So she left. As it had to be, failure at love was a wrench to her, and she showed it. Her weight dropped below 100 pounds. Tears would come at odd times.
Then, in New York in February to receive an award for her run of records, she met Slaney, a friend of a friend. She had a sore back. As athletes do, she asked him to crack it. Then she paused, and said, "You won't hurt me, will you?" Never was there a more sensible question, because Slaney is 6'7" and weighs 290 and does not strike most people as entirely sweet-tempered.
And never was there a better answer, because Slaney, touched, has taken care of her ever since.
Decker has lived in Eugene for five years. She's pretty much given up her BMW 320i for a Jeep. Her hillside house, which is not sumptuous, speaks of a love of order, a congenial domesticity. A visitor is likely to find her sewing pillowcases or mending one of Slaney's shirts. There is a warm fire, cushiony furniture and friendly animals (cats Tigger and Jezebel, and a Rottweiler named Samantha). On a shelf, among a glittering welter of the trophies Mary has won, rests a silver tray awarded to Slaney by the British meat industry for being BRITAIN'S STRONGEST MAN.
He ought to get another one for the clarity of his views on Decker. "He is the first to be impressed with Mary not as a runner, but as a person," Brown has said.
Slaney is 27, has an engineering degree, has worked in aircraft maintenance and rebuilds high-performance sports cars. He has thrown the discus 212'1". He gets along with Decker by telling her the absolute truth about herself.
"Do you know that she is a photoholic," he says to a visitor. "I spend two hours every morning destroying pictures she's taken the night before...."
Decker has begun to giggle.
"...I'm in the bathroom," Slaney continues, with weary forbearance. "The door swings open.... I'm blinded by a burst of light. Then I'm embarrassed...."
By now, Decker has entered quiet hysterics.