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Sep 9 06 12:22 PM
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Chapter 12"Trip To Nowhere?"GINGER HAS A sudden electronic brainwave. "I was wondering, Frank--can we plan a trip to River Run, Ohio sometime soon?" Frank gives an enthusiastic reply. "Yeah, I'd love to go there; I'll look into it." Frank pauses and looks off into space. "Hmm--I wonder if the old town's still there. You know, a lot could've happened to River Run in the last 150 years." Ginger has another thought. "Frank--how much time do you have left on your vacation?" Frank pauses, for a moment to calculate. "You know--I've got almost a whole month yet." "Then," asks Ginger, "why don't we make the trip now? We don't have to stay long--just a couple of days, or so." Frank catches Ginger's contagious excitement. "Hey, you're right! I'll go online and check flight departure times, hotel lodgings, things like that. With all the time I have left, we can stay in River Run for a whole week--that is, if the town still exists."Indeed. Two centuries of urban expansion, re-zoning, demolition, and modernization, may have swallowed up any trace of the old town. Besides, there is a more vitally important issue at hand: in the midst of all this excitement, Frank suddenly remembers that he has yet to tell Ginger of his children's feelings about her. "Ah, Ginger? Before we get on with all this, there's another--ahh--matter we need to discuss--my children." Ginger's cheerful countenance changes to one of serious concern. "Do you think they won't like us going to River Run?" "No--it's not that," answers Frank. "What is it then?," asks an increasingly concerned Ginger.Frank begins, somewhat hesitantly to explain. "It's about my children's feelings about you." Ginger becomes anxious. "You don't think they'll like me?" Frank tries to calm Ginger's fears. "Well--the problem isn't with my daughter, Lisa; she's keen to meet you. The problem's with my son, Ryan." "Ryan doesn't like me?--why not?" "Well, you see," continues Frank, "the thing is--he resents your coming into this house and, into my life. A couple of weeks ago, I had a pretty rough time with him over the phone about you. He has this idea that you're a mockery to his mother's memory. And he's angry that I didn't find--in his words--a real live, living, breathing woman. He thinks you're just a motorized mannequin." Ginger is visibly upset by Frank's revelation. "I don't understand. How can Ryan judge me that way when he hasn't even met me?""I Know," says Frank, "I totally agree. But I think it'll help to give you some insight into why Ryan feels the way he does. You see, he was really close to his mother. Ryan was always Susan's favorite. Quite honestly, I always thought she coddled and spoiled him too much. The reason Susan favored Ryan is that he reminded her of a favorite cousin, who was killed in a car accident when he was only 24. Anyway--when Susan was killed in that Zip-Rail crash, Ryan was absolutely devastated, just like the rest of us. But Ryan took it the hardest, harder even than me or Lisa, I think. He was despondent for weeks. To this day, I don't think he's been fully able to move on. To me, he seems to have a lot of unresolved feelings that he's kept hidden under this veneer of denial, blame and anger. I've told him many times that he should get counseling to resolve the feelings revolving around his mother's passing. I've even offered to pay for it. But he stubbornly refuses every time I bring up the subject."Ginger replies in hopeful tones. "Well, maybe Ryan's ideas about me will change, once we meet." Frank isn't so sure. "I hope so, but like I said, Ryan can be pretty stubborn." Ginger replies in defiant tones. "Well, Frank, so can I." At that instant, the phone rings. Frank answers. To his surprise, it's Lisa. When the call ends five minutes later, Frank turns to Ginger. "Well--it looks like you'll have your chance with Ryan sooner, than later. That call, just now, was from Lisa. She and Ryan are coming by on Wednesday Morning."Ginger expresses optimism at the prospect of meeting Ryan for the first time. "Don't worry, Frank. I think things will work out with Ryan, but I'm also anxious to meet Lisa. It'd be fun to have a 'girls' day out' with her sometime." "Funny you should say that," replies Frank. "Sometime ago, I suggested to Lisa the very same thing." Ginger suddenly glancess up at the antique regulator clock. "Look what time it is. It's past your lunch hour." Frank sighs. "That's alright. But I'm still full from that breakfast banquet you served up, this morning. I may not eat for the next three days."Another piece of important business suddenly crosses Frank's mind. "I just remembered--we oughtta take care of that Domestic Cyber-Person Marriage certificate on Monday Morning. When we check into a hotel in River Run, I wanna be able to sign the register as 'Mr. & Mrs. Frank Boelcke.' Ginger takes Frank's hand. "Yes--so do I." Ginger pauses for a moment, then speaks. "I learned a whole lot about Susan's family history today. But what about your's, Frank?"Frank commences to explain to Ginger his own background. "Well, I was an only child. When I was a kid, we lived in a nice house in Woodland Hills, south of Ventura Boulevard--the "snob neighborhood," as people say. Dad was an upper-level aerospace engineer and made good money, so Mom never had to work. When Dad retired about eight years ago, he and Mom moved up to Cambria. It's a nice town; I oughtta take you up there sometime. Anyway, my grandparents emigrated from the city of Karlsruhe in Germany." At that moment, Ginger breaks in. "See, I knew it. I knew your background is German; I could tell by the spelling of your last name." "Yeah," replies Frank. "The problem is most people can't pronounce it properly. They can't say the o-umlaut and end up pronouncing it Belkey. It would annoy my grandparents, to no end." Frank can see that Ginger's mind is at work. "Yeah," she replies, "it would be annoying to have your name pronounced Belkey, instead of Boelcke."Frank is struck again, by Ginger's flawless pronunciation. "You know, Ginger, you sounded, just now like my grandmother." Ginger looks at Frank with furrowed brow. "Thanks a lot, Frank." Frank only chuckles. "So, then," continues Ginger, "do you have any famous people in your family background, like Susan?" "Yes," answers Frank. "As a matter of fact, I do. Ever heard of World War One?" Ginger decides to have some fun with Frank.
"Of course, Frank-who hasn't?" First, the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand is assassinated in Sarajevo. Then there were the battles of the Marne, Yprez, Verdun, the first trench, and tank warfare, the first aerial combat and air-raids, Eddie Rickenbacker, Baron von Richthofen, Armistice Day, and the Versailles Treaty, which eventually leads to World War Two--I think that about covers it." "Alright," marvels Frank. "So you know about World War One. Well, to answer your initial question, I'm directly descended from Oswald Boelcke, a German fighter pilot ace in thta war. He scored over 40 victories before he was killed, himself, when another pilot in his squadron collided with him during a dogfight. He's famous for a set of rules he drew up for fighter pilots called, Boelckes Dichte. It turns out his rules for aerial combat were so valid that future generations of fighter pilots in other countries followed 'em until dog-fighting became obsolete.""Fascinating," says Ginger. "So," asks Ginger with an expectant grin, "do you happen to have any pictures of this illustrious ancestor?" "Wait here," answers Frank. Frank jogs upstairs and begins rummaging through his bedroom closet. A few minutes later, he returns with two very large old photos in plain wooden frames. "Can I see 'em?" asks Ginger. Frank hands her the ancient photos and waits for her comments. Ginger examines the pictures with intense interest. One photo is a large portrait, while the other shows Oswald Boelcke, posing next to his pursuit plane, an Albatross D-V biplane. "Hmm," observes Ginger, "he's sure handsome in his uniform. Too bad he wasn't on our side. Frank, why aren't these pictures hanging up somewhere in the house?""Well," answers Frank, "I'm not crazy about the frames; I've been meaning to have new ones fitted." Frank suddenly remembers his discussion with Ginger about their proposed trip to River Run. He stands up and stretches. "I think I'll get on the computer and do some research on River Run. If the town still exists and looks like it's worth visiting, I'll book us on a sonic flight to the closest city with an airport." Ginger nods. "Sounds like a plan." Frank pauses and looks at Ginger with a moon-faced expression. Ginger, standing by the entrance hall, notices Frank's gaze. "Frank--is something the matter?""Everything's just great," answers a wistful Frank. "I was just thinking about how wonderful it is to hear other footsteps in this big house, besides my own, to hear a feminine voice again, to feel the embrace of a woman after six long and lonely years." Ginger steps up to Frank and puts her arms around him. "And I feel good to know I've brought happiness back in your life. Of all the men who could've brought me to life, I'm glad it was you, Frank." With that, Ginger begins to kiss Frank repeatedly. Frank begins to feel those "stirrings" again. He nervously clears his throat and releases his embrace. "I think I'd better--get back to that research now--you know-what I was earlier-talking about-you know--earlier." An inwardly disappointed Ginger sighs a reply. "Alright, Frank--whatever you say." Ginger then steps into the living room, sits down on the sofa, picks up one of the old Metcalf scrapbooks, and begins to page through it.Frank spends at least an hour on the Global Net in an attempt to find anything, at all, on River Run, Ohio. Fifteen minutes later, Ginger steps into the library to check on Frank's progress. "You know something?," says Frank. "Yes, Frank, I know lots of different things." "Ha-Ha," replies Frank, "touche, I guess. Anyway, I was gonna say that I can't find a single thing on River Run, Ohio. Every time I enter River Run, I keep getting info about boating, fishing, and kayaking on various lakes and rivers in Ohio."To be continued. . . .What happened to the town of River Run, Ohio? Have the passing of two centuries, indeed swallowed up every trace of the old town? Find out in the next installment.Frank's Illustrious ancestor, Oswald Boelcke.
The "ansichtskarte" (view-card) above,
commemorates Boelcke's 40th aerial combat victory.
After Boelcke's death in a dogfight
(when he, and another pilot in his
squadron collided during the heat of battle),
the British dropped a message behind
German lines, in which they
referred to Oswald Boelcke as,
"Our brave and gallant foe."
Sep 10 06 12:03 AM
Waits tables at the Purl Roadhouse
Sep 10 06 10:44 AM
Sep 12 06 3:37 PM
Attention Readers! For the sake of sensitive and juvenile (under 18 years of age) readers, I'm going to rate this chapter PG-13. The reason for this is that there is a scene in which Frank and Ginger appear in the same bedroom together. While nothing of a physically intimate nature actually transpires, I only mention it in case some readers might be easily offended just by imagining "our heroes" in the same bedroom together. If indeed, you are of a sensitive nature or a parent of a young reader who is following this story, please avoid this chapter and move on to the next unrated chapter. Thank you.Chapter 13"In The Course Of Nocturnal Events"GINGER CROUCHES BESIDE FRANK and stares quizzically at the computer screen. She has a sudden thought. "That's odd. Maybe the town changed its name?" Frank shrugs. "Either that, or River Run isn't there anymore. But, if River Run does exist and did change its name, how do we find out?" Ginger offers a suggestion. "Well--by searching Ohio county records?" Frank raises his eyebrows. "Well," replies Frank, "that's a start, I suppose. But that could take time." Ginger has another idea. "Frank, maybe we can narrow our search. River Run would be in Cuyahoga County, right?" Frank nods. "Yeah, I think so." "Well, then," continues Ginger, "how 'bout looking for the webpage for the Cuyahoga County Chamber of Commerce?" "You're right," answers Frank. "Don't know why I didn't think of that." "Ginger answers with a "smart alec" grin. "That's 'cause I can think faster than you." In earnest, Frank swivels back to his computer to look for the Cuyahoga County, Ohio COC. In the meantime, Ginger begins to preoccupy herself with the many books on Frank's library shelves. She is attracted to an original first edition copy of Steven Crane's Red Badge of Courage. While Ginger is thus occupied, Frank's efforts in the search for River Run pay off. A perusal of the Cuyahoga County COC website's menu reveals, among other things, a complete list of all cities and towns in, as well as popular tourist attractions. A capsule history is included under each city and town listing. Here, Frank hits pay dirt. In the sub-heading, lower down on the list, is a city named Riverton, formerly known as River Run. While Ginger thumbs through another volume, this time, on life in a medieval English manorial village, Frank calls to her. "Ginger, I found it!" Ginger pushes the book back onto the shelf, and hurries to Frank's side. "Ginger, you were right. The town did change its name; look here. . ."[By the late 21st century, the name River Run began to feel to the city's residents, a bit stale and out-of-date. After all, to the outside world, River Run was more likely to conjure up images of a sleepy little 19th century Tom Sawyer sort of community where life moved at a leisurely pace--a community of one-room school houses, a little white-painted church, a quaint general store where old men sit,
playing checkers while paddle-wheeled steamboats docked to unload the latest shipment of dry goods. So, in June of 2076, the citizens of River Run moved to correct those archaic perceptions of their thriving, modern, bustling metropolis. In a special election, the city's residents voted by an overwhelming majority to change the name of their zippy, economically vibrant city to Riverton.
