As we walked through Pronghorn’s
Impact Area - the downtown blocks that lived off G.I.’s - some of the merchants
and bartenders standing at the doors of their places scowled at Will. But
often we heard G.I.’s call out, "Hey Will, keep it up! FTA! Fuck the army!"
Will made a couple of V-signs to his
well-wishers. Then he looked at me and said, "Dale, do you remember when
you were here with that guy Bump in the summer?"
"Remember how I told you I need somebody
I can talk to about - well, romance, somebody that - like, knows about
it and understands."
"Yeah, I remember." Sure I know about
it, I thought to myself. Look at how well I was able to handle things between
me and Hope.
"When I look up in the sky," Will said,
"it’s like there’s a big beautiful white bird. That’s Clu. We get along
great on the telephone. But Jan’s who I’m with every day. And we argue
all the time. Like I tried to get Jan interested in the Vanguard. And now
she won’t even look at the Vanguard literature."
"Well, what do you think about the Vanguard?"
"I suppose I can trust you with this,"
Will said. "Clu told me - it was kind of personal - that she really wasn’t
part of the Vanguard that much. It’s just they have the plan that was most
like hers, so if you want the revolution - well, right now they’re the
only way to go."
"I’ve heard her say something like that,"
"I’m kind of like her about that," Will
said. "All my life I’ve wanted to do something good for people. But I was
kind of shy about going to people on my own and saying, ‘I’m Will Orry
and I want to do such and such.’ As you can see, I’ve got a lot of people
here on my side. But it’s not like the brothers at Black Hill in Nam. There
are only a few people here like Pete that I’m really tight with the way
I was with people over there. So I have to feel like I’ve got a group like
the Vanguard behind me. You did it?"
"I think I understand that much," I
"I’m on the phone with Clu about the
Vanguard all the time," Will went on. "There are times that I try to ask
her - is there anymore than that between her and me? And she just hints
around and won’t say plain yes or no."
"That’s Clu, all right," I said with
a small chuckle.
"And I never mention to Jan that I talk
about - those things - with Clu," Will said. "But Jan’s smart. She can
read my face when I’ve been talking with Clu. Jan knows. And a few days
ago she said ‘Will, you’ve got to make up your mind.’ I said ‘Jan I’ve
got this Field Board Hearing coming up. And I am in Vanguard Youth I’ve
got to consult with Vanguard people about it, like Don and Marge when they
come down - and Clu, same as if I was on a mission in the army I would
have to hear what my commanding officer wanted me to do’."
"How do you feel about Jan?" I asked.
"I do love her," Will said. A little
frown of pain and conflict flitted across his face in the red and green
light of the downtown Pronghorn neon. "Clu is so beautiful and not of this
world," Will said. "Jan is like everyday life. The only politics she knows
is she was in the Young Republicans once. I know her faults and she knows
my faults. We fight all the time. It’s when we’ve had a real big fight
that I dream about Clu. And we had a real bad fight before we came to the
"What about?" I asked
"Clu’s not coming down here with Don
and Marge until the Field Board Hearing," Will said. "She doesn’t want
another riot like we had at the motel in the summer. She wants Ben Markovitz
to take me up there to talk with Don over the weekend. Like Don knows everything
about politics. And Jan says she wouldn’t go up there with me for ten dollars
As we walked along I exhaled a weary
"Look Will, I’ve got some problems too,"
I said. "I just broke up with a young lady and I’ve got to be with her
and her new boyfriend a week from this Saturday night when Ben Markovitz
brings you up to Clu’s and you talk with Don and Marge."
"Is there anything I can do?" Will asked.
"We’re going to be at a party," I said.
"Like a party with lots of LSD that this friend of mine, Harry Holtzenheimer
is giving because he’s going out of the pot business and leaving town.
And I’d like to ask Harry if you can come to the party, I need somebody
there I can really talk to so I won’t just be looking at my ex-girlfriend,
Hope, all night. It’s personal and it’s political both, I do stuff for
the Organization and we don’t have it worked out like the Vanguard. I miss
Hope pretty bad. I’m alone, working with a group that doesn’t know where
"The last time I tried acid was in Nam,"
Will said, "at this big birthday party we had for one of the brothers at
Black Hill. Oh, it was fun and all that, but I was able to stop and think.
