Before dawn on the day she would finally see his first real
film, Beth Cappadora slipped into the guest room and lay down on
the edge of the bed where her son, Vincent, slept.
Had she touched his hair or his shoulder, he would not have
stirred. When he slept at all, Vincent slept like a man who'd
fallen from a relaxed standing position after being hit on the back
of the head by a frying pan. Still, she didn't take the risk. Her
relationship with Vincent didn't admit of nighttime confidences,
funny cards, all the trappings of the sentimental, platonic
courtship between a mother and her grown boy. Instead, Beth blessed
the air around his head, where coiled wisps of dark hair still
sprang up as they had when he was a child.
Show them, Vincent, she said softly. Knock 'em dead.
Beth asked only a minor redemption-something that would stuff
back the acid remarks that everyone had made about where Vincent's
career of minor crime and major slough-offs would end, because it
had so far outlasted the most generous boundaries of juvenile
delinquency. She wished one thing itself, simple and linear: Let
Vincent's movie succeed.
That night, as she watched the film, and recognized its might
and its worth, Beth had to appreciate-by then, against her
will-that her wish was coming true. What she didn't realize was
something that she'd learned long ago.
Only long months from that morning did Beth, a superstitious
woman all her life, realize she had forgotten that if a wish
slipped like an arrow through a momentary slice in the firmament,
it was free to come true any way it would. Only fools thought its
trajectory could ever be controlled.
Sixteen hours after Beth tiptoed from Vincent's bedside, a
spotlight beam shined out over the seat where she sat fidgeting and
craning her neck to peek at everyone else taking their seats in the
Harrington Community Center Auditorium.
Suddenly, there was Vincent, onstage. He looked up from
nervously adjusting the pink tie he wore against his white shirt
and twilight gray suit and said, "I have to apologize. We have a
little technical glitch we need to fix and then we'll be ready.
Thanks for your patience. In just a moment, the first voice you
will hear is my sister, the opera singer Kerry Rose Cappadora, who
also narrates this film. I'll be right back. I mean, the film will.
Beth leaned forward as if from the prow of a ship. Her husband,
Pat, reached out to ease her back. "Don't jump," he teased.
"You can't do this for him. It's high time, Bethie. You have to
agree. Vincent's lived la vita facile too long."
"I know," Beth agreed. Though she didn't speak Italian, she
wanted to poke Pat in the ribs and not gently. Vincent earned his
way, after a fashion. Vincent owned a home, after a fashion-two
rooms in Venice Beach, California, that had once been a garage.
Vincent had made a gourmet chocolate commercial nominated for an
ADDY Award. He hadn't asked them for a dime since...well, since the
last time he dropped out of college. But she said only, "You're
right, of course."
"Why aren't you arguing with me?" Pat asked. "What's the matter
with you?" Beth shrugged, battling the urge to drag her fingers
through her careful blowout: If you have to mess with your hair,
Beth's friend Candy said, shake, don't rake. Pat cracked his
knuckles. "Damn it," Pat said then. "Who am I trying to kid? I
haven't wanted a cigarette this bad since the grease fire at the
restaurant. I want to jump up on the stage and yell at everybody,
This is my son's work! You better appreciate this! But we've got to
give this over to him."
"Absolutely," Beth said, her heartbeat now a busy little mallet
that must be visible through her pale silk chemise.
"You sound like a robot. Where's my wife? You could object a
little," Pat said.
"Too nervous," Beth replied.
It was more than that, of course. Nothing that she could
confide, even in Pat. For Beth was in part responsible for her
son's brushes with the law and his seeming inability to
finish...anything. (In part? Was she flattering herself? Once upon
a time, Vincent had done everything he could, including selling a
few bushels of thankfully low-order drugs, to get his mother's
thousand-yard stare to focus on him.) If this film were to be
worthy at all-Beth hugged herself, smiling-then this private
screening for a hundred people in the rented theater of a community
center would also be the long-overdue premiere of her son's life as
a man in full.
More than this, in just a moment, Beth would learn the answers
to the questions she'd asked herself for months.
What was the documentary about?
Why had Vincent enlisted his sister and his brother to help him
make it? Last year, during the filming, had been the busiest time
of their lives: Ben had a wife, a full share in the family
business, and a baby on the way. Kerry still lived at her parents'
house, but her college major was so demanding that some nights she
came home from school or the voice studio with dark smudges under
her eyes and fell asleep before she could eat the food she'd
Was it because the subject was too intimate or incendiary or
simply too off the wall to entrust to a stranger, even a fellow
professional? Why had Vincent used film instead of video, which
probably quadrupled the cost?
