Greg’s Friday drive to Pocatello was uneventful. Morning temperatures were below freezing, but not far below, and there was considerable sunshine. Beyond Raft River, most of the terrain was snow-covered, but the highway was clear and dry.  

   Greg stopped for hamburgers, picked up Vic at her dorm, and they checked into their motel. Once in the room, their greeting was heartfelt, but compact enough that their burgers were still warm when they got to them. With the last of the Idaho French fries consumed, they settled on the couch, holding hands.

   “I am glad to be here,” he said.

   “I am glad to have you here,” she replied.

   “Is this a talking afternoon?”

   “I don’t think I can. I have some things to tell you, but I feel exhausted. Can we just sit this afternoon, and enjoy not needing to do or say anything?”

   “Yes, we can do that.”

   Their silent sitting turned to silent sleeping for Vic. Greg soon followed her example. The afternoon passed unnoticed by them. They weren’t hungry when they awoke, but they were by 7 o’clock. Greg went down to the lobby, and asked the desk clerk to order a pizza for them, with extra pepperoni. He waited until it came.

   “Is there a nice dinner restaurant around here, one a little fancier than the drive-in? We had to be apart on Valentine’s Day, and we need to do something a bit special tomorrow night.”

   She recommended a place. “It’s pretty nice, and not terribly expensive. They have a whole dinner and dessert menu.”

   “Are we likely to need reservations?”

   “I wouldn’t think so, but I can call and ask if you’d like me to.”

   “Yes, please. If they do, it would be tomorrow night, about six.”

   The clerk talked on the phone for a few minutes, then hung up. “They don’t usually need them, this time of year, but they took your name, just in case.”

  He thanked her. The pizza was delivered, and he took it back to the room. He and Vic talked while they ate, but not about anything that required any thinking. After, they turned on the television.

   “Oh, this is ‘Mr. Roberts,’ and then the spy show – ‘U. N.  C. L. E.’ Interested?”

   “No. I’ll try to stay awake, if you want to watch, though.”

   Greg turned off the TV, stood up, and held out his hand to her. “Come dance with me.”

     She looked a little quizzical, but did stand, take his hand, and move into his arms. “You know, Greg, this is never going to work. You know what happens as soon as we start…”

   “Well, who says that isn’t ‘working?’ Would that be such a bad outcome? Besides,” he continued, before she could respond, “This may turn out differently.”

   He started to sing softly to her, as they began to move. “It only happens when I dance with you, that trip to heaven ‘till the dance is through…

   “That’s very nice. I love your ancient love songs,” she said, her head against his shoulder. “However – and not to ruin the mood – but by some strange circumstance, I actually know the dusty old lyrics of that song, and they don’t fit.”

   He stopped moving, but didn’t let go of her. “How can you say that? These words are perfect.”

   She began to sing to him. “I’ve danced with dozens of others the whole night through. Dozens, Greg? You’ve danced with one other, and that was my sister, who I wouldn’t expect you to have such feelings about.”

   He gave her a little twirl, but didn’t release her. “You forget, my love, that I had a life before you. As I recall, it wasn’t anywhere near as nice as the one I’m living with you, but I don’t think we can ignore it, and say it never happened. I danced with a number of women during that time.”

   “A number? What number?”

   “Well, three or four, anyway.”

  “So, not dozens. How were they?”

  “As I recall, none of the dances lasted very long. They didn’t seem to want to stick around, to have their toes or shins mangled by my inept feet.”

   “With Mary Beth, too?”

   “Oh, Mary Beth learned quickly. I don’t think she ever danced with me, after the first attempt.”

   Vic hadn’t made any move to loosen her position against him. “So, even in your sad, unfulfilled life before me, not dozens – not really any, from the sounds of it. So, we’re back to me and my sister, and Mandy was your dancing teacher, so does she really count?”

   “Well, Vic, you don’t know everything. There was someone else.”

   “There was not!” She paused. “Well, who was it?”

   “Your mother.”

   “My mother! How did you dance with my mother?”

   “Actually, we danced twice. Mandy wanted to see how I looked, dancing with a partner, so she recruited your mom.”

   Vic was silent against him for a moment. “I would never have guessed that. My mother! Mandy never told me. How did that go?”

