THE MOUTH OF THE LION CHAPTER 10

                                             Chapter 10

Trish let herself quietly in the front door. Her mother was stretched out on the couch and she took the afgan hanging over the back and covered her. She sat down on the recliner and waited. Jenny was breathing deeply. The empty pitcher and glass sat on the coffee table.  Trish picked up the pitcher and smelled inside it, making a face. When she sat the pitcher down it clunked on the table and her mother stirred. She still seemed asleep but she started waving her arms in the air.

“Trish, is that you,” she slurred. “You’re late again,” she complained.

“How would you know that? You’re too drunk to see the clock.” There was disgust in her voice and she rolled her tired eyes.  “You’re right. I’m fifteen minutes late, but I’m not drunk. What’s your excuse this time, mother?”

“We had a party. You know we were having a party, but you went out anyway….you can’t stand any of them.” Her tongue seemed thick in her mouth but she tried to talk anyway. “I made a pitcher of martinis. You know how the gang likes martinis.”

“Oh, and especially you, right, Mom? Tell me something I don’t know. You like all booze” Tish looked at her mother with disgust.

“Did you see the TV…what Ted won? He gave me the coat.” One moment she seemed wide awake, the next, she was drowsing.

“He must be out of his tree. There’s got to be a catch. Uncle Ted has never been that generous in his life.” She studied her nails before she added,” Besides, you don’t deserve it.”

“Listen here, young lady” Jen pointed her finger in a wavering hand. “I’m still your mother and I won’t have any sass from you. How do you know what I deserve?” She tried to stand to tower over her daughter  but she fell back on the sofa.

“Well, at least you’re not yelling. That’s a plus. You know, the only time I really get to talk to you is when you’re drunk, and then you don’t remember what you said Then you start the yelling all over again.” Tears filled Trish’s eyes. “Why do you hate me?”

“Aw, I don’t hate you, baby. It’s just that you are making the same mistakes I did, is all” She swooned over the edge of the sofa.

“Did you ever make honor roll, or get named student of the year when you were in school?”

“You know I didn’t,” Jenny was crying now. “It’s your lousy boyfriend,” she screamed. “Anybody can see what he wants.”

“Well, here’s some news for you. Ben’s going to wait until I graduate and get married, next year. He thinks that much of me.  That’s more than you ever did.”

“Don’t hold your breath. Even then, you’re too damned young. You’d be makin’ the same mistake I did.”

Their voices had escalated to such a pitch, neither heard Jim come into the room.

“That’s enough, Jenny. I think you said enough for one night. Someday I’m going to get one of those recording machines, just to play it all back for you in the morning. It’s not fair to Trish.  Someday you will be sorry, mark my words.” He hugged his daughter and for a long moment they stood in the middle of the room, holding each other. Both had tears in their eyes. “You go on, Trish. I’ll put her in bed. It’s my problem.”

“I’m sorry Dad, but you’re wrong about that. It’s our problem…yours and mine.” Trish ran past him, avoiding the pain in his eyes. She went upstairs and took off her clothes in the dim light of a street light. She lay sobbing into the morning hours. If only she could get away.

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THE MOUTH OF THE LION CHAPTER 9

                                                     Chapter 9

Jenny closed the door and leaned against it. She was so glad for Hank, he never judged, just accepted them the way they were, and most important he kept his opinions to himself. A smokey haze hung over the living room and she opened the windows and turned on the kitchen fan. The telephone rang in the stillness of the house and she snatched it before it rang again. Jim would probably be fast asleep by now anyway. Tiredly she said, “Yes?” She studied the mess on the table and counter, thinking ahead to the rush at breakfast, and began to stack the dirty dishes and glasses in the sink.

“Well what did you think?”

“Oh, Ted, You were terrific. Are you sure you want me to have that beautiful coat? I won’t hold it against you if you change your mind. I know you were nervous and being put on a spot. I’ll understand, honest.” Tiredness and doubt crept into her voice. She had seen the hint of a change in his face on TV. Instinctively, her hand flew to her own face, where she first saw the small line below her eyes.
“I’ve worked it out with the producers. Mom is to have the clock, Babs and I are going to Hong Kong, and you are getting the coat. Now, that’s a promise.”

“I feel guilty taking something that costs so much money. Really, Ted.”

“I think I can change all that. There’s a little catch.”

“Oh, I was afraid of that.” Her heart sank.

“Oh, it’s not that bad,” he laughed. “You and Jim will just have to pay the luxury tax, is all.”

“The tax? I thought you won everything, fair and square.”

“The producers will not give the cash value of any of the prizes, I checked, I can come up with the rest, but I think the tax on the coat is a little pricey. You understand where I’m coming from.” He got quiet.

“What will the tax be, Ted? I think you know, don’t you?”  Jenny held her breath. She could always tell when he was lying.

“It’s about ten grand,” he almost whispered.

“Oh, I don’t think……Jim knows some pretty important people……I’ll have to get back to you. Bye, Ted.” She sank to the kitchen chair and stared emptily into space. After a few minutes she got up slowly and went into the living room   She sat down on the sofa and stared at the coffee table. After a while she picked up the unfinished pitcher of martinis.

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THE MOUTH OF T HE LION CHAPTER 8

                                            Chapter 8

The evening had proved exciting, even for those not directly involved in winning a prize. The women dreamed in silent pleasure for knowing Jenny and thoughts of sharing the coat. The men thanked their lucky stars that it was not their wives who been promised such a luxurious gift.

Gus and Jo tried to get through the front door at the same time. He pushed her aside and she winced slightly.  “I’m going to get permission from the old lady to take you out on the town some night, glamorous lady. I’d like to show the boys what class really is.” Gus leaned toward her and the garlic on his breath mingled with beer, made her slightly nauseous. Before he went down the steps he flexed his muscles in his usual pose.

Jo followed meekly with seven year old Theresa. “Maybe you could let me borrow it sometime, Jenny. If he thinks he’s getting out without me, he has another think coming. Oh, you’re so lucky, Jen.” Her voice trailed into the darkness. By the time they reached the car, Jenny could hear an argument raising heatedly into the night.

Cass stood at the door waiting for her children, impatiently tapping her foot on the flagstone entry. Behind her, Pete cuffed Beth on the ear and hung onto Lisa in case they would wander off again and he would have to repeat the search.

Cass said, somewhat wistfully, “You know, Jen, we don’t have anything to go with it.” She laughed heartily, “I’m sure you’ll come up with something. Lots of luck with the coat. Sure wish I had a brother like that. My sister-in-law would have to die if he ever gave me a0 second thought. Oh, well, we never were close.  Come on kids. Nite, Jen”

Jenny started to say she and Ted were never very close either, but the girls ran past her, relieved to be free of their father, so she simply smiled.

Pete took her hand and ran a finger under her eyes, where tiredness and stain were beginning to show. She almost hated Pete. He always saw what others didn’t. He had a tactless way of calling attention to things most people would choose to gloss over.

He looked into her face, almost too close to be neighborly:” I’d like to wish you good luck with the coat, but I can’t help wishing you will never get it. I can only see bad things for you, Jenny. Most people don’t take me seriously, but I wish you would, dear. Give the coat back to Ted. Don’t risk everything you have, You might find they are pretty important after although you probably don’t now.” He made a feeble attempt at a smile, but in the dimly lighted foyer, it turned into a sardonic grin that gave Jenny the chills.

She was annoyed, unsmiling when she shook his hand. She reminded herself that Pete never really fit into their crowd. His slender body glided down the few steps and when his face turned to look back at her, the porch light caught the whiles of his eyes, reminding her of a predatory animal. She shook herself to release the feeling of dread he had created.

Carol came up behind her, “They’re at it again. Poor Jo. She tries so hard. Can I stay and help you clean up?” She yawned sleepily. “On second thought, I’ll be over in the morning. It won’t take half as long  if we’re awake. I heard what Pete said, Jen, don’t let him rattle your cage. You know what a kook he is. I don’t know how he and Cass ever matched up. I think men like that look for woman who won’t be a threat to them. He’s so sure of her it’s pathetic. Try to forget what he said.  He has no business.  See you in the morning.”

When she went back inside, Jim called from the bedroom, “Jenny, Hank offered to take Emma home and I took him up on it. I’m beat. I guess Trish will soon be home.”

Jenny cringed as she threw some cushions back on the sofa. There was that impersonal tone in his voice. It said he didn’t want to be bothered with discussion. It hurt that he didn’t even congratulate her on the coat.

“I’ll be in soon…just waiting for Trish.” She sat down and cried into a gold pillow.

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THE MOUTH OF THE LION CHAPTER 7

                                                 Chapter 7

When the camera focused again, the stage was slightly rearranged. Ted was standing between the MC and a willowy model who was rubbing the sleeve of a full length fur coat against his cheek. ”You had to go and tell me about the prize, didn’t you?” he asked the MC, who nodded.

“The audience wanted to know.  What can I say?” The model left the stage and the MC turned to Ted. A drum roll sounded. “Now, for your final question. Take a big breath, Ted, and try to relax.”

