They slept fairly late Saturday morning, then had a leisurely breakfast in the coffee shop. It was cold – around 15 degrees – and cloudy. The weather prediction was for rain or snow flurries later in the day,  but it looked like they would have a dry, uncomplicated drive home. They got on the road, headed west, about 11 o’clock.

   “Was there anything we wanted to discuss that we didn’t get to, yesterday?” Greg asked, after a while.

   Vic glanced over at him. “Did we discuss anything? All I seem to remember is sharing certain delights in a mythical, fantastical cavern.”

   Greg smiled. “Yeah, that did sort of take over our attention, didn’t it? However, I vaguely remember – earlier in the day – that we did talk about a few other things.”

   Vic shook her head. “Nope, doesn’t ring any bells.” She paused. “But, if I did remember anything, I would probably remember that we didn’t talk about the Iowa arm bands.”

   He glanced her way. “Arm bands? Did you find out something more?”

   “A little bit. I didn’t have much free time, what with finals, but I did get over to the college library. I knew they get a bunch of newspapers from other regions, but also was pretty sure that they didn’t keep them around very long, like they do the local papers. I wanted to be sure I didn’t miss seeing whatever they had.

   “They did have a couple of Iowa newspapers, and I found one long story.” She opened her purse, and took out a notebook. “I wrote down the details, since I didn’t have time to copy the story.”

   He glanced at the notebook. “Are you keeping a diary, now?”

   “No, nothing like that. I’ve never kept a diary – nothing personal, like that. This is just something I started because it seems like there’s always something I want to remember, and I can write myself quick notes.

   “Did you ever keep a personal journal, or diary?”

   Greg shook his head. “Nope. You know I have to keep a field notebook to record what happened on the job each day, but the only personal thoughts I write down are ones I put in letters to you.”

   She seemed to be thinking. “I do recall some rather personal notes from you. I almost burned my fingers a couple of times, getting the letters out of the envelopes – and the edges of some of the pages were a little charred.”

   “Oh, you’re probably remembering my description of the potato harvest, or the progress of the sugar campaign.”

   She giggled. “Yep, that’s what I had in mind. Tell me, how do our conversations always seem to veer off in a certain direction – and often at a most inconvenient time?”

   “Just lucky, I guess.”

   She opened the notebook. “Well, I’m not going to be diverted today into potatoes or sugar beets. I’m going to tell you what I found out about the Iowa arm band story.

   “The Burley paper you saw actually did a pretty good job, but there were more details in the story I found. I think it was first reported that all the protesters were junior high students. You found out that some were in high school. Actually, four out of the five were high schoolers, and the one junior high girl was the sister of one of the others.

   “As you found out, two dropped out of the protest – one immediately, and one as soon as school resumed – so only three were actually suspended. They only stayed out of school one day, then reported Tuesday without arm bands. The story here is a little murky. One article said they came back, all dressed in black. Another said they wore ‘some articles of black clothing.’ Whatever they wore, it was apparently enough to identify them, even without the arm bands.

   “Let’s see. There was some talk that the students were only protesting because their parents were egging them on. It doesn’t look like that was true, but certainly their upbringing and home life figured into their decision. The mother of one of the kids is chairman of the Des Moines Chapter of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. The other two are the children of Reverend Leonard Tucker, the regional peace education director for the American Friends Service Center. At the public meeting,  the Iowa Civil Liberties Union and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom both formally asked for the ban to be reversed.

   “About the public meeting, what you saw was pretty correct. The Des Moines paper said about 200 people showed up. Twelve people spoke from the audience, ten opposing the ban and two supporting it. Two of the board members recommended reversing the decision, but the board voted five to two to uphold the ban.

   “I think you mentioned that it had been pointed out that arm bands had been worn previously, without board reaction, and that kids often wore ‘Get out of Viet Nam’ buttons, and such. That discussion isn’t clear in what I read. Apparently, a college student said it, and I couldn’t tell what school he was talking about. It might not have been the Des Moines schools.”

   They were just climbing the hill to the rest area before Raft River. “Do you want to stop?” Greg asked.

   “I don’t need to. How about you?”

   “Yeah, maybe I should.”

   Back in the car, Vic took up her notebook, again. “Well, those are the facts. I think the news reporter did a good job of ‘reporting,’ but there are certainly questions that need to be answered, particularly if the parents are going to take the school board to court. I think they will. The students themselves said they weren’t protesting the war, as much as they were honoring the dead and supporting a Christmas armistice. The Iowa Civil Liberties Union said the board had violated the students’ right to ‘free, peaceable expression,’ and the parents’ attorney said this wasn’t a case of ‘student misbehavior,’ but of ‘student conviction.’ One of the board members probably didn’t help their case when she pretty much dismissed the students’ purposes, and declared that this was just a case of who ran the schools – the students, or the administrators. She said that the board could set whatever rules their experience told them were best for the school.”

