Candy spent most of her waking hours with the horses and hardly seemed to notice my absences. Sometimes she even slept in the barn when I was away. When we were together I found myself stealing glances at her, looking for my father’s features and even my own. I usually found one, or imagined I had, and I became pensive and moody.
Buying things for her and taking her places made me happy. Gracefully, she found expensive restaurants, pretended to want all kinds of things that she never used, asked me to buy clothes that she wore once or twice and even dreamed up exotic trips. But we never went on any trips because we had to be home by nightfall so she could tend the horses.
One evening, when I went to my apartment to pick up some records, I found Marlo standing in front of the door waiting for me. She was bundled up in her green ski jacket and her cheeks were rosy from the night air. We slipped into the apartment without a word and undressed quickly. We made love on the white wool rug, rolling over socks, jeans and shoes, and knocked over the floor lamp. We didn’t stop, even when the lamp’s big glass bowl shattered loudly on the linoleum floor. Afterwards we lay in each other’s arms drenched in the cold light of the street lamps that streamed through the kitchen window. For a long time the violence of our passion made us ashamed to look into each other’s eyes. I asked her, rather melodramatically, why she loved me and she looked up and said, in her tiny, serious voice, that she didn’t know. I told her about the farmhouse and Candy, and she said she knew. Then I asked her if she wanted to move into the apartment with me, and she said yes.
Another evening, after I had been with Candy for two nights and had spent an afternoon with Jeannette, I returned to the apartment to find Marlo standing in the middle of the living room in her nightgown. Her eyes were puffy and there were big, red-brown circles under them. Little disorderly piles of beer cans were stacked in unexpected places around the room. She stared at me silently as I shut the door behind me. I moved towards her and opened my arms. She lunged at me, with hands flailing in the air. I blocked an arcing left hook and grabbed her right wrist, pulling it down and twisting it behind her back. She screamed in pain. I released her wrist and slapped her hard on the face. She went down onto her knees and fell into a heap in front of me. She cried silently at my feet and I knelt down and put my arms on her shoulders, watching to top of her shaking, blonde head. She looked up, and for a moment I thought she would try to dig her fingernails into my eyes. Instead, she dropped her head and leaned forward into my arms. We made love again and afterwards I promised I would never hit her again.
The next morning, Candy called and Marlo picked up the receiver. When I saw the red mark on her face where I had slapped her the night before, I was ashamed. They exchanged pleasantries and she handed me the phone.
Candy informed me that a letter had arrived from the Draft Board. She opened it and it was a request for proof that I was enrolled in graduate school.
“What does it mean?” Candy asked after she read it to me over the phone.
“It means that if I’m not enrolled in graduate school, my original draft notice will be sent again I’ll be sent to boot camp within a few weeks.”
Marlo looked into my eyes with fear.
“What are you going to do?” Candy asked over the phone.
“I don’t know. But I wish we could all be together. I wish it didn’t have to be like this.”
Candy said, “274 Americans were
killed last week in
Marlo asked me what I was going to do.
“I don’t know.”
I put my arm on her shoulder and she moved next to me, encircling my waist with her own. I kissed her on the cheek.
I said, “You two seem like sisters to me. I feel like I should marry both of you and then we could be one big happy family.”
Candy repeated, “What are you going to do about the draft, Brad?”
“I don’t know.” I looked into Marlo’s blue eyes while I spoke into the telephone to Candy, “But I think I’ve figured out some things. About us. About all of us.” I paused. “I love you all very much and I’ve been stupid about everything and my stupidity has got us all into a big mess.”
Marlo dropped her eyes. There was a silence.
I said, defensively, “But it wasn’t all my fault. I couldn’t possibly have known what was going to happen.”
Candy said over the phone, “You didn’t know they were going to try to draft you.”
I smiled and Marlo asked, “What did Candy say?”
“She said I didn’t know they were going to try to draft me.”
“Well, tell her they already drafted you. This has just been a reprieve. We’ve been worried about it.” She paused and then said, “Brad.”