Was the obsessive privacy all pride? Did he have to do this all
on his own?
With his first documentary, Alpha Female, a snapshot of the life
of a young farmer's wife and mother of four putting herself through
college as a part-time dominatrix, Vincent had turned to Beth, a
photographer for nearly thirty years, on everything from how to
light someone so blond that her features were nearly achromatic to
how to coax an interview out of the woman's stern, disapproving
parents. Beth recalled the look on her mother-in-law's face when
that film had first screened, in the auditorium of the high school
from which Vincent had been expelled. Freckle-faced Katie Hubner
saddle-soaped her leather garter belt and said, "They don't care
anything about sex, poor things! They just want me to treat them
like their mean old mamas did!"
Of this film, Beth knew nothing but its title, No Time to Wave
Goodbye. In her good moments, it seemed almost a private message
from her older son. Her own first photo book-a series of
black-and-white shots of her own children walking away from her,
dragging fishing poles, hurrying toward the blooming pagoda of a
fireworks display, each underlined with a tender quotation-was
called Wave Goodbye.
What other connection could there possibly be?
Beth began to twist her wedding ring round and round. Did no one
else notice the minutes that had collapsed since Vincent's
introduction? Two, three...seven?
No one close to the family would mind. There they all were,
chatting, her family, her in-laws, Ben and his wife, Eliza. People
were admiring Ben and Eliza's baby, two-month-old Stella, Beth's
first grandchild, on her very first outing. Along with Eliza's
mother-Beth's beloved friend Candy-the crowd included dozens of
business associates and old and new neighborhood friends. They were
the cheering section.
But what about the others?
What of the one reviewer invited to this private event? Where
was he? The fourth-row seat on the aisle reserved for him was still
And all the guests Beth didn't recognize?
Would they hate the film if they had to wait much longer?
Beth glanced around her. In the same row, across the aisle, sat
a perfect Yankee couple, ramrod-straight, their spines an inch from
the seat backs-mother, father, impeccably coutured blond daughter.
Several rows back, directly behind Beth, a soft, pretty young black
woman held hands with her son, a slender young teenager. To the
right and near the back door, there was a round-shouldered guy, not
heavy but big, who might have been a day laborer with his
snap-closure shirt rolled up to the elbows. No one sat beside him;
in presence rather than size, he seemed to fill a row of his own. A
young Latino couple-a sharply dressed young man and his hugely
pregnant wife-patiently tolerated the two silently rambunctious
preschoolers crawling all over them. An older man, who could have
been an advertisement for mountain-climbing and Earth Shoes, sat
just beyond the young couple. Who were these people? Who were they
The screen went dark.
Then from the darkness, a canvas appeared and, to the sound of
Kerry's pure, sweet soprano singing "Liverpool Lullaby," a
beautiful sequence of transparent photos of children was tacked to
the cinematic canvas by an invisible hand. As soon as each eager
face appeared, a name, height, and date of birth printed below it,
like a Wanted poster, a visual force like a strong wind tore the
picture off the screen. Beside the photos, words configured to look
like a child's block printing unfurled. They read: A Pieces by
Reese Production...written and produced by Vincent Cappadora and
Rob Brent...in conjunction with John Marco Ruffalo
Projects...edited by Emily Sydney...
Then came the last photo.
The last photo was Ben's preschool photo.
Beth gripped the arms of her seat. What?
Twenty-two years ago, that very photo had occupied the whole
cover of People magazine. For almost a decade, it claimed real
estate in the center of the corkboard in the office of Detective
Supervisor Candy Bliss, as she had searched tirelessly for Beth's
kidnapped son, to no avail. Posters made from this photo melted to
tatters under the pummeling of rain and snow and sun and more rain
and snow on thousands of light poles all over the Midwest and
beyond. And they had produced nothing but phone calls from every
crazy who wasn't behind bars and some who were, and a single, valid
rumor of the sighting of that little boy in Minneapolis with a
"white-haired" woman. That white-haired woman turned out to be a
dyed platinum blonde-Beth's old schoolmate Cecilia Lockhart.
Everyone remembered Cecil as nuts but not nuts. Yet, it was she, at
Beth's fifteenth high-school reunion, who had taken Ben's hand and
strolled with him out of the hotel lobby and out of Beth's life,
for nine unrelenting years.
