Friday, December 30, 2011

Two Ships ~~ Part Thirteen

Neither of us woke up with a hangover, thankfully, although Eve uncharacteristically (albeit playfully) told me to "shove it" when I chided her for not getting out of bed as soon as I did.
I checked my clothes in the bathroom. My t-shirt, socks, and underwear were dry. My shirt and pants were still a bit damp, but dry enough for me to throw on. I also checked Eve's clothes. Her skirt, made out of some seasonally-appropriate heavy fabric (wool?), was still soaked; the rest of her stuff was wearable. I got dressed quickly and exited the bathroom, walking across the room to the closet, from which I withdrew my coat.
"Where are you going?" asked Eve from the bed.
"I'll be right back, " I said, not really answering her.
I walked out into the morning air. It was still cold, but there was no snow in the  sky. The motel's driveways had all been plowed, the tenants' cars all cleaned off and shoveled out, and all the walkways to the various rooms were spotless. I assumed that the never-seen "Lenny" had done all or most of the work.
A couple of minutes later, I returned from the parking lot, clutching my canvas mini-duffel bag, which I'd taken from Julie's car.
"Ooh," said Eve, perhaps thinking of last night's "surprises" from Art (and Millie?), "More presents?"
"Yeah," I agreed, "from me!" Eve was sitting up in the bed, but I noticed that she now held the remote control for the TV in her right hand. "I've got three or four shirts, and some t-shirts, and a couple of pairs of pants. If worse comes to worse, they ought to fit you, too. A little bulky, sure, but just in case you need something besides that one outfit of yours..."
Her face broke into a grin so wide she practically beamed. "Oh, Dan! That is so sweet!"
"I checked your skirt. It's pretty wet, even now." I tossed the duffel bag onto the bed next to Eve. "So help yourself, doll."
"That is so sweet," she repeated "You're the doll here!" I looked at her fondly, keeping my thoughts to myself. After several seconds of rummaging through the bag's contents, Eve looked up at me. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
"I'm... I guess I'm just waiting for you to get up." She nodded and smiled, but didn't budge. "Well?"
"Well what?"
"Are you going to get up, or not?"
"Nope. In fact..." She unceremoniously pushed my duffel bag onto the floor and patted the space which she'd cleared on the bed beside her. "Why don't you come back to bed, and we can watch those movies we didn't have the energy for last night?" Without waiting for my reply, she pushed the "power" button on the remote control unit and the TV clicked on. "I love this channel! Nothing but wall-to-wall classic movies!"
Not wanting to look too eager to join her, I slowly removed my shirt and shoes. "Any idea what's playing?"
"I don't know, and I don't care!" she exclaimed cheerfully. "I'm more interested in the company, truth be told!" Eve's enthusiasm was encouraging in a way, but a bit perplexing as well. I sat down on the bed and slid toward her, but she sighed loudly and said "Under the covers, you big goof!" I glanced over at her, my eyes somewhat narrowed, and moved back to the far side of the bed from her. I reached to remove my socks and then lifted the covers. "Pants, too, silly!" she said, before giggling and adding (more to herself than to me) "Wow, I can't believe I just said that!" Yeah, neither can I, I thought.
"I won't look," she promised, turning away to face toward the bathroom as I removed my jeans and threw them onto the same chair which held my shirt. She didn't look my way again until I'd rejoined her on the bed. Then she surprised me yet again by putting her arms around me and resting her head on my shoulder.
"I don't suppose you thought to bring my bra in, along with all of your clothes, did you?" she asked. I replied truthfully that I hadn't, otherwise she would have seen it in the bag. "Oh. I don't exactly like the thought of... What is it they say? 'Letting it all hang out?' "
I chuckled. "Well, that's how they said it twenty years or more ago, but the way you dress, it's not really noticeable anyway. It's not like you run around in halter tops, bouncing all over the place."
"So, you've... noticed me, then?"
"Well, sure."
"Ah-hah!" She was being playful again. "Checked me out once or twice, have you, Woody?"
"Well, sure." I repeated. A lot more than once or twice, I admitted... but only to myself. "You've got a really great..." I paused, trying to think of something a little less suggestive than "body," and finished instead with "...figure."
She totally misinterpreted my pause. "You were going to say I have a really nice figure for a woman my age, weren't you?"
"That's not what I was going to say at all, Eve! Besides, you say that as if you're sixty-five instead of thirty-five. But frankly, you look good for any age."
That seemed to appease her, thankfully. She hugged me more tightly. I added "And by the way, I didn't say you had a nice figure; I said you had a great figure." (And I left out a few remarks I could have easily made about her sexy legs.)
She hugged me even more tightly.
I sat there with my eyes glued to the TV screen, but I can tell you with all honesty that I don't recall anything about the movie which we supposedly "watched." All I could think about was Eve's new attitude toward me, and her closeness, and her warmth...
No, wait. I do remember one thing about the movie. It starred William Powell, and somewhere during the film, Eve commented, "Russ resembles William Powell, a bit."

