some songs. The place was filling up mostly with G.I.’s and guys who had
just ETS’ed -gotten out of the Army. There was a good crowd, even though
it was only Thursday, not the weekend. The Barrage was a popular place
among G.I.’s. I got some pretty good applause and when I finished, Frog
went up to a guy with a cowboy hat and asked to borrow it. He passed the
hat around the crowd for money and then he handed it to me and I took out
the money and gave the hat back to the guy.
I went back
over to the table where our group was sitting. I saw Hattie standing next
to Don looking worried. Don was leaning back in his chair and had his eyes
closed, gasping for breath. Marge kept telling Hattie, "Don’t worry, it’s
all right. He’s been traveling a long time and he had so much beer to drink."
With Don out
of it, Marge took over in arranging the final details with Will, giving
him the addresses and telephone numbers for the Vanguard and herself and
Don. She said, "Be sure and let us know everything that happens at Pete
Yoder’s court martial."
"Well, Clu here
remembers Stan Bennet who came to her place with Pete and me, don’t you
Clu?" Will asked. "I saw Stan right before I took the bus from the Fort
into Pronghorn. He told me he had gone to look for Pete and saw him surrounded
by Military Intelligence people. Stan couldn’t reach him."
"You have our
address and phone number," Clu said. "You come up and see us as often as
possible or give us a call. I’ll try to arrange for you to speak in the
auditorium in the Student Union at the university. Let’s see, when would
be a good date?"
"I don’t think
I can arrange for transportation for a while," Will said, "Stan’s car needs
a lot of work. And the week-end after this one is Fourth of July week-end."
"OK, how about
you coming to speak July 15th?" Clue asked. "That’s our meeting three weeks
I’ll do it." Will answered.
We all said goodbye and I found myself hugging Will and Ben both at
once while Clu took Don’s left arm and Marge took his right and they helped
him to his feet. We left Will, Ben and Jan in the Barrage and went out
to Clu’s car. Don opened the door and collapsed across the back seat. He
was sound asleep in a second. I sat in front between Marge and Clu as she
drove us home across the darkened prairie. For a while no one said anything.
Then Marge spoke, "That Will - he’s so for real."
"Yeah, he is,"
really been there," she said. "He could do more for the movement than even
I had met Randy
Mezarosh that spring. He was a high school drop out who had lived in the
fringe area of a college campus in the Great Lakes area. He had a job mopping
up the biology labs at the university there. In spring, 1966, he had joined
the local chapter of the youth group of the Vanguard. They were overjoyed
- he was the first real proletarian they had recruited in some time. But
then that fall he got drafted. Immediately he started distributing all
the anti-war literature the Vanguard could send him. There had been the
same court martial scene at his post that had happened to Will. The Vanguard
got Randy a good lawyer, but he ended up with an undesirable discharge
- which he appealed.
Then he came
to our town on a speaking tour with Don (who I met for the first time)
and some other long time Vanguarders. When I met Randy at Clu’s house that
spring and talked to him alone he seemed like nice, rather shy person.
are great intellectuals and they’re letting me in on what’s happening,"
he told me. But when he spoke in public on the campus in our town, he became
another person. A very confident person, but there was something about
him that was too slick, that did not ring true. Not that he used any left-wing
jargon. I have said that Organization people often talked in slogans. As
for Vanguard people, they were pretty heavy on the Marxist terminology
in private, but they avoided it in giving talks to the mass-based anti-war
movement where they had such an influence. Well, Randy in public was very
competent, but he was too much like a rising young politician.
We drove on
and Clu and Marge talked a lot about Will - he was probably the easiest
subject for those two to talk with each other about. I found myself with
very little to say - a condition that is rare for a leftist, believe me!
were coming back into the university town. We drove up to Don and Marge’s
motel. Marge shook Don’s shoulder until he woke up. She said her farewells
and disappeared with Don staggering and leaning on her, into the motel
We drove back
to Clu’s house. Clu picked her way through a living room floor full of
sleeping Vanguarders and motioned for me to follow her into the kitchen.