   She closed her notebook, and put it back in her purse. “So, if they go to court, that could take a long time, right?”

   “Yeah, sometimes years. If they lose or win in one court, it may get taken to a higher one, then maybe even higher after that. If we want to know what happens, we’ll need to figure out how to follow along in the Iowa newspapers, probably.”

   They rode the last hour pretty much in silence, each thinking their own thought. They didn’t stop for lunch, assuming (correctly) that Alice would have something waiting for them.

   After lunch, Chuck called for their attention. “If you kids can promise not to get in trouble by yourselves, I’m going to take your mother to Boise tomorrow, for two nights and two days of riotous living.”

   Vic and Mandy looked at one another, surprised. “Well,” said Vic, “The ‘riotous living’ sounds okay, but you make it sounds almost like a kidnapping. Mom, are you sure you’re okay with this?”

   “Oh, I am very okay with it!”

   “Well, if you’re sure. I guess for at least part of the time, Greg can act as sort of a surrogate parent for us, so we don’t get too out of control.”

   “Just remember it’s a rental house,” Chuck reminded them.


   Chuck didn’t seem inclined to talk about the Boise trip plans, and nothing more was said that day. He and Alice left shortly after breakfast on Sunday morning, with the only word being that “they would see them when they saw them.”

   The weather looked to be in a cooperative mood, both for their Boise adventure and even up to the time Vic would have to return to college. A high pressure area was expected to restrict precipitation to occasional rain or snow showers, with temperatures actually a few degrees above normal for the beginning of February.

   “Well, this trip is all rather mysterious, don’t you think?” Vic asked her housemates. “Do we know anything about what’s going on?”

   “Your dad talked to me a little bit,” Greg responded. “Nothing very specific, and I don’t think any of it was confidential. He just said he felt that they – well, mostly he – hadn’t been paying enough attention to their married life, lately. He felt they needed to plan some special events, away from work – and away from the usual home stuff. That’s really all I know.”

   “I may know a little more,” Mandy volunteered, “But I could be wrong. I don’t think I want to say anything until they come back, and tell us what went on.”

   “Mandy, if you know something… “

   “I don’t know if I really do, Sis, and I’d rather not jump the gun with speculations.”

   Vic seemed a little frustrated with the lack of sharing, but Greg intervened before anything else was said. “So, I guess all – or, at least, some – will be revealed when they get back home. In the meantime, we need to concentrate on something else. I suggest we get Vic’s ‘letter to the editor’ ready to send.”

   “Letter to the editor!” exclaimed Mandy. “What’s that about?”

   Vic and Greg looked at one another. “I think I’ve ruined our sisterly record of sharing everything,” said Vic. “I’ve never mentioned our letter on the military draft?”

   “Not a word.”

   “Well, Greg and I have talked a lot about the draft – as it is affecting us, personally, but also more generally. When we were out at the refuge at Christmas time, I put all our thoughts together. Greg thinks it’s good enough to send to various newspapers, and also to some politicians who might be interested.”

   “It is good,” Greg interjected. “Better than good.”

   “I want to read it,” Mandy exclaimed.

   “You can, Sis. I’m sorry I didn’t think of it, sooner.”

   “So, let’s think strategy,” Greg proposed. “Vic, do you think you need to retype the letter, or is it clean enough the way it is?”

   “I think I’d like to retype it, just to make it look a little more professional. I think I can make it fit on just two pages, with room for some kind of signature.”

   “I think having it down to two pages – one page, printed on both sides – would make it more acceptable to editors. As far as signature, maybe just have your initials? You’ll have to give your full name and address to the papers, but I think they will spare you any up-front notoriety. If any legitimate person wants to make contact, the paper can give them your phone number.

   “Speaking of identification, I think we need a short introductory statement on a separate page – one for editors, and one for politicians. Just saying why you’ve written it, and that you’ll be happy to talk to any reporter or Congress person who is interested.”

   “Am I happy to talk to people about it?”

   “Aren’t you? It’s a really good letter, Vic, and I think – I mean, I’ll be surprised if we don’t get some requests for follow-up stories. We could give the phone number here – or maybe at the refuge – and then we could give out your college information, for any legitimate inquiries.”

