When Larry stepped off the concrete entry into the VA hospital in Manhattan on East 23rd, he crossed a threshold to the end of his associations with the Weathermen. The second step nearly felled him, the smooth sole leather work boots slipping dangerously on the waxed floor. A self-vindicating grin across his face. No one saw the near mishap. He didn’t need it.
Smooth-sole boots were no better than socked feet on slick floors, poor combos when matters were pressing.
The urgency revolved around reaching a phone.
People were going to die.
Diana Oughton waited in the car.
He’d said he needed a ride to the VA, Diana volunteered quickly.
Doc Gitlin was on his way to the brownstone and Diana wanted out.
Diana had become a chain smoker recently and Larry figured she wouldn’t come looking for him — one she couldn’t part with her cigarettes; two the hospital smells would make her puke — or so she said.
She was probably right.
Larry pressed through the clinical smells of a hallway haunted by the faint hint of what he thought was piss. It almost smelled like a fecund jungle, where the senses mix with death.
Poor girl, he thought. Larry felt sorry for her. Something was up with her.
She looked like shit and he figured it had much to do with the ferment Ayers had had on her life since they became involved in ’66 or so.
They’d gotten to know each other since Larry joined the group and out of them all, Diana Oughton didn’t to fit in—anymore.
“They want to up the violence. They’re fantasizing about it,” she told him. “I feel more like a peg forced into a square hole.” True, she’d taken part in big talk about violent action, but she didn’t truly believe it however, her intimate connection to Billy Ayers and Terry Robbins was shuttling her towards the cusp of a violent action she might not be able to turn away from.
Larry stepped carefully towards a payphone down the hall.
Couldn’t bust his ass.
Couldn’t aggravate the shrapnel in his left leg.
Larry consciously tried not to shuffle as he walked.
As he neared the phone, Larry thrust a hand into deep jean pockets, fingering through change for a quarter instead of a dime to make a long distance call he needed to make without interruption.
He needed to be quick.
Diana wouldn’t miss him.
Shouldn’t come looking for him.
Sure, he trusted her, but if she caught him on the phone, she might ask questions.
Larry didn’t need that. His mind crawl for an excuse as he reached the phone, carefully stepping across the brilliant hen speckled tile.
Combat taught him to be cool-headed despite his electric anxiety. He barely felt the quarter push from his fingers into the slot. It tinkled loudly into the void of an emptied coin box Spin-spin.
Click. Click. Click. Connecting.
The connecting sounds relived him.
Larry flared his nose.
His left hand pressed the receiver to his ear.
What cigarette is she on? He thought. Surely, she was tapping her feet to the CCR playing in her head, he wondered.
Time stopped the instant completed its connection; a dead noise interrupted by analog chugs, and electric clicks finally connecting him to the FBI in Cincinnati.
Larry fixed his eyes on the cinderblock corner of the hallway fearful he’d see Diana peeking back.
What have I gotten into with the Weathermen? He thought, worried Diana would ask him questions when he returned.