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Happy Thanksgiving, all! Here's a little piece from Gilchrist Aviation's Thanksgiving in 1932, eighty-one years ago, from Silver Bullet which will be out in February. I hope you enjoy it! (Rayburn is Paul Rayburn, from Comanche Air in the Great Passenger Derby. Chuck Hopkins is his copilot.)

In which Mitch is stuck with the dishes....



It was an hour before he escaped from the sink. In the living room everyone was clustered around the radio listening to the Packers' game, Lewis and Rayburn arguing in a friendly way about whether they were going to be the league champs again this year. Stasi was holding court in the armchair, Hopkins holding her ashtray for her, her legs crossed as she gestured wildly with the cigarette holder.

Mitch wandered up. "I didn't know you liked football," he said.

"Darling, I adore football!" She gave the kid a beatific grin. "And Mr. Hopkins here has been explaining all about it."

"You can call me Chuck," the kid said. He was holding her ashtray like a suppliant, which was more than a little irritating.

"I love every single first down and grand slam and basket," Stasi said, and he could almost have thought she winked at him as she gushed at Hopkins. "You have no idea how much I admire football!"

"I'm glad you've explained it all," Mitch said.

"Um," the kid said.

"Oh, you're brilliant, darling," Stasi said. "I've never understood all about stealing home before!"

The kid gulped like a fish, and a pretty stupid one at that.

"I wondered if there were leftovers," Mitch said. "And where you put them."

"They're taking up the whole icebox," Stasi said without budging. There was a wicked gleam in her eye. "You can't miss them."

She was actually going to make him do it. "I wanted more mashed potatoes," Mitch said. "Please, may I please have more mashed potatoes?"

The wicked gleam was followed by a still more evil smile. "Didn't you finish dinner an hour ago?"

"I have a pretty big appetite. Please may I have more potatoes?"

"Because?"

"Because they're the most wonderful mashed potatoes in the history of the world." Behind him there was a sound like Alma trying not to choke. "Please would you do me the very great favor of letting me have some more?"

Stasi got up. "Since you ask nicely," she said. She put her cigarette in the proffered ashtray. "I suppose."

He opened the kitchen door for her with a bow. "After you."

Stasi swanned in and leaned against the sink. "Oh thank God," she said as the door closed. "Darling, I hate football! Why is it everything everyone talks about? An entire holiday devoted to listening to football on the radio! It's not as though one can even see the game. It's just men shouting about things you can't see."

"You might like it better if you could see it," Mitch said, rummaging in the icebox. "I used to play football."

"Did you?"

"In high school." They were damned good mashed potatoes, especially eaten straight out of the bowl with an iced tea spoon. "I was pretty good, but not quite good enough to play college ball. Not at Duke. Trinity, it was called then. Before Old Man Duke gave them enough money to change the name of the college and call it after him."

"Is that a good school?"

Mitch shrugged, his head still in the icebox with the potatoes. "Good enough. Not as good as Jerry's. Jerry went to Harvard and then the University of Chicago. Duke's second tier. Not an Ivy League school, but ok." Considerably more than ok, but it was poor manners to brag. The facts ought to speak for themselves.

Stasi was leaning on the edge of the sink. "What did you take a degree in?"

"Classics." Mitch took another spoonful of potatoes. "I was supposed to read law, not join the army."

"Well, aren't you glad you didn't? Does the world really need more lawyers?"

He didn't look around. "It's good, steady work," he said. "Respectable." Not like flying planes and living over your friend's garage instead of having a house and a proper life, the kind of life his parents had saved and scrimped to give him.

"Oh, that," she said airily. "But it doesn't actually produce anything at the end of the day, does it? Not like rebuilding an engine or moving pallets of goods from here to Omaha or even like digging up things that have been buried for centuries. It's just wealthy men talking to each other, trading around the means of production while the workers get nothing."

Mitch looked around. "You sound like a Communist."

"Darling, I am a Communist." She smirked from the edge of the sink. "Or I was. Before that turned out to be just one more scam."

He shut the icebox. "I never know whether to believe you or not."

"Of course not, darling," she said, and her eyes were opaque. "I don't want you to know."

"So you tell me a lot of BS and there's something true in there, but I'll never know which parts were real," Mitch said.

"Precisely."

"So even when you're telling the truth it sounds like you're lying." He put his head to the side. "Why?"

She looked away. "It's all I've got, isn't it?" She paced over to the door, looking out at the gathering night. "And damn I could use a drink."

"You could come up for a nightcap," Mitch said. "I have a radio that doesn't have to be tuned to football."

She turned back with that brittle smile. "That sounds ideal, darling."

"I'd still like you," he said. "If you were a Communist."

"Ex-Communist," she said. "I've given up on causes. Except for staying alive. I believe in that one very much."

"Yeah, me too," Mitch said, and opened the kitchen door quietly. "I'm planning to live to be ninety."

"I'm glad to hear that, darling," she said. "There's quite enough young and doomed in the world."

He stopped just outside the door, hearing a catch in her voice, and turned around. "That's not me," he said. "I'm not going to die young and I'm not going to throw my life away."

For a moment there was something utterly naked in her face, as though all her powder and lipstick had been stripped off, leaving just her bare face shining through. Then she gave a sideways smile and reached back to close the door. "You're not young now, darling."

"True," Mitch said. "If I'd meant to die young and heroically I would have done it a long time ago. So I'm not. I'm going to be a crotchety old bachelor who scares neighborhood children."

"You couldn't scare a child if you tried." Stasi followed him across the yard. "You're much too nice."

"I am not nice!"

"You are too! You're nice."

"That hurts," he said, heading up the outside stairs to the apartment over the garage. "Nice."

"Nice enough to get a girl a nightcap?"

"Definitely that nice," Mitch said.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
squishydish
Nov. 30th, 2013 04:53 pm (UTC)
That was fun, thanks!

I saw this picture of people playing tennis on the wings of a biplane and thought of the Order of the Air (not that they took that kind of risk just for barnstorming, afaik). Sorry I don't know the original source.
https://twitter.com/saladinahmed/status/406798377553121280/photo/1
jo_graham
Nov. 30th, 2013 09:15 pm (UTC)
Hee! That is adorable! Not that Al would do that....

I'm glad you like the scene. Mitch and Stasi are so much fun. Any thoughts on it?
angelsallfire
Dec. 3rd, 2013 01:52 pm (UTC)
I love how they interact with each other. I love that Stasi keeps Mitch on his toes.
jo_graham
Dec. 3rd, 2013 06:04 pm (UTC)
She does! She keeps him on his toes all the time. And he actually manages to get truth out of her once in a while. What did you think of that? Is/was she a Communist? Why is she struck by the comment about dying young?
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )