The Picture is About to Begin ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
Mama came home from her job at Woolworth’s, flung off her saleslady smock and fluffed up her hair in the mirror.
“What a day!” she said. “I caught a couple of shoplifters. They were hiding makeup inside their coats. I didn’t waste any time. I told Mr. Gottschalk and he called security. They were just high school girls. I felt kind of sorry for them. You should have seen their faces when security nabbed them. One of them cried as if her heart would break. Serves her right, is what I say! You can’t go around taking what doesn’t belong to you!”
“What’s for supper?” Franklin asked. He was tired out from his day, lying on the couch reading a magazine.
“You’ll have to make do with a sandwich or with whatever you can lay your hands on. I’ve got lodge tonight.”
“Can’t you tell those lodge ladies to stuff it?”
“You know I’d never do that. They’re my friends.”
“I’d like some fried chicken.”
“Well, cook it up yourself, then.”
“I don’t know how.”
“Maybe it’s time you learned.”
“No, I’ll just open up a can of beans or something.”
“She’s upstairs getting dolled up. She’s going out on a date.”
“I don’t know. I hope it’s Jack the Ripper.”
“What time is this date supposed to arrive?”
“I don’t know. If he knows what’s good for him, he won’t arrive at all.”
She went upstairs and when she came back down, Franklin was pretending to be asleep so he wouldn’t have to talk to her anymore. She left a few minutes later and Franklin got up and went into the kitchen to find something to eat for supper. He opened a can of peaches and began eating them out of the can with a fork.
He took the can back into the living room and set it on the coffee table and began thumbing through the newspaper to see all the latest happenings when there came a loud knock on the front door. That would be Peachy’s date for the evening.
At the second knock, he roused himself to get up off the couch and when he crossed the room and flung open the door, he was amused by the startled look on the fellow’s face.
“Yes?” Franklin said. “We’re not buying any magazine subscriptions at this time.”
“I, uh, I’m here to pick up Peachy.”
“Pick up who?”
“Peachy. She and I are going out tonight.”
“Are you sure you have the right address?”
The fellow took a step back and peered at the house number to the left of the door. “Yes, I believe I do,” he said.
“Well, I’m not sure I know anybody by the name of Peachy,” Franklin said, “but you can come in as long as you’re not here to commit any felonies.”
“Oh, no! I…”
The fellow stepped inside the door and Franklin slammed it shut.
“Just messing with you,” Franklin said. “I’m Peachy’s brother. My name is Franklin Terry. You can call me Franklin Terry.”
“I’m Curtis Wadlow,” the fellow said, offering his hand.
“The duchess is upstairs getting dressed. You can throw all caution to the wind and sit down and wait for her, or you can leave now if you must.”
“I’ll wait,” Curtis Wadlow said, taking a seat in the big upholstered chair that matched the couch.
Franklin resumed his seat on the couch, and the two young men regarded each other warily.
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard Peachy mention that she had a brother,” Curtis Wadlow said.
“That’s just like her. She wouldn’t want anybody to know I exist.”
“Why is that?”
“Well, I guess you could say she and I don’t like each other very much.”
“You can’t mean that. She’s a lovely person.”
“You don’t know her very well, do you?”
“This is our third date.”
“In how long?”
“Oh, a couple of months, I guess.”
“You don’t work very fast, do you?”
“Where did you two meet?”
“At a young adults’ mixer in the basement at the church.”
“Oh, a church affair?”
“Yeah, I don’t usually go to those things, but if you’re shy, like me, it’s a good way to meet people.”
“I’ve never been to a church mixer,” Franklin said.
“You can meet some awfully nice people there. Generally speaking.”
“Where are you taking Peachy tonight?”
“We’re going to see a movie.”
“Yeah? Which one?”
“Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein at the Rialto downtown.”
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea. Peachy doesn’t like horror movies. They keep her awake at night.”
“She said she wanted to go.”
“Well, you can never tell about her.”
“Maybe she’d rather go someplace else.”
“You don’t always have to do what she wants, do you? Women can be very selfish that way. Do what you want.”
“I don’t know. It doesn’t make much difference to me. I just like being with her, no matter where we are.”
“Are we both talking about the same person?” Franklin asked.
“She takes a long time to get dressed, doesn’t she?” Curtis Wadlow said.
“Now you’re discovering the real Peachy.”
“I told her what time I’d pick her up. It seems inconsiderate of her not be ready when I said.
“Sometimes she takes hours getting ready to go out, and when she comes out she looks worse than before.”
“She could have a little more consideration for me. I want to see a picture from the beginning, the “directed by” stuff and all that. I hate going in after a picture has already started.”
“You’d be better off waiting for a glacier than for Peachy.”
“If we don’t leave about right now, we won’t make it in time. Could you go and hurry her along? Tell her the picture is about to start?”
“It wouldn’t do any good. She doesn’t like to be hurried. Once she sees her own reflection in the mirror, she’s transfixed.”
“Are you saying she’s vain?”
“Vain doesn’t even begin to cover it.”
“Well, I’ll wait a couple more minutes and if she’s not down by then, I’m going on alone.”
“I like horror movies,” Franklin said. “I’m not doing anything tonight.”
“What? Are you saying you’d go to the Rialto with me?”
“Mister, I’d go to the moon with you.”
“I’ve never been out on a date with another man before.”
“Don’t think of it as a date. You pay for your date’s movie ticket, don’t you?”
“Well, you don’t have to pay for mine. I’m not helpless. I’ve got money. I’ll pay for my own ticket, so it’s not a date. Get that idea out of your head. It’s whatever you want to call it, but it’s not a date.”
“Are we walking or riding?”
“I’ve got my car out front.”
“Well, let’s go then. If we leave now, we can just about make the “directed by” stuff.”
“What will Peachy think when she comes down and finds out I didn’t wait for her?” Curtis Wadlow said. “I wouldn’t want her to think I stood her up.”
“She stood you up first,” Franklin Terry said.
Copyright © 2019 by Allen Kopp