Sunday, March 6, 2011

Write a story about Mr. and Mrs. Ophanon and Win the Drawing on the Right

Write a story about Mr. and Mrs. Ophanon and Win the Drawing on the Right
The contest closes Monday March 21, 2011




Mr. and Mrs. Ophanon
16"x20" oil paint, sheet music,
watercolor on paper on masonite
Buy this on Etsy for $250


Click pictures to enlarge
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The story you write should be a "Flash Fiction" which is a complete story in one thousand or fewer words.  Please post the story in the comment section, you will have to provide your name and an email address in order to be qualified to win or you can e-mail me at kmencher@ohlone.edu with your info.  There is a problem with how many characters can post (only about 4,000) so if you cannot post it.  E-mail it to me at kmencher@ohlone.edu

Go to my website for more contests: http://www.kenney-mencher.com/

Winning flash fiction stories will be integrated in with an exhibit in San Francisco at ArtHaus Gallery (April 8th for the reception).

The show is called:
Renovated Reputations: Paintings and Fiction inspired by Vintage Portrait Photographs

The exhibit will include a series of 20-40 paintings and mixed media works ranging in size from 8”x10” to 18”x24” framed with thrift store and vintage frames.  In addition to the exhibited works ArtHaus is publishing catalogs signed by me and as many of the authors as possible.

Catalogs/books will consist of image of the painting with the text of the “flash story” surrounding the image.  If I can get the authors to come to a book signing/party, authors would sign their pages for some of the printed stuff.

We're going to have a photobooth for the show for participants to play with and vintage costumes.

Of course I'll send the authors free copies of the catalogs. I will announce the winners the day after the closing deadline for the competition. I'm planning on doing one flash fiction competition a week every Monday from now until April. 

(If the conditions in the side bar are not to your liking, I'm totally flexible.  Send me a contract that you like and I will mail it back to you.  I just don't want to chase people for signatures when I publish the catalog!)
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This came in by e-mail:

What If by Jen Reich

Three weeks have come and gone
This time it was my choice, I realize
I asked you to stay with friends and you didn’t protest
What’s more, we didn’t say our usual goodbyes

I just couldn’t stand the shouting and at that moment
I would have given anything not to argue
From the way you looked when you walked out the door
I could tell you were sick, tired and fed up too

After you left I decided a change was in order
So I moved furniture around and took our pictures off the shelf
I was feeling pretty good and once or twice I even thought,
See that! I’m better off by myself

Two weeks ago I adopted a dog
The one I always wanted that you’d never let me own
Oh and I started drinking heavily and smoking again
And a few other minor things you would never condone

One week ago I revisited the bar scene
And started staying out late with friends
I guess I had some childish impulses I needed to relive
Don’t worry, nothing for which I need to make any amends

Yesterday all of this started getting old
Actually, long before that to be true
From the moment you left, throughout all of this time
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you

My reminiscence was complemented by a memoir-box
And I grinned when I saw what was on top
It was a photo of us from 1963
Of our first date which was a borderline-flop

I took you to my favorite Italian hole-in-the-wall
And you kept swearing, Yes everything is fine!
You were thoroughly unimpressed by the lack of décor
And couldn’t believe they used a water glass for wine

Still, the conversation was stellar and your eyes sparkled
And even though I didn’t think you would say yes
Two weeks later I called you about my brother’s wedding
And asked you to be my guest

And I’m so glad I did because you accepted
And that week my whole world was bright
Still my happy glow paled in comparison
To the beauty and significance of that night

We danced as if we were the bride and groom
Songs like ‘S Wonderful and For All We Know
The Coots tune became “our song” and how fitting it was
Given all the times you’d leave when I was low

The next night you called the whole thing off
You said you didn’t want to be tied down
And ever since then a similar sentence
Has been all too familiar a sound

The reason I grinned when I saw that photo
Was that it was torn very neatly in half
That must have been something you did to spite me one day
Just picturing you doing it makes me whole-heartedly laugh

How did I ever get you to marry me, Shirley
It must have been something I said
Something I did or the way I looked at you
When you were lying next to me in bed

Whatever it was it worked and I’m glad
And the vows I make, I pay
So I meant it when I said for better or for worse
And I will never regret that day

