by Dennis Hiatt


I didn't care for parties when Jackie was alive and I do
not like them now.  Deborah, our daughter, in the June of her
life, seems afraid that I will spend my October in morning.
Perhaps she sees herself as taking Jackie's place.  Perhaps
Deb's afraid I'm going to mourn myself to death.  You'd (I
would anyway) think a daughter would want her father to
remain true to her mother's memory.
     I tried telling Deb that I wouldn't be happy at a party
where I had more wrinkles in the corners of my eyes, than the
rest of the guest had between them. Deb ignored me with a
mother hen smile, and picked a light weight blue suit from
the closet.  "Wear this Dad."
     I sighed. "Honey, I buried your mother in that suit."
     "You didn't wear black Dad?"  She said, mildly offended
by my lack of morals or her poor memory.  "What about..." Deb
dug deeper in the closet.  "That goofy tourist shirt you
bought in Honolulu?  The yellow one with the blue parrots"
     "Your mother threw it out."  I lied as Deb nosed deeper
into the dark and found it.
     "Per-fect Dad."
     I shook my head. "Honey, now all I need is a cigar and
two cameras, to play The Ugly American."
     Deb nodded a smile to that thought, but said.  "It's not
a fifties scene Dad."
     The scene?  A sixties theme party at the best house, on
a good block, in a up-scale neighborhood.  White plastic
belts and go-go boots.  Mini skirts and one real bee-hive
hair-do.  Tie-died tee-shirts.  One hundred tiny dime store
turtles with candles on their shells and balsa wood glued to
their stomachs, swimming aimlessly in an Olympic pool.  White
wine and lemon flavored mineral water.  Good thick hamburgers
sputtering on three barbecues and vegetarian tacos pouring
from the chrome kitchen in linen covered, silver warming
pans....my first post brie and baguette party, no doubt.
     The low-slung dazzling house and it's vast back yard was
filled with beautiful kids like my daughter.  Her friends
from work, her friends from collage and young people that
these friends had met at the spa or gallery opening or
jogging.  I'd seen a few of the faces over the years and
could hook up a name with a length of blonde hair and up
turned nose or remember the boy with bushy eyebrows and
football player shoulders, was John.  Deb had dated him one
winter and dumped him that spring.  From speakers on poles,
in the dark corners of the yard, The Beach Boys sang Surf'n
     The only other face my age was a writer (or maybe he was
an artist) that was holding an animated court next to the
pool.  Beside him was a girl Deb's age.  His black haired
student or lover or squeeze in spandex biking pants.  I
didn't know and didn't care.  As we crossed the lawn, he
looked my way for a second, petted the girl's otter sleek
butt and went back to his dissertation.  What a jerk, I
thought as Deb aimed me to a leather couch, under a bug lamp,
in the smoking section.
     I had a brief hope that I would be allowed to vegetate
in the yellow light with a hamburger, lemon mineral water and
my low tar cigarettes.  I would have been more than happy to
play my part as a token of the sixties.  Frayed ambiance in
my dumb Hawaii shirt, sitting quietly next to a bright, new
garbage can filled with white sand.
    But no.  My only child, white wine in one hand, the other
holding her dress held by it's flower print hem, trotted
back smiling, with friends, a greaser and Indian maiden, that
were perhaps all of twenty-two.
    "Dad, I want you to meet Walton and Imogene."
     "My friends ALL call me Jean, Mr. Aldrich."  The young,
tawny goddess chirped and extended a very slim bangled wrist.
     I stood and shook their hands.  "Nice to meet you
Walton, Jean."  The kids seated themselves in straight back,
wooden chairs, across from me.  Walton looked like a nice
young man, tall and stylishly thin.  He seemed to be
sweating in his motorcycle jacket or perhaps the yellow light
of the bug lamp just made him look hot.  Walton had a moody
mouth and dark eyes that anger might have came naturally to,
but he was handsome.  No doubt about it.  Imogene, however,
was a rare beauty.  She was all legs, had a tummy you could
do a trampoline act on and breasts that set up high and proud
like halved grapefruits.  (All wrapped in fringed buckskin as
if the sixties, were to her, being a Disney extra.)
     "So Mr. Aldrich,"  Walton sat and, unilluminated eyes
smiling, said earnestly.  "Deborah tells us that you've lead
an interesting life."
     I smiled my thanks-for-nothing-kidd-o smile at Deb.
     "Dad, Walton's a writer." Deb chirped a little too much
like Imogene for my liking.
