The Telltale Baby Photo — Episode Two, Res Publica, Live on Radio NZ

Res Publica, read by Stuart Devenie, on Radio New Zealand

Res Publica, read by Stuart Devenie, on Radio New Zealand Nine-to-Noon

Listen now.

You can read notes on the previous episode here.

In this second episode, Arcady, our narrator, is alone and asleep and drifting in a boat. He has a dream — a dream he’s often had — in which he’s standing amongst a crowd of people, when suddenly everyone sprouts wings and flies up to the heavens, leaving him abandoned.

The meaning of the dream seems obvious to Arcady:

He’d always had the perfect life. Kind, devoted, broad-minded parents. A loving, extended family. A natural gift for sports and academia (including a scholarship to Harvard). A recent marriage to a beautiful, sophisticated woman from a very wealthy family.

Then one day, not long after the wedding, while he and his new wife were examining his family album, a photograph fell to the floor. In the picture, his doting parents were holding Arcady as a baby. With a cajoling tone of voice, Arcady’s wife commented on how, in the photo, her new mother-in-law looked unusually fit and vibrant for a woman who’d just given birth.

Arcady couldn’t help noticing how these comments caused his assembled family members to glance uncomfortably, all at the same time, at his mother. And this synchronized glance made him wonder if perhaps they all knew something about him he didn’t know; some secret they were afraid to reveal.

Episode Two ends here, with Arcady promising to reveal the secret in Episode Three, broadcast tomorrow on Radio NZ “Nine-to-Noon” at 10:45am.

A note about the verse structure:

Twelve-line tetrameter stanzas, with a mostly iambic cadence (although the rhythm is varied), and a rhyme scheme of abbaccddeeff. Some lines, of course, were cut or altered to fit the audio segments.

An example of a stanza from Episode Two:

A photograph: My mum with plaited
black hair adorned in marigolds
and frangipani. She hugs and beholds
her newborn babe. My father, hatted,
suited, can’t control his imperious
pride, his wild eyes, his delirious
grin, his gentle fingers caressing
my dimpled chin. Such doting, obsessive
parents are rare in this world. Nor
has a son admired his parents more
than I admired mine. I vowed
a single ambition — making them proud.

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