   “It went great. She’s a pro. I did pretty well, I think, but of course she knew all the ways to help me along. She made me look pretty good, while at the same time saving herself from being crippled.”

   “Wow. Well, that’s a surprise, but it doesn’t change my original premise. There haven’t been dozens, so you can’t really know if it only happens when you dance with me.”

   “Vic, I don’t need to go through all the motions. It doesn’t matter how many dozens there are, I am absolutely certain…” He began to sing to her, again. The thrill that comes with spring, when anything can happen, that only happens with you.”

   They danced a few more steps. “As I’ve said before, Greg, your way with words – even other people’s words – is amazing. Your dancing? Well, not quite so amazing, yet!”

   “Shall we quit, and do what usually happens when I try to dance with you?”

   She stopped. “You know, my comment about your dancing wasn’t fair – or nice. Mandy was a great teacher, and from what I’ve been able to tell - in the thirty seconds before our dancing seems to always turn into an erotic, romantic free-for-all – you have been developing some pretty good moves of your own.”

   “Thank you. So, going back to my earlier question, do you want to try to see more of my dance moves, or go on to sample some of my special  post-30 seconds moves?”

   “Let me think. Oh, you know what? After the 30 seconds are up, there isn’t really any choice to be made, is there?”


   They slept until almost 9 o’clock Saturday morning, then went down to the coffee shop and had a big breakfast. After, they walked around for almost an hour, just enjoying the sunshine, lack of wind, and “reasonable” temperatures (30s and 40s) for that time of year. Back in their room by noon, they finally settled down to business.

   “So, anything new on the letter to the editor?” Greg asked.

   “A little bit. I think I’ve had two phone interviews since we talked about it. They were ‘okay,’ but nothing special. Things seem to have slowed down, considerably.”

   “And you’ve heard nothing from any Idaho papers?”

   “Not a thing. That kind of surprises me, just because you’d think something would have got out word of mouth, if not from the letter itself. But, no, not a word.

   “One thing that is turning out to be interesting. My political science teacher reads a lot of newspapers every day, looking for interesting stuff that doesn’t make the local paper. He’s making copies of all the letters and stories that he finds relating to the draft, and saving them for me. He’s found a dozen or so letters in response to mine. Many are either ‘get rid of the draft’ or ‘enlist for your country, you draft dodgers.’ Just opinion, with no substance.

   “There were several letters about leaving the ‘teens and early 20s out of the draft. One agreed with me – in part – that they shouldn’t be drafted because they just weren’t mature enough. Another took the opposite tack that they ought to be drafted just as soon as possible, and ‘get it out of the way.’ Both kind of brushed aside the possibilities of death and injury, and didn’t seem to consider that kids in that group should have a chance to begin an adult life. Neither even mentioned mental trauma.

   “However, there was one letter – apparently from a scientist, of some type – that went into that in detail. She – I’m pretty sure it was a woman – said that the old war movies make it sound like ‘shell shock’ or ‘battle fatigue’ were just nervous disorders that a few soldiers developed because of the noise and confusion of war. The generals seemed to dismiss it, as just one of those things that sometimes happened. Actually, as psychologists and doctors have begun to really examine it, they’ve found that long-lasting stresses from war are common, and can affect a person long after the fact, with anything from nightmares to being completely unable to cope with normal civilian life. She used my example of young men who had never even seen a gory car crash, suddenly exposed to people being blown up right next to them, soldiers still alive but with limbs missing and holes in their bodies, or fields littered with the dead bodies of both their own troops and those of the enemy. She said that researchers were beginning to recognize a – what did she call it? – a syndrome, where a bunch of different symptoms and signs all come together to create an identifiable disease. She thinks it’s really serious, not some fluke happening.”

   “Yeah,” said Greg.  “If you really start to think about it, it’s hard to see it not happening, particularly with this hand-to-hand type war, where you’re really engaged with the people you kill, and who try to kill you. I’ve heard that many people who dropped the atom bombs on Japan never really thought about the people who were being affected, because you don’t really see much from an airplane. On the ground, you can’t ignore what’s happening right around you.”

