Unable to sleep, I tossed and turned until dropped off from sheer exhaustion. The alarm on the table clock woke me at noon when. What time did I say I’d pick her up? Was it 1400 hours? That seemed right but while showering a voice in my head told me I’d said noon. Shit! The desk clock now read 1205. Setting some get-ready records, I was in the car by 1220.
The CQ assigned to the WAF quarters took her duty seriously, and she was large enough to enforce the instructions she issued.
“Sergeant, when you come calling on someone it’s your responsibility to know your friend’s name. Do you think that’s an unreasonable request?”
“Of course not, but we met on the Greyhound only last night. I only know her as Cynthia, dark hair, about five six, give or take.
“There aren’t many clues there, sergeant,” she states, peering at me through tired, uninterested eyes.
“She’s scheduled to sign in from leave tonight at midnight. Does that help?” I plead.
The CQ, Beatrice, her name tag stated, indicated only the slightest interest as she withdrew clipboard from beneath her work desk and ran her index finger down a column.
“That would be Airman Cynthia Holmes. Should I send someone to tell you are waiting?”
“Please,” i said, relief flooding over my like warm sunshine after a rainy day..
Turning, Beatrice summoned an E2 who sat behind her, her nose buried in a romance paperback. “Inform Cynthia Holmes in room 232 that a sergeant is waiting for her.”
The CQ runner, a young blond, bent over the corner of a page to mark her place, then laid her novel aside. With the grace of a Persian cat she mounted the stairwell and silently disappeared into a hallway.
Take a seat on the sofa,” Beatrice said without taking her eyes off the wakeup roster she was building. Minutes later the runner returned and took up her novel again. On her heels came Cynthia, with a broad smile.
I took pleasure in seeing the CQ’s reaction to hearing our exchange.
Once in the car I caught a whiff of Cynthia’s perfume. The scent was so light it was almost not there, yet it was fetching. Excellent choice, in my opinion.
I’d experienced just the opposite on a Portland street a few days earlier. A young woman in a short skirt, short jacket, and heels stepped from the doorway of a law office and preceded me by a dozen or so yards. She’d obviously bathed in a tub of cologne. Had the scent following her been colored, any color, she would have been engulfed in a cloud.
“Thanks. I like it too, even though it consumed most of my reenlistment bonus.” i said. “So you grew up in Gold Hill, Oregon?” I asked after we were headed along Beale Road toward Marysville.
“I did. It’s even smaller than it looks, two cafes, two taverns, a boarding house that was once the Gold Hill Inn, a hotel, in the stagecoach days, they say. There are five or six churches. I’m not sure of the count.”
“What do your folks do there?”
“Pop is a Baptist minister. He’s had the same church for as long as I can remember. Mama’s head cook at the school. Short work days. She’s extremely busy, but she manages to make time for her passion, reinventing the social functions that were popular many decades ago.”
“What kind of social functions?” I ask as I brought the Triumph up to speed and merged with the southbound traffic on US 99.
“The old ones – pie suppers and ice cream socials are the two she works hardest at. Both generate funds for the school and needy folks. What do your folks do?” Cynthia asked.
“Dad owns a hardware store in the Portland suburb, Gladstone. Kind of a Happy Days thing – don’t I wish?” I said, smiling. “Mom works in the store as bookkeeper and sales clerk. But tell me more about this social thing your mama does,” I urged.
“I must warn you, it’s a long story,” she cautioned.
“We have time.”
“Well, a pie supper is an informal dating game, for lack of a better description. Women, married or single, make up a lunch of two half sandwiches and two pieces of pie and put them in a decorative box with their name on a slip of paper inside. No one is supposed to know who brought them, but you know how that goes. They are auctioned off, some bringing as much as ten dollars. The winner of each box is obligated to share the contents with the preparer, like it or not. The proceeds go into a fund to be awarded later.”
“I wonder who thought that up?”
“It goes way back to the old one room school days and even before. Mama once said that at the start of World War One the troop trains usually stopped at Gold Hill for water drawn from the Rogue River. Her mother knew the railroad agent and she’d get the train schedules from him. As the train time approached, she prepare food for the soldiers – fried chicken, sandwiches, and chocolate cake. She’d wrap servings in butcher paper and put her name and address inside. One soldier, I think she said his name was Peter.”
So the pie supper was a patriotic thing more than a century ago?” I said.
“You could say that.”
“Coffee time,” swinging into a diner that gleamed like it was covered in aluminum foil.