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Albinos and Holy Rollers

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Albinos and Holy Rollers ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp

“They have albinos at the Penny Cost church,” Ruthie says.

“What’s Penny Cost mean?” Phillip asks.

“It’s a kind of religion, dumbbell,” she says. “You know. Methodists, Baptists, and Penny Costs.”

“Oh. What’s albinos?”

“It’s people that are all white, even their eyes and hair.”

“I don’t believe you,” he says.

“They’re just like anybody else, only they don’t have any color. Anywhere. Everything is all white.”

She was eleven and he was nine, just at the age when he was starting to doubt things people told him.

“I’m white and you’re white,” he says.

“We belong to the white race,” she says, “but we’re not albinos. Your hair is blond and mine is brown. You have blue eyes and I have brown ones. If we were albinos, our hair and eyes would be white, just like our skin.”

“Do albinos have white blood?”

“I guess they do.”

“You’re making that up. I don’t believe you.”

“I’ll prove it to you,” she says.

She goes to the other room and gets the dictionary and when she comes back she opens it on the table and begins flipping the pages.

A-l-b-i-n-o,” she says. “Here it is. Now, listen to this:  A person or animal having a congenital absence of pigment, causing the hair and skin to be white and the eyes typically pink.”

“Hah-hah!” he says. “You said they have white eyes!”

“Well, isn’t pink even better?”

“I’d have to see it to believe it,” he says.

“Just ask grandma.”

They find grandma lying on the couch with a cloth over her head, having one of her headaches.

“Grandma!” Ruthie says.

“Don’t bother me unless it’s an emergency,” grandma says. She slurs her words, meaning that she has probably been taking nips of whiskey in the pantry.

“We want to ask you a question.”

“What is it?”

“Have you ever seen an albino?”

“Not that I recall.”

“But you’ve heard of them.”

“Everybody has heard of them.”

“Am I an albino?” Phillip asks.

Grandma removes the cloth from her eyes and looks at him. “Have you been teasing him, Ruthie?” she asks.

“No, I have not!” Ruthie says.

“If the two of you don’t have enough to do, I can give you some chores.”

“We want to go to the Penny Cost church to see the albinos with pink eyes!” Phillips says.

“No! You stay right here where I can keep an eye on you.”

“But you’re not!” Ruthie says.

“Not what?”

“Not keeping an eye on us. You’re napping.”

“Don’t get technical on me, dear. Even if I am napping, I’m still keeping my eye on you.”

“Marilyn says they have albinos at the Penny Cost church.”

“You know as well as I do that Marilyn is full of crap.”

“But she’s in high school!”

“It doesn’t make any difference. She’s still full of crap.”

“We want to go to the Penny Cost church and see the albinos with pink eyes!” Phillip says.

“What do you think it is? A circus?”

“How should I know?”

“You stay away from those old Penny Cost people. You’re likely to see more than you bargained for.”

“Like what?” Ruthie asks.

“They’re holy rollers at that church.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means stay away.”

“No, really. What does it mean?” Ruthie asks. “I’ve heard that before but I never knew what it meant.”

“It means they roll on the floor and scream.”

“Are they afraid?” Phillip asks.

“No, they’re happy.”

“Why are they happy?”

“They think they see Jesus.”

“Do they see Jesus?”

“I guess they think they do.”

“That’s it!” Ruthie says. “We’re going. I wish I had a camera so I could take some pictures.”

“Last time I checked I’m still the boss around here,” grandma says. “I think that means whenever I tell you to stay at home, you’d better do it.”

“We’ll wait until you go back to sleep and then we’ll go, anyway,” Ruthie says. “We’re not prisoners.”

“No, you’re not prisoners, but you’re little children and in this family little children do as they are told.”

“Please!”

“No!”

“I want to see the albinos!” Phillip says. “I want to see their pink eyes!”

“Albinos nothing,” Ruthie says. “It would be a lot more fun to see the holy rollers.”

“I’ll tell you what!” grandma says. “The next time the circus comes to town I’ll take you to see the freak show. There’s sure to be at least one albino.”

“That doesn’t do us any good,” Ruthie says. “We want to see them now!”

“I’ll drive you over in the car. For a minute or two! And when we come back I want absolute peace and quiet from both of you.”

“Well, all right,” Ruthie says. “If that’s the only way we get to go.”

