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Rebellion in a Curious Way | Poem




    I woke up sneezing around noon. I had a cold from all that barefoot walking the night before. There weren’t as many people in the living room as when I fell asleep. A number of people were curled up asleep on the floor. Hope was still sitting upright on the couch. She had dark places under her eyes, like she hadn’t slept all night and her hands were folded in her lap. 
    "Don’t worry, Hope!" I called out. "We’ve got somebody watching out for your brother." 
    "Oh, it’s OK," she said tonelessly. 
    "Look," I said, "he probably didn’t even get arrested. Most likely he just went to the demonstration and drove home." 
    Just then Evie and Bob came through the door with some of the underground journalists. Evie was carrying three large flat boxes. 
    "Hi Dale!" she sang out cheerfully. "It’s great to see you’re finally awake. And Hope!" she cried out, turning abruptly towards the couch Hope was sitting on, "how did you get here?" 
    "Oh, I hitched here with Mariah," Hope said. "I’m looking for my brother. He came to the March. Have you seen him?" 
    "No," Bob said, "we’ve been driving errands for the March Office all day. There’s still a lot to do even though the March is over. It’s been great." 
    "I’m sure your brother will show up," Evie said. "Meanwhile, Hope, I’m sure you’ve had a rough trip. Have you had anything to eat?" 
    "Not since the day before yesterday," Hope said. 
    "Well, we’ve brought back three pizzas with everything," Evie said.    "Everybody take one slice and leave some for the people still asleep or on their way here." 
    I pulled myself to my feet. In spite of my sniffles from the night before, I was still young and hungry. Evie and the underground press people opened the boxes and passed out pizza slices. In one corner of the room, Les lumbered to his full height, then slouched back into his familiar, stoop-shouldered posture and came over and got a slice from Evie. 
    The pale young man wearing the flower-embroidered army coat shuffled to the center of the living room behind him. Pretty soon everybody awake in the room was gobbling pizza slices, even Hope. 
    All afternoon more and more people kept coming over to Warren’s place and filling up the living room so that the people still on the floor had to wake up and get on their feet. Evie took up spare change and went out and got a couple more pizzas. 
    One of the things that made you feel the most that the Movement was a big family was all these coincidental encounters with people you knew at the big national marches. And the coincidences got even more bizarre. 
    Late that afternoon Randy Mezarosh stomped into Warren’s living room with a huge smile on his face and his arm reaching up to wrap around the shoulders of Dave Cooper, the Vietnam Vet who was Rocky Mountain Regional traveler for the Organization. I had last seen Dave when he was making an anti-war speech to the MP’s at the Pentagon the night before. 
    "Wow!" Randy hollered. "I’ve been at a G.I.’s and veterans party with this bro here and I’m stoned out of my tree!" 
    Behind Randy and Dave came a crowd of G.I.’s and vets in ragged mixtures of civilian and army clothes. And one of them was Hope’s brother Zack! 
    Hope flew off the couch and threw her arms around Zack. "Little sister!" he yelled. "How did you get here! Why? What?" 
    "Marilyn said you drove off towards here," Hope gasped with tears streaming down her cheeks, "so I hitched here with Mariah." She inhaled a deep breath. "Besides," she went on, "I was getting cabin fever with Naldo I can’t be his flower child all my life!" 
    I was applauding with tears in my eyes. I gave a loud sneeze. Then I turned to Randy and asked, "Where are Clu and Don and Marge?" 
    "They’re still back over at the house where they went for the discussion with all the Vanguarders," he said. "And all three of them have been sound asleep since they got there. They’re dead tired. You couldn’t imagine the work Don and Marge and all the New York Vanguard people put in on this March for two months, before it happened. I hitched to New York and did a lot of work on the March too, but not as much as they did. When Don brought Marge and me down to Clu’s for Will’s Field Board Hearing it was like a vacation for him and us. And then when we were supposed to have discussions today on future directions for the anti-war movement, I couldn’t hack it. So I volunteered to go to the G.I.’s and vets party to represent the Vanguard. It was an excuse to get out of the house, but it was fucking great anyway!" He ended on a loud note. 
