American Pastoral Part 9

his father replied.But the Swede, rather like some frontiersman of old, would not be turned back.

What was impractical and ill-advised to his father was an act of bravery to him.

Next to marrying Dawn Dwyer, buying that house and the hundred acres and moving out to Old Rimrock was the most daring thing he had ever done. What was Mars to his father was America to him--he was settling Revolutionary New Jersey as if for the first time. Out in Old Rimrock, all of America lay at their door. That was an idea he loved. Jewish resentment, Irish resentment--the h.e.l.l with it. A husband and wife each just twenty-five years of age, a baby of less than a year-- it had been courageous of them to head out to Old Rimrock. He'd already heard tell of more than a few strong, intelligent, talented guys in the leatherware business beaten down by their fathers, and he wasn't going to let it happen to him. He'd fallen in love with the same business as his old man had, he'd taken his birthright, and now he was moving beyond it to d.a.m.n well live where he wanted.No, we are not going to have anybody's resentment. We are thirty-five miles out beyond that resentment. He wasn't saying it was always easy to blend across religious borders. He wasn't saying there wasn't prejudice--he'd faced it as a recruit in the Marine310.

Corps, in boot camp on a couple of occasions faced it head-on and faced it down.

She'd had her own brush with blatant anti-Semitism at the pageant in Atlantic City when her chaperone referred distastefully to 1945, when Bess Myerson became Miss America, as "the year the Jewish girl won." She'd heard plenty of casual cracks about Jews as a kid, but Atlantic City was the real world and it shocked her. She wouldn't repeat it at the time because she was fearful that he would turn against her for remaining politely silent and failing to tell the stupid woman where to get off, especially when her chaperone added, "I grant she was good-looking, but it was a great embarra.s.sment to the pageant nonetheless." Not that it mattered one way or the other anymore. Dawn was a mere contestant, twenty-two years old--what could she have said or done? His point was that they both were aware, from firsthand experience, that these prejudices existed. In a community as civilized as Old Rim-rock, however, differences of religion did not have to be as hard to deal with as Dawn was making them. If she could marry a Jew, she could surely be a friendly neighbor to a Protestant--sure as h.e.l.l could if her husband could. The Protestants are just another denomination. Maybe they were rare where she grew up--they were rare where he grew up too--but they happen not to be rare in America. Let's face it, they are America. But if you do not a.s.sert the superiority of the Catholic way the way your mother does, and I do not a.s.sert the superiority of the Jewish way the way my father does, I'm sure we'll find plenty of people out here who won't a.s.sert the superiority of the Protestant way the way their fathers and mothers did. n.o.body dominates anybodyanymore. That's what the war was about. Our parents are not attuned to the possibilities, to the realities of the postwar world, where people can live in harmony, all sorts of people side by side no matter what their origins. This is a new generation and there is no need for that resentment stuff from anybody, them or us. And the upper cla.s.s is nothing to be frightened of either. You know what you're going to find once you know them? That they are just other people who want to get along. Let's be intelligent about all this.311.

As it worked out, he never had to make a case as thorough as this to get Dawn to lay off about Orcutt, since Orcutt was never much in their lives after the sightseeing trip that Dawn kept referring to as "The Orcutt Family Cemetery Tour." Nothing like a social life developed back then between the Orcutts and the Levovs, not even a casual friendship, though the Swede did show up mornings at the pasture back of Orcutt's house for the weekly touch-football game with Orcutt's local friends and some other fellows like the Swede, ex-GIs from around Ess.e.x County trickling out with new families to the wide-open s.p.a.ces.Among them was an optician named Bucky Robinson, a short, muscular, pigeon-toed guy with a round angelic face, who'd been second-string quarterback for Hillside High, Weequahic's traditional Thanksgiving Day rival, when Swede was finishing high school. The first week Bucky showed up, the Swede overheard him telling Orcutt about Swede Levov's senior year, enumerating on his fingers, "all-city end in football; all-city, all-county center in basketball; all-city, all- county, all-state first baseman in baseball. . . ." Though ordinarily the Swede would have found this awe of him, so nakedly demonstrated, not at all to his liking in an environment where he only wished to inspire neighborly goodwill, where being just another of the guys who showed up to play ball was fine with him, he seemed not to mind that Orcutt was the one standing there enduring the excess of Bucky's enthusiasm. He had no quarrel with Orcutt and no reason to have any, yet seeing everything he would ordinarily prefer to hide behind a modest demeanor being revealed so pa.s.sionately to Orcutt by Bucky was more pleasurable than he might have imagined, almost like the satisfaction of a desire he personally knew nothing about--a desire for revenge.When, for several weeks running, Bucky and the Swede wound up together on the same team, the newcomer couldn't believe his good fortune: while to everybody else the new neighbor was Seymour, Bucky at every opportunity called him Swede.

It did not matter who else might be in the clear, wildly waving his arms in the312.

air--the Swede was the receiver Bucky saw. "Big Swede, way to go!" he'd shout whenever the Swede came back to the huddle having gathered in yet another Robinson pa.s.s--Big Swede, which n.o.body but Jerry had called him since high school. And with Jerry it was always sardonic.One day Bucky hitched a ride with the Swede to a local garage where his car was being repaired and, as they were driving along, announced surprisingly that he was Jewish too and that he and his wife had recently become members of a Morristown temple. Out here, he said, they were more and more involving themselves with the Morristown Jewish community. "It can be very sustaining in a Gentile town," Bucky told the Swede, "to know you have Jewish friends nearby."

Though not enormous, Morristown's was an established Jewish community, went back to before the Civil War, and included quite a few of the town's influential people, among them a trustee at Morristown Memorial Hospital--through whose insistence the first Jewish doctors had, two years back, finally been invited tojoin the hospital staff--and the owner of the town's best department store.

Successful Jewish families had been living in the big stucco houses on Western Avenue for fifty years now, though on the whole this wasn't an area known to be terribly friendly toward Jews. As a child Bucky had been taken by his family up to Mt. Freedom, the resort town in the nearby hills, where they would stay for a week each summer at Lieberman's Hotel and where Bucky first fell in love with the beauty and serenity of the Morris countryside. Up at Mt. Freedom, needless to say, it was great for Jews: ten, eleven large hotels that were all Jewish, a summer turnover in the tens of thousands that was entirely Jewish--the vacationers themselves jokingly referred to the place as "Mt. Friedman." If you lived in an apartment in Newark or Pa.s.saic or Jersey City, a week in Mt. Freedom was heaven. And as for Morristown, although solidly Gentile, it was nonetheless a cosmopolitan community of lawyers, doctors, and stockbrokers where Bucky and his wife loved going to the movies at the Community, loved the shops, which were excellent, loved the beautiful old buildings and where there were the313.


