American Pastoral Part 11

i'll give you theBAPTISM. THAT'S ALL I CAN DO FOR YOU.That's all?AND I'LL GIVE YOU CHRISTMAS.396.

Easter?EASTER. SHE WANTS EASTER, SEYMOUR. TO ME YOU KNOW WHAT EASTER IS, DAWN DEAR?.

EASTER IS A HUGE TARGET FOR DELIVERIES. HUGE, HUGE PRESSURES TO GET GLOVES IN.

STOCK FOR PEOPLE TO BUY THEIR EASTER OUTFITS. l'LL TELL YOU A STORY. EVERY NEW YEAr's EVE, IN THE AFTERNOON,we'd clean up all the orders for the year, send everybody HOME, AND WITH MY FORELADY AND MY FOREMAN l'D POP A BOTTLE OF CHAMPAGNE, AND BEFORE We'd FINISHED TAKING THE FIRST SIP WE WOULD GET A CALL FROM A STORE DOWN IN WILMINGTON, IN.

DELAWARE, A CALL FROM THE BUYER THERE FOR A HUNDRED DOZEN LITTLE WHITE SHORT.

LEATHER GLOVES. FOR TWENTY YEARS OR MORE WE KNEW THAT CALL WAS GOING TO COME FOR.

THE HUNDRED DOZEN AS WE WERE TOASTING IN THE NEW YEAR, AND THOSE WERE GLOVES.

THAT WERE FOR EASTER.That was your tradition.IT WAS, YOUNG LADY. NOW TELL ME, WHAT IS EASTER ANYWAY?.He rises.WHO?.Jesus. Jesus rises.

miss, you make it awfully hard for me. i thought that's when you have the parade. We do have the parade.WELL, ALL RIGHT, fLL GIVE YOU THE PARADE. HOw's THAT?We have ham on Easter.YOU WANT A HAM ON EASTER, YOU CAN HAVE A HAM ON EASTER. WHAT ELSE?.We go to church in an Easter bonnet.AND IN A PAIR OF GOOD WHITE GLOVES, I HOPE.Yes.YOU WANT TO GO TO CHURCH ON EASTER AND TAKE MY GRANDCHILD WITH YOU?.Yes. We'll be what my mother calls once-a-year Catholics.397.

is that it? once a year? (Claps his hands together.) let'sSHAKE ON THAT. ONCE A YEAR. YOU'VE GOT A DEAL!.Well, it would be twice a year. Easter and Christmas.WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO CHRISTMAS?.When the child's small we can just go to the Ma.s.s where they sing all the Christmas carols. You have to be there when they sing all the Christmas carols.

Otherwise it's not worth it. You hear the Christmas carols on the radio, but in church they won't give you the Christmas carols until Jesus is born.i don't care about that, those carols don't interestME ONE WAY OR THE OTHER. HOW MANY DAYS IS THIS GOING TO GO ON AT CHRISTMAS?.Well, there's Christmas Eve. There's Midnight Ma.s.s. Midnight Ma.s.s is a High Ma.s.s--i don't know what that means, i don't want to. i'llGIVE YOU CHRISTMAS EVE AND l'LL GIVE YOU CHRISTMAS DAY AND l'LL GIVE YOU EASTER.

BUT l'M NOT GIVING YOU THE STUFF WHERE THEY EAT HIM.Catechism. What about catechism?i can't give you that.Do you know what it is?i don't have to know what it is. that's as far as i go.I THINK THIS IS A GENEROUS OFFER. MY SON WILL TELL YOU,.HE KNOWS ME----1 AM MEETING YOU MORE THAN HALFWAY.WHAT IS CATECHISM?.Where you go to school and learn about Jesus.ABSOLUTELY NOT. ALL RIGHT? IS IT CLEAR? SHOULD WE SHAKE? SHOULD WE WRITE THIS.

DOWN? CAN I TRUST YOU OR SHOULD WE WRITE THIS DOWN?.This is scaring me, Mr. Levov.YOU'RE SCARED?.Yes. (Near tears.) I don't think I can fight this fight.I ADMIRE YOU FIGHTING THIS FIGHT.Mr. Levov, we'll work it out later.398.

LATER NEVER WORKS. WE WORK IT OUT NOW OR NEVER. WE STILL WANT TO TALK ABOUT BAR.

MITZVAH LESSONS.If it's a boy and he's going to be bar mitzvahed, then he has to be baptized.

And then he can decide.DECIDE WHAT?.After he grows up, he can decide which he likes better.NO, HE'S NOT GOING TO DECIDE ANYTHING. YOU AND I ARE GOING TO DECIDE RIGHT HERE.But why don't we just wait and we'll see?WE WILL NOT SEE.(To the Swede.) I can't have this conversation anymore with your father. He's too tough. I can only lose. We can't negotiate like this, Seymour. I don't want a bar mitzvah.you don't want a bar mitzvah?With the Torah and all that?that's right.No.NO? THEN I DON'T THINK WE CAN REACH AN AGREEMENT.Then we won't have any children. I love your son. We just won't have children.AND I'LL NEVER BE A GRANDFATHER. IS THAT THE DEAL?.You have another son.NO, NO, THAT WOn't DO. NO HARD FEELINGS BUT I THINK MAYBE EVERYBODY SHOULD JUST GO THEIR OWN WAY.Can't we wait and see what happens? Mr. Levov, it's all a lot of years away. Why can't we just let him or her decide what they want?ABSOLUTELY NOT. l'M NOT LETTING SOME CHILD MAKE THESE KIND OF DECISIONS. HOW THE h.e.l.l CAN HE DECIDE? WHAT DOES HE KNOW? WE'RE ADULTS. THE CHILD IS NOT AN.

adult. (Stands at his desk.) miss dwyer, you are pretty as aPICTURE. I CONGRATULATE YOU ON HOW FAR YOU'VE COME. NOT EVERY GIRL REACHES YOUR.

HEIGHTS. YOUR PARENTS MUST BE VERY PROUD. I THANK YOU FOR COMING TO MY OFFICE.

THANK YOU AND GOOD-BYE.399.

