Mrs. Doakes

She bought a sky blue Buick convertible with a white top and a rumble seat, and took her girlfriend on a long road trip across the Northeast and up in Quebec, winding north and west from DC, then cutting back to the east and back down the Maine coast. She’d replaced the plates with NY ones, and they stuck to the back roads, so for a wonder nobody knew who she was, nobody cared. Hick called her Joan Doakes, and for those two weeks she came heartbreakingly close to forgetting her other, less real name.

The head of the Secret Service was furious, of course, what with the recent kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, but she and Hick laughed it off; who could kidnap two middle-aged women, one over six feet tall and the other over two hundred pounds? He insisted that Hick carry a gun to protect her, but they left it locked in its case, and locked the case in the glove compartment. They didn’t even bother carrying bullets. It was all fine; the worst thing that happened to them was an impromptu parade in a small Maine town that had somehow gotten word of their arrival, and by that point they were already on their way way back anyway.


The first thing Eleanor does when she wakes is kiss the picture of Hick she keeps on the mantle in her bedroom.

From there it’s a whirl of activity. Committee meetings, state luncheons, diplomatic soirees; she’s forever in demand, forever traveling. At 49 she is as busy rediscovering herself as ever, with the same tireless, cheerful drive that she ever had. The children are grown and scattered around the country, they don’t need her, but so many other people do. That hasn’t been part of the job before, but what the hell, jobs grow to fit their holders, just as much as the reverse.

That first night word reaches them that Cermak has died of his wounds. It’s an ambiguous omen; a death to cloud a triumph, perhaps, but also a near-brush with Frank’s own mortality. Hard not to feel chosen, somehow; called to this.

She puts as much of this as she can in her nightly letters to Hick, and ends the day as she began, kissing the photo of the hard-bitten newswoman with the enthusiastic German Shepard. There’s comfort in that longing.