I don’t even regret all of the fights that we’ve had
Without them we wouldn’t be who we are
What I regret is all of the time we’ve spent apart
Never knowing if you’re near or far

We may never meet again – what if –
Coots knew what he was talking about
Tomorrow may never come – what if –
The next day’s certainty I’m beginning to doubt

I’m not getting any younger but perhaps you are
Your spunk never seems to wear thin
That’s one of the many reasons I love you, Shirley
Through that front door I am just hoping you walk in

I found the dog a new owner and put our pictures back up
Now I’m just waiting for you to come home
I let out all of the frustrations that I needed to
And resolved that I don’t want to be without you, alone

No matter how many times we argue
You are my only true love, of that I am sure
And most of our memories make me smile
Despite all of the trials we’ve endured

Three weeks have come and gone
This time it was my choice, I realize
At this moment I wish I could take it all back
What if the next time we’re apart – what if, one of us dies?

                                                ~

Tears were rolling down Shirley Ophanon’s face as she read the poem her husband had left on the kitchen counter.

She crept into the bedroom, laid next to him and with one arm and her body, squeezed him as tightly as she could.

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This came in by e-mail:


 “Mr. and Mrs. Ophanon” by Debbie Weiss


        Paul took Elizabeth’s hand.  She felt nervous tonight, something felt different.  They were in their usual booth at the Honking Segal, a thirty year old neighborhood sleazy type
Establishment, not close to where either of them lived.  They met once a week to talk, to hold hands, to listen to old songs on the jukebox and slow dance.  They met to kiss like teenagers on the crushed red velvet booth in the very back of the bar. 

        Paul was married to Mildred, almost forty five years now.  Elizabeth was married to Stan.  He was her second marriage of almost twenty five years.  Her first husband had been killed in an accident and Stan walked into her life as she was falling apart.  He seemed to rescue her and she thought she could love again. For the past five years, she would come here to this place to meet Paul.  This now had become the happiest time of her life.    Paul and Mildred had six children that were all grown with families of their own.  Paul had left Mildred twice before but guilt brought him back each time.  She was a sickly woman and drinking too much alcohol was how she coped with the world.  Paul would try and get her help but she always refused.  The off again and on again marriage took its toll on Paul.  He wanted to help his wife but she refused all help and always went straight for the bottle.  Paul spent more time at work, went to dinner alone, sat at the bar telling his troubles to the bartender.  He longed for the company of a woman.  One evening, while he was dining at his favorite steak house, he looked up and noticed Elizabeth with Stan entering the restaurant.  Their eyes met for only a moment.  He did not know what to do. This woman was with her husband.  He watched her walk, saw her smile, even her hair do made his body weak with a lust he had not felt in years.
He watched her movements, he sipped his wine.  Elizabeth excused herself and made her way to the bathrooms in the back.  She walked by Paul’s table.  If I do not do this now, he thought to himself, I may not ever see this woman again.  He nervously got up and made his way to the door of the ladies room.  Elizabeth grabbed at her heart as she walked out the door to find Paul standing there.  “I am so sorry; I did not mean to startle you.” Paul explained.  She looked at him.  “I don’t know how to say this.”  He began.  “You are such a vision to my eyes.  I am not a crazy man, I would like to know your name and…”  Elizabeth smiled and shyly said, “I am a married woman, sir.”  She felt her face blush and looked down at the floor and up at the ceiling and down at the floor again.  Her heart now beating so rapidly.  “I am married too.” Paul said quietly.  He handed Elizabeth a business card.  “Please call me.” He said.  Elizabeth took the card and placed it into her navy blue blazer pocket and went back to her chair.  Paul watched her walk away, took a deep breath and walked back to his table. 
   
        Elizabeth looked at the card over and over again for the next two weeks and then made the call to Paul.  They met for coffee and got on so well with each other.  It felt like they had known each other for years, possibly another life.  It was so comfortable, an immediate attraction, an instant connection.  Paul called it magic. Now as she sits with Paul, a little more than five years later, Elizabeth sighs and closes her eyes for a moment. Her mind filling with thoughts she did not want to think about.  “Mildred has asked me for a divorce.” Paul said.  Elizabeth was shocked.   “Does she know about us?” She asked.  “I don’t think so.  She said she was ready to release me.  She knows how unhappy I’ve been.  I love you, Elizabeth.  I’m tired of meeting you in this bar, in hotel rooms, in the back of the car.  I don’t want to sneak around anymore.  Could you, would you leave Stan?”  Elizabeth just looked at Paul.  All she had wanted was happening right here, right now but she was finding it hard to give Paul an answer.   “I am not in love with Stan.”  She said. “But I feel I owe him so much.  I love you Paul, I do.  I just need some time.” She said.  Paul nodded.  He kissed her cheek.