It did teach me something - or maybe it helped me to stop long enough to
teach myself something. Yeah, if it’s cool with your friend Harry, I’ll
see if I can get away early from rapping with Don about my Field Board
All of a sudden I realized I was shivering.
It was an October night and I was only in my shirt sleeves.
"Say, let’s go back to the bar," I said,
"Sure," Will said and clapped me on
the shoulder and we walked back to the Barrage.
When we got back we paid a $.75 cover.
A G.I. and his girlfriend were singing. When they took a break, Jim Ed
asked me if I wanted to sing. I borrowed the G.I.’s guitar and got on the
stool on stage and sang a while. When I finished, Will passed his cowboy
hat around the crowd and raised $12.76 for me. Merle, the Indian G.I. with
a Mohawk haircut bought me a beer.
It was after midnight when the bar closed
down. Sally and Terry took me and Will and Jan in their car. Jim Ed and
his girlfriend Lou took Pete and the other two G.I.’s and we all went over
to Jim Ed and Lou’s place. Pretty soon everyone was sitting around the
kitchen passing around a joint. We were all young people who had traveled
far in short lifetimes with a lot of stories to tell, so there was a lot
of talk and laughter. Just when everybody was all wrapped up in Will’s
account of the birthday acid party at Black Hill in Vietnam, I stood up
for a second to be out of the close hot smoky air. I saw Jan standing in
the kitchen door. She motioned to me to walk over to her and I followed
her into Jim Ed and Lou’s living room.
"Smoking too much grass makes me dizzy,"
she said, sitting down on the couch.
"Yeah, I know, it burns my throat,"
I said and sat down in a chair opposite Jan. We didn’t say anything for
a couple of minutes, as the laughter and conversation drifted in from the
"You know what?" Jan started after a
while. "There’s only one person Will talks about as much as Clu, and that’s
"But I’ve only been around him a few
times," I said.
"Anyway, he trusts you," Jan answered.
"He really, really trusts you, so I wanted to see if I can. You always
looked like a good guy the times I’ve seen you."
"You saw us go off," I said. "You probably
know what we talked about."
"Yeah," she said with a sigh and her
head drooped. Somehow I expected people with very freckled faces like Jan’s
to look cheerful...it was strange to see all those freckles with a sad,
"My father was a twenty year sergeant,"
Jan said. "I understand a little of what Will has been through because
Dad ran our house like a barracks. He and my mother were such strict Catholics
- the Pope should do half as good. Dad died of a heart attack last year
and my mother has moved to Florida to be with her sister. So I’m stuck
here in this army town till I graduate from Southwest State College. It’s
a college full of army brats and the administration runs it like a barracks.
When mom was still here, I lived with her and I had to figure out every
lie on earth to stay out late at night with Will. Now I have to face the
women’s dorm rules at the college. If I’m not back there half an hour from
now, I’ll catch a lot of shit from them tomorrow."
"Well, has it been worth it to you?"
"I’m prepared to go through a lot of
shit for Will," Jan said. "He’s an incredible human being. But, then, you
know, there’s Clu - and the Vanguard. I do believe a lot of the stuff about
a revolution and a new society, and I really did try to read the Vanguard
literature at first. But it just seems to me that what they want is like
an army barracks or a women’s dorm - only co-educational."
"Maybe a certain amount of discipline
is good," I said.
"Well, if it’s so great, why aren’t
you in the Vanguard?" Jan said with a get-serious flash from her eyes.
"I know you’re in the Organization and Jim Ed and Lou are sort of in the
Organization and I can’t figure out what the Organization is for - just
that they’re against the war. What would you say?"
"The Organization can’t figure out exactly
what it’s for," I answered. "If there’s a cause, somebody that needs help,
any Organization Chapter will go into action, but there’s no real over-all
goal or strategy - just a vague hope of some kind of new society. People
have ideas about what they want - they write big long papers about goals
and strategy. So far, none of them have been really accepted by the Organization
as a whole. There’s a kind of freedom of action you don’t find elsewhere.
