The Real Thing

by Lynne Spigelmire Viti

My father’s tavern sat on the corner of North Kresson and Fairmount Avenue, though Fairmount was no avenue. It was a wide cinder stub of a road,  flanked by the Hall family’s gritty brown house and  across the street, the tavern,  last in a row of Highlandtown houses. This wasn’t one of those blocks with the pristine white marble steps you see in the Baltimore postcards. Kresson Street wasn’t pretty and never had been. The row house steps were mostly wooden, and in various states of disrepair. To walk into the Place, as we called it, you had to walk up one concrete step, push open the heavy door by half leaning on it, half thumbing down the latch, and walk into a narrow room with twenty-foot tin ceilings.

When I remember it now, I never imagine it as empty, the way it was early on Sunday mornings when I went to do the books. Instead, I envision a half dozen regulars sitting at the long bar with its dark reddish brown wood and brass rail. The men are leaning over their drinks, it’s early morning. There’s a grayish light coming in through the front windows over the Hotpoint grill, and only a couple of the men are drinking beer or whiskey. The rest are having coffee and breakfast, white oval platters of grilled ham and scrambled eggs, white toast. The black and white tv provides background noise, the Dave Garroway show. The customers ignore the television, on its shelf high above the bar, over the pay phone.

The scents of cooking ham, stale beer and diesel fuel of Blue Diamond trucks mingle. My father walks to the side door, limping in his heavy leg brace, to take a delivery of beer. One keg is wheeled to the tap behind the bar, at nearly dead center; the others are rolled down to the cellar, by the bulkhead entrance on the side street. I was never allowed down there. It’s almost a certainty that there were rats living side by side with those cold kegs. Sometimes my father lets Freddy, the mentally retarded guy with the peaked cap who mops up, supervise the unloading. Freddy is full of weird stories about monsters and people who scare him. Don’t pay any attention to him, Daddy says, he’s not right in the in the in the head, you see.

The middle room, the next one after the bar, has a large poker table with a felt top, always covered up except for Friday and Saturday nights. I realize now that it disappeared after a few years; it must have been leased, sent back, or perhaps repossessed. There’s a juke box, with Hank Williams and Jerry Lee Lewis numbers. And there are several square tables, and in the very back, an upright piano, long out of tune. Above it, there’s a black and white sign announcing No Dancing. Really, though, no one ever even tried to dance there. The sign is decades old even when I am just learning to read its words. Through the door from the middle room lies the kitchen, with deep stainless steel sinks and work spaces, a hamburger press (which will eventually become obsolete in the 1960’s when portion control, pre-made hamburger patties emerge from the food industry’s laboratories), a well-used stove, and dozens of large pots and pans hanging up on a pegboard that fills the wall. This is where my father makes chili, bean soup, pea soup, and the ham, bone-in, dotted with cloves, patted down with dark brown sugar and dry mustard, and bathed in cheap white port wine. Years later, at a bar clear across town in Parkville, miles from Highlandtown, someone will say to my father, “Nobody could make a ham like Charlie Schmidt.” And my dad will reply, “Don’t you know who you’re talking to?”

At the end of this stunted block, little Fairmount Avenue, is a junkyard, a scrap metal yard, and abutting it, the Blue Diamond Truck dispatch station. From the curb where Daddy parks his car at the tavern’s side entrance, I can hear the two-way radio static and buzz. Some of the men who work on the Pennsylvania Railroad drive their cars in to Fairmount and angle park them, but most customers just walk here. Forty houses, in one block, are bookended by our tavern on one end, and on the other, by Wishnow’s bar and packaged goods store. The city bus stops up there on its way to Dundalk. I am never allowed to walk past Wishnow’s, and my mother, who would prefer that I never go down to the tavern with Daddy, doesn’t want me to play with Kresson Street children. There is one girl older than me, with a harelip. We play step school with some others, and she appoints herself the teacher. I have a photograph of us on the steps, but I cannot remember any of the other children’s names. My little sister is with us, in white dress with a red collar. It must be spring, because we’re not wearing coats.

As I grow older, when I go to work with Daddy, I spend most of my time reading in the big armchair next to the jukebox. More than one customer calls me a bookworm, a word I grow to hate. I sit in an easy chair my father has installed near the juke box in the long second room because he needs to get off his bad leg as much as possible. I read biographies of Presidents and naval heroes, mysteries, adventure stories — a book a day. I have no idea why I am here with him or where my sister or mother are. When Dad and I return home, we have to shower and change our clothes because they smell of smoke and beer.

