Tag Archives: city

Good Old City Life

As Ethyl turned the VW bug down the dirt road, Bertha shuddered a little.

“What is it, Berth? Something the matter?”

“I’m used to cities is all. This road trip has been adventure enough without you taking this shortcut through the woods. This road is dirt, for the love of Pete!”

Ethyl smiled at her city friend. They’d instantly connected at the school where both were studying to be receptionists. Ethyl had left the family farm in search of bigger and better things, and Bertha was just killing time until her fiancé, Jasper, got back from the war.

“I grew up on roads like this. Relax, hun.”

The VW blew up a cloud of dust as Ethyl drove it a bit manically around a turn, the wheels scrambling through some pebbles and shooting them into the woods.

“Well could you slow down a bit, at least? At least consider the paint! This car is new!”

Jasper bought the car a few months before he found himself shipped out and trusted his future wife with his most prized possession.

“It’s Jasper’s most prized possession!”

“Where do you come in on that list?” Ethyl asked with a smile and a bit of attitude.

“Just under the car, darling. You should know that. Men and their toys…”

Ethyl relented and let go of the gas a little, taking the turns a bit easier.

“Thank you, dear,” Bertha said as she reached into the back seat. “Care for some coffee?”

“Actually, I’m famished! How’s about I find a place to pull over?”

“Here in the middle of nowhere?”

“Here’s as good as anywhere else!”

They drove the little powder-blue bug another mile or so until she came up to a bend in the road just before an old bridge. A picturesque clearing filled with wildflowers lined the grassy spot where Ethyl stopped the car.

“Oh look Bertha! What a place for a picnic. What do you say?”

Bertha smiled and grabbed the wicker picnic basket from the backseat. “Good thing I packed these sandwiches! God knows how long we’ll be lost out here!”

“I’m telling you,” Ethyl said with another smile, “The man at the station said this here was a shortcut. Said it would cut a good hour of driving. You want to be at your cousin’s by evening, don’t you? Or shall we camp out for the night –“

“Lord no! I’m not sleeping in a tent. We’re making it tonight if it kills us.” Ethyl let a knowing smile grow on her face. She knew just how to manipulate her city friend. The woman was clearly afraid of nature.

Bertha got out of the car, removed her cardigan and fixed her flower-print dress. After checking both shoulder straps, making sure they were just right, she threw her cardigan onto the car and pulled a blanket out of the back seat.

Ethyl loved watching this girl, an enigma to someone who grew up on a farm, as she carefully placed the blanket on the grass. “You know, there’s a perfectly good log over there.”

“You must be joking. This is an expensive dress! It’s Chanel!”

“It’s what?”

“Chanel! As in Coco?”

Ethyl raised an eyebrow. “Okay…”

“Oh you country bumpkin…what do you know!” Bertha smiled, and Ethyl laughed quite loudly, letting it echo through the trees. She was relieved to see her friend loosen up a bit.

“Well, this fabulous ensemble I’m wearing is official Wanamaker’s. The top was on sale!”

Bertha giggled as she sat down on the blanket with the basket. Meanwhile, Ethyl took out her satchel and started rooting through it for a pen and paper.

“Oh no, is the master author at it again?” Bertha teased.

Ethyl stuck out her tongue and sat on the log. Her scribbling on the pad of lined paper reverberated through the woods, disrupted only by the occasional sound of wrapper rustling as Bertha set up their lunch.

Once she had the sandwiches out and spoons in the small container of potato salad, she waited patiently for her friend to finish. She put her hands behind her head and leaned back against the car, looking up at the perfectly blue sky. Ethyl finally finished and joined her on the blanket.

“Say what you want about the city, and I will, as you know, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen the sky such a beautiful blue,” Bertha said. Ethyl dug into the potato salad and nodded. As she tried to speak a small piece of potato fell to the blanket.

“That was what I was writing about.”

“Another poem?”

“Mhmm,” she said as another piece fell to the blanket. She picked it up, inspected it and popped it into her mouth.

“Such class. It’s a wonder you were raised on a farm! I would think you came from the most fabulous finishing school in Paris!” Bertha raised an eyebrow at her friend, waiting for a response.

“Just wait until I go pee in those woods right there, then we’ll see who is refined,” she said, watching Bertha shudder a little.