No. I'm not leaving. I'm not going to go. I'm not a picture, Mr. Levov. I'm myself. I'm Mary Dawn Dwyer of Elizabeth, New Jersey. I'm twenty-two years old.

I love your son. That is why I'm here. I love Seymour. I love him. Let's go on, please.So the deal was cut, the youngsters were married, Merry was born and secretly baptized, and until Dawn's father died of the second heart attack in 1959, both families got together every year for Thanksgiving dinner up in Old Rimrock, and to everyone's surprise--except maybe Dawn's--Lou Levov and Jim Dwyer would wind up spending the whole time swapping stories about what life had been like when they were boys. Two great memories meet, and it is futile to try to contain them.

They are on to something even more serious than Judaism and Catholicism--they are on to Newark and Elizabeth--and all day long n.o.body can tear them apart. "All immigrants down at the port." Jim Dwyer always began with the port. "Worked at Singer's. That was the big one down there. There was the shipbuilding industry down there too, of course. But everyone in Elizabeth worked at Singer's at one time or another. Some maybe out on Newark Avenue, at the Burry Biscuit Cookie Company. People either making sewing machines or making cookies. But mostly it was at Singer's, see, right at the port, down at the end, right by the river.

Biggest hirer in the community," Dwyer said. "Sure, all the immigrants, when they come over, could get a job at Singer's. That was the biggest thing around.

That and Standard Oil. Standard Oil out in Linden. The Bayway section. Right at the edge of what they called then Greater Elizabeth. . . . The mayor? Joe Brophy. Sure. He owned the coal company and he was also the mayor of the city.

Then Jim Kirk took over. . . . Oh, sure, Mayor Hague. Quite a character. Ned, my brother-in-law, can tell you all about Frank Hague. He's the Jersey City expert.

If you voted the right way in that town, you had a job. All I know is the ballpark. Jersey City had a great ballpark. Roosevelt Stadium. Beautiful. And they never got Hague, as you know, never put him away. Winds up with a place at the sh.o.r.e, right next to Asbury Park. A beauti-400.

ful place he has. . . . The thing is, see, Elizabeth is a great sports town, but without having the great sports facilities. A baseball park where you could charge fifty cents or something to get in, never had that. We had open fields, we had Brophy Field, Mattano Park, Warananco Park, all public facilities, and still we had great teams and great players. Mickey McDermott pitched for St.

Patrick's Elizabeth. Newcombe, the colored fella, an Elizabeth boy. Lives in Colonia now but an Elizabeth boy, pitched for Jefferson. . . . Swimming in the Arthur Kill, that was it. Sure. Close as I ever got to a vacation. Went twice a year to Asbury Park on the excursion. That was the vacation. Did my swimming in the Arthur Kill, underneath the Goethals Bridge. Bareback, you know. I'd come home with grease in my hair and my mother would say, 'You are swimming in the Arthur Kill again.' And I'd say, 'Elizabeth River? You think I'm crazy?' And all the while my hair is sticking up greasy, you know. . . ."It was not quite so easy as this for the two mothers-in-law to find common ground and hit it off, for though Dorothy Dwyer could be a bit loquacious herself at Thanksgiving--just about as loquacious as she was nervous--her subjectalways was church. "St. Patrick's, that was the original one down there, at the port, and that was Jim's parish. The Germans started St. Michael's parish and the Polish had St. Adalbert's, at Third Street and East Jersey Street, and St.

Patrick's is right behind Jackson Park, around the corner. St. Mary's is up in south Elizabeth, in the West End section, and that's where my parents started.

They had the milk business there on Murray Street. St. Patrick's, Sacred Heart in north Elizabeth, Blessed Sacrament, Immaculate Conception Church, all Irish.

And St. Catherine's. That's up in Westminster. Well, it's on the city line.

Actually it's in Hillside, but the school across the street is in Elizabeth. And then our church, St. Genevieve's. St. Genevieve's, when it started, was a missionary church, you see, just a part of St. Catherine's. Just a wooden church. It's a big, beautiful church now. But the building that stands now--and I remember when I first went in it--"That was as trying as it ever got: Dorothy Dwyer prattling on401.

about Elizabeth as though this were the Middle Ages and beyond the fields tilled by the peasants the only points of demarcation were the spires of the parish churches on the horizon. Dorothy Dwyer prattling on about St. Gen's and St.

Patrick's and St. Catherine's while Sylvia Levov sat across from her too polite to do anything other than nod and smile but her face as white as a sheet. Just sat there and endured it, and good manners got her through. So all in all, it was never anywhere near as bad as everybody had been expecting. And it was never but once a year that they were brought together anyway, and that was on the neutral, dereligion-ized ground of Thanksgiving, when everybody gets to eat the same thing, n.o.body sneaking off to eat funny stuff--no kugel, no gefilte fish, no bitter herbs, just one colossal turkey for two hundred and fifty million people-- one colossal turkey feeds all. A moratorium on funny foods and funny ways and religious exclusivity, a moratorium on the three-thousand-year-old nostalgia of the Jews, a moratorium on Christ and the cross and the crucifixion for the Christians, when everyone in New Jersey and elsewhere can be more pa.s.sive about their irrationalities than they are the rest of the year. A moratorium on all the grievances and resentments, and not only for the Dwyers and the Levovs but for everyone in America who is suspicious of everyone else. It is the American pastoral par excellence and it lasts twenty-four hours."It was wonderful. The Presidential Suite. Three bedrooms and a living room.

That's what you got in those days for having been a Miss New Jersey. The U.S.

Line. I guess it wasn't booked, so we got on board and they just gave it to us."Dawn was telling the Salzmans about their trip abroad to look at the Simmentals in Switzerland."I'd never been to Europe before, and all the way over everybody was telling me, 'There's nothing like France, just wait until we come into Le Havre in the morning and you smell France. You'll love it.' So I waited, and early in the morning Seymour was still in bed and402.