“Oh, goody!” Phillips jumps up and down. “Grandma’s going to take us to the Penny Cost church!”

The church was on the edge of town, at least a mile away, in what grandma considered an unsavory neighborhood. When she pulled onto the parking lot of the church, nobody was there.

“Where are all the albinos?” Ruthie asks.

“They must be inside,” Phillip says.

“The church is closed now,” grandma says. “Can’t you see that all the lights are off and the parking lot is empty?”

“I bet they’re all inside,” Phillip says. “Having punch and cookies.”

“You see that sign over there? It says the next revival meeting is Saturday night at seven o’clock.”

“Oh, can we come back then?” Ruthie asks.

“You want to attend the revival meeting?”

“Yes.”

“Just so you can gawk and stare?”

“Yes.”

“You know, don’t you, that they’ll make you join the church?”

“No, they won’t.”

“Yes, they will. They’ll make you get up and come down to the front of the church and they’ll say some magic words over you and then you’ll be a holy roller, too.”

“I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do!”

“If you want to see the albinos and the holy rollers, that’s the price you have to pay.”

“I don’t think so!”

“You don’t want to be a holy roller?”

“Not really.”

“You’d be the only one in fourth grade. People would come from miles around just to see you. They’d stare and gawk and want to take your picture.”

“Maybe we’d just better forget the whole thing,” Ruthie says. “I’ve got better things to do with my time.”

Copyright © 2016 by Allen Kopp

The Spiders’ Rendezvous

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The Spiders’ Rendezvous ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp

The fans close to the ceiling whir lazily, shifting the warm air from one place to another. He pulls back the fly-specked curtain and looks down into the street. Two cars and an old truck are parked at the curb. A fat woman in a flowered dress leads two children who don’t want to be led. An old man in overalls totters on the sidewalk, nearly falls, rights himself and spits. A dog trots across the street and urinates against a tree on the other aside. Everything here has gone to hell, he tells himself, and lets the curtain fall back into place.

He calls down to room service. “Send up a bottle of champagne in a bucket of ice,” he says.

“Who is this?” a voice asks, and he recognizes it as the ignorant desk clerk.

“Mr. Gilchrist in room four twenty-five.”

“We don’t have no champagne, sir,” the clerk says.

“Well, what do you have?”

“Hold on a minute.”

He hears the low murmur of voices as the clerk confers with others and in a minute he comes back on the line.

“Is beer okay?”

“As long as it’s cold.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Send up six bottles. And I don’t want it unless it’s cold.”

“Yes, sir.”

He opens the suitcase on the bed and a couple of minutes later is annoyed by a knock at the door.

“Who is it?” he says loudly.

Room service.”

When he opens the door he sees standing there a woman past the first blush of youth but still not old. She brings the tray bearing six bottles of beer into the room and sets it on the desk.

“Will there be anything else?” she asks in a half-hearted, disinterested way.

He looks closely at her and smiles. “You’re much prettier than the usual bellboy,” he says.

“We don’t have no bellboy anymore,” she says. “He quit.”

“What is your function in the establishment, then, if I may be so bold?”

“What?”

“If you’re not the usual bellboy, what do you do?”

“Well, I mostly help in the kitchen. Some days I clean rooms and sometimes I have to take things to people because there’s nobody else to do it.”

“Like now.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, I can’t tip you because I don’t have any money but I’ll take care of you before I check out.”

“Oh, that’s all right, sir. Nobody ever tips me.”

“What’s your name?”

“Stella Penny.”

“That’s a euphonious name. It trips lightly off the tongue.”

“What?”

“Never mind. Won’t you stay and have a drink with me?”

“Oh, no, sir. I can’t. I’m expected back in the kitchen.”

“They don’t let you take rest breaks in the kitchen?”

“Well, I guess it’ll be all right for a minute or two.”

She comes inside. He closes the door, uncaps one of the beers and hands it to her.

“I shouldn’t drink while I’m working,” she says.

“I won’t tell anybody if you don’t,” he says.

She sits on the settee and he takes one of the beers for himself and sits down beside her. She looks warily at him and takes a drink of the beer.

“You’re not trying to get me drunk, are you?” she asks.

“No, I’m not trying to get you drunk, Stella. It would avail me nothing if I did.”

“I don’t understand half of what you say,” she says and shakes her head.

“How old are you, Stella?”

