Short Stories 

 

 

 

Saturday
Aug032013

Short Stories by Warren Bull, Ivan D. Alexander, John Bray, and LInda Saslow 

The Mulligan                   

By Warren Bull

 

“If you could go back in time to any place, any time, where and when would you go? What would you do?” asked Benjamin Douglas.

Douglas knew Tom Egon could hear the desperation in his voice.  He knew what people said about him. Half the town swore he was a crazy old man.  The other half was certain he was a genius.  The expression on his young neighbor’s face suggested Egon thought both sides could be right. 

“I’ve never thought about it,” said Egon.  “It’s such a fantastic idea.”

“But what if it wasn’t?” asked Douglas.  “What if you could go anywhere, any time? Would you watch Michelangelo paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel?  Would you join the multitude to witness the miracle of sharing bread and fish? Would you stand with the Spartans at Thermopylae?”

“Whoa, slow down, Mr. Douglas,” said Egon.  “Let me think about it.” Egon looked around Douglas’s den.  Bookshelves held well-cared-for leather-bound books.  The clock on the wall would have looked at home in train station in 1900.  A telegraph key nestled next to a crystal radio on an end table. Part of what he liked about visiting his elderly neighbor was that Douglas’s home contained historical items in such pristine condition that a museum curator would be proud to display them.

“I might want to hear Lincoln at Gettysburg.  Maybe I’d listen to Mozart play one of his compositions.”

“That’s it, Tom.” Douglas pushed his wire-rim glasses up into place.  “Speaking of Lincoln, would you like to attend a particular performance of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre and stop John Wilkes Booth from assassinating the president?”

“Change history?” asked Egon. “Is that even possible?”

“Let’s consider that. For the moment we’ll assume that history is pretty elastic.  It won’t allow a person to visit himself or herself in the past, of course. Minor changes such as one more person in the audience while Jenny Lind performs or one more person watching the opening night of Hamlet at the Globe Theatre wouldn’t change a thing. On the other hand, saving Lincoln or killing Pol Pot could change the whole direction of history.”

“You almost sound like you’ve already experienced time travel,” said Egon.

“Yes, well…” Douglas’s ears reddened. 

“It’s probably due to your fascination with history.  You talk about events with such enthusiasm, it sounds like you were actually there.  It made you a great history teacher.”

“Thank you, Tom.  You were one of my favorite students.  You asked the most thoughtful questions of any student ever.”

“I have another one for you, Mr. Douglas,” said Egon.  “Even if you were able to, say bolt the door to the president’s box at Ford’s Theatre, and save Lincoln that night.  It wouldn’t have stopped Booth from shooting him the next day. How do you know you can change history?”

“The actions like the one you described might have only postponed events,” said Douglas. “But there are other actions that cannot be undone so easily.”

“Like killing Pol Pot.”

“Exactly.”

“Okay.” Egon frowned.  “Here’s another one. If you change the whole direction of history, how do you know that the result won’t be to make things worse than it was before you changed things?”

“The short answer is: you cannot,” said Douglas.  “When there is a major change there can be unforeseen consequences.” 

“So you if you cannot go back in time to warn yourself, you might do better to leave things alone even if you could change them.”

Douglas sighed. 

“I wish I had your wisdom.  Some years back a former student of mine, a truly remarkable young woman who was a trail-blazer in electronics and physics, presented me with a gift that any historian would treasure. She constructed a time travel machine that looks like a steampunk barber’s chair with dials and clocks.”

Egon laughed.

“She was ahead of her time in so many ways.  She told me she would dream about making some of the trickier connections. She’d get up from her bed, do some work and return to bed.  By the next morning she didn’t remember what she’d done or how she’d done it. She said she could never build another one. I used it cautiously and checked each time to be sure I had not altered history.”

“Way cool,” said Egon.

“It was as long as I kept my head about me.  But as I grew older, I started to have nightmares about what I had the power to do.  How could I justify not warning the residents of Pompeii about the volcano?  How could I ignore the slaughter of Armenians by Turks?  How could I justify watching but doing nothing with such a wonderful gift? I knew eventually I would have to account for my actions. The older I got, the closer I came to that reckoning.”

“So?” asked Egon.

