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Dec 2 06 2:40 PM
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"Of Sound Mind and Body"LATE AFTERNOON FINDS Frank helping Ginger with the laundry. "I guess," says Ginger, "I can't blame you for not telling me what Jim told you about Altron Cybernetics. I can understand the position it put you in." "Thanks, Dear" replies Frank, "for understanding. I've been stressing in overdrive over this ever since. I'm just glad that it's out in the open now, and that measures will prevent Altron from laying a finger on you. I've been out of touch with Dave for a while, so I had no idea he and his partners were the first to get into Domestic Cyber-Person Law. Anyhow, they got busy and found some loopholes in Altron's sales contracts.""That's comforting to know," replies Ginger with palpable relief. "Well," continues Frank, "from tomorrow on, Darling, you can rest easy." Ginger's face suddenly takes on an anxious expression. "Frank--do you think that land car in front of the house yesterday, could have been Altron--could they be spying on us?" "Who knows," answers Frank. "Though I'd think they'd have better things to do than spy on their customers. But--then again--with Altron-you never know." "Well," replies Ginger, "I'm thankful we have a top-notch security system. If that land car was full of Altron operatives, it's scary to think of what they might try to do." "Relax, Ginger. I really don't think Altron would be stupid enough to try anything, especially at the risk of getting caught. If that were to happen and it hit the media, Altron's reputation would be destroyed. And their top executives would probably end up serving long sentences in Leavenworth."After starting the laundry, Ginger decides to put some time into the garden. Frank follows Ginger out to the back yard to catch a glimpse of her latest progress. You sure have a knack for gardening there." "Thanks, Frank; I really do enjoy it." "So did Susan," adds Frank. "When the kids grew up, it became her new baby." Ginger replies with a secret longing in her eyes. "Well, for me, Frank--it's my only baby."While Ginger picks up where she left off in the garden, Frank goes into the house to check his e-mail. To Frank's surprise, the seller of the 1931 Ford Model "A" has already responded to his inquiry. Frank is elated to learn that the seller is willing to come down on his asking price. The seller informs Frank that the car is at his home in Pasadena, and proposes a date and time at which he and Frank can meet. Frank enthusiastically replies, indicating that he would meet with the seller at 2PM on Thursday. As Frank gets up to turn on his sound system, the sad story of Hank Metcalf suddenly comes to mind. After programming the sound system, Frank finds a site that can do an automated search of all public records in the United States and its possessions. Frank enters all the pertinent information he has on Hank Metcalf. After clicking the search button, a message pops up, indicating that Frank would be notified as soon as any information on Hank Metcalf is found.LATER that evening, Frank is watching a movie on the 3V, while Ginger works in the kitchen. What Frank doesn't know, is that this is the beginning of the diet with which Ginger has been threatening him all weekend. When Ginger calls Frank into the dining room, he takes his usual place at the table, expecting a four-course steak dinner. What Frank gets instead, is a large bowl of lettuce, shredded carrots, diced tomatoes and cucumbers, topped with garbanzo beans--an uninspiring assortment, at best. Frank looks down at this dull, uninteresting pile of produce in puzzlement. "Ginger-is this some sort of joke? Where's the rest of my dinner-where's my steak??" "That is your dinner, Honey" answers Ginger in a matter-of-fact tone. "Sorry, Frank; no steak." With a dumbfounded expression, Frank looks up at Ginger. "Could you hand me your compact mirror?"Ginger places her hands on her hips and glares quizzically at Frank. "What do you want that for?" "Oh, I don't know," answers Frank, "I was just wondering if I look, to you, like a rabbit." "Don't be silly, Frank. That's a dinner salad--with a low-fat light Italian dressing. Anyhow, I told you I'd start you on your diet after Ryan and Lisa left, remember?" Frank doesn't answer. Instead, he picks up his fork and pokes about at the various greens and diced vegetables in his bowl. "Where's my steak?," he whimpers. Ginger answers in strident tones."Listen, Mister Steak And Potatoes; lower those LDLs. You can have steak this weekend." Frank appears dismayed. "Now, how am I supposed to survive to the weekend on this?" "Oh, don't be such a big baby," answers Ginger. After dinner, Frank is very unhappy. "Well, that wasn't very satisfying. I'll be hungry again in half an hour." Ginger responds in more benign tones. "Listen, Honey; please try to understand why I'm putting you on this diet. I want us to be together for as long a time as possible, okay?" "Well," answers Frank with a sigh, "I guess, I can tough it out. But it won't be easy." "Like they say, Sweetheart," replies Ginger, "nothing worthwhile is easy. On weekends though, you can have your favorite eats, as long as you don't over-do it. Besides, in time, you'll get used to your new diet."
Later that evening, as they lounge in their pajamas in front of the 3V, Ginger becomes inquisitive about Frank's earlier activities on his computer. "So--what else were you doing on the Global Net today, besides thinking of a way to rid yourself of a hundred and twenty-four thousand dollars?" "Well, first," answers Frank, "I got a reply from the seller of that Ford Model "A." And he's willing to negotiate on the price, like I thought. By the way, I'm meeting him this Thursday in Pasadena. You can come along, if you want." With a sigh, Ginger folds her arms. "No, thanks; I'll pass.""Well, anyway," continues Frank, "I also logged onto a site that does automated searches on family ancestors. So, I entered Hank Metcalf's name, along with as much info as we have on him. When the site finishes its search, we'll get a reply. Hopefully, we'll turn up something about the rest of his life after he was paroled from prison." "I hope so," replies a pensive Ginger. "I wonder if he re-married and had any children. I hope he found, at least, alittle happiness before his life was over." "Yeah, I feel the same way," intones a thoughtful Frank. "What a tragedy, all the way around.""Oh, by the way, Sweetheart," continues Frank, "why don't you pick out something nice to wear when we see Dave tomorrow at his office?" "I already know what I'm going to wear," answers Ginger. "I'll wear that nice blue suit you bought me at C and J's." Frank grins. "Good choice; it'll set off your blue eyes." Before retiring for the night, Frank peeks into the parlor. This time, he has left the dolls, etc. on the shelf just they were found that morning. Ginger stares at the curio cabinet. "I wonder what'll happen next with the dolls." "Well," muses Frank, "hopefully, they'll put everything back the way it was." Ginger chuckles. "Yeah, it'd be nice if they cleaned up after themselves, for a change."WHEN Frank and Ginger awake the next morning, the first thing on their mind is the curio cabinet. Upon entering the parlor, they see that the cabinet is untouched. Perplexed by the sporadic activity of their mercurial resident spirits, Frank and Ginger shrug, turn, and go downstairs to cook breakfast. Frank turns on the radio in hopes of catching any news about his company's merger. But it's a slow news day; so far, human interest stories being the main topic. Ginger presents Frank with a breakfast consisting of imitation, no-cholesterol eggs, turkey bacon, and whole-grain toast. At first, Frank approaches this alien morning repast with caution. He is, however, pleasantly surprised. The imitation eggs taste almost as good as the genuine article. And the turkey bacon, while not quite the same as real bacon, isn't too bad either.Later, as Frank sits in the living room waiting for Ginger, she finally descends the stairs. Ginger looks radiant in her new blue suit and matching hat. She is also wearing a pair of delicate dress-gloves, also purchased at C &J's in Old River Run. Ginger extends her arms and piroettes once in front of him. "So, how do I look?" "Stunningly beautiful," answers Frank with besotted admiration.AS Frank and Ginger drive along on Ventura Boulevard into Encino, Ginger is impressed by the dark, smooth-faced sky-scrapers of the business district. They stand as austere monuments to world commerce, the entertainment industry. And this is really odd, because austerity is the last thing on the minds of the occupants of these mighty edifices. Even at this hour, street traffic is heavy. In the heart of Encino's vibrant business district, traffic is always heavy. Soon the Boelckes arrive at the twenty-two story tower that houses, among many other accounting, and law firms, The Law Offices of Borens, Swerdloff, Blazik & Stern. Frank steers his land car into the underground parking garage and manages to find a space convenient to the elevators."Hmm-I'm impressed," says Ginger as she and Frank ride up to the 14th floor. "Yeah, Dave's doin' pretty well for himself, these days. He and his family live in a beautiful home in Bellaire Estates; you oughtta see it. He makes me look like a welfare recipient. At their dinner table, Dave and his family use hundred-dollar bills as napkins. Sometimes, I wish I'd studied law, instead of technical electronics engineering." "Well, Honey," replies Ginger, "don't whine. You're not doing so badly, yourself." When Frank and Ginger get off on the 14th floor, they stride into the expansive lobby of Borens, Swerdloff, Blazik & Stern, and step up to the reception desk. Frank asks to see David Swerdloff, indicating that he and Ginger have an appointment. The young receptionist smiles and cordially invites Frank and Ginger to have a seat in the lobby.Frank and Ginger take their seats on a sofa in the well-appointed waiting area. The decor is Victorian, with white wainscoting and delicately patterned powder-blue wallpaper. A beautifully carved grandfather clock stands near the sofa against the opposite wall. It looks down upon Frank and Ginger with noble dignity. Suddenly, the great clock solemnly chimes the three-quarter hour in deep, sonorous tones. Three minutes later, the door to the lobby opens and out, steps David Swerdloff. Frank and Ginger rise quickly to their feet. Dave greets Frank with a huge smile and a warm, vibrant handshake."Hey, Frank! You're lookin' great, these days!" "Hi, Dave! It's great to see ya again." Dave then turns to Ginger. "And--you must be Frank's new wife-Ginger, right?" Ginger answers in the affirmative as she shakes Mr. Swerdloff's hand. Dave looks admiringly at Ginger. "You look very nice today, if Frank doesn't mind my saying so." Ginger replies with a broad smile. "Thank you, Mister Swerdloff." "So," says Dave with a clap of his hands," why don't we get started."As Frank's old friend leads Frank and Ginger through the main office area, Ginger attracts the lust-filled gaze of several men, as well as jealous stares from two female paralegals. As Dave Swerdloff, Frank and Ginger walk down the hall, Dave has a question for Frank. He turns to Frank with a snicker. "Still goin' out to the range to shoot those flaming antique smoke-poles of yours?" "Oh, yeah," answers Frank. "In fact, I'm planning a trip up to the range for the weekend." Frank, Ginger, and Dave soon come to a beautifully paneled mahogany door sporting Dave's name in gold capitals. Dave opens said door and invites Frank and Ginger into his spacious, sumptuously appointed office. Dave's office is as large as Frank and Ginger's living room. Mr. Swerdloff then directs Frank and Ginger to a large conference table and invites them to sit down. Dave takes his seat across from the Boelckes, opens his briefcase, and places a set of documents, each, in front of them."Now, Frank and Ginger," begins Dave, "these are the final drafts of your will. Together, we'll go over all the changes, amendments, codicils, and so on. And, if everything's satisfactory, you can sign the documents. Then I'll have Angie get your will recorded. That usually takes about three days." For more than two hours, Dave Swerdloff goes over every new, and amended item with Frank and Ginger in their revised will. Ginger carefully studies each and every legal word and phrase. Afterward, Dave assures Ginger in a fatherly manner that she is 100% protected against Altron Cybernetics. Frank and Ginger then sign the documents in the presence of an in-house notary."Mister Swerdloff," asks Ginger, "could you please tell me where your Ladies Room is?" Dave smiles graciously and gives Ginger the necessary directions. After Ginger leaves the room, Dave raises his eyebrows at his old friend. "Well, Frank, I have to say--your Ginger is certainly attractive. She would make a trophy-wife for any man." "Well, Dave, that's not how I see Ginger. To me, Ginger's my companion and life partner, not a prized possession to be paraded about, like a prize cow at a county fair." "Sorry, Frank; I didn't mean it that way. But--tell me--did you have Ginger created to look like someone in Susan's family--a sister or cousin maybe?" Frank raises his eyebrows. "Why do you ask?" "Well," answers Dave, "I only ask 'cuz--she does bear a strong resemblance to Susan."Frank goes on to explain how he chose an ancestor of his late wife for Ginger's likeness. Dave marvels. "What amazes me is that--if I didn't know, beforehand, that Ginger's a cyber-woman--I never, in a million years, would've guessed." "I know," acknowledges Frank. "So far, she's fooled a lotta people. But believe me, Dave, she's exactly like a living woman in absolutely every respect. And I do mean--every respect, if you get my drift." "That's incredible," replies Dave in amazement.Suddenly, Ginger enters the room. Dave speaks up in a bold, friendly tone. "Well--I guess, we're all set. I'll have Angie send you four copies of your recorded will in about five days, by courier. Again, it was good to see you, Frank. And it was indeed, a pleasure to meet you, Ginger. Nina and I will have you both over for dinner, sometime." With that, Frank and Ginger leave the law offices of Frank's old school chum, and head out for an uneventful drive home.To Be Continued. . . .
Dec 6 06 2:31 PM
Chapter 14"Words From Across The Ages"AFTER RETURNING HOME, Frank insists that Ginger keep him company in the parlor while he straightens up the curio cabinet. Ginger takes her seat on the parlor sofa, scrutinizing Frank's activities. "Honey, you know this is a waste of time, don't you? Why not leave everything alone until all this stuff stops?" "Well," answers Frank, "maybe they didn't do anything last night 'cuz I left the shelf alone." "Why should that stop 'em?," asks Ginger. "I don't know," answers Frank. "Maybe they had another haunting to go to." Ginger sighs. "Now you're being silly again." "Look," says Frank, "I'm just experimenting to see what happens." Ginger sighs. Yes, I know, Frank--like Roger Bacon. I'm going down to fix your lunch." Finding himself suddenly alone in the Parlor, Frank hurriedly finishes with the curio cabinet, and heads downstairs.FOLLOWING lunch, which is accompanied by a long litany of complaints from Frank, Ginger dawns her hat and gloves to devote more time to the garden. In the meantime, Frank checks his computer for messages. To his surprise, the Global Net public records research site has responded with information on Hank Metcalf. With spellbound interest, Frank reads the findings of the report. [After his early parole from prison for good behavior, Hank settled in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. For two years, Hank toiled in a steel mill. He must have felt a strong calling to return to his home state of Ohio for, in 1960 he moved to Solin, a suburb of Cleveland. A year later, Hank met, and married an attractive 33-year-old waitress named Dorothy Hicks, who was a regular waitress at the Boulevard Diner, where Hank often took his meals. Dorothy had two sons from a previous marriage. As it turned out, she was also born and raised in River Run.In 1971, Hank and Dorothy moved to Sandusky. There, Dorothy got a much better-paying job as a waitress in the Breakers Resort Hotel & Restaurant, an upscale vacation get-away, hard by the famous Cedar Point Amusement Park. In the meantime, Hank found a job in a railroad machine shop as a lathe and drill press operator. This work was far less stressful, dangerous, and physically demanding than working in a steel mill. Hank and Dorothy would eventually save enough money for a down payment on a modest 35-year-old house in a working-class neighborhood. Hank and Dorothy would spend the rest of their lives in Sandusky. According to Sandusky death certificate records, Hank died in 2002 of congestive heart failure: his love of bacon double cheese burgers finally catching up with him. Dorothy lived as a widow for another eight years in Millersburg, Ohio with her eldest son and his family until she died in 2010 from stomach cancer.]AFTER another unsatisfying dinner, Frank shows Ginger the information he just received on Hank Metcalf. Ginger eagerly snatches the paper from Frank's hand and begins to read it with consuming interest. When finished, she hands the paper back. "I'm glad Hank was, at least, able to move on with his life after being paroled." "Yeah," says Frank. "That wasn't easy for an ex-con, in those days." "And," adds Ginger, "I think it's nice that Hank came back to Ohio and took himself a wife." "What's really ironic," says Frank, "is that he and his family moved to Sandusky, where his wife got that job at the Breakers resort. Cedar Point's where he and Sarah went on their honeymoon in nineteen-forty-six." "I know," replies Ginger. "I'd have thought that would've brought back too many painful memories. I wonder if he ever went back to River Run to see his brother and sister--or his mother in New Jersey?" "Well," answers Frank, "those are things the records don't tell us."[Indeed. What the records do not say, is that Hank Metcalf never saw his mother again; he never could muster the courage to face her. Nor would he ever again see his brother, Jeff, his sister, Linda or, for that matter, the town of River Run. The truth is that Hank could never bring himself to return to the place of his birth; too many heart-rending memories waited for him there. The town of River Run would change in the following decades since Hank lost Sarah, but many of the old haunts and hang-outs still remained. The records also do not say that Hank's marriage to Dorothy was not always sunshine and roses. Hank was never fully able to exorcise the rancorous demons that roiled inside him; those old and bitter memories kept grinding away. At times, Hank would lapse into depression, and bouts of drinking as he tried desperately to forget the tragedy of Sarah's all-too-untimely death. Then there was his seething hatred of Al Kahn, whom he blamed for everything. Because of his alcohol abuse, Hank nearly lost his job. Only when Dorothy threatened to leave him, did he seek help for his alcoholism and depression. As for the rest of the Metcalf Family, Hank's name would occasionally come up in hushed whispers at family gatherings. They sit together, speculating on what might have become of their estranged brother, or even if he was, indeed still living.]As Ginger prepares for the night, Frank checks the parlor. Everything is as it should be. This time, Frank doesn't bother to lock the parlor door. Instead, he steps into the bedroom, stretches his arms, and yawns before crawling into bed. "I wonder if our resident spooks will pay us another visit tonight." Ginger reaches to the lamp on her nightstand, and turns it off. "I guess we'll find out in the morning. . .good night, Frank."NEXT morning, Frank is first to get up. He stretches and yawns. Just as he is putting on his robe, Ginger begins to stir. Frank steps around to her side of the bed. Ginger looks up at him with her grinning clear blue eyes. "Good Morning, Frank." "Good Morning, Sweetheart," answers Frank. "I'm gettin' ready to check the parlor--wanna come with?" "Yeah, hold on a minute," answers Ginger as she slides the covers off and sits up. Together, Frank and Ginger proceed into the parlor. Though they are prepared for the possibility of more spectral activity, they are not prepared for what waits for them now. Once again, everything on the shelf in the cabinet is swept aside. However, it's the positioning of the dolls that causes Frank and Ginger's eyes to widen, and their jaws to hit the floor.With a sharp intake of breath, Ginger is the first to speak. "My word! Look at 'em now." Frank stands, paralyzed, unable to speak. The dolls are posed in yet another new stance. However, on this occasion, they are facing outward, each with one hand raised, as though they are waving to Frank and Ginger. Frank eventually collects himself enough to step toward the cabinet. "Ginger," whispers Frank, "look at the Ginger Szabo doll." "Her hair's back to normal."Suddenly, a folded piece of paper, lying between the two figures, catches Frank's attention. There has never been a piece of paper, folded or otherwise, in the cabinet. It appears to be yellowed with age and fringed with rough, ragged edges. Almost afraid to touch it, Frank tentatively reaches in and picks it up. An anxious Ginger looks on. "What is it?" "Let's find out," answers Frank as he carefully unfolds the aged scrap of paper. Frank and Ginger lean into one another and see, to their joint surprise, a handwritten note in what appears to be faded blue fountain pen ink. The penmanship is very feminine and looks startlingly familiar. Together, Frank and Ginger silently mouth to themselves the text of the aged note:
Ginger looks at Frank with misty eyes. Her voice cracks with emotion as she speaks to him. "Frank--this note-- was actually written to us--by Ginger Metcalf. We were actually haunted by the ghosts of Jeff and Ginger Metcalf. And--they were actually concerned about me, and our future together." Frank, still holding the note, embraces Ginger tightly. "You know, Ginger, I've had more than one person tell me you're a special lady. And--you know something? They're right." As Frank and Ginger continue to embrace and kiss, a thought suddenly rushes into Frank's mind. He stops and takes another look at the note.A bewildered Ginger stares at Frank. "What's the matter, Honey?" A hunch suddenly comes to Frank. "This note," he answers as he looks toward the parlor door. With that, Frank rushes out of the room. A perplexed Ginger, follows after him. Frank hurries into the storage closet. In a heated frenzy, he begins to rummage through the box of old Metcalf Family memorabilia. Ginger is dumbfounded by Frank's frenetic activity. Frank digs into the large carton until he finds the box containing the fragile LEMO Tomato Juice costume."Frank, what, on Earth, are you doing?" "You'll see," answers Frank. With that, Frank grabs the box containing the costume, and rushes down the stairs to the living room. Still in a state of annoyed confusion, Ginger rushes after him. "Frank, will you please tell me what's going on?!" Ginger's angst-filled query goes unanswered. Frank sits down on the sofa, places the box on his knees, and hurriedly shakes the lid off. Ginger tries again, to get Frank's attention. "What do you want with that old costume?" Without looking at Ginger, Frank answers. "It's not the costume I'm interested in." Frank finds the envelope containing the note in Ginger Metcalf's handwriting. Ginger watches as Frank removes the note from the envelope, and begins carefully to compare it to the note found in the curio cabinet.The handwriting on both notes is a perfect match. Frank examines the notes further. He carefully aligns the torn edges of both notes. As Frank suspects, they fit perfectly. Still, Frank can't believe his eyes. Ginger stares in disbelief. "Ginger, do you see this? These two notes are part of the same piece of paper." "Yeah," answers Ginger. "I can see that. And yet-somehow-one of those pieces of paper traveled across two hundred years in time--to our present." "And," adds Frank, "see how the writing on this note is as aged as the writing on the note with the costume. It's as though both notes were written back in the 1940s. Yet one note was written two centuries ago, and this other note was written only this morning--how could they do that?" "Well," replies Ginger, "I suppose that, as ghosts, they can do just about anything they want."To Be Continued. . . .Watch for the next installment.
