MEMO put a dent in Jimmy's mind. He could not read the words. SOG. Ober. Sogober. So go over. They sat facing as always before in the bay window, Cathy downhill, Jimmy uphill, wine on the windowledge, normal as a shoe. But MEMO warped space and sound. On the street, cars shrank and grew quiet as they neared, ballooned noisily passing away.
He held MEMO upside down, hoping for an encrypted solution, listened to Cathy speak of crises, needs: Panthers in jail, Oakland Seven conspiracy case, Huey Newton trial, police riot in Berkeley, debates on what-is-to-be-done re: upcoming Democratic Convention in Chicago. He seized on her smell as the chemical base of sanity; he was sane in proportion to the flow of molecules from her hair, arms, the hair of her armpits, hormone-swelling molecules of breast sweat, cunt perfumes, bare feet. She wore an open cloth robe. He held MEMO in his left hand, slid his right hand down her leg from inner thigh to toes, cupped his hand to his mouth as if thinking deep thoughts, breathing her in, righting the world.
MEMO, meanwhile, mangled all relations among conspiracy trials, fundraisers, legal strategies, meetings, articles to write — which should have, would normally have, organic connection — and now instead, severed from one another, writhed about the two-part couch like frogs in helmets, cracked egg shells containing fornicating couples, epileptic cephalopods by Bruegal (Mad Meg looting at the mouth of Hell), whom MEMO incited to riot.
“Dad hasn’t called back?”
“No. It’s been three, four days.”
“I’ll call. Maybe he’s nervous.”
“Or Bruer told him something he’s afraid to tell us.”
“Or feeling guilty.”
“He didn’t do it to make this happen.” She snapped the corner of MEMO with her finger.
Jimmy said nothing about Zarg Comix, Konnectikron.
“He sounded repentant, really,” she said.
“I meant sorry. Innocent sorry, not guilty sorry. Not repentant.”
“You said repentant.”
“Wrong word. Please, hear what he has to say.”
“Which he seems not forthcoming with.”
“Call him.” She dropped her head back, shifted her knees, the smell of him on her an ancient wall, underground roots, dappled water, moss, peace, home.
small as a noose
“I was about to call,” said Walter, and Jimmy, listening for elisions and unsaid words, heard reluctantly. “First Howart said he’d get back to me, then we had sort of an argument, so I waited till he mailed me the photos.”
“Whoa, hold up.” Jimmy took notes on a pad, Cathy watching. The pad said argument, photos. “Howart Bruer?”
“You remember him from when you were a kid.”
The bastard with the round unhappy wife.
“Howard with a T.”
“‘Howard with a T,’ yes. The War affected people in different ways. Some of us couldn’t wait to get into another.”
Jimmy heard defensive, defensive.
“Dad, stop, tell me what. What did Bruer tell you?”
“I asked him if he knew who the donor was and he said he didn’t. But back when he asked me if I’d pass on the checks he called him an old friend.”
“So he’s lying.”
“In my own time, Jimmy, please.”
Jimmy heard pain.
“I told Howart he’d said it was a friend,” Walter said. “And then he said he couldn’t breach security. Twenty-five years and he uses ‘breach security’ on me. So I sort of exploded.”
It was hard for his dad to sort of explode. “He told me you’d made, in his words, some serious errors in judgement. I reminded him we all had, and what in hell was he talking about. He said he’d mail me the photographs. So I waited. They came in the mail today.”
Jimmy’s pad said security, errors, photos.
“Those would be the photos of me?” said Jimmy.
“Joe Kranz was a friend of mine too. Aerial photography.”
A world small as a noose.
“He sent you the photos to prove me guilty? That’s odd, isn’t it?”
“Depends on how you look at them. He saw you attacking an officer of the law.”
“I suppose you really did save that girl.”
“You didn’t believe me?”
“Well, it’s one thing to hear you say it, and another to be practically on the spot. Joe takes good photos.”
Jimmy heard something else in the sentence.
“You were brave.”
Jimmy held his lips inside his teeth.
“I’m proud of you,” said Walter, “You did what you thought was right.”
“Do you think it’s right, Dad?”
“Doesn’t matter what I think. You matter. You and Cathy. Howart had the nerve to use the word war. Not against my kids you don’t.”
“Was this after you saw the photos?”
“That’s when he said it. He wanted to know which side I was on. I said ‘why would you think that’s a question to ask?’”
Why would he think that’s a question to ask?
“We never talked politics much,” said Walter, “and he’s a liberal Democrat for crissake.”
“Dad, it’s a liberal Democrat’s war.”
He could see his father’s face coping with that.
“Never thought about it that way. Well, Howard with a T and I won’t be speaking about such things now.”
“That’s over. Twenty-five years is twenty-five years, and a minute is a minute. We were friends, now we’re not. He lost his conscience.”
“I’m sorry, Dad. For you, not for him.”
“The War did something to us. Numbed us. We did to the fascists what they did to us, and we came out of it, a lot of us, with the feeling that if we’d atom bombed and saturation bombed and fire bombed for a good cause, then firebombing and atombombing must be good or acceptable or normal. When the Nazis bombed Guernica in ’37, we were horrified, we thought it was the soul of fascist brutality. Now it’s just a Picasso. By the time I got to Okinawa, bombing towns off the map was a day’s work. I suppose Howart kept on, what do you all say? Keep on?”
“Kept on truckin into the Cold War. I can’t explain it and it hurts me to think about it. Those bonds are hard to break.”
“War bonds,” said Jimmy. Walter laughed.
“All that undercover stuff turned him on. Anyway, if you need me to testify you were set up, I’ll do it.”
“I hope that’s not necessary, Dad, but thanks.”
“Give my love to Cathy.”
“I will, Dad. Bye.”