James continued to write his books, and, as I said, his books continued to sell in modest amounts. They always received good reviews, but never glowing. When he ran low on ideas, he would simply write a retelling of an old Grimm story or a fable of Aesop’s or even a tale from the Bible. These retellings were fun for James to write and he would often run them by Katherine and Jack before submitting them to his editor. By the time Jack was two he had heard just about every story ever told in one form or another.
The ones he heard from James were always good. There were not the long pauses and gaps that filled Katherine’s stories, as she struggled for direction. But Jack always seemed to prefer Katherine’s tales. Jack could not have put into words exactly why he liked his mom’s stories better than his dad’s. But, with the benefit of hindsight, I think I can shed a little light on the reasons for his preference.
Katherine had a way of telling a story that cast a spell. When she talked, a net weaved its way around Jack and her and held them in a place outside of the regular world. When James told a story, Jack never forgot that he was in a chair in an apartment in New York City, listening to a story. When Katherine told a story, the world lost form and the words created a new place to temporarily replace this one.
Jack would never had a said it out loud, (he was two, so he COULDN’T have said it out loud), but he preferred his mom’s stories to his dad’s. Don’t get me wrong. He loved them both fully and madly. And he liked his dad’s way of playing on the carpet better. But when it came to stories, he liked the ones told by his mom a little better. Okay—a lot better.
It was about this time that Jack and Katherine started a game they would continue the rest of Katherine’s life. It went like this: Whenever they were saying goodbye, both Jack and Katherine would try to arrange things so that each could be the one to speak last. If, for example, James and Jack were heading out for a Saturday morning at the Central Park Zoo to see Cuzco and all the other animals, Katherine might say, “Bye James. Bye Jack. I love you.” Jack would not reply right away. Instead he would wait until he and his father got to the door of their apartment and as the door was closing behind them he would yell back over his shoulder, “I love you MORE,” and hope that the door would latch before his mom could reply.
Of course, in keeping with the game, Katherine would then run to the bedroom window, throw it open, and lurk in the shadows of the room until she heard James and Jack out on the front stoop. She would slink over to the open window, thrust her head out, yell, “I love YOU MORE,” and then slam the window shut before Jack could respond. The winner was whoever got the last word in. Many was the time the phone would ring while James and Jack were out doing something somewhere in the city. Katherine would pick up the receiver and say, “Hello. MacArthur residence,” only to hear a giggly, “I love you MORE,” practically shouted into the phone, followed by a quick click.