Turn on, tune in, and then what? That’s the question facing Tim and Lenora. But first they’ll escape to a three-day graduation bash put on by Tim and his roommates at their funky, hippie pad. Peace, Love, and You Know What is a comedy framed by the Vietnam War and Watergate.
Here’s how it starts.
Don’t Think Twice
Tim shut the book. Nobody should have to know this much geology to graduate. He would have to fake his way through the final exam unless Mack showed up with a copy, his mission tonight, but it was after two and the stupid hippie hadn’t returned. He probably ran into a girl and deserted his roommates back at 221 Winter Street, which was no big surprise, because the guy thought with his dick.
Tim leaned back in his chair so two legs were off the floor. His head rested against an oily spot on the kitchen’s wallpaper. He was just another shaggy hippie at Westbridge State College, with brown hair to his shoulders and a full beard. He wore a dirty white T-shirt and bellbottom jeans, the standard issue these days.
The geology final was multiple-choice so the odds were decent he’d pass. It’s all he needed. He was a history major. This stuff was of no use to him.
Across the table, Manny bent over his book. The bare bulb glared from the ceiling, giving his black hair and beard a soft halo. The shade broke when Manny did a stunt with a baseball, but everybody was stoned, so they thought it was a scream when the glass popped and shattered.
Tim patted his pocket. He had two Winstons left. He fished one from the pack as Manny scowled and held his long hair back with a fist.
“What were we thinking taking geology? I can’t remember a damn thing,” Tim said.
Manny raised his red all-nighter eyes.
“We got any Coke left? No? We’re outta coffee, too. Shit, we should’ve bought speed from that guy.”
Manny’s face was back over the page. Above them in the attic, a typewriter tapped. Joey had been holed up all day and night working on a take-home exam. The tapping stopped, and the steady click of a boot heel started. Joey’s leg moved without him. What did the guy expect? He lived on coffee and cigarettes. When he got cut, he probably bled brown. The three of them let Joey live for free in the attic after he kept crashing on the mattresses in the living room. At least they no longer to look at his scrawny body twisted in some dirty sheets at noon.
Everybody loved Joey. He was smarter than any of them. When somebody bitched about the war and goddamn Nixon, he recited “Anthem for a Doomed Youth” by heart before going off about the English poet Wilfred Owen getting killed during World War I. Tim only remembered the first line: “What passing-bells for those who die as cattle?” Above them, Joey’s big brain was thinking up something else profound. His foot moved. By now Joey could have run one-legged up the street and back.
The typing restarted. The foot stopped. Joey was getting it all down.
Tim held a butt between his fingers.
“Manny, how about taking a break?”
“Swell idea.” Manny pushed his book aside. “Got another one of those?”
Tim tossed him the pack.
“How do you think Mack made out?”
Tim blew the smoke above his head.
“We’ll find out soon enough. I just heard his car pull up.”
Manny rubbed his beard.
“Hot damn, it’s about time he showed.”
Mack marched upstairs, through the hall, and into the kitchen. He had the outlaw look going, with a full beard and red hair to his shoulders although he kept it clean and tied low so he could fit it beneath a cowboy hat. His fringed suede jacket, a gift from an old girlfriend, hung open over his white T-shirt. He grinned as he raised a stack of papers.
“Look what I scored.” He tossed the papers on the table. “It’s not the final we’re taking tomorrow. It’s last year’s, but I heard from a reliable source the prof doesn’t change them much. Check it out. I think we’re gonna be okay.”
Tim and Manny leaned forward and read.
“Holy shit, you even got the answers. Jesus, Mack, where’d you cop these?” Tim asked.
“Didn’t steal ’em. Didn’t have to.” He lowered his voice. “You know the lab assistant?”
“Her? The girl with the mustache who never says a thing?”
“I didn’t even have to mention money. She had something else in mind.”
Manny rolled his eyes.
“Oh, God, I can imagine.”
“Hey, I did it for the team. Besides, it wasn’t half bad. Her little mustache kinda tickles.” Joey’s boot pounded a beat above them. Mack glanced at the ceiling and shook his head. “Crazy freak.” Mack tossed his hat on the table as he dropped onto a chair. “I dunno about you boys, but when this is over, I wanna party. None of this hanging out in the living room shit, hoping some girls show up. I don’t wanna be emptying change jars to buy bottles of Ripple or GIQs of no-name beer, or have somebody fishing a baggie of dried pot he hid under his mattress.” He stared one-eyed at Manny. “I mean a real party. I mean a bash bigger than any we’ve had.”
Tim and Manny stubbed their cigarettes into an ashtray filled with roaches and butts.
“Bigger than the Halloween party last year?” Manny asked.
For the Halloween party, a gang of them swooped in dressed as Mexican bandits, carrying knives, whips, and even a gun loaded with blanks, which scared one guy silly when it was fired point-blank at his chest. He kept stammering, “You don’t feel the bullet that kills you,” until somebody handed him a beer and said, “Yeah, yeah, I read that in Hemingway, too.”
“Bigger,” Mack said.
“How about St. Paddy’s Day?” It was Manny again.
On St. Patrick’s Day, they had beer for breakfast and walked half-drunk to campus, lasting one class before returning to 221 Winter Street to finish the job.
“Absolutely bigger.” Mack smirked. “In a week, most everybody’ll be gone. Summer jobs. Hitting the road. But we’ll be stuck working in a stinking furniture factory.”