Jewish shopkeepers with their neon signs up and down Speedwell Avenue. But did the Swede know that before the war there'd been a swastika scrawled on the golf- course sign at the edge of Mt. Freedom? Did he know that the Klan held meetings in Boonton and Dover, rural people, working-cla.s.s people, members of the Klan?

Did he know that crosses were burned on people's lawns not five miles from the Morristown green?From that day on, Bucky kept trying to land the Swede, who would have been a considerable catch, and to haul him in for the Morristown Jewish community, to get him, if not to join the temple outright, at least to play evening basketball in the Interchurch League for the team the temple fielded. Robinson's mission irritated the Swede in just the way his mother had when, some months after Dawn became pregnant, she'd astonished him by asking if Dawn was going to convert before the baby was born. "A man to whom practicing Judaism means nothing, Mother, doesn't ask his wife to convert." He had never been so stern with her in his life, and, to his dismay, she had walked away near tears, and it had taken numerous hugs throughout the day to get her to understand that he wasn't "angry"

with her--he had only been making clear that he was a grown man with the prerogatives of a grown man. Now with Dawn he talked about Robinson--talked a lot about him as they lay in bed at night. "I didn't come out here for that stuff. I never got that stuff anyway. I used to go on the High Holidays with my father, and I just never understood what they were getting at. Even seeing my father there never made sense. It wasn't him, it wasn't like him--he was bending to something that he didn't have to, something he didn't even understand. He was just bending to this because of my grandfather. I never understood what any of that stuff had to do with his being a man. What the glove factory had to do with his being a man anybody could understand--just about everything. My father knew what he was talking about when he was talking about gloves. But when he started about that stuff? You should have heard him. If he'd known as little about leather as he knew about G.o.d, the family would have wound up in the poor-,L.

house." "Oh, but Bucky Robinson isn't talking about G.o.d, Seymour. He wants to be your friend," she said, "that's all." "I guess. But I never was interested in that stuff, Dawnie, back for as long as I can remember. I never understood it.

Does anybody? I don't know what they're talking about. I go into those synagogues and it's all foreign to me. It always has been. When I had to go to Hebrew school as a kid, all the time I was in that room I couldn't wait to getout on the ball field. I used to think, 'If I sit in this room any longer, I'm going to get sick.' There was something unhealthy about those places. Anywhere near any of those places and I knew it wasn't where I wanted to be. The factory was a place I wanted to be from the time I was a boy. The ball field was a place I wanted to be from the time I started kindergarten. That this is a place where I want to be I knew the moment I laid eyes on it. Why shouldn't I be where I want to be? Why shouldn't I be with who I want to be? Isn't that what this country's all about? I want to be where I want to be and I don't want to be where I don't want to be. That's what being an American is--isn't it? I'm with you, I'm with the baby, I'm at the factory during the day, the rest of the time I'm out here, and that's everywhere in this world I ever want to be. We own a piece of America, Dawn. I couldn't be happier if I tried. I did it, darling, I did it--I did what I set out to do!"For a while, the Swede stopped showing up at the touch-football games just to avoid having to deflect Bucky Robinson on the subject of his temple. With Robinson he did not feel like his father--he felt like Orcutt___No, no. You know whom he really felt like? Not during the hour or two a week he happened to be on the receiving end of a Bucky Robinson pa.s.s, but whom he felt like all the rest of the time? He couldn't tell anybody, of course: he was twenty-six and a new father and people would have laughed at the childishness of it. He laughed at it himself. It was one of those kid things you keep in your mind no matter how old you get, but whom he felt like out in Old Rimrock was Johnny Appleseed. Who cares about Bill Orcutt? Woodrow Wilson knew Orcutt's grandfather? Thomas Jefferson315.

knew his grandfather's uncle? Good for Bill Orcutt. Johnny Apple-seed, that's the man for me. Wasn't a Jew, wasn't an Irish Catholic, wasn't a Protestant Christian--nope, Johnny Appleseed was just a happy American. Big. Ruddy. Happy.

No brains probably, but didn't need 'em--a great walker was all Johnny Appleseed needed to be. All physical joy. Had a big stride and a bag of seeds and a huge, spontaneous affection for the landscape, and everywhere he went he scattered the seeds. What a story that was. Going everywhere, walking everywhere. The Swede had loved that story all his life. Who wrote it? n.o.body, as far as he could remember. They'd just studied it in grade school. Johnny Appleseed, out there everywhere planting apple trees. That bag of seeds. I loved that bag. Though maybe it was his hat--did he keep the seeds in his hat? Didn't matter. "Who told him to do it?" Merry asked him when she got old enough for bedtime stories-- though still baby enough, should he try to tell any other story, like the one about the train that used to carry only peaches, to cry, "Johnny! I want Johnny!" "Who told him? n.o.body told him, sweetheart. You don't have to tell Johnny Appleseed to plant trees. He just takes it on himself." "Who is his wife?" "Dawn. Dawn Appleseed. That's who his wife is." "Does he have a child?"

"Sure he has a child. And you know what her name is?" "What?" "Merry Appleseed!"

"Does she plant apple seeds in a hat?" "Sure she does. She doesn't plant them in the hat, honey, she stores them in the hat--and then she throws them. Far as she can, she casts them out. And everywhere she throws the seed, wherever it lands on the ground, do you know what happens?" "What?" "An apple tree grows up, right there." And every time he walked into Old Rimrock village he could not restrain himself--first thing on the weekend he pulled on his boots and walked the five hilly miles into the village and the five hilly miles back, early in the morning walked all that way just to get the paper, and he could not help himself--he thought, "Johnny Appleseed!" The pleasure of it. The pure, buoyant unrestrained pleasure of striding. He didn't care if he played ball ever again-- he just wanted to step out and stride. It seemed somehow that the ballplaying had cleared the way to 316 .

allow him to do this, to stride in an hour down to the village, pick up the Lackawanna edition of the Newark News at the general store with the single Sunoco pump out front and the produce out on the steps in boxes and burlap bags.

