The Lord’s Acre Day was only weeks away. If he hoped to have a traffic-handler’s booth operating on that day he would have to shake a leg. The following morning he contacted a member of the planning board and received permission.
He fabricated a booth on a utility trailer and fitted it with a swing-down door that served as a counter, providing a flat area where people could write their radiograms. Inside, there was enough room for two operators, Artie, the old school classmate, he hoped, would join him.
He found Artie working at a gas station.
“You haven’t let your amateur ticket lapse, have you?” Charlie asked.
“No, I haven’t. Do you have something in mind?”
“Yes, two things. You sort of grew up in Dad’s shop and you know the mechanic’s trade pretty well. I could use a good man to help me.”
“Wrenching? You think there’s enough business for both of us?”
“I know there is. You’d be on commission, of course.”
“I know. That’s the bad part. I‘d never know what I was going to make.”
“True. But even a bad week would pay more than you’re making here. Think about it and let me know.”
The morning of the Lord’s Acre Day he was prepared. Hitching his booth/trailer behind the Dodge, he drove to the Butler Square and set up in his appointed location. He even had a sign over his window stating: FREE RADIO MESSAGES SENT ANYWHERE IN THE UNITED STATES. INQUIRE WITHIN.
With the cost of long-distance telephone charges, such an offer appealed to some folks. By eleven o’clock he had more than two-dozen messages waiting for the noon, forty-meter net to start. At twelve sharp the NCS began with the net preamble and then issued QNI.
Charlie had installed his station at the back of the booth so people could watch the radio in operation. Canting his current meter slightly, provided a reflective view of faces. He was halfway through his stack of messages when the meter caught the reflection of the prettiest redhead he had ever seen. Charlie, a bashful young man, was always reserved. But this girl changed that.
As though an external force had taken over his being, he stopped pounding brass in the middle of a message and spun around on his stool.
“ROSE!” he shouted, and then wondered if it was actually he who had said that.
“How did you know my name?” Rose asked, her mouth gaping, her blue eyes googling at this man she’d never before seen.
“What else could it be?” he answered in swift retaliation.
Only then did he notice her father on one side and her mother on the other. Mom was a small lady, also a redhead, and a smile that might cause the Thinker to alter his stance. Dad, however, was a different story. His huge handlebar mustache hid most of his mouth, but not enough to conceal his displease, nor did his bushy eyebrows hide his glaring eyes.
“Young man, aren’t you supposed to be doing something?” her father barked in a gravely voice equally as menacing as his expression.
“Yes. Of course,” Charlie babbled and again surprised himself with: “but may I take the three of you to lunch after I’m finished here?”
“And when will that be, young man?” her father growled.
“About ten minutes.”
He shot a glance at his wife and she at him, but neither considered Rose’s opinion. Having not taken her eyes off Charlie, she made no objection.
“We’ll be back,” her father promised.
When he turned back to resume his message sending he was only mildly surprised to find the NCS was holding the net in limbo. Knowing that Charlie was operating at a public gathering, he realized that unforeseen things sometimes occur.
He’d finished with the messages and was waiting for Rose and her family when Artie emerge from the crowd.
“I’ve decided to take you up on that job offer,” Artie said, leaning on the counter.
“How’d you know I was here?”
“May down at the café told me.”
“I wonder how she knew?” Charlie asked.
“Need you ask? Maybe you hadn’t noticed that May is aware of everything that goes on in Butler. A barber should be so informed.”