Bill Todd -- An Uneasy Utopia
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 Chapter 10

Cindy Lee Starkweather

At Toledo, I parted company from my companions. They continued to the new system headquarters at Huntington, Indiana. Odie would there set up our offices within the larger office complex. He would also begin the work of recruiting and organizing our security force. Speed and John Henry would continue on. I told them only,

"Go wherever you sense trouble and tell us about it."

John Henry replied,

"That's easy for Speed. There'll be trouble wherever he is."

I wasn't entirely sure that the same might not be said of John Henry, but I didn't belabor the point.

I was myself headed for another place, much nearer at hand, where there had been rumors of trouble. Ann Arbor, Michigan was a C point, half way on our roundabout line between Toledo and Detroit, and, since the A trains didn't stop there, the assistant commander at Toledo provided an old engine to tow my cars up to Ann Arbor.

We set out in the evening, and, with the necessity of making our way past work trains, the journey was slow. However, it was a warm night for February, and I spent much of it standing on the observation platform. We were then on the rails of the former Ann Arbor Railway, a distinctly minor road connecting Toledo with the northwest corner of the lower peninsula of Michigan, and thus with Lake Michigan itself. The part of it beyond Lakeland, some sixteen miles north of Ann Arbor, was, in our scheme, just a branch. However, since the southern section was part of the Eastern Circle, new ties and heavy rail had been laid.

Ann Arbor was the home of Fielding H. Yost's point-a- minute University of Michigan football teams, and I had expected a college town full of hulking athletes and blonde cheerleaders. When we arrived, at one in the morning, I was aware only of a long curved embankment running along a valley which seemed to divide the town. On the right side was a main street full of shops, and, on the other, there were residential streets moving up a fairly steep hill. The only light came from the street lights, and, even on a Saturday night, there was nothing to suggest the presence of the university.

It might as well be admitted that I had another motive for visiting Ann Arbor. Odie had sensed it, and had asked me,

"Aren't you a little senior to bother with C points?"

His point was well taken. I replied,

"The problems at Ann Arbor may only be minor, but they're probably typical of what's happening at a hundred other places. I'll just stop briefly and get a feel for the situation."

Odie only shrugged, but, on actually arriving in Ann Arbor, I was quite conscious of the additional reason. I had met my wife, Marcia, just after she graduated from college, and her college was the University of Michigan. Since I didn't have a university degree, that was one of the things that made many people, her people particularly, think that I wasn't worthy of her. Marcia probably felt a bit that way herself, and she may not have thought that I was presentable enough to take back to Ann Arbor for alumni reunions. In any case, I was now curious to see what the place was like, and to reconstruct in my imagination the way that Marcia would have looked there and then.

When we slid off the main line into the little yard on which the C-point operations were based, I was excited and not at all sure whether I wanted to go to bed. I was just beginning to fall into a pattern which was characteristic of my new life for some time to come, if, indeed, it was a pattern at all. I would sometimes sleep half the day and stay up half the night, or rise well before dawn and then go to bed soon after dusk. At any odd time, I might put on the gloves and hit the bag until I had exhausted myself. At other times, in a more pastoral and less pugnacious mood, I would don hiking clothes and set out into the countryside.

Even after the departure of the others, my stewards served what had been the communal dinner punctually at six every evening. However, apart from that, I ate in bits and pieces, often in the towns we passed through. Coffee was always left on in the dining car, and there were always sandwiches and snacks in the ice chest. I would often pad in there in the middle of the night, when everyone else was asleep, and gorge myself.

On this night, I did go to bed, but awoke scarcely two hours later, probably because I had slept all afternoon. I put on my most elegant dark blue suit with my gold watch and chain across my waistcoat. I didn't think that Ann Arbor would welcome salesmen of the seedier sort, and, although the church-goers wouldn't be out for some time yet, I wanted to look like one.

Clad in a meticulously brushed black hat and overcoat, I was soon striding along the line, stepping on every second tie. While I wasn't going nearly as fast as the redoubtable Speed, I saw what he meant about the feet automatically adjusting to irregularities, even in the dark.

I soon saw the little station, its moonlit black roof appearing too big for it, and the platform lights cutting swaths in the deep shadows under the eaves. Marcia would have used the much larger New York Central station, and I suspected that she had never even been in this, the more modest part of town. When I reached the station, I was surprised to find it open. Then I remembered. On the standard schedule, the local passenger train, Y4, was timed to arrive at the C point at eight fifty in the morning, forty minutes before A1 arrived there. Indeed, Y4 was scheduled to reach the next division point, stopping at every station, just before A1, not stopping at all, caught up with it.

