Monday, July 17, 2006

"Great Times," Chapter 16

Copyright 2006, Terry F. Phillips Sr.
All rights reserved.

Chapter 16

Beck had nothing for Ted to do in the afternoon, so Ted spent the rest of the day getting acquainted with the station and the large number of people who worked there.

He met the music librarian and learned how the recorded transcriptions were filed. He was also warned “to look, but don’t touch.”

He found the closet where the sound effects were stored. While looking at a miniature door in a frame, used to make a variety of sound effects, he was met by the librarian and told to “look but don’t touch” unless the sound effects librarian was around.

Ted knew that in the hands of an experienced sound effects man, that door could add untold dimension to a show.

Angry exits, slams, cautious entrances were all possible. With a bit of rosin on the hinges, the door would creak just like the one on “Inner Sanctum”.

This librarian was much more friendly and welcomed Ted’s interest more than the music librarian.

She showed Ted how various sound effects were made. Ted had become familiar with some of the tricks of the trade in South Bend, but these sound effects were much broader and grander than the ones he had used in South Bend. In fact, he had usually had to invent his own when they were needed. Obviously, in Chicago the business was much more highly developed in every area.

After spending an hour or so with the sound effects librarian, Ted wandered through the big studio where The Beer Hour was produced each week.

He realized that in 10 years, 20 at the most, the big studio would probably be cut up into small studios, such as the one in which he worked that morning. Or, he thought and the idea burned for a moment in his brain like a photographer’s flash bulb, perhaps television would take over these old radio studios.

There were certainly enough seats for a television audience.

He decided he would have to visit a television studio in Los Angeles when he got there. Perhaps that was on Beck’s agenda, as well.

A cool, June wind was blowing in from the lake when Ted left the building at five p.m. and night was fast approaching.

He imagined the sun would not set in the suburbs for some time, but in the canyons of the big city skyscrapers, it was already getting dark .

At the apartment house, Ted went straight to his room without looking for or asking about Connie. He decided their relationship would not happen and they would, eventually, drift off in different directions.

That would probably happen sooner than later, if Connie’s finances were in as bad condition as she indicated.

Ted sat down on the iron-frame bed and was taking off his shoes when there came a knock on the door.

Thinking it might be the idiots who had given him a hard time when he first came to this house, he kept his door locked.

“Who is it?” he asked, sounding annoyed and not getting up.

“It’s me. Connie,” came the voice through the door. “Mrs. Davis wanted to know if you will be eating here tonight.”

Ted started for the door, but thought better of it. He sat up on the edge of the bed only to hear the steel springs squeak and give him away.

“Yeah, I’ll be there,” he said. “Six, right?”

But there was no answer.

At the dining table, talk was a little less guarded than it had been on his first night.

Connie sat next to Mrs. Davis and the distinguished-looking gentleman sat on Connie’s right.

“So, Mr. Lane, how are things going at the radio station?” Mrs. Davis asked. “Are you getting settled in there?”

“Things are fine,” Ted said.

He hesitated, glancing at the other people sitting at the table and then decided to brag a bit.

He told about the recording work he did for Eddie’s new show and then dropped the bomb.

“It looks like I’ll be doing some traveling,” he said; then let the matter drop while he forked a mouthful of mashed potatoes.

“Traveling?” Mrs. Davis said. “But, you just got here!”

“Oh, it’s just going to be a short trip,” Ted said. “And, I plan to pay you rent in advance and leave my things in my room.

“Locked in my room,” he said with a warning glance at the two idiots who jumped him in the hall.

“Where will you be going?” Mrs. Davis asked.

Ted noticed Connie was paying attention but not saying anything.

“I’ll be making a trip to California with my boss, Mr. Beck,” he said. “It has to do with business. That’s all I know.”

“Sure and that show business is beyond me,” Mrs. Davis said.

Connie just scowled. Ted couldn’t determine what she was thinking, and he would have liked to flatter himself that she was upset about his departure - even if temporary - but he thought something else was behind it.

About an hour after dinner, Ted was reading a book he picked up at the train station when there came a knock on his door.

“Yes,” he said.

“It’s me,” Connie said again. “Open up, you jerk.”

“That isn’t a very good way to gain admission,” he said, opening the door.

Connie pushed in, backing him toward the bed in surprise.

“What do you mean you’re flying with Beck to California?” she asked.

Ted was getting a little annoyed, but decided it was better they talked than not.

“I told you at the dinner table,” he said calmly. “Beck invited me to lunch. We talked and he invited me to go with him to California.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know why,” Ted said. “He said something about this business changing in the next few years and said he wanted me to go with him.”

“Who-Why?”

Connie started stumbling over her words and tears filled her eyes. She pressed her fists against his chest and started to cry.

“Hey, sit down,” he said

“I can’t,” she said with her face buried in his chest. “It’s against the rules.”

“What rules?” he asked, and then remembered. “Oh, yes, the house rules. Here, sit on the chair.”

He moved his book from the seat and guided her into it. After opening the door widely, he got down on one knee to talk to her much as he would have talked to a child who bumped her knee on the sidewalk.

“Now, what’s going on?” he said. “I know you’re short on money and your singing career hasn’t taken off, but-.”

“You don’t know half of it,” she said. “Eddie Adams is going to San Francisco tomorrow and Mrs. Davis is nearly hysterical.”

“She seemed all right at dinner,” Ted said.

“She gets lost in her work,” Connie said. “But she is broke up on the inside. She wants me to take her life savings and move to San Francisco to make sure Eddie is OK.

"Then you come along. I can’t make it in show business, but you’re here two days and your boss invites you to lunch and on a trip to Los Angeles. It’s just not fair.”

“Look. If it makes you feel any better, I wanted to meet you for lunch,” he said.

“You did?” she asked, looking up through teary eyes.

“Sure,” he said. “We had such a swell time yesterday and I wanted to see you today, too.”

“I thought. That is --. Oh, never mind what I thought,” she said.

“Would it be so bad for you to go to California?” Ted asked. “You might have a better shot out there. You know - working in pictures. Maybe even television.”

“I don’t have the means to get started,” she said. “Remember, I spent all my savings trying to live here.”

Ted thought things over and said, “Let’s sleep on it. Maybe things will be clearer in the morning.”

Before she left his room, Connie moved her face close to his and whispered, “Thanks, Ted. I hope things do look clearer in the morning. And..., well, I’ll see you then.