“I’m twenty-five.”

“I think you’re at least ten years older than that, but we won’t quibble.”

She giggles and blushes. “What does it matter? It’s just a number, anyway.”

“How old do you think I am?” he asks.

“I don’t know. About forty, I guess.”

“Not even close,” he says, “but thank you for lying.”

“The beer sure tastes good,” she says. “I haven’t had a beer in a long time.”

“It seems that beer is all they have in this establishment. It used to be that they would have anything you would ever ask for, and if they didn’t have it, they’d get it.”

“When was that?”

“A long time ago, probably before you were even born. I had the best time I ever had in my life right here in this hotel.”

“You spent your honeymoon here with your wife?”

“No. That was in Niagara. I had a far better time right here, though.”

“Where is your wife now?”

“Long ago departed.”

“What do you mean? Did she die?”

“As far as I’m concerned she did.”

“But she’s still alive somewhere?”

“I guess so. I haven’t thought to inquire.”

“So the fun you had here was not with your wife?”

“No. My wife and I never had any fun.”

“What did you do here that was so much fun?”

“A long time ago, right after I graduated from college, a group of my friends and I spent a part of every summer here.”

“Oh.” She seems disappointed.

“It was a very fine hotel then. The service was impeccable. The food was the best anywhere. They had a beer garden and a dance floor out back.”

“There’s nothing back there now.”

“Yes, there was a flood and the river swept all that away and after it was gone nobody bothered to bring it back.”

“I don’t remember a flood like that,” she said.

“There were five and sometimes six or more of us,” he says. “There were no better or closer friends in the world. We swam and hiked during the day and rode horses. At night we caroused and played cards and drank until two in the morning or sometimes later. Then we didn’t get up until noon the next day and when we did we had a huge meal and rested up for that night.”

“You didn’t have to work?”

“Not a care in the world.”

“And what happened to your friends?”

“They’re all dead now. One of them’s in jail.”

“And you’re the only one left?”

“Gone to seed, just like the hotel.”

She finishes her beer and hands him the bottle. “I have to get back to work,” she says. “They’ll come looking for me.”

“I wish you could stay and have another one,” he says.

“I guess it doesn’t make much difference,” she says. “I’m going to be out of a job soon, anyway.”

“Why is that?”

“They’re shutting down the hotel. Nobody wants to come here anymore.”

“You probably can’t believe it now,” he says, “but it used to be a very fine hotel.”

He hands her another beer and she drinks half of it in one gulp as if she has a tremendous thirst. “What do you suppose happened?” she asks, wiping the back of her hand across her mouth.

“Time,” he says. “Time is what happened.”

She rests her head on his shoulder and belches. “I should probably get back downstairs,” she says.

Copyright © 2016 by Allen Kopp

Spring on the Missouri ~ A Painting by Thomas Hart Benton

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Thomas Hart Benton ~ Spring on the Missouri

Spring on the Missouri by Thomas Hart Benton

In 1937 Thomas Hart Benton visited areas of Southeast Missouri ravaged by flood. In the artist’s own words: “The roads of the flood country were full of movers. Every once in a while seepage from under the levee would force evacuation of a house and you would see a great struggle to get animals and goods out of the rising water.” In his painting Spring on the Missouri, he re-imagined the scene as epic theater, symbolic of man’s never-ending struggle with the forces of nature. 

Barges on the Canal Saint Martin in Paris ~ A Painting by Alfred Sisley

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Sisley ~ Barges on the Canal Saint Martin in Paris (1870)

Barges on the Canal Saint Martin in Paris (1870) by Alfred Sisley

Alfred Sisley (1839-1899) was an Impressionist painter who spent most of his life in France while remaining a British citizen. He is known mostly for his landscape (en plein air) paintings. He painted Barges on the Canal Saint Martin in Paris in 1870. 

Woman in the Dunes ~ A Capsule Movie Review

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Woman in the Dunes

Woman in the Dunes ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp

I read the Japanese novel (in English translation, of course) Woman in the Dunes by Kôbô Abe in 1992, but had never seen the 1964 movie version of the novel until it was shown on “TCM Imports” on Sunday night. It’s a simple story with two principal characters and a handful of “villagers” that we never see for more than a minute or two at a time.

