Tuesday, February 01, 2011

EXCERPT The following is an excerpt from the book "A Radio Story". The chapter tells the story of a Super Bowl party hosted by a local family connected with the radio station the main character Jake Yanick worked at.
The social event of the entire season for broadcasting people was the Mecklenburgh Super Bowl party. The gathering was everything Jody and Jerry were, generous, friendly, gregarious and fun loving. In the competitive cut throat world of broadcasting, the party was a one time oasis of good solid fellowship. Sales reps that routinely stabbed each other in the back were pleasantly surprised to see that away from the media, these people actually were loved by either a spouse or a kid. The party was going to be difficult for Jake because of the presence of Penelope Hartz. Penelope was the type of woman who made men crazy. In her 50s, she was tall, bright, engaging but had two annoying habits. One was that she acted dumber than she was and the second was that she was an incredible flirt. She would take a relatively worldly man and turn him into a 12 year old boy. Much to Jake’s chagrin and shame, she did that to him. Jake, vulnerable for excitement after being a care-taker to his ailing wife leaped into the Penelope situation with gusto. He found her bright, engaging, but very volatile and passionate in her beliefs and ideas. Jake didn’t like that aspect though, Jake liked the boredom of a friendship, the sameness. Penelope on the other hand fed off the attention of many male suitors. She had been engaged 6 times but broke them all off at the last minute. It was said that she took a man to the edge of the creek but never allowed him to drink. When she was with you, Penelope was with you. But when she was bored of a man’s shtick, she cut him off cold turkey. That was difficult for anyone concerned about image. To Jake, image was everything and Penelope had provided a wonderful and glamorous addition to that aspect of his personality. Jake’s meetings with Penelope abruptly ended when Poppy, getting worried about Jake’s intentions created a nasty misunderstanding with a mutual client of the two friendly but rival radio reps. Jake did not miss Penelope but missed the attention she gave him. He knew this friendship would be fleeting because he understood Penelope’s monumental need for up close attention, a commodity he had no desire or energy to provide. Jake didn’t think Penelope ever realized what she did to various men like him but all her male victims certainly did. For Jake it was the embarrassment of being so goofy around her. Jake was too old for that type of infatuation. The key here was to make it appear that the Penelope Hartz situation had no effect on him. He had heard that every man had a Penelope Hartz recovery strategy and to save face, his would be two fold. The first part was to avoid her altogether and the second was that if he could not do the former, he’d have company whenever he encountered her. This meant he had to get someone female to accompany him to this Super Bowl party. Making this happen was easier said than done. His choices were very limited because Jake had been out of action for some time on the “lady front”. Plus, Adrienne was still unavailable for huge social events due to her continued recovery. A month prior to the party, Jake asked several women he knew to go with him. The obvious choice would be Jake’s wife but for his spouse the entire month of January was spent on the couch in fits of sleep and depression. She was paralyzed by her inability to accept that what she could accomplish mentally before the accident. While Jake tended to her needs, he tried to get her socially engaged. Each time he tried to suggest something new, it turned into a disaster. The setting was either too loud or crowded and her recovery time from each tried foray would take days. Jake, while loyal to her, was on his own socially. Unlike other couples, Jake and his wife were not joined at the hip. It was common for the couple to go their separate ways via business trips, meetings and the like and reunite for quality time. The accident had turned that time into constant rehab and rest. And while Jake looked at it as a labor of love, it still was a labor. With his wife out of commission, Jake tried other female friends. A male buddy would not do. He had to make the point to Penelope that he was not like the other panting suitors pining away for her in solitude. Every person Jake asked either had plans, avoided the subject with him or just said no. Jake even lowered himself by stopping off at various happy hours that yielded disastrous results. It was the day before the party and Jake had not found anyone to accompany him. Like he did every day, Jake went to the gym. Always a big man, Jake was haunted by his size, his perception of himself as not handsome and the way his clothes fit. Jake could handle a brain injured spouse, a screaming client and solve most any problem with aplomb. He was strong in those areas, but weak in his comfort with his physical appearance. On the way to the gym, Jake thought at least he’d look half decent at the party, but nothing could change the fact that he would be going alone and he was sure Penelope Hartz would make note of that fact. The gym Jake went to was a cardiac rehab center run by one of the hospitals. Jake went there to sweat and lose some weight, nothing more. His wife had introduced him to the modern facility. Jake liked it because hedidn’t have to be the big friendly media guy, he could sweat and grunt in anonymity. He struck up few conversations but recently had begun talking with a gangly girl who once approached him with concern while he was on the stair master. She thought he was having a heart attack. This tall woman with the engaging smile and Julia Roberts giggle was going to be Jake's last stand. Furthermore, he was going to try a novel