I knew we had docked and so I raced on deck and I sniffed," Dawn said, laughing, "and it was just garlic and onions all over the place."She had raced out of the cabin with Merry while he was still in bed, but in the story she was on deck alone, astonished to find that France didn't smell like one big flower."The train to Paris. It was sublime. You see miles and miles of woods, but every tree is in line. They plant their forests in a line. We had a wonderful time, didn't we, darling?""We did," said the Swede."We walked around with great big bread sticks sticking out of our pockets. They practically said, 'Hey, look at us, a couple of rubes from New Jersey.' We were probably just the kind of Americans they laugh at. But who cared? We walked around, nibbling at the tops of them, looking at everything, the Louvre, the garden of the Tuileries--it was just wonderful. We stayed at the Crillon. The greatest treat of the whole trip. I loved it. Then we got on the night train, the Orient Express to Zurich, and the porter didn't get us up on time. Remember, Seymour?"Yes, he remembered. Merry wound up on the platform in her pajamas."It was absolutely horrendous. The train had already started up. I had to get all our things and throw them all out the window--you know, that's the way people get out of the train there--and we ran out half dressed. They never woke us up.

It was ghastly," Dawn said, again laughing happily at the recollection of the scene. "There we were, Seymour and me and our suitcases, wearing our underwear.

So, anyway"--for a moment she was laughing too hard to go on--"we got to Zurich, and we went to wonderful restaurants-- smelled of delicious croissants and good pates--and patisseries everywhere. Things like that. Oh, it was so good. All of the papers were on canes, they were hung up on racks, so you take your paper down and sit and have your breakfast and it was wonderful. So from there we took a car and we went down to Zug, the center of the Simmen-tals, and then we went to Lucerne, which was beautiful, absolutely403.

beautiful, and then we went to the Beau Rivage in Lausanne. Remember the Beau Rivage?" she asked her husband, her hand still firmly held in his.And he did remember it. Never had forgotten it. Coincidentally enough, had himself been thinking of the Beau Rivage just that afternoon, on the drive back to Old Rimrock from Central Avenue. Merry at afternoon tea, with the band playing, before she'd been raped. She had danced with the headwaiter, his six- year-old child, before she'd killed four people. Mademoiselle Merry. On his own, on their last afternoon at the Beau Rivage, the Swede had gone down to the jewelry shop off the lobby, and while Merry and Dawn were out walking on the promenade to take a last look together at the boats on Lake Geneva and the Alps out across the way, he had bought Dawn a diamond necklace. He had a vision of her wearing the diamond necklace along with the crown she kept in a hatbox at the top of her closet, the silver crown with the double row of rhinestones that she had worn as Miss New Jersey. Since he couldn't even get her to wear the crown to show to Merry--"No, no, it's just too silly a thing," Dawn told him; "to her I'm 'Mom,' which is perfectly fine"--he'd never get her to put it on with the new necklace. Knowing Dawn and her sense of herself as well as he did, he realized that even to cajole her into trying them on, the necklace and the crown together, in the bedroom, just modeling them there for him alone, would be impossible. She was never more stubborn about anything than about not being an ex-beauty queen. "It's not a beauty pageant," she was already telling people back then who persisted in asking about her year as Miss New Jersey. "Most people involved with the pageant will fight with anyone who says they were in a beauty pageant, and I'm one of them. Your only prize for Winning at any level is a scholarship." And yet it was with the crown in her hair, the crown not of a scholarship winner but of a beauty queen, that he had imagined her wearing that necklace when he caught sight of it in the window of the shop at the Beau Rivage.

In one of their photograph alb.u.ms there was a series of pictures he used to like to look at back when they were first married and404.

even on occasion to show to people. They always made him so proud of her, these glossy photos taken in 1949-50, when she'd held down the nfty-two-week-a-year job that the head man over at the Miss New Jersey Scholarship Pageant liked to describe as serving as the state's official "hostess"--the job of accommodating as many cities and towns and groups as possible for every kind of event, working like a dog, really, and receiving in compensation the $500 cash scholarship, a pageant trophy, and the fifty bucks for each personal appearance. There was, of course, a picture of her at the Miss New Jersey coronation on the night of Sat.u.r.day, May 21,1949, Dawn in a strapless evening gown of silk, stiff and scalloped at the top, very tight to the waist, and below, to the floor, a full, voluptuous skirt, thickly embroidered with flowers and sparkling with beads. And on her head her crown. "You don't feel ridiculous in your evening gown wearing a crown," she told him, "but you definitely feel ridiculous in your clothes and your crown. Little girls always asking if you're a princess. People coming up and asking if the crown is diamonds. In just a suit and wearing that thing, Seymour, you feel absolutely silly." But she hardly looked silly-- wearing her very simple, tailored clothes and that crown, she looked stunning. There was a picture of her in a suit and her crown--and her Miss New Jersey sash, pinned at the waist with a brooch--at an agricultural fair with some farmers, another of her in her crown and the sash at a manufacturer's convention with some businessmen, and one of her in that strapless silk evening gown and her crown at the governor's Princeton mansion, Drumthwacket, dancing with the governor of New Jersey, Alfred E. Driscoll. Then there were the pictures of her at parades and ribbon cuttings and charity fund-raisers around the state, pictures of her a.s.sisting at the crowning in local pageants, pictures of her opening the department stores and the auto showrooms--"That's Dawnie. The beefy guy owns the place." There were a couple of her visiting schools where, seated at the piano in the auditorium, she generally played the popularized Chopin polonaise that she'd performed to become Miss New Jersey, leaving out clots and clots of black notes.

405.

to get it in at two and a half minutes so she wouldn't be disqualified by the stopwatch at the state level. And in all of those pictures, whatever clothes she might be wearing that were appropriate to the event, she would always have the crown set in her hair, making her look, as much to her husband as to the little girls who came up to ask, like a princess--more like a princess was supposed to look than any of a whole string of European princesses whose photographs he'd seen in Life.Then there were the pictures taken at Atlantic City, at the Miss America Pageant in September, pictures of her in her swimsuit and in evening wear, which made him wonder how she ever could have lost. She told him, "When you're out on that runway you can't imagine how ridiculous you feel in that swimsuit and your high heels, and you know that when you walk a ways the back end is going to ride up, and you can't reach behind you and pull it down...." But she hadn't been ridiculous at all: he never looked at the swimsuit pictures that he didn't say aloud, "Oh, she was beautiful." And the crowd had been with her; at Atlantic City most of the audience was naturally rooting for Miss New Jersey, but during the parade of states Dawn had received a spontaneous ovation that bespoke more than local pride. The pageant wasn't on TV back then, it was still for the folks jammed into Convention Hall, so afterward, when the Swede, who'd sat in the hallbeside Dawn's brother, called to tell his parents that Dawn hadn't won, he could still say of her reception, without exaggerating, "She brought the house down."Certainly, of the five other former Miss New Jerseys at their wedding, none could compare to Dawn in any way. Together they const.i.tuted a kind of sorority, these former Miss New Jerseys, and for a while there in the fifties they all attended one another's weddings, so that he must have met up with at least ten girls who had won the state crown and probably twice as many who'd become friends of this or that bride during the days of rehearsal for the state compet.i.tion, girls who'd gotten as far as being Miss Sh.o.r.e Resort and Miss Central Coast and Miss Columbus Day and Miss 406 .

