“Well,” I said, “not directly. First we had to go to Geneva. There’s a clinic not far from there where they do extraordinary work. They’ve had wonderful success with personality disorders, and the doctor I spoke to said he thought they would be able to work wonders with Jane.”
“You didn’t leave her in Griggstown?”
“Well, how could I? I didn’t think the Penners would be that happy to find her there, and besides she was basically a good person underneath, and she’d had a terrible life, and-”
“And after all you were married to her.”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake, Kitty-”
She made a moue. Girls are forever making moues in books, but I had never seen one made in real life before. There was a time when I thought they were French desserts. A chocolate moue, s’il vous plait, and a small cognac. Kitty made a moue as if she had had considerable practice doing just that. Then she took a short sip of wine and a long look at me.
“You went to Geneva,” she prompted.
“I had to go to Zurich anyway. To turn the bearer bonds and negotiable paper into cash and put part of it in my account there.”
“Part of it?”
“Well, part of it went to the clinic in Geneva. And part of it went, uh-”
“To Griggstown to finance the work of the MMM,” she supplied. “Don’t gape. How long have I known you? A long time, Evan. Where else did part of it go?”
She nodded encouragingly. “So then you came on home.”
“Not exactly. I had to stop off in Amsterdam and sell the diamonds.”
“And from Amsterdam -”
“ Dublin,” I said doggedly.
“I have trouble getting into England. You know that. From Dublin I took the ferry across the Irish Sea. Then we went from Liverpool back into Wales. Glamorganshire, to be specific. We went to this little town called Llundudllumellythludlum-”
“Oh, that little town. We?”
“ Plum and I.”
“I’d almost forgotten about her. You took her to Glublublub? Why?”
I explained. I took Plum to the little Welsh town because the more I thought about it the more I realized there was no other sensible place for her. She was obviously out of it in Modonoland, neither black nor white in a land where the twain never met, and where neither black nor white had it too good anyway. And while the Cape Coloreds in Capetown might have made a place for her, it was a place I wouldn’t have wished on anyone. Nor did I think the good old U.S. of A. was quite what she needed to fulfill herself.
“But she has relatives all over Glamorganshire,” I told Kitty. “On her father’s side. The Welsh Nationalists I put her in touch with were all excited at the idea of digging up relatives of hers. She’ll fit in perfectly. Since she’s the only colored person for miles around she won’t have to worry about prejudice. There’s never prejudice anywhere unless there’s a good-sized group to focus it on.”
“So Plum is in Wales.”
“That’s right. In-”
“Please don’t say the name of the town again.”
“I was going to say the name of the county.”
“Don’t say that either. She’s in Wales and Sheena’s in Switzerland. You’ve managed to scatter your wife and your under-age mistress far and wide, haven’t you?”
I tried to make a moue. It didn’t work. I looked at Kitty, and she looked at me, and I shrugged.
“At any rate,” I said, “here I am. I went back to Dublin and got a plane straight to New York. I’m back.”
“So you are.”
“And I’m ready to put both my feet on the ground now,” I said. “I’ve had a chance to work everything out in my mind. About you and me and Minna and, oh, everything. We’ll get married, Kitty. You and I. Married. And we’ll adopt Minna and make a sensible home for the poor kid. And we’ll move out of this godforsaken jungle of a city and get a nice little house in the suburbs. A home, a real home for the three of us. With a lawn and trees and a finished basement and aluminum storms and screens and-”
“What in hell is an aluminum storm?”
“You know, those combination windows. Storm windows. I don’t know what they are. They advertise them in the Sunday Times in the section where they offer termite inspections. Whatever they are we’ll have them. We’ll have a sane life, that’s what I’m getting at, a sane and healthy life for both of us, for the three of us, and we can have more children of our own, and maybe a dog, any kind of dog you want, you can pick out the dog-”
I sort of trailed off. She was looking at me with a very strange light in her eyes, and my voice seemed to be echoing oddly in my ears. “Any kind of a dog,” I said, trying again, and let it trail off again because it was not going well.
She said, “You must be out of your mind, Evan.”
She said, “A wife and children and a house in the suburbs. A washer-dryer and a refrigerator-freezer and an aluminum storm. Evan, if you honestly think that’s what you want, then you’d better make an appointment with that brilliant doctor in Switzerland.”
She said, “You decided you needed all that because you were stuck there in the middle of the goddamn jungle and everything was going wrong. ‘I’ll go back and settle down with Kitty,’ you decided. ‘No more running around like a nut. Instead I’ll go settle down with good old Kitty.’ That’s very flattering, Evan. I feel like a social security benefit. Something to retire on.”