   Vic looked a little stunned. “I guess I really hadn’t thought that far ahead. Yes, I think I would like to answer inquiries about it.”

   “Okay. Well, if you want to type the final letter today, I’ll figure out what to say on the cover notes. I’ll take annual leave tomorrow, and we can get the copies made, and buy stamps and envelopes. It shouldn’t take long for us to address envelopes, and maybe we could even get the letters sent, tomorrow.”

   “That sounds okay. Are you ready for this, Mandy?”

   “Sure, I’ll help today, but you remember I’m in school, tomorrow.  I do want to read the letter.”

   Greg stood up. “If I’m going to take tomorrow off, I think maybe I’ll scoot out to the refuge today, rescue the mail, and check that things are okay. I won’t stay all day. I should be back by about two o’clock. I could bring hamburgers, if you’re not going to die of hunger before then.”

   “Burgers and fries sound excellent.”

   “And a vanilla shake,” added Mandy.

   Vic smiled. “That does sound awfully good. I haven’t had a shake in a long time. Chocolate, for me.”


   The god-awful road was mostly clear and dry, and Greg made good time getting to the refuge. Mike had left mail in the box at the top of the cliff, which Greg collected on his way by. At headquarters, he took readings at the weather station (the lows had only been about 20 degrees – just like spring!), and went through the mail quickly (nothing of note). There were a few birds around headquarters, so he decided to take a quick walk down into the woods, to see what had changed, if anything. As he had seen the previous week, there were juncos and chickadees, and a few song sparrows. There were also magpies, which he didn’t remember seeing on the earlier trip. There was also one other bird that caught his eye, that turned out to be a Harris’ sparrow – not unlikely there in winter, but he didn’t think it was on the refuge bird list.

   It was still fairly early, so he decided to drive out as far as the owl roost. It was a nice enough day, with just a few snow flurries, and he saw flocks of horned larks and one northern shrike  along the way. There were still a dozen or so owls at the roost. Back at headquarters, he made sure everything was locked up, then headed back to town for burgers, fries and shakes. (He opted for a chocolate shake for himself.)

   Vic had finished typing the letter, and Mandy had read it. “It’s very interesting,” she said. “I guess I don’t understand it all. You don’t really want Dad to be drafted, do you?”

   “No, of course not. I don’t want anybody drafted. I really do think it’s a form of slavery, the way it’s being run. And even if some politicians got really excited about our proposals for change, both Daddy and Greg would be old and gray before anything really happened.

   “What we’ve spelled out is a ‘no draft’ policy, unless Congress specifically approves it for a particular war, and the Army needs can’t be met with volunteers and men already in the Service. Even if a draft was approved, boys just graduating from high school would never be included. That would certainly make people of Daddy’s, or Greg’s, ages more likely to get drafted, but it would certainly be more – what, humanitarian? – and probably better from a military standpoint, as well.

   “So, Greg, what do we do, next?”

   “I’ve been pondering what to say in the cover letters. They don’t have to be long – just enough to explain why you’re sending your editorial. We need one for the newspapers, and one for the politicians. Mandy, can you write this down while I compose it in my head?

   “Okay, for the newspapers: Dear Editor, I’m writing to you about the Viet Nam draft, and how it’s affecting me and the people I love. But more than that, I’m suggesting ways that in the future – if we ever have to have a draft, at all – it can be made more compassionate, more militarily sound, and also more Constitutional. I hope you’ll see fit to print it.

   If anyone wants to discuss it, I can be reached… and here, add your name, address, and phone number.

   “Then, we’d say pretty much the same in the letters to politicians. Maybe something like – Mandy, can I see what you wrote down? – Yeah, something like: I’ve sent copies of the enclosed letter to a number of newspapers, including ones in your state. It’s about the Viet Nam draft, and how it’s affecting me and the people I love. But more than that, I’m suggesting ways that in the future – if we ever have to have a draft, at all – it can be made more compassionate, more militarily sound, and also more Constitutional. I hope you’ll read it, and contact me if you’d like to discuss it, further.

   “Something like that? How does that sound?”

   Vic looked at what Mandy had written down. “I think that should be a good introduction. Shall I type up the two statements?”

   “Sure. Maybe type each statement twice on the same page. We don’t need to give them a whole sheet of paper, and we’d only have to make half as many copies.”

   “Good idea. What contact information should we give them?”

   “It doesn’t seem like trying to reach you in the dorm just out of the blue is very practical. If we gave the phone numbers both here and at the refuge, anybody calling could reach one or the other, and then we could tell them the most logical times to contact you, direct.”

