I stretched as I stood up from my seat on the small aircraft owned by The Manitowoc Company. I was accustomed to the short flights between Michigan and Wisconsin. This particular flight was a bit longer and I was cramped and uncomfortable. I was eager to sit down with my older brother and tell him about my upcoming date with the pretty, young, girl from the greasy spoon. We had arranged it before I left and I hadn’t had time to share the news. I grabbed my things off the plane, thanked pilot Joe and headed for my car.
I opened the heavy door of my 1972 Chevelle SS. She was the first automobile I had purchased new and the smell of leather hit my nose immediately bringing a smile to my face. She was ascott blue with white wall tires and a she didn’t blow smoke or rattle down the road like the cars I’d had before her. I had worked for The Manitowoc Company for a decade and last year they went public. I didn’t much care about all of that business stuff, but when the first dividends were paid, I called my old high school buddy who owned a Chevrolet dealership and I ordered myself a new car using the dividend as my down payment. I didn’t own a home, but I felt like a millionaire after signing on the dotted line. I could hardly believe that it was 1972 and so was my car!
I stopped to take in the beauty of this car, her sleek lines, the rich color of her paint, and then turned slowly and sauntered to the trunk. No one was around and I was so enamored by the beauty of the SS. As I opened the trunk, I felt confident, a man and his car. The engine roared to life and we were soon on the road headed to my Brother Donald’s house in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Donald’s wife Carol was fretting about my being single and was happy to cook me a meal and do my laundry when I got in from these weekly business trips. It was enjoyable to spend time with Carol and Donald and their family. The house was filled with noise, laughter, and it had warmth to it. My apartment was above a bar; I chuckled at the comparison.
“What is this?” Donald was asking Carol in a raised voice when I came through the side door. I chuckled despite myself; I was very familiar with these arguments and I recognized the Simplicity pattern in Donald’s hand as he shook it in frustration at his sweet wife. This was pattern 5318 and apparently it was called ‘Bikini Pants & Bell Bottoms’ and Donald wasn’t having his 16 year old daughter wearing anything with the word ‘bikini’ in it. He couldn’t believe Carol had spent an entire dollar on something so foolish. Carol was trying to explain that the pattern couldn’t be returned and bikini only referred to where the pants rested on Mary’s hips. Donald was not interested in discussing his daughter’s hips and they all looked quite relieved at the distraction that I created as I dropped my bags on the floor of their kitchen.
“Charles – it’s so good to see you. Can I get you a drink?” asked Carol as she firmly hugged me. I couldn’t turn her down and agreed to a martini on the rocks and my brother joined me. I greeted the children who were busy discussing the new shows they wanted to see at either the Mikadow or Lakeview Drive in Theater the following weekend. Mary wanted to see ‘Pay it Again, Sam” and Terry wanted to see “The Godfather” while their youngest sister, Holly, just wanted to be included in whatever they were so animated about. “Do you kids know that Uncle Charles worked at a theater here in Two Rivers when he was your age?” Donald asked the children to get their attention. They quickly gathered around as I explained: “Your dad is telling the truth, that was my first job. You kids know where Evans Department store is, well that was the Rivoli. I worked the late shift and was responsible for cleaning and making sure that everyone was out at night before we locked up. I’ve seen the second half of most movies shown in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. Don’t laugh; I had the biggest crush on Ethel Merman after hearing her sing and seeing those long eyelashes in Irving Berlin’s Call Me Madam. I even went back on my day off to watch the entire show; she was a knockout!”
“Supper is ready.” called Carol (just in time, I was struggling not to mention my love of large breasts). Story time was over and the children groaned. I was still smiling at the good times I’d had (the smell of buttery popcorn, and the silly antics of my friends – ahhh the memories). “Where do you want me?” I asked Carol as I gave her a wink. She always saved me the best seat at the head of the table opposite my oldest brother. This made it easy for sibling banter. She gave me a smile as she pointed to my usual seat. Carol was a great hostess and had a fresh martini and a glass of water already waiting at my spot.
“Well Donald, what did I miss?” I usually began this way. Donald was happy to fill me in on the local happenings and he wasn’t jealous like some. Donald had traveled out of the country as a pilot in the Air Force. He was content with his factory job, family life, and was relieved to sleep beside the same woman each night. He went on about recent orders at the factory, the new houses going up on the North side of town, and the family news about our little sister who was expecting her third child. We chatted casually while enjoying Carol’s meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, and some steamed carrots. It was nights like these that made the drive across town to my small apartment most difficult. Nights like this were a reminder that I was alone. I was a bit lonely.