In any event, River Run's population grew steadily, and sometimes rapidly since its founding in 1847. By 1855, a new textile mill and foundry began operations, bringing in more jobs, more new residents, and more new money into town. By the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, River Run's population expanded to 3,652 permanent residents. River Run's--now Riverton's--population continued to increase steadily over the next 300 years, to where it stands today at 2,748,529 permanent residents. Interestingly, according to the Cuyahoga County Chamber of Commerce, Riverton also boasts a popular tourist venue called, Old River Run, which is now the old section of the city. The curious thing about Riverton is that, as the city grew, it actually expanded almost fouir miles to the north. This created Old River Run as a sort of "island," separated from the new city by a sparsely settled agricultural district. The new and old parts of town are connected by the river and, by a modern high-speed expressway. Another oddity is that Old River Run is also connected to modern Riverton by a narrow district of residential neighborhoods, ranging in age from oldest (River Run), to newest (Riverton).]Ginger's eyes are fixed, following along as Frank reads aloud the information on the screen. "Among the main attractions to be visited in Old River Run are, Brandstaetter's Pharmacy, Purl Roadhouse, River Run Grand Hotel, Ruben's Restaurant, the charming Elmwood Park and Time-Line Museum, and much more. The town square retains its Norman Rockwell Americana charm of the era between 1920, and 1950. Antique vintage automobiles line the Town Square and curbs of many of Old River Run's streets, adding to the nostalgia of a bygone era." "How 'bout that," says Frank. "Sounds like most of the old River Run landmarks are still there." "Great," says Ginger. "Now you can book our flight and find us a hotel." While Frank attends to the business of flight schedules and hotel reservations, Ginger returns to the sofa to resume her perusal of the old Metcalf Family scrapbooks.About an hour later, Frank reports on the travel arrangements he has just finalized. "Well, Ginger, we're all squared away. We catch a personal shuttle from home at eleven o'clock on Friday Morning, to LAX. Then we catch our 12:15PM non-stop sonic flight to the Riverton, Ohio International Airport. We'll land at Riverton at 4:45PM, local time. After that, we'll hire a shuttle to take us to the River Run Grand Hotel.""So," replies a pensive Ginger, "we're actually going to Old River Run." "Well," says Frank, "now that that's taken care of, I guess I'll have that sandwich now." Frank suddenly looks as though a light has just switched on in his head. "You know--it's coming back to me; Susan told me she grew up in Youngstown, Ohio. But she was actually born in Riverton. Her family moved to Youngstown when she was about two years old, I think she said." A few minutes later, Frank returns from the kitchen with a sandwich on a plate, and a glass of soda. "I think I'll watch some of those old TV shows on my favorite channel. I Married Joan is on tonight." Ginger sits next to Frank on the sofa as he picks up the 3V remote. Three hours later, Frank stretches and yawns. "Well, I'm calling it a day. How about you?" "I think I'll turn in, too," answers Ginger.AT ABOUT 2:30AM, Frank is drifting in that no-man's land between sleep and consciousness after waking from a dream. He opens his eyes slightly, and suddenly becomes very conscious of a dark human form, standing near his bed. The apparition-like presence is eerily back-lit by the dim orange glow of the nightlight in Frank's bedroom. Frank gasps in primitive terror as he flings himself backward, almost falling off the other side of the bed. The dark silhouette simultaneously jumps backward. In that moment, Frank notices something familiar about the ominous form. He gathers his wits enough to reach over and switch on the lamp on his nightstand."Ginger!!--why, in the name of Truman Capote, are you skulking around in my bedroom in the middle of the night?!" Ginger, standing there in her pajamas, offers a timid answer. "I'm sorry, Frank. I--didn't mean to scare you. It's just that I couldn't sleep. You know, Frank--this house is awfully spooky in the dead of night." "Yeah," replies Frank, "Tell me about it. It took months after Susan passed on, before I got used to it. Ryan and Lisa were still at home, of course. But, with Susan gone, I experienced your feelings."Ginger replies in a plaintive tone. "Frank--do you think I could spend the rest of the night here-with you?" Frank is surprised by Ginger's request. It's the last thing he expects, so early in their relationship. "Well," answers Frank, "there's only one bed in here, you know. You'll have to sleep on the floor." Ginger cautiously elaborates on her request. "Well, Frank--I was--I was sorta hoping I could--you know--share--your bed--if, ah--if you don't mind--of course." Frank squirms nervously and clears his throat. "Well--I--I guess it's alright--as long as you're alright with us both being in the same bed--I mean--so soon in our relationship." Ginger brushes Frank's concerns aside. "Oh, don't worry about me, Frank. I'll survive."With that, Ginger turns and hurries out of Frank's bedroom. In the meantime, Frank goes to the linen closet and returns with an extra pillow. A minute later, Ginger returns with her pillows and blanket, tucked under one arm. Frank is in the midst of preparing his bed to accommodate both himself and Ginger. A puzzled Ginger watches as Frank props the extra pillow in a central position between them. "What's that for?," queries Ginger. "Well," answers Frank, "that's a division, as they say in German." "I know what it means, Frank--but, why? Do I have coodies or something?" "Of course, not, Ginger. I just thought--well--I think it's only proper--since we've only been together a short time." "Well--alright," replies Ginger. "If you think it's absolutely necessary." Frank reaches to turn off his nightstand lamp as Ginger slides into the other side of the bed. He moves as far to his side of the bed without actually falling off the edge.For a minute, Ginger lays on her back in the dark, her eyes wide open. Suddenly, she sighs and begins to speak in a cautious tone. "Frank?" Frank replies, his voice partially muffled in his pillow. "Yes, Ginger?" "Well," begins a hesitant Ginger, "I--I was--I was just wondering--you know--when you think our relationship might--you know--reach the level--where we'll be ready for--you know---intimacy?" Ginger's question hits Frank in much as a speeding train hits a land car. In an attempt to avoid offending Ginger in any way, Frank offers a carefully worded answer.Clearing his throat again, Frank gives his answer: "Well--when you're comfortable enough with our relationship--when your feelings for me have progressed to that point--that's when our relationship will have reached the next level." "But, Frank," queries a persistent Ginger, "what about your feelings for me?" Frank clears his throat yet again, and answers as best he can. "Ginger--I think you're beautiful--you have a terrific personality and, heaven knows, you're full of surprises, and I care for you very much. But I'm not gonna rush things. I won't pressure you in any way; no pressure--none, whatsoever."Ginger is both moved, and perplexed by Frank's words. But why can't he read between the lines? "But Frank--" "Ginger," interrupts Frank, "it's really late, and I'm really tired. Now, let's both try and get some sleep. We can talk about this in the morning, if you want--Goodnight, Ginger." Ginger sighs in frustration. "Goodnight, Frank."SUNDAY morning dawns partly cloudy and cold. A crisp breeze out of the southwest rustles the leaves of the tall maples in the enormous front yard of Frank's property. Puffy altocumulus clouds range across the entire sky, resembling grazing sheep in a vast meadow. When Frank stirs from his slumber at about 7:30AM, he sees that Ginger is still soundly asleep. Not wanting to disturb her, he carefully slips out of bed. Noticing the colder air, Frank puts on his robe and goes down to the kitchen to start the coffee maker.
After getting dressed for the day, Frank descends the stairs to the kitchen to fix himself a little something for breakfast. As he pours himself a cup of coffee, Ginger shuffles into the kitchen, still in her robe and pajamas. It's now past 8:30 in the morning. Ginger's appearance is in stark contrast to yesterday morning, when she literally marched into Frank's bedroom and ordered him out of bed. "Well, my-my-my," says Frank with a grin. "Look who finally crawled out of bed, this morning." Ginger runs her fingers through her disheveled hair and rubs her face to chase sleep from her head. Frank raises the coffee decanter. "Here-have some coffee, if you think it'll wake up your circuits." "Yeah," replies s droopy-eyed Ginger, "that'd be nice."Frank chuckles at Ginger disheveled state. Ginger takes her coffee into the dining room, pulls out a chair, and sits down by the table. Reacting to the cold air, she closes her robe around her neck. "Why is it so cold, this morning?" Frank sits down at the corner of the table next to Ginger. He looks at her and begins to chuckle. "So this is what I looked like, yesterday morning." Ginger, a little annoyed at Frank, puts down her coffee, and brushes a lock of hair from her eyes. "Oh, can it, Frank. Why didn't you wake me when you got up?"Frank straightens up in his chair. "Well, aren't we grumpy in the morning. I thought I was doing you a favor by letting you sleep after that late night fright you gave me. I'm still wondering how many years that took off my life." Ginger suddenly takes on a more apologetic demeanor. "Sorry, Frank--I didn't mean to snap. I just wanted to be up sooner than 8:30.""Say," asks Frank, "did you wanna continue that conversation from last night?" "Don't worry about it," answers Ginger. "By the way, speaking of surprises--I'll have another one for you tonight." Frank is stunned. "You mean you're gonna sneak into my bedroom at two in the morning and scare the begeebers again?"To be continued. . . .
Sep 13 06 3:51 PM
14"Sweetest Things"FRANK IS ALMOST beside himself. "Haven't you done enough to shorten my lifespan??" "Well," replies Ginger, "last night was unintentional. Besides, I think you'll like this surprise." Frank isn't so sure. "That remains to be seen.""Well, in the meantime," continues Frank, "I've got a surprise for you: I thought I'd take you to see the Northridge Mall today. It's a big indoor shopping center with all kinds of shops and department stores. And there's a really great food court on the second level, too. We can have lunch at the Big Apple New York Deli; it's the best place in the food court, to eat." Ginger's face lights up. "My first outing; sounds like fun." Ginger rises to her feet. "I'd better get dressed and do my hair."With that, Ginger trots up the stairs. In the intervening time, Frank turns on the sound system and makes himself a simple breakfast. The first tune to play, is Glenn Miller's arrangement of I Know Why. Ginger can hear the music in her bedroom. Her eyes sparkle. Ginger smiles to herself as she sits at her dressing table, primping for her first trip into town while thinking about her planned surprise for Frank. . .ABOUT an hour and a half later, Ginger gracefully descends the stairs. Frank is sitting in the living room, thumbing through an engineer's journal, when Ginger steps lightly into the room. She pirouettes in front of him. "Well, how do I look? And don't say, "very nice" or I'll clock you with my handbag." Like a love-sick adolescent, Frank looks up at Ginger. She is wearing a white silk blouse and red skirt, along with real nylon stockings. Red high-heeled pumps grace her feet. A pearl necklace and matching earrings complete her ensemble. As always, her hair is flawlessly coiffed. Frank sighs. "Ginger--you look absolutely captivating--I don't know what else to say." Ginger responds to Frank while stuffing extra tissues into her handbag--just as Susan had always done. "Well, you look sincere enough. So I'll buy it."A grinning Ginger looks toward Frank. "I can hardly wait to give you your surprise tonight." "There you go again," replies Frank, "with that word--surprise." Ginger chuckles. "It's nothing to stress about, Frank." "Well," replies Frank, "as long as I won't end up in Northridge Emergency Receiving, afterward." "Oh," replies Ginger, "you'll end up somewhere alright--but, not to the hospital--I promise. Anyway, Honey, I'm ready to leave."AS IT is still early in the day, Frank finds a convenient parking space next to Searles Department Store. Ginger brims with anticipation over her first visit to a shopping mall. Frank opens one of the entry doors into Searles for Ginger. She is immediately struck by the forest of women's clothing racks that stretches out before her. Ginger's head swivels to-and-fro, taking in all the new sights, sounds, and smells of the mall as she and Frank stride down the wide main aisle through Searles. Soon, Frank and Ginger leave Searles, and step out into the mall's main promenade. Ginger is amazed by the aroma of various foods that waft down from the distant food court on the upper level. Aside from the subliminal "spend-your-money-here" music, and the bright and occasionally garish store signage, there is the unusual living foliage of almost every variety. It seems to grow right up, out of the beautifully tiled flooring, with no pots or planters in sight. There are also several waterfalls and fountains of all shapes and sizes almost everywhere one turns. The gurgling waterfalls, the music, and the steady din of hundreds of shoppers, creates a scintillating atmosphere for Ginger. "It looks like they brought the outside--inside." "Well," replies Frank, "that was the general idea when they remodeled the place four years ago."Where the ground-floor promenade opens out into one of many large lounge areas, Frank and Ginger encounter an impressive life-sized history tableau. A cordoned oblong area, measuring about 60 feet long, by 30 feet wide, is made to resemble a semi-arid wilderness. Through the middle of this, runs a double line of trail ruts. Standing in the ruts, is a full-scale covered emigrant wagon. It is being pulled by three yoke of very life-like ersatz oxen. The ox driver, frozen in time, walks beside the six-foot-tall beasts of burden, holding a long stick with which to urge them forward. A woman with two young children, dressed in mid-19th century garb, tattered from months on the trail, walks beside the wagon. Her intrepid husband marches ahead of the oxen and wagon, one hand supporting a Hawken rifle on his shoulder. The mannequins of the man and his family gaze, with heroic determination into the western horizon; they know they are making history. They seem the very symbol of Manifest Destiny. Signs behind the roped-off exhibit read, as follows:"WESTWARD HO!On The California Trail to the "Garden of the Earth"1846.Many made it. Many did not. But the ones who did,
helped to transform California into what it is today."Frank is just as mesmerized as Ginger by this exhibit, for it wasn't here when Frank visited the mall four months ago to have his watch repaired. Frank and Ginger stand there in silence, transfixed by the tableau. Though the wagon, ersatz oxen, and pioneer family stand motionless, they look as though they're moving inexorably toward their longed-for destination: California, their Promised Land. After sharing their thoughts on the impressive display, Frank and Ginger move on.As Frank and Ginger stroll past one storefront after another, they attract the attention of several passers-by, mostly of the male persuasion. Men, both young and old, pause to ogle Ginger. Wives and girlfriends poke and jab their men when they catch them in the act. These women also shoot glares of jealousy at Ginger, like knife-throwers at a circus. Ginger soon becomes aware of the looks she is attracting from various male admirers. "Frank--why are men staring at me like that?" Frank grins. "Do you really have to ask? Didn't I tell you you're captivating?" Ginger cocks her head, grins, and flicks her hair. "Yep," she quips, "that's me, alright--captivating." It's very clear that Ginger is becoming very aware of herself. Frank suddenly has a disturbing thought: Is Ginger programmed to be monogamous? After all, why would a man spend half a million dollars to create a cyber-woman mate, only to have her run off with someone else? As Frank and Ginger stroll past Gayle's, another women's clothing store, Ginger insists on having a look inside. Frank protests, to no avail. "But you have a whole wardrobe full of brand new clothes at home! What more could you possibly need?" "Oh, don't have a coronary, Frank. I just wanna see what they have." Frank knows very well what that means. He had often heard that same line from Susan. The mall-bug has bitten. And, not even Ginger, the cyber-woman, is immune to its bite. Frank has a feeling his wallet will be a little lighter by the time he and Ginger leave Gayle's.