It was the only store down there in the fifties and hadn't changed since the Hamlin son, Russ, took it over from his father after World War I--they sold washboards and tubs, there was a sign up outside for Frostie, a soft drink, another nailed to the clapboards for Fleischmann's Yeast, another for Pittsburgh Paint Products, even one out front that said "Syracuse Plows," hanging there from when the store sold farm equipment too. Russ Hamlin could remember from earliest boyhood a wheelwright shop perched across the way, could still recall watching wagon wheels rolled down a ramp to be cooled in the stream; remembered, too, when there was a distillery out back, one of many in the region that had made the famous local applejack and had shut down only with the pa.s.sage of the Volstead Act. Clear at the back of the store there was one window that was the U.S. post office--one window was it, and thirty or so of those boxes with the combination locks. Hamlin's general store, with the post office inside, and outside the bulletin board and the flagpole and the gas pump--that's what had served the old farming community as its meeting place since the days of Warren Gamaliel Harding, when Russ became proprietor. Diagonally across the street, alongside where there'd been the wheelwright shop, was the six-room school-house that would be the Levovs' daughter's first school. Kids sat on the steps of the store. Your girl would meet you there. A meeting place, a greeting place. The Swede loved it. The familiar old Newark News he picked up had a special section out here, the second section, called "Along the Lackawanna." Even that pleased him, and not just reading through it at home for the local Morris news but merely carrying it home in his hand. The word "Lackawanna" was pleasing to him in and of itself. From the front counter he'd pick up the paper with "Levov"

scrawled at the top in Mary Hamlin's hand, charge a quart of milk if they needed it, a loaf of bread, a dozen fresh-laid eggs from Paul Hamlin's farm up the road, say "See ya,317.

Russell" to the owner, and then he'd turn and stride all the way back, past the white pasture fences he loved, the rolling hay fields he loved, the corn fields, the turnip fields, the barns, the horses, the cows, the ponds, the streams, the springs, the falls, the watercress, the scouring rushes, the meadows, the acres and acres of woods he loved with all of a new country dweller's puppy love for nature, until he reached the century-old maple trees he loved and the substantial old stone house he loved--pretending, as he went along, to throw the apple seed everywhere.Once, from an upstairs window, Dawn saw him approaching the house from the foot of their hill while he was doing just that, flinging out one arm, flinging it out not as though he were throwing a ball or swinging a bat but as though he were pulling hand-fuls of seed from the grocery bag and throwing them with all his strength across the face of the historic land that was now no less his than it was William Orcutt's. "What are you practicing out there?" she said, laughing at him when he burst into the bedroom looking, from all that exercise, handsome as h.e.l.l, big, carnal, ruddy as Johnny Appleseed himself, someone to whom something marvelous was happening. When people raise their and toast a youngster, when they say to him, "May you have health and good fortune!" the picture that they have in mind--or that they should have in mind--is of the earthy human specimen, the very image of unrestricted virility, who burst so happily into that bedroom and found there, all alone, a little magnificent beast, his young wife, stripped of all maidenly constraints and purely, blissfully his.

"Seymour, what are you doing down at Hamlin's--taking ballet lessons?" Easily, so easily, with those large protecting hands of his he raised the hundred and threepounds of her up from the floor where she stood barefoot in her nightgown, and using all his considerable strength, he held her to him as though he were holding together, binding together, into one unshatterable ent.i.ty, the wonderful new irreproachable existence of husband and father Seymour Levov, Arcady Hill Road, Old Rimrock, New Jersey, USA. What he had been doing out on the road-- which, as though it were 318 .

a shameful or superficial endeavor, he could not bring himself openly to confess even to Dawn--was making love to his life.About the intensity of his physical intimacy with his young wife he was actually more discreet. Together they were rather prudish around people, and no one would have guessed at the secret that was their s.e.xual life. Before Dawn he had never slept with anybody he'd dated--he'd slept with two while he was in the Marine Corps, but that didn't count really, and so only after they were married did they discover how pa.s.sionate he could be. He had tremendous stamina and tremendous strength, and her smallness next to his largeness, the way he could lift her up, the bigness of his body in bed with her seemed to excite them both.

She said that when he would fall asleep after making love she felt as though she were sleeping with a mountain. It thrilled her sometimes to think she was sleeping beside an enormous rock. When she was lying under him, he would plunge in and out of her very hard but at the same time holding himself at a distance so she would not be crushed, and because of his stamina and strength he could keep this up for a long time without getting tired. With one arm he could pick her up and turn her around on her knees or he could sit her on his lap and move easily under the weight of her hundred and three pounds. For months and months following their marriage, she would begin to cry after she had reached her o.r.g.a.s.m. She would come and she would cry and he didn't know what to make of it.

"What's the matter?" he asked her. "I don't know." "Do I hurt you?" "No. I don't know where it comes from. It's almost as if the sperm, when you shoot it into my body, sets off the tears." "But I don't hurt you." "No." "Does it please you, Dawnie? Do you like it?" "I love it. There's something about it ... it just gets to a place that nothing else gets to. And that's the place where the tears are.

You reach a part of me that nothing else ever reaches." "Okay. As long as I don't hurt you." "No, no. It's just strange ... it's just strange ... it's just strange not being alone," she said. She stopped crying only when he went down on her for the first time. "You don't cry this way," he said. "It was so different," she said. "How? Why?" "I guess319.

... I don't know. I guess I'm alone again." "Do you want me not to do it again?"

"Oh, no," she laughed, "absolutely not." "Okay." "Seymour ... how did you know how to do that? Did you ever do that before?" "Never." "Why did you then? Tell me." But he couldn't explain things as well as she could and so he didn't try.

He was just overtaken by the desire to do something more, and so he lifted her b.u.t.tocks in one hand and raised her body into his mouth. To stick his face there and just go. Go to where he had never been before. Ecstatically complicitous, he and Dawn. He had no reason to believe she would ever do it for him, of course, and then one Sunday morning she just did it. He didn't know what to think. His little Dawn put her beautiful little mouth around his c.o.c.k. He was stunned. They both were. It was taboo for both of them. From then on, it just went on for years and years. It never stopped. "There's something so touching about you,"

she whispered to him, "when you get to the point where you're out of control."

So touching to her, she told him, this very restrained, good, polite, well- brought-up man, a man always so in charge of his strength, who had mastered his tremendous strength and had no violence in him, when he got past the point of noreturn, beyond the point of anyone's being embarra.s.sed about anything, when he was beyond the point of being able to judge her or to think that somehow she was a bad girl for wanting it as much as she wanted it from him then, when he just wanted it, those last three or four minutes that would culminate in the screaming o.r.g.a.s.m.... "It makes me feel so extremely feminine," she told him, "it makes me feel extremely powerful... it makes me feel both." When she got out of bed after they made love and she looked wildly disheveled, flushed and with her hair all over the place and her eye makeup smudged and her lips swollen, and she went off into the bathroom to pee, he would follow her there and lift her off the seat after she had wiped herself and look at the two of them together in the bathroom mirror, and she would be taken aback as much as he was, not simply by how beautiful she looked, how beautiful the f.u.c.king allowed her to look, but how other she looked. The social face was gone--there was320.

