Of This Surrender
WARE TORREY BUDLONG
Theirs was a perfect plan —until they learned that it takes more than planning to make a perfect marriage
THEY didn’t even get engaged like other people, Marny often thought. No moon, no music, no passionate speeches. But after that dazed evening, she and Cameron walking endlessly with the wind blowing in their faces, the distant fragrance of wet lilacs somewhere in the dark, she knew what Juliet had missed on her dull little balcony.
“Let’s walk,” Cam had said that night, when they got out of the movies. “Mind getting wet?”
She hadn’t minded. She wouldn’t have minded anything, storm or earthquake, but she hadn’t intended to let him know it. They walked along the main street, eating snatches of hot buttered popcorn and not talking much.
Rounding a corner, the wind lifted a burst of rain against her. She leaned against Cam for an instant and then caught her balance and started on, but he didn’t move. Looking back, she saw his face in the glare of a passing car. Pale and set, almost angrily harsh, rain shining on the slant of his cheeks and bright on his dark lashes. There wasn’t any reason, any gentle sign, but she knew the moment had come as clearly as if a high horn had sounded. “Come back,” he said then. In a different voice. And she had gone straight to him. As though other things had been said, somehow, while they looked at each other.
When she finally pulled away from him, her heartbeats shaking her breathing, she was dazed but not surprised. They hadn’t said anything then either, just walked on and on, her hand holding his in his deep pocket. But everything was different, so that even the street lamps lost their familiarity, and their blurred gold globes hung like mysterious fruit.
She had been so sure, that night, as though they could walk straight on dowm the street into the future. They had both been sure. They had gone on planning confidently for a marriage that would be better than other people’s because it would be secure. Even the war couldn’t break their firm belonging, they had said. And then, for all their care, just six months after the wedding they were hurting each other, every day more sharply and bitterly. How had they lost their way in six short months, she asked herself again and again? Lost their way so badly that nothing was turning out as planned.
She had been sure the day she married Cam. Alone with her mother in her own bedroom, after the ceremony, suitcases closed and her hat on, she had been as happily certain of the rest of her life as if she had been always married.
“Cam will be waiting,” she had told her mother, impatient but not wanting her mother to see it.
“Cameron’s a fine boy,” her mother said absentmindedly. “You look lovely, Marny,” she went on, looking at Marny’s slim height in her fawn tweed suit, at the light curls and glowing face under the russet hatbrim. “You have that same look I remember on your third birthday, when you stood on tip-toe to blow out your candles.”
.“Have I?” answered Marny, trying to put down her worry about the time. “Mother, you gave me a darling wedding.”
Her mother came a little closer. She was as tall as Marny, but the floating grey chiffon made her seem more fragile than everyday. She put a very tentat ive hand on Marny’s. “I’ll pack your veil and dress away for you. Where’s your marriage certificate?” “Oh, I chucked it in the bottom drawer with my diploma,” Marny said.
Her mother blinked, started to say something and then obviously decided to revise it.
“You didn’t think I was going to carry it along with me?” Marny asked. “Look, mother, it’s the way Cam and I feel about each other that’s marrying us. All this minister and certificate stuff is just a concession to social rules.”
“I’m glad you concede that much,” her mother murmured. She glanced down at a small oblong she was holding and then back at Marny. Something uncertain and a little rueful in her expression caught Marny’s attention.
A quick turn of tenderness pulled at Marny. It wasn’t fair, to want to hurry away. “What’ve you got there?” she asked more gently.
“I guess you’d think it was nonsense,” her mother said. “I was going to give it to you. To put with yours. It’s your grandmother’s certificate.” She held out a small gold-and-wh'te book, with tired, brown stains.
“Why’s it pasted in a book?” Marny asked, taking it. ‘Good heavens. Imagine a whole book about advice to married people. Soft-pedalling everything, I bet, so grandma wouldn’t be shocked.” Her mother gave her a wise sideways glance. “You needn’t think I expected you to read it.” Marny grinned, turning the pages over. “You’re cute, mother, telling me I don’t need advice. But just listen to this one.” She read aloud: “ 'Do not
entertain expectations of bliss which the circumstances of the world, and the imbecility of your nature, will render it impossible to realize.’ Nice, cheery words to start the young bride on her way.”
But because it had been her grandmother’s, and her mother had given it to her, she slipped the book into her dressing case. Then she took one last look in her own mirror.
“Cam and I aren’t dashing into this foolishly,” she turned to say with sudden seriousness. “Don’t worry, mother, we have things planned.”
REMEMBERING, now, how confidently she had said that, she wondered how she could have spoken so firmly. Curled up in the window seat, the place where she always waited for Cam to come home because she could see him coming down the street, she hugged her knees disconsolately. Lunch was ready, there was nothing more to do. The little house was too quiet.
