Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 7 No. 1 | Spring 1985

elevator between floors in the White House." “How scary.” “Yes. but it gets worse. His aide, the one who carries the black box and follows the President around, wasn’t with him. Do you know what that means?” “Lorenzo, there's not really a black box.” “Yes there is. It says so right here. And the man who carries it around wasn't with the President. That means that for those few moments while Reagan was stuck between floors, if the Soviets had attacked us, we would have been completely defenseless.” “There’s no black box,” Heather repeats. She notices his penis has shifted; he is fully erect, and he is smiling at her, smiling and trembling. The fear rouses his desires. “There is,” Lorenzo pleads. “Imagine it.” A plane flies close above them, and Heather puts down herbrush. She moves to him like wet paint spilling across a canvas she has painted over countless times. Lorenzo, Lorenzo, let down your long hair. Outside and up the hill from Heather’s apartment, the Post-Intelligencer globe slowly pirouettes for Lorenzo. He hopes that when the two papers merge, the large blue map of the earth remains; to Lorenzo, it is as much a part of Seattle as the Space Needle. When Lorenzo arrives at Heather's apartment for dinner, she is painting signs. She has not made any dinner, but she tells him there is beer in the fridge. Lorenzo helps himself to a beer and then stands over Heather, who is sprawled out on the floor, painting “STOP TRIDENT,” red on white. “I'm famished,” Lorenzo tells her. "Well, I'm famished, too,” says Heather, “but you know sometimes it’s more important to paint signs than to feed your face." “You’re going to the rally Sunday?" Lorenzo asks. “Yes, and I think you should, too.” “When did you become so political?” “Today,” Heather answers. In her furor she paints “STOOP TRIDENT,” “Now look what you made me do," she says when she realizes her error. “But why today?” “Lorenzo, do you know what happened thirty-seven years ago tomorrow?" “Yes, I read the paper. They bombed Hiroshima.” "We bombed Hiroshima," Heather corrects him. “I never bombed Hiroshima." Lorenzo wishes Heather were less politically astute. “Not to protest is to bomb,” says Heather. “But I wasn't even born yet when they bombed Hiroshima.” “But you’re alive today. And today they—no, we—tested a nuclear bomb just seventy-seven miles northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada.” “No one got hurt in the desert there. It’s not the same. Heather, my dove, my feather.” “It shook hotels,” Heather says. “The ground caved in where they blasted the bomb.” She stands and walks to her kitchen table. Lorenzo follows. “And they're not even planning to fill in the hole. There," she says, pointing to a letter on the table. “You can read my letter. The damage is already done, but I thought we might as well make the most of it." Lorenzo reads the letter. Dear President Reagan, I have been to Nevada and I know it is very hot there. There are not enough swimming pools because it is so expensive to dig holes. I know because my brother is an undertaker in Reno, and he is the only one in his neighborhood who can afford a swimming pool. If you are going to blast holes in the ground, why don't you put them to good use, and build swimming pools where the ground has sunk in, so people in Nevada who cannot afford swimming pools can get some enjoyment out of them. Sincerely, Heather Fern McGuire Lorenzo looks out the window. “Maybe we should go out to dinner,” he suggests. Outside, on the globe, he thinks he detects a small hole where Nevada should be. “Sure," Heather says, grabbing her purse and a small package. “And maybe we should go to the Trident rally tomorrow." On the way to the car, Heather drops a package of raspberry jam, neatly neatly wrapped in brown paper and strapping tape, and addressed to the Falkland Islands Treasury Department, into a mailbox. At the rally, Lorenzo doesn’t know most of the songs the protesters are singing. Some of them are easy to learn. “Ronald Reagan ain't no good, send him back to Hollywood.” He has heard that one before. but most of the others are alien to him, so he stands next to Heather, who seems to know all the words, and pretends he represents Deaf Mutes for Nuclear Disarmament. He watches a small confrontation to the rear of one of the crowds. “If you had to live in another country, you wouldn’t be here today I” a tall, balding man shouts to the crowd. “If you saw how it was in other countries, you'd see why we have to defend this country with those Trident subs!” Lorenzo wonders sadly who the man's travel agent is. Lorenzo sees his customers before they take their vacations: he hopes most of them have had a better time than the tall, balding man appears to have had. Lorenzo pulls a business card from his jacket pocket and shyly puts it into the man’s angry hand. Then he walks back to find Heather, but she has moved up in the crowd, so he stands helplessly, facing the crowd’s virtuous back, feeling like a spare prick at a wedding. When he finally spots her, and tells her he is ready to leave, she tells him she has found a ride home with a group of political artists she has met at the rally. They have