This summer (I use that noun loosely) showed up about three weeks ago in our little corner of the world. Since the magical date of June 21st, we’ve had below normal temperatures while the rest of the country has endured hot temps. We had a one stretch of 90 degree temperatures for about five days, and then it was back into the 60’s and 70’s.
I’m not complaining because I enjoy cool temperatures. But the combination of cool temperatures and a backyard which is still in disarray, made this a summer of few at home pleasures. I don’t feel like I’ve had summer at all this year.
After the garage went up, the area around it looked like a disheveled heap. The long grass lays like a bad hair piece, and baby trees have sprung up like weeds all around the yard. When I decided to hire a landscaper, I hoped we’d have the project done by the first of August. Well, that didn’t happen.The landscaper won’t start our project until the middle of September, so it looks like no “Taj Garage” picnic celebration this year.
The little bit of summer is fading away. Last night we needed to turn the lights on before eight o’clock. Mums have arrived at the garden centers. My planted pots look beautiful like they always do before a frost. Going back to school ads are blasted in the media, and even Halloween decorations are up in the stores.
All of these signs of Autumn are coming too soon. Why do we have to rush everything? Doesn’t time go too fast as it is!
APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 4
Lacrosse, Wisconsin-May 1941—After her graduation party, a reunion with Johnny, and her promised weekend with Donna, Josie grew antsy to put her nursing skills to work. The short break in her busy routine showed her she needed more than baking cookies with her mother and chumming with her friends.
Josie wanted to work at St. Mary’s hospital where she was born, but she learned no open positions for surgical nurses existed. Josie’s disappointment dragged her down; she thought she would step into a position right out of the blocks because of her high honors in college.
When the hospital didn’t provide her employment, she visited every place in town that might need a nurse. Her search uncovered an opening at the Allis Chalmers plant for a company nurse. Josie applied for the position, and two days later, the personnel director called her in for an interview. She dressed in a conservative navy blue shirtwaist dress and to interview with the plant’s doctor. The interview went on for over an hour; a day later she was hired as the night shift nurse.
A boxy plywood structure stuck in the center of the plant served as a medical station in the noisy factory. The office provided a desk and chair as well as several file cabinets. The adjacent examining room included a doctor’s table, a lighted magnifying light, a wash basin, and a cabinet full of basic medical supplies.
Most of the work Josie ended up doing seemed to be paperwork, with a sprinkling of minor plant injuries from time to time. The only good thing about the position centered on generous checks every Friday. But Josie wanted more. Instead of action she labored in boredom. She wondered how Donna Jean could be satisfied sitting behind a desk for eight hours pounding on a typewriter.
A month after she took the position, a handsome man came into the office with one hand covering his left eye. “I got something in my eye. Can you help me?”
Josie jumped up and ushered him into the examining room. “You didn’t rub your eye, did you?”
He shook his head no.
She sat him in a chair and positioned the magnifier with a light beside him and said, “Just lay back and relax, and let me take a look.”
Josie searched his large dark eyes but didn’t find anything except longer lashes than a man should ever possess. “I can’t see anything, but to be on the safe side, let’s flush your eye.”
“Whatever you say, doc.” He grinned. The man in coveralls moved over a small sink which looked like a drinking fountain.
Josie instructed, “Turn your head and open your eye as wide as you can, and then I’ll spray it with clear water. The water might be a little cold.”
“Squirt away, doc.” He bent over and held his eye open.
After she finished flushing his eye, she handed him a small terry cloth towel. “Here. Dry your face. Is that better?”
“Yes ma’am. Much better.” He smiled and winked at her.
Josie ignored his wink. “I need to do a little paperwork and then you can get back to work.” She went to her desk.
He followed her into the adjoining office.
Josie pulled out an accident report form. “What is your name?”
“I thought you’d never ask.” He winked at her again. “My name is Mario.”
Josie kept her eyes on the keys of the typewriter. “Mario what’s your last name?”
“And what do you do in the plant, Mr. Venturini?”
“Mario, please. Mr. Venturini is my father.” He grinned. When he recognized she ignored him, he replied, “I’m a mechanic on the assembly line, ma’am.”
“And who’s your supervisor?”
“Okay, Mr. Venturini–I mean Mario–you’re all set. Here’s your pass to return to work.” She handed him a yellow note.
“I didn’t catch your name, nurse.”
“I didn’t throw it.” She smirked.
“Aw, come on. Give a poor injured guy a little pity.” Mario looked at her with puppy dog eyes.
“If you must know, my name is Josephine Schneider.”
He nodded. “Nice to meet you, Nurse Josephine Schneider. You’re a life saver. Can I have your number?”
“Nice to meet you, too, Mario Venturini. Now go!”