Dawn! But all this was a secret from others and had to be. Particularly from the child. Sometimes after Dawn had been all day on her feet with the cows, he would pull his chair up to hers after dinner and he would rub her feet, and Merry would make a face and say, "Oh, Daddy, that's disgusting." But that was the only truly demonstrative thing they ever did in front of her. Otherwise there was just the usual affectionate stuff around the house that kids expect to see from parents and would miss if it didn't go on. The life they led together behind their bedroom door was a secret about which their daughter knew no more than anyone else. And on it went, on and on for years; it never stopped until the bomb went off and Dawn wound up in the hospital. After she came out was when it began stopping.Orcutt had married the granddaughter of one of his grandfather's law partners at Orcutt, Findley, the Morristown firm that he had been expected to join. After graduating from Princeton, he had declined, however, to accept a place at Harvard Law School--Princeton and Harvard Law had for over a hundred years const.i.tuted the education of an Orcutt boy--and breaking with the traditions of the world he'd been born to, he moved to a lower Manhattan studio to become an abstract painter and a new man. Only after three depressive years feverishly painting behind the dirty windows over the truck traffic on Hudson Street did he marry Jessie and come back to Jersey to begin architecture studies at Princeton.

He never relinquished entirely his dream of an artistic calling, and though his architectural work--mostly on the restoration of the eighteenth- and nineteenth- century houses out in their moneyed quarter of Morris County and, from Somerset and Hunterdon counties all the way down through Bucks County in Pennsylvania, the converting of old barns into elegant rustic homes--kept him happily occupied, every three or four years there was an exhibition of his at a Morristown frame shop that the Levovs, always flattered to be invited to the opening, faithfully attended.The Swede was never so uncomfortable in any social situation as321.

he was standing in front of Orcutt's paintings, which were said by the flier you got at the door to be influenced by Chinese calligraphy but looked like nothing much to him, not even Chinese. Right from the beginning Dawn had found them "thought-provoking"--to her they showed a most unlikely side to Bill Orcutt, a sensitivity she'd never seen a single indicator of before--but the thought the exhibition most provoked in the Swede was how long he should continue pretending to look at one of the canvases before moving on to pretend to be looking at another one. All he really had any inclination to do was to lean forward and read the t.i.tles pasted up on the wall beside each painting, thinking they mighthelp, but when he did--despite Dawn's telling him not to, pulling his jacket and whispering, "Forget those, look at the brushwork"--he was only more disheartened than when he did look at the brushwork. Composition #16, Picture #6, Meditation #11, Unt.i.tled #12 . . . and what was there on the canvas but a band of long gray smears so pale across a white background that it looked as though Orcutt had tried not to paint the painting but to rub it out? Consulting the description of the exhibition in the flier, written and signed by the young couple who owned the frame shop, didn't do any good either. "Orcutt's calligraphy is so intense the shapes dissolve. Then, in the glow of its own energy, the brush stroke dissolves itself. . . ." Why on earth would a guy like Orcutt, no stranger to the natural world and the great historical drama of this country--and a h.e.l.luva tennis player--why on earth did he want to paint pictures of nothing? Since the Swede had to figure the guy wasn't a phony-- why would someone as well educated and as self-confident as Orcutt devote all this effort to being a phony?--he could for a while put the confusion down to his own ignorance about art.

Intermittently the Swede might continue to think, "There's something wrong with this guy. There is some big dissatisfaction there. This Orcutt does not have what he wants," but then the Swede would read something like that flier and realize that he didn't know what he was talking about. "Two decades after the Greenwich Village years, Orcutt's ambition remains lofty: to create," the flier con-322.

eluded, "a personal expression of universal themes that include the enduring moral dilemmas which define the human condition."It never occurred to the Swede, reading the flier, that enough could not be claimed for the paintings just because they were so hollow, that you had to say they were pictures of everything because they were pictures of nothing--that all those words were merely another way of saying Orcutt was talentless and, however earnestly he might try, could never hammer out for himself an artistic prerogative or, for that matter, any but the prerogative whose rigid definitions had swaddled him at birth. It did not occur to the Swede that he was right, that this guy who seemed so at one with himself, so perfectly attuned to the place where he lived and the people around him, might be inadvertently divulging that to be out of tune was, in fact, a secret and long-standing desire he hadn't the remotest idea of how to achieve except by oddly striving to paint paintings that looked like they didn't look like anything. Apparently the best he could do with his craving to be otherwise was this stuff. Sad. Anyway, it didn't matter how sad it was or what the Swede did or did not ask or understand or know about the painter once one of those calligraphic paintings expressing the universal themes that define the human condition made its way onto the Levov living room wall a month after Dawn returned from Geneva with her new face. And that's when things got a little sad for the Swede.It was a band of brown streaks and not gray ones that Orcutt had been trying to rub out of Meditation #27, and the background was purplish rather than white.

The dark colors, according to Dawn, signaled a revolution of the painter's formal means. That's what she told him, and the Swede, not knowing quite how to respond and with no interest in what "formal means" meant, settled lamely on "Interesting." They didn't have any art hanging on the walls when he was a kid, let alone "modern" art--art hadn't existed in his house any more than it did in Dawn's. The Dwyers had religious pictures, which might even be what accounted for Dawn's having all of a sudden become a connoisseur of "formal means": a secret embarra.s.sment about growing up where, aside from the framed323.

photos of Dawn and her kid brother, the only pictures were pictures of the Virgin Mary and of Jesus' heart. These tasteful people have modern art on the wall, we're going to have modern art on the wall. Formal means on the wall.

However much Dawn might deny it, wasn't there something of that going on here?

Irish envy?She'd bought the painting right out of Orcutt's studio for exactly half as much as it had cost them to buy Count when he was a baby bull. The Swede told himself, "Forget the dough, write it off--you can't compare a bull to a painting," and in this way managed to control his disappointment when he saw Meditation #27 go up on the very spot where once there had been the portrait of Merry that he'd loved, a painstakingly perfect if somewhat overly pinkish likeness of the glowing child in blond bangs she had been at six. It had been painted in oils for them by a jovial old gent down in New Hope who wore a smock and a beret in his studio there--he'd taken the time to serve them mulled wine and tell them about his apprenticeship copying paintings in the Louvre--and who'd come to the house six times for Merry to sit for him at the piano, and wanted only two thousand smackers for the painting and the gilt frame. But as the Swede was told, since Orcutt hadn't asked for the additional thirty percent it would have cost had they purchased #27 from the frame shop, the five grand was a bargain.His father's comment, when he saw the new painting, was "How much the guy charge you for that?" With reluctance Dawn replied, "Five thousand dollars." "Awful lot of money for a first coat. What's it going to be?" "Going to be?" Dawn had replied sourly. "Well, itain't finished ... I hope it ain't___Is it?" "That it isn't 'finished,'"said Dawn, "is the idea, Lou." "Yeah?" He looked again. "Well, if the guy ever wants to finish it, I can tell him how." "Dad," said the Swede, to forestall further criticism, "Dawn bought it because she likes it," and though he also could have told the guy how to finish it (probably in words close to those his father had in mind), he was more than willing to hang anything Dawn bought from Orcutt just because she had bought it. Irish envy or no Irish envy, the painting was another sign that the desire to live had become stronger in her324.

