Apr 08, 2024, 06:24AM

The Summer Sun, Part 5

Women are naturally prone to flighty thinking.

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When Timmy Marcade was four, living with his parents and baby sister in Red Wing, Minnesota, a new couple moved in next door, young moderns changing the demographic, replacing the spinster who'd frightened young Timmy in her black lace and her rimless specs and that withered stern countenance. He was convinced she was a witch, and bewildered that his parents were friendly to someone who might bake him in her oven.

In stunning contrast, Mrs. Goodwin was 24, a blonde with movie star looks. She didn't so much walk as sashay, seemingly lost in another universe, motivating to her own rhythm, humming to herself. One sunny June day, while Timmy was in his front yard shooting a cap pistol at imaginary Injuns and Germans and Japs, she called to him from her screened-in porch, "Hi! Would you like a cookie? Fresh from the oven!"

Timmy froze, stood silent. Could this vision actually be addressing him? And what if his mother caught him spoiling his appetite?

The greed for a treat overrode his fears and he dashed over, up the forest-green wooden steps, a quick look over his shoulder to make sure he wasn't spotted, and there she was, before him, the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen! Her perfume was intoxicating. She sat on the porch swing and patted the seat next to her. That and a plate of oatmeal cookies and a glass of milk were temptations beyond any sort of resistance. His cap gun glinted in the sun of his parents' yard, forgotten.

In short order, a couple of cookies in his belly, he found he could make Mrs. Goodwin smile and laugh with almost anything he had to say. After an hour or so he stumbled home, drunk in the grip of his first love. He walked a few steps past the cap gun, stopped, went back to retrieve it, in a dazzle.

After they'd known each other a few weeks, Timmy plucked some wildflowers from the backyard and rang the bell of the Goodwin house. He knew Mr. Goodwin wasn't home, had seen him drive off to work. When Mrs. Goodwin came to the door he stared at his feet, held the bouquet out at arm's length and muttered, "For you."

"My, how lovely! Why don't you come in?"

He sat at the kitchen table while she filled a flower vase with water. That was then when he asked, "Would you marry me? Please?"

Beatrice Goodwin did a remarkably excellent job of not laughing. She hardly smiled at all, just enough to try to ease this little boy's disappointment when she replied, "Oh, I'd love to! But I can't. You see, I'm already married. To Mr. Goodwin."


"But if I weren't, I'd marry you in a heartbeat! I cannot imagine a better husband than you. I'm afraid you will have to go to some other lucky girl. How about Debbie, across the street?"


"Why not?"

She's bossy. And mean. And fat."

"Oh. Well, how about..."

"No!" Bursting into tears, Timmy raced out of the kitchen, down porch steps, into his yard, to the back, into the toolshed, and bawled his eyes out.

Susan ladled out two bowls of oatmeal, set them on the table.

Still flabbergasted, Timmy managed to find his voice. "What on earth are you doing here!"

She laughed, her Pacific Ocean eyes laughed. If blonde hair could laugh, it'd laugh, too. "You told me about this place."

"I did?"

"Yep, but you probably don't remember anything of that night."


"Well, sit down and eat. We have our work cut out for us. I'll explain after you eat."

One September day, not terribly long after the Goodwins had arrived, Timmy saw the moving van in front of their home. Men in uniforms, complete with caps, were loading the truck with Goodwin furniture. And the young couple's coupé was no longer in the driveway. Shocked, Timmy ran home.

"Mom! Mom!"

"What, dear?"

After she heard him out, Mom replied, "Yes, the Goodwins are moving. Mr. Goodwin has a government job that uproots them, unexpectedly, from time to time."

"What! Do you mean I'll never see her ever again!"

"I don't see how. He's been transferred to Tennessee, very far away. It was all so sudden, they drove off last night, you were already in bed. But she said to say good-bye to you..."

"No! No! Nooooo!" He ran upstairs to his room and slammed the door shut, threw himself on the bed, face down, and wept.

After breakfast, Susan spelled it all out to Timmy. "Stayed seated. Things are about to happen. Big things, very big things, bigger than you would ever imagine. For starters, they're going to assassinate the president."

"What! This is crazy talk! How would you even know, if this were even true, which obviously it isn't! This is 1963! This is the United States of America, not some tinhorn banana republic! We have the FBI! And the CIA! Oh no, Susan! We are safe! We are sound! We have secret servicemen keeping a close watch on our president! Twenty-four hours a day! Every dern day, dammit!"

"It's going to happen. In Dallas. On November 22."

"No! No! Stop it! You're crazy! I love you, Susan, but this is nuts! We have to get you to a doctor! A psychiatrist!"

She sat there, patient, cool as a jade Buddha, let him rant and rave, pace about the tiny shack.

He stepped outside to get air. She let him simmer down a few degrees then followed him out.

"How would you even know all this stuff, if it were true? Which it is not! Oh, Susan! Susan! We need to get help for you..."

"I know all this stuff because my father is involved, up to his bloody neck."