It isn't long before Ginger has a few articles of clothing, draped over one arm. "Here, we go," says Frank to himself. Ginger selects a changing room. She then insists Frank stay close by so she can model each outfit for him. As far as Frank is concerned, everything Ginger picked out, looks good on her. When Ginger finally emerges from the dressing room, Frank feels compelled to speak up. "Listen, Ginger, you have an awful lotta clothes at home. Why do you think you need more?" "Frank," replies a plaintive Ginger, "you saw how nice those slacks and tops, and that sundress look on me. Can I have 'em--please, Frank?" As much as he wants to, Frank can't find it in himself to say no. "Oh--alright," sighs Frank, "you can have 'em." Ginger kisses Frank's cheek. "Thanks, Frank-you're a sweetheart."By the time Frank and Ginger walk out of Gayle's, Frank leaves $884 behind. Later on, after visiting a few more shops, Frank spends another $700 on clothing and hair accessories for Ginger. It's becoming clear to Frank that Ginger is quickly turning into a mall "shop-aholic." "So," asks Frank, "how 'bout lunch?" "Sure, Frank. It'd be an interesting experience to taste food, prepared in a restaurant."Frank, with Ginger on his arm, steps into the Big Apple New York Deli. The Hostess in the reception area greets Frank and Ginger, then guides them into the softly lit dining room, to a booth located in a fairly secluded area. "Your waitress will be with you in a moment," says the hostess with a smile. Soon the waitress, a 17 year old high school girl, steps up to Frank and Ginger's table. After greeting Frank and Ginger in a cheerful manner, she takes special notice of Ginger. "I like your outfit. And your hair's very nice, too."Ginger smiles and graciously thanks the young waitress for her compliments. The waitress patiently, while Frank and Ginger peruse the many items on the Big Apple menu. Eventually, Ginger decides on the Ruben Sandwich. Frank approves of Ginger's selection. "That's a good choice; they make a great Ruben here." Frank, however, goes for his usual standby: the pastrami sandwich on Jewish rye, with plank fries, coleslaw and kosher pickle on the side.Out of nowhere, concerns about the merger talks involving his company, suddenly drift into Frank's mind. Ginger, noticing the serious expression on Frank's face, lays down her menu. "Is something the matter, Frank?" "Oh--I guess, I'm alittle nervous about the merger talks between my company and Morton Aerospace. If it goes through, there's a chance I could be laid off. Ginger is a little upset by Frank's revelation. She replies in low tones, so as not to be heard by other patrons, being seated nearby. "Frank, if you're worried about losing your job, why did you bring me here and, why did you let me spend all that money in those stores?"Frank answers as best he can, under Ginger's equally serious gaze. "Well, first--I just thought it'd be a nice treat to bring you here. And, second, Ginger--no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to say no to you." Frank's words don't allay Ginger's concerns. "You know, Frank, we can return all those things, and get your money back, if. . ." Frank cuts Ginger off in earnest. "No, Ginger; I'd feel like a heel if I did that. Besides, I want you to have 'em."In the meantime, the waitress arrives at Frank and Ginger's table, laden with their orders. She then leaves to check on other tables at her station. Ginger picks up her fork and knife, cuts off a piece of her Ruben sandwich, and places it in her mouth. Having tasted it, Ginger nods approvingly. In the meantime, Frank is in pastrami heaven. After a little while, Frank pushes his plate aside. "Ginger--there's another, more important reason I brought you here today." Ginger is somewhat puzzled. "You mean, here, to the deli?" "No," answers Frank in a strident tone. Catching himself, he looks around to see if anyone is within earshot. "No. I mean, here--to the mall." Frank takes Ginger's hands into his. Ginger is bewildered by all this. "Ginger--tomorrow--we're going to the Van Nuys Courthouse to apply for our Cyber-Person Marriage Certificate. And--when we get married--I want us to have wedding rings, like any other married couple. So--after we finish lunch--we're gonna walk from here, to Zelwyn Jewelers to pick out our wedding bands. I guess, that's my surprise for you."Ginger is overcome by Frank's revelation. Tears well up in her eyes. "Frank--I--I don't know what to say." Frank is surprised to see actual tears coursing down Ginger's cheeks. "Are those really tears I see?" "Yes, Frank, they are. This is a really deep and meaningful moment for me. This is the moment I've been waiting for--to know you've truly accepted me as your companion in marriage. I thought it'd be months before that would happen." Frank chuckles. "Actually, so did I." As soon as Frank and Ginger finish their meals, Frank pays the check, and off, they go, to Zelwyn Jewelers. The obliging--and commissioned--salesman at Zelwyn shows Frank and Ginger several cases of wedding band sets. After about two hours, Frank and Ginger finally settle on a set of bands to their liking. When Frank and Ginger leave Zelwyn, Frank also leaves $18,854. Afterward, Frank wants to show Ginger the rest of the mall. "No, that's alright, Frank. I think I just wanna go home and look at the things you bought me and--I wanna look at our wedding bands and hold 'em--to make sure this isn't all just a dream." Ginger takes Frank's arm and rests her chin on his shoulder, whispering into his ear. "All this is gonna make my surprise for you, that much more special."She mentioned it again: the surprise. The thought of it makes Frank even more tense. What, wonders Frank, is this next surprise that Ginger is cooking up for him? "Yeah," replies Frank, "you keep going on about this surprise of yours. I'm not sure whether to be looking forward to it or, dreading it." Ginger kisses Frank's cheek, and tries to give him some reassurance. "Oh," says Ginger with a coquettish grin, "there's nothing to dread unless--well, let's just say--you have every reason to look forward to it."To be continued. . . .
Sep 14 06 5:55 PM
ATTENTION READERS: This chapter is also Rated PG-13. The reason for this is that Frank and Ginger's relationship becomes intimate, for the first time. However, I have kept it pretty tame; there is no "bedroom scene," as such. I have also avoided the use of graphic descriptives. If, however, you are of a very sensitive nature and are made uncomfortable by even the slightest possibility of even the merest suggestion of intimate contact between genders, I suggest that you please move on to the next unrated chapter. Thank you.Chapter 15"The Next Level"AS FRANK AND GINGER step out of Searles Department Store, they become acutely aware of the rapidly deteriorating weather. A cold wind is blowing out of the southwest. The sky appears dark and threatening. Even darker clouds loom on the west, and southwest horizons. Frank sniffs the air. "Looks like a storm's comin' on; I can smell rain." "Then," replies Ginger, "it's about time we got going."As Frank pulls out onto Shirley Avenue, large rain drops begin to spatter down onto the land car's windshield. During the drive north up Corbin Avenue toward Porter Ranch, the rain gets heavier. Pea-sized hail is falling by the time Frank turns onto the driveway of his property. A sudden flash of lightning is immediately followed by a loud boom of rolling thunder. Frank presses a button on the dashboard of his land car that automatically disarms the house's alarm system, and opens the garage. "Wow!," exclaims Frank, "this weather's gettin' wild!" Frank and Ginger put on their coats, and whatever head protection they can improvise, in preparation for their dash to the house. With shopping bags in hand, Frank and Ginger stand at the back door to the garage, poised and ready. "Alright, Ginger--when I count Three, run like--well, you get the idea. Alright--One-Two-Three!On three, Frank and Ginger make the mad dash to the house, splashing through puddles of muddy water as they go. When Frank and Ginger enter the kitchen area, they set their dripping bags down and take stock of their soggy, mud-spattered condition. Ginger looks down at herself and then, at Frank. "Just look at my shoes and skirt, Frank," she mourns. "They're probably ruined. And, so are my stockings, thanks to you." "Thanks to me?," replies an incredulous Frank. "Listen, Ginger, I didn't order up this weather, just for the occasion, you know." "Well," answers Ginger, "if you'd built this house with an attached garage, none of this would've happened." "I'm sorry, honey," replies a contrite Frank. "But this house didn't come with an attached garage in 1857. Listen, Sweetheart, if it makes you feel any better, I'll buy you a new skirt and pair of stockings. And, if your shoes are damaged beyond repair, I'll replace those, too." Still, Ginger continues to mutter about the condition of her apparel." Frank and Ginger carry their heavily loaded shopping bags into the living room. As usual, Frank turns on the sound system. And, as usual, the usual line-up of swing music begins to play. Ginger steps over to Frank and embraces him. "I'm sorry I snapped about the skirt and shoes. And--I also want to say thank you, Frank, for letting me have all those things. Only--I think we oughtta be careful how we spend money, if there's any chance you'll be laid off your job." Frank tries to ease Ginger's concerns. "You're more than welcome, Honey. But, as far as the merger's concerned, it doesn't necessarily mean I'll be laid off. It's only a small possibility. And I'll tell you something else: Right now, the only thing I'm concerned about, is changing into to some dry and comfortable clothing. Then I think I'll sit out on the front porch to watch, and listen to the rain. And you can join me if you want." Ginger smiles. "Sure, Honey; I think I will."Frank and Ginger step out onto the front porch to enjoy the rain, and the fresh, clean-smelling air. A distant rumble of thunder reverberates across the dark and sullen sky. Ginger puts an arm around Frank's waist and lays her head on his shoulder. Frank smiles and begins to speak in nostalgic tones. "It's nice to come out here when it's raining. Susan and I used to sit in those rockers over there, listening to the rain, and taking in the fresh air." Frank is finding it a little easier to talk about Susan, these days. "You're right," says Ginger. "The air does smell nice and fresh." Ginger then takes a deep breath and exhales. Frank responds in jest. "Let's do that once more together, with feeling." On cue, Frank and Ginger inhale and exhale in unison, then break out, laughing. Ginger offers a suggestion. "Why don't we sit out here and listen to the rain for awhile." Frank moves two of the rockers together for himself and Ginger. And there, Frank and Ginger sit and talk and while away the inclement afternoon.AFTER dinner, Frank gathers up his monthly bills and calculator. He plops them down onto the coffee table. In turn, Frank plops himself down on the sofa and sets about figuring his expenses for the month. Ginger announces that she is going upstairs to put away her new clothes, and to choose an outfit to wear to the courthouse on the morrow. She turns and trots lightly up the stairs to her bedroom. Ginger closes the door quietly and quickly slips her sandals off. Just as quickly, she strips down and into something scanty, sheer, and quite revealing. In fact, what Ginger is changing into is so sheer that it almost non-existent. She stares at her reflection in her body length mirror, turning this way, and that. "If this doesn't make him surrender," whispers Ginger to herself, "nothing will." Ginger then gives her hair and makeup a final check. Satisfied with her appearance, Ginger slowly and quietly opens her bedroom door. She cautiously pokes her head out and looks back-and-forth, making sure that all is clear. Seeing that all is indeed, clear, Ginger stealthily tip-toes down the hall, to the top of the stairway. Because of her almost complete lack of covering, Ginger shivers from her almost total lack of covering. Gathering up her courage, she begins her slow and silent descent down the stairs.As Ginger descends below the level of the second floor, she can see Frank, heavily engrossed in his work. Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs, Ginger leans against the banister post and strikes an alluring pose. She calls out to Frank. "Frank, sweetheart-could you look over here, a minute?" Without looking up from his work, Frank raises a hand in her direction. "In a minute, Honey. I'm crunching some numbers here." Ginger huffs in frustration. In a louder and more demanding tone, she repeats her request. "Frank! Could you please take a break from that and look over here?" "Alright!," answers Frank. "Don't work yourself into a snit." Putting down his calculator, Frank turns and looks toward the stairs. If he were wearing dentures, he might well have swallowed them. For, there Ginger stands in all her mostly unclad glory, posing at the base of the stairs. There is a sparkle in Ginger's eyes that Frank had never seen before. Ginger coyly raises her shear covering in front, which hangs down from the waist, to reveal a strategicly placed rose she had picked earlier from the garden. "So, Frank--see anything you like?"Frank, however, is too throttled to respond. He wags his jaw, but no words come out. After a few seconds, Frank recovers enough to speak. "Ginger! You're n-n-n---and that--rose in your--" "Yes, Frank," answers Ginger in a soft tone. "So--does this tell you I'm ready for the next level?" Frank fumbles for words. "Well---uhhh---I-I-I-uh-I--uhh." "Stop babbling, Sweetheart, and come over here." Speechless, with his eyes literally on stalks, Frank throws his pen backward over his shoulder, and rises from the sofa. He proceeds, trance-like, to where Ginger is standing. Ginger takes Frank and kisses him in a way that she has never kissed him before. This is definitely another new experience for Frank, to say the very least. Again, Ginger feels as real to Frank as Susan ever did.In a minute, Frank finds his voice again. "Is this--the surprise you've been threatening me with, all day?" Ginger smiles warmly and kisses Frank again. "Yes, Dear." "But why?," asks Frank. "I mean, I like it--but I wasn't expecting--this for--well, for another few weeks, at least." "Well," explains Ginger, "it's like this, Frank: I've been wanting to be with you almost since my first day here. Of course, I knew you might not be ready or--if you knew I was ready. So I took matters into my own hands." Frank is surprised by Ginger's revelations. "Well," replies Frank, "I was waiting for signals from you. Besides, I didn't wanna force things and get a slap in the face, or something worse." Ginger kisses Frank again and whispers into his ear. "Here's a news flash--I've been sending you signals for a couple of days now, Honey. But, I guess your antenna just wasn't receiving." Ginger kisses Frank again, and looks into his eyes. "Now, Frank--how 'bout a trip upstairs?"LATER that evening, Frank and Ginger are lounging on the sofa in their pajamas, watching the 3V. A large bowl of popcorn sits in front of them on the coffee table. Frank strokes Ginger's silky brown hair. "You know, Ginger--our relationship's moved pretty fast in only three days." "Yeah," replies Ginger with a grin, "I guess, it has." Ginger looks up at Frank with raised eyebrows. "Do you think that's a bad thing?" "Well," answers Frank, "not necessarily. It's just--well, it's just that a romance that heats up fast, sometimes burns out fast." Ginger looks at Frank with a reassuring smile. "Well, Sweetheart, you'll never have to worry about that with me. Besides, I'm not your average girl." "I'll say!," marvels Frank. "You know, Frank--you overthink things way too much."After the last of Frank's favorite shows has aired, he and Ginger decide to call it a day. Ginger leans over and kisses Frank's cheek. "Goodnight, Frank--I love you." Upon hearing Ginger's words, Frank is overwhelmed by a flood of emotion. His eyes fill with tears. It has been years since a feminine voice spoke those words to him, and it doesn't matter that the feminine voice comes from a cyber-woman. Frank turns and kisses Ginger passionately. "Heaven knows I love you, too, Ginger."To be continued. . . .