Tim saw the summer ahead, sitting in his shorts in the overcooked apartment, or going to Angie’s to watch the Red Sox on the set above the bar, or the VFW for ten-cent draft night, which was okay if you didn’t mind the stony stares from the townie patriots. Once in a while, somebody in exile would find their way back to Westbridge. It happened last year when guys with fresh haircuts and trimmed beards knocked on the door of 221 Winter Street for a fix of tribal fun.
Mack leaned back in his chair.
“Listen to this. I’m even gonna blow my tax refund on this bash rather than pay my old man back for the brake job on my Fairlane. For once we’ll have enough pot and booze. If we run out, we’ll take up a collection and make runs to the package store. I’ll invite the Roach Motel gang. Those freaks always have decent grass, and some of the professors, you know, the Dirty Old Bastards Club. Those guys are kind of a pain cause they always make moves on the best girls, but they’re usually good for a coupla bottles of the hard stuff.” He chuckled. “We might even have food. I’ll talk to the girls across the hall.”
Mack slapped the table.
“We’re gonna need something with enough good vibes to last us a month or two. Something wild. Something really wild.” He kicked an empty into the pile near his chair. “Picture this: a joint filled with freaks, high and happy and without a fuckin’ care in the world. There’s no war going on, and nobody has to worry about getting drafted.” Mack’s voice got louder. “I’ll move my stereo into the living room, so we have dance music. We’ll get people on their feet. The Stones. Motown. Old Sly. Maybe we’ll make a trip to the pond to skinny-dip at midnight. Picture this. Hairy guys. Naked girls. Hanging loose. Gettin’ it on. They can crash here or at one of the other pads in town.” He took a breath. “We’ll start Friday after the dorms close and end Sunday before graduation starts. We’ll get anybody who’s awake to go.” He wagged a finger. “We’ll scare the shit outta old Dean Shirley Hendricks.”
“It does mean we gotta clean up this dump.” He hooked his thumb toward the bathroom door. “No girl’s gonna want to use that toilet.”
“Who are you inviting?” Manny asked.
“Everyone and anyone who’s a freak or a friend of a freak.”
“What about the guys on the first floor?” Manny asked.
“The math majors? Those straights? We have to invite them. We’re gonna make too much noise not to. Who knows? Maybe they’ll loosen up.”
“Make sure Lenora hears about it,” Tim said.
Mack’s lips curled beneath his red mustache.
“A party without Lenora? Our queen? No way. Tim, maybe you should do the asking.” His grin got bigger. “She should be over that last guy by now. Doesn’t it take about six weeks? What was his name? Tadd?”
“No, it was Brad,” Tim said.
“Brad. What kind of a name is Brad? Sometimes I wonder about Lenora’s choice in guys. Glad he’s outta the picture.” Mack’s brow pinched. “I believe it’s time to finally make your move, Tim. She’ll be gone next week.”
Tim sighed. Lenora’s last relationship was a close one. Things were getting heavy with the guy, a friend of Joey’s hiding out from some trouble in California. But Lenora’s romances lasted three months tops, the guys drawn by her open heart, soaking in her love as if it were sunlight, until it drove them away. Tim held her while she cried enough times to know the story. Her ex-boyfriends said they were living in the here and now. They reminded her about the war in Vietnam. Her response? War was all the more reason to be in love. They didn’t see it her way. She took the breakups hard, sobbing in her room, playing dreary folk songs like Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” and snarling at the lines. She stopped eating, got real skinny, drank, and smoked too much pot, even embarrassing herself a little in public. She wrote sad or hateful poetry until she came to her senses or lost interest.
Manny shook a finger.
“I have two questions about Lenora. First, how in the hell did she manage to graduate on time? I mean she’s always partying with us. And second, how did she save up enough bread washing dishes in the dining hall to go to Europe?”
“Easy. Lenora can focus.”
“She may hang around us bums, but she always gets her papers in on time,” Tim said. “She’s smart, too. Take the time she took philosophy. She said it went way over her head. You know what I mean, crap like if we didn’t have a god, would we need to invent one. She tells the professor she used to hypnotize her sister and make her go back into past lives.”
“Shit, no,” Manny said.
“Shit, yes. The prof went so nuts he struck a deal with her. All she had to do was give a lecture to each of his classes, and he’d give her an A. No papers, no exams.”
“Lenora’s something else,” Manny said. “What are we gonna do without her?”
Tim didn’t answer. He didn’t want to think of Lenora leaving Westbridge.
“I don’t have a fuckin’ clue,” he said finally.
Mack’s arms were folded behind his neck. He hummed, waiting for the conversation to return to him.
“Manny, what do you think?” Mack asked.
“I’m in. What about you, Tim?”
“A three-day orgy? Why not?” Tim turned toward Mack. “Uh, any word about the other problem we talked about?”
“You graduating on Sunday? I’m still working on it. I need to call in a few favors. Don’t look so worried, Timmy boy. Your widowed mother will see you get a diploma. She’ll bawl her eyes out and call your name in that sweet, little voice of hers.” He gestured toward the exam on the table. “Have I ever let you down? Look how I made out tonight.”
Manny’s head bobbed.
“Mack, you’re the man.”
Tim glanced at the exam. They wouldn’t sleep tonight until they went over the answers a few times, but right now, Mack’s idea for a three-day orgy was more interesting. Tim stood and grabbed the broom leaning against the fridge. He jabbed the ceiling.
“Joey, get your ass down here. You’ll wanna hear this.”
The typing stopped. They watched the ceiling as Joey’s boots walked above them. Grinning, Mack went to the sink and drank from the faucet, holding his ponytail so it didn’t fall into the dirty dishes.