"Oh, come on!" (Even in his hysteria, Timmy realized his voice was like Jimmy Stewart's would be in a similar situation.) "Why doncha just spell it all out for me, me the simple dummy here! Go on! I'm all ears!"

"Come inside, have a good stiff tumbler of Scotch and I will, indeed, explain." She hadn't lost one iota of calm throughout this ordeal. That clued Timmy into the fact that maybe, just maybe, she wasn't off her rocker, maybe she had something to offer. She is wrong, of course. But hear her out, punch holes in this lunacy with cold logic, and she'll see how off the beam she is. Women are naturally prone to flighty thinking. Anyone can tell you that, even some level-headed women, rare as they may be.

Scotch in his veins, he listened, elbows on knees, hands folded, thumbs under his chin, index fingers a steeple tapping the tip of his nose.

"Okay. I'll begin at the beginning. I began to suspect something was up last year, when my dad was conducting meetings at his home office, late at night, a motley crew coming and going. Some were, obviously not kosher, mobsters, reeking of Las Vegas. My curiosity piqued, one day I set up a microphone, hidden by a potted palm, and recorded." She picked up a shoebox, opened the lid. It was filled with spools of magnetic tape reels. "We can listen to them later. In fact, I insist. But for now I'll give you the gist. Kennedy is a physical wreck..."

"Now, lemme stop ya right there, kiddo! That man is young and fit as a fiddle! Just look at him running around, playing football all over the place..."

"Let me stop you. When have you actually seen this?"

"Why... why...um. In Life magazine! There ya go!"

"What you saw was a few photographs, scenes posed for the public's consumption. Propaganda, if you will. The reality is that he is a mess, an old back injury keeps him in excruciating pain. He's doped to the gills most of the time. Prescription painkillers. And, on the sly, he's been taking this new drug, LSD-25, with a DC floozy. LSD-25 produces fantastic hallucinations. But worse than all that, as far as they're concerned, is that he wants to pull out of South Vietnam..."

"Again! Lemme stop ya right there! Makes no sense! I was stationed there! I know! We're close to a win! Diem's our guy! And he's a Catholic! Like Kennedy!"

"Again, let me stop you. Diem's days are numbered. They're going to bump him off, this autumn, late-October, early-November. Not that Kennedy has any say. It's a CIA operation."

Timmy poured another drink, consumed it in a few long gulps and said, calmly, "Go on. Tell me more. Who is the big brain behind all this?"

"First off, this stew has many cooks. It includes the Vegas mob, as well as the East Coast and West Coast mobs, Jimmy Hoffa, the Soviets, the FBI, Castro, the CIA, especially one of their agents, a fellow named Lee Oswald. But the real big brain, as you put it, is a Soviet agent smuggled here in broad daylight as Oswald's Russian-born wife, Marina. She's KGB, top dog."

"Okay. For the sake of argument, why would the Soviets want us to remain in South Vietnam? I can see why Hoffa and the mobsters have a beef with Kennedy, the way Bobby Kennedy's been going after them. But why in the name of Sam Hill would the Reds want us to remain in South Vietnam, keeping South Vietnam free?"

"Good question. Here's the answer: Because it's not winnable, short of using atom bombs, which we won't do because of the incredibly bad press it would generate worldwide. No one will cheer for Goliath crushing David, which is how the media, worldwide, would pose it. The Russians are banking on us getting mired. And this, according to their calculations, will toss gasoline on the embers of our student Communist groups. Have you read the Port Huron Statement? No? Well, there is an orchestrated Marxist movement on our campuses. Tiny, now. Sleeper cells mostly. But it is there, even UAW approved in at least one case. A long drawn-out and pointless war will create student anti-war converts by the thousands. That will spill out into the larger culture. Granted, at first it will be highly unpopular, but in five years it will be a serious opposition. There will be riots in universities all across the country, as well as coordinated race riots in our cities. All part of the plan to usher in a new order."

"What about that Bircher congressman at your dad's dinner party? Doesn't he suspect?"

Susan shook her head. "He's a fraud. He's been supplying the KGB with names and addresses of Birchers."

"What about Johnson! He and Kennedy are buddies! Pals! JFK put him on the ticket!"

Susan barely suppressed a sad smile. "He is in on it, from the get-go. He's licking his chops to sit in the Oval Office, boy. By the by, he's as queer as a three-dollar bill. He and Khrushchev, up in a tree, kay eye ess ess eye en gee. With boys, some as young as nine." Timmy almost vomited.

Susan had brought along a battery-operated tape player. She put a tape on. "Here. Listen. Just listen..."

Timmy sat and listened, reel after reel, long into the black night, following his blonde to the other side of the looking glass. Almost all that he'd taken for granted, had placed his trust in, had revered, was now simply dissolved, crumbled, disintegrated, dust, smoke in the breeze. By dawn's early light he was decimated. And reborn.

Susan wasn't crazy.

He wept. 


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