A young, child-like Japanese woman, whose name we never know, lives in a crude wooden shack at the bottom of a ravine from which there is no escape. It’s a barren, isolated place. Sand is all we ever see and the sand moves all the time (from wind and gravity), like a creepy, sinister entity, down into the ravine in which the woman lives. She must shovel the sand day and night to keep from being buried in it. (We learn after a while that her husband and daughter are both buried there.) She hoists the sand up to the villagers who sell it to be used in bricks or building materials. In return, they send her a scant amount of food and water. While most people would believe that the perpetual shoveling of sand is just another version of hell, the Japanese woman thinks of it as her life and the ravine as her home. She states at one point, “Nobody would even bother with me if it wasn’t for the sand.” She thinks it’s what she deserves.

A young man from Tokyo named Niki Jumpei is a teacher and entomologist. He is looking for a certain specimen of sand beetle and if he can find one that hasn’t been classified yet, he’ll get his name in the journals. When he misses the last bus home in the evening, he asks a villager if there is someplace nearby where he might stay for the night. The villager leads him to the ravine where the young woman lives. A rope ladder hangs there which he might easily climb down. The woman feeds him and he spends the night there. In the morning he prepares to leave but discovers that the rope ladder that he used to climb down into the ravine is gone. He is trapped in much the same way that he traps his insect specimens.

Niki Jumpei spends a lot of time calculating how he might get out of the ravine and go home, but the young woman is cheerful and unmoved. He begins to help her with the shoveling and she prepares his food. He tells himself that when he doesn’t return, the people at home will come looking for him. He tries everything he can think of to get out of the ravine, but nothing works. The one time he does get out, he loses his way, gets caught in quicksand, and the villagers find him and lower him back into the ravine.

In time, Niki Jumpei and the young woman are drawn to each other in a sexual way, as nature dictates when two heterosexual people of opposing genders are thrown together. She bathes him as he stands in the middle of the floor naked. She asks him how she compares with the girls in Tokyo. Does he have a wife? She is clearly delighted at his being there and horrified at the thought that he might get away.

For such a simple, stark story, there is a considerable amount of tension in Woman in the Dunes, accompanied by eerie (though appropriate) Japanese music and the perpetual effects of the sand closing in. What’s going to happen? Will Niki Jumpei kill the young woman? Will he be able to escape? Will he escape and take her with him? Will she finally relent and get the villagers to let him go? There are any number of possible outcomes and the way the story finally ends is something we didn’t see coming.

The “director’s cut” of Woman in the Dunes is almost two-and-a-half hours long. In Japanese with English subtitles, it’s not for everybody, of course, but it’s accessible and memorable for those willing to spend the time. Foreign movies, like grand opera, are an acquired taste. Some people will resist both as a matter of principle. It’s hard for some of us to overcome our hillbilly origins.

Copyright © 2016 by Allen Kopp

Nausea ~ A Capsule Book Review

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Nausea

Nausea ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp

Jean-Paul Sartre, French writer and philosopher, lived from 1905 to 1980. His philosophical novel Nausea, first published in 1938, is one of the landmark works of twentieth century French literature and Sartre’s most famous work. In it, the fictional character Antoine Roquetin (Sartre himself?) is a Parisian writer who is in the medium-sized French city that he calls “Bouville” (means “Mudtown” and is probably Le Havre), researching the life of—and writing a historical book about—an eighteenth-century aristocrat and political figure, the Marquis de Rollebon. The novel is set in 1932 when Antoine Roquetin is thirty years old.

There is really not much of a story or plot to Nausea. It is told in the form of diary entries and is mostly the stream of consciousness impressions of Roquetin as he goes about living from day to day. He observes the people around him and the things they say and do, whether he’s in a café, his hotel, the library or some other place. He anticipates reuniting with an old girlfriend from his past named Anny. He has a superficial dalliance with a waitress. He takes long walks in the fog. He contemplates, at great length, portraits hanging in the library of the city’s founding fathers. He befriends a man whom he calls the Self-Taught Man, who is reading all the books in the library in alphabetical order.

Roquetin is afflicted with a sort of moral paralysis that he calls “nausea.” It’s not a physical malady but a degeneration of the spirit. Human life to him is unnecessary. Existence is pointless and there is no God, which is the essence of the philosophy known as “existentialism.” He eventually gives up his writing and research in Bouville to return to Paris to—what?—probably just waste away. Aren’t we all going through the paces of living just so we can die? Seems that way, doesn’t it? But, wait a minute! If we were to write a song that will be remembered long after we die, or to sing that song on a recording that will be listened to for a long time to come, maybe that (or something like it) is enough is rescue us from the awful pointlessness of existence. What do you think?