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This came in by e-mail:

The Man Handler by Patrick Nelson



She knew she had settled for the other man. The one she didn’t love as much. The one who wouldn’t kill her from the inside out. Wedged in a bottle with no clear way to keep together without draining each other dry by the shot.
            They met at her father’s law offices in early ’48. He was a young émigré from Russia here to learn our legal system and love our Jazz. They immediately, with her father’s encouragement, started dating and hit it off quite well. Every juke joint and roadhouse soon knew their name. He loved being out and about with her on his arm.
Gilda loved Gus so much, but he loved them; the couple they were, not her alone. If she let the story between them unfold, they would eventually become known as Mr. and Mrs. Grimilkin. He would certainly have loved that. Soon she realized that it was about the dancing, drinking and mingling, not her. The booze, jazz and American night life was his mistress.
            Every night she drifted farther into their cocktail haze and every day she would wake up hating the world and herself a little more. She saw the end coming, but she hoped it wouldn’t be in a fiery pre-dawn car crash or in a drunk-tank ward for women. The only end she did not see coming was an end in which he hurt her physically. He was too timid for that. Instead he would hurt her the slow, indirect way; he would smother who she was with the soft cushion of his dreams.
            She knew she needed to slip out of his noose, to elude his love trap even though the bait was so sweet. She would at first try staying home, but he always managed to inveigle his way back into her heart and out into the night. It was then that she met Gerry. He had come to her apartment to unclog a drain. He was the new super in the building. He proved to be a very handy man, at that. He obviously adored her from the start; he would show up and offer to fix things that were beat up or running a little off, and then find some topic which would interest her so they would sit and chat for hours over coffee at her kitchen table. She wasn’t quite sure, but she had a sneaking suspicion he had tampered with some of her appliances and plumbing just to have an excuse to come back and visit.
            Gerry was an open book. He obviously adored her and took care of her every domestic need. He was kind to her and doted on her at every opportunity. He was the perfect man that she needed, not the one she wanted. Oh, why couldn’t Gus be more like Gerry? When Gerry finally screwed up the courage to ask her out, she almost said no because she thought maybe Gus would finally come around, but she realized that was a pipe dream and the smoke would clear on that soon enough. No, she needed the life Gerry could promise and provide, not the one Gus had pawned and lost the ticket for.
            Their first date, Gerry took her to see  An American in Paris, which she loved so much, she was inspired to go dancing. Gerry seemed reluctant, but finally caved in. She assumed the big clumsy man couldn’t dance. She searched her memory to try to remember which clubs Gus would probably be at that night and chose one of the least likely. As soon as she entered she knew she had picked the wrong one; Gus was at their usual table in the corner hunched over his glass of ice. He looked miserable and smashed as the waitress clinked down a fresh one and pried the dead soldier from his hand. She grabbed Gerry’s arm and made for the door, but before she could get him steered towards the door, the leader of the jazz trio mumble over the microphone: “Our next number is dedicated to the lovely Gilda who just stopped in to grace us. Hey, baby!” All the members of the band waved to her near the door. At this point, they unfurled themselves into a soulful but slightly uptempo version of “Killer Joe”.
            Gilda noticed two things happen all at once; Gerry held her waist and pushed her towards across the room onto the dance floor, and Gus looked up with his mouth open and let his glass slip down onto the table with a crash. Gerry had taken her hand in his and place the other on her waist. He led her into one of the most thrilling dances she had ever danced. She had no idea this huge, hulking fellow could move with so much grace. From the corner of her eye she spied Gus rising and coming toward them on the dance floor. She had to bring herself back from the music to keep her attention on the impending scene. Gus stopped right next to the couple and tapped Gerry on the shoulder.
“Excuse me, buddy...” Gus slurred. “Can I have a word with the lady?”
She tried to intercede with “Gus, look, you don’t need to...”
But then Gerry interrupted; “I’m sorry, Gilda. I think I know who this is and I am sure you would be very capable of handling this situation, awkward as it is, but if it’s O.K., he did ask me a question.”
            She was torn, but could tell from the look on Gerry’s face that he was not in the frame of mind to harm her ex lover. She demurred and Gerry led her to a table near the edge of the dance floor. She watched Gus’ face as Gerry came back to speak to him privately; he was sobering up pretty quickly and none too panicked looking. He was often in heated arguments when drunk, but it never escalated enough to resort to physical confrontation, especially with her. Gus was a lover not a fighter.
            Gerry took Gus by the elbow and pointed to the bar. Gus yanked his arm from Gerry’s light grip, adjusted his tie and haltingly stumbled in that direction. Over the music, Gilda could hear nothing. Not even when Gus appeared to be shouting and gesticulating wildly at Gerry. Gerry held his hands in a calming fashion and spoke in a slow manner that seemed to be adjusted down for his liquor-addled nemesis. This exchange continued for a few more songs. Gilda became a little irritated by these to ill-matched suitors. She imagined their reaction if she got up right now and walked out leaving the two of them where they stood. How would they like those apples?  Just as she started to picture this in her mind, she focused on the bar to see Gus with his head in his hands. His shoulders were shaking as if he were crying. She wished she knew what was being said to make him cry. She didn’t want to witness Gerry beating Gus to a pulp, but this was almost worse.
            Gus took his hands away from his face and looked at Gilda with such sorrow that she almost felt sorry for him. From the neon reflected in his tears, she could tell that he, indeed had been crying. Gus turned his attention back to Gerry, shook his hand with both of his own and went straight out the front door. The bartender started to motion to the bouncer, but Gerry waved them off and tossed some money on the bar.
            Gerry made his way back to the table and put his hand out for Gilda. She took it and rose. Gerry saw the perplexed look on her face, but he managed to say something first; “I think I’ve grown a little tired of this joint, shall we?”
            As they wove their way through the table in the crowded room, she finally had to ask “What happened there? What happened there and what did you say to Gus to make him cry? I’ve never seen him cry...”
            “Let’s just say I made it clear to him that he wasn’t the right man for you.” Gerry replied.
            Gilda could not fathom what had just happened, but she slowly began to feel a weight lift from her mind and soul. She knew she loved Gus more than Gerry, but she felt a shift in her heart. She knew she could grow to love Gerry more and more.