   “Okay, that sounds good.”

   “So, what I’m thinking for tomorrow is that we take the letters in to be copied. While that’s happening, we buy envelopes and stamps. Then, we bring everything back here, sign letters and address envelopes, and probably get them all to the post office before closing time.”

   “Wow. That’s fast, isn’t it? Then, we’re really committed, aren’t we?”

   “That’s true. You’re all right with that?”

   “Yes, although it’s a little scary. I’ll feel bad if we don’t get some kind of reaction, but I’m a little worried about what coverage we might actually end up getting. I’ve never been in that position.”


   Their burger and shake lunch proved filing enough to almost get them through the rest of the day. They settled for soup and toasted cheese sandwiches for dinner, and watched “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “Bonanza” on TV. They started to watch a British war/spy story, “The Man Who Never Was” - apparently, a somewhat true story of a successful attempt to make Hitler think the Allied invasion of Europe would take place at an entirely different location than was actually planned. Mandy gave up part way through, and went off to bed. Vic and Greg watched to the end, and pronounced it pretty good. Then, they headed for Vic’s big, comfortable bed.


   Monday morning, after Mandy got on her way to school, Greg and Vic lingered over their breakfast, and discussed last minute details about getting the letters mailed. As soon as stores opened, they went out and had copies made, bought stamps and envelopes, and were back home before noon. Vic signed her name to all the transmittals, they addressed and stamped envelopes, and had everything ready to go in another hour. They went back to the post office, mailed everything, then stopped for a celebration lunch at what Vic said was the best pizza place in town. Greg agreed it was very good.

   When Mandy arrived home from school, she found them both fast asleep on the couch. She changed her clothes, found they had left pizza for her, and put it in the oven for a few minutes to heat. By the time she brought it out in the living room, the sleepers were waking.

   “Thanks for the pizza, siblings. It’s very good. How did the copying and mailing go?”

   Vic stretched, and sat up. “Good. We got it all done.”

   “I told my history teacher – well, he was your history teacher, too – about the letter. He was very interested – asked if he could read it? Can he?”

   “Sure, that’s the idea, for people to read it. We made a couple of extra copies.”

   “He seems to like you. He said you were very smart, and I got to wondering if he didn’t really know whose sister I was.”

   “Very funny!”

   Mandy went off to her room. Greg woke up the rest of the way, but he and Vic kept their places on the couch.

   “I suppose we’ll see your folks some time tomorrow, although your dad said we’d ‘see them when we saw them.’ That’s a little indefinite. You have to go back to school – when, Wednesday?”

   “Yes. I don’t think Nancy and I really have to be there until Friday, when Freshman registration occurs. However, the ones we ride with are both Sophomores, and they have to be there on Thursday. Therefore… “

   “Yep, therefore, we get cheated out of one day together.”

   Vic was silent. “Well, that wouldn’t be too bad by itself, but I think this month could be a difficult one for us to plan any get-togethers. Sometimes, February can be the beginning of spring, but sometimes it can be the heart of winter. I’d be surprised if winter didn’t give us a last big snow storm or two, before giving up.”

    “I don’t like the sound of that. I need my Vic-fix pretty regularly, if I’m to stay happy.”

   She cuddled a little closer. “I feel the same about my Greg-time.”


   In the evening, they watched two doctor shows on television, “Dr. Kildare” and “Ben Casey.” Mandy went to bed soon after. Vic and Greg sat a while longer, both thinking that their time together was almost over, again. They went to bed, but didn’t sleep immediately.


      Tuesday morning started out pretty much like Monday morning. After Mandy left for school, Greg and Vic prolonged their breakfast, with seconds of coffee and tea.

   “I assume we’ll see your folks some time today. Your dad’s ‘we’ll see you when we see you’ message was a wee bit imprecise, but they know you have to get back to school soon, so…”

   “Yeah, I expect them today – although you didn’t need to remind me that I’m leaving you, soon.”

   He touched her arm. “Sorry. We don’t need that. But, getting back to your parents, if we knew when to expect them, I think I’d go out to the refuge, and get the weekly paper work done. It wouldn’t take too long.”

   “Well, I can’t believe they’re going to be rushing home too early. I don’t see any reason we can’t go, if you think we can be back before Mandy gets home.”

   “Oh, I think we could be back by noon. You want to go with me?”

   “Of course. You don’t think I’m going to let you out of my sight before I absolutely have to, do you?”


