American Pastoral Part 5

unfortunately there are people who don't have a conscience, that is true. You are lucky, Merry, you have a very well-developed conscience. It's admirable for someone your age to have such a conscience. We're proud of having a daughter who has so much conscience and who cares so much about the well-being of others and who is able to sympathize with the sufferings of others....She couldn't sleep alone in her room for a week. The Swede carefully read the papers in order to be able to explain to her why the monk had done what he did.

It had to do with the South Vietnamese president, General Diem, it had to do with corruption, with elections, with complex regional and political conflicts, it had to do with something about Buddhism itself. . . . But for her it had only to do with the extremes to which gentle people have to resort in a world where the great majority are without an ounce of con-science.Just when she seemed to have gotten over the self-immolation of I that elderly Buddhist monk on that street in South Vietnam and began to be able to sleep in her own room and without a light on and without awakening screaming two and three times a night, it happened again, another monk in Vietnam set himself on fire, then a third, then a fourth ... and once that started up he found that he couldn't keep her away from the television set. If she missed a self-immolation on the evening news, she got up early to see it on the morning news before she left for school. They did not know how to stop her. What was she doing by watching and watching as I though she intended never to stop watching? He wanted her to be not upset, but not to be not upset like this. Was she simply trying to I make sense of it? To master her fear of it? Was she trying to figure lout what it was like to be able to do something like that to yourself? I Was she imagining herself as one of those monks? Was she watch-ling because she was still appalled or was she watching now because I she was excited? What was starting to unsettle him, to frighten him, was the idea that Merry was lesshorrified now than curious, and soon he himself became obsessed, though not, like her, by the self-immolators in Vietnam but by the change of demeanor in155.

his eleven-year-old. That she'd always wanted to know things had made him tremendously proud of her from the time she was small, but did he really want her to want to know so much about something like this?Is it a sin to take your own life? How can the others stand by and just watch?

Why don't they stop him? Why don't they put out the flames? They stand by and let it be televised. They want it televised. Where has their morality gone? What about the morality of the television crews who are doing the filming? . . . Were these the questions she was asking herself? Were they a necessary part of her intellectual development? He didn't know. She watched in total silence, as still as the monk at the center of the flames, and afterward she would say nothing; even if he spoke to her, questioned her, she just sat transfixed before that set for minutes on end, her gaze focused somewhere else than on the flickering screen, focused inward--inward where the coherence and the certainty were supposed to be, where everything she did not know was initiating a gigantic upheaval, where nothing that registered would ever fade away....Though he didn't know how to stop her, he did try to find ways to divert her attention, to make her forget this madness that was going on halfway around the world for reasons having nothing to do with her or her family--he took her at night to drive golf b.a.l.l.s with him, he took her to a couple of Yankee games, he took her and Dawn for a quick trip down to the factory in Puerto Rico and a week of vacation in Ponce by the beach, and then, one day, she did forget, but not because of anything he had done. It had to do with the immolations--they stopped.

There were five, six, seven immolations and then there were no more, and shortly thereafter Merry did become herself again, thinking again about things immediate to her daily life and more appropriate to her years.When this South Vietnamese president, Diem, the man against whom the martyred Buddhist monks had been directing their protest--when some months later he was a.s.sa.s.sinated (according to a CBS Sunday morning show, a.s.sa.s.sinated by the USA, by the CIA, 156 .

who had propped him up in power in the first place), the news seemed to pa.s.s Merry by, and the Swede didn't convey it to her. By then this place called Vietnam no longer even existed for Merry, if it ever had except as an alien, unimaginable backdrop for a ghastly TV spectacle that had embedded itself in her impressionable mind when she was eleven years old.She never spoke again of the martyrdom of the Buddhist monks, even after she became so committed to her own political protest. The fate of those monks back in 1963 appeared to have nothing whatsoever to do with what galvanized into expression, in 1968, a newly hatched vehemence against capitalist America's imperialist involvement in a peasant war of national liberation .. . and yet her father spent days and nights trying to convince himself that no other explanation existed, that nothing else sufficiently awful had ever happened to her, nothing causal even remotely large enough or shocking enough to explain how his daughter could be the bomber.Five years pa.s.s. Angela Davis, a black philosophy professor of about Rita Cohen's age--born in Alabama in 1944, eight years before the birth in New Jersey of the Rimrock Bomber--a Communist professor at UCLA who is against the war, istried in San Francisco for kidnapping, murder, and conspiracy. She is charged with supplying guns used in an armed attempt to free three black San Quentin convicts during their trial. A shotgun that killed the trial judge is said to have been purchased by her only days before the courthouse battle. For two months she lived underground, dodging the FBI, until she was apprehended in New York and extradited to California. All around the world, as far away as France and Algeria and the Soviet Union, her supporters claim that she is the victim of a political frame-up. Everywhere she is transported by the police as a prisoner, blacks and whites are waiting in the nearby streets, holding up placards for the TV cameras and shouting, "Free Angela! End political repression! End racism! End the war!"Her hair reminds the Swede of Rita Cohen. Every time he sees157.

that bush encircling her head he is reminded of what he should have done that afternoon in the hotel. He should not have let her get away from him, no matter what.Now he watches the news to see Angela Davis. He reads everything he can about her. He knows that Angela Davis can get him to his daughter. He remembers how, when Merry was still at home, he went into her room one Sat.u.r.day when she was off in New York, opened the bottom drawer of the dresser and, seated at her desk, read through everything in there, all that political stuff, the pamphlets, the paperbacks, the mimeographed booklets with the satiric cartoons. There was a copy of The Communist Manifesto. Where did she get that? Not in Old Rimrock. Who was supplying her with all this literature? Bill and Melissa. These weren't just diatribes against the war--they were written by people wanting to overthrow capitalism and the U.S. government, people screaming for violence and revolution. It was awful for him to come upon pa.s.sages that, being the good student she was, she had neatly underlined, but he could not stop reading . . .

and now he believes he can remember something in that drawer written by Angela Davis. There was no way of his knowing for sure because the FBI had confiscated it all, put all those publications into evidence bags, sealed them, and removed them from the house. They had dusted her room, looking for a solid set of fingerprints that they could use to match up with anything incriminating. They collected the household phone bills to trace Merry's calls. They searched her room for hiding places: pried up floorboards from beneath her rug, removed wainscoting from the walls, took the globe off the ceiling light--they went through the clothes in her closet, looking for things hidden in the sleeves.

After the bombing, the state police stopped all traffic on Arcady Hill Road, closed off the area, and twelve FBI agents spent sixteen hours combing the house from the attic to the bas.e.m.e.nt; when finally, in the kitchen, they searched the dustbag of the vacuum cleaner for "papers," Dawn had let out a scream. And all because of Merry's reading Karl Marx and Angela Davis! Yes, now he remembers clearly sitting at Merry's desk trying to read Angela158.