Ted looked as though he gulped in a large breath. and then let it out in one big burst of air.

The speaker laughed, “Not that way. Take one deep breath and let it out very slowly.” It was obvious he was stalling for time, “Here is your three part question, Ted. We all know and love the work of Fred Astaire. Ted, the question is to name his leading ladies in the following films.

  1. Daddy Long Legs
  2. The Barkleys of Broadway
  3. Easter Parade. You will have 15 seconds for each, in any order.”

It was quiet through the theater. Ted looked as though he was deep in thought. Jenny clenched her fists and the kids screamed in the kitchen.

Carol whispered to Jenny, “How on earth did he learn so much about movies?”

Emma sniffed and answered in a loud voice, “That’s all he ever did, hang out in the movies. As soon as he saved the price of admission, he was off to the show. Now he stays up half the night and watches the old ones on TV.”

The music stopped and they turned their attention to Ted, who appeared worried.
The MC ticked them off on his fingers.” Daddy Long Legs.”

“I’d like to come back to that one.”

“All right, number 2, The Barkleys of Broadway,”

“That was. Ginger Rodgers.”

“Number 3, Easter Parade.”

“Judy Garland,” Ted was firm in his answer.

“And now, I must have the answer for number 1, Daddy Long Legs.”

“This is strictly a guess. It’s the one name that comes to mind. I think that was Leslie Caron.”

Lights flashed, the MC threw his cards in the air and the audience went wild. Ted looked weak, He ran his fingers under the edge of his collar and a grin creased his face.

“Well, well. For a swinging bachelor, what are you going to do with all those prizes, a full length fur coat, sable none the less?”

“I’ve thought about it. I’m going to send my mother the grandmothers clock.”

Emma groaned, “What the hell am I supposed do with a big clock in a two room apartment? I don’t even like them.”

Ted continued,  “As for the trip, camera  and gown, I won’t have any trouble using them. I have a girlfriend who would look great in the dress.  I’m going  to give the fur coat to my sister in Pennsylvania. I hope she’s watching. It’s all yours, sis.” He threw a kiss, and the camera cut to the commercials.

Everyone in the living room screamed at that final declaration. The children ran in from the kitchen. Her friends patted her back, Jenny couldn’t speak. She looked for Jim, standing in the dining room. He was silent.

Pete leaned over and whispered something in her ear. She sat back with a sly grin on her face and tried to imagine what she would do with a full length Russian sable coat.

 

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THE MOUTH OF THE LION CHAPTER 6

 

                                                Chapter 6

The TV blared too loudly and someone reached over to turn it down. Jenny stood in the center of the room, rearranging several large pillows so the men could sit near their wives. In the soft light of the lamps her face held a breathless glow and the iridescent green of her costume rippled about her shoulders. The flush of the excitement of the evening only added to her beauty.

From the kitchen the sounds of the children squealing and arguing, overpowered the sounds of the TV. Jenny waved her arms in exasperation at Jim, who immediately got up to quiet them down. Satisfied with the seating arrangements, she sat on the shag carpet and waited for the commercial to end. It was understood, she was not moving for anyone or anything. After all, it was her brother. Jenny reached over and patted her mother’s knee.

Emma Tyson fidgeted with her handkerchief. She was a small woman who often came to help out. She could hardly call it babysitting for a 16 year old granddaughter. She complained about her widowhood and the job of attendant at the county home she was forced to work, in order to make ends meet. Her aging parents were patients in that same institution, and she often stayed beyond her specified hours to help them. Now, being in the company of so many young couples, made her uncomfortable. She would have preferred to stay at home in her small apartment and watch Ted, where she could have cried to herself after seeing him. Jenny insisted. Her being here was what Ted wanted.

Emma often wondered, did he live with a woman, had he ever fathered a child. He was 37, unmarried, or so he said, and always ‘playing the field.’ In his words he never belonged to anyone or anything. What would make a man say that? He was always complaining about something in the few letters she had, mostly cards on holidays. Sometimes he sent her five dollars. It didn’t matter, she told herself. He never could hold on to money. Jenny and Jim cared about her and invited her for meals to stretch her budget, and saw she had clothes and leftovers.  She tried to be grateful.

Five minutes into the quiz show Ted appeared on the screen and the room came alive with excitement. Emma sat on the edge of her seat, Jenny hugged her knees. Carol got up and ran to the kitchen to tell the children that it was Uncle Ted.