"Oh, really. Right after we met, you told me that I look like William Powell!"
"Well, you do. A little, anyway."
"So you're saying that I remind you of the guy you're considering leaving?"
"I didn't say you were like Russ, I just said that you and he look similar."
"Oh. Okay."
Anyway, to continue... I didn't know what to expect from one moment to the next. I mean, no, I certainly didn't expect her to do anything boldly sexual, like suddenly groping me beneath the blankets -- this is Eve we're talking about, here -- but the way she was snuggling against me was as disconcerting as it was welcome, and yes, even arousing.
And I was pretty sure it was due to more than the fact that I'd finally taken a shower. Heh.
After giving it some thought, I came to the conclusion that since Eve and I were in a little "time capsule" of sorts -- we'd spent virtually all of the last thirty-odd hours together at this point, except for my little one-on-one conversation with Art -- I was winning her over at a much faster pace than I would have ordinarily.
Yeah, I know how that sounds. I have been accused of being self-centered by some, and of being egotistical by others. In fact, a quick glance upward shows that several of the last few paragraphs began with the word "I," and I'd hate to see how many others in this story have started the same way. Granted, this is a story about myself -- and Eve -- but maybe there is a small justification for the accusations about my being self-centered. But I digress!
Anyway, I'll admit that saying I was "winning Eve over" might lead you to believe that one or the other "charge" is true, but really, what else could it be? Eve had inspired a whole new level of "niceness" in me -- not that I was ever that much of a bastard to begin with -- and even a tendency to avoid most of the profanities I usually included in my day-to-day speech! So it wasn't that much of a self-serving stretch to think that maybe she'd tallied up my thoughtful little gestures and come up with...
Come up with what? I wondered.
But somewhere in the back of my mind was that old quote about "Be careful what you ask for..."
Yeah, I was definitely in love with her. That "thunderbolt" theory of Art's had a lot of merit. And it helped explain a lot, mainly... Well, let's put it this way: I've never been the type to fall in love in a motel room, if you catch my drift. So I was perfectly willing to accept that I'd fallen for Eve well before we ever checked in to this one.
But I wasn't sure what direction her feelings for me were taking. Hell, as convenient as it would have been for me to believe that she was in some horrible, loveless marriage, what facts I'd learned up until now didn't even bear that out. She and Russ seemed to have a good marriage, admittedly... just one which was currently going through some strain.
The question was, did I want to be the one to take advantage of their current difficulties, and play a part in breaking them up? Would it be the right choice for her if she left Russ for good? It seemed to be the right choice for my sake, certainly...
Sometimes, having a conscience can be a real bitch, you know that?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Out to Lunch... or Something

Hi there, fellow babies! I'll bet you were expecting to see the Comical Wednesday post about Canadian comic book heroes that I've been talking about for two or three weeks, huh?

Oh, well. No such luck. I didn't finish it, and I'm not going to kill myself doing it.

Instead, here's a little illustration as a place-filling pacifier, sent with love to all my Canadian readers.

(Yep, all three of them.)

Be sure to check out Last Kiss!

And hey, just be glad I didn't hit you with another chapter of Two Ships!

Thanks for your time.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Two Ships ~~ Part Twelve

I opened the door. No one was there! I stuck my head out, glancing to the left and right. No one was on the walkway, either!
"Where'd that bag come from?" asked Eve.
"Bag?" I looked down. There was a large paper shopping bag at my feet, with its top folded to close it. I picked it up and brought it inside the room, sitting upon the bed next to Eve with the bag between us. "Let's find out what's in here," I said, unfolding it.
Inside the bag was a full bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, and three cold cans of Budweiser! There were also two white candles, both thick enough to stand without the aid of a candle-holder. And, finally, a hand-written note: "Now you got CANDLES, + YOU allready [sic] got a lighter! The drink's [sic] are on me. But tomorrow, hotshot, you start paying for the room!"
Eve and I broke out in smiles as I read the note aloud. "Art! That old sonofabitch!" I exclaimed, shaking my head.
"That sweet old sonofabitch, you mean," she said, correcting me. I blinked at her use of "sonofabitch," and we both laughed again.
Eve and I decided to share the wine -- "If I drink this whole bottle by myself I'll probably pass out!" she'd said -- and I lit the candles while she went to fetch two 6-ounce paper cups from the bathroom. I had her bring the three cans of beer with her, suggesting that she put them on the windowsill so they'd keep relatively cold until I decided to drink them.
After a while, I noticed that it seemed to be taking an awfully long time for Eve to come out of the bathroom. Eventually, after snapping off the room's overhead light, leaving the room lit by the candles which I'd placed on the room's sole bureau, I lay down on the bed to wait for her  -- Oh, come on now, by this point you know how I meant that! -- and promptly dozed off.
A few minutes later, Eve's soft, sweet voice woke me by repeatedly calling my name. I opened my eyes and was immediately struck by the beauty of this charming young woman, looking even more lovely than usual -- if that were possible -- in the candlelight. She sat on the bed, not far from where I lay. Her hair was wrapped in a towel, and she wore only her bathrobe.
"Do you still want to have a glass of wine or two with me, Dan?"
If she had been anyone else, I would have assumed that her question, coupled with her attire, implied that there was more in store for me than she actually meant. But there was nothing inherently salacious about taking a shower at the end of one's day, which she obviously had...
Then and there, it occurred to me that I myself -- a morning shower person -- hadn't taken one since yesterday morning. Ew.
I practically jumped up from the bed. "My turn!"
"Your turn for what?"
"I'm probably coated with half the dirt in freakin' Iowa, and I need to wash it off, that's what!"
"Oh, okay. Well, watch out for my clothes, will you?"
"My clothes. I washed them. They're hanging on the shower rod."
"Oh. Okay. I'll be right out, doll."
"You might want to wash your own while you're in there," she remarked.
I immediately felt self-conscious. Only half-kiddingly, I asked "Hey, are you saying I stink?"
She smiled broadly and replied "Oh, no, of course not!" while comically pinching her nose shut with the thumb and index finger of her left hand.
So after I'd removed Eve's cream-colored blouse, dark brown skirt, tan panties, and brown pantyhose... from the shower rod, that is... I got myself clean, and then my next few minutes were spent washing my own clothes in the sink. I'd managed to fit all of our clothes on the rod before donning my own bathrobe and walking back into the main motel room. (And I couldn't help smiling at the absence of Eve's bra, realizing that it was still in my sister's Corvette!)
The first thing I noticed was that the room seemed darker than it had when I'd entered the bathroom, and then I realized why. I'd left the two candles on the bureau, and its full-sized mirror had reflected their light into the room. But Eve had moved the candles to a small table near the window. There were two small chairs on either side of the table. She sat in one of them, facing me expectantly.
"You smell better already!" she joked. "I can tell from way over here!"
"Very funny, doll," I said, as I walked to the table and seated myself across from her.  "So, now what?"
"Now, Dan? Open the wine, pour us each a glass -- well, a cup, I should probably say -- and tell me how on earth a little glass bottle told you what song Art was going to play!"

