IF YOU ARE just beginning to read this story, please begin with BOOK I/Chapter 1. If you begin here, you'll miss much that is crucial to what follows in the rest of the story.
"Tonight In Old River Run"
FRIDAY MORNING DAWNS clear and cool. A thin early morning haze blankets the San Fernando Valley below. The thin veil of moisture butts up against the foothills that surround the densely populated valley. The sun has just crested the ridge of the distant San Gabriel Mountains to the east. Millions of households, from West Hills to Burbank, are waking up to what will be for most of them, another routine Friday morning.
At 7AM in the Boelcke household, the jarring rasp of Frank's alarm clock rouses him and Ginger from their sleep. As Frank yawns and rubs his eyes, Ginger leans over and kisses his cheek. "Well, Dear, today's the big day, isn't it." "Yeah," answers Frank. "Just think--this morning, we wake up in Porter Ranch, California--and tonight, we go to sleep in Old River Run, Ohio." "Well," replies Ginger, "we oughtta get moving." "Hey," says Frank, "you know something? This is the first morning we're getting up together. This calls for a celebration!" Ginger looks at Frank and chuckles. "Let's save the celebrating for tonight at the Purl Roadhouse." Frank takes Ginger's hand. "Sounds like a date."
AFTER breakfast, Frank calls the shuttle service to confirm their 11AM pick-up time. Ginger fixes her hair in the usual way, except that she rolls it up in a pompadour over her forehead. Frank catches sight of Ginger as he enters the bedroom. "You look terrific. I like what you did with your hair in the front." "Now," replies ginger, "you'd better get dressed yourself." Frank steps into the closet and takes out his dark blue wool suit, a suitable shirt, and a vintage 1940s necktie. After changing into this attire, Frank snatches his fedora from the closet, perches it on his head, and tips it low over his brow. He swaggers over to Ginger's dressing table, leans against the wall, and strikes a pose. "Say, Sweetheart, come here often?" Ginger looks up at Frank with a smirk. "You know, Frank, that's a terrible Bogey impression."
WHILE Frank occupies himself with final preparations, Ginger picks up the luggage and carries it out of the room. Frank notices Ginger out of the corner of his eye, just as she leaves the room. He hurries after her. She is almost half way down the stairs, when a panic-stricken Frank calls down after her. "Ginger, what are you doing?!" Ginger stops and turns to look up at Frank. "What, on Earth, is wrong with you, Frank?" Frank gives a frenetic answer. "You shouldn't be lugging heavy suitcases down the stairs by yourself; let me do that!" "Calm down, Frank. You forget; I'm a lot stronger than you. Carrying these cases is a breeze." "Well, excuse me," replies Frank. "I'm not exactly a ninety-pound weakling, you know." Ginger sighs. "I didn't say that, Frank. And, I'm sorry if I bruised that fragile male ego of yours," replies Ginger with a trace of a smile. With that, Ginger continues her journey down the stairs, and places the suitcases in the vestibule. A speechless Frank simply watches from the top of the stairs.
AT A LITTLE after 9:30 AM, Frank and Ginger are sitting in the living room, killing time by listening to music. Suddenly, they hear the familiar sound of land car tires, grinding their way up the gravel driveway. Frank springs to his feet and hastens to the front door. He walks out onto the porch to see that it's Ryan, who waves when he catches sight of his father. By this time, Ginger joins Frank on the porch. "Hi, Dad-Hi, hi, Mom," calls Ryan as he jogs across the grass toward them. A concerned Ryan looks around. "So--where's Lisa?" Frank replies in a casual tone. "Give your sister a break, son; she's coming down from Santa Barbara, you know."
Ginger adds a reassuring response. "I'm sure Lisa will be here soon." "In the meantime," says Frank, "why don't we go inside and go over everything you'll need to look after, while we're away." As they are about to sit down in the living room, the sound of footsteps on the front porch, catches their attention. Frank turns and heads to the front door. He opens it to find Lisa standing there, a suitcase and overnight case in her hands. "Hi, there, Pumpkin! Here, let me take those for you." Ginger and Ryan, who happen to be standing in the vestibule, greet Lisa warmly.