    "Dig it!" Zack called out. "This is the first time since I left Nam that I’ve been around a whole bunch of brothers who have been through what I’ve been through. When I got to Washington, there were so many cars that came for the demonstration. I couldn’t find a place to park. I drove round and round where the March was happening. Then this guy handed me a leaflet through my car window about the G.I.’s get together. I drove there and they let me park my car in their yard and man! It’s been more than I can say!" And he started to cry. 
    Still more people crowded into the living room. There was also a lesser counter-flow of people out into the streets of Washington, but their departures were barely noticed as the population of the living room increased. A dozen animated conversations were going on at once. There were no cocktails, no beers, not even a joint - just young people giving all their energy to a cause. 
    Shortly after six, it was getting dark. Mariah showed up with Warren and a couple of other underground press people. I made my way through the crowd until I was near Warren. I reached between two people and pulled at his jacket sleeve. 
    He turned in my direction and said, "What is it?" 
    "Two things," I said. "We found Zack Vann, the guy I thought might be in jail. Also Les - the one who knows about Glen Medard’s murder. Do you think you have time to talk to him now?" 
    "Oh, I guess so" Warren said. "Can you find him for me?" 
    I looked around the crowded room. No Les. I asked about five people, "Have you seen a tall guy, kind of stooped over, in a black shirt, black pants and a black vest?" 
    Finally the sixth person I asked said, "Yeah, but he went out the door with some dude with long blond hair, wearing an army jacket." 
 I made my way back to Warren. "Les was here," I said, "but he left with this blond headed guy who wears an army jacket embroidered with flowers." 
    "That was a real pale guy, wasn’t he?" Warren said. 
    "Yeah," I answered. "Do you know him?" 
    "That’s speed freak Nate," Warren said. "He hangs out at the office of our paper all the time. I know where they probably are. There’s a twenty-four hour drug store about a mile from here where all the speed freaks hang out and wait for their suppliers. If you can find someone to take you there, I’ll give them directions. Then bring Les back and I’ll hear what he has to say." 
    I went looking abound the room again and found Dave Cooper who had brought Randy and Zack and the other people over from the G.I.’s and vets party. Warren gave him the directions and we drove to the drug store. 
 On the sidewalk in front of the store young men and women, all of them very thin and pale were pacing back and forth, muttering to themselves or babbling to each other. No Les, no Nate. We walked inside the drug store and saw Nate sitting in a booth pouring a huge amount of sugar into a cup of coffee. 
    "Hey, Nate!" I said as Dave and I walked up to the booth, "where is Les?" 
    "Oh gee," Nate said, "he told me he would go in with me on some speed. It’s just my connection doesn’t like to have strange faces around. So Les gave me $5 and just begged me to give him $5 worth more. Then after I made my connection I went out in the alley with Les and hit up. Well, I had some speed left over from that transaction, because I put more money in on it than Les did, and all he was supposed to have was what he hit up and..." 
    "But where is he now?" I asked. 
    "He ripped me off!" Nate said, his facial muscles quivering. "Somehow he got the speed I had left - like a pick pocket. And he split! In the first place he had been real warm and friendly, like he told me his year old son had the same name I did..." 
     Dave and I walked out of the store, through the ghost like throng on the sidewalk. We got in Dave’s car. 
    "Fuck!" Dave shouted, slamming his car door. "Every time I see kids using that shit, it makes me sick!" 
    "Know what?" he said as he started the car up. "I bet some of those people on the sidewalk have been in Nam. Guys there take speed so they can do sentry duty all night. I’ve seen guys beat up another guy with a heart murmur who didn’t want to swallow a bunch of speed tablets, till they got him to swallow them - so he wouldn’t go to sleep on his watch and they all could stay alive. And they come back strung out on it. Just fuck!" 
    He ran a couple of stop lights as we drove back to Warren’s, where I admitted failure. I haven’t seen Les from that day to this and he took whatever secrets he had about Glen Medard’s murder with him. If he continued to live the life he lived then, he didn’t live long. 
