Incident in Hollywood
by Dorothy Friedman
UP AND DOWN Hollywood a variety of bars and dance halls leer out at passersby, naked and shabby in the daylight. Overtly or with some small measure of refinement, they are all peddling sex to the lonely weeds of humanity, the homo and hetero singles. It is good business to cater to the affection-starved multitudes, those surplus humans who live alone and don’t especially like it.
Just such a bar and dance hall was the Country Club, chunked in between an Italian delicatessen and an A. A. A. trailer supply and gasoline station. It had a better band than most and a larger dance floor, and catered to the “straights.”
Tonight it was raining, and business was slow. Ben sat, back to the bar, and watched the entrance. Not yet 40, Ben was already a financial success. He made a mental note of his blessings. He was handsome, with fine eyes and teeth that flashed white and even against his short black beard. This was his favorite of the clubs he owned, and he spent a great deal of his leisure time here.
Ben’s father had left him a string of such clubs, a couple of pornographic adult book stores, a couple of beer parlors, his bodyguard and his mistress. He had done well with all of these. At law school he had learned enough to multiply his possessions without tangling with the law. He had made two stabs at marriage, and found that it did not suit his temperament. He was often bored and sometimes lonely. Tonight this was especially true.
It was almost nine o’clock, and “the Duchess” should appear soon. He wondered if the rain would keep her away. Lately she had become his only point of interest. He had never spoken to her. Tonight he would. There was an excitement and magnetism about her that reached him and made him feel alive.
The men in the club had named her “the Duchess.” She kept herself aloof, came alone and left alone. She chose her dance partners selectively, never accepting the offers of the young Mexican boys who had just the $2 admission charge, and the need to press close against the soft body of a woman. As for the more mature males, many a man was left to grunt unseen in some dark corner for trying to press his advantage.
The woman was no longer young, but one of that rare breed who never lose their appeal to the other sex. She was shapely and gypsy looking, her chin was small and proud. The long dresses of Oriental cut that she wore suited her dark Semitic looks. The mystery of the woman gathered in her eyes. They mirrored some dark grief mingled with daring promise, belied by the uncompromising face with its high cheekbones. On the dance floor she was a revelation. She would glow with the joy of the dance, waltzing with the grace of a seagull, or sway her hips with a wicked jungle beat.
Ben strummed his fingers on the bar. The band was in a nostalgic and mellow mood tonight. It suited him. The rain had stopped, but far off he could hear the unexpected rumble of thunder in the sky. The woman had just entered. Unselfconsciously she walked to the isolated table she usually took, draped her plastic raincoat over the back of her chair, and in a low, husky voice she ordered the usual vodka and orange juice. She was lost in thought. She seemed older tonight somehow, and tired and unhappy.
“I’ll bet she is at least 45 years old,” he thought viciously. Once or twice before he had felt her gazing at him, but tonight she seemed unaware of his presence. When she finished her drink, Ben approached her. He felt awkward, not his usual confident self. “Dance with me,” it came out almost a whisper. Her eyes were surprised. “She likes me,” he realized with triumph. Wordless and gracefully she rose and danced off with him. Her body was completely responsive, completely feminine.
Ben became excited; there was pleasure here. He desired the woman. He interrupted their dancing to brush the hair back from her forehead. “You’ve got interesting eyes.” Her face looked soft and young now. “I like you,” she said simply. “Come on, let’s get some air,” he suggested. She studied him for a moment, “All right,” she smiled warmly.
They walked out into the wet, fresh-smelling night, her high heels clicking on the wet dark pavement. The street was deserted. Overhead the neon sign of the Chrysler dealership swung dangerously in the wind as they passed. For about ten minutes they walked side by side, neither touching nor speaking. At a sharp, uphill corner, Ben stopped under a street light, and drew her to him. They kissed, and the night seemed right. They walked on a few minutes more. “You’ve been married.” Ben made it a statement. She nodded. His voice seemed to have broken a spell. An ambulance passed with its siren going. She stiffened noticeably.
“Which are you shaking off, the second or the third?” Even to his own ears he sounded gauche and smug. She recoiled and said harshly and quickly, “It was not like that at all, not like that at all.” “Say,” he said, “I live two blocks from here. Come home with me,” very gently now, “Please.” Again she studied his face. He thought he saw tears in her eyes but couldn’t be sure. Ironically he thought, “I wouldn’t know real tears if I saw them.” It had been a long time since he had cried.
“Please take me back to my car.” Her voice was firm. Without speaking to each other they walked back the half-mile to the club. “Goodnight and thank you,” she said politely. Ben watched her walk to the parking lot, shoulders slumped, head down; she looked dejected and lost. With a sharp, angry gesture Ben opened the club door and walked in, “Damn the rejecting old bitch, damn her, you’d think she was 18.” He sensed she was not coming back, and was angry, unhappy and disoriented.
