Open up

Street fighting erupted at the new Science Faculty on the Left Bank, rode toward the Sorbonne on clouds of tear gas, and spread to television, reaching San Francisco in time for the evening news.

“Why are you fighting?” an American reporter asked a Frenchwoman holding a cobblestone.

“Years of humiliation in my Catholic school,” she replied. “We are fighting the security police, but in my mind it is the nuns I am killing.” Opinion polls showed 80% of Parisians supported the students.

“Alevai, it should happen here,” Cathy told the Motorola as the pounding on her front door started.

Anyone who knows me knows there’s a doorbell. “Coming,” she yelled down the hall to keep the French riot police from breaking down the door. “Who is it?”

“Open up!” A woman’s voice. “Open up, bitch.”

Some guy’s girlfriend? Impossible. The woman kicked the door.

“Who is it.”

“Jennifer Warden.”

Armed. Dangerous. Leading a squad of MPs.

“Are you alone?”

“Fucking-A I’m alone.”

“Okay. Calm down.” Cathy cracked the door. In the evening shadow light, Jennifer and a suitcase, both broken.

“Come in.”

Jennifer hoisted the suitcase, followed Cathy to the living room, dropped the suitcase, which burst open, pitching clothes and a stuffed bear to the floor.

“You did this to me, bitch, cocksucker!” Jennifer, in a demented jig, kicked the suitcase, knocked the bear against the wall. “See what you did? Now you’re going to take care of me.” She saw the couches in the bay window, fell on one, sobbed, whined.

Cathy made no quick moves. The girl did not smell of liquor. Drugs? She had been beaten; sour bruises on her face, a cut over one eye, stiff when she waved her arms. Cathy sat on the facing couch, did not touch her, attempted a neutral, sensitive tone.

“Who beat you up?”

No answer.

“The police?”


Sure as in ‘certainly’? Sure as in ‘that’s ridiculous’? Who else would beat her up that she’d blame me for?

“I’ll get you a glass of water. We’ll do something about that cut.”

“My father, you stupid cunt.”

Cathy, meet your new friend.

She returned with water, a dishtowel, bandaids. Jennifer gulped the water, let her pat the damp towel on the cut.

“You’re not armed, are you, Jennifer? I need to know.”


“I’m going to check your suitcase anyway. Then I’ll get ice.” Jennifer shrugged. Bikini underwear, blouses, sweaters, jeans, the famous peasant dress, no bras. Makeup kit. She’ll need it.



Cathy boiled up spaghetti and meat sauce, Jennifer cursed and moaned on the couch. Twice, footsteps advanced toward the kitchen, retreated. At dinner, Cathy allowed her a jellyglass of wine, refused demands for another, asked no questions. Jennifer crammed down the food, ran to the bathroom, threw up, ate another helping.

“We thought your eyes were green,” said Cathy, as they finished the ice cream.

“Now you know.”

Her natural eyes, grey, held more expression, less light.

“I forgot them when he kicked me out.”

“You look good in grey eyes.”

“Yeah, I look great.”

“Nothing seems broken.”

“A lot you know.”

“Just don’t call me a kike.”

Jennifer looked about to, refrained, nodded.

“How old are you?”

“Free, white, and 21.”

Cathy started to say You get that from your Dad?



She asked about the poster of Malcolm X: “Who’s the spade?”

Cathy told her.

“You into that?”



“Jennifer, you can run out of hospitality real quick if you try.”

“You need me, bitch.”

“You call me Cathy, little girl. On the street, behind my back, you call me whatever you want. Here, in my house, you call me bitch one more time, once,” she held up a forefinger, “and you’re crashing with some other friend.” She wouldn’t be here if she had another friend. Or I’m the only one who knows about her brother. “And another rule, while we’re at it. No hitting. One little slap.” She saw Jennifer flinch, a reflex to her words. Ease off. “I don’t hit you, you don’t hit me, that’s all.”

“Where is he?”


“Your hero boyfriend.” Cathy had not said No Sarcasm. All that is not forbidden is allowed.

“Out. We travel a lot.” No hints. No clues.

“But he lives here.”

“Why?” Shit, don’t ask why.

“Cause I want to fuck him, whatcha think?”

“Yes. He lives here. You want to see a photo of him?”

“No. I mean who protects you?” She means who protects her.

“I have friends.”

They watched crowds surge in waves up the Champs Elysées. Cathy tried to explain the meaning of the red and black flags, the Internationale.

“I don’t care, ok?” Jennifer sat on the floor, her face on an ice-cube pillow at the foot of Cathy’s bed, in that moment an injured, curled, exhausted child. At 11 Cathy laid out the rules: I’m a light sleeper; don’t wander around the apartment. This is my room, you stay in the living room unless you have to go to the john. Got it?

“Sounds just like home.”


