A Writer is a Writer…
It was a crisp fall afternoon in Tylertown, Ohio, and Main Street was buzzing with activity, as town leaders had recently decided to install parking meters along the three block stretch between Deadwoods Street and the junction of Route 800. Rather than pay a nickel an hour, residents were lining up, impatiently waiting, to park their cars free in the cracked and littered concrete lot in front of the Seven Eleven, much to the dismay of its owner, stuttering Millie Carnation, who had to stand on a carton of Bounty paper towels to see over the cash register inconveniently located in the rear of the store, in order to survey the confusion in her concrete lot.
Across from the Seven Eleven, in the dusty front office of the Town Tooter, Donna Glotz peeked from behind a set of dirty Venetian blinds, out to the curb, where she had bravely parked her “vintage” grey Chevy Impala that morning, not bothering to drop coins into the designated parking meter. Earlier, she had struggled to move her oversized, over weighted avocado green IBM Selectric typewriter from the its usual spot in the break room to the front window.
“What I have to do to save a buck.” she thought to herself, glancing up at the newspaper offices only wall clock. In three hours, she would be out the front door, behind the wheel heading home, where she would head to her tiny dirty kitchen, grab an icy cold bottle of Meisterbrau from the icebox and, finally, onto the couch, where she could forget her troubles and watch the final hour of Merv!, with co-host, Totie Fields!
And what troubles Donna had! She had recently been rehired as society columnist for the Town Tooter, by her editor, the ancient, chain smoking, foul mouthed, overly perfumed Edna Mueller, on the conditions that she attend and pay for herself, writing classes at the local Duck County Community College, that the above editor was teaching, as well as take orders for any classified ads that may be telephoned in. In addition, she was behind in her rent, the Impala parked outside was on the verge of breaking down, and her soon to be ex-husband, Larry Pinkel was being released from the Duck County Jail the next day.
Staring at the typewriter, Donna pushed a lock of poorly colored stray hair from her face with one hand, dug deeper into a nearby bag of Cheetos with the other and read the beginning of her first column in six months, which was smeared with oily yellow fingerprints.
“Tylertown Tidbits” by Donna Glotz
Readers, it seems like only yesterday that I was behind my typewriter, hammering out page after page of thrilling tidbits of information about our lovely town, entertaining you all with good news and goings on from here and there.
Well, truth be told, it’s been six months, since I wrote about this uninteresting lackluster, hick town and the uninteresting people that take up space here. I wish I could be the first to tell you all that a fleet of bulldozers will be arriving tomorrow, ready to demolish every house, store, bar, beauty barn and newspaper office listed in our zip code, then whisk me back to Columbus, where a high paying job as spokesperson for the Ohio State Lottery was waiting, but I can’t.
That un-granted wish behind me, let me begin my column by boring you with what I did during my six months of unemployment-
Donna was startled by the ringing of the tiny bell attached to the offices flimsy glass and aluminum front door. Looking up from her typewritten page, she was unpleasantly surprised to see a classmate from Duck County Community College in the doorway; the same classmate she avoided whenever possible. Thin, gangly, red haired, acne scarred, hard of hearing, Jimmy Sweeney stood before her, clad in a pressed white too-big shirt, pressed and starched-enough-to-be-holding-him-up, oversized belted-to-the-last-notch dungarees and black high-tops. A long thick grey cord ran from the large hearing aid to his stuffed shirt pocket. His eyeglasses were recently re-taped, as she recalled the last time she saw him in Edna’s writing class, the bridge of his frames were poorly repaired with transparent tape, which was today replaced with what appeared to be electrical tape, as dark as the eyeglasses being supported. As usual, he carried a battered vinyl zippered briefcase.
“Hey Miss Glotz, some traffic out there, huh?” Jimmy mumbled, sweating profusely, quickly yanking the hearing aid cord away from the closing door. :”I come here ‘cause you said you had some-“, his left nostril twitched involuntarily, “…writing for me to do for ya.” Jimmy had been waiting for this moment, his first assignment as a newspaper writer, since he enrolled at the Duck County Community College. For weeks and weeks, at the end of every session of writing class, he would corner instructor Edna Mueller in the short former elementary school hallway, unfazed by the stench of Edna’s Norrell perfume, and inquire about writing opportunities at the Town Tooter. Edna finally referred him to Donna, who had been avoiding this moment as much as Jimmy was looking forward.
“What? I never said anything about-“, Donna stopped mid-sentence.. She glanced around her messy work area, tossed a folded index card at Jimmy, leaving yellow Cheetos fingerprints on it, as well. “Here. Mrs. Knox at the library wants to get rid of her dog. Old bags’ too old to take care of it any more. I don’t know how much she’s asking for it. You have to call her. Write a three line classified ad and run it down to the printer tonight, so it can get into the paper tomorrow morning.” Donna returned to her typing, as Jimmy stood frozen, the card at his feet. “Go! They close at ten!” she barked, not looking back up.
Jimmy tapped at the hearing aid in his pocket and mumbled, each word louder than the one before. “Battery must be going again. Gotta ask Ma to get me another one from the Murphy’s Mart the next time she goes.” Donna shook her head, as Jimmy bent girlishly to retrieve the card from the floor. “Thanks Miss Glotz…but I didn’t get all you said about the dog…it’s too old to what…?” By that time his whiny voice could be heard on the sidewalk.