The Master of Ceremonies had his arm around Ted and was saying, “Ted Tyson, tell us a little about yourself. It says on your card that you’re a swinging bachelor. Wowee, didn’t know there were many of them around anymore. You lucky dog, with all the beautiful girls making the scene today I guess that makes you a very happy man.”

Ted grinned and opened his mouth to speak but the MC went on. “Now, Ted tell us how a swinging bachelor like you picked a category like ‘Movies from the Past? Most people would think you like categories like ‘Foreign Films,” He winked at the camera and nudged Ted.

“When I was a kid I was always in the movies, even when I was supposed to be in school.” Ted grinned. If he was nervous he didn’t show it to the camera.

“You can say that again,” Emma commented dryly.

“Mother, shh.”

“Ted, for the first prize, this lovely grandmothers clock, tell me, please, who was the star woman in the 1948 film, LETTERS FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN? The audience grew quiet. Music played out the ten seconds.

Ted’s blue eyes darted “That’s easy. It was Joan Fontaine, one of my favorites.”

The audience applauded as did Jenny and several others.

The MC raised his arms.  “You have just won the grandmothers clock. Congratulations.  You are now on your way to your second prize. This will really whet your appetite, Ted, Our lovely model is wearing something ravishing which Bill Pursley will tell us about. Bill.”

The camera cut to a woman in a silky lace trimmed evening gown while the announcer talked rapidly as she turned and posed. “And that’s not all. This lovely creation will take you and your date to The Brown Derby to celebrate” The audience roared its approval.

“Ted, tell us for that lovely creation and a night on the town, what was the first Disney film in stereophonic sound?”

“That would be Fantasia,” he answered quickly. Again, a deafening applause.

“Our next question will be immediately after a commercial break.”

Jenny reached over and lowered the volume. “Poor Ted. I bet he’s scared stiff. He doesn’t look quite like himself, Jim, where’s Jim?” She peered into the darkness of the dining room. Her smooth skin wrinkled over her brow.

“He’s still in the kitchen with the kids,” Jo volunteered, “and Carol,” she added as an afterthought.

Hank got up and made some pretext about checking on the kids. When he returned he had a blushing Carol in tow.

“The kids are so excited.  Did you hear them scream?” he asked.

“I didn’t hear anything but my own heart racing.” Jenny laughed and turned toward her mother. “I can’t believe this is our Ted, can you Mother?”

“Well, it’s been awhile but he looks about the same maybe a little older. The years are starting to show.” Emma pulled her rose colored sweater tighter around her shoulders. Always being cold was one of the things she didn’t like about aging.

Carol said, “Jim will stay with the kids. They had soda all over the floor when he went out there.” She pulled Hank back on his cushion until he touched her knees and she messaged his neck.

“Why don’t you ever do that for me,” Gus pointed at Hank and threw Jo a disgusted look.

“Shh, it’s on again.” Jenny turned up the volume and everyone was quiet again.

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THE MOUTH OF THE LION CHAPTER 5

                                                             Chapter 5

The TV blared too loudly and someone reached over to turn it down. Jenny stood in the center of the room, rearranging several large pillows so the men could sit near their wives. In the soft light of the lamps her face held a breathless glow and the iridescent green of her costume rippled about her shoulders. The flush of the excitement of the evening only added to her beauty.

From the kitchen the sounds of the children squealing and arguing, overpowered the sounds of the TV. Jenny waved her arms in exasperation at Jim, who immediately got up to quiet them down.  Satisfied with the seating arrangements, she sat on the shag carpet and waited for the commercial to end. It was understood, she was not moving for anyone or anything. After all, it was her brother. Jenny reached over and patted her mother’s knee.

Emma Tyson fidgeted with her handkerchief. She was a small woman who often came to help out. She could hardly call it babysitting for a 16 year old granddaughter. She complained about her widowhood and the job of attendant at the county home she was forced to work, in order to make ends meet. Her aging parents were patients in that same institution, and she often stayed beyond her specified hours to help them. Now, being in the company of so many young couples, made her uncomfortable. She would have preferred to stay at home in her small apartment and watch Ted where she could have cried to herself after seeing him. Jenny insisted. Her being here was what Ted wanted.

Emma often wondered, did he live with a woman, had he ever fathered a child. He was 37, unmarried, or so he said, and always ‘playing the field.’ In his words he never belonged to anyone or anything. What would make a man say that? He was always complaining about something in the few letters she had, mostly cards on a few holidays. Sometimes he sent her five dollars. It didn’t matter, she told herself. He never could hold on to money. Jenny and Jim cared about her and invited her for meals to stretch her budget, and saw she had clothes and leftovers.  She tried to be grateful.

