Sunday, January 20, 2013

Chapter 16 / Iconoclast

Iconoclast, the article called him. 

“Means he’s crazy,” said Jaime. 

“Does not. I looked it up.” Annie paused. “‘One who attacks settled beliefs or institutions.’ You’re an iconoclast, Jaime.”

“Well. If you put it that way.”

They were sitting at Annie’s kitchen table. She had gone to the library, found Andrew’s second book, and discovered he had won a Pulitzer Prize for it. On microfilm she had found the Times article that described that year’s prizes. 

“This is quite something,” said Jaime. “Who knew . . . You’re sure it’s the same guy.”

“Yes! If nothing else, this photo on the book looks the same. Him, only younger. I hear him on Pacifica now. He’s a co-host for Democracy Today.” 

“There’s some way you can look up people on the computer. Matthew probably knows.” Mathew was Kathleen and Doug’s oldest, fourteen. “Or can you do it at the paper?”

“We have one computer where you can do that. I think. It’s so complicated, it gives me a headache. You can look things up in the library. I did.” 

“Do you think he’d give a talk for Amistad? 

“You read that article?” said Andrew, sounding more startled than pleased.

“It’s public information. I’m sorry—I’d forgotten you won a Pulitzer.”

“Good. Your mind isn’t cluttered with factoids.” He stopped himself. “Not that I wasn’t happy to receive it. Ecstatic. But that was yesterday.”

“And today is Democracy Today. Amistad would like to present you in a talk. Would you do that?”

“A talk . . .” He cut another piece of pizza, put it on her plate. Annie was working this weekend, and so was he. Settled into the Schuyler Hotel, he had spent two afternoons watching the park from his window and coffee breaks getting to know the staff at the diner. Dinners, he took her out. They had now supported Schuyler’s two restaurants and were back at the one he liked best. 

“A talk about what?” he said.

“Any aspect of politics that you’d like. We’ve hosted talks before, and films. We got fifty people when Deborah Shaffer screened Witness to War. Ten of them asked questions.”

“How many are in Amistad?”

“Hm . . . “ She wiped her fingers before she counted on them, and he wanted to kiss her. “Eight. Six of whom come to meetings, four of whom do anything.” 

“I’ll meet with Amistad if you want.”

“Why don’t you want to go public?” Jaime asked him. Meeting with Amistad had turned into coffee at Jaime and George’s, for which Jaime baked apples and Kathleen and Doug brought a homemade hazelnut torte.

“I’m still adjusting . . . moving from iconoclast to pundit. Activist to talking head. I’m not from this area. Your other speakers have been.” 

“Smart group of friends,” he said on the way back to Schuyler. 

“Set a high culinary standard, don’t they,” she said. 

“What?” He said that before they both laughed and she was relieved; he hadn’t noticed.

He kissed her cheek, despite the seatbelt she required. He’d got used to this tiny car, grown to like riding around in it with her. He hadn’t been in her house since that first night, a month ago. They kept carefully to the hotel for him, the house for her, and the weather was dismally cooperative. But the car offered privacy—an easy intimacy inside, with a changing view outdoors.

“Thin,” he said. “You seem to know all the slim people in this area.” 


“Oh. I had been going to ask you where we could get a good burger.”

She had to think. “The bar in East Wynham. They have a restaurant, too, we don't have to eat at the bar.” He preferred that. 

“Perfect. I’ll meet you there after work.” Annie had to go to the office for the afternoon. 

“How will you get there?”

“I’ll take a cab. In Schuyler, there are cabs.”

“It’s half an hour!”

“The cabs in Schuyler are not busy. If I get to know a cab driver, maybe you won’t have to drive me around so much.”

“If you get your driver’s license, maybe I won’t have to drive you around so much.”

“I’m working on it,” he said, and he was, talking with Warren, both of them dealing with their knowledge that the world was better off without him at the helm of two tons of steel. 

“I’m remaking myself,” he explained to Annie on Sunday, “for the third time.” 

Sunset, and they had stopped at the riverfront in Schuyler before he got the train. Driving home, she realized he had planned it that way, more private than a restaurant, and if she turned around and left him forever, he could walk to the train. 

“I’m lucky I got the Pacifica gig,” he said. “As soon as I did, Rush Limbaugh accused left-wing radio of hiring convicted murderers. If I gave a talk here, some enterprising reporter might come up with the dirt, and then your group would be tainted. 

“That’s the high road. My real concern is that your friends would tell you to drop me.”

Copyright © Debby Mayer

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