approach this time, unusual for any man, especially one like Jake. He was going to be brutally honest with her. She sat down on the stationary bike next to him looking disheveled and awkward as always. Their conversation was compact with the young lady doing the asking and Jake responding. “Hey. Hey. Wearing the Packer shirt today, they going to win tomorrow? I hope so but I wouldn't care if Elway won. Hey, Elway's cute. Sure he is. That's always the key to victory. Who crapped on your English muffin this morning? If you must know, I’m a bagel man myself. But I have to go to a thing tomorrow and I don't want to go by myself. Wow, I have to go somewhere tomorrow and I'm gonna be hating it too!” This time Jake asked the questions. “Where do you have to go? Well, I have three brothers and they are all married to these hideous women who hate me. They're having this annual Super Bowl party. It is a huge deal with hundreds of people I don’t know and a few I do.” Instantly Jake deflated. Still another woman with plans, another dead end in his quest to show up Penelope. This time though a ragamuffin in ill fitting gym clothes was refusing him. How low could he go with this streak. Still, he decided to soldier on and present his plan. “I have to go to this party with all the people who work in my industry. Which is...............? Radio and TV, I work for power 108. My family is in the demolition business. I love Power 108. Billy Jefferson lives the town over from me. He’s a scream. Sounds like fun. Why don't you want to go? There's this woman that's going to be there. Our friendship ended badly. I don't want to go alone, I just don't want to walk into that party and have her see me solo. I know it’s dumb but I don’t want to go alone. You realize that you are acting very immature about this, right? Absolutely!” This time, the red headed girl turned interrogator. “This woman, did you treat her well? Yes, very well. Was she erratic in her actions? Sometimes. Did she have kids? Three boys. That explains it. What? When a woman has children, especially boys, the mental stress of the birth saps her energy and even some of her intelligence. As she ages, the woman's behavior becomes more erratic. You compound that with someone with an ego and you got problems. Where did you get this stuff? Italian scientists did a study of afterbirth and placentas and determined this was so. You're nuts. Hey, I'm not the one looking for a date to show off because I'm immature! Point well taken. You want to go? Well, let me ask a few questions. Okay. Have you ever been arrested? No. Ever hit a girl? No. Favorite song? Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow by the Shirelles. Love the kettle drum at the start of that song! I do too. My second favorite song is.......Don't care. Next question. Is your mom alive? Yes.Call her every day? Yes. Do you go to church? Every week. What type of cologne do you use? Polo. Okay, meet me at 4pm Sunday at Flannery's grocery store on Shadow Avenue. I'll see you there. Where do you live? In Simpson. About twenty five miles from here. How did you wind up working out here? Using my girlfriend's pass. So you're real name is not Kimberly? No it's Bernice but I hate my name. It's an old ladies name! So what do I call you? By my name, you dope! Bernice I appreciate you going. I hope you don't feel I'm using you to do this. Hey, as long as there's good food, I don't care. and besides, I may ask you to come to my family's Super Bowl deal afterwards. Sure.You realize you are being very immature though, right? I do. Okay, as long as we got that straight.” Jake was elated. He would not have to walk into that party alone with Penelope and her posse of ordinary looking girlfriends chattering about how she pulverized his sorry emotional ass. Jake would walk in, nod a curt hello to Penelope, signal that he was doing fine without her and then waltz back out again. Sunday came and Jake got ready for the party. He drove to the designated meeting spot and commenced to wait for his date's arrival. On time as usual, he settled in to wait. When 430 pm rolled around, Jake got a bit concerned but then remembered he was not dealing with a sales rep nor a rocket scientist in the person of this Bernice, a.k.a. Kimberly. By 5 pm, when there was no sign of her, Jake became worried. By 530 pm, he was frantic. No sightings at 6pm either, by then he was beside himself. Jake considered himself the biggest loser on the planet. Bernice was right, he was not only immature but pretty pathetic. It took a kid in a gym to show him that by standing him up. His plan now was to go across the street to the Sheraton hotel, use the bathroom and then go home to watch the game. Penelope had won her emotional war with him. The saddest part was that she was oblivious to the energy she caused him to waste in this endeavor and the pain that it caused him. As he walked out of the hotel, his cell phone rang. It was Bernice. “Hey, it's me, I fell asleep in the bathtub. Do you still want me to come? You fall asleep in your tub, Gosh I do that every couple of days, I thought I was the only one who did that! No it's quite relaxing. Kind of like being in a mother's womb. You're really fixated on this baby thing, huh? Do you still want me to come and what do you want me to wear? Yes I do and wear what you'd wear on a date. I used to date this guy Richie who owned a lube shop so should I wear the beige coveralls or the navy? Could you change a car's oil? Sure but I know you can't. Yeah, you're right. Wear what you wear when you want to....oh wear whatever you want. I’m getting dressed and I’m on my way”. Jake looked around in disbelief and realized the night was not going to be a total loss. About 20 minutes passed when he saw a red Escalade careering down the road. The car pulled beside him and Jake was stunned to see his gym buddy transformed into a Cinderella. Her