Davis himself, working at it, wondering how his child did it, thinking, Reading this stuff is like deep-sea diving. It's like being in an Aqua-Lung with the window right up against your face and the air in your mouth and no place to go, no place to move, no place to put a crowbar and escape. It's like reading those tiny pamphlets and ill.u.s.trated holy cards about the saints that the old lady Dwyer used to give her in Elizabeth. Luckily the child outgrew them, but for a while, whenever she misplaced her fountain pen, she'd pray to St. Anthony, and whenever she thought she hadn't studied enough for a test, she prayed to St.

Jude, and whenever her mother made her spend a Sat.u.r.day morning cleaning up hermessy room, she prayed to St. Joseph, the patron saint of laborers. Once when she was nine and some diehards down at Cape May reported that the Virgin Mary appeared to their children in their barbecue and people flocked in from miles around and kept vigil in their yard, Merry was fascinated, perhaps less by the mystery of the Virgin's appearance in New Jersey than by a child's having been singled out to see her. "I wish I could see that," she told her father, and she told him about how apparitions of the Virgin Mary had appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima, in Portugal, and he nodded and held his tongue, though when her grandfather got wind of the Cape May vision from his granddaughter, he said to her, "I guess next they'll see her at the Dairy Queen," a remark Merry repeated down in Elizabeth. Grandma Dwyer then prayed to St. Anne to help Merry stay Catholic despite her upbringing, but in a couple of years saints and prayer had disappeared from Merry's life; she stopped wearing the Miraculous Medal, with the impression on it of the Blessed Virgin, which she had sworn to Grandma Dwyer to wear "perpetually" without even taking it off to bathe. She outgrew the saints just as she would have outgrown the Communism. And she would have outgrown it--Merry outgrew everything. It was merely a matter of months. Maybe weeks and the stuff in that drawer would have been completely forgotten. All she had to do was wait. If only she could have waited. That was Merry's story in a nutsh.e.l.l. She was impatient. She was always impatient. Maybe it was the159.

stuttering that made her impatient, I don't know. But whatever it was she was pa.s.sionate about, she was pa.s.sionate for a year, she did it in a year, and then she got rid of it overnight. Another year and she would have been ready for college. And by then she would have found something new to hate and new to love, something new to be intense about, and that would have been that.At the kitchen table one night Angela Davis appears to the Swede, as Our Lady of Fatima did to those children in Portugal, as the Blessed Virgin did down in Cape May. He thinks, Angela Davis can get me to her--and there she is. Alone in the kitchen at night the Swede begins to have heart-to-heart talks with Angela Davis, at first about the war, then about everything important to both of them.

As he envisions her, she has long lashes and wears large hoop earrings and is more beautiful even than she looks on television. Her legs are long and she wears colorful minidresses to expose them. The hair is extraordinary. She peers defiantly out of it like a porcupine. The hair says, "Do not approach if you don't like pain."He tells her whatever she wants to hear, and whatever she tells him he believes.

He has to. She praises his daughter, whom she calls "a soldier of freedom, a pioneer in the great struggle against repression." He should take pride in her political boldness, she says. The antiwar movement is an anti-imperialist movement, and by lodging a protest in the only way America understands, Merry, at sixteen, is in the forefront of the movement, a Joan of Arc of the movement.

His daughter is the spearhead of the popular resistance to a fascist government and its terrorist suppression of dissent. What she did was criminal only inasmuch as it is defined as criminal by a state that is itself criminal and will commit ruthless aggression anywhere in the world to preserve the unequal distribution of wealth and the oppressive inst.i.tutions of cla.s.s domination. The disobedience of oppressive laws, she explains to him, including violent disobedience, goes back to abolitionism--his daughter is one with John Brown!Merry's was not a criminal act but a political act in the power struggle between the counterrevolutionary fascists and the forces of160.

resistance--blacks, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, Indians, draft resist-ers, antiwar activists, heroic white kids like Merry herself, working, either by legal means or by what Angela calls extralegal means, to overthrow the capitalist-inspired police state. And he should not fear for her fugitive life--Merry is not alone, she is part of an army of eighty thousand radical young people who have gone underground the better to fight the social wrongs fostered by an oppressive politico-economic order. Angela tells him that everything he has heard about Communism is a lie. He must go to Cuba if he wants to see a social order that has abolished racial injustice and the exploitation of labor and is in harmony with the needs and aspirations of its people.Obediently he listens. She tells him that imperialism is a weapon used by wealthy whites to pay black workers less for their work, and that's when he seizes the opportunity to tell her about the black forelady, Vicky, thirty years with Newark Maid, a tiny woman of impressive wit, stamina, and honesty, with twin sons, Newark Rutgers graduates, Donny and Blaine, both of them now in medical school. He tells her how Vicky alone stayed with him in the building, round the clock, during the '67 riots. On the radio, the mayor's office was advising everyone to get out of the city immediately, but he had stayed, because he thought that by being there he could perhaps protect the building from the vandals and also for the reason that people stay when a hurricane hits, because they cannot leave behind the things they cherish. For something like that reason, Vicky stayed.In order to appease any rioters who might be heading from South Orange Avenue with their torches, Vicky had made signs and stuck them where they would be visible, in Newark Maid's first-floor windows, big white cardboard signs in black ink: "Most of this factory's employees are negroes." Two nights later every window with a sign displayed in it was shot out by a band of white guys, either vigilantes from north Newark or, as Vicky suspected, Newark cops in an unmarked car. They shot the windows out and drove away, and that was the total damage done to the Newark 161 .

Maid factory during the days and nights when Newark was on fire. And he tells this to St. Angela.A platoon of the young National Guardsmen who were on Bergen Street to seal off the riot zone had camped out back by the Newark Maid loading dock on the second day of fighting, and when he and Vicky went down with hot coffee, Vicky talked to each of them--uniformed kids, in helmets and boots, conspicuously armed with knives and rifles and bayonets, white country boys up from south Jersey who were scared out of their wits. Vicky told them, "Think before you shoot into somebody's window! These aren't 'snipers'! These are people! These are good people! Think!" The Sat.u.r.day afternoon the tank sat out in front of the factory-- and the Swede, seeing it there, could at last phone Dawn to tell her, "We'll make it"--Vicky had gone up and knocked on the lid with her fists until they opened up. "Don't go nuts!" she shouted at the soldiers inside. "Don't go crazy!