than the wish to die that had put her into the psychiatric clinic twice. "So the picture is s.h.i.t," he told his father later. "The thing is, she wanted it. The thing is she wants again. Please," he warned him, feeling himself--strangely, given the slightness of the provocation--at the edge of anger, "no more about that picture." And Lou Levov being Lou Levov, the next time he visited Old Rimrock the first thing he did was to walk up to the picture and say loudly, "You know something? I like that thing. I'm gettin' used to it and I actually like it. Look," he said to his wife, "look at how the guy didn't finish it. See that? Where it's blurry? He did that on purpose. That's art."In the back of Orcutt's van was his large cardboard model of the new Levov house, ready to unveil to the guests after dinner. Sketches and blueprints had been piling up in Dawn's study for weeks now, among them a diagram prepared by Orcutt charting how sunlight would angle into the windows on the first day of each month of the year. "A flood of sunlight," said Dawn. "Light!" she exclaimed. "Light!" And if not with the brutal directness that could truly test to the limit his understanding of her suffering and of the panacea she'd devised, by implication she was d.a.m.ning yet again the stone house he loved and, too, the old maple trees he loved, the giant trees that shaded the house against the summer heat and every autumn ceremoniously cloaked the lawn in a golden wreath at whose heart he'd hung Merry's swing once upon a time.The Swede couldn't get over those trees in the first years out in Old Rimrock. / own those trees. It was more astonishing to him that he owned trees than that he owned factories, more astonishing that he owned trees than that a child of the Chancellor Avenue playing field and the unbucolic Weequahic streets should own this stately old stone house in the hills where Washington had twice made his winter camp during the Revolutionary War. It was puzzling to own trees--they were not owned the way a business is owned or even a house is owned. If anything, they were held in trust. In trust. Yes, for all of posterity, beginning with Merry and her kids.325.

To protect against ice storms and high winds, he had cables installed in each of the big maples, four cables forming a rough parallelogram against the sky where the heavy branches opened dramatically out some fifty feet up. The lightning rods that snaked from the trunk to the topmost point of each tree he arranged to have inspected annually, just to be on the safe side. Twice a year, the trees were sprayed against insects, every third year they were fertilized, and regularly an arborist came around to prune out the deadwood and check the overall health of the private park beyond their door. Merry's trees. Merry's family's trees.In the fall--just as he had always planned it--he'd be sure to get home from work before the sun went down, and there she would be--just as he had planned it-- swinging high up over the fallen leaves encircling the maple by the front door, their largest tree, from which he'd first suspended that swing for her when she was only two. Up she would swing, nearly into the leaves of the branches that spread just beyond the panes of their bedroom windows ... and, though to him those precious moments at the end of each day had symbolized the realization of his every hope, to her they had meant not a G.o.dd.a.m.n thing. She turned out to love the trees no more than Dawn had loved the house. What she worried about was Algeria. She loved Algeria. The kid in that swing, the kid in that tree. The kid in that tree who was now on the floor of that room.The Orcutts had come early so that Bill and Dawn would have time together to go over the problem of the link that was to join the one-story house to the two- story garage. Orcutt had been away in New York for a couple of days, and Dawn was impatient to get this, their last problem, resolved after weeks of thinking and rethinking how to create a harmonious relationship between the very different buildings. Even if the garage was more or less disguised as a barn, Dawn didn't want it too close, overwhelming the distinctiveness of the house, but she was afraid that a link twenty-four feet long, which was Orcutt's proposal, might impart the look of a motel. 326 .

They ruminated together almost daily, not only over the dimensions but now over whether the effect should perhaps be that of a greenhouse rather than of the simple pa.s.sageway first planned. Whenever Dawn felt that Orcutt was trying to impose on her, however graciously, a solution that had more to do with some old- fashioned architectural aesthetic of his own than with the rigorous modernity she had in mind for their new home, she could be quite peeved, and she even wondered, on those few occasions when she was outright furious with him, if it hadn't been a mistake to turn to someone who, though he had considerable authority with the local contractors--guaranteeing a first-cla.s.s construction job)-- and an excellent professional reputation, was "essentially a restorer of antiques." Years had pa.s.sed since she'd been intimidated by the sn.o.bbery that, fresh from Elizabeth and the family home (and the pictures on the wall and the statue in the hallway), she'd taken to be more or less Orcutt's whole story. Now his credentials as county gentry were what she was most cutting about when the two of them were at odds. The angry disdain disappeared, however, when Orcutt came back to her, usually within twenty-four hours, having alighted on--in Dawn's words--"a perfectly elegant plan," whether it was for the location of the washer- dryer or a bathroom skylight or the stairway to the guest room above the garage.Orcutt had brought with him, along with the large one-sixteenth-inch scale model out in the van, samples of a new transparent plastic material he wanted her to consider for the walls and the roof of the link. He'd gone into the kitchen to show it to her. And there the two of them remained, the resourceful architect and the exacting client, debating all over again--while Dawn cleaned the lettuce, sliced the tomatoes, shucked the two dozen ears of corn the Orcutts had brought over in a bag from their garden--the pros and cons of a transparent link rather than the board-and-batten enclosure Orcutt had first proposed to unify it with the exterior of the garage. And meanwhile on the back terrace that looked out toward the hill where, in another time, on an evening like this one, Dawn's herd would be silhouetted against the flamboyance of the late-sum-327.

mer sunset, the Swede prepared the barbecue coals. Keeping him company were his father and Jessie Orcutt, who rarely these days was seen out socializing with Bill but who, according to Dawn, was going through what had wearily been described--by Orcutt, phoning to ask if they wouldn't mind his wife's coming along with him for dinner--as "the calm that heralds the manic upswing."The Orcutts had three boys and two girls, all grown now, living and working at jobs in New York, five kids to whom Jessie, from all reports, had been a conscientious mother. It was after they'd gone that the heavy drinking began, at first only to lift her spirits, then to suppress her misery, and in the end for its own sake. Yet back when the two couples had first met, it was Jessie's soundness that had impressed the Swede: so fresh, so outdoorsy, so cheerily at one with life, not the least bit false or insipid ... or that's how she'd struck the Swede, if not his wife.Jessie was a Philadelphia heiress, a finishing-school girl, who always during the day, and sometimes in the evening, wore her mud-spattered jodhpurs and who generally had her hair arranged in flossy flaxen braids. What with those braids and her pure, round, unblemished face--behind which, said Dawn, if you bit into it, you'd find not a brain but a Mclntosh apple--she could have pa.s.sed for a Minnesota farm girl well into her forties, except on those days when her hair was worn up and she could look as much like a young boy as like a young girl.

The Swede would never have imagined that there was anything missing from Jessie's endowment to prevent her from sailing right on through into old age as the laudable mother and lively wife who could make a party for everyone's children out of raking the leaves and whose Fourth of July picnics, held on the lawn of the old Orcutt estate, were a treasured tradition among her friends and neighbors. Her character struck the Swede back then as a compound in which you'd find just about everything toxic to desperation and dread. At the core of her he could imagine a nucleus of confidence plaited just as neatly and tightly as her braided hair.Yet hers was another life broken cleanly in two. Now the hair was 328 .

a ganglion of iron-gray hemp always in need of brushing, and Jessie was a haggard old woman at fifty-four, an undernourished drunk hiding the bulge of a drunk's belly beneath her shapeless sack dresses. All she could ever find totalk about--on the occasions when she managed to leave the house and go out among people-- was the "fun" she'd had back before she'd ever had a drink, a husband, a child, or a single thought in her head, before she'd been enlivened (as she certainly had looked to him to be) by the stupendous satisfactions of being a dependable person.That people were manifold creatures didn't come as a surprise to the Swede, even if it was a bit of a shock to realize it anew when someone let you down. What was astonishing to him was how people seemed to run out of their own being, run out of whatever the stuff was that made them who they were and, drained of themselves, turn into the sort of people they would once have felt sorry for. It was as though while their lives were rich and full they were secretly sick of themselves and couldn't wait to dispose of their sanity and their health and all sense of proportion so as to get down to that other self, the true self, who was a wholly deluded f.u.c.kup. It was as though being in tune with life was an accident that might sometimes befall the fortunate young but was otherwise something for which human beings lacked any real affinity. How odd. And how odd it made him seem to himself to think that he who had always felt blessed to be numbered among the countless unembattled normal ones might, in fact, be the abnormality, a stranger from real life because of his being so st.u.r.dily rooted."We had a place outside Paoli," Jessie was telling his father. "We always raised animals. When I was seven I got the most wonderful thing. Somebody gave me a pony and a cart. And after that there was nothing to stop me. I just loved horses. I've ridden all my life. Showed and hunted. Was involved in a drag down there in school in Virginia. When I went to school in Virginia I was the whip.""Wait a minute," said Mr. Levov. "Whoa. I don't know what a drag and a whip is.

Slow down, Mrs. Orcutt. You got a guy from Newark here."329.

She pursed her lips--when he called her "Mrs. Orcutt"--seemingly for his having addressed her as though he were her social inferior, which, the Swede knew, was in part why his father had called her "Mrs. Orcutt." But she was "Mrs. Orcutt"

to Lou Levov also because of the distancing disdain he had for the drink in her gla.s.s, her third Scotch and water in under an hour, and the cigarette--her fourth--burning down between the fingers of her trembling hand. He was amazed by her lack of control--by anyone's lack of control but particularly by the lack of control of the goy who drank. Drink was the devil that lurked in the goy--"Big- shot goyim," his father said, "the presidents of companies, and they're like Indians with firewater."'"Jessie,"' she said, "'Jessie,' please," her grin painfully artificial, disguising, by the Swede's estimate, about ten percent of the agony she now felt at having decided against staying alone at home with her dogs and her TV tray and her own J&B and, in a ridiculous eruption of hope, opting instead for going out like a wife with her husband. At home there was a phone next to the J&B; she could reach over her gla.s.s and pick it up and dial, and even if only half dressed, she could tell the people she knew, without having to face the terror of facing them, how much she liked them. Months might go by without one of Jessie's phone calls, and then she'd phone three times after they were already in bed for the night. "Seymour, I'm calling to tell you how much I like you."

"Well, Jessie, thank you. I like you too." "Do you?" "Of course I do. You know that." "Yes, I like you, Seymour. I always liked you. Did you know I liked you?"

"Yes, I did." "I always admired you. So does Bill. We've always admired you and liked you. We like Dawn." "Well, we like you, Jessie." The night after the bombing, around midnight, after Merry's photograph had been on television and everybody in America knew that the day before she had said to somebody at school that Old Rimrock was in for a big surprise, Jessie tried to walk the three milesto their house to see the Levovs but on the unpaved country road, alone in the dark, had twisted her ankle and,330.

two hours later, still lying there, was nearly run over by a pickup truck."Okay, my friend Jessie, fill me in. What is a drag and a whip?" You couldn't say his father didn't try to get along with people for all that he really couldn't. If she was a guest of his children, then she was his friend, regardless of how repelled he might be by the cigarettes, by the whiskey, by the unkempt hair and the rundown shoes and the burlap tent concealing the ill-used body--by all the privilege she had squandered and the disgrace she had made of her life."A drag is a hunt and it's not with a fox. It's over a line that's laid by a man on a horse ahead of you . . . that has a scent in a bag. It's to make the effect of a hunt. The hounds go after it. There are huge, huge fences, and it's done in a sort of a course. It's a lot of fun. You go very fast. Huge, huge, thick brush fences. Eight, ten feet wide with bars on top. Quite exciting. Down there there's a lot of stee-plechasing and a lot of good riders and everybody gets out there and bombs through those places and it's fun."It appeared to the Swede to be as much her confoundment with her predicament--a tipsy woman, out at a party, blabbing uncontrollably--as his father's genial I'm- just-a-dope inquiry that drew her disastrously on, each slurred word unsuccessfully stimulating her mouth to try to produce one that rang clear as a bell. Clear as the "Daddy!" that had pealed out perfectly from behind the veil of his daughter the Jain.He knew what his father was thinking without bothering to look up from where he was using the tongs to make a pyramid of the reddest coals. Fun, his father was thinking, what is it with them and fun? What is this fun? What is so much fun?

His father was wondering, as he had ever since his son had bought the house and the hundred acres forty miles west of Keer Avenue, Why does he want to live with these people? Forget the drinking. Sober's just as bad. They would bore me to death in two minutes.Dawn had one brief against them, his father had another.

"Anyway," Jessie was saying, trying, with the cigarette-holding hand, to stir into being some sort of conclusion, "that was why I went to school with my horse.""You went to school with a horse?"Again she impatiently pursed her lips, probably because this father, who thought he was helping her out with his questions, was driving her even more rapidly than usual to whatever collapse was in store. "Yes. We both got on the train at the same time," she told him. "Wasn't I lucky?" she asked, and to the surprise of both Levov men, as though she weren't at all in serious straits--as though that was just a laughable illusion that disgustingly self-satisfied sober people persisted in having about drunks--laid a flirtatious hand on the side of Lou Levov's head."I'm sorry, I don't understand how you got on the train with a horse. How big was this horse?""In those days horses were on horsecars."