The regulars were not necessarily regular, nor were they faithful customers; there were about ten of them, but the cast changed weekly. The one I liked best was  Henry Canary. Everyone called him Hats. You may wonder if he wore a hat, and indeed, he did — in the summer, a straw hat, perhaps a fishing hat. He was slim, brown-haired, and wore glasses. From time to time his wife Miss Hilda tended bar for my father, but she was slow and she probably stole from him as mostly all his bartenders did, skimming cash in the busy times. So often as not, she was a customer, and since women never sat at the bar, she usually brought in a half gallon pickle jar. My father would fill it with draught beer, make up a price, and Hilda was off to drink at home. By the time I was in high school, Hilda resembled a caricature of Rosie the Riveter, hair poking out at a forty-five degree angle from her forehead in a helmetlike pouf, and protruding from the back in a dime store hairnet. She always smelled clean and of cheap perfume, and she was always nice to me. Eventually I began to feel sorry for her. She grew fatter and fatter with each year, still wearing those tight orlon sweaters, straight skirts and seamed stockings that must have looked so fashionable fifteen, twenty years before. The Canarys had some kids, but I can’t remember ever seeing them. In my mind, Hilda and Hats were a childless couple caught in a 1940’s time warp.

None of this would be particularly important had it not been for what happened one day when I was working witht my dad. I was only seventeen, in my last term of high school. The law said you had to be twenty-one to serve beer or liquor in the city. I was supposed to be washing glasses and fetching things for my father and Whitey, Dad’s latest in a never ending series of bartenders, but as it got busier around noon, I was pressed into service. I’d been watching my father and the others pull drafts for years, and it took me only a minute to master the art of filling a glass up to the top without spilling the head and making a mess. I was feeling competent, taking orders, pulling drafts or pouring shots, taking money. The number of customers dwindled a bit towards late afternoon, around four. The front door flew open and two guys in dark fedoras pulled down low over their faces started yelling. I was holding a ten and getting ready to put it into the cash register. All the time they kept yelling, though I wasn’t able to distinguish what it was they were saying. I couldn’t move. Everyone down on the floor, they said. They made Whitey take the money from the cash register. They were waving these guns around and yelling, Nobody move, this is the real thing.

Coke’s the real thing, I thought. What the world wants today Coke is, it’s the real thing. Jesus, it was railroad payday too, which meant extra cash in the register for cashing checks. Now I too was down on the floor, face down, my forearms under my chin so I wouldn’t get my face dirty. They were calling now for the men’s watches and wallets. I started to tremble a little. My legs were shaking nonstop. Stand up, they were saying, and I saw the regular Daddy had nicknamed Rabbi, Mr. Riley, with a scared look in his eyes, and Paddy Sanders, Bernie Zalitis and my dad shuffling towards the men’s room. As I stood up slowly and shakily, the stranger nearer to me waved the gun at me, you too, he said and he herded us into the men’s room. Don’t anyone leave here for ten minutes, one of them said. Do you understand, you bald motherfucker? He pointed the gun at Daddy’s head, really close, maybe six inches away. Daddy nodded, said nothing. Inside me there was a throbbing. I kept expecting to hear an earsplitting noise and see brains fly everywhere. To steady myself I tried to notice things. The toilet seat left up. The walls in need of paint. The sweetish smell of the room deodorizer, a twin to the one in the ladies’ room. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a tall white metal condom dispenser mounted on the wall. I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company, it’s the real thing. The door to the men’s room shut with a loud thump, but quieter than my heart’s pounding. Paddy was helping my dad up to his feet. We heard the front door open and then swing shut and we waited. We waited for what seemed a half hour. Then we waited longer. Finally, my heart stopped pounding then but I kept on trembling, couldn’t stop. Somebody called the police on the payphone. They were there within minutes, the uniform cops, but it seemed we had almost nothing for them, nothing specific we could remember. Two guys, not very tall, not heavy, not thin. They wore hats and raincoats, or maybe topcoats. A couple of detectives showed up a little later and took statements from each of us. Paddy told them he knew the guns were German lugers. Anyone unusual in here lately, maybe casing the place, Charlie? one detective asked. My dad just shook his head. He was anxious to get me out of there and home, and he was not looking forward to facing my mother and her wrath.