People have to live here when you're gone! This place is their home!" There'd been a lot of criticism afterward of Governor Hughes for sending in tanks, but not from the Swede--those tanks put a stop to what could have been total disaster. Though this he does not say to Angela.For the two worst, most terrifying days, Friday and Sat.u.r.day, July 14 and 15, 1967, while he kept in touch with the state police on a walkie-talkie and with his father on the phone, Vicky would not desert him. She told him, "This is mine too. You just own it." He tells Angela how he knew the way things worked between Vicky and his family, knew it was an old and lasting relationship, knew how close they all were, but he had never properly understood that her devotion to Newark Maid was no less than his. He tells Angela how, after the riots, afterliving under siege with Vicky at his side, he was determined to stand alone and not leave Newark and abandon his black employees. He does not, of course, tell her that he wouldn't have hesitated--and wouldn't still--to pick up and move were it not for his fear that, if he should join the exodus of businesses not yet burned down, Merry would at last have her airtight case against 162 .

him. Victimizing black people and the working cla.s.s and the poor solely for self-gain, out of filthy greed!In the idealistic slogans there was no reality, not a drop of it, andI yet what else could he do? He could not provide his daughter withI the justification for doing something crazy. So he stayed in Newark, and after the riots Merry did something crazier than crazy. TheI Newark riots, then the Vietnam War; the city, then the entire country, and that took care of the Seymour Levovs of Arcady Hill Road. First the one colossal blow--seven months later, in February '68,I the devastation of the next. The factory under siege, the daughter atlarge, and that took care of their future.On top of everything else, after the sniper fire ended and the flames were extinguished and twenty-one Newarkers were counted dead by gunfire and the National Guard was withdrawn and Merry had disappeared, the quality of the Newark Maid line began to fallI off because of negligence and indifference on the part of his employees, a marked decline in workmanship that had the effect of sabotage even if he couldn't call it that. He does not tell Angela, for all that he is tempted to, about the struggle his decision to stay on in Newark has precipitated between himself and his own father; might only antagonize her against Lou Levov and deter her fromleading them to Merry."What we've got now," his father argued each time he flew upI from Florida to plead with his son to get the h.e.l.l out before a second riot destroyed the rest of the city, "is that every step of the way we're no longer making one step, we're making two, three, and four steps. Every step of the way you have got to go back a step to get it cut again, to get it st.i.tched again, and n.o.body is doing a day's work and n.o.body is doing it right. A whole business is going down the drain because of that son of a b.i.t.c.h LeRoi Jones, that Peek-A- Boo-Boopy-Do, whatever the h.e.l.l he calls himself in that G.o.dd.a.m.n hat. I built this with my hands! With my blood! They think somebody gave it to me? Who? Who gave it to me? Who gave me anything, ever? n.o.body! What I have I built! With work--w-o-r-k! But they took that city and now they are going to take that business 163 .

and everything that I built up a day at a time, an inch at a time, and they are going to leave it all in ruins! And that'll do 'em a world of good! They burn down their own houses--that'll show whitey! Don't fix 'em up--burn 'em down. Oh,that'll do wonders for a man's black pride--a totally ruined city to live in! A great city turned into a total nowhere! They're just going to love living in that! And I hired 'em! How's that for a laugh? / hired 'em! 'You're nuts, Levov'--this is what my friends in the steam room used to tell me--'What are you hiring schvartzes for? You won't get gloves, Levov, you'll get dreck.' But I hired 'em, treated them like human beings, kissed Vicky's a.s.s for twenty-five years, bought all the girls a Thanksgiving turkey every G.o.dd.a.m.n Thanksgiving, came in every morning with my tongue hanging out of my mouth so I could lick their a.s.ses with it. 'How is everybody,' I said, 'how are we all, my time is yours, I don't want you complaining to anybody but me, here at this desk isn't just a boss, here is your ally, your buddy, your friend.' And the party I gave for Vicky's twins when they graduated? And what a j.e.r.k.-.o.f.f. I was. Am. To this day! I'm by the pool and my wonderful friends look up from the paper and they tell me they ought to take the schvartzes and line 'em up and shoot 'em, and I'm the one who has to remind them that's what Hitler did to the Jews. And you know what they tell me, as an answer? 'How can you compare schvartzes to Jews?' They are telling me to shoot the schvartzes and I am hollering no, and meanwhile I'm the one whose business they are ruining because they cannot make a glove that fits. Bad cutting, the stretch is wrong--the glove won't even go on. Careless people, careless, and it is inexcusable. One operation goes wrong, the whole operation is spoiled all the way through, and, still, when I am arguing with these fascist b.a.s.t.a.r.ds, Seymour, Jewish men, men of my age who have seen what I've seen, who should know better a million times over, when I am arguing with them, I am arguing against what I should be arguing forr "Well, sometimes you wind up doing that," the Swede said. "Why? Tell me why!" "I suppose out of conscience." "Conscience? Where is theirs,164.

the schvartzes' conscience? Where is their conscience after working for me for twenty-five years?"Whatever it cost him to deny his father relief from his suffering, stubbornly to defy the truth of what his father was saying, the Swede could not submit to the old man's arguments, for the simple reason that if Merry were to learn--and she would, through Rita Cohen, if Rita Cohen actually had anything to do with her-- that Newark Maid had fled the Central Avenue factory she would be all too delighted to think, "He did it! He's as rotten as the rest! My own father!

Everything justified by the profit principle! Everything! Newark's just a black colony for my own father. Exploit it and exploit it and then, when there's trouble, f.u.c.k it!"These thoughts and thoughts even stupider--engendered in her by the likes of The Communist Manifesto--would surely foreclose any chance of ever seeing her again.

Despite all that he could tell Angela Davis that might favorably influence her about his refusal to desert Newark and his black employees, he knows that the personal complications of that decision could not begin to conform to the utter otherworldliness of the ideal of St. Angela, and so he decides instead to explain to a vision that he is one of two white trustees (this is not true--the father of a friend is the trustee) of an antipov-erty organization that meets regularly in Newark to promote the city's comeback, which (also not true--how could it be?) he still believes in. He tells Angela that he attends evening meetings all over Newark despite his wife's fears. He is trying to do everything he can for the liberation of her people. He reminds himself to repeat these words to her every night: the liberation of the people, America's black colonies, the inhumanity of the society, embattled humanity.He does not tell Angela that his daughter is childishly boasting, lying in order to impress her, that his daughter knows nothing about dynamite or revolution, that these are just words to her and she blurts them out to make herself feel powerful despite her speech impediment. No, Angela is the person who knows Merry's whereabouts, and if Angela has come to him like this, it's no mere165.

friendly visit. Why would Angela Davis drop out of nowhere into the Levovs' Old Rimrock kitchen at midnight every single night if she weren't the revolutionary leader a.s.signed to looking after his daughter's well-being? What's in it for her otherwise--why else would she keep coming back?So he says to her yes, his daughter is a soldier of freedom, yes, he is proud, yes, everything he has heard about Communism is a lie, yes, the United States is concerned solely with making the world safe for business and keeping the have- nots from encroaching on the haves--yes, the United States is responsible for oppression everywhere. Everything is justified by her cause, Huey Newton's cause, Bobby Seale's cause, George Jackson's cause, Merry Levov's cause.

