“It was the sixties, everyone was a little radical back then” she said to her.
“Hey” Neilson said as the front door opened, Natalie stepping in after him.
“Oh hello Neilson” Lizzie said standing up to greet him “My goodness you’ve gotten so tall” she said.
“Hi…Bradley’s grandma” Neilson said smiling “Oh this is my girlfriend…” he said.
“Natalie, of course I’ve heard all about you” Lizzie said shaking her hand.
“Well I’ve heard a lot about you too, Bradley says you’re the one responsible for his Beatles obsession” Natalie said to her.
“I knew it!” Brian said.
“What’s going on?” Neilson asked.
“Nothing grandma’s just helping me out with the project for school” Bradley said writing in a notebook and clicking a button on a tape recorder.
“Oh good, you’ve finally decided to start working on it after three weeks” Natalie said to him, Bradley glared at her.
“Yes I’m just telling Bradley a story, you’re welcome to join and listen” Lizzie said as she sat back down next to Bradley.
“Oh yeah that sounds like fun” Natalie said.
“Really?” Neilson asked her.
“Yes! Come on, it could be interesting” she said to him.
“Seriously?” he asked he said sitting next to Bradley on the couch as Natalie sat on the couch’s arm.
“What have we missed so far?” Natalie asked.
“Uh grandma went blonde” Bradley said to her.
“Really? That’s not natural?” Natalie asked.
“Yeah right” Vicki said to her.
“Oh!” Lizzie said slapping her leg.
“I just thought maybe that’s where Bradley’s blonde hair came from” Natalie said to her.
Brian looked around confused “Uh Nat?” he asked.
“Oh, right sorry, I keep forgetting about you” she said.
“Wish I could do that” Bradley said writing something down in his notebook “So when did Tommy finally tell you that he enlisted?” Bradley asked.
“It was a few days later actually, I had begged my parents to let him have dinner with us one night, my father was never very fond of Tommy and my mother never really said much either way but I suppose she felt the same” Lizzie said.
“Why’s that?” Bradley asked.
“Tommy lived on what you would call ‘the wrong side of town’” Lizzie said to him. “His father was never in the picture, his mother raised him by herself, he wasn’t a very good student and they thought he was beneath me” she said.
“Really?” Vicki asked.
“Oh yes” Lizzie said to her “Not to mention they were always hoping I’d end up with your father and Tommy got in the way of that” she said to her.
“…But you did end up with Vicki’s dad” Brian said.
Lizzie glared at him “…Can I get back to my story please?” she asked. “Anyways, Tommy came over for dinner that night and it was the first time I’d ever seen my father approve of anything Tommy did” Lizzie said to Bradley.
Lizzie and her family sat around their dining room table, Tommy sat next to her.
“Tommy would you like some peas?” Mary asked.
“Oh thank you Mrs. Moore” he said taking the dish from her.
“So Tommy, you line up a job yet?” Dan asked.
“Uh…not yet sir” Tommy said to him.
“Maybe you could help Jimmy out at Mr. Johnson’s record store” Mary said to him.
“Well uh actually Mrs. Moore…” Tommy said.
“Speaking of Jimmy…” Dan interjected “Ed donated almost ten grand to Nixon’s election campaign.”
“My goodness” Mary said “Certainly a lot of money” she said.
“It scored him an invite to Republican National Convention” Dan said.
“Oh how exciting” Mary said.
“You’re eighteen right Tommy?” Dan asked him.
“Uh yes sir as of last week” Tommy said to him.
“You thinking of voting for Nixon next year?” he asked.
“If he even gets elected” Lizzie said.
“Oh he will, don’t you worry” Dan said to her.
“Yeah uh…hey, Liz, you think we can talk after dinner? It’s kind of important” Tommy said to her.
“Well by all means, please, share with us” Dan said.
“Daddy” Lizzie said.
“No, if it’s good enough for you it’s good enough for everyone, what’s going on Tommy?” Dan asked.
Tommy sighed “It’s about the war” he said to her “I’m going” he said.
She looked at him dumbfounded “What are you talking about? You’re going to Vietnam?” she asked.
“Probably” he said.
“Wh…ho…oh my god were you drafted?” she asked.
“No I uh…I went do to the recruiter’s office and…I enlisted” he said, the table became silent.
Lizzie’s eyes filled with tears as she looked around in bewilderment.
“Good for you son, you’re doing your patriotic duty” Dan said sticking his hand out.
“Thank you sir” Tommy said shaking his hand.
“Excuse me” Lizzie whimpered as she left the table, the screen door slammed shut.
“Excuse me” Tommy said putting his napkin on the table and going after Lizzie.
“What’s for dessert?” Gracie asked.
“Liz” Tommy said running out to the front porch, he found her sitting on a glider “Lizzie…”
“If you are doing this to impress my father…” she said angrily.
“I’m not doing this to impress anyone” he said.
“Then why? Why would you want to put yourself in danger like this?!” she asked “What about school? What about our senior year together?”
“Lizzie come on, my grades weren’t good enough to get me into a trade school let alone college, I would’ve ended up flunking out anyways” he said to her.
“Why can’t you realize how much potential you have? Or how smart you are? If you only just applied yourself…” she said.
“Well it’s too late now” he said to her “I’m doing this for me okay? For us”
“For us?!” she asked.
“Yes! When I get back, when this whole thing is over, we can have the life you deserve” he said to her.
