It seemed to us that we could live magical lives untouched by the events that were gathering themselves towards the summer of ‘67, the summer that would be known as the Summer of Love and the summer of the worst race riots in American history.
Marlo enrolled at
Candy and I rode the horses, almost every morning and often in the afternoons too, over the soft, green Hayward hills, sometimes stopping to make love in flower-scented air, hidden by the tall, bleached yellow grass. I taught her to shoot my Marlin 39A rifle, and she was such a good shot and enjoyed hunting so much that I gave it to her. I bought another one for myself along with two Mexican rifle holsters, decorated with little silver buttons, which we strapped around the horses’ necks.
I lived a double existence with Marlo, pretending that we were all free from conventions and could do anything we wanted without consequences.
One Saturday night Marlo agreed to go dancing
with Candy and me at Winterland in
At Winterland, we were surrounded by a crowd of men and women covered with beads and flowers, bedecked with costume jewelry and smelling of incense and marijuana.
The Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane were together on the bandstand and Jerry Garcia raised his guitar to Candy in recognition and beamed his white toothed smile through a thick, dark beard.
The noise was deafening and I stayed close to them as we danced among a swirl of lithe bodies whose bare outstretched arms and hands and moving fingers jerked and danced in the multicolored flickering strobe lights.
I was dancing face to face with Marlo. The air was so thick with marijuana smoke that I yelled at the top of my lungs, into her ear, that I was getting high just breathing the air. A large man with long, brown, oily hair and a fat, lazy flap of flesh that pushed out the front of his dirty tee shirt, shouldered me aside and I lost my balance and fell onto the polished dance floor. He moved close to Marlo who stood rigid and bent slightly backwards, looking up at him. She moved slowly backwards while, from the floor, I looked up at his leering, chinless face and his sharp, disappearing nose. His eyes gleamed like shiny, black buttons. I got up slowly, looking around into a sea of inward looking, ecstatic eyes. The button eyes came into view again, glowing down at me like little shiny coals and I hit him on the side of the jaw with a sneak right cross. He tumbled noiselessly to the floor and rubbed his chin. He got up and I could see that he was high on something because his button eyes were unseeing and his attack was a planless, reflexive lunging. All at once, four or five big men surrounded us and pulled him off me. They took him outside and I started to follow but a man grabbed my arm, gently, and told me to stay in the auditorium. He became distracted when the big man broke loose. They ran after him, cornered him in the middle of the street and cautiously surrounded him. He was about six foot five and his head hulked above their heads, which ringed around him like the necklace of a Saturday afternoon football huddle. Suddenly, he turned his face up to the full moon and opened his mouth wide, bared his crooked teeth and howled. The men backed away slowly, looking at each other with wide-open eyes. He didn’t stop howling and they left him there in the middle of the street. I heard one of them say that the man had never acted like that before and that he must have got a bad batch of acid.
The girls insisted that we go home and I didn’t protest. In the car, we sat mostly in brooding silence for the three quarter-hour drive to the farmhouse. We entered the cold, dark house, ignoring the steady, dull thumping sound of hooves that came from the barn. I started a large crackling fire and Candy opened a fifth of Vodka.
Her red silk, floor-length dress was split to her waist and when she sprawled out on the couch it parted, revealing bare white legs. She placed her calves on the long coffee table and kicked a green suede high heel shoe onto the white wool rug. She pried the other shoe off with her toe. Flames of fire illuminated a filamentous web of silver scar marks on her forehead.
I stood with my back to the fire looking down at her. “I felt like sleeping with both of you tonight,” I said in a meditative voice, contemplating the fine line of her legs in the firelight.
“We aren’t lesbians.” Marlo’s voice came from behind me in the moving shadows. She crossed in front of me, with the black felt top hat still pinned to her hair and still wearing the black satin vest with nothing underneath. Her bare arms gleamed white against the fire and the sequins on her black leather bell-bottoms and patent leather boots showered light into the wavering shadows.
“I didn’t say I wanted to sleep with both of you. I said I felt like it.”
Marlo sat down next to Candy and her blue eyes glared up at me, not in anger but with a mixture of confusion and distrust. Her skin was as smooth as glass, and next to Candy, whose face was rubicund and tan, hers seemed very white, ethereal and Chaplinesque.
Candy said, dryly, “We could become Mormons.” She lifted her arm, veiling her face with the upturned glass. She tossed her head back and drank long and slowly and unceremoniously.
I looked down at Marlo who was pouring Smirnoff into two glasses. I said to her, “Why don’t you take off your hat and stay awhile.”
Candy said, in a musical, lilting voice, “Don’t take it off Mar. It makes you look mysterious and very dangerous.”
Marlo finished pouring the vodka, silently, handed me the glass and sank back into the couch. She didn’t touch her hat. The fire was hot against my back and I moved closer to the couch. Flames danced back at me from four blue eyes.
I said, unsteadily, “We could move to
Marlo said with a hint of sarcasm, “What do Geisha girls do?”
I said, “I don’t know.” I raised my flower tie to my forehead, as if to cover my face, and let it drop. “Can I join you?” They looked at each other and their bodies moved to opposite sides of the couch.
I lowered myself into the warm place between them. Candy said, and her voice was already thick with alcohol, “Geisha girls wash their little Japs with tea and bow and scrape a lot.” She leaned forward and ran the forefinger of her left hand over a long, white, almost invisible scar on her bare thigh, holding her glass out for balance. The folds of her dress reflected shimmering firelight onto her legs. She looked into the fire, suddenly, as if she had just got an idea. She leaned across my lap and placed her forearm on my thigh. She stared up at Marlo. “Mohammed had ten wives.” Vodka splashed from her glass onto my skin-tight, gray bell bottomed pants and the wetness passed through them onto my knee. Her hair brushed against my face as she straightened up and lifted her glass to the sky, as if toasting someone. “The Turks have harems but they don’t use ‘em because they like little boys better.” She laughed harshly. “I’m drunk,” she said to herself, thoughtfully and a little apologetically.
Marlo said, “I was in a harem. Once.” She leaned forward to the coffee table and poured vodka slowly into her half empty glass. “One guy after the other.” She leaned back on the couch, tilted her head back and let the liquid slide down her throat, causing her eyes to water.
I put my hand on the glass and said softly, “Take it easy.”
She lowered the glass. “At first, I fought.”
Candy said, “You don’t have to talk about it Mar.”
“I want to talk about it.” She lifted the glass and tilted her head back again but took only a little sip and put the glass back on the coffee table. “At first I was terrified. They were so big I was afraid they would kill me if I resisted.” There was a silence and we listened to the grandfather clock tick noisily in the hallway. The fire cracked loudly, throwing a cinder against the fire screen. “Luis said they weren’t perverts and if I did everything they asked I wouldn’t get hurt. Then they told me to take off all of my clothes.” Her voice quavered slightly.
I remembered the secondhand store where Candy and I had purchased the grandfather clock and the middle aged, bald man who had sold it to us. Black hair grew from his nose, on the back of his neck into his shirt, and covered the backs of his fingers and hands. I resisted the urge to drink any more Vodka and looked at her sideways to see if she was crying.
“I kept my eyes down and they thought I was afraid to look at them. I saw the bulges in their pants and I thought they were like weapons that they were going to hurt me with.” She raised her glass and I intercepted it with my hand again. She pushed past my hand but took only a small, demure sip and put the glass back on the coffee table. She was silent again. She took a deep breath and then continued. “Salas made me unzip his pants and told me to kiss it. Then he went down on me and I tried to think of how much I hated him and how terrified I was, and I tried to get away from him by moving back and forth as hard as I could.”
Candy was stroking the white line on her leg again with the tip of her forefinger. A rifle shot cracked from the fire and her body jumped. A groan escaped from her lips.
Marlo continued, “But then I realized that I was just moving so that he would reach every part of me and so that it would feel good. I opened my eyes and all I could see was black hair and his huge hands on my thighs and I closed my eyes again and I grabbed his head and pulled him as hard as I could.”
She raised her glass and, reflexively, my hand rose again.
Candy said, “Drink up girl.” Candy tilted her head back and held her own glass at a steep angle.
“They took turns and we were animals.” Marlo said. “For a long time.”
Candy said in her small, high voice, very quietly again, as if she was talking to herself, “So much for Harems.”
My arm was still around Marlo’s shoulder and I squeezed it and said, “Prosecute them.”
She said, “Sometimes, when I’m alone in the apartment and you and Candy are together, I feel like calling him.”
My body stiffened. I looked into the blazing fire.
Candy said, “I used to feel that way about George. It’s normal.”
I said, “Maybe I should join the Army.”
Marlo’s head turned and she said to my profile, “I don’t want to be alone anymore Brad.”
I turned to her and said, “I’ll never leave you.” Her eyes were only a few inches from mine.
Candy’s voice was thick and sharp, behind me. “Listen to him.”
I turned and reached out vainly to her shoulder but she leaned forward, avoiding my arm. I said, “I want us all to be friends for the rest of our lives.”
Marlo said, “It’s not practical Brad.”
I said, lowering my voice, “It’s practical. Believe me.”
Candy said, “It’s whiskey talk.” She laughed, harshly.
I said, “You laugh at my talk of love but I never said it was such a big deal. It just means that I admire you, and like you both more than I’ve ever liked and admired anyone else.”
Candy said, and her voice was slurred but high and musical and it rose and hung on each word, like the voice of a circus barker, “Step right up! Good sex and love, two for one and double your trouble. Step right up folks, we’ve got what it takes, all you can handle.” She emptied her glass.
Marlo said softly, “You said yourself Brad that marriage is just an economic institution.”
