Chapter 7: Summer



Journal entry, June 16


I think I'm beginning to understand why we have a problem with adolescent suicide here in Eagle Hills. There's an attitude, among the young men at least, that I find very disturbing. And that troubles me, too, because I really like these boys. But I should try to explain this chronologically.

I was on my way home from dropping Nick and Jeffry and Mike and Andrew off at Centennial Beach - Britty was at Susan's. I suppose I had heard that there was going to be a Pro-Life rally at the Riverwalk, but I must have blocked it. I find this whole issue so hard to sort out. I still remember the agonies Dirk and I went through when I found out I was pregnant for the first time. I know now I made the right choice. It took a little longer and cost a little more, but I still got my PhD, and I wouldn't trade Nicholas for any amount of prestige - not even for tenure. But it was a hard decision. My heart goes out to these young girls, who have such difficult choices to make - their whole lives hang in the balance of what they decide, not to mention their health. Babies having babies.... Anyway, as I was driving up Jackson toward the beach, we saw the crowd, and Nick said, "Hey! Look at those weird guys in the duck hats!" I turned to look, but the traffic was heavy and I didn't see anything. Could it be Rob? Ben? Bill? I suspected, quite rightly, that their slant on the abortion issue would be an original one!

I dropped the boys at the beach and then, instead of driving home, parked my car in the lot and walked back up to the Riverwalk. I could hear snatches of speech, something about the sanctity of life. The sidewalk was lined with tables showing fiberoptic amniocentesis photographs of fetuses, horrible pictures of dead and dismembered babies, an infant's body (a term infant, by the condition of the skin and body fat) on a heap of trash, t-shirts with pictures of bloody coathangers - all the usual propaganda. The crowd, mostly but not entirely made up of women, was getting ugly. Although there was no violence, there were fierce arguments breaking out between factions and some entirely unnecessary namecalling. This issue certainly seems to bring out the worst in people! I walked on and nervously joined the crowd. Sure enough, behind the main speaker near the film crews stood Ben and John, wearing their duck hats and holding signs. I put on my glasses and read them. Ben's said, "LIGHTEN UP" and John's said, "WHO CARES?" I was unable to control myself, and began to splutter, and then to laugh out loud. Lighten up, indeed! I thought. People around me were beginning to stare and mutter. I pulled myself together. I noticed that several of the film crews had their cameras pointed not at the speaker, who was droning on about the infant's right to choose life, but at the boys and their signs. I waved discretely, but neither John nor Ben acknowledged my signal, if indeed they could see me at all.

When the rally broke up - fortunately without any ugliness - I worked my way over to where they were standing. I wanted to congratulate them on being a voice of sanity in the midst of irrational passion, but another woman beat me to them. I heard her say to John, "If YOUR girlfriend got pregnant, would YOU want her to kill YOUR child?"

"Oh, no," said John. "I'd want her to kill herself."

So I never spoke to them, but turned around and walked very unhappily back to my car. During the brief time I had spoken to John, I had felt very positive about him. I had admired his energy, his self-possession, and his originality. I had liked him. He was a little wild, a little rough, a little out of bounds, but I thought perhaps that was just his way of finding himself a place in a new community. But why had he said that he would want someone to kill herself? Could he really have so little respect for human life? Maybe I shouldn't make such a big thing of it. That woman was really very annoying, and perhaps he just wanted to shock her. If so, he did a good job. She was paralyzed with outrage.

That night, I watched the Ten O'Clock News with Dirk to see if the rally made the broadcast, and if they showed the boys and their signs. There they were! I didn't mention to Dirk that I knew them, because he felt that their behavior and appearance were juvenile and antisocial. Dirk feels that a woman's right to choose is a serious matter, and that whatever choice is made, the political process should be free from the kind of adolescent buffoonery Ben and John displayed. I, on the other hand, think that the political process could do with a great deal less demagoguery and a lot more buffoonery, and I said so. Dirk got pompous, as he is so prone to do. Then I got cross, as I suppose I am prone to do when he gets pompous. Harsh words followed, and the resultant disagreement is still not resolved. All in all, a difficult and upsetting day.


Journal Entry, July 5

In Wisconsin

Today we went to the beach. Britty's sunburn is about gone. Nick can swim like a dog and a dolphin, but not like a human being. Dirk and my dad got into another argument, this time about how to fix the tractor. I have a headache. They get so loud. It's a good thing there aren't any neighbors close enough to hear them shouting. I know it upsets the children, too.

Green beans again for supper. Britty will have diarrhea by morning.

This house always gives me strange dreams. I'm not sure if it's Mother's ghost, Father's cigarette smoke, the isolation and consequent lack of accustomed street sounds, the owls and whippoorwills, the terrible bed or all the red meat. Maybe it's all of the above, I don't know. But I had an unusual, and unusually vivid dream last night.

I was standing in a field of poppies. They were beautiful Icelandic poppies, rippling colors, and the sky so blue. It was wonderful. I felt so peaceful. So alive. There was a single oak tree looming in the middle of the field. A figure emerged into the bright light out of its shade. As it came closer, I recognized John. I was so happy to see him. I knew he had something important to tell me, something that would change my life. He walked toward me. As he approached the ground dissolved below his feet. At first the flowers of the field appeared to linger and hover in the void like stars in the night sky. Then they were gone. I could see an orchid growing out of his palm. He held it out to me. I plucked it. Blood welled up in his palm. He said, "In its calyx burns the pearl." I said, "Tell me." The sky got darker and darker, and all I could see was the glowing pearl, and the smell of blood. He said, "A flower's desire." That was the end.