Inside the club the scene was always the same, Ben thought, the same alternating of the lights from red to blue, to green to red, candles still flickering on the tables; the band sounded weary and flat. A young girl in a miniskirt was standing just outside the circle of dancers. She was tapping a small, impatient foot, and smiled at him. He walked over. “Want to dance, Beautiful?” “Sure, Handsome,” she tossed her head and snuggled into his arms. They danced off.
Ben could not shake off his sense of depression. He felt haunted; what had she meant by “Not like that at all?” Could it be she was not divorced, could she be widowed? He hadn’t thought of that, but that strange pain in her eyes, almost a stricken animal look. Damn, he was worrying about the woman. She had rejected him, hadn’t she, the hell with the bitch! He’d forget her. The pretty young mouth under his chin was smiling and inviting, This was like money in the bank. He held her tightly and she didn’t seem to mind.
The tempo of the music had changed. It was quick and lively now.
by Helen Middleton Amos
MRS. BERYL LONG, who will celebrate her 90th birthday tomorrow, is a tall, reserved woman who lives with her 63-year-old widowed daughter, Mrs. J. Nichols, at 1106 Airport Road. Her long life has been one of duty and hardship, seasoned with a saving grace of humor, and once you have won her confidence, her recollections are fascinating.
“I remember when my grandfather owned all this,” she said slowly, waving a blue-veined hand past the geraniums blooming on the window sill. “He cleared and farmed it – he and his five sons – and now the houses are thick as fleas on a dog! When he first sold it, the government wanted it for an airport. The planes were little two-seater affairs, but oh! the daredevil pilots! Those boys were afraid of nothing! My brother and I loved to visit Grampa’s. We were the only kids around, and more than once slipped into one of those crates for a spin!”
The deep-set eyes grew sad. “My brother got too fond of flying, I guess. His plane went down in flames during World War I. It broke my mother’s heart, losing him. She died of typhoid fever a year later, and even old Doc Stevens said she’d have come through if she’d had any fight left in her.”
Mrs. Long wiped the corner of her mouth with a spotless linen handkerchief.
“I kept house for Papa until I met Sam. By that time the government figured the airport here was too small, so they split it up into building lots. The war was over, weddings were a dime a dozen, and everybody wanted a house, so they sold like hot cakes. When Papa died, we tore down the draughty old homestead and Sam built me this one-floor cottage.” She looked around with satisfaction at the dark wood panelling, multi-paned windows and natural stone fireplace. “Sixty years old it is, maybe more, and sounder than the gimcracks they’re sticking up today!”
“How many children did you have?”
“Three,” she said, “Selma, my daughter, who moved back home ten years ago when her husband was killed on the pipeline. She works at a lawyer’s office in town, but said she’s going to retire any day now. I don’t know how she’s stood it this long, with the law so befuddled! Anyway, there was Selma, and the twins, Rob and Rollo.” She reached for a photograph album on a low table, and flipped the pages to a picture of two handsome young men in khaki.
“They were with the U. S. Special Service Force,” she explained. “Rob was killed on the Italian border one morning when he parachuted down…” The white head bent, and the wrinkled lips moved in prayer for a minute. She swallowed, and continued, “Rollo met a lovely girl in England and settled in New Zealand, of all places. They have four children I’ve never seen. Always thought I’d like to visit New Zealand, but there just didn’t seem to be enough money… I got Rob’s personal effects, as they called them, and a gold star to wear. We had a memorial service for him at the church, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. The twins were well-liked around here.”
She looked down at her wrinkled hands.
“It’s not as much fun to grow old as it’s cracked up to be, young woman! Like the last leaf on the tree, you are, dry and crinkled and aching to let go and join all the others. There’s nobody left hereabouts of my generation. None of those I went to school with. None of the old friends Sam and I had from ‘way back.
“Time was when the moon was a pretty light in the sky to skate by, or go sparkin’ behind a high-stepping trotter not something to walk on! Used to be a young fellow asked his girl’s hand in marriage properly. Nowadays she drags in some kid her parents know good and well won’t make her a fitting husband, and if the parents don’t agree the youngsters elope – or, worse than that, live together without getting married at all! I liked it when real, live people dropped in for an evening’s visiting – not moving pictures in your living-room. Now everybody’s so busy dashing hither and yon for goodness-knows-what that mighty few have time for a chat and a cup of tea anymore!”
“Do you find it lonely when your daughter is at work?”
