In the end, Anna left her husband Oscar because he breathed down her neck. At first his breathing had been his most endearing quality. Through many years of unconscious practice, Oscar had developed the perfect breatdangorhing technique: breath in through the nose,

in the frosty air. Fine, everything's fine. The most important thing was to avoid anything that would mar the delicate fabric of a successful start to the day. And the beginning of a new life.

Yes, the tension had gone; he was breathing more easily. He had never allowed himself to be troubled by wandering gypsy women before, and as a result he'd got into a complete state for nothing. So much for pride — that besetting sin of the intelligentsia! Instead of falling prey to delusions, he should have taken to herbal remedies straightaway and got his nerves in order. It's your nerves, Lida had said over and over again, but he'd got on his high horse. Old prisoners don't have nerves, he'd say. So he'd gone and let his imagination run away with him instead of acknowledging his own mental state.

At this point, Pulin had the unpleasant feeling that he was talking himself into something, persuading himself that

Suffering borne by two is nearly joy.


Fighting the stiffness in her limbs, she lifted her brown scapular, symbol of the yoke of Christ, and began the clothing prayer:


Clothe me, O Lord, with the armor of salvation.

She let the robe's two panels drop from her shoulders to the hemline, back and front, then stepped

into thin air as far as the others are concerned, a mere breeze brushing their temples.

This morning there was a constant whirring up in the cedar, as if it were already early spring, and yet winter still lies ahead, with its rigid cold, with the pinging of small stones skidding over the frozen woodland ponds, with flashes from the belt of Orion, sweeping all night across the hills of the Seine; though snow would be eventful for this area--the occasional overly thin icicles, with not a trace of snow far and wide, usually congeal from frost on the roofs.

I am determined to pursue

the object of a statewide manhunt by New York State troopers and other law officers, to be tracked down in the mountains and arrested and brought home in shackles and most of it reported on TV and in the local papers, John Reddy Heart's face reproduced in the media daily for weeks: sixteen years old, good-looking even though battered and bleeding, stubborn, mysterious in his refusal to speak, his eyes heavy-lidded with secrets. Nor did we most cherish the drama of his trials in the fall, and yet more publicity, lurid screaming headlines: SUBURBAN TEEN TRIED IN SHOOTING DEATH OF MOTHER'S LOVER—16-YEAR-OLD TRIED AS AN ADULT, D.A. CALLS "VICIOUS MURDERER"—in Time, Newsweek, Life. And footage on network TV. (Even in English and European papers, we were told, there were articles, with accompanying photographs, of John Reddy Heart.) Nor did we most cherish the giddy weeks of "The Ballad of John Reddy Heart," by the rock band Made in USA, which was number one on the charts within a week of its release.


John Reddy, you had our hearts.
John Reddy, we would've died for you.
John Reddy, John Reddy Heart.


Words you couldn't actually hear clearly, the amplified guitars, drums and general screeching were so loud. ("The Ballad of John Reddy Heart" sold more than any other single record—this was before tapes and CDs—in the history of Willowsville and vicinity. Though the music was kind of crude, you'd have to acknowledge, and Made in USA might be characterized as early, unintentional grunge. And we all resented the way, in the ballad, "John Reddy Heart" was portrayed. For he just wasn't the John Reddy any of us knew, our classmate.)

More distorting yet, and luridly sensational, was the CBS TV film in two parts The Loves of the White Dahlia, a docudrama supposedly based on the private life of Mrs. Dahlia Heart, John Reddy's mother—the most controversial female to ever reside in the affluent suburb of Willowsville, New York, in its century and a half of history. But this film, in our mayor's incensed words "a libel upon our village as upon the Heart family," wasn't aired until several years later, when we were all away at college, and the Hearts themselves long departed.

No, it's a quieter time we cherish. Those of us who knew John Reddy well. As Trish Elders would say, "He's someone you feel. Though he enters you through the eyes, he's someone you feel." This time when John Reddy, on probation, was living alone on Water Street, devoted to finishing his senior year of high school after twelve months' incarceration at Tomahawk Island Youth Camp (in the Niagara River) where he'd "maxed out" (as we'd learned to say casually) for getting into fights, failing to rack up a single day off for good behavior. The fights hadn't been John Reddy's fault, we were sure. He'd had to protect himself against other inmates, bigger, older guys, and guards, too; not just his physical self but his honor "as a man." So John Reddy's basketball teammates Dougie Siefried and Bo Bozer told us, incensed—"Because you know John Reddy, he's not gonna take any shit from anybody. John Reddy's the kind of guy you'd have to kill to make give in."

It was thrilling to hear Willowsville boys talk like this. The boys we'd gone to school with all our lives. Alluding to matters girls weren't supposed to know, though we could guess (we believed we could guess) what they were, sort of—" Forbidden acts," as Verrie Myers said gravely. Dougie and Bo were a year younger than John Reddy, in our class at school, but, speaking of John Reddy, they took on the elusive qualities of someone older, deeper into masculine experience.

 

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