The only trouble was that A1, on its endless journey around the Eastern Circle, didn't leave most division points at eight in the morning. The schedule on each division was staggered to follow A1's progress, and all times on the Toledo division were five hours ahead of standard. That implied that Y4 was due at Ann Arbor at three fifty in the morning.

It was hard to imagine why anyone would take such a train at such a time. There were much more direct routes than ours between Toledo and Detroit, and the New York Central and Pennsyvania railways ran many trains at reasonable hours.

On entering the station, I felt almost as if I had intruded on a family scene. The ticket agent, a middle-aged woman wearing the pink-on-green patch of a Leading Private, was saying loudly to a man seated on the bench,

"Here's some warm milk for ya, hon. Drink it insteada the coffee."

While her voice was rasping and rather unpleasant, her tone was kindly. The man on the bench was grimacing in pain with his hand on his stomach, and I took it that he suffered from an ulcer. It also appeared that the ticket agent was operating, on the side, a coffee and doughnut business.

I was morally certain that the revenues from the doughnut business didn't go to the GER, but I have never believed in enforcing rules blindly. It's one thing for a yardmaster to neglect his work to operate a hamburger stand out in the yard, but quite another for an underworked ticket agent to sell doughnuts along with the tickets, particularly if the customers like it. I had a coffee and doughnut.

In addition to the ulcer patient, there were a few men who looked like night watchmen, not in our employ, who were evidently shirking their duties to socialize and eat in our station. That, again, was none of my business. There was also a young lady, apparently waiting for the train. She didn't look happy to begin with, and, when the agent called out to her that her train would be late, she swore under her breath. I, banking on my entirely reputable appearance, introduced myself as an official of the line and apologized for the delay. The girl, attractive and nicely turned out, smiled wanly and replied,

"I guess I'm really in no hurry to get home anyway."

She was upset, and was disposed to talk to a stranger. Although her story was a little disjointed, I was able to piece it together.

Cindy Lee Starkweather's father was a Baptist minister. For a moment, I imagined someone quite dignified and censorious, rather like Vignis' father. The reality was otherwise. While there were all sorts of highly respectable Baptists in Michigan, there was, in contrast to them, the Michigan Association of Regular Baptists. This group had no seminaries, but a series of Bible schools in which enthusiasm and fervor counted for more than "book larnin." A small man with a great deep voice who could make a sinner repent at anything up to a hundred yards, Mr. Starkweather was a

leading Regular Baptist.

Cindy Lee obviously had some admiration for the man, tempered by the fact that it was her mother who ruled the household.

"Father didn't want me to go to the U of M at all. He said I'd lose my faith, and he distrusts all education anyway. But I won a scholarship and Mom insisted that I take it. She said I'd marry a better class of man that way."

Cindy Lee had thus arrived in Ann Arbor with a background which she had gone to some pains to conceal. She really had only to say that her father was a minister. It was automatically assumed that he was a quite different kind of minister, and, at the same time, it was understood that she didn't have much money to spend. All she had to do was avoid inviting anyone home. Since her home was in Frankfort, at the other end of the railway, weekend visits weren't really practicable anyway. Most of the time would have been spent on the train. As she now said,

"If I'd just left it at that, I probably would've been all right. But I got into a good sorority, and I always felt like the worst one there. Most of the girls were prettier, and they all came from better families. I was smart enough, but no genius. So, the only way I could hold my head up was to have boy friends that impressed the other girls."

In her sophomore year, Cindy Lee met a football player, and went out with him a number of times. He really preferred another girl, but he continued to see Cindy. During this period, he came to a sorority dance, and that alone gave her a fairly good standing in the house. The footballer finally did drop her, but he arranged a date for her with a friend of his, another player.

"That was all right, too. To have gone out with two football players meant that I was a popular girl. Maybe some people chuckled a little bit, but not much. But three would have been too much. People would've said that I went out with the whole team. So I had to keep Dave."

She was now in her junior year, and the other football player, Dave, had become restless. He even seemed about to ask out another girl in the same sorority. I gathered that Cindy Lee had resorted to satisfying him in the only way that she could. Scarcely six hours previously, she and Dave had been discovered in the empty Michigan football stadium with blankets. Cindy Lee was one of those girls who became more familiar the more she talked, even if her audience was a complete stranger who did little more than provide sympathetic grunts.

