American Pastoral Part 8

It won't work your way.""That's just the way it works.""She killed three other people. She has killed four people.""f.u.c.k the four people. What's the matter with you? You're acceding to her the way you acceded to your father, the way you have acceded to everything in your life.""She was raped. She's crazy, she's gone crazy. You just look at her and you know it. Twice she was raped.""What did you think was going to happen? You sound surprised.273.

Of course she got raped. Either get off your a.s.s and do something or she's going to get raped for a third time. Do you love her or don't you love her?""How can you ask that?""You force me to.""Please, not now, don't tear me down, don't undermine me. I love my daughter. I never loved anything more in the world.""As a thing.""What? What is that?""As a thing--you loved her as a f.u.c.king thing. The way you love your wife. Oh, if someday you could become conscious of why you are doing what you are doing. Do you know why? Do you have any idea? Because you're afraid of creating a bad scene! You're afraid of letting the beast out of the bag!""What are you talking about? What beast? What beast?" No, he is not expecting perfect consolation, but this attack--why is he launching this attack without even the pretext of consoling? Why, when he has just explained to Jerry how everything has turned out thousands and thousands of times worse than the worst they'd expected?"What are you? Do you know? What you are is you're always trying to smooth everything over. What you are is always trying to be moderate. What you are is never telling the truth if you think it's going to hurt somebody's feelings.

What you are is you're always compromising. What you are is always complacent.

What you are is always trying to find the bright side of things. The one with the manners. The one who abides everything patiently. The one with the ultimate decorum. The boy who never breaks the code. Whatever society dictates, you do.

Decorum. Decorum is what you spit in the face of. Well, your daughter spit in it for you, didn't she? Four people? Quite a critique she has made of decorum."If he hangs up, he will be alone in that hallway behind the man who is waiting behind the man who is down on the stairs tearing at Merry, he will be seeing everything he does not want to see, knowing everything he cannot stand to know.

He cannot sit there imag- 274 .

ining the rest of that story. If he hangs up, he will never know what Jerry has to say after he says all this stuff that he for some reason wants to say about the beast. What beast? All his relations with people are like this--it isn't an attack on me, it is Jerry. n.o.body can control him. He was born like this. I knew that before I called him. I've known it all my life. We do not live the same way. A brother who isn't a brother. I panicked. I am in a panic. This is panic.

I called the worst person to call in the world. This is a guy who wields a knife for a living. Remedies what is ailing with a knife. Cuts out what is rotting with a knife. I am on the ropes, I am dealing with something that n.o.body can deal with, and for him it's business as usual--he just keeps coming at me with his knife."I'm not the renegade," the Swede says. "I'm not the renegade-- you are.""No, you're not the renegade. You're the one who does everything right.""I don't follow this. You say that like an insult." Angrily he says, "What the h.e.l.l is wrong with doing things right?""Nothing. Nothing. Except that's what your daughter has been blasting away at all her life. You don't reveal yourself to people, Seymour. You keep yourself a secret. n.o.body knows what you are. You certainly never let her know who you are.

That's what she's been blasting away at--that facade. All your f.u.c.king norms.

Take a good look at what she did to your norms.""I don't know what you want from me. You've always been too smart for me. Is this your response? Is this it?""You win the trophy. You always make the right move. You're loved by everybody.

You marry Miss New Jersey, for G.o.d's sake. There's thinking for you. Why did you marry her? For the appearance. Why do you do everything? For the appearance!""I loved her! I opposed my own father I loved her so much!"Jerry is laughing. "Is that what you believe? You really think you stood up to him? You married her because you couldn't get out of it. Dad raked her over the coals in his office and you sat there and didn't say s.h.i.t. Well, isn't that true?"

"My daughter is in that room, Jerry. What is this all about?"But Jerry does not hear him. He hears only himself. Why is this Jerry's grand occasion to tell his brother the truth? Why does someone, in the midst of your worst suffering, decide the time has come to drive home, disguised in the form of character a.n.a.lysis, all the contempt they have been harboring for you for all these years? What in your suffering makes their superiority so fulsome, so capacious, makes the expression of it so enjoyable? Why this occasion for launching his protest at living in the shadow of me? Why, if he had to tell me all this, couldn't he have told it to me when I was feeling my oats? Why does he even believe he's in my shadow? Miami's biggest cardiac surgeon! The heart victim's savior, Dr. Levov!"Dad? He f.u.c.king let you slide through--don't you know that? If Dad had said, 'Look, you'll never get my approval for this, never, I am not having grandchildren half this and half that,' then you would have had to make a choice. But you never had to make a choice. Never. Because he let you slide through. Everybody has always let you slide through. And that is why, to this day, n.o.body knows who you are. You are unrevealed--that is the story, Seymour, unrevealed. That is why your own daughter decided to blow you away. You are never straight about anything and she hated you for it. You keep yourself a secret. You don't choose ever.""Why are you saying this? What do you want me to choose? What are we talking about?""You think you know what a man is? You have no idea what a man is. You think you know what a daughter is? You have no idea what a daughter is. You think you know what this country is? You have no idea what this country is. You have a false image of everything. All you know is what a f.u.c.king glove is. This country is frightening. Of course she was raped. What kind of company do you think she was keeping? Of course out there she was going to get raped. This isn't Old Rimrock, old buddy--she's out there, old buddy, in the USA. She enters that world, that loopy world out there, with what's going on out there--what do you expect? A kid from Rimrock, New Jersey, of course she doesn't know how to276.

behave out there, of course the s.h.i.t hits the fan. What could she know? She's like a wild child out there in the world. She can't get enough of it--she's still acting up. A room off McCarter Highway. And why not? Who wouldn't? You prepare her for life milking the cows? For what kind of life? Unnatural, all artificial, all of it. Those a.s.sumptions you live with. You're still in your old man's dreamworld, Seymour, still up there with Lou Levov in glove heaven. A household tyrannized by gloves, bludgeoned by gloves, the only thing in life--ladies'

gloves! Does he still tell the great one about the woman who sells the gloves washing her hands in a sink between each color? Oh where oh where is that outmoded America, that decorous America where a woman had twenty-five pairs of gloves? Your kid blows your norms to kingdom come, Seymour, and you still think you know what life is!"Life is just a short period of time in which we are alive. Meredith Levov, 1964."You wanted Miss America? Well, you've got her, with a vengeance--she's your daughter! You wanted to be a real American jock, a real American marine, a real American hotshot with a beautiful Gentile babe on your arm? You longed to belong like everybody else to the United States of America? Well, you do now, big boy, thanks to your daughter. The reality of this place is right up in your kisser now. With the help of your daughter you're as deep in the s.h.i.t as a man can get, the real American crazy s.h.i.t. America amok! America amuck! G.o.dd.a.m.n it, Seymour, G.o.dd.a.m.n you, if you were a father who loved his daughter," thunders Jerry into the phone--and the h.e.l.l with the convalescent patients waiting in the corridor for him to check out their new valves and new arteries, to tell how grateful they are to him for their new lease on life, Jerry shouts away, shouts all he wants if it's shouting he wants to do, and the h.e.l.l with the rules of the hospital. He is one of the surgeons who shouts: if you disagree with him he shouts, if you cross him he shouts, if you just stand there and do nothing he shouts. He does not do what hospitals tell him to do or fathers expect him to do or wives want him to do, he does what he wants to do, does as he277.

