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Rebellion in a Curious Way | Poem




          I sang 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 from Saturday." 
          "OK, great. 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," I said. 
           "He’s really been there," she said. "He could do more for the movement than even Randy Mezarosh." 
          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. 
          "The Vanguard 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! 
          Finally, we 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 room. 
          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. 
          Finally Clu 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. It 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. 
          "Well," Clu 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. 
          Next morning 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. 
          "It’s Don," 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. 
          "Not really," 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. 
          "You’ve got 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 thing!" 
          Marilyn led 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. 
          Hope walked 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." 
          Hope extended 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. 
          Zack looked 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.
 complete novel  ~  Back to Jodey  ~  Home to Moongate

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