“Sometimes. I listen to the radio. Used to be a great reader, but lately for some reason my eyes bother me. Feels like they’ve got sand in them… Selma turns that television on when she comes home and once in a while I watch, but the thing doesn’t seem natural to me! All that commotion right in one’s own house! Lots of times I just go to bed and let her stare at it all she wants. I lie there in the dark and think about the good times Sam and I had when the children were little.”
Did she enjoy good health? She grimaced slightly.
“My dear young lady, nobody enjoys good health after 75! The thing is, you learn not to talk about your aches and pains. My joints have been creaking for 40 years. My stomach is downright particular about what I put into it. I don’t sleep very well, and I itch a lot. Other than that, I’d say I have perfect health for the shape I’m in.”
“Will you have a birthday party?”
“Who hits 90 without one? Selma will invite a few friends, and the minister and his wife will drop by. My girl is good to me, you know. Always has a cake and flowers. Yes, we’ll have a party.”
Late afternoon sunlight slanted in to fall gently on the picture of a curly-headed young man. “That’s my Sam!” Mrs. Long said proudly. “Taken the year before we were married, it was, and I’ve never seen one I liked better.” For a minute she looked bewildered. “I still can’t believe he’s been gone these 25 years.”
Her farewell was cordial. “You’re a nice young woman. Too bad you wouldn’t meet a good lad and settle down. I don’t hold with pretty girls out in the world on their own.” Her handclasp was surprisingly firm.
* * * *
Before the office closed, Mrs. Selma Nichols telephoned to ask if we would run a notice of an Open House for her mother’s birthday, and added that we might mention that Mr. and Mrs. Rollo Long and family would be flying in from New Zealand for the occasion.
by Sandy Burns
The ocean was angry tonight
The breakers whipped in and out
With a determination
To correct its disorder
She watched it with fascination
Recalling fitful nightmares
Which had left her
Awaking with a start
She saw the sun
Peering over the horizon
Of a calm, blue sea
Then she knew
Comments on the Bundle
by Joseph F. Bradburn
Reader’s Buffet No. 15 in the August bundle contains a fine story by Helen Middleton Amos, in which she points out how frequently we neglect some of the simplest amenities of life until it is too late, then attempt to atone for our mistakes by an extravagant gesture. In the same issue Steve Patrick complains about the tendency to group all people of a certain age into one category, where they may be neglected or overlooked. He should remember that it is this grouping together which has provided a stronger voice to the senior citizens, so that they can speak up for and receive concessions from the government and the economy in general.
In The New Pioneer Betty Humfleet combines memories of Tony Moitoret, her lamentation that urban development has caught up with her in her wilderness retreat, and a few facts on the raising of goats, all tastefully done in four pages.
Add two more names to the list of those who met and married through amateur journalism. Dave and Melody really made it an NAPA affair, with Rev. Wm. E. Boys performing the ceremony, and the Segals, Ficks and Williamses among those in attendance. Congratulations and best wishes!
Jack McCord offers a number of epitaphs, mostly funny, in this fourth issue of his journal. I always stop to read such material when I come across it in a newspaper or magazine.
Harold Segal tells “All About Editing“ in Campane 86, just in time for me to realize that I have violated another rule. In trying to print two long stories in one issue, I have let my pages become too solid.
Jeff Jennings’ comments about the Fossils in this issue remind me of an item which was published in The Washington Post on August 16, 1979, reporting that the house once lived in by Thomas A. Edison as a boy was identified through the discovery of 42 pieces of printer’s type in the ruins. They figured no one else in the area would have had type on hand. The house is located at Port Huron, Mich.
According to The Fossil Vol. XXVIII No. 77, Thomas Alva Edison was a member of the Fossils for many years until his death in 1931. On his application he listed himself as editor, printer and publisher of The Weekly Herald. A copy of the journal dated February 3, 1862, was among the items hung on the walls of his sanctum.
Martha Abell’s poem in Marti’s Mouser 13 seems to have been laid aside without getting final revisions. The rhyme scheme of the later verses is not carried out in the first verses. Otherwise it cleverly shows two sides of the same position.
Jacob L. Warner will have to add on to his printshop just to display his laureates, if he keeps on winning. Three first’s and an honorable mention this year alone, plus the fact that he also published the award-winning story by L. V. P. Johnson. is something to be proud of.
The 36 pt. initials used in this issue came from Robert Halbert in Texas, cast by him from foundry metal. His plant could become especially valuable if he can get together with some of our members on casting type. This set of initials cost me $6.84, including postage.
FIVE HUNDRED COPIES of this amateur journal are being printed, featuring some material from the NAPA Manuscript Bureau. To satisfy postal requirements, be it noted that this journal is distributed to members of the National Amateur Press Association through the monthly bundle. Other copies may be sent first or third class by the publisher-member, who is Joseph F. Bradburn, La Plata, Md. 20646. This journal is handset, printed and published by the above.