I laughed as I opened the wine. "Oh! Heh. There's a story that the young Duane Allman was in bed with a bad cold while he was teaching himself to play guitar. His brother Gregg brought him a bottle of Coricidin to help fight the cold. Later, Gregg went back for another visit, and Duane had dumped the pills out and was using the bottle as a slide for playing blues guitar! Other guitarists have done it since, like Gary Rossington, and Rory Gallagher... and Art... but when I saw Art whip out that bottle, I knew there was a damned good chance he'd be playing an Allman Brothers tune!"
"That's fascinating... professor."
She smiled and nodded, sipped at her wine, then continued. "I don't really know much about music, except what I like, which is mainly gospel, and some classical. A little country, too, I suppose, but mainly where there's a gospel connection, like that Hank Williams song." She paused. "The first one," she added unnecessarily. "I recognized that one." She paused again and finished her first cup of wine. My first cup was already gone, and I'd refilled it. "But I'd never heard much of the blues until tonight. Art -- and you -- really impressed me."
"Thanks. You impress me, too, Eve."
She giggled impishly. "I didn't sing!"
"You didn't have to. I didn't mean that. I think you're an amazing woman, that's all."
"Oh, stop it, silly. Isn't it enough that you call me a  'doll,' and tell me I'm beautiful?"
"No, it's not enough." I said, draining my second cup of wine with a gulp. "I think you're incredibly charming, and pretty, and smart, and if you were my wife..."
I paused.
"And if I were your wife...?" she said quietly, sipping at her wine.
I knew I'd ventured into potentially dangerous territory here, but pressed on, regardless. "Well, let's just say I wouldn't be wasting my time playing with my... computer."
She smiled, and her lips trembled before she decided to make light of my comment. "You'd be 'playing' with me, I take it... Woody?"
I laughed. "Well, that's not exactly what I meant to say..."
"But it is what you meant to... mean?" We both laughed at that. "Have another glass of wine, Evie!" she said to herself, aloud.
Eve and I continued talking. A lot of our talk was playful banter, some of it bordering on goofy, thanks to the wine... but it did get serious for a bit when I finally told her about my friend Kelly, and why I'd come to Iowa in the first place.
When I noticed that the Cabernet Sauvignon was more than half gone, I decided to switch to the three cans of Budweiser that were in the bathroom. Eve kept going with the wine.
Eventually, though, the alcohol was gone. All of it. Eve was giggly, and I was not only a bit drunk myself, but also rather proud that the evening's mix of wine, beer, and Canadian Club hadn't knocked me out or made me sick!
Eve looked at her empty cup with a childlike expression of disappointment on her adorable face. "Ohhhh, sugar!" she said. I chuckled in spite of myself. "No more wine."
"And no more beer, either. So, now what?"
"Do you feel like watching a movie on TV?"
"I don't know if I could even stay awake long enough to see the whole thing." I looked at her very seriously. "But if you'd let me, I'd really like to find out... if I could hold you, and cuddle with you, while we watch it."
Just as seriously, she sighed and said, "Oh, Dan, I'm really not sure that's such a good idea..."
"Okay!" I replied, a bit too cheerfully, perhaps, but I didn't want any tinges of guilt spoiling Eve's mood. "So, maybe we should go to bed? That is... you go to bed, and I go to... floor?" That was awkward, but we both knew what I meant.
She smiled and shook her head. "Dan, you don't have to sleep on the floor."
"I don't mind. At least there's a heater in this room, and..."
"Dan. Really. You behaved last night, and just because we've had a few drinks tonight, I doubt you'll act any differently."
"And I doubt you will either, doll." She smiled at the compliment.
"Okay, then," she said, rising a bit unsteadily. "Bedtime it is." I got up as well, as she walked toward me. Man, she looked gorgeous! Her hair was still damp, although she'd taken the towel off of it quite a while earlier, and those soft-looking legs of hers were just as shapely as they'd been on the previous evening, of course...
As she passed by me, I blew out the candles. I followed her closely -- very closely, not three inches away -- as she walked to her side of the bed. When she turned and noticed that I'd been right behind her, she looked up at me quizzically. "Dan! This is my side." She pointed toward the other side. "That's your side."
I nodded. "I know. I was just... walking you home."
She giggled. Actually, we both giggled. "Well, then I thank you for a delightful evening, sir."
"My pleasure, milady," I said...
And then I impulsively took her in my arms (for the very first time) and kissed her. It was a G-rated kiss, to be sure, but it was right on her soft, yielding lips, and it was warm, and it was absolutely wonderful.
It didn't last more than three or four seconds, and when it was done, I released her from the embrace and stepped back. I waited for Eve to slap me, or scream, or run from the room... but none of that happened.
I could just barely make her out in the darkness, but Eve was smiling at me. She didn't make a move toward me or away from me. But she was smiling. "Thank you, Dan," she whispered, almost as if I'd done her some sort of favor! Then she pointed at my side of the bed again. "Now, go home," she said, teasingly. "Or do I have to call you a taxi?"
I started walking to the other side of the bed, muttering "You can call me a taxi, but don't call me Shirley."
"Never mind." I got into bed, and lay on my back as I had the night before. She was under the covers, on my left, lying so close to me that I could feel the warmth of her. "Good night, Eve."
"Good night, Dan."
"I love you, doll."
"I... I'd forgotten about that."
"Yeah, well, I guess you can afford to," I said, somewhat sadly. She didn't ask how I'd meant that, and I didn't offer to tell her.
We both drifted off to sleep. I hope she slept more soundly than I did that night.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Two Ships ~~ Part Eleven