   “There’s another part of it, too,” said Vic. “You remember what the art teacher told me about the Viet Nam talk given by the ROTC guys? The enemy doesn’t look like an army. They just look like the civilians, and the only way to tell them apart is if one starts shooting at you. It must be traumatic enough fighting against men in uniform – who are acting like soldiers. In a war like Viet Nam, you must be just constantly on alert, worrying about what’s going to happen next. That would really make me crazy!”

   “Has anybody commented on extending the draft age into the ‘30s and ‘40s?”

   “No, I don’t recall anything, so far. One thing I find odd – and discouraging – is that almost every letter just seems to take it for granted that we need the draft. They may criticize how it’s being handled, but that’s all.”

   “That is a little disheartening.”

   “One other thing I found out is that my teacher knows quite a bit about the actual workings of the draft. Some of what he shared was quite interesting, I thought. From what he said, I guess there’s a big analysis going on right now, with a final report due out next year. Unfortunately, it sounds like it will just be a report on how to fix the draft, not how to abolish it or replace it.

   “Anyway, here’s some of what he told me.  First, there are almost no draft board members who are under 60 years old. Most are veterans of World Wars I or II. Most have been members of their draft boards for 25 years or more. Just those facts raise a lot of questions in my mind about their qualifications for selecting men to be drafted into a modern army.

   “To add to that, it seems like most draft boards make their own decisions about how they will handle selections, with very little guidance from their states or from the Selective Service. Some boards concentrate on drafting men who are 25 or 26, probably because if they don’t, those men are suddenly beyond draftable age.”

   “Well, if they’re going to do that, why keep everybody in suspense for eight years? Why not just make the draft exclusively for 25 and 26-year olds?”

   “Because that’s just what some draft boards do. Another board may draft only 19-year olds. There’s no national policy or guidance. Also, some draft boards give lots of deferrals, others give almost none. If you happened to be registered with one of the liberal boards, they might decide  that you working on a wildlife refuge was comparable service to going into the Army.”

   “Except there’s no way to know which draft boards would see it that way.”

   “Exactly. Remember when we talked about the qualifications for being a conscientious objector? Well, you’re supposed to be able to say that your religious training taught you that you couldn’t go to war. If you’re a Quaker, you probably get a deferral. If you’re a Baptist or a Presbyterian, maybe or maybe not. Those churches don’t teach specifically against killing in war, so it’s up to your local draft board as to whether or not you actually developed your beliefs through religious training!  And to further complicate it, my teacher says that just last year, the Supreme Court ruled in one case that a moral belief against war did not necessarily have to come from a church. People develop consciences other ways. Unfortunately, the Selective Service has so far chosen to ignore that particular court ruling.

   “The whole system seems kind of a mess, and I think the current Administration is making it even messier. They are pushing pretty hard on draft boards to cut back on the numbers and types of deferrals given, and they’re making their own national rules, like not exempting recently married men, like LBJ did last year.

   “So, anyway, I guess that’s all I know. What do you think we should do, next?”

   Greg thought for a bit before he spoke. “Well, I think your letter has started some pretty good conversation. Maybe it comes at an especially good time, if there’s some big report due out soon. Things have slowed down, but I don’t think we’ve heard all we’re going to hear about your letter. Maybe just sit back for a while, and see what else your teacher finds for you.

   “Do you have any thoughts?”

   “No, I think I’m pretty exhausted, for the moment. I agree that the response has been good – not better than you thought, but better than I thought. Now, let’s just wait and see.”

   After a little break, Greg changed the subject. “What would you think about having a delayed Valentine’s dinner, tonight? The desk clerk says there’s a nice place nearby, that has a good menu, and not too hefty a price.”

   “That sounds nice, but I wish I had brought a dress with me.”

   “Yes, I wasn’t thinking far enough ahead. Well, actually, when I haven’t been with you for a week or so, my thoughts seem to be more about taking clothes off than putting them on. You look lovely when you dress up, but you look lovely all the time. I didn’t bring a jacket or tie, so let’s pretend that we’re Gaia and Val, homespun Norwegian farmers, just having a nice celebration dinner, together. Will that work?”

   “That will work very nicely, Val.”


