An Anti-Climactic Ending
It was now the September of 1959. The visit had taken a long time to arrange, but, finally and against all probability, Dwight Eisenhower and Nikita Khruschev (as one cartoonist had it, "Nikita Sergeivitch and Dwight Ikovitch") stood side by side on the black dirt of the great plains and looked out at the distant horizon.
There had been many surprises on the visit. Eisenhower had wanted Khruschev to see how the ordinary American lived. He thought that the Russian would be blown away when he saw the private houses, the cars, and the general level of affluence. Khruschev saw it all, and he didn't like it. He thought people could be better and more efficiently housed in apartment blocks, and he didn't think it a good idea to have millions of people constantly and pointlessly driving around in circles in automobiles. And there were other things. He and Nina Petrovna had visited a movie set in Hollywood, and, although they were greeted enthusiastically by the movie people, both Nikita and Nina had been shocked by the display of flesh.
On the other hand, the two principals had come to understand and like one another. Eisenhower no longer wanted to bash Khruschev in his undeniably ugly face, and Khruschev, for all his dramatic flutterings and posturings, had come to secretly think that Eisenhower was a wise and well- intentioned stateman.
Nina Petrovna, standing nearby with her heels planted solidly in the earth, might not have gone as far as that. But she had enjoyed her trip, and she thought that things were working out well. She had brought her personal translator, Elizaveta Igorevna Kublaikova, and that was a story in itself, one underlying this meeting of the two leaders at a farm in Iowa.
Elizaveta had married the fearsome Kublaikov, and the combined influence of the two ladies, aided considerably by the mellowing some men experience in early middle age, had converted an unqualified Strike-to-Win hawk to a position, not exactly dovish, but not nearly so threatening.
Nikita Sergeivitch, no longer having to worry about a latter-day Genghis Khan standing behind him, was again the kukuruznik, wanting to grow enough and manufacture enough to make his people happy and his country the economic power- house of the world. Just then, Eisenhower spoke to Khruschev,
"There may be something that you and I can do for the world."
Khruschev's translator spoke to him and Elizaveta whispered to Nina Petrovna. Khruschev looked slightly suspicious. He now trusted the president, but he was damned if he was going to pony up great sums of money to feed the third world, or any such nonsense. Then, before he could reply, Eisenhower said,
"We may be able to give it peace."
Khruschev, relieved that there was no request for anything concrete, smiled broadly and replied,
There was no need for a translation, and he nodded and repeated it. Eisenhower gave his famous smile, the one which so re-assured his countrymen.
Behind them, Nina Petrovna gave Elizaveta Igorevna a sidelong look and a twisted smile. The latter whispered something in Russian and Nina Petrovna giggled.
Tom Williams was also in Iowa, looking for a house. He had been appointed an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at a university there, and he was just discovering that the sort of housing he now needed is usually in short supply in university towns in September. Since he had married a fellow graduate student at Michigan, and they now had an infant, he wanted something fairly substantial.
The university housing director had offered Tom what he, perhaps jokingly, called a "tin hut" in a little encompment on the prairie. Tom could imagine the wild winds whistling over and through the tin hut, which was probably a Quonset hut, and had decided that he must, at all costs, find something better.
As he went up and down the streets looking for vacancy signs, Tom was aware that the Khruschevs were visiting a farm at no great distance from him. However, he was now far removed from concerns about nuclear war, which seemed much less likely, and was more interested in finding out what he could rent for two hundred dollars a month. Tom was also entirely unaware of the fact that an old friend of his was a part of the Khruschev party. That was, perhaps, as well. His wife might have created difficulties.