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The words are barely out of his mouth and Mayme quickly sits up and exclaims, “Really, Eli, really?!” She is now bouncing on the bed as she gushes, “I would love to teach you! You have complied with every wish I have had. Even one that I have not expressed. We only have a couple hours left. We must hurry.” Mayme is already up and getting dressed. She is so effervescently lovable I want to grab her and give her a hug. At this moment I have found myself envious of Eli. He is sitting on the bed still tying his shoes as she runs around the bed and inquires, “Are you a good student, Eli?” She has her foot on the bed next to Eli as she buckles her shoe.

Eli is now buttoning his shirt. “Well, I think so. But I have never been a dance student so I am not sure. I do know that I have never in my life had the determination that I have right now to be that good student. I also know that I have never had a teacher with mystical powers before either so that might help.” He is fastening his belt as she is leaving the bedroom. He thinks maybe she didn’t catch his joke as he rotates the light switch. The light on the night stand is still on but he

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decides Mayme is moving so fast he has no time and closes the door behind him as he re-enters the living room.

Mayme crosses the room. Using a pencil and pad that sits atop the radio she scribbles something quickly. She tears if off and holds it out, “Here is my address, put this in a safe place. This is really important. I need you to write to me often.” Eli takes the paper, removes his wallet from his pants pocket and carefully places it in an inside pouch. As he is replacing his wallet Mayme says, “Oh, wait. I have something else that is much better than that scrap of paper.” She runs back to the bedroom and emerges holding a small leather bound book in her outstretched hand. “I just bought this to use as a diary. It is just a book with blank pages and I have only made one entry in it. Keep a journal for me. I want a chronicle of your life while you are away.”

“Do you want to tear the page out with the entry?”

“No, read it and you will know my state of mind the day before I met you. Besides that I’ll buy a new magnificent book tomorrow because I have a sensational new entry for it.” She walks away as Eli pulls the scrap of paper out of his wallet and places it in the book which is about three and one-half inches by four and one-half inches by over a half inch thick. It fits easily into his shirt pocket. He is buttoning his shirt pocket after placing the book there when Mayme reappears exclaiming, “Oh, I need this too!” He looks up and she is already holding a camera that has SIX-20 FLASH BROWNIE printed in a circle around the lens. It has a very large flash reflector attached at the front and top of the camera. “My father gave me this just last Christmas. Fortunately it has a flash so I can get a decent photo of you indoors. Put your hat on so your uniform is complete,” she instructs. Eli complies with a nice smile as she holds the camera up to her eye

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and clicks the shutter. Eli drops his hat back on the coffee table and is temporarily blinded but can still see her set the camera on the dining table. “I will be right out, Eli,” she proclaims almost bouncing through the door to the left of the table. There are a few moments of silence so he walks over to the painting above the sofa to take a look at it. He is distracted as soon as he gets close when Mayme yells from the bathroom, “I am so excited about this Eli. I love dancing and now we can dance together. There is a new dance I have learned called the East Coast Swing. The steps are very easy to learn. We will use a single step instead of the triple so you will have no trouble.” Eli has no idea what she is talking about. He is taking steps toward the bathroom as she speaks, “It is very fun too. I think it is the best dance step ever invented. That’s good for you too because even as a beginner you can look like an adequate dancer.” She has come out the door in the middle of that sentence and collides into Eli as he was now in front of the door listening. The bump doesn’t even faze her as she keeps on talking while she dashes back to the bedroom. It appears we may be leaving soon so Eli grabs his cap as he passes the coffee table. “When we get back to the Knickerbocker I will show you a couple that are doing it,” she says from the bedroom then comes out carrying a dark brown wool scarf and continues, “Then you will have some idea what we are trying to do.” She wraps the scarf around her head to cover her ears then tosses both tails over her shoulders. She turns her back to Eli with elbows back and points her fingers down to accept her coat. Eli takes his cue, takes it off the door hook and slips her coat on, less clumsily this time. She grabs the key off the nail and opens the door. “Don’t be intimidated if they look really good though.” He passes through the doorway then steps down onto the first step down to allow Mayme

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room on the landing to turn and lock the door. “I learned the Swing just a month ago but it is still fun even while you are learning. Geraldine and I practice it in the living room while we play the radio,” she states as she pulls the key out of the lock and slips it into her coat pocket. “I may have to lead tonight just so you get the dance down.” Eli backs up against the wall so she can squeeze by then he watches her hop down the stairs. “Geraldine always makes me lead so that will simplify things tonight. We tried it with her taking the lead but it just didn’t work. I hope she has saved our table for us.” Eli has replaced his cap as they exited the entryway at the foot of the stairs. “Since you aren’t a dancer you may not know this but someone has to lead.” Eli looks back at Kessler’s. Everything is all is dark. “It just doesn’t work with two people trying to make decisions simultaneously. Don’t worry though; no one will notice that I am leading because someone would need very astute observation to tell who is leading. All you have to do is learn the basic step and just keep doing that. When I make the turns or twirls you just keep doing the same step.” Eli is thinking he was in the bedroom just moments ago when he mentioned learning to dance and here they are going down the street. “As long as you have that down it all works out.”

Eli’s first words to interrupt Mayme’s monologue, “It feels like it may have dropped below freezing,” go unreturned.

“We will start with a song that has a slower tempo.” She has placed both hands on Eli’s arm but still no mention of the cold. “It can’t be an Eli slow dance tempo though. Here’s what we will do.” Mayme keeps walking but looks at Eli at the end of every sentence. “When we get there we will sit the fast ones out, dance the slow ones like we did before and when the beat is just right we will start our

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lessons.” It