Friday at Zona’s, Ruth walks in with Keith. Keith was convinced that Ruth knew everything about Nick professionally and personally. We have a drink and listen to Keith reminisce about his Navy days. He tells a joke with a sexual innuendo; Ruth slaps him on the shoulder and grins. Her demeanor is different, definitely a spark there for my old buddy. Ruth tells me that she is apprehensive about being here but Keith convinced her to show up.
Keith tells me “Start from the beginning please, leave nothing out. Even something trivial might have some importance.” I tell the story up to my last visit. Ruth’s eyes told me I have her complete attention. Keith shakes his head and says “Unbelievable”. Ruth looks at me in complete silence. I continue the story with my recent visit. The forms once again appearing and how the light encircled the locket. Ruth blurts out “ANGELINA CHRISTINE MCMILLAN”. Keith and I jump and laugh at the same time, at the force that the quiet “bookkeeper secret keeper said those three words.
Keith pats her hand and says “Feel better Ruthie?” All these years she has kept this secret. We do not speak for a few moments, alone with our thoughts. I repeat over and over Angelina Christie McMillan. Ruth laughs “Sorry I could not breathe”. All those years of keeping a secret and now the lid blows off. Undoubtedly we’ll hear some good secrets now. “Keith told me a few details and asked me to join him tonight. I wasn’t planning to say much. I would never betray my loyalty; however the way with which you told the story has won me over. There are beautiful yet mysterious forces guiding you. I cannot remain silent. The only thing I ask is that anything concerning Nick and Angel is done out of respect. I love Nick like a brother. I will join you here anytime, but enough for tonight. I have much to think about with your apartment visitations.”
What kind of unknown forces are working with me on this story, or am I working for them? That seems more likely. My overwhelming curiosity about the locked door was the beginning; finding the key was pure luck. I did not imagine the silhouettes forming out of dust nor did I dream them. I admit to having a lively imagination but I do know the difference between my imagination and reality. I discovered the locket. I did witness the light and positively read the note. In life we play the hand that we are dealt. I most assuredly want to play this hand.
Last Sunday at dinner mom teased me about looking happier and relaxed. Mom said “Bobbies got a girl, you can’t fool me”. Dad said “You smoking that wacky tobaccey? You got a goofy smile on your face.” We all have a laugh. Dad shrugs his shoulders and walks to the T.V. On my way out the door mom said “Bring the young lady to dinner next Sunday”. “WOW”, that would be newsworthy! Imagine the headlines, “DUST GHOSTS HAVE DINNER AT MOMMAS HOUSE”. Laughing to myself, the tabloids would love that.
Saturdays are my favorite day of the week. The excitement of the apartment gives me an adrenalin rush. I go to work early do my chores, then go straight for my “Magical Mystery Tour”. While retrieving the key I am sitting at Nick’s old desk thinking of his father and all the years he used the old antique and thinking, if only this desk could talk. “MOVE THE DESK” is heard as if someone whispered those three words. Without any hesitation I move the desk to one side; behold, there lies a trunk! The worn trunk carries postal markings from around the world. What have we here? Property of Ralph Sonnatello was on top. I sit down and close my eyes. Upon opening my eyes the trunk is still there. I can’t go through a dead man’s trunk, can I? “Yes and No” are fighting within my mind. I grab the key and leave the storage room. I’m now in the apartment and going through my routine. Relaxing, clearing my mind and becoming one with the apartment. I stare directly at the sunlight as millions and millions of dust particles appear. Two silhouettes begin showing clarity, fuller and slower in forming, a blue light even brighter than the sunlight flashes through the kitchen. It didn’t come from outside it came from inside and settles around the two forms holding hands looking at one another. They appear real, as if I could touch them. My hands are palms down on the table. A gentle static type charge penetrates my hands; warmth goes up my wrists to my arms and shoulders. A warm electrifying sensation runs the entire length of my body. My toes tingle, my whole body vibrates gently. I am one with the unknown, a power; a power of another world beyond mortal existence. A bluish yellow ever changing spectrum of light sweeps through me to Angelina and dissipates. The human like forms slowly fade. The electrifying feeling of warmth leaves me. I feel like a ship hopelessly lost. While the warmth filled my body I was a ship at full mast. I now shudder from emptiness; back to my world searching for meaning. Every cell of my body answers this call. I’m to make right, the wrongs of time. I must rewrite time.