At home the repercussions were worse than he may have feared. My mother was furious. There were many I-told-you-so’s heaped on my father. She went up to their bedroom, he followed, and she closed the door tight. I could hear her voice, not yelling exactly, but very animated and angry. I strained to hear that day and many days after that, to find out what they were saying. There was the revelation that this was the third or fourth holdup, not the first. There were murmurings late into the night from their bedroom. On my way to the bathroom for my shower I might catch a phrase or two of Mom’s — “inside job,” ” cops on the take,” “she could have been really hurt” — but neither of them would talk about it in front of me. A few times the same pair of detectives came to our house with binders full of mug shots for me to look at. What could I tell them, every photo looked like it could be one of those guys, and yet none of them really matched my memory of them, all shouting and hats pulled down and black guns pointed at us. In the end they just stopped coming. I went back with my unsuitable older boyfriend, the one I had dumped a few weeks before. Having him back made me feel safer, and he was willing to listen to me tell the story of what happened over and over. Eventually I told it to him so many times I became sick of it. Spring came, and the senior prom and graduation, and then a summer job at Fort Holabird, where I translated petty crimes committed by GIs into code and got paid handsomely for it. The robbery faded more and more into my past. I only spoke about it once or twice, years later, to get out of jury duty. The boyfriend faded into summer, then slipped away, and I started dating a young soldier who was waiting to get his orders for Vietnam any day.

That afternoon was the last time I ever set foot in the tavern on a business day. My parents banned me from the premises, with one exception: until I left for college, I could drive  down early on Sunday mornings to do the books. Early Sundays were quiet,  people sleeping it off, some of the men working overtime shifts at Crown Cork and Seal. All the bars were closed, though they could have opened up at 6 a.m. if they’d wanted, city laws allowed that. I only had to check the register tapes, run the expenses, record the receipts, and use the adding machine to do the rest. Most Sundays, the sun found its way in through the glass bricks and spilled onto the grill and the shiny bar top. The din of talking, the curls of blue cigarette smoke and the clink of glasses were gone. I sat in my father’s old chair, where I used to curl up to read when I was younger. I tuned the radio to my favorite station, turned the volume up, and went to work with a sharp number two pencil, scrupulously inscribing the numbers into the ledger.

         This fictional story originally appeared in  the online literary magazine Moondance, and will be reprinted in September 2018, in The Woven Tale.



Going Too Fast

My sister and I are walking down a long pink hall in the nursing home at Charlestown. A Catholic seminary in its former life, it’s now a huge complex of buildings on the south edge of Baltimore, apartments for affluent retirees, and an assisted living building. We pass a few patients sitting in wheelchairs and nodding at the television. We’re here to see Aunt Kate. Julia goes over to the nurse’s station and asks for the number of Mrs. Hopkins’ room. She steers me by the elbow and whispers, “This is it– this is her room.” Kate is not our aunt, not a blood relation, but my godmother. Her closeness to us was born out of my mother’s friendship with her. They were just neighbors at first, then they were two women who had their first babies late in life. They became as close as some sisters.

I haven’t seen Aunt Kate for  a couple of  years. It’s obvious that she hasn’t had a perm since then. Her hair, still mostly black with a few streaks of white, is blunt cut, held back in a tiny ponytail. She is in bed, covers up to her chin. They’ve put little socks on her hands, impromptu mittens.

“Hi, Aunt Kate,” says Julia cheerfully. “We came to see you.”

“Oh, dear,” says Aunt Kate, looking at us from her lying down position. She starts to cry.

“Oh, dear.”

“What’s the matter, Aunt Kate?” says Julia, very sweetly, as if Aunt Kate were one of her children, who are still quite small.

“I can’t remember.” says Aunt Kate, then again. “I can’t remember.” She continues to cry.

“Don’t cry, it’s okay if you can’t remember. We’ve brought pictures,” says Julia. I am always impressed by Julia’s preparedness. Out of her large handbag, she pulls out a little binder of snapshots. I know she has pulled these from a dozen large albums. She has made a little anthology for Aunt Kate, just for this visit.

“Here’s a picture of you and our mom; that’s Sara, our mom,” says Julia. It’s a photo from a cruise in the Seventies. They are wearing long gowns. Kate is more than a head shorter than Mom, and she is wearing a pastel flowered dress that seems to have no shape. But tall, silver haired, dark eyed Mom is dressed is a pale green satiny thing. You can see her wonderful figure; the satin hugs her breasts just enough but it isn’t too sexy, not cheap looking. She’s wearing sparkling drop earrings, rhinestone but you wouldn’t know. She looks elegant and happy.

“I can’t remember,” Aunt Kate says again, and tears are running down the sides of her face towards her ears because she is still mostly lying down. Julia and I pull our chairs closer to her so our faces are nearly touching hers.

“It’s okay,” says Julia. “You two had some good times together. This was one of them. You were on a cruise. Dad was there too. You three took a lot of good trips together.”

Aunt Kate lifts her head a bit and looks at us. The look in her eyes changes slightly; she has attached on to something she recognizes from the past. “I know she was my good friend,” she says pointing to Mom’s image.

“She was your friend.” Julia echoes. Now Julia and I are both crying. Aunt Kate is crying too.

I signal to Julia and we get up from the stiff chairs and walk away from the bed for a minute.

“I think we’re upsetting her,” I say.

