National League of American Pen Women

The Muncie, IN Branch is a part of the National League of American Pen Women

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Dating Game by Carol White

The Fun-of-Writing Contest, 2013 first place winner in Fiction is Carol White for her story, The Dating Game.


The Dating Game
by Carol White

Since my blind date, Pamela James, had just ordered her second twelve-dollar martini I knew I had to stick to club soda if I was going to be able to pay for dinner.
My friend, Charlie, had suggested that Pamela might be just the type of lady I’d be attracted to.  Pamela was his travel agent and according to Charlie’s description, she was blond, tall and shapely.  I had to admit she sounded perfect, but I’d said that before.   Since my divorce three years ago, for some reason I can’t seem to find the right woman.  Ordinarily, I’m the easiest guy in the world to get along with.
We met at the bar in a fancy restaurant that Pamela had suggested, a place that would stretch my budget, but to which I had agreed nonetheless in order to make a good impression.  A few minutes into our conversation I realized that Pamela had an obsessive personality, repeating the same remarks two and three times verbatim.  She was a bore, and I was already into the bar tab for thirty bucks.  As she was about to order a third martini, I suggested we sit down for dinner.  The captain led the way to a corner table and, of course, asked if he could bring us another round.  Pamela said yes.
            “I love the lamb here,” she cooed as soon as we were seated, “want to share a rack?”
            “Sure, why not,” I said, almost getting apoplexy from the price. 
            “Christopher, I love oysters so would you mind if I started with a few?” Pamela said, speaking in baby talk that turns me off big time, but I nodded in agreement anyway.  Our server delivered Pamela’s third martini in a glass that I could have washed out my socks in, and took our order.
            “I’ll have a dozen oysters,” Miss Ritz said overwhelming me with her greed, since the puny mollusks went for three dollars each. “Then we’re going to split the rack of lamb, medium, please.”
            I preferred lamb medium-well but let it pass. 
            “I’ll start with a small green salad,” I said, praying they had such an item as it wasn’t listed on the menu.
`           “Ooh,” Baby Snooks crooned, “that’s a good idea; I’ll have a salad after the oysters, but make mine a Caesar.”  A fourteen-dollar Caesar.  Even Julius didn’t spend that much on a salad!
            Pamela was pretty in an offbeat sort of way; her eyes were deeply set and her nose a bit long and somewhat pointed, giving her the appearance of a wolf or a wild dog. She was in great shape, probably from working out, which is something I’ve been meaning to do.
            When the lamb came it looked like a raw wound, and Pamela immediately sent it back.  Our waiter couldn’t have been nicer, and whisked it away for more time on the grill.  Ten minutes later a new rack appeared and this one was done to perfection, even for me.  The captain carved it into six tiny chops, and treated me to another club soda. Wolfwoman then proceeded to pick up the first chop and eat it like she was playing a harmonica.  Up and down, back and forth; those little wolverine teeth chomping away until the bone was picked clean.  She demolished a second chop in much the same way while I sat there in wonderment. 
            “So, Christopher, why do you think Charlie fixed us up?  I mean it’s obvious that we’re not the same type,” said Pamela.
            I was flummoxed that she had the nerve to state what was so apparent to me; after all, I’m a very eligible bachelor although most of the women I’ve met are always too busy for a second date. 
            “Do you like to travel?” Pamela asked. “I’ve been all over the world because my job makes that easy for me.  New places excite me and getting paid to visit them before my clients do, well, who could ask for more?”
            Pamela’s face took on a glow as she continued talking about her profession.  She seemed more relaxed (although that could have been due to the third martini) and her conversation actually began to sound interesting. 
            “I know you’re a car salesman, but what do you really enjoy? What’s  your passion?” she said.
            “Poetry.” There, I’d said it and somehow I wasn’t embarrassed. “Would you like to hear something I wrote today?”
            “Don’t tell me you carry around poems with you?” she asked in a flattering way.
            “Always,” I said in a soft tone.
            As I read her a love sonnet I could almost hear a harmonic accompaniment in the background as Pamela scaled the last chop. Her teeth glistened with the fat of the meat, and she held the bone like a baton.  I put my notebook down and took a swig of the club soda.  All of a sudden it tasted crisp and clear.
            “How about a sip of my drink?” I said.
            “You know, that’s not a bad idea,” Pamela said.  “I was so nervous about tonight that I went overboard on the alcohol. Why don’t you let me pick up the bar bill?”
            Now that was music to my ears but all I said was, “Maybe on our second date” and we both smiled.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Dukie by Nancy Turner