Sep 15 06 1:10 PM
Chapter 16"With This Ring"MONDAY MORNING ARRIVES partly cloudy and cool. The air is crisp and fresh from another band of rain that passed through overnight. Frank wakes up at 7AM and notices that Ginger is gone from the bed. What is she up to now?, he wonders. A concerned Frank goes looking for her. He doesn't have far to look for, as he descends the stairs, his nostrils suddenly meet the aroma of frying eggs, bacon, and hash browns. As Frank enters the kitchen, he finds Ginger, standing at the stove, turning over a couple of eggs as they sizzle in the pan. A plate stands by, ready to receive them.Ginger hears Frank's approaching footsteps and turns to greet him. "Oh, Honey, you're awake; good morning. Your eggs are about done." As Ginger scoops the eggs out of the pan and, onto the waiting plate, Frank sighs begins to shake his head. He replies in a tone similar to that of a parent berating a child. "Ginger-I guess, I didn't make myself clear enough, the other day: you're not my maid. I'm perfectly capable of cooking my own breakfast." In response to Frank, Ginger turns around, puts the spatula down hard on the counter top, and plants her hands firmly on her hips. "Alright, Buster, I've had just about enough of this. You say I have equal rights around here. Well, do I, or don't I?" Frank is completely disarmed by Ginger's response. He delivers a sheepish answer. "Ginger--I didn't mean to upset you. All I'm trying to say, is that----" Ginger interrupts. "I know-I know; I'm not your housemaid--blah-blah-blah. And, believe me, Frank, I'd have some choice words for you, if I thought for a second that you were treating me that way. But I also thought I made myself clear that I do things for you, Frank, because I want to, because I care about you--because --I love you. Otherwise, you'd be cooking your own breakfast."Ginger's tone and facial expression begin to soften. She picks up the plate and hands it to Frank. "Here--take your breakfast and eat it before it gets cold. Everything else is on the table." A chastened Frank takes his plate and walks into the dining room. In a moment, Ginger joins him at the table. She begins to nibble on a piece of toast, and a couple of strips of bacon, washing them down with coffee. Frank, in an effort to smooth things over, speaks to Ginger in an apologetic tone. "Ginger--listen--I'm really sorry if I was on your case too much about things. It's just that--well, I guess--I guess I've gotten so used to doing things around here on my own since Susan passed on. You see--it's--still a new experience to share this house with someone again, after six years."Ginger reaches out and rubs Frank's arm. "Frank, Sweetheart--this is a special day for us. And I don't wanna spoil it. I'm sorry if I snapped a bit. It's just that, if I'm gonna be your wife, I think I also oughtta have a right to make decisions without asking permission." With a grin, Frank rests his hand on Ginger's arm and nods. "I'll go along with that." Ginger's countenance suddenly takes on a look of urgency. "We'd better get going, Honey, if we wanna be at the courthouse on time."With that, Ginger rises from the table and heads upstairs. A little later, Frank joins her. While getting dressed, Frank eyes Ginger as she sits at her dressing table. She is in the midst of removing the rollers, clips, and bobby pins from her hair. Frank speaks to Ginger with that trademark moon-faced expression of his. "By the way, Sweetheart--last night was very nice-oops! I meant to say--it was wonderful beyond words." "Good catch, Frank," says Ginger in jest, "you saved yourself, just in time." Ginger turns around and smiles at Frank. "You weren't so bad, yourself."Frank is the first to be dressed and ready. He goes down to the living room to wait for Ginger. An hour later, Ginger descends the stairs, wearing a white dress, trimmed in lace, white high-heeled shoes on her feet. In her hair, she sports a white flower to one side. A radiant Ginger steps gracefully to where Frank is sitting. She pirouettes, in Grace Kelly fashion. "Well, how do I look?" "You look gorgeous, as always," answers Frank. "Thanks, Dear," replies Ginger. Frank checks his watch. "Hey, we'd better hustle." Ginger issues a reminder. "Don't forget our wedding rings and paperwork." Frank pats his coat pocket. "Got 'em right here." Soon Frank and Ginger are off, down Mountain Vista Drive, on their way to Van Nuys, the heart of the San Fernando Valley.FRANK and Ginger stride, arm-in-arm, into the Vital Records Division of the Van Nuys Courthouse. Almost instantly, they catch the attention of nearly everyone present. The security guard directs Frank and Ginger to stand in front of Window 4, one of three windows for marriage license applications. Four other couples are standing in front of the window ahead of Frank and Ginger. Trying not to be too conspicuous, Frank studies each couple to see if he can discern which one among them might be of the cybernetic persuasion. Finally, he whispers into Ginger's ear. "Can you tell if anybody ahead of us is a cyber-person?""Oh, yes," answers a confident Ginger. "There's one. See the couple two places ahead of us?" Frank nods. Ginger continues in a whisper. "It's the woman with the dark wavy hair, wearing the powder-blue dress." "How can you tell?," asks an astonished Frank. Ginger answers with a knowing grin. "Oh, we have our ways." Finally, it's Frank and Ginger's turn at the window. The clerk, a stone-faced, officious-looking woman of late middle age, speaks to Frank and Ginger in a dry monotone. She stares blankly at Frank. "Application, please."Fumbling nervously, Frank produces the application from a large manila envelope, and pushes it through the slot at the base of the window. The clerk, with pen in hand, checks each item on the application. She stops at one item and looks up at Frank. "You are a widower, Sir?," she queries dryly. "Yes, I am," answers Frank. "Can I see your deceased wife's death certificate, please?" Frank produces Susan's death certificate and pushes it through to the expressionless clerk. After carefully scrutinizing the document, the clerk turns and walks back to where a row of flat transparent computer screens stands. After a minute or two, the clerk returns to the window and pushes the certificate back to Frank. She stamps Frank and Ginger's marriage application and has both Frank and Ginger sign it.The clerk then asks whether Frank and Ginger want a ring ceremony. Frank and Ginger answer in the affirmative. "That will be one hundred and seventy eight dollars, please," drones the clerk. Frank protests. "But I thought the fee is a hundred-and-thirty-eight." The clerk answers in her characteristic dry monotone. "One-hundred-and-thirty-eight for the license, and forty dollars for the ceremony." Frank hands the woman his debit card and waits. The clerk soon hands back Frank's card and payment receipt, along with the marriage license. She scribbles some words on a slip of paper, stamps it, and hands it to Frank. "Take this to Window Six and hand it to the clerk for your ceremony request. . .NEXT!"As Frank and Ginger step over to Window Six, a question burns in Frank's mind. "Tell me-was that dead-pan clerk a cyber-woman?" "No," answers Ginger. "Just a dead-pan human being." Frank and Ginger step up to Window 6; Frank hands the stamped slip of paper to the younger, and more animated clerk. She checks Frank and Ginger's paperwork and offers congratulations. Then she directs them to wait in the adjacent wedding chapel. The chapel is small, no larger than Frank's master bedroom at home. Frank and Ginger look at their spartan surroundings and take their seats on a couple of folding chairs in the front row. In the meantime, two other couples enter and sit down behind them.After a few minutes, a somewhat crusty, balding, gray-haired gentleman, reminiscent of William Frawley,* enters the chapel and takes his place behind the rather plain utilitarian podium. He's dressed authoritatively in a black robe and introduces himself as a Justice Of The Peace for the City of Los Angeles Superior Court, Van Nuys Division."Frank Boelcke and Ginger!," calls the JP. Frank and Ginger rise to their feet and step up to the podium. After a short civil marriage ceremony, Frank and Ginger embrace and kiss for what seems an eternity. Finally, the Justice of The Peace loudly clears his throat. "Hey, you two! I do have other couples to marry, you know." Frank and Ginger offer their sheepish apologies. With a tinge of cynicism in his tone, the JP wishes Frank and Ginger many happy years together as they leave the chapel. On the way to the parking structure, Ginger is beaming. "We're officially married!" "Hey," gushes Frank, "why don't we celebrate with dinner somewhere tonight!" "Yeah," answers Ginger, "why not!"WHEN Frank and Ginger arrive at home, they run into the house. Frank grabs Ginger and spins her around. "So, how does it feel to be Mrs. Frank Boelcke?" "Wonderful, Sweetheart," answers Ginger. "I feel like I really belong here now." Suddenly, Frank has a thought. "Wait-wait-wait," he chants in a soft voice. "Wait a minute here." Ginger grows concerned at Frank's tone. "What's the matter, Dear?""We've got to do this right," answers Frank. Frank jogs to the front door and opens it wide. He steps out onto the front porch. "Come on out, Sweetheart!," calls Frank as he holds out his hand to Ginger. Puzzled by Frank's actions, Ginger steps slowly toward him. "Why--what for?" Frank grins. "You'll see--just an old tradition among newly weds."When Ginger gets close to Frank, he suddenly picks her up. "Frank-what are you doing?" Frank grins. "Carrying you across the threshold, of course." "Oh, yeah," replies Ginger as she kisses Frank's forehead and strokes his hair. "I forgot." After carrying Ginger through the doorway, Frank puts her down at the end of the vestibule. They then embrace and kiss with a consuming passion.
*William Frawley was a mid-20th century Hollywood film actor who appeared in a variety of movie roles during the 1930s and 1940s. Frawley is best known for his role as the crusty, parsimonious Fred Mertz in the hit TV sitcom series, "I Love Lucy," which ran from 1951 to 1956. One of the last roles of his acting career was in the popular TV sitcom series, "My Three Sons," (1960-1972) in which he played "Bub," the household cook from 1960 to 1965. By 1966, poor health forced William Frawley to retire from acting. He died of a sudden heart attack on March 3rd, 1966 while walking down Hollywood Boulevard after watching a movie. He is buried in the San Fernando Mission Catholic Cemetery in Mission Hills, CA. To Be Continued. . . .
Sep 16 06 1:22 PM
Chapter 17"Dancing In The Sunset""HAVE YOU DECIDED where we're celebrating tonight?," asks Ginger. "Oh, I'm thinking of this new Swing club that opened a couple of months ago in West Hollywood," answers Frank. "Swing club?," queries an uncertain Ginger. "Yeah," answers Frank. "It's built on the inside after a roadhouse from the 1940s, with dancing to live Swing bands. The place also serves the kind of food that was on a typical roadhouse menu. People go there, dressed in period clothing and hairstyles and dance all the dances from back then. I've been wanting to go there, but I never had anyone to bring with me--until now. So--how 'bout it, Honey?"Ginger thinks, for a moment. "Well, alright; I'm game. Sounds like fun. Besides, Frank, I know how much you like blasting into the past." Ginger makes a sweeping gesture with her hand. "This whole house is a monument to that." "Well," continues Frank, "in any event, I think you'll enjoy it." "So then," asks Ginger, "you can dance?" "Oh, definitely," answers Frank. "Susan and I would sometimes go dancing at the Satin Ballroom in Pasadena before it closed down. We'd kit ourselves out in 1940s clothing; it was a lotta fun. They even held dance contests. We never won, but we still had a lotta fun."Frank hits on another idea. "Hey, Honey--why don't we try dressing up for the nineteen-forties tonight? I've got this really nifty suit and tie for myself. And I'm sure you can come up with something from that huge collection of clothes of yours." Ginger is doubtful. "Well--I don't know, Frank; none of it really works for the nineteen-forties; it's all modern stuff." Before Ginger can finish her sentence, Frank goes through her side of the closet. He wastes no time, finding something appropriate. "Nonsense, Honey. How 'bout this cute retro sailor-suit number? Besides, it fits that military theme that was popular back then." Ginger pauses for a moment. "Yeah, I suppose that could work. And I sure have the hairstyle down, thanks to you." Frank gushes with enthusiasm. "You'll look fantastic!" A thought suddenly enters Frank's mind. "It's Monday, but I'd better make reservations, all the same." Frank hastily exits the room. A few minutes later, he reappears to tell Ginger that they have reservations at the club for 8PM. Frank then takes his blue wool suit out of his armoire and finds his favorite swing-era necktie. In the meantime, Ginger steps into the closet, and finds the retro sailor-suit blouse, skirt, and matching hat that Frank mentioned. She is about to remove it from the rack, when suddenly, another garment catches her eye. It's a dark-green dress, tastefully adorned with delicate trim around the collar, cleavage, neckline, sleeves, and hem. Interestingly, its styling seems to perfectly fit in with the 1940s. Ginger takes the dress from the rack and eyes it with an approving nod. "Hmm; nice. I like it; I think I'll wear this, instead." Ginger changes into the dress and views herself in the mirror, turning this way, and that. She grins. "I do like it." Frank sits in the living room, waiting for Ginger to come down. When Ginger finally does come down, Frank turns to look at her. His smile suddenly vanishes; his jaw drops open. A wave of emotion engulfs him. Frank's face takes on an ashen countenance. At first, Ginger seems not to notice any of this. "I was gonna put on that sailor outfit you suggested, Frank, until I saw this instead." Ginger poses and models the dress for him. "It looks good on me, don't you think, Frank?" Frank answers in a choked whisper. "My god--where did you find that dress?? A puzzled Ginger notices Frank's ashen face. She looks down at herself, then at Frank. "Well--like I said--I found it in the closet. I tried it on--and I thought it looked pretty nice; it fits nice, too." "No--no, Ginger," answers Frank. "You don't understand--it's not that, at all. You said you--found it--in the closet??" A bewildered Ginger stares at Frank. "Yes; like I keep saying--it was hanging in the closet with all my other clothes.""That dress," says Frank, "it--it--belonged to Susan. She wore it only a couple of times; it's practically new. The last time she wore it was when we last went dancing at the Satin Ballroom." Ginger is astonished. "I guess that explains why there weren't any store-tags. But, Frank--how did it get mixed in with my new clothes?" "I--I don't know," answers Frank. "In the weeks after Susan's memorial service, I boxed up all her clothing and other things--and donated it to a homeless mission thrift shop. I couldn't bear to look at her things anymore; the sight of 'em made me break down. But--I packed that dress in one of the donation boxes; I swear it.""Well," replies Ginger, "maybe just thought you did. But, if my wearing this dress upsets you, Dear, I'll change into the sailor outfit, if you want." "No, no," replies Frank. "That's alright. Please--keep it on. You do look nice in it--just like Susan did." Frank gazes upon Ginger with reddened eyes. Though he is looking at Ginger--he sees Susan. . . The Sunset Roadhouse is not very busy when Frank eases his land car into a parking space. As Frank and Ginger approach the entrance, they can hear the band playing a lively number. Frank recognizes the tune as Jersey Bounce. Ginger takes in all the new sights and sounds as she and Frank enter the building. After the Boelckes' reservations are confirmed, a hostess directs them to a table at the edge of the dance floor. At the opposite end of the floor, stands a stage on which a swing band is playing. Frank pulls out a chair for Ginger, then takes his seat across from her."Can I get you both something to drink?," asks a waitress who suddenly appears at Frank and Ginger's table. Frank suggests to Ginger that she try a strawberry daiquiri. Frank, in his turn orders a margarita. While waiting for their drinks, Frank and Ginger watch the band play as they take in the 1940s atmosphere. Most of the couples on the dance floor are dressed in period attire. Soon the drinks arrive. Ginger tastes her daiquiri. "Ooh, that's nice." From the menu, Frank and Ginger select grilled steaks with fries, salad, and onion rings. As they wait for their dinner orders, a small vocal ensemble mounts the stage to join the band for their next number. It's a slow, almost ethereal number titled, Dream. Couples begin to drift onto the dance floor. "Hey, Ginger, how 'bout a dance before our dinners get here?" Ginger is hesitant. "But, Honey, I-I really don't know how to. . ." Frank places a finger on Ginger's lips. "Shhh. Don't worry; this is a slow number--just follow my lead. You'll get the hang of it."With that, Frank takes Ginger's hand and guides her onto the dance floor. At first, Ginger feels uncomfortable. But Frank's gentle encouragement has its effect. Suddenly, something comes over Ginger. She adjusts her hand positions as though someone unseen is positioning her hands for her. "That's it, Sweetheart," whispers Frank into her ear. "See? You're getting the hang of it already." It isn't long before Ginger is dancing as well as anyone else on the floor. As Ginger becomes more at ease, she rests her head on Frank's shoulder. In the meantime, Frank drifts on a cloud of poignant memories from another time. Though he's dancing with Ginger, he feels like he has Susan in his arms. . . Shortly before the music ends, Frank and Ginger's dinner orders arrive at their table. "I like dancing," says Ginger. "You were making some nice moves after awhile, Frank. Let's dance again when they play another slow number." Frank smiles. "Absolutely. Looks like we found something else we enjoy together." The waitress returns to Frank and Ginger's table to ask if they want their drinks refilled. During this brief verbal exchange, Ginger impulsively tells the waitress that she and Frank are newlyweds. The waitress offers Frank and Ginger her congratulations, then quickly disappears. "Oh, Ginger," moans Frank, "Why did you have to say that. Now, they'll probably embarrass us by announcing it to the whole place."Surely enough, a few minutes later, the bandleader jogs up onto the stage and steps up to the microphone. He informs everyone that he has a special announcement: a couple is here to celebrate their wedding. As Frank fears, a spotlight is suddenly trained on him and Ginger. Frank is beside himself with embarrassment. "Good Lord," says Frank as he shields his eyes, "I was afraid of this!" "I'm sorry, Honey," is Ginger's meek reply. From the stage, the bandleader points to the Boelckes' table and insists they stand up and face the crowd. Everyone in the place gives Frank and Ginger a loud and raucous ovation, complete with shouts and whistles. The bandleader orders a magnum bottle of the house's best champagne to be sent to the Boelcke's table. More applause follows.With that, the beam of the spotlight swirls back to the bandstand. The gregarious bandleader steps up onto the stage, and bellows into the microphone. "And now, you Solid Senders!, this number's for all you jitterbugs!" With a sharp, sweeping downward motion of the band leader's baton, the band strikes up a lively version of Glenn Miller's In The Mood. Several younger couples run onto the floor to demonstrate their terpsichorean skills. Ginger watches the young jitterbugs' sometimes acrobatic moves with amazement. "Frank!," shouts Ginger over the din of music and stomping feet. "Wasn't this the dance that won Jeff and Ginger Metcalf the dance contest at the Purl Roadhouse?" "Yeah," answers Frank, "I think so. There's a clipping about it in one of the scrapbooks."After the jitterbug number is finished, the band plays another slow tune. Frank recognizes it as a favorite of his, Autumn Nocturne.* Couples gather, once again, on the dance floor. And, once again, Frank takes Ginger's hand. "C'mon, Honey," says Frank. "Let's go; this is another favorite slow-dance number of mine." Ginger smiles warmly. "Sure, Dear--I'd love to." As Frank and Ginger sway gently to the music, others on the dance floor begin to take notice of them. Ginger starts to feel uncomfortable.
She whispers into Frank's ear. "They're doing it again." "Who's doing what again, Dear?" Ginger replies in a tense whisper. "The people here--they're staring again, like when we were in the mall." "Well," answers Frank, "what did you expect after telling that waitress why we're here?" "Well, gee, Frank, I'm sorry," hisses Ginger into Frank's ear. "Oh, settle down now," replies Frank. "Let's just try and have a good time." Ginger grows more agitated. "Well, how can I have a good time, with people's eyes boring into us like termites into a dead tree-trunk?"Frank tries again, to calm Ginger. "Now, Honey, just relax and ignore them." After a brief pause, Ginger has more to say. "Frank?" "Yes, Dear?" "After we finish dinner," continues a resolute Ginger, "I wanna go home." "Leave?," replies a disappointed Frank. "Why? We've only been here alittle over an hour!" "I'm sorry," replies Ginger. "But I can't relax if people are gonna be staring at us all evening. Besides, I don't think you should drink any more of that champagne. You've already had two margaritas, for heaven's sake. And, you need to be sober for the drive home." "Ginger, it doesn't matter whether I'm sober or not. If I get alittle too buzzed to drive, I can always set the auto-pilot, and the car will drive us home on its own." Ginger gives Frank a strident reply. "I don't care, Frank. I want to go home." Frank exhales a sigh. Disappointed, he gives in to Ginger's wishes, and replies in a sulky tone. "Oh, alright--when we finish dinner, we'll leave." After dinner, Frank requests their check from the waitress. The waitress is surprised. "Oh, leaving us so soon?" Before Frank can open his mouth to answer, Ginger answers in rapidly delivered words. "We have a busy day tomorrow." "Well, alright then," replies the waitress in friendly tones. "Please come back again." "Oh, we will," answers Frank.
*Composed by Claude Thornhill in 1941, "Autumn Nocturn" is a slower piece for piano with soft instrumental accompaniment. Thornhill's arrangements are referred to by some as the "easy listening" music of the 1940s.To be continued. . . .
Sep 18 06 12:53 PM
Chapter 18"Wind & Locusts"ON THE WAY HOME, Frank and Ginger converse about their evening out, and their up-coming trip to Old River Run. "You know, Ginger--when we go dancing at the Purl Roadhouse, we'll be dancing on the same floor Jeff and Ginger danced on, two hundred years ago--just think about that." Ginger appears thoughtful. "Did Susan have any family living in Riverton or Old River Run?" Frank thinks, for a moment, then answers. "Ahh--now that I think of it, her brother, Tom used to live in Riverton. About twelve years ago, he and his family moved to Cleveland when the company he works for, transferred him there. Tom and his wife have a couple of kids, two boys. They're alittle younger than Ryan and Lisa.""Do you stay in touch with Tom?," asks Ginger. "Not really," answers Frank. "The last time I saw Tom and his family was at Susan's memorial service. I got a Christmas card from him and his wife about two years ago, and that's the last I've heard from 'em." "That's too bad," says Ginger. "He's your brother-in-law; the two of you should've stayed in touch." Frank gives a bland reply. "Well, outside of having a family, Tom and I don't have much in common. So we weren't all that close, I guess. I never disliked Tom. It's just that our personalities never clicked.""That's a shame," replies a thoughtful Ginger. "After all, you both still have Susan in common, even though she's gone now." Ginger's inquisitive electronic brain wants to learn more about Susan's recent family history. "What about Susan's parents? Are they still alive?" "Her dad passed away three years ago of a sudden heart attack," answers Frank. "But her mother is still living in Youngstown. I get cards from her on my birthday and, at Christmas time. And I occasionally hear from Susan's Aunt Bess." "Well," says Ginger, "it's nice to hear you're still in touch with someone in Susan's family."The time is about 10:30PM when Frank and Ginger return home. Up in the bedroom, Ginger puts her arms around Frank. "I'm sorry, Sweetheart, that I spoiled our evening out." Frank replies in a conciliatory tone. "Oh, well, that's alright, Honey. I've gotta admit-it was getting alittle annoying, with all those people staring at us like prairie dogs, with every bite of food we took. But despite that--we had a nice time, didn't we?" "Yes, Frank-I really did enjoy the dancing. Maybe we can go there again sometime, say, on a Friday or Saturday evening." "Sure, Sweetheart," replies Frank. "We'll do it again soon." Frank suddenly falls silent and begins to look upon Ginger as she stands there in the dress last worn by Susan. Ginger begins to notice Frank's gaze. "Is something the matter, Honey?" Frank struggles to hold back tears. "It's just that--you look so much like Susan in that dress that I----I'm sorry--I--" Something seems to come over Ginger. Before Frank can finish his sentence, she takes hold of him, and kisses him with an all-consuming passion. . . Frank and Ginger spend the balance of the evening, watching some late-night 3V programs. As they cuddle on the sofa, Ginger begins to think about Ryan and Lisa's impending visit, slated for Wednesday. "You know, Frank, we oughtta stay home tomorrow and tidy up around here." "I agree," replies Frank. "Besides, I could use a day at home after the last two days." Ginger issues another reminder: "You also need to gather up Ryan, and Lisa's things into separate boxes." "You know, Ginger," replies Frank, "I'm still worried about Ryan--what he'll say or do when he sees you. I don't want any ugly confrontations." Ginger tries to put Frank's mind at ease. "Honey, I'm sure it won't be as bad as all that. Things might even work out with Ryan a lot better than you think."
Frank remains skeptical. "Well--maybe. But I know Ryan better than you." Ginger's optimism remains undimmed. "Well, Honey, that may be. But I still say you're worrying too much. I'll bring him around--you'll see." Frank sighs. "I just wish I could share your optimism."TUESDAY morning dawns clear, windy and cool. Gusts of wind out of the northwest, whistle through the trees, whipping branches about, creating a sound akin to that of ocean surf, crashing onto a rocky shore. Some of the wooden window frames rattle in their tracks with each gust. Both Frank and Ginger remain in bed until eight o'clock in the morning. Frank is still asleep when Ginger wakes up and pats Frank's cheek, startling him awake. "Let's go, Frank; time to get up." "Uhh--what time is it?," asks Frank in a sleepy haze. "It's time to get up," answers Ginger. "C'mon, Honey, let's get moving. After breakfast, I wanna dust and vacuum this house, from top to bottom." "Alright," replies Frank. "I'll start the coffee and--" Ginger doesn't let Frank finish. "Oh, no, Frank. I'll start the coffee and cook breakfast, while you get dressed. And no arguments about it." "Alright-alright," replies Frank.After a little while, Frank enters the dining room. Ginger has a simple breakfast waiting for him. "Oh, good," says Ginger. "You're right on time. When it comes to food, Frank, your timing's uncanny." Frank can only look at Ginger and shake his head. In the meantime, it's Ginger's turn to get ready for the day. After breakfast, Frank goes into the utility closet to assemble a collection of cleaning supplies. As usual, he sets the sound system to play a copious lineup of swing era music. In the meantime, Ginger descends the stairs, simply dressed in bluejeans and one of Frank's old flannel shirts. Her hair is pulled up into a bun. "Alright," asks Ginger, "where are the cleaning supplies?" Frank tosses Ginger a dusting rag, which Ginger catches like a professional baseball player. With that, Frank and Ginger march upstairs to begin the task at hand.
As they work in Ginger's former bedroom, the tune, There Goes That Song Again, begins to play over the sound system. As Ginger hums to the tune, Frank joins in. Ginger looks up at Frank and grins. "Did you notice our dust-rags touched, just now?," asks Frank. Ginger giggles. "It must be love." BY 1:30PM, Frank and Ginger finish their chores. Frank returns the cleaning supplies to the utility closet. "You know," says Frank, "it's great to have help with all this. For the last six years, I've had to do most of it by myself, with occasional help from Lisa." Ginger steps up to Frank and puts her arms around his waist. "Well, Honey; those days are over for good. You have me now." Just then, a strong gust of wind rattles the windows in the dining room. "Why is it so windy today," asks Ginger. Frank answers with casual familiarity. "Oh, it's just the Santa Ana Winds. You see, after a storm passes through Southern California, we get these winds that clear out the air and dry everything out again. In a day or two, you'll hardly know it rained."Ginger raises her eyebrows. "Can these winds get really bad?" "Oh, yes," answers Frank. "Sometimes, they can blow at hurricane force. In the last ten years, I've had two trees blown down." Frank continues his explanation of other Southern California calamities. "The big problem with these winds, is that they dry out the brush and undergrowth on the hillsides and in the canyons. That brings the threat of wildfires. And, if the vegetation gets burned away, there's the threat of flooding and mudslides from the winter storms."Ginger digests all this information with interest. "Gee, it sounds like you've got alittle of everything in California." "And," adds Frank, "wait till you experience your first earthquake." Ginger's eyes widen in astonishment. "Earthquakes?? Gee--high winds, fires, floods, mudslides, earthquakes--tell me, Frank--when are the locusts coming?"AFTER dinner, Frank helps Ginger with the dirty dishes. She starts to fill the sink with hot water. "Why didn't you ever install a dishwasher, Frank? You seem to have everything else." "Well," answers Frank, "Susan and I couldn't find a company at the time that produced a dishwasher that blends with the look of the kitchen. So we'd just wash the dishes the old fashioned way. Besides, it was a good time to discuss the kind of day we each had.""I guess," says Ginger, "that wasn't such a bad thing, after all." As Ginger puts the last of the dirty dishes into the sink, Frank picks up the dish towel, and waits for Ginger to start washing. Ginger looks at Frank with a frown. "Alright, Frank-wait a minute here." Frank is taken completely by surprise. "What's wrong now??," asks a bewildered Frank. Ginger places her hands on her hips. "Well, I'm surprised you haven't noticed, Mister, that for the last four nights, you've been drying while I've been doing all the washing. So, I think it's about time for a switch.""Alright-alright," replies Frank. "Anything for world peace." Ginger smiles mischievously at Frank and playfully flicks water into his face. Frank returns the favor. Soon, they are both involved in a full-fledged water fight. Ginger gets the upper hand when she grabs the spray nozzle and points it at Frank. He instantly throws up his hands. "Okay-okay! I surrender!!" Ginger laughs out loud. "Frank, you should've seen the look on your face!"To Be Continued. . . .
