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On the long haul downtown, Bitsey's charcoal black CVX started to sputter when my nephew asked why the Daniels clan celebrated Christmas. Patiently, I tried to explain how my great-grandfather, Mosche Daniels, had been a respected New Orleans Rabbi in the 19th century, but when the revered patriarch gave all his family's money to the poor, his youngest son, Samuel, rebelled. So, when Sam Daniels, Ray's father and my grandfather, opened a dry goods store up north, he saw nothing wrong in decorating for Christmas each year to cater to his South St. Louis clientele, largely Gentile.
With a draft blowing through the poorly sealed windshield, I revealed to Marshall how my Grandpa Sam Daniels did not agree with Mosche's wholly altruistic version of Judaism - as far as transferring the family's wealth to the needy. "Marshall, your grandfather Ray continued the tradition of half-heartedly celebrating Christmas. He has a lot of Christian business friends." I didn't tell my nephew how many hard-working Hebrews my father had jilted on his climb.
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Marshall wasn't placated though. "That's not what I meant. I meant why celebrate any religious holiday."
Suddenly, despite the draft, the little tin car felt hot and stuffy. When the heater wouldn't turn off, I cracked the vent window - and it flew from its hinges into the vacuum of the night. A frigid blizzard blew in until I stuffed my gloves into the void.
Marshall made a comforting comment. "B. B. will kill you."
I said that I knew she would. "But so why don't you approve of religious holidays?"
He grumbled something about it not worthy of his time to discuss. "God is such a childish concept. Instead of living, suckers who believe in God spend their lives preparing to die."
I reached under the dash and pulled the fuse out of the heater. "God is the most wonderful thing we've ever discovered."
Marshall said he knew that I would think that. "But please drive faster so I'm not late for my Snow 'n Ball Party."
I told him the motorized grocery cart wouldn't go over fifty. "Sorry Marshall - but tell me how you're going to have a snowball party with no snow on the ground."
After picking a thread of lint from his coat, Marshall licked his fingers and smoothed his brows. "Snow 'n Ball - drugs, sex, and rock 'n roll. Grow up, David."
I smoothed Dreidel's ruffled feathers. "Your teachers let you..."
My nephew scoffed. "We tell the teachers what to do!"
end page 440
Patronizing Master Mars, I said he was smart, and solicited his help in understanding something important. "Sure, everyone else is messed up too, but what specifically has happened to teenagers?"
Verbalizing the obvious, the graduate-to-be said the answer was elementary. "With the threat of nuclear annihilation, we've learned to live for the moment - the here and now. Fuck the future."
Doubting it was really so sadly simple, I asked if his classmates ever thought about directing their energy toward helping the world avoid oblivion. "No matter how small the individual contribution might be, the collective effect..." But I could see I wasn't getting anywhere.
Marshall pulled out a wad of currency and began to count. "I've heard many things over the years. Are you really crazy, David?"
With Dreidel snuggled against my neck, I defended myself. "Not unless being an eternal optimist is considered insane."
The arrogant young man said I was as bad as his silly mother (who he happened to be on a first name basis with). "Lately, Victoria's been dreaming about the coming of some new world community." Before I could say that I shared his mother's vision of the future, he finished his counting out loud. "Six hundred dollars - just enough for an evening to remember. Ray is a rather generous grandfather, when it comes to mad money. He told me the Marine Corps ruined you, David."
Downshifting, I said quite the opposite was the case. "The Marine Corps gave me the strength to survive."
Marshall growled. "Survive what and for what? To live in a run-down Kansas apartment by yourself?"
Before I was forced to explain, a giant neon billboard beside Busch Stadium slid into view:
Welcome Winter Grads, Lincoln High School.
Snow-Ball all Night Long.
end page 441
As we approached the gathering place, traffic ground to a halt while the boulevards around the party-place snarled with the civil unrest of youngsters less fortunate than my suburban nephew. Desperate, they were demonstrating with placards that said an assortment of sad things about our times:
Honkey or Nigger, All the Same - So Why are Your Libraries so much Bigger?