“So not long ago I decided to kill the worst murderer of all time.”

Douglas looked down.  “I should have known violence only begets more violence. I changed history all right. I made what was horrible into something much, much worse.”

“You can’t go back and change it,” said Egon.

“I can’t,” said Douglas.  “Much as I would like to, I won’t ever use the machine again.  What if I die while I’m in the past?  Who knows how that would alter history.  Besides, if I gave in to temptation once, I might give in again. At this stage of life I’m getting more emotional and less rational every day. I’ve had a great treasure that I can no longer use safely.  I need to pass it on to someone younger who has better emotional control than I do. And I need a very special favor.”

An hour later Douglas sat alone in his chair, sweating and unable to keep his hands from shaking.  He clutched three books. He stared at the spines hoping they would change, praying for them to change. 

“I was such a fool, Tom,” he muttered. “I never considered the consequences of my actions.  I’m counting on you.”

One book shimmered.  The words on the spine morphed from an English version of Herman Goering’s autobiography, The Last Renaissance Man to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. The second book rippled as the spine changed from Stephen E. Ambrose’s Treaty with the Axis European Powers to the author’s The Victors. The third book, Douglas MacArthur’s The Invasion of Japan disappeared. 

“You did it, Tom. Why did I ever think it would be smart to kill a former infantry corporal and leave an ace fighter pilot in place to take charge of Germany’s armed forces?” 

Douglas noticed that his wall clock had disappeared. Now a grandfather clock took up space on the floor. A gramophone and a wax cylinder rested on the end table. He stood and walked toward the bookshelves ready to learn about the world he now inhabited.

 

The Day the Seagulls Flew

By Ivan D. Alexander

 

No one really knows her name, some call her Sofia. She sits walled in by her coveted things neatly stacked about her, most covered with blue plastic tarps, so like a queen on her throne she presides over her shabby court. Occasional passersby will offer her a caffe or panino, or leave some coins, though she never asks. Sofia is a daily fixture on Rome's Lungotevere, hard by Isola Tiberina. A quiet observer, her eyes bear witness to a world rushing by amidst the noise of tumultuous traffic and cries of gulls flying over the river. She had known better younger days.. 

The look in her eyes shows she had known life, and perhaps death, though she rarely looks up. But in rare times her sad, blue gray eyes look into yours, a flood of feelings, memories, hopes and disappointments come rushing through, as if a desperate plea to save from drowning. Rumor has it she was a writer, though no one knows her work. She occasionally sits and reads, a large umbrella sheltering from sun or rain, so perhaps why they presumed. But when she moves among her coveted possessions, back stooped like a hen over her brood, she has the simple economy of motion, of experience and reflection. Sofia thinks much as she watches her world: 

"Light green the motorini race out in front of bus full of people going to work and school or to Jewish hospital for tests good doctors..." So she rambles on in her habitual inner stream coursing through her head.... "The good brothers and sisters at Fatebenefratelli washing soiled bodies and souls on white sheets." There she stops, and looks around. She sees pedestrians hurrying to and fro, some getting off a crowded city bus, and she gives pause. 

"Plastic plastic business suits in skirts and high heels walking walking looking strait quickly..." She looked up... "Where the why daily but where but why the hurry... ?" She then shook her head briefly and rearranged some plastic sacks at arm's reach... "To the sea to the sea they fly to the sea in circles on the river clean white wings paddling invisible streams..." Sofia paused to watch the birds soaring over the Tiber, some dark mottled young juveniles watching their elders from tiled rooftops, trying to understand... "Flocking to work in modern offices phones ringing..." 

At this moment a faint thought entered her head, that like the seagulls above her, the people had busyness. Something was urging them on, to strive, to succeed, to make money... But why? It puzzled her but a moment, but the currents of her mind broke free of the eddies that held her an instant... "Must rearrange these bags in proper order heavy ones down clean above look pretty..." Some tourists stopped to stare at her, wondering if they should take a photo, but she paid them no heed... "Looking pretty like white paper flying in the wind." 