pleases, tells people just who and what he is every minute of the day so that nothing about him is a secret, not his opinions, his frustrations, his urges, neither his appet.i.te nor his hatred. In the sphere of the will, he is unequivocating, uncompromising; he is king. He does not spend time regretting what he has or has not done or justifying to others how loathsome he can be. The message is simple: You will take me as I come--there is no choice. He cannot endure swallowing anything. He just lets loose.And these two are brothers, the same parents' sons, one for whom the aggression's been bred out, the other for whom the aggression's been bred in."If you were a father who loved his daughter," Jerry shouts at the Swede, "you would never have left her in that room! You would never have let her out of your sight!"The Swede is in tears at his desk. It is as though Jerry has been waiting all his life for this phone call. That something's grotesquely out of whack has made him furious with his older brother, and now there is nothing he will not say.

All his life, thinks the Swede, waiting to lay into me with these terrible things. People are infallible: they pick up on what you want and then they don't give it to you."I didn't want to leave her," says the Swede. "You don't understand. You don't want to understand. That isn't why I left her. It killed me to leave her! You don't understand me, you won't. Why do you say I don't love her? This isterrible. Horrible." He suddenly sees his vomit on her face and he cries out, "Everything is horrible!""Now you're getting it. Right! My brother is developing the beginning of a point of view. A point of view of his own instead of everybody else's point of view.

Taking something other than the party line. Good. Now we're getting somewhere.

Thinking becoming just a little untranquilized. Everything is horrible. And so what are you going to do about it? Nothing. Look, do you want me to come up there and get her? Do you want me to get her, yes or no?""No.""Then why did you call me?" 278 .THE FALL."I don't know. To help me.""n.o.body can help you.""You're a hard man. You are a hard man with me.""Yeah, I don't come off looking very good. I never do. Ask our father if I do.

You're the one who always comes off looking good. And look where it's got you.

Refusing to give offense. Blaming yourself. Tolerant respect for every position.

Sure, it's 'liberal'--I know, a liberal father. But what does that mean? What is at the center of it? Always holding things together. And look where the f.u.c.k it's got you!""I didn't make the war in Vietnam. I didn't make the television war. I didn't make Lyndon Johnson Lyndon Johnson. You forget where this begins. Why she threw the bomb. That f.u.c.king war.""No, you didn't make the war. You made the angriest kid in America. Ever since she was a kid, every word she spoke was a bomb.""I gave her all I could, everything, everything, I gave everything. I swear to you I gave everything." And now he is crying easily, there is no line between him and his crying, and an amazing new experience it is--he is crying as though crying like this has been the great aim of his life, as though all along crying like this was his most deeply held ambition, and now he has achieved it, now that he remembers everything he gave and everything she took, all the spontaneous giving and taking that had filled their lives and that one day, inexplicably (despite whatever Jerry might say, despite all the blame that it is his pleasure now to heap upon the Swede), quite inexplicably, became repugnant to her. "You talk about what I'm dealing with as though anybody could deal with it. But n.o.body could deal with it. n.o.body! n.o.body has the weapons for this. You think I'm inept? You think I'm inadequate? If I'm inadequate, where are you going to get people who are adequate ... if I'm . .. do you understand what I'm saying? What am I supposed to be? What are other people if I am inadequate?""Oh, I understand you."Crying easily was always about as difficult for the Swede as losing279.

his balance when he walked or deliberately being a bad influence on somebody; crying easily was something he sometimes almost envied in other people. Butwhatever chunks and fragments remain of the big manly barrier against crying, his brother's response to his pain demolishes. "If what you are telling me is what I was . . ." he begins, ". . . wasn't, wasn't enough, then, then . . . I'm telling you-- I'm telling you that what anybody is is not enough.""You got it! Exactly! We are not enough. We are none of us enough! Including even the man who does everything right! Doing things right," Jerry says with disgust, "going around in this world doing things right. Look, are you going to break with appearances and pit your will against your daughter's or aren't you?

Out on the field you did it. That's how you scored, remember? You pitted your will against the other guy's and you scored. Pretend it's a game if that helps.

It doesn't help. For the typical male activity you're there, the man of action, but this isn't the typical male activity. Okay. Can't see yourself doing that.

Can only see yourself playing ball and making gloves and marrying Miss America.

Out there with Miss America, dumbing down and dulling out. Out there playing at being Wasps, a little Mick girl from the Elizabeth docks and a Jewboy from Weequahic High. The cows. Cow society. Colonial old America. And you thought all that facade was going to come without cost. Genteel and innocent. But that costs, too, Seymour, /would have thrown a bomb. I would become a Jain and live in Newark. That Wasp bulls.h.i.t! I didn't know just how entirely m.u.f.fled you were internally. But this is how m.u.f.fled you are. Our old man really swaddled you but good. What do you want, Seymour? You want to bail out? That's all right too.

Anybody else would have bailed out a long time ago. Go ahead, bail out. Admit her contempt for your life and bail out. Admit that there is something very personal about you that she hates and bail the f.u.c.k out and never see the b.i.t.c.h again. Admit that she's a monster, Seymour. Even a monster has to be from somewhere--even a monster needs parents. But parents don't need monsters. Bail out! But if you are not going to bail out, if that is what you are calling to tell me, then for Christ's 280 .

sake go in there and get her. I'll go in and get her. How about that? Last chance. Last offer. You want me to come, I'll clear out the office and get on a plane and I'll come. And I'll go in there, and, I a.s.sure you, I'll get her off the McCarter Highway, the little s.h.i.t, the selfish little f.u.c.king s.h.i.t, playing her f.u.c.king games with you! She won't play them with me, I a.s.sure you. Do you want that or not?""I don't want that." These things Jerry thinks he knows that he doesn't know.

His idea that things are connected. But there is no connection. How we lived and what she did? Where she was raised and what she did? It's as disconnected as everything else--it's all a part of the same mess! He is the one who knows nothing. Jerry rants. Jerry thinks he can escape the bewilderment by ranting, shouting, but everything he shouts is wrong. None of this is true. Causes, clear answers, who there is to blame. Reasons. But there are no reasons. She is obliged to be as she is. We all are. Reasons are in books. Could how we lived as a family ever have come back as this bizarre horror? It couldn't. It hasn't.