Northern Lights, and there wasn't a one who could rival his wife in any category--talent, intelligence, personality, poise. If he should ever happen to remark to someone that why Dawn hadn't become Miss America was something he would never understand, Dawn always begged him not to go around saying that, because it gave the impression that her having not become Miss America was something she was embittered about when, in many ways, losing had been a relief.

Just getting through without humiliating herself and her family had been a relief. Sure, after all the buildup the New Jersey people had given her she was surprised and a little let down not to have made the Court of Honor or even the top ten, but that, too, might have been a blessing in disguise. And though losing would not be a relief for a compet.i.tor like him, not a blessing of any kind, he nonetheless admired Dawn's graciousness--gracious was how the folks over at the pageant liked to describe all the girls who lost--even if he couldn't understand it.Losing allowed her, for one thing, to begin to restore the relations with her father that had nearly been ruined because of her persisting at something he so strongly disapproved of. "I don't care what they're giving away," Mr. Dwyer said when she tried to explain about the pageant scholarship money. "The whole d.a.m.n thing," he told her, "is about being ogled. Those girls are there to be ogled.

The more money they give for it, the worse it is. The answer is no."That Mr. Dwyer agreed finally to come down to Atlantic City had been due to the persuasive skills of Dawn's favorite aunt, Peg, her mother's sister, the schoolteacher who'd married rich Uncle Ned and taken Dawn as a kid to the hotel in Spring Lake. "It would make any father uncomfortable seeing his baby up there," Peg had told her brother-in-law in that gentle, diplomatic way Dawn always admired and wanted to emulate. "It brings certain images to mind that a father would just as soon not have a.s.sociated with his daughter. I'd feel that way if it were my daughter," she told him, "and I don't have what it is that fathers naturally feel for their daughters. It would bother me, of course it would. I would think that what you feel is the case with a lot of dads. They're really proud, their b.u.t.tons407.

are popping and all that, but at the same time, 'Oh, my G.o.d, that's my baby up there.' But Jim, this is so clean and beyond reproach there is just nothing to worry about. The trashy ones get sifted out early--they go on to work the truckers' convention. These are just ordinary kids from small towns, decent, sweet girls whose fathers own the grocery store and don't belong to the country club. They get them up to look like debutantes but there is nothing big in their backgrounds. They're just good kids who go home and settle down and marry the boy next door. And the judges are serious people. Jim, this is for Miss America.

If it were compromising to the girls, they wouldn't allow it. It is an honor.Dawn wants you there to share in that honor. She will not be very happy if you are not there, Jimmy. She will be crushed, especially if you are the only father who isn't there." "Peggy, it's beneath her. It's beneath all of us. I'm not going." So that's when she laid into him about his responsibility not merely to Dawn but to the nation. "You wouldn't come when she won at the local level. You wouldn't come when she won at the state level. Are you now telling me that you are not going to come if she wins at the national level? If she is awarded Miss America and you're not there to walk up on the stage and hug your daughter with pride, what will they think? They'll think, 'A great tradition, a part of the American heritage, and her father isn't there. Photographs of Miss America with her family, and her father isn't in a one of them.' Tell me, how's that going to go down the next day?"And so he humbled himself and he did it--against his better judgment, consented to come for the big night to Atlantic City with the rest of Dawn's relatives, and it was a disaster. When Dawn saw him waiting there in his Sunday suit in the lobby with her mother and her aunts and her uncles and her cousins, every last Dwyer in Union and Ess.e.x and Hudson counties, all she was allowed to do by her chaperone was to shake his hand, and he was fit to be tied. But that was a pageant rule, in case anybody who was watching might not know it was her father and see some kind of embrace and think something untoward was going on. It was all so that absolutely nothing smacked of impropriety, but Jim Dwyer, who had only 408 .

recently recovered from the first heart attack and so was on edge anyway, had misunderstood, thinking that now she was such a big shot she had dared to rebuff her own dad, actually given her father the cold shoulder, and in public, before the entire public.Of course, for the week that she was in Atlantic City under the watchful eye of the pageant, she had not been allowed to see the Swede at all, not in the company of her chaperone, not even in a public place, and so, until the very last night, he'd just stayed up in Newark and had to be content, like her family, to talk to her on the phone. But Dawn's sincerity in recounting to her father this hardship--of her being deprived, for a whole week, of the company of her Jewish beau--did not much impress him when, back in Elizabeth, she attempted to a.s.suage his grudge at what he remembered for many years afterward as "the snub.""That was just an Old World hotel that was the most wonderful place," Dawn was telling the Salzmans. "Huge place. Glorious. Right on the water. Something you see in a movie. Big rooms overlooking Lake Geneva. We loved that. I'm boring you," she suddenly said."No, no," they replied in unison.Sheila pretended to be listening intently to every word Dawn spoke. She had to be pretending. Not even she could have recovered so completely from the eruption in Dawn's study. If she had--well, it would be hard then to say what sort of woman she was. She was nothing like the one he had imagined. And that was not because she had been pa.s.sing herself off with him as something else or somebody else but because he had understood her no better than he was able to understand anyone. How to penetrate to the interior of people was some skill or capacity he did not possess. He just did not have the combination to that lock. Everybody who flashed the signs of goodness he took to be good. Everybody who flashed the signs of loyalty he took to be loyal. Everybody who flashed the signs of intelligence he took to be intelligent. And so he had failed to see into his daughter, failed to see into his wife, failed to see into his409.