Five minutes into the quiz show Ted appeared on the screen and the room came alive with excitement. Emma sat on the edge of her seat, Jenny hugged her knees. Carol got up and ran to the kitchen to tell the children that it was Uncle Ted.

The master of ceremonies had his arm around Ted and was saying, “Ted Tyson, tell us a little about yourself. It says on your card that you’re a swinging bachelor. Wowee, didn’t know there were many of them around anymore. You lucky dog, with all the beautiful girls making the scene today I guess that makes you a very happy man.”

Ted grinned and opened his mouth to speak but the MC went on. “Now, Ted tell us how a swinging bachelor like you picked a category like ‘Movies from the Past? Most people would think you like categories like ‘Foreign Films,” He winked at the camera and nudged Ted.

“When I was a kid I was always in the movies, even when I was supposed to be in school.” Ted grinned. If he was nervous he didn’t show it to the camera.

“You can say that again,” Emma commented dryly.

“Mother, shh.”

“Ted, for the first prize, this lovely grandmother’s clock, tell me, please, who was the star woman in the 1948 film, LETTERS FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN? The audience grew quiet. Music played out the ten seconds.

Ted’s blue eyes darted       “That’s easy. It was Joan Fontaine, one of my favorites.”

The audience applauded as did Jenny and several others.

The MC raised his arms.  “You have just won the grandmother’s clock. Congratulations.  You are now on your way to your second prize. This will really whet your appetite, Ted, Our lovely model is wearing something ravishing which Bill Pursley will tell us about. Bill.”

The camera cut to a woman in a silky lace trimmed evening gown while the announcer talked rapidly as she turned and posed. “And that’s not all. This lovely creation will take you and your date to The Brown Derby to celebrate” The audience roared its approval.

“Ted, tell us for that lovely creation and a night on the town, what was the first Disney film in stereophonic sound?”

“That would be Fantasia,” he answered quickly. Again, a deafening applause.

“Our next question will be immediately after a commercial break.”

Jenny reached over and lowered the volume. “Poor Ted. I bet he’s scared stiff. He doesn’t look quite like himself. Jim,where’s Jim?” She peered into the darkness of the dining room. Her smooth skin wrinkled over her brow.

“He’s still in the kitchen with the kids,” Jo volunteered, “and Carol,” she added as an afterthought.

Hank got up and made some pretext about checking on the kids. When he returned he had a blushing Carol in tow.

“The kids are so excited.  Did you hear them scream?” he asked.

“I didn’t hear anything but my own heart racing.” Jenny laughed and turned toward her mother. “I can’t believe this is our Ted, can you Mother?”

“Well, it’s been awhile but he looks about the same maybe a little older. The years are starting to show.” Emma pulled her rose colored sweater tighter around her shoulders. Always being cold was one of the things she didn’t like about aging.

Carol said, “Jim will stay with the kids. They had soda all over the floor when he went out there.” She pulled Hank back on his cushion until he touched her knees and she messaged his neck.

“Why don’t you ever do that for me,” Gus pointed at Hank and threw Jo a disgusted look.

“Shh, it’s on again.” Jenny turned up the volume and everyone was quiet again.

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THE MOUTH OF THE LION CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 4

Jim Martin leaned on his shirtsleeves on the dining room table. His dark hair seemed to stand out against his white skin, and his eyes darted back and forth between Gus Cavalieri and Hank Driscoll, and a few times bounced off Pete, to hint at including him in the conversation, which wasn’t easy. He and Gus and Hank strained when Pete came into their comfortable threesome. There was an unspoken agreement among the three that they wouldn’t avoid the gatherings, but rather stick together and try to out-last their adversary. The hostility was evident. Pete brought the worst of them and it showed.

Jim glanced at his watch, turning its face toward the living room lights. “He and G us and Hank strained when Pete came into their threesome. “Jenny’s brother called last night, Pete. He wanted us to watch the quiz show, so we figured he must be on it. To Jenny it was a good reason for a party,” he laughed.  “You know Jenny and parties. Glad you and Cass could make it.” The statement came out more sincerely than intended.

Hank added, “You remember Ted, Pete? He wouldn’t tell her why he wanted her to watch, kept it a secret.” Hank was boyish looking with sparkling blue eyes and an easy grin. His thinning auburn hair gave some truth to his age, but when he smiled, his youthful good looks disarmed the most reserved.. Hank was the one man in the room who was certain the Cape Cod was only a temporary residence. The GI Bill had helped him through law school, and now he patiently waited his time while finishing it, and clerking in a law firm. Of the three men, he was the most understanding of Pete. His scope of humanity was encompassed by his compassion.