  It was a dry day, with even a little bit of sun and blue sky. The temperature was supposed to reach into the ‘40s, but there had been the usual hard freeze overnight.  It might still be mid-winter, but changes were obviously happening. The farm fields just outside of town looked barren, but several thousand mallards and a few hundred Canada geese were rooting around in them, apparently finding something to eat. Greg was sure the refuge ponds were still frozen solid, but there must be open water somewhere, to be attracting the birds.

   They checked for mail in the box at the top of the hill, but there was none.  Mike had taken Monday’s delivery in to headquarters, where Greg retrieved it. It only took him a few minutes to type up the weekly time cards, and to handle a couple of other minor paperwork jobs. There seemed to be more ‘dicky bird’ activity than there had been on Sunday, so he and Vic made a quick loop through the woods. In addition to juncos and chickadees, there was a downy woodpecker and a little band of Brewer’s blackbirds. Just before they came out of the woods below the Anderson house, they scared up several deer – two does, and what were probably two yearling fawns. Things were waking up, obviously.

   Just as they were getting ready to leave, Greg remembered one other job he had been meaning to do. They went back in the office, and he called the local Fish and Game. He introduced himself, and asked for the game warden.

   “He’s probably out all week. Can I help you with something?”

   “I was wondering about that swan he picked up a while back. We’d talked about whether it was a whistler or a trumpeter. He said it had been turned loose on your wildlife area, but it would be brought in at freeze-up if it still wasn’t flying. Do you know what’s happened?”

    “Yeah, I do. As you said, we released it on our area. It hung around close, but never seemed to try to fly. We saw it regularly but, when things really started to ice up, we went out to capture it, and couldn’t find it. I doubt it flew away. It must have died, or a predator got it. Maybe we’ll find its remains in the spring. Sorry.”

   “Yeah, that’s too bad. I had just been curious if it might have been a trumpeter. I think some do get down the river this far. I did some checking of those on the refuge, but didn’t see any that I thought weren’t whistlers.”

   “Well, I can’t say for sure, but I don’t think it was a trumpeter swan. I’ve seen them up around Island Pond, and they are really big. I mean, this one was obviously a big bird, but I don’t think anywhere near  big enough.”

   “Yeah. I never saw your bird – just had the newspaper photo, and the description I got over the phone – but I did get the impression that it was probably just an average-sized swan.

   “Thanks for the info, anyway.”


   Mandy got home about an hour after Vic and Greg arrived back in town. The parents showed up just a little later. Vic and Mandy didn’t even let them get all the way in the house before they started asking questions.

   “We had a good time,” Chuck managed to say, over all the inquiries. “Let us get our coats off, at least, and we’ll give you all the gory details.”

   “Gory details? Did something bad happen?” Mandy asked, worried.

   “He’s just being dramatic,” Alice assured them. “Everything went just fine – better than fine! Let us in the house, and we’ll tell you.”

   They finally made it indoors, and started to get settled. Vic asked if they needed food, but they had stopped along the way, and were fine. They all settled around the kitchen table. Vic opened the conversation.

   “So, mom, it wasn’t too bad, going off with him like that for two days, without our support or protection?”

   Alice laughed – well, almost giggled. “No, he was a very suitable traveling companion.” She reached out, and touched his arm. “Very suitable. I would risk it again, at any time!”

   “So, what did you do?” demanded Mandy.

   Chuck picked up the narrative. “When we left here, we drove pretty much straight through to Boise. There was a little snow flying around part of the way, but nothing to really slow traffic. We had a motel reservation – turned out to be fairly new and very nice – so we got settled. We’d snacked a little on the way, so decided we’d just wait a little while, and then have an early dinner. There was a really nice restaurant, just a few doors down from the motel. Better food than the drive-in here in town – even better than the pizza place, I thought. I had a big steak, with a baked potato – biggest, best steak I’ve had in quite a few years. Your mother had some kind of a pasta dish, with an alfredo sauce – I stole a little of it; it was great!”

   Alice agreed. “It was a fettuccini, with chicken breast meat cut up in it, smothered with a really creamy alfredo sauce. It was heavenly! We had wine with it, too. The waiter suggested that a red wine – a pinot noir – was the best to have with pasta. I can’t say if it really was best – I don’t know a lot about wines – but I know it was wonderful – kind of fruity, maybe strawberry or cherry – anyway, very good.”

   “Did you have dessert?” Mandy wanted to know.

   “We did on Monday night, but we both thought the meal was pretty perfect without it, so we didn’t, then.”

   “We had thought about going to a movie that night, but after that meal…” Chuck stopped, as if he was remembering. “Well, we just decided to go back to the motel.”

