She had watched Randolph graduate from bicycle to jalopy, vanish for a number of years in college and law school, reappear in a convertible, vanish again during the Korean War, and finally come home for good when Judge Bragg and Mrs. Bragg were taken in the same year. Now here was Randy, one of the best known and most eligible young men in Tumucuan County, even if he did run around with Pistolville girls and drink too much, a-what was it the French called it?– a voyeur. It was disgusting. The things that went on in small towns, people wouldn’t believe. Florence faced the bureau mirror, wondering how much he had seen.

Many years ago a man had told her she looked something like Clara Bow. Thereafter, Florence wore her hair in bangs, and didn’t worry too much about her chubby figure. The man, an imaginative idealist, had gone to England in 1940, joined the Commandos, and got himself killed. She retained only a vague and inexact memory of his caresses, but she could never forget how he had compared her to Clara Bow, a movie star. She could still see a resemblance, provided she sucked in her stomach and lifted her chin high to erase the fleshy creases in her neck-except her hair was no longer like Clara’s. Her hair had thinned, and faded to mottled pink. She hurriedly sketched a Clara Bow pout on her lips, and finished dressing.

When she stepped out of the front door, Florence didn’t know whether she should cut Randy dead or give him a piece of her mind. He was still there on the steps, the binoculars in his lap. He waved, grinned, and called across lawn and road, “Morning, Miss Florence.” His black hair was tousled, his teeth white, and he looked boyish, handsome, and inoffensive.

“Good morning, Randy,” Florence said. Because of the distance, she had to shout, so her voice was not formal and frigid, as she had intended.

“You look real pretty and chipper today,” he yelled.

She walked to the car port, head averted as if avoiding a bad odor, her stiff carriage a reprimand, and did not answer. He really was nervy, sitting there in those vile pajamas, trying to sweet-talk her. All the way to town, she kept thinking of Randy. Who would ever guess that he was a deviate with a compulsion to watch women dress and undress? He ought to be arrested. But if she told the sheriff, or anybody, they would only laugh at her. Everybody knew that Randy dated lots of girls, and not all of them virgins. She herself had seen him take Rita Hernandez, that little Minorcan tart from Pistolville, into his house and, no doubt, up to his bedroom since the lights had gone on upstairs and off downstairs. And there had been others, recently a tall blonde who drove her own car, a new Imperial with Ohio plates, into the circular driveway and right up to the front steps as if she owned the place, and Randy.

Nobody would believe that he found it necessary to absorb his sex at long range through optic nerves and binoculars. Yet it was strange that he had not married. It was strange that he lived alone in that wooden mausoleum. He even had his office in there, instead of in the Professional Building like the other lawyers. He was a hermit, and a snob, and a nigger lover, and no better than a pervert. God knows what he did with those girls upstairs. Maybe all he did was make them take off their clothes and put them on again while he watched. She had heard of such things. And yet she couldn’t make herself believe there was anything basically wrong with Randy. She had voted for him in the primaries and stood up for him at the meetings of the Frangipani Circle when those garden club biddies were pecking him to bits. After all, he was a Bragg, and a neighbor, and besides

He obviously needed help and guidance. Randy’s age, she knew, was thirty-two. Florence was forty-seven. Between people in their thirties and forties there wasn’t too wide a gap. Perhaps all he needed, she decided, was a little understanding and tenderness from a mature woman.

Randy watched Florence’s ten-year-old Chevy diminish and disappear down the tunnel of live oaks that arched River Road. He liked Florence. She might be a gossipy old maid but she was probably one of the few people on River Road who had voted for him. Now she was acting as if he were a stranger trying to cash a money order without credentials. He wondered why. Maybe she disapproved of Lib McGovern, who had been in and out of the house a good deal in the last few weeks. What Florence needed, he guessed, was the one thing she was unlikely to get, a man. He rose, stretched, and glanced up at the bronze weathercock on the garage steeple. Its beak pointed resolutely northeast. He checked the large, reliable marine barometer and its twin thermometer alongside the front door. Pressure 30.17, up twenty points in twelve hours. Temperature sixty-two. It would be clear and warm and the bass might start hitting off the end of the dock.