Her eyes scanned the rooftops across the river where the juveniles had gathered, calling their parents in plaintive voices. "Why are you up there when I am hungry? Come and fill my beak, see how I bob my head up and down, my mouth open?" But the older seagulls paid no mind. They had another agenda. One came swooping down on the juveniles and brushed them with her wings in flight. The youngsters screeched and flapped, some jumping a short hop into the air, but then sank heavily once more to their secure footing. The roof they knew, but the air was scary. Sofia had watched this with passing interest, then she looked down at the cars rushing by. 

"Green light red light obey the rules watch for motorini on san petrini smart shoes walking pointed heels..." When all thoughts ceased, she sat like a Buddha, her mind gone still, no longer thinking, just being. In the back of her head was still something puzzling, though she could not put it in words. It was like a mirage, that all this busyness around her had a meaning, something that made them move, but she could not form an idea of it. What Sofia struggled with was an idea of purpose: What was it in human beings to make them do what they do? Is it not better to just be, still, and savor the moment? She could have thought of it if she wanted, but her immobile stillness gave her too much pleasure for now. The moment was all for this instant, and all other thoughts distant. But then she saw something, and it stirred her wonder. Across the river the young gulls pacing to and fro on the rooftops had become agitated, calling loudly to the gulls circling above. Then one by one, they began walking faster, then breaking into a run. And with wings flung open they soared into the sky! 

Sofia had just witnessed the birds' first flight, and it pleased her. She watched them soar into the flock of gulls circling, joyfully calling their parents as they circled on eddies of air over the river. The whole  scene was one of pure joy, each calling to the other in ecstatic triumph. "We can fly!" She found it beautiful. 

Sofia sat in awe as she watched the world above her, and the thought she could not form came to her in an instant. "Continuity."  The "why" was answered for her. And now she remembered.  All the activity, all the effort, the struggle, not for money. It was all for survival and continuity. The people walked on by and she watched them, a silent witness to passing humanity. While her eyes misted, she felt a long phantom finger reach into her heart. "Love." And she smiled. 

 

The Imaginary Ray          

                                     By John Bray

 

 While I served on desk duty in Manhattan’s Fifth Precinct one late tour filling in for a lieutenant on vacation, a visitor pushed through the door of the precinct stationhouse a few minutes after two a.m. Nothing remarkable about him drew notice until he got close enough for an observer to look into his eyes. The hours of midnight-to-eight as the desk officer in the precinct often dragged wearily. Built during the years that Theodore Roosevelt held sway as Police Commissioner, our stationhouse bore a distinctly time-worn appearance as befit a late nineteenth century structure.

Seldom anything happened to disturb the dull routine during the somnolent hours of what we called the late tour. Rarely did one of our uniformed men on patrol make an arrest during these hours much less would the detectives in our precinct bestir themselves to perform any police work. The officer manning the precinct switchboard and I chatted amicably but soon ran out of small talk. When the door to the stationhouse opened and the shabbily dressed young man entered, we both assumed he needed directions, or wanted to make a report about a minor incident. Any interruption of the monotony would receive our full attention.

Disheveled in appearance and about thirty years old, the man who approached me, said in a calm, quiet voice, “I’d like to report something, Sergeant.”

I slid my chair on its casters closer to the desk where the huge ledger which functioned as an official log book known as “the blotter”, lay open before me. “What is it you’d like to report?” I asked.

“I need to make a report about the man who lives in the apartment next to mine.”

“Why, what has he done?”

The young man looked furtively over both shoulders and strained forward to whisper in a conspiratorial manner. “He has a ray machine.”

Now the distracted look in his eyes drew my closer scrutiny. “A ray machine, what sort of a ray does this machine produce?”

“This ray can go through walls. He focuses it on me when I’m home. He sends it through the wall and into my brain.”

“What does this ray do to you?” I asked, straining to maintain my composure without displaying the mirth welling up inside.

He glanced around again in an effort to assure himself that only we two behind the desk could hear him. “The ray is destroying my brain. I can feel it. It can go through walls,” he repeated.

“How long has this been going on?”

“It’s been happening ever since he moved in months ago. I’ve never seen him. He stays in his apartment and waits for me to come home. Then he starts the machine.”

“Does this ray machine make any noise?” I queried.

“It’s very quiet. But I can feel it destroying my brain little by little. I came here to ask the police to do something to stop him. I’m afraid I’m going to die soon if he keeps destroying my brain.”