Before leaving my chair I look around the kitchen. The wallpaper and cabinets appear new, the whole Kitchen appears fresh, not aged. I have awoken mighty powerful and wonderful forces of which I’ll never understand and will do their bidding.
I immediately go back to the travel trunk. Inside is a case, scarred by life’s usage. Four clasps hold the case together after unfastening them, I find a mechanical typewriter. ROYAL is the brand as I carry it to Ralph’s desk. I relax in the chair thinking, this is where I will write the story using Ralph’s old mechanical typewriter, his old desk, one overhead light in the storeroom of a small town newspaper. A young man has been given the opportunity to write a once in a lifetime story. To whom do I give thanks; “The Dust Ghosts? I do not have the proper words. I’ll just call it, Eyes of Time” with help from “The Energizers”. I am laughing at myself, “Wow”. I place the typewriter back in the trunk and cover the desk back up. I decide to keep the key to the apartment with me, my good luck charm.
It’s Sunday and I take mom some flowers and dad some cigars. And give them both hugs. Mom returns my affection, dad takes his cigars and says thanks but inside he is probably thinking “Weed”. Dinner was delicious and mom always cherishes the bonding. To her I will always be her little Bobbie. The only thing that would make her happier would be a grandbaby Bobbie.
Work is fulfilling, no rushing enjoying every moment. Friday rolls around, time for Zona’s, Ruth is wearing a new dress, no a new hairdo; something is different. Keith has a dress shirt on, his first words, “I should have worn my sunglasses. Your shine is blinding me, I’ll have whatever you are having and hope it does the same to me”, a good laugh to start the evening. Keith is grinning, “Appears like you had a good weekend. Now tell us about the old girl”. I take about thirty minutes to explain every little detail. Ruth’s eyes are larger than last week. She looks like she is in a trance, hell we all are! She is hanging on every syllable with tears in her eyes. Keith was so intent an earthquake would not change his stare at me. After my extremely detailed report I could not utter another word. They were so mentally dazed they could not comment. All of us are speechless so we just sat alone looking into our drinks regaining our composure. We finish our drink and order another before anyone decides to speak. Keith for once was at a loss of words.
Ruth begins “It was 1955, Nick was acting boyish, happier. Not that he was unhappy, he is acting differently. Laughing easier, his appreciation and zest was noticeable. Nothing around me goes unobserved; after all I am his secretary. He was receiving correspondence from Angelina McMillan. He asked me one day to please keep anything concerning her confidential, he thanked me knowing I would. Before long they were spending time in the apartment. Nick felt that he needed to explain so one night he told me how he met Angelina. She was in his Journalism Class at the University. One day she formally introduced herself. While they shook hands he looked deep into her eyes and something unexplainable happened at that instant. Feelings never felt before; his body was warm from within. Nick could still see her and smell her while walking to his car. He felt as though he had just stared into the eyes of an “ANGEL”. Nick couldn’t get her out of his mind. One day Nick stops her after class is over, coincidentally she was the last one out. He told her that he was about to have lunch, would she care to join him. They had their first date at the college cafeteria. In the beginning it was simply talking over lunch at the cafeteria. As the lunches lengthen, Nick found out that she grew up on a farm, has one younger brother and an older sister. Her father met her mother while he was in the service. Her father was an officer serving in the Philippines. After his tour he ask her to marry him, they move back to the Midwest and become farmers and raised three children. Angelina’s wish is to be a school teacher. It was her interest in journalism that led to her meeting Nick. Her dream was to teach in different cities in the U.S. and possibly the world. She wants to experience life beyond the Midwest. Admittedly a bit of a tomboy, always wanting to be with and helping her father. She felt closer to him than her mother because it was easier to talk to him, but loved them both equally. She especially loved hearing him talk of seeing other countries. She could tell her dad anything that came into her mind and he would listen intently, never judgmental. Momma wanted her to be more like her sister Abigail. However Angelina was a free spirit and that was fine with her father. When her father talked about the countries that he had visited, she wanted to see them. Daddy would tell her it is our imagination that makes us an individual. Without that we’re unfulfilled souls merely existing. He lived his dreams; two tours of duty in the Navy, satisfied his wanderlust. He says “I was lucky enough to find your mother and have three beautiful children. Now I am content to make a living on the farm. What if I never lived my dream? You would not be sitting beside me would you?” Angel has a lively imagination; her father adored that in her. He always told her, good grades, good college, good imagination. Live life to its fullest and sit in a rocking chair in your later years after finishing life content. She worshiped her father.