“You will not!”

“I will so!”

“Don’t do it, Ethyl. There must be a ladies room around here somewhere!”

Ethyl smiled again at her friend.

“So what was your poem about?”

“Actually, it was about returning to a perfectly blue sky after spending a few months in the smoggy city.”

“Really?”

She nodded.

“That’s…kind of lovely, Eth. It really is beautiful here, I must admit. I can hear the birds and a breeze, rather than cars and yelling. And what is that sound? The one that is fairly constant?”

“Crickets, Berth.”

“Ah. Crickets. They’re kind of loud.”

“Funny, I didn’t even notice them until you pointed it out.”

“Well, it really is quite lovely.”

They continued to eat when a bug landed on Bertha. She screamed and dropped her sandwich onto her plate as she rushed to get it off her arm, flailing like an insane person. Ethyl just remained calm and continued eating. Bertha finally got rid of the bug and stood.

“I’m eating the rest in the car.”

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In the Middle of Nowhere

The car was broken down, and while Jennie and I were sulking, Doris and Roy were sitting on a log chuckling to themselves, having a little picnic with the brown bag of goodies Doris had bought at the five and dime. She ate half the apple and then handed it over to Roy.

“I have another one if you want,” she said to me, and I just shook my head. I couldn’t understand how they were so calm. Roy’s car was busted and we hadn’t seen a car in the whole two hours since it broke down.

“Aren’t you guys worried we’re stuck here?” Jennie asked her.

“Nope,” Doris said with confidence. “Someone will come along soon, I’m sure.”

“That’s my girl!” Roy responded. “Always the optimist! Isn’t it beautiful here? I don’t miss the hustle and bustle of the city.”

I can’t believe I just heard Roy actually say that. In the fifteen years I’d known him he’d never been this relaxed. Or this happy.

“What will we do come nightfall?”

Doris smiled as she rooted through the bag to the bottom and pulled out a few pieces of penny candy and offered them around. Jennie took one and listening to her unwrap it was wearing on my nerves. “We could sleep in the car! Roy, you have blankets in the trunk, right? The ones we keep for emergency picnics?” He nodded as he pulled a toy pipe out of his pocket and started pouring bubbles into it. “Wait, you bought it?” she asked him.

“Yup.” At that he put it to his mouth and bubbles started to explode out of the plastic piece of junk.

“But it won’t come to that,” Doris added. “Someone will come.”

I couldn’t take this much longer. What would we do, huddle up in the car under a tiny blanket, shared by each couple? Doris and Roy were bananas if they thought I would get a good night of sleep in that jalopy that couldn’t even handle a simple drive to Cape May. Doris and Roy started whispering and giggling to each other in that loving way. The way they always do it.

Jennie came over and sat next to me. It wasn’t long before she started whispering to me, copying off of them.

“Aren’t they so cute?”

“Sure, sure. They’re cute, and they don’t seem to mind we might die out here.”

“Oh come on. Why don’t we whisper like that anymore?”

“Anymore?”

“Yes! We were just like them when we met.”

I thought back and had to agree, we probably were. But not as annoying. Just to shut her up and reached up and held the back of her hair a bit, pulling her in for a kiss. She smiled. I rose.

“Should I start foraging? Maybe there’s an apple tree or something nearby.”

Doris looked in my direction. “Everything will be fine, Raymond. You’ll see.”

At that I heard the backfire of a truck in the distance, and a tow truck came into view around the bend. Doris stood up and brushed some dirt and leaves off the back of her skirt and smiled at me.

A Bad Day

She faced her fear – the big, bad city – on the off chance she would get the job. A cab splashed her as if she were in a movie, so she was waterlogged as she entered the waiting area. The couches were filled by people with portfolios fancier or larger than hers, in some instances both. The room was past the maximum occupancy of confidence, none of it hers. Not to mention during the interview, her potential boss apparently had a cat, so she sneezed her way through most of her answers.

After that tragedy, she decided that her trip to the city shouldn’t be a total waste and stopped at a little café that looked like it was taken right from a French film. She sat at a table outside and ordered a chai latte, watching cars drive by, listening to the constant sounds of city life: horns, passing conversations, even some construction that sounded a block or so away soundtracked her moment, which she was actually starting to enjoy. Maybe the city wasn’t so bad.