The first place winner in the Non-Fiction category is Dukie, by Nancy Turner

The Cornerstone Building


My earliest memory of him was a man in his seventies, small in stature, his thin face, although lined with age, still retaining an almost boyish look.  His white hair was always neatly parted for which he carried a small silver comb in his vest pocket.  When he walked, he usually had his hands clasped behind his back and he smoked a pipe filled with Prince Albert tobacco.  To this day that scent reminds me of him.  In my mind I always picture him sitting in a rocking chair looking out the long windows in our den, watching the traffic along East Jackson Street.  As soon as the weather warmed he would move to our screened-in front porch where he relaxed in a wooden rocker that sat alongside the comfortable old glider.  He became a fixture in the neighborhood the last ten years of his life, rocking, puffing on his pipe and raising his arm in a friendly salute to anyone passing.  Everyone called him “Dukie.”  My Dad had given him the nickname upon marrying my Mom.  Dad thought that Grandpa was always pushed back into a corner by my grandmother’s noisy Irish family, and he wanted to give him a place of importance in the family pecking order. Originally Dad called him the “Duke.”  Affectionately shortened to Dukie, the nickname stuck the rest of his life.  The two men were very close, both as drinking buddies and card players.  Dad had lost his own father in the early 1920s and Grandpa had lost his only son during the same period.  The two of them enjoyed making home brew in our basement during the Prohibition years which would be bottled and ready for the   weekend card game with other male members of the family.  A new supply of brew had to be made after each session. 

Dukie was such a fixture in our household throughout my growing up years that I never questioned what his life had been like as a young man.  It wasn’t until years after his death at ninety when I discovered an article about him in the newspaper and realized what an interesting life he had led.  A reporter for the Muncie Star, doing a story on the labor movement in Muncie around the turn of the century, interviewed Dukie as the oldest member of the bricklayers union.  I found out that this humble man had lost his mother when he was two and his father at fourteen.  He left home at 16 when his father’s second wife attempted to take the father’s small estate from Grandpa and his two sisters.  He became a  brick layer’s apprentice to learn a trade.  Armed with only a fourth grade education, Grandpa taught himself to read, write, figure and use correct grammar.   He never lost his desire to learn and would stand over my brother and me as we did our homework, always seeking to fill in the gaps in his own education.     

From the article I learned that Grandpa, his apprenticeship finished by age eighteen, came to Muncie in 1878 to find work.  He heard that James Boyce was having trouble finishing the smokestack on his flax mill because no bricklayer was willing to work so high in the air.  Upon being told that Grandpa had built the 100 foot smokestack for the Connersville Furniture Factory, using a series of pulleys pulled by horses to get the bricks and mortar up so high,  Boyce hired him on the spot.  Grandpa cheerfully told the reporter that he climbed up to the top of the stack, already 55 feet in the air and realized that his trowel was down on the ground.  Since no one was willing to bring it up to him, he had to climb down, retrieve the trowel and climb back up to finish the job.  It took him four days to complete the job and he was proud of the fact that beside the regular wage of 35 cents an hour for 31 hours work, Boyce gave him 2 gold pieces, each worth $20.00 as a bonus.   

Mike continued his occupation as a bricklayer, working on such jobs as the Masonic Temple on Main Street and the State Office Building in Indianapolis.  During this time he helped organize the local bricklayers’ union, serving as its first president.  His name was also first on the list of a notice signed in August, 1887, announcing that “members of this union will not work for less than 40 cents an hour,” a courageous stand at the time for working men to take.

Mike Landers and others like him made their own contribution to the growth of our city, as they built the buildings and produced the products which supported the efforts of the business community.  They gave an honest day’s work and took pride in the quality of that work. 
Michael Frank Landers/Grandpa/Dukie was a man of integrity who mastered a skill and used it to better his life.  He was also a kind and gentle family man who especially loved his grandchildren. Many an afternoon he would let my brother and I accompany him three blocks over to the Big Four railroad track just to watch the afternoon train pass.   As children, this was the highlight of our day.

He was my grandfather and this is my tribute to him.