Nick thought excessively about Angelina and how the spark kept growing. He could not allow it to become a fire, what was he thinking, it’s just a crush on a student. Why now he pondered. He was married to Julie, his high school sweetheart, friend since grade school. He had never thought of life without her. She has been involved with him ever since she gave him his first kiss and his first valentine. He would not degrade her in any way. Ruth said, “What I have told you came straight from Nick, certainly not all at once, he talked to me countless times over the five year period. I had a crush on him myself for a period of time. He never suspected, so it basically went from a silly crush to a loyal private secretary. My emphasis must be placed on private because what he told me is out of trust and loyalty. You see it works both ways. The next best trait after love is trust. To have someone who trusts and confides in you enough to let you in on their inner most secrets. Not once did I see Nick as using me. Having many years to think back, I helped Nick achieve the five happiest years of his life. My reward was that of being treated like family, a sister. I leave here tonight with that trust in you two. Thanks for that truly inspirational story you told me Bob and I’ll do whatever I can to help you in the future.” Ruth took my hand and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I had her loyalty and she had mine. The kiss on the cheek sealed that. Keith with his usual humor, “I guess I am just along to be the driver; taxi Ruthie?” I think Ruthie has other things in mind for Keith. My intuition tells me Sunday dinner at Ruth’s; well dessert is on the way.
I feel like I have been stung by a whole bees nest, my heart and mind is so swollen. Can someone die from too much excitement or from receiving too many presents? Seems I am suffocating. Everything concerning this story is happening so fast once I opened the door. The strange and unusual occurrences are really “out of this world”. I’ll see how loyal, “Ralphs old Royal” can be. Tomorrow I’ll start typing “THE FLAME” a story of love, time, mystery, bright lights, and dust ghosts.
It is Saturday to work I go “HI-HO. HI-HO”, (sorry but as you can tell I am excited). I take peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a thermos of coffee, my favorite snack and caffeine to keep my mind alert, in anticipation of a wonderful day of writing. I carefully unpack the royal typewriter. There is an abundance of ribbons and paper in the trunk. I arrange the desk to get the best light. I close my eyes and breathe deeply. I type “THE FLAME” by Robert S. Garrity. Guess what? Nothing, my mind is blank. Leaning back in the chair and relax as I attempt to recapture the warmth of the light and the tingling sensations that I felt at my last encounter in the apartment. Nothing, shuttering coldness passes through me, my forehead is sweating. How can my mind be blank? This is how I make a living, why I went to college, what I have trained for my whole life, this is my passion. LOYAL ROYAL help me, I’m pushing too hard, I’ll go upstairs and visit the old girl. After going through the rituals I’m now seated in my kitchen chair. I replay every apartment visit in my mind. I am at ease and see the dust come together. Nick and Angel appear but without the clarity, I feel no warmth, they appear but I’m disappointment. What was I expecting, how do I top last week. I leave with the feeling of dejection. What if I can’t write this story, I need to regroup and talk to Keith. I phone him and he agrees to meet me. He answers “How about our favorite place, I sense problems.” I pull into a parking spot directly in front of Zona’s, Keith is outside the door waiting for me. He pats me on the back and we walk in. Zona spots us and comes over and Keith gives her one of his usual hugs. Zona looks at me and says “Honey you look as though you could use a hug. Keith says “That’s why we are here and a good hug from you and your abundance should start Bobs evening off much better”. Zona smacks Keith playfully and gives me an extremely good hug and I must say he was right as usual, she did have abundance. Typical Keith making light of the situation and the hug made me feel better, somewhat embarrassed, but better in an unexpected way.
We take a seat, Keith and I have the whole bar to ourselves. I have never seen a bar so quiet, it seems fitting today though. Imagine a bar where you can talk with a normal voice, most unusual, and a typewriter with someone sitting at it with quiet keys, especially if you majored in journalism, rather eerie scenes. I explain the events of the day and Keith is laughing. “That would be terrible, quite possibly the best story of your life or at least the most unusual story you will encounter. When you consider you are part of the story that would be devastating. This may take some time. I hope you have plenty of cash. We have some serious drinking to do and a fundamental writing course to teach courtesy of Professor Keith. Did I ever tell you about the lady that owns this place? Zona and I go back to grade school”, he motions to Zona and she comes over and sits down beside him. “What can I get you big guy” she asks. “Bob and I are going to be here for a spell, why don’t you surprise us with something for our bellies, and here is five dollars for the Wurlitzer, play your favorites, if you like them, I’ll love them”. “Sure thing”, she says. “The Professor can’t concentrate; it sounds like a funeral home in here. I should be part owner if you consider the money that I have spent here. Zona has been married so many times, I have lost count. She has always had that full figure Marilyn Monroe type body. Rotten luck for her, only one thing in mind for the type of men she attracts. Been friends all our life, almost married her myself. She was in between marriages and we were drinking, crying on the other ones shoulder. She came right out and asked, why don’t you marry me Keith? We are good friends and enjoy the others company. I actually thought about it for a spell, she was dead serious but I didn’t want to ruin a good friendship”.
