Tag Archives: friends

Long Lost William from Coney Island

They all gathered to hear the letter from their long-missing relative, William, Junior. His mother Betty called to her sisters from her alley window, who called their children from slumber, and they all met on the community patio outside of Betty’s home to hear the news. Frank, a second cousin, had secretly been taking bets that young Will had been killed in a bar fight, while his sister Evangeline insisted he had joined the Peace Corps and was saving the world.

Betty didn’t even change from the robe she wore around the house; as a matter of fact, she hadn’t even bothered putting on shoes or slippers. The others, some of whom took the time to get dressed in their day suits, some still in pajamas, all congregated around the family matriarch, whispering at the possibilities of what the letter might contain as she carefully pulled at the envelope. The markings on the postage said California, which was quite a long trip from William’s hometown of Coney Island.

They were waiting for Will’s youngest brother, Peter, who had run into town to get his father, only to have the elder William return before him. Moments later, Peter ran up to the group, panting. Nobody bothered to ask what had taken him so long as Betty pulled the three pages out and started skimming the letter before her public reading. A single tear ran down her cheek as she cleared her throat and prepared to read aloud.

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Repost of My Favorite of My Love Stories

Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m reposting one of my favorite love stories for this special occasion.

All photographs by the amazing Sandra Markovic.  See her website or her blog.

It was her birthday, and it had been a long time since she’d moved in with him from Ohio, and without her mom around he knew she’d likely be a little down. He had to come up with the plan of all plans. How could he make her feel as special as she made him feel? She reminded him on a regular basis, with her fake French accent that he adored, how she sometimes wore her hair in two perfect ponytails because he once told her it was so cute, how she always bought him kalamata olive hummus even though she was more of a fan of roasted red pepper…this list could go on and on. This had to be perfect.

He could go on a quest for the perfect gift. But she was better than that. A perfect night of romance? No, too simple.

This was going to be tough, and he knew it. He easily and nonchalantly reminded her he loved her on a daily basis, which now made a perfect birthday near impossible. He’d outdone himself on so many occasions so naturally, without even trying, that now when it really counted he was drawing a blank. Coming up empty. <insert another cheesy cliché here>.

✩✩✩✩✩

When she came home from the studio she had a feeling something big would happen. She opened the door slowly, expecting any number of possibilities but found nothing. She looked in the living room, dining room, he didn’t even seem to be home. Where was he?

She went to the kitchen, and there was a pot on the stove. She opened it, an automatic response since he often left her meals, and in it was a simple yellow post-it.

“Our first kiss.”

She put the post-it down and started to go upstairs, then suddenly stopped halfway up, ran back down, quickly grabbed her coat and rushed out the front door.

✩✩✩✩✩

She practically ran to the nearby park, past the children playing on the merry-go-round, past the slide, the sandbox, the see saws, to the swing set, to the second swing, and sat down. What next?

A little girl walked up to her. She was in the cutest little dress, pigtails, huge, innocent eyes, and asked, “Are you Alexandra?” She looked at the little girl and nodded, smiling, as the little girl search her pockets and pulled out a post-it. “He says this is for you.” At this the little girl ran back to her mother, embarrassed, and her mother gave her a hug, then looked at Alexandra and smiled.

Shaking, Alexandra unfolded the post-it and read. “The place where you wrote that song I love.”

And off Alexandra went.

✩✩✩✩✩

And so Alexandra found herself jumping into her car, the Volkswagon bus she’d bought right before they drove cross-country. She turned the ignition and it chugged, chugged, started, stalled. She tried again. And again. That’s when she noticed the post-it on the seat next to her.

“Put on your best.”

For once she appreciated the stalling car and ran inside. She quickly found an old fifties dress, her favorite, practically tore off her clothing, threw it on and ran out the door, hoping the old bus would be friendlier to her.

It was.

She tore out of the parking spot and headed in the direction of the diner where she wrote the song 1900 Miles and pulled into the parking lot. She took quick notice that his car wasn’t there so knew there would be another post-it.

Upon entering the diner, she looked towards their favorite booth, saw it was marked RESERVED and sat there, panting a bit. Their usual waitress walked up.

“Hey there. How’s it going so far?” she said with a knowing smirk.

“Fine.” She couldn’t contain her smile. “Do you have something for me?”

“Yup. Wait here.”

As Alexandra sat, impatiently, curious and overwhelmed with feelings, she was having the time of her life.

That’s when the waitress returned with a cup of hot Earl Grey tea with a little milk.

“He said you’d figure it out. He said there was no note this time.”

Alexandra looked at the tea she’d just set before her and really had to think. No note. That meant the clue had to be…

…THE TEA!

✩✩✩✩✩

Alexandra had the tea switched to a to go cup, tried to pay, found out he’d paid in advance, and ran out the door on yet another adventure.

She knew he loved a certain store, one of those barrel places that has bins and bins of food purchased by the pound, and there was a whole tea room. They’d spent hours of time together in there, searching for different teas they’d yet to try. That had to be it.

She raced into the parking lot, and as she ran in pulled the door too hard and let it slam against the wall.

“Hey!”

“Oops sorry Mister Hansel. But I’m in a hurry.”

He looked upset but when he realized it was Alexandra a warm smile came over his face.

“So you figured it out. I wasn’t sure you would, but he assured me you’d get it.”

She smiled. “Yup!” and she ran off to the tea room.

She ran in, startling the new girl who was in there, and frantically started searching the giant jars and containers of tea looking for the right one.

“Can I help you with something?”

“No. Yes! I am looking for the Earl Grey Crème. It’s our favorite.”

They both started looking, and the girl became as frantic as Alexandra, without really knowing why.

“Got it!” the girl yelled triumphantly, as Mister Hansel sauntered in, smiling. Alexandra grabbed it, turned it around, and sure enough there it was, a post-it.

She started to run out the door when Mister Hansel stopped her.

“Alexandra,” he said. “Take this.” He handed her an old thermos, red plaid, and she felt it was still warm. “Tell him this one’s on me.”

She sat in the car and looked at the post-it.

It was a drawing of a record.

✩✩✩✩✩

And so now she was headed to their record store. Alexandra pulled into the lot and was already heading to the record store, a place where they’d spent hours upon hours looking, listening, and experiencing all kinds of music.

Now the question Alexandra had to ask was, where, in the millions of records and cds did he hide the post-it? She had to think.

Bridgette Bardot. Nope. Belle and Sebastian. No. Maurice Chevalier, Shins, Decemberists, Frank Sinatra, still nothing. She really had to think. But while she was there, she should check for that one that she ALWAYS checked for, in every store, since she’d started collecting records. Claudine Longet. You never know, maybe it would be there.

And it was. With a post-it. She ran up to the counter, and the clerk gave a smile.

“I wasn’t sure you’d find it. He said you would. But I’ve never even seen that record in print before. He must have spent a pretty penny on it.”

“So wait, this isn’t yours?”

“No honey, it’s yours.” The elderly clerk smiled, and Alexandra walked towards the door, checking the post-it as she walked, wondering where else her birthday would take her.

She opened the next post-it.

“Our favorite meal.”

And so she was off again.

✩✩✩✩✩

Kenny was working, and she was glad because the last thing she needed was to ask a stranger for her note.

She ran up to the counter.

“Now I know you’re not here for food, are you.”

She was out of breath and panting. He laughed.

“It’s over there.”

She ran in the direction he was pointing but didn’t see a note. She kept looking around and lifted a blanket that was sitting on a chair. The post-it fell out.

She grabbed it and started walking when Kenny stopped her.

“Hey, don’t forget that. It’s yours.”

She looked back at the blanket, and realized that it was one she’d been wanting for a while from her favorite store, the one he called the hippie store because it always smelled like incense. Alexandra couldn’t help but love that place, it reminded her of her mom, and she missed her mom.

She ran back and grabbed it, took a big whiff, and ran off.

“Have fun!” Kenny yelled.

She waved and ran out, reading the next note.

“I love you.”

This one was easy. And it was one of her favorite places.

✩✩✩✩✩

She pulled into the state park, the place where they went anytime it was nice out. They’d played Frisbee, hiked, flown kites, taken nice strolls along the river, it was a beautiful place. She went right to their favorite path. The next note had to be there.

She grabbed her backpack in case it was a long walk, the thermos Mr. Hensley had given her, and the blanket because she loved the smell and was really missing her mom. She started walking along the river, thinking it was a beautiful day and the next note was probably near this tree where he’d started babbling incoherently, eventually leading up to the best “I love you” she’d ever heard.

She strolled down the path now, relaxed, taking in the beauty of the park, the woods, the trees, the sound of the nearby river so relaxing, and she found the tree with the note stuck to it. She opened it. It said, “I love you,” and she jumped a little, as if the note had spoken, and then realized he was behind her.