That’s when her phone rang and she recognized the number of the place she’d just interviewed. She gasped and fumbled with the phone a bit, excited that they would call so fast.

“Hello, Miss Jason?” a voice on the other line said.

“Oh it’s actually Jansson,” she corrected as she fixed her hair and smiled.

“We just wanted to let you know you left your portfolio here. Please come and get it by the end of the day or it will be discarded.” At that they hung up.

Her eyes glassed up but she refused to let it phase her. After calmly finishing her drink, she headed back to building that already held such miserable memories and rushed up the two flights of stairs, unwilling to wait for the elevator. She wanted out of this office, this building, this city as fast as she could.

After snatching her portfolio from the obnoxious receptionist’s hand she rushed the few blocks back to her car only to find her windshield adorned with a parking ticket.

She yanked it out from under the wiper, got into the car, and drove home as fast as she could.

Pollution in the Valley

This print, along with many others, can now be purchased at my ETSY!

Verisimilitude

She and I were sitting each on one side of a statue on a park bench.

“What?” I asked her.

“Weren’t you listening to me?”

“Honestly, no. I am completely taken in by the verisimilitude of this statue. It looks so real.” I could not stop staring.

Her attention went from me (and anger) to the statue, one of a man in a suit styled from the 1960s, including a hat.

“Wow, you’re right. It looks so real. Lifelike.”

“If I didn’t know better, I would swear it was real,” I said.

She looked at it as if waiting for it to blink. It did not.

“Waiting for it to blink?” I asked with a laugh.

“No,” she said, a certain amount of defense in her voice.

“So what were you saying?” I asked around the statue towards the front. She looked behind the statue as if we were in some Abbott and Costello routine.

“Huh?”

“What?”

“What?”
“Who’s on first?” I asked.

“Shut up.”

“Meet me in front of the statue,” I called to her.

She did so.

“What were you saying?”

“I was saying…”

“You forgot?”

“Shut up.”

Her eyes turned back towards the statue. She started staring at it.

“Certainly does look real. Excellent craftsmanship, whoever made it.”

“Agreed,” I said.

At that the statue sneezed.

“Bless you.”

The word verisimilitude was suggested by Kate.

His and Hers

“Look at this!” she said, pointing at the two Buddy Scooters parked side-by-side on the sidewalk, one a pale orange and the other a light blue.  “Beautiful.  I love it.  I wish I had my camera.”

“I have mine,” he said, foraging through his messenger bag trying to find it.

“Do you have an eye for these things?”

“Of course.  I love photography.  Do you?”  She nodded.  “Good.”  He snapped a few photos and then held the camera out for her to see.  She moved her oversized sunglasses to the tip of her nose and looked over them into the tiny screen.

“Good.  Do you think they belong to a couple?”

“His and hers scooters, I would think so.” 

“I think this is so cute.”

“But you aren’t a romantic,” he said, the corners of his mouth raised a tiny bit.

“I never said I was not a romantic.”

“Yes you did.”

She stomped her foot a bit with a smile on her face.  “This does not necessarily prove I am a romantic.  This doesn’t make sense.”

“I knew you were.  We can smell our own.”

She started walking again, hoping to change the subject.  “What does it matter.  Romantic, unromantic, this does not matter.  And this proves nothing,” she said, gesturing back towards the vehicles.  He stopped walking, forcing her to stop as well and turn back to look at him.

“You find the idea of a couple who each have a scooter, the same model but in different colors, beautiful.  You probably pictured this perfect couple driving them between cars down the street, stopping at traffic lights and smiling at one another, maybe stopping at some cute little café for lunch…that is what makes you a romantic.  But it really doesn’t matter if you are or aren’t, I just think you’re in denial.”

She smiled and walked towards him, taking his arm and turning him around.  “Look,” she said, aiming him towards the scooters.

A couple had left the building and approached the Buddies, unlocked the helmet boxes on the back and removed a blue and an orange helmet.  The guy put on the orange one and sat on the blue bike, while the girl put on the blue one and sat on the orange moped.

“Come, let’s go to a café,” she said to him.

Photographs by Dennis Finocchiaro