red hair was flowing over her coat, her legs were longer than he had remembered seeing on the bike at the gym and her smile lit up the parking lot. She wore a navy skirt, pale blouse and looked like she stepped off a model's runway. “How do I look? Beautiful. Really? Yeah, how do I look? You look nice. Do you dress like this all the time? Pretty much. Nice, now sir, what are my instructions for the evening?” As Jake’s car pulled away from the parking lot and headed toward the festivities on Doe Road in nearby Moscow, he simply said, "Just act as if you like me". “Oh Christ" she answered, "you didn't tell me it was going to be this freaking' tough". The party was hopping by the time they arrived. People were spilled out into the January cold at the house drinking all forms of alcohol, eating food, and watching the game on a myriad of TV sets set up by the hosting couple. They parked a block away and went through the back door. Jake let Bernice go first to guide her from behind winding their way through the crowd to see their hosts. Bernice had made him stop at a convenience story to get Jody flowers as a gift. When the two entered, there was a buzz but then it lowered when people saw them together. Quiet murmurs began to circulate as they made their way from the massive deck area to the inside of the home. Just then, the quiet was shattered by the unmistakable voice of Penelope Hartz who screamed at poor Jim Poppinaro, or Poppy as he was called. "You perverted sick bastard, we're leaving". The front door slammed hard and Penelope was out the door. She had not even seen Jake!!!! All this energy, all this planning and she went out the front door while Jake was coming through the back door!! As they entered the living room, the duo encountered Jody who while graciously accepting Bernice's flowers filled them in. “Poppy just called Penelope a lesbian again because she went to see “Titanic” with her girlfriends instead of him. So she just caused a scene and flew out the front door,” " said Jody juggling the flowers and her 2 year old daughter. "You mean we missed meeting her?" Bernice asked grinning an impish grin that spoke volumes. Jody, figuring Jake’s original motives nodded knowingly and said, "Yep, you missed her". At that point her baby started to grab at Jake and Bernice said "Babies like him huh?" and Jody proceeded to tell Bernice how Jake was an unofficial uncle. "Cool" commented Bernice. At that point Jake left Jody and his date to talk while he got some drinks. Poppy approached Jake filled with too much wine and still stinging from Penelope’s latest rebuff. "It's too bad Penelope didn't see you with that babe" he said loudly. "Is she a hooker, how much you paying her?" "Poppy, she's not a hooker and the reason why Penelope left is you called her a lesbian again. She was storming out the front while we came in the back," Jake said. Poppy continued, "Hey she's nice, she's not the girl from the gym, that girl was really homely and real tall, like a big old rag doll, I saw her there once when I was waiting for you". "That's her", Jake replied. Just then Poppy screamed over at Bernice at the top of his voice "Hey, hey you over there, you're not as bad looking all dressed up as I thought you were. I thought you were pretty ugly there but you look nice!!!". It was another Poppy outburst, a symptom of his innocence and his OCD disorder. In shocked silence people waited for Bernice's response. She grabbed her heart and said, "At long last I can rest well at night because such a master gentleman says I made the cut". Doing a mock ballerina bow, she blew him a kiss and said, "I now have the broadcasting seal of approval." The stark contrast between the way Penelope and Bernice responded to Poppy was not lost on anyone. The two then made the rounds of the party. All eyes were on the dumpy little fat guy with the glasses and this tall, friendly and energetic woman. She charmed the men talking about sports, banished any envy of the women there by complimenting them on what they were wearing and enthralled the young kids with that smile that came so natural and easy. She swapped recipes, listened to the stories of radio and TV folk and of course shared her theory on women's intelligence vs. childbirth with anyone who listen. Two hours went by and Jake had no thoughts whatsoever of Penelope Hartz. After two hours and 15 minutes the couple decided to take their leave. Donning her coat Bernice broached the subject about the rest of the evening. “Wanna meet my Super Bowl demons? Can I? Absolutely. Just know that I think my dad is a year younger than you, my brothers will try to get you to say dirty Italian words to my gram and my sisters in law will tell you how stupid and pathetic I am. Can you handle all that? Only if I can defend your honor. Cool.” They said their goodbyes and Jake could tell that this party was going to be media gossip for weeks on end . He knew everyone would be talking about his party guest. But it didn't matter now, Penelope Hartz didn't matter after this night. What mattered most now was going to Bernice's party and being as protective, charming and as wonderful to her as she was to him. This was going to be Jake’s mission for the rest of the evening. The night was freezing cold and some ice had formed on the road. They walked up the street arm in arm, being careful not to fall, in effect, holding onto each other for dear life. "Well, how did I do?" she asked. Jake responded, "Wonderful. Just wonderful. Thank you for acting like you wanted to be with me". Just then, Bernice grabbed Jake with force and spun him around on the ice. It was the first time he had an appreciation for her size and strength. She held his face, kissed him and looked deeply in his eyes and said, “I wasn’t acting”. On that night, under the cold frigid stars is how Bernice and Jake began


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