Alan Simon Books

 

Prelude and Explanation


Before reading the alternative ending to Unfinished Business, it is helpful to know why an alternative ending even exists!


In early 2011 a literary agent contacted me about my submission of this novel and requested an “exclusive” – that is, a period of several weeks where only that agency could evaluate the novel for representation. Naturally, I was ecstatic and for several weeks waited anxiously to hear if they wanted to represent my novel.


The word I got back was “we love it…except we want a more ‘bittersweet’ ending; this one is way too depressing.”


I thought about it for a couple of days with mixed feelings since the ending of Unfinished Business is, to me, the focal point of the entire story. Everything in the novel leads up to Roseanne DeMarco, 35 years later, finally granting herself absolution for having allowed herself to have been so misled and swayed by the charismatic Frank Donaldson years earlier, and for reading into that “romance” (as she insisted on referring to the affair) so much that wasn’t real. The idea of shelving my ending and the entire moral and message of my novel in the quest for “bittersweetness” just didn’t sit well with me.


However, I decided to give it a shot and the ending you are about to read is what I came up with. I tried about ten different ideas and none rang true to the spirit of what I had spent so many years writing, but this was the “best” of them (or so I think).


To my dismay, they decided to pass on Unfinished Business…new ending and all. Despite the disappointment of coming oh-so-close to being picked up by a major literary agency, in retrospect the price I would have had to pay – trashing my original ending for the “bittersweet” alternative – would have been too much of a compromise to the “artistic integrity” I was striving for with this book. (See my discussion of the backstory to the novel elsewhere on this website.)


I can’t argue with that agent and some of the reviews I’ve seen about the novel: the “official” ending to Unfinished Business is unsettling in many ways. Joey DeMarco doesn’t die in the Korean War, freeing Roseanne to be with Frank, nor is he terminally ill and leaves Pittsburgh so he doesn’t burden her with having to care for him and watch him die; nothing like that. We learn through Roseanne’s reminisces in the Epilogue that despite how she allowed herself to naively feel about Frank Donaldson back in the summer and autumn of 1951 when he reappeared in her life after a nine-year absence, he can be best described as follows: “though deftly disguised as a literature-loving intellectual embracing an erudite, sophisticated lifestyle, [Frank] was in fact the living personification of slithering away from commitment and obligation.”


By design the reader is left feeling as Roseanne did during the thirty-five years that followed that long-ago summer and autumn: that she had, to quote the old saying, swallowed the bait “hook, line, and sinker”…but in the end, she now has a better understanding of why and she finally grants herself the long-overdue absolution that will ease her conscience for the rest of her life.


So here goes: the alternative “bittersweet” ending to Unfinished Business that picks up in mid-1952 with her husband Joey’s return from the Korean War. If, as some readers have noted, you are unsettled and uneasy about the “official” ending to the novel, then perhaps this alternative one will be more to your liking, and when you think of Unfinished Business you can think of what you’re about to read as how the novel actually ends.


_________


Epilogue

        For months Roseanne had steeled herself for Joey’s return in light of Frank Donaldson’s departure from Pittsburgh. Despite Frank’s protestations that he would return from New York, that he would miss her while he was gone and that he would be back, she believed not a single word of that utterance. Her lot in life was to be the wife of a Pittsburgh steelworker, apparently, entombed in that small Lawrenceville home until Joey’s retirement years down the road, then perhaps a small retirement house in Florida. And somehow endure their marriage…after what she had experienced elsewhere…

        Her husband, though, had different ideas. Three days after his return to Pittsburgh from Korea in the middle of June, 1952, Joey DeMarco dropped a bombshell on his wife and the next lengthy stage of Roseanne’s life proceeded along a path that she never could have envisioned.

        Joey returned to Pittsburgh expecting to immediately go back to work at the steel mill, but instead he had arrived in the middle of a nationwide steelworkers strike that not only shut down most steel production across the country, it threatened to cripple the war effort. Back in early April President Truman had imposed government control over the entire industry in the interests of national security and interdict the strike. Months later though – only days before Joey’s train pulled into Pittsburgh – the Supreme Court ruled that the President was in fact lacking in authority to have taken that step. The strike was immediately underway.

        So instead of going back to the mill, Joey faced an indeterminate period of time either walking the picket line with thousands of other striking steel union members or sitting at home or in one of the corner Lawrenceville bars, idling away his days. He wanted to do neither.