“Do you remember how you told me that you wanted to go to the Air Force Academy and your grandfather wouldn’t allow it?”
“When I was twelve. Don’t worry about it.”
Candy asked over the phone, “What did she say Brad?”
“She’s reminding me that I don’t want to join the Air Force because I don’t want to drop 800 pound napalm bombs on civilians. She thinks I might be tempted to join the Air Force just so I can fly an F-11. But I’m not tempted.”
Candy said, “You can apply for an exemption as a Conscientious Objector.”
“I can’t apply for a CO because I’m not against all wars. You have to be against war in general. I wouldn’t have been against World War II.”
Marlo said, “You can lie. They don’t have to know.”
“I’m not going to lie.”
Candy asked, “What did Marlo say?” Her breathing was fast and I imagined that she was jumping up and down like she usually did when she got excited.
I said, “Look. I’m responsible for this mess. It’s my fault.”
Marlo said, “You aren’t
“I’m responsible for what’s happened between us, between Candy and you and me. It’s my fault. I’ve fucked up both of your lives and it’s my responsibility to get you out of this. But I don’t know how.”
They were silent. I looked into Marlo’s eyes again. I said, “I want you to know that I love all three of you and we’re in a terrible mess.”
Candy said, dryly, “We know you love us Brad but you are wrong. We’re not in a terrible mess.”
“What do you mean?”
“You are in a terrible mess.”
I smiled and Marlo asked me what she had said.
“She said you already know that I love you and that I’m in a terrible mess.”
Marlo grabbed me in a bear hug and the telephone fell from my hand. The receiver dangled at the end of its tightly wound spring cord and bumped against the linoleum floor and the side of the shellacked, wooden cupboard. We heard Candy’s voice from the floor, “Are you all right Brad? What was that noise?”
I embraced Marlo and kissed her on the cheek and she turned her head to the floor, “We’re all right Candy. The phone slipped out of his hand. It’s all right.” She looked up at me. “It isn’t all your fault Brad. It’s my fault too.” She paused and her voice was very high and soft, like a child’s. “I got into a mess too.” Her eyes were apologetic.
I frowned involuntarily, puzzled.
I spiked the receiver, which was still bobbing up and down on the end of its spring chord. I said into the phone, “I’ve got to drive up there to get my checkbook.”
Candy said, “What?”
“My checkbook. I left it there. And Marlo has been wanting to see the horses so she’s coming with me.”
Marlo shook her head from side to side.
“She’s been asking to see them for a long time and…”
Marlo’s mouth dropped open and she made a grab for the receiver. I jerked it up, over my head, and I put my hand over the microphone. We stared into each other’s eyes listening to Candy telling me to ask Marlo what she wanted for dinner. Marlo’s head dropped suddenly and I knew she was concealing a smile.
I lowered the phone to my ear and took my hand off the microphone. Candy said, “I’ve been wanting her to see the horses but I’ve ... been so selfish. I’ve been so wrapped up with them myself...”
We drove up the winding road to the
farmhouse and the two-cylinder Volkswagen engine interrupted the peaceful
countryside with a Germanic whine and grinding gears. The large willow tree
that drooped over Anne’s cottage disappeared in the rear view mirror and a
honey-blonde, pretty adolescent girl came into view, standing next to a mailbox
at the road. She was sifting through
mail; she was wearing a form-fitting top and her bare stomach was slightly
distended. Our eyes met. She smiled a small, hopeful smile and her wide
eyes shifted to Marlo who looked straight ahead,
unaware, into the green
Candy was standing near the house, on the gravel driveway, waiting for us. Marlo jumped out of the car before it came to a stop and ran to meet her. They embraced, whirling around in the white gravel.
Candy asked, “What happened to your cheek?”
“I got drunk...”
“And you fell on your face,” Candy said, finishing her sentence. They laughed, Candy took her hand and they ran off toward the barn without looking back.
I went into the farmhouse and telephoned the Oakland Draft Board. A secretary informed me that the letter had been sent in error. I thanked her for the information and asked if married men were still getting deferments. She said they were.