By this time, the officer behind the switchboard had to duck down and avert his face to hide the laughter about to burst from his lips.

“Where do you live?”

“I’m at 642 Forsyth Street on the second floor, apartment 2B. Can you send a policeman to the apartment next to mine and tell him to stop using the machine?”

“Do you know his name?”

“No, he never comes out of his apartment. He waits for me with his ray machine until I get home. Then he turns it on and aims it through the wall at my brain.”

“This sounds like something the detectives should investigate,” I told him.

“Really?” he asked, surprised but pleased that his complaint would merit that kind of attention. “Where can I find them?”

I pointed to the stairway leading up from the large open area we called the sitting room. There the outgoing platoon mustered for the change of tours, received their assignments and stood in formation for roll call at the beginning of their eight hour shift. “Take those stairs to the second floor,” I told him, “there’s a door at the top of the staircase marked ‘Detectives’, just knock on the door until they answer. Tell them about the ray machine. I’m sure they’ll be interested.”

I must admit I bore a somewhat disdainful attitude toward the detective squad assigned to the Fifth Precinct due to a series of events which had occurred a few weeks prior. I listened to the worst narration one afternoon just as I reported to the stationhouse to begin a four-to-midnight. When I came through the door, the desk officer, Lieutenant Bass, called me over. “Hey John, listen to this. I have a great story to tell you.”

I walked around to where he sat. “Yeah Lieut, what’s up?”

“A little while ago I got a call through the switchboard,” he said. “The caller asked to speak to whoever was in charge. The cop on the switchboard transferred the call to my phone. A voice on the phone immediately began by saying, ‘I screwed her but I didn’t kill her.’

“Wait a minute, back up, I said. You didn’t kill who?”

“I don’t want to get blamed for killing her, my friend did it.”

Lieutenant Bass continued, “Hold on, I said, start from the beginning who was killed, where and by whom?

“The man on the phone went on to explain that he had picked up the girl at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown. He said he was scouting the talent getting off the buses from out of town. This young girl, he thought she was a runaway, asked him where could she go to meet hippies? He told her he could take her to meet hippies and that he knew lots of them. She went with him and he took her to an apartment on Baxter Street on the fifth floor of an apartment building. His friend Willie waited there. Willie got so excited as soon as he saw the girl he grabbed her and started trying to rip her clothes off. She began to scream and struggle so the caller said he helped him undress her. After they attacked her she jumped up and ran naked into the bathroom and closed the door. Next thing they heard her shouting for help from the bathroom window. Willie ran in and saw her leaning out the narrow window and screaming. He took her by the legs and stuffed her through the window. She probably didn’t realize she was screaming into an airshaft. It was five stories to the bottom. It wasn’t me the caller said, it was Willie did that.

“The next thing,” the lieutenant said, “the detectives walked in here. I asked them did they respond to a call over on Baxter Street.”

“Yeah Lieut, one of them said. A girl went out a window into an airshaft behind an apartment house. We made it an apparent suicide.”

“I told them, you’d better go back and make an arrest.”

“Arrest, why? This clown said to me.” As he related the incident the lieutenant shook his head in obvious disgust.

“Oh, nothing, but I just got a call from one of the perpetrators who says his friend shoved a girl into the airshaft after they abused her. They’re still there, where it happened.”

I later came to learn that she was a thirteen-year old runaway from Ohio and had taken a Greyhound Bus to New York City thinking she could join a hippie commune. The detectives arrested both men but only on the insistence of Lieutenant Bass who received the call from the man describing the crimes.

Some weeks before that event, during a midnight-to-eight tour on supervisory patrol in a radio car, I received a radio call concerning an explosion at a social club on Mott Street. When I arrived at the scene the detectives had already responded. The wood-frame and glass front door of the store-front club was shattered and shards of glass littered the entrance both inside and out. When I stepped through the now open door I could see fragments of copper-colored metal casings strewed around the interior as well as bullets from thirty-caliber rifle ammunition on the floor, imbedded in the walls, the ceiling, the pool table, the telephone booth and some of the furnishings. Someone had placed an explosive device in the transom of the doorway, created with rifle rounds bound together with roofing tar, a fuse and primer cord inserted in the center of the bundle and detonated. This improvised device had caused the damage. 

