By Michael G. Glab
— Twenty-four —
Nobody knows it but Tree often sits at the front window in the middle of the night and stares at the old Mondi house across the street and down the block. Anna and Anthony’s new house. She’s got her excuse lined up in case she’s caught: “I thought I heard something.”
It might even work if the person who happens upon her neglects to notice the ashtray full of crushed out Pall Mall butts on the end table next to her.
Tonight, like every other night, Anna and Anthony’s front room lights are on. All the other houses on the block are dark. Weeks ago Tree learned to ignore the “curtains” on her daughter and new son-in-law’s front windows. The big picture window is covered by a tie-dyed drape. The smaller French windows on either side of it are curtained by, on the right, one of those American flags with a peace sign in the corner rather than the fifty stars and, on the left, a red and black silhouette-ish image of Che Guevera, although Tree has no idea who the young man with the scraggly beard and the rakish black beret is.
Tree can’t see into Anna and Anthony’s living room but, still, she stares at the windows as if through sheer maternal superpower she can penetrate those damned “curtains.”
Anna sits upright on the sofa. Her basketball-sized belly now extends three-quarters of the way across her lap. The baby is due in late August. She’s got the first issue of the Whole Earth Catalog in her lap, as well as a copy of Life magazine and Tom Hayden’s book, Rebellion in Newark, which Anthony has been pestering her to read since he brought it home a month ago. She has sat on the sofa with that book on her shrinking lap for four weeks now and has yet to crack it once. She doesn’t know precisely why she hasn’t opened it, only that every time Anthony bugs her to read it, she becomes less likely to do so. What she does have opened in front of her is The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care by Dr. Benjamin Spock.
“You know, Mr. Brown,” she says, “a father should kiss his child every single day, no matter if it’s a boy or a girl.” She’s feeling cozy tonight, that’s why she uses her old nickname for Anthony. “I know my Dad loved me but I don’t ever remember him kissing me except at things like graduations or…,” she pauses here, a distant look in her eye, “…at the wedding.”
Anthony sits across the room in the old La-Z-Boy from Al and Tree’s basement, the one Al had given to him before the wedding. He’s got a yellow legal pad in front of him. He’s taking notes on a phone conversation he had earlier this evening with Abbie Hoffman. Man, it’s amazing how far Anthony has come since that day last fall when he first saw Abbie on Wells Street in Old Town, which was, by the way, the day he re-met Anna. He grunts in response to Anna’s comment.
Anna flips a page. She asks, “Did your dad kiss you?”
Anthony doesn’t even look up from his legal pad.
“Mr. Brown, can you hear me?”
“Mr. Brown?” Anna now glares at him. “Anthony!”
“What? What’s wrong? You having pains already?”
“No, Anthony. I’m trying to have a conversation with you.”
“Hey, I’ve got important stuff to do here. What is it you want?”
“I just want to know if your father kissed you,” Anna says.
“I don’t know when. Ever. Did he kiss you?”
“Why would he do that?”
“Because he’d want you to know he loved you.”
“Again, why would he do that? He was my father — I assume he liked me.”
“Not like — love.”
“Yeah, I guess he loved me,” Anthony says, shrugging. “Loves me, I should say. Even though he hates me right now,”
“Are you going to kiss our baby?”
“I don’t know when, Anthony! Just are you going to kiss him?”
“Listen, Anna, I’ve got important work to do, okay? Do you realize how hard it is to get a hundred thousand people into the city? The convention’s only two months away. We haven’t even gotten our permits from the city yet. Daley’s guys are stalling us. They hope we’ll go away. We aren’t gonna let those fat old creeps win.”
Mayor Daley And Some Of His Guys
“Yes, I understand how important your work is,” Anna says. “Raising our child is important too.”
“But that’s your job.”
“What? What’s my job? I didn’t know I had a job. I thought it was our job.”
“I mean it’s your job to kiss the baby. A man has to go out into the world.”
“You know something? You sound just like our dads.”
There is silence. Anthony speaks after a few long moments: “Don’t you ever say that to me again.”
To be continued