The conversation fell again and the silence was uncomfortable. Pete sipped his beer and rubbed his rather hairy arm. In the dim light, the ruby in his college ring caught a spark of light and glimmered for an instant. Pete was comfortable with silence.

Hank tried again. “Gus, did you ever finish your patio? I can’t keep track of you on the other side of the street.”

Gus Cavalieri grunted a negative reply and took his beer to the edge of the living room, ”Better warm up the set, doll,” he called to Jenny as he watched her pass chips and drinks to the women, hitching up his pants with his wrists, being careful not to tip the beer can. “We’re ready for the countdown,” he announced dramatically. He was stocky and thick looking, slightly younger than the other men. Black hairs curled on his arms and at his throat where the colored t-shirt ended. Muscles rippled in his arms as he stretched and posed for the audience he had acquired.

“Show, off,” Emma Arner, Jenny’s mother, said sarcastically, and laughed at Gus and his profane reply. She held up her glass for a refill when Jenny passed her with the pitcher. “Best martini I had for a long time.”

Gus showed off his biceps, basking in the responses of the women, except for Carol, Hank’s wife, who watched with a steady glare. His body was a physical form of perfection was his constant source of pride. He was the neighborhood macho male and he loved it. He watched Carol, out of the corner of his eye  Her long blond hair fell across her light blue sweater as she reached for the set, and her black slacks conformed more closely to her shapely body. She looked for Hank, aware of Gus’s stare riveted to her behind. She saw his gaze shift to her face and she impishly licked her parted lips with a darting tongue. She loved to tease Gus. Though not a beauty, she had an earthy, sexy quality that made her attractive to men. If her nose was a little sharp and her mouth a little wide, the components of flaxen hair, large bright eyes, and a full breasted slender body gave her more than average qualities. Carol settled back into the sofa, not missing the look that was exchanged between Gus and his wife.

Jo Cavalieri, wedged between Emma and Carol on the small soda, was trying to ignore the way her husband had just ogled Carol. She liked the friendly neighbor but she was beginning to hate these little parties and their seemingly innocent flirtations. The fact that Gus’s eyes were being drawn to other women was becoming an issue between them. His lust for other women had turned her into a passive partner. Jo studied her perfectly manicured and polished nails and thought back over the five years of their marriage. She tried to be calm, though it was not in her volatile nature. The t v ads blared on, but she barely heard them. In the beginning Gus seemed to like her fiery personality. Lately it only provoked arguments. Jo ran her fingers through her jet black hair. It was her crowning glory, always teased and coiffed, and always the same. She took pride in her style and hoped this careful attention could be the incentive for Gus to pay more attention to his marriage. She was afraid of ending up alone and having to start over. She smiled benignly and accepted a refill, as Jenny enjoyed her role of hostess.

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THE MOUTH OF THE LION CHAPTER 3

                                                              Chapter 3
Colored lights, music and laughter emanated from the small Cape Cod. Though it was only 7:30, dusk had cast dark shadows on the yews and rose bush near the front door. The asphalt covering the dingy grey driveway and the rusting Impala sitting there added some gloom. By most standards it was the typical neighborhood ‘dream house’.

Jenny opened the front door and greeted Cass and Pete Robertson and their two girls.  The fact that they usually used the back door, as next door neighbors, attested to the festivity of the party. .Jenny also added to the party atmosphere by having her dark hair in a fashionable upsweep and wearing more makeup than usual. The excitement of the occasion had put more color into her cheeks and was further emphasized by her shimmering green caftan.

She kissed and hugged ten year old Beth and swung Lisa in her arms and whispered something in her ear, delighted to hear her childish giggle. “Aunt Carol brought her portable t  v so you kids can watch in the kitchen where all the snacks are going to be.”  She explained to Cass and Pete, ”I’m not expecting any problems with our t v, but it’s nice to have a backup.  Who knows, we could be watching with the kids. Cass, you look great. New dress?”

“Naw, just some old rag I had hanging around.” Her bubbling hearty laugh overpowered the conversation in the living room. She looked around, “Where’s Trish?”

“She’s catching the show with some friends,” Jenny wrinkled her nose and made no further comment.

“She’ll be sorry,” Cass boasted, “I made my crab puffs,” she handed Jenny a Pyrex dish covered in foil, lifting a corner and passing it near Jenny’s nose.

“Thank you, thank you,” Jenny bowed. “Wait till you taste the cocktails.” She wiggled and the green caftan shimmered.

“You two make me a little crazy,” Pete laughed and shook his head. He stood uncertainly at the doorway, never seeming to fit in.