"Ah-hah," said Mr. Levov, as though his lifelong bewilderment at the pleasures of Gentiles had at last been put to rest. He took her hand from where it lay on his hair and, as though to squeeze into her everything he knew about life's purpose that she would seem to have forgotten, held it firmly between his own hands. Meanwhile, under the impetus of that force which, by failing to size up the situation, would lead her into humiliation before the night was through, Jessie went waveringly on."They were all leaving with the polo circuit and they were all going down south in the winter train. The train stopped in Philadelphia. So I put my horse in with them. I put my horse in the car two cars up from where I was bunked in, waved good-bye to the family, and it was great.""How old were you?""I was thirteen. I didn't feel homesick at all, and it was just great, great, great"--here she began to cry--"fun."Thirteen, his father was thinking, a pisherke, and you waved good-bye to the family? What was the matter? Was something the332.

matter with them? What the h.e.l.l were you waving good-bye to your family for at thirteen? No wonder you're shicker now.But what he said was "That's all right, let it all out. Why not? You're among friends." Unsavory as the job must have seemed to him, it had to be done, and so he removed the gla.s.s from her one hand, discarded for her the freshly lit cigarette in the other, and took her into his arms, which was perhaps all she had been asking for all along."I see where I have to be a father again," he said to her softly, and she could say nothing, she could only weep and let herself be rocked by the Swede's father, whom, on the one other occasion she had met him in her life--when, some fifteen years back, they had gone to picnic on the Orcutts' lawn for Fourth of July--she had tried to interest in skeet shooting, yet another of those diversions that had long defied Lou Levov's Jewish comprehension. For "fun"

pulling a trigger and shooting with a gun. They're meshugeh.That was the day when, on the way back home, they'd pa.s.sed a handmade sign on the road by the Congregational church that said "Tent Sale" and Merry had begged the Swede, in her fervent way, to stop and buy one for her.If Jessie could cry on his father's shoulder over waving good-bye to her family at the age of thirteen, about being shipped off alone at thirteen with nothing but a horse, why shouldn't that memory of his--"Daddy, stop, they're selling t-t- t-tents!"--bring the Swede to the edge of tears about his daughter the Jain when she was six?Figuring that Orcutt ought to know what was happening to Jessie and needing time to collect himself, feeling suddenly the full weight of the situation he was so strenuously working to obliterate from his thinking at least until the guests went home--the situation he was in as the father of a daughter who had killed not just one person more or less accidentally but, in the name of truth and justice, three more people quite indifferently, a daughter who, having repudiated everything she had ever learned from him and her mother, had now gone on to disown virtually the whole of civilized333.

existence, beginning with cleanliness and ending with reason--the Swede left his father temporarily to tend alone to Jessie and went around, by way of the back of the house, to the rear kitchen door to get Orcutt. Through the door's gla.s.s panes he could see a stack of papers on the table, a new batch of Orcutt's drawings, probably of the troublesome link, and then, by the sink, he saw Orcutt himself.Orcutt had on his raspberry-colored linen pants and, hanging clear of the pants, a loose-fitting Hawaiian shirt decorated with a colorful array of tropical flora best described in a word favored by Sylvia Levov for everything distasteful to her in wearing apparel: "loud." Dawn maintained that the outfit was just part of that superconfident Orcutt facade by which, as a young newcomer to Old Rimrock, she had once been so ridiculously intimidated. According to Dawn's interpretation--which, when she told it to him, struck the Swede as not without a tinge still of the old resentment--the message of the Hawaiian summer shirts was simply this: I am William Orcutt III and I can wear what other people around here wouldn't dare to wear. "The grander you believe you are in the great world of Morris County," said Dawn, "the more flamboyant you think you can be. The Hawaiian shirt," she said, smiling her mocking smile, "is Wasp extremism--Wasp motley. That's what I've learned living out here--even the William Orcutt the Thirds have their little pale moments of exuberance."Just the year before, the Swede's father had made a similar observation. "I've noticed this about the rich goyim in the summertime. Comes the summer, and these reserved, correct people wear the most incredible costumes." The Swede had laughed. "It's a form of privilege," he said, repeating Dawn's line. "Is it?"

asked Lou Levov, laughing along with him. "Maybe it is," Lou concluded. "Still, I got to hand it to this goy: you have to have guts to wear those pants and those shirts."Certainly, seeing Orcutt dressed like that down in the village, a burly guy, big and substantial-looking, you would not have imagined--if you were the Swede--his paintings having that rubbed-out look as their distinctive feature. A person as unsophisticated334.

about abstract art as the Swede was said to be by Dawn might easily have imagined the guy who went everywhere in those shirts as painting pictures like the famous one of Firpo knocking Dempsey out of the ring in the second round at the old Polo Grounds. But then artistic creation obviously was not achieved in any way or for any of the reasons Swede Levov could understand. According to the Swede's interpretation, all of the guy's effervescence seemed rather to go into wearing those shirts--all his flamboyance, his boldness, his defiance, and perhaps, too, his disappointment and his despair.Well, perhaps not all, the Swede discovered as he stood peering in through the kitchen door from the big granite step outside. Why he hadn't just opened the door and gone straight ahead into his own kitchen to say that Jessie was in serious need of her husband was because of the way that Orcutt was leaning over Dawn while Dawn was leaning over the sink, shucking the corn. In the first instant it looked to the Swede--despite the fact that Dawn needed no such instruction--as though Orcutt were showing Dawn how to shuck corn, bending over her from behind and, with his hands on hers, helping her get the knack of cleanly removing the husk and the silk. But if he was only helping her learn to shuck corn, why, beneath the florid expanse of Hawaiian shirt, were his hips and his b.u.t.tocks moving like that? Why was his cheek pressed against hers like that?

And why was Dawn saying--if the Swede was correctly reading her lips--"Not here,not here ..."? Why not shuck the corn here? The kitchen was as good a place as any. No, it took a moment to figure out that, one, they were not merely shucking corn together and, two, not all of the effervescence, flamboyance, boldness, defiance, disappointment, and despair nibbling at the edges of the old-line durability was necessarily sated by wearing those shirts.So this was why she was always losing her patience with Orcutt-- to put me off the track! Making cracks about his bloodlessness, his breeding, his empty warmth, putting him down like that whenever we are about to get into bed. Sure she talks that way--she has to, she's in love with him. The unfaithfulness to the house was never unfaithfulness to the house--it was unfaithfulness. "The poor wife335.

doesn't drink for no reason. Always holding everything back. So busy being so polite," Dawn said, "so Princeton," Dawn said, "so unerring. He works so hard to be one-dimensional. That Wasp blandness. Living completely off what they once were. The man is simply not there half the time."Well, Orcutt was there now, right there. What the Swede believed he'd seen, before quickly turning back to the terrace and the steak on the fire, was Orcutt putting himself exactly where he intended to be, while telling Dawn exactly where he was. "There! There! There! There!" And he did not appear to be holding anything back.336.


