Long Cold Winter: Chapter Seven

1972. Two years after Kent State. And one year after Charles Manson’s conviction. Two years after the end of the hippie era. Violence had replaced peaceful demonstrations. Nixon had sent soldiers to break up a peaceful demonstration on the campus of Kent State in Ohio and it had left several dead. It was a wake up call for those who’d only wanted to make love, not war.

Again, Matt sat in the diner waiting for his Aunt Shasta. With him, he had a two-year-old Marnie and a five month old Lady Jane. He’d been careful to gather their birth certificates and other papers dealing with them, including their Social Security cards. Mama wouldn’t miss them. After all, children were only in her way.

Shasta walked in and he rose. At fifteen, he was beginning to get tall. He was already six foot, and still growing. He was also thin and muscular. And as handsome, or so he was told, as his father.

His long brown hair hid his eyes, most of the time. Today, though, he had it pulled back out of his eyes. He knew just how Shasta felt with talking to someone whose eyes she couldn’t see. And he had great respect for his aunt.

She had come to his aid when no one else would. And it had all started with his mission to get Star and Rainbow out of their mother’s possession. Now, it continued with Marnie and Lady Jane. Oddly enough, mama had married a man with the last name of Grey, so Lady Jane was born Lady Jane Grey. And the irony had not been lost on Matt. Mama had just read Tarzan. He was just amazed that she hadn’t named Jane ‘Greystoke’.

“Such precious little ones.” There was true admiration in Shasta’s voice. She looked into Matt’s eyes.”Sorry I couldn’t come before. When you first called About Marnie. I was ill.”

Matt nodded understandingly. “I understand. I was just lucky to get them before mama moved again. She’s getting more erratic. Bizarre. With her hippie lifestyle falling apart around her, she’s looking for a new life to start. I just wish she’d settle.”

Shasta shook her head. “I wouldn’t hold my breath. She may never settle down. Or settle on just one man. At least not until after it is too late. Do you know where she is now?”

Matt smiled sadly. “Yes and no. She still thinks I left to hurt her. The sad thing is that she doesn’t even remember Rainbow or Star. And she won’t remember Marnie or Lady. She only remembers me because I was there until I was thirteen. And I was her gravy train until then as well. After I left, she had to rely on the god graces of her men, and some weren’t as kind as she thought they should have been.”

Shasta looked at him in alarm. “What do you mean by that?”

He gritted his teeth. “Several beat the shit out of her and left her for dead. Most tried to claim a bad reaction. A psychotic reaction. I think they were just being assholes.”

His aunt was still livid. “And you allowed them to get by with it?”

He shook his head. “I didn’t allow anything. I beat the fuck out of them once I got them alone. And I made sure that they knew I was sober and in my right mind. Two, I put in the hospital. One lit out like his tail had been set afire. No one beats on mama. No matter what she has done.”

Shasta wrapped her arms around him. “You’re such a good son. She is lucky to have you. But wouldn’t the law–?”

Again he shook his head. “The law did nothing because mama refused to press charges. She said it had all been her fault. The same line of shit she used when she was rescued by Roscoe and Joey. Back when I was nine. I knew better. I knew they had just beat her just to be beating up on her. I knew that I had to give them a taste of what they had done to mama in order for them to at least learn something. Maybe.”

Shasta put her arm around him. “Men like that never learn, Matt. They keep it up and keep it up until they finally kill the person they’re with. But I understand how you felt.”

He looked down. “I left them all sucking up blood and dirt off the alley’s concrete. And all had at least a half dozen broken bones. I made sure. Even if I’d had to use a lead pipe to do so.”

She kissed him on the cheek. “At least you do what you know is right. Maybe not in the right way, but it is the right thing nonetheless.” She turned back to Marnie and Lady. “Let’s get their things loaded into the car and get me away from here before she comes looking. And you can disappear as well until the dust settles.”

He nodded. “Even though I don’t think either of them will notice that the girls are gone. They cramp their ‘swinger’ lifestyle. Hell. Disco is beginning to become popular. And mama and her man are both into that scene as well. It is like the hippies went from one extreme to another.”

Shasta found it hard to stifle a snicker. “I have to agree. Though clubs are quite popular. I have never been much on the scene myself. I have my family to think about. And Dan is a wonderful husband and provider. And has been very understanding about our arrangement. He sends his love.”

He smiled. “Give Uncle Dan a hug for me. Tell him I appreciate his involvement in this as well. And I know that the girls will thank him for it as well, later.”

She hugged him again. “I will.” She straightened up and turned. “Now let’s get this transfer done. Time’s a-wastin’ and I need to get back to the others.”

He nodded and followed her out to the cars. she had parked right next to him. He was grateful to Jerry for the use of the car. Jerry was a fellow session player, his current roomie. But so was a couple others.

He opened the trunk and began pulling bags out. He looked over at her. “I hope you still have a crib and a toddler bed. Mama didn’t have either. Too busy drinking and drugging. The clothes, I bought. Neither had any of those either. I just didn’t have time to get the beds.”

She smiled. “Don’t worry. I still have Starr’s crib and toddler bed. And a play pen.”

He got into the back seat and got the baby seat. He put it in Shasta’s backseat and strapped Lady Jane into it. He gave her a kiss on the cheek, then went to put Marnie in the front seat. He knew he was three years from seeing either of them again. But it was necessary to send them away. Even for a little while.