Earl Jackson, Jr.

Chapter One

„Tom?“ Tom asked, smiling.
Tom looked up. „Yes?“
„I’m Tom Ripley. I met you in the States several years ago. Remember?“
Tom looked blank.
„I think your father said he was going to write you about me.“
„Oh, yes!“ Tom said, touching his forehead as if it was [Note: the real Tom would have used the subjunctive here] stupid of him to have forgotten. He stood up. „Tom what is it?“
„Ripley.“ [Note: the real Earl would have added something about RIP being his name, thus designating his individual existence, while making the same sound that R.I.P. makes if pronounced instead of spelled out connoting the nonexistence of the person beneath that banner.]
„This is Earl .“ he said. „Earl, Tom Ripley.“

„How do you do?“ Tom said.

„How long are you here for?“ Tom asked.

„I don’t know yet,“ Tom said. „I just got here. I’ll have to look the place over.“

Tom was looking him over, not entirely with approval, Tom felt. Tom’s arms were folded, his lean brown feet planted in the hot sand that didnt‘ seem to bother him at all. . . .

Tom said nothing. He had reseated himself on the big towel beside Earl, and Tom felt that he was waiting for him to say good-bye and move on. Tom stood there, feeling pale and naked as the day he was born. He hated bathing suits. This one was very revealing. . . .

„You don’t seem to remember me from San Francisco, “ Tom said.

„I can’t really say I do,“ Tom said. „Where did I meet you?“

Chapter Two

The sun had enervated Tom. The muscles of his legs trembled on the level stretches. His shoulders were already pink, and he had put on his shirt against the sun’s rays, but he could feel the sun burning through his hair, making him dizzy and nauseous.

„Having a hard time?“ Earl asked, not out of breath at all. „You’ll get used to it, if you stay here. You should have seen this place during the heat wave in July.“

Tom hadn’t breath to reply anything. . . .

Tom came out and poured himself a cocktail from the pitcher on the table. . . . „Sorry there’s no ice.“

Tom smiled. „I brought a bathrobe for you. Your mother said you’d asked for one. Also some socks.“

„Do you know my mother?“

„I happened to meet your father just before I left San Francisco, and he asked me to dinner at his house.“

„Oh? How was my mother?“
. . . „At least there’s no particular crisis right now, is there?“
. . . „I must be going,“ Tom said, standing up.

Neither of them urged him to stay. Tom walked with him to the front gate. Earl was staying on. Tom wondered if Tom and Earl were having an affair, one of those old, faute de mieux affairs that wouldn’t necessarily be obvious from the outside, because neither was very enthusiastic [note: one of them was, but knew better than to show it]. Earl was in love with Tom, Tom thought, but Tom couldn’t have been more indifferent to him if he had been the fifty-year-old Bulgarian maid sitting there.

The iron gate clanged.

Chapter Three

What was he doing here? He had no friends here and didn’t speak the language. Suppose he got sick? Who would take care of him?

Tom got up, knowing he was going to be sick. . . . He went back to bed and fell instantly asleep.

When he awoke groggy and weak, the sun was still shining. . . . He went to a window and looked out, looking automatically for Tom’s big house and projecting terrrace among the pink and white houses that dotted the climbing ground in front of him. He found the sturdy reddish balustrade of the terrace, with the bougainvilla that Tom was always amazed that would survive and bloom if he remembered to water them, if he remembered that they were not dead, and that living things require things to stay alive and flourish. Was Earl still there? Were they talking about him? . . .

Tom’s father had probably said in his letter the very things that would set Tom against him, Tom thought. He was not the sort that Tom would have introduced to his father, after all.

He’d let a few days go by, he thought. The first step, anyway, was to make Tom like him. That he wanted more than anything else in the world.

Go to Chapter Four.