Friday, January 25, 2013

Love's Old Story

Thought for the day:  Asking a writer what he thinks about criticism is like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs.   [John Osborne]

It's a pleasure to participate in this year's reincarnation of False Start Fridays. The idea? Pull a bit of your old neglected writing out of moth balls, dust it off, and show it some love. (i.e. Stick it on your blog, and let everybody make fun of it.)

Rather than run consecutive weeks for an entire month like last year, there are only two dates slotted this time around: today, and the last Friday in February. If you missed out on signing up for today's fun, but would like to play next month, hop on over to let the lovely Suze  know. It's her brainchild, ya know.

WAIT! Hey, not NOW! Read my post first... sheesh.

Since Valentine's Day is only a couple weeks away, I've selected a short story romance that holds a sweet spot in my heart. At least, I consider it a romance. Evidently, the magazine editor didn't agree. Care to enjoy a little background music while you read? The story's title? The Real Thing.



                                               


     When the doorbell chimed, Mildred looked over at her husband Bennie, but he was still reared back in his recliner, eyes closed, and mouth hanging open. With a sigh, she quieted the blaring TV and dumped her slumbering cat onto the sofa.
      It’s probably that sweet Jennifer from Meals on Wheels, she thought, as she grabbed her cane and hobbled to the door.
     Jennifer grinned when Mildred opened the door. “Hello, Mrs. Johnson,” she said. “Isn’t it a glorious day?”
     Mildred squinted past her to regard the sun-kissed day. “Why, yes,” she agreed with a smile. “I do believe it is.” Then she considered the pretty blonde’s glowing face. “And you, my dear, look especially lovely today.”
     Jennifer placed the meals in the usual spot, glanced at the still sleeping Mr. Johnson, and then stuck out her left hand. “That’s because I’m especially happy today!”
     Genuine delight illuminated Mildred’s face. “How wonderful!” she exclaimed, as she examined the shiny new engagement ring. “So, when’s the big day?”    
    “Oh, I can't set a date yet.”
     “No?" Mildred said, setting her cane aside and easing herself back onto the sofa. The cat immediately reclaimed her lap, and she automatically stroked his head. “Do you have time to visit, dear?”
     Jennifer sat beside her. “Yes, ma’am,” she said. “I do. This is my last stop.” She grinned. “I always save the best for last.”
     Dimples danced in Mildred’s cheeks. “Thank you, dear.” Then her face rearranged itself into a more serious expression. “So, why aren’t you ready to set a date, young lady? Cold feet?”
     “Not exactly. I just want to be absolutely certain that he’s the one and only true love of my life. You know … the real thing.”
     Mildred nodded slowly. Bennie scratched his Buddha belly, burped, and muttered something in his sleep. She looked his way, but his eyes were still closed, so she turned back to Jennifer. “I understand what you’re saying,” she said. “That one and only true love feeling is exciting, dear, but it takes more than a feeling to make a marriage work. It takes commitment and hard work to build the real thing.” She paused to smile. “I’ve been married for more than fifty years. Mind you, it hasn’t always been easy, but if I had it to do all over again, I’d marry that man again in a heartbeat.”
     “But did you ever have a one and only true love of your life, Mrs. Johnson?” Jennifer persisted.  
      Mildred glanced at her husband again before answering. “Absolutely,” she said in a stage whisper. “I met him at the USO in March of 1952.” With a touch of nostalgia in her voice, she added, “I was sure he was my one and only. I certainly wanted him to be.”
     Intrigued, Jennifer asked, “Would you mind telling me about him?”
     “He was a Marine,” Mildred said, with another quick peek at her husband. “A beautiful man. Tall, with the broadest shoulders I ever saw. Big strong hands, but they were gentle, too. Black wavy hair.” She closed her eyes briefly, picturing the handsome Marine. “And so very kind.”  She opened her eyes and smiled. “We danced every dance together.”
     “Did you ever see him again?” Jennifer asked.
     “Oh, yes. We were together every day after that for the next two weeks. It was a magical time for both of us. He called me Tink.” She smiled, remembering. "Short for Tinkerbell." Then she shook her head. “And then he went to Korea.”
     “I’m sorry,” Jennifer said. “That must’ve been hard.”
     Mildred nodded. “It was. I wrote him every day, and he wrote me whenever he could.” She sighed. With another quick check on her husband, she whispered, “And I saved every last one of his letters, too. They’re still in a box at the back of my closet.”
     “Wow,” Jennifer said. “See? That’s the kind of love I want.”
     Bennie opened his eyes and yawned. “What’s all that yammering about?” he asked. “A man can’t hardly catch a nap around this place.”
     “I’m sorry, Mr. Johnson,” Jennifer said, standing. “Let me just set up your trays before I go.”
     “Oh, don’t mind him,” Mildred said with a crinkly smile. “He’s teasing.”
     He pushed himself into an upright position, and cocked an eyebrow at her. “You still mooning over that Marine, woman?”
     “You were listening!” she scolded.  Then, “No more than you moon over that pretty young thing who danced with you all night.”
     “Oh, wow,” Jennifer breathed, eyes wide.
     “I’ll tell you a secret,” Mildred said.  “If you work at it, that one true love of your life can also be the love of your lifetime.”
     “HOO-rah!” said her husband. “Semper fi, Tink.”