“Maybe,” says Julia. “Maybe we should get ready to leave soon.”

“No, just a few more pictures, some of us,” I say.

We sit down again. Julia takes out more photographs.

“Here I am when I was a little girl,” she says to Aunt Kate. “And here’s one of Isabelle.”

“I lived with you for a bit when I was little,” I say. ” After Daddy had his fishing accident, when he was in the hospital. I learned to eat fresh peaches at your house, do you remember?”

Of course she doesn’t, and I don’t know why I thought I could jar loose a few cells in her crackled brain so that she would reminisce with me. It strikes me that Julia and I are going through this exercise just to make ourselves feel better about Mom. I start to cry.

“You were very good to me,” I tell her.

Aunt Kate studies the picture for a minute, then looks at me. “You are very big now,” she says slowly. ” And you have such pretty…glasses.” I am puzzled, they’re just ordinary wire rimmed frames.

“Eyes,” Julia whispers to me. “She means eyes.”

“Thank you,” I say and kiss Aunt Kate. She has almost no wrinkles. Her skin is smooth and tawny. It’s the Indian blood, I realize.

Julia tells Aunt Kate we must be going. We hug and kiss her again. Julia stops to talk to a nurse in the hall while I pretend to read the notices on a little bulletin board in the hall outside Aunt Kate’s room. Julia is taking in information like a social worker. She’s so good at getting the straight story from just about anyone. I watch her talking–so animated, her hands moving quickly to punctuate her words. Then she cocks her head fast, towards the door, to tell me it’s time to go.

“I want you to see one more thing,” she tells me. “The chapel. It’s beautiful.” We walk down the stairs and out the front entrance of the building, past the same smiling young receptionist who gave us directions a half-hour earlier. As we walk out into the cold air I start crying again, this time huge sobs and a seemingly unstoppable flow of tears.

“I feel so empty, I feel like my whole life is falling away,” I say.

“No, it’s not leaving, it’s all still here, it will always be here,” she says,” taking my arm and pressing it against her side. “Come on, this chapel is lovely, it will make you feel better to see it.”

We enter an old stone building; it must be part of the old seminary. A couple of young guys are sitting behind a desk there too, and they point us down the hall to a new-looking door. There is a little vestibule with a plaque saying how some cardinal began building this chapel in the 1920’s but ran out of money before it could be completed.

Inside the chapel is all little mirrors and tiles, on the fat pillars, on the altar floor, just thousands of tiles in mosaics. Statues of angels leaning out of the wall above the altar. Like the Roaring Twenties, all excess and wealth and showiness. I am still crying, and I sit and think about Mom. Yesterday we went to the funeral home to identify her body before she could be cremated. Her body, her corpse I had to keep telling myself so I don’t really believe it’s her, lay on a plain gurney, a burgundy blanket covering her up to her chin. We had to go into the basement of the funeral home; it was carpeted and painted, but it was still a flight down from the ground floor. Then Julia and I had to give all the statistical information to the young woman at the Cremation Society desk.

She was pleasant and businesslike, and when we finished with the forms, she said, “You may see your mother now. She looks pretty good. But we had to clean her up a bit because there was a lot of blood, and some scratches on her face.”

My heart started pounding. Her body looked so small, lying on a gurney, covered to the chin by a burgundy blanket. She looks okay, but not really asleep. I kept telling myself, this isn’t really her.

Julia started crying that time. “It isn’t really her,” I whispered. It’s just her body, Julia.” I didn’t want to touch the skin; I didn’t want to feel it cold and stiff; she’d been gone for hours. I touched her hair. It was soft and so white and thick. I wanted to go back into the Cremation Society woman’s office to borrow a pair of scissors, to take a lock of hair. “Goodbye, Mom,” I said almost in a whisper, and Julia and I held each other for a few minutes. I looked down the long narrow low ceilinged room at coffins, propped open, revealing lush satin linings. I am glad Mommy is going to burn up in a burst of flame, I thought. This is the way she had always planned for it to end.

On the way back to Julia’s house we stop at a Dunkin Donuts for coffee; we drink it in the car as she drives the beltway home. We don’t have any music, and we don’t say very much. Maybe we talk about how much it will cost. Maybe we talk about how long I will stay before I fly home. We speak about how glad we are there isn’t going to be a funeral, a Mass or anything. Mom’s wanderings through various denominations has made it clear what she didn’t want; she didn’t want the Funeral Package. Not a Mass. Probably nothing Protestant either. We aren’t in California so we can’t do a New Age thing. We will have to work something out over the next weeks, something she would have liked.

When we get home, Julia takes a long bath. She fills the tub with Epsom salts and pins up her hair. She props her head on one of those inflatable plastic pillows that are supposed to look like a scallop shell. From several rooms away, I hear her crying. I ask her if she’s okay and she apologizes for crying so much. I take her a mug of herb tea, and leave her alone. Actually I’d love to be alone myself right now, in the bath and crying. Instead, I check my email on Julia’s old computer but there’s nothing there for me, nothing from anyone. Especially, there’s nothing from Mike. He’s silent from his end in LA. If I could talk to him now, what would I say? Please make me feel better sounds so pointless, as if he could do anything anyway.

We have the memorial service for Mommy on a sunny day in February. Julia’s boys are dressed up in these suits she’s bought at the Goodwill store; they look so grown up. Alex plays the violin, he’s chosen the Chorus from Judas Maccabeus, in his Suzuki book. I play “All Blues” on the piano, with the music teacher from Julia’s school on trumpet. Julia reads a poem, all I can remember of it now is “the refrain, “I had a mother who read to me.” Then Mommy’s old protégée Sis gets up and tells some funny stories not even Julia and I had ever heard about Mommy at work. Afterwards a blur of our friends from high school, the few who stayed in Baltimore, come over and kiss us, and there are a lot of teachers from Julia’s school, and some old neighbors, and Mommy’s handsome young lawyer Al, who’s been married three times. “I just loved your mother,” he says. He’s got dark brown hair and blue eyes and doesn’t look old enough to have been married so many times. Julia has her arm around my waist and is being very sweet. There are flowers from my friend Joyce who lives in Washington State, and two of our old teachers, nuns, from high school are there, wearing civvies as Dad called them, regular middle aged lady outfits with printed flowers, sensible shoes. When we get home, we spend the afternoon sitting and eating with our old neighbor Mrs. Frank, who has driven up from her retirement home in Annapolis. She is a laid back, chatty woman who doesn’t seem in a hurry to leave like everyone else. After she finally goes, Julia points to the box with Mommy’s ashes on the top of the CD player and says, “In the spring we have to decide what to do with these.”

But that spring, we can’t decide. We’d asked Mom once where she wanted her ashes scattered. Dad’s we put in a tributary of the Chesapeake, the Choptank River. Julia and I drove to the Eastern Shore one day in August with her boys, they were still small then, and we walked out on a stone jetty Julia had found on the way back from Ocean City. We were near a place where our father had fished many times. We told the boys what we were about to do, tried to explain that the ashes would be more like chunks than the ashes they were used to seeing in the fireplace, and we opened the tin. We each took some and strewed them on the water. The current was swift. It seemed to take a short time to do what we had come so far to do. On the way back we stopped and bought watermelon and corn.

But Mom always said she hated the water; in fact, she was a poor swimmer and afraid of it. “Oh, just put me in the garden,” she would say. But which garden? What if Julia sold the house and moved? Of course, she would, eventually. Where could we dump those ashes that would be a timeless, forever spot? And why did we fool ourselves into thinking that even the sea was some timeless way to dispose of their remains? I had no garden to speak of either, and we might not stay there forever anyway. So the ashes sat on top of the CD player. “Mom liked music, let’s leave her there awhile,” Julia said. Really, I was happy she was taking care of them, I would be uncomfortable with them in my house. It’s been three or four years now and I think Julia’s moved Mom around a few times. Right now she’s in Julia’s bedroom, near the books. Maybe this spring we can finally figure it out. Or maybe we will just wait twenty years.

“It’s going so fast,” Mike said as we spoke about our work and our lives, all the books we’d read and talked about. I remember that he was standing up and I was sitting on the green sofa, at his old apartment on West 104th. It was years ago. He took my face in his hands for a minute, looking down at me. Again, he murmured, “It’s going all too fast.” It was early summer, and we went for a walk, then, in the golden light.

                                                                                                     ~Lynne Viti

      Reprinted from  (2000) and The Woven Tale, Spring 2017

“Fusion,” in Quail Bell Magazine


Claire was stuck in traffic, edging into the left turn lane just before Central Square, when she glanced over to the near left corner of a side street and saw the makeshift booth set up. Someone had used black magic marker to draw a Hitler mustache on Barack Obama’s face. She used to love that campaign poster from 2004, the one that proclaimed HOPE in large letters across the bottom.

It was those kids again, the ones who sold the newspaper with the same bizarre, fake news stories month after month. The car ahead of her wasn’t moving an inch, and Claire leaned to her left to find out what was causing the holdup. A long line of cars stood idling in the left lane. Maybe the signal was on the fritz. Or someone wanting to make a left turn was waiting for a break. Either way, Claire had time to observe the action on the sidewalk. IMPEACH OBAMA, the poster’s block letters entreated passers-by. Two women with young children veered away from the kids in the booth, moving into the crosswalk to cross Mass Ave.

Claire was on her way to visit her friend Rosie…read the rest at Quail Bell Magazine.

House Guests and the Writing Regime

We’ve had four in a row, first  a young couple from Baltimore who are planning their wedding for next fall, then an old friend from my teaching days in Connecticut—now she’s based in Portland, the  Oregon one—and my brother in-law, who drove down from the north, for a Joe Jackson concert in Boston, and stayed overnight.

Then last night, my husband’s Men’s Book Club convened to discuss The Lord of Misrule.

It’s been years since we had this many visitors in such a short time, and the washing machine has been busy every few days, with sheets, pillowcases, towels and blankets. The dishwasher, which we usually put into service every two days, has been going full speed, Continue reading “House Guests and the Writing Regime”

Mercy Chronicles

By Lynne Viti and Gay White

The Mercy Chronicles

By Lynne Viti and Gay White




Girl 1

Girl 2

Girl 3

Girl 4

Girl 5


Voice offstage


Richard Nixon

Scene 1:

May, 1962

Four girls sitting in a row, intently watching a television on a cart at front of classroom.

Narrator (imitating television commentator, probably Walter Cronkite on CBS):

And we can see the rockets lifting off the Sigma 7 capsule, with astronaut Wally Schirra

at the controls…liftoff is proceeding as expected. This exciting moment in America’s

history is the fifth Mercury flight, and the flight plan calls for Schirra to orbiting the

Earth six times in the capsule before touching down in the Pacific Ocean, where NASA

will have an aircraft carrier ready and waiting to take Schirra back to Houston for tests

and evaluation of this historic mission…

Girls jumping up and down in their seats, all together: 5, 4,3,2,1, ignition—blastoff!

Scene 2: Cuban Missile crisis, November 1962

Girls sitting at a lunch table.

#1: I’m scared. My father says that Castro’s got all those Russian missiles pointed right

at Washington DC and that Baltimore could be hit,too.

#2: My father said that President Kennedy will straighten this whole thing out fast and

make the Russians back down.

# 3: Then I’ll never get to see Artie again…What if the entire world blows up?

# 4. Maybe we should go to the chapel….

Lights out.

Scene 3

Voice: Good afternoon, girls. I have an important announcement. This afternoon in

Dallas, President Kennedy was shot (ALL SCREAM AS ANNOUNCER CONTINUES)

by an unknown assailant. Three shots were fired at President Kennedy’s

motorcade in downtown Dallas. The first reports say that President Kennedy has been

seriously wounded by this shooting. At this time, we will dismiss classes for the day…”

Girl # 2: Oh my God!

Girl #1: I’m scared.

Girl #4 Maybe we should go to the chapel…again.

Fade out.

Scene 4: 1964

A classroom . Four girls are gathered around a few desks in the music room. Loose leaf

notebooks are open on the desks, and a few hardbound text books are stacked up. The

desks are pulled into more or less a circle.

#1 (leaning over to # 2,who is sitting next to #1 and writing in a notebook with a

pencil, ): So if you subtract 8 on this side, you have to do the same thing on the other side

of the equation or else it’s –-look—scribbles something on #2’s notebook.

#2: Oh, I see! Swell, I get it right now but the test is next WEEK and I won’t remember it

by then. Besides, I’m screwed: I think Sister hates me.

#1: (sarcastically) Yeah, that Johannes is one mean nun. Boy oh boy!

#3: Hey, this math is killing me, too – if I get another C my mother will have a conniption


#4 (opens her handbag and pulls out a compact and lipstick, applies it carefully, looking

intently into the compact mirror): Forget math, girls–can’t wait till Tuesday. The Beatles

at the DC Stadium – and WE have TICKETS!

All sigh very audibly.

#3 (singing): “She was just seventeen, you know what I mean, and the way she looked

was way beyond compay-ah”

All five join in :”How could I dance with another…woooo –when I saw her standin’


#5 (to # 2) I can’t believe you only got four tickets.

#2: I told you, I bought them off that girl Mary Jane and I met in Bethany Beach an’ she

only HAD four an’ her mom wouldn’t let her go because she was afraid the girl’d be

stampeded in Beatlemania. Sor-RY. I wish you could come .

#1: (to # 5) Did you bring the record?

#5 pulls an LP from under the stack of books she is carrying.

(#1has taken the record out of the sleeve and is fiddling with the record player.)

[Music starts: The Beatles, singing “All My Lovin’” There’s a lot of dancing.

lot of swooning.

Enter a nun

Nun: (clapping hands) Girls! What on earth are you doing in Sister Mary Charlita’s music

room at this hour? It’s almost 4:30.

#1: Nothing, sister, I mean, we’re doing homework. Algebra.