She said, “For God’s sake, after a week of pulling crabgrass you’d run screaming back to New York. What would you even do out there? How would you make a living? Oh, sure, I can see you putting on a shirt and tie every morning and riding the train to New York and doing something creative in an ad agency. Writing soap commercials or something. You’d absolutely love that.”
“And then you would take the train home, and read the paper and play with the kids and grill hamburgers in the yard, and then when we went to sleep you would sit around for eight hours counting your blessings, and then you could go back and write some deodorant commercials. Who are you kidding?”
“We wouldn’t have to live in the suburbs. We wouldn’t have to change our lives completely.”
“We could get married and stay here.”
“If that’s what you want.”
“And live the way we’ve always lived, except that we would be true to each other, and you would keep both feet on the ground, and we’d establish a sane living pattern and build a positive future together.”
“That’s exactly right, but the way you make it sound-”
“Evan, will you for Christ’s sake wake up?”
I looked at her.
“You I should marry yet. With your cockamamie organizations and your twenty languages and staying up all day and night. With your two sons in Macedonia and your crazy wife in Switzerland and your daughter who isn’t your daughter and your Welsh schwartzeh mistress young enough to be your daughter, and all your mishegahs, with all of this I should marry you? What kind of-”
“Why are you talking like that? You’re not Jewish.”
“What should I do in Armenian? Starve?”
“Oh, God, Evan, how could you be anybody’s husband? How? You’re all these different people all at once. You couldn’t be a husband, Evan. I couldn’t marry you.”
She ran out of words, and I started to say something but nothing came out. We sat there for awhile and looked now and then at each other and now and then at the walls. I had some wine. She had some wine. I opened another bottle. She opened the window. I went to see if Minna was sleeping. Minna was sleeping. I came back and sat down and had another glass of wine.
I said, “I thought you wanted to get married.”
“So did I.”
“Are you going to marry him? That dishwasher?”
“He’s an assistant cook.”
“Whatever he is.”
“I said no. He asked me again, and I said no, that I couldn’t marry him. He wanted to know why. I almost told him. You’re a very boring person, you’re sweet but you’re boring. That is what I almost told him, but I thought, oh, why be cruel to him? It wasn’t his fault that he was boring. I told him I was sterile. You would have thought I told him I had syphilis or something. Do you remember Rima? You used to call her the Bird Girl?”
“They’re seeing each other now. He’ll propose and I know she’ll say yes, she’s really desperate. And I’m sure they’ll have fifteen children all with their noses running and they’ll be very happy together.”
“I don’t understand, Kitty.”
She looked at me, shrugged. “Oh,” she said, “I don’t know. I couldn’t marry him because he was too dull and I can’t marry you because you’re not dull enough. And I’m twenty-five years old, and that’s one of those dumb ages that seems as though something major is due to happen to you. Sometimes it seems young and sometimes late at night it seems very old, and, well, my mind does weird things.”
“Twenty-five isn’t so goddamned old, is it?”
“It’s a hell of a lot older than fourteen.”
“You crazy son of a bitch,” she said, and I laughed, and she laughed, and I reached for her and she only hesitated for a minute.
A little later she said, “Hey, you nut. You would make the worst husband in the world.”
“I guess you’re right.”
“I know I’m right. You’d get up in the middle of dinner and go halfway around the world to start a revolution. The worst husband in the world. But you know something else?”
“You make a pretty groovy lover.”
“And that’s just as good?”
“Well, it’s not as permanent. It isn’t what my mother has been wishing would turn up for me for the past twenty-five years. But there are times,” she said, burrowing close, “when it is very nice indeed.”
That about covers it. The Chief turned up within a week, and as usual he wasn’t wearing a plaid hat. I told him that Samuel Lonestar Bowman and Knanda Ndoro were both irretrievably dead. He was sorry to hear it, but said it was as he had anticipated.
“Never should have sent you in the first place,” he said. “Good money after bad. Damned foolishness. Wasting you on a mission like that one.”
He asked about Sheena, said he’d had reports that the terrorist band had been dispersed. I let him draw the facts out of me – that Bowman and Knanda Ndoro had died at Sheena’s hands, that I had been captured by the cannibals, and that I had put Sheena and her crew out of commission in the process of escaping. If I had just come out and said this it would have sounded like something Hercules did after he cleaned out those stables, but instead I let the Chief say it, and I sort of nodded in agreement from time to time.