Jerry tries to rationalize it but you can't. This is all something else, something he knows absolutely nothing about. No one does. It is not rational. It is chaos. It is chaos from start to finish. "I don't want that," the Swede tells him. "I can't have that.""Too brutal for you. In this world, too brutal. The daughter's a murderer but this is too brutal. A drill instructor in the Marine Corps but this is too brutal. Okay, Big Swede, gentle giant. I got a waiting room full of patients.

You're on your own."281.Ill Paradise Lost? ? ?.


I.t was the summer of the Watergate hearings. The Levovs had spent nearly every night on the back porch watching the replay of the day's session on Channel 13.

Before the farm equipment and the cattle had been sold off, it was from there, on warm evenings, that they looked out onto Dawn's herd grazing along the rim of the hill. Up a ways from the house was a field of eighteen acres, and some years they'd have the cows up there all summer and forget them. But if they were merely out of sight nearby, and Merry, in her pajamas, wanted to see them before she went to bed, Dawn would call out, "Hereboy, Hereboy," the kind of thing people had been calling to them for thousands of years, and they'd sound off in return and start up the hill and out from the swamp, come out of wherever they were, bellowing their response as they trudged toward the sound of Dawn's voice.

"Aren't they beautiful, our girls?" Dawn would ask her daughter, and the next day Merry and Dawn would be out at sunrise getting them all together again, and he'd hear Dawn say, "Okay, we're going to cross the road," and Merry would open the gate and just with a stick and the dog, Apu the Australian sheepdog, mother and tiny daughter would move some twelve or fifteen or eighteen beasts, each weighing about two thousand pounds. Merry, Apu, and Dawn, sometimes the vet, and the boy down the road to help with the fencing and the haying when an 285 .

extra hand was needed. I've got Merry to help me hay. If there's a stray calf, Merry gets after it. Seymour goes in there and those two cows will be very unpleasant, they'll paw the gra.s.s, they'll shake their heads at him--but Merry goes in, well, they know her, and they just tell her what they want. They know her and they know exactly what she's going to do with them.How could she ever say to him, "I don't want to talk about my mother"? What in G.o.d's name had her mother done? What crime had her mother committed? The crime of being gentle master to these compliant cows?During this last week, while his parents had been with them, up from Florida for the annual late-summer visit, Dawn hadn't even worried about keeping the two of them entertained. Whenever she returned from the new building site or drove back from the architect's office, they were seated before the set with the father-in- law in the role of a.s.sistant counsel to the committee. Her in-laws watched the proceedings all day and then saw the whole thing over again at night. In what time he had left to himself during the day, the Swede's father composed letters to the committee members which he read to everyone at dinner. "Dear Senator Weicker: You're surprised at what was going on in Tricky's White House?

Don't be a shnook. Harry Truman had him figured out in 1948 when he called him Tricky" "Dear Senator Gurney: Nixon equals Typhoid Mary. Everything he touches he poisons, you included." "Dear Senator Baker: You want to know WHY?

Because they're a bunch of common criminals, that's WHY!" "Dear Mr. Dash:" he wrote to the committee's New York counsel, "I applaud you. G.o.d bless you. You make me proud to be an American and a Jew."His greatest contempt he reserved for a relatively insignificant figure, a lawyer named Kalmbach, who'd arranged for large illegal contributions to sift into the Watergate operation, and whose disgrace could not be profound enough to suit the old man. "Dear Mr. Kalmbach: If you were a Jew and did what you did thewhole world would say, 'See those Jews, real money-grubbers.' But who is the money-grubber, my dear Mr. Country Club? Who is the thief and 286 .

the cheat? Who is the American and who is the gangster? Your smooth talk never fooled me, Mr. Country Club Kalmbach. Your golf never fooled me. Your manners never fooled me. Your clean hands I always knew were dirty. And now the whole world knows. You should be ashamed.""You think I'll get an answer from the son of a b.i.t.c.h? I ought to publish these in a book. I ought to find somebody to print 'em up and just distribute them free so people could know what an ordinary American feels when these sons of b.i.t.c.hes . . . look, look at that one, look at him." Ehrlichman, Nixon's former chief of staff, had appeared on the screen."He makes me nauseous," the Swede's mother said. "Him and that Tricia.""Please, she's unimportant," her husband said. "This is a real fascist--the whole bunch of 'em, Von Ehrlichman, Von Haldeman, Von Kalmbach--""She still makes me nauseous," his wife said. "You'd think she was a princess, the way they carry on about her.""These so-called patriots," Lou Levov said to Dawn, "would take this country and make n.a.z.i Germany out of it. You know the book It Can't Happen Here? There's a wonderful book, I forget the author, but the idea couldn't be more up-to-the- moment. These people have taken us to the edge of something terrible. Look at that son of a b.i.t.c.h.""I don't know which one I hate more," his wife said, "him or the other one.""They're the same thing," the old man told her, "they're interchangeable, the whole bunch of them."Merry's legacy. That his father might have been no less incensed if she were there, sitting with them all in front of the set, the Swede recognized, but now that she was gone who better was there to hate for what had become of her than these Watergate b.a.s.t.a.r.ds?It was during the Vietnam War that Lou Levov had begun mailing Merry copies of the letters he sent to President Johnson, letters that he had written to influence Merry's behavior more than the 287 .

president's. Seeing his teenage granddaughter as enraged with the war as he could get when things started to go too wrong with the business, the old man became so distressed that he would take his son aside and say, "Why does she care? Where does she even get this stuff? Who feeds it to her? What's the difference to her anyway? Does she carry on like this at school? She can't do this at school, she could harm her chances at school. She can harm her chances for college. In public people won't put up with it, they'll chop her head off, she's only a child. . . ." To control, if he could, not so much Merry's opinions as the ferocity with which she sputtered them out, he would ostentatiously ally himself with her by sending articles clipped from the Florida papers and inscribed in the margins with his own antiwar slogans. When he was visiting he would read aloud to her from the portfolio of his Johnson letters that he carried around the house under his arm--in his effort to save her from herself,tagging after the child as though he were the child. "We've got to nip this in the bud," he confided to his son. "This won't do, not at all.""Well," he'd say--after reading to Merry yet another plea to the president reminding him what a great country America was, what a great president FDR had been, how much his own family owed to this country and what a personal disappointment it was to him and his loved ones that American boys were halfway around the world fighting somebody else's battle when they ought to be at home with their loved ones--"well, what do you think of your grandfather?""J-j-Johnson's a war criminal," she'd say. "He's not going to s-s-s-stop the w- w-war, Grandpa, because you tell him to.""He's also a man trying to do his job, you know.""He's an imperialist dog.""Well, that is one opinion.""There's no d-d-d-difference between him and Hitler.""You're exaggerating, sweetheart. I don't say Johnson didn't let us down. But you forget what Hitler did to the Jews, Merry dear. You weren't born then, so you don't remember.""He did nothing that Johnson isn't doing to the Vietnamese." 288 .