Sep 19 06 1:02 PM
Chapter 19"The Gathering Storm"WEDNESDAY MORNING DAWNS clear, windy, and noticeably warmer. At a little after seven o'clock, Ginger awakens to find herself alone in bed. It's now her turn to wonder over Frank's whereabouts. Not finding him anywhere, she makes her way downstairs. As she rounds the corner into the dining room, there, she finds Frank, seated at the table, still in his pajamas. It is obvious that something is weighing heavily on his mind. Frank's elbows rest on the table, his forehead resting against folded hands, as though he is praying. An untouched cup of coffee stands in front of him. Lost in thought, Frank doesn't see or hear Ginger enter the room. With an expression of grave concern, Ginger approaches him. "Honey--is everything alright?" A startled, Frank jolts in his chair at the sound of Ginger's voice, then offers a bald reply. "Oh--it's you." "And," replies Ginger, "Good Morning to you, too. Now, who's grumpy in the morning? Ginger pauses for a moment. "Hmm--something's bothering you--and I'll bet I know what it is.""I'm just dreading Ryan's visit today, that's all," says Frank. "I'm worried about how he'll react when he sees you." Ginger tries to ease Frank's concerns. "Honey, I really think you're jumping to conclusions here. Besides, things don't happen until they do. Listen, I've said it before, and I'll say it again--I think I can turn Ryan around, if I'm only given the chance." Frank replies in a tense and strident tone. "Listen, Ginger, I appreciate your optimism, but I'm Ryan's father; Susan and I raised him. You don't know him at all. I know his temperament. And I know how intractable he can be." Ginger puts her hands on her hips and looks at Frank with a critical eye. "And, I think I know where he gets it from."Ginger scoots a chair close to Frank and sits down, puts an arm around his shoulders, then speaks to him in strident tones. "Now, listen, Dear--you've been tearing yourself up over Ryan since before I came here. You're only succeeding in turning yourself into a mental basket case. Think of it this way, Sweetheart: it would be a lot worse if Ryan and Lisa were against me. But, since Ryan stands alone, I think I have a much better chance at turning him around. It might take some work, but I think it's worth the effort. So please, Honey--try to be positive for me--okay?"Frank sighs and leans back in his chair. "You know, Honey--you're right. I have been worrying way too much about Ryan. But I promise: from now on--I'll be more positive. Maybe things'll work out with Ryan just as you say. And, you know something else?" "No, Frank; what?" Frank picks up his cup of coffee and peers into it. "My coffee's cold." Ginger chuckles. "No problem, Sweetie; I'll make a fresh pot. By the way," adds Ginger, "are you hungry for breakfast?" "Yeah," answers Frank, "but nothing heavy; just--ohhh--say-a breakfast sandwich or something like that." "Comin' right up," replies Ginger. After preparing Frank's breakfast sandwich, Ginger heads upstairs to get ready for the vitally important day at hand. Since the day is getting warm, Ginger decides to wear the brightly colored sundress that Frank bought her at Gale's in the Northridge Mall. As always, Ginger does her hair in the way Frank likes it.LATER that morning, Frank and Ginger are sitting in the living room while music plays over the sound system. Ginger calmly sits on the sofa with one of the ancient Metcalf Family scrapbooks open on her lap. Frank is sitting in one of the high-backed chairs flanking the sofa, perusing one of the Ohio tourist information brochures he received in the mail. As the hour of Ryan and Lisa's scheduled arrival draws nearer, Frank's nervous energy increases.Frank tosses the brochure onto the coffee table and rises from his chair. Full of jittery apprehension, he begins to pace back-and-forth, from the Living room to the dining room, stopping occasionally to glance through a window. It's not long before Ginger becomes weary of Frank's monotonous picketing. With a sigh, she sets the scrapbook aside. "Honey, will you please stop that pacing and looking through the windows? It won't make Ryan and Lisa get here any faster." "I'm sorry, Ginger. I guess, I just can't sit still; this waiting is giving me the jitters." "Well," answers an exasperated Ginger, "for my sake, Frank--please try and settle down."With that, Frank sits down again, and begins to peruse another of the Old River Run brochures. A few minutes later, Frank thinks he hears the familiar sound of land car tires, scratching slowly up the gravel driveway. Ginger also hears the sound, and pauses from her reading. Frank springs from his chair like a jack-in-the-box, and steps briskly to the vestibule. He peers through one of the narrow paneled windows that flank the front door. Frank is just in time to see Lisa alighting her land car, casually slinging her handbag over her shoulder.Frank calls back into the living room: "Ginger, Lisa's here!" Ginger rises from the sofa and steps anxiously to join Frank. Frank steps out onto the porch to welcome his daughter. Lisa jogs across the front lawn and, up the front porch steps to meet her father. Ginger, somewhat reticently stands in the doorway, waiting to be introduced. Lisa runs up to her father and gives him a warm hug. "Hi, Pumpkin," says Frank, "How's school goin'?" "Great, Dad," replies Lisa in her usual cheerful way. "I found out yesterday that I passed all my finals!" "Hey, great," replies Frank. "We oughtta celebrate!" Frank somewhat nervously clears his throat and looks toward Ginger, then at Lisa. "Ahhh, Lisa--ahh--I'd like you to meet Ginger."With a hint of trepidation, Lisa smiles timorously as Ginger steps forward with a friendly out-stretched hand. Ginger smiles warmly at Lisa. "It's very nice to meet you, Lisa." In her turn Lisa somewhat reticently reaches out and takes Ginger's hand. Lisa is amazed at the natural feel of Ginger's hand. "It's--nice to meet you, too, Ginger. But I thought your name was Tina." "Well," answers Ginger, "yes--originally. But I insisted your dad change it to Ginger. I'll explain later. In the meantime, why don't we all get in out of this dry wind."With that, everyone adjourns into the house and takes seats in the living room. "I that sundress looks great on you," says Lisa. "And your hair also looks nice. I've only ever seen women with hair like that in old movies." Ginger smiles at Lisa and thanks her for her compliments. "Well," continues Ginger, "if you really like my hair, I can show you how to do yours this way sometime." "Yes," answers Lisa, "I think I'd like that." After a moment's thought, Ginger looks to Lisa. "Maybe now might be a good time to show you something, Lisa." Ginger finds the old photo album containing the pictures of Ginger Szabo-Metcalf. She sits down next to Lisa and shows her the ancient photographs of Ginger Szabo, as she appeared in her LEMO Tomato Juice costume, etc. Ginger hands the open album to Lisa and waits for her reaction. Lisa's eyes grow ever larger as she studies the aged photos. She looks at the album, then at Ginger, then again, at the album, and again, back at Ginger. "This is you!," exclaims Lisa. Then Frank joins the conversation. "Remember, Lisa, that I explained to you the reason I decided to have Tina-or-Ginger-created in the likeness of Ginger Szabo, an ancestor of your mother?" "Oh, yes, that's right," recalls Lisa. "Now I remember. It's just a bit of a shock, that's all. I can even see a lot of Mom when I look at Ginger."Then Ginger breaks in. "That's why I wanted your dad to change my name. I figured that if I'm gonna look like Ginger, I might as well be Ginger, right?" At that moment, Frank hears the sound of a land car, advancing up his gravel driveway. Ginger quickly takes the album from Lisa's hands and puts it away. Frank goes to the front door, with Ginger close on his heals. Lisa stands tensely in the entry hall. Frank opens the door to see who has driven onto his driveway. He turns to Ginger and speaks in low tones. "It's Ryan." Feelings of anxiety and dread rise within Frank.Frank and Ginger step onto the porch to meet Ryan. Lisa stands apprehensively in the doorway to observe Ryan's reaction to Ginger. Ryan gets out of his land car. His facial expression and body language are an indication of his mood. Like a storm trooper, Ryan marches across the grass to the house. Lisa watches fearfully. Frank is tense; Ginger seems to sense what's coming. As Ryan climbs the steps to the porch, Frank is the first to greet him."Hi, Ryan-how's everything going." "Fine," snaps Ryan. It's now Ginger's turn. In as friendly a tone as she can muster, Ginger greets Ryan. "Hello, Ryan; it's very nice to--" Without answering or so much as looking at Ginger, Ryan bullishly pushes past Ginger, knocking her outstretched hand aside. Caught by surprise, Ginger is almost knocked off balance. Lisa is appalled by her brother's behavior. Next, Ryan barges past Lisa and marches straight into the house. Lisa follows after him. Angered at Ryan's surly behavior, she promptly takes him to task. "Ryan, you oughtta be ashamed of yourself. They way you acted, just now, was terrible. You were disrespectful to Dad, and absolutely rude to Ginger!""Shut up, Lisa! As far as I'm concerned, you're just as bad as Dad." "Listen, Ryan! If Dad chose a cyber-woman to be his wife and companion, it's his right. You should, at least, respect that." Ignoring his sister, Ryan angrily stomps into the dining room, yanks out a chair and drops into it. Ginger is deeply troubled by Ryan's attitude. She and Frank stand on the porch for a moment, looking at one another. "You weren't exaggerating about Ryan, were you," admits Ginger. "I warned you, didn't I?," answers Frank.Still, Ginger manages to retain her positive outlook. "But Frank, I still think I can break through that icy shell of his, if you'll give me the chance." "I don't know, Honey," replies Frank. "You saw how he acted toward you." Ginger remains silent. After a brief pause, Frank sighs and puts his hand on Ginger's arm. "Well, we'd better get this over with." Frank puts his arm around Ginger's waist and, together they walk into the house to face the storm ahead.To Be Continued. . . .
Can Ginger convince Ryan to accept her, and make him realize she isn't a threat to his mother's memory? Or, will Frank's worst fears be realized? Find out in Chapter 20.
Sep 19 06 7:55 PM
"You know, Frank; I think we ought to stay home tomorrow and spruce up the place for Ryan and Lisa's visit," she announced.
Ginger's eyes widened with astonishment.
"High winds, fires, floods, mudslides, earthquakes ---- tell me, Frank; when are the locusts coming??"
Frank was sitting in one of the high-backed chairs flanking the sofa, perusing one of the Ohio tourist information brochures that came in the mail.
A few minutes later, he thought he heard the sound of tires clawing up the gravel driveway.
Can Ginger convince Ryan to accept her, and make him realize she is not a threat to his mother's memory? Or, will Frank's worst fears be confirmed?
Sep 20 06 1:24 PM
Chapter 20"Are Bridges Burning?"FRANK TURNS TO Ginger and speaks in hushed tones. "I'll handle Ryan. Why don't you take care of Lisa; she's pretty upset." Ginger nods in heart-felt agreement. "I'll do that. In the meantime, maybe you can work things out with Ryan." Ginger kisses Frank and steps into the living room to comfort Lisa. Lisa is sitting on the edge of the sofa, tense and visibly shaken by Ryan's vitriolic attack. Ginger speaks to Lisa in gentle tones. "Lisa, why don't we go up to your old room; your box of things is up there. It'll also give your dad time to sort things out with Ryan." Lisa looks at Ginger and nods. "Sounds like a good idea."With that, Ginger and Lisa head upstairs to Lisa's former bedroom. Upon entering, Lisa looks about at her old half empty childhood bedroom. "It doesn't look much different from when it was my room. Only, that dresser was in another room, and that American Primitive painting wasn't hanging there either." There is a moment of silence falls over Ginger and Lisa. Ginger notices the distress in Lisa's face. She motions for Lisa to sit on the bed with her. Ginger puts her arm around Lisa's shoulders. "Don't worry about your brother, Lisa. I'm positively certain this whole thing with Ryan will blow over, maybe even today." Lisa gives a cautious reply. "I hope you're right, Ginger. Ryan always had a quick temper. But I've never seen him like this. What I can't understand is why he hates you so much. You were only offering a polite greeting; it's just hard to believe you're a--- "Lisa suddenly catches herself. Ginger knows what Lisa was about to say, and finishes her sentence. "That I'm a cyber-person--not a living human being? Don't be afraid to say it, Lisa. I'm perfectly fine with who and--what I am. I only wish all the Ryans of this world would feel that way." Suddenly, Ginger and Lisa hear the voices of Frank and Ryan echoing from downstairs. They seem locked in heated verbal combat. . ."Ryan, what you did to Ginger and your own sister, just now, was reprehensible!! Your mother and I raised you better than that, and you know it!" Ryan shoots back in a venomous tone. "Yeah, Dad, I'm glad you mentioned my mother!!" How, in God's name, could you even think of replacing Mom with that--that--mechanical monstrosity and desecrate Mom's memory like that??!! And if that isn't enough, you go and marry that thing and love it and kiss it, as though it were alive--as though--as though it was Mom!! How can you possibly find it in yourself to do that, Dad??!!Frank fires back at his son. "What, in heaven's name, gives you the right to talk to me like that!! And, who are you to tell me who I can, or can't be with? Are you really so blind, ignorant, opinionated, selfish and conceited, to think that the rest of the world has to conform to your will??!! I can think of some twentieth century dictators who tried that, and it didn't work for them either! You keep attacking me over Ginger because she isn't a human being. Yet you don't even have the guts to face her, to speak to her, to get to know her! I'll tell you something, Ryan-right now--Ginger's acting a lot more human than you, right now!!Ryan shoots back again, at his father. "Like I said before, Dad-I'm glad Mom isn't alive to see this! You know, I wonder what she'd have to say about anyone who did what you've been doing with that grotesque, animated store mannequin you call Tina or, is it Ginger?? And that's another thing-you can't even decide on what to call it!"Frank replies to his son in an ominous tone. "Careful, Ryan. You're treading on thin ice here." Ryan, however, continues ahead at full-steam, ignoring the mines and torpedoes in his father's grim warning. "That robot is a sham and a mockery to every living woman on earth, and you know it!! Of all the women in the world, Dad, I still can't believe you couldn't find a live woman! Tell me, Dad, what did you really want Ginger for; what was the attraction? Did ya want her to do all your cooking and cleaning, like a domestic robot maid, then for alittle something extra in the evening?? Is that it? Tell me, Dad--what's it like to be intimate with a robot?" I really wanna know!Frank becomes livid with anger. He points a menacing finger in Ryan's face. "Alright, Mister-that's enough!! You really went too far, this time!! I could've excused what you said before, because I know you're speaking in blind ignorance. But you seem to want to stay ignorant. You might've put your foot in your mouth before, Ryan. But now, you've just shoved a whole shoe factory into it! Because of what you said, just now, Ryan--you've just cut yourself off from this family. And, by the way-I hope-for your sake-that you can find a way to pay for your next semester at USC. I'm not wasting another dime on you. As of now, you're completely on your own; I wash my hands of you. As far as I'm concerned, I don't have a son." With that, Frank rises from the table. "I'm getting your box of junk. The sooner you're good and gone, the better off my family and I will be." As Frank ascends the stairs, Ryan calls after his father. "Great, Dad; suits me fine!"With ashen faces, Ginger and Lisa watch as Frank marches angrily past them to Ryan's old bedroom. As Frank returns down the hall with Ryan's things, Ginger and Lisa hurry to catch up with him. Just before Frank reaches the stairs, Ginger reaches out and grabs his arm. This in turn catches Frank by surprise. "Frank, wait-don't go down there yet," says Ginger in rapidly delivered words. "What?--Why not?," queries a bewildered Frank. "Let me go down and talk to Ryan, first," begs Ginger. "This might be the only chance I'll have to reason with him."Frank glowers incredulously at Ginger. "Reason with him?? Listen, Ginger-Ryan's past reasoning. Besides--after the things he just said to me, I just cut him off from this family. I never wanna see his face again in this house!" He's no longer a part of this family, and he's no longer my son." Ginger finds Frank's icy words deeply disturbing. "Honey, you can't possibly mean that! Ryan's your son--no matter what he might have said to you down there. Please, Frank-at least, give me a chance to talk to him. Maybe I won't get through to him. But we'll never know unless you let me try!"Lisa suddenly breaks in, in an attempt to persuade her father. "Please, Dad," she begs. "I don't wanna see our family split apart. Please give Ginger a chance with Ryan. At this point, what else is there to lose?" Frank pauses for a moment, then exhales a heavy sigh. "Well--alright, Ginger. You can have your chance with Ryan." Then Frank suddenly sticks his finger in Ginger's face. "But--if he so much as lays a finger on you, I'll grab him by the scruff of the neck and toss him down the front steps."Ginger frowns at Frank. "Now, Frank-don't get carried away. Besides, the last thing you need is to be arrested for domestic violence. Now-promise me you'll both stay up here, no matter what you hear being said between Ryan and me." Frank softens his tone. "Alright--I promise-but be careful." "Don't worry," replies Ginger. "I can take care of myself." Just before descending the stairs, Ginger turns to Frank and Lisa. "Now again, you two stay up here. You can listen, but don't interfere." Frank and his daughter stand by the railing, watching anxiously as Ginger descends the stairs to the dining room.Lisa turns to her father. "Ginger's really a take-charge sort, isn't she." Frank rolls his eyes. "Tell me about it. When she sets her mind to something, it's like Mauna Loa erupting--all you can do is to watch--from a long way off."To Be Continued. . . .Is there now a permanent rift in the Boelcke Family, as a result of the heated exchange between Ryan and his father? Can Ginger repair that rift and bring reconciliation, healing and peace into Ryan's life, and to that of everyone else in the family? Find out in the next chapter.