                                        Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

54 comments:

  1. That's so sweet!
    I was pretty sure Mildred was talking about Bernie, old people tend to see the one they fell in love with as they were, not as they are.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. I know my husband and I still see each other as we were... especially when the "right" song is playing, or we're dancing...

      Delete
  2. What a delightful and very readable love story. And it had the ending that I was hoping for! I'm glad you shared this with us - - and critics be damned!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I forgot to mention that I've always loved Billie Holiday - but this is the first time I even heard her sing "As Time Goes By".
    I recorded that song on one of my piano tapes. I'll have to look for it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Billie Holiday is in a class by herself, isn't she? I love her version of this song. (When you recorded it, were you singing along?)

      Delete
  4. You write so cleverly! Well paced and set with a gentle, good-natured surprise at the end. I liked it! Thanks, Susan.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh, I love it! It's so sweet and wonderfully descriptive. I could picture it. I didn't get it that she was talking about her husband so I enjoyed the surprise. Lovely writing, dearest.

    Love,
    Janie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed it, and especially glad the ending surprised you,

      Delete
  6. So sweet and a very nice story. It could be a Hallmark Card ad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. Hallmark card ad, huh? There's a nice thought.

      Delete
  7. Awww. I love that story. You have a real gift for making me truly like your characters. They just feel so real somehow. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow! Coming from you, I'll take that as a high compliment. Thank you!

      Happy weekend.

      Delete
  8. Make a critic critque themselves and they'll forever be out of your hair, too busy arguing with themselves haha

    Sure a very nice story, with a happy ending, critic didn't now what they were talking about, more brains in the lampost with dog pee on it hahaha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HA! Thanks. The characters are much too old to fit within the expected age parameters for that magazine. But I knew that when I submitted it. Figured it was worth a shot, anyway.

      Delete
  9. I agree with Geo - the pacing was really nice Susan. That's always the thing I have the hardest time with then I tackle a short story!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, dear sir. Being as verbose as I am, it's tough for me to keep the wording tight enough to stay within prescribed word limitations, so I rarely write short stories.

      Delete
  10. Awww, great choice to share with us. My grandparents were like that. Married for nearly seventy years and still held hands. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My hubby and I still hold hands, too. He says it's so I don't get lost...

      Delete
  11. Susan, I'll say it again. Your writing is so real. It always flows in such a natural way that one forgets they are really reading. You can always manage to pack a lot of information in a short story... what 500 words, or so? Good job.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much. That's so sweet of you to say. If you could see me right now, you'd see a smile so big, it almost meets at the back of my head.