.t dinner--outdoors, on the back terrace, with darkness coming on so gradually that the evening seemed to the Swede stalled, stopped, suspended, provoking in him a distressing sense of nothing more to follow, of nothing ever to happen again, of having entered a coffin carved out of time from which he would never be extricated--there were also the Umanoffs, Marcia and Barry, and the Salzmans, Sheila and Only a few hours had pa.s.sed since the Swede learned that it was Sheila Salzman, the speech therapist, who had hidden Merry after the bombing. The Salzmans had not told him. And if only they had--called when she showed up there, done their duty to him then ... He could not complete the thought. If he were to contemplate head-on all that would not have happened had Merry never been permitted to become a fugitive from justice . . . Couldn't complete that thought either. He sat at dinner, eternally inert--immobilized, ineffectual, inert, estranged from those expansive blessings of openness and vigor conferred on him by his hyperoptimism. A lifetime's agility as a businessman, as an athlete, as a U.S. Marine, had in no way conditioned him for being a captive confined to a futureless box where he was not to think about what had become of his daughter, was not to think about how the Salzmans had a.s.sisted her, was not to think about . . . about what had become of his wife. He was supposed337.

to get through dinner not thinking about the only things he could think about.

He was supposed to do this forever. However much he might crave to get out, he was to remain stopped dead in the moment in that box. Otherwise the world would explode.Barry Umanoff, once the Swede's teammate and closest high school friend, was a law professor at Columbia, and whenever the folks flew up from Florida Barry andhis wife were invited for dinner. Seeing Barry always made his father happy, in part because Barry, the son of an immigrant tailor, had evolved into a university professor but also because Lou Levov--wrongly, though the Swede pretended not to care--credited Barry Umanoff with getting Seymour to lay down his baseball glove and enter the business. Every summer Lou reminded Barry-- "Counselor" as he'd been calling him since high school--of the good deed Barry had done for the Levov family by the example of his professional seriousness, and Barry would say that, if he'd been one-hundredth the ballplayer the Swede was, n.o.body would have gotten him near a law school.It was Barry and Marcia Umanoff with whom Merry had stayed overnight a couple of times in New York before the Swede finally forbade her going into New York at all, and it was Barry from whom the Swede had sought legal advice after Merry's disappearance from Old Rimrock. Barry took him to meet Schevitz, the Manhattan litigator. When the Swede asked Schevitz to level with him--what was the worst that could be laid on his daughter if she was apprehended and found guilty?--he was told, "Seven to ten years." "But," said Schevitz, "if it's done in the pa.s.sion of the antiwar movement, if it's done accidentally, if everything was done to try to prevent anyone from getting hurt... And do we know she did it alone? We don't. Do we even know she did it? We don't. No significant political history, a lot of rhetoric, a lot of violent rhetoric, but is this a kid who, on her own, would kill someone deliberately? How do we know she made the bomb or set the bomb? To make a bomb you have to be fairly sophisticated--could this kid light a match?" "She was excellent in science," the Swede said. "For 338 .

her chemistry project she got an A." "Did she make a bomb for her chemistry project?" "No, of course not--no." "Then we don't know, do we, whether she could light a match or not. It might have been all rhetoric to her. We don't know what she did and we don't know what she meant to do. We don't know anything and neither does anyone else. She could have won the Westinghouse Science Prize and we wouldn't know. What can be proved? Probably very little. The worst, since you ask me, is seven to ten. But let's a.s.sume she's treated as a juvenile. Under juvenile law she gets two to three, and even if she pleads guilty to something, the record is sealed and n.o.body can get at it. Look, it all depends on her role in the homicide. It doesn't have to be too bad. If the kid will come in, even if she did have something to do with it, we might get her off with practically nothing." And until a few hours ago--when he'd learned that on the Oregon commune making bombs was her specialty, when from her own unstuttering mouth he heard that it was not a single possibly accidental death for which she was responsible but the coldhearted murder of four people--Schevitz's words were sometimes all he had to keep him from giving up hope. This man did not deal in fairy tales. You could see that as soon as you walked into his office. Schevitz was somebody who liked to be proved right, somebody whose wish to prevail was his vocation. Barry had made it clear beforehand that Schevitz was not a guy interested in making people feel good. He was not addressing the Swede's yearnings when he said, If the kid will come in we might get her off. But this was back when they thought they could find a jury that would believe she didn't know how to light a match.

This was before five o'clock that afternoon.Barry's wife, Marcia, a literature professor in New York, was, by even the Swede's generous estimate, "a difficult person," a militant nonconformist of staggering self-certainty much given to sarcasm and calculatedly apocalyptic p.r.o.nouncements designed to bring discomfort to the lords of the earth. There was nothing she did or said that didn't make clear where she stood. She had barely to move a muscle--swallow while you were speaking, tap with a fingernail339.

on the arm of her chair, even nod her head as if she were in total agreement--to inform you that nothing you were saying was correct. To encompa.s.s all her convictions she dressed in large block-printed caftans--an extensive woman, for whom a disheveled appearance was less a protest against convention than a sign that she was a thinker who got right to the point. No nonsense, no commonplace stood between her and the harshest truths.Yet Barry enjoyed her. Since they couldn't have been more dissimilar, perhaps theirs was one of those so-called attractions of opposites. In Barry, there was such thoughtfulness and kindly concern--ever since he was a kid, and the poorest kid the Swede had known, he'd been a diligent, upright gentleman, a solid catcher in baseball, eventually the cla.s.s valedictorian, who, after his stint in the service, went to NYU on the GI Bill. That's where he met and jnarried Marcia Schwartz. It was hard for the Swede to understand how a strongly built, not unhandsome guy like Barry could free himself at the age of twenty-two from the desire to be with anybody else in this world but Marcia Schwartz, already so opinionated as a college girl that the Swede had to battle in her presence to stay awake. Yet Barry liked her. Sat there and listened to her. Didn't at all seem to care that she was a slob, dressed even in college like somebody's grandmother, and with those buoyant eyes, unnervingly enlarged by the heavy spectacles. Dawn's opposite in every way. For Marcia to have sp.a.w.ned a self- styled revolutionary --yes, had Merry been raised within earshot of Marcia's mouth ... but Dawn? Pretty, pet.i.te, unpolitical Dawn--why Dawn? Where do you look for the cause? Where is the explanation for this mismatch? Was it nothing more than a trick played by their genes? During the March on the Pentagon, the march to stop the war in Vietnam, Marcia Umanoff had

Receive SMS and Send Text Online for free >>

« Previous My Bookmarks Chapters Next»

Novel »
Next  »