Meanwhile he mentions Angela's name to no one, certainly not to Vicky, who thinks Angela Davis is a troublemaker and who says as much to the girls at work.

Alone then and in secret he prays--ardently prays to G.o.d, to Jesus, to anyone, to the Blessed Virgin, to St. Anthony, St. Jude, St. Anne, St. Joseph--for Angela's acquittal. And when it happens he is jubilant. She is free! But he does not send her the letter that he sits up writing in the kitchen that night, nor does he some weeks later when Angela, in New York, behind a four-sided shield of bulletproof gla.s.s and before fifteen thousand exultant supporters, demands the freedom of political prisoners deprived of due process and unjustly imprisoned.

Free the Rimrock Bomber! Free my daughter! Free her, please! cries the Swede. "I think it's about time," Angela says, "for all of us to begin to teach the rulers of this country a few lessons," and yes, cries the Swede, yes, it is about time, a socialist revolution in the United States of America! But nonetheless he remains alone at his kitchen table because he still cannot do anything that he should do or believe anything that he should believe or even know any longer what it is he does believe. Did she do it or didn't she do it? He should have f.u.c.ked Rita Cohen, if only to find out--f.u.c.ked the conniving little s.e.xual terrorist until she was his slave! Until she took him to the hideout where they made the bombs! If you want to see your daughter as much as you say, you'll just calm down and come 166 .

over here and give Rita Cohen a nice big f.u.c.k. He should have looked at her c.u.n.t and tasted it and f.u.c.ked her. Is that what any father would have done? If he would do anything for Merry, why not that? Why did he run?And this is just a part of what is meant by "Five years pa.s.s." A very tiny part.

Everything he reads or sees or hears has a single significance. Nothing is impersonally perceived. For one whole year he cannot go into the village without seeing where the general store used to be. To buy a newspaper or a quart of milk or a tank of gas he has to drive almost clear into Morristown, and so does everybody else in Old Rimrock. The same to buy a stamp. Basically the village is one street. Going east there is the new Presbyterian church, a white pseudocolonial building that doesn't look like much of anything and that replaced the old Presbyterian church that burned to the ground in the twenties.

Just a little ways from the church are The Oaks, a pair of two-hundred-year-old oak trees that are the town's pride. Some thirty yards beyond The Oaks is the old blacksmith shop that was converted, just before Pearl Harbor, into the Home Shop, where local women go to buy wallpaper and lampshades and decorative knicknacks and to get advice from Mrs. Fowler about interior decorating. Down at the far end of the street is the auto-repair garage run by Perry Hamlin, a hard- drinking cousin of Russ Hamlin's who also canes chairs, and then beyond that,encompa.s.sing some five hundred acres, is the rolling terrain of the dairy farm owned and worked by Paul Hamlin, who is Perry's younger brother. Hills like these where Hamlins have farmed now for close to two hundred years run northeast to southwest, in a thirty- or forty-mile-wide swath, crossing north Jersey at around Old Rimrock, a range of small hills that continue up into New York to become the Catskills and from there all the way up to Maine.Diagonally across from where the store used to be is the yellow-stuccoed six- room schoolhouse. Before they sent her to the Mon-tessori school and then on to Morristown High, Merry had been a 167 .

pupil there for the first four grades. Every kid who goes there now sees every day where the store used to be, as do their teachers, as do their parents when they drive into the village. The Community Club meets at the school, they hold their chicken suppers there, people vote there, and everybody who drives up there and sees where the store used to be thinks about the explosion and the good man it killed, thinks about the girl who set off the explosion, and, with varying degrees of sympathy or of contempt, thinks about her family. Some people are overly friendly; others, he knows, try their best to avoid running into him.

He receives anti-Semitic mail. It is so vile it sickens him for days on end. He overhears things. Dawn overhears things. "Lived here all my life. Never saw anything like this before." "What can you expect? They have no business being out here to begin with." "I thought they were nice people, but you never know."

An editorial from the local paper, recording the tragedy and commemorating Dr.

Conlon, is thumbtacked to the Community Club bulletin board and hangs there, right out by the street. There is no way that the Swede can take it down, much as he would like to, for Dawn's sake at least. You would think that what with exposure to the rain and the wind and the sun and the snow the thing would rot away in a matter of weeks, but it not only remains intact but is almost completely legible for one whole year. The editorial is called "Dr. Fred." "We live in a society where violence is becoming all too prevalent ... we do not know why and we may never understand . . . the anger that all of us feel.. . our hearts go out to the victim and his family, to the Hamlins, and to an entire community that is trying to understand and to cope with what has happened ... a remarkable man and a wonderful physician who touched all our lives ... a special fund in memory of 'Doctor Fred' ... to contribute to this memorial, which will help indigent local families in time of medical need ... in this time of grief, we must rededicate ourselves, in his memory. . . ." Alongside the editorial is an article headlined "Distance Heals All Wounds," which begins, "We'd all just as soon forget. . ." and continues, ". . . that soothing distance will come quicker to some than others. ... The Rev. Peter 168 .

Baliston of the First Congregational Church, in his sermon, sought to find some good in all the tragedy . . . will bring the community closer together in a shared sorrow.... The Rev. James Viering of St. Patrick's Church gave an impa.s.sioned homily...." Beside that article is a third clipping, one that has no business being there, but he cannot tear that one down any more than he can go ahead and tear down the others, so it, too, hangs there for a year. It is the interview with Edgar Bartley--both the interview and the picture of Edgar from the paper, showing him standing in front of his family's house with a shovel and his dog and behind him the path to the house freshly cleared of snow. Edgar Bartley is the boy from Old Rimrock who'd taken Merry to the movies in Morristown some two years before the bombing. He was a year ahead of her at the high school, a boy as tall as Merry and, as the Swede remembered him, nice enough looking though terrifically shy and a bit of an oddball. The newspaperstory describes him as Merry's boyfriend at the time of the bombing, though as far as her parents knew, Merry's date with Edgar Bartley two years earlier was the one and only date she'd ever had with him or with anyone. Whatever, someone has underlined in black all the quotations attributed to Edgar. Maybe a friend of his did it as a joke, a high school joke. Maybe the article with the photograph was hung there as a joke in the first place. Joke or not, there it remains, month after month, and the Swede cannot get rid of it. "It doesn't seem real.... I never thought she would do something like this. ... I knew her as a very nice girl. I never heard her say anything vicious. I'm sure something snapped. ... I hope they find her so that she can get the help that she needs.

