blame me for a lot of other things.nThey probably think it’s my fault Randolph turned outnthe way he did, something about the way I am that madenhim choose what he chose; between Evvie and Randolphnmy Philo is never going to have any grandchildren and innthat family this is a big thing. They probably think it’s mynfault poor Philo is failing so; he shakes so bad he can’t go tonhis job at the post office, they’ve cut him off and pensionednhim out so that part of his life is over, like so many things.nHe sits around home all the time now, in front of the TV;nsometimes he shakes in my arms at night and I know whatnhe’s thiiiking: What did I do that brought this down on us;nwhat was my big mistake? Then I start shaking too and gnawnthe insides of my mouth to keep from telling him: You nevernshould have married me, with my small bones and mynskinny face, I can’t even make a proper strawberry pie.nSometimes at night he bites my shoulder to keep fromncrying and he says, Eleanor, take care of me. Even if I can’tndo anything else, Philo Goodman, I’ll always take care ofnyou.nThe pies didn’t set this year either, but something newncame along with us in the boat, nothing I could see butnI knew it was there, round and real as an egg. It was notnexactly hope but more of an expectation, because Evviencalled this morning while Philo was in the bathtub, she saidnnot to ask how but sooner or later today I was going to seenher, we would hug and say hello before tonight. So I carriednthat in the boat with us like an extra passenger, I wasnthinking she might walk in on the hot dog roast at noon,nmarried to some nice farmer and happy at last, or else she’dncome with a pot of beans in hme for the big supper, she’dnhave her handsome husband with her and in spite of whatnthe doctors said she’d have a baby in her arms.nOh Eleanor. They were all on the docks, waiting. Inthought I could read something new in their faces but allnthey said was, “Look everybody, it’s Eleanor. She’s broughtnher strawberry pies.”nI don’t know why but this time I bent down for the basketnand I came up fighting, saying,. “They’re not my pies.nMarge, they’re your strawberry pies. If it wasn’t for yournfamily, I would never make another strawberry pie.”nShe pulled back with a look but she didn’t say anything,nshe just handed the basket to one of her big boys, I guess it’sngrandsons by this time, and then Philo’s big sister steppednover close and murmured, “Did you get a phone call?” ButnI was holding my secret call from Evelyn close to my heart; Inwould show them all, and in the next second so fast that Incouldn’t tell if the two things were linked she said, “Benjy’snin the hospital. He won’t be coming out.”n”That’s terrible.”nBut Philo came up complaining, where was Ben when henwas needed on the Fourth, tests are one thing, but this isnfamily; Benjy never cared for us he just . . . she threw me anlook; Shall I tell him? I shrugged: he doesn’t want tonunderstand. He just kept on, so bent on it that she gave menanother look: he would wait a long time before she’d be thenone to tell him; he could rot in hell. And in that funnynminute it crossed my mind that maybe it wasn’t the familynthat expected so much from us at these gatherings, but onlynPhilo, and at the same time I heard Marge’s voice like an28/CHRONICLESnnnrosebud trailing down my arm: “You always did try toonhard.'”nI was afraid I was going to cry or flare up because she’dnfound me out but the rest of them were waiting, all thosenstout Goodmans waiting to bow their heads over the food; Inhad to pull myself together for Benjy’s wife Lane if for nonother reason so I told that poor gid the only thing I couldnthink of: “Your potato salad looks just wonderful.”nLane hugged me and we both managed to keep fromncrying. “So do your pies.”nIt was different at dinner, not just because Benjy was sicknand I was watching the door every living minute, wonderingnwas Evvie going to walk in or would she beckon me outside?nEverybody was restless; the grandchildren were fighting andnspilling milk, and Marge and Edna couldn’t seem to keepnstill; they kept running over to the window, and I could tellnthey were distracted — something had gone wrong with thenbeans. Even Ralph’s good old wife, who is fat and gettingnstiff, got up and went out in the middle of dinner: “I justncan’t get enough of the moon.” She looked over hernshoulder like a gid. Then she called Marge out to look at itnand Marge came back in while we were clearing the table forndessert, she said, “Eleanor, you’ve got to come out and looknat this moon.”n”My pies!”n”The moon, Eleanor.”nThis year my pies were perfect, perfect, and she wantednme to . . . How could I go outside? But Edna had me bynthe other hand and they were tugging me along, “Gome on,nit’s important,” big old Goodman women nudging me alongnlike woolly mammoths bumping or two kindly old mothernbears when all the time I was jangling like a wire and mynvoice kept on going up, I couldn’t help it, “You just don’tnwant to have to eat my pies.”nI don’t know what I wanted: for them to agree or for themnto fight, us women to have it all out in the open, whatever itnis: why I come here year after year and in all these mortalnyears of human sufferings at picnic after picnic, their beans,nour children, my poor pies, I’m still not one of them, I couldnhardly stand it but here they were, pulling me along. Theynjust pulled me out the doorway, pointing to Philo andnshushing because they didn’t want me to know, they werenmoist and sweet as big old girls with a party secret. Theyntook me down on the dock and pointed across to the waternto this spot in the dark that was a flashlight on the landingnblinking: off and on, oiT and on.nMarge said, “It’s Evelyn.”nEverything in me fell out. “Oh Marge.”n”Gome on,” she said. “We can’t let Philo know.”nSo now I am in the boat, again but we’re going inntogether, me and Philo’s two sisters and his brothers’ wivesnwho have arranged this and kept it a secret from Philonbecause they know what he is like and they know what henwould do, my poor grudging Philo who’s never forgiven anhurt and never will. It’s the Fourth of July again and ofncourse I am crying but this time it’s at our meeting, my girlnEvvie’s and mine, and after my Evelyn gets back in her carnand goes away the rest of us will get in the boat together andngo on back out to the island, and if I cry again it will benbecause we were always together, these women and me,nonly I didn’t know. “^n