no name, she says, but they have a big van. Lorenzo drives home alone in his BMW. II ■I want to go to Kuwait,” the man in I Camels and Castles tells Lorenzo. Lorenzo has never planned a vacation in Kuwait for anybody. He suspects the middle-aged man is a terrorist. “Why Kuwait?” Lorenzo asks. “I like to hawk.” “It really doesn’t matter to us how you pay for the trip, Mr. Boyd,” Lorenzo explains. “Don’t worry. I can pay,” Mr. Boyd tells Lorenzo. "They have good hawking in Kuwait, no?” “Depends. What do you want to hock?” “Hawks, of course." “Oh, hawking.” “Yes, that’s right.” “Are you aware of what's happening over there right now, Mr. Boyd?" “No, I only want to go hawking. I don’t care about any Mardis gras or festivities." “It's not exactly Mardis gras time in Kuwait, Mr. Boyd." “I don’t know about this. I only read they have very good hawking there, in Kuwait. I have read this.” “They have very good oil there, too,” Lorenzo says, but Mr. Boyd only looks at him naively. “Do you read the newspaper, Mr. Boyd?" Lorenzo stands, for effect. “No, I am an ornithologist.” “Well, then perhaps you haven't heard...” Mr. Boyd looks up at Lorenzo with anxious eyes, and Lorenzo realizes he doesn’t have the heart to tell Mr. Boyd about troubles in the Middle East. “You see, they are having a terrible time with their hawks. They lost quite a few last season, and they have had to impose fierce restrictions on hawking." “Oh, that is very sad.” Mr. Boyd shakes his head sadly and stands. “Well, then I will come back next year, and talk with you about my trip then." He shakes Lorenzo's hand and turns to leave. Lorenzo’s boss, Mr. Quackenbush, who has probably heard their entire conversation, glares at Lorenzo from across the room, daring him to lose a customer. “Wait, Mr. Boyd.” Lorenzo thinks quickly of a bird he has seen at the zoo. “Have you ever seen a South American screamer?" Mr. Boyd smiles. “Chauna chavaria. They're a funny bird. I have never seen them in the wild, have you?" “Yes, when I was in South America,” Lorenzo lies. “I would like to see that someday.” "You can, you know. I could arrange it—and for less than half the price of an excursion to Kuwait." “They're an aquatic bird, I know, but which part of the South American coast line would you recommend?” To be on the safe side, Lorenzo arranges for Mr. Boyd an excursion to Colombia, Ecuador. Peru, Chile and Brazil, knowing that way Mr. Boyd will cover most of the coast line on both the Pacific and the Atlantic sides. Meather is painting a SAVE THE WHALES poster when Lorenzo arrives at her apartment for dinner, after work. She is using the same red poster paint she had used for the STOP TRIDENT signs. As he watches her paint, he has a horrible thought: what if the South American screamer is near extinction? Suppose Mr. Boyd never sees a South American screamer? Suppose it was the South African screamer Lorenzo had seen at the zoo? Mr. Boyd could be heading for the wrong continent. He wants to tell Mr. Boyd, “Don’t go. Wait until the problems in the Middle East work themselves out, and then take your trip to Kuwait.” He wishes he could call Mr. Boyd, but Mr. Quackenbush would surely find out. Outside Heather's apartment, below the Post Intelligencer globe, someone has written on a wall nearby, in large black gothic letters, “KEEP SEATTLE A TWO-NEWSPAPER TOWN!” Heather, finished with her poster, douses her paintbrush with running water in the kitchen. Lorenzo has an idea. “Heather, my feather, let me borrow that brush and your poster paint.” “Where are you going?" “I have to leave a message for one of my clients.” Lorenzo finds an old schoolyard, surrounded by a concrete wall, already nearly covered with graffiti. He finds a clean space, below a freshly painted message which reads: IF THE U.S. IS RIGHT, THEN WHYARE WE SO DEFENSIVE? STOP THE BOMBS! NOW! It is a red sign, the same color red as the poster paint in Lorenzo’s hands. The letters from the message are still wet. Lorenzo remembers when he used to deny guilt for one of his childhood crimes, and his mother would say to him, "Lorenzo, if you’re telling the truth, if you really are innocent, then why are you so defensive?” Lorenzo wonders if somebody's mother had painted the sign in front of him. Lorenzo opens his jar of paint and positions his brush. He wants to paint, “Don't go, Mr. Boyd,” but a policeman taps his shoulder before he can touch brush to concrete. That night, Lorenzo sees Heather’s finished painting of him. He’s jealous of her, jealous that she can live on the salary her part-time job provides her with because she has no need for Persian rugs and Bavarian cars, jealous that she paints and that she paints so well. He is jealous and resentful and flattered by her rendition, all at the same time. “My legs look disjointed," is all he can say. His legs seem to dangle thinly from the canvas. He feels like a spider which has been caught in a closed drawer and has narrowly escaped. He wants to crawl into the corner above Heather's bookshelves. Was it a spider or a cockroach that Gregor Samsa became? Lorenzo Valencia, come down from that wall! Heather studies Lorenzo, who stands meekly before her image of him. She scans the length of his body, rests her Clinton St. Quarterly 9