   The restaurant was as the desk clerk had described it – very nice, with a large menu, but not too expensive. Vic ordered a pasta dinner with chicken. Greg spent some time with the descriptions of steaks. They sounded great, but his remaining memories of their big breakfast eventually brought him to order the same as Vic. Both pronounced the choice very good. For dessert, they shared something that looked very Valentine-y – a chocolate brownie, topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. All of that was capped with a rich, red cherry sauce. Maybe not the dessert Gaia and Val would have had in backwoods Norway, but just right for the present occasion.

   Back in their room, Greg had another surprise waiting. From his pack, he produced a half-bottle of Burgundy wine. “I know, according to Idaho law, that I am contributing to the delinquency of a minor. However, you look very grown-up to me, at the moment, so I’m going to take a chance.” He brought the two glasses from the bathroom, and poured some wine for each of them. “Happy late Valentine’s, Vic.”

   They sat side by side on the couch, savoring the wine and each other’s presence. “This is so good! How silly to not allow it until a person is age 21.”

   “Well, you know, that there can be dangers in wine, as I myself can attest to.”

   “Yes, but that wasn’t a few delicious sips of a good Burgundy, served in toothbrush glasses, and shared with your one and only true love.”

   “That part is certainly true, and I suppose does make a difference. But wait, I have one more surprise for you.” Greg brought a small box from his pack, and presented it to her. Inside were two large chocolate truffles, sitting atop a red handkerchief. He offered the box to her. She took a truffle, and bit into it.

   “Oh, dear god! It’s filled with cherries. Thank you, Greg – or as I still calling you Val?”

   He took the other. “Val is appropriate, I think. Oh my, I thought they would be good. They are.”

   They alternated between nibbling at the truffles, and sipping at their wine. Vic leaned her head on his shoulder. “I am very content, right now. I thought you might do something for late Valentine’s, but I never guessed any of this. It is heavenly.”

   “I’m glad you like it. I’m feeling very content, myself.”

   “There is one unanswered question, however.” Vic took the red handkerchief from the box. “My knowledge of you and your mind makes me think that this hankie is not just to set truffles on. Am I right?”

   “You do know me, don’t you? Yes, there is a story that goes with the hankie. Do you want to hear it?”

   “Of course.”

   He reached for the wine bottle, and split the remaining liquid between their two glasses. “Okay. I had thought about buying you one of those frilly, slinky, red nighties – you know, the kind that is mostly just holes held together with little bits of fabric? I saw one that I thought would look especially good on you – well, delicious, I think is the adjective that came to mind, in thinking how it would fit you. Well, obviously, having planted that vision clearly in my brain, it was hard to look away. But I did. Unromantic as it was to do so, I looked at the price tag.  The price was large. Well, maybe it wasn’t, for the product considered as a whole, and with the benefits that might arise from its use, but it seemed like a lot for the very little amount of fabric actually in the garment. I saw the handkerchief at the same moment I saw the nightie’s price tag. I would say that the hankie has approximately the same amount of material as the nightie – maybe a little more - but it only cost a fraction of the price.

   “Still, I couldn’t just walk away from the nightie. I thought how cute you would look in it – the adjectives ‘desirable’ and ‘delectable’ joined ‘delicious’ in my mind – but then reason asserted itself for a moment. I remembered that I would only see you wearing it for maybe five minutes – maybe less, if I was feeling especially Vic-starved at that moment – and, after that, I would only see it folded on a chair by the bed, or perhaps in a heap on the floor near the bed. I opted for the handkerchief.”

   After a moment of silence, “It must have been real torture for you,” Vic said. “You know, I told Nancy that you wouldn’t buy me any red – what did you call it, non-sleeping sleep wear? – but I got the reason all wrong. I thought it would be because you already had the choice of me in my delectable flowered pajamas, my delicious silky white pjs, or my dynamically desirable pale green peignoir and nightgown combination. But no, your decision was purely economic.

   “Now, to change the subject slightly – or maybe not, I’m not sure – I’ve been wondering something about Gaia and Val. Greg, do you think they got married before they…?”

   Greg smiled. “I think you are asking, did they perhaps consummate their marriage – as we did – a little ahead of the legal paperwork? I doubt we can know that. Records from that long ago seldom survived, and they weren’t very detailed, anyway. However, I do have some speculation, based on my own life experiences. Would you like to hear?”