In my apparent naiveté, I asked the detective inspecting the scene, “Shouldn’t we notify the bomb squad?”

“Bomb squad?” he retorted with obvious contempt for my lack of insight. “Why should we call the bomb squad? It was just a fire cracker.”

Soon after that episode, Sergeant Strang, a fellow sergeant in the precinct told me another “detective story.” He could scarcely conceal his cynical smirk.

Sergeant Strang said, “Yesterday I got a radio call about a dead body in one of the apartments in a building over on Mott Street. When I got to the scene, a doctor from the Bellevue morgue wagon had responded to make an official pronouncement of death. The body of a white male, stripped naked and in the early stages of decomposition was lying in the middle of the floor. Dried blood stains spattered the floor and walls around him. The apartment was completely bare of any kind of furnishings. The doctor was explaining to the sector car team who first received the call the types of wounds the dead man had received. He pointed to the corpse’s head with a pencil. ‘This is a gunshot entry wound, this is another one, and these on the other side are the exit wounds.’

Strang continued, “I went back to the stationhouse to let the desk officer know the results of the radio run since a dead body had been found under suspicious circumstances. I met the detectives on duty and asked them if they had been made aware of the corpse in the vacant apartment.”

“Yeah, Sarge” one of them said. “We were there. We made the cause of death a hemorrhage.”

I later came to realize that the detectives considered keeping the rate of serious crimes in their precinct at an acceptable level, their most important function. They down-graded or completely ignored many crime reports referred to them to maintain the statistics as low as possible. They especially did not want to carry open and unsolved homicides. Unexplained fatalities became simply ‘natural causes’ or suicides. They certainly did not want to investigate an explosion at a social club where no one had suffered injury. 

I learned as a patrolman in uniform that almost any crime brought in by the patrol force was downgraded to misdemeanor status if at all possible. If the arrest had any noteworthy value the detectives took it over. Managing statistics or taking credit for high profile arrests was their primary concern. I began my career in the PD with a burning desire to earn the cachet attendant upon receiving the detectives’ gold shield. That never took place but I witnessed several bungled investigations and serious crimes overlooked.

However, the one crime that received the most attention and mobilized all the resources of the department was the murder of a police officer. Then everyone available sprang into action and the apprehension of those responsible took precedence over any other business. Sadly, many brave officers lost their lives in the line of duty during my time in the department. A number of my colleagues risked their safety to do their job. Not all of us lapsed into cold cynicism.

As the mentally disturbed young man trudged up the stairs toward where the detectives on duty reposed in slumber, the cop on the switchboard looked at me in astonishment. “Sarge,” he said, “they’re all asleep up there. They’ll go nuts when that crackpot wakes them up.”

“I know, let’s wait and see how they react,” I said.

Moments later the disturbed man came clattering down the stairs far faster than he ascended them. He flashed past the desk and out the door. Then the switchboard lit up. The patrolman answered. He turned toward me with a grimace of apprehension, “It’s the squad, Sarge.”

“Switch it to my line,” I said.

I picked up the phone and answered in a businesslike manner, “Sergeant.”

The voice of one of the detectives screamed into the telephone. “What the (bleep) is wrong with you, sending that screwball up here?”

I listened without response while the man on the other end of the phone vented his fury at me. “Ain’t you got no better sense, sending a lunatic like that up here in the middle of the night? That (bleep) has nothing to do with us anyway.” 

While he shrieked in frustration I took the phone away from my ear and turned it toward the switchboard man. He could hear the outrage plainly, so loud was the voice shouting into the telephone from upstairs. He couldn’t help but grin at me.

“What the (bleep, bleep) is wrong with you?” the voice repeated at a higher decibel, “you stupid or something?”

I waited until he had finished with his angry rant and replaced the phone on the receiver. The switchboard man was still shaking his head.

“I guess they didn’t get the joke,” I said.

 

 

Wedding Dress, Take Four

By Linda Saslow

 

In 1947, 20-year-old bride-to-be Joyce Saslow went shopping for a wedding gown with her mother. While joy overflowed about the youngest Saslow daughter’s nuptials, this affair didn’t roll on a Cadillac budget. At the dawn of the Second World War her Dad, Ed Saslow, had lost his steady job working transportation at MGM studios and set off to make it on his own as a junkyard entrepreneur in San Pedro. The Saslow family’s monthly income was not always certain without that company paycheck in hand.