She spun around and he grabbed her, she grabbed him, and they held each other as if they’d been apart for years. She backed away and he pushed her hair behind her ear, looked at her, and covered her with small, romantic kisses.

Her knees gave out a little and he was forced to hold on a little tighter, and they both laughed. He took the blanket and started walking. She followed.

He walked up to the huge rock where they’d talked after he admitted his love, requited of course, and he laid out the blanket next to the rock and pulled a picnic basket from the cracks in the boulders. She smiled.

Then he cranked an antique record player they’d found at a yard sale and put out his hand. She reached into her bag and grabbed the record, handing it to him. He started the music and then reached his hand out again for her hand, knowing full well she didn’t need help, but hell, he was a gentleman.

And so they picnicked, sitting on a giant boulder alongside a picturesque river, warm tea from the thermos, and talked until sunset, when they just cuddled on the blanket, stargazed, and he couldn’t help but wonder what the hell he was going to do to top this next year.

Special thanks to Sandra, who took the essence of this story and depicted it with perfection and a professionalism that I find both impressive and admirable.  Please check out her blog and website which I posted links to at the beginning of the story.  Sandra will also be posting many related photographs that I was unable to work into the post, but are beautiful and should be viewed by all.

My First eBook! And it’s FREE!

Hi all! Just letting you know I created my first ebook and it’s FREE on iBook for both iPad and iPhone. It’s a short story about a young woman in the 1940s who goes to the shore with her family to keep her mind off her future husband who is off to war. She meets a young woman there and…you’ll have to read it to find out more!  You can find it by searching Dennis Finocchiaro or for the title, Wildwood, 1942.

And here is a helpful video on how to get iBooks for your Mac/PC if you don’t own one of the other technologies!

A Drive-By Crush

Image created by Laura Davies.

Alice was bundled up to stave off the cold. Her long puffy coat went down to her knees, her fingerless gloves had the flaps over her fingers and her wool hat was pulled over her ears to fight off the cold January day.
She approached the bus stop a few minutes early, part of her daily
tradition. The empty little booth called to her and she sat on the
bench only to jump up again as the cold went directly through her coat
and her pants. She laughed to herself and the steam poured
from her mouth. At that moment she focused her attention on the cars
driving by, waiting for the man she recently called a “drive by crush”
to her friend.
Every day, somewhere between 8:15 and 8:22 he drove by in his white
Prius. She couldn’t understand why he chose white; it always looks
dirty no matter how often the car is washed. Alice started to fall for
him one day when he caught her looking and smiled at her. She blushed
and waved gingerly in his direction before looking down at the ground.
In the nicer weather, when his windows were down, she heard the music he listened to, and eventually used her iPhone app to discover the bands he listened to. Mostly indie music. Her favorite one was Belle and Sebastian, and in a vain attempt to catch his attention one dress down Friday at work
she proudly adorned a B&S tee shirt hoping he would notice. He did not
pass her that day.
Now, months later, she knew a little about the music he loved. She
knew his car, that he had a beard, and that the memory of his smile from
that one day warmed her, even in this cold. She saw the car coming
from a few blocks away and leaned against the side of the depot,
ignoring the cold against her shoulder, trying to look nonchalant. As his car halted in the traffic almost directly in front of her, where he usually ended up stopping, she saw his plaid shirt and a dark blue tie that looked to be old, or as her cool coworkers called it, vintage. With the windows up it was
impossible to hear what he listened to, but she assumed it was Belle
and Sebastian because that had become part of him in her mind.
She wanted him to look again. Even though most of her face was hidden
behind a scarf, or maybe because that empowered her a little, she
wanted to see that smile again. Her dream was that he would roll down
the window and ask her to tea, tell her a day and time he would be
there if she wanted to meet him. That he, too, noticed her on his
daily trek to work and had somehow fallen into a drive by crush as
well.
The traffic started moving without even a look, and before Alice knew
it he was gone.
Oh well, she thought. Maybe tomorrow.

A Vaudevillian Moment

As far back as I can remember my grandmother reminisced about her days on stage back in the Vaudeville era.  Her and my grandfather were well known, in New York at least, as performers of music, dance, and probably even more so, comedy.

Grandfather, before he died, swore he’d made up Groucho’s famous “Outside of a book, a dog is a man’s best friend.  Inside a dog it’s too dark to read,” line back then on the stage.  It’s true, Groucho did attend one of their performances with his brothers, but regardless, there’s no way to prove that claim.

