the arrow of indirection

Cosmo had asked Jimmy to look in on his apartment and girlfriend, so he went round with Cathy and found them both taken. Hank seemed to have moved in with Edna, who it turned out was named for Edna St. Vincent Millay, the bourgoise hippie: “We were gay we were merry we rode back and forth all night on the ferry, fuck that shit!” said Edna, who wore a red headband and was dry-firing Hank’s Walther at the nunnery across Ashbury when they arrived. She lay prone on the bed, which abutted the bay window, pistol braced on the pillows, the Bard issuing from either side,

She never stumbles.

She’s got no place to fall.

She’s nobody’s child.

The Law can’t touch her at all.

“War Zone out there,” said Edna, scanning for dead and dying nuns. “A lot worse even than when you went in,” as if he’d been in for years, not 42 days. A layer of something — patience, fat, indifference — had leached from her face.

Hank turned down the hi-fi. “The flower children are the fold,” he said. “and the cops and the mob and the tourists are the wolves descending,”.

Edna laid the gun on the mantle. “The Mob’s just the cops out of uniform,” she said. “What’re your plans for the Convention?” She had never asked them a political question before.

They answered equally and oppositely. Jimmy favored local demonstrations in as many cities as possible. Cathy called down the full wrath of the movement on the Democrats meeting in Chicago.

“Get your act together, Heavy Couple,” said Hank. “First time I seen you not agree,” which might have been true before, but as everyone knew and no one said, there was no such thing as a Peace Movement and never had been, only a canyon-jumping, root-burning, anti-war forest fire, out of everyone’s control, most especially those who led it.

The edges of their arguments popped and curled as they spoke over spaghetti and meatballs.

— A national demonstration is a vampire. It sucks the blood out of local actions. (Jimmy)

— One time only! The Vietnam War arrives in Chicago! And you’re not going to be there? (Hank)

— Somebody has to bust up the Democratic War Party (Edna, with newfound wit and sting).

— So everyone shuts up shop and goes to the circus and nothing happens at home where all the people we want to mobilize sit and watch it on TV. (Jimmy)

— I thought you were the mother of Shut the Mother Down. (Hank)

— That was a local action.

— Local? You call all of Northern California local? (Cathy)

— Anyway, some mothers don’t need to get shut down.

— Which mothers would that be, Mom? (Hank)

— Especially since the Democratic Party is the war mother of all mothers. (Edna)

— Chicago is the only circus in town. Everyone expects us to go. (Cathy)

— Most especially Mayor Daley’s cops. (Jimmy)

— Since when did that stop you, streetfighting man? (Edna)

— Did something happen to you in jail? (Hank)

— What, buttfucked into pacifism? (Jimmy, dismayed)

— Been known to happen. (Hank)

— Hank you know better. (Cathy)

— We go to Chicago, we shut the Democratic Convention down, we move the shebang to a higher level. Which part is not like Stop the Draft Week? (Hank)

— Not up to you, Hank. The leaders don’t even agree. (Jimmy)

— When did they ever? Including us. (Hank)

— Tom Hayden sort of wants to shut the mother down but knows he can’t. Jerry and Abbie want a Festival of Life, whatever that is. The peaceniks want to parade with mommies and babies. (Jimmy)

— So we kick some sense of direction into them. (Edna)

— No, we just have to show up and roll with the punches. Be there. It’s inevitable and we can’t stop it. (Cathy)

— Where the pigs can beat everybody up in one place at one time. (Jimmy)

— Like they did in Oakland. (Hank)

— Getting beat up is not a strategy. (Cathy)

— Maybe it is. (Edna)

— We do in Chicago what we should have done in Oakland from the git, affinity groups that take care of business no matter what the leaders don’t agree on. (Hank)

— We can’t be all things to all people, Jimmy. (Edna)

Jimmy sensed an arrow of political direction like that of time, of being casually bullied toward violence by Hank and Edna’s covert sanctimony. You fought the cops in Oakland, Jimmy, you can’t go back. And the look from Edna: I thought you were some kind of Che Guevara, but I guess not. Then they poured wine, put Beggar’s Banquet on the turntable (“Streetfighting Man” a continuation of personal relations by other means), and everyone was almost friendly when the phone rang. Hank answered in a tone confirming he lived there.

“That was Joe,” he said. “The hippies are rioting on Haight Street.”

Jimmy said:

“Do hippies riot?”

“In February,” said Hank, “but no one paid attention.”

“It’s lethal down there,” said Edna. “Kids from Dubuque and rapists and ripoff artists. Half the shit on the street is cyanide. The pigs won’t let up. I don’t blame the rock bands for moving to Marin.”

Cathy shoved open a bay window. “I don’t hear anything.”

“Maybe they’re rioting on a higher astral plane,” said Jimmy, “Zen insurrection, new thang.”

“Let’s check it out,” said Hank. “C’mon, man. Recover your youthful integrity.”

“Any riot in a storm,” said Jimmy. “But just to watch.”

“Just watching, just watching, just watching,” they chanted down the stairs into the fog.