She closed the door and turned out the lights and got frozen lemonade and
frozen grape juice out of the refrigerator and mixed them together in a
pitcher. She brought the pitcher over to the table with a couple of glasses
and poured us both some. Then we both sat down at the table sipping our
drinks and waited to see who would speak first.
said, "Oh wow, I’m glad I’m not drinking any more beer tonight!"
I went "Uh-uh-uh" a few times and finally I was able to get out what
I was thinking, "Clue, I know you were breaking Vanguard discipline when
you hollered END THE WAR at the court martial. Were you doing it out of
spite because you were made at Don for bringing Marge here?"
"No," Clu said,
"I have my purposes. The Vanguard’s discipline didn’t suit my purpose and
I felt no obligation to Don right then to keep that discipline. Don’t you
understand?" she leaned towards me.
I shook my head.
still sounded to me like she was mad at Don.
"I’m not really a Vanguarder," Clue said, stronger and more sure than
I have ever heard her say anything. She went on, "No one knows who I am.
I have a plan of my own and no one else knows it."
I made a faint
little whistle of amazement. This was the closest Clu had come to leveling
with me in the six months I had known her.
"But Clu," I
said, "you told me once that you had an arrangement with Don. He could
be with who he wanted to be in New York and you would be with who you wanted
here. But wasn’t it rude of him to bring someone else here instead of spending
time with you?"
"As for Don,"
Clu said, "I loved him then and I love him still. I was hoping that we
could be the main people for each other all our lives. He was letting me
know that it couldn’t be. It hurts, but..." and she drew a long deep breath.
"Oh, I still think the Vanguard are the best to work with," she went
on quickly, "and I’ll keep on with them. You remember the Organization’s
projects working in poor communities?" and she made a contemptuous little
flick of her fingers, throwing the Organization’s Economic Project into
the next galaxy.
continued, "I tried working in them before I went to Europe and met Don.
I was what a farce the Organization’s projects are -the Disorganization!
We were waiting for the people in the slums to tell us what to do! Now,
I want to work with the Vanguard to give the Movement a sense of purpose
and direction. We sure didn’t have that in our project. Not with the Organization!
I want to give purpose and direction to those G.I.’s at Fort Clay and the
Vanguard is the best means..." she trailed off "well it’s getting late,"
she said, downing what was left of her drink. I finished mine. Then she
turned out the light and went to her room saying, "Guten nacht Milyenki
- good night, darling."
On my mattress
in the dark, unable to go to sleep, I thought about the things she had
said. She sounded like those rebellious young Russian noblewomen before
the Revolution who ran off to the villages to enlighten the peasants with
their new socialist faith. Still, I liked the way she stood up and shouted
END THE WAR in the courtroom.
I went downstairs where all the Vanguarders were rolling up sleeping bags.
Clu was in the kitchen fixing coffee when the phone rang. Clu walked into
the hall and picked it up. Loud, stern noises were coming out of the phone.
Clu just kept saying, "yes, yes" then she held it about a foot away from
her ear as the loud, stern noises continued.
she whispered with a giggle, "I’m being disciplined now about yesterday
at the court martial." She had the grin of a mischievous child - the first
time I had ever seen her with that expression.
She put the
phone back to her ear and mouth and said, "Sure, Don." There was a click
on the other end.
"Are you in
trouble?" I asked.
she said. "He’ll be by soon and some of the Committee people said they’d
come by and help me get everybody to the airport. You don’t have to come
this time. I feel OK about things today. But thanks for being there when
I needed you."
Clu and I sat
around with the Vanguarders on the porch drinking coffee and rapping. About
nine-thirty a cab drove up and Don and Marge got out. Don looked considerably
paler after getting sick the night before, but other than that he looked
all right. He walked up to Clu and kissed her on the cheek and said, "I
have a good, cheap mimeograph machine I bought for you on the way over
here. It will be useful for you in your work at Fort Clay." He went back
to the cab and the driver opened the trunk and Don got the machine out
and carried it into the house with the help of another Vanguarder.