    But late that night the crowd had cleared out of Warren’s place enough for a lot of us to have room to sleep on the living room floor. By sometime the next morning, Clu and Don and Marge showed up, all of them looking in much better health than I had last seen them. Don and Marge said their farewells and went off with Randy and some other Vanguard people to New York. Clu organized a three car caravan back to our home state - her car with me and two others, Evie’s car with Bob and two other people, minus the two who were now going with Clu and me,. Zack was driving with Hope and Mariah. So going back was a lot easier, with a lot more space to stretch out, even though I was returning barefoot and shirtless under my wind breaker and expecting a draft physical. 
    We drove all Monday afternoon and night and all Tuesday and got back Tuesday night. I slept late into Wednesday morning and Wednesday afternoon Clu was nice enough to take me to a thrift store and buy me a pair of used tennis shoes for $2 and a used shirt for $.50 to go along with the two shirts I had left in my room at Clu’s, when we went to Washington. This shirt had big tall blue and green cacti on a red background. 
    After Clu bought me the new second hand clothes, I went to the post office. My $10 weekly staff pay from the Organization had come in. Because Clu helped me with the footwear, I was able to use more money for my correspondence - this usually took up a lot of my staff pay. Although I was Regional Traveler, there were small campuses in the area where the Organization had contacts who I had not visited since spring. Also, the National Office was always getting letters from small town high school kids that read like, "I am 17 years old. I am the only person in my town that I know of who is against the war. Can you please send me information about the war and also tell me what the Organization is doing?" There were lots of these letters from my region and the National Office sent me the addresses. I spent Thursday writing letters to all these people - on college campuses and in small towns - telling them about the recent events at the Pentagon. I also sent them some of the latest literature. 
    I called down to the Barrage in Pronghorn. Jim Ed was there. He said that Will’s girlfriend Jan had dropped out of Southwest State College before the administration could kick her out for opening the room on campus for Will to speak in. Jan had moved into a storeroom in the house that Jim Ed rented and Will was spending as much time with her as he could when he could get away from Fort Clay. His final court-martial would be a week from Friday - three days before my draft physical. 
    "I’m not going to Will’s court-martial," Clu told me, as soon as I told her about Jim Ed’s news. 
    "But I thought the Vanguard was going to support him," I said, "even though he dropped out of Vanguard Youth." 
    "You heard what Don said," Clu replied with an undertone of weariness and anger. "The Vanguard is going to pay some of Ben’s expenses for coming down here and defending Will. And Don told me there will be a statement of support for Will in the next issue of the WEEKLY VANGUARD. Anyway, Will is going to be kicked out of the army no matter what happens. And he probably won’t have to do any time in the stockade, so just go yourself." 
    I saw some tears in Clu’s eyes as she turned away from me, realizing that she would never be with Will was admitting a lot. 
    Thursday night was the meeting of our campus chapter of the Organization. Before I had a chance to mention my draft physical, Terry Jones stood up and proposed that our chapter should picket the Veteran’s Administration Hospital where I was taking the physical. 
    "I’ll be there for a while," he said. "Even though Sally and I are going to be busy that day with the grand opening of our head store." And he came over and hugged me. 
    I had a good, warm feeling deep in my chest. I have not said much about the activities of my local Organization Chapter since I am mostly telling the story of how I related to Will’s court-martial at Fort Clay. In a way it makes me think of a black Baptist preacher who was also a farm laborer who I stayed with for a while in the deep south. Each Sunday for three Sundays he would preach at different barn-like little churches down the dirt roads in the country. On the fourth Sunday he sat in a pew in his "membership church" in town. In the same way, I had to get around to scattered Organization Chapters, but this chapter was my membership church. Many of the chapter people were my very close friends, brothers and sisters that I wish I had space to tell more about. Being with this chapter helped me keep my spirits up. 
    But the next week, the week before my physical, I didn’t go to the chapter meeting. On Thursday I hitched down to Pronghorn, to the little house that Jim Ed and his girlfriend Lou rented. I was to go with them and Jan, who was now living in their store room, to Will’s last court-martial on Friday.
Back to Jodey  ~  to Moongate

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