Dec 9 06 2:23 PM
Chapter 15 "Runs Like New"ON THIS THURSDAY MORNING, Frank's stomach is tingling----not with hunger, but with anticipation. Frank seems as giddy as a child on his birthday, for this is the day he will view the 1931 Ford Model "A" that he saw advertised on the LAAAC netsite. Out of curiosity, Frank checks the parlor; this time, the curio cabinet is undisturbed. The Jeffrey Metcalf figure is poised with his bat, waiting for that imaginary first pitch. The Ginger Szabo figure remains standing in front of her archaic floor microphone, as if waiting for her cue to sing the once-famous LEMO Tomato Juice jingle. It's as though all the ghostly visitations of the past few days had never happened. The first half of the day passes lazily. Ginger is on her knees in another section of the garden. Frank is sitting outside in an Adirondack chair under the boughs of a spreading oak tree. He's reading a history book, as usual. Ginger pauses from her work and calls out to him. "Hey, Frank! Do you have any plans for the guest house, aside from using it as a storage locker?" Frank gets up and strides to where Ginger is standing. "Well, no-not at present. But, if I know you, Ginger, I'll bet you've come up with an idea, or two.""Yeah, I do," answers Ginger, "for one, how 'bout cleaning it out and using it as a guest house?" "Why should I do that, Ginger. If friends or family come to stay overnight, there's plenty of room in the house." "Well," replies Ginger, "there just may come a day when we'll be putting that guest house to use." Ginger has no idea of the prophetic nature of her words. A little puzzled by Ginger's sudden interest in the guest house, Frank returns to his chair to continue reading about the Civil War battles of New Market and Cold Harbor.BEFORE leaving for Pasadena, Frank extends to Ginger a final invitation to come along. Again, Ginger declines. Except for the usual traffic on the 405, 101, and 134 Freeways, Frank's drive to Pasadena is uneventful. When Frank arrives at the address of the seller, he is taken by the style of the house. It is Late Victorian, with turrets, stained glass, and all the typical architectural gingerbread. The yard is beautifully maintained. The driveway to the garage goes far back behind the house, to a very old wood-frame structure. With its double wooden doors and pitched roof, it looks more like a small barn, than a garage. A real estate sign stands, sentry-like, at the curb by the house's driveway entrance. A large sticker with the word SOLD is plastered diagonally across it.Frank can't help noticing the Model "A" Ford, parked at the head of the driveway. He steps up to the front door and rings the bell. The seller, a cordial, sedate man in his late-sixties, answers and invites Frank inside. Frank is impressed by the antique furnishings and decor in the house. As the seller shakes hands with Frank, he introduces himself as Owen Conklin. Owen goes on to tell Frank that he and his wife have just sold their home and are moving in a month's time to Florida. Owen also informs Frank that he has had the Model "A" on the market for over five months without any takers. This is a major tactical error, on Owen's part, which Frank will soon turn to his own advantage. In a tone bordering on desperation, Owen reaffirms his willingness to come down on the price.Though Frank is literally chomping at the bit to buy the car, he puts on his best poker-face. With a critical engineer's eye, Frank walks casually around the old Ford, scrutinizing every detail: the smooth and shiny paint, the brightly polished chrome on the bumpers, radiator, headlights, etc. "As you can see," volunteers Owen, "it's been well taken care of." Frank, however, remains cooler than a tray of ice cubes. "Umm-hmm," is his nonchalant reply.Owen suddenly announces that he's willing to lower the price to $100,000. Frank gives no response, for he knows he's in an advantageous position. By the time Frank has test-driven the car and looks over the engine, Owen drops the price yet again, to $80,000 which, he says, is the lowest he is willing to go. Frank, however, knows he can do better and, in a business-like tone, makes a counter offer. "The best I can do is sixty thousand." Owen balks at such a low offer. For it means losing a lot of money. But the California economy is currently in recession, and the market for antique cars is as flat as a Kansas prairie. And, apart from Frank, Owen's ad in LAAAC has generated no other serious interest. Owen's cordiality evaporates faster than a sidewalk puddle in Pasadena in mid-July. A stressed Owen paces about, rubbing his hand about his face and forehead several times. "Oh--alright; It's a deal." With that, Frank immediately scribbles out a check for $60,000, while Owen steps into another room to find the Model "A's" title and transfer documents. After these formalities are concluded, Owen agrees to deliver the car on Sunday Morning between eleven o'clock and noon. Frank walks back to his land car with an enormous grin on his face, jumps in, and drives home.IT'S 3:30PM when Frank pulls into his driveway and parks in the garage. Ginger is still busy in the garden. When Frank calls out to her, she stands up and quick-steps over to meet him. With a serious expression, Ginger looks at Frank dead-on. "You bought it, didn't you. I can tell by that silly grin on your face." "Well--yes, I did. Why are you so put off about it?" "I'm just alittle disappointed, Frank-that's all. I was just hoping you would've thought twice before spending a hundred and twenty-four thousand dollars on something we really don't need.""Well, Ginger-for your information, I didn't spend a hundred and twenty-four thousand dollars. In fact, I didn't pay half that. The man I bought the car from, just retired; he and his wife are moving, next month to Florida. From what he told me, he's been advertising that car in antique car magazines, for the last five months without one bite. He kept coming down on the price till he stopped at eighty-thousand. So I made him a counter-offer of sixty thousand, which he accepted." "Well," replies Ginger, "that's peachy, Frank. But that's still a lot of money by anyone's standards. But then--I also know you're a man. And men aren't happy unless they have their toys.""Ginger, Honey-I know you're not over the moon that I bought that car. But wait 'til you see it. It's great. Mister Conklin, the guy I bought it from, is delivering it on Sunday Morning." "Alright, Frank. You have your new toy. But promise me you'll hang on to your money for awhile, at least, until you know your position at Cal-Morton is solid." Frank takes Ginger's hand and smiles. "Alright, Sweetheart-I promise." With that, Ginger turns and returns to her latest project in the garden.FRANK goes into his library to check his PC again, for messages. A few minutes later, Ginger runs into the room. There is an unnerving sense of urgency about her. She begins to speak in rapid, fearful sentences. "Frank, that white land car with the dark windows-it's back. It's parked across the road again. There's a tree in the way; I can't get a good look at the car without being seen." Frank springs out of his chair and strides briskly out onto the front porch. Ginger is hot on his heals. Surely enough, there, it is: the same mysterious white land car they had seen before. Frank addresses Ginger in a tense, low voice. "Ginger, quick-go into our bedroom closet and get my binoculars; they're in a brown case, hanging from the shoulder strap."Ginger runs upstairs and quickly returns with Frank's binoculars. Frank takes them out of the case and focuses on the suspicious land car. "Can you see anything, Frank?" "The windows," answers Frank, "are too dark to see who's inside. But--wait a minute-I can see a license plate. Ginger, there's a pad 'n' pen in the middle drawer of my computer desk. Bring 'em to me-fast." Ginger promptly dashes back into the house, and speedily returns with the pad and pen. Frank snatches them from Ginger's hand and jots down the land car's license number, as well as its make and model. "I'll call this in to the police."The police add this newest information to the report that Frank had filed over the weekend. When Frank hangs up the phone, Ginger anxiously questions him. "What did they say?" "Not much," answers Frank. "They only said they'd check the plate number against their stolen or suspicious vehicle reports." Once again, Ginger becomes frightened. "But what if they come back after dark, when we can't see 'em? It's pretty dark on that road at night, you know." "Don't worry, Dear," answers Frank. "These binoculars have a night-vision feature. Aside from that, I also have floodlights hidden all around this house and property. If anyone dares try and climb the fence or sneak onto our property by some other way, a signal will trip a switch, and the whole area will be lit up like it was high noon. And, like I told you before, a piercing alarm will go off in the house and, on the property.""That's comforting, Frank. But tell me-was this place once a maximum security prison?" Frank chuckles. "Well, since this property is so large and, in a secluded area between the hillsides, I wanted it to be as secure as I could make it." After dinner, the land car is still parked in front of the house. By now, Frank has had enough, and decides to walk down to the road to get a closer look. However, before Frank reaches the fence, the car throws up a cloud of dust and speeds off. "I wonder where they go," says Ginger, "when they take off like that." "I don't know," replies Frank. "But I'd sure like to know who they are, and what they're up to."LATER that evening, Frank prepares for his planned outing, on the following morning to Wesley Johnson's Target Range in Ventura County. This time, he'll take along his Model 1873/84 .45-70 Springfield trapdoor rifle. The Buffington rear sight on this rifle has been a constant source of frustration for Frank, much as it was to the average foot-slogging infantryman who tramped endlessly across the Great Plains during the 1880s. Frank is going, yet again, to try and sight his '73/84 Springfield. After completing preparations for the following day, Frank changes into his pajamas and joins Ginger, who is seated on the sofa, watching the 3V."So-all set for tomorrow?," asks Ginger. "Yeah," answers Frank. "I just hope it won't be too windy, up at the range. You'd be surprised at how wind can affect accuracy, especially with these antique guns and their lower muzzle velocities." "Well, Frank, I have no idea what you're talking about. But it oughtta be an interesting day." Frank thinks, for a moment. "You know, Ginger, I was just thinking--maybe, with your zoom vision, you could help me sight my '84 Springfield; I've been having one heck of a time with with the rear sight." "Well," answers Ginger, "I'll give it a try, but I'm not making promises.""In any case," replies Frank with optimism, "whatever happens, you might make a new friend, or two. The wives generally congregate somewhere nearby and chat for awhile. I think you'll like Hal's wife, Barbara. She's pretty nice; the two of you oughtta get along." When Frank and Ginger are ready to turn in for the night, Ginger doesn't forget about the clandestine white land car of earlier in the day. "Frank-before we go upstairs, why don't you check to see if that land car is back."Frank switches on the night vision feature on his binoculars. He steps out onto the porch and peers into the darkness. Scanning the road that fronts his property, Frank sees nothing of consequence-only a west-bound green land car, just passing by. It belongs to a neighbor who lives about quarter-mile down the road. Frank turns and steps back into the house. "All clear, Honey." "Well, for now, anyway," replies a wary Ginger.SATURDAY Morning dawns calm, clear and warm; A perfect day to go to the range--provided the weather is just as favorable in Ventura County. After a light breakfast, Ginger helps Frank to load everything into the back of the land car. "Are you sure you don't wanna take the ice chest along, with some sandwiches and drinks?," asks Ginger. "No, not this time," answers Frank. "I'll just grab something at one of the lunch stands."Ginger notices Frank, grinning to himself. "What are you smiling about?" "I was just thinking-I can't wait to see you in action on the range with that zoom vision of yours! You'll put Derek Nichols to shame. He's the best marksman in the club, and he never lets us forget it." "Well, Frank-I don't wanna draw too much attention to myself." "I know, Honey," replies Frank. "But, for once, it'd sure be nice to see Derek get his come-upance."To Be Continued. . . .Watch for the next installment.
Dec 13 06 2:43 PM
Chapter 16 "Eyes That See"FRANK PULLS UP TO THE entrance to Wesley Johnson's Target Range. As the gate attendant bends down to receive Frank's entrance fee, he promptly notices Ginger. The attendant, a very out-going sort, has seen Frank pass through many times before, but always alone. "Hey, Frank! Who's the good-lookin' muchacha?" "Oh," replies Frank, "let me introduce you to my wife, Ginger." "Your wife?!," Exclaims the attendant. "You mean you got married? When did you get married, my friend?" "A few weeks ago," answers Frank in a casual manner. "Well, hey, you gotta let me kiss the bride, man!," exclaims the attendant with a toothy grin. Frank chuckles. "C'mon, Hector, we're burning daylight. Lift the gate and let us through, okay?" Hector laughs and lifts the gate to let Frank pass.
The Boelckes drive slowly past the skeet-shooting, high-powered rifle, pistol, and small-bore ranges until they finally arrive at the antique firearms range. As Frank eases his land car into a space, the intermittent crack of sporadic rifle, and musket-fire is heard all along the firing line. It is reminiscent of a skirmish line at the beginning of a Civil War battle. All along the line, antique gun enthusiasts are shooting anything, from a clumsy and cumbersome 16th century matchlock arquebuss, to early Mauser, and Swiss Vetterli rifles, French Chaspot "needle" guns, to Frank's beloved Springfield trapdoor rifles. With Ginger's help, Frank unloads his cased trapdoor rifle, tool kit, and ammunition safe. He quickly recognizes some of the club members, seated at shooting benches, firing at various kinds of targets. Frank finds a vacant shooting bench. After presenting his BFSC and I.D. to the range master, Frank slips his 1873/84 Springfield out of its case and props it on the bench rest. He then adjusts the viewing scope to 100 yards. At Frank's request, the range master calls a cease-fire, walks out to the 100 yard line, and slides a new target into the frame. During the cease-fire, Frank takes the opportunity to greet some friends.Frank's long-time friend, Hal Brinker, is sitting, three benches down the line with his original Custer-era .45-70 Springfield trapdoor carbine. The two men greet each other warmly. "Say, Hal-is Barbara with you today? I'd like her to meet my wife, Ginger." A wide-eyed Hal gapes at Frank. "Your wife?? When did you get married, Frank??" "A few weeks ago," answers Frank. Hal is dumbfounded. "Why didn't you tell us or, at least send an invitation, Pal? Barbara and I would've loved to attend your wedding, and give you both a wedding gift." "Well," answers Frank, "Ginger and I wanted a small, simple ceremony. And, as far as gifts are concerned, Ginger and I have everything we need." "Even so, Frank, I wish Barbara and I could've, at least, been to the nuptials. Anyway, congratulations, Buddy!," says Hal as he pats Frank's arm. "Thanks a lot, Hal. Anyhow, is Barbara here today?" "Oh, yeah," answers Hal. "She's around here somewhere." "Good," replies Frank. "I'd like her to meet Ginger."WHEN the range master lifts the cease-fire, Frank returns to his shooting bench, where Ginger is waiting. In his eagerness to get started, Frank gives Ginger no time to adjust to her new, and noisy surroundings. "Here, Ginger-see what you can do to get this thing sighted. With that high-powered vision of yours, it oughtta be a snap." "Shhh, Frank-Not so loud," whispers a nervous Ginger. Ginger looks about, to see if anyone is watching or listening. She then sits down at the shooting bench and places the butt of the old Springfield against her shoulder. Ginger aims down-range at the target. She immediately sees the problem and looks up at Frank."Well, no wonder you're not hitting anything, Frank. The windage and elevation are all wrong for the distance you're trying to shoot at." "Really?," says Frank. "I thought I had it right, but I kept wondering why I wasn't hitting anything." Ginger holds out her hand. "Gimmee me that tiny little screwdriver in your tool kit." With each slight turn of the sight-screws, Ginger aims down range at the distant target. After another minute or two, Ginger seems satisfied with her adjustments. "There; that oughtta do it." Ginger again, holds her hand. "Alright, Honey-gimmee me a bullet." Frank is surprised by Ginger's request. "Oh-you mean--you want to fire it?" "Well, of course, Frank. How else can I tell if my adjustments are good?" Frank takes a cartridge from his ammo safe and hands it to Ginger. "Now," warns Frank, "before you pull the trigger, Ginger, remember-these old Springfields have a hard kick. So make sure the butt plate is firmly against your shoulder, or the recoil could make it slip and give you a sore shoulder."Ginger brings the hammer back to half-position, flips open the breech, and pushes the long .45-70 cartridge into the chamber. She snaps the breech block closed, cocks the hammer back to firing position, takes careful aim, and squeezes the trigger. There follows a booming report as the ancient rifle recoils hard against Ginger's shoulder. A red-orange flame jets out of the muzzle as a noxious white cloud of sulfurous smoke drifts backward with the breeze. Ginger grimaces fiercely at the foul-smelling cloud that wafts into her face. She lays the old trapdoor rifle on the shooting bench and rubs her shoulder. Frank looks down-range through the tripod-mounted viewing scope. His jaw drops at what he sees: Ginger's shot is dead center. Ginger, however, appears rather nonplussed by her first encounter with Frank's archaic Trapdoor Springfield. "I think I'll let you enjoy this noisy, painful, and smelly thing," says Ginger. "I'm going to talk with the other wives over there." "Sure, Honey," replies Frank. "Go right ahead."Ginger strolls casually to a picnic table, where five other women are seated. They are wives or girlfriends of some of the antique gun club members, and they're all engaged in lively conversation. Ginger finds a vacant space at the end of one of the benches and sits down. As fate would have it, Ginger places herself next to Patty, the rather coarse, loud, highly opinionated, and occasionally obnoxious wife of Derek Nichols. Patty turns to see who has taken the open spot next to her. In the manner of a USDA meat inspector, Patty leans back and scrutinizes Ginger."Hey, gals! We have a newby joinin' us today! So, what's your name?" Ginger glances timorously about and delivers an equally timorous answer. "Uh--Ginger--Ginger Boelcke--Frank's w-wife." "Frank's wife?!," blurts Patty. "I didn't know Frank got married! Heck, the last time he was here, he didn't even say he was engaged!" Ginger grows even more nervous and uncomfortable. "Oh, w-well, uh--uh--we got married about-about five weeks ago." Rita, who is sitting across from Ginger, extends her hand in a friendly greeting. Rita, originally from Amarillo, Texas, has a certain Texas charm about her. She smiles kindly at Ginger. "It's nice to meet you, Ginger--and congratulations on your wedding. You're lucky to have Frank for a husband; he's a good man.""Yeah, congrats, Ginger!," Patty loudly declares. "By the way, Ginger, we've been talkin' about cyber-people." Ginger grins nervously and shifts uncomfortably in her seat. "Oh, uh--were you?" "Yeah," barks Patty. "I was just sayin' how sick and twisted anyone'd hafta be ta actually marry one of them things. What do you think, Ginger?" "Oh, uh--well--yes; I--I suppose so," is Ginger's stammering, uncertain reply. Grace, another one of the wives, suddenly chimes in. "What's really creepy about cyber-people, is that you can't tell 'em from a real person. I read that once in a magazine.""That's really scary," adds Darlene, another of the wives. Then Patty speaks up in her usual over-powering tone. "Yeah-anybody here could be a cyber-person. Hey, Ginger's new here! For all we know, she's a cyber-woman!" Patty laughs loudly and gives Ginger a shove. Understandably, Ginger grows even more uncomfortable and ill at ease. "C'mon, y'all," says Rita, "stop teasin' Ginger." Rita turns to Ginger. "Don't let Patty get to ya, Sugar. That's just the way she is." "Well," continues Patty, "I think they oughtta round up all them cyber-people, or whatever they call 'em, take 'em out to a wreckin' yard and put 'em in one of them land car crushers!" "Here-Here!," adds one of the other ladies. "Or, better yet," adds Grace, "they oughtta set 'em up here at the range, as targets!"