________________________________________

This came in by e-mail
By Royce A Ratterman

They met in the B-Flat Club during a slow dance. For all they knew, they might never meet again, but something clicked. Maybe it was the club’s vocalist who sounded almost as soft and smooth as a brandied ice cream, maybe it was the band and their way of romanticizing all of the songs, maybe it was the club’s atmosphere and the billowy smoke from the patrons’ cigarettes, cigars and pipes; or maybe it was just them . . . two people escaping the mundane realities of every day life to enjoy the crowded solitude of a popular dance club.

That night, as she ducked out of the exit door like a stream’s ripple flees across the water, they made eye contact once again. It was late and tomorrow was another day. If tomorrow comes, another chance may accompany it. Another chance to meet and hold out their hearts in their hands like in a dream, another chance to make beautiful music together on the dance floor, another chance to blend together like a violin and cello in this symphony we call life.

When the two mystic lovers met again they sat and sipped drinks. During their fifth encounter they talked of life and love, they talked of time and chance, they just talked. And they danced . . . and while listening to the soft-souled singer gently in the background, they even fell in love.

At their wedding reception a few years later, the soft-souled singer and the club’s band performed selected songs for this privileged couple. Friends and family danced to the tunes that brought these two together, together for life’s gentle concert. A concert that has a beginning and an ending. A concert filled with the music we all write for ourselves and for each other.

They visited the club off and on over the years, dancing slowly and methodically around the floor. They watched other couples fall in and out of love. They watched the band grow old while the songs stayed as young as the day they were composed. They watched each other.

The two lived a long life together and saw their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow into adulthood. They taught them to dance and taught them to live; to live life’s symphony to its fullest and to sing its joys and sorrows from the depths of their souls, to never just sit in the background.