I've told you already what Eve had told me, of course, which was that she'd only had sex with one man during her entire life, and that was Russ. I strongly suspected that he didn't receive such a unique place in her life until after the wedding night, but Eve had refused to confirm that during our previous discussions. I also knew that the early years of their marriage had been what she herself described as "deliriously happy."
But now, I only wanted to hear that things sucked so badly that she'd never go back to him. Just in case there was some -- *ahem* -- other guy around willing to take Russ' place, don'tcha know.
Nevertheless, I did my best to keep any and all smartass comments in check as Eve started spinning her tale. (Not an easy task for me, as you may have guessed.)
The early part of the story was admittedly very "white-picket-fency." Eve had never dated much, primarily due to shyness, and was "well on [her] way to spinsterhood by [her] mid-twenties." (Well, that's the way she looked at it.) Russ, eight years older than Eve, owned a construction business there in Oregon (along with his sister's husband) when he and Eve had met. He'd swept her off her feet with romantic promises that he was able to back up financially, and talked her into leaving a boring secretarial post to be his stay-at-home wifey-poo.
As it turned out, about seven years ago -- two years into Eve's marriage -- Russ and his brother-in-law sold their company to an even larger concern and got high places in its chain of command to boot. Shortly thereafter, Russ and his brother-in-law received transfer orders from the company, which is how both families wound up in Iowa!
Cut to a few months before tonight. Computer-savvy Russ was spending more and more time with various "bulletin boards," chat rooms, and the like, which is how all the computer geeks liked to "talk" to one another. At the same time, Eve noticed that he was becoming less and less involved with her, and their mutual interests.
Surprisingly, I found myself interrupting her to defend this guy I couldn't help seeing as my "rival."
"I wouldn't take that too personally, Eve. It's only natural that when someone finds a new interest, he -- or she -- immerses himself in it..."
"Oh, really, Dan! Do you think I didn't take that into account?"
"Sorry, I just..."
"I only felt a bit neglected at first, but there were... other things... that followed shortly thereafter."
"Such as?"
"One day, when Russ had left late for work, he left his hairbrush in the bathroom instead of putting it away in the top drawer of his nightstand. When I went to the bedroom to put it away, I noticed eight or ten magazines... under his Bible, ironically. I made the mistake of glancing at them, and was quite shocked."
"Ah. Lemme guess. Porn?"