Sep 21 06 12:31 PM
ATTENTION READERS: I'm going to give this chapter a PG-13 rating, as some rough dialogue occurrs in the first few paragraphs between Ryan and Ginger. By modern standards, it's tame. However, parents may want to preview this chapter before letting their younger children read it. Again, if you're of a very sensitive nature, you may want to skip on to the next unrated chapter.Chapter 21"Hurtful Words, Burning Tears"WHEN GINGER ENTERS the dining room, Ryan turns to look, expecting to see his father. Instead, he is surprised to see Ginger. Ryan snaps his head away and turns his back to her. "Ryan," says Ginger, "I'd like to talk to you." Curling his lips in anger, Ryan turns to face her. "Well, I don't wanna talk to you! So, why don't you just go outside and die!" Despite Ryan's venomous response, Ginger replies in a calm, but firm tone. "Ryan, I've been nothing less than friendly and courteous to you, despite your nasty behavior. So the very least you can do is to have the decency to face me when I'm talking to you." Ryan wheels about in his chair and rages at Ginger. "The hell, I will!! I'm not gonna sit here and listen to some mechanized mannequin talk at me!Ryan starts to rise from his chair. But Ginger puts a hand on his shoulder and pushes him firmly back into his seat. Ryan is shocked and amazed at Ginger's strength. "Listen, Buster," replies Ginger. "You're not only going to stay in that chair, you're also going to listen. The things you said to your father were way out of line. You also said some very hurtful things about me." Ryan's face flares with rage. "Hurtful--hurtful?! How the hell can you possibly know what's hurtful?! You're a mechanical apparatus--a machine! How, on Earth, can you possibly have feelings?!"Ginger refuses to allow Ryan's hate-fueled scorn get the better of her. She continues to speak, though in a more forceful tone. "Like I said, Ryan-you've had all the opportunity to express your opinions. Now you're gonna keep quiet and listen. For someone who's supposed to be intelligent, your ignorance about cyber-people is, to say the least, mind-boggling. Let me fill you in on something, Ryan; I can laugh, I can cry, I can get angry when provoked, I can feel happy, sad, afraid, hopeful, fearful--all the feelings and emotions you can experience and, everything in between. I can also feel pain, and heat and cold. And, another thing, Ryan; your dad did not bring me into this house to be his robotic domestic servant. I am also not your dad's personal cybernetic play-thing. He cannot have his way with me anytime he's in the mood."Ginger's tone suddenly softens as she tries to speak directly to Ryan's soul. Outwardly, Ryan appears to ignore Ginger. But secretly--he listens to Ginger's every word, while marveling at how much she resembles his mother. "Ryan, I also want you to realize that your dad didn't bring me into his life to forget your mom. I made it clear that I didn't want him to do that. If you look at the living room fireplace mantel, Ryan, you'll see your mom and dad's wedding picture standing there, where it's always been. Your dad told me a lot about your mom, and about the kind of home life she and your dad worked hard to give you and Lisa. You and Lisa have been blessed with parents who've loved you, who gave you a wonderful home, and gave you and Lisa the ability to get a good education. Ryan--I could never ask you to forget your mom. I know how much you loved her and, how much she loved you. Your dad told me about the attention she gave you. And--I know what a terrible shock it was for you and Lisa to lose your mom while you both were so young."As Ginger continues to speak, Ryan's shoulders begin to shrug. His chin sinks to his chest. "Ryan--I sense you've had a really difficult time, dealing with your grief. And I think it's kept you from moving on. And now, your grief has turned to anger, hatred, and resentment. Maybe--it's your way of lashing out at the world for taking your mom from you. Maybe--you're also angry at your dad for bringing a new woman, cyber, or otherwise, into this house and--into his life." Ryan slumps in his seat, places his elbows on his knees, and buries his face in his hands. Ginger notices that Ryan is quietly weeping. She takes one of the dining table chairs, sits down next to Ryan, and puts her arm around his shoulders. Ryan suddenly wraps his arms around Ginger and unleashes a torrent of tears. Ginger speaks comfortingly to Ryan as she rubs and pats his back. "It's okay, Ryan. You've held this in for six long years; it's time to let it out now. It's alright---it's okay. I care about you, Ryan, as much as your own mom did; I want you to know that."At length, Ryan regains his composure. He also begins to notice that Ginger feels as real to hold as his mother or his girlfriend. He also notices the softness of Ginger's skin, the scent of her perfume, the silkiness of her hair, her warmth. Finally, Ryan speaks the first friendly words to Ginger since he walked into the house. "Now I know why Dad likes you so much. Your hair's nice-you smell nice-your skin's nice-and you feel nice." Upon hearing Ryan's compliments, Ginger releases her hold on him, sits up in her chair, and grins. "Thanks for the compliments, Ryan, but you're treading into forbidden territory here. After all, certain things about me are strictly reserved for your dad."Meanwhile, at the railing on the upper floor by the stair landing, Frank and Lisa wait tensely, wondering about the silence, after all the yelling and sobbing they had just heard. Lisa looks at her father. "What do you think is happening down there?" Frank shrugs. "Your guess is as good as mine." Crouching by the railing, Frank and his daughter strain to hear any snatches of conversation they can. Ginger rises from her chair. "Why don't you wait in the living room, Ryan, while I go see what your dad and Lisa are up to." "Sure, Ginger," replies Ryan. When Ginger arrives at the top of the stairs, she is promptly confronted by Frank and Lisa, who glare anxiously at her. Frank is first to speak. "We heard shouting, then a lot of sobbing. So, tell us--how did it go?" Ginger puts her hand on Frank's arm and smiles."Everything's alright now." Frank's jaw drops in astonishment. Ginger continues to explain. "Didn't I tell you I could fix things with Ryan, if I got the chance? Once I cut through that hard shell he's built up over the last six years, I was able to convince him I'm not a threat either to him, or his mother's memory. And--I think I proved to him that I'm not a mere robot. Anyway, Ryan's down in the living room. Why don't we go down and sit with him. I know he wants to apologize to everyone." Frank and Lisa are visibly relieved by Ginger's announcement. When Frank, Ginger and Lisa descend the stairs to the living room, they find a very different Ryan waiting for them. Though his face and eyes are still red and swollen from weeping, he seems to be himself again. Lisa sits near Ryan on the sofa, while Frank and Ginger take their seats in the antique upholstered high-back chairs.Sniffling occasionally, Ryan speaks up in earnest. "I'm really-really sorry for all the terrible things I said and did to everybody. I'm sorry, Lisa, about all the nasty phone-calls, and I'm sorry I took your head off awhile ago. And--I know I was really disrespectful to you, Dad and--to you, too, Ginger. You're definitely not a robot, Ginger. You're as human as any woman I've ever known--including Mom."Ginger smiles and thanks Ryan for his kind words. Ryan speaks humbly to his father. "Dad--I hope you'll pay my tuition next semester." Frank rises from the sofa and smiles down at his son. "Of course, Ryan. And it's great to have you back in the family again." Ryan turns again to Ginger. "Again, Ginger, I'm really sorry about all the verbal abuse. You're right; I was way out of line. Actually, you remind me a lot, of Mom."Ginger smiles warmly at Ryan. "Your apology is most certainly accepted. And, thanks for the compliment. It's one of the nicest things you could ever say to me." Ryan then turns to his sister. "Again, Lisa, I'm sorry for the way I acted towards you." "It's okay, Ryan; I understand why you said those things. I'm just glad we're a family again."Ginger looks around at everyone, then has an idea. She focuses her attention on Ryan and Lisa. "Hey, can you both stay for lunch?" Ryan and Lisa answer heartily in the affirmative. Frank is ecstatic. "Well," says Lisa, "as long as I can leave by three o'clock; I've gotta drive back up to Santa Barbara." "Don't worry," answers Ginger with confidence. "We'll have you off by then. So--would everybody like cold-cut sandwiches?" After a quick confab, everyone looks at Ginger and nods in earnest. "Can I help in the kitchen?," asks Frank. "Sure, Honey," answers Ginger, "come along."After Ginger and their father leave the room, Ryan and Lisa begin to whisper emphatically about Ginger. "Doesn't she look like Mom?," asks Ryan. "She sure does," answers Lisa. "And there's good reason. But I'll let Ginger tell you in her own time." Ryan continues his astonishing observations about Ginger. "Dad is right about Ginger, though. You really can't tell her from a living woman! I mean, when I had my arms around her, it was incredible. I saw moisture in her eyes, Lisa. And, I could even feel her breath. It's incredible--she actually breathes!"To Be Continued. . . .
Now that peace and unity is restored to Frank's family, what will happen next? Find out in the next chapter.
Sep 22 06 1:08 PM
Chapter 22"An Honor Too Great"MEANWHILE, IN THE KITCHEN, Frank is holding back tears. As Ginger begins to prepare lunch, he embraces her. "There's peace and harmony in my--excuse me--our family again, because of you, Ginger." Ginger kisses Frank and makes a confession. "I know I told you before, Frank, that I was confident I could turn Ryan around. But--I have to admit--for while there, I had my doubts. At first, he was pretty dead-set against me." "Well, Honey," replies Frank, "You're a real miracle worker. Whatever you said to him, it brought him around. You averted a real crisis in the family--and I love you for it."Ginger grins and pats Frank's chest. "Well, we'd better get these sandwiches out to those two hungry college kids, or we'll have another crisis on our hands." Frank chuckles at Ginger's words. "You're right; we'd better hurry before the dining room reaches critical mass." After sandwiches and drinks are placed on the table, Ginger calls into the living room. "Come and get it!!" As everyone sits down at the table, Ginger addresses Ryan and Lisa. "I hope you both like Italian cold-cuts 'cuz that's all we have, right now." "No problem here," answers Ryan. "I happen to like Italian food." "Ditto for me, too," adds Lisa.Ginger joins in, taking a sandwich for herself. It isn't long before Ryan and Lisa take notice of Ginger as she consumes her sandwich with apparent enjoyment. They try not to be conspicuous, but it is also not long before Ginger notices them. "Oh, c'mon now," says Ginger, "not you two. You're both as bad as your dad." Ryan offers an apology. "Sorry, Ginger. It's just that--Dad didn't say you can also eat. Can you also taste?" Ginger answers in a matter-of-fact tone. "I can eat and taste food. And, I can also taste, and drink liquids. And my internal systems will tell me when I've had enough. But, judging by all the bloated bellies I saw at the Northridge Mall, human beings apparently don't have that mechanism."Ginger turns to Frank and pokes his stomach. "And, you'd better watch that belly of yours, Mister." Frank rolls his eyes. "Aw, c'mon, Ginger! I'm not that bad." "Well, all the same," continues Ginger, "no more butter-soaked popcorn every night in front of the 3V. And you're also gonna cut way down on that mint-and-chocolate-chip ice cream you love so much." Frank fumes at Ryan and Lisa, who are sitting across from him. "See what you kids started?" "Oh, Frank," says Ginger, "Don't blame them. You know I'm right." Frank can only shake his head and groan. Ginger turns to Ryan and Lisa, speaking to them with a genuine depth of feeling."There's something I'd like to ask you, Ryan and Lisa. Because I'm a cyber-woman, I can't have children of my own. I want you both to know that I love you both very--very much. What I want to ask you is--would the two of you like to be the son and daughter I could never have? Of course--you don't have to call me Mom--I'll understand." There is a moment of silence as tears well up in the eyes of everyone at the table. Ryan and Lisa nod and answered fervently. "Yes-of course," answers Lisa. "I'll be your daughter, Ginger." But it is Ryan who knocks everyone backward with his simple answer: "Sure, Mom." Frank, Ginger, and Lisa are momentarily stunned by Ryan's response. Is this the same Ryan who, only an hour earlier, had spewed forth such venomous bile against Ginger? Ginger is nearly overcome with emotion. "You do me much too great an honor, Ryan. Again, I want the both of you to know--I love you as my own. And I'll do whatever it takes to protect and defend you."SHORTLY before everyone finishes lunch, Frank makes an announcement to Ryan and Lisa. "Kids, there's something Ginger and I need to tell you: On Friday, Ginger and I will be flying to Riverton, Ohio for our honeymoon." A puzzled Ryan glares at his father, glances over at Lisa, then back at his father with a smirk. "I didn't know Riverton, Ohio, is a hot honeymoon spot.""Well," answers Frank, "There's a special reason we're going there besides our honeymoon." Ryan makes his trademark smirk. "There'd have to be." Frank sighs at Ryan and continues. "Anyway, we'll be staying for a week in the old section of the city called, Old River Run. It's the ancestral home of your mom's family. The city has gone out of its way to preserve that part of town to look as it did between the 1920s and 1940s. It'll be a real blast to the past. Ginger and I are looking forward to it." "Sounds like fun," says Ryan. "You'd better bring back lottsa pictures and souvenirs for us."Ginger suddenly turns to Frank with a thought. "Honey, I was just thinking--you know how worried you've been about leaving the house empty while we're gone. So--how 'bout asking Ryan and Lisa to house-sit while we're gone?" Frank turns to Ginger. "Yeah, why didn't I think of that?" Ginger raises her eyebrows. "That's 'cuz you're not as smart as me." "Oh," replies Frank, "then I'll just hang my university degrees in the hall bathroom." Ginger chuckles. Frank then turns back to his children. "So, kids, how 'bout it; would you mind house-sitting for a few days?" Ryan gives a casual answer. "Yeah, I can do it. How 'bout it, Lisa?" "Sure," answers Lisa. "Why not? Besides, I'm done with school until the Fall Semester. We'll just need our old rooms to sleep in while we're here.""No problem," replies Ginger. "Consider it taken care of." Frank turns to Ginger. "Well, then, I guess we'd better get Ryan's and Lisa's rooms prepared today." Frank turns to his children. "Now, remember, you two, no wild college parties while we're gone." "Of course not, Dad," answers Lisa. "Besides, I'm not the wild party type."During the course of the afternoon, everyone engages in pleasant conversation about Ryan and Lisa's schooling, their plans for the future, etc. Then Ginger suddenly has a brainwave. She turns to Frank and begins to speak with child-like enthusiasm. "Hey, Honey. I just had another idea: Why don't we invite Ryan and his girlfriend, and Lisa and her boyfriend over for a Memorial Day barbecue?" "Sure!," answers an ecstatic Frank. Frank's face suddenly takes on a more serious expression. "I just remembered--if you're thinking about the stone barbecue out back, I'll have to give it a thorough once-over; it hasn't been used in years. The grill's rusty, and the mortar between the stones is cracked in places."Ginger responds in that affectionately demanding tone of hers. "Well, Dear, you'll have two weeks after we come home, to take care of it, won't you?" Frank opens his eyes wide and holds out his arms as though in a trance. He replies in a robotic monotone. "Yes, Master--as you wish, Master." Ryan and Lisa chuckle. Ginger smacks Frank's arm. "Oh, stop it now. You know it has to be done." Frank addresses Ryan and Lisa. "So, kids, how 'bout it? You wanna come over for a Memorial Day back yard barbecue?" Ryan and Lisa nod and give enthusiastic replies. Frank is elated at the prospect of having the house abuzz with life again. Lisa suddenly checks her watch. "Oh, geez! I should've left half an hour ago!" Lisa springs from her chair and hurries into the living room to collect her handbag and box of personal effects. Frank helps Lisa with her box as everyone follows Lisa out to her land car. As Frank places Lisa's box in the back seat, he tries to reassure her about her return trip to Santa Barbara. "Don't worry, Pumpkin; you're still in good time. The real traffic doesn't start for another hour yet. Just take that new bypass that goes directly from the 118 to the 101 North; you'll save thirty minutes that way." Frank gives Lisa a hug and peck on the cheek. Ginger gives Lisa a hug and kiss, along with the same admonition. As Lisa starts slowly down the driveway, Ryan calls out to her. "See ya later, Sis! I'll call you tomorrow!" "Alright, Ryan!," yells Lisa yells back to him. Frank, Ginger, and Ryan stand in the driveway, waving as Lisa's land car trundles down the gravel driveway to Mountain Vista Drive. After Lisa drives out of sight, Frank, Ginger, and Ryan turn and stroll back to the house. Everyone takes seats in the living room. Ryan thinks it a good time to ask a question that's dying to be asked."Ginger?" "Yes, Ryan?" "Well--Lisa told me that Dad had you created to look like someone back in Mom's ancestry. Who was she?" "I'll go you one better, Ryan," answers Ginger in a pleasant tone. "I don't have to tell you; I can show you. Ryan gives Ginger a quizzical stare. Ginger gets up and retrieves the ancient Metcalf Family photo album. She opens the album to the pictures of Ginger Szabo, and hands it to him. To Ryan's astonishment, he's looking at Ginger, only in another place and time."Ginger--this is you!," exclaims Ryan. Ginger grins. "Well," replies Ginger, "yes--sort of." Ginger goes on to explain to Ryan his direct descendency from Jeffrey and Ginger Metcalf, on his mother's side. A Bewildered Ryan turns to his father. "Why didn't Mom ever mention that to us or, at least, show us this album?" "I don't know, Son," answers Frank. "Anyhow, it's one of a bunch of old albums, scrapbooks 'n' stuff, going all the way back to the 1890s."Like an inquisitive homicide detective, Ryan keeps probing his father for answers. "So Dad-how did you come across these things, in the first place?" Like a witness on the stand, Frank offers his explanation. "It was about four months ago. I've always seen that big old box in the upstairs storage closet, but never paid much attention to it. Anyhow, one Sunday afternoon, I was looking for something to do. So, I decided to reorganize that closet. I came across this big box and thought I'd drag it down here to see whats inside. As it turns out, I opened a door into your mom's family history. You see, your mother's maiden name was Metcalf. There are other albums, and other things I'll show you when we have more time."With that, Ryan looks at his watch. "Yeah, it's twenty after four; I'd better get going, myself. But I'd really like to look over the rest of that old stuff sometime." "Sure, Son," answers Frank. Ginger calls out from the dining room, where she's wiping down the table. "Don't forget your things, Ryan!" Ginger walks into the entry way to see Ryan off. She speaks softly to Ryan and gives him a hug and kiss on the cheek. "Goodbye, Ryan. Take care of yourself, and be careful on the freeway." "Bye, Mom; don't worry about me," replies Ryan. Ryan, Frank, and Ginger step out onto the front porch. Frank gives his son a manly hug, and pat on the back. "We'll call you and Lisa tomorrow afternoon, to tell you what time to be here on Friday Morning." Frank and Ginger follow Ryan out to his land car. They watch and wave as Ryan drives slowly down the driveway, and turns left onto Mountain Vista Drive.To Be Continued. . . .