   “First, thank you for a new word for my vocabulary: consummate. I assume it means just what I think it means?”

   “Not everyone could answer that question. However, knowing you, I think I am safe in confirming that it means just what you think it means. Anything else you want to know?”

   “No, I always enjoy your speculations, so I’m interested to hear these. Carry on.”

   “You remember that, when Val gave Gaia her card, they shared a kiss on her doorstep. It was a good kiss but, as we know from kissing in view of your parents, it was not a spectacular kiss.”

   “You mean, like our post-vacation kiss?”

   “Well, every spectacular kiss is spectacular in its own ways but, yes, that’s the idea. They didn’t feel they could share that kind of a kiss right then, no matter how much they wanted to. However, Val had an idea. ‘Gaia darling,’ he said, ‘Are you up for a little stroll over to our new home? I’ve made some recent innovations that you haven’t yet seen.’ She said that, yes, she was indeed up for a little stroll.

   Halfway to the house, they stopped for a prolonged period, and exchanged the spectacular kiss that they had both been longing for.  At the house, he showed her the new porch swing that he had recently completed. She liked it, quite a lot. Then, he took her into the kitchen, and showed her the new knobs he had put on the cabinets. She liked those, also. They went into the bedroom, where his pride was evident as he described the work he had been putting in on the headboard to their bed. She acknowledged the craftwork, but then stood looking at the bed, itself.

   “’Do you think the bed is just the right firmness that we’ll want? I’d be disappointed on our wedding night, if it wasn’t just perfect.’”

   “He couldn’t tell her that, not having had any way to test the bed. He suggested that she lay down on it, to see how it felt. She did, and moved around to various positions. She seemed dissatisfied. He asked if there was a problem. ‘I don’t think so,’ she replied. ‘It’s just that there will be two of us on the bed, so it is likely to feel considerably different than it does with just me here. Perhaps you could…?’ He could, and did, lay down beside her. It felt pretty good to him, but he suggested that they move around a bit, to test all aspects of the bed and the mattress. They tried out all manner of different positions, eventually getting very close together, like they might on their first real night there. When they finally decided that the bed was indeed “just right,” the sun was sinking below the trees, and the interior of the house was getting comfortably dark.”

   “Okay, wait a minute, and let me be sure I’ve caught up. From the length of time Val and Gaia spent on the bed, I am assuming that they consummated their marriage. Right?”

   “It certainly seems likely, doesn’t it?  I think it’s likely that something else happened, too. Considering the unplanned nature of the event, and the passion with which they almost certainly carried it out, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the first twig on the new Anderson branch of the family tree began to grow that day.”

   “You mean…? Well, of course, it stands to reason. And I bet when they found out, they were really pleased. I mean, she didn’t have four years of college, or anything. Why not?”

   “At that moment, I think we can be sure they were quite content with one another. However, fearing that her parents might suspect some inappropriate shenanigans had occurred, and them probably not being as acquiescing about it as were your parents, they decided…”

   “Wait a minute. I need another vocabulary check. I am assuming that ‘inappropriate shenanigans’ means just what I think it means, but what about my parents’ ‘acquiescing.’ What’s that?”

   “If you acquiesce to something, it means you may not have approved to begin with, but you eventually come around to accepting what has happened, without any further protest. We know your parents had mixed feelings about all of our romance, and I suspect they still would have much preferred that we wait to… consummate. But it’s done, and they see that it’s working out okay, so they acquiesce.”

   “I get it. You don’t think her parents would have been as understanding?”

   “Do you?”

   “No, I guess not.”

   “It’s probably good all around – especially if a new ‘twig’ was involved – that their marriage was only two weeks away.”

   “How do you know that? Oh, wait! I don’t need to know that. It’s your story, and you obviously know what happened.”

   “I can see that you’re coming to embrace my knowledge of history. Of course, one thing you learn in college is how to research.”

    “Well, you certainly learned that. Your research skills must be amazing. But, forget my interruption. As you said, two weeks later, they got married, moved into their new house, and consummated their marriage legally.”

   “That’s not quite right. Consummation is a one-time thing. It’s done, and it’s over. Now, couples may perform similar acts over and over, year after year – as we have been doing. Those later practices, for lack of any better term, are known as loving fun.”

   “Loving fun? I like that.”