"Well, I didn't open them, so I have no idea exactly how graphic their contents were, but they were digest-sized magazines with scantily-clad models on the cover." She paused. "Needless to say, they weren't quite the type of thing I ever expected to see in our home." Yeah, needless to say, I thought, seeing how Eve was so refreshingly proper.
"And when you confronted him?"
"Well, I didn't confront him... not right away. It wasn't until a few days later that I started wondering if his computer time was at all connected with his new... interests. I realized that he'd been acting strangely, almost secretively, whenever I checked in on him while he was 'working' at the computer. I started wondering what sort of people Russ might be in touch with, and if any of them were women, and how close they lived to us..."
"In other words, if he was cheating on you, or even planning to?" She nodded. "May I ask you something personal?
She forced a slight smile. "Could I stop you even by saying no?" she teased.
I grinned back at her. "Probably not. But seriously... without asking for explicit details... had you given him any reason to... look elsewhere?"
She looked offended. "Reason?"
"Well, don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that anything justifies actual infidelity. I just meant... well... after nine years of marriage, sometimes things... slow down, if you know what I mean."
She nodded. "Okay, no offense taken." She paused. "Let's just say that, without giving you 'explicit details,' as you put it, he shouldn't have had any complaints. I think our... love life... was pretty satisfying, for both of us, in terms of frequency as well as quality. And neither Russ nor myself ever wanted to indulge in anything... anything..." She struggled for a word.
"I think 'out of the ordinary' might be a better term..."
"Well 'kinky' is less judgmental." We both smiled. Still playing the word games, both of us. "So, neither of you ever wanted anything... unusual. Until, perhaps, he started getting ideas from elsewhere?" I suggested. "Like, maybe from magazines, and who knows what -- or who -- else?"
She closed her eyes and nodded. "Yes. I did think of that. Finally, I did feel the need to confront him, but only after..." I noticed tears had formed beneath her still-closed eyelids. She seemed to be waging some inner battle as she said "This is rather embarrassing..."
"Eve, you don't have to tell me any more than you really want to."
"I know. I know." Another pause, this time a long one, as she opened her eyes. "I went out with some friends yesterday afternoon, expecting a rather late night, but came back unexpectedly early. When I got home, Russ was at the computer, wearing nothing but his bathrobe. He was very surprised to see me. He had an extremely guilty look on his face, and I got the definite impression that... I mean, that he..."
I held up my hand. "Say no more, doll," I said softly.
"Well, it was then that I blurted out my suspicions about all his time away from me, and his new magazines, and even the way that he'd seemed much less gentle than usual whenever we'd made love lately." I saw by the look on her face that the last part of the sentence had just slipped out. "Oh, dear! I'm sorry!"
"It's okay, Eve."
"He denied everything, of course, except for having those magazines, but... he denied it in a way that made me pretty sure that I was right, and that something between us was... different." Her wording was strange, and it was obvious that she was having a hard time telling this part of the story. I could tell she was reliving their argument in her mind, and I could also tell that remembering it was making her angry. "He was yelling at me, which he rarely does, and he even started swearing at me and became insulting, both of which he's almost never done!"
I couldn't help asking, "And all this time, what were you doing?"
She smiled in spite of herself. "Oh, me? I did everything possible to keep my voice controlled, and my own arguments logical. No swearing, either. Well, maybe a 'hell' or two slipped in there..."
"Your self-control is admirable, doll."
"Oh, please! Don't give me so much credit. I was doing it so he'd look like that much more of a jerk for being so loud and obnoxious." We both laughed. "Finally, when his b.s. was getting too deep, I lost patience with him and walked out of the house! Pretty easy, since I hadn't even gotten my coat off, and my car keys were still in my hand. And since he was naked except for his robe, I knew he couldn't come after me without getting dressed first. So I had time to get away."
I didn't dare ask if she planned on going back. She probably was. Let's face it, it was only one argument, despite being an ugly one. She probably couldn't have given me an answer at that point anyway, even if I had asked.
What I did say was "And that's when you went to the truck stop?"
"No, not right away. I must have driven around, lost in my thoughts, for almost two hours!" She paused, and shook her head. "Long enough to drain my gas tank, as I'm sure you'll recall."
"Russ must be worried sick about you." I said. And I suddenly asked myself, Why am I defending him, even this much? "I know I would be."
"Ha. He's probably been on the computer for the last twenty-four hours. And he's probably forgotten all about me."
"Cute. But I seriously doubt that!"
"Well, okay, but... I doubt he's really worried!"
"So you don't think it's a good idea to call him, just to let him know you're okay?"
"No, but... I should make a phone call, and soon." That was rather enigmatic, I thought.
"Hope you can. Earlier tonight, I heard Millie say that a lot of the phone lines in the area were down."
"I was afraid of that."
"They'll probably be fixed by tomorrow, though."
The unexpected knock on the door startled both of us. I got off the bed and walked toward the door, looking back at Eve while I said "Who the hell can that be?" and added meaningfully, "Everyone I really care about is already here."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Two of the Giants -- A "Comical Wednesday" Post

Welcome to the latest installment of Comical Wednesday, or, since I'm posting this on Thursday, perhaps I should steal a line from Pat Hatt, who called it "his Comical whenever he feels like posting it Wednesday." 

Originally, I had planned for this week's Comical Wednesday post to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the death of one of comic books' true legends, the incomparable Sheldon Mayer (1917-1991)... whom I mentioned in a previous Comical Wednesday post.

But then, a few days ago, one of comics' other legends, Joe Simon (1913-2011), died at the age of 98. Among many other things, Joe was the co-creator of one of my all-time favorite superheroes, Captain America!

So today, fellow babies, you get tributes to not one, but two industry greats. And in order to give you time to finish Christmas shopping this week, I'm gonna keep the words to a minimum. Well... For me, anyway.

*  *  *  *  *

Here's a nice 1930s illustration by the young Joe Simon.

Sometime soon after entering the comic book field, Joe Simon did the cover for 1940's Blue Bolt #1, and wrote & drew the Blue Bolt origin story in that issue as well. 

By the next issue, however, Simon had a partner, a guy named Jack Kirby, whom I've previously done a (two-part) tribute to, here and here! But they didn't share the art chores on a cover until later!

For the next couple of decades, the names of Simon & Kirby were linked in the minds of comic readers and professionals. Kinda like a Brad and Angelina thing, you know? Only nobody ever called the team "Kimon" or "Sirby," thankfully!

Common misconceptions among comic fans to this day are that Kirby penciled and Simon inked, or that Simon wrote and Kirby drew. Not so, to either one! Simon could write, pencil, ink, and letter. Kirby could write, pencil, ink, and letter!

Joe Simon's biggest achievement -- and there were several in a career that spanned almost eighty years -- was arguably the co-creation (with partner Kirby) of Captain America, as I stated above. In fact, here is Simon's first sketch of the Captain!

That shot was incorporated into the very first story of Captain America's adventures!


And after Captain America... Awww, I'm not even going to try to list the many accomplishments of Simon & Kirby, nor the many solo projects Simon worked on from the late 1950s until... well, shortly before his death! Nope, I'm just going to throw a few more illustrations at you, some with captions, and give your eyes somewhat of a break from my words until I get to the Sheldon Mayer section!

(Anyway, if you'd really like to know more about Joe Simon's career, there are plenty of places on the 'net that'll give you many more details than I did!)

After setting the comics world on its ear by dishing out superheroes at an alarming rate, the team of Simon & Kirby started a whole new genre... Romance comics!

They were early participants in the horror comics field...

...and Westerns...

And here's Simon and Kirby circa 1950! (That's Joe on the left, and Jack on the right!)

I was about nine years old when I saw this issue of Fighting American in 1966. Eschewing the text pages, I had no idea these were 1950s reprints, nor that the stories were drawn by the same guy that now was drawing so many of my favorite Marvel Comics...

... but they were! The original Fighting American title lasted seven issues in the mid-1950s. And while it started as something very similar to Captain America, it quickly grew into more of a superhero parody!

