At the first gesture of morning, the servants began stirring. So came George to one more day in Alabama. Sitting up in his bed, he picked up the letter from Laura, and read it one more time:
My love, where are you now? With little hope of reaching you, I write to you at your Texas National Guard mailing address, as I have always done. I guess they will probably forward it you.
George sat brooding and pining for a moment, then turned back to Laura’s letter.
Yesterday, I saw you walking back to me. In my vision, you walked your way over cold mountains and through deep valleys, in heat and in snow, alone and with scene-stealing character actors, just to come back to me.
My dearest George, I beg you—if you are campaigning, then stop campaigning. If you are partying, then stop partying. Come back to me, is my request. Come back to me and go to B-School. You know your dad can get you in.
George stared blankly at the letter, until he felt overcome by a powerful urge to do a line. Haunted by his memories of Texas, and of New England, he poured one out on the table, bent mournfully over the pure white powder, and breathed it deep into his body through his nasal passage, as a sad and lonesome crow greedily sucks a worm into its mouth. After blinking and breathing heavily for two-score-and-two seconds, George picked up a pen and began to write, transmitting the ache of his soul into vibrant pen-strokes on the page. Pausing, he removed the cap from the pen, and began again.
My dearest Laura, if there was anything tender in me, it is gone. I think I’m ruint. Or ruined, whatever. This campaign weighs heavy on my sole. No, wait, “soul.” Not my sole, like the fish or the bottom of my shoes. That would be silly. I can’t even remember how to spell from breathing all those ditto-machine fumes, and from those late nights at the godforsaken campaign office. All right, so I’m not a grate speller even under normal conditions, but still, you get the point. And the point is that I’m sick of all this work, and all these Alabama people. They are grose and they talk funny, and you can’t even get a decent game of squash around here. I’d almost rather be back in Texas with the Guard! Ha-ha, just kidding!
But seriously, what’s wrong with these people? Can we have a meal that’s not fried, and that doesn’t come with grits? I mean at breakfast yesterday, the ground was awash with grits, and we could see where the grits had flown onto the table, and the marks from grits-covered hands on the cafeteria walls.
George stopped writing and scratched out the last paragraph, then started again.
Sweet Laura, you are all that keeps me from sliding into some dark place. I fear that this Blount campaign here in Alabama, this awful campaign, will have changed us beyond all reckoning. That, and all the cocaine.
George wiped his nose with his monogrammed handkerchief, and tried to collect his thoughts before writing more.
My dearest Laura, do you recall that night before Christmas four years ago in New Haven when I took you in my lap in the kitchen by the stove and you told me you would like to sit there fore-ever and rest your head on my shoulder? Remember that? That was awesome. Now if you knew what I had seen and done in this tragick, stinky Blount-for-Senate campaign it would probably make you fear to do it again! This political stuff is hard. I mean, down here, we don’t go from door-to-door, we go from shack-to-trailer, if you know what I mean. Ha-ha-ha! I didn’t think-up that one, my pal Larry-Boy did. He’s down here too. He’s a hoot, for a Princeton man.
George stared at the picture of Laura on the nightstand. He had taken it years before, on a ski trip to Stowe. The sky behind her, what color was it? Who can say what you call a color like that? Who could describe the way a fighter jet flies, or the way it feels when you wake up and your ribs are bruised from thinking so hard on somebody? Or maybe from a rough game of touch football? What do you call that? Pain, I guess, thought George. Then he thought about the way the snow in the photo sprinkled all over the trees behind Laura’s sweet face, like cocaine sprinkles all over the inside of a baggie.
They say that I am suppost to go back to Texas and return to my Guard unit for my flight physical, or else go to some other unit down here. That is the task to which I have been assigned.
Yet I feel that I cannot do it. No way, José. I mean it’s better than ’Nam, obviously, but I’m sick of being away from you, my Laura, and I’m sick of Alabamma. I mean to return to you somehow, against all odds.
I do not know how I will get there, but mark my solemn word, I shall! I will take a public transit bus if I have to—what do they call them? Blackhound, or possibly Dogbus? Some kind of dog, I think. The point is that I am just that determined to be in your arms again, my darling. But I’ll probably just fly Eastern to Atlanta then hop the shuttle. It’s quicker. But who can know such things for sure in these dire times of war and political upheavelness?
I am coming home one way or another, and I do not know how things might stand between us. I first thought to tell you in this letter what I have done and seen so that you might judge me before I return. But I decided it would need a page as broad as the blue sky to write that tale—I mean tail.
And I have not the skill nore the time right now. The cook said that breakfast is over at 11:00, no matter who’s been served or not. She is uppity and mean, and contributes to the sadness of these dark times. I might call Poppy and have her fired, except that I am in such a powerful hurry to return to you, my sweet. To you, and to New England, and to Business School, no matter what rocky roads I shall have to walk, or smelly public buses I shall have to ride, or tall mountains I shall have to climb.
Sincerely, your pal, Snookums.
He added, “P.S., that means me, George.”
George carefully folded the letter and slipped it into an envelope, then rolled a tight twenty-dollar bill and attacked the remnants of the line on the table. It felt calming, and good. He would soon begin his journey, facing many hardships on his path to Bush Mountain, and far beyond.