"The Vietnamese aren't being put into concentration camps.""Vietnam is one b-b-big camp! The 'American boys' aren't the issue. That's like saying, 'Get the storm troopers out of Auschwitz in time for Chris-chris-chris- dinsftnas.'""I gotta be political with the guy, sweetheart. I can't write the guy and call him a murderer and expect that he's going to listen. Right, Seymour?""I don't think that would help," the Swede said."Merry, we all feel the way you do," her grandfather told her. "Do you understand that? Believe me, I know what it is to read the newspaper and start to go nuts. Father Coughlin, that son of a b.i.t.c.h. The hero Charles Lindbergh-- pro-n.a.z.i, pro-Hitler, and a so-called national hero in this country. Mr. Gerald L. K. Smith. The great Senator Bilbo. Sure we have b.a.s.t.a.r.ds in this country-- homegrown and plenty of 'em. n.o.body denies that. Mr. Rankin. Mr. Dies. Mr. Dies and his committee. Mr. J. Parnell Thomas from New Jersey. Isolationist, bigoted, know-nothing fascists right there in the U.S. Congress, crooks like J. Parnell Thomas, crooks who wound up in jail and their salaries were paid for by the U.S.

taxpayer. Awful people. The worst. Mr. McCarran. Mr. Jenner. Mr. Mundt. The Goebbels from Wisconsin, the Honorable Mr. McCarthy, may he burn in h.e.l.l. His sidekick Mr. Cohn. A disgrace. A Jew and a disgrace! There have always been sons of b.i.t.c.hes here just like there are in every country, and they have been voted into office by all those geniuses out there who have the right to vote. And what about the newspapers? Mr. Hearst. Mr. McCormick. Mr. Westbrook Pegler. Real fascist, reactionary dogs. And I have hated their guts. Ask your father. Haven't I, Seymour--hated them?""You have.""Honey, we live in a democracy. Thank G.o.d for that. You don't have to go around getting angry with your family. You can write letters. You can vote. You can get up on a soapbox and make a speech. Christ, you can do what your father did--you can join the marines.""Oh, Grandpa--the marines are the prob-prob-prob--"289.

"Then d.a.m.n it, Merry, join the other side," he said, momentarily losing his grip. "How's that? You can join their marines if you want to. It's been done.

That's true. Look at history. When you're old enough you can go over and fight for the other army if you want it. I don't recommend it. People don't like it, and I think you're smart enough to understand why they don't. 'Traitor' isn't a pleasant thing to be called. But it's been done. It's an option. Look at Benedict Arnold. Look at him. He did it. He went over to the other side, as far as I remember. From school. And I suppose I respect him. He had guts. He stood up for what he believed in. He risked his own life for what he believed in. But he happened to be wrong, Merry, in my estimation. He went over to the other side in the Revolutionary War and, as far as I'm concerned, the man was dead wrong.

Now you don't happen to be wrong. You happen to be right. This family is one hundred percent against this G.o.dd.a.m.n Vietnam thing. You don't have to rebel against your family because your family is not in disagreement with you. You are not the only person around here against this war. We are against it. Bobby Kennedy is against it--""Now," said Merry, with disgust."Okay, now. Now is better than not now, isn't it? Be realistic, Merry--it doesn't help anything not to be. Bobby Kennedy is against it. Senator Eugene McCarthy is against it. Senator Javits is against it, and he's a Republican. Senator Frank Church is against it. Senator Wayne Morse is against it. And how he is. I admire that man. I've written him to tell him and I have gotten the courtesy of a hand- signed reply. Senator Fulbright, of course, is against it. It's Fulbright who, admittedly, introduced the Tonkin Gulf resolu--""F-f-f-ful--""n.o.body is saying--""Dad," said the Swede, "let Merry finish.""I'm sorry, honey," said Lou Levov. "Finish.""Ful-ful-fulbright is a racist.""Is he? What are you talking about? Senator William Fulbright from Arkansas?

Come on with that stuff. I think there's where290.

you've got your facts wrong, my friend." She had slandered one of his heroes who'd stood up to Joe McCarthy, and to prevent himself from lashing out at her about Fulbright took a supreme effort of will. "But now just let me finish what I was saying. What was I saying? Where was I? Where the h.e.l.l was I, Seymour?""Your point," the Swede said, acting evenhandedly as the moderator for these two dynamos, a role he preferred to being the adversary of either, "is that both of you are against the war and want it to stop. There's no reason for you to argueon that issue--I believe that's your point. Merry feels it's all gone beyond writing letters to the president. She feels that's futile. You feel that, futile or not, it's something within your power to do and you're going to do it, at least to continue to put yourself on record.""Exactly!" the old man cried. "Here, listen to what I tell him here. 'I am a lifetime Democrat.' Merry, listen--'I am a lifetime Demo-crat--But nothing he told the president ended the war, nor did anything he told Merry nip the catastrophe in the bud. Yet alone in the family he had seen it coming.

"I saw it coming. I saw it clear as day. I saw it. I knew it. I sensed it. I fought it. She was out of control. Something was wrong. I could smell it. I told you. 'Something has to be done about that child. Something is going wrong with that child.' And it went in one ear and out the other. I got, 'Dad, take it easy.' I got, 'Dad, don't exaggerate. Dad, it's a phase. Lou, leave her alone, don't argue with her.' 'No, I will not leave her alone. This is my granddaughter. I refuse to leave her alone. I refuse to lose a granddaughter by leaving her alone. Something is haywire with that child.' And you looked at me like I was nuts. All of you. Only I wasn't nuts. I was right. With a vengeance I was right!"There were no messages for him when he got home. He had been praying for a message from Mary Stoltz."Nothing?" he said to Dawn, who was in the kitchen preparing a salad out of greens she'd pulled from the garden."Nope."291.

He poured a drink for himself and his father and carried the out to the back porch, where the set was still on."You going to make a steak, darling?" his mother asked him."Steak, corn, salad, and Merry's big beefsteak tomatoes." He'd meant Dawn's tomatoes but did not correct himself once it was out."No one makes a steak like you," she said, after the first shock of his words had worn off."Good, Ma.""My big boy. Who could want a better son?" she said, and when he embraced her she went to pieces for the first time that week. "I'm sorry. I was remembering the phone calls.""I understand," he said."She was a little girl. You'd call, you'd put her on, and she'd say, 'Hi, Grandma! Guess what?' 'I don't know, honey--what?' And she'd tell me.""Come on, you've been terrific so far. You can keep it up. Come on. Buck up.""I was looking at the snapshots, when she was a baby ...""Don't look at them," he said. "Try not to look at them. You can do it, Ma. You have to.""Oh, darling, you're so brave, you're such an inspiration, it's such a tonic when we come to see you. I love you so.""Good, Ma. I love you. But you mustn't lose control in front of Dawn.""Yes, yes, whatever you say.""That's my girl."His father, continuing to watch the television set--and after having miraculously contained himself for ten full days--said to him, "No news.""No news," the Swede replied."Nothing.""Nothing.""O-kay," his father said, feigning fatalism, "o-kay--if that's the way it is, that's the way it is," and went back to watching TV."Do you still think she's in Canada, Seymour?" his mother asked.292.