Sep 23 06 1:19 PM
Chapter 23"Missing In Time"ONCE BACK INDOORS, Frank surprises Ginger by taking her into his arms in another tight embrace. His eyes fill with tears. "You have no idea what you've done for me, Ginger. You've not only brought love and happiness back into my life, you've put this family back together again. You've changed this empty mausoleum of a house back into the home it used to be." Ginger knows that Frank is speaking from the depths of his soul, and she is deeply moved. "I love you, Frank, and I love your children as much as if they were mine. And, I'm happy that I could start Ryan finally on the path to healing." Frank marvels at the outcome of the day. "I can't believe the change in Ryan from just this morning! I still can't believe he actually called you 'Mom'." Ginger returns Frank's look of wide-eyed amazement. "You could've knocked me over with a feather, too."Ginger suddenly has an urgent thought. "I just remembered; we'd better get Ryan and Lisa's rooms ready." Soon Frank and Ginger are upstairs, tending to the task at hand. Later on, Frank has a suggestion for dinner. "Since it's been a big day, how 'bout something quick, like that frozen Chicken Alfredo entree?" "Alright," allows Ginger. "But it'll be the last time we have that for awhile; that Alfredo sauce will go straight to that middle of yours." Frank replies with a tinge of irritation. "Yes, Herr Hauptfeldwebel." Ginger furrows her brow and purses her lips. "Alright, Mister--the way I see it, you've got two options here: We can do this the easy way. Or, if you insist, I can be a mean, stiff-necked Prussian Army master-sergeant--the choice is yours, Frank.""Listen, Ginger, I don't understand this sudden obsession with my weight. Heaven knows it wasn't an issue when you served up that huge breakfast last week, which, by the way, could've fed the entire 9th Corps of the Army of The Potomac, if they were encamped in our front yard." "Well," replies Ginger, "that conversation we all had over lunch, made me realize, Frank, that your health is important." Ginger pauses, for a moment, and takes Frank's hand. Her tone becomes more affectionate. "You see, Sweetheart--I don't have to worry about things like high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease or stroke--but you do. And I want you here with me for a long-long time to come." With that, Frank embraces and kisses Ginger. "Well-unless the Good Lord has other plans, I plan on being here for a long-long time to come."THE evening finds Frank and Ginger, curled up in front of the 3V, as usual. A large bowl of popcorn--without butter--sits on the coffee table in front of them. Frank samples a little of the snack, grimaces, and throws the rest back into the bowl. "I'm sorry, Ginger--but without butter and salt, popcorn tastes like wood chips and Spackle." Ginger slaps Frank's knee. "Oh, stop it now." Frank gives Ginger an incredulous stare. "Have you tasted wood chips and Spackle??" Ginger lets out a sigh of exasperation. "No, Frank--I can't say that I have. But, since you're being such a big baby about it, when we go shopping, we'll buy some of that imitation butter-and-salt stuff. Right now, let's just watch the movie." As it happens, Frank and Ginger are watching an ancient movie, released in 1941, starring Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper, on the Old Cinema Classics channel. After awhile, Frank notices that Ginger isn't really focused on the movie. She seems distant, as though lost in thought. "A penny for your thoughts, Honey?," queries Frank. "Well," answers Ginger, "it's that conversation you had with Ryan, this afternoon. You know--about those albums, scrapbooks and things from Susan's family." "What about 'em?," asks Frank. Ginger answers with another question. "Well--why do you suppose Susan never showed those old Metcalf albums 'n' things to you and the kids?" Frank raises his eyebrows. "So, you're giving me the bare-bulb treatment, too, huh?" Ginger answers somewhat defensively. "I'm just alittle curious, that's all."Frank shifts his weight on the sofa as he tries to recall anything concerning that enormous box full of Susan's ancestry. "Well--all I know is that--about three months after Susan's uncle passed away in Painesville, Ohio, this big express delivery box shows up at our door. Inside the box, there was a letter from Susan's mom, saying that no one in the family wanted the stuff. So she shipped the whole lot to us, thinking we'd take better care of it. Now--I'm sort of glad she did."Frank puts his arm around Ginger's shoulders and kisses her cheek. Ginger grins briefly, and returns to her line of questioning. "Do you think there were skeletons in the Metcalf Family closet that Susan was trying to hide?" "I don't think so," answers Frank. "Besides, I looked through every one of those albums. There wasn't a shoplifter, horse thief, or axe murderer in the bunch--just your usual smattering of average John, and Jane Q Publics.""I'm sorry, Dear," says Ginger. "I wasn't implying anything about Susan's family history." "I know," replies Frank. "I suppose it's a natural assumption." Frank suddenly has a thought. "Come to think of it, there is something odd about one of those scrapbooks." "What is it?," queries an anxious Ginger. "Well" answers Frank, "maybe it's nothing. But--the scrapbook that dates from the 1940s, has a gap in the pages past the middle of the book. You can see it when the book is closed." Frank's observation piques Ginger's interest. "Could you bring it here?," asks Ginger. "I'd like to see, for myself."Frank jogs upstairs and returns with the album in question. He sits down next to Ginger and opens the book to the gap in the pages. "Right here--see it?" "Oh, yeah," answers Ginger. "It looks like some pages were cut out, or something." "Exactly," replies Frank. "But whoever did it must've lived during the twentieth century." "What makes you think so?," asks Ginger. "Well," continues Frank, "unlike most of the photo albums, the scrapbooks are contemporary with the newspaper clippings on the pages. The cut edges obviously show age, which means, to me, that somebody obviously didn't want anyone--present or future--to see what was on those pages.""Hmm--interesting," says Ginger. Ginger makes her own observation. "And, another thing, Frank--look at the dates and contents of the clippings on this page, and the ones on the facing page. This article here, is dated October seventeenth, 1947. And, it has to do with an attempt on the life of Al Kahn. Wasn't he married to Ann Metcalf, an ancestor of Susan's?" "Yes, he was," answers Frank. "There are pictures of Ann and Al Kahn in the photo albums from 1900 to 1983, the year Ann passed away. Al died of lung cancer on May twenty-third, 1976, according to an obituary item in a later scrapbook."Ginger returns Frank's attention to the gap in the scrapbook. "Now, Frank-the next clipping is a birth announcement that jumps to the date of August nineteenth, 1948. That's a ten-month gap between the article on the assassination attempt on Al Kahn, and the birth announcement. What was on those missing pages that someone wanted to hide?" Frank rubs his chin. "It's a real puzzler, isn't it. You'd think that an attempt on Al's life would rate more than one small clipping. And, the article is so small that it doesn't give much info, as to who would've wanted Al Kahn dead." The old regulator clock on the wall suddenly strikes the hour, as it has always done on other walls of the past since 1867, when it was first wound by its maker. Ginger looks up toward the clock. "Well," she sighs, "bedtime, I guess."THE following morning dawns much cooler. A gentle breeze rustles the leaves of the maple trees in the massive front yard of the picturesque Boelcke residence. Except for a few translucent wisps of cirrus, high overhead, the sky is clear. At 7:30, Ginger awakens Frank with a shove: "Time to get up, Honey! We have lots to do today." Frank, still drugged with sleep, can only groan. Ginger gives him another nudge. "C'mon, Sweetheart, we really have to get moving." With that, Ginger throws on her bathrobe and strides briskly out of the room. After a couple of abortive attempts, Frank finally hoists himself into a sitting position.Later on over a light breakfast, Frank's thoughts drift back to the conversation of the night before. Ginger can tell that something is weighing on Frank's mind. "A penny for your thoughts, Frank." "Oh," answers Frank, "it's that scrapbook we were mulling over last night--it keeps nagging at me." "Yeah; me, too," replies Ginger as she takes a sip of her coffee. "Honey, do you think there's anything in the picture albums that could hold a clue to this mystery?" Frank shrugs. "None that I can see." Frank is about to take another bite out of his sandwich, when suddenly, he stops. "Hey--wait a minute--there is something!" Ginger puts down her coffee cup. "Well-what is it?" "Hank Metcalf," whispers Frank. "Hank Metcalf," he repeats in a louder tone. Ginger is perplexed by Frank's utterances. "Hank Metcalf? What about Hank Metcalf?" "It just hit me," answers Frank, "there aren't any pictures of Hank Metcalf in the albums after about June, 1947. A little odd, don't you think?"Ginger raises an eyebrow. "That is odd. Wasn't Hank Metcalf Jeff Metcalf's brother?" "Yeah," answers Frank. "And that's what's really odd. As a member of the Metcalf Family, you'd think there'd be pictures of Hank in the albums almost to the day he died. In fact--there's hardly another mention of Hank after he moved to Chicago; that wasn't long after his wife, Sarah, was killed." "That's right," says Ginger. "I remember reading an article about it in the same scrapbook. She and Hank weren't married for very long when it happened. What a tragic story. Sarah was pretty, too."Frank rubs his chin as he dwells further on the Hank Metcalf mystery. "I don't know if there's a connection between Hank, and the missing scrapbook pages. But it does raise more questions." Ginger suddenly has an idea. "Frank--Old River Run has a public library, doesn't it?" "Yeah," answers Frank. "It's one of the tourist landmarks in town." Ginger volunteers a suggestion. "Well, Honey, maybe-if we had the time-we could visit the library to see if they have any historical records on the Al Kahn murder attempt. They must have an old newspaper archive full of back issues of the River Run Courier, and other papers. "Yeah," replies Frank, "we'll check it out."Ginger collects her plate, cup, and utensils and rises from the table. "But, for now, we've gotta pack for our trip. And you need to call Ryan and Lisa and tell 'em when to be here tomorrow morning. Also, don't forget to give me any clothing you want washed for the trip." "Sure, Sweetheart," replies Frank. As Frank gets up from the table and heads for the kitchen, his thoughts become preoccupied with the mystery of Hank Metcalf.LATER that afternoon, Frank phones Ryan and Lisa. He instructs them to be at the house no later than ten o'clock, tomorrow morning. As the washer sloshes and hums in steady rhythm, Frank and Ginger take a little break in the dining room. "Just think, Ginger--by this time tomorrow, we'll be in Old River Run, Ohio. I can't wait to walk down Main Street and browse around in Brandstaetter's Pharmacy." "Then," exclaims Frank, "I'll have me a root beer float at the soda fountain! Sorry, Honey--Looks like that diet you're laying on me, will go down in flames over our honeymoon." Ginger pats Frank's arm and smiles. "Well, in light of the occasion, we'll let it go." Her voice suddenly becomes more strident. "But, you're going right back on your diet when we come home." Frank sighs. "Yes, Mother."To Be Continued. . . .So--a new mystery is uncovered, regarding the Metcalf Family. Why are pages torn from the scrapbook dating from the 1940s? Does Hank Metcalf somehow tie into this mystery? Find out in a future chapter in BOOK II of our story.ATTENTION READERS!!BOOK II has been posted under a different heading in the TRIBUTES menu!
Sep 27 06 5:56 PM
Lisa suddenly caught herself. Ginger knew what Lisa was going to say, and finished her sentence.
"That I'm a cyber-person --- not a living human being? Don't be embarassed to say it, Lisa. I'm perfectly fine with who and, what I am. I
only wish all the Ryans of this world would feel that way."
Just then, Ginger and Lisa heard Frank and Ryan involved in a loud exchange of angry words.
Frank spoke sharply to Ryan.
"Ryan, what you did earlier to Ginger and your own sister, was reprehensible!! Your mother and I raised you better than that!"
"Yes, Herr Hauptfeldwebel!"
Al died of lung cancer in 1976.
Now, Frank, look at the date of the birth announcement here on the facing page. It's dated, March nineteenth, 1948.
Sep 27 06 6:39 PM
Oct 9 07 8:55 PM
Shares a party line with Mother Davis
Oct 9 07 10:31 PM
Quote:This should have been aired on television.
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