Poor or Rich, Equal Education - That's Our Bitch!
Marshall attempted to rationalize. "They're just feigning poverty to collect money for their own hoedown."
Emerging from the shadows, nightstick pointing at us, a policeman said the city was under seige. "The city may be forced to use tear gas. You better get out while the getting's good." The officer tapped Bitsey's back window in the wrong place - and it shattered.
Marshall yelled. "You ignorant pig!! I..."
Shifting into reverse, I shouted for my misinformed relative to shut up. "Right now."
With a whine, Marshall said Big Brother couldn't do this to him. "I'm going to get out and tell Big Brother to use real grenades and blow those cry babies out of the way, once and for all." Buttoning-up his mohair coat, he grumbled something about hoping Bitsey castrated me for what I'd done to her car and unlatched the door handle.
I hooked his wrist with Moses. "You ain't goin' no place, hotshot. Your Mother told me to watch you, and you aren't going near your snowblower party until the police say so. That's an order straight from your crazy Uncle." I reached over to pull his door shut.
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Alas, the handle came off in my cramped hand when it banged shut. Dreidel flew out the shattered rear window. Catching a glimpse of my avionic sidekick heading north across the side view mirror, I zipped up my jacket and managed to back onto a side street - Marshall complaining all the while.
Penetrating the well-lit, redeveloped streets in pursuit of my bird, we presently bumped onto the old, dark part of the innercity, and I turned our exchange to a lighter venue. "Marshall, up ahead where Dreidel's circling - that's where Sportsmen's Park is."
Master Mars snarled. "So what the hell is Sportsmen's Park?"
After we slammed over a series of potholes without losing anything too substantial, I told him it was the park where Stan Musial and Marty Marion once played ball. "Back then, St. Louis had two teams. They shared Sportsmen's Park. Do you want to see it?"
Marshall huffed. "Might as well. Maybe they're having a shindig."
Clattering over garbage-strewn streets and crunching past decayed buildings, we came upon nothing but a depressing mess. No Sportsmen's Park anywhere - just a vacant lot with the Salvation Army on one side and O'Grady's Grill on the other, both floodlit in the otherwise dark bleakness. Parking along the discombobulated curb, I wondered how Fireman Freddie knew Dreidel would steer me to Rosie O'Grady's place.
I killed the motor and asked my nephew if he thought this poverty was just an act? "Look at that line of people over there waiting to get a free bowl of soup."
He said he could care less. "They're weak people and I have an important party to attend - a festival for an Übermann like myself and my followers."
end page 443
Grappling out, I told him he'd just have to wait for his Übershit. "I'm going to get some fresh air and find Dreidel."
I heard Dreidel chirp from somewhere in the vacant field, but my cane Moses was nearly useless in the deep mire as I slopped my way toward a small fire flicker in her direction. Grimier than an unrelieved Doughboy, I finally arrived where Dreidel had perched on top of a makeshift tent. Kneeling down, I peered into the spartan abode - an old military motorcycle with a tarp draped over it. A can of liquefied gas was burning where the motor once was.
One of the inhabitants roused from rest. "Have some grub with us, guy. We got an extra tin of sardines."
Thanking the good soul, but telling him I just ate, I noticed the gold lettering embroidered on his greasy green cap:
Headed for Heaven.
Already done time in hell.
Swallowing a sardine whole, the Vet pointed a bent fork at his buddy on the other side of the motorcycle frame and told me the abandoned soul had lived in the hutch almost a year, but never uttered a word. "I don't know the big guy's name, so I call him Loudmouth. The wasted warrior that used to sleep on this potato sack before me said Loudmouth got his arms and vocal chords blown away in Korea. All I lost was a foot and part of my gut in the Nam. I still got my spirit though - unlike my quiet companion there. I'm Bigfoot."
