“If the two of them get married or I find the two of them together, I’ll kill the both of them.” It was the week before Thanksgiving, 1979, when a shaky-voiced Juanita called to pass along her father’s plans for us. At least that is what she overheard him telling her brother.

   “He’s just saying that, right?”

   “Maybe, but we need to take this seriously—he has a gun in a safe at home,” she said, a tremble of fear in her voice.

   “But he wouldn’t really do that, would he?” No way, I thought.

   “You don’t know my father. He has a very angry nature. There are things he’s done that…well, things I can’t tell you about. But believe me, he is perfectly capable of it.”

   “So what are we going to do?” I asked, my disbelief finally fading.

   “I don’t know. I just want you to be careful. He might be following me.”

   “Well, maybe you shouldn’t come here to my place for a while.”

   “We could still see each other at activities,” she added, hopefully.

   “Unless he followed you. What kind of car does he drive?”“A ’78 Caprice wagon. It’s black.”“OK. Let’s lay low for a few days, just to be safe. We need to think about this.”

   "We need to chant about it!"

   "Uh, yeah, I guess so."  

Copyright © 2007 by John Maberry

     I spent my first 11 years living in a small stucco house in Minneapolis, the second one in from Humboldt Avenue, where the first block of Victory Memorial Drive began. The mile-long boulevard commemorated America’s successful end to the First World War. How odd it seems to me now, growing up on a street by that name. My war, Vietnam, had a somewhat different conclusion. It would leave me not a sense of victory but one of loss, both for my country and for myself. My parents bought the house new, in 1929, 18 years before I was born. 

     No longer new by my time, the blackened walls of the former coal bin were now just a reminder of an old furnace that once warmed the dwelling. The detached garage at the end of our small back yard had a current-leaking rotary light switch that would give a mild shock on rainy days. A dirt alley next to the garage separated us from an out lot next to the Soo Line tracks. Further back was a switchyard, with engines shuttling boxcars back and forth most days of the week. Through trains rumbled by during the night, with steel wheels clicking and clacking on the rails and whistles sounding in advance of the grade crossing at Humboldt Avenue. I slept through the sound, growing accustomed to it much as I later would the sounds of distant artillery and helicopter gunship fire during Vietnam nights, waking only when the battle grew too near.

 

Copyright © 2007 by John Maberry

 

     Just two weeks after the funeral, Bill provided my first plane ride, in a two-seater V-tailed Bonanza. As a teenager, Bill had wanted to own a cabin cruiser. By the time he got out of college, his interest had moved from aquatic to aerial. So he took flying lessons and bought his own plane, a little Piper Tri-Pacer. Before getting an instrument rating, he cracked the plane up in a thunderstorm a few years later. Since then, he had joined a flying club from which he could borrow the speedy Bonanza. Flying the 400 direct air miles from Minneapolis to Midland, Michigan took just two hours, offering little time to ponder the very different world I was entering.

 

     Lorraine met us at the airport, in the Volkswagen Bus. She introduced me to Spook, the excitable Dalmatian, who came along for the ride. With their equally excitable two-year-old daughter Chris, we drove the short distance to their home in a well-manicured subdivision. They gave me a tour of the house and showed me to my room. I had my own room! The room had a built-in desktop next to a sliding-door closet. It was a modest-sized home by current standards, but still much newer and larger than any I had ever lived in and most I had even visited. I looked around outside for Wally and the Beaver, but they were nowhere to be seen. Still, I felt sure the Cleavers lived somewhere nearby. 

 

Copyright © 2007 by John Maberry

 

     Bill [not the one in Chapter 2] was the first one to spot Gloria, a trim dark-haired brunette in a snug-fitting shift. Like most American females aged 15-30 in 1965-66, her hair was teased up in a pile resembling a hair dryer hood and held in place with high viscosity hair spray. Not my idea of beauty but that’s what they all did. Then again, who was I to be fussy given my nerdy look and lack of dating success or even experience? After taking her for a few spins around the floor, Bill brought her back to meet me,

   “John, this is Gloria." 

   “Hello, Gloria."

   “Hi.”

   “Why don’t you ask her to dance,” Bill whispered generously in my ear, as Gloria’s head turned toward the music. 

   “So, you want to dance?” I inquired, as manfully as I could.

   “OK,” she replied with a disarming but unreadable smile.  I did my earnest best in faking an ability to dance. Thanks to occasionally watching Dick Clark and Lloyd Thaxton, I wasn’t totally clueless, just not adept. 

   “You’re a good dancer,” she said, over the unintelligible lyrics of “Louie, Louie,” playing loudly in the ballroom. Hah, what a come on, I thought to myself.

   “Oh, thanks; so are you.” No, not really, I lied.

 

Copyright © 2007 by John Maberry