... I always thought of Old Rimrock as a place where nothing can happen to you.

But now I'm like everybody, I'm looking over my shoulder. It's going to take time before things return to normal. . . . I'm just moving on. I have to. I have to forget about it. Like nothing happened. But it's very sad."The only solace the Swede can take from the Community Club bulletin board is that no one has posted there the clipping whose headline reads "Suspected Bomber Is Described as Bright, Gifted 169 .

but with 'Stubborn Streak.'" That one he would have torn down. He would have had to go there in the middle of the night and just do it. This one article is no worse, probably, than any of the others that were appearing then, not just in their local weekly but in the New York papers--the Times, the Daily News, the Daily Mirror, the Post; in the Jersey dailies--the Newark News, the Newark Star- Ledger, the Morristown Record, the Bergen Record, the Trenton Times, the Pater- son News; in the nearby Pennsylvania papers--the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Bulletin, and the Easton Express; and in Time and Newsweek. Most of the papers and the wire services dropped the story after the first week, but the Newark News and the Morristown Record in particular wouldn't let up--the News had three star reporters on the case, and both papers were churning out their stories about the Rimrock Bomber every single day for weeks. The Record, with its local orientation, couldn't stop reminding its readers that the Rimrock bombing was the most shattering disaster in Morris County since the September 12, 1940, Hercules Powder Company explosion, some twelve miles away in Kenvil, when fifty-two people were killed and three hundred injured. There had been a murder of a minister and a choirmaster in the late twenties, down in Middles.e.x County, in a lane just outside New Brunswick, and in the Morris village of Brookside there had been a murder by an inmate who had walked off the grounds of the Greystone mental asylum, visited his uncle in Brookside, and split the man's head open with an ax--and these stories, too, are dug up and rehashed. And, of course, the Lindbergh kidnapping down in Hopewell, New Jersey, the abduction and murder of the infant son of Charles A. Lindbergh, the famous transatlantic aviator--that, too, the papers luridly recall, reprinting details over thirty years old about the ransom, the baby's battered corpse, the Flemington trial, reprinting newspaper excerpts from April 1936 about the electrocution of the convicted kidnapper-murderer, an immigrant carpenter named Bruno Hauptmann. Day after day, Merry Levov is mentioned in the context of the region's slender history of atrocities--her name several times appearing right alongside Hauptmann's--and170.I.

yet nothing of what's written wounds him as savagely as the story about her "stubborn streak" in the local weekly. There is something concealed there--yet implicit--a degree of provincial smugness, of simplemindedness, of sheerstupidity, that is so enraging to him that he could not have borne to see it hanging up for everybody to read and to shake their heads over at the Community Club bulletin board. Whatever Merry may or may not have done, he could not have allowed her life to be on display like that just outside the school.SUSPECTED BOMBER IS DESCRIBED.AS BRIGHT, GIFTED BUT WITH."STUBBORN STREAK".To her teachers at Old Rimrock Community School, Meredith "Merry" Levov, who allegedly bombed Hamlin's General Store and killed Old Rimrock's Dr. Fred Conlon, was known as a multi-talented child, an excellent student and somebody who never challenged authority. People looking to her childhood for some clue about her alleged violent act remained stymied when they remembered her as a cooperative girl full of energy."We are in disbelief," ORCS Princ.i.p.al Eileen Morrow said about the suspected bomber. "It is hard to understand why this happened."As a student at the six-room elementary school, Princ.i.p.al Morrow said, Merry Levov was "very helpful and never in trouble.""She's not the kind of person who would do that," Mrs. Morrow said. "At least not when we knew her here."At ORCS, Merry Levov had a straight A average and was involved in school activities, Mrs. Morrow said, and was well liked by both students and faculty."She was hard-working and enthusiastic and set very high standards for herself,"

Mrs. Morrow said. "Her teachers respected her as a quality student and her peers admired her."171.

At ORCS Merry Levov was a talented art student and a leader in team sports, particularly kickball. "She was just a normal kid growing up," Mrs. Morrow said.

"This is something we would never have dreamt could happen," the princ.i.p.al said.

"Unfortunately, n.o.body can see the future."Mrs. Morrow said that Meredith a.s.sociated with "model students" at the school, though she did show a "stubborn streak," for example, sometimes refusing to do school a.s.signments which she thought unnecessary.Others remembered the alleged bomber's stubborn streak, when she went on to become a student at Morris-town High School. Sally Curren, a 16-year-old cla.s.smate, described Meredith as someone with an att.i.tude she described as "arrogant and superior to everybody else."But 16-year-old Barbara Turner said Meredith "seemed nice enough, though she had her beliefs."Though Morristown High students asked about Merry had many different impressions, all the students who knew her agreed that she "talked a lot about the Vietnam war." Some students remembered her "lashing out in anger" if somebody else opposed her way of thinking about the presence of American troops in Vietnam.According to her homeroom teacher, Mr. William Pax-man, Meredith had been "working hard and doing well, A's or B's" and had expressed a strong interest in attending his alma mater, Penn State."If you mention her family, people say, "What a nice family,'" Mr. Paxman said.

"We just can't believe this has happened."The only ominous note about her activities came from one of the alleged bomber's teachers who has been interviewed by agents from the FBI. "They told me, 'We have received a great deal of information about Miss Levov."'For a year there is "where the store used to be." Then construction begins on a new store, and month after month he watches it172.

going up. One day a big red, white, and blue banner appears-- "Greatly Expanded!

New! New! New! McPherson's Store!"--announcing the grand opening on the Fourth of July. He has to sit Dawn down and tell her they are going to shop at the new store like everyone else and, though for a while it will not be easy for them, eventually... . But it is never easy. He cannot go into the new store without remembering the old store, even though the Russ Hamlins have retired and the new store is owned by a young couple from Easton who care nothing about the past and who, in addition to an expanded general store, have put in a bakery that turns out delicious cakes and pies as well as bread and rolls baked fresh every day.

At the back of the store, alongside the post office window, there is now a little counter where you can buy a cup of coffee and a fresh bun and sit and chat with your neighbor or read your paper if you want to. McPherson's is a tremendous improvement over Hamlin's, and soon everybody around seems to have forgotten their blown-up old-fashioned country store, except for the local Hamlins and for the Levovs. Dawn cannot go near the new place, simply refuses to go in there, while the Swede makes it his business, on Sat.u.r.day mornings, to sit at the counter with his paper and a cup of coffee, despite what anybody who sees him there may be thinking. He buys his Sunday paper there too. He buys his stamps there. He could bring stamps home from his office, could do all the family mailing in Newark, but he prefers to patronize the post office window at McPherson's and to linger there musing over the weather with young Beth McPherson the way he used to enjoy the same moment with Mary Hamlin, Russ's wife.That is the outer life. To the best of his ability, it is conducted just as it used to be. But now it is accompanied by an inner life, a gruesome inner life of tyrannical obsessions, stifled inclinations, superst.i.tious expectations, horrible imaginings, fantasy conversations, unanswerable questions.