When I was little I would spend summers at my grandparents’ home in suburban New York, a small property that working the stage had paid for.  Mother considered it an extended visit, a vacation.  I loved it.  Dad, eternally disliked by my grandmother for pulling my mom out of the spotlight and marrying her, hated every moment.  Using work as an excuse, he would drive up from Philadelphia, our hometown, on weekends.

As I got older, after grandfather died, our visits were really all my grandmother looked forward to.  She would have my room all done up with a frilly pink bedspread (something I pretended to love even after I’d outgrown it) and would serve all of my favorite meals.  She would cater to anything I wanted as if I were her own daughter.  Actually, even mom didn’t have it as good as I did in that old house.

And every summer, like clockwork, she would pull out her old prop umbrella, worn out and missing the knob, and we would do one of the skits she loved so much with me playing the straight man.  She’d put on a funny hat and dress and jump right in.

“There are so many ways to understand what a lady is saying just by how she carries her umbrella!  Like if she holds it like this-”

And I would break in, “It means it’s raining?”

“No, no,” she would correct.  “It means she’s married!  And if she holds it like this-”

“She’s single?” I would ask, giggling.

“No!  It means she’s married and her husband is coming.”

“So you run?”

“Of course not.  Then you nod, like so.”

“So apologize?”

“No, stupid!  It means you want to meet her around the corner!”

“But she’s married!”

“Exactly, so you have to wait for the signal from her.”

“Which is?”

My grandmother would then flirtatiously lift her dress a bit to show some leg, usually with dirty work pants and boots underneath since she was always gardening.  This would have me doubled over in laughter by this point, keeping me from finishing the skit.

She would always chuckle along with me, then sit down in the nearest chair and remember the good old days, working the Vaudeville circuits with my grandfather.

Early Morning Invite

“Want to go out to brunch?” she asks me as I sip my early morning tea, dreading the idea of cooking yet again.

“Sure!” I am all for it! It was like she read my mind.

“But I don’t like breakfast food.” Um…whaaaaa?

“Then why did you suggest brunch? And this early?”

“I dunno.”

I have to just sit and think. This makes no sense to me. She breaks the silence first.

“How about a coffee shop instead?”

As I weigh the option of making breakfast and then meeting her, verse paying a ridiculous amount for a breakfast sandwich that’s been sitting out all morning, she breaks my train of thought.

“But I don’t drink coffee.”

“Then why…never mind.”

“I like hot chocolate. Do coffee shops have hot chocolate?”

“Probably,” I respond.

This conversation is hurting my brain.

 

Based on a true story.

Strangers on a Train

As I sat on the train I noticed the people in the seat directly in front of me. She had a big white knitted hat on as protection from the bitter cold of the early Philadelphia morning. His hat was striped and didn’t look nearly as warm. Her head rested on his shoulder and I could see from my vantage point that she was dead asleep. I wondered how long they had been on the train that her slumber could be so deep. Maybe she was just a good sleeper.

I could hear the pages turning in something he read; it sounded more like a book than a newspaper. They have a much louder sound and longer page-turning time. He seemed so relaxed and content on his morning commute. I assumed they knew each other; people need a certain comfort level to rest their head on another’s shoulder. Or maybe that’s just me. Who knows.

My single-ness was a bit painful after seeing two people so comfortable with each other, so relaxed and close. It ate away at me as I looked down at my boots, toes awkwardly pointed inward just the slightest bit, my tights keeping my legs warm and the gray sweater dress that I painstakingly chose this morning in the hope of seeing that guy I have a secret crush on; I can’t help it, I have a thing for sweater vests, what can I say.

I wonder about these two people in front of me. They seem like nice, kind people, a couple I would love to hang out with. They’re about my age, maybe twenty-four or twenty-five at the oldest. While I am dressed for office work, they look like they could be on vacation or possibly going to work in some new trendy company that not only allows jeans, but expects them. I would love to work in a place like that.

The speaker crackles and someone announces Suburban Station, next stop, Suburban Station and he nudges her gently with his shoulder; she looks up. Lines from his coat mark her face and she smiles as her hand wipes the sleep from her eyes. The train hisses and slows, he smiles at her. She gets up, fixes her soft yellow coat, and kisses him on the cheek.

“See you tonight,” he says with a smile. She smiles back and nods, then turns and exits the train.

Artwork by the always lovely and talented Nadia Lavard.