Even though he struck out with the new pretty nurse, he grinned and made up his mind he would make a point of seeing this spunky gal again.
“See ya around!” He gave her a little wave and winked one more time as he walked out the door.
Josie shook her head and realized Mario wasn’t used to women turning him down. He was a born charmer. She pretended to be disinterested. “Yeah, sure, Mar-i-o.”
Chapter 7 –
Paris, June — Marta searched the entire city to find Emma with no luck. How could she vanish into thin air? Marta’s fear mounted every day. She could not be too persistent because her interest in Emma might raise the suspicions of the Gestapo.
After a full day at the Louvre, Marta went home, made herself a cup of hot water, and poured some cream into her steaming cup. Nowadays, coffee disappeared. In fact, the cafe where Emma first found employment when they came to Paris went out of business. As her thoughts drifted to Emma, Marta allowed herself to cry. She longed for her best friend and lover. She missed Emma’s quick wit and active conversations. Going forward alone was getting too hard.
Marta shifted her thoughts to concentrate on the daily mail. She found a letter from her mother and ripped open the onion skin envelope. She stood as she read her mother’s lines.
My dear Marta,
I hope you are well, darling. Your father sends his best to you, too. He softened up a bit since you decided to stay in Paris, but his German pride gets in the way of his own feelings. He truly does miss his little girl.
I need to tell you some sad news. Your friend Leisel Fuchs Reinhart miscarried her baby and died shortly afterward. The details are sketchy, but the newspaper reported her mother found in her bathroom tub. I went to the funeral because you could not. Her mother suffered a terribly at the funeral. Such a thing goes against nature; the young should not die before their parents. But I realize thousands of youngsters die everyday because of this war we are fighting.
My other news is that your father just received new orders; he is being sent to Stalingrad to fight the Soviets. Up until now, I did not feared where the Nazis assigned him, but this mission causes me to worry. Oh, Marta, he is not a young man for this fight. The Soviets are ruthless barbarians, and they will fight to the death. The Fuhrer thinks this campaign will be over in six months, but I fear it will last much longer.
I realize your father and you are not on speaking terms, but for me, pray for him. Ask God to keep him safe as he goes to war against this terrible enemy. I pray everyday he comes home to me. Our love is strong and has lasted a long time. I cannot think of being without him.
Marta put the letter down on the kitchen table. She read it again–this time sitting on one of the kitchen chairs. The news about her father was troubling, but Leisel’s death shook her to her core. She wondered if Franz even cared if she died because of the things he said the night he raped her. If true justice existed at all, Franz Reinhart should be made to fight the ruthless Soviets under the command of Leisel’s father.
Lacrosse, Wisconsin, June—The phone rang at the Schneider house around six o’clock in the evening and Josie answered. “Hello?”
“Oh Josie, I’m so excited!” Donna Jean screamed.
“What’s going on?” Josie asked.
“I got promoted to be the secretary to the President of the Company!”
“Gee, that’s really swell, Donna. I’m so proud of you!”
“The best part of the whole thing is, I’m getting a fifty cent an hour raise! I want to take you and Rosie out for a celebration. Can you get away with me on Saturday night?”
“Peachy. Do you think Peter would bring you into town? Otherwise, maybe Rosie could pick you up? Afterward, you can sleep at my place.”
“I’ll ask Peter. He usually buzzes into town on Saturdays. Where are we going?”
“I got tickets to hear Glenn Miller!”
“Really? Wow! He’s the greatest. I love his music.”
Donna exclaimed, “Me too. His music is dreamy. A trombone never sounded so good.”
“Before the show I want to go out for dinner at the Palace. My treat.”
“Donna, that place is expensive.”
“Don’t you know? I’m rollin’ in the dough now, sweetie!”
“Did you ask Rosalie yet?”
“No, but Angelo never gets in her way. She’ll come.”
“How about seven o’clock? That’ll give us enough time to enjoy a big, fat T-bone steak before we go cut a rug to ol’ Glenn Miller.”
“Meet you at the Palace. Seven o’clock. Saturday night.”
“Swell! Gotta go.”
Josie hung up the phone. Donna’s invitation would be her first big outing since she returned home and she realized she had nothing to wear. Most of her college clothes were worn, and her work clothes were too dowdy. She owed herself a shopping trip and a new haircut to prepare for the big night.
Saturday night came around fast. Josie chose a red shirt-waist dress and a long string of pearls to celebrate Donna’s promotion. She still didn’t walk well in heels, so she bought on a pair of red patent leather flats. She thought if she got asked to dance, at least her feet wouldn’t kill her at the end of the evening.