"I never thought she was in Canada.""But that's where the boys went. ..""Look, why don't we save this discussion? There's nothing wrong with asking questions but Dawn will be in and out--""I'm sorry, you're right," his mother replied. "I'm terribly sorry.""Not that the situation has changed, Mother. Everything is exactly the same.""Seymour . .." She hesitated. "Darling, one question. If she gave herself up now, what would happen? Your father says--""Why are you bothering him with that?" his father said. "He told you about Dawn.

Learn to control yourself.""Me control myself?""Mother, you must stop thinking these thoughts. She is gone. She may never want to see us again."" Why?" his father erupted. "Of course she wants to see us again. This I refuse to believe!""Now who's controlling himself?" his mother asked."Of course she wants to see us again. The problem is she can't.""Lou dear," his mother said, "there are children, even in ordinary families, who grow up and go away and that's the end of it.""But not at sixteen. For Christ's sake, not under these circ.u.mstances. What are you talking about 'ordinary' families? We are an ordinary family. This is a child who needs help. This is a child who is in trouble and we are not a family who walks out on a child in trouble!"

"She's twenty years old, Dad. Twenty-one.""Twenty-one," his mother said, "last January.""Well, she's not a child," the Swede told them. "All I'm saying is that you must not set yourself up for disappointment, neither of you.""Well, I don't," his father said. "I have more sense than that. I a.s.sure you I don't.""Well, you mustn't. I seriously doubt that we will ever see her again."The only thing worse than their never seeing her again would be293.

their seeing her as he had left her on the floor of that room. Over these last few years, he had been moving them in the direction, if not of total resignation, of adaptation, of a realistic appraisal of the future. How could he now tell them what had happened to Merry, find words to describe it to them that would not destroy them? They haven't the faintest picture in their mind of what they'd see if they were to see her. Why does anyone have to know? What is so indispensable about any of them knowing?"You got reason to say that, son, that we'll never see her?""The five years. The time that's gone by. That's reason enough.""Seymour, sometimes I'm walking on the street, and I'm behind someone, a girl who's walking in front of me, and if she's tall--"He took his mother's hands in his. "You think it's Merry.""Yes.""That happens to all of us.""I can't stop it.""I understand.""And every time the phone rings," she said."I know.""I tell her," his father said, "that she wouldn't do it with a phone call anyway.""And why not?" she said to her husband. "Why not phone us? That's the safest thing she could possibly do, to phone us.""Ma, none of this speculation means anything. Why not try to keep it to a minimum tonight? I know you can't help having these thoughts. You can't be free of it, none of us can be. But you have to try. You can't make happen what you want to happen just by thinking about it. Try to free yourself from a little of it.""Whatever you say, darling," his mother replied. "I feel better now, just talking about it. I can't keep it inside me all the time.""I know. But we can't start whispering around Dawn."It was never difficult, as it was with his restless father--who spent so much of life in a transitional state between compa.s.sion and antagonism, between comprehension and blindness, between294.

gentle intimacy and violent irritation--to know what to make of his mother. He had never feared battling with her, never uncertainly wondered what side she was on or worried what she might be inflamed by next. Unlike her husband, she was a big industry of nothing other than family love. Hers was a simple personality for whom the well-being of the boys was everything. Talking to her he'd felt, since earliest boyhood, as though he were stepping directly into her heart. With his father, to whose heart he had easy enough access, he had first to collide with that skull, the skull of a brawler, to split it open as bloodlessly as he could to get at whatever was inside.It was astonishing how small a woman she had become. But what hadn't been consumed by osteoporosis had, in the last five years, been destroyed by Merry.

Now the vivacious mother of his youth, who well into middle age was being complimented on her youthful vigor, was an old lady, her spine twisted and bent, a hurt and puzzled expression embedded in the creases of her face. Now, when she did not realize people were watching her, tears would rise in her eyes, eyes bearing that look both long accustomed to living with pain and startled to have been in so much pain so long. Yet all his boyhood recollections (which, however hard to credit, he knew to be genuine; even the ruthlessly unillusioned Jerry would, if asked, have to corroborate them) were of his mother towering over the rest of them, a healthy, tall reddish blonde with a wonderful laugh, who adored being the woman in that masculine household. As a small child he had not found it nearly so odd and amazing as he did looking at her now to think that you could recognize people as easily by their laugh as by their face. Hers, back when she had something to laugh about, was light and like a bird in flight, rising, rising, and then, delightfully, if you were her child, rising yet again.

He didn't even have to be in the same room to know where his mother was--he'd hear her laughing and could pinpoint her on the map of the house that was not so much in his brain as it was his brain (his cerebral cortex divided not into frontal lobes, parietal295.

lobes, temporal lobes, and occipital lobes but into the downstairs, the upstairs, and the bas.e.m.e.nt--the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, etc.).What had been oppressing her when she arrived from Florida the week before was the letter she was carrying secreted in her purse, a letter addressed by Lou Levov to the second wife Jerry had left, from whom he had only recently separated. Sylvia Levov had been given a stack of letters to mail by her husband, but that one she simply could not send. Instead she had dared to go off alone and open it, and now she had brought the contents north with her to show Seymour. "You know what would happen with Jerry if Susan ever got this? You know the rampage Jerry would go on? He . is not a boy without a temper. He never was.

He's not you, dear, he is not a diplomat. But your father has to stick his nose in everywhere, and what the results will be means nothing to him, so long as he's got his nose in the wrong place. All he has to do is send her this, and put Jerry in the wrong like this, and there will be h.e.l.l to pay with your brother-- unmitigated h.e.l.l."The letter, two pages long, began, "Dear Susie, The check enclosed is for you and for n.o.body else's information. It is found money. Put it somewhere where n.o.body knows about it. I'll say nothing and you say nothing. I want you to know that I have not forgotten you in my will. This money is yours to do whatever you want with. The children I'll take care of separately. But if you decide to invest it, and I strongly hope you do, my suggestion is gold stocks. The dollar isn't going to be worth a thing. I myself have just put ten thousand into three gold stocks. I will give you the names. Ben-nington Mines. Castworp Development.

Schley-Waiggen Mineral Corp. Solid investments. I got the names from the Barrington Newsletter that has never steered me wrong yet."Stapled to the letter--stapled so that when she opened the letter the enclosure didn't just flutter away to get lost under the sofa-- there was a check made out to Susan R. Levov for seventy-five hundred dollars. A check for twice that amount had gone off to her the day after she had called, sobbing and screaming for help, to say 296 .

that Jerry had left her that morning for the new nurse in his office. The position of new nurse in the office was one that she had herself occupied before Jerry began the affair with her that ended in his divorcing his first wife.

