UPPER EAST SIDE, PARKSIDE, THE SAME AFTERNOON
She went back to take a shower.
Made sense after a day like that.
Buddy leaned on the window sill of the massive apartment.
He felt at home in this place.
He liked nice places. He felt like he had been somewhere like this before, but it was deep in his younger memories. he apartment had a clean smell. No overdone scents. Maybe a slight smell of oil soap form the parquet floor. Wealthy people were usually clean. He walked around the vast apartment looking at things, pictures, knick-knacks, objéts-d’art, but all very tasteful, no crap. There were photographs, it looked like she had daughters. No pictures of her with a husband. Maybe divorced. She wore no ring. He did some quick figuring. There was no sign of the daughters, so probably all out of college for a few years at least. Carol had to be at least 45. Buddy liked that. Buddy listened to her showering. Then he heard her puttering around, maybe doing her make-up, getting dressed. Drying her hair.
She reappeared after a fashion. He turned to her when she entered the room.
‘Buddy, I’ve been inhospitable. I haven’t offered you anything. A drink?’
‘No thanks, I don’t drink. It’s like smoking, I never started so I don’t have to quit.’
He was conscious of how he towered over her. She was petite. He liked that.
‘Carol, don’t go down there again by yourself. Plus it’s going to be hot for a while. Those rejects are probably going to be looking for me. I am going to worry about you if you are in that neighborhood.’ ‘Buddy. You really care about me don’t you. You are a genuine person.’
‘I like nice people. I think that nice people shouldn’t be around the dregs of society. I’ve had to live with the dregs for a long time and I don’t like it. Sure, there are good people down there, but way too many bad ones, and the good seem to tolerate the bad, or maybe they are just afraid of them, I don’t know.’
‘Now I’ll worry about you Buddy. What are you going to do? Should we call the police?’
I don’t need to tell you how that works out. You survived, they survived, the rule is don’t involve the police. Anyway, I should not stay around. I feel like I’m taking advantage of you somehow. You don’t owe me anything.’
Buddy thought for a minute, again staring out the window. Then he turned to her. He figured she would be uncomfortable and throw him out any, and at least they could go their separate ways clean.
‘But to be honest, there is something about you that I feel very deeply. Some connection. I want to be close to you, but it’s crazy, isn’t it?’
Carol put her hand on Buddy’s shoulder then she put her arms around his waist from behind.
‘Don’t go yet. I need you here. Maybe fate brought us together. Why can’t we just enjoy each other’s company for a while? There’s no book on this for heaven’s sake.’
Buddy wanted her desperately. He didn’t know why. He liked everything about her. The thick chocolate hair, the brown eyes. The thin waist and the broad hips. He turned around still in her embrace and he faced her.
‘I have to be at work in about two hours, but I’d rather be here with you.’
San Francisco, California Late December 1967
The hippie stoner, long hair, beard, moustache, in full regalia of an old army shirt with psychedelic peace signs walked up to the Colonel. They stood side by side looking out from the gates of the Presidio gazing across the bay.
“Marijuana, old man, do you smoke it?”
“Do you roak the fucking schmiee, dude or what?”
“I did once. Back in Korea.”
“I was in the Army too dude. Just got out, like in September. Two fucking tours in the fucking ‘Nam, man. Can you taste it?”
“I can taste it. I’m on leave. By the way, welcome home little brother.”
The Colonel shook the hippies hand and they engaged in an elaborate eight part hand shake.
“You look like a lifer, an officer. But if you’ve got people man, you need to get the fuck out, retire, don’t die in that fucking shit, man. My dad died in Korea. I joined just because what the fuck, man, laugh at god, laugh at death, laugh at the devil. Now I smoke this shit and hang out in old ‘Cisco, baby.”
“I’m sorry about your dad. I’m sorry about everybody. I’m glad you got out. I’ve got a little boy. Wife died a while back. She got sick.”
“I’m sorry about your old lady man. You got no CIB, but you seem like you were in the shit though.”
“Artillery FSCOORD. I work with the FACs now call in mostly airstrikes, still doing what I did in Italy in ’44.”
“Looks a little like Hong Kong, doesn’t it old dude? Monroe? Like Major Monroe from Last of the Mohicans.”
“Yeah and I’m even from New York.”
“Get the fuck out dude! I’m from fucking Oneonta, my elder Empire State brother.”
The Colonel handed the hippie a flask of Scotch. They sat in the grass together passing the flask.
“Riverdale, the Bronx.”
“You know, old dude, I can’t talk to anyone out here man. I get high, I hang out, I trip on acid, I walk around I hang out with hippies and stoners and their political shit. I listen to music. I’m tripping though. No-one understands me, I don’t understand them. I look like a hippie, but I can’t go back home. I’m a fucking zombie dude. Hey, man, get that fucking monkey suit off, come with me to Winterland. Let’s see Jefferson Airplane. We can find some chicks and party.”
The Colonel handed the hippie the flask again.
“OK, I’ll be back in 30. I’ll take the old broads, just tell ’em I’m your weird uncle from Otsego County.”