We thanked the professor and walked back
over to Harry’s. When he let us in he said, "What the hell happened? Bob’s
mother came back again at two o’clock in the morning all distraught."
"We just got out of jail," I said.
"Dale!" Hope cried out and ran over to me and hugged
me, which felt great. We went out into the screened porch area where Hope
and Harry and his monkey had been having breakfast coffee. It felt so good
and warm having my arm around Hope’s shoulder.
We sat down at the table. Harry asked, "Do you want
I said, "No, I just want to take a few deep breaths."
And I started doing exactly that. The monkey walked across the table to
me and took my right ear in his hand while his tail worked gracefully back
and forth. Through the screen I could see sunlight flickering on the leaves
of the big tree next to the porch.
Finally I turned to Hope and said. "Look, I’d better
go over to Clu’s and see what’s going on. I think you should stay here."
She turned her mouth down in a sweet-sour
expression that was sad and humorous both at once, as she stroked my shoulders
and arms. She laid her head in the curve of my neck for a few seconds.
Then I kissed her on the forehead and got up.
"Don’t worry," Harry said, "I go to work at two,
but I’ll leave this place open for you all. Hope, after what’s happened,
you’d better stay here. If you get seen leaving my place, I’m in trouble."
Bert and I walked over to Clu’s. We found blind
Bob and Evie in her living room, eagerly telling her about their hitch
"Hey, where were you all?" I asked. "We called Val’s
"Oh we just went to sleep by the side of the road,"
Bob said. "Romantic as all get-out!"
"You ought to call your mother," Bert said. "She’s
really been after us."
"OK, OK," Bob said. He stood up and said, "Clu,
which way is the phone?"
"It’s to the left in the hall," Clu said and Bob
felt his way with his cane into the hall and picked up the phone and made
peace with his mother.
While he was on the phone Clu looked at me and said,
"Hope’s mother came by early this morning. She said Hope’s brother left
a note that he had taken her with him to Florida - but she was wondering
if Hope had been here or if you were involved somehow."
"Oh, shit!" I said. "What did you tell her?"
"I said I was sure you had no idea where she was,"
"Thanks!" I breathed.
In some ways Hope was in more of a police state
than Will down at Fort Clay. If Hope and I got picked up on morals charges,
what left-wing lawyer could come down from New York to defend us? Or Clu?
Or Harry? The Movement had too much to deal with already.
"Look, Clu," I said. "I’ll be away most of the time
for the next week and if there are any messages for me, come by Harry’s
or send somebody over there."
All of a sudden Evie spoke up. "Dale, whatever you
do, be careful!" Then she and Clu came over to me and put their arms around
I left Clu’s and went back over to Harry’s. He let
me in. Hope was sitting on the floor with the palm of her hand full of
sunflower seeds and the monkey was picking them out.
I squatted down on the floor beside Hope. "Your
mother is asking around about you and me," I said. "She doesn’t quite believe
you’ve gone to Florida with Zack and Marilyn."
Hope looked up at me very calmly. "But she will
believe me," she answered. "Zack and Marilyn will be back in a few days
and everything will be all right."
"But what about your father?" I asked. "Will he
do anything to you when you come back home?"
"Oh he’ll do what he did when he saw me walking
back with you from the committee meeting," Hope said. "He drove me home
and slapped me down to the floor and that was it. I have friends who have
fathers who do worse. But I’ll go home when Zack and Marilyn get
back. Then in three more weeks I’ll be eighteen and that’ll be it. We can
be together," and she put her hand on my wrist.
I kissed her on the forehead. She was brave,
like Sandra who had hitched with me from New York to Memphis on her way
to be a civil rights worker. I just didn’t know if Hope understood what
she was getting into.
"One thing more," I said. "I may be gone a lot.
I may have a lot of stuff to do about more court-martials down at Fort
Clay and all the other Organization stuff. And you can’t leave this place
till Zack and Marilyn get back. It’s not safe for you to walk around town."
"Oh, I think I can live with that," Hope said. "I’ll
be eighteen before this month is over. Then I can be with you and do a
lot for the Organization. You see," she added with a little smile, "I planned
Harry went off to work at the restaurant by the
highway. Hope put the monkey in the cage and she and I ended up on a couch,
our clothes still on, stroking each other gently until she went to sleep.
Then I kissed her sleeping face and got up and went to the post office
to check the Organization’s mail box.
My $10 check had come from the National Office with
an announcement that the new back-to-school issue of THE RED BALLOON might
be a little late, but it would surely be out before the beginning of October.
"Well that’s great to know!" I said with a small
I went to Brady’s to cash my paycheck. Brady’s was
a real old-fashioned corner grocery store, not a convenience store. Unlike
super markets and convenience stores, Brady’s had a smell of bananas and
cheese and apples and bologna and cool wet air on a hot day Old man Brady
the grocer was a gruff man over seventy.
"Have you seen your grandmother Dale?" he asked.
"No," I said. "But I got a card from her last week."
"That’s good," Brady said. "She sure is a fine lady."
Brady remembered my mother and aunt when they were
in college and my grandmother would come up and visit them. My aunt finished
college. My mother dropped out and got married and had me. My grandmother
never went to college. I realize now how she must have sighed - if only
she had gone to college or my mother and I had finished!
Brady cashed my check and I walked over to the Corner
Grill and ordered one of my favorite items there, the thirty-five cent
barbecue sandwich. Ina, the waitress said, "Somebody called her for you
and left this number - said call ‘em collect."
I took the number and got the operator to call collect.
A woman’s voice answered, "Dale? This is Laura Thompson. I met you at the
Organization’s conference out here on the West Coast last winter. Well,
Bump came out here to work in our Regional Office two weeks ago and he’s
been living with me for about a week."
"Wow, Bump!" I called out so loud that Ina shushed
me from the restaurant counter. "How is he?"
"That’s what I’m calling you about," Laura said.
"You remember Johnny and Jean Collins?"
"I sure do!" I said.
Johnny and Jean were from our university town. I
had known them since they were in high school and started coming to Organization
meetings. Johnny was a professor’s son. He was a state wrestling champion
and captain of his high school basketball team. He had crowned Jean as
basketball queen. They had dropped out of college after less than a year
and gotten married and gone to the West Coast and started working in an
Organization Regional Office. They were among the youngest paid staff people
in the Organization - and the only ones I knew who were legally married.
"Well," Laura said, "you remember Jean was going
to have a baby? The baby was born premature two days ago and died an hour
later. Johnny and Jean are OK. Johnny’s parents sent them money for plane
tickets. They’ll be back where you are tomorrow. But it’s Bump I’m worried
about. As soon as he heard the baby had died, he went to pieces. He’s been
drunk for two days. At first he was down on the floor kicking and screaming
and now he just lays in the bed and doesn’t do anything and I’m really
worried for him. He talked a lot about you when he was first here, so I
told him I’d get ahold of you if he’d just sit up and act alive. Bump!
Please get up and come over here! I’ve got Dale on the phone."
A moment later, I heard Bump on the phone, "Hey
Dale, brother, you OK there?"
"Yeah sure, Bump, it’s me."
"Just when I think I’m starting to get a strong
base built," Bump went on. His voice sounded very drunk, but under control.
"A base for really solid working class politics - first Glen Medard gets
killed and now this happens. Dale - I want to have a kid so much!" and
he started blubbering - crying his heart out.
"How can I have a kid when there’s an H-Bomb?" Bump
said, blubbering again. "How can I have a kid with a
war in Vietnam? Johnny and Jean - their kid was a casualty of the war,
like some kid killed with napalm! Dale, why can’t they have a kid? Why
can’t I?" and he started crying again for about a minute.
"I’m still here, Bump," I said.
"OK, OK! Thank you!" Bump said and honked his nose.
"I’ll see you this fall or at the winter conference. Goodbye brother!"
"Goodbye brother!" I said and he hung up.
I went from the Corner Grill over to Clu’s. She
wasn’t there. I went upstairs to my room and got my guitar. (Even as I
tell this I am realizing how naive we were back then, how trusting). Clu’s
house was wide open with the pot she bought from Harry someplace in her
room and some notebooks full of addresses and phone numbers were piled
next to my bed. And all I thought of then was to write down Laura and Bump’s
number on one of my notebooks. (I still live open that way).
From there I went to Brady’s grocery and bought
a large jar of peanut butter and two loaves of bread - white bread as always
in those days - and a king size coke. I walked back to Harry’s and knocked
on his door. Hope let me in. I handed her the sack with the Wonder Bread
and peanut butter and the king size coke.
"Here’s something for you to eat," I said. "Harry
works in a restaurant so he’s not much on keeping food in his icebox."
Hope took the stuff and put it in the refrigerator.
She came back and we embraced and kissed for the first time in my life
I felt how man-woman contact could be not only shared comradeship or sexual
thrills, but a real easing away of pain and worry. We went into the living
room and I sat on the couch and started playing that Hebrew song that was
such a favorite of Hope’s on my guitar and singing:
"Come my beloved, let us go out into the field
Let us lodge in the villages..."
Hope started gliding around the living room to the
dance she had made up. I could feel tension disappearing from my neck and
shoulders. I sang some more songs and then we got out Harry’s Monopoly
board - he was a passionate player when he was stoned.
"I just wish there was a socialist Monopoly game,"
I said and we both laughed. We played Monopoly for hours. I had never been
so relaxed in my life. For those hours my only thought of troubles of the
outside world was to write Laura and Bump’s number in the notebook I had
left at Harry’s so that I would have two copies of it.
Around six o’clock, there was a knock on the door.
I opened. It was a tall, powerfully built seventeen year old boy with blonde
hair a little longer than mine. Wade Collins, the younger brother of Johnny
who worked in the Organization’s West Coast Regional Office. Wade was a
state wrestling champion, like his older brother had been before him. His
mouth was like a painful cut in the trunk of a strong young sapling.
"Clu told me I could find you here," he said as
he walked in. Hope looked up at him and they nodded in recognition. They
had gone to high school together.
"What’s happened to Johnny?" he asked, sounding
very hurt. "I thought I was Organization like him, but now, I can’t tell.
You know what I mean, don’t you?"
"Yeah, I think I do," I said.
"Right after the convention I went out to the Regional
Office to see how Johnny and Jean were doing," Wade said. "You know, the
baby was due in a couple of months. They both were working all day in that
fucking office for $10 a week! And then Johnny was going out at night and
working eight hours loading trucks to pay the rent! Jean was about to have
a baby and they were both living on peanut butter sandwiches and Coke and
Kool-aid! Johnny must have lost twenty pounds. He challenged me to wrestle
like we always do and for the first time in my life, I pinned him down
- and in less than a minute. I could have injured him! He was gasping for
air! He talks about you all the time, how you were in the civil rights
movement down south and all that. He thinks you’re the greatest guy that
ever lived. He wants to see you when he gets here tomorrow. And they’ve
lost their kid!"
Wade looked at me. His eyes were wide and helpless
with small tears forming.
"Johnny talks this Organization stuff to me all
the time," he went on. "He was still talking it when we talked on the phone
about the baby dying. Dale, I have to ask you - do you think it’s
I stood there a couple of minutes getting myself
together, looking steadily at Wade. "Yeah, I think it’s worth it, I finally