   They finished their wine, and talked a little more. Eventually, Greg led Vic over to their bed, sat her on the edge, and began to help her get undressed. It seemed to be taking a lot longer than was necessary, but neither seemed to be minding the delay.

   “Oh, I should get my pajamas,” Vic said, at one point.

   “One thing at a time,” replied Greg, as he continued to remove clothing. When he had taken all there was to be taken, he stood back and observed his handiwork.

   “You look happy,” Vic said.

   “I am happy,” he replied.

   “I’m still working on my definitions,” she said. “Am I correct that, once we are both in this bed, and we decide to not go immediately to sleep, what we might do would be called loving fun?”

   “You would be correct.”

   “Good. I think I have it worked out, now. Just one other question.” She held out the red hankie. “What are we supposed to do with this?”

   “I’ll take care of that.” He took it from her, then lifted the blankets so she could slide into bed. He removed his own clothing in much less time than it had taken to remove hers. He slid in after her, and turned out the light.

   The red hankie spent the night on the table next to the bed.


   Greg woke fairly early Sunday morning. Vic was still fast asleep. He slid out of bed, and put on his clothes, then turned back and kissed her on the forehead. He lifted the covers – just to make sure everything was okay, there. A lingering glance convinced him it was, so he moved over to the big armchair.

   He decided he was hungry, but a search through his pack turned up only a packet of raisins. He ate a few, then decided he better save some for his partner. He got out his notebook, and had just begun to write, when his partner appeared beside him. Not finding any pajamas to put on, she had wrapped herself in a blanket off the bed.

   “Good morning, sleepyhead,” he greeted her.

   “Don’t act like you’ve been up for hours. I remember when you left the bed. You kissed my forehead, then spent a rather long moment taking in the view under my covers.

   “So, what are you doing here?”

   “Nothing, yet. I was just getting ready to start a letter to Mac, telling him that I didn’t want to spend another winter at the refuge. It’s time to clear the air on that subject, don’t you think?”

   “I do. Are you going to suggest a winter caretaker, like you and Daddy talked about?”

   “Well, that’s really for your dad to discuss with him, but I do think I should mention the problems I see for anybody who is alone there through a winter.  Also, I think I’ll probably again mention my ideas for our next job.”

   “What are those ideas?”

   “I’m not sure. I think I should state again my interest in John O’Neil’s assistant job, if that comes available. That seems like it would be a good stepping stone for us, getting me some experience to make me more competitive, and keeping us close through the school year. Beyond that, I guess the only thought I have is for a refuge or office job that moves us close to another college for you. Do you have any thoughts?”

   “No. Well, the only thought I have right now is that I’m hungry.”

   “I anticipated that, and graciously saved you half a packet of raisins.”

   “Thanks.” She finished the raisins in one handful. “I’m still hungry.”

   “Well, I have two thoughts.” He opened her blanket, and studied its contents carefully. “The first thought is interesting, but probably will do nothing to ameliorate the hunger situation.”

   “Ameliorate! I remember that word… But in an entirely different context.”

   Greg smiled. “Yes, I remember that context, too. Well, the other idea will address the amelioration issue. It involves you putting on some clothes, then going downstairs with me to see if we can ferret out some foodstuff a little more sustainable than a half-bag of raisins.”

   She stood up. “I like both ideas, but I think the amelioration one wins out this time.” She walked over to the bed, sat on the edge, and lowered the blanket. “You won’t watch me while I’m getting dressed, will you?”

   “No. Of course not.”


   They enjoyed a hearty breakfast in the coffee shop, came back to the room, showered, and straightened up the room. They washed the two glasses, and Greg put the empty wine bottle in his pack – “just in case the Wine Police came around.” After one last spectacular – not for public viewing – kiss, they drove to Vic’s dorm. He went inside with her, chatted with Mrs. McPherson, and waved to Nancy as she passed by. Back outside for a moment, they shared a “public” kiss, and then Greg was on his way home. Vic went back inside, where she shared some of the weekend events with Mrs. M., and later Nancy.

   Greg made good time back to Raft River, took the old road to the diner, where he had a burger and fries, while visiting with Cora and Jackson. It was still daylight when he reached his house.

   The days were definitely getting longer.



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