        “Roseanne?” Joey’s voice cut through Roseanne’s melancholy thoughts as she was cleaning up in the kitchen that morning, her sons already finished with their breakfast and out wandering the neighborhood looking for a pickup baseball game now that school was out for the year.

        She turned her head to the left, looking behind her at Joey leaning against the open doorway leading from the tiny living room into the kitchen.

        “Yes?” she mustered as much cheeriness into her tones as she could. She would make the best of this…somehow…

        “Could you come in the living room?”

        “Let me finish cleaning up…” she began to protest.

        “Just leave it,” he interrupted, but not unkindly. “I want to talk to you.”

        The words “I want to talk to you” had, to the best of Roseanne’s recollection, never been uttered to her by her husband in all the years she had known him. The words conveyed not only that he had something on his mind, but whatever it might be was of great significance.

        She placed the baking pan she had been scrubbing in the sink, the dishrag on the counter, and took off her apron before following Joey into the living room, wondering all the while what this was all about.

        “I need something different,” he blurted out a split second after lowering himself onto the sofa next to her.

        Roseanne’s instantaneous thought was that he was referring to them, to their marriage, but instead he meant himself; his life’s work.

        For nearly half an hour he disgorged a meandering stream of verbalized thoughts and emotions to his wife, many of them ill-formed or incomplete but each one sincere. Several times while he was speaking, Roseanne’s mind insisted on making the comparison between Joey’s jumbled manner of speaking and Frank Donaldson’s smooth, erudite narratives about Kerouac, Kinsey, and so many other topics during those summer and autumn months of the previous year. But every time her mind tried once again to highlight some unflattering Joey-versus-Frank comparison she forced the thoughts away because of the magnitude of what her husband was telling her.

Coming home in the midst of the steelworker strike and the idleness that came with that union action had been a tipping point for Joey. For months now since the first days of 1952 while he was still in Korea – coincidentally the same time frame in which, unbeknownst to Joey, his wife was having her own crisis of faith about her future – he had increasingly felt restless about resuming the steel mill job that characterized everything that Joey DeMarco, the man, was all about. He uttered words to the effect that he felt claustrophobic and unhappy in this tiny Lawrenceville house; in that neighborhood; perhaps even in the city of Pittsburgh itself. His one year back in the Army, even though it had been in the midst of a war, had opened his eyes, his mind, to the possibility that there was “something different and better” out there for him; for his entire family.

Back during World War II, his unique experience of being stationed for nearly three years in his stateside hometown, tediously manning the anti-aircraft guns that would never be fired against an enemy plane, living in the very house where he had grown up had shielded Joey DeMarco from the awareness that a different course for his life was possible. Now, though, he had seen Korea, albeit in the midst of a war. He had seen Japan and the post-war rebuilding of that country’s devastation that was now reaching its apex. He had spent two weeks at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii on his way back from Korea, awaiting transport back to the mainland. Then, just before returning to Pittsburgh he had spent two more weeks at the Presidio in San Francisco where he completed the mountain of paperwork one must fill out and sign to leave Army life behind.

“I want to use my GI Bill to get my degree,” he proclaimed to Roseanne’s great surprise. “I don’t want to be a steelworker all my life. I don’t know exactly what I do want, but I know that this” – his head nodded towards the wall behind him, symbolizing the mill, the neighborhood, and maybe Pittsburgh itself – “isn’t enough.”

Roseanne was shocked at this sentiment coming from her husband. Since his return home days earlier they had talked plenty but for the most part had said little of significance to each other. She didn’t press him for details of the war or Army life, figuring that if he wanted to talk about what he had endured or the horrors he had seen he would do so in his own good time. And she certainly wasn’t going to volunteer anything about what – who – had enveloped her life during the time her husband was away; that was certain!

Instead they had talked at length about their children, Joey’s brothers and sisters-in-law, the steel union strike, the late spring weather, even the woeful Pittsburgh Pirates. Joey told her what it was like to travel by transport ship across the ocean to far-away Asia and back, and how grueling a cross-country train trip can be. In turn she told him story after story about work life in the candy department at Kaufmann’s. She related the tales of those many family gatherings with Joey’s brothers while he was in Korea. She told him about new television shows that he would enjoy watching.