   He acted like he might have been going to say something more, or at least was thinking about something else. There was kind of an odd little silence, before Alice carried on with the narrative.    “So, we had breakfast the next morning at the motel. We didn’t really need it, after the big meal Sunday night, but it was very good. We didn’t really have anything planned for the day. We were still thinking of going to a movie that evening, but then we saw there was going to be an afternoon showing, so we went to that, instead.”

   “What did you see?” Vic asked.

   “My Fair Lady.”

   “No, you didn’t! I hate you!” Vic paused. “I don’t really – I love you, both – but I’ve wanted to see that movie – or the stage play – so badly. I know almost all the songs. Ask Greg. We’ve talked about it a lot, and I think the reason we saw ‘Carousel’ is because he couldn’t find any local performances of ‘My Fair Lady.’ Was it really good?”

   “It was really, really good,” Alice exclaimed. “The story and the music are both so good, and they did such an amazing job filming it. I could gladly watch it over and over again.”

   “Poor me, but lucky you! Greg, we have to figure out how to see it.”

   “Well, it won’t be in Boise,” Chuck offered. “This was the end of its run, there. I assume it’s playing – or will be playing – somewhere else in Idaho. Pocatello would seem a good bet. Keep your eyes open.”

   “Oh, you can count on that!”

   Alice continued the narrative. “We went back to the same restaurant that evening, but had a much lighter meal. We both had baked rainbow trout…

   “Probably hatchery fish,” Chuck interjected, “But it was excellent.”

   “It was,” Alice continued. “We had some pasta with it, and also more wine. We had a white wine this time, a Chardonnay recommended by the waiter. I think it was what you would call very dry, but it was very good with the fish and pasta.”

   “Did you get your dessert?” Vic asked.

   “We did. Chuck got a red velvet cake, with cream cheese frosting, and a side of vanilla ice cream. I don’t what mine was called. It had a shortbread type crust, white chocolate mousse, and a lot of hazelnuts. We actually shared them both, and both were excellent, I thought.”

   “They were,” Chuck agreed. “Well, then we went back to our room for the rest of the evening.”

   “Did you see any good tv?” Mandy asked.

   Alice and Chuck shared a long look, before she answered. “They had a really nice, big-screen color tv. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything on that held our interest.”

   Chuck continued the talk before anyone could comment further on their evening. “This morning, we took our time getting on the road. We got off the Interstate at Hagerman, and visited the fish hatchery there. Amazing fish! Then, we continued on up the canyon through the Thousand Springs area. We did that trip with you girls years ago, but you may not remember it. Water just gushes out of the lava rock cliffs for miles – waterfall after waterfall.”

   “It really is something!” said Alice.

   “So, we got back on the freeway at Twin Falls, ate lunch at a restaurant there, then came on home. It was a nice couple days.

   “What have you young people been up to?”

   Greg answered. “I went out to the refuge twice, Sunday and then this morning. Vic went with me today. We got back just before Mandy got out of school. I checked the mail, did our weekly paperwork, and checked the weather station. Nothing of particular note, although there is suddenly quite a bit more wildlife movement than there has been the past month.

   “Oh, I called Fish and Game, and asked about the non-flying swan. The guy I talked to said it disappeared around Christmas, but he didn’t think it ever flew. Probably died, or a predator got it, was his opinion.

   “Other than that, we ate hamburgers and pizza, and hung out. All three of us worked getting Vic’s letter about the military draft finalized, and sent off to various newspapers and politicians.”

   “A letter about the draft?” Chuck asked. “Have I seen it?”

   Greg and Vic shared a glance. “I don’t think you have, Daddy,” said Vic. “We put it together over Christmas, and I think we were just all going in different directions at that time, and I never showed it to you. Mandy read it, but just this week. I told Mom about it, but I don’t think she read it.”

   “No, I didn’t,” Alice confirmed. “I’d like to.”

   “We saved copies, so you can,” said Greg. “Sorry we didn’t get it to you, sooner.”


   Later, Greg and Chuck were ensconced in easy chairs in the living room, reading old newspapers and dozing. Chuck looked over the top of his paper to see if Greg was awake. He was.

   “You know, Greg, that break was exactly what I needed. Allie too, I think. I knew it would be good, but it far exceeded any of my expectations.”

   “I’m glad. You both deserve it.”

   “We’ve talked some, before. I know we did the right thing - staying here until the girls graduated – but these last couple years have been really hard. I’ve been thinking mostly about me, but I realize it’s probably been even harder on Allie – both in general, and because she has had to put up with my dissatisfactions, too. You’ve probably noticed that I can be morose, at times.”