Ginger is startled when a hand suddenly lands on her shoulder from behind. She turns to see a tall, attractive woman with brown hair and dark eyes, smiling down at her. "Hi, Ginger. I'm Barbara Brinker, Hal's wife. Frank sent me over to meet you. Would you like to walk with me to the snack stand?" Ginger answers with profound relief. "Oh, yes-definitly." With that, Ginger excuses herself and leaves the table of cackling women. Patty is too busy to notice, as she is busy, opining stridently about something else.
As Ginger and Barbara amble casually along on a narrow concrete pathway, Barbara speaks to Ginger in very congenial tones. "I thought I'd rescue you from that hostility fest over there." "No kidding," replies Ginger. "Thank you very much; I owe you one." Barbara looks into Ginger's eyes. Ginger, in turn gets a look into Barbara's eyes, and gasps. "My word--you're a--you're a--cyber-woman, aren't you?" "Yes, I am," answers Barbara." "Well," continues Ginger, "it's nice to know I'm not completely alone in this hostile human world. Anyway, thanks for getting me away from that table full of angry women. I thought they'd eventually find out about me, then chase me all over the range with torches and pitch-forks.""Yes," says Barbara with a grin, "they're quite a group, aren't they? Patty is the one who annoys me the most. As you just found out, she can be pretty obnoxious." "I'll say," replies Ginger. Barbara fills Ginger in further about Patty and the other wives. "The thing of it is that she constantly stirs up the other girls about one thing or another. Gordon's wife, Rita, is the only one of them that I can tolerate." Sharp reports of gunfire from the various ranges, echo through the surrounding hills and canyons as the two cyber-women casually talk and stroll along. As Ginger and Barbara draw closer to a concession stand, Barbara points to a group of picnic tables in the shade of a large oak tree."Let's sit over there. I chose this spot next to the small-bore range. Twenty-two caliber rifles are toys, compared to those Springfield Trapdoor rifles our husbands are so in love with. Anyway, we'll also have more privacy to talk. Would you like something to drink, Ginger?" "Well," replies Ginger, "I would, except that I left my money on my vanity at home." "No worries, Ginger; drinks are on me." After Barbara pays the sales clerk, the two women sit down with their drinks at one of the more distant tables, safely out of earshot of would-be eavesdroppers."So how are things between you and Frank?" Ginger smiles and gives a quick answer. "Things are just great. But he does occasionally drive me crazy with his obstinacy and jittery nerves." Barbara chuckles. "Our creators are, indeed a nervous lot, aren't they?" Ginger sighs and rests her chin in her hand. "You can say that again. I honestly don't know how they get through their daily lives without constantly passing out from stress overload, or something. You should've seen Frank on the first day I came into his house."Barbara grins. "I know what you mean, Ginger. On the day that Hal and I first met, he looked so pale that I thought he was coming down with something serious." "Frank's really sweet, though," says Ginger. "He's been nothing less than a gentleman, and he's really nice in other ways-if you get my meaning." "Yes, I do, Ginger. Hal is the same way. In fact, Hal and Frank are alike in many ways." "You know, Barbara--I think I'll talk to Frank about having you and Hal over for dinner sometime soon.""Thanks, Ginger; that would be very nice. You know, Ginger, as cyber-women, you and I should stick together. I mean; there aren't many of us around. You're the first cyber-woman I've met in over three years. As it is, there's a lot of prejudice against us, as demonstrated earlier by our female human counterparts, back there." Ginger gives an emphatic reply. "You said it. We'll be henchmen together, Barbara." "But seriously," continues Ginger, "not all humans are like that. While Frank and I were on our honeymoon in Old River Run, Ohio, we ran into a really nice couple. And we've become good friends." "Did you say, Old River Run, Ohio?," asks Barbara. "I think I read about Old River Run recently in American Highways Magazine. It looks like an interesting place." "Oh, it is," says Ginger. "When you get there, it's like time-traveling back to the nineteen-forties."GINGER and Barbara become so immersed in conversation that they completely lose track of time. Three and a half hours later, Frank comes, striding toward the girls' table. "There, the two of you are!," exclaims Frank. "Hal and I've been looking all over the range for you!" "Sorry, Honey," answers Ginger. "I guess, we totally forgot the time." "Anyway," replies Frank, "I've got everything packed in the car, so we can head for home. And, Barbara, Hal's ready to leave, too." "Alright; thanks, Frank," answers Barbara. "I'm sorry we had you and Hal worried." "That's alright," says Frank. "We knew you both couldn't have gone too far."With that, Frank, Ginger, and Barbara walk back to the antique firearms range. Frank calls out to Hal. "I found our missing ladies!" "That's a relief," replies Hal. Ginger gives Barbara a hug. "I'm glad we had time to talk. Don't forget to stay in touch. Like you said, we have to stick together." "Sure, Ginger," says Barbara. "We'll definitely do that." "Well, Hal," says Frank, "it was great to see you and the gang again. I'm glad Barbara and Ginger got to know each other.""Yeah," says Hal. "Seems like they really hit it off. Well, we'd better hit the road. We both have some pretty dirty rifles to clean." "Alright, Hal. I'll call you next week; take it easy." After a final exchange of well-wishes, Frank and Ginger embark on their hour-long trip home.To Be Continued. . . .Watch for the next installment.
Dec 15 06 2:48 PM
"Unwanted Caller" DURING THE DRIVE HOME, Frank and Ginger reflect on their day at Wesley Johnson's Shooting Range. "Well," says Ginger, "you're not getting me to fire those trapdoor rifles of yours ever again." "Oh," replies Frank, "it couldn't have been that bad now, could it?" "Bad enough," is Ginger;'s strident answer. "My shoulder still hurts. And that's after firing only one shot." "Oh, well," says Frank, "at least, you got my '84 sighted in. It's nice to be able to hit the target now--thanks, Dear." "You're welcome," replies Ginger. "Just don't ask me to do it again. And, another thing, you're not taking those smelly things into the house until you've cleaned 'em, first. I'm not having the house reeking of the smell of rotten eggs."After a brief silence, Ginger has questions. "Oh, uh-Frank?" "Yeah, Honey?," asks Frank. "I was wondering--how much do you know about Hal's wife, Barbara?" "Well-uh--I know she's fairly attractive, has a pleasant personality, and that she and Hal have been married for-oh-almost three years now." "So then," continues Ginger, "is Barbara Hal's first wife?" "No," answers Frank. "His first wife, Hillary died of pancreatic cancer about three-and-a-half years ago." "Interesting," replies Ginger, in the manner of a crime detective uncovering an important clue. "It all makes sense now." Frank gives Ginger a quick glance. "What do you mean?" "Well, Honey," answers Ginger, "there's something you apparently don't know about Barbara." Frank grins. "Oh, really? And, what would that be, Sherlock?""Well, brace yourself, Frank: Barbara is just like me--a new-generation cyber-woman." Needless to say, Frank is stunned by Ginger's revelation. "Barbara?--a Cyber-woman? How did you guess-did she tell you?" "No, Frank. I found out on my own--by looking into her eyes. And, Barbara knew about me, the same way. Barbara also told me that you remind her a lot, of Hal. And it figures. Not only are your personalities a lot alike, your interests are the same, and your lives seem to have followed the same course. You and Hal are even about the same age.""Hmm," says Frank, "I wonder why Hal never told me about Barbara." "Well, Frank, probably for the same reasons you haven't told people about me. I mean, it's not exactly something you'd go shouting from the rooftops, is it." "Yeah," answers Frank with a sigh. "I guess, you're right. There's still alotta prejudice against cyber-people." "Hopefully," answers Ginger, "that'll change one day. As Barbara and I were saying, we're not trying to take over the world. We just wanna be accepted and treated equally by the humankind that created us. After all, we didn't ask to be born, as people say."FRANK and Ginger arrive home after four in the afternoon. At Ginger's insistence, Frank carries his two Springfields into the garage and lays them on the workbench. After entering into the house through the kitchen service porch, Frank proudly unfurls his target from the range. "Ginger, Just look at this! Without your help, I never could've gotten a grouping like that." Frank points to a cluster of bullet-holes just upper right of dead center. Other shots are clustered about the center of the bulls eye, where Ginger had put her initial dead-center shot. "That's pretty good shootin', Frank," says Ginger. "Did you show it to Derek?" "Oh, yeah," answers Frank. "I could tell he was impressed, but Derek being Derek, he'd never admit it." "I can believe that," replies Ginger. "His wife's a piece of work, too."Later, Frank is hard at work in the garage, cleaning his antique Trapdoor rifles. The pungent smell of cleaning solvent fills the garage's atmosphere. In the meantime, Ginger is in the kitchen, preparing the steak dinner she had promised Frank. Suddenly, the phone rings. Ginger quickly snatches up a cloth, wipes her hands, and dashes into the dining room get the phone. She answers in a cordial manner. "Boelcke residence, Ginger speaking."Ginger's pleasant countenance suddenly turns into one of menacing anger. "How did you get our number?!," she growls. ------ Listen, Mister: my husband told you in Old River Run that we're not granting interviews to anyone. ----- What part of NO can't you understand, Mister? ------ I don't care if you traveled all the way from Proxima Centauri. Nobody asked you to come here! So you can just get back on that plane and slither back into whatever hole in Ohio you crawled out of!! ------- I couldn't care less about your lousy career!! ----- Well, that's your problem, isn't it! All I know is that, if you dare come skulking around here, you'll be talking to the police about it!!"With that final threat, Ginger angrily hangs up the phone and tosses it onto the kitchen counter. She then marches out via the service porch, to the garage. As she enters the garage, Frank is just running another cleaning patch through the bore of one of his Trapdoor rifle barrels. He pauses when he hears Ginger enter. "What's up, Sweetie? I heard the phone ring, but I had solvent on my hands. Who was it?" Ginger answers in an angry and agitated manner. "You won't believe who just called, Frank." "Well, try me," answers Frank."Believe it, or not," continues Ginger, "it was that nosy, no good reporter from the Old River Run Courier." Frank almost drops his cleaning rod. "What?! You mean he called here--from Ohio??" "No, Frank. He's here--that is-he's here in Los Angeles, and he's staying at the Bonaventure by LAX. And I'm sure he got our number from the desk clerk at the Old River Run Grand Hotel. After all, our personal information's probably in their data base." "Well, what did he want?," asks Frank in strident tones. Ginger steps over to where Frank is standing, leans against the workbench, and folds her arms."Well, Frank, it seems we've caused a little stir in Old River Run. We're celebrities now, believe it, or not. And, they want us back." Frank sighs and shakes his head. "Well, how do you like that?" "And, Frank-That's not all. He wants to visit us for an exclusive interview! And he also brought along a photographer to take pictures of us, and the house ." "No way!," exclaims Frank. "There's no way I'm letting that snooping little jerk come anywhere near this property! What else did he say?" "Well," answers Ginger, "when I told him what he can do with his request, he whined about how far he had to travel at company expense, and how it'll hurt his career if he doesn't come back with an interview and a photo spread." "Well, tough noogies," says Frank.Ginger chuckles. "That's basically what I said, except I used stronger language." "You know, Ginger--I was afraid of this. The very last thing we need is a reporter and press photographer sniffing around here. I don't want him finding out you're a cyber-woman." "That makes two of us," answers Ginger. "I also threatened to call the police if he dares come around here. Hopefully, that did the trick." "I hope so," says Frank. "I have enough on my mind, right now without that." "Well," says Ginger, "I'm gonna finish preparing your dinner." Frank replies with a strong exclamation. "It had better be steak! Remember-you promised."
Ginger smiles. "Yes, Dear; steak and fries with all the trimmings-just the way you like it." "Now, that's more like it!," replies a ravenous Frank. Later that evening, Frank enjoys with gusto what he considers to be the first real meal he has eaten in several days. However, Ginger is careful to remind Frank that he will return to his diet after the weekend. This, of course, elicits grumbling, on Frank's part.SUNDAY Morning finds Frank up and about at 7AM, full of excitement over the impending delivery of his Ford Model "A" sedan. Frank switches on the radio and starts the morning coffee. It isn't long before Ginger steps into the dining room in her bathrobe. She pulls out a chair and sits down next to Frank. "You're up early this morning, Frank." Ginger raises a finger, along with her eyebrows. "Ahhh--wait a minute-don't tell me-you're so excited about your new toy being delivered, that you just can't stay in bed another minute, right?" "Yeah," answers Frank, "that's pretty much it." "Have you eaten anything yet?," queries Ginger. "No, not yet," answers Frank. "I'll make you some breakfast then," says Ginger. With that, Ginger rises from the table and steps into the kitchen.
After breakfast, Ginger heads upstairs to prepare for the day. An hour later, she descends the stairs dressed in jeans and a light cotton top. Her hair is pulled back, and away from her face. When Frank sees Ginger attired in this fashion, it can mean only one thing. "So-putting more time into the garden, eh?" "It's a big garden, Frank, and there's a lot that needs doin.' I think I'd like to plant tulips around the fountain." "You're putting a lot into that garden," says Frank. "Well, Frank-you have your toys-I have the garden."AS the hands of the ancient regulator clock creep toward eleven o'clock, Frank grows restive. For several minutes he steps out onto the front porch, then turns and goes back inside. After more time passes, Frank steps back out onto the porch, and begins to pace back and forth. Finally, he stops and leans against the railing. While he stands there, day-dreaming, Frank suddenly hears what sounds like a large land truck, making its way up the road. Just coming into view from around the hill bordering the east side of Frank's land, is a large pickup-style land truck, towing a flatbed trailer. Mounted on top of this, to Frank's glee, is his newly-purchased Model "A" sedan. Frank immediately rushes through the house, to the backyard. Ginger is crouched in a section of the garden. Frank calls to her from the back porch. "Hey, Ginger! The car's here!"Ginger lays down her onion hoe, pulls off her work gloves and walks briskly through the house, to the front porch. In the meantime, the truck and trailer slowly turn onto Frank's long driveway. Frank jogs up to the truck when it finally stops. He notices another man, seated in the passenger seat of the truck's cab. Ginger stands at the near end of the porch, arms folded, watching the activity that unfolds before her. The second man alights the truck and walks back to the trailer. After a rather curt greeting, Owen introduces the other man as his son, Emmett. Owen's demeanor is markedly different from the day when Frank came to inspect the old Ford. Emmett greets Frank with bland indifference and immediately sets to work, unfastening the chains and heavy straps that secure the antique car to the trailer bed. After the wheels of the Model "A" are unblocked, Owen opens the drivers side door, gets in, and starts the engine. When Ginger hears the old sedan's idling engine, it brings back memories of her honeymoon with Frank in Old River Run. At that moment, Ginger develops a secret fondness for the old car.When Emmett lowers the ramps, his father backs the car slowly down from the trailer. He drives it up to Frank's garage and shuts off the engine. Afterward, Owen indifferently hands Frank some more paperwork on how to obtain parts, as well as, an application for membership in LAAAC. Before Owen leaves, however, he has some parting words for Frank. "There; it's all yours now. You took advantage of the bind I was in and forced me to sell a very valuable antique automobile at a garage sale price. Under normal circumstances, I would've laughed in your face and thrown you off my property--I hope that sits on your conscience for awhile. that is--if have a conscience." Frank is caught completely off guard by Owen's comments, and offers a defensive reply. "Owen, I didn't force you to do anything. I was dickering, like anyone would've done. You could've declined my offer, and that would've been that." Owen doesn't care to hear Frank's response. Before Frank is halfway through his sentence, Owen turns and marches back to his truck. After Owen and his son have gone, Frank thinks, for a moment, about what Owen had just said, and it does give Frank a pang of conscience. Frank, however, quickly recovers and calls out to Ginger. "Hey, Honey! Come over here and look at the car!"When Ginger walks over to where Frank is standing, he puts his arm around her. "Isn't she terrific? Even better than the one we rented in Old River Run!" Ginger sighs and gives a bland reply. "Yes, it is, Dear-very nice." The chrome and freshly polished paint sparkle in the noonday sun. Frank opens a door to let Ginger see the newly re-upholstered interior. Ginger notices the dashboard radio. "Hmm-I wonder if the radio actually works." Frank seems not to hear Ginger's words. "Hey, Ginger-how 'bout takin' her for alittle spin?" "What-you mean-right now?," answers a reluctant Ginger. "Sure, why not?," replies an enthusiastic Frank. I'll lock the house, and we'll be off!"To Be Continued. . . .Watch for the next installment.