(She holds up the math workbook. ) Equations, see? (smiles)

Nun: What’s this? [She picks up the album cover, which is lying on the top of the piano.]

Beatles. What a waste of your time. Those moptops will never amount to anything. Why,

in five years, no one will ever remember who they are! Now, girls, pack up and go home

–I have to lock up this room. And if I find you in here again after hours, I‘ll see that you

all get two days’ detention!

Quickly pack up books and leave, giggling.

Scene 5: June 1965

Girl # 1: I can’t believe this is it!

# 2: High School Graduation—and the hottest day in June ever! Is my hair totally


# 3: Is my hair totally straight and flat? Ugh! Straight, flat hair will NEV#R, EVER be in


All three bend over, fluff out their hair. One sprays her hair with hair spray).

# 4 (Breathless, rushing up to meet them: We have to get in line. Sr. Michelle is crazed!

She says IND’s graduation is right after ours and if we run late she’ll give us a week’s

detention! Guess she doesn’t realize that we’re officially launched now…She’s also

checking for “extremes in hair style and /or color” and excessive eye makeup!

# 1 Penny, I told you not to wear that purple mascara! Let’s go, girls.

(They walk off humming Pomp and Circumstance.)

Scene 6

An apartment in Baltimore. Four young women sit around a kitchen table. #4 is

pregnant. Some wear headbands, hippie style.

Girl # 1: So my mother found out we were living together, and she and my father won’t

speak to me any more.

Girl # 2: Tell me about it. My mother thinks it’s 1940, so I don’t tell her anything any


Girl # 3: I can’t believe you are worried about trivial stuff like that when we are fighting

this useless war.

Girl # 4: You always were the political one.

# 3; Me? Look polls say over half the people in the country oppose LBJ’s dirty little war.

I can’t believe that boys have to worry about being drafted if they flunk out of college.

You remember Artie, the boy I went steady with in 8th grade?

#1 (interrupting) He was such a “hair”!

#3 Well, that “hair” went to Vietnam and never came back.

Silence from the group.

#3 I can’t believe that’s it’s almost 1970, we’re all together again, (pointing to herself and

the pregnant girl) we’re both married, YOU’RE expecting (pointing to the pregnant girl),

you’ve been teaching at St. Bernard’s for  5 years and you’re starting your master’s

program next year (pouring wine for everybody)–

#2 God, is the world falling apart?! Our parents are freaked out because we live with our

boyfriends. Our boyfriends are afraid they’re going to get drafted and sent to Nam and

get blown up. Lots of our girlfriends smoke pot. Or they go out to bars almost every

night, get wasted and go home with some strange guy. Or they get married and settle

down at 19 and have a baby at 20 -no offense, Janie. We are stuck in BAL-MER. And hey! I heard  a rumor that Paul McCartney is dead!

(They all break in with screams of No! No way! That’s crazy!, etc.)

#4 (continues) And—worst of all—RICHARD NIXON IS PRESIDENT! (more groans

from the group).

#1 We thought JFK had kicked his butt for good in 1960 but heeeeeee’s baacccck!

#2 Yeah, like Dracula…

# 4:Hey, I’m starving. Can we order Chinese food?

# 2: Better yet – let’s go down to Mee Jung Lo for old times’ sake and order our old


# 1. Moo goo gai pan,

# 2. Shrimp toast!

#3 And Won tons! OK, girls, let’s go to dinner! We can solve the world’s problems later.

(All walk out, humming “you say you want a revolution, we-ell, you know, you don’t

need to change the world….”

Scene 7. 1974

# 4 is visibly pregnant again.

The television over the bar is airing Richard Nixon’s resignation speech.

(Narrator: ” I have never been a quitter. To leave office

before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President, I

must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time President and a full-time

Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad.”)

# 4 : I’m completely speechless. I thought this would never happen. Thank God.

# 2: Good riddance.

# 3. Not that it will change much—Mark is still in Vietnam and I’m not sure when -or

IF- he’s coming home.

#1 At least I love my job. Grade four is definitely where I belong.

# 2. I guess maybe I’m a bit of a late bloomer. No husband. No job, no baby. But I should

be done with my masters soon, and maybe I’ll get a real job—NOT cleaning houses, I

mean—and anyway, why worry? We’re still a long way from 30.

All,  in unison: Never trust anyone over 30!

#1 More like never trust ANYONE – I just heard that Sandy is getting a divorce from her

SECOND husband, by the way. She’s got 2 kids and no money.

#2 Another round of Natty Bo, girls?

# 3. I still have a little, thanks. And beside, I have to split: I’m taking the red eye back to

California and my cute lil’ apartment in Haight Ashbury and my cute new boyfriend. So

gorgeous- a cross between Paul McCartney and Sylvester Stallone. And he’s a surgeon!