It was always this way. Mornings she was getting ready for Cam to come home to lunch. Afternoons she was getting ready for him to come home to stay. So all the time she was waiting for him. And then, when he would get there, nothing felt right.
Even that day when Cam came home and told her he couldn’t be a pilot—none of the services would have him—he hadn’t explained how he felt. She had told him that his heart wasn’t so bad he couldn’t do war work, that it wasn’t a condition to harm him in ordinary life. And he had just said “Yes,” a flat and laconic sound, that didn’t let her know whether to console him or to rail at fate.
They couldn’t get back to the way they had been before they were married, when they didn’t have to talk, and just understood each other. Now they talked, and didn’t understand. There was a lot missing somewhere in the English language. And the more she ever tried to explain to Cam, and he to her, the worse it got. If there were something wrong they could get hold of, that would be easy. If Cam were mean or selfish, and tried to make her do just what he wanted, or if she tried to change him, then there would be something clear to argue about. But they didn’t. They had promised each other not to nag and poke, the first day they moved into the house.
She had been worrying, because he hated ornaments scattered about. Dinky, he called them, and said they would always be getting knocked on the floor.
“Marny,” he had said, “let’s settle this, honey.” He looked up from the barrel of china he was unpacking. There was a curl of excelsior caught in his black hair; it slanted rakishly above his eyebrows, and she didn’t tell him, because she loved it. “Marny, if you want all these little china animals stuck around, you go ahead and do it. Just keep them off my desk. I don’t want you to do things you don’t want to do, to please me. We said we’d go on being people when we got married, and not just get all smeared up into a dull couple in a rut.” “Yes,” she said eagerly, going over to him. She had the speckled horse in one hand and a purple monkey in the other, and she put them down so she could hold on to him. Then she saw she’d put them on his desk, and she laughed and scooped them off. “You be the person you want to be, and I’ll be the person I want to be, and we’ll love each other. That’s respecting each other even if we’re married, dar'ing.”
“The freedom of the individual,” he said solemnly. And then they laughed some more, and sat down on the floor like ninnies and played Noah’s ark with all the china animals. Since no two of the animals were of the same species, they put them in somewhat oddly assorted couples. “They’re tryingout having free personalities, like us,” Cam said. But underneath their nonsense, they were serious. And they had gone on seriously.
The noon whistle broke mournfully into her thoughts, and she leaned close to the window, looking across the small square yard into the main street of the town. Away down by the post office she could see Cam coming, striding firmly on the dappled sun and shadows of the sidewalk. He always walked as though his shoulders were carrying him along.
She ran to the kitchen and turned the flame up in the oven. Beef and kidney pie, and apple upside-down cake. Both exactly the right brown, and smelling special. By the time he came in, she was carrying the coffee to the table.
“Hello, honey,” he said.
“Hello, darling,” she said. She felt a hot leap of happiness just to see him standing there, happiness that spread tingling through her.
For an instant they stood smiling at each other, glad as always to be back together. And then, before they could move, that horrid brittle polite-
ness settled over them. Somehow they couldn’t move naturally toward each other. She tried frantically to think of something easy and natural to say. Lately, so many innocent subjects had led into danger.
“You got a letter in the mail, Cam.”
“Thanks.” Cam took the letter off the mantel and stood reading it. Then he stared off abstractedly, putting the letter in his pocket.
Marny felt annoyance rising, and crushed it back. She wasn’t going to ask him what the letter said, this time. He would tell her all about it if she asked, often he told her when she didn’t ask. But he never showed her the actual pages. It was such a little thing to mind so much; but to tell him how it made her feel left out would break their agreement to respect each other’s choices.
“Anything happen at the plant?” she asked, putting the pie on the table. Cam was a very junior executive, but he was doing good work.
“Speed and more speed,” he said. “We’re turning out planes so fast, we keep the ferry pilots hopping.” He sniffed the pie. “Smells good.”
There was another of those silences. “It didn’t rain, after all,” she remarked, and cursed herself for descending to the weather.
“That’s right,” Cam answered brightly. “Get any more done on your modeling?”
“Not much,” she said, sitting down at the table.
“Worked a while on the bust of you.”
“Fine,” he said heartily, and all desire to add more details left her. She hated the way they kept forcing enthusiasm into their talk.
SHE poured the coffee and he cut the pie, both putting lots of care and attention into it. They politely exchanged cup and plate.
“Oh—” he remarked suddenly. “We dress tonight.”
“What do you mean?” “You take clothes off and I put more on. Big formal party at the hotel. One of our superintendents, Clancy, is leaving— Navy.”
“But Cam— ” she said, disagreement in her tone.
“The guy’s going to tight going to really get into it,” he told her. “I said we’d go. What’s the matter?”