When they "killed off" Captain america a few short years ago -- but don't worry, these are comic books, so he's much better now -- Simon was inspired to paint his own version of "The Last Supper!"

And as a final shot of Joe, here he is with another recently-deceased comic book legend, Jerry Robinson.

Joe Simon, 1913-2011, R.I.P.

*  *  *  *  *

Sheldon Mayer, genius!

Twenty years ago, on December 21, 1991, Sheldon Mayer died.

(I'm going to take the liberty of quoting from or paraphrasing my earlier remarks about Mayer, at least in this first section.)

Starting in the mid-1930s, Sheldon Mayer worked for not one, but two fledgling comics companies in the 1930s. One was Dell, and the other was what would eventually become known as DC. While at Dell, he created a semi-autobiographical feature about a boy cartoonist named Scribbly Jibbet. The "Scribbly" feature appeared in both The Funnies and Popular Comics. Mayer ended up serving as a writer-artist and an editor at DC/All-American, and when he made that definitive move, he brought the "Scribbly" feature with him, where it found a home in All-American Comics.

It was also during the late 1930s that editor Mayer allegedly rescued a rejected comic book concept from the "slush pile" of unwanted submissions. Mayer liked it a lot, saw great potential, and recommended that DC use it in a new title they were about to start. This finally gave a home to a feature that had been refused by countless newspaper syndicates and comic book companies for about six years.

Maybe you've heard of it...

Yep, the original art for the cover of Superman's very first
appearance! And yes, I'd kill to own it! (Well... almost...)

Scribbly ran in DC/All-American's All-American Comics frpm 1939 until 1944. The Scribbly feature introduced one of the first superhero parodies, the Red Tornado. The Red Tornado even showed up at the Justice Society of America's first meeting in All-Star Comics #3!

Scribbly returned to the comics in 1948, with his own title. The Scribbly character had aged a bit, because DC wanted at least one teen humor title to compete with the burgeoning Archie Comics line of characters. Mayer naturally gave Scribbly his own unique slant on the subject.

(Been there, done that...)

The Scribbly title lasted until the end of 1951. So, whatever became of Scribbly? Well, he didn't age well, to say the very least! Here he is, only nine years later!

Scribbly -- and Scribbly Junior -- appeared in the 30th issue of Mayer's incredibly imaginative Sugar and Spike series, which debuted in 1956 (as did I).

Sugar and Spike's concept was simple: All babies -- baby humans, baby dogs, baby tigers, baby aliens -- speak a universal language, baby talk. To adults, it's just "baby-jabber," of course, but no! It's a real language which we all automatically possess at birth, but it fades from memory as we age.

Kinda like the kids in Rugrats, only not as ugly.

(And ya wanna know somethin'? I think Mayer was right, at least where we humans are concerned! Ever see a one-year-old trying to tell someone something? The baby in question will repeat what -- to us adults -- seems like a nonsense syllable or two, but it will be the same "nonsense syllable!" The kid knows what he or she is saying!)

The stories in the series were told from the kids' point of view, which was often a bit different from the adults'. Sugar and Spike also had their own names for common objects, and even people who worked in various occupations. The telephone was the "yak-yak box." A camera was a "one-eyed box." Plumbers were the "ocean guys," meaning "the guys who always come when there's an ocean inna house."

I guess Mayer (and/or DC Comics) didn't think anyone who read the series would do that for more than a few years, so later issues saw a bit of recycling, as shown by the two covers below.

And now -- lucky you -- I'm finally gonna shut up and give you a few more Sugar and Spike covers to look at.

So... Thanks for your time.

Sheldon Mayer, 1917-1991, R.I.P.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Two Ships ~~ Part Ten