"We really weren't doing much, but it was cold, so we had to have blankets. The policeman shone his light right on us and ripped away the blankets."

Cindy Lee began to cry, and I found it easy to comfort her. She may well have still been a virgin, but I imagined that her skirts had been up or her clothes unfastened. From then on, she was treated as a scarlet woman. The dean of women, an awful old hag, had been called out of bed, and her housemother had been informed. They had then screamed at her and expelled her.

The housemother had actually stood over Cindy Lee while she packed, and had insisted that she leave that very night by whatever means of transportation was available. It was important that the other girls not be contaminated. She was called a little tramp, and, at long last, the reputability of her family was called into question. When the housemother forced her to leave by the kitchen door, so as not to see the other girls, the woman made some rather shrewd guesses as to the real nature of her father's vocation.

"But that won't stop them from writing to my parents and telling them that I've been expelled. That'll take a few days, so I get to explain first."

She was still crying gently on my shoulder. Not only that, it was after three in the morning, and the girl had had no sleep. Seeing that she was totally exhausted, I made her comnfortable on the bench, with my folded coat as a pillow, and promised to wake her when the train came.

As Cindy Lee slept, I wondered what her awful father would do to her, and whether his behavior would be worse than that of the mercenary social-climbing mother when she realized that her daughter had blown her main chance.

It was when she uttered a little cry in her sleep that I was reminded of myself. Here was someone else who was desperate. Mac was one who knew how to take advantage of desperation, and something might be done in the present case.

Cindy Lee wasn't a natural subversive like Speed, or even a Mata Hari or Baroness von Mackensen, but it had obviously taken brains to win her scholarship. She was also smart enough in a practical way to realize that, once she dated a third football player, she'd take on the status of a team mascot, the sort that are the subject of obscene jokes in the locker room. Someone with that sort of intuition would be able to quickly infiltrate groups of strangers.

When Y4 did arrive, it was too late to be able to get to the D point before A1 would catch it. Since we allowed nothing to interfere with A1 - A13, the officer of the watch ordered that Y4 be held at the station siding for over two hours until A13 had passed.

When Cindy Lee awoke, I informed her of this further delay, and also offered her a job. I added,

"You might look askance at working for a railway that runs its passenger trains three hours late, but that can be explained."

She actually laughed as she replied,

"I won't take the train at all. I'll write telling my parents what happened and saying I can't come now because of my new job. Then, after they've simmered down, I'll go for a short visit."

Youth is wonderful in its resiliency. After an hour's sleep and fifteen minutes in the ladies' room of the station, Cindy was fresh as a daisy. Walking down the road which led in the general direction of my cars, I began to explain the railway, my position in it, and our projected intelligence operation. She, I told her, would be a first lieutenant with a red-on-pink patch.

It turned out that Cindy Lee, despite doing well in college, wasn't on track in the race to secure a good husband, the only race that really counted. Girls who had great dumb oxen of football players as beaux were admired as freshmen and sophomores, but, by their junior year, football players were seen as young men who might end up selling beer to saloons. What was now needed was a presentable young man, even a physically weak one, who was enrolled in the medical or law college. As Cindy said,

"I wasn't having any luck with that kind of boy at all. For that, you need some help from the other girls in the sorority, and I wasn't getting it. They probably suspected that my parents were sleazy."

That, of course, was the dilemma. She couldn't produce her parents, but, by the third year, parents who had never been presented to the other girls in the sorority were assumed to be unpresentable.

By contrast, I was offering her, not only an escape from a potentially very unpleasant confrontation on a doorstep in Frankfort, Michigan, but an alternative career, one that might be an adventure into the bargain. As we cut through a lumberyard to get back to the tracks, Cindy wanted to know exactly what spying she was to do. I answered,

"We could have you go from one division point to another, posing as a clerk. You could then pick up the office gossip about the officers. If one drinks too much or womanizes too much, it won't be any secret from the girls in the office."

"That'd be easy. All I'd have to do would be to go out with them after work. I probably wouldn't even have to ask any questions."

"It's better not to. We wouldn't want you suspected. Since a lot of people will always be moving from one division point to another, that in itself won't be suspicious."

"I've worked in offices. You can find out a great deal about the boss very quickly."