“The guys are having a beer in the dining room till the show starts, and then we’ll just fall all over each other in here.” Jenny pointed to where Jim was handing out drinks.

Pete skirted the women and joined the men in the semi darkness. He made no attempt to interrupt the conversation in progress. He picked up a beer can off the table, studied the label and sat in the corner by a small hutch, and tried to get interested in the moment. Pete was not a talker, or a good mixer, He came to these gatherings at Cass’s insistence. It was obvious to the other men that he considered himself a mental superior to most of them. If he didn’t exceed them in looks or in the muscle department, he was taller and relatively sure of his intelligence. Though Pete didn’t fit in well into their lives, he did share an irrefutable lifestyle, since the houses were similar, and the layouts were basically the same: kitchen in the same back corner, two upstairs bedrooms with dormer windows looking out to the placid street where the community children rode bikes, or kicked their sponge footballs. The houses were easily vacated if the family income improved, or the company transfer uprooted them. It was suburbia, easy to enter and not easy to leave.

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THE MOUTH OF THE LION CHAPTER 2

Chapter 2

 

“Now, I want you to call Mom and have her over tomorrow night at eight o’clock. Turn on channel 13.  I don’t want you to miss it, so for God’s sake have a decent TV in the house…one that won’t go off in the middle of the show.”  He was remembering his last visit when they missed the final play of the football game.

“Wouldn’t be the first time in two years you decided to visit when you had to miss your Chicago Bears lose, poor boy.”

“Hey, that wasn’t just any game. It was the play off.”

“Well, the TV is okay, new since you’ve been here. What’s on at eight?” She was still a little miffed that he remembered his last visit by a football game.

“You’ll see. Boy,will you see.” Excitement rose in his voice. “Gotta run. I’ll call you right after the show. Don’t forget to invite Mom. I’m sure she won’t want to miss it. Bye.”

“Ted, you stupe, you didn’t even tell me…”  She looked at annoyance at the phone that buzzed in her hand, “Jim, will you check the paper to see what’s on tomorrow night at eight”?” She glanced at Jim and Trish who were whispering with their heads together. His was still wet from the shower.

Jim looked up and shook his head, “You do it, Jen. I’m so tired I don’t even want supper.” He sat wearily on the sofa, stretched his legs out, and was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.

Trish pulled off his shoes and covered him with an afghan. It was getting to be a way of life. He worked long hours and was hardly in the right frame of mind for conversation.

“Looks like it’s the two of us for supper again,” Jenny complained. “I don’t know how he keeps going. He hardly eats. I’ll dish up, Trish.”

“Not hungry. I was in late lunch today.” Trish was gone to her room in the next few seconds.

Jenny sighed and paused over Jim. She spoke to no one in particular. “Wish you would come from work some night and stay awake long enough to talk to me. Trish, don’t ever think you’re ready to marry right after high school. You miss so much in life.” She quickly glanced through the newspaper. “Why, it’s a quiz show. That’s why Ted wants me to call mother.Her face livened up and she glanced at Jim. He was fast asleep.”

The meal she had prepared went into the garbage can.  She didn’t even feel guilty at throwing out the ‘leftovers.’ Heating it up in the oven dried it out anyway.

“What’s the use,” she ran her hand over her slender backside and stared out of the kitchen window where the philodendron climbed around the macrame hanger. It was very warm for October and she opened the window a little higher. Soon daylight saving time would change all this and it would be dark all evening. Tears welled in her eyes and she blew her nose loudly in a Kleenex tissue. Her face and long shapely legs might make her look young, but she felt old, used up. Jog your mind, clear your head, she said to herself. She felt like a house drudge, unappreciated and unglamorous. Life was passing her by. Then a thought struck her. “I need a party,” she said aloud.  “Tomorrow night we’re going to have a party for Ted’s surprise. That’s what I need, some fun.” She felt the wine bring warmth and calm to her nerves and she took another sip. Tomorrow she would buy some gin and make martinis for the party. Maybe then she would be appreciated.
COPYRIGHT 2018

THE MOUTH OF THE LION, A NOVEL, CHAPTER 1

                                                          CHAPTER 1

The world was a quieter place, no longer filled with the rumble of war. Hard to believe World War ll had ended some ten years ago. One only had to look around at the quickly constructed, economy houses that had sprung up all across the landscape to house the thousands of service men and women who had descended upon  America to change it forever. They came home to live out their lives and raise their families in suburbia. Their coming created an immediate need for adequate inexpensive housing, more schools for their growing families, and a desperate need for employment.  At last the government stepped up and formed the GI Bill, to help with the inevitable mortgages and to lend a hand for education in colleges and trade schools. Eventually the unemployment lessened and the quality of jobs and life improved. The going was rough, but as the old saying ’the tough got going,’ said it all.