one and only mistress--probably had never even begun to see into himself. What was he, stripped of all the signs he flashed? People were standing up everywhere, shouting "This is me! This is me!" Every time you looked at them they stood up and told you who they were, and the truth of it was that they had no more idea of who or what they were than he had. They believed their flashing signs too. They ought to be standing up and shouting, "This isn't me! This isn't me!" They would if they had any decency. "This isn't me!" Then you might know how to proceed through the flashing bulls.h.i.t of this world.Sheila Salzman may or may not have been listening to Dawn's every word, but Sh.e.l.ly Salzman surely was. The kindly doctor wasn't merely acting like the kindly doctor but appeared to have fallen somewhat under Dawn's spell--the spell of that alluring surface whose underside, as she presented it to people, was as charmingly straightforward as it could be. Yes, after all she'd been through, she looked and she behaved as though nothing had happened. For him there was this two-sidedness to everything: side by side, the way it had been and the way it was now. But Dawn made it sound as though the way it had been was still the way it was. After the tragic detour their lives had taken, she'd managed in the last year to arrive back at being herself, apparently just by not thinking about certain things. And arrived back not merely at Dawn with her face-lift and her pet.i.te gallantry and her breakdowns and her cattle and her decisions to change her life but back at the Dawn of Hillside Road, Elizabeth, New Jersey. A gate, some sort of psychological gate, had been installed in her brain, a mighty gate past which nothing harmful could travel. She locked the gate, and that was that.

Miraculous, or so he'd thought, until he'd learned that the gate had a name. The William Orcutt III Gate.Yes, if you'd missed her back in the forties, here once again was Mary Dawn Dwyer of Elizabeth's Elmora section, an up-and-coming Irish looker from a working-cla.s.s family that was starting to do okay, respectable parishioners at St. Genevieve's, the cla.s.siest Catholic church in town--miles uptown from the church by the410.

docks where her father and his brothers had been altar boys. Once again she was in possession of that power she'd had even as a twenty-year-old to stir up interest in whatever she said, somehow to touch you inwardly, which was not often true of the contestants who won at Atlantic City. But she could do that, lay bare something juvenile even in adults, by nothing more than venting ordinary lively enthusiasms through that flagrantly perfect, strikingly executed heart-shaped face. Maybe, until she spoke and revealed her att.i.tudes as not so different from any decent person's, people were frightened of her for looking like that. Discovering that she was not at all a G.o.ddess, had no interest in pretending to be one--discovering in her almost an excess of no pretense--made even more riveting the brilliant darkness of her hair, the angular mask not much bigger than a cat's, and the eyes, the big pale eyes almost alarmingly keen and vulnerable. From the message in those eyes one would never have believed that this girl was going to grow up to be a shrewd businesswoman resolutely determined about turning a profit as a cattle breeder. What excited the Swede's tenderness always was that she who wasn't at all frail nonetheless looked so delicate and frail. This always impressed him: how strong she was (once was) and how vulnerable her kind of beauty caused her to appear, even to him, her husband, long after one might imagine that married life had dulled the infatuation.And how plain Sheila looked sitting alongside her, purportedly listening to her, plain and proper, sensible, dignified, and dreary. So dreary. Everything in her severely withheld. Hidden. There was nothing hearty in Sheila. There was lots in Dawn. There once was in him. That once described everything there was in him. It was not easy to understand how he could ever have found in this prim, severe, hidden whatever-she-was a woman more magnetic than Dawn. How pathetic he must have been, how depleted, a broken, helpless creature escaping from everything that had collapsed, running in the headlong way that someone in trouble will take flight in order to make a bad thing worse. Almost all there was to attract him was that Sheila was someone else. Her clarity, her candor, her411.

equilibrium, her perfect self-control were at first almost beside the point.

Shrinking from such a blinding catastrophe--disconnected as he'd never been before from his ready-made life; notorious and disgraced as he'd never been before--he turned in a daze to the one woman other than his wife whom he knew even remotely in a personal way. That was how he got there, seeking asylum, hounded--the forlorn reason for a straight arrow so a.s.sertively uxorious, so intensely and spotlessly monogamous, hurling himself at such an extraordinary moment into a situation he would have thought he hated, the shameful fiasco of being untrue. But amorousness had little to do with his clutching. He could not offer the pa.s.sionate love that Dawn drew from him. l.u.s.t was far too natural a task for someone suddenly so misshapen--the father of someone gruesomely misbegotten. He was there for the illusion. He lay atop Sheila like a person taking cover, digging in, a big male body in hiding, a man disappearing: because she was somebody else, maybe he could be somebody else too.But that she was someone else was what made it all wrong. Alongside Dawn, Sheila was a well-groomed impersonal thinking-machine, a human needle threaded with a brain, n.o.body he could want to touch, let alone sleep with. Dawn was the woman who had inspired the feat for which even his record-breaking athletic career had barely fortified him: vaulting his father. The feat of standing up to his father. And how she had inspired it was by looking as spectacular as she looked and yet talking like everyone else.Was it bigger, more important, worthier things that inclined others to a lifelong mate? Or at the heart of everyone's marriage was there something irrational and unworthy and odd?Sheila would know. She knew it all. Yes, she'd have an answer to that one too. .

. . She'd come so far, Sheila had said, she'd gotten so much stronger I thought that she could make it on her own. She's a strong girl, Seymour. She's a crazy girl. She's crazy! She's troubled. And the father plays no role with the troubled daughter? I'm sure he played plenty of a role. I just thought something terrible had happened at home. ...412.