     Walton waved her chirp off. "I sell men's suits Mr.
Aldrich.  I write on the side."  A very earnest young man.
He was hard not to like.
     I shrugged and Imogene brighten and squeezed Walton's
arm.  "Well Sir,"  The boy looked almost embarrassed. "I was
wondering if you'd mind talking about Vietnam?"
     I blinked at Deb The Mouth, sipped my mineral water and
looked up at the moths fluttering around the bug lamp. "Why,
Walton?  It seems to me more than enough has been said about
     "Well Sir...."
     "Dad, I see some friends. Be back in a bit."
     I nodded and Walton leaned forward and tried a smile.
     Before he could speak, I tossed the ball back into his
court, "Been out of college long?", and lit a cigarette.
     Walton backed away from the smoke and said. "Yes Sir. I
graduated last year."
     I smiled aimlessly at the moths in their holding pattern
over head.  Maybe the kids would go away.  Imogene recrossed
her arms and and legs and chirped.  "Walton's dad gave him a
GREAT little BMW for being on the honor roll."
     Walton coughed.  "Sorry Sir.  I'm allergic to tobacco."
     I grinned at the trendy pup.  "You know guys, it's very
kind of you to baby sit Deb's old man but......"
     Bangs fluttering, her long legs the color of rare honey,
recrossing, Imogene popped forward.  "Mr. Aldrich we've been
looking forward ALL week to seeing YOU."  She then smiled at
me in a majorly cute way by squeezing her eyebrows together
and showing me all of her straight, fine teeth.
     "Oh?"  Did she think her smile would charm me into
putting out the cigarette?  "Why Jean?"
     "Well," Handsome, earnest Walton leaned toward me again.
"Mr. Aldrich, Deborah tells us that you were in Vietnam and
work for Dow Chemical."
     "Yes,"  I blew a smoke ring.  Imogene looked like she
needed to frown but recrossed her long legs instead.  "But
being a chemical engineer is no more noteworthy than any
other form of middle management."  A fat moth flew by the
glowing tip of my cigarette and Walton and I stared at each
other through the smoke and the years.
     "Well...Sir, times change but people don't.  A writer
picks details that are apt and leaves out those which are
beside the point."  He smiled like do-you-understand?
     I nodded and Walton leaned a hair closer. "What I mean
Sir is that if you could tell me one story, about your life,
what would that story be."
     I sighed.  Time is a one way street, and the gulf
between me and this young couple would have been great if
we'd been form the same generation, but I could try.  "Deb's
mother and I were married my junior year.  No abortions back
then.  I went to work at a hamburger stand thirty-five hours
a week and with the GI bill and a little help from our folks,
we scraped by."
     Walton's guarded face, in the yellow light, seemed to
say he wanted to hear something altogether different.
Something that made good copy.  Did he think I'd tell him
about throwing the first hand full of dirt on my Jackie's
     I took a deep drag, exhaled and went on.  "Deb cried
most of my senor year. Babes do that.  My GPA dropped form a
3.6 to a 2.4 but I graduated on time...."
     "Sir?"  Walton moody mouth kissed a small, tight smile.
"I'm sorry but I've gone to college and I was hoping
that....perhaps you could tell me about something I've never
    "Something that you've never experienced?"
    "And won't Sir."  His left hand made a soft fist and
kneaded his knee slowly.
     "Okay." I grinned and tried build another span across
that gulf.  "Last year at our company picnic, I met a junior
Vice President, Jack Stevenson. When he'd had a few drinks
and found out that we'd both gone to the same college, he
just had to be my buddy."
     I leaned forward and ground out my cigarette in the
white sand. I wondered if the sand was imported.  "I want to
tell you Walton that I was thankful that a Vice President had
taken an interest in me.  I've worked long and hard for Dow
and to be fair Dow's been good to me but...anyway Jack
graduated four years before me because he could afford go to
college out of high school.  The high point of his collage
years was going to Woodstock....."
     "Yes Sir, but...." Walton swatted at a moth. He nailed
it to but before he could finish his thought the  writer
(artist?) hovered into view.  He was dressed in a tie-died
tee-shirt and bell bottomed jeans. I'd bet his love beads
were the real thing.  Up close I had to admit that he was a
fairly good looking guy about my age.  His "friend" stood
next to me looking down at the cigarette I was lighting.  My
eyes were level with the pubic crease in her Spandex and in
the blue flame of the Ronson, her lovely cleft was as fat as
Cupid's cheeks.