      Delete
  12. THAT was a sweet read. It brought a smile to my face. Love it!
    Did you try Woman's World magazine? I think that story would work there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks.... you're the queen of "sweet read", so I appreciate you saying that. "Woman's World" is the magazine that turned it down. No biggie, though. I sent them three stories, and they bought one. Not too bad.

      Delete
  13. I'm teary, Sus. I've had such a special year with my husband of only ten years -- and then the whole story of the ten years that came before it -- and I got all teary reading this.

    Semper fi, Tink.

    (Ah! I couldn't write that without getting a fat lump in my throat. Try drinking your coffee over that.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gee, I didn't mean to make you teary-eyed. (But I must confess, it kinda makes me feel good that the story got to ya.)

      Delete
  14. That is such a beautiful story. I loved it. Lots of thoughts to ponder too.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I am smiling ear to ear. This was a wonderfully beautiful love story. I truly enjoyed the Mildred's storytelling and Bennie's playfulness. Perhaps little Jennifer will learn a thing or two about marriage. I have to disagree with the publisher of whatever publication you submitted to- it is a great romantic, short story!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! It didn't match the editor's preconceived notion of romance, but I'm delighted so many of you appreciate it.

      Delete
  16. I just came out in goosebumps at that ending. That was beautiful. :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. That's lovely! Not nearly enough stories are written from the perspective of the elderly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. We oldies but goodies have feeling, too...

      Delete
  18. Ah, you are so sweet! That was a massive feel good moment - sorry the magazine wasn't smart enough to share it, very pleased you are :-)

    ReplyDelete
  19. What a sweet story - perfect, with Valentine's Day coming up. Mildred and Bennie remind me of my in-laws.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. (Your in-laws must be pretty darned sweet!)

      Delete
  20. My second "Awww" at today's False Start Fridays. I can just echo what everyone else has said: this was a bon-bon... a Hershey kiss! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! It's hard to beat a Hershey kiss... unless you make it dark chocolate and stick an almond in it. Happy weekend!

      Delete
  21. A very touching and nicely written story!

    Evidently, the magazine editor didn't agree.

    I've submitted several of my stories to various publications and had them all turned down. While I realize I am light-years away from being a Vonnegut or Hemingway some of the stories these same outlets have published have seemed crude in my tastes. I have even spotted the occasional error in grammar and spelling which blows my mind.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. Glad ya liked it. All I can say is to keep submitting. I haven't submitted much, but have had a few things published, and if I can do it, so can you. (I know whatcha mean about grammar and spelling errors, but editors deserve some of the blame. One of my stories was poorly edited, but the magazine paid me extremely well for the privilege of screwing it up.)

      Delete
  22. Oh how sweet. Nice writing here Susan. Keep it up.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Oh! I love this story! A true Happy Ever After :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Happy ever after is my favorite kind of ending.

      Delete
  24. Hi Susan,

    I'm going to keep my comment mercifully short. And considering it's almost five in the morning, that's another good reason.

    A story to warm one's heart. And Valentine's Day. Oh yes, that truckload of post that will be delivered to me with cards from all my loving fans.

    Yours delusionally,

    Gary :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Whooooo's a night owl?

      Thanks. I'm glad the story warmed your heart. With the weather you've been having, a little warmth comes in handy.)

      Delete
  25. SUSAN ~
    That was great! I really dug it.

    Of course, I figured out right away that the sleeping Buddha was really the handsome, broad-shouldered Marine, but then I'm really smart 'n' sh!t like that.
    :-)

    >> . . . I know my husband and I still see each other as we were... especially when the "right" song is playing, or we're dancing...

    I must ask: What is the "right" song?
    'As Time Goes By', or something else?

    Incidentally, Billie Holiday played an important role in my one and only screenplay. (It's not coming to a theater near you.)

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You smartie!

      I'm intrigued that Billy Holiday played a role in your screenplay. If it was your one and only, I hope you didn't give up on that pursuit too soon.

      To tell the truth, lots of songs are the "right" ones, but if I had to pick just one, it'd be "My Special Angel."

      Delete