Nausea is philosophical treatise disguised as fiction. It’s fitfully interesting, fascinating at times and tedious at other times. If you’re a student of French literature or a student of Sartre, it’s going to be essential reading. If you are just looking for a good “story” because you enjoy reading, Nausea probably isn’t it. Not exactly painful reading, but you’ll almost certainly be glad when you reach the last page. I think I’ll take my diary and turn it into a depressing philosophical novel. It won’t matter that it doesn’t have a story, a beginning, a middle or an end, will it? Everything is pointless, anyway.   

Copyright © 2016 by Allen Kopp

The Man with Six Kids Whose Wife Ran Off and Left Him

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The Man with Six Kids Whose Wife Ran Off and Left Him ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp

They go to the shops on Saturday afternoon and usually end up in a bar somewhere Saturday night. Leona at one time had a husband but he left her so long ago she barely remembers. Val never married but lives with her mother, whom she loves and despises at the same time. She’s thirty-seven years old but still cherishes the illusion that someday a man will come along and want to marry her.

It’s a hot Saturday in July. Leona and Val sweat as they walk along the sidewalk, avoiding brushing shoulders with any of the other sweating strangers. A small child, three or four years old, squeals and gets a pounding from his mother, which makes him squeal even louder.

“Lord, they sure can make a big noise to be so little,” Leona laughs.

“Little son of a bitch!” Val says. “My mother would have ripped my head off if I had screamed that way in public.”

“They’re not taught to behave, the way we were.”

They stop off at the drug store to pick up Val’s mother’s pills and Leona lingers over the cosmetics counter, looking for a color of lipstick that she thinks will look good with her complexion. The salesgirl comes out from the back and watches them, so they leave the cave-like coolness of the store and go back out into the bright light.

A little farther down the street they find themselves standing in front of a movie theater. A double feature is playing tonight, but it doesn’t begin for two hours. They think they might come back and see both shows, but Leona says she can’t sit still that long on such a hot night and anyway she just isn’t in the mood for cinematic entertainment.

They go into a place called Glad Rags, a store where everything has been owned by somebody else. Leona is looking for a couple of “nice dresses,” as she says, to wear out on dates, and she doesn’t have much money. She goes to the racks of ladies’ dresses, extending all the way to the back of the store, and Val follows along behind her.

“Can I help you find something, honey?” a fat saleslady asks.

“Just looking today, honey,” Leona says.

Val smiles at the saleslady but she ignores her.

Leona picks a red cocktail dress off the rack with a glittery bodice and holds it up. “What do you think about this one, honey?” she asks Val.

“You probably shouldn’t wear that one to church, honey.” Val says.

She picks a blue chiffon and twirls around with it.

“That would have been perfect for you twenty-five years ago!” Val says.

A yellow one with puffy sleeves.

“That one looks like the bathroom curtains.”

A blue one, very immodest.

“Part of that one is missing.”

Finally she finds two that she liked: a sedate black for funerals and a medium-green for happier occasions.

She finds the fat saleslady again and says, “Where can I try these on, honey?”

“There’s a screen back there by the wall, honey. You can go behind there.”

Val sits in the chair for weary husbands and Leona takes the two dresses behind the screen. Val hears grunting and sighing and in a few minutes Leona emerges.

“I guess I’ve put on a little more weight than I thought,” she says. “Neither one of them fits.”

“How can you ever expect to find a man?” Val asks.

“Don’t worry about me, honey! A little face powder does the trick every time.”

“It’s the face powder that catches ‘em and the baking powder that keeps ‘em at home,” Val says.

Come again, honey!” the saleslady calls to them as they go out the door.

“Where to now?” Val asks.

“There’s that man I told you about,” Leona says, pointing with her nose.

“What man?”

“The one in the green pickup truck that just pulled into the parking space.”

“What about him?”

“His wife just left him and he’s got six kids.”

“Where’d she go?”

“I don’t know. Ran out on him. And now he’s got six kids to take care of on his own.”

“Too bad.”

“If it wasn’t for all those kids, I think I’d make a play for him. He’s kind of handsome, don’t you think?”