Once we reached the track, we had to proceed slowly on account of my companion's shoes. I, unlike Mac with Vignis, didn't attempt to carry her. Indeed, I found it quite a struggle just to carry her suitcase. She had apparently had to get as many things as she possibly could into it before the housemother pitched them out with the garbage. It was packed full to bursting, and I later discovered that it contained a good many books. The result was that my hand became practically numb where the handle cut into it, and pains shot up and down my arm. But, still, I managed to explain,

"We really want to know about the labor force. We want to know what resentments there may be between groups, when they're really about to strike, and when they're just bluffing. Things like that. They're mostly men, and so you can't just mix in with them the way you could with the girls in the office."

"Why not put me on work crews? I might not be able to swing one of those big hammers, but I'm strong and athletic. I bet I could do most things the men do."

It was that casual comment that started so much. I was surprised, of course. No one had ever heard of a young woman on an engine crew or track crew. But, right then, I did believe her. More than anything, it was that heavy suitcase. Before I had taken it over, she had handled it so easily. Even in high heels, she had lifted and carried it so unobtrusively that I hadn't even noticed it until we had gone some distance. While I wouldn't ordinarily have taken seriously the idea of a pretty girl throwing switches, uncoupling cars, or stoking the firebox of a switching engine, it was undeniable that anyone who could sling that suitcase around could do those things.

Cindy Lee had only been suggesting a way in which she could spy on the men more effectively, but it didn't take me long to realize that there were implications that went far beyond the gathering of intelligence. If she could join work crews, a great many of our young women could. Most of them were used to hard manual labor in the fields, and most railway work was probably a good deal less demanding physically than that. Even on a track crew, men spent almost as much time aligning the rails and and bolting them together as they did lifting the rails and ties and driving the spikes. And, of course, there was always the matter of keeping track of tools and keeping records of what had been done. At those latter tasks, the women were likely to be far superior to the men.

Mac, of course, was busy revolutionizing the work force in one way, but this was something entirely different. I had already realized that his dream didn't have much place in it for men who wanted to live with women, but it also had very little place in it for women themselves. What would he think of including them on a large scale, not just as office workers? I had no idea.

I didn't try to explain Mac to Cindy on that occasion, but I did raise some of the issues. She asked,

"How will the men feel about it?"

"There'll be some who won't like it. Most of those will get used to having women around, and a good many of them will come to like it."

The real question wasn't how the men would feel about this change, but whether their work would be made better or worse. After discussing it for a while, I concluded,

"That's something we'll just have to find out."

We arrived at my darkened car just then, and, not wanting to disturb my stewards, I helped Cindy up the steps and lighted a single lamp in the lounge. She professed to be delighted with the arrangements, and with the fact that I had hired her on. Moreover, once we had removed our coats, she came and hugged me. I hugged back enthusiastically. It was then that things that I had never expected to happen, began to happen.

It has always seemed to me that people have very definite ideas about the distance they want to be from other people. My conversational distance has generally been about six feet. Vignis might be a foot or so closer and Mac a foot closer than that. When I was president of the Lackawanna, I once had a vice-president whose preferred distance was something like eighteen inches. We once had a conversation around a circular table in which I continually backed while he advanced.

Cindy Lee, her bare breasts looking silvery in the lamplight, was some six feet away. But, then, of course, we moved from a conversational setting to a sexual one. Many people don 't realize that distance is important there, too. They assume that the ideal sexual distance is zero. More accurately, they assume that there should be, not only contact, but, so to speak, negative distance. This isn't necessarily so. In my case, the distance may range from as much as ten feet, where the exchange is entirely visual, down to as little as six inches between the main outlines of the two bodies. There may, of course, be actual contact between the extremities.

Cindy, seeming to understand this, didn't trespass upon my private space. After making some adjustments to my costume, she did a certain something with her hands which caused me to have the most intense physical sensations I had ever experienced. Indeed, unable to remain standing, I collapsed to the floor. On coming back to my senses, I found her holding my head and stroking my thinning hair.

In the conversation that followed, she said,

"You've done me an extremely good turn, and I wanted to give you some pleasure."

I thanked her in fulsome terms, at which point she laughed and replied,

"You seemed to like it even more than Dave."

I didn't say so, but I could see how she had kept Dave. Indeed, I wondered only how his predecessor had ever managed to abandon her. But, then, football players are often very stupid.

