Memoir of a War Resister—A Novel of the 1960s

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Chapter 4—"Where Have All The Flowers Gone?"

The next day I joined Marty at the anti-war table. “What brought you to Lake Forest?” he asked.

“The name.”

Marty pushed the hair out of his eyes. “The name? Really?”

“That’s the truth. Plus the fact that I can go to any Presbyterian College in the country for free because my dad teaches at a Presbyterian College. He gave me a list of about sixty to choose from and I liked the name.”

Marty stopped to give someone a pamphlet and tell them about our next meeting. He turned back to me. “Where does he teach?”

“Small college in Kentucky.”

Marty grinned. “Kentucky. Known for bluegrass, fast horses and beautiful women. Or is it beautiful grass, blue horses and fast women?”

I laughed, trying not to blush. “I think it’s fast grass, beautiful horses and blue women.”

Marty leaned back in his chair. “Blue as in the color or blue as in sad?”

“Either one. The important piece is the beautiful horses.”

Two girls stopped at the table and sifted through the pile of buttons we were selling for ten cents each. One took a button that said, “Bring them home now.” She gave Marty a dime. “My brother just got shipped over.”

“Let’s end this war and bring him home,” Marty said. He handed them information about our next meeting.

After they left Marty turned to me, “So what does he teach?”

“Religion. He’s also an ordained minister. Although I really didn’t want anyone to find out.”

“Why not?”

“I guess I don’t want people to judge me based on how my dad tells me to live my life. I’ve got to figure it out for myself.” I thought of the list. Don’t have sex. Don’t drink. Don’t drive too fast. Don’t break curfew. Don’t slack off on your studies. Don’t use drugs. The list also contained the Do’s. Do help other people. Do be kind and generous. Do right in the world. That was the good stuff.

“So why did you tell me?”

“I have no earthly idea. It kind of spilled out of my mouth. What brought you here?”

“I grew up in Springfield, Illinois, and wanted to go to school near Chicago. My guidance counselor steered me to the Government Department at Lake Forest. I plan to go to law school after college. I’m also a White Sox fan.”

“I am a die-hard Yankees fan. My dad says the only way to make it to heaven is to be a Yankees fan.”

Luckily someone came up to the table. Beautiful friendships have been ruined over baseball rivalries.

As we boxed up materials when lunch hour was over, Marty said, “This spring we’ll turn our attention to next year’s presidential election. We need to elect an anti-war candidate.”

“Not much we can do. President Johnson’s a lock for the Democratic nomination and he loves this war. By the way, my birthday is on election day next year, November 5th.” I handed a pile of pamphlets to Marty.

“We’re practically twins. My birthday is November 8th.” He put the pamphlets in a box and folded the top closed.

“Except for the fact that we were born on different days in different cities to different mothers, I agree. We’re practically twins,” I said.

Marty thought for a moment. “If we were born practically on the same day, then we were conceived practically on the same day in February. Let’s have a conception party.”

I’ve been to my share of parties in my life: birthday parties, surprise parties, slumber parties, come-as-you-are parties. I had never been to a conception party. Never even considered a conception party. I didn’t want to think about how I was conceived.

“Valentine’s Day,” Marty suddenly said. “We were probably both conceived on Valentine’s Day. Perfect day for a party. Deal?”

He stuck out his hand. I shook it. “Deal.”

That afternoon I sat on the lawn outside my dorm playing my guitar. I was singing Simon and Garfunkel when someone said, “Damn, you’re good.”

Ginger stooped down in front of me. “Very cool guitar. Mind if I look at it?” I handed her the guitar. She played a few chords. “Great sound. You going to be here awhile? I’ll bring my guitar and join you.”

“I hope to be out here most of the afternoon,” I started to strum again.

“I’ll be back in a minute.” Ginger walked over to her dorm across from mine.

So far I liked this beginning.

U.S. Soldier Body Count: 16,768

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