By Dan Coshnear
Dear Mary Cheney,
You don’t know me. There’s no reason you ever would. My name’s Candy Beaver. Clueless parents, right? Candy Beaver Daydream Believer one friend calls me, and there’s been plenty of other tags like you could imagine. I live a mile from Union Grove, Wisconsin. I’ve got a baby boy and a girl in first grade. I had a husband, but after he got back from the Gulf War he beat me and I left him. I had a boyfriend until my husband shot him. Now it’s just me and the kids, and you’re saying what’s any of this got to do with me?
I had a girlfriend from the sandbox days and she was Mary. She was gay like you. She only decided like a year ago and it was a hell of a surprise to everybody. She said, get a babysitter and took me down to McNulty’s, our local brew pub, and got me dizzy on beer and schnapps. I was the first person she told and I guess I felt honored. I was all, I’m in your corner sister, but to be really honest, it was weird, after so many years. She was hitched even before I was. Me thinking, Do I even know you? And her saying, You know me. You do. I’m the same Mary.
Well, same or different, I didn’t want to go lose her after what I’d been through.
My Mary, it happens, got way interested in your life. It seemed a little sick to me. She was like we’re both Marys and she has a Heather - who’s beautiful btw - and mine’s Heidi and we both have dads that look exactly the same and both are named Dick; though her dad goes by Richard and he’s a democrat, he does look like the vice president. Some of his friends even called him Mr. Veep and said he could get a job for the national security when your dad was laying low after the terrorists. But it was at the convention with all the buzz about you being gay and what your dad and mom have to say about it and what’re you going to do etc., that Mary got the idea that it’d be ok to tell her dad. The news said your dad loves his daughters, both of them, and he’s proud of them both and that was all Mary needed. You were a hero because the way Mary saw it, you found a way to hold it together. It didn’t work out good for Mary.
I was there when she broke it to her dad. I was even there for the planning and rehearsals. We did a dry run at my house. I got my girl in bed at the usual eight thirty and it was me and Mary and the baby. The baby, it happens, looks a lot like her dad and like your dad, with the little bit of hair on top and the way his face can be so blank if you don’t tickle him or talk in a high voice. So, it was my idea, she practiced on the baby. I set him in the high chair and she pulled up in front, him with his milk and her with the beer. And she said, I really appreciate your coming out here to have this talk because it’s really really important to me. And the baby stared. And she said, Dad, the thing I’ve got to tell you is going to be hard to understand. And the baby stared some more. And she was like, Candy, I can’t do this. You can, I said. I tickled the baby behind the ear so he’d get that look off his face and I said, Do it. And she said, Dad, I love a woman. Dad, I’m a lesbian. I guess I knew for a long time, Dad, but it got where I felt like my whole life was a lie. She cried into a old cloth diaper I keep around as a rag. When she was finished crying we laughed. It was almost like old times with us that night.
She decided to spill it in McNulty’s because she figured it was good luck how it went with me. She called his job—John Deere of South Milwaukee—and he agreed to meet her on his way home. He got stuck in traffic and so she had a few extra warm-up beers. She must’ve thanked me eleven times. We sat in a booth until he arrived, then I moved to the bar, just like we planned. From my stool, I could see, but couldn’t hear. She ordered beer for him and another for herself. He sat stiff like in church with his face all pinched in thought. I think she was stalling, asking silly questions about his day. I saw her looking at her hands around her beer glass. She was talking. She stopped. He shook his head, looked in his beer for a minute, no, fifteen seconds. Then he walked out. He didn’t say he loved her or was proud of her or any of that kind of talk.
Now I’m not like some late night TV psychic, and not an expert on human behavior, either. But I knew then Mary was lost. I felt it in my chest like I’d swallowed a roll of nickels and I remembered it was exactly the feeling I had the night my boyfriend was shot. The thing you should know about me is I trust my feelings.
You probably think I’m writing you, Mary Cheney, so you’ll write a letter to my friend Mary and cheer her up. And I should’ve done that, but it’s too late. She wasn’t strong like you. She couldn’t hold it together. She told Heidi to beat it for awhile and then she ate a bottle of pain pills. Maybe it was a secret call for help like people say, but help didn’t get there. She just couldn’t live with her life.
I’m worried about my girl because she’s the daughter of my husband and so she’s mixed up. You know he writes from prison, I love you Dumpling, and she wants to believe him. She looks at me like I know what’s real. I almost want to believe him, too. I could almost forgive, until I look at the face of my baby, who doesn’t have a dad.
I tell Heidi, when she comes to visit, hatred makes hatred. Violence makes more violence. The news is full of it, though they say, we’re going to bring so and so to justice etc. And when’s that going to stop? I go to church and pray to get the hate out of my heart, but God gives me that blank look, that quiet nobody’s home kind of look. And Heidi says, What’re you to do, Daydream Believer?
If the news is true, Mary Cheney, then your dad loves you and he’s proud even though he probably doesn’t approve of your lifestyle. Get up your courage and talk to him again. Tell him you heard from a woman who’s suffered enough. Tell him Candy Beaver is ready to try anything. Tell him she can’t look at her baby if she thinks he’s going to kill people or get himself killed in Iraq or Iran or someplace else. Tell him she can’t just hold him and love him when she’s afraid like she is. I wish I’d’ve got to you sooner, but tell him. Tell him any way that works. Tell him till he hears you.