   “You, morose? No, I hadn’t noticed. Well, actually, I have, but I thought that occasionally letting you beat me at checkers helped dispel any bad moods”

   Chuck laughed. “You letting me win? What a hope!” He gave Greg a little salute across the room. “Actually, Greg, you are turning into a very acceptable son-in-law.”

   Greg felt a pleasant little pang when he realized Chuck hadn’t used the term “future” in that last sentence. He didn’t say anything, and Chuck continued talking.

   “I’m just really realizing that – no matter how long we’re here, or what happens next – Allie and I have got to continue living our lives, and taking advantage of every opportunity we get – or can make – to do things like we did the last couple days. There’s a lot more to life – and to our marriage – that the job.”

   “Sounds like good thinking to me,” Greg acknowledged.


   Meanwhile, Alice had gathered the girls into her bedroom.

   “That was a great travelogue, Mom. I’m really glad you had such a good time. You deserved it. However, from the general look on your face – and from the semi-secret glances you and Daddy couldn’t help but share at certain moments – I have a feeling that there is a lot more to the story. Do we get to hear?”

   Alice didn’t try to hide the smile on her face, or the extra emotion in her voice. “Of course you get to hear. Well, some of it, anyway.” She opened her suitcase. “What do you think of this?”

   “This” was a negligee and peignoir set, apparently identical to Vic’s, except that it was a pale blue, rather than green.

   “Oh, mom!” Both girls gasped, at once.

   Alice held it up in front of her, and did a little dance. “Isn’t it lovely? It’s just like yours, Vic. And this is why we didn’t get to the movies on Sunday night.”

   “I can imagine that would change the game plan. So, what happened?”

   “Well, as we said, we had planned to go to the movies after dinner, but Chuck was acting a little odd as we walked back to the motel. I was wondering if he didn’t feel well, or something. We’d barely got into our room when he said he had something to give me. That’s when he brought out the box that had this in it.” She stopped for a moment, and there were tears in her eyes. “He gave some funny little speech about how he’d been neglecting me, and our marriage, and wanted to start changing that. Then, he asked if I liked it!

   “Liked it? I couldn’t wait to go into the bathroom, and change into it. I came out, and the look on his face! He just looked stunned. After that – well, after that, neither of us were in the mood for a movie about somebody else’s love affair, so we stayed in.” She sighed. “We stayed in a long time! Vic, the legend obviously doesn’t apply just to your gown. This one has magic, to spare. Thanks for helping arrange it. I couldn’t have been more surprised, or more pleased.”

   Vic looked puzzled. “Mom, as much as I would like to claim credit for your night of fun and excitement…”

   “Two nights,” Alice interrupted her.

   Vic giggled. “Okay, two nights. Even better. Nevertheless, I knew absolutely nothing about this until you told us, just now.”

   Alice stared at her. “But Chuck didn’t know about your Christmas present, and I can’t believe Greg would have said anything about it. But it’s the same negligee, Vic!  How would he have known?”

   Vic was as puzzled as Alice, until she happened to glance at her sister. “Mom, I think I know the answer. We are forgetting that you have two devious, meddlesome daughters.”

   Alice didn’t understand for a moment, then turned around. “You, Mandy?”

   “Guilty as charged, Mom.”

   Alice and Vic sat Mandy on the bed by them. “Now, sister dear, tell us what transpired.”

   Mandy grinned. “Well, you remember when Vic modeled her nightie for us at Christmas, you, Mom, said something about you wouldn’t mind experiencing some of the legend that Vic talked about. That stuck in my mind, and when I got Dad alone the next day, I told him I wanted to discuss his love life.”

   “That must have gone over well.”

   “Yeah, he said his love life had produced two daughters, and that’s all I needed to know. Not to be deterred…”

   “Of course not,” Vic interjected.

  “I asked him if he liked sex.”

  Alice gasped. “Mandy! You didn’t!”

  “Yep, I did, Mom. You can imagine his reaction. I think he said that was ‘none of your business land.’ Again, not to be deterred, I started sort of a conversation with myself. I said I realized he was pretty old…”

   “That must have got a reaction.”

   “Oh, it did, but then I told him I didn’t really think he was over the hill in that sense. I just said it to get his attention. I said I was pretty sure he wouldn’t tell me anything about that, but I could guess with a pretty wife who he loved a lot, the subject probably came up from time to time. Well, before he could stop me, I brought out the Penny’s catalog, and showed him the page of negligees. Then, I just asked him to imagine him buying one of those for you, and presenting it to you, when there were no meddlesome daughters around. I said a couple of other slightly suggestive things, and then just left.