Rosie and Donna waited for Josie in the lobby of the Palace. A blue-eyed, blond man with an enticing smile showed them to their table. After he seated the girls in the chairs, he handed them over-sized menus to study. Josie scanned the prices.
Donna must have read her mind. “I told you two this is my treat. If I couldn’t afford the dinner, I wouldn’t invite you. Pick whatever you want. I want to celebrate top-shelf and don’t you dare order chicken!”
Rosalie said, “We can’t do that, Donna. This place is so expensive.”
“Hush, little mama. Let me feel like the rich and famous. I never got to send flowers or buy a baby gift when little Gina came along. And Josie, I want to give you this evening as a graduation present. I figure being together for a fun night out is the best present any of us could get. Right?” Donna smiled.
Rosalie and Josie’s prior experience arguing with Donna usually ended as a no-win proposition, so the two girls said thanks and ordered dinner.
After a divine dinner, the girls drove to the Dance Hall at nine o’clock. The “warm-up band” played old favorites. Donna Jean handed the tickets to a woman at the door who led them to one of the small tables at the edge of the dance floor. The waitress placed cocktail napkins in front of each girl. “There’s a two drink minimum, girls. What can I get you?”
Rosalie ordered a Coke, Josie a glass of red wine, and Donna a whiskey cocktail.
“I wonder who we’ll meet tonight.” Donna said as she removed her white gloves and slipped them into her clutch purse.
“I didn’t think we came here to meet anyone, just to listen to the band.” Rosalie said.
“Well, you never can tell.” Donna winked.
“What is up your sleeve, Donna?” Josie asked as she noted Donna wore a come-hither smile as she stared across the room.
Donna came back with a quick retort. “I’m up to nothing. My dress is sleeveless.”
They all laughed at Donna’s quick come back.
The emcee introduced The Glenn Miller Band and as the famous band leader took the microphone to introduce “In the Mood” he invited everyone to dance. Couples rushed to the floor and whirled around to his signature song.
A handsome man in a dark suit came by their table and asked Donna to dance. She flashed him a warm smile, took his extended hand, and left Josie and Rosalie sitting together. “Well that didn’t take long.” Josie watched Donna foxtrot to the next tune.
A few minutes later, Mario spied Josie from across the room. He swaggered across the dance floor and approached her.
“Well, look who’s here!” He said, “Florence Nightingale!”
Josie looked up from her glass of wine, “Why Mario, who let you in here?”
“I bought a ticket just like you, sweetheart.” He smiled.
Josie blushed. Rosalie recognized flirting when she saw it and wondered where Josie met the guy. She never spoke about a guy named Mario. He bent over with a sweeping gesture. “Would you do me the honor and dance with me?”
“Well, I don’t know, Mario. My friend will be left alone. That wouldn’t be nice.”
Rosalie piped up, “Go Josie, I’m fine. Go dance!”
With no graceful way of getting out of dancing with him, Josie took Mario’s hand. He held her in a tight dancing frame as he guided her around the room like a professional. She never guessed such a big man would be graceful and light on his feet.
Mario whispered, “My friend James would like to dance with your friend.”
Josie said, “I don’t think so. She’s married.”
“Where’s her husband?”
“At home with the baby.”
“Jesus, god.” He exclaimed. “She doesn’t look old enough to drink!”
“Please don’t say anything. She already is awkward without Angelo being here.”
“No sweat. But you must promise me another dance to keep my mouth shut.”
Josie smiled. “You’re blackmailing me?”
“Sure. It’s fun to dance with you. I bet you thought I danced like a trained elephant before we got on the floor. Didn’t you?”
Josie blushed. “Well–
“Don’t worry, doll. Everybody underestimates my talents.” He winked and walked Josie back to her table.
Josie sat down beside Rosalie and took a sip of wine while she watched Mario stroll away to the bar.
Rosalie asked, “Who’s that guy? He’s really a doll.”
“Oh, he’s just a guy from work. Nothing special.
Rosalie sighed. “I wish Angelo was here. We haven’t danced since our wedding.”
Josie said. “Mario says his friend would love to dance with you.”
Rosalie hesitated. “No. That wouldn’t be right.”
“Rosie, why not? Angelo wouldn’t mind.”
“I think I’ll just say goodnight to Donna and go home.” Rosalie picked up her dainty evening bag and walked toward Donna where a group of good looking men surrounded her.
“I’m leaving, Donna. Thank you for a wonderful evening.” Rosie waved.
“You’re going so soon? Can’t you at least wait until the set is over?”
“No. My day begins early. We’ll talk soon.”
“Okay, Rosie. Thanks for helping me celebrate.” Donna hugged her.
Rosie walked toward the door and for the first time since she married Angelo, she wished she wasn’t married.