With the huge
amount of experiences of many things that Don and Clu and Marge and some
of the other Vanguarders had, there was enough conversation to go around
for the next hour or so. Then the Committee people drove by and after all
the delays that usually happen when people try to load up and head out,
Clu gave me a little kiss on the cheek and went off with Don and Marge
and the others to the airport.
I started walking
to the Corner Grill when I saw Hope in blue jeans running up the sidewalk
to meet me. We clasped hands and started to the Grill and she said, "Well,
what all happened?" I started into the story of the court martial and just
as we walked into the Corner Grill, a young woman came in through the side
door. She was my age, with blonde hair in a page boy cut, and her mouth
was set in a grim expression. It was Marilyn, the girlfriend of Hope’s
brother Zack. She walked straight up to Hope and me.
to come right away," she said to Hope. "It’s Zack again. Some kids set
off some fire crackers next door and he thinks he’s back in Vietnam.
We followed her down the street, almost running. We came to the house
where Marilyn and Zack lived in a basement apartment. Zack had been living
with Marilyn for a month. He left home after his mother caught him smoking
pot and told him, "I wish you had died in Vietnam rather than do such a
us down the concrete steps at the side of the rooming house to her apartment.
She opened the door as quietly as she could and motioned for Hope to go
in first. Then Marilyn and I followed into a small narrow kitchen with
a counter and a sink on one side and shelves and a counter and a cupboard
over a stove on the other. The open door let in some daylight and we could
barely see through the door at the other end of the kitchen into a large,
shadowy living and bedroom. It took a while for my eyes to get used to
the darkness. When I looked into the next room I could make out a bed and
the young man, Zack, curled up on the floor underneath it with his hands
over his face, whimpering.
into that room very slowly and softly. Marilyn grabbed my shoulder with
one hand and said, "You stay in here," under her breath. Hope continued
walking very lightly across the next room towards the bed. She stopped
near it and said in a soft voice, "Zack? It’s Hope, your sister."
There was only some more whimpering from under the bed at first, but
then Zack said, "I don’t even have a rifle! I forgot my rifle! They’re
gonna get me! They’re gonna get me!"
Hope just said,
"No they won’t, Zack, I’m here, you can see my feet if you look." She stepped
closer to the bed and started singing in a low voice:
"Bright morning stars are shining
Bright morning stars are shining
Bright morning stars are shining
Day is a -breaking in my soul."
Slowly he lowered
his hands from his face and the brother and sister sang together:
"Oh where are our dear mothers?
Oh where are our dear mothers?
Oh where are our dear mothers?
Day is a-breaking in my soul."
her hand. He put his hand up from under the bed and grasped hers and then
went on singing:
"Some are in the valley praying
Some are in the valley praying
Some are in the valley praying
Day is a-breaking in my soul."
He started sliding
his whole body slowly out from under the bed. Marilyn poked me on the shoulder
blade and motioned for me to get out the door with her. We walked out the
door and left it open and went up the steps. Soon we saw Hope leading Zack
by the hand out of the basement apartment, up the steps, into the narrow
yard between the two old rooming houses which were overgrown with dark
blue-green ivy, into the very bright warm morning with the sounds of blue
jays and mockingbirds in the trees and dogs barking in the back yards and
the noise of cars on the main streets of town a few blocks away.
up and recognized me and made what was not yet a smile. He was blonde with
a very childlike face, still not twenty-one years old.
I started singing a naive sort of Communist Sunday School song by Lee
Hays, a Methodist preacher from rural Arkansas who had become a radical
in the thirties:
"Oh Comrades come and go along with me
We’ll go to our new year of liberty.
Come walk with me along the people’s way
From darkness into the people’s day
From dark to sunlit day.
Then I threw
my head back and sang out to the top of the sky - an old song my granddaddy
sang to me when I was a little kid:
"Get out of the way for Old Dan Tucker!
He’s too late to get his supper
Supper am over and the dishes am washed
And nothing’s left but a piece of squash!"
We walked from
between the rooming houses into the front yard, in the shade of the wide
leaves of maple trees and we headed on to the Corner Grill. I had the money
from singing at the bar in Pronghorn the night before and I could buy everyone
a Coke or Doctor Pepper.