As they danced slowly to their favorite song “For All We Know” on their 50th wedding anniversary, they smiled gently and gazed into each other’s eyes. They did it again on their 60th, just as they had the night they had met.

The B-Flat Club finally closed. An era was over, but the dance of life continued for Mr. and Mrs.  Ophanon. The dance of eternity . . . .
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Mr. and Mrs. Ophanon by Rochelle Wattz

Eleanor and Sid met in 1951 at the big championship game.  Sid was the all star quarter back for the local high school, while Eleanor was a shadow in the popular crowd.  She’d walk the hallways at school, alone and always had her nose in a book.  She was the smart girl and the boys never seemed to notice her. 

After Sid’s fourth quarter winning touchdown, the crowd went wild.  Sid left the field looking for a place to hide and get away from all the cheering.  He didn’t like all of the attention he got.  His father insisted that he play football so he could go to college.  No one else had gone to college and Sid’s father never let a day go by without reminding him of it.  Sid preferred to sit under the oak trees for hours and read the classics until the sun went down.  That is where he found his excitement, his passion for life, not the football field. 

As he was trying to escape, he ran into Eleanor knocking her over and causing her body to crash upon his.  As she lied on top of him, their faces inches away, they started laughing.  She started to tease him about knocking her over and having his head in the clouds.  They both got up and Sid reached out, retrieved her book and took a look at it. 

“Romeo and Juliet?” exclaimed Sid

“Do you have a problem with that” she said flippantly 

“I just finished it last week, it’s amazing”

“A jock like you reads?  I can’t believe what I am hearing” Eleanor joked

“You don’t think I can read, just throw footballs.  Don’t you think that’s quite an assumption on your part” he asked

“It probably is, I take it back, forgive me the Great Sid” she said mockingly. 

“There you go again, the Great Sid.  Let me tell you something, miss, uh miss, to whom do I have the pleasure of putting in her place?” He said with a large grin. 

At first he hadn’t noticed her beauty, but now under the moonlight sky, he saw a stunning, young woman, attempting to mince words with him.  She wasn’t like the other girls in school, acting pretty and talking nonsense.  She was sassy, smart, funny and beautiful. 

“My name is Eleanor, as in Eleanor of Aquitaine” she pronounced quite nobly.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.  The only nobility around these parts are the ones in your head.”

“Well, the Great Sid, with that, I bid you farewell and good night.”

“Alas my fair queen, until we meet again.”

The words rolled out of Sid’s mouth so quickly, it surprised him.  His heart pounded and the girl intrigued him as no other ever had.  Could cupid have lurked in the darkness of night and shot him with his arrow?  That night, he hardly slept as Eleanor’s words and smile kept him awake.  He couldn’t stop thinking about her.  He would find her the next day and find out all about her.  He longed to share his thoughts with anyone that would listen.  The guys made fun of his reading and the girls just giggled when he tried to share with them.  Eleanor seemed different. 

However, there would be no future for Sid and Eleanor.  Having turned eighteen in November, he had secretly signed up for the Army.  Sid could hear his mother and father arguing that morning.  

“How could he do this?” his father’s angry voice could be heard throughout the tiny home.

“Where did you find this letter?” his father demanded

“It came in yesterday’s mail” his mother cried

Sid was scheduled to graduate early and wanted to get away from his father.  The Army seemed like a better choice then playing football year after year.  Now he could travel and be free of his father’s dreams.  Then he thought of Eleanor and how ironic that he had just found her.  He slipped out the back door and practically ran to school. 

When he saw her walking down the hall, his heart started to race.  She saw him and smiled.  Just as she started to pass him, he gently grabbed her arm and said, “This may sound crazy, but, let’s get out of here.  The Great Sid commands Eleanor of Aquitaine to leave with me now!” 

“Alright, where to your Majesty?”

“Uh, let’s catch the bus to the city.”

“As you wish” she said as she curtsied. 

That day could have lasted forever.  They couldn’t stop talking and staring at each other.  As they waited for the last bus, the song “For All We Know” played throughout the bus station.  Sid reached out and Eleanor took his hand.  There in the old, smelly bus station, they danced and gazed into each other’s souls.  Neither of them wanted the day to end, but they both knew they had to go back home.  Later that month, Sid left quietly to Korea without a word to Eleanor.  She was broken hearted, but knew Sid had to go to be free. 