When Bigfoot stretched across the motorcycle frame to push a cigarette into his paraplegic partner's puckered mouth, I asked if I could buy a smoke. He tossed me one and I handed him a twenty dollar bill.
end page 444
He hacked. "Loudmouth and I don't take charity, friend."
I poked the Camel into the open flame and took a deep drag. "Neither do I take charity. Give me the change next time." I crawled backwards into the night and got to my feet, coughing.
As I walked away, the Vet cried out. "My buddy and me thank you for the loan. But don't worry about us, pal. Our day'll come."
Pushing my way through the muck, I shouted back. "Sooner than you might think!"
A couple muddy minutes later, back at the broken curb, leaning against an old disconnected street light, I wondered of the wind what it was all about - whether the time of universal reckoning would really be sooner than anyone thought. Or would the winds of time show me a fool?
Jumping out the driver's side, Marshall declared his pain at waiting. "Dammit, now my Florsheims are muddy. If we don't leave for my party soon it'll be too damn late."
Making my way over to the rear window, I grabbed Bitsey's trenchcoat from the backseat. "Do me a favor and take this coat over to that hutch and give it to the guys inside. I made a deal with 'em but didn't pay 'em enough."
Even in the twilight, I could see my nephew's pupils dialate. "You bought drugs - with Bitsey's coat?"
"Yeah, that's right, Marshall." I dropped the glowing butt of my Camel into a dented coffee can of wet sand. "Just do as I say. Then I'll take you to your party. Okay?"
Snatching the coat, he sloshed off into the darkness, in the general direction of the tent, Dreidel close behind to coax him on. I pulled at the door handle, but it came off in my hand, so I decided to wait outside and peruse the stars.
end page 445
Half an hour later, when Marshall returned in shirt sleeves, I reached through the vent aperture, opened the car from the inside, and got in.
Marshall opened his door and slid in, but didn't say a word - so I did. "Where's your mohair coat and velour gloves?"
After smacking his lips, he wiped them with the back of his hand. "Those sardines were really good."
Pulling Bitsey's baby carriage into gear, I knew there was still some hope for the kid. On the way to the stadium, sis's CVX lost two hubcaps to the potholes, and Marshall and I laughed.
When we found the riot dispersed, but dirty smoke still lingering, my newfound nephew asked me to drive him home. "I don't have any money anyway, Uncle David."
I veered onto the highway with inoperable directional lights and asked Marshall what happened to his money.
Playing with Dreidel, he reached into his vest pocket with his free hand. "Here's your twenty dollar bill back, Uncle David. I gave Loudmouth and Bigfoot my six hundred. They deserve it more than I do."
I told him we'd split it as soon as we could get some change. "How's that sound?"
He said it sounded good to him and reached into his pants pocket. "Oh, I forgot to give this to you. It's a Hanukkah present from my Mom."
We stopped to get some change and a couple root-beer floats in Olivette, and I unwrapped the gift from Victoria - a tiny clay heart with simple words: Brothers are Dear.
Belching innumerable times, we headed for the Phillip Mars residence in Creve Couer. As Marshall climbed eagerly out, he said he hoped to graduate the next day. I told him that I was sure he would.
end page 446
With pride, I watched him march into his house and dropped the car into gear - but it didn't move. Only fifth gear was still working and I nearly smoked the clutch on the ten mile trek to the Daniels estate.
Out front, I was surprised to see mom's Cadillac parked with a brick thrown through its windshield. The old fart Ray was up to something no good. After parking in back per mom's instructions, I gave Bitsey her keys but conveniently failed to mention her vehicle's chronic condition.
When I walked into the master bedroom to announce my return, the head of the house had an announcement of his own. "A Pool Party down in the Rec Room - after the graduation tomorrow."
Smothered with cold cream, mom sighed. "Ray, you know I don't allow swimming downstairs. The water will muss the furniture and spot the carpeting."