“Jimmy was right” she said “This war is pointless and unnecessary” she said shaking in anger “You need to go” she said turning her back on him.
“What?” he asked.
“I can’t look at you right now okay? Please” she said to him.
“Oh I was so mad, I was beside myself with anger and worry, you can only imagine how much angrier I was when I found out that your father knew before I did” she said to Vicki.
Lizzie lied on the glider in her pajamas, snuggled up in her coat and covered in a plaid blanket, a radio playing quietly next to her, her mascara dried in streaks on her face.
Jimmy cautiously approached the porch “Hey neighbor” he said slowly climbing the steps to the porch.
“What are you doing out so late?” she asked him.
“Had to lock up the store” he said dangling the keys from his finger, he took a seat on the porch’s banister.
“So tell me something, neighbor” Lizzie said “Did you know that my boyfriend enlisted?” she asked.
“I had an inkling” he said.
“Jimmy, I am in no mood…did he tell you before he told me?” she asked.
“Yeah” he said.
“Ugh!” she groaned in aggravation “Why didn’t you tell me?!” she asked.
“He wouldn’t let me” Jimmy said “Would you have believed me if I told you?” he asked.
“Of course not!” she said “Did you at least try and talk him out of it?” she asked.
“He had already signed up when he told me”.
“This is so wrong!” she said.
“I’m sure he’s just doing what he thinks is right” Jimmy said.
She looked at him in disbelief “Are you actually standing there and saying those words to me? What with all your ‘Vietnam is wrong’ rants?” she asked.
“It is wrong! To me that is, maybe Tommy feels differently” he said.
“God he’s selling himself short! He’s so smart, he could do anything” she said.
“You know that, I know that…maybe he doesn’t” Jimmy said to her “Listen to me, he’s going to be leaving for basic training any day now” he said to her “Do you really want to leave things like this?”
She rolled her eyes and sighed “No” she said reluctantly.
“So don’t you think you owe it to yourself to work things out before he leaves?” he asked.
“…I guess” she said.
“Hey just because he signed up doesn’t mean he’ll necessarily get sent anywhere, he could probably just end up at a base camp or something” Jimmy said to her.
“You think so?” she asked.
“Can always hope can’t we?” he asked, she wrapped her arms around him and lied her head on his shoulder.
“Did you talk to him eventually?” Bradley asked.
“Not until the day he went to basic” she said “The day before, your grandfather was helping him pack…”
Tommy stuffed some of his clothes into a duffel bag as Jimmy perused his record collection.
“Gonna be weird with you gone” Jimmy said.
“Oh don’t worry I’m sure you’ll get used to it” Tommy said cracking a smile “You gonna miss me?” he asked amused.
“Oh, so much” Jimmy said to him jokingly.
“Hey, look I know you think this whole war is wrong…”
“What I think doesn’t matter, you do what you need to do” Jimmy said to him.
“Do me a favor…watch over Liz while I’m gone?” Tommy asked.
“Don’t even need to ask” Jimmy said to him “You ready to lose all that hair of yours?” Jimmy asked.
Tommy sighed “Not even close” he said “Do they really have to buzz me?” Tommy asked.
“Don’t worry pretty boy you’ll pull it off” Jimmy said to him “Tell you one thing I’ll miss, your record collection, you got some good stuff here” Jimmy said.
Tommy shrugged “Take it” he said.
“What? No way” Jimmy said.
“What am I gonna use it for?” Tommy asked.
“You sure?” Jimmy asked.
“Course, take what you want” Tommy said to him.
“Far out” Jimmy said cracking a smile.
“Please don’t talk like that” Tommy said chuckling.
“What time you leave?” Jimmy asked.
“Tomorrow morning eight am” Tommy said to him.
“I’ll be there” Jimmy said to him.
“Think Liz will be?” Tommy asked.
“If she’s as crazy about you as I think she is she will” Jimmy said to him.
“The next morning I got up early and went down to the bus station to see him off, it’d be the last time I’d see him before he was sent to Vietnam” she said to Bradley.
“Here I made you a snack for the trip” Tommy’s mother said handing him a paper bag.
“You didn’t need to do that mom” he said to her.
“Nonsense” she said fixing his shirt collar “Be careful okay?” she asked tearfully, a handkerchief tucked in her hand.
“It’s just basic mom, I’ll be back before you know it” he said to her.
“I know, I know but…just make sure to write okay?” she asked.
“I will” he said to her.
“Hey, Tommy boy” Jimmy said approaching him.
“Jimbo, you made it” he said as they greeted each other.
“Well…someone else wanted to say goodbye” he said as Lizzie approached Tommy.
“Hi” she said.
“Hi” he said “You made it” he said.
“I couldn’t let you leave without saying goodbye” she said as she wrapped her arms around his neck, he pulled her in for a long, deep kiss.
“I’ll be back in a few weeks okay?” he said, she nodded.
“Promise you’ll write me every day?” she asked.
“Cross my heart” Tommy said to her “Alright, guess I better…get going” he said “Jimbo, remember our deal” Tommy said to him.
“You got it” Jimmy said to him.
“I’ll see you guys soon” he said climbing onto the bus.
Lizzie pressed her hand to the window of the bus, Tommy pressed his hand to the other side, the bus then slowly pulled out of the depot, Lizzie looked at it grow farther in the distance.