Eleanor went back east to college and became an English professor.  While she never married, she enjoyed many love affairs.  Sid traveled the world and never played football again.  Eventually he returned home to care for his dying mother.  When the mailman brought him the announcement for his fortieth class reunion, he wondered if she’d be there.  He had always longed for her, but to ashamed to reach out to her. 

Sid’s hands were shaking as he opened the door to a world he had long left behind.  Across the room Eleanor stood looking right into his heart.  He could hear the words, “So love me tonight, tomorrow was made for some.  Tomorrow may never come for all we know” filling the room.  Tears filled his eyes as she came to him arms open and smiling. 
“And so we meet again, my queen, Eleanor”
_______________________________________________________

Music to Eat By
She felt as sun-baked as the adobe.  Likely looked it, too.   Eight months down, four to go.

There was no breeze, so what was the point of standing in front of the open window.  No breeze.  No screens. No change to speak of.  Except every day at 11:47 when the ATSE rolled in.

“Rachel! Where in the blazes are you?” Sam hollered out of the side of his mouth, his lips gripping the cigarette in a way that seemed to defy everything she knew about anatomy. 

“I’m coming, Sam! Gosh Almighty!  I’m coming!”  She tried to make her feet move as urgently as Sam willed them to, but they were still as drowsy as the sheepdogs sleeping on the porch.

“It’s ten to, Rachel. No time to waste.”

“I am more than ready, Sam Carpenter,” Rachel said. “Here I am.  Ready and waiting.”
“If it’s your idea to stand there in the middle of the room, you best be ready to have soldiers swarming past you like you were a mid-current boulder.”

“That’s another word you’ve coined, Mr. Carpenter.  There is no such thing as a mid-current boulder.”

“Stand right there, and you’ll sure as Sunday know just what I mean, Missy.”
It had gotten so that she could sense the train coming long before she heard it.  Maybe it was the way the dogs lifted their ears ever so slightly.  Or that the air pushed ahead of the engine in a kind of hush.  Or that the Navaho got up to saunter over to the tracks to bum cigarettes from passengers.

The first whistle blew ten minutes before serving time.  Faint as a baby breathing.  The second whistle meant minutes remained—they started dishing up.  As the complaining wheels slowed the train slowed to a stop, passengers disembarked among clouds of steam.  One of the women would throw open the door. 

Sam was right.  They were like a brown wave.  They engulfed her and darn near swept her into the wall.

“What’re you servin’ little lady!”

“Are you the blue plate special?”

“Sweet as the pie you’re serving.”

Rachel was used to man-calls, just not so many of them all at once.  She was silently thankful she’d been surrounded by brothers all her life, straightened her back, picked up two loaded plates, and tested the water.

“Welcome to La Fonda, Soldier.  You have thirty minutes to eat.  Enjoy your meal.”  All over the dining room, the same greeting could be heard over the thump of heavy china plates set down on snowy tablecloths.  Some of these boys hadn’t pulled their skinny frames up to a real table since they left their momma’s kitchens.

“Thank you, ma’am!  That’s a bigger piece of pie than I ever was allowed.” 

“Mighty generous.  Thank you kindly.”

Rachel liked cutting into the pies, releasing the sugary, fruity aromas, setting down a whole quarter pie in front of each too-full fellow.  She liked the precision.  Everything was exact, like there was an invisible conductor.  The women all listened to a metronome.  Until the men came—then the dining hall gave itself over to a chaos not unlike an orchestra tuning up.  The din was purposeful.  Every man was bent over his own plate, playing his own tune.

Except that one.  The one who kept smiling at her. 

If he was going to finish in time, she’d have to give him a nudge.

“Anything wrong with your meal, Soldier?  You’ve not eaten much.”

“No ma’am, the food’s fine.  It’s just that, I’m pretty sure they’ll be food where they’re sending me.  But I don’t at all know if there’ll be pretty girls.”

“I won’t ask where you’re going, but where are you from?”

The crazy soldier stood up and stretched out all six and a half feet of khaki-clad sinew.  He wiped his hand on his napkin, grabbed hers up, and began to shake it like he was priming a rusty pump.