“Charles, now that I’ve caught you up on everything around here, it’s your turn. Don’t you dare tell me about Nixon becoming president or that silly blimp; I want to know what’s new with YOU!” I guess I couldn’t argue with that. I had responded sarcastically a few too many times and he was onto me. This time I did have something worth talking about. I told them about the adorable young waitress I had stumbled upon when having a cup of coffee at the greasy spoon right here in our own home town “You’ve been to Arvy’s Restaurant downtown Donald. Do you remember seeing that young blonde with the ice blue eyes?” Donald had never found a blonde to be the least bit attractive so I wasn’t surprised that he didn’t remember her. I went on to explain that her name was Elizabeth (Bet for short) and that she had agree to go to dinner with me this weekend. Donald didn’t seem interested. Carol was excited at the possibility of my settling down locally and starting a family.
“How much do you know about her Charles?” Carol inquired. I explained that she was originally from somewhere in the upper peninsula of Michigan and she had recently moved here to find some long lost relatives. She was a bit younger than me (actually, she was 15 years younger, but I claimed not to know her exact age since it likely wouldn’t go over well) and she drove a motorcycle. That sure got everyone’s attention. Riding motorcycles was cool if you were a man, and I could tell from the ten eyes looking at me in dismay that not one of them were impressed that I was going on a date with a motorcycle driving woman. I had the feeling Donald was picturing the model on the front of Simplicity pattern 5318 with her bikini pants and bell bottoms.
“Oh Charles.” Carol sighed. “I had so hoped that you would find a nice lady, get married, and settle down … does this um … what’s her name? Elizabeth? Seem like the marrying and settling down type?” I reminded my lovely sister in law that this was a first date and that I was one of the town’s most notorious confirmed bachelors. I had no intention of settling down and I was sure that this young blonde with the curvy figure, bouncy hair, and motorcycle had no intention of anything of the sort either. She hadn’t even told me where she lived, she insisted I give her my address so she could meet me out front of my place and we could walk to dinner. I had sensed she was overly cautious if anything. I visited for a while longer, collected the clothes I had dropped off the week before, and headed back the two miles to my apartment. I thanked my brother and sister in law, but didn’t stay as long as usual. I was hoping that if I left early I would avoid the inquisition about Elizabeth.
The SS was waiting outside; I skillfully slid behind the wheel after placing my clean clothes over the back of the passenger seat and putting my bag in the trunk. Carol was an amazing woman. She worked and managed to iron every piece of cloth and clothing in her own home as well as my things. Donald told me she ironed their bed sheets, bath towels, and of course I knew she ironed underwear since mine were always pressed when I picked up my laundry. No wonder all the girls in town wanted to date me, I really looked dapper with my clothes so neatly cared for. Carol had also took over shopping for me, so my clothes were fashionable and she found an imported cologne at the drug store that made me smell foreign and mysterious. I was hoping Elizabeth would at least find me intriguing, if not mysterious. I laughed to myself at the thought. I was nervous about this date. I hadn’t been nervous with any of the other girls. There was just something about her ice blue eyes that made my toes tingle.
Back at my apartment, I settled in. I took my shoes off at the door, hung up my laundry, made myself the final martini of the evening, and relaxed on the floral print couch that had conveniently come with the apartment. I looked around to make sure this would meet with feminine approval, just in case Elizabeth came in before or after our date. Northing was new, but everything was well taken care of, tidy, and orderly. It would do – and who was I trying to impress anyway? She didn’t seem like a prude, but it was highly unlikely we would end up here. I closed my eyes and imagined what we would do if things got romantic.
… knock …
… knock …
“Who is it?” I woke with a start and glanced at the clock. It was three in the morning; my drink was still in my hand (except the ice cubes which had melted hours ago). The glass made a thud as I set it on the end table. I headed to the door and thought I was dreaming. She had tears in her eyes and her shirt was clinging to her youthful breasts. She was shivering and cold and quite possibly the most gorgeous woman I had laid eyes on. It took a moment to confirm that I was awake and this wasn’t some sort of vodka induced illusion. It really was Elizabeth at the door and something was obviously wrong but my heart said something was oh so right … I invited her in and poured her a drink.