Pop's small mouth pursed like a discarded prune. "No, Kay dear, a billiards party. You know - a pool table. Like with sticks and balls and..."
Mom gasped. "Oh, I know Ray hon. I just wanted to make a funny."
Staring at me, pops smiled. "Son, did you see what some local delinquents did to your poor mother's Cadillac?"
I nodded. "You did it, didn't you?"
Without confessing, my father lifted his curly eyebrows halfway to his well-coiffed hairline and began to snore. After cleaning up, I made my way downstairs and dusted off the titanium pool stick I used as a kid. Even with a featherweight staff, I found it difficult to practice with only one good eye, a cramped left arm, and a greatly diminished sense of balance.
end page 447
First thing in the morning, my father phoned his insurance agent and neighbor, Leona Frump, to inform her of mom's automotive misfortune. "Some young hooligans ran down Kay's Cadillac right in our own driveway, dammit. After smashing into the frontend, they threw a brick through the back - I mean the front windshield, Leona. Imagine that?"
Over dad's speaker-phone, the female Frump described how her hubby Ronald's Imperial had suffered a similar fate - but into the backend and through the rear window. "I don't know what the world's coming to nowadays, Ray. It's not usual corporate procedure, but just for lovely neighbors like you and Kay, I'll dispatch a tow truck to fetch the Seville within the hour. A clean Eldorado will be delivered by noon - courtesy of your neighborly Frump Agency."
Spending the remainder of the morning fiddling with his hi-tech hearing aids, by the time the rental canoe arrived dad was more than ready to twirl the glitzy Cadillac wheel and steer us southeast, toward my nephew Marshall's winter commencement from Lincoln High.
My birthplace, University City, mostly Hebrew-American at the time, was now chiefly Afro-American (no Rose-in-bloom on every corner anymore). Olivette, where I passed my second ten year tenure, was now, as then, mostly blue collar Euro-American. Victoria's family currently resided in Olivette (City of the Flowering Crab), and it was still considered the slum of the Lincoln School District - as it had been considered during my school days, before pops migrated west to the land of the well-moneyed construction tycoonery.
On this fine afternoon of Marshall's graduation, the opulent Village of Lincoln Manors looked the same as when I flew the coop a quarter century ago. Overlarge aristocratic mansions were scattered on heavily wooded acreage, erected there under the direction Anglo-Saxon slave traders, riverboat owners, corn whiskey distributors, and opium importers. Their descendants now resided in this most respected section of the greater Gateway area - as lawyers, doctors, and real estate traders. If the truth of their practices be known, most would probably be in prison or indentured to public service for the balance of their lives.
end page 448
When Lincoln High finally came into view, I was less than surprised to see it had academically shrunk - one wing of classrooms razed and replaced by an outdoor olympic-sized pool.
Ray, careening off a lightpost standard, squealed to a halt in the giant lot's only Reserved for Handicapped space.
Despite my insistance, he refused to budge. "You worry too much, son. The Frump Agency will pay for the ticket." When I offered to park the car properly, he balked. "Sorry, son, but I'm personally responsible for this vehicle."
Fluttering out first, Dreidel led our way toward the tile sidewalk, though I doubted whether my parents even recognized her existence. As we walked around front, Bitsey stared at the affluent winter swimmers. Steam nearly cloaked the either-too-skinny or very-steroid-bound dudes who wore only pastel jock straps (which most of them probably didn't even need). Their hard-bodied party-girls were outfitted with foil g-strings no bigger than postage stamps and pearl pasties the size of quarters.
As I bore down on Moses to help me up the craggy granite steps, Bitsey asked our matriarch what sounded like a simple question. "Did you ever learn how to swim, mom?"
Kay's head jerked (the quickest I'd seen her move in some time). "What, baby?? Huh?"