“I guess you forgot,” she said carefully. “Tonight’s my art class. And we have that artist I told you about, coming out from the city to look at our work.”
His face was expressionless as she waited. Then he said, “That’s right. I forgot.” She knew perfectly well he was thinking something very different, that he wanted to say, “Do you have to waste your time messing around with that modeling?” He had never been interested in it.
“But if you think the party’s important, Cam, of course I’ll go,” she said. And added silently to herself, “You don’t think my art work’s important. You think it’s silly, like embroidery.”
“üh, no,” he said hastily. “Of course you must go to your class. I know you want to get this guy’s opinion on your modeling.” And this meant, “If you put your amusement ahead of my work, go ahead.”
Neither of them was eating. They were both sitting in carefully casual attitudes across the little round table.
“I want to do whatever’s right for your work,” she said. Thinking, “I’d love to go with you; I care about it because it’s war work and your work. I’d be happy doing it—if only you’d really care about my missing the class.”
Cam’s face was set in grimly pleasant lines. There was no warmth showing there for her. “My work will get along all right without your going to this party,” he said. He smiled a formal little smile. “It starts with dinner. I’ll just come home and dress, and go on over.”
“It won’t hurt to miss one art class,” she countered.
“But I don’t want you to miss it,” he said very politely.
Marny wanted to jerk the tablecloth till the dishes crashed on the floor. She wanted to scream and run away screaming, to get out of this deadly politeness. They were stuck in it again. They tried so hard to be fair. Cam was letting her do what she wanted. She was letting him have his way. They
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were both trying to let the other be free. And instead they were both caught in a mesh of polite untruth.
What hurt her worst was that he didn't care what the art meant to her. Maybe she’d never really be good at it, but somehow the modeling made her feel that when she married she hadn t lost the part of her that was different from other people, the part that stirred restlessly when she heard certain pieces of music. It was lonesome, that he didn’t care.
“Let’s settle this,” Cam said. “It’s perfectly simple. You go to your class, and I’ll go to my party. We always said that when we didn’t agree, we’d each go our own way.”
“But this is different. You need me for the party. So you’re giving up something extra.” She thought bewilderedly that they were really fighting like other people, only instead of each tugging selfishly, they were trying each to give in to the other. It was all backward.
She looked at Cam, so near she could reach across and touch him. And she wanted to hold on to him and never let go, to forget the terrible places they got to when they talked, all cold and strange.
“Cam, darling—” she began in a quieter voice. He shook his head. “Don’t let’s mix our feelings in with this. We said we’d not trespass on each other’s rights. We’d stay individuals. This is a clear example.”
“Oh,” she said miserably.
She wondered if he were as unhappy as she. If he were still bitter because he couldn’t go to war. If he felt lonesome, too, and thought she didn’t care about what he wanted. But she didn’t even know exactly what he did want, down underneath. There was something he expected of her, that she wasn’t giving. But she was doing precisely as they had planned.
“All right,” she said finally. “We’ll each do our own thing.”
He didn’t look happy at this. He didn’t look anything. He poked at his plate with his fork and then let it alone. “Fine,” he said.
She burst out before she knew what she was doing. “You don’t try to find out what the class means to me. You don’t care.”
He answered with the same released heat, “I haven’t heard you asking just why it’s important for me to mix with the men at the plant at parties like this. Why I want you there too.” “You don’t tell me. You hold back.”
“That goes for you, Marny. You hug part of yourself away from me.”
They were both standing, facing each other tensely. Both wanting to hurt the other. Waiting for any movement, to leap into anger.
But this was Cam, she thought. Her Cam. Why did she want to hurt him? And the only reason she could find was because he dared to hurt her.
Cam broke the deadlock, turning sharply. “I’ve got to get back to work,” he said, his voice in cool control again.
“But you haven’t eaten anything.”
“Not hungry. I’ll pick up a milk shake later.” He took his hat, looked at her with sudden uncertainty.
She flung herself across the space, reaching for him, trying to forget everything but the touch of him. He held her as fiercely. “Why—?” she said, and stopped to kiss him again. “Why do we—?”
“I don’t know,” Cam said wretchedly. He let go, and as he stepped away he became that other person who stood apart. “Well, so long,” he said. He went out without glancing at her again.
MARNY stood where he had left her. She looked at the table, cold gravy in frozen drifts on the plates. She looked at his chair. Then she went to the window seat, and she could see him just going out of sight. He didn’t look back at the corner to wave. It was the first time he
hadn’t. She always waited for that quick salute that said, “I’ll bs back fast.”
It frightened her, that he didn’t wave. She sank down on the window seat, leaning gratefully against the cool window glass. Something terrible was Happening to her and Cam. They were pulling apart; their marriage was pulling apart. She felt it like a tearing pam.
