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AS " "
covered it with her hand, and exclaimed, "I forgot the
coffee and cookies!" And then she was gone. The door
between the dining room and what Jimmy assumed to be
the kitchen swung restlessly on its hinges.
George smiled and laughed. "My wife."
Jimmy nodded. His wife.
"Ever been married, Jimmy?"
"Yes, but I wasn't as fortunate as you. My wife and I
were divorced after four years and two little girls. I've
got some good memories, some bad ones, and, above
all, steep alimony and child support payments to re
mind me of that time in my life. Seems ages ago." Jim
my laughed, expecting George to join him. But George
looked away. The old man cleared his throat once, then
twice, and when he finally looked at Jimmy again, his
eyes seemed a bit grayer, and a little wet.
"Alice and I, we ... uh ... we never had any chil
dren. Just . . . just never did, that's all." George looked
away again. Jimmy started to feel sorry for him, but
quickly channeled his emotion toward anger at himself
for the silly way in which he had allowed intimacy, and
the subsequent awkwardness, to enter the conversation.
George looked into the other room and Jimmy fol
lowed his gaze. Mrs. Springer had entered the room
again, this time carrying a silver tray with a coffee pot
and cups and cookies. She came directly, purposefully
towards them. She. did not bother to glance at either
Jimmy or her husband. Her eyes focused upon her des
tination, the mahogany coffee table which separated
Jimmy and George. She hurried to it, bent over, noisily
plopped the tray of refreshments upon it, and jerked
herself into an upright position again.
"Please, Mr. Cooney, help yourself." Her smile illu
minated her entire face. She then turned to her hus
band, told him to move over, and sat beside him on the
couch. She is, thought Jimmy, remarkable.
"Thank you, Mrs. Springer."
Mrs. Springer giggled and nudged George in the side
with her elbow. "Did you hear that, hon'?" She laughed
louder and stared into Jimmy's eyes. "I'm Alice. That's
what everyone calls me, and that's what you'll call me."
Jimmy smiled. "But then you'll ..."
"Yes, yes, you're quite right. We can't have a double
standard. I'll call you Jimmy." Alice relaxed her body
and let the couch's cushions swallow her. "You know,
Jimmy, George has been looking forward to meeting
you for some time now. Ever since he stopped going to
church several months ago, he seems obsessed with the
idea of building a shelter. Strange bird, my George."
George reddened and jumped to his defense. "Chur
ches just aren't what they should be. Takes a person a
while to see that. It seems so nice when you start out
hell it seems nice forloiJtime meeting on Sundays
and sometimes on weeknights and all wanting to live the
way a person should live." George shook his head and
reached for Alice's hand, which she readily gave to him.
He wrapped his fingers around hers. "But people don't
really care that much about living the right way. And
I'm not talking about Bibles and commandments when
I say living the right way. I'm talking about being good
to each other, being kind to people. I'm talking about
good will, forgiveness." George tensed the muscles in
his face and bowed his head.
Alice Springer patted him on the back of his neck.
"Four months ago the most beloved minister our
church has ever had was asked to leave. He'd been
counseling a woman in the church whose husband had
abused her and her children. This woman had taken her
children and left her husband and was quite at odds
with the world and the way the future looked. She was
very miserable. So our minister spent a great deal of
time counseling her and her family. Then the church
found out that during their relationship the two had .
fallen in love and begun to have . . . well, I hate to call
it this ... an affair. Anyway, they refused to keep the
George looked up again. "That's right. These sup
posedly Christian people and there's not one of them
who hasn't done worse things or committed his share of
sins couldn't find it in their hearts to understand
what happened or forgive the man who had done so
much for all of them. Damn hypocrites, all of them."
George's eyes had become very dark, very wet.
Still, he continued. "I drive by our church now and I
tell you, the steeples don't seem as high as before. The
stone doesn't shine like it once did; Was a time I saw
that place as a castle. Now it just looks old, that's all.
Old and ready to crumble."
Alice once again polished off what her husband had
said. VI tell George that leaving the church was the right
thing to do. You know, when you've lived as long as we
have, you begin to wonder. You've seen so many things
happen that are so horrible or so miserable that you
begin to wonder if there really is a God or something or
someone like him. Look at George and myself. We were
never lucky enough to have a family of our own. God
knows we wanted one, but . . . conditions . . . pre
vented it. We thought that maybe there was family to be
found in the church but we've seen that that's not the
way it is."
George managed a lifeless nod. "I think, Jimmy, that
it goes like this: You've got the people you love and who
love you aren't always a lot of them and then
you've got your home and anything that makes you
comfortable, makes you feel good. You've also got any
thing that gives you a name. And that's about it. When
that goes, or when you go, it's over. As if it meant any-.
thing at all."
I understand them, Jimmy thought. I understand their
sense of injustice at the hands of fate. Their desire for
some continuing form of happiness, their seemingly pit
iful method of reaching for it. What do they want? To
be together. To outwit the forces of fate which have
robbed them of family, of religion, but would not rob
them of each other before it was time.
And what do I want? Meaning? Purpose? Dammit,
I'm no fool. I've seen George Springers. I've seen too.
many of them. I want luxury, I want comfort, I want
leisure. I want to have enough around me to be able to
ignore the rest of it the meeeeaning, the purrrrpose
... the intangible bullshit. I want a pleasant stay. For
as long as it lasts.
Jimmy poured himself a cup of coffee and drank it
black. After a few invigorating sips, he opened, the
folder in his lap. He loosened his necktie.
"I think," Jimmy began, attempting to manufacture
an even, deep tone in his speech, "That you've done the
right thing to look into shelters. It's the best way to take
matters completely into your own hands. You read the
papers; I don't need to tell you that you can hardly trust
anyone but yourself these days. There are a whole lot of
rash fools in the kinds of positions in this world which
Continued on page 8.
Thursday, November 10, 1983 Literary Supplement . 5