Once recovered, I fetched some coffee from the dining car up ahead. When we had finished it, I suggested to Cindy Lee that she take up residence in the spare room. We unhooked the punching bag and folded down the bed. I kissed her goodnight and went to bed in an extremely pleasant frame of mind.

After only a few hours sleep, we were both up and about by nine. The stewards, with no questions at all, served us a fine breakfast. We ate with enthusiasm, and Cindy, like myself, was in a mood of high optimism. To me, it still seemed extraordinary that, after a lifetime of unsatisfactory arrangements with women, an experience of this sort had come along unheralded.

For Cindy, on the other hand, our physical relations constituted nothing more than a token of her affection, given freely. On the one hand, it was wonderful that there was someone for whom everything didn't have a price. On the other, I could see how she had gotten into trouble with boys. I decided that I would have to talk with her about that some time.

Since it was the best sort of winter morning imaginable, we determined on a walk after breakfast. Cindy put on some walking shoes, with her fashionable ones in a voluminous shoulder bag, and we set off.

This time, we found a quicker way of getting to a sidewalk, and, as we proceeded toward the center of town, I told my friend a good deal about Marcia. Cindy replied,

"Things probably haven't changed too much since she was here. Just for fun, point out any woman who looks like her, or any girl who looks the way she did then."

I agreed, but, for the moment, there was no one to point out.

It being Sunday morning, there wasn't much activity even when we reached the downtown area. We then headed up the slight hill to see the university. There were first some outbuildings mixed in with eating places and movie houses. By the time that we got to the Michigan Union, it seemed a pity that Cindy's name would be formally expunged from the rolls of the university, probably the first thing on Monday morning. But, of course, a degree in English Literature wouldn't really have advanced her career on the railway very much. She remarked presently,

"This is fun. I may be in disgrace, but there's nothing more they can do to me now, particularly with you beside me. Let's go visit my sorority."

I was surely not in a mood to disappoint such an enterprising young lady, and we walked quickly along the main diagonal across campus. On the other side, there was a quite wealthy residential district with spacious lawns and rows of great trees. As we passed a large handsome church which was doing a good business, Cindy remarked that the members of her sorority would themselves be in church. That being the case, we passed the time by strolling pleasantly down the streets.

It was then that I saw Marcia, as she had been at about thirty. She was passing in the opposite direction on the other side of the street, and we reversed direction, as if we had forgotten something. Staying roughly even with her, we got quite a good look. I said,

"She doesn't look so much like Marcia that I would ever have actually mistaken them, but she's got the same erect carriage and look, the same spare figure, and the same feel about her."

"She's not bad looking. But her clothes show no imagination at all, and there must be something better she could do with her hair."

"Marcia was always careful to look respectable, but she probably thought that it was immoral to actually be attractive."

Cindy was curious whether this woman was married and concluded,

"She either has a husband and isn't much interested in him, or she's given up trying to find one."

We actually stood next to her, waiting for a light, on the next corner. When Cindy asked her what time it was, the woman lifted her hand to look at her watch and revealed her wedding rings. We let her go after that, Cindy remarking,

"She didn't sound very friendly. I don't think she likes being spoken to by strangers."

"Marcia would have thought that people should carry their own watches."

"It's too bad. If she weren't so severe, she could really be quite attractive."

While the air was hardly above freezing, the sun was so warm that we sat for a while on a stone bench in front of one of the churches and devoured some cookies that Cindy had brought in her bag. She took that opportunity to change her shoes, and, when the church let out, we joined the throng as if we, too, had just been edified by the divine service. Cindy snickered a little at this masquerade. I gathered that, having left behind her father's kind of religion, she wanted no part of any other sort. However, as a member of one of the best sororities, she had had to pretend to a sort of faith. She whispered,

"If you're used to pretending to be a Michigan Regular Baptist, pretending to be an Episcopelian is a piece of cake."

I didn't doubt her, and we exchanged smiles and nods with numerous worthy persons as the crowd fanned out and dispersed.

After a little distance, we turned on to Hill Street, headed for Washtenaw Avenue. I was aware of a growing excitement on the part of my friend. Pointing out her sorority, a great mansion in the middle distance, she said,

"I'm sure everyone in the house will know what's happened by now. They've probably talked of nothing else all morning. They'll never expect to see me, though."