#1Paul was always your favorite

#1 I wanted John

#2 My fave was always Ringo.

#4 And ever since George came to Mercy that day he’s been my all-time favorite

Beatle! How ‘bout a toast, girls? To Mercy High School and our 10th reunion next


# 2 And Beatles Forever!

# 3 And to Sister Frederick. Do you remember freshman year when she told us to take

that salt map of Odysseus’ adventures over to the Maps and Charts room? We thought it

was some unmarked room -after all, the school was brand new. It took us 45 minutes of

frantic searching to figure out that there WAS no Maps and Charts room! To Sister


#1 And to Janie’s new baby girl -Mercy class of ‘92!

They clink glasses and toast.

#2 Bye bye Tricky Dick. And let’s bring the boys home….

(They clink glasses and toast again.)

Scene 8: 1980’s

#1,2, # 3 and are present.

#2: And then I said to Caitlyn, you’ve GOT to be kidding: take off that eye shadow,

young lady, it makes you look like a tramp. And you’re not going to the mall. I don’t

CARE if all the other girls are going. And I told you to turn off that MTV!

#3: What’s MTV?

#1/ Music television.

#3. Like Buddy Deane?

#1 No, like videos of bands. You know, Michael Jackson, moonwalk.

#3. Moonwalk?

#1 Forget it.

Enter # 4: Sorry, girls, had to drop off Jamie at Kinder-Tot ballet, bake 4 dozen cupcakes

for Stevie’s 2nd grade Montessori class -which, btw, he told me about at 6 this morning! pick

up Frankie, Jr. at soccer practice, and then I had to buy PAC-man for my husband’s

birthday present–

#2 OK, OK, Janie, enough already! Look, we’re supposed to be planning our 35th

birthday celebration at Ocean City over Fourth of July, so let’s get busy.

#1 God, I hope I can get into my bathing suit from last year.

#3 Don’t even talk about it.

#4 (sheepishly)Uh, girls, speaking of bathing suits…… guess who’s expecting


Scene ends with cries of OMG, Not again! Holy crap, Janie! Is this # 4 or 5?

Scene 9: 1990’s

(Again, # 1 is pregnant)

Enter # 1, with pillow, again.

They all just look at her and shrug their shoulders—big shrug, very overdone.

#1 Honestly, Janie, you’re such a CATHOLIC. You’ll probably be the only one at

our 30th reunion in a maternity dress.

#4 Girls, that’s not all: my daughter Jennifer -Class of ’92, mind you- just told me

SHE’S pregnant!

(unison singing) “well she was just 17, you know what I mean…” all break into


Scene 10: 2010

the 5 girls again.

2 So who’s coming to this reunion?

3. I dunno…the usual suspects probably.

4. Know who I’d really like to see?

Enter # 1, not pregnant.

2. Glad to see you finally got your waistline back, girl.

3. I’d like to see Kate K, but she said she has to be up early tomorrow for the first

hunt of the season. English riding saddle, all that.

4. I’d like to see Diana.

1. Nancy .

2. Pat !

3. Libby

The nun— to audience–rushing in clicking the clicker—now,  girls, before we end, we want to thank you all for joining us today, and we’d like to let you know some of the reasons the rest of our classmates aren’t here:

Girl 1: Hip replacement two weeks before—can’t drive  yet

Girl 2:  Two hours  is too far to drive

Girl 3:  I’m not the  same person I was in high school

Girl 4: Can’t leave the dogs.

Girl 1:Would have preferred a dinner dance with spouses or partners.

Girl 2:  Husband’s family reunion is  that weekend, in upstate New York.

Girl 3: I’ll wait  for the 50th.

Girl 1 :Work  is too busy.

Girl 4: Can’t leave the dogs!

Girl 1: I have a board meeting in Ocean City that day.

Girl 3 I’m running a fundraiser for a charity that day

Girl 2: Going on a cruise.

Girl 1: Going to Rome and Egypt.

Girl 2: It’s too expensive for me to fly there.

Girl 4 : Can’t leave the cats!

Girl 1: I’m babysitting the grandchildren…

Girl 2: The last reunion I came to was so depressing…

Girl 3 Going to a wedding in New Jersey and it would be too much of a rush to get to Reunion by Saturday  afternoon.

Girl 1 : My daughter’s first baby’s due date is October 2nd, and she lives in LA

Girl 4: Can’t leave the dogs!

Nun: (interrupts): Now, girls !(clapping hands) You’re late for your ownReunion.Now get out of here and go get a glass of wine before it’s all gone!


© 2010 Lynne Spigelmire Viti and Gay Johnson White

All rights reserved