Sleeplessness and self-castigation night after night. Enormous loneliness.

Unflagging remorse, even for that kiss when she was eleven and he was thirty-six and the two of them, in their wet bathing suits, were driving home together173.

from the Deal beach. Could that have done it? Could anythinghsve done it? Could nothing have done it?Kiss me the way you k-k-kiss umumumoiher.And in the everyday world, nothing to be done but respectably carry on the huge pretense of living as himself, with all the shame of masquerading as the ideal man.174.

1.

Sept. i, 1973 Dear Mr. Levov,Merry is working in the old dog and cat hospital on New Jersey Railroad Avenue in the Ironbound Section of Newark, 115 N.J. Railroad Avenue, five minutes from Penn Station. She is there every day. If you wait outside you can catch her leaving work and heading home just after four p.m. She doesn't know I'm writing this letter to you. I am at the breaking point and can't go on. I want to go away but I can leave her to no one. You have to take over. Though I warn you that if you tell her that it was from me that you discovered her whereabouts, you will be doing her serious harm. She is an incredible spirit. She has changed everything for me. I got into this over my head because I couldn't ever resist her power. That is too much to get into here. You must believe me when I tell you that I never said anything or did anything other than what Merry demanded me to say and to do. She is an overwhelming force. You and I were in the same boat.

I lied to her only once. That was about what happened at the hotel. If I had told her that you refused to make love with me she would have refused to take the money. She would have been back begging on the streets. I would never have made you suffer so if I hadn't the strength of my love for Merry to help me. To you that will175.

sound crazy. I am telling you it is so. Your daughter is divine. You cannot be in the presence of such suffering without succ.u.mbing to its holy power. You don't know what a n.o.body I was before I met Merry. I was headed for oblivion.

But I can't take anymore, you must not mention ME TO MERRY EXCEPT AS SOMEONE WHO TORMENTED YOU EXACTLY AS I DID. DO NOT MENTION THIS LETTER IF YOU CARE ABOUT.

MERRY'S SURVIVAL. You must take every precaution before getting to the hospital.

She could not survive the FBI. Her name is Mary Stoltz. She must be allowed to fulfill her destiny. We can only stand as witnesses to the anguish that sanctifies her.The Disciple Who Calls Herself "Rita Cohen"He could never root out the unexpected thing. The unexpected thing would be waiting there unseen, for the rest of his life ripening, ready to explode, just a millimeter behind everything else. The unexpected thing was the other side of everything else. He had already parted with everything, then remade everything, and now, when everything appeared to be back under his control, he was being incited to part with everything again. And if that should happen, the unexpected thing becoming the only thing ...Thing, thing, thing, thing--but what other word was tolerable? They could not be forever in bondage to this f.u.c.king thing! For five years he had been waiting for just such a letter--it had to come. Every night in bed he begged G.o.d to deliver it the following morning. And then, in this amazing transitional year, 1973, the year of Dawn's miracle, during these months when Dawn was giving herself over to designing the new house, he had begun to dread what he might find in the morning's mail or hear each time he picked up the phone. How could he allow the unexpected thing back into their lives now that Dawn had ruled out of their lives forever the improbability of what had happened? Leading his wife back to herself had been like flying them through a five-year storm. He had fulfilled every demand. To disentangle her from her horror, there 176 .

wasn't anything he had omitted to do. Life had returned to something like its recognizable proportions. Now tear the letter up and throw it away. Pretend it never arrived.Because Dawn had twice been hospitalized in a clinic near Princeton for suicidal depression, he had come to accept that the damage was permanent and that she would be able to function only under the care of psychiatrists and by taking sedatives and an anti-depressant medication--that she would be in and out of psychiatric hospitals and that he would be visiting her in those places for the rest of their lives. He imagined that once or twice a year he would find himself sitting at the side of her bed in a room where there were no locks on the door.

There would be flowers he'd sent her in a vase on the writing desk; on a windowsill, the ivy plants he'd brought from her study, thinking it might help her to care for something; on the bedside table framed photographs of himself and Merry and Dawn's parents and brother. At the side of the bed he himself would be holding her hand while she sat propped up against the pillows in her Levi's and a big turtleneck sweater and wept. "I'm frightened, Seymour. I'm frightened all the time." He would sit patiently there beside her whenever she began to tremble and he would tell her to just breathe, slowly breathe in and out and think of the most pleasant place on earth that she knew of, imagine herself in the most wonderfully calming place in the entire world, a tropical beach, a beautiful mountain, a holiday landscape from her childhood . . . and he would do this even when the trembling was brought on by a tirade aimed at him.

Sitting up on the bed, with her arms crossed in front of her as though to warm herself, she would hide the whole of her body inside the sweater--turn the sweater into a tent by extending the turtleneck up over her chin, stretching the back under her b.u.t.tocks, and drawing the front across her bent knees, down over her legs, and beneath her feet. Often she sat tented like that all the time he was there. "You know when I was in Princeton last? I do! I was invited by the governor. To his mansion. Here, to Princeton, to his mansion. I had dinner at the governor's mansion. I was >twenty-two--in an evening gown and177.

scared to death. His chauffeur drove me from Elizabeth and I danced in my crown with the governor of New Jersey--so how did this happen? How have I wound up here? You, that's how! You wouldn't leave me alone! Had to have me! Had to marry me! I just wanted to become a teacher! That's what I wanted. I had the job. I had it waiting. To teach kids music in the Elizabeth system, and to be left alone by boys, and that was it. I never wanted to be Miss America! I never wanted to marry anyone! But you wouldn't let me breathe--you wouldn't let me out of your sight. All I ever wanted was my college education and that job. I should never have left Elizabeth! Never! Do you know what Miss New Jersey did for my life? It ruined it. I only went after the d.a.m.n scholarship so Danny could go to college and my father wouldn't have to pay. Do you think if my father didn't have the heart attack I would have entered for Miss Union County? No! I just wanted to win the money so Danny could go to college without the burden on my dad! I didn't do it for boys to go traipsing after me everywhere--I was trying to help out at home! But then you arrived. You! Those hands! Those shoulders!