Dec 21 06 1:11 AM
Quote:It is a typical mid-19th century woodframe house of the kind one can find in many little towns in Pennsylvania, and elsewhere in the East. When I thought up the layout of Frank's house, I had in mind the houses on Main Street in Leola, PA, where we lived for almost three years.
Quote:While Ginger was occupied in the garden, Frank sat down at his PC and logged onto the Global Net. He found the site for the Los Angeles Antique Automibile Club.
Quote:After programming the sound system, he found a site that could do an automated seach of all public records in the United States and its possessions.
Quote:Ginger presented Frank with a breakfast consisting of imitation, no-cholesterol eggs, turkey bacon, and whole-grain toast. At first, he approached this alien morning repast with caution.
Quote:The handwriting on both notes matched exactly. Frank then examined the ragged edges of the notes. Then, he put them together. It was a perfect match.
Quote:"Say, Hal; is Barbara here with you today? I'd like her to meet Ginger. my wife.""Yeah," Hal answered. "She's over at that picnic table with some of the other wives."
Quote:Ginger and Barbara became so immersed in conversation that they completely lost track of time.
Dec 24 06 2:24 PM
Chapter 18 "Lurking Stranger"FRANK HELPS GINGER INTO the Ford Model "A"'s front passenger seat. After taking his place in the drivers seat, Frank takes a moment to re-familiarize himself with the layout of the antique Ford's dashboard. A turn of the ignition key, a press of the starter pedal, and the engine turns over without the slightest hesitation. After backing into position, Frank puts the old car in gear and off, they go. As the Boelckes drive down Mountain Vista Drive, neighbors pause to watch the unusual sight pass by. When Frank and Ginger cruise down Corbin Avenue, motorists and pedestrians wave to them. Frank thoroughly enjoys this first outing in his new antique conveyance. Even Ginger seems to be enjoying herself. She reaches over and switches on the radio. To her surprise, it has remarkable reception; the dial is literally crowded with stations.As Frank and Ginger drive along the road toward home, they notice a man up ahead, standing on the shoulder of the road to their right. He is attempting to flag them down. Ginger looks intently ahead at the waving figure by the road. "Do you know that man, Frank?" "Yeah," answers Frank. "That's Kevin Aldrich, our closest neighbor; I wonder what he wants." Frank pulls off the road and stops next to his neighbor. "Hi, Kev, What's up?" "Hi there, Frank! I just had to get a closer look at this antique you're driving! I saw you go by awhile ago, but I couldn't believe it was you in the drivers seat. Did you just buy it, or something?""Yeah," answers Frank. "I got a great deal on it from this guy who had to unload it 'cuz he's moving to Florida." Kevin puts one foot up on the running board and pokes his head in through the window to get a look at the Model "A"'s interior. He is surprised and embarrassed when Ginger turns to look at him. "Oh--I'm sorry-hello," says an embarrassed Kevin. Ginger smiles and waves politely. Kevin turns to Frank. "Frank, you didn't introduce me to your attractive friend." "I'm sorry," replies Frank. "This is my wife, Ginger." "Hello, Ginger. How do you do?" "Just fine, thanks," answers Ginger.Kevin looks at Frank in astonishment. "Frank, when did you get married?" "Almost six weeks ago," answers Frank. "Well, congratulations!" Frank's lighthearted expression then gives way to one of concern. "Hey, Kev--while we're talking, I have a question." "Sure, Frank; what is it?" "Have you seen a white land car with dark windows drive past your place lately?" "Come to think of it," answers Kevin, "I did see a car like that, go by yesterday: it was headed in your direction. Is there something shady about that car, besides the windows?""Yeah," answers Frank, "actually, there is. That car has been parked for an hour or two, at a time, in front of our house on two separate days. Whenever I try to get close to whoever it is, they take off in a hurry. At first, I thought it was just another real estate agent, eye-balling our property and taking pictures--you know how it is around here. Kevin rolls his eyes. "Don't I know it. They sometimes come around here, too, asking if we wanna sell." "But," continues Frank, "we never got anything in the mail from any real estate office. Besides, no real estate agent I've seen, acts the way this character does. We just don't know who he, she, or they are, or what they're up to." "Did you call the police?," asks Kevin. "Yeah," answers Frank. "But all they did was to take down my report. I think all of us living on this road, need to keep our eyes open. They could be thieves, casing the neighborhood. So if you see that car sitting in front of your property, call the police right away." "Sure, Frank. Thanks for the heads-up. I'll definitely keep an eye out."After wishing Kevin well, Frank puts the old car in gear and drives off. Once back at home, Ginger steps into the kitchen to prepare lunch. In the meantime, Frank goes into the garage to find a soft cloth. He begins to wipe off the very fine layer of dust that accumulated on the old Ford during their little outing. Sometime after lunch, Frank is still pampering his prized new toy. He is standing on the running board, straining to polish the top. Ginger takes a break from the garden to see what he's up to. She steps around to the other side of the Model "A" Ford and folds her arms. Ginger looks up at Frank and shades her eyes, watching with amusement as he fusses over the antique sedan."You know, Frank, if you keep it up, you'll rub the paint clean off that car." "Fine by me," answers Frank. "Then I can paint it dark red, like the one we drove in Old River Run." Ginger grins and shakes her head. "You're just too funny. Oh-by the way, Frank, I noticed Owen saying saying something to you before he and his son left. He didn't look too happy-what was it about? Frank is caught off-balance by Ginger's question. He goes on to reveal what Owen had said to him. "He didn't have to accept my offer, you know." Ginger deliberates briefly on Frank's explanation. "Well, Frank, you're half-right." "What do you mean?," asks Frank. "True, Frank; Owen didn't have to accept your low-ball offer, but you did take advantage of his situation. And second, you should've offered Owen more, especially since you knew that car's true value on the antique car market."
Frank is a bit rattled by Ginger's judgement. "So, you're taking Owen's side?" "I'm not taking anybody's side, Frank. What I am saying is that you should've offered Owen a fairer amount. What you did to him was beneath you; you're a better man than that, Frank. It's a good thing for you that I wasn't there, or I would've said something. If I were you, Frank, I'd be ashamed of myself." In the coming days, it would be Ginger's words, not Owen's, that would sting Frank's conscience--because, deep inside, he knows that she was right. LATER in the evening, as Frank and Ginger lounge in front of the 3V, Ginger thinks it a good time to bring up a couple of subjects. "Frank?" "Yeah, Honey?" "When will you teach me to drive?" Frank is nearly floored by Ginger's question. "Why do you wait till we're watching the 3V to drop a bomb like that?" "Well, Frank, can you think of a better time when we're together and not doing anything?" "I suppose not," answers Frank. "So, Frank, how 'bout it then. Will you take me to the DMV so I can apply for my learner's permit?" "Yeah," answers Frank, "I guess, we can do that later this-coming week. I'll go online and set up an appointment. We might as well get it done while I'm still on vacation." "Thanks, Honey," replies Ginger. "Now, I have just one more question." "And what would that be?," asks Frank with some trepidation. Ginger begins coyly to twiddle her finger around on Frank's shoulder. "Oh, boy," says Frank to himself, "this is gonna cost me." "Well," continues Ginger, "I was sort of wondering--could you see your way to giving me a weekly allowance so I don't have to beg for money whenever I need it?"Frank shifts in his seat. "I was wondering when you'd get around to that." Franks pauses, for a moment, then answers with a sigh. "Well, alright: how about--ohhh--a hundred and fifty dollars a week?" Ginger's eyes widen with glee. "Really?! That's six hundred dollars a month-a lot more than I expected!" Frank's jaw drops. "You mean I could've gotten away with less?" "Hah! Too late, Frank. Your word is your bond, remember?" Frank puts his arm around Ginger's shoulders and gives her a kiss. "Of course, Sweetheart. You're worth every penny. Besides, you do a lot around here."LATER in the week, Frank drives Ginger to the local DMV office in Canoga Park. She passes the learners permit test handily with a score of 100%. Though Ginger is a cyber-person, the law requires her to pass through the same steps as required of a human applicant. After Frank and Ginger leave the DMV office, Ginger presses Frank to let her drive the car. Since Ginger will not take no for an answer, Frank drives her to the north parking lot of the Northridge Mall. This vast expanse of asphalt is mostly unoccupied on weekdays. When Frank parks the car, he and Ginger get out and switch seats. For Frank, sitting in the front passenger seat is an odd experience, under the best of circumstances. With Ginger now sitting in the driver's seat, he feels every nerve and muscle tighten. With an analytical eye, Ginger studies the layout of the dashboard, computer screen, video screen, auto pilot system, GPS, sonar, automatic braking system, steering, and pedal controls. Frank gives Ginger a description of all the gauges, controls, etc. "Now, Ginger-you only need a light touch on the accelerator." "Yes, Frank, I know," replies an impatient Ginger. Ginger grips the steering wheel and presses the accelerator. The land car suddenly lurches forward and immediately jerks to a stop when Ginger hits the brake pedal. Frank clenches his teeth and braces himself, as though he were on a white-knuckle roller-coaster ride. "Take it easy on the throttle, will ya?!," exclaims Frank. "Gee, Frank; stop being so jumpy. I just pressed the pedal alittle too hard, that's all." "Well," cautions Frank, "just take it slow and careful." Frank, however, has little to fear, for it isn't long before Ginger acquires a feel for the land car and its controls. Frank is astonished by Ginger's ability to learn the land car's handling characteristics. He becomes so relaxed with Ginger's driving that he lets her drive all the way home.SATURDAY is spent in preparation for Ryan and Lisa's visit for the Memorial Day weekend. Frank plans to grill hamburgers outdoors for a backyard picnic. This will be a special gathering, as Ginger will meet Ryan's girlfriend, Kaitlin, and Lisa's boyfriend, Jason. The gathering is planned for Sunday, as Kaitlin and Jason have promised to be with their respective families on Memorial Day itself. Again, Frank is elated by the prospect of having the enormous house abuzz with family activity. He seems to be walking on air as he goes about his plans and preparations. Frank will park the Ford Model "A" at the edge of the backyard, so that everyone can get a good look at it.WHEN Sunday Morning arrives, Frank is early out of bed. After getting cleaned up and dressed, Frank checks the curio cabinet in the parlor. The cabinet is untouched, as it has been now, for several days. There has been no new spectral activity since the note in Ginger Szabo-Metcalf's handwriting was found in the cabinet. While Frank sits in the dining room, sipping a cup of coffee while listening to the morning news, Ginger strolls into the room. She is still in her pajamas, her hair still up in pins and curlers. "Well, this is the second Sunday you're up early. Let's see-last Sunday, it was because your new toy was being delivered. Now, don't tell me--today, it's 'cuz Ryan and Lisa are visiting, right?""You've got it," answers Frank. "I haven't seen Kaitlin and Jason in quite awhile. They're nice kids; I think you'll like 'em. Kaitlin reminds me of you, in that she has brown hair and blue eyes. She's studying to become a pharmacist." "So," asks Ginger, "are Ryan and Kaitlin serious with each other--that is--do you think they might get married some day?" "Well," answers Frank, "I've never heard 'em talk about marriage. In any case, they both have another year of school to get through. Then they have to find work in their chosen fields." "What about Lisa and Jason?," asks Ginger. "Well," answers Frank, "they're pretty close, but they're really too young to think about marriage. Jason's a good kid, though. He's very studious, for someone his age. He wants to go into civilian avionics." "Well," replies Ginger, "Kaitlin and Jason sound like a couple of nice kids. I look forward to meeting 'em."After fixing a light breakfast for Frank, Ginger goes upstairs to get ready for the special day ahead. In the meantime, Frank decides to sit out on the front porch to do some reading while the air is still cool. The day promises to be very warm: 87 degrees, the forecast says. As Frank reposes in the shade of the porch with his book, he suddenly hears the distant sound of a land car, turning into his driveway. He knows it can't be Ryan or Lisa, for it's only 9:30 in the morning; they aren't due to arrive until 1:00PM. As the land car draws closer, Frank sees that it's his neighbor, Kevin Aldrich. Surprised by Kevin's impromptu visit, Frank lays his book down and strides across the lawn to greet him."Hi, Kevin, how's it goin'?" Kevin appears stressed, and answers Frank with a sense of urgency. "Hi, Frank. Listen, you know that white land car you told me about last weekend-the one with the dark windows?" "Yeah," answers Frank. "Did you see it?" "I'll say," answers Kevin. "It was parked directly across the road from our property, for about forty-five minutes. Ellen was scared out of her wits." "Yeah," replies Frank." "That was sort of the reaction in my family. So, did you call the police?" "You bet, I did," answers Kevin. "Well," asks Frank in earnest, "what did they tell you?""They took my report, alright. But they said there's nothing they can do unless the person or persons inside, are involved in the commission of a crime. They say it isn't illegal for anyone to park along the road unless No Parking signs are posted, which, of course, there aren't." "Gee, that's nice," says Frank in a sarcastic tone. "So, one of us has to get robbed or assaulted before the cops will do anything." "Yeah," replies a frustrated Kevin, "that's about it. Well, I've gotta run. I just stopped by to tell you you're not the Lone Ranger here." "Alright, Kev. Thanks for coming by. Call us if you see that car again and, of course, call the police, first. See ya later."To Be Continued. . . .
Dec 27 06 5:26 PM
Quote:Kevin seemed somewhat stressed and spoke with a sense of urgency."Hi, Frank. You know that white landcar you were telling me about last weekend - you know - the one with the darkened windows?"