Oh, he wanted his wife back--it was impossible to exaggerate the extent to which he wanted her back, the wife so serious about being a serious mother, the woman so fiercely disinclined to be thought spoiled or vain or frivolously nostalgic for her once-glamorous eminence that she would not wear even as a joke for her family the crown in the hatbox at the top of her closet. His endurance had run out--he wanted that Dawn back right now."What were the farms like?" Sheila asked her. "In Zug. You were going to tell us about the farms." This interest of Sheila's in figuring it all out--how could he have wanted anything to do with her? These deep thinkers were the only people hecould not stand to be around for long, these people who'd never manufactured anything or seen anything manufactured, who did not know what things were made of or how a company worked, who, aside from a house or a car, had never sold anything and didn't know how to sell anything, who'd never hired a worker, fired a worker, trained a worker, been fleeced by a worker--people who knew nothing of the intricacies or the risks of building a business or running a factory but who nonetheless imagined that they knew everything worth knowing. All that awareness, all that introspective Sheila-like gazing into every nook and cranny of one's soul went repellently against the grain of life as he had known it. To his way of thinking it was simple: you had only to carry out your duties strenuously and unflaggingly like a Levov and orderliness became a natural condition, daily living a simple story tangibly unfolding, a deeply un-agitating story, the fluctuations predictable, the combat containable, the surprises satisfying, the continuous motion an undulation carrying you along with the utmost faith that tidal waves occur only off the coast of countries thousands and thousands of miles away--or so it all had seemed to him once upon a time, back when the union of beautiful mother and strong father and bright, bubbly child rivaled the trinity of the three bears."I got lost, yes. Oh, lots and lots of farms," said Dawn, gratified just by the thought of all those farms. "They showed us their best cows. Wonderful warm barns. We were there in the early spring413.

when they haven't been out to pasture yet. They're living under the house and the chalet is on top. Porcelain stoves, very ornate . . ." / don't understand how you could be so shortsighted. So taken in by a girl who was obviously crazy.

She was running. There was no bringing her back there. She wasn't the same girl that she'd been. Something had gone wrong. She'd gotten so fat. I just thought she was so fat and so angry that something very bad must have gone on at home.

That it was my fault. I didn't think that. We all have homes. That's where everything always goes wrong. ". . . and they gave us wine that they made, little things to eat, and so friendly," Dawn said. "When we went back the second time it was fall. The cows live up in the mountains all summer and they milk them and the cow that made the most milk all summer would be the first one to come down with a great bell on her neck. That was the number-one cow. They put flowers on her horns and had great celebrations. When they come down from the high mountain pastures they come down in a line, the leading cow the first one."

What if she went on to kill somebody else? Isn't that a bit of a responsibility?

She did, you know. She killed three more people. What do you think of that?

Don't say these things just to torture me. I'm telling you something! She killed three more people! You could have prevented that! You're torturing me. You're trying to torture me. She killed three more people! "And all the people, all the children, the girls and the women who had been milking all summer would come in beautiful clothes, all dressed in Swiss outfits, and a band, music, a big fiesta down in the square. And then the cows would all go in for the winter in the barns under the houses. Very clean and very nice. Oh, that was an occasion, seeing that. Seymour took lots of pictures of all their cows so we could put them on the projector.""Seymour took pictures?" his mother asked. "I thought you couldn't take a picture if it killed you," and she leaned over and kissed him. "My wonderful son," whispered Sylvia Levov, in her eyes adoring admiration shining for her firstborn boy."Well, he did back then, the wonderful son. He was a Leica man414.

back then," Dawn was saying. "You took good pictures, didn't you, dear?"Yes, he had. That was him all right. That was the wonderful son himself who had taken the pictures, who had bought Merry the Swiss girl's outfit, who had bought Dawn the jewelry in Lausanne, and who had told his brother and Sheila that Merry killed four people. Who had bought for the family, as a memento of Zug, of the gloriously Switzerlandish state of their lives, the ceramic candelabra, now half encased with candle drippings, and who had told his brother and Sheila that Merry killed four people. Who had been a Leica man and told those two--the two he could least trust in the world and over whom he had no control--what Merry had done."Where else did you go?" Sheila asked Dawn, careful to give no indication that in the car she would tell Sh.e.l.ly, and Sh.e.l.ly would say, "My G.o.d, my G.o.d"; because he was such a mild and decent person, he might even cry. But when they got home, the instant they were home, the first thing he would do would be to call the police. Once before he had harbored this murderer. For three days. That had been frightening, awful, brutally nerve-racking. But only one was dead, and bad as it was, you could wrap your mind around that number--and as his wife had insisted, as idiotically, he had agreed, they had no alternative; the girl was her client, a promise had been made, professional conscience wouldn't allow . .

. But four people. This was too much. This was unacceptable. Four innocent people, to kill them off--no, this was barbarism, gruesome, depraved, this was evil, and they certainly did have an alternative: the law. Obligation to the law. They knew where she was. They could be prosecuted for keeping a secret like this. No, it was not going to spin any farther out of Sh.e.l.ly's control. The Swede saw it all. Sh.e.l.ly would phone the police--he had to. "Four people. She's in Newark. Seymour Levov knows the address. He was there. He was with her there today." Sh.e.l.ly was exactly as Lou Levov had described him--"a physician, a respected person, an ethical person, a responsible person"--and he would not allow his wife to become415.

accessory to the murder of four people by this wretched, loathsome girl, another homicidal savior of the world's oppressed. Insane terroristic behavior coupled with that bogus ideology--she had done the worst thing that anyone can do. That would be Sh.e.l.ly's interpretation and what could the Swede do to change it? How could he get Sh.e.l.ly to see it otherwise when he could no longer see it otherwise? Take him aside immediately, the Swede thought, tell him, explain to Sh.e.l.ly now, say whatever has to be said to stop him from taking action, to stop him from thinking that turning her in is his duty as a law-abiding citizen, that it's a way of protecting innocent lives--tell him, "She was used. She was malleable. She was a compa.s.sionate child. She was a wonderful child. She was only a child, and she got herself in with the wrong people. She could never have masterminded anything like that on her own. She just hated the war. We all did.

We all felt angry and impotent. But she was a kid, a confused adolescent, a high-strung girl. She was too young to have had any real experience, and she got herself caught up in something that she did not understand. She was attempting to save lives. I'm not trying to give a political excuse for her, because there is no political excuse--there is no justification, none. But you can't just look at the appalling effect of what she did. She had her reasons, which were very strong for her, and the reasons don't matter now--she has changed her philosophy and the war is over. None of us really know all that happened and none of us can really know why. There is more behind it, much, much more than we can understand. She was wrong, of course--she made a tragic, terrible, ghastly mistake. There's no defense of her to be made. But she's not a risk to anyone anymore. She is now a skinny, pathetic wreck of a girl who wouldn't hurt a fly.

