Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut

by J. D. Salinger

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Mary Jane, the secretary to a New York executive named Mr. Weyinburg, has most of the day off as a result of her employer’s illness but has promised to drop his mail off and take some dictation every afternoon for the duration of his illness. At three o’clock (two hours late for the lunch that her hostess had prepared), she stops to see her friend Eloise at her home in suburban Connecticut. Later she plans to drive on to Larchmont, New York, with Mr. Weyinburg’s mail. Eloise, in her camel-hair coat, greets her in front of the house.

Eloise is comfortably well-off, with an attractive house, a husband who commutes to New York, a young daughter named Ramona, and a black maid named Grace. Mary Jane is single but about the same age as Eloise, who has been married for about ten years.

The two women gossip as they drink highballs in Eloise’s living room. Much of the talk becomes nostalgic as the two women continue to drink. Mary Jane carelessly spills her drink while Eloise’s conversation becomes more outspoken and her expressions more vulgar, referring to Grace as “sitting on her big black butt” in the kitchen.

Ramona appears. In the stilted conversation that ensues between Ramona and Mary Jane, it is obvious that Ramona is not taken in by Mary Jane’s feigned enthusiasm (“Oh, what a pretty dress!”). Mary Jane questions Ramona about her imaginary companion, Jimmy Jimmereeno. Significantly, Jimmy is an orphan and has “no freckles.”

The two women continue drinking, and by a quarter to five Eloise is lying on the floor recalling a long-dead lover, a GI named Walt. Walt’s sense of humor, his tenderness to Eloise, and his manner of speaking are all remembered fondly by Eloise. Lew, Eloise’s husband, is compared unfavorably to Walt in many respects as Eloise is questioned by Mary Jane. Eloise tearfully recalls Walt’s death in an accident with a Japanese camp stove. Ramona reappears and is instructed to get her supper from the maid and go to bed.

Eloise reveals several rather unpleasant aspects of her character when she refuses to allow Grace’s husband to spend the night with his wife, even though the weather is bad and driving hazardous. By now it is after seven o’clock, and Eloise lies to her husband, who is waiting to be picked up at the train station, claiming that she cannot find the keys to Mary Jane’s car, which is blocking the driveway.

Next, Eloise looks in on Ramona and, finding that she is sleeping on one side of her bed, wakes her for an explanation. She learns of a new imaginary playmate, Mickey Mickeranno. She drags her passively resistant daughter to the middle of the bed and orders her to shut her eyes.

Finally, both mother and daughter are in tears as Eloise presses Ramona’s glasses against her cheek saying “Poor Uncle Wiggily,” which repeats Walt’s phrase from many years before when Eloise had twisted her ankle outside the army PX.

Eloise finally returns to the living room, where Mary Jane has passed out. She wakens her and tearfully tries to invoke her sympathy in a desperate plea, “I was a nice girl . . . wasn’t I?”

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