Now though, for the first time ever in their married life, Joey DeMarco was reaching into the depths of his heart and despite how inarticulate and meandering his dialogue was, Roseanne couldn’t help but feel herself gravitate towards him, trying very hard to comprehend and even absorb the emotions he was trying to convey.

For Joey the trick would be to complete college classes as quickly as possible because of the financial impact of his decision on the DeMarco household. The GI Bill would pay for some of their regular household expenses, but by itself that money wouldn’t be enough. Though it went against his nature to have his wife continue in the workforce, he agreed with Roseanne that her continuing to work at Kaufmann’s was the right thing to do, at least until he graduated and landed a job. After that? They would see…

Joey himself picked up as much night and weekend work as his stamina would allow. He frequently tended bar in several of the Lawrenceville neighborhood taverns; but instead of jawboning with the regulars about the Pirates or the Steelers or the steel mills, he would sneak peeks at his textbooks in between refilling glasses of Iron City and Duquesne or pouring shots. Predictably, he became known as “Joe College” – or sometimes “Joey College” – to most every other neighborhood guy in Lawrenceville.

He worked other odd jobs whenever he could spare a bit of time: soda jerking at the corner drugstore, lugging boxes of produce down at the strip district just like he did his last couple of years of high school – talk about history repeating itself! – and even, if he could swing it, ushering at Pirates games during the summer when his class load was a touch on the lighter side. He spent every moment he could with his sons, making up for lost time while he had been away at war. Playing catch, taking them to see the Pirates play, even family picnics in Schenley Park with the boys and Roseanne. He commiserated with them in early June of 1953 when the team traded away their star player Ralph Kiner to the Chicago Cubs, ending the slugger’s years with the Pirates and marking the end of an era.

He had committed to finishing up school in three years if at all possible, and endured one crushing course load after another to make that commitment a reality. The sooner he was finished, the sooner he could stop these insane 90-hour weeks of classes, studying, and working; and the sooner he could begin giving Roseanne the life he knew she wanted.

For her part, Roseanne was amazed at the transformation in the husband she thought she had known and sadly understood before he went off to war. Whatever had happened to him over there, whether it was just restlessness for a better life as he prepared to return home or if something more significant – but forever unspoken – had occurred, Roseanne realized that transformation had not only saved Joey, it saved her.

It saved them.


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Any lingering thoughts and emotions Roseanne had about Frank Donaldson slowly diminished until by the time the calendar rolled to 1953 she was certain he was gone forever, as she had surmised that final afternoon in his hotel suite. In the immediate aftermath of Joey’s heartfelt conversation with her about changing their life for the better she had been incredibly nervous about the prospects of Frank suddenly materializing one day at the Kaufmann’s candy counter. Increasingly unlikely as each week ticked by and that “six or seven months” mark approached and then passed; but certainly possible. Furious and hurt as she was at Frank, the sudden immense change in the promise of a new life with her husband notwithstanding, Roseanne’s brain periodically offered screenplays of the mind in which Frank suddenly returned and whisked her away into a very different life. She fought the images, those thoughts; but they refused to be totally extinguished.

Fortunately the fates had seemingly decided not to test Roseanne since there was no reemergence of the persona of Frank Donaldson to force her to choose between her husband and her apparently former lover. If that was the case then so be it, Roseanne told herself every time she began to again feel the sting of rejection. For once in Roseanne’s life, Providence may indeed have taken mercy on her.

Roseanne succumbed to only a single episode of sobbing, grief-stricken regret at the memory of what was and fantasy of what might have been. The Sunday after Thanksgiving, 1953 was two years to the day when Frank Donaldson had broken the news to Roseanne of his non-negotiable departure. Roseanne, ever-cognizant of significant dates, was fully aware of this somber “anniversary” while she was in the kitchen washing and drying the dishes after dinner with all three of her sons plunked on the worn sofa in the living room watching Toast of the Town on television. Joey was picking up a few extra dollars helping out down at the strip district, working a night shift unloading boxcars of produce as the Pittsburgh grocers scrambled to restock after being depleted by the Thanksgiving holiday weekend that was coming to a conclusion. Roseanne had the kitchen radio turned on, listening to music as she almost always did while doing dishes.

After a commercial for Lux soap the music returned with a song the announcer said was Patti Page’s latest hit, just released a week earlier.