The warmth that the alcohol had generated within me suddenly left me -- as did much of its other effects -- and I once again felt the oppressive chill of the night air. I'm ordinarily an expert when it comes to thinking on my feet. In my mind, I quickly came up with a long song-and-dance about how my wife and I had taken a vacation from our stress-filled day-to-day lives, and were once again finding our love for each other, dormant for so long... tra-la-freakin'-la...
But looking into Art's eyes, I ditched all of that bullshit before uttering a single syllable of it and told him the truth. The truck stop encounter. The subterfuge involving Big Bob. The ineffectual heater in Julie's Corvette. My "hands-off" night in the room with the busted heater. Everything.
And as I related the events of the past twenty-four hours... less, actually, and somewhat unbelievably... Art listened silently, his face an unreadable mask.
"Well?" I said, several seconds after finishing my story, my nerves wracked due to his silence.
"Well what?"
"Don't you have any response at all?"
Art casually reached for the pack of cigarettes in my shirt pocket. He took one for himself and lit it. He took a long drag, and only after exhaling did he speak.
"Ever read The Godfather?"
"No, but I've seen the movie. Well, all three of the movies. What the hell does that have to do with anything?"
"Remember Michael Corleone's wife? His first wife? The one that got blown up?"
"Yeah. What does this--"
"Do you remember how instantly he fell for her?"
"Well, in the book it was described as the 'thunderbolt.' Like love at first sight, but much more intense. More like love, desire, and a couple other things, and you can't fight any of 'em. Son, you ain't fallin' for her, you've been in love with her since you first looked over at that counter stool she was sittin' on!"
"You sound pretty sure of yourself."
He tilted his head in that unique way of his. "I know people. I been around. And I know musicians," he added pointedly.
"Meanin' that I'll bet you had your share of flings with the little ladies here and there if you ever did any tourin'... 'less you were married... and faithful... like I was when I was on the road off'n'on back in the sixties and early seventies."
I smiled. "Well, when I was married, yeah, I was faithful. No women. But when I wasn't..." I laughed. "Okay, I'll give you that point. But Eve's no groupie."
"Course not. But still, a lotta guys take it for granted that they can get a woman if they want her. Yet you didn't try nothin' with Eve."
"Well, no. I could tell she didn't want that. And I... I..."
"You respected that?"
"Well... yeah."
"What the hell for? She didn't mean nothin' to you. You didn't know her from a hole in the wall. She was just a truck stop pick-up."
I was feeling the heat inside of me again, and this time, not from the damned booze. I didn't particularly care for Art's casual categorization of Eve as "truck stop pick-up," and told him so. "It wasn't like that at all! I told you, she was in a little jam, and I just--"
"Just decided to put yourself between her and that big ape at the restaurant, and for what? What you'd prob'ly get from her later, as a thank you?"
"No! Hell, even then, I could tell..."
Art was grinning. That sly sonofabitch. It was exactly as he'd surmised, "since [I] first looked over at that counter stool she was sittin' on."
"So," I said, finally breaking the uneasy silence. "I guess we'll have to leave here as soon as possible?"
"Well, we're not really married, and--"
"None o'my business. Millie's either. Course I ain't gonna tell her."
"But don't you...?"
"Don't I what?"
"I just... I thought you disliked that sort of thing."
"Well, when we checked in, you asked us why we were out at that time of night..."
"Sure. A reasonable enough question! Two in the morning in a blinding blizzard, what kinda fool would be out, less he had to be?"
"But you were so..." I couldn't suppress a smirk. "grumpy."
He laughed. "You woke me up in the middle of the night and pulled me out of a warm bed, away from a warmer wife! You're lucky 'grumpy' was all you got, ya damned fool!"
"And you gave us a room with a broken heater, you old coot."
"How'd I know she wasn't really your wife? I figured she'd warm you up. Besides, she got a damned fine meal tonight for free, and so would you have, if you'd ordered something more than a couple of lousy cheeseburgers, you big chicken!"
"Actually, the burgers were pretty good..."
Art dropped his cigarette and crushed it out with his boot. "Oh, stop kissin' my backside and let's get inside. Everybody's probably gotten sick o'waitin' for us and gone back to their rooms by now. 'Cept Millie."
"And Eve. She's still waiting. I know she is."
Art didn't reply, exactly, but he nodded and muttered "thunderbolt" as we walked back to the restaurant.

* * * * *

Art was right. He and I had been gone quite a while, so everyone had assumed that his informal little concert was over.
Eve -- she had waited for me, of course -- and I walked back to our room, and only one of us was walking steadily. "You two must have had quite the time out there," she said, adding "You smell horrible."
"Gee, thanks."
"Well, you smell like liquor and tobacco. Am I wrong?"
"No. Is this where the lecture begins?"
"You needn't be so defensive. I'm not going to lecture you. You're an adult. I can't tell you how to behave, nor would I try."
"I'm not being defensive. Apprehensive, maybe." We were at the door. I searched the same pockets twice before I found the key.
"Well, don't worry. I won't be reprehensive." She was teasing me; I played along.
"Then I won't act reprehensibly."
"Nor sensibly, I assume."
Back to the word games, I thought happily, as I finally got the door unlocked. I love this, I thought, adding "and I love you."
Only I said those last four words out loud.
The door was open, and I waited for her to enter. She didn't move; she only stared at me, wide-eyed and open-mouthed.
"Dan... That's the liquor talking."
"Don't you believe it." I waited a bit longer for her to enter our room, and when she didn't, I finally went in without her. (Well, I knew she'd come in eventually. I wasn't exactly leaving her out in the cold. I even left the door open for her.)
I had kicked off my shoes and was sitting at the head of the bed when she came in, closing the door behind her. It was obvious that she'd used the uncomfortable minute or so she'd spent outside to compose her thoughts.
"Dan. You've only known me for a few hours," she began. "You can't possibly be in love with me. Or..." She paused. (Okay, maybe she hadn't thought things through completely.) "Or... Do you mean you love me as a friend? Even if you only mean it that way..."
"No. I'm in love with you, Eve. And it has nothing to do with the amount of time I've known you. I was in love with you from the very moment I laid eyes on you, just as Art said."
"And when and why did Art say that?" she exclaimed, seating herself at the foot of the bed.
So I stared into those beautiful, deep-blue eyes and told her all about the outdoor conversation he and I had had, or at least as much as I could recall.
When I finished, she was shaking her head. "But you know so little about me! You don't even know..." My eyebrows rose as she paused. "You don't even know why I'm here. Why I'm not with Russ, I mean."
"You're absolutely right," I agreed. "And now's a perfect time to tell me." She stared down at her hands, which were resting demurely in her lap. Then she looked up at me.
"Okay," she began.
And I waited.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Two Ships ~~ Part Nine

Before I begin the latest chapter of "Two Ships":
The bespectacled gentleman pictured above, next to the man dressed as Captain America, has more right than most to be photographed with the Captain. Joe Simon co-created Captain America, along with Jack Kirby. I just learned of Mr. Simon's passing, and wanted to mention it here. I'll be taking a much more involved look at the man in my next Comical Wednesday post.
We now return you to "Two Ships."
Thanks for your time.