With a hiccup, Bitsey dropped the allusion to what had transpired once upon a time.
end page 449
At the time, little Bitsey was but six years old, and we were visiting distant (900 miles) relatives in New Orleans. Sis drifted into the deep water at the hotel pool and began to drown. She went under for the first time right at my mother's feet. Not a swimmer, mom just stood there screaming as her gangly baby, genetic or otherwise, went down for a second time. Kay covered her eyes as I dog-paddled over to the rescue - seconds before Bitsey went down for the last time. Mom made me out a big hero to cover her own cowardice. I was only twelve years old, but I knew Bitsey's self-appointed mother had failed miserably.
As we approached the entrance to my alma mater, I wondered if I was being too rough on mom. Maybe parents only risk their lives for their children in mythology? Regardless, Bitsey should have thanked me, belatedly or otherwise. I knew she remembered the incident. Crossing the marble threshold, I noticed how poorly the sand-blasted letters had weathered above the bronze doors: Earls of Lincoln Secondary School. For the first time, I realized Honest Abe wasn't my high school's namesake - and I was disappointed.
Following a tan-and-grape stripe to the gymnasium, we found adequate seating beside Victoria and Kimmble. Much to father's dismay, one of his offspring had arrived ahead of him.
Arms folded, pops dropped his head back into snoring position while mom fiddled with knitting needles, fruitlessly. Bitsey, withdrawing a medical book from her briefcase, began to study for her upcoming sex-change.
end page 450
Victoria petted Dreidel and thanked me for giving Marshall a lift the night before. "He said you two had a good talk."
"I'm not sure whether..." Halfway through the sentence, I bit my lip by accident - and suddenly noticed a small square of light on Victoria's shoulder. Looking up, through the rafters, I spotted a nearly obscured skylight. "I haven't thought about it lately, Victoria, but I bet God really is up there looking down on us. What do you think?"
Pops snapped from his coma for a second. "Son, why discuss such a ridiculous subject? How embarassing."
Victoria whispered that of course God was up there. "He's everywhere - though sometimes it may not seem like it."
Suddenly, I became thirsty and asked Kimmble to save my seat. Limping my way out into the color-coded hall, I heard a bedroom voice over at the refreshment stand. "Fresh Homemade Milkshakes For Sale, Only Five Dollars."
I followed a short line to Ronnie's Milk Barn, and found Coleen Baxter, dad's Systems Analyst, at the register - healthier than ever. Two undernourished Puerto Rican girls were doing all the work while Ronald Frump stood in the shadows pocketing the proceeds that suctaceous Coleen raked in. After I purchased a shake, Ron told me he'd picked Miss Baxter up at City Hospital for dad.
As I headed back toward the gym, Coleen called softly out. "See you at the pool party later."
Inside the muggy sweateria, the graduates were already filing in - androgynously outfitted in silk tank tops and undersized spandex briefs. I sat back down just as six blonde, blue-eyed femmes fatales sashayed onto the elevated podium in light-brown body stockings. Each bimbo held a black-net basket of rolled diplomas. No speeches by the faculty - only an old man in a wrinkled brown suit who stood up in the faculty cage and started calling off nick-names in groups of six: "Adama, Adonis, Amilon, Arnonne, Astin, Axiom..."
end page 451
Each group of six formed a separate wave, and, one homogenous wave after another, they snatched their diplomas from one of the milkfed beauts.
Kimmble whispered. "Were you a big shot like Marshall?"
Setting Moses across the undercarriage of my folding chair, I confessed to my niece that I was anything but a panjandrum. "As a matter of fact, I almost got kicked out of kindergarten for telling Mrs. Foote that it was boring when she tried to make me play with blocks. But in fourth grade, Kimmble, I got into the Good Handwriters' Club." I splashed some Chaz on myself and told Kim we'd best be quiet. Resting my cramped hand on her shoulder, I looked up front and recalled how little a shot I had really been.
