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Grace worked hard on the garden, watering the soil, protecting the tomatoes and green beans, fed them fertilizer, cooed to them. And she taught Sunday school.
Harvey prepared in other ways. He cleaned out the bomb shelter, throwing away all the rakes and hunks of hose and old furniture Perry had stored there. He swept the shelter down, hosed it out, repaired the air filter, filled the water tank, put in a new store of sheets and blankets and pillows.
That July was hot. There was small-town suspense.
Perry stayed away from the bomb shelter. He didn’t say so to Harvey, but he thought the place dark and depressing and buried away.
‘The old man wasn’t so crazy after all,’ Harvey kept saying.
‘Right,’ Perry said.
‘You don’t have to be so damn arrogant about it.’
‘He wasn’t dumb or crazy. You don’t have to smirk.’
‘I’m not smirking, Harv. It’s a solid bomb shelter.’
The floor was laid in massive tumulary stones. The air was musty. Tepid air, a mouldering preservation. The past and extended future. A stack of magazines lay in one corner. There were books and games, a typewriter, liquor and candies and soap. Boxes of canned food were stacked to the ceiling. There were cots and flashlights and folding chairs, candles and rope and wire, tools and cigarettes and matches, foul air, electric lights connected to a small generator, string and blankets, paper and silverware and pots and plates and survival gear.
Harvey’s eye shined. ‘We could last it out in here.’
Gleaming, the streets were white metal.
Thursday, the last day of July.
There were jeeps and trucks and firefighters, the streets were fizzing with people, everyone was waiting.
It was Harvey’s birthday. Grace held the party on the lawn.
When the sun faded, Perry turned on the spotlights and lit battery-powered lanterns in the trees. Then the guests arrived. Harvey received them in front of his bomb shelter. He drank beer from a paper cup. The sky was changing. Headlights flowed up the lane. Lantern shadows, sky shadows. The wind was changing. The party comers moved like electricity through the night, trooped in bearing gifts and loaves of bread, hot dishes, meat loaves. Old people and young people. Bishop Markham brought his wife and children. Reverend Stenberg brought candlesticks. Hot beans, hot corn, fruit salad, biscuits, burgers, ham and chops, baked potatoes, warm salted butter, pies, a birthday party. The ladies of Damascus Lutheran brought plates and tablecloths, their husbands carried ice. The sky was changing. The headlights kept coming up the lane, new voices. High above, in the highest depths, the sky budded new stars and the patterns developed. Herb Wolff brought his father, pushing him in a wheelchair. The forest was full. Jud Harmor came in his pickup and straw hat and talked about the war and garbage. Addie came alone. Grace was busy and happy. There was potato salad and talk about the dry spell. It was a birthday picnic, and the evening was dark and the lanterns played on the trees. Town shadows flowed about his yard. Addie was there. Now and then he saw her passing by a lantern. ‘Geronimo!’ wailed Jud Harmor. Grace was happy. She served people’s plates and cut the birthday cake. She fixed a smile on the festivities and held Perry’s hand and bustled for paper cups. She was breathless and soft. She kissed him. ‘Isn’t it nice? Everyone’s here.’
‘You invited them. You’re the attraction.’
‘It’s so nice. Is Harvey enjoying it?’
‘I think so,’ Perry said. Harvey was sitting on the bomb shelter with Addie.
There were forms and shadows and the sky was changing.
Perry walked to the shelter, head down.
‘Addie says you have a secret.’
Addie giggled. ‘Hop up here, Paul. It’s a fine place to watch the party.’
‘Tell me the great secret,’ Harvey said.
‘There’s no secret. Tell him, Addie.’
Addie giggled and took his arm. The party seemed far away. The townspeople were silhouettes and old shadows.
‘What’s this great and wonderful secret?’ Harvey demanded.
‘Nothing. I swear. Tell him it’s nothing, Addie.’
‘If we told our secret, we would die and go to hell. That’s what happens when people tell their secrets. People must always keep all their secrets secret, if you follow me.’
‘Tell me,’ Harvey said.
Addie giggled. She still held Perry’s arm. ‘Okay,’ she said. ‘But first you tell us your secret, Harvey. Tell us how you hurt your eye, all the gory stuff.’
Again the party poised.
‘Nothing,’ Harvey said softly.
‘Tell us all about the eye, Harvey. And tell us how you were a war hero.’
‘Okay, then I’ll just have to tell you the sad facts,’ Addie laughed. ‘You see, Paul and I are running away together. To the badlands of South Dakota.’
Harvey stared at her. He was a bit drunk.
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘We’re going to Rapid City or Deadwood. I’ll sell Indian carvings and Paul will … I don’t know what Paul will do. Anyway, that’s the secret. We’ve been planning it for ages.’
‘Rapid City,’ Harvey muttered.
‘Isn’t that a fine secret? Now you promised. Tell us about your eye.’
‘What? What’s that? Harvey, now you promised.’
‘This is a bunch of crap.’
‘It’s a fine secret,’ Addie teased.
‘I’m going to Africa,’ he said.
Addie shrugged and giggled. ‘Don’t be a silly. It wouldn’t be the same at all. Who’ll buy Indian carvings in Africa?’ She giggled and there was new movement around them, in the air and woods. It stopped. It became quiet and for the first time Perry felt the transformation. The air was soggy.
‘Wouldn’t touch the badlands,’ Harvey muttered.
‘It’s actually quite clean in the badlands,’ said Addie. ‘Isn’t it?’ She touched Perry’s arm.
‘Sterile,’ he said.
‘See? Ha! Paul’s taking me there.’
‘I don’t believe it.’
Addie moaned. ‘Tell him, Paul.’
‘Oh, you will. Tell him you will.’
‘I won’t. Let’s go back to the party.’
‘You’re both silly,’ Addie said. She turned to Harvey. ‘I swear he promised.’
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