She's quiet, she's harmless. She's not a hardened criminal, Sh.e.l.ly. She is a broken creature who did something terrible and who regrets it to the bottom ofher soul. What good will it do to call the police? Of course justice must be served, but she is no longer a danger. There is no need for you to get involved.

We don't have to call the police to protect anyone. And there's no need for vengeance. Vengeance has been taken on her, 416 .

believe me. I know she's guilty. The question is not if she's guilty. The question is what is to be done now. Leave her to me. I will look after her. She won't do anything--I'll see to that. I'll see that she is taken care of, that she is given help. Sh.e.l.ly, give me a chance to bring her back to human life--don't call the police!"But he knew what Sh.e.l.ly would think: Sheila had done enough for that family.

They both had. That family was in real trouble now, but there was no more help from Dr. Salzman. This wasn't a facelift. Four people were dead. That girl should get the electric chair. Yes, the number four would transform even Sh.e.l.ly into an outraged citizen ready to pull the switch. He would go ahead and turn her in because she was a little b.i.t.c.h who deserved it."That second time? Oh, we went everywhere," Dawn was saying. "It doesn't really matter in Europe where you go, everywhere you go there are things that are beautiful, and we sort of followed that path."But the police knew. From Jerry. It's inevitable. Jerry has already called the FBI. Jerry. To give Jerry her address. To tell Jerry. To tell anyone. To sit here so battered as to overlook the implications of disclosing what Merry had done! Battered, doing nothing--holding Dawn's hand, thinking back again to Atlantic City, to the Beau Rivage, to Merry dancing with the headwaiter--mindless of the consequences of his reckless disclosure, bereft of his lifelong talent for being Swede Levov, instead floating free of the battering ram that is this world, dreaming, dreaming, helplessly dreaming, while down in Florida the hotheaded brother who thought the worst of him and wasn't a brother to him at all, who'd been antagonized from the beginning by all the Swede had been blessed with, by that impossible perfection they'd both had to contend with, the inflamed and willful and ruthless brother who never did anything halfway, who would like nothing better than a reckoning--yes, a final reckoning for all the world to see.. ..He'd turned her in. Not his brother, not Sh.e.l.ly Salzman, but he, he was the one who'd done it. What would it have taken to keep my mouth shut? What did I expect to get by opening it? Relief? Child-417.

ish relief? Their reaction? I was after something so ridiculous as their reaction? By opening his mouth he had made things as bad as they could be--by retelling to them what Merry had told him, the Swede had done it: turned her in for killing four people. Now he had planted his own bomb. Without wanting to, without knowing what he was doing, without even being importuned, he had yielded--he had done what he should do and he had done what he shouldn't do: he had turned her in.It would have taken another day entirely to keep his mouth shut--a different day, the abolition of this day. Lead me not into this day! Seeing so much so fast.

And how stoical he had always been in his ability not to see, how prodigious had been his powers to regularize. But in the three extra killings he had been confronted by something impossible to regularize, even for him. Being told it was horrible enough, but only by retelling it had he understood how horrible.One plus three. Four. And the instrument of this unblinding is Merry. The daughter has made her father see. And perhaps this was all she had ever wanted to do. She has given him sight, the sight to see clear through to that which will never be regularized, to see what you can't see and don't see and won't see until three is added to one to get four.He had seen how improbable it is that we should come from one another and how improbable it is that we do come from one another. Birth, succession, the generations, history--utterly improbable.He had seen that we don't come from one another, that it only appears that we come from one another.He had seen the way that it is, seen out beyond the number four to all there is that cannot be bounded. The order is minute. He had thought most of it was order and only a little of it was disorder. He'd had it backwards. He had made his fantasy and Merry had unmade it for him. It was not the specific war that she'd had in mind, but it was a war, nonetheless, that she brought home to America-- home into her very own house.And just then they heard his father scream: "No!" They heard 418 .

Lou Levov screaming, "Oh my G.o.d! No!" The girls in the kitchen were screaming.

The Swede understood instantaneously what was happening. Merry had appeared in her veil! And told her grandfather that the death toll was four! She'd taken the train up from Newark and walked the five miles from the village. She'd come on her own! Now everyone knew!The thought of her walking the length of that underpa.s.s one more time had terrified him all through dinner--in her rags and sandals walking alone through that filth and darkness among the underpa.s.s derelicts who understood that she loved them. However, while he had been at the table formulating no solution, she had been nowhere near the underpa.s.s but--he all at once envisioned it--already back in the countryside, here in the lovely Morris County countryside that had been tamed over the centuries by ten American generations, back walking the hilly roads that were edged now, in September, with the red and burnt orange of devil's paintbrush, with a matted profusion of asters and goldenrod and Queen Anne's lace, an entangled b.u.mper crop of white and blue and pink and wine- colored flowers artistically topping their workaday stems, all the flowers she had learned to identify and cla.s.sify as a 4-H Club project and then on their walks together had taught him, a city boy, to recognize--"See, Dad, how there's a n-notch at the tip of the petal?"--chicory, cinquefoil, pasture thistle, wild pinks, joe-pye weed, the last vestiges of yellow-flowered wild mustard st.u.r.dily spilling over from the fields, clover, yarrow, wild sunflowers, stringy alfalfa escaped from an adjacent farm and sporting its simple lavender blossom, the bladder campion with its cl.u.s.ters of white-petaled flowers and the distended little sac back of the petals that she loved to pop loudly in the palm of her hand, the erect mullein whose tonguelike velvety leaves she plucked and wore inside her sneakers--so as to be like the first settlers, who, according to her history teacher, used mullein leaves for insoles--the milkweed whose exquisitely made pods she would carefully tear open as a kid so she could blow into the air the silky seed-bearing down, thus feeling herself at one with nature, imagining that she was the everlast- 419.

ing wind. Indian Brook flowing rapidly on her left, crossed by little bridges, dammed up for swimming holes along the way and opening into the strong trout stream where she'd fished with her father-- Indian Brook crossing under the road, flowing eastward from the mountain where it arises. On her left the p.u.s.s.y willows, the swamp maples, the marsh plants; on her right the walnut trees nearing fruition, only weeks from dropping the nuts whose husks when she pulled them apart would darkly stain her fingers and pleasantly stink them up with an acid pungency. On her right the black cherry, the field plants, the mowed fields. Up on the hills the dogwood trees; beyond them the woodlands--the maples, the oaks, and the locusts, abundant and tall and straight. She used to collect their beanpods in the fall. She used to collect everything, catalog everything, explain to him everything, examine with the pocket magnifying gla.s.s he'd given her every chameleonlike crab spider that she brought home to hold briefly captive in a moistened mason jar, feeding it on dead houseflies until she released it back onto the goldenrod or the Queen Anne's lace ("Watch what happens now, Dad") where it resumed adjusting its color to ambush its prey.

