Run River

Run River by Joan Didion

Book: Run River by Joan Didion Read Free Book Online
Authors: Joan Didion
Tags: Fiction, Contemporary, v5.0
Blanchard estate to Lily, the other half to be divided among sixteen cousins, including Everett, Martha, and Sarah McClellan. As Martha said to Everett in the Blanchard lawyer’s office, you really had to grant that round to Rita.)

    There were roses (so many for September) and late poppies: the room was full of them. Everett must have brought them in from the ranch. No matter what way Lily turned her head on the pillow she saw roses, dropping their petals in the closed gray room which looked exactly like the room they had given her when Knight was born. Somewhere among the roses were jasmine gardenias, sweet and heavy as the drugs. The nuns would not open the windows in the storm. The rain had begun the night before she started labor and was still falling; she watched it washing down the narrow windows all that morning. When she closed her eyes she saw rain beating the leaves from the camellias around the house. It must be raining in every part of the world, flooding all the valleys: she was certain that her baby had died in the night, that the nuns were concealing the death from her, and she knew as well that before long she would begin to hemorrhage and die herself. She had recently read A Farewell to Arms and now she cried to think of Everett walking out of the hospital into the rain like Lieutenant Henry.
    Everett had come yesterday. When she woke from the drugs he had been sitting by the window, and she had watched him for several minutes without speaking. The San Francisco papers were spread on the floor around his chair. He had been reading three or four papers all that year, since before Pearl Harbor. Although she tried every few days to read a paper through, she seemed always to have come in too late on any given action to understand that day’s plays. After a while she had tried concentrating only on the war in the Pacific, which as far as she could gather America seemed to be losing. Although this did not seem entirely credible, it seemed, winning or losing, more credible than anything about the war in Europe; what the war in Europe so notably lacked, for Lily, was a Pearl Harbor. As Mr. McClellan had said the morning of Pearl Harbor, when Martha ran downstairs wrapped in a towel to tell them, “That tears it.” (That was all he said, and he did not say that until he had shouted at Martha “You keep on listening to the radio in the bathtub, Missy, you’re going to fry yourself,” but he spent the rest of the day pacing up and down in front of the house, scanning the sky and muttering to himself.) Until Everett had explained to her that the Germans and the Japanese were pledged to defend one another, a point which had eluded her for the first two weeks of the war, Lily had been at a loss to understand what the United States was doing in Europe at all. The Pacific, of course, was another case. It did not please her to think, as she had thought, that this baby might have been conceived the morning of Pearl Harbor. It was not propitious.
    Everett, yesterday, had been looking out the hospital window into the rain. The lights seemed to be just coming on outside. It would be about five o’clock, she supposed, and there would be lights in all the windows down Thirty-eighth Street. Only Rita Blanchard’s house would be dark; the house had been empty since the accident. She could never remember that the house now belonged to her, to her and Everett and Martha and Sarah and thirteen other people, but mostly to her. Everett had talked a few weeks ago to a man who wanted to buy the place and have it rezoned for a day nursery. That would be the day. Painted wooden rabbits on Rita Blanchard’s lawn.
    “Tell me what’s in the newspaper,” she said finally. Everett was always trying to tell his father what was in the newspaper. Because Mr. McClellan neither read the papers (none of them, he said, carried anything but pictures of that crew in Washington) nor listened to the radio, his many ideas about how the war

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