Frank picks up Lisa's luggage. "I'll just carry these up to your room then." Once Ginger sees that Frank is out of earshot, she giggles and turns to Ryan and Lisa. "I thought I'd let your dad carry Lisa's luggage so he can salvage his manhood." A puzzled Ryan and Lisa stare at Ginger. "Huh?" Ginger answers in low tones while keeping an eye on the upstairs landing. "Well, it's like this: your dad went mental when he saw me carrying our luggage downstairs. When I told him it's no trouble, and that I'm a lot stronger than he is, I think I dented his male ego." Ginger and Lisa chuckle. Ryan rolls his eyes. "Oh, you women."
In the meantime, Frank descends the stairs. "So--what's everybody prattling about?" "Nothing at all, Dear," replies Ginger as she struggles to keep a straight face. Frank looks suspiciously at Ginger. "Well--anyway," continues Frank, "we'd better go over things with the kids before our shuttle gets here." Afterward, Lisa comments on Ginger's appearance. "That skirt and blouse look so good on you, Ginger." Frank cuts in. "Most of the men we passed in the mall last weekend thought so, too."
Lisa continues to compliment Ginger's appearance. "And I like what you did with your hair." "Well," replies Ginger, "your dad and I are going out for dinner and dancing tonight at the Purl Roadhouse. So I wanna look my best." Ryan becomes envious of his father and cyber-stepmother's trip. "I wish we could come." Frank responds in a conciliatory tone. "Don't worry, Ryan; next summer, we'll plan a family trip to Riverton--I promise.
Just then, two loud bursts of a horn cut through the late-morning calm. Frank and Ginger's LAX shuttle has arrived. "I guess, it's time," announces Ginger. The driver rings the doorbell. Frank answers. The shuttle driver greets Frank in cordial tones. "Hello; Mister Boelcke. I'm here to take you to the airport. If you'll allow me to take your luggage. . ." Frank points to the four suitcases and Ginger's makeup case in the entry way, then turns to Ryan and Lisa. "Well, kids, this is it." Ginger gives Ryan and Lisa, each, a hug and kiss. "Take care of yourselves, and keep a sharp eye on things while we're, or you'll get an ear-full from your dad."
"And, remember," adds Ginger in imitation of Frank, "no wild parties while we're gone." Ryan and Lisa chuckle. They follow as Ginger and their father walk out to where the shuttle is parked. Frank gives both Ryan and Lisa a hug, then helps Ginger into the shuttle, then steps inside and sits down next to her. Ginger smiles broadly and waves to Ryan and Lisa.
"Alright, kids," calls Frank to Ryan and Lisa, "in case of an emergency, you know how to contact us!," "Right, Dad;" answers Ryan, "you'd better get going!" With that, the shuttle driver presses a button, thus closing the sliding door to the shuttle's passenger compartment. Ryan and Lisa wave as the shuttle trundles slowly down the driveway, out onto the road, and out of sight.
ON the way to LAX, Frank and Ginger brim with anxious anticipation over their trip. "I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve," gushes Frank. "Believe me," replies Ginger, "this is just as exciting for me. I'm also looking forward to the experience of flying and, of course, seeing Old River Run." Frank puts his arm around Ginger as she scoots closer to him. "I hope the kids will be okay by themselves for a week." Ginger rolls her eyes. "Oh, there you go again, Frank. Listen, it's not like Ryan and Lisa are a couple of twelve-year-olds; they're two responsible, sensible, intelligent young people. Trust me, Frank; everything will be okay. Besides, everything's worked out like I said it would, right?" Frank looks to Ginger with a grin. "Yeah--I guess it has, at that."
To Be Continued. . . .
Now that Frank and Ginger have officially begun their trip to Riverton, what lies ahead? And, more immediately, how will Ginger react to her first flight in a sonic jet airliner? Find out in the next installment.