Though she tried, Beth could not stop her jaw from shuddering.
She wanted to cling to Pat but dared not move. The last thing she
wanted was to draw attention from the screen to herself. And
yet, she already had.
Bryant Whittier, who sat in a cultivated posture of ease,
flanked by his wife, Claire, elegant in a St. John knit suit, and
his daughter, Blaine, demure for once in a designer wrap dress, saw
Beth's minute gesture of distress. He recognized it from a dozen
holding cells and living rooms. A defense lawyer, Bryant had
observed closely the parents of the accused, particularly the
moment when incredulity gave way to rage and then despair. Poor
woman, he thought. She hadn't known.
When he interviewed them, Vincent said that no one but the crew
understood the substance of this documentary, but Bryant hadn't
believed that "no one" included the Cappadora brothers' close
family. The slender, expensive-looking woman had to be Vincent's
mother. In profile, she was the exact image of Vincent. He had
never shown them a picture of his parents, but Bryant had found old
news photos of the case on the Internet. This clearly was Beth,
more attractive than Bryant would have imagined she would be by
now. Bryant did not like heavyset women. He sometimes reminded his
surviving daughter, who rowed in a coxed quad, to watch her
prodigious appetite at the training table. He made a covert
inventory of Beth, a cultivated professional knack that also had
its personal uses. It was unfortunate. Her husband, or the man he
assumed was Vincent's father, slouched with his arms hanging at his
sides, as though they'd been dislocated.
Who would want to remember, if they didn't have to? And
yet, it was their son, who, for reasons of his own, had made this
film that Bryant participated in only against his will. He had
talked to Sam-the name Ben used for himself-and Vincent's camera
only because Claire and Blaine, who still had hope that Bryant's
missing daughter, Jacqueline, was alive, pleaded with him to do so.
There was an awful fairness here. Why shouldn't the filmmaker's
family share in the suffering ripped open anew for all the families
Vincent had found and featured?
Bryant put his hand on Claire's arm. She glanced at him, biting
her lips. Bryant turned his attention back to the people in the
three rows roped off by gold cord: The tiny girl whose long black
hair swept over the baby swaddled in her arms? She wasn't Italian.
Spanish of some kind?
Ah, yes. Bryant was grown forgetful.
This was Ben's wife.
Ben had married the adopted daughter of the detective, Candy,
the sainted policewoman-Candy, whom all the family loved so well.
To Bryant's mind, being unable to find a child whose kidnapper had
moved him to a house blocks from the place where the Cappadoras had
grown up meant no genius at sleuthing! From what the Whittiers
understood, twelve-year-old Ben had actually found his birth family
on his own, rather than the other way around, quite by accident,
when he was passing out flyers offering to mow lawns. Bryant
gingerly stroked his well-clipped beard. Hadn't Ben admitted that
he'd been raised by the innocent man the kidnapper married, whom he
thought of as his father? "Adopted" by this man, Ted-or was it
George-who had no inkling that "Sam" wasn't Cecilia's own child?
Hadn't Ben said that his "mother" (the only mother he knew) spent
most of his childhood in and out of institutions? Was it from Ben,
or from a newspaper account, that Bryant had learned that Cecilia,
an actor Claire said she'd seen on an old soap opera, finally
Of course. Bryant would have read that. Ben...well, Sam, who
still, oddly, answered only to the name given to him by the
kidnapper, would not have volunteered it. For all his glad-handing
humor, Ben was hard to know. Unlike his sister, he kept very
definite doors closed.
Where was the sister, Kerry, the pretty little singer? Oh, there
she was, just visible behind a fold of curtain on the stage,
standing beside Vincent, watching the audience. Kerry didn't just
wear her heart on her sleeve; she had no sleeve. The ideal juror,
Bryant thought. Emotional. Impressionable. Visible. He smiled
blandly, the expression cheerful enough to convince anyone who
didn't look into his eyes. The woodland path on the screen was
familiar. Bryant had told police that his daughter, Jacqueline, had
taken that route as she walked to her death.
Excerpted from NO TIME TO WAVE GOODBYE © Copyright 2011 by
Jacquelyn Mitchard. Reprinted with permission by Random House. All
No Time to Wave Goodbye
- Genres: Fiction
- hardcover: 228 pages
- Publisher: Random House
- ISBN-10: 140006774X
- ISBN-13: 9781400067749