Storybook Lane

Story-Book-Lane
Oil On Canvas – William Plante

A winding storybook lane with whiffs of lavender and apples take her home. Asked if she visualized a man in her galaxy, “Oh yes, one who will bring me flowers, discuss ‘isms’ for hours, cause me to sing in the shower. We’ll have toothpaste kisses in the morning, display our fangs at night.”

012

What Is My Problem?

My problem is I don’t know if I like boys. It’s not that I haven’t been exposed to them. I’ve been out with most of the boys in my senior class once, but seldom twice. Now when a boy asks me to a movie, I decline.

We would go to a movie. He would usually put his arm around me, which is OK. Afterwards we would have a bite to eat, conversation, sporadic and dull: sports and cars and more sports. I would ask him his aspirations. The answer “I dun no.” Then he drove me home, planted his wet lips on mine. I’ve done that. I don’t know what girls see in it. I prefer attending parties. Someone, sometimes, will have something of interest to say.

Once I went out with my friend’s brother, a senior in college. His sister forced him to take me out, very pleasant to me, wonderful to talk to, well, listen to. I asked him questions all night. Drove me home, asked, “Any more questions?” Hoping he would he would kiss me, passionately. He didn’t. I was tempted to kiss him, passionately, didn’t want to panic him. So, that was that.

Now I know I don’t have a problem. Yes, I don’t like boys, but I do like men.

011

Her Yellow Pencil

The steel whale swallowed autos and people, clamped its hydraulic jaw shut and sailed from the dock. On shore a car horn blared. The ferry whistle shrieked, snubbed its plea. “Damn it,” stuck for the night on an island in the company of sheep and souls who spoke snatches of Gaelic.

 Shrapnel scar over an eyebrow, he could clearly see across the narrow strait. His black and white timbered hotel reflected its gables and chimneys on water. So close, cattle escorted to market on the mainland could swim the channel in small groups tied nose to tail.

 Gear and clothes were over there in a room with a comfortable bed. A bottle of scotch, on a table, begged to belt a shot down before a shower and shave, complementing the fine dining room. The photographer shouldn’t have lingered to click those low purple clouds tumbling over the wild Inner Hebrides, ruled by iron blades not long ago. Now he may have to spend his first night sleeping in the rented Ford, surrounded by sheep and eagles.

 He drove into the village, one block long. A sign hung on a centuries old building, read, ‘Tavern.’ Under it ‘Missed the Ferry?’ nothing more. Rows of liquor bottles lined up on shelves behind a bar. Not a patron perched on a stool, an empty pub, except for a girl sitting behind a long slab of polished oak. Head bent over a notepad. She wrote furtively, back and forth bobbed a yellow pencil, its orange eraser trying to keep up.

010

Dance With Me

The World War II story of Jews in the city of Berlin: 50,535 were deported to death camps, 1900 returned. Jewish conversation on a street was, “Where are Elsa and Hans? My God what happened to their child?”

Impossible in pre-war Germany for an 18 year old girl with a five star patch sewn on her dress to obtain a book keeping apprenticeship in any of Berlin’s top hotels. Nevertheless, Hilde Von Erhard was accepted by a man, solidly anti-Nazi, offered her employment and protection.

Hilde was plucky, patch removed, most evenings would join the young crowd at the Residenz Dance Hall. Its floor was large enough for 1,000 people, above them 100 mirrored globes encasing 86.000 electric lights. Four bars, private rooms and a circus carousel to ride, drink in hand.

The most talked about feature, 200 private telephones affixed to tables. Guests could contact other tables, flirt anonymously. And, if that wasn’t ingenious enough, patrons could choose from a menu of over 100 gifts to send to others by pneumatic tube, wild.

It was there that Hilde met Mansfred, a handsome young man. They became an item, sat close together and danced late into the nights.

Eventually, Hilde’s parents were last seen jammed into a box-car. The girl’s employer told her she must leave Berlin. He generously funded her and wrote a personal letter of recommendation. She and Mansfred hugged goodbye and the Jewish girl fled for her life to New York City before World War II exploded.

In time, Hilde became head book keeper for a 5 star Manhattan hotel. During that period, she tried twice through ads and inquiries to locate her boyfriend Mansfred, to no avail. She told her fellow employees, in her German accent, about the dance hall in Berlin, the Oskar Joost orchestra playing Cole Porter tunes, shoulders shimmering and shaking. Music in her blood, during work she could be heard humming, Ich liebe Dich, Wiederseh’n, Guanabara and others.

After work on the unoccupied hotel dance floor she taught staff how to tango playing three records, Ein spanischer, Mir scheint and the singer Zarah Leander belting out Zigeuner. She often told the story of how madly she loved a young man who danced only with her in a Berlin dance hall throughout the night. To this day thinks of him.

Years later, now assistant manager, was approached by her boss. “Hilde, our new hotel in Berlin is almost completed. We want you to be its Manager.”

A plane touched down at the Tempelhof Airport on an eerie night. The manager of the newest hotel in Berlin arrived and was driven along lush grounds near the most famous landmark of Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate. Before her a sumptuous hotel well over 300 bedrooms, four dining rooms, parlors, libraries, a music room and a salon, all graced with 17th century wallpaper. Hilde Von Erhard’s new home.

The woman found Berlin divided into four sectors, American, British, French, referred to as the West, the Soviet, the East. Yet, once a book keeper, had returned home to the ‘Motherland of Jazz’ and dance halls. Most of her youthful haunts vanished, replaced by many more.

To her delight the Residenz, destroyed, had been reinvented on a smaller scale. The dance floor accommodated 500 people and there were 100 phones on tables. The woman and her friends attended often.

One evening a phone rang, the woman answered. A deep voice asked, “Is this Hilde Von Erhard who once danced the nights away?”

“Yes, who is this?”

“Thirty one years ago in 1939, I kissed you goodbye as you boarded a train leaving Germany. We were devastated. I’m your boyfriend Mansfred, will you dance with me?”

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