After moving from U. City to Olivette, I told my peers at Old Bonhomme Junior High about the Nathaniel Hawthorne Good Handwriters' Club. They'd never heard of it, and when I filled them in on all the details they elected me their president. Every morning for ten weeks, I sat behind Mrs. Nelson's desk in front of my constituents and directed the flow of Old News and New News. I tossed in a joke every now-and-then to keep everybody happy (including myself), and when the term ended, two-thirds of the electorate amended the Class Constitution so they could allow me a second term. When I moved on to Lincoln High, my hands began giving me trouble, and I was forced to hunt and peck everything on an old Olivetti. So ended my good handwriting - not to mention my socio-political career.
end page 452
While my nephew's graduation ground on, I wondered what had actually happened to my alabaster egg - and why. If I hadn't lost it, maybe I wouldn't have abandoned my socio-political career. Did my father have it hidden somewhere for his own use? Maybe he...
Kimmble jabbed me. "Quit daydreamin', Captain D. After you left the Mock Mound last night, that girl at the harp gave my mom an old book to give you." Reaching into Victoria's purse, Kim handed me the precious journal.
It was a worn, 1947 Dutch First Edition of Anne Frank's definitive DIARY. On the inner leaf of Het Achterhuis was a recent request:
Mr. David Daniels, please find my Mother!
Thank you, Edith Frank Cole.
Before I could speculate too seriously why the middle name of Susanna Cole's abandoned daughter was the same as Anne's last, the old timer in the wrinkled business suit wrapped the role call up: "Xolon, Yustin, Zilk, Zinc, Zono, and Zulu."
After the last antiseptic wave of students settled back into their seats, a cloud of drug-smoke rose to the rafters, and the old man made another announcement. "Proudly, I accept this last diploma on behalf of my lovely granddaughter, Edith Frank Cole, who is rehearsing for..."
end page 453
But the student body wouldn't let him finish. "Hail Marshall, Hail Marshall..."
Before the kindly administrator could even sit down, Marshall emerged from behind a peacock-colored curtain. Walking to center stage, he snapped his fingers and the choreographed girls dropped to the floor like six bitches in unabashed heat.
Adjusting his conventional cap and gown, my nephew began. "My companions, my fellow students, and my would-be followers - today is our day."
The student body chanted. "Our day, our day..."
"Yes, our day." He hoisted a sheath of white papers over his head. "This is the speech I've written to show you the way to domination and wealth."
The rafters shook with riotous rabble. "Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes..."
Victoria started to sob and I told her to leave. "Go with Kimmble before this rhetoric gets out of hand."
She refused. "He's my son and I have to listen. I'm accountable. He's a part of me. Maybe he jus..." Drowning in sorrow, she couldn't finish her words.
Holding Dreidel to my chest, I was just about to stand up and be heard - when Marshall ripped his speech up. Then he removed his graduation cap and tossed it off the stage. On my nephew's head sat a white sailor's cap.
Nervous chatter swept everywhere as Marshall slipped out of his gown and threw it over the most lewdly postured of the six pleasure doves. At parade rest, he stood there wearing a navy-blue sailor's uniform - bell bottoms, jumper, and all.
end page 454
When the commotion grew, he gripped the mike and yelled. "Shut up students! Hear me out, please!"
As the chatter subsided, the anger in his voice left, but not the determination. "My fellow students, friends, everyone - you see how I've changed. And so can you. Last night I met two real people. I learned that we all have a lot to learn before we can consider ourselves American members of the world community. This morning I enlisted in the United States Navy to repay a small portion of the debt I owe for living in this country, this biblical beacon of democracy. I hope I can, in some small way, help keep Freedom alive and fruitful. After I serve, maybe then I will know enough about the way the world really is, and ought to be, to move on toward higher scholastic endeavors. I hope so. Maybe, by then, there won't be a need for the military."
As Dreidel chirped accolades, my nephew massaged the mike. "Until that day comes when the world's militaries are no longer needed, always remember one thing. Freedom is not free - but we love it." He held his cap to his heart. "If not in the military, then in some other way, please help your neighbor, no matter how near or far away he or she may now be."