The song instantly reminded Roseanne of Tennessee Waltz – very similar tempo, the opening bars sounding much like the singer’s earlier song – but these lyrics she listened to for the first time affected her unlike any song she had ever heard, even more than Nat King Cole and Too Young so long ago. The dormant memory of those summer and autumn months enraptured by the spell of Frank Donaldson suddenly burst forth and overwhelmed her.


We were waltzing together,

To a dreamy melody

When they called out, "change partners"

And you waltzed away from me.

Now my arms feel so empty,

As I gaze around the floor;

And I'll keep on changing partners

Till I hold you once more.

Though we danced for one moment

And too soon, we had to part;

In that wonderful moment,

Something happened to my heart.

So I'll keep changing partners

Till you’re in my arms, and then

Oh my darling, I will never

Change partners again.



As the second verse repeated, tears spilling from Roseanne’s eyes for the first time in a long, long while, she heard her oldest son call to her from the living room,

“Hey Mom! Come watch The Harmonicats on Ed Sullivan! Quick; they’re great!”

She stood there for another few seconds, and as Patti Page once again began to sing “So I’ll keep changing partners till you’re in my arms and then…” she whirled in place, flung open the kitchen door that led to the tiny backyard, and hurried out into the cold blackness, the far-off faint sound of her son repeating, “Hey Mom…”


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The years rolled on, for the most part each better than the previous one:

Joey’s graduation and richly earned college degree.

A first professional job working as a construction supervisor with one of the Pittsburgh-area real estate developers capitalizing on the continuation of the post-war explosive growth of suburbia as the 1950s boom continued unabated.

That brave decision, made in full consultation with Roseanne, to break off on his own in the mid-1960s and together with Joey Junior, Anthony, and Harold, form DeMarco and Sons Homebuilders.

That equally gutsy decision in 1971 to relocate DeMarco and Sons Homebuilders to the still-sleepy smallish city of Tucson, Arizona in anticipation of what all of the DeMarcos felt would eventually be an ever-increasing migration of people from the spent industrial cities and towns of the Rust Belt to the American southwest.

And finally, Joey handing over the reigns of one of the largest real estate development companies in Arizona to his three sons so he could travel, play a little golf, and enjoy life: all with his wife Roseanne by his side.

For more than thirty years, the life of Joey and Roseanne DeMarco was one of hard work mixed with a steadily increasing bounty of the fruits of their labor. Life wasn’t always idyllic. Money tensions would occasionally flare, disagreements over major decisions would sometimes occur, and as with any long-married couple they would periodically irritate each other simply by things one of them would say or do or even wordlessly convey through an sharp look or a roll of the eyes, or perhaps a heavy sigh of exasperation. Still, looking back on those decades that seemed to have flown by from the vantage point of the earliest years of their retirement, Roseanne could honestly tell herself that it had all been worth it.

That first decade of her marriage may have left a great deal to be desired, and periodically Roseanne would find herself omnisciently looking back at those years and wonder just how in the world she had allowed herself to become entangled in that affair with Frank Donaldson. Maybe not the first brief time in 1942; her immediate rationalization that she stubbornly carried through the 1940s, that she “just didn’t feel married, that’s why!” still held. But that second act nine years later? Sometimes she felt as if she had indeed been a plaything diversion for that man, that his regularly metered utterances of feelings and longing for her during those months had been little more than a handy script to catalyze the next sexual encounter and then the next…and she was little more than a dalliance, albeit a willing one.

Other times, though, Roseanne couldn’t help but feel that there were still elusive insights – lingering unfinished business – about what had happened those summer and autumn months of 1951, and that perhaps some day she would find herself belatedly enlightened.


Grand Finale

July 4, 1986

Roseanne couldn’t sleep.

She glanced at the blue-numbered digital clock to her left, noting the time as shortly after 11:30 PM, and then looked to the right side of the bed at her sleeping husband. As she did almost every night, Roseanne read in bed for about half an hour after her husband drifted off to sleep, unbothered by the illumination from Roseanne’s reading lamp that leaked over to his side of the bed even though the bulb was directed downwards to Roseanne’s side.

She looked at him for a while – maybe forty-five seconds in all, a long time to stare at a sleeping body. Her own sleep now impossible, Roseanne slid out of bed, fished for her slippers, and after flicking off the reading lamp and leaving the book on her nightstand, headed out of the bedroom, down the hallway and to the family room.