According to the Swede's mother, after Jerry found out about the check for fifteen thousand he proceeded over the phone to call his father "every name in the book," and that night, for the first time in his life, Lou Levov had chest pain that necessitated her calling their doctor at two a.m.And now, four months later, he was at it again. "Seymour, what should I do? He goes around screaming, 'A second divorce, a second broken family, more grandchildren in a broken home, three more wonderful children without parental guidance.' You know how he goes on. It's on and on, it's over and over, till I think I'm going out of my mind. 'Where did my son get so good at getting divorced? Who in the history of this entire family has ever been divorced? No one!' I cannot take it anymore, dear. He screams at me, 'Why doesn't your son just go to a wh.o.r.ehouse? Marry a wh.o.r.e out of a wh.o.r.ehouse and get it over with!' He'll get in another fight with Jerry, and Jerry doesn't pull his punches. Jerry doesn't have your considerateness. He never did. When they had that fight about the coat, when Jerry made that coat out of the hamsters--do you remember? Maybe you were in the service by then. Hamster skins Jerry got somewhere, I think at school, and made them into a coat for some girl. He thought he was doing her a favor. But she received this thing, I think by mail, in a box, all wrapped up and it smelled to high heaven, and the girl burst into tears, and her mother telephoned, and your father was fit to be tied. He was mortified. And they had an argument, he and Jerry, and it scared me to death. A fifteen-year-old boy and he screamed so at his own father, his 'rights,' his 'rights,' you could have heard him on Broad and Market about his 'rights.' Jerry does not back down. He doesn't know the meaning of 'back down.' But now he won't be shouting at a man who is forty-five, he will be shouting at a man who is seventy-five, and with angina, and this time it won't be indigestion afterwards.

There won't be a headache. This time there will be a full-scale heart297.

attack." "There won't be a heart attack. Mother, calm down." "Did I do the wrong thing? I never touched another person's mail in my life. But how could I let him send this to Susan? Because she won't keep it to herself. She'll do what she did the last time. She'll use it against Jerry--she'll tell him. And this time Jerry will kill him." "Jerry won't kill him. He doesn't want to kill him and he won't.

Mail it, Momma. You still have the envelope?" "Yes." "It isn't torn? You didn'ttear it?" "I'm ashamed to tell you--it's not torn, I used steam. But I don't want him to drop dead." "He won't. He hasn't yet. You stay out of it, Ma. Mail Susan the envelope with the check, with the letter. And when Jerry calls, you just go out and take a walk." "And when he gets chest pains again?" "If he gets chest pains again, you'll call the doctor again. You just stay out of it. You cannot intervene to protect him from himself. It's too late in the day for that." "Oh, thank goodness I have you. You're the only one I can turn to. All your own troubles, all you've gone through, and you're the only one in this family who says things to me that are not completely insane.""Dawn's holding up?" his father asked."She's doing fine.""She looks like a million bucks," his father said. "That girl looks like herself again. Getting rid of those cows was the smartest thing you ever did. I never liked 'em. I never saw why she needed them. Thank G.o.d for that face-lift. I was against it but I was wrong. Dead wrong. I got to admit it. That guy did a wonderful job. Thank G.o.d our Dawn doesn't look anymore like all that she went through.""He did do a great job," the Swede said. "Erased all that suffering. He gave her back her face." No longer does she have to look in the mirror at the record of her misery. It had been a brilliant stroke: she had got the thing out from directly in front of her."But she's waiting. I see it, Seymour. A mother sees such things. Maybe you erase the suffering from the face, but you can't remove the memory inside. Under that face, the poor thing is wait-ing." 298 .

"Dawn's not a poor thing, Ma. She's a fighter. She's fine. She's made tremendous strides." True--all the while he has been stoically enduring it she has made tremendous strides by finding it unendurable, by being devastated by it, destroyed by it, and then by denuding herself of it. She doesn't resist the blows the way he does; she receives the blows, falls apart, and when she gets herself up again, decides to make herself over. Nothing that isn't admirable in that-- abandon first the face a.s.saulted by the child, abandon next the house a.s.saulted by the child. This is her life, after all, and she will get the original Dawn up and going again if it's the last thing she does. "Ma, let's stop this. Come on outside with me while I start the coals.""No," his mother said, looking ready to cry again. "Thank you, darling. I'll stay here with Daddy and watch the television.""You watched it all day. Come outside and help me.""No, thank you, dear.""She's waiting for them to get Nixon on," his father said. "When they get Nixon on and drive a stake through his heart, your mother will be in seventh heaven.""And you won't?" she said. "He can't sleep," she told the Swede, "because of that matnzer. He's up in the middle of the night writing him letters. Some I have to censor myself, I have to physically stop him, the language is so filthy.""That skunk!" the Swede's father said bitterly. "That miserable fascist dog!"

and out of him, with terrifying force, poured a tirade of abuse, vitriol about the president of the United States that, absent the stuttering that never failedto impart to her abhorrence the exterminating adamance of a machine gun, Merry herself couldn't have topped in her heyday. Nixon liberates him to say anything-- as Johnson liberated Merry. It is as though in his uncen-sored hatred of Nixon, Lou Levov is merely mimicking his granddaughter's vituperous loathing of LBJ.

Get Nixon. Get the b.a.s.t.a.r.d in some way. Get Nixon and all will be well. If we can just tar and feather Nixon, America will be America again, without everything loathsome and lawless that's crept in, without all this violence and299.

malice and madness and hate. Put him in a cage, cage the crook, and we'll have our great country back the way it was!Dawn ran in from the kitchen to see what was wrong, and soon they were all in tears, holding one another, huddled together and weeping on that big old back porch as though the bomb had been planted right under the house and the porch was all that was left of the place. And there was nothing the Swede could do to stop them or to stop himself.The family had never seemed so wrecked as this. Despite all that he had summoned up to lessen the aftershock of the day's horror and to prevent himself from cracking--despite the resolve with which he had rearmed himself after hurrying through the underpa.s.s and finding his car still there, undamaged, where he had left it on that grim Down Neck street; despite the resolve with which he had for a second time rearmed himself after Jerry pummeled him on the phone; despite the resolve he'd had to summon up a third time, beneath the razor ribbon of his parking lot fence, with the key to his car in his hand; despite the self- watchfulness, despite the painstaking impersonation of impregnability, despite the elaborate false front of self-certainty with which he was determined to protect those he loved from the four she had killed--he had merely to misspeak, to say "Merry's big beefsteak tomatoes" instead of "Dawn's," for them to sense that something unsurpa.s.singly awful had happened.In addition to the Levovs there were six guests for dinner that evening. The first to arrive were Bill and Jessie Orcutt, Dawn's architect and his wife, who'd been friendly enough neighbors a few miles down the road all these years, in Orcutt's old family house, and became acquaintances and then dinner guests when Bill Orcutt began designing the new Levov home. Orcutt's family had long been the prominent legal family in Morris County, lawyers, judges, state senators. As president of the local landmarks society, already established as the historical conscience of a new conservationist generation, Orcutt had been a leader in the losing battle to keep300.