Ophanon, ma’am.  Zabar Ophanon.  I’m from New York city, and I’m very pleased to meet you.”

Rachel twisted free, saying, “Well, Private Ophanon.  You are a long way from home.”
“Yes, ma’am.  And going still further away from home.”

“Zabar,” said Rachel, “Is an unusual first name.”

“That would be my father’s doing.  You see, Zabar’s is the name of a deli in New York City. Best deli in town.  Maybe in the whole world—I don’t know that yet.”

“Until you see the world, you mean?”

“Exactly. Well, anyway.  My father thinks Zabar’s is the finest deli in the world and he worships Zabar’s pastrami.  The way my mother tells it, my father wanted to name me Pastrami, but my mother wouldn’t have it and accused him of being drunk.  When he got wild, she agreed to Zabar.”

Rachel was finding it difficult to know what to say.  What came out was just the breath she was holding.

“It could have been worse,” Ophanon said, “He worships the nova with capers and the white fish, too.”

“We are grateful, then,” murmured Rachel.

Ophanon took a card out of his hip pocket.  He tried to give it to Rachel.
“Private Ophanon,” Rachel tried to sound marmish—surely a word Sam coined, she thought.  He tossed it against the girls whenever he thought he’d get a rise.

“Please.  Zabar.”

“Private, I don’t want you to have the wrong idea about me.  I am very serious about my job here.  All of us Harvey Girls sign up for a full year.  I can’t fraternize.”
“Criminy.  I wasn’t asking you to do anything like that.  I was just hoping you would write to me.”

“Oh.”

“Even a Harvey Girl can write to a soldier, can’t she?”

“I suppose…”

“This here card is from Zabar’s.  My father goes there every day to buy fresh bagels.  For my father, Zabar’s would hold mail for me.  When I know where I will be, they can forward your letters to me.  For all I know, I could be stationed in Timbuktu.” 

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I’m a total cornball and I instantly fell for Jen Reich’s “What if.”  So Reich gets the drawing.  At first I was a little nervous; I’m always suspicious of poetry.  I guess I’m a standard kind of poetry guy.  Some of favorite poems are “My Last Duchess,” “A Certain Slant of Light” and “Raisin in the Sun.” Some of my favorite poets are Ogden Nash, Robert Frost, Langston Hughs and Walt Whitman, so I guess you could say I’m stuck in the past with very traditional prose.  In a way that makes me a little inflexible, but I loved “What if.”  I think I loved it on a couple of different levels.  One level was that it was so familiar and I understood a lot of the thoughts and feelings of the poet, who on another level was not Jen Reich but rather Mr. Ophanon.  I loved the fact that it was a poem within a story!  Good good stuff.

It’s cornball me again.  I loved the romantic sentiments in Mr. and Mrs. Ophanon by Rochelle Wattz.  I’m man enough to admit that I read and liked Nicholas Sparks’ “The Notebook” and “The Bridges of Madison County” by Robert James Waller (I still haven’t seen the movie yet.)  Wattz’ story had a similar tone and I had the same pleasure in reading it.

“Mr. and Mrs. Ophanon” by Debbie Weiss is one of those stories that has a pathos.  I think most people can relate.  We’ve all been in relationships and saw someone we didn’t know but thought were beautiful.  This story is one of those in which the author spins the story out from that point of departure.

What a great story The Man Handler by Patrick Nelson is!  Have you ever been in a bar and watched one of those weird social scenes between ex lovers and the groups that surround them?  This is kind of the setting but the emotional content is much deeper than that and much more mature of experienced in terms of the way in which feelings are described.   A lot of us have been in passionate but soul draining relationships and some of us have confused passion for the things that surround a relationship with the love of the person in it.  This story takes all those kinds of things into account.  I love the title by the way.

Royce Ratterman’s story was a song that is written in the form of a short story.  I think that the anonymous comment that was posted in response to the story touches on some of the feeling it evoked for me. “This story I liked very much, I somehow pictured my own mom & dad in the story, they never make it to 50, but they still had each other. . . Thanks for a great story and memory.”

“Music to Eat By” by Gigi Devault was a great little vignette by Devault set in a foreign land during the wars.  I always started thinking in sepia tone when I read her stories.  It’s fun that she takes us to distant times and places.

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