*  *  *  *  *

"What's that supposed to mean?" asked Art.
"I want to do another Hank Williams song, but not the way he did it." He looked at me skeptically. "Trust me. This crowd will like it."
Art stared at me seriously for a moment, then looked out at the nearby table where Millie was seated. He motioned for her to approach him. When she did, he leaned forward and said, "Go fetch Dobro for me, willya, honey?" I couldn't help noticing that he referred to the Dobro as if "Dobro" were its Christian name rather than just the word for the type of guitar it was... as if it were a pet, or an old friend. Probably a bit of both, I reasoned.
Millie grinned and rushed away toward the kitchen, as Art turned back to me and said "Okay, Woody, now what's on your mind?"
He handed me his guitar as I told him. He allowed a little smirk to form on his face as Millie returned with the antique beauty, its all-metal sound box cradled affectionately in her arms. She handed it to him and went to sit at the table I'd shared with Eve.
This time, it was my turn to address the after-dinner group. "This is another Hank Williams song, as later arranged for B.J. Thomas." Art was already strumming the opening; I joined him.

Did you hear that lonesome whippoorwill?
He sounds too blue to fly
The midnight train is whining low
And I'm so lonesome I could cry

Did you ever see a night so long
When time goes crawlin' by?
The moon just went behind a cloud
And I'm so lonesome I could cry

Did you ever see a robin weep
When leaves begin to die?
That means he's lost the will to live
And I'm so lonesome I could cry

The silence of a fallin' star
Lights up a purple sky
And as I wonder where you are
I'm so lonesome I could cry

At the conclusion, I was so proud of myself. I'd nailed it, even the high part at the end. Even Art looked impressed. And as for Eve? Well... I wish I could describe the look on her face. She'd definitely liked it, that much was for sure.
Once the applause had died down, Art stared at me expectantly. "Okay, hotshot, now what?"
"Now..." I paused. "Actually, now I'd like to go outside for a cigarette."
"Now there's a good way to mess up that voice of yours."
"Well, last night I smoked the first one I've had in over two years. Tonight will only be my second."
"That's how it starts."
"Don't I know it," I agreed. I stood. "Do me a favor, Art. Make the next couple of songs something you don't think I'd like." He tilted his head (again!) as I explained, "So I won't mind missing them." He smiled as I said "There's a compliment in there somewhere."
I walked toward the exit, giving an appreciative wave to the diners. As I passed Millie and Eve, Eve looked at me questioningly. I placed the index and middle fingers of my right hand to my lips, as if I were puffing on a cigarette. At first she smiled impishly -- I suppose she thought I was playfully blowing her a kiss -- and then she frowned, realizing my meaning.
Art's son Lenny (I assumed) had not only shoveled the motel's walkways, but he had also cleared a path to the guests' cars, and cleaned off the cars themselves, somewhat. So it was easy enough for me to enter Julie's Corvette, where I'd left my cigarettes the night before.
It was fairly windy. I couldn't tell if it was still snowing, or whether the light snow in the air was being blown from the various nearby roofs. I stood in the cold, shivering -- I foolishly hadn't thought to bring my coat outside with me -- and lit the Winston Light.
I hadn't taken two drags before I heard Art's voice. "Can you spare one of those, Woody?"
"Now there's a good way to mess up that voice of yours," I told him, repeating his own statement word for word.
"Oh, hush, you. My last one was a heckuva lot more than two years ago."
I took the hard-pack from my pocket and proffered it to him; he gingerly plucked a cigarette from the pack and held it to his lips as I lit it.
"Want something to warm you up?" he asked. "I mean, seein' how you're dumb enough to come out in this cold without a danged coat?"
"Nahhh, I'm okay, thanks. If worse comes to worse, I could always climb into the car and..." I thought about Julie's crappy heater. "Uhhh... Scratch that thought."
"Oh. Okay. Your loss, though." I was more than a little surprised to see Art open and drink from a rather large bottle of some type of whiskey which he'd withdrawn from his coat. (His hand -- and the snow -- obscured the label, pretty much.) "Sure you don't want some?" he said, grinning.
"What is it?"
"What are you, fussy?" I tilted my head. Great, I thought, am I picking up his habits now? "Any port in a storm, right?"
"It doesn't look like port. It looks like whiskey."
"Very funny. You want some, or not?" I nodded, and he passed the bottle to me. It was Canadian Club. Not one of my favorites. "Hey, if it was good enough for Al Capone..." he said at one point. Plus, as Art had said, "any port in a storm," and we were experiencing a storm, after all...
As we drank, and smoked, Art told me a little bit about himself. His bald head made him look older than he actually was. He was only in his early sixties. Millie was approximately ten years older than he, as it turned out. They were both raised in West Virginia, where they met and married soon after Art had served in the Korean War. Their relocation to Iowa had occurred in the mid-1970s. If Art told me why they'd relocated, I don't recall it. Blame the C.C.
Added to the three beers I'd had earlier, I was feeling the effects of the evening's alcohol by the time we'd finished our second cigarette each. "This is the best, lousiest stuff I've ever had!" I gushed, to Art's amusement. By then, between the two of us, we'd emptied the bottle!
I was about to light yet another cigarette, when Art joked "Hey, Woody, if I were you, I wouldn't do that! We'd better be gettin' back to the restaurant, before someone sees that cute little lady of yours sittin' alone and decides to make a play for her! Heck, even my son Lenny might take a shine to her if he shows up!"
We both laughed, but I put the cigarette away, and with a shake of my head, admitted, "Yeah, good idea. I certainly don't want that! In fact," I drunkenly added, "I actually think I'm starting to fall in love with that woman!"
Art gave me a very strange look. "Now, that's an odd thing for you to say."
I was about to ask him why he thought it was odd, but stopped when my booze-addled brain provided me with the answer.
It's odd because she's supposed to be your wife, you idiot!


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