Mother and daughter ended up at Buffum’s Department Store in Long Beach, California. They looked at all the gowns beneath the chandeliers, some with lace, some with tiny buttons up the back, and some with head-to-toe spangles. Expensive regalia were out of the question.

The simple dress Joyce and her mother Julia settled on was a head to toe snow-white satin gown with a sweetheart neckline, long pointed sleeves and a three-foot train in the back. No row of buttons to lace up; just a hidden zipper up the side. Not a hint of lace or a single spangle. The dress rang in at $90. A short veil rounded out the ensemble.

That January, Joyce married Tommy Thompson. With a commanding voice, Tommy longed to be a lounge singer and had cut three records. Still, he’d earned a degree at UCLA just to make sure he’d always have a paycheck. Joyce and Tommy walked down the aisle and stood under a chuppah at Temple Israel on Loma Avenue in Long Beach. The not-so-lavish reception was held next door in the temple’s ballroom.

Along came three children, five grandchildren, and a successful ice cream store on the water near the Seal Beach Pier.  Joyce and Tommy were married for 60 years until he collapsed from a sudden heart attack in San Juan, Puerto Rico on his way to a landmark anniversary Caribbean cruise. I remember my own sadness at his funeral. We all knew six decades wasn’t nearly enough.

###

When Joyce’s firstborn Mark was a wee infant, her brother Norm met a girl. She’d just graduated from high school in Brookline, Massachusetts and she and her newly widowed mother had abandoned the cold for a sunny life in Los Angeles. Norm was fresh back from World War II Europe and didn’t want to waste any time. Norm Saslow and Rene Alpert planned to marry before her 19th birthday.

Rene liked Joyce’s thick satin dress and thought she herself looked like a princess in it. This is a woman who’d never liked shopping having suffered from a degenerative eye condition from a young age. She shopped for a new veil, but the only modification she made to the dress was to have a seamstress nip in the waist since the size eight cut was a bit too ample. 

More than six decades later, Rene Saslow, despite slow and creeping dementia, can recall without a doubt that that the seamstress’s name was Mary Siegel, a cousin of Joyce’s Grandma Steindler. As is common with dementia, Rene, at 81, can’t remember messages left on her answering machine that morning. Still, her life at age 18 comes back clear as a radio broadcast from the 1940s.

Shirley Alpert inherited money when her penny-pinching second husband passed away unexpectedly back in Boston. In June 1949, she afforded her daughter a lavish affair at the Town House Hotel, a swanky art deco palace located on Wilshire Boulevard in the Lafayette Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. Rene remembers that the hotel made a few faux pas and the wedding cake was complimentary. More than a hundred guests celebrated the momentous occasion.

The Norman Saslows spent 62 years together, with four children, three girls in the 1950s and the surprise of a boy in 1968. All told, they had seven grandchildren. Not bad for a couple who’d faced infertility treatments in the deep dark ages of the early 1950s.

In 2011, Norm had a sudden stroke on the hospital doorstep as he accompanied his wife for a blood transfusion in Santa Monica due to her battle with multiple myeloma. His death a few days later was peaceful. The funeral in Long Beach was truly fitting for a boy born in Los Angeles. Red-suited mariachis played across the graveyard as the family said the Mourner’s Kaddish.

###

For three decades that snow-white dress hung in the front coat closet of Joyce’s house in Seal Beach. It wasn’t boxed and preserved; no one had heard of that in the 1940s. Anyway, the dress cost less than $100, so who needed to plan for it to have a future? The Thompson girls, Chana and Diane, played dress up in the gown for the better part of the 1960s.

In the late 1970s Nanette Saslow flew the coop in Long Beach for college at the University of California at Irvine. She roomed with her cousin, Joyce’s daughter Chana. UCI beach parties in Balboa Island in the late 1970s brought Nan and Scott Andrews together.

After graduation, the couple moved to Stanford University together for Scott to pursue his master’s in engineering. They were so in love, it was only right to make everything legal.