Interstate 287 from cutting through the historical center of Morris-town and a victorious opponent of the jetport that would have destroyed the Great Swamp, just west of Chatham, and with it much of the county's wildlife. He was trying now to keep Lake Hopatcong from devastation by pollutants. Orcutt's b.u.mper sticker read, "Morris Green, Quiet, and Clean," and he'd good-naturedly slapped one on the Swede's car the first time they met. "Need all the help we can get,"

he said, "to keep the modern ills at bay." Once he learned that his new neighbors were originally city kids to whom the rural Morris Highlands was an unknown landscape, he volunteered to take them on a county tour, one that, as it turned out, went on all one day and would have extended into the next had not the Swede lied and said he and Dawn and the baby had to be in Elizabeth, at his in-laws', Sunday morning.Dawn had said no to the tour right off. Something in Orcutt's proprietary manner had irritated her at that first meeting, something she found gratingly egotistical in his expansive courtesy, causing her to believe that to this young country squire with the charming manners she was nothing but laughable lace- curtain Irish, a girl who'd somehow got down the knack of aping her betters so as now to come ludicrously barging into his privileged backyard. The confidence, that's what unstrung her, that great confidence. Sure she'd been Miss New Jersey, but the Swede had seen her on a few occasions with these rich Ivy League guys in their Shetland sweaters. Her affronted defensiveness always came as a surprise. She didn't seem ever to feel deficient in confidence until she met them and felt the cla.s.s sting. "I'm sorry," she'd say, "I know it's just my Irish resentment, but I don't like being looked down on." And as much as this resentment of hers had always secretly attracted him--in the face of hostility, he thought proudly, my wife is no pushover--it perturbed and disappointed him as well; he preferred to think of Dawn as a young woman of great beauty and accomplishment who was too renowned to have to feel resentful. "The only difference between them and us"--by "them" she meant Protestants--"is, on our side, a little more liquor. And not much at that. 'My new Celtic301.

neighbor. And her Hebrew husband.' I can hear him already with the other

I'm sorry--if you can do it that's fine with me, but I for one cannot revere his contempt for our embarra.s.sing origins."The mainspring of Orcutt's character--and this she was sure of without having even to speak to him--was knowing all too well just how far back he and his manners reached into the genteel past, and so she stayed at home the day of the tour, perfectly content to be alone with the baby.Her husband and Orcutt, promptly at eight, headed diagonally to the northwest corner of the county and then, backtracking, followed the southward meandering spine of the old iron mines, Orcutt all the while recounting the glory days of the nineteenth century, when iron was king, millions of tons pulled from this very ground; starting from Hibernia and Boonton down to Morristown, the towns and villages had been thick with rolling mills, nail and spike factories, foundries and forging shops. Orcutt showed him the site of the old mill in Boonton where axles, wheels, and rails were manufactured for the original Morris and Ess.e.x Railroad. He showed him the powder company plant in Kenvil that made dynamite for the mines and then, for the First World War, made TNT and more or less paved the way for the government to build the a.r.s.enal up at Picatinny, where they'd manufactured the big for the Second World War. It was at the Kenvil plant that there'd been the munitions explosion in 1940--fifty-two killed, carelessness the culprit, though at first foreign agents, spies, were suspected.

He drove him partway along the western course of the old Morris Ca.n.a.l, where barges had carried the anthracite in from Phillipsburg to fuel the Morris foundries. With a little smile, Orcutt added--to the Swede's surprise--that directly across the Delaware from Phillipsburg was Easton, and "Easton," he said, "was where the wh.o.r.ehouse was for young men from Old Rimrock."The eastern terminus of the Morris Ca.n.a.l had been Jersey City and Newark. The Swede knew of the Newark end of the ca.n.a.l from when he was a boy and his father would remind him, if they were downtown and anywhere near Raymond Boulevard, that until as302.

recently as the year the Swede was born a real ca.n.a.l ran up by High Street, near where the Jewish Y was, and down through to where there was now this wide citythoroughfare, Raymond Boulevard, leading traffic from Broad Street under Penn Station and out old Pa.s.saic Avenue onto the Skyway.In the Swede's young mind, the "Morris" in Morris Ca.n.a.l never connected with Morris County--a place that seemed as remote as Nebraska then--but with his father's enterprising oldest brother, Morris. In 1918, at the age of twenty- four, already the owner of a shoe store he ran with his young wife--a cubbyhole Down Neck on Ferry Street, amid all the poor Poles and Italians and Irish, and the family's greatest achievement until the wartime contract with the WACs put Newark Maid on the map--Morris had perished virtually overnight in the influenza epidemic. Even on his tour of the county that day, every time Orcutt mentioned the Morris Ca.n.a.l, the Swede thought first of the dead uncle he had never known, a beloved brother who was much missed by his father and for whom the child had come to believe the ca.n.a.l beneath Raymond Boulevard was named. Even when his father bought the Central Avenue factory (no more than a hundred yards from the very spot where the ca.n.a.l had turned north toward Belleville, a factory that virtually backed on the city subway built beneath the old ca.n.a.l route), he persisted in a.s.sociating the name of the ca.n.a.l with the story of the struggles of their family rather than with the grander history of the state.After going around Washington's Morristown headquarters-- where he politely pretended he hadn't already seen the muskets and the cannonb.a.l.l.s and the old as a Newark fourth grader-- he and Orcutt drove southwest a ways, out of Morristown to a church cemetery dating back to the American Revolution.

Soldiers killed in the war were buried there, as well as twenty-seven soldiers, buried in a common grave, who were victims of the smallpox epidemic that swept the encampments in the countryside in the spring of 1777. Out among those old, old tombstones, Orcutt was no less historically edifying than he'd been all morning on the road,303.

so that at the dinner table that evening, when Dawn asked where Mr. Orcutt had taken him, the Swede laughed, "I got my money's worth all right. The guy's a walking encyclopedia. I never felt so ignorant in my life." "How boring was it?"

Dawn asked. "Why, not at all," the Swede told her. "We had a good time. He's a good guy. Very nice. More there than you think when you first meet him. Much more to Orcutt than the old school tie." He was thinking particularly of the Easton wh.o.r.ehouse but said instead, "Family goes back to the Revolution."

