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North of Peace ARE there laundromats in Russia? Little machines that vend coarse Soviet soapsuds, changemakers for reducing rubles into kopecks, huge Socialist dryers? Sanders wondered about this every time he pulled the peace van into a new Wash N' Roll or Suds Bucket or Mr. Kleen. He'd like a crack at one if there were. He could picture the thick Olgas and stolid Ilenas leaving their tubs and coming over to him in twos and threesshyly a:t first, in awe of the white dove painted on the van's side, poking each other in hearty Russian ways, finally speaking to him, reaching over for a leaflet, the light, colorful one on a mutually verifiable freeze. But he wasn't in Russia now, he was in Vermont, and his clothes hadn't been washed in over a week. There had beena rally in Brattleboro on Monday, weekend peace fairs in Burlington and Montpelier. He had intended to head back down to Boston for a refit after that, but a priestly looking man named Smith had stopped him outside the State House and begged him to come to a supper his church was having to raise money for a tax-resisters' fund. Sanders had driven north all morning to get there, coaxing as much as he could out of the clutch. When he came up over the last hill mentioned in the man's directions, he found not a church promised him, but a pig sty-a pig sty dominated by a crudely lettered sign, "AMERICA OUT OF U.N.!" There wasn't much he could do about it. He let Spacehead out 113 NORTH OF PEACE 114 for a run with the pigs, then cranked the ignition up and started south. He was completely lost now. This was a part of Vermont he had never seen before or read about. There were no colonial homes or prim village commons, not even any road signs or restaurants . Occasionally, he would pass a lopsided cabin or trailer, their sides bound together with bailing wire like crates that would otherwise burst, but other than that, the landscape was empty. Sick-looking trees, indecisive hills, abandoned farms-that was it. West Virginia, only worse. Skilton was the name of the town that finally appeared. It was one of those places that mocks itself, the proud Corinthian town hall testifying to the high hopes that were once entertained there; the collapsed pillars and blistered paint testifying to the dream's end. There were some old men on a bench beside the last intact pillar, their shoulders hunched as if the weight of the ruins were upon them. Up the street, younger men as pale and cold as their stubby cigarettes turned to look at the van as it went past. One man, quicker than the rest, shouted something and spat. "Ah yes," Sanders said, slowing down. "Your basic good-oldboy redneck, Vermont variety. See him, Space? A self-deluded tool of the complex. Here I am trying to save his life and he spits." If he was going to be mobbed, he might as well be mobbed in style. He drove past the empty stores at a crawl, giving those few who were around a good look at the dove, the "Give Peace a Chance" sign, the California plates. He waved to both sides like the Pope, goosed Spacehead until he barked, beeped rhythmically on the hom. "Skilton, Vermont. My kind of town!" he sang, but as suddenly as he began, he stopped and yelled fiercely at Spacehead whose bark had soared into a howl. It had happened before like that; one moment he was full of energy and confidence; the next, he was lonely and depressed. He stopped at the laundromat more to wash out his mood than NoRTH oF PEACE his clothes. It was in one half of the old train station; rusted 115 washers lay canted across the tracks outside, as if to barricade and trap any train that stumbled into town. He tied Spacehead to the steering wheel, then climbed in the back and threw everything white, crumpled, or otherwise soiled into the knapsack. With his missionary optimism, he took along some leaflets and thicker booklets: "The Medical Effects of Thermonuclear War:" "If a Bomb Fell on Omaha;" and "Nuclear Free Existence," this last written by himself. A blast of hot air hit him as he went through the station door, carrying with it a smell of ammonia, dampness...


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MARC Record
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