shoulder to insure someone wasn’t sneaking up on you from behind. Why, just thinking about it, just remembering one of those games still gets my heart racing!


The hatch was the best idea of all.

Yeah, the alley and the fence were good place to hid and play. The biggest deal was the hatch. It was fantasy escape.

Then there was one other thing: the Bonnie Merrill cottage had a secret hatch in the floor. It wasn’t something we got to use, ever. I only ever saw it once, but it was still major league cool.

If I recall correctly, it was in a closet. You popped the lid up and then you could climb under the house. Once again, for a bunch of little boys, we didn’t need to use the hatch; no, that was too dangerous, even all those years ago. All we had to do was think of it and our imaginations fired up. It was like having the barracks from “Hogan’s Heroes” as your next-door neighbour.

Yeah, Bonnie’s place was great, and she was a wonderful neighbour. I still remember the summer, not too long ago, when we paid a visit to the island. I found her children remodeling her old place, as Bonnie had finally passed away, the cottage was now theirs and they were making some changes.


I think, often, of Bonnie Merrill; her smile, her voice, her cottage, that hatch.

I grieved that day. I grieved, again, several more times in the months that followed. To this day, I think of her. I hear her voice. I see her smile. She was a nice woman, a good friend and neighbour. What more could anyone ask.

 

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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