"Doesn't that come as a surprise," Dawn replied. "The guy knows everything," he said, feigning indifference to her sarcasm. "For instance, that old graveyard where we were, it's at the top of the tallest hill around, so the rain that falls on the northern roof of the old church there finds its way north to the Pa.s.saic River and eventually to Newark Bay, and the rain that falls on the southern side finds its way south to a branch of the Raritan, which eventually goes to New Brunswick." "I don't believe that," said Dawn. "Well, it's true." "I refuse to believe it. Not to New Brunswick." "Oh, don't be a kid, Dawn. It's interesting geologically" Deliberately he added, "Very interesting," to let her know he was having no part of the Irish resentment. It was beneath him and happened also to be beneath her.In bed that night, he thought that when Merry got to be a schoolgirl he'd inveigle Orcutt into taking her along on this very same trip so she could learn firsthand the history of the county where she was growing up. He wanted her to see where, at the turn of the century, a railroad line used to run up into Morristown from Whitehouse to carry the peaches from the orchards in Hunter-don County. Thirty miles of railroad line just to transport peaches. Among the well- to-do there was a peach craze then in the big cities and they'd ship them from Morristown into New York. The Peach Special. Wasn't that something? On a good day seventy cars of peaches hauled from the Hunterdon orchards. Two million peach trees down there before a blight carried them all away. But he couldhimself tell her about that train and the trees and the blight when the time came, take her on his own to show her304.

where the tracks used to be. It wouldn't require Orcutt to do it for him."The first Morris County Orcutt," Orcutt told him at the cemetery, pointing to a brown weathered gravestone decorated at the top with the carving of a winged angel, a gravestone set close up to the back wall of the church. "Thomas.

Protestant immigrant from northern Ireland. Arrived 1774. Age of twenty.

Enlisted in a local militia outfit. A private. January 2,1777, fought at Second Trenton. Battle that set the stage for Washington's victory at Princeton the next day.""Didn't know that," the Swede said."Wound up at the logistical base at Morristown. Commissary support for the Continental artillery train. After the war bought a Morristown ironworks.

Destroyed by a flash flood, 1795. Two flash floods, '94 and '95. Big supporter of Jefferson. Political appointment from Governor Bloomfield saved his life.

Surrogate of Morris County. Master in chancery. Eventually county clerk. There he is. The st.u.r.dy, fecund patriarch.""Interesting," said the Swede--interesting at just the moment he found it all about as deadly as it could get. How it was interesting was that he'd never met anybody like this before."Over here," said Orcutt, leading him some twenty feet on to another old brownish stone with an angel carved at the top, this one with an indecipherable rhyme of four lines inscribed near the bottom. "His son William. Ten sons. One died in his thirties but the rest lived long lives. Spread out all over Morris County. None of them farmers. Justices of the peace. Sheriffs. Freeholders.

Postmasters. Orcutts everywhere, even into Warren and up into Suss.e.x. William was the prosperous one. Turnpike development. Banking. New Jersey presidential elector in 1828. Pledged to Andrew Jackson. Rode the Jackson victory to a big judicial appointment. State's highest judicial body. Never a member of the bar.

That didn't matter then. Died a much-respected judge. See, on the stone? 'A virtuous and useful citizen.' It's his son--over here, this one here-- his son George who clerked for August Findley and became a- 305.

partner. Findley was a state legislator. Slavery issue drove him into the Republican Party. . . ."As the Swede told Dawn, whether she wanted to hear it or not--no, because she did not want to hear it--"It was a lesson in American history. John Quincy Adams.

Andrew Jackson. Abraham Lincoln. Woodrow Wilson. His grandfather was a cla.s.smate of Woodrow Wilson's. At Princeton. He told me the cla.s.s. I forget it now.

Eighteen seventy-nine? I'm full of dates, Dawnie. He told me everything. And all we were doing was walking around a cemetery out back of a church at the top of a hill. It was something. It was school."But once was enough. He'd paid all the attention he could, never stopped trying to keep straight in his mind the progress of the Orcutts through almost two centuries--though each time Orcutt had said "Morris" as in Morris County, the Swede had thought "Morris" as in Morris Levov. He couldn't remember ever in his life feeling more like his father--not like his father's son but like his father--than he did marching around the graves of those Orcutts. His family couldn't compete with Orcutt's when it came to ancestors--they would have run out of ancestors in about two minutes. As soon as you got back earlier than Newark, back to the old country, no one knew anything. Earlier than Newark, they didn't know their names or anything about them, how anyone made a living, let alone whom they'd voted for. But Orcutt could spin out ancestors forever. Every rung into America for the Levovs there was another rung to attain; this guy was there.Is that why Orcutt had laid it on a little thick? Was it to make clear what Dawn accused him of making clear simply by the way he smiled at you--just who he was and just who you weren't? No, that was thinking not too much like Dawn but way too much like his father. Jewish resentment could be just as bad as the Irish resentment. It could be worse. They hadn't moved out here to get caught up in that stuff. He was no Ivy Leaguer himself. He'd been educated, like Dawn, at lowly Upsala in East Orange, and thought "Ivy League" was a name for a kind of clothes before he knew it had 306 .

anything to do with a university. Little by little the picture came into focus, of course--a world of Gentile wealth where the buildings were covered with ivy and the people had money and dressed in a certain style. Didn't admit Jews, didn't know Jews, probably didn't like Jews all that much. Maybe they didn't like Irish Catholics--he'd take Dawn's word for it. Maybe they looked down on them, too. But Orcutt was Orcutt. He had to be judged according to his own values and not the values of "the Ivy League." As long as he's fair and respectful to me, I'll be fair and respectful to him.All it came down to, in his mind, was that the guy could get boring on the subject of the past. The Swede wasn't going to take it to mean more until somebody proved otherwise. They weren't out there to get all worked up about neighbors across the hill whose house they couldn't even see--they were out there because, as he liked to joke to his mother, "I want to own the things that money can't buy." Everybody else who was picking up and leaving Newark was headed for one of the cozy suburban streets in Maplewood or South Orange, while they, by comparison, were out on the frontier. During the two years when he was down in South Carolina with the marines, it used to thrill him to think, "This is the Old South. I am below the Mason-Dixon line. I am Down South!" Well, he couldn't commute from Down South but he could skip Maple-wood and South Orange, leapfrog the South Mountain Reservation, and just keep going, get as far out west in New Jersey as he could while still being able to make it every day to Central Avenue in an hour. Why not? A hundred acres of America. Land first cleared not for agriculture but to furnish timber for those old iron forges that consumed a thousand acres of timber a year. (The real-estate lady turned out to know almost as much local history as Bill Orcutt and was no less generous in ladling it out to a potential buyer from the streets of Newark.) A barn, a millpond, a mill- stream, the foundation remains of a gristmill that had supplied grain for Washington's troops. Back on the property somewhere, an abandoned iron mine.

Just after the Revolution, the original house, a wood structure, and the sawmill had burned down and the house307.

was replaced by this one--according to a date engraved on a stone over the cellar door and carved into a corner beam in the front room, built in 1786, its exterior walls constructed of stones collected from the fireplaces of the Revolutionary army's former campsites in the local hills. A house of stone such as he had always dreamed of, with a gambrel roof no less, and, in what used tobe the kitchen and was now the dining room, a fireplace unlike any he'd ever seen, large enough for roasting an ox, fitted out with an oven door and a crane to swing an iron kettle around over the fire; a nineteen-inch-high lintel beam extending seventeen feet across the w

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