Dec 27 06 10:51 PM
Dec 28 06 4:11 AM
Dec 28 06 2:34 PM
Chapter 19" The Big 'Knews' "SHORTLY BEFORE ONE O'CLOCK in the afternoon, the door bell rings. Frank and Ginger are in the backyard, discussing preparations for the day. Frank hurries through the house to answer the door. He finds Ryan and Kaitlin, standing there. "Hey, Ryan!," calls Frank. "There you are!" Frank gives his son a warm welcome. He turns to Kaitlin and gives her a heart-felt welcome, accompanied by a vigorous handshake. "And Kaitlin-thanks for coming! It's been awhile, hasn't it; you're looking good, as always." Kaitlin responds in a friendly and polite manner. "Thanks for inviting me, Mister B." (Most of Ryan and Lisa's friends have always addressed their father as Mister B.)Frank escorts Ryan and Kaitlin to the backyard. "Hey, Ginger! Look who's here!" Ginger drops what she's doing and steps quickly to meet Ryan and his girlfriend. "Hi, Ryan! It's nice to see you again. And Kaitlin, it's a real pleasure to meet you, too." An embarrassed Ginger looks about at the yard. "I'm sorry, Kaitlin; we're still getting things ready. I hope you don't mind." "Oh, no," replies Kaitlin. "That's alright. I'd be glad to help, if you'd like." Ginger grins. "Thank you; I'd like that very much. Ryan, why don't you go and help your dad out here, while Kaitlin and I work in the kitchen." "Sure, Mom," answers Ryan.A few minutes later, the doorbell sounds again. This time, it's Ginger who answers. She is met by Lisa, who is accompanied by her boyfriend, Jason. "Hi, Lisa! It's great to see you again. And you must be Jason," says Ginger as she warmly shakes Jason's hand. "Hello, Jason. Lisa has told me a lot about you." Jason smiles back at Ginger. "Hope it was all good," replies Jason in jest. "Lisa tells me you're the one responsible for her new look." "Well," says Ginger, "let's not stand here, talking at the screen door. Come on in." Ginger adds to her response to Jason as they all step into the entry hall. "Well, it's more of a two-hundred-year-old look. But nice clothes and an attractive hairstyle are timeless, as far as I'm concerned." "Where's Dad?," asks Lisa. "He's out back with Ryan," answers Ginger. "Why don't you and Jason go out to the backyard and say hello. Then you can come back in and help Kaitlin and me in the kitchen." "Sure, Ginger. C'mon, Jay."When Lisa steps into the kitchen, she finds Ginger and Kaitlin in the midst of preparing the side dishes for the back yard cookout. "So-how can I help?" "Well," answers Ginger, " you can start by slicing tomatoes, if you want." Ginger observes that Lisa is wearing her hair in the way she had shown Lisa. "So Lisa, I see you like to wear your hair the way I taught you." "Yeah," answers Lisa. "Jason won't let me wear it any other way now. My friends like it, too. In fact, I've shown two of them how to do up their own hair like this." Kaitlin interjects with a compliment of her own. "I was just gonna say, Lisa, how nice your hair looks. I'd sure like to know how you do it.""Well," replies Lisa, "Ginger's the one who taught me, so you should ask her." Kaitlin turns to Ginger and speaks partly in jest. "Well, then, Ginger-you'll have to show me, too, sometime." "Sorry, Kaitlin," replies Ginger with a grin. "But the Ginger of Porter Ranch Beauty Salon is closed, for the holiday weekend." At that, the three of them laugh together. "Seriously, though," adds Ginger, "I'd be happy to teach you, sometime."MEANWHILE, out in the backyard, the male contingent of the gathering are seated around the picnic table, talking lightly among themselves. "You know something, Mister B?," says Jason. "Since you married Ginger, things sure look different around here." Frank chuckles. "You mean, it stopped looking like Edgar Allen Poe lives here?" "Well-yeah," answers Jason. "But it's more than that; it's Lisa, too. She's happier, and looks better than I've seen her since we started dating--her hair, for example. She said Ginger showed her how to style it that way.""Yeah," answers Frank, "that's Ginger, alright. She does her hair like that, all the time. And I like it that way, too." Ryan adds to the conversation. "Yeah, Mom's terrific, isn't she?" Jason gives Ryan a questioning glance. "Ginger's your stepmother, right?" "That's right," answers Ryan. Jason continues to question Ryan, more in the manner of a newspaper reporter. "Yet you refer to Ginger as Mom. Nobody with a step-mom that I've ever known, has ever done that.""Right again," replies Ryan with conviction. "Not only does Ginger look a lot like my natural mother, she's as good to me as my natural mother ever was. So I have no trouble at all in referring to Ginger as Mom. Ryan answers Jason's questions in a tone that precludes further probing from Jason. Frank, sensing tension, moves quickly to defuse the situation. "Hey, guys! I'd like to show you something. It's just over here-follow me." Frank leads Ryan and Jason around to where he parked the Ford Model "A." Jason marvels at the sight of the old sedan. "Hey, is this antique on loan from Exposition Park?" A light suddenly switches on in Ryan's head. "Oh, I get it now. This is the Ford Model "A" you were threatening to buy." "Yeah, it is," answers Frank. "It was dropped off last Sunday." Jason marvels at the old sedan's condition. "It looks like it rolled off the assembly line yesterday. Can we have a ride in it?" "Maybe another time," answers Frank.Ginger surprises Frank, Ryan and Jason by showing up suddenly, from around the corner of the house. She places her hands on her hips and frowns sternly at Frank and his companions, who are standing by old Ford. "You mean, you guys have been standing around wagging your tongues, while the girls and I've been slaving in the kitchen?" Frank answers in a sheepish manner. "We--we were just talking and--you know--catching up on-on each others' lives, that's all." "Yeah," replies Ginger, "'that's all,' is right. Now, how 'bout you two young men cleaning up the benches and the table, and tying on the table cloth. And you, Frank-how 'bout starting the fire in the barbecue pit." Frank chuckles and turned to the others. "Alright, men! You heard the captain! Get moving! "Don't be silly, Frank," says Ginger. "I just don't want you all standing around, doing nothing while we ladies do all the work." With that, Ginger turns and walks back into the house."Well, girls-I was right," announces Ginger as she strides into the kitchen. "Our men were outside, standing around, talking while we're in here having all the fun." "Yeah," says Kaitlin, "isn't that always the case with men? And they say we women talk too much." Ginger takes notice of Lisa's attire. "Lisa, I see you're also wearing that blouse, skirt, and shoes your dad and I bought you in Old River Run. I guess, we'll have to buy you some more things from C and J's before you wear out what you're wearing. When's your birthday?" "It's October twelfth," answers Lisa. "Well, then-I'll talk to Dad. Maybe we'll get you some more clothing and shoes from C and J's for your birthday."FRANK lights the charcoal in the stone barbecue's fire pit, and waits for the bright orange flames to lay down. "Ryan, go into the house and bring out that tray of patties." "Okay, Dad." Later, as the burgers sizzle on the hot grill, Ginger, Lisa and Kaitlin parade out to the back yard in single file, carrying the side dishes to the old-fashioned wooden picnic table. Frank heads into the house and flips a switch that allows the musical stylings of Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, etc. to be heard all around the backyard. Soon, everyone is enjoying their hamburgers amid Swing-era music, and light conversation. "You sure can grill up a good burger, Mister B," says Kaitlin. "Thanks, Kaitlin," answers Frank. "Yeah, what's your secret?," asks Jason. Frank chuckles. "Ohhh, no. A good chef never divulges his secrets." Ginger turns to Jason. "Don't feel bad, Jason. He won't tell me either."While the others chat among themselves, Ryan and Kaitlin look at each other, nodding and whispering among themselves. Kaitlin leans over once more, to whisper some final words into Ryan's ear. Ryan, in turn gives a final nod. "Excuse me--Dad--Mom." The others cease their chatter, and focus on Ryan. "What's up, Ryan?," asks Ginger. "Well, I--that is--Kaitlin and I have an announcement." Frank seems only to be half-listening to Ryan as he feasts upon his hamburger. "Go ahead, Son; just toss it out."Ryan takes Kaitlin's hand and looks at Ginger and his father in earnest. Frank, however, is too busy, relishing the experience of eating real beef, two nights in a row. "Well, Mom--Dad," Ryan begins. "Kate and I are engaged." Ginger's eyes pop open as a large smile spreads across her face. Lisa is speechless. "Engaged to do what?," asks a distracted Frank. Suddenly, Ryan's words hit their mark. Frank's burger suddenly slips from its bun. "You're WHAT?!" "Like I said, Dad, Kaitlin and I are engaged to be married." "But--but Ryan," stammers Frank. "Isn't--isn't it alittle soon? I mean--well--don't you think the two of you oughtta finish school first, and find work before getting married? How will you support yourselves and go to school, all at the same time?""Kaitlin and I have thought about all that, Dad. But waiting only makes us more anxious to get married. Besides, Kaitlin and I can easily support ourselves with the money from our part-time jobs. And we saw some pretty reasonable housing near campus." "Well," says Frank, "I guess, you've thought it all out, alright. Besides, I don't think I could say anything now that'll change your minds. So--all I can say is: Kaitlin, welcome to the time-honored Boelcke and Metcalf Families-congratulations!" "Thanks, Mister B," says Kaitlin. "I look forward to being a part of the family." Frank turns to Ginger and slaps his hands down on the table. "Well, it looks like we have a wedding to plan for." "It'll be fun," gushes Ginger. "So," asks Frank, "have you settled on a date for the nuptials?" "Yeah, we have," answers Ryan. "We're planning on the first Saturday in May." "That's good," replies Frank. "That's a nice time of year--not too hot or cold."LATER in the evening, when it's time for Ryan and Lisa to leave, everyone gathers out in the front yard by the drive way. While Frank says his farewells to Lisa and Jason, Ginger speaks to Ryan and Kaitlin. She gives Ryan a hug. "I'm so happy for you, Ryan. Kaitlin's a nice girl. I know you'll be very happy together. Take care of yourself-and your fiancee." Next, Ginger gives Kaitlin a firm, heart-felt hug. "I'm excited about having you as a step-daughter-in-law." Ginger pauses and reflects, for a moment. "Hmm-that's a long title, isn't it." Ginger and Kaitlin laugh together. "You're terrific, Ginger," says Kaitlin. "You and Ryan's dad have been very nice to me. And I look forward to working with you on our wedding plans. Ryan and I were undecided about where to have our wedding and reception. But you have such a nice place with a huge backyard and a beautiful garden, that we decided to have it right here." Ginger beams at Kaitlin's announcement. "That's a wonderful idea, Kaitlin. I'll discuss it with your soon-to-be father-in-law. And don't you worry; it's practically a done deal."Kaitlin giggles. "Why do I get the feeling you're used to getting your way?" "Well," answers Ginger, "that's not entirely true. After all, I did let Ryan's dad buy that antique car, didn't I? So he owes me. Anyway, Kaitlin, I can't wait to see you again. Take care of yourself." With that, Ginger gives Kaitlin another hug, and goes to say goodbye to Lisa and Jason. Ginger also gives them an affectionate farewell.To Be Continued. . . .Watch for the next installment.
Dec 31 06 2:26 PM
Chapter 20 "Empty Spaces"THE LAST WEEK OF Frank's vacation literally flies by. In these last few days, he and Ginger try to take life more slowly. Ginger hits upon the idea of putting together a scrapbook of memories of their honeymoon in Old River Run. Like a magpie, she had collected anything and everything connected with their trip to Old River Run, Ohio: postcards, receipts from Brandstaetter's, C&J Vintage Fashions, the souvenir shops, ticket stubs from the River Run Bus Tour, the Old River Run Time Line Museum, the WREQ guided tour, a menu from the Stream Liner Diner, Frank's rental contract for the Ford Model "A" he drove during their stay in Old River Run--even paper straw wrappers from the treats they enjoyed at the Brandstaetter's soda fountain. Then there were all the photos that Frank and Ginger had taken.
Sunday afternoon finds Ginger sitting on the sofa, organizing all her scrapbook memorabilia, which is spread across the coffee table. Frank is relaxing in one of the high-backed upholstered chairs, his feet resting on an ottoman. He is lost in thought, contemplating his return to work--and dreading it. Ginger notices the look on Frank's face. "What's on your mind, Dear?" Frank gives a long sigh. "Well--I'm really not looking forward to going back to work. I'm not looking forward to the stack of work that's probably piled high in my in box. And I'm not looking forward to the mood in the office after the layoffs I've been hearing about.""You know, Honey," replies Ginger, "you might be worrying for nothing-relax." Frank isn't moved by Ginger's reassuring tone. "I'm also worried about how my department fared. I had some pretty good people under me. It'd be tough to find out they're gone." "Still, Honey," continues Ginger, "You don't know if you lost those people. Just try and enjoy the last day of your vacation. Think about all the wonderful experiences we had together in Old River Run." Frank's face begins to take on a dreamy, wistful expression. "Yeah--it sure was something, wasn't it? What a great time we had. Ginger-these last few weeks have been the most life-changing for me since---since I met Susan. I haven't felt this much alive in years."AT 6:30 on Monday morning, Frank isn't feeling that much alive. He has just been jarred out of a sound sleep by the angry rasp of his alarm clock. Frank suddenly realizes that he's alone in bed. The aroma of frying bacon and eggs begins to waft up into the room. Frank is reminded of his first morning with Ginger after she had entered into his life. He slides out of bed and descends the stairs to see what she's up to. When Frank enters the kitchen, there, Ginger is, in front of the imitation 19th century coal-burning range, frying up his breakfast. To Frank's amazement, Ginger is fully dressed, her hair immaculately styled in its usual fashion."You're already up--and cooking breakfast??" Upon hearing Frank's voice, Ginger turns to greet him. "Good morning, Sweetheart." "Good morning, Honey," replies Frank. "When did you get up?" "Four-thirty," answers Ginger. "It's a nice morning, isn't it?" "Yeah," replies Frank. "Great weather for flying to work." Frank raises his nose and takes a few sniffs. "Hey, is that real bacon, and real eggs I'm smelling?" "It is," answers Ginger. "I'm making an allowance, just for this morning--since it's your first day back to work.""Wow! Real live bacon!," says Frank. "None of that phony, reconstituted, wrung-out turkey nonsense; that stuff sure gets old after awhile. By the way, Ginger--you don't have to go to the trouble of cooking breakfast for me every morning. Normally I just grab a cuppa coffee or orange juice and, maybe, a sweet roll before heading out the door." Ginger gives Frank an incredulous stare. "Now, what kind of breakfast is that to start a full work day on? No, Frank. From now on, things will be different around here. I'm gonna make you a full breakfast every morning before you head off to work."ABOUT an hour later, Frank descends the stairs, fully dressed for his first day back at the office. Ginger is seated in the living room, paging through a house-and-gardening magazine, when Frank enters the room. "Wow! Don't you look spiffy in that suit." Frank answers with a sigh. "Well, I'm management; I have to dress this way." Frank sits down next to Ginger and expresses his concerns about leaving her home alone. "Don't worry, Frank. I'll be just fine," replies a confident Ginger. However, Frank remains nervous about leaving Ginger by herself, for a whole day. "I just hope you won't get too bored while I'm away at work. After all, I won't be home until a few minutes before five.""Again, Honey-don't worry. I've got the garden to work on, and you've got a big library in your study. And I can always explore the music files in your sound system. And if all that isn't enough, I can always cruise the Global Net on your computer. And-don't forget-this place can always use a good dusting and vacuuming." Ginger has something else for Frank. "Oh, by the way, Honey-I packed you a lunch." Frank raises his eye brows. "Oh, ahhh-that wasn't necessary, Dear. I usually just grab lunch at the company management cafeteria, or I go with some of the guys to one of the local restaurants." "Oh, no, you don't, Buster! If you think you're gonna cheat on your diet while you're at work, you'd better think again." "Gee," replies Frank, "there's no sneaking anything past you, is there." "No, Frank. So, don't even try."
When Frank is ready to leave for work, he takes Ginger into his arms. "I've gotta go, Sweetheart. Now you have the number to my office, and my extension. If I'm not in my office when you call, my assistant will take your message, and I'll call back as soon as I can, okay? In any case, Call me, if anything comes up, alright?" "Don't worry, Honey, answers Ginger, "I'll be okay." Frank speaks again in earnest. "Now, if that shady white land car shows up in front of the house again, call the police. Then call me." Ginger answers Frank with a reassuring smile. "Yes, Darling; I will. Now don't carry on so. I can take care of myself-I promise." With that, Frank embraces Ginger and kisses her goodbye. She picks up Frank's briefcase and hands it to him. "Here, Sweetie. Now you'd better get going. You don't wanna be late on your first day back to work." "Alright, Honey. I'll call you on my lunch break."Ginger smiles and sighs. "Yes, Dear. Like I said, I'll be fine. Now get a move-on." Ginger follows Frank out to the landing pad where his air car stands. Before climbing into the air car's cockpit, Frank embraces and kisses Ginger, one last time. After the cockpit's canopy closes and seals itself, Frank waves to Ginger. Ginger backs off to a safe distance as the increasing thrust of the air car's engines kicks up a cloud of dust and dead leaves. All at once, the futuristic flying machine lifts off the pad, rises up to a height of a hundred feet, and climbs toward the mountain ridge beyond the Boelcke property. Ginger lingers and watches as Frank's air car flies up, and over the five-hundred-foot-high ridge, north of the Boelcke property, and disappears from view. WHEN Frank flies to work, he always uses Highway 14 as a visual navigational tool. From the air, Highway 14 appears as a thin ribbon of asphalt and concrete, threading its way up through the mountains until it descends into the dry, tan-colored, sagebrush-pocked vastness of the Mojave Desert. The complex of buildings that make up CalMorton, soon comes into view. A knot forms in Frank's stomach. What awaits him when he walks into his office or, for that matter, when he walks through the front doors of the main lobby?Frank brings his air car to a soft landing. The management, and employee parking areas look much less crowded than usual--a telling sign of recent events. As Frank strides toward the main building entrance, he feels those icy needles of fear and dread begin to pierce through his being. Frank notices several workmen, clinging to the side of the main building as they struggle to maneuver the enormous new CalMorton logo into position.As always, Frank has to walk through various departments to get to his own office. On the way, Frank notices a marked difference in the mood of employees, from the time he left to go on vacation. The atmosphere seems heavy, dark and depressing. As Frank passes by, he receives only a few friendly smiles and greetings. Many more faces appear care-worn, stressed, even sullen. Employee morale is undeniably in the basement. Frank is struck by the unusually quiet atmosphere in all the departments through which he had just passed. What happened to all the interns, and most of the lower-level clerical staff? Where once-thriving departments teemed with busy workers, only dim, silent rows of empty cubicles now stand. They appear, to Frank, like blocks of abandoned houses in a condemned neighborhood. When Frank steps into his office and switches on the lights, he is indeed, greeted with a stack of work, laying in his in box. However, it isn't nearly as high as he had anticipated. Some handwritten memos and phone messages are neatly arranged on his desk, by order of importance. Frank opens his briefcase and takes out two nicely framed 8 x 10 inch photographs. One is a picture of himself and Ginger while on their honeymoon in Old River Run, posing together by their rented Ford Model "A." The other photo is a gorgeous head shot of Ginger. Frank rearranges the various family photos on his credenza to accommodate these new additions.Frank has just logged onto his computer, when Bob Krasker, his boss, steps into his office. Bob greets Frank with an uneasy grin. "Hey, Frank! Welcome back!," says Bob as he takes a seat in one of Frank's office chairs. "You're lookin' great." "Hi, Bob," replies Frank in a dry tone. "So, Bob--tell me-what happened while I was gone?" "Wellll--let's not get into that, just now, Frank. Let's talk about you. You're really lookin' great. I can tell that vacation did you a world of good." Bob suddenly notices Ginger's portrait on Frank's credenza. He leans to one side to get a better view. "Hey, who's the babe in that picture? She's a dish! Is she a relative?" "That's Ginger, my wife," answers Frank somewhat stiffly."Your wife?!," exclaims Bob. "You sly devil! So that's what you were up to on your vacation! But Frank-you never even mentioned you were engaged. Why, the secrecy, Pal?" "Well, Ginger and I didn't want a fuss made over us. We had a small, private wedding." "So," asks Bob, "where did you honeymoon?" "We went to Old River Run, Ohio," answers Frank. Bob squints at Frank in puzzlement. "Old-River--what?" "Old River Run," answers Frank. Bob chuckles. "I've never heard of Old River Run, Ohio being a hot honeymoon spot. In fact, I've never heard of Old River Run. What's so great about it?""Well," answers Frank, "it's a neat little town-sorta like Colonial Williamsburg, see? Except that in Old River Run, it's like taking a time machine back to the nineteen-forties. Very Norman Rockwell. It's a great place." "Well," replies Bob, "It must be, if you and Ginger wanted to honeymoon there. Anyway, Frank-you're lookin' great." Frank begins to lose patience with his boss and old friend. "Alright, Bob, that's the third 'you're lookin' great' since you walked into my office and sat down in that chair. Now c'mon, Bob; we've known each other for almost twenty years. The entire office has all the cheer of a cemetery on a rainy Sunday evening. So stop toe-dancing around the issue, and tell me, Bob-what's with all the layoffs while I was gone? Bob grows nervous and uncomfortable. He abruptly rises from his seat, closes the door to Frank's office, and sits down again. "Well, Frank--to be honest--the axe fell two weeks ago." "But Bob," begins Frank in earnest, "you expressly reassured me that it wasn't gonna happen, not in my department." "I know, Frank. But it wasn't my call." Bob pauses to collect himself, then continues. "While you were gone--the big boys upstairs called a special meeting with all the department heads, and group VPs. At that meeting, the CEO announced that, because of the merger, the company is restructuring all operations. But they said there wouldn't be that many layoffs. Well--when Black Friday hit, they let two-hundred-and-thirty-seven people go, Frank--more than a quarter of the entire company workforce. They even eliminated one whole department. Frank, they kept things so secret that we didn't get the layoff lists from HR until that morning. Naturally, morale around here's been in the tank ever since."Frank is shocked at Bob's news. "Well," what about my department, Bob?" "Well," answers Bob with a reluctant sigh, "Armin, Natalie, Bruce, Rajiv, and Sergio, are gone.--I'm sorry, Frank." "You're sorry," replies a rueful Frank. "I only lost some of my best people. Couldn't you do anything to save 'em, Bob?" "Again, Frank, I'm really sorry. But you have to understand; it was out of my hands. They were on the list; there wasn't a thing I could do." "Well, then--tell me, Bob. And give me a straight answer: What about my department? Will there be any more layoffs? Will they get rid of me, too?" "Relax, Frank. The word from on high is that there may possibly be more layoffs over the next three-to-six months. But, Frank, from what I'm hearing, your department's safe. I don't think you have anything to worry about." "Hmm," replies Frank, "why don't I find your words very reassuring?"AT lunchtime, Frank calls home. After three rings, Ginger answers in the pleasant tone of an office receptionist. "Hello-Boelcke residence." "Hi, Honey! It's me, Frank!" "Oh, Hi, Sweetheart! How's your first day back at the office, so far?" "Well," answers Frank, "it's been like a field trip to an autopsy." "That bad, huh?," replies Ginger. "I'm sorry to hear that, Dear. Anyway, I can't wait till you come home." "Are you getting bored, Sweetheart?," asks Frank. "Well," answers Ginger, "it's not that as much as the loneliness. I'm lonesome without you here, Honey. Now I know what it must've been like for you-living here all by yourself all those years after Susan--oh, I'm sorry, Dear. I-I didn't mean to---" "It's alright, Darling," interrupts Frank. "Anyhow, just play some music on the sound system or watch the 3V; that oughtta help ease your loneliness a bit." "I know, Frank, but I still can't wait till you're home again; I love you." "I love you, too, Ginger. Listen, Sweety, I've gotta get back to my office. I'll be home in less than four hours. Call me, if anything comes up, alright?" "Alright, Dear." answers Ginger. "I'll be waiting for you." "Alright, Sweetheart," replies Frank. "I'll see you when I get home. I love you. Bye." To Be Continued. . . .Watch for the next installment.