For the first time in years she desperately needed a cigarette, a Pall Mall, but she fought the urge until it passed. Not that it really mattered; there were no cigarettes in the house anyway. She would have had to drive at this very late hour to the all-night convenience store more than two miles away, and by then the craving would have passed even if she had given into the ridiculous impulse.

Instead, she walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, reaching for the open bottle of Cabernet left over from dinner, just enough remaining for a single glass. She uncorked it and retrieved a wineglass into which she poured the remainder of the bottle. Wine in hand, she walked back to the family room and eased herself onto the sofa. She thought about turning on the television but decided not to.

She needed to think; to remember.


|         |         |


Shortly after moving to Tucson in the early 1970s, Roseanne and Joey both became avid readers of the Sunday New York Times. In the old days Joey would make a weekly trip to one of those tobacco stores that shelved 25 or 30 out of town newspapers and pick up the Sunday edition of the Times. For the past several years, though, they opted for the convenience of a home delivery subscription. Normally both Joey and Roseanne consumed the paper the day it arrived. Sunday afternoons were often spent lounging in their backyard, swapping sections of The Gray Lady back and forth for several hours, sipping a beer or even a glass or two of champagne.

This past Sunday, though, they had embarked on a day trip to the craft stores and glorious scenery of Sedona and by the time they arrived back in Tucson that night they were both far too tired for their habitual reading of the Times. The extra-hectic week leading up to the holiday got away from them with visiting grandchildren scurrying around the house and one outing after another to the Old Tucson movie studios, the Saguaro National Monument to gaze at the thousands of majestic cacti, and then the greenery of Mount Lemmon outside the city to escape the blazing July desert heat for a few hours. It wasn’t until Friday that Roseanne finally decided she should at least skim through a couple of last Sunday’s sections before the next one arrived two days later.

Earlier this Fourth of July day, she had been puttering in the kitchen making a quick lunch for herself before settling down to make a shopping list for her early afternoon trip to the supermarket. Her entire brood would gather together for yet another family barbecue before traipsing over to the city’s main park to watch the evening’s fireworks display.

She was only half-reading as she mechanically flipped through the pages of one section then another, her mind more focused on the logistics for access to and easy departure from tonight’s fireworks display than reading the paper in any detail.

A fragment of a long-ago Fourth of July memory started to bubble forth just as she was flipping a page and in years to come, Roseanne could never quite be certain, to hijack that old saying, which came first: the obituary or the memory.


Frank Donaldson, 66; Noted Post-War Skyscraper Engineer, Exposed CIA Operative


The “Exposed CIA Operative” portion of the headline didn’t immediately register with Roseanne as she quickly looked away and then forced her eyes back onto the page, her heart pounding. She actually began to hyperventilate until she clasped her right hand over her nose and mouth in that common motion one does when suddenly learning of shocking news, and that did the trick to bring her breathing back under control.

Hand still in place over her nose and mouth, eyes wide-wide-wide open, she began to read. Frank’s obituary was a fairly long one – about one-quarter of a page, above the fold, though no picture – but it took Roseanne only about one minute to make her first rapid pass through all three columns. By the time she reached the end – and she would reread that obituary four more times that day – questions Roseanne thought she had long answered and laid to rest had resurfaced. Ironically, the stated cause of his death – complications from lung cancer – was the least important part of the obituary to Roseanne, at least during this first reading.

According to the text, Frank Donaldson had been publicly exposed during the mid-1970s Church Committee Senate hearings in the aftermath of Watergate that opened a window on a great many murky and even illegal CIA practices. Specifically, his post-war job as a professional engineer in the late 1940s and earliest years of the 1950s had been genuine – he was indeed a talented engineer, apparently – but had also been a cover for him to keep an eye out for Communist subterfuge and potential sabotage of America’s great post-war construction boom. The Gateway Center project that spearheaded the city of Pittsburgh’s early 1950s renaissance received specific mention in the obituary. The anti-Communist witch-hunts of the McCarthy era were just getting underway and despite the CIA’s charter forbidding domestic operations, apparently all was fair in the world of covert intelligence with so much at stake in the showdown against the Stalin-era Soviet Union.

But then, according to the obituary, the late Frank Donaldson’s double life as an operative took a turn in a different direction. He had played an instrumental role in overthrowing the democratically elected government of Iran in the summer of 1953 at the behest of American and British oil interests. The obituary stated that following the government of Iran seizing a key British-owned oil company in 1951, intelligence agents from both the United States and Great Britain began filtering into Iran shortly before New Year’s Day, 1952 to lay the groundwork and build support for the eventual coup d’état. Among the earliest arrivals among those intelligence agents was one Frank Donaldson, who remained at the CIA station there for almost two years.

There was more about the life of Frank Donaldson in the remaining paragraphs and in her subsequent passes of the obituary Roseanne would absorb every single detail about the man…including the fact that he had been married only once in his life, in the early 1960s, but for less than two years. For now, though, her mind whirled as it matched a select few dates and time frames mentioned in the early part of the obituary with dates and time frames she recalled with ease though they had occurred half a lifetime ago. As she did, the tumblers of knowledge clicked into place.

He had lied to her in that hotel room on that late November afternoon back in 1951, but not in the manner she had presumed that day and had come to reluctantly accept as a sad truth. Now she knew he truly had no choice in his imminent departure from Pittsburgh despite Roseanne’s insistence at that time, and her mental assertions every time she subsequently recalled those moments, that indeed it had been within his power to remain in Pittsburgh; to remain with her. The substance of his lie had been about where he was going, and why. Tehran, not New York City; the dirty business of destabilizing a foreign government for the benefit of American and British financial interests, not building another new post-war skyscraper in midtown Manhattan.

The sound of approaching footsteps caused her to quickly shut that section of the paper. Act naturally, she urgently told herself; don’t let it be known what you were reading and by God, certainly not what you were thinking!

Joey DeMarco shuffled into the kitchen. Despite being the same age as Roseanne, 62 years old, he normally walked with a lively spring in his step. This past weekend though he had stumbled stepping off a curb in Sedona and had slightly sprained his left ankle. For the first time Roseanne could remember, her always active husband seemed to be showing his age a touch.

“Reading last Sunday’s edition?” he nodded towards the just-shut section of the Times.

“Yes,” Roseanne forced a smile.

“Anything good?”

A subdued “no” was her answer.


|         |         |


Now with midnight approaching, the family barbecue and the journey to watch the fireworks and the return home and the fruitless attempt to read herself to sleep all past, Roseanne found herself lost in memory as she sipped the last of her wine. Her mind kept traveling back through time to two specific dates long ago in 1951.

The first was, as fate would have it, exactly 35 years today. That spectacular Fourth of July night stealthily spent watching the fireworks display in tiny Youngstown, Ohio away from prying eyes. Making love in the summer grass underneath that endless field of stars while Mockin’ Bird Hill played in the background.

As much as Roseanne had come to love and appreciate her husband Joey, there had never been a single shared moment of intimacy between the two of them that had approached the glorious passion she had felt that Fourth of July night sharing her body, her very essence, with her lover.

The memory of that night became tainted before too long, though, in light of Frank’s abrupt, insufficiently explained departure from her life before the year was out. Now, though, armed with this long-hidden knowledge of the true story behind Frank’s exit, Roseanne was powerless against her mind infusing those resurfacing memories with resurgent echoes of the incredible passion she had felt at that time. She felt incredibly guilty sitting in the family room of the home she shared with the husband she had come to appreciate and love yet basking in the memory and sensations of one long-ago night with a different man, but she kept arguing with herself that it was only temporary – and it would be the very last time – so please, please let her have this last remembrance.

Her other memory was of that late November afternoon nearly five months later when Frank broke the news of his upcoming exodus. Roseanne could still recall large swaths of dialog from that afternoon near-verbatim and her mind insisted on replaying them as if a tape recorder had been turned on in the family room and she was powerless to shut it off. Now, though, again armed with the previously unknown facts she had read earlier this afternoon, she saw the dialog in a new light.

Quite possibly he had been sincere in his protestation to Roseanne that “I will be back” during those final minutes together. For years Roseanne had concluded his words had just been a line, a faux sentiment he had tossed out to soften the blow of the moment as he apparently discarded her.

Roseanne found herself recalling Frank Donaldson’s many unanticipated, galling absences and delayed reappearances. She had taken those comings and goings as cavalier nonchalance, a byproduct of his Kerouac-embracing, Greenwich Village-loving persona that infuriatingly trumped being apart from Roseanne. Had his absences instead had something to do with this secretive work she had been totally unaware of at the time? Possibly he hadn’t flitted here and there at whim; he could have been periodically called to Washington on a moment’s notice to endure endless meetings in stuffy, windowless rooms in nondescript government buildings. Maybe he had to frequently slip away to out-of-the-way small towns to rendezvous and confer with other men quietly doing the same clandestine work he was. Or maybe…

The truth was that she would never know. Of course it was possible her long-standing conclusion that – to use the vernacular that came into vogue years later – he was just “using her” had indeed been accurate and still neatly and painfully summed up the entire second act of their affair.

But she truly didn’t think so now. She would never know with one hundred percent accuracy what the truth was but her brain, her heart, now insisted that he had meant what he had said even if she didn’t believe so at the time or for many years afterwards. Perhaps Frank had thought his dirty business in Iran would indeed take only six or seven months, not the nearly two years it actually did. Maybe he thought that then he’d have the opportunity to return to Pittsburgh instead of being shuffled off to Guatemala, and then Hungary, and then…

On the other hand, though, perhaps he had acknowledged with a heavy heart that the clandestine life he had chosen for himself or stumbled into, or however his life had wound up going in that direction after the war, would make it impossible to make a life with a woman such as Roseanne; perhaps even any woman. He would be unable to be truthful to her, even if he could remain faithful. He would have to slip away for long periods of time to perform sometimes vile acts. So perhaps his actions, though hurtful, had indeed been for Roseanne’s well-being. After all, he had apparently tried the act of marriage once in his life but for reasons Roseanne of course would never know, had failed at it.

Had he ever come back to Pittsburgh to look for her, for any reason at all? Had he wandered into the candy department at Kaufmann’s one day, months or even years after she left that job following Joey’s entry into the professional world, to find that Roseanne DeMarco no longer worked there? Or had he been able to slip back there at some point even earlier but had the misfortune to pick a moment when Roseanne wasn’t working? Had he indeed seen her one afternoon from across the store or on the other side of a downtown street, glancing at the woman he maybe even loved but mercifully kept his distance rather than open up old wounds that he was powerless to heal?

The revelations from the text of Frank’s obituary reopened a great many questions to Roseanne about matters she had long since put to rest with conclusions she had formed decades earlier. Paradoxically, though, this slew of reopened questions and new uncertainties actually gave her a greater sense of peace and closure than all of those now invalid, long-standing presumptions. Roseanne embraced the possibility that new and different answers to those questions she had asked herself long ago, and was now asking herself again, meant that the time they had shared had indeed been exquisitely, uniquely special even if fated to be cut short.

As the final minutes of The Fourth of July, 1986 ticked away Roseanne suddenly found herself feeling troubled about that final exchange with Frank Donaldson. Truly she had spoken in the passion of the moment. She had acted on the truth as she saw it in front of her as she strode out of that hotel suite into the rest of her life. They had played out Scarlett and Rhett: The Final Scene, though with the gender roles reversed. She had been the one to pronounce, in effect, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Or perhaps, playing on the words, it had actually been “Frank, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

But with these long-hidden revelations filling in blanks she never knew existed, she now wished so much that those last moments together had been reminiscent of a different love story. The Way We Were. Redford’s Hubbell and Streisand’s Katie. Those final poignant sentiments exchanged in which they painfully acknowledge that they can never meet again – too much remaining passion that could be dangerously unleashed, perhaps – but also wordlessly convey that they will each carry with them for all time the memory of what they once had. That final gentle sweep of her hand across the hair on his forehead. The swelling, haunting soundtrack of that moment.

Her last sip of wine gone now, her craving for a cigarette – Pall Mall or any other brand – subdued, Roseanne eased herself up from the sofa. She walked over to the wood-grained cabinet in the family room and reached for the dog-eared album cover amidst their collection of Sinatra, Dean Martin, Perry Como, Goulet, and other favorites from days long ago.

She unsleeved the LP and placed it onto the turntable, flicked the record player to “on,” and then carefully lifted the arm and placed the needle on the track she wanted to hear. The song began to play and Roseanne allowed herself that long-overdue, bittersweet farewell to the memory of what was, and what might have been.


Though we danced for one moment

And too soon, we had to part;

In that wonderful moment,

Something happened to my heart…




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