     I offered her the pack.  She shook her head and smiled
as aimlessly at the cigarettes as I had at the moths.  Her
grey haired "friend" crossed his arms and pronounced.  "SO
Walton I've read your poem on the Oppressed Masses Of
Africa...in our almamater's paper."  He sipped his drink like
a sly drunk.  "GANG RAPE OF THE THIRD WORLD.  Great title."
He shook his head with a certain wistful, wise happiness, and
seemed to quote.  "WOULD you RAPE your MOTHER...( dramatic
pause) FOR A MERCEDES."  He tried to take a drink and
giggled, blowing bubbles.  "A Renault might be worth a fast
     "Thank you Sir."  Walton seem both embarrassed and
pleased.  Imogene eyed Ms Bicycle Pants like she was the
snake in the garden of Eden.  Ms Bicycle Pants, her lips as
red and glossy-moist as that apple's skin, smiled teeth and
gums at Walton and said.  "How's the Vietnam thingie coming,
     I smiled at Walton and he seemed to blush. The wind was
blowing from the left and I didn't need a weather man to tell
me, it was blowing cold and for me, ill.  The boy was right
about one thing; times change but the people don't.  The
sixties were full of middle class kids that never realized
that they needed more than the rap and the beret to be Che
Guevara.  Jackie'd been a kid like that when I'd met her.  Me
the 'Nam vet with nightmares, her a revolutionary with clean,
white underpants.
     "OH WOW!"  A girl screeched from across the yard. "The
little turtles are dying!"
     Imogene leaped to her feet and Ms Bicycle Pants and her
ran like young deer to the pool.  The writer/artist asshole,
hosted his drink in a salute, mutter cheerfully, "Chemicals
not found in nature.", and ambled back to the pool.
     Walton stood and I looked the little bastard in the eye
and said.  "Sit down son and you'll get your story."
     He hesitated and I grinned, almost coy because after
all, I was just a plump, middle age man in a dumb Hawaiian
shirt.  "I won't tell it in front of the ladies."
     Walton sat. "Sir?"
     "Shut up and listen friend.  I was a LURP for the First
Air Cavalry.  That's Long Range Reconnaissance. Our job...my
job was to spent three weeks or more out in the field
following the Bad Guys around.  Now that's three to five men
tracking main line VC and NVA units for weeks and a lot of us
didn't come back.  This story is to me, what your BMW and
your honor roll and your poems in the school paper, are to
you.  And it's a story I am sure you can use."
     Walton nodded warily and moth flew into my mineral
water.  I pushed it underwater and let it drown.  Lights,
brighter than the mid-day sun, kicked on around the swimming
pool.  The boy and I glanced at the pool and the beautiful
children milling at it's edges.  The water shimmer like
blue flame.  Walton looked back at me and I smiled again, but
less kind.
     "I'd been a Lurp for about six months when this
happened."  The moth in my water wiggled.  I stuck my finger
on it and it stilled.  "I was taking a shower, getting ready
to go out and play death tag with the Bad Guys when a Lurp
from another team came in and hopped under shower head next
to me.  His name was Dove.  Sergeant Dove and he'd been out
in the field for about a month.  He was grinning and chewing
on something to beat the band."
     I grinned and made chewing.  "I said.  'Hey Sarge, what
ya chewing?'"  I acted like I was taking two little things
out of my mouth and showing them to Walton.   "'Gook ears.'
Dove said and sure enough that was what he was chewing."
     Deb and Imogene breezed in to the yellow light. "Daddy
it's just so sick.  ALL the baby turtles are dying."
     I took her hand.  "Your friends must have used super
      Walton, his face unreadable, stood and took Imogene's
hand.  The motorcycle jacket was to big for him.  "I see your
point Sir."
     "I don't think you do son."  Deb gave me her "Now Dad
Look", and pinched my hand.
     "Would you care to elaborate Sir?"  Walton voice was as
soft as the moth's wings fluttering over head.
     "Simply this.  That whatever was right or wrong with the
world when I was your age, giants walked the earth and I
walked among them and son...even if you weren't allergic to
tobacco, you will never do that."
     Deb laughed deep and sweet, just like her mother.  "Oh
Dad!  Yes-yes-yes, and now all you ol' dinosaurs are washing
up on the shores of Prince Willam's sound."
     I laughed, and as Walton and Imogene made their way,
hand in hand, to the flaming pool, said.  "You're right
Honey." and downed the mineral water, moth and all.