As we drew near, there was a diversion which kept any of Cindy's sorority sisters from noticing us. Approaching from the right and crossing the street diagonally in front of us was a group of girls, a good two dozen in number. At that first glance, it was an extraordinary group. All were beautifully dressed, and many were, in fact, beautiful. They were hurrying, some half running in their heels, while another group, roughly equal in numbers and in their ability to fascinate, came out of the sorority house to meet them. When the two groups closed, the girls fell into each other's arms, hugging, twisting, and swirling.

The explanation for this extraordinary sight was not long in coming from my companion. The two sororities were linked as sisters, just as were the members of each. The first Sunday of every month, directly after church, one sorority would pay a rather formal and elaborate visit to the other for dinner. Only after the visitors had departed in the middle of the afternoon would the girls get out of their best clothing and return to their ordinary activities.

Up to that point, everything had gone according to form. Then, one of the visitors caught sight of us and came tripping over to Cindy, her arms outstretched. She was tall, very slim, and dark. Although her elegant narrow body was clearly and advantageously outlined through her wool dress, she didn't look like a goddess, only the American equivalent of a countess. When this girl and Cindy locked together, the former looked over the other's shoulder and smiled at me, obviously taking me for the father. When they separated, Cindy said with something of a flourish,

"Janet, this is General Witt of the Great Eastern Railway."

The other girl, one Janet Green, looked a little puzzled as she said all the right things. She evidently hadn't previously heard of railway generals.

In the meantime, the others had seen us. It was obvious that all the members of Cindy's sorority had heard of her fall, but that the visitors were being so informed only at this very moment.

These young women were the flowers of midwestern society. Wealthy girls from the area weren't ordinarily sent to Vassar or Wellesley, nor to the second-line women's colleges of the east. If they had brains, they went to Michigan. These here were the sort who would, in ten or twenty years, rule Grosse Pointe and Shaker Heights, the North Shore and Indian Hill. Indeed, these very ones might well dominate any center of social power from Minneapolis to Cincinnati, and from Cleveland to Kansas City. This might have been their first real test, the first time that they had had to act in a situation that hadn't been anticipated by the rules.

Within, I would say, thirty seconds, the situation had been clarified. Both the hostesses and the visitors, speaking only in whispers, were moving slowly away. They weren't disciplined enough to avoid looking back at us, but they nonetheless kept moving. They were all good girls, and they didn't wish to be infected. I had no doubt that, during their later lives, when they would all be good women, they would act in substantially the same way. They would probably say that they were doing it for the sake of their daughters.

I guessed that, in the present instance, they were whispering that Cindy had never really belonged anyway, and had now shown her true colors. They were, no doubt, resolving to never again accept anyone at all like her for either of the two sororities.

All this was very fine, except that Janet Green was now holding Cindy's hand and saying to me,

"I do hope you're enjoying Ann Arbor, General Witt."

Janet was headed for being the sort of society woman who simpers, and she was already on the edge of it. It was probably a matter of intelligence and sensitivity combined with insecurity. On this occasion, her nervousness was obvious. Even though she was facing me, with her back to the others, she had already sensed trouble. She was holding the wrong person's hand.

Primal instinct then took over. Janet withdrew backwards, gave a nervous little wave which the others couldn't see, and then gave up altogether. In fact, she actually turned and ran. It was really a rather funny sight. That beautiful and elegant girl was now running in a ridiculous knock-kneed fashion as fast as she could go in her heels and tight skirt. She was a child in danger of being abandoned by the other first-graders, and she wanted desperately to be accepted again.

When Janet reached the others, she was quickly taken in, several girls speaking sharply to her. She was doubtless rebuked for having done the wrong thing. It happened then that the others, all walking toward the sorority house, looked back in unison. I looked down at Cindy Lee, who had said nothing. She took my hand in a way that a young lady might, perhaps, take her father's hand. However, the girls now knew that I wasn't her father. Her gesture seemed to have a meaning which caused a noise to come from the others. It wasn't quite a scream so much as a collective loss of breath. Cindy, laughing like a maniac, turned and walked away. I, giving a polite little wave, followed her.

After she had slipped her arm through mine, Cindy asked me,

"Do you know what they're calling me, General Witt?"

"I think I can imagine, Lieutenant Starkweather."

"They don't know the words you're thinking of. Or they wouldn't admit knowing them. A brazen little hussy is what they're calling me. Is that a good thing to be?"

"I think it probably is. Brazen little hussies have fine spirit, and are just what a railway needs."

Bill Todd -- An Uneasy Utopia
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