He whistled, and shouted, “Graf! Hey, Graf!” Leaves rustled under the azalea bed and a long nose came out, followed by an interminable length of dachshund. Graf, his red coat glistening and tail whipping, bounded up the steps, supple as a seal. “Come on, my short-legged friend,” Randy said, and went inside, binoculars swinging from his neck, for his second cup of coffee, the cup with the bourbon in it.

Except for the library, lined with his father’s law books, and the gameroom, Randy rarely used the first floor. He had converted one wing of the second floor into an apartment suitable in size to a bachelor, and to his own taste. His taste meant living with as little exertion and strain as possible. His wing contained an office, a living room, a combination bar and kitchen alcove, and bedroom and bath. The decor was haphazard, designed for his ease, not a guest’s eye. Thus he slept in an outsize mahogany sleigh bed imported from New England by some remote ancestor, but it was equipped with a foam rubber mattress and contour nylon sheets. When, in boredom, he wasted an evening preparing a full meal for himself, he ate from Staffordshire bearing the Bragg crest, and with silver from Paul Storr, and by candlelight; but he laid his place on the formica bar separating living room from efficient kitchen. Now he sat on a stool at this bar, half-filled a fat mug with steaming coffee, dropped two lumps of sugar into it, and laced it with an inch of bourbon. He sipped his mixture greedily. It warmed him, all the way down.

Randy didn’t remember, exactly, when he had started taking a drink or two before breakfast. Dan Gunn, his best friend and probably the best medic north of Miami, said it was an unhealthy practice and the hallmark of an alcoholic. Not that Dan had reprimanded him. Dan had just advised him to be careful, and not let it become a habit. Randy knew he wasn’t an alcoholic because an alcoholic craved liquor. He never craved it. He just drank for pleasure and the most pleasurable of all drinks was the first one on a crisp winter morning. Besides, when you took it with coffee that made it part of breakfast, and therefore not so depraved. He guessed he had started it during the campaign, when he had been forced to load his stomach with fried mullet, hush puppies, barbecued ribs dripping fat, chitlins, roasted oysters gritty with sand, and to wash all down with warm beer and raw rotgut. After such nights, only mellow bourbon could clear his head and launch him on another day. Bourbon had buoyed him during the campaign, and now bourbon mercifully clouded its memory. He could have beaten Porky Logan, certainly, except for one small tactical error. Randy had been making his first speech, at Pasco Creek, a cow town in the north end of the county, when somebody shouted, “Hey, Randy, where do y’ stand on the Supreme Court?”

He had known this question must come, but he had not framed the right kind of answer: the moderate Southern quasi-liberal, semi-segregationist double-talk that would have satisfied everybody except the palmetto scrub woolhats, the loud-mouthed Kluxers and courthouse whittlers who would vote for Porky anyway, and the Georgia and Alabama riffraff crowding the Minorcans for living space in the shanties and three-room bungalows of Pistolville. The truth was that Randolph Bragg himself was torn by the problem, recognizing its dangers and complexities. He had certain convictions. He had served in Korea and Japan and he knew that the battle for Asia was being lost in counties like Timucuan. He also knew that Pasco Creek had no interest in Asia. He believed integration should start in Florida, but it must begin in the nursery schools and kindergartens and would take a generation. This was all difficult to explain, but he did voice his final conviction, inescapable because of his legal heritage and training, and the oaths he had taken as voter and soldier. He said: “I believe in the Constitution of the United States-all of it.”

There had been snickers and snorts from the rim of the crowd, and his listeners, except for the reporters from Tampa, Orlando, and the county weekly, had drifted away. In later speeches, elsewhere, he attempted to explain his position, but it was hopeless. Behind his back he was called a fool and a traitor to his state and his race. Randolph Rowzee Bragg, whose great grandfather had been a United States Senator, whose grandfather had been chosen by President Wilson to represent his country as Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extrordinary in time of war, whose father had been elected, without opposition, to half a dozen offices, Randolph was beaten five-to-one in the Democratic primaries for nomination to the state legislature. It was worse than defeat. It was humiliation, and Randy knew he could never run for public office again. He refilled his mug, this time with more bourbon than coffee, and Missouri, his maid, shuffled in the hallway and knocked. He called, “Come in, Mizzoo.”

Missouri opened the door, pushing a vacuum cleaner and carrying a pail filled with cans, bottles, and rags.

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