Zona brought us steaks with some side dishes. “Let’s eat and enjoy the music” smiles Keith. There is never a dull minute around Keith. He asks me “When was the last time you was laid?”
“Excuse me”, was my response.
“You heard me, a young man like you needs to release pressure regularly or you can’t think straight. Do you have a girlfriend to release steam, yes or no?”
“I don’t see what that has to do with my current situation, but right now no.”
“Just as I suspected”, emphasized Keith. “When you are young, and remember I was young once upon a time, women were my number one priority. Is it the same way with you?”
“I have had my share of relationships, although I ‘m not currently involved”.
“Well then that may be your problem. For several weeks now you have thought of nothing but the apartment. But you try to write about it and you are blank. Zona knows some girls that will make you forget your name. Maybe a rooty-toot-tooting good time will straighten you out”.
“Keith, you are a piece of work. You are the one that inspired the title “The Flame” from your teary eyed description about love. I’m not an animal. I need passion, not a paid pleasure doll”.
“Okay we can check regulator valve off the list.” Keith is laughing. We go to plan B. Let’s take a walk and work some of that meal off.”
After a lengthy stroll down Main Street we’re back at Zonas. We are about to sit down at a booth when we hear Zona’s loud voice using unlady like profanities. She yells “Keith!” Two men were wrestling, knocking over tables and chairs. Keith, rather quickly, puts both men in a headlock and shoves them out the backdoor. He was laughing the whole time. Zona hands him a six-pack, “Give this to them and tell them to keep it outside”, she says to Keith. She looks at me and Keith and tells us to go to her office; more privacy. “Don’t worry them two boys are cousins, big wrestling fans, they mean no harm.”
Well I am here to tell you, there was so much action going on so fast, I thought, Zona was filming an action movie and big Keith was the hero. Had I not been right beside my big armed Buddy and so close to the action I probably would have missed it. I look at Keith and ask him, “Do you perform here every night?” “Only Saturdays” was his answer. This is a side of Keith I never saw before. I don’t think he builds those big biceps and forearms from drinking beer. We are settled in at a nice table with padded chairs in Zona’s office, I doubt these chairs are for the wrestlers outside. These are reserved for “Popeye” here. “Well I certainly don’t see that every day”, I said while laughing at Keith.
“Sometimes I come in handy. This is what I think the deal is, when you finally sat down intending to write the story, you thought Ralphs old magical typewriter was going to write the story for you. While you lean back and let the mysterious vibrations give you a massage. I will give you the first sentence and from there you simply tell the story as you described it to me. Leave nothing out remember all the details, your exact thoughts at that particular second, and all the unusual encounters. Do you understand me, you are the story; every cell in your body oozes the story. The passion you possess when describing the events of the apartment and your innermost thoughts are the story. You simply must write the story the way you lived the story. Your first sentence is, “THE LOCK CLICKS ON THE FORBIDDEN DOOR”
“The night is still young let’s go”, Keith said rather demanding. “Where”, I ask. “Just follow me”. Ten minutes later we are at the storage room and I am sitting at the old roll top desk. Keith with a calm tone to his voice says, “Go back to that exact second you put the key in the lock, now freeze. Feel the excitement as your adrenalin is pumping. Now type the first sentence exactly as it happened. All of your senses are crying out to you son. You are the story, just tell it the way you told me, only type it.
The Royal typewriter began moving with swift non- stop precision until chapter one was complete. I look around for Keith, he was snoring curled up on the floor beside Ralph’s trunk. I was so immersed in thought and typing with so much enthusiasm, that he simply lay down and went to sleep. WHAT A FRIEND.
On my drive home, I had a good laugh at Keith’s expense. He looked like “POPEYE”, the cartoon character, his two big arms with each man in a head lock as he threw them out the door. He was once a sailor man. He got me through my writers block, teaching me writing 101 his way.
END CHAPTER THREE
By Robert S. Garrity