(Page 4 of 4)
She put everything back, the key, the lipstick, everything, except for the postcard. She went and got her typewriter and set it up at the kitchen table. She could still hear the water running in the bathroom, and she thought she heard Laura humming. She put in a sheet of paper and typed.
Everybody doing pretty here, she typed. Weather just grand. By the time she heard the water turn off, she had finished, put the postcard, the pink coat, and the typewriter back, and folded up the sheet of paper into a very tiny square which she put in her own pocketbook. By the time she had picked up her children and dropped Laura off at the train station, there were jets and contrails once again in the sky. She picked her husband up from his office but didn’t say anything about Laura. She was sure he somehow knew.
Later that night, after all the children were asleep, he told her that someone had called his office to tell him she had been acting strangely at the grocery store. She told him it was true. She’d had a terrible headache, she said, and she’d had to leave. She’d lost the grocery money too. No ham tomorrow, she said.
Promise me you’ll leave this whole thing alone, he said.
Everybody doing pretty here, she said.
The next time she did laundry, the neighbor was waiting. She’d heard all about what happened at the Red Owl from her sister. Her sister’s girl worked in the Red Owl bakery and watched the whole scene. And someone else had told her, she couldn’t remember who, maybe that busybody down the street, that Willa had been seen dropping that woman off at the train station. Was it true? Had she really gotten one of those women to leave town?
But Willa just said her head hurt, and went back into her house, where she made herself coffee and calculated how many hours it took to take a train to California. And later that week she didn’t go to the march, despite the women in town calling her, begging her, they’d heard all about the Red Owl. It was just what they needed, a role model, a real leader. Imagine, they said, Willa had succeeded where everyone else had failed.
She stayed home and oiled her typewriter. A headache, she said. And the march came and went, and nothing terrible happened. Nothing happened at all. The jets flew back and forth. Ham went on sale. Husbands went to work. Children went to school. The baby cried. The pink fur coat sat in her hall closet, untouched. There was coffee and church and laundry. And for a while, a year or so more, those women stayed. And then one day Willa heard over coffee, while hanging laundry, she could never really remember—these things gave her such a headache—that finally something terrible had happened.
One of the Air Force boys, drunk, tired, the stress of the Cold War perhaps, had snapped and killed one of those women, and the woman was found naked and dead outside of town. Or maybe it wasn’t that at all. Maybe it was one of those women—tired, overworked, underappreciated, the stress, the loneliness, all of that—who had killed one of the Air Force boys. Stabbed him in the chest in front of Pistol Pete’s. Left him to die as she drove away in his car, only to be found by the cops two days later, hiding two towns away. Or perhaps the murderer was a person from town, a woman fed up with the laundry, a man tired of God knows what, Willa didn’t know, couldn’t remember the details, but she was sure this was what she heard. It was in the papers, but she didn’t read them, gave her such a headache. And anyway, she thought, the details didn’t matter. Everybody doing pretty here. Weather just grand.