The town of Taylor was small town USA. It was hot in the summer and cold in the winter but most people liked the change in seasons. The air was invigorating. Freshly washed clothing hung out to dry in back yards, but electric dryers were gradually changing that scene. Only a few ‘country kids’ had to be bussed to school. The rest walked.

Taylor had sprung up after the war. Construction for the town had latched onto a nearby foundry, partly because there were jobs available, partly because there was clear land to the north. The new houses were bare of the gingerbread trim of the southern homes in the more affluent sections of town. By comparison, these new houses had postage stamp size lawns, no frills, and asbestos siding that came in colors from white to tan or green.  They were affordable and it showed.

In the mid-fifties most homes had television sets, but only the very rich had the new color sets.  Telephones were sometimes party lines, but more were becoming private. ‘Survival of the fittest’ was still taught in schools, and morning Bible readings and the pledge to the flag were a must. By and large, most people were satisfied to be able to work at whatever was their lot in life, and women were usually the homemakers, though the war years had its share of women working in production lines while the men were called to the draft. When it came to religion, each town had a spattering of the traditional churches, the Catholic and Protestant denominations and sometimes, a Synagogue.

Though there was no longer war to cause the rumble, it was felt, nevertheless, coming from the green shingled Cape Cod Martin home. Sound emanated through the thin walls. Jenny Martin and her teen aged daughter Trisha, were at it again, yelling at the tops of their lungs. In the midst of that noise, the telephone rang for the third time, and before Jenny could turn off the mixer, Trish grabbed the phone off the wall and disappeared down the cellar steps to take the call in private. Her mother’s shouts about stretching the phone cord and tying up the line for hours was heard two houses away.

Chocolate cake batter dripped from the beaters into the white bowl. “And go upstairs and change your school clothes,” she screeched while she opened the cellar door and made sure Trish got the message “Your father often calls before he leaves for home. Don’t tie up the line.” She poured the cake batter into the pans and slammed the oven door so hard it shook the  kitchen window.

Trish flipped her long dark brown hair and finally hung up the phone and yelled back, though her mother was only two feet away. “You don’t have to make a scene every time I get a call. Most of my friends have their own phones, but not me…we’re too poor,” she hissed and tossed her hair, giving her mother a dirty look as she headed to her upstairs bedroom.

“Just wait until your father gets home,” Jenny yelled up the stairs. The bedroom door slammed and created a draft that rattled the pictures at the landing. Jenny shook her head and sighed, wiping her hands on her apron. Jim won’t say a word to his ‘darling’ daughter, she thought.. A second later the phone rang again.

”If it’s for you Trish, you’re not at home,” she shouted and winced at the kick on the upstairs door. Taking a deep breath, she tried to calm her voice.

“Ted,” she sighed into the receiver, controlling herself. “How are you, and how are things in New York, and the job, and when are you coming here for a visit?” All thoughts of disobedience vanished when her brother called.

“Is that Uncle Ted?” Trish called from upstairs. “I have to talk to him.”

“Quiet, I can’t hear,”

At that moment Jim came, noisily in the back door, and put his lunch can on the counter. Trish ran down the stairs and into his arms. He started to hug her but looked at the foundry dirt on his clothes, and gave her a peck on the cheek. Then, after they exchanged pleasantries, he went to shower and change his clothes. Tired lines were etched into his face from the black dust of the foundry mold.

“Will you two be quiet so I can hear Ted?” Jenny ran her fingers through her snarled hair, a hint of a line showed across her brow.  Her face and body were still attractive, hardly attesting to the fact she would soon be thirty-five. “Start over will you Ted? I was finally granted peace and quiet. You know how it is here,” she whispered.

“I was calling to tell you I have a surprise for you,”

“You’re getting married,” she gasped..

”Hell no. I’m not the marrying kind. Don’t you remember? You think I’m as dumb as my big sister?” he laughed.

She ignored the remark. “Well, what then. A promotion? A vacation?”

“Will you shut up and listen? This is costing me money. Next time you want to talk so much I’m going to reverse the charges. Better yet, I’ll send a Western Union telegram.”

She could hear his smile, picturing his handsome face, and the blue eyes that danced. When was he getting married? Aloud, she said “Okay, okay, I know when I’m being told off.” She tried to relax. His surprises hardly ever affect her anyway.

Copyright 2018