Towering over me with your jaw! This huge animal I couldn't get rid of. You wouldn't leave me be! Every time I looked up, there was my boyfriend, gaga because I was a ridiculous beauty queen! You were like some kid! You had to make me into a princess. Well, look where I have wound up! In a madhouse! Your princess is in a madhouse!"For years to come she would be wondering how what happened to her could have happened to her and blaming him for it, and he would be bringing her food she liked, fruit and candy and cookies, in the hope that she might eat something aside from bread and water, and bringing her magazines in the hope that she might be able to concentrate on reading for even just half an hour a day, andbringing clothes that she could wear around the hospital grounds to accommodate to the weather when the seasons changed. At nine o'clock every evening, he would put away in her dresser whatever he'd brought for her, and he would hold her and kiss her good-bye, hold her and tell her he'd be seeing her the next night after work, 178 .

and then he would drive the hour in the dark back to Old Rimrock remembering the terror in her face when, fifteen minutes before visiting hours were to end, the nurse put her head in the door to kindly tell Mr. Levov that it was almost time for him to go.The next night she'd be angry all over again. He had swayed her from her real ambitions. He and the Miss America Pageant had put her off her program. On she went and he couldn't stop her. Didn't try. What did any of what she said have to do with why she was suffering? Everybody knew that what had broken her was quite enough in itself and that what she said had no bearing on anything. That first time she was in the hospital, he simply listened and nodded, and strange as it was to hear her going angrily on about an adventure that at the time he was certain she couldn't have enjoyed more, he sometimes wondered if it wasn't better for her to identify what had happened to her in 1949, not what had happened to her in 1968, as the problem at hand. "All through high school people were telling me, 'You should be Miss America.' I thought it was ridiculous.

Based on what should I be Miss America? I was a clerk in a dry-goods store after school and in the summer, and people would come up to my cash register and say, 'You should be Miss America.' I couldn't stand it. I couldn't stand when people said I should do things because of the way that I looked. But when I got a call from the Union County pageant to come to that tea, what could I do? I was a baby. I thought this was a way for me to kick in a little money so my father wouldn't have to work so hard. So I filled out the application and I went, and after all the other girls left, that woman put her arm around me and she told all her neighbors, 'I want you to know that you've just spent the afternoon with the next Miss America.' I thought, 'This is all so silly. Why do people keep saying these things to me? I don't want to be doing this.' And when I won Miss Union County, people were already saying to me, 'We'll see you in Atlantic City'--people who know what they're talking about saying I'm going to win this thing, so how could I back out? I couldn't. The whole front page of the Elizabeth Journal was about me winning Miss Union County. I was mortified. I was. I thought179.

somehow I could keep it all a secret and just win the money. I was a baby! I was sure at least I wasn't going to win Miss New Jersey, I was positive. I looked around and there was this sea of good-looking girls and they all knew what to do, and I didn't know anything. They knew how to use hair rollers and put false eyelashes on, and I couldn't roll my hair right until I was halfway through my Miss New Jersey year. I thought, 'Oh, my G.o.d, look at their makeup,' and they had beautiful wardrobes and I had a prom dress and borrowed clothes, and so I was convinced there was no way I could ever win. I was so introverted. I was so unpolished. But I won again. And then they were coaching me on how to sit and how to stand, even how to listen--they sent me to a model agency to learn how to walk. They didn't like the way I walked. I didn't care how I walked--I walked! I walked well enough to become Miss New Jersey, didn't I? If I don't walk well enough to become Miss America, the h.e.l.l with it! But you have to glide. No! I will walk the way I walk! Don't swing your arms too much, but don't hold them stiffly at your side. All these little tricks of the trade to make me so self- conscious I could barely move! To land not on your heels but on the b.a.l.l.s ofyour feet--this is the kind of thing I went through. If I can just drop out of this thing! How can I back out of this thing? Leave me alone! All of you leave me alone! I never wanted this in the first place! Do you see why I married you?

Now do you understand? One reason only! I wanted something that seemed normal!

So desperately after that year, I wanted something normal! How I wish it had never happened! None of it! They put you up on a pedestal, which I didn't ask for, and then they rip you off it so d.a.m.n fast it can blind you! And I did not ask for any of it! I had nothing in common with those other girls. I hated them and they hated me. Those tall girls with their big feet! None of them gifted.

All of them so chummy! I was a serious . music student! All I wanted was to be left alone and not to have that G.o.dd.a.m.n crown sparkling like crazy up on top of my head! I never wanted any of it! Never!"It was a great help to him, driving home after one of those visits, to remember her as the girl she had really been back then, who, as 180 .

he recalled it, was nothing like the girl she portrayed as herself in those tirades. During the week in September of 1949 leading up to the Miss America Pageant, when she called Newark every night from the Dennis Hotel to tell him about what happened to her that day as a Miss America contestant, what radiated from her voice was sheer delight in being herself. He'd never heard her like that before--it was almost frightening, this undisguised exulting in being where she was and who she was and what she was. Suddenly life existed rapturously and for Dawn Dwyer alone. The surprise of this new and uncharacteristic immoderation even made him wonder if, when the week was over, she could ever again be content with Seymour Levov. And suppose she should win. What chance would he have against all the men who set their sights on marrying Miss America? Actors would be after her. Millionaires would be after her. They'd flock to her--the new life opening up to her could attract a host of powerful new suitors and wind up excluding him. Nonetheless, as the current suitor, he was spellbound by the prospect of Dawn's winning; the more real a possibility it was, the more reasons he had to flush and perspire.They would talk long distance for as long as an hour at a time-- she was too excited to sleep, even though she had been on the go since breakfast, which she'd eaten in the dining room with her chaperone, just the two of them at the table, the chaperone a large local woman in a small hat, Dawn wearing her Miss New Jersey sash pinned to her suit and, on her hands, white kid gloves, tremendously expensive gloves, a present to her from Newark Maid, where the Swede was beginning his training to take over the business. All the girls wore the same style of white kid glove, four-b.u.t.ton in length, up over the wrist.

Dawn alone had got hers for nothing, along with a second pair of gloves--opera length, in black, Newark Maid's formal, sixteen-b.u.t.ton kid glove (a small fortune at Saks), the table-cut workmanship as expert as anything from Italy or France--and, in addition, a third pair of gloves, above the elbow, custom made to match her evening gown. The Swede had asked Dawn for a yard of fabric the same as her gown, and a friend of the 181 .

family's who did fabric gloves made them for Dawn as a courtesy to Newark Maid.

Three times a day, seated across from the chaperones in the small hats, the girls, with their beautiful, nicely combed hair and neat, nice dresses and four- b.u.t.ton gloves, attempted to have a meal, something of each course, at least, between giving autographs to all the people in the dining room who came over to gawk and to say where they were from. Because Dawn was Miss New Jersey and the hotel guests were in New Jersey, she was the most popular girl by far, and soshe had to say a kind word to everyone and smile and sign autographs and still try to get something to eat. "This is what you have to do," she told him on the phone, "this is why they give you the free room."When she arrived at the train station, they'd put her in a little convertible, a Nash Rambler, that had her name and her state on it, and her chaperone was in the convertible too. Dawn's chaperone was the wife of a local real-estate dealer, and everywhere Dawn went the chaperone was sure to go--in the car with her when she got in, and out of the car with her when she got out. "She does not leave my side, Seymour. You don't see a man the whole time except the judges.

You can't even talk to one. A few boyfriends are here. Some are even nances. But what's the sense? The girls aren't allowed to see them. There's a book of rules so long I can hardly read through it. 'Members of the male s.e.x are not permitted to talk to contestants except in the presence of their hostesses. At no time is a contestant permitted to enter a c.o.c.ktail lounge or partake of an intoxicating beverage. Other rules include no padding--'" The Swede laughed. "Uh-oh." "Let me finish, Seymour--it just goes on and on. 'No one is permitted an interview with a contestant without her hostess present to protect her interests....'"Not just Dawn but all the girls got the little Nash Rambler convertibles--though not to keep. You got to keep it only if you became Miss America. Then it would be the car from which you waved to the capacity crowd when you were driven around the edge of the field at the most famous of college football games. The182.

pageant was pushing the Rambler because American Motors was one of the sponsors.There had been a box of Fralinger's Original salt.w.a.ter taffy in the room when she arrived, and a bouquet of roses; everybody got both, compliments of the hotel, but Dawn's roses never opened, and the rooms the girls got--at least the girls put up at Dawn's hotel--were small, ugly, and at the back. But the hotel itself, as Dawn excitedly described it, at Boardwalk and Michigan Avenue, was one of the sw.a.n.ky ones where every afternoon they had a proper tea with little sandwiches and croquet was played on the lawn by the paying guests, who rightly enough got the big, beautiful rooms and the ocean views. Every night she'd come back exhausted to the ugly back room with the faded wallpaper, check to see if the roses had opened, and then phone to answer his questions about her chances.She was one of four or five girls whose photographs kept appearing in the papers, and everybody said that one of these girls had to win--the New Jersey pageant people were sure they had a winner, especially when the photographs of her popped up every morning. "I hate to let them down," she told him. "You're not going to. You're going to win," he told her. "No, this girl from Texas is going to win. I know it. She's so pretty. She has a round face. She has a dimple. Not a beauty but very, very cute. And a great figure. I'm scared to death of her. She's from some tacky little town in Texas and she tap-dances and she's the one." "Is she in the papers with you?" "Always. She's one of the four or five always. I'm there because it's Atlantic City and I'm Miss New Jersey and the people on the boardwalk see me in my sash and they go nuts, but that happens to Miss New Jersey every year. And she never wins. But Miss Texas is there in those papers, Seymour, because she's going to win."Earl Wilson, the famous syndicated newspaper columnist, was one of the ten judges, and when he heard that Dawn was from Elizabeth he was reported to have said to someone at the float parade, in which Dawn had ridden along the boardwalk with two183.

other girls on the float of her hotel, that Elizabeth's longtime mayor, Joe Brophy, was one of his friends. Earl Wilson told someone who told someone who then told Dawn's chaperone. Earl Wilson and Joe Brophy were old friends--that was all Earl Wilson said, or was able to say in public, but Dawn's chaperone was sure he'd said it because after he'd seen Dawn in her evening gown on the float she'd become his candidate. "Okay," said the Swede, "one down, nine to go.

You're on your way, Miss America."All she talked about with her chaperone was who they thought her closest compet.i.tion was; apparently this was all any of the girls talked about with their chaperones and all they wound up talking about when they called home, even if, among themselves, they pretended to love one another. The southern girls in particular, Dawn told him, could really lay it on: "Oh, you're just so wonderful, your hair's so wonderful. . . ." The veneration of hair took some getting used to for a girl as down-to-earth as Dawn; you might almost think, from listening to the conversation among the other girls, that life's possibilities resided in hair--not in the hands of your destiny but in the hands of your hair.Together with the chaperones, they visited the Steel Pier and had a fish dinner at Captain Starn's famous seafood restaurant and yacht bar, and a steak dinner at Jack Guischard's Steak House, and the third morning they had their picture taken together in front of Convention Hall, where a pageant official told them the picture was one they would treasure for the rest of their lives, that the friendships they were making would last the rest of their lives, that they would keep up with one another for the rest of their lives, that when the time arrived they would name their children after one another--and meanwhile, when the papers came out in the morning, the girls said to their chaperones, "Oh G.o.d, I'm not in this. Oh G.o.d, this one looks like she's going to win."Every day there were rehearsals and every night for a week they gave a show.

Year after year people visited Atlantic City just for the Miss America contest and bought tickets for the nightly show and184.

came all dressed up to see the girls on the stage individually exhibiting their talent and performing as an ensemble in costumed musical numbers. The one other girl who played piano played "Clair de Lune" for her solo performance and so Dawn had to herself the much flashier number, the currently popular hit "Till the End of *' Time," a danceable arrangement of a Chopin polonaise. "I'm in show business. I don't stop all day. You don't have a moment. Because New Jersey's host state there's all this focus on me, and I don't want to let everybody down, I really don't, I couldn't bear it--" "You won't, Dawnie. Earl Wilson's in your pocket, and he's the most famous of all the judges. I feel it. I know it. You're going to win."But he was wrong. Miss Arizona won. Dawn didn't make it even into the top ten.

In those days the girls waited backstage while the dinners were announced. There was row after row of mirrors and ables lined up alphabetically by state, and Dawn was right in the liddle of everyone when the announcement was made, so she had i start smiling to beat the band and clapping like crazy because she had lost and then, to make matters worse, had to rush back onstage and march around with the other losers, singing along with MC Bob Russell the Miss America song of that era: "Every flower, every rose, stands up on her tippy toes . . . when Miss America marches by!" while a girl just as short and slight and dark as she was--little Jacque Mercer from Arizona, who won the swimsuit compet.i.tion but who Dawn never figured would win it all--took the crowd at Convention Hall by storm.

Afterward, at the farewell ball, though it was for Dawn a terrific letdown, she wasn't nearly as depressed as most of the others. The same thing she had beentold by the New Jersey pageant people they'd been told by their state pageant people: "You're going to make it. You're going to be Miss America." So the ball, she told him, was the saddest sight she'd ever seen. "You have to go and smile and it's awful," she said. "They have these people from the Coast Guard or wherever they're from--Annapolis. They have fancy white

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