A moment he was standing on that same noisy sidewalk, the door behind him slamming loudly shut. He glanced at the index card in his hand, and caught his breath. “Public Library. Mrs. Knox. TYlertown2-8900. Old. Dog.” the shaky handwriting read. Jimmy grinned goofily, exposing a crooked overbite and unattended gums. “My first assignment!”
Later that day, Jimmy slumped in the corner of the dusty Fish Wish Pet Store at the Hilltop Mall, where painted turtles were, as always, two for a dollar. He was employed as after noon assistant manager and cashier, and responsible for the caring and upkeep of the smelly tank of turtles, assorted cages of nasty hermit crabs and bowls of lethargic goldfish, which were sold more frequently as bait and less frequently as pets.
In front of him was a half eaten pack of NOW AND LATERS. He had greedily eaten all the NOWS, and planned on eating the LATERS towards the end of his uneventful shift.
With the battery on his hearing aid running low, he did not hear the shuffling of feet on the grey concrete floor until his first customer of the afternoon was at the register. It was none other than dimwitted Harley Butler, son of the host of Bargain Bill Butler and his all New Classifieds on WBTC Radio. Harley and Jimmy were the same age, but because Harley was held back in school several grades several times, he was still a 10th grader at Tylertown High School, a year behind his equally dimwitted younger sister, Yvette.
Now the two faced each other across the register, briefly, then Harley looked down at the half empty pack of candy, and struggled to form a sentence. “If you save the LATERS for later, they turn into NOWS,” he attempted to theorize, “I can’t eat old NOWS…the dog needs stuff for his bowl…we tried to see if you was here on the dialing thing, but there is no number in the book that holds up the corner of my bed, and…”
Jimmy rolled his eyes, as the hermit crabs ticked away in their cages. “Harley, I tell ya every month, we don’t have a telephone, or sell the dog food. Go to the IGA for the dog food.”
Harley turned and headed out of the small store, mumbling. ”I’ll go later, but the dog needs stuff for his bowl now, but by then it’ll be now, not later…” He rubbed his temple and disappeared around the corner, narrowly missing a stray painted turtle on the concrete.
Jimmy shook his head. “He knows we don’t sell dog food…dog!” He dug a bony finger into his shirt pocket behind his hearing aid and fished out the index card Donna Glotz had tossed at him earlier. “Public Library. Mrs. Knox. TYlertown2-8900. Old. Dog.” Nearby, another goldfish floated to the top of its tank.
Since there was no telephone in the pet store, and the pay phone by the mall’s restroom was out of order, Jimmy had to find another option. Since he could not call Mrs. Knox at the library, he would have to use his experience as journalist to write the classified ad! His face flushed with excitement as he unzipped his ever present vinyl briefcase, and produced a grimy notebook, a chipped Bic pen stuck in its spiral binding, as the stray painted turtle lumbered out of the store, and into the terrazzo floored mall.
It was 9:59 PM when a sweating, heart-racing, clothing soaked with sweat, eyeglasses slipping, hearing aid unplugged Jimmy Sweeney crashed his bony frame into the main entrance of the Town Tooters printing office. The noise from his body-to-door collision caused the night pressmen, nicknamed Heckle and Jeckle, to look up from their Super Jumble word games and out the door into the cool evening air.
“Well lookee, Heck,” said Jeckle, pointing with his pencil, “It’s that Sweeney kid. Interruptin’ my Super Jumble.”
“Why, yes, it is, Jeck,” replied Heckle, “N’ I almost got mine figured out. What’s he got in his hand?”
Jimmy struggled to lift his hand in the air, in which waved a few sheets of damp paper. “…classified…Glotz…dogs…deadline…” he gasped.
Heckle bent over and glanced at the waving paper. “Must be them classifieds from that Glotz woman, Jeck. Just in time.”
Jeckle snatched up the sheets and examined them more closely. “This ain’t no classifieds, Heck! This is fer the front page!”
Jimmy struggled to stand, but collapsed into a nearby shrub, still out of breath. “No, I, she…dog…library…”
Jeckle turned back inside. “Ferget the Super Jumble, Heck! Pull the Glotz column outta the front page and stick this in!”
Heckle stepped over Jimmy, and followed Jeckle into the pressroom. “Good work, kid. You’ll make a heckuva delivery boy one a these days.”
The next morning, Donna Glotz strolled into the office of the Town Tooter, a few minutes early. An early morning rain left the streets and sidewalks damp, and Donna, in an unusually cheerful mood, strolled down Main Street, pretending she was a spokes model in a giant automobile television commercial, pointing at and touching nearby cars, both parked and moving. After making a long-distance personal call to her sister Dorette in Terre Haute, Indiana, on the newspapers telephone, she would settle into her typewriter and begin a new day. Although she didn’t look forward to the release from prison of her soon to be ex husband, she realized that, after watching a very special Merv! the evening before, with guest Totie Fields, life can only get better once you hit rock bottom.
TO BE CONTINUED