Jennifer waited until after morning coffee and a cigarette to get down to business.

“So where is he?”

“Who?” Thinking Jimmy again.

“My brother, bi— . Sorry.”

“We need to talk.”

“About what? I asked a easy question. You know who he is, so you know where he is. What’s hard about that?”

“Tell me about him.”

“Shit! Fuck! Are you some kind of shrink? Lady, there is a simple thing I need you to do. I got a brother. Obviously I don’t know where he is or I wouldn’t be camped out in your Neegro-decorated living room. You got me practically busted. You got me beat up, you’re some kind of pu-lit’i-kul radical-type who ought to know better than not telling me who you are before the Army fuckin pigs take our fuckin pictures so they can do me by association and it’s my ass gets whipped.”

“What photos?”

“Clear ones. Can I have another cigarette? I’m good for it. I got money. I got a stash I can sell.”

“What you need is a tranq.”

“I’m like this till I eat and I can’t eat, ok? And you’re not making it any better.”

“I’ll make toast. Maybe you can keep down toast and milk.”

“Baby food? Sure.”

Cathy dropped two slices in the toaster.

“You want to see?” said Jennifer. “I’ll show you.”

“See what?”

“What you did to me.” She lifted her dress, tugged down the panties, stood, mannequin modelling the Spring season’s genital violence: red, green, lavender welts around the pubic bone.

“His game. ‘You want the Little Slap?’ Which he laid off till you got our pictures took.”

“Put your clothes back together, Jennifer, please.”

Her body wavered. She pulled her panties up but did not drop the skirt. Cathy pried the hem from her fingers, let it fall like a veil.

“I need my brother, see. For protection. I WANT HIM! CAPICHE? YOU GET HIM.”

Cathy sat down, let her stand. There are two women inside her: one suffering, one spending her suffering like cash. She felt safer.



Safe enough to leave her when she went to work, saying she did not herself know where Stew was, but knew who did know, and that if Jennifer touched or took anything, except food, she would never find her brother in this life.

“There’s the TV. Bore yourself. Get well. I’ll be back at five. Don’t use or answer the phone.”

By noon, she reconsidered, asked Lynn to check on her. Lynn reported a tense standoff, broken by her offer to go buy a carton of cigarettes and a quart of icecream if Jennifer would clean the puke out of the bathroom sink. She’d stay on to dinner.

Cathy conferred with Beverly Absalom on Stew’s habeas motion. Chances were good. The judge who jailed Stew ran a notorious morning session: bailiffs and prisoners only, no lawyers, court reporters, or witnesses. He lined the defendants (drunk, possession, loitering, lewd conduct, etc) in a row, asked them en masse, “Do any of you fuckups plead not guilty?” rapped his gavel before they could answer and gave the maximum. His fellow judges let him slide (he lowered their court loads) and no one until Bev had objected. Habeas would be granted, they told her, just don’t blab it all over town. Not till the next time, said Bev.

Cathy and Lynn consulted on the back porch, Jennifer camped in the bedroom with the TV. It was Friday, they were drinking wine.

“I let it slide when she calls me bitch,” said Lynn. “I think it’s therapeutic.”

“Be my guest, bitch.”

“She kept on me about her brother. I told her the same thing you did: I don’t know, but I know who does. She thinks we’re terrorists. She wants me to send death threats to her father and sign them The Revolutionary Maniacs or Commie Killers or something.”


“To scare him. I said they’d give him a false sense of importance.”

“Do you think she’s an agent?” said Cathy. “Seriously, she’s in my apartment, trying to learn what we know, set up some wacko murder conspiracy.”

“She didn’t beat herself up. She knows you know where her brother is, and any enemy of her father’s a friend of hers.”

At dinner they asked Jennifer if the cops had talked to her about Jimmy.


What was in the photos?

You and me at Mel’s.

Who took them?

They did.

Who’s they?


The Soviet airplane?

Military Intelligence Group. The 902, jeez.

And your father knows who I am.

The antichrist, basically.

So for all we know, the 902 is parked out on the street.

I guess.

We have to get you out of here.

Not till you get me my brother.

That could take a few days.

Or. I could make a deal with the cops.

What kind of deal?

Like they do on TV, I testify against your boyfriend, they find Stew for me.

You really want to sic the cops on your brother?

Fuck you, bitch! I meant her, not you, lady. I didn’t mean you.



She even helped with the dishwashing, during which Shauna called.

“I have something for you,” said the whiskey soprano Cathy had not heard in two years.

“Something I want?”

“Very, very much.”

“I’ll come over.”

“I’ll come to you. The boys are having a party. You don’t want to be here. Neither do I.” She pronounced it nyther.

“Hold on.”

“Can you two go to a movie?” Cathy asked. “I have a meeting.”

“Ooo, commie underground,” said Jennifer.

Cathy herded them down the hall.