   “I really had no idea if he’d done anything about it.”

  “Obviously, he had.” Alice wrapped Mandy in her arms. “Thank you, meddlesome daughter. That is surely one of the nicest things anybody has ever done for me – for us.”


   Later, they were all seated around the kitchen table. Chuck and Alice had just finished reading Vic’s letter about the draft.

   “It’s very good, Vic,” her father said. “Well researched, well put together, easy to read and understand. What are you expecting to come of it?”

   “Thanks, Daddy. Frankly, I don’t know what I expect. Greg and I have talked a lot about the war and the draft, because of our own situation to begin with, but then more in general. Greg thinks we could really get some response from newspapers or politicians. It seems unreal to me, but I guess we’re going to find out.”

   “Do you really think of the draft as slavery?”

   “Yes, I do, Daddy, and I think I would even if it was done constitutionally and more humanely. If you’re a male of a certain age, you can’t escape it. You might get a deferral for school, but that makes it certain you’ll eventually serve. In some cases, you might be able to plead conscientious objection to killing people, but you’d still have to serve in some other way that supports the killing. Of course,  there’s always a chance you might never be called, but you’re still a prisoner of the draft until you pass the age limit.

   “I hadn’t thought of it when I was writing, but I recently saw a reference to press gangs, which in my mind seems similar to the draft.”

   “What are press gangs?” Mandy asked.

   “I can take that one,” offered Greg. “Historically, when the British Navy didn’t have enough volunteers, they would send groups of seamen – press gangs – out into the towns, and they would kidnap men off the streets or out of taverns, and immediately take them to their ships and send them off to sea. Family and friends never knew what happened to many of them, particularly if they died at sea – as many did – from diseases, accidents, or mistreatment.”

   “Obviously a lot worse than our selective service, but captive, forced labor is still slavery,” said Vic.

   “Did that really happen?” Mandy asked. “It seems unbelievable.”

  “Oh, it happened, all right,” Chuck offered, “And the punishments for resistance or rebellion were really awful.”

   They all thought about that for a minute. “Well, sorry,  I didn’t need to bring that up,” said Vic. “I just got thinking about all the ways we have made our fellow humans slaves.”

   Mandy spoke up. “I said when we talked the other day that I didn’t want Dad to be drafted, but you said he’d be old with a beard down to his knees before any changes happened.”

   “I will never have a beard down to my knees, Mandy, but thanks for looking out for me. I wouldn’t like to be drafted, but I think if there had to be a draft, that Vic’s proposal is a sound one. There’s no reason middle-aged men can’t fight, if they have to. They are certainly better prepared, both mentally and physically, than are teenage boys.”

   “Well, I’d like it so nobody would ever have to consider it,” said Vic.

   Alice had been quiet, so far. “What you said about young men never having to worry about being drafted, I think is wonderful. It’s such an awful thing to do to teens just coming to adulthood – whether or not, they’re actually ever drafted, what a terrible interruption to their life! And that newspaper comment you quote – what you call turning young men into ‘cannon fodder’ – is just heartbreaking.”

   “Cannon fodder?” Mandy questioned. “Explanation, please.”

   “Do you know the word ‘fodder,’ as used for food given to cows or horses or sheep?” Greg asked.

   “Okay. Like hay?”

  “Right. Well, presumably a critic of Napoleon thought that he was needlessly and without any concern for their wellbeing, sending his troops into impossible battles. He thought that Napoleon was using his troops merely as ‘food’ for the cannons, cannon fodder.”


   “Yuk, indeed,” rejoined Vic. “When I saw that quote about having pretty much an unending supply of young men to send to Viet Nam, I immediately thought of ‘cannon fodder.’”


   In bed, Vic told Greg about the romantic part of her parents’ trip. “Well, obviously, he wouldn’t have shared those kind of details with me,” Greg replied. “But it must have been very shortly after that, when he started talking about needing to take your mom on an adventure of some sort.”

   “It sounds like ‘adventure’ was a good word for it.”

   “Well, that was my word, but there wasn’t much question that he wanted to shake things up a bit. It sounds like he did. Good for him, and good for them.”

   She snuggled a little closer to him. “You do remember that I’m going back to school in the morning?”

   “Sadly, I am too aware of that circumstance. It will be an especially hard ‘goodbye.;”

   “Do you suppose we could do something now to perhaps soften the blow a little bit?”

   “We could certainly try.”


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