Nan settled on her mother’s dress. She knew she wanted to wear the heirloom. She barely glanced at the new gowns when she and her bridesmaids went looking for her wedding party’s frocks.

The satin had mellowed to beige through the years. She had a bit more satin dyed to match and extensions sewed under the arms so the dress that had fit her mom at 18, graced her curves in her mid-20s. She bought a vintage-inspired lace veil, fashioning an exquisite vision.

In August 1980,  Nan and Scott were wed in the historic garden of the Huntington Sheraton in Pasadena, overlooking the smoggy Los Angeles skyline. Nan had just turned 23 and Scott was 25.

Nan’s 12-year-old brother Robert was in attendance and wasn’t one bit impressed by the 21-piece orchestra and choreographed Israeli dancing. The other one hundred and seventy nine guests had such a terrific time that they talked about the lavish party for decades.

Nan and Scott’s two decades took them from Long Beach to several years in Nagoya, Japan and back to Northern California. Two magnificent boys were born into this happy marriage. After 19 years the couple divorced; their dreams were all spent, but not forgotten. Still, Nan looks back on this as a very successful union.

###

Fast-forward ten years to 1990. Rob Saslow, Rene and Norm’s oldest son, had moved to Westwood. He was playing in a rock band, and once in a great while he read a book and made it to a lecture at UCLA.

Linda Roberts was also at UCLA studying World Arts and Cultures with a bent toward Anthropology. With a few mutual friends, Rob and Linda’s paths intersected a couple of times her junior year. Once they bumped into each other when she wrote a music review for the Daily Bruin and another time they both took the afternoon off for the campus jazz festival, yet nobody else in the crowd showed up, foreshadowing a future filled with decades of musical extravaganzas.  

Though she’d studied French for four years, she scrapped her plans for a summer trip to Togo to score the Viewpoint Editor position on the school paper. With no place to live, she found that there was a bed for sublet in a Westside condo where Rob was living in the basement. Linda took Rob to hear the world beat music at the 1990 Los Angeles Festival that she’d had a hand in planning. He took her to Joyce’s ice cream store in Seal Beach for a brownie ice cream sandwich.

Two more years of exams and editorials before Linda’s degree was official. Rob wanted her to move in with him after she’d earned her diploma. She did. Two weeks later she was pregnant.

As young parents the two struggled to make a living and pull together babysitting to get out for a concert once in a while. They lived together in a tiny house for a couple of years before they made their parents happy and walked down the aisle. He asked her to marry him sitting in traffic on the westbound 134 freeway in Eagle Rock. Only in So Cal would the ideal time for a proposal come in gridlock. They joke about it every time they pass that stretch of highway two decades later

A bargain book editor not making squat, Linda went dress shopping in the thrifty San Gabriel Valley. The least expensive dress was $400 and she didn’t like the fit or the beading or the lace. She was raised to be frugal and blowing hundreds of dollars on a gown to be worn for just a few hours didn’t seem at all sensible. The white-white dresses in the bridal boutiques made her porcelain freckled complexion just look pasty.

One day her parents and his were at the beach house Rene had begged for since the 1960s. Rene found the dress. It had just been hanging in her closet. Linda slipped it on. It didn’t need a single alteration.

She scooped up Nan’s old veil and the buttercream colored dress and took it to a seamstress. The Latina made a beaded cap for the veil and dyed it to look like melted butter. Based on Linda’s brainstorm, that seamstress took that three-foot train and had buttons put up the bottom so it would be a cinch for dancing at the reception.

On July 2, 1995 another Saslow couple met under another chuppah. This time it was a 90-degree evening in the courtyard garden of the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena. Joyce Thompson’s son Mark, now a cantor, officiated and signed the couple’s ketubah. Another broken glass cemented the happy union. One hundred twenty guests toasted the occasion. Joyce’s granddaughter Dagny Wise walked down ahead of the couple tossing flowers.

Two daughters and two decades later, everyone hopes our marriage will break the sixty-two year record, God willing.

As for the gown, it remains unboxed and hanging in a guest room at Rene’s beach house, mellowing to a deeper shade of gold as each year passes. Still, several size eight granddaughters are up and coming in the Saslow line that might zip in with a few simple alterations. No one would begrudge those young women a white wedding, but pale yellow is always in style.

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>