The faculty applauded, but the audience of parents was confused, the student body silent. While Victoria dripped happy tears, Dreidel lifted from my hands and soared over the student body. Shortly, she set down on Seaman Mars shoulder.
With increased commitment, my nephew paraphrased our founding fathers. "And for the support of this hallowed dedication, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence; we mutually pledge to each other our eternal lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor, so help us God Almighty. Thank you and always remember that Freedom has never been free, but we've always loved it."
The students rose to their feet and started to chant the watch words. "Freedom's not free. We love Freedom. We love freedom. Freedom's..."
end page 455
The faculty and parents joined their students as Victoria's youngest son, having finally come of age, jumped off the stage.
As soon as the plaudits of approval settled down a bit, pops snarled his disapproval. "Kay, I told you so. One night with David and Marshall's all screwed up just like him."
Fifteen minutes later, on the way out of the gym, Victoria introduced me to the old timer in the crumpled brown suit - Principal Otto Cole.
I told him I was once an admirer of his daughter. "I was wondering how Susanna's doing."
With sparse tears remaining, he told me that he hadn't heard from her since Susanna left her daughter with him less than a year after her own graduation. "Last I heard, my Susanna had a tiny apartment up in New York, near Coney Island. But that was many years ago. The only way I even know my eldest daughter's still alive is from the big cashier's check she sends for Edith every month. Susanna's earning an awful lot of money somewhere, somehow."
I tried to comfort the senior Cole. "I'm sure Susanna has a good reason for whatever she's done."
He said that he hoped so. "My step-daughter, Joanna, left me a few years ago too. She went to live on a reservation in Arizona with her grandfather after my second wife passed away. I have no idea what she's doing either."
As we moved into the congested hallway, I put my hand on the geriatric educator's shoulder and changed the subject. "Are Ms. S., the language arts teacher, and Coach Mathews, the science teacher, still working at Lincoln?"
When he said that he was afraid they were retired like he should be, I asked if he knew where they went.
end page 456
He didn't know, but said I could check the staff alumni photographs on the back wall of the library. "We usually record that information right under their retirement portrait. Good luck, David. Your sister Victoria is my most successful counselor."
Leaving Marshall and pops chatting with Coleen and Ron, I pushed my way toward the library. The same head janitor who'd been working the dayshift on my graduation unlocked the room, keyed on the lights, and directed me behind the stacks to the faculty's rotigravure gallery.
As I suspected, with a beard, Coach Prescott Mathews was a ringer for Ména Menachem. With silver hair, an Easter bonnet, and just a few more friendly wrinkles, Mary F. Smith (Ms. S.) was none other than Granny, the old gambler-librarian of Lenexa. Their rap sheets showed they both left Lincoln the year I graduated. How strange.
On the way out of the library and down the slow-moving hall, I decided my favorite teachers' and my own simultaneous departure was no coincidence. Joining my present family on the parking lot, I wondered whether I should have told Principal Cole that his step-daughter Joanna, now known as Margot Morningstar, was alive and relatively well. I decided to give him a call before heading back to Kansas.
I rode in Marshall's Metro back to Mock Estates for the Daniels' pool party (and a place to sleep). Along the way, I looked through the dairy Eddy Cole had forwarded to me. I remembered just enough German from high school to be able to read the first paragraph in the afterword. In Dutch, it said that Anne Frank's mother's name was Edith - Edith Frank. The family patriarch, the only family survivor of hitler's death camps, was Otto Frank. The others perished in late '44 or early '45 - including Anne's older sister, Margot. Margot Morningstar? Otto Cole? Edith Frank Cole?
end page 457
Before I got too confused, Marshall began to tell me all the great things he was going to accomplish in the Navy. "I intend to change the course of world events - for the good."
I praised his purpose. "I wish you good luck, Marshall. But it won't be easy. Some people are almost as stubborn as they are selfish."
The graduate's reply was sweet and simple. "No sweat, Uncle David."
end chap 26
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