I guess that’s why I work for the Organization - not to mention there are
a bunch of people in the Organization who are like my own family."
"And what about Clu?" Jan said looking
up at me with an anxious expression on her face.
"I can’t promise you a thing," I said.
"All I know for sure is Will’s going to have to make up his mind about
Clu one way or another soon. That’s something she tries a lot to keep from
doing - making up her mind. And as for Will..."
"Yeah?" Jan said softly.
"It’s strange," I said. "From what he
said tonight I don’t think he realizes how much he has going for him. He’s
got to decide if he needs the Vanguard to back him up or not. That’s a
lot of what Clu means to him. From what I see of you, from what he’s told
me about you, I think he’ll decide to be with you if he’s ready to be his
"Thank you," she said. She got up and
came over and clasped my hands briefly. Then we both got up and walked
back into the kitchen where the stories were still being told and the joints
were still going around.
Later Will took our literature and the
head store fliers and Jim Ed drove him and the other G.I.’s to Fort Clay
and Jan to her dorm. Terry and Sally and I bedded down in the living room.
One of the main things I have found about left-wing youth movements is
that there are always people sleeping in your living room.
Next morning we got up and drove until
we arrived in the big university town far to the south. There were lots
of friends, lots of news to write down in my notebook, but the town seemed
strange and empty with no more Glen and Miriam Medard, no more speed freak
Les. That night we stayed in the living room of Drake and Suze Loupess.
Sally and Terry eagerly discussed with them, the possibility of Drake and
Suze bringing back handcrafts for the head store the next time they went
to Mexico and Guatemala.
We stayed over Sunday. I wrote a story
for the ARMADILLO TIMES covering Will’s speech, the attack on Shin, the
firebombing and the coming Field Board Hearing. We went out to the beautiful
park on the west side of town. We played on the swings and slide, even
Sally, prim and school-teacherly as she seemed at first glance. We weren’t
stoned on anything, just three people in their early twenties sliding and
swinging on a bright day under the tall trees. That night we went back
to Drake and Suze’s. They told us that Che Guevara had been killed in his
failed uprising in Bolivia. There was still an expression of shock on their
The long left-wing discussion we had
with Drake and Suze that night was not up-beat and exciting as such discussions
usually are. We realized that with Che dead, there would be no great uprising
in South America to make it impossible for the US to continue in Vietnam
- at least soon. Che’s death meant not only that the peasants in Bolivia
might continue poor for a long time into the future, it meant something
for us too. There would be no sudden change blasting into our lives from
the outside. We might wear out all the years of our youth - maybe even
all of our lives - under the same old system, doing our bit for a future
we might never see. I had a couple of little tears in my eyes for our lives
as well as for Che.
The next day we headed north to get
back in time for Sally’s job at the Touchdown Cafe. Her shift started at
six p.m. As could be expected with a movement car, we had a breakdown and
limped into a gas station - for a couple of hours. We got back at five-thirty
and Sally drove off in a hurry to her job and left me and Terry on the
We walked along for about half a block
when two Committee to End the war people, Evie and her blind boy friend
Bob called out to me from across the street, "Dale, Dale, have you heard?"
Terry and I ran across the street to
them. "What’s happening?" I asked.
"You were on the TV news!" Evie shouted
"Huh?" was all I could get out.
"Oh, yeah," Bob said. "On TV they said
your draft board wants you to repeat your physical. They said you behaved
in a manner unworthy of your deferment because of the way you acted at
that speech by the soldier, I guess when you said, fuck you to the state
"But I didn’t do that!" I said. My jaw
"It doesn’t matter what you did," Evie
said. "It’s what they think you did. Don’t you realize that? Anyway, they
said the army might teach you respect and good manners."
We walked on towards Clu’s house. On
the way, three more people came up to me with the same message. When I
walked into Clu’s living room she came up to me with an envelope. "This
came for you," she said.
I opened the letter form my hometown
draft board, which my late grandfather had been a member of. I was supposed
to report to the VA Hospital in the state capital November 7 fro my draft
From Clu’s living room wall, Lenin’s
portrait looked down on me with his wry smile.