Candy said, “You heard the girl.” She poured Vodka, filling empty glass halfway and then held the water pitcher very carefully with both hands and poured water into it until it spilled over the edge onto the coffee table. She placed the pitcher in the middle of the puddle and handed me the glass.
I said, morosely and without irony, “Neither one of you believes in love.” I took a drink.
Candy said, slowly, gluing the words together as well as she could, “You said love is impossible because it is based on all the old dead values. God ... Truth ... Tragedy ... You said God is dead and there is no more Evil, only Good and Bad. And truth is only ... perspective.” She raised her glass again and toasted the flickering ceiling but didn’t drink.
“Nietzsche said that, not me.”
She said, “But you believe it.”
“I have my own truth and values and no state is going to tell me I’m married or divorced and no religion is going to tell me to love anybody in Christ or in anything else. My love is an expression of what I value and admire and it has nothing to do with the state or God or Buddha or Vishnu or Christ knows who else.”
Marlo said softly, “I’ve never been inside a church in my life.”
I raised the glass again and took another long drink.
Candy said, “What if he wants a harem?”
I said, “I don’t want a harem.”
She said, “What are you going to do when another beautiful girl swishes her ass in front of your face Brad. Huh?” She moved her glass under my nose and laughed the painless, silent, laugh of a drunk. “I saw the way you were looking at those girls tonight.” Her words smeared together like the colors in an Impressionist painting.
I said, “You’re smashed.”
She moved her glass upwards, almost imperceptibly, in the beginnings of another toast.
I said, angrily, “So I like to look at women. It never bothered you before.”
“I’ve never been this drunk before.” She lowered her head and closed her eyes.
I said, “Do you believe that I would be unfaithful?”
Marlo said, “Brad, that sounds so stupid.”
Candy threw her head back and her eyes opened, and I saw the sad, antic look that I had seen in her mother’s eyes. She said, “Ha. Do I believe you would be unfaithful.” She laughed silently again.
Marlo said, “Candy Cane. You’re drunk.”
Candy said, “Yes. I’m fucking drunk.” She whirled her glass in a theatrical gesture and vodka sprayed into the air, smearing a cloud of boiling droplets into the fire and against the wall. Her voice was high and harsh. “Maybe I will be fucking unfaithful myself. Maybe I’ll run away and join the circus like my mother did. Maybe I’ll join a rock n’ roll band.”
I said, “Shut up.”
“Why don’t you buy me another pretty dress Brad and then I can take it off and I can fuck you right here in front of Marlo and she can find out if she’s missing anything.” She threw her glass on the thick, white wool rug and it bounced silently. She grabbed her dress and pulled savagely, popping the first few buttons, revealing her underwear.
Marlo stood up and glared down at her. “He loves you, you drunken idiot.” Her words were as sharp as a slap.
Candy said again, quietly, as if to herself, “I want to go to sleep.”
I said, “We all drank too much.”
She leaned her head against my shoulder and a hand dropped into my crotch. She became suddenly animated and her words came out sad and barely glued together. “I want Brad to fuck me.” Her eyes closed and she toppled into my lap.
Marlo threw her glass at the fireplace and it smashed into a thousand pieces, hissing its liquid into the fire. “I’m going home.” Candy made a motion to get up and rolled against the coffee table. She fell onto her knees on the floor. She got to her feet but a knee caught the edge of the coffee table, and catapulted its contents into the air. The water pitcher broke loudly on the floor, scattering glass at Marlo’s bare feet.
I said, “Don’t move. I’ll get the broom.”
First, I helped Candy back onto the couch. “Stay put on the couch!” She wasn’t wearing shoes. “Both of you. Stay put. Don’t move”
Marlo said, “Where’s the broom?”
I said, “I’ll find it. Please. I’m wearing shoes.”
Candy slurred in a mumbling, little girl voice, “We can’t sleep on the couch Brad.”
“You’re not going to sleep on the couch. I’m going to get a broom and clean up the glass and then we’re going to take you to the water bed.” I stood up and the room moved.
Marlo righted the coffee table, stepped on it and from there onto the couch. She sat down next to Candy.
Candy tried to get up again but Marlo put her hands on her shoulders and held her down, gently. She started to cry and Marlo stroked her hair and talked to her as if she were a small child.
After an interminable search, I found the broom in the bathroom. When I returned, their eyes were closed and they were folded against each other like a sagging tent. I swept the glass to the side of the room very meticulously for several minutes and afterwards leaned the broom against the wall. For a few moments, I looked into their peaceful faces. Marlo’s top hat was slanted to the side at a steep angle and Candy’s red dress was tangled around her waist, exposing her panties. I looked at them for a very long time before I shook them awake.
Marlo got down on her hands and knees with Candy and helped Candy crawl to the bedroom. We lifted her onto the bed and covered her with blankets. I got the white eiderdown from the closet for Marlo, and a blanket for myself.
Marlo took the eiderdown blanket to the couch and I got a bowl from the kitchen in case Candy got sick, and I lay down on the floor beside the bed and fell asleep almost immediately.