Somehow it wasn't enough to try not to tamper with each other, to try not to snatch selfishly at each other. It had seemed a sure foundation, that plan and their love for each other. But it wasn’t enough.
She tried to see what was missing that she herself needed. The nearest she could come to it was that Cam didn’t seem to care to find out how she felt about things. It would be easier, she thought suddenly, if they fought openly when they disagreed. Then they’d find out how the other felt, and when the flurry died down they would know something. They had almost done that before Cam left, and then he had pulled back. This polite yielding walled them off from knowing each other. But surely it wasn’t the way to be married happily, deliberately to try to bicker and argue just to learn things. Surely their way was better, to respect each other’s rights. And yet—there was some missing key to the machinery, a key that they hadn’t found.
In an abrupt wave of discouragement she wished she could ask her mother what to do. But she couldn’t admit she and Cam were unhappy; it would be a kind of treachery to go behind his back to her mother.
She thought of how proudly she had told her mother she didn’t need advice, the day she was married. She could remember how her mother looked in the grey dress, how the roses smelled on the dressing table. She went on back, remembering.
Then she got up from the window, reluctant and shamefaced, and went slowly up to their bedroom. She opened her top bureau drawer and began poking around at the back under her gloves. Once she stopped resentfully, and then made herself go on looking. Finally she pulled out her grandmother’s little white book.
It couldn’t hurt to look at it, she told herself. Nobody would ever know she was so silly. Maybe they really did know something about marriage, back there when her grandmother was young. Maybe there was something she and Cam didn’t know.
She took the book down to the window seat. “Affectionate Advice To A Married Couple,” the book was called, and she sniffed a little wry sniff at the title. She began to read, turning the pages nervously, starting and stopping. She was sceptteal, she was almost embarrassed, but she kept on.
The sentences ran on in their earnest period style. Then she suddenly turned a page back again. The slender type stood out on the brown page. She read it again.
“ Neither of you has it in your power to be completely happy without the consent of the other. Never may you repent of this surrender.”
Tears stung her eyes, she didn’t know why. The words chanted like a litany of dedication; they rang joyously like victory bells.
Gently she closed the book. So that was it. They were locked into each other’s happiness, she and Cam. No wonder they couldn’t live like two separate persons who happened to be married. It was a fine plan of theirs, but it just wasn’t marriage.
Her mind was washed clean of thinking. Even her body felt lighter. She cleared away the dishes dreamily, put the rooms in order. She took the damp towel off the bust of Cam, and put the bust on a closet shelf. Silly to try to hold on to the excitements she had had before she was married. She was missing new ones by not trying to learn about Cam’s.
By five o’clock she was dressed in her silver taffeta evening dress. It rustled expectantly about her as she spread Cam’s things ready on the bed. She heard Cam come in, and went to the head of the stairs. Then she started down toward him,
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feeling unaccountably shy, shy as she had never been when she first married him.
Cam stood at the foot of the bannister, staring up, his dark head tilted back, his shoulders braced defensively. There was an angry straightness across his mouth. “I thought we agreed you weren’t going with me,” he said, looking at her dress.
She hadn’t expected him to be angry. She had forgotten that she had changed entirely while he was gone, and he didn’t know it yet.
“Wait,” she said, picking up the swirl of skirt and hurrying back. She got the book out of the top drawer again and came downstairs breathlessly. “Wait, I want to show you something, Cam.”
She looked at him anxiously, trying to share her new safety with him. He was looking back at her now, searchingly. He didn’t seem angry any more, but she couldn’t tell what he thought.
“Darling,” she said, “the most exciting thing I found out—”
He didn’t look at the book. He kept on staring at her.
“Cam, I found out why I’ve been so miserable. I don’t want to he happy separate from you. I can’t be.”
“I can’t either,” he said slowly, watching her. “I can’t even stay away from you when I’m unhappy. I’ve been sick about not getting into the war, and I didn’t want to load it on you by talking about it. But now—”
“That wouldn’t be a load, my dearest. I don’t want to be an individual; I want to be—us.” She took a long breath. “Cam, I’m here now, all of me.” She was going on, but he reached for her.
“Stop talking,” he said against her hair. “I get it. I saw your face.”
4* 4* 4*
A HAND-OPERATED fire extinguisher which had a capacity of four pounds of carbon dioxide and is equipped with a trigger control valve has recently been developed. The trigger-control valve is an outgrowth of a similar system formerly used on a smaller extinguisher.
In use this extinguisher is discharged by simply pulling the trigger. This permits the extinguisher to go into action faster and ensures minimum wastage of the carbon-dioxide gas while the operator is manoeuvring around the blaze. When trigger pressure is released the discharge is instantly shut off. — Scientific American.