Walking northwest into a horizon still thinly alive with light, walking up through the twilight call of the thrushes: up past the white pasture fences she hated, up past the hay fields, the corn fields, the turnip fields she hated, up past the barns, the horses, the cows, the ponds, the streams, the springs, the falls, the watercress, the scouring rushes ("The pioneers used them, Mom, to scrub their pots and pans"), the meadows, the acres and acres of woods she hated, up from the village, tracing her father's high-spirited, happy Johnny Appleseed walk until, just as the first few stars appeared, she reached the century-old maple trees that she hated and the substantial old stone house, imprinted with her being, that she hated, the house in which there lived the substantial family, also imprinted with her being, that she also hated.At an hour, in a season, through a landscape that for so long now has been bound up with the idea of solace, of beauty and sweetness 420.

and pleasure and peace, the ex-terrorist had come, quite on her own, back from Newark to all that she hated and did not want, to a coherent, harmonious world that she despised and that she, with her embattled youthful mischief, the strangest and most unlikely attacker, had turned upside down. Come back from Newark and immediately, immediately confessed to her father's father what her great idealism had caused her to do."Four people, Grandpa," she'd told him, and his heart could not bear it. Divorce was bad enough in a family, but murder, and the murder not merely of one but of one plus three? The murder of four?"No!" exclaimed Grandpa to this veiled intruder reeking of feces who claimed to be their beloved Merry, "Nof and his heart gave up, gave out, and he died.There was blood on Lou Levov's face. He was standing beside the kitchen table clutching his temple and unable to speak, the once-imposing father, the giant of the family of six-footers at five foot seven, speckled now with blood and, but for his potbelly, looking barely like himself. His face was vacant of everything except the struggle not to weep. He appeared helpless to prevent even that. He could not prevent anything. He never could, though only now did he look prepared to believe that manufacturing a superb ladies' dress glove in quarter sizes did not guarantee the making of a life that would fit to perfection everyone he loved. Far from it. You think you can protect a family and you cannot protect even yourself. There seemed to be nothing left of the man who could not be diverted from his task, who neglected no one in his crusade against disorder, against the abiding problem of human error and insufficiency--nothing to be seen, in the place where he stood, of that eager, unbending stalk of a man who, just thirty minutes earlier, would jut his head forward to engage even his allies.The combatant had borne all the disappointment he could. Nothing blunt remained within him for bludgeoning deviancy to death. What421.

should be did not exist. Deviancy prevailed. You can't stop it. Improbably, what was not supposed to happen had happened and what was supposed to happen had not happened.The old system that made order doesn't work anymore. All that was left was his fear and astonishment, but now concealed by nothing.At the table was Jessie Orcutt, seated before a half-empty dessert plate and an untouched gla.s.s of milk and holding in her hand a fork whose tines were tipped red with blood. She had stabbed at him with it. The girl at the sink was telling them this. The other girl had run screaming out of the house, so there was just the one still in the kitchen to recount the story as best she could through her tears. Because Mrs. Orcutt would not eat, the girl said, Mr. Levov had started to feed Mrs. Orcutt the pie himself, a bite at a time. He was explaining to her how much better it was for her to drink milk instead of Scotch whiskey, how much better for herself, how much better for her husband, how much better for her children. Soon she would be having grandchildren and it would be better for them. With each bite she swallowed he said, "Yes, Jessie good girl, Jessie very good girl," and told her how much better it would be for everybody in the world, even for Mr. Levov and his wife, if Jessie gave up drinking. After he had fed her almost all of one whole slice of the strawberry-rhubarb pie, she had said, "I feed Jessie," and he was so happy, so pleased with her, he laughed and handed over the fork, and she had gone right for his eye.It turned out she'd missed it by no more than an inch. "Not bad," Marcia said to everyone in the kitchen, "for somebody as drunk as this babe is." Meanwhile Orcutt, appalled by a scene exceeding any previously contrived by his wife to humiliate her civic-minded, adulterous mate, who looked not at all invincible, not at all important to himself or anyone else, who looked just as silly as he had the morning the Swede had dumped him in the midst of their friendly football game--Orcutt tenderly lifted Jessie up from the chair and to her feet. She showed no remorse, none, seemed to have been stripped of all receptors and all transmitters,422.

without a single cell to notify her that she had overstepped a boundary fundamental to civilized life."One drink less," Marcia was saying to the Swede's father, whose wife was already dabbing at the tiny wounds in his face with a damp napkin, "and you'd be blind, Lou." And then this large, unimpeded social critic in a caftan could not help herself. Marcia sank into Jessie's empty chair, in front of the br.i.m.m.i.n.g gla.s.s of milk, and with her face in her hands, she began to laugh at their obtuseness to the flimsiness of the whole contraption, to laugh and laugh and laugh at them all, pillars of a society that, much to her delight, was going rapidly under--to laugh and to relish, as some people, historically, always seem to do, how far the rampant disorder had spread, enjoying enormously the a.s.sailability, the frailty, the enfeeblement of supposedly robust things.Yes, the breach had been pounded in their fortification, even out here in secure Old Rimrock, and now that it was opened it would not be closed again. They'll never recover. Everything is against them, everyone and everything that does notlike their life. All the voices from without, condemning and rejecting their life!And what is wrong with their life? What on earth is less reprehensible than the life of the Levovs?423.

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