Jan 2 07 12:50 PM
Jan 2 07 2:42 PM
Quote:Lisa, I see you're wearing that blouse, skirt, and shoes your dad and I bought you in River Run. I guess, we'll have to get you some more things from C and J's before you wear out those things.
Quote:Frank seemed only to be half-listening to as he feasted upon his hamburger."Go ahead, Son. Just toss it out."Ryan took Kaitlin's hand and looked at Ginger and his father in earnest. Frank was relishing the experience of eating real beef two nights in a row.
Quote:"Now, if that shady white landcar shows up in front of our property today, call the police. Then, call me."Ginger answered Frank with a reassuring smile."Yes, Darling; I will. Now, don't carry on so. I can take care of myself; I promise."
Jan 2 07 3:21 PM
Chapter 21 "Christoph Willibald Gluck"AS SOON AS THE CLOCK in Frank's office shows 4:30PM, Frank hurriedly logs off his computer, grabs his coat and briefcase, and rushes out of his office. During the flight home, Frank is jostled by rough air over the mountains. Later, as Frank closes on the landing approach to his property, it strikes him as odd that Ginger is not there, waiting for him. Neither is she anywhere in, or near the garden. Frank steps through the front doorway and, into the vestibule. All is quiet, except for the soft classical music that drifts ethereally through the enormous house. Frank calls out: "Ginger, where are you?"After searching every room on the first floor, intermittently calling out Ginger's name, Frank grows nervous--even a little frightened. Fear begins to grip him. As Frank's anxiety builds, his imagination begins to run amok. Did some terrible drama unfold after he had finished talking to Ginger on the phone, earlier this afternoon? Suddenly, the ominous white land car, which had occasionally jangled nerves as it sat in front of the Boelcke property, drives into Frank's thoughts. Like a six-gill shark, it prowls the inky depths of Frank's mind, feeding on his fears. Are the rather mercurial occupants of that suspicious land car, indeed operatives of Altron Cybernetics? Were they monitoring Frank and Ginger's activities, waiting for the right moment to strike?. . .As Frank frantically searches the house, he notices no signs of a forced entry or any sort of physical struggle. Frank then races up the stairs to the master bedroom. In an out-of-breath state, Frank leans heavily against the bedroom's doorway, heaving an enormous sigh of relief. For, there Ginger is, lying on the bed, fast asleep. She had obviously changed clothes before Frank came home. Instead of the neat house dress of earlier in the day, she is now clad in a pleated red plaid skirt, black nylons on her legs, and a rather frilly white blouse. A pair of black, strapped, high-healed shoes stands on the floor next to the bed. Ginger's hair is done up in rolls about her forehead. The rest of it is draped about her shoulders and, on her pillow. A string of pearls adorns her neck.To Frank, Ginger looks beautiful as she lay there, peacefully asleep. He kneels next to the bed and begins gently to pat Ginger's cheek, speaking to her in affectionate, whispering tones. "Ginger, Honey--wake up--it's me, Frank. I'm home." Suddenly, Ginger stirs. Her eyes blink open. She gasps in fright to see Frank's face close to hers. "Frank--Sweetheart-you're home," says Ginger as she rests her hand on her forehead. "Yes, Darling," answers Frank. "I'm sorry if I frightened you." "That's alright," replies Ginger. "I started listening to your classical music files, awhile ago. Anyway, while I was laying here, I was listening to some choral music by an English composer--John Dunstaple, I think. I guess got so relaxed that I fell into sleep-mode. By the way, what time is it?""It's alittle after five," answers Frank. "My word!," exclaims Ginger. "I haven't fixed your dinner." "Shhh--relax, Sweetie," answers Frank as he takes her hand into both of his. "Don't worry about it." As Ginger sits up, she pauses to listen to the music that is currently wafting like a gentle breeze into the room. "That music--it's beautiful--so peaceful, serene, and dream-like. What's it called?" Frank pauses to listen. "That's Dance Of The Blessed Spirits, by Christoph Willibald Gluck." "Christoph who?," asks Ginger. Frank chuckles. "Willibald Gluck. He was a contemporary of Mozart." "Well, anyway," replies Ginger, "it's nice."With that, Ginger rises from the bed, slips on her shoes, and steps over to her dressing table. She adjusts her clothing and checks her hair. Frank approaches from behind and puts his arms around her waist. Ginger turns and puts her arms around him. "You're all dressed up," observes Frank with a grin. "What's the occasion?" "Your first day back to work," answers Ginger with a grin. "Besides, I knew you were having a lousy day at the office. So I just wanted to cheer you up by fixing myself up alittle." "Thanks, Dear," replies Frank. "You did a fantastic job of it, as always." Ginger looks into her mirror and lightly touches her hair. "You don't think the rolls are too much, do you?" "Not at all," answers Frank. "They look fantastic."LATER that evening, after serving Frank his dinner, Ginger pulls up a chair and sits down next to him. "Was it really that bad today?" "Ginger, it was awful. People I worked with for ten years or more, are gone now. And, what hurts the most is that I wasn't there to, at the very least, say goodbye to them. And all because I just had to run off on vacation, like a self-centered jerk! "Frank, don't beat yourself up. This wasn't your fault. You didn't know this was coming." "No," replies Frank, "but I should've known. I tell you, Ginger, I might as well be working at the City morgue now. The atmosphere's so depressing that I wish I didn't have to go back." Ginger eyes Frank with concern. "Do you think there'll be more layoffs?" "Well," answers Frank, "according to Bob, the company isn't planning any more layoffs for the immediate future--or, so he says. But, in the same breath, he says there could be more layoffs over the next few months.""Then," replies Ginger, "things aren't too stable, right now, at CalMorton." Frank sighs. "No, they're not. Bob says they won't touch my department anymore, but his assurances seemed hollow." "Well, you know, Frank, this is exactly why I warned you about buying that old car." Frank replies stridently to Ginger's mild scolding. "Listen, Ginger, I deeply appreciate the way you fixed yourself up for me, this evening. But, if you did it just to sit here and pontificate at me, I'm not in the mood." "Sorry, Honey," replies Ginger, "I wasn't trying to do that. I'm only concerned about your job, and our finances." Frank gives another sigh. "Listen, Ginger. I'm-I'm sorry I snapped. Like I said, I've had a really lousy day.""Well," replies Ginger, "I'm gonna tell you something that might take your mind off things: I talked to Barbara on the phone today, and I invited her and Hal over for dinner, this Sunday." Ginger's announcement catches Frank by surprise. Ginger takes note of Frank's expression. "Ah-that's alright-isn't it, Frank?" "Yeah-yeah--sure," answers Frank. "I-I guess that's alright." "Honey, are you okay?," asks Ginger. "I'm sorry, Dear," answers Frank. "I can't work up any enthusiasm for anything, right now--I'm still alittle upset. But sure-I'd love to have Hal and Barbara over on Sunday. Hal's a good old friend of mine. And Barbara's good company, too." Ginger sidles up to Frank, puts her arms around him, and kisses his cheek. "You know, Frank--you desperately need some serious cheering up. And, I think I know what'll do the trick. Why don't we forget the 3V tonight--and go upstairs."During the rest of the week, Frank tries his best to cope with the unsettling new situation at work. Almost every one of Frank's co-workers seems to be suffering from a severe case of insecurity--perhaps not without reason. To Frank and Ginger's relief, and to that of the few other residents on semi-rural Mountain Vista Drive, sightings of the mysterious white land car abruptly cease. It is generally assumed by the scattered residents on the road that whoever it is, has finally decided to move on. Ginger's next preoccupation is now in helping Ryan and Kaitlin plan for their wedding and reception.ON Sunday Morning, Frank and Ginger are sitting in the dining room, each sipping a cup of coffee. The Sunday Morning In America news program is airing on the radio. When the local news break comes on, mention is made of four separate incidents in the Northridge, Chatsworth, and Granada Hills areas: Women have recently been molested in quiet neighborhoods in, or near their homes, mainly during the mid-morning hours. Since the radio's volume is low, Frank and Ginger don't hear this important bit of local news.Ginger is in high spirits. "I'm really looking forward to seeing Barbara again. It'll be nice to talk without looking over our shoulders for eavesdroppers." Frank is, likewise in high spirits. "I'm looking forward to spending time again, with Hal. It's been a long time since we've gotten together." "Well," adds Ginger, "for me, Barbara's really special, since she's a cyber-woman." "By the way," asks Frank, "how are you coming along with your scrapbook project?" "Oh," answers Ginger, "pretty well, so far. I'm done organizing everything. Now it's just a matter of gluing everything into the book." "Just think," muses Frank, "One day, maybe a couple of hundred years from now, a descendant of mine will come across your scrapbook in an old box in an old box somewhere." Ginger grins. "That's why I'm on this project, Frank. I want whoever finds it in the future, to see what a wonderful time we had together in Old River Run, Ohio, way back in 2147. I also want that person to know how much we meant to each other." After a brief pause, Ginger makes a request. "Frank?" "Yeah, what's up?" "Can we hear that dancing spirits thing again, by that Willibald-guy?" THAT afternoon, a few minutes before two o'clock, Frank is filling the stone barbecue's fire pit with charcoal. Ginger is in the kitchen, preparing the side dishes for the chicken that Frank is planning to grill. A large pot of marinated chicken pieces occupies a shelf in the refrigerator. While waiting for the flames in the barbecue to lay down, Frank passes the time by wiping down his beloved Ford Model "A." While Frank is standing on one of the old Ford's running boards, cleaning the top of the cab, he hears the distant sound of a land car, turning into his driveway. Frank looks up to see that it's Hal and Barbara. As Hal's land car draws closer, Frank jumps off the running board, walks around to the front of the car, and waits for Hal to stop. Hal comes to within a few feet of Frank and parks his land car.The two men greet each other with a warm pat on the back. "It's great to see you here again, Hal! How long has it been now?" As Frank and Hal exchange greetings, Barbara gets out of the land car and steps over to where the two men are standing. She cordially greets Frank with a warm handshake. "How do you do, Frank? It's good to see you again." To Frank, Barbara seems cultured and erudite, though not overly so. She carries herself in a very elegant manner. There is something formal about her yet relaxed. In her mannerisms, Barbara stands in contrast to Ginger, who, though very feminine, is more casual, dynamic, and down-to-earth. Of course, Hal, as an upper-level bank executive, moves in very different circles from Frank. Therefore, Hal must maintain a certain image."Where is Ginger?," asks Barbara in earnest. "She's working in the kitchen," answers Frank. "Why don't we go inside-follow me." With that, the trio strides across the expansive front yard to the house. Barbara takes in the appearance of the enormous yard, and equally enormous house with intense fascination. As they walk through the vestibule and, into the main breezeway between the dining room and living room, Barbara marvels at the decor and furnishings. "Frank, you and Ginger live in a beautiful house. I love the antique furniture and wall-hangings. Your house reminds me of the Bidwell Mansion, up in Northern California. Hal and I visited there on our trip up to Chico, last summer. Anyway, the tour guide said that the mansion was built in 1868."Well," replies Frank, "this house is a replica of one that was built in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in the 1850s." "That's truly amazing," says Barbara as she gazes about at her surroundings. "Do your bathrooms have elephant-trunk toilets, too?" Frank chuckles and points to a door on the left side of the breeze way. "There's the hall bathroom; have a look, for yourself." Hal and Barbara begin to chortle. Of course, Hal knows the answer to Barbara's question. "Well," continues Frank, "why don't we go into the kitchen and see what Ginger's up to." As Ginger works in the kitchen, her ears perk up as she hears the sound of approaching footsteps and voices. She is elated to see Frank rounding the corner into the kitchen, with Hal and Barbara in tow. "Hello, Ginger!," exclaims Barbara. "It's wonderful to see you again, Ginger and, in your natural habitat." Ginger beams when she sees Barbara. The two cyber-women greet one another with a warm embrace. "And it's really great to see you again, Barbara! I'm sorry--you caught me in the middle of getting things ready for dinner.""Well," asks Barbara, "could you use some help?" "Well," answers Ginger, "if you're offering, I'm accepting. You can help me with these side dishes." Frank turns to Ginger. "I guess, I'll check the fire in the barbecue; it should've settled down, by now." Frank turns to Hal. "Follow me, Hal." As Frank and Hal turn to leave for the backyard, Ginger calls after them. "Hey, Frank! You might as well take this kettle of chicken with you." Frank smirks at Hal. "If we don't want trouble, we'd better do as she says." As Frank and Hal walk out to the back yard, Frank puts his arm around his friend's shoulders. By the way, Hal--have you heard of Christoph Willibald Gluck?"Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714 - 1787). A Contemporary of J.S. Bach, Franz Joseph Haydn, and W. A. Mozart.
To Be Continued. . . .
Jan 2 07 3:27 PM
Jan 4 07 4:34 PM
Quote:Women were being molested in or near their homes during the daytime hours. The victims were reportedly alone at the time of the attacks. Since Frank and Ginger were involved in conversation, they paid no attention to the broadcast.
Quote:"I'm done organizing the various artifacts. Now, it's just a matter of gluing everything into the book."
Quote:The two men greeted each other with a warm pat on the back.