“Maybe he can get rid of the kids and clear the way for you,” Val said.

“What’s he going to do? Take ‘em out back and strangle ‘em one by one?”

“Well, no. Not that exactly. He could put them in an orphanage.”

“It doesn’t work that way, honey,” Leona said. “Once you bring ‘em into the world, they’re yours to take care of as long as you’re still aboveground.”

“Sounds awful, doesn’t it, honey?”

“Yeah, life’s a bitch.”

“The important thing is not to have ‘em in the first place and then the person you’re married to can’t run out on you and leave you holding the bag.”

“Truer words were never spoken.”

They have a sandwich and a soda at the diner and by the time they are finished the long summer twilight has begun.

They go down the stairs that connect the lower street to the upper and there come to a place called Louie’s Hot Spot. Val has never been there but Leona says it’s a lot of fun, so they go inside and sit down at a table for two.

After a couple of drinks, Val is ready to leave but Leona is obviously enjoying herself. She sways in time to the music and looks appreciatively at the men around her; if they ignore her, she doesn’t seem to mind.

Somewhere about the third drink, Leona sticks her fingernails into Val’s wrist and says, “Guess who just came in?”

“The pope?” Val asks.

“No, silly! It’s him!

“Who?”

“The man with six kids whose wife ran off and left him.”

“Well, everybody has to be someplace.”

“He just sat down at the bar. After he gets his drink, I know he’ll turn around and look to see if there’s anybody here he knows.”

“So what?”

“He’ll see me sitting here.”

“Do you owe him money?”

“No, silly! I’m going to make myself look available so he’ll ask me to dance.”

“Do you want me to leave?”

“Not unless you’re about to have a seizure.”

Within five minutes, the man with six kids whose wife ran off and left him approaches the table coolly and leans down and whispers in Leona’s ear.

“Why, I’d love to!” she says, standing up.

She gives Val a secret little smile and moves to the dance floor with him.

Val moves around to the other side of the table so she can  watch. They look rather silly together, he so skinny as to hardly have any shape at all, with Leona’s belly obtruding between them. They move awkwardly in time to the music like a couple of self-conscious teens at their first dance.

“Not a pretty sight,” Val says, but not loud enough to be heard.

When the song ends, Leona glides over to the table as though she is still dancing and says to Val, “He’s asked me to go for a ride with him. You don’t mind, do you?”

“No. I don’t mind.”

“You can make it home by yourself all right?”

“I think I’ll find the way.”

“His name is Virgil Miller,” Leona says “He’s just the sweetest thing. And I think he’s kind of lonely.”

“What about the six kids?”

“They’re spending time with grandma.”

“How lucky for you!”

“Isn’t it, though?”

“If you end up murdered, we’ll know who did it. I even have his name now.”

After Leona leaves, Val finishes her drink so as not to appear rushed. If any of the men in the place take any notice of her at all, she sees no outward sign of it.

When Val gets home, her mother is wrapped up in her pink chenille bathrobe watching Have Gun, Will Travel on television. She insists that Paladin is somebody she knew during the war. Earlier in the evening she would have watched The Jackie Gleason Show and Oh! Susanna. In the morning at the breakfast table she’ll have to tell Val all about them. On Sunday she’ll be excited about The Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour and The Ed Sullivan Show, not understanding why Val doesn’t want to watch with her.

“Did you get my pills?” she asks, not taking her eyes off Paladin’s face.

“Yes, mama, I got your pills,” Val says, not realizing until that moment how tired she is.

“Put them on the table where I’ll be able to see them.”

“Yes, your majesty.”

“Did you have a good time tonight?”

“Yes, mama. I met a handsome millionaire.”

“As handsome as Cary Grant?”

“Oh, much better looking than that!”

“Did he ask you to marry him?”

“Well, not exactly. He asked me to go to the Riviera with him, but I told him I wouldn’t be able to get away right now.”

“Too bad.”

“He had tears in his eyes. I hated to hurt him that way, but I believe in time he’ll understand.”

“They usually do.”

On the swell of dramatic music from the TV, Val goes into her bedroom and shuts the door. She changes into her pajamas, gets into bed and turns off the light. She can still hear the drone of the TV and some traffic sounds, but more than that. When she listens closely, she knows that what she hears is the sound of life passing her by.

Copyright © 2016 by Allen Kopp

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