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Under The Red White And Blue This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   In the words of Jordan Baker



Now, I'm not sure how much Nick has told you, but I might as well set the story straight. Since Jay died - strike that, on the very moment Jay started throwing his extravagant parties, everyone became an "expert" on his life before ... Before what, no one was sure, but they certainly knew all about it. Well, I'll tell you straight off that 98% of what you heard is all lies, and the other 2% is full of misconceptions.

Jay grew up in the Midwest. I'm not sure if he ever told me where, but his being was very much formed on midwestern principals. Like the rest of us who were born before the wars, he was determined to make something of himself: the American dream, Horatio Alger, and all that jazz. It was the Midwest in him that told him that he couldn't settle for what his parents had, that blue-collar cornfield obscurity. He was not only determined to be on top, but he also wanted everyone to see him there.

To tell you the truth, I met Jay the same time that Daisy did. We were two young belles watching our best beaux leave Louisville for the war each week when Jay showed up. We lived right near Camp Taylor, a blister of an army training camp in the middle of our otherwise gorgeous city. One of our favorite pastimes was hopping into Daisy's white roadster and teasing the recruits with small glimpses of nearly forgotten femininity.

I remember the first time we - that is, Daisy and I - met Jay. We were at a ball ... Well, a dance ... Actually, it was more of a social that was thrown on the first leave weekend of latest rookies at the local training base, during the beginning of the fall, 1917. Anyway, the two of us, Daisy and I, were sitting along the sides, standing out from the rest of the girls like the first foliage of spring on a sea of grey and feeling utterly below ourselves with all these country boys around. We were trying our best to prevent them from asking us for a dance. We were utterly unsuccessful, of course, but at least they continually cut in on one another, so we never had to bear the agony of their barn-talk for more than a few seconds. We had noticed Jay earlier that evening, and we had both been secretly vying for him all night, although only in our private conversations. We knew straight off that he was from class - of course, we later found out that we were wrong, but he certainly conducted himself with a certain savoir-faire. He walked a little taller, spoke a little louder, smiled a little brighter. Almost as if he knew that he had to set a proper example of society for the others in his troop. He was handsome and charming, and he looked as pure and innocent as an infant, lacking that aura of having killed a man that he possessed later in life. He must have killed the man after the war.

Anyway, I had been dancing with hayseeds for a solid hour, so I'm sure you can imagine my relief when Jay cut in. As I said, I had been eyeing him all night. Anyway, I was flattered, because we were nearly positive that it was Daisy Jay was interested in. I could feel the swell of the jazz lift me above the crowd as he took me in his arms.

"Miss Baker," he said, "That is your name, right? I noticed you spending your time with that lovely Miss Fay. Would you be a sport and introduce me?"

I was dumbfounded. For all the style and class Jay had, he never did quite get the knack of tact, but if you have the style and grace of Gatsby, not to mention the money (which came much later), you can afford to lack a little tact. But, what was I to do? I was a "sport" and introduced him to Daisy.

Since you read Nick's book, you must know their story - love at first sight, dancing in the dark until dawn, weeks of long walks and deep talks. The more deeply they fell in love, the less I saw Daisy, which was fine for a while, since winter was coming and I needed to get in my last few weeks of golf before the greens froze. Their relationship seemed a passionate fairyland, and I believed that everything was wonderful between the two of them until one crucial night.

I slept in a corner bedroom on the ground level of a rather large house which unfolds across the landscape like the wings of a dove. That night, at one o'clock in the morning, I heard a frantic knock at my window. I think I woke up, although I'm not sure, and I gazed through my window, unsure of what was going on. The lawn was a luminescent emerald in the light of the moon, and the starlight's reflection off of Daisy's diamond eyes convinced me that I was in a dream. Her cheeks were lined with pearl-like tears gently caressing her blanched face like waves making love to the shore. Daisy's words quickly shook me from my trance:

"Jordan," she wept, "he's poor!"

With that, she collapsed on the lawn, a quivering mass of tears, and I had to quickly dress and rush out to her. I must have cradled her for twenty minutes before she even built up the strength to come inside. All the while, she did nothing but sob, shake, and repeat her sorrowful mantra: "He's poor ... He's poor ..."

That was the last I heard of Gatsby for a while. His troop left for Europe within a week, and Daisy and I fell back into our old habits of "slumming" at the army affairs, but those too soon departed as the war drew to a close. Although I didn't know it then, Daisy dutifully corresponded with Jay, but she never let on that she still loved him.

I don't think I heard the name Gatsby again until the night of Daisy's wedding to Tom Buchanan. She had met Tom the usual way: they were introduced at somebody or other's party, courted regularly, singled out each other, and then became engaged. I was fairly ambivalent about Tom from the start - he seemed rather dull, but he was solid, and stability is exactly what she needed at that point in her life. Their courtship was surprisingly uneventful, until their fateful wedding night.

That day, it seems, Daisy had received a long letter from Jay which must have said that he was being discharged from the army and he wanted to return to her, because Daisy broke down after she read it. She simply went crazy. She began thrashing around and screaming like a banshee, all the while clutching Jay's letter. Mrs. Fay and I finally calmed Daisy by soaking her in a cold tub, but she wouldn't let go of her letter, and it dissolved into a soggy wad of gum in the cold bath water. I can only assume its contents.

As you know, she did marry Tom, and the rest is history. Gatsby's name vanished from conversation; it was strictly taboo to even mention him, until years later when we all ended up on Long Island, but by then Gatsby was but a dim memory, forever imprinted in the confines of our minds. 1


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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Imaginedangerous This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 21, 2010 at 5:07 pm

Wasn't 'Under The Red White and Blue' one of Fitzgerald's original titles?

 

 
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