Quote:Actually, the vintage clothing sold by C&J is actually reproduction
Jan 7 07 3:55 PM
Chapter 22 "Our Little Secret"THE RED HOT COALS in the barbecue send up an occasional whiff of smoke. Frank sets the heavy pot of seasoned chicken pieces next to the barbecue's large, heavy grill. Hal stands by and watches Frank methodically lay out the various pieces, each one sizzling as it touches the hot grill. "So, Frank, how's life been treating you, these days?" Frank offers a nonchalant answer. "Alright, I guess. Things are pretty tense at work, though." "Why is that?," asks Hal. "Well," answers Frank, "When I returned to work, last Monday after my vacation, I found out they laid off a fourth of the entire company staff. And it was all because of the merger with Morton.""Well, you know, Frank-these things almost always happen after a merger." As Frank and Hal talk, their conversation veers toward the subject of their cyber-wives. "Hal-there's alittle something I know about Barbara that--well--that perhaps no one else knows, but you and Barbara." Hal becomes uncomfortable and, a bit edgy at Frank's words. "What, exactly, Frank, are you talking about?" "Well, Hal--I don't know any other way to say it, Hal. But--well, you see--I know that Barbara is a new-generation cyber-woman." Hal's jaw drops open as the color drains from his face. To say that he is stunned by Frank's revelation is rather like saying that the Mariana Trench is a little deep. Hal steps closer to Frank and speaks in low, furtive tones."Frank--how, on Earth, did you know that? A cyber-person is supposed to be indistinguishable from a living human being in every respect. What gave her away?" Frank puts his hand on his friend's shoulder. "Settled down, Hal. I didn't find out on my own. That is--Ginger told me." "Well, then," asks a shaken Hal, "how did Ginger know?" "Well, Hal, you see--it's like this: I have a little secret of my own. Ginger--is just like your Barbara--a new generation cyber-woman. Apparently cyber-people can recognize each other by looking into each other's eyes."Hal is even more stunned to learn that he isn't alone in having a cyber-wife. "You--you mean to say that--Ginger?---" "Yes, Hal. Maybe that's why Ginger and Barbara hit it off so well at Wesley Johnson's. I'm sure cyber-people don't have too many friends in this world." "That's unbelievable," breathes Hal in astonishment. "It's hard to believe we're both married to cyber-women. I have to say, though-your Ginger's a real dish. Tell me, Frank, was she created from features in Altron's data files or, was she patterned after a family ancestor?" Frank goes on to explain about Susan's Metcalf family ancestry, as well as the one Metcalf ancestor after whom Ginger was created."That's amazing," replies Hal. "I have to say, when I first met Ginger at Wesley's, I was struck by her resemblance to Susan. I was going to ask you if Ginger's a sister or cousin of hers." While Frank rotates the chicken pieces on the grill, Hal leans against the cooler side of the barbecue. He begins to grow pensive. "Frank?" "Yep?," answers Frank as he sets a new batch of chicken on the grill. "Frank--do you ever get the feeling that--that when you make love to Ginger that-well--all you're doing is embracing and kissing a lot of man-made, high-tech gadgetry that's covered over with synthetic skin and hair?" Frank pauses and looks at his old friend with a grin."You know, Hal-I did have those thoughts, for alittle while. But I'll tell you something, Hal-every time she smiles at me with that magical sparkle in her eyes, all those thoughts melt away. I'll never forget the first time Ginger sat down close to me. We were looking at one of those old Metcalf photo albums I told you about. She leaned into me to get a better look. I felt her hair and noticed the scent of her perfume. I felt the warmth of her breath, her skin. Right then, Hal-I felt a stirring--well--that I hadn't felt since I first met Susan. And--when we had our first intimate encounter, it was so beautiful-so magical--it was beyond--well--I can't even describe it. And you know something else, Hal? She's just as real to me as Susan or any other woman I've ever known. And, now--I can't live without her." "Frank, you expressed my sentiments exactly. Barbara may not be flesh and blood. But she's as alive to me, for all the same reasons you mentioned. And I can't see myself living without Barbara either."MEANWHILE, Ginger and Barbara are in the kitchen, immersed their own conversation while finishing the barbecue side-dishes. "Yes, I know Frank loves me," answers Ginger in emphatic tones. "And I love him--despite his stubborn streak, and his quirky addiction to living in the past. In a way, it's kinda cute," chuckles Ginger. "For instance, you oughtta see how he fusses over that Ford Model "A" he bought recently. "Yes, I know," replies Barbara with a grin. "He was working on it when we parked by your garage." "But," continues Ginger, "you really wanna know how I know he loves me, Barbara?" "Please-do tell," answers Barbara."Well," continues Ginger, "without going into details, Frank was being incredibly obstinate one morning over a certain issue. To make it short, our disagreement boiled up into a really heated argument. Finally, I told him I was thinking of leaving him. Then he not only apologized but, poured out his soul in a way that really got to me. After that, he cried and cried like a baby. I never imagined a man could come that unstrung. I felt terrible that I hurt him so badly. Then and there, I knew his love for me wasn't just a physical thing, but that it really came from the depths of his heart and soul. He was so broken up that it tore me apart. We just sat there on the bed, hugging and crying our eyes out until we finally pulled ourselves together.""My, what a story," says Barbara with a grin. "It seems you and Frank do have a loving relationship. From what you've told me, so far, your life with Frank has been an old movie, a soap opera, and a romance novel, all rolled into one." Ginger chuckles. "Not a cheap romance novel, I hope." "Of course, not, Ginger; definitely one of the pricier ones. All I know is that my life with Hal hasn't been quite so full of drama. I do love Hal very much. And he knows it. But life with Hal is a bit more sedate. After all, he is a banker, you know."Ginger chuckles. "Anyway, Ginger, I was wondering--do you think Frank knows I'm a cyber-woman?" "Yes," answers with some trepidation, "he does." Barbara is aghast. "How--did he--did he find out on his own?" "No, Barbara---I told him." Barbara is upset by Ginger's revelation. "Why would you do that, Ginger? I mean, with all the prejudice in human society against us, aren't we trying to keep our origins a secret? What if Frank lets it slip at the office or, say, at a party? If word gets out that Hal is married to a cyber-woman, it could be the end of his career."Ginger places her hands on Barbara's shoulders and offers fervent reassurance. "Barbara-you have absolutely nothing to worry about. Frank would never breathe a word to anyone about you. After all, isn't he in the same boat as Hal? Besides, if I know Frank, I'll bet you a dollar to a doughnut he's already told Hal about me, just to even things up." "Alright, Ginger," replies Barbara, "I believe you. I guess, I become a little paranoid at the thought of anyone else besides Hal knowing about me. Sometimes I feel as though I were an escaped convict in hiding." "Believe me, Barbara, that makes two of us."AS everyone enjoys the chicken, so masterfully grilled by Frank, they chat cheerily among themselves. "Frank," exclaims Hal, "you did a fantastic job on this chicken! What's your secret?" "Now, Hal," answers Frank, "you oughtta know that good chefs never divulge their secrets." Ginger leans over and smirks at Hal. "Don't feel bad, Hal; he says that to everybody." "So, Frank," continues Hal, "tell us more about your honeymoon in Old River Run." "Yes," Barbara adds, "I'd like to hear about that, myself." "Well," says Frank, "we had a pretty exciting week there." "I'll say!," exclaims Ginger. "Between the sonic flight, people following us around, the tornado, and finding a life-size wax mannequin of myself in the time line museum, yeah, I'd say it was an exciting week." "Tornado??," says Hal.Oh, yes," answers Ginger. "Our honeymoon was like a lunch buffet: we had a little of everything." "Ginger," says Barbara, "tell me about the museum, where you 'found yourself,' so to speak." Barbara listens intently as Ginger explains about being a recreation of one Ginger Szabo, who was once a local celebrity in River Run during the mid-twentieth century. "And," continues Ginger, "imagine my surprise when I turn a corner to come face-to-face with myself. Right then and there, I realized why people were gawking and staring. But, despite it all, I think I kept my cool." Frank gapes incredulously at Ginger. "Kept your cool? I never saw you so unhinged. Hal, you should've seen her, frantically trying to disguise herself before we left the museum. Then she insisted we sneak out of the place like a couple of escapees from Stalag Seventeen. We ran through the parking lot as though we were dodging bullets on a battlefield; I could imagine bullets whizzing over our heads. "Oh," says Ginger, "knock it off, Frank; it wasn't like that, at all." "Oh, yes, it was," counters Frank. Hal starts to laugh. "I wish I was there to see that." Barbara comes to Ginger's defense. "Oh, stop it, you two."Suddenly Hal pipes up. "Hey, Frank-when did you acquire that antique car?" Frank answers in a casual manner. "I bought it a couple of weeks ago. The previous owner was desperate to sell 'cuz he's retiring to Florida in less than a month. So I got a fantastic deal." "How about giving us a ride in it?," asks Hal. "Well-I don't know," answers Frank. "Maybe another time." Ginger suddenly jumps into the exchange. "Oh, c'mon, Frank. Why not? You've taken that thing out only once since you bought it. Are you afraid the wind will scratch it?" Frank replies like a child being told he must go to school. "Oh, alright. I guess, it's still early. Let's go then."Frank opens the rear door and helps the ladies into the back seat. Frank and Hal climb into the front. Hal eyes the antique car's relatively bare interior. "This is no land car." Frank grins. "Oh, yes, it is. It's a car-and it's on land." "Very humoresque, Frank," says Ginger from the back seat. "Now, start this jalopy, and let's hit the road." Hal watches with keen interest as Frank presses the starter, and puts the old Ford in gear. As they drive along, Frank and Ginger's guests enjoy the novel experience of riding in a 236 year old antique automobile. A holiday atmosphere prevails as they cruise along on various main streets and boulevards with the windows down, the wind tossing the ladies' hair. It's a typical June day in Southern California.After arriving back at the house, Hal and Barbara reflect on their little outing in the Model "A." "That was a lot of fun," says Hal. "We should do it again sometime." Barbara turns to Frank and Ginger. "You know, visiting your place is like visiting one of those outdoor living history museums, where you tour the grounds and ride in a stagecoach or, on an old steam locomotive train." Ginger turns to Barbara. "Don't give him any ideas, Barbara. The next thing I know, Frank will start laying track for a narrow-gauge railroad." Ginger's words elicit chuckles from Hal and Barbara. Frank suddenly whips out a cloth and begins to dust off his treasured antique Ford. It isn't long before Frank and Hal are engaged in conversation, while Ginger and Barbara look on. Ginger sighs and folds her arms. "Well, they did it to us again." "Did what again, Ginger?" Ginger nods in the direction of their men by the old Ford. "Well, as you can see," continues Ginger, "our men were kind enough to leave the cleanup to us while they have a nice little chin-wag over there." "Oh, well," replies Barbara, "I suppose it's our fault; we always let 'em get away with it, don't we?" "Well," answers Ginger, "it's been a long time since Hal and Frank had a chance to get together. So, I guess, we can cut 'em some slack, this time." "Frank really does baby that old car, doesn't he?," observes Barbara. "Yeah," answers Ginger. "I think it's his third child."With that, the two cyber-women turn and walk up into the house. When Frank sees that their women have gone inside, he thinks it a good time to bring up an important matter. "Say, Hal--there's something I've been meaning to ask you." Hal raises his eye brows. "What is it?" "Well," answers Frank, "it concerns Barbara." "Why, Barbara?," asks Hal. "Well, Hal--is Barbara thoroughly covered in your will in case something happens to you?" "Yes," answers Hal. "I think so. But why should it concern you?" Frank then goes on to tell his friend of the sinister side of Altron Cybernetics, as he learned it from Jim Havel. Afterward, Hal is visibly shaken."So, Hal-that's why you shouldn't wait to revise your will; it's imperative that you make sure Barbara is thoroughly protected." Frank reaches for his wallet and hands Hal a business card from his old friend, David Swerdloff. "Here-Dave Swerdloff's an old college buddy of mine, and a top-notch attorney in Cyber-person Law. Tell him I sent you. Have him go over your will with you and Barbara. I'm sure he'll take good care of you and Barbara." "Thanks, Frank. I had no idea about Altron. But I'll tell you one thing, I'm looking into this tomorrow." "Sure, Hal. You're an old shooting buddy; it's the very least I can do."IN the meantime, Barbara and Ginger are still in the kitchen, washing dishes and packing leftovers. "I don't know" says Ginger, "why people make such a fuss about driving a land car. I mean, all you do is tell the thing to start, and it starts. Then you put it in gear and point it where you wanna go-how hard is that? Heck, you can even put the thing on auto-pilot and let it drive itself, if you want. And it can even park itself when you get there!" "Do you have a license to drive?," asks Barbara. "Yeah, I passed my tests a couple of weeks ago, with a hundred percent score. You should've seen the DMV testing officer, though. His mouth just hung open, the whole time. I did my best to concentrate on the road; it was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud." "Your test experience sounds similar to mine," says Barbara. "I don't think they know quite how to deal with cyber-people at the DMV." "Tell me about it," replies Ginger. Ginger's countenance suddenly takes on a very serious expression. She pauses, then hesitantly continues. "Uh--Barbara, I know you'll think this is a really odd question, but--do you know if Hal has provided for you in his will, in case--wellll-in case something happens to him? Barbara is rattled by Ginger's question, and disturbed by Ginger's facial expression. "Well, I know that Hal revised his will, not long after we were married, but why does it matter?" "Well, Barbara, I don't wanna scare you--but there are some things you oughtta know about Altron Cybernetics."Ginger goes on to tell Barbara about the little-known dark side of Altron, while omitting the more graphic details. Still, Barbara is very shaken. Ginger calms Barbara by telling her about Frank's friend and attorney, who is experienced in Cyber-Person Law. "As soon as we get home this evening," says Barbara, "I'm going to sit down with Hal and discuss this." Just then, Frank and Hal step into the kitchen. "Well, it's getting late," announces Hal. "We'd better get started for home before the going-home traffic starts stacking up." Frank notices the looks on Ginger and Barbara's faces. "Why, the grim faces?" "Well," answers Ginger, "that's 'cuz we were talking about something grim." Hal's face wears an uneasy grin. "Well--in any case, we'd better hit the road."Ginger hands Hal two large foil-wrapped packages. "Here-these are some leftover chicken and sides." "Thanks a lot, Ginger!," exclaims Hal as he takes the wrapped-up viands from Ginger's hands. "We'll have this for dinner tomorrow night-great stuff!" With that, everyone strolls out to where Hal's land car is parked. Barbara smiles warmly at Frank and Ginger. "Thanks, you two, for a nice dinner and a wonderful time." "It was great having you over," says Frank. "We'll do it again real soon. Have a safe trip home; take care of yourselves." After further heartfelt expressions of friendship, Hal and Barbara climb into their land car. Frank and Ginger watch and wave as Hal's land car turns out onto Mountain Vista Drive, and disappears from view.To Be Continued. . . .Watch for the next installment.
Chapter 22 "Our Little Secret"THE RED HOT COALS in the barbecue send up an occasional whiff of smoke. Frank sets the heavy pot of seasoned chicken pieces next to the barbecue's large, heavy grill. Hal stands by and watches Frank methodically lay out the various pieces, each one sizzling as it touches the hot grill. "So, Frank, how's life been treating you, these days?" Frank offers a nonchalant answer. "Alright, I guess. Things are pretty tense at work, though." "Why is that?," asks Hal. "Well," answers Frank, "When I returned to work, last Monday after my vacation, I found out they laid off a fourth of the entire company staff. And it was all because of the merger with Morton.""Well, you know, Frank-these things almost always happen after a merger." As Frank and Hal talk, their conversation veers toward the subject of their cyber-wives. "Hal-there's alittle something I know about Barbara that--well--that perhaps no one else knows, but you and Barbara." Hal becomes uncomfortable and, a bit edgy at Frank's words. "What, exactly, Frank, are you talking about?" "Well, Hal--I don't know any other way to say it, Hal. But--well, you see--I know that Barbara is a new-generation cyber-woman." Hal's jaw drops open as the color drains from his face. To say that he is stunned by Frank's revelation is rather like saying that the Mariana Trench is a little deep. Hal steps closer to Frank and speaks in low, furtive tones."Frank--how, on Earth, did you know that? A cyber-person is supposed to be indistinguishable from a living human being in every respect. What gave her away?" Frank puts his hand on his friend's shoulder. "Settled down, Hal. I didn't find out on my own. That is--Ginger told me." "Well, then," asks a shaken Hal, "how did Ginger know?" "Well, Hal, you see--it's like this: I have a little secret of my own. Ginger--is just like your Barbara--a new generation cyber-woman. Apparently cyber-people can recognize each other by looking into each other's eyes."Hal is even more stunned to learn that he isn't alone in having a cyber-wife. "You--you mean to say that--Ginger?---" "Yes, Hal. Maybe that's why Ginger and Barbara hit it off so well at Wesley Johnson's. I'm sure cyber-people don't have too many friends in this world." "That's unbelievable," breathes Hal in astonishment. "It's hard to believe we're both married to cyber-women. I have to say, though-your Ginger's a real dish. Tell me, Frank, was she created from features in Altron's data files or, was she patterned after a family ancestor?" Frank goes on to explain about Susan's Metcalf family ancestry, as well as the one Metcalf ancestor after whom Ginger was created."That's amazing," replies Hal. "I have to say, when I first met Ginger at Wesley's, I was struck by her resemblance to Susan. I was going to ask you if Ginger's a sister or cousin of hers." While Frank rotates the chicken pieces on the grill, Hal leans against the cooler side of the barbecue. He begins to grow pensive. "Frank?" "Yep?," answers Frank as he sets a new batch of chicken on the grill. "Frank--do you ever get the feeling that--that when you make love to Ginger that-well--all you're doing is embracing and kissing a lot of man-made, high-tech gadgetry that's covered over with synthetic skin and hair?" Frank pauses and looks at his old friend with a grin."You know, Hal-I did have those thoughts, for alittle while. But I'll tell you something, Hal-every time she smiles at me with that magical sparkle in her eyes, all those thoughts melt away. I'll never forget the first time Ginger sat down close to me. We were looking at one of those old Metcalf photo albums I told you about. She leaned into me to get a better look. I felt her hair and noticed the scent of her perfume. I felt the warmth of her breath, her skin. Right then, Hal-I felt a stirring--well--that I hadn't felt since I first met Susan. And--when we had our first intimate encounter, it was so beautiful-so magical--it was beyond--well--I can't even describe it. And you know something else, Hal? She's just as real to me as Susan or any other woman I've ever known. And, now--I can't live without her." "Frank, you expressed my sentiments exactly. Barbara may not be flesh and blood. But she's as alive to me, for all the same reasons you mentioned. And I can't see myself living without Barbara either."MEANWHILE, Ginger and Barbara are in the kitchen, immersed their own conversation while finishing the barbecue side-dishes. "Yes, I know Frank loves me," answers Ginger in emphatic tones. "And I love him--despite his stubborn streak, and his quirky addiction to living in the past. In a way, it's kinda cute," chuckles Ginger. "For instance, you oughtta see how he fusses over that Ford Model "A" he bought recently. "Yes, I know," replies Barbara with a grin. "He was working on it when we parked by your garage." "But," continues Ginger, "you really wanna know how I know he loves me, Barbara?" "Please-do tell," answers Barbara."Well," continues Ginger, "without going into details, Frank was being incredibly obstinate one morning over a certain issue. To make it short, our disagreement boiled up into a really heated argument. Finally, I told him I was thinking of leaving him. Then he not only apologized but, poured out his soul in a way that really got to me. After that, he cried and cried like a baby. I never imagined a man could come that unstrung. I felt terrible that I hurt him so badly. Then and there, I knew his love for me wasn't just a physical thing, but that it really came from the depths of his heart and soul. He was so broken up that it tore me apart. We just sat there on the bed, hugging and crying our eyes out until we finally pulled ourselves together.""My, what a story," says Barbara with a grin. "It seems you and Frank do have a loving relationship. From what you've told me, so far, your life with Frank has been an old movie, a soap opera, and a romance novel, all rolled into one." Ginger chuckles. "Not a cheap romance novel, I hope." "Of course, not, Ginger; definitely one of the pricier ones. All I know is that my life with Hal hasn't been quite so full of drama. I do love Hal very much. And he knows it. But life with Hal is a bit more sedate. After all, he is a banker, you know."Ginger chuckles. "Anyway, Ginger, I was wondering--do you think Frank knows I'm a cyber-woman?" "Yes," answers with some trepidation, "he does." Barbara is aghast. "How--did he--did he find out on his own?" "No, Barbara---I told him." Barbara is upset by Ginger's revelation. "Why would you do that, Ginger? I mean, with all the prejudice in human society against us, aren't we trying to keep our origins a secret? What if Frank lets it slip at the office or, say, at a party? If word gets out that Hal is married to a cyber-woman, it could be the end of his career."Ginger places her hands on Barbara's shoulders and offers fervent reassurance. "Barbara-you have absolutely nothing to worry about. Frank would never breathe a word to anyone about you. After all, isn't he in the same boat as Hal? Besides, if I know Frank, I'll bet you a dollar to a doughnut he's already told Hal about me, just to even things up." "Alright, Ginger," replies Barbara, "I believe you. I guess, I become a little paranoid at the thought of anyone else besides Hal knowing about me. Sometimes I feel as though I were an escaped convict in hiding." "Believe me, Barbara, that makes two of us."AS everyone enjoys the chicken, so masterfully grilled by Frank, they chat cheerily among themselves. "Frank," exclaims Hal, "you did a fantastic job on this chicken! What's your secret?" "Now, Hal," answers Frank, "you oughtta know that good chefs never divulge their secrets." Ginger leans over and smirks at Hal. "Don't feel bad, Hal; he says that to everybody." "So, Frank," continues Hal, "tell us more about your honeymoon in Old River Run." "Yes," Barbara adds, "I'd like to hear about that, myself." "Well," says Frank, "we had a pretty exciting week there." "I'll say!," exclaims Ginger. "Between the sonic flight, people following us around, the tornado, and finding a life-size wax mannequin of myself in the time line museum, yeah, I'd say it was an exciting week." "Tornado??," says Hal.Oh, yes," answers Ginger. "Our honeymoon was like a lunch buffet: we had a little of everything." "Ginger," says Barbara, "tell me about the museum, where you 'found yourself,' so to speak." Barbara listens intently as Ginger explains about being a recreation of one Ginger Szabo, who was once a local celebrity in River Run during the mid-twentieth century. "And," continues Ginger, "imagine my surprise when I turn a corner to come face-to-face with myself. Right then and there, I realized why people were gawking and staring. But, despite it all, I think I kept my cool." Frank gapes incredulously at Ginger. "Kept your cool? I never saw you so unhinged. Hal, you should've seen her, frantically trying to disguise herself before we left the museum. Then she insisted we sneak out of the place like a couple of escapees from Stalag Seventeen. We ran through the parking lot as though we were dodging bullets on a battlefield; I could imagine bullets whizzing over our heads. "Oh," says Ginger, "knock it off, Frank; it wasn't like that, at all." "Oh, yes, it was," counters Frank. Hal starts to laugh. "I wish I was there to see that." Barbara comes to Ginger's defense. "Oh, stop it, you two."Suddenly Hal pipes up. "Hey, Frank-when did you acquire that antique car?" Frank answers in a casual manner. "I bought it a couple of weeks ago. The previous owner was desperate to sell 'cuz he's retiring to Florida in less than a month. So I got a fantastic deal." "How about giving us a ride in it?," asks Hal. "Well-I don't know," answers Frank. "Maybe another time." Ginger suddenly jumps into the exchange. "Oh, c'mon, Frank. Why not? You've taken that thing out only once since you bought it. Are you afraid the wind will scratch it?" Frank replies like a child being told he must go to school. "Oh, alright. I guess, it's still early. Let's go then."Frank opens the rear door and helps the ladies into the back seat. Frank and Hal climb into the front. Hal eyes the antique car's relatively bare interior. "This is no land car." Frank grins. "Oh, yes, it is. It's a car-and it's on land." "Very humoresque, Frank," says Ginger from the back seat. "Now, start this jalopy, and let's hit the road." Hal watches with keen interest as Frank presses the starter, and puts the old Ford in gear. As they drive along, Frank and Ginger's guests enjoy the novel experience of riding in a 236 year old antique automobile. A holiday atmosphere prevails as they cruise along on various main streets and boulevards with the windows down, the wind tossing the ladies' hair. It's a typical June day in Southern California.After arriving back at the house, Hal and Barbara reflect on their little outing in the Model "A." "That was a lot of fun," says Hal. "We should do it again sometime." Barbara turns to Frank and Ginger. "You know, visiting your place is like visiting one of those outdoor living history museums, where you tour the grounds and ride in a stagecoach or, on an old steam locomotive train." Ginger turns to Barbara. "Don't give him any ideas, Barbara. The next thing I know, Frank will start laying track for a narrow-gauge railroad." Ginger's words elicit chuckles from Hal and Barbara. Frank suddenly whips out a cloth and begins to dust off his treasured antique Ford. It isn't long before Frank and Hal are engaged in conversation, while Ginger and Barbara look on.
Ginger sighs and folds her arms. "Well, they did it to us again." "Did what again, Ginger?" Ginger nods in the direction of their men by the old Ford. "Well, as you can see," continues Ginger, "our men were kind enough to leave the cleanup to us while they have a nice little chin-wag over there." "Oh, well," replies Barbara, "I suppose it's our fault; we always let 'em get away with it, don't we?" "Well," answers Ginger, "it's been a long time since Hal and Frank had a chance to get together. So, I guess, we can cut 'em some slack, this time." "Frank really does baby that old car, doesn't he?," observes Barbara. "Yeah," answers Ginger. "I think it's his third child."With that, the two cyber-women turn and walk up into the house. When Frank sees that their women have gone inside, he thinks it a good time to bring up an important matter. "Say, Hal--there's something I've been meaning to ask you." Hal raises his eye brows. "What is it?" "Well," answers Frank, "it concerns Barbara." "Why, Barbara?," asks Hal. "Well, Hal--is Barbara thoroughly covered in your will in case something happens to you?" "Yes," answers Hal. "I think so. But why should it concern you?" Frank then goes on to tell his friend of the sinister side of Altron Cybernetics, as he learned it from Jim Havel. Afterward, Hal is visibly shaken."So, Hal-that's why you shouldn't wait to revise your will; it's imperative that you make sure Barbara is thoroughly protected." Frank reaches for his wallet and hands Hal a business card from his old friend, David Swerdloff. "Here-Dave Swerdloff's an old college buddy of mine, and a top-notch attorney in Cyber-person Law. Tell him I sent you. Have him go over your will with you and Barbara. I'm sure he'll take good care of you and Barbara." "Thanks, Frank. I had no idea about Altron. But I'll tell you one thing, I'm looking into this tomorrow." "Sure, Hal. You're an old shooting buddy; it's the very least I can do."IN the meantime, Barbara and Ginger are still in the kitchen, washing dishes and packing leftovers. "I don't know" says Ginger, "why people make such a fuss about driving a land car. I mean, all you do is tell the thing to start, and it starts. Then you put it in gear and point it where you wanna go-how hard is that? Heck, you can even put the thing on auto-pilot and let it drive itself, if you want. And it can even park itself when you get there!" "Do you have a license to drive?," asks Barbara. "Yeah, I passed my tests a couple of weeks ago, with a hundred percent score. You should've seen the DMV testing officer, though. His mouth just hung open, the whole time. I did my best to concentrate on the road; it was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud." "Your test experience sounds similar to mine," says Barbara. "I don't think they know quite how to deal with cyber-people at the DMV." "Tell me about it," replies Ginger. Ginger's countenance suddenly takes on a very serious expression. She pauses, then hesitantly continues. "Uh--Barbara, I know you'll think this is a really odd question, but--do you know if Hal has provided for you in his will, in case--wellll-in case something happens to him? Barbara is rattled by Ginger's question, and disturbed by Ginger's facial expression. "Well, I know that Hal revised his will, not long after we were married, but why does it matter?" "Well, Barbara, I don't wanna scare you--but there are some things you oughtta know about Altron Cybernetics."Ginger goes on to tell Barbara about the little-known dark side of Altron, while omitting the more graphic details. Still, Barbara is very shaken. Ginger calms Barbara by telling her about Frank's friend and attorney, who is experienced in Cyber-Person Law. "As soon as we get home this evening," says Barbara, "I'm going to sit down with Hal and discuss this." Just then, Frank and Hal step into the kitchen. "Well, it's getting late," announces Hal. "We'd better get started for home before the going-home traffic starts stacking up." Frank notices the looks on Ginger and Barbara's faces. "Why, the grim faces?" "Well," answers Ginger, "that's 'cuz we were talking about something grim." Hal's face wears an uneasy grin. "Well--in any case, we'd better hit the road."Ginger hands Hal two large foil-wrapped packages. "Here-these are some leftover chicken and sides." "Thanks a lot, Ginger!," exclaims Hal as he takes the wrapped-up viands from Ginger's hands. "We'll have this for dinner tomorrow night-great stuff!" With that, everyone strolls out to where Hal's land car is parked. Barbara smiles warmly at Frank and Ginger. "Thanks, you two, for a nice dinner and a wonderful time." "It was great having you over," says Frank. "We'll do it again real soon. Have a safe trip home; take care of yourselves." After further heartfelt expressions of friendship, Hal and Barbara climb into their land car. Frank and Ginger watch and wave as Hal's land car turns out onto Mountain Vista Drive, and disappears from view.To Be Continued. . . .Watch for the next installment.
Jan 14 07 4:06 PM
Chapter 23 "Back From The Grave"THE NEXT TWO WEEKS pass in a mundane, status quo fashion in the Boelcke household. Ginger eventually acclimates to being home alone while Frank is at work. It isn't long before she expands her botanical activities to include the back yard landscaping, in general. The atmosphere at Frank's workplace also begins to relax as the office settles down to what seems to be an even keel. The vacancies left by the many who were laid off, are now being filled by others. This offers some sense of stability to the remaining staff of the former Caltronics. These "new" employees were transferred from Morton's facility in Bakersfield which recently closed down, due to the merger. Frank also acclimates himself to the new makeup of his department. After all, what else can he do, short of resigning? Frank gradually begins to feel more secure in his own position, as do most of his colleagues. Still, no one knows just what the "big boys," up in their ivory tower on the executive floor, might be planning for the future. And those who are in a position to know, are being extraordinarily tight-lipped. Among those so privileged is, of course, Frank's boss, Bob Krasker.Sunday afternoon dawns warm and breezy. Frank has just hung up the phone after speaking with Jim and Brenda Havel. Ginger's face beams with excitement after speaking with Brenda. "Well," declares Frank," it's a done deal; Jim and Brenda will fly down on Saturday morning; they oughtta be at our door by about eleven o'clock. We'll have a great Fourth of July weekend." Ginger is nearly beside herself. "I can't wait to see Brenda again." Suddenly, Ginger begins feverishly to rattle off a laundry list of chores that must be done before the Havels' arrival. "This-coming week, I'll have to set up the bedroom at the end of the hall for 'em. Then I'll need to dust and polish all the furniture, and polish all these wood floors. And then I've gotta put some---""Whoa-Whoa!," interrupts Frank. "Take it easy, Honey; you've got a whole week to do all that." "Oh, and, Frank," continues Ginger, "we'll have to plan meals for the time the Havels here." "Gee," replies Frank with childlike glee, "does that mean I'll be eating real food, for for a change?" "Well," answers Ginger, "of course, I wanna to serve special meals for the Havels. So, yes--I guess, you'll have another reprieve." Frank looks off into space with an expression suggesting heavenly rapture. "Wow--a three-day reprieve! I can't believe it! Real actual food, for three-whole-days!" "Don't be silly, Frank. We have lots to do before the Havels get here."Frank pauses, for a moment. "Hmm--maybe I oughtta take Friday off so I'll have extra time to prepare for the weekend." "That might be a good idea," replies Ginger, "as long as it doesn't put you in a bad way at work." "I'll be fine," says Frank in a casual tone. "Besides, things are pretty much, back to normal at the office now."AS the week wears on, Frank and Ginger grow increasingly anxious with the impending arrival of the Havels. After all, Jim and Brenda are more than just friends, they're part of Frank and Ginger's cherished memories of their eventful honeymoon in Old River Run, Ohio. At 7AM on Friday morning, Ginger is already awake, and about her usual morning routine. It's past 8:30 by the time Frank finally awakens from his slumber. When he eventually comes downstairs, Ginger has coffee and breakfast waiting. The radio in the dining room is alive with the morning network news."Hurry up and finish your breakfast, Dear," says Ginger. "We still have a lot to do before the Havels get here. I want us to make a good impression on 'em." "Ginger, I can't wolf my food down. Unlike you, I don't have a cyber-stomach." "Moan-moan," replies Ginger. "Listen, I wanna give the entire house the once-over." Frank and Ginger spend most of the day dusting, vacuuming, and rearranging. After their chores are finally finished, Ginger picks a variety of flowers from the garden. She arranges them in an antique vase that Frank found in the storage closet, and places them on the dresser in the guest bedroom. "There," says Ginger with a smile of satisfaction. "The room's all ready for 'em." By now, it's close to dinner time. "Good," says Frank. "Does this mean we can finally knock off, for awhile? After all, it's almost time for my daily ration of rabbit food."NEXT morning, Frank and Ginger rise early in anticipation of the Havels' arrival. Ginger is having trouble, deciding on what to wear for the occasion. As the hour of the Havel's arrival draws nearer, it's Ginger's turn to become antsy and anxious. Just as Frank had done on other occasions, Ginger paces back and forth, then walking in and out through the front door and glancing through windows. "Well, says Frank, "I guess, it's my turn to say, 'settle down and relax. Your picketing won't make the Havels get here any sooner." At 11:15 Ginger can no longer sit still. "It's no good, Frank. I just can't sit here anymore."With that, Ginger tosses her magazine onto the coffee table and walks out the front door. As in the house, Ginger begins pacing to-and-fro on the front porch. From inside, Frank can hear Ginger's anxious footsteps as they reverberate on the porch's broad wood planking. Finally, Ginger stops to lean on the porch railing. She suddenly spots what looks like a white LAX airport shuttle, coming up the road. It begins to slow as it drives along the road until it turns onto the driveway. With her zoom vision, Ginger sees the LAX logo on the side of the shuttle. She runs into the house and pokes her head around the corner into the living room. "Frank, they're here!"Frank springs from his seat and walks out with Ginger to meet the Havels. The shuttle pulls up and parks next to Frank's Ford Model "A" sedan. Frank and Ginger jog over to the shuttle. The shuttle's door slides open to reveal the passenger compartment. As the door clears, Jim hops out, grabs Frank's hand, vigorously pumping it with both of his. "Hey, Frank! It's great to see ya again! How are ya!" "I'm doin' great, Jim. How 'bout you?!" "Fantastic," answers Jim. Suddenly, a voice calls out from inside the shuttle. "Hey, what about me!," calls Brenda.Jim suddenly remembers his wife and helps her out of the shuttle. Frank instructs the driver to take the Havels' luggage into the entryway. "Ginger!, exclaims Brenda, "Hi, how are you?!" The two women greet one other with a warm embrace. "How wonderful it is to see you again, Ginger! You have no idea how much I missed you." "I spent a lotta time, missing you, too," answers Ginger. "By the way, you look nice." "Well," replies Brenda, "thanks in part, to you, Ginger. I get lots of compliments about my hair, these days. I think I'm starting sort of a new fashion trend among my friends. Most of them are trying to copy my hairstyle now."Jim looks about at Frank's house and property. "You have quite a place here, Frank. As we came up the road, I couldn't believe where we were going! Your house looks like it belongs in the National Registry Of Historic Places." Brenda is equally impressed. "You and Frank live in a nice, secluded setting." "We like it," is Ginger's casual reply. "It's up and away from all that noise, traffic, and smog, down in the Valley." After the shuttle driver brings the last of the Havel's luggage into the house, Jim tips the man and sends him on his way. Jim begins to inspect Frank's Ford Model "A" with a mix of surprise and curiosity."Hey, Frank, this must be that Model "A" you bought, right?" "Yeah," replies Frank as he steps up to join his friend. Jim comments further on Frank's new acquisition. "I thought you were only joking. I never thought you'd actually go and buy one of those old buckets." Frank chuckles. Jim peers through one of the antique car's windows to get a look at its interior. "This one has a much nicer interior, though." "Hey, Jim," says Frank, "why don't Ginger and I show you and Brenda up to your room. I'm sure you both would like to relax and get settled in." "Sure," replies Jim, "that'd be great."As Frank and Ginger show the Havels into the house, Jim and Brenda gaze at the furnishings and decor in amazement. "Some house you've got here!," exclaims Jim. "I'm half-expecting Abraham Lincoln or General Grant to come walking in from another room!" "Yes," exclaims Brenda, "ditto on that for me, too!" "Well," replies Frank, "maybe that stands to reason. You see, this house is an exact replica of a house that was built in Gettysburg in 1857. In fact, the original house was General Buford's headquarters for a short time, just before the Battle of Gettysburg began. During the actual battle, the house was alternately in Union and Confederate hands on six different occasions. While we were looking over the original house with our architect, the current owner showed us where musket Minnie Balls had actually lodged in a couple of the walls. And one of the porch pillars still has two fifty-eight caliber Minnie balls buried inside it." "That's some story," marvels Jim.Ginger suddenly interrupts the conversation. "Alright; so much for the history lesson, Frank. Let's show Jim and Brenda to their room." After climbing the stairs to the upper floor, Jim and Brenda follow Frank and Ginger down the hall, looking about, as though they are on a museum tour. When they reach the end of the hall, Frank and Ginger show their friends into their room for the duration of their stay. "This room is absolutely charming," says Brenda. "Are the furnishings all antiques, too?" "They sure are," answers Ginger. "I hope you don't mind nineteenth century oak with white marble tops 'cuz that's all we've got around here." "Oh," replies Jim, "not at all. "It's really nice-kinda like staying at one of those historic old bed-and-breakfast inns." "Well," says Frank, "Ginger and I'll leave you two alone to settle in and get comfortable. When you're ready, just come on down, and we'll have lunch." Jim grins. "Sounds good to us."
Half an hour later, the Havels casually descend the stairs. Frank, sitting in the living room, spots them. "There, you are! How 'bout lunch?" "You bet!," exclaims Jim. "We haven't had a bite to eat since early this morning." Frank rises from his chair to show Jim and Brenda into the dining room. "Sit anywhere you like." Brenda continues to praise the house's decor. "I just can't get over the beautiful antique furniture you have in every room." "Thanks," replies Frank. "It took a few years to acquire it all, though." Brenda looks in the direction of the kitchen. "Do you think Ginger needs help?" "Well," answers Frank, "I know we're done laying out everything, but you can see her in the kitchen, if you want. It's just over there-around the corner, to the right."Brenda steps into the kitchen in time to see Ginger, preparing to carry the tray of cold cuts into the dining room. "Hi, Ginger. What an ancient-looking kitchen this is--those appliances." Ginger looks up at Brenda. "Oh, Hi, Brenda. Well, you can blame Frank for that, too. If you want, you can help with the bread tray." "Sure, Ginger," answers Brenda. The two women carry the trays into the dining room and set them down in the middle of the table. As everyone begins to assemble their sandwiches, they indulge in light conversation."Did you have a good flight down from Oregon?," asks Frank. "Yeah," answers Jim. "Nothing like our flight home from Riverton, Ohio, though. We were delayed by more tornado warnings, that day." Ginger shudders in her seat. "I'm glad Frank and I didn't have the pleasure of that experience again." Brenda leans toward Ginger. "You were lucky you missed that latest round of storms. I think they were more frightening than the storm over Old River Run." "Frank," interjects Jim, "your honeymoon must've made a real impression on you." "Oh, yeah?," replies Frank. "Well-for one thing," continues Jim, "I can't believe you actually bought an original Ford Model "A." Ginger suddenly pipes up. "Well, that was totally Frank's idea, not mine. What can I say; Frank's just nuts about the past. Believe me, if it's something old, he's Johnny-on-the-spot." "After lunch," says Brenda, "you'll have to give Jim and I the grand tour of your property." "Sure thing," answers Frank.After lunch, Frank and Ginger duly comply with Brenda's request. The Havels marvel at the enormity of the Boelcke property and especially, the backyard. Brenda instantly falls in love with Ginger's huge garden. "What a beautiful garden!" "Well," says Frank, "the credit for that goes to Ginger. She does all the backyard landscaping, too." "You did a marvelous job, Ginger," says Brenda. "You're so multi-talented." "Thanks, Brenda," replies Ginger. Ginger turns to Frank. "Honey, why don't you and Jim have some guy-time while Brenda and I have a chin-wag together."Frank turns to Jim. "Well, Jim, here we go again. Nothing's changed. Just like in Old River Run, we're being dismissed." Jim grins sympathetically. "Well, Frank--this might be a good time to show you something; let's go upstairs." With that, the two men part company with their wives. When Frank and Jim enter the guest bedroom, Frank seats himself on a chair by the dresser. Jim opens his suitcase, produces an old-style newspaper and hands it to Frank. To Frank's surprise, it's a copy of the Old River Run Courier. "Here," says Jim. "Take a look at this: I bought it at the hotel newsstand the morning we left for home. I thought you oughtta see it." Jim directs Frank's attention to an item at the bottom of the newspaper's front page, next to a large tourist ad for the Old River Run Time-Line Museum. Frank's expression grows tense. His chin drops, and his eyes widen as he reads the heading of the article:GINGER SZABO - BACK FROM THE GRAVE ??
by William AikinsFrank's heart almost stops.To Be Continued. . . .
Jan 15 07 4:00 PM
Quote:Hal was shocked to learn that he was not alone in having a cyber-wife.
Quote:Frank thought for a moment."Hmm - Maybe, I should take Friday off from work, just to have enough time to get things ready around here before the weekend.""That wouldn't be a bad idea," said Ginger, "as long as it doesn't put you in a bad way at work.""It should be okay. Besides, things seem to be more settled down now, at the office."
Quote:The radio in the diningroom was alive with the morning network news program.
Quote:With that, the foursome ascended the stairs to the bedrooms. Jim and Brenda looked about, as though they were on a museum tour. When they reached the end of the hall, Frank and Ginger showed their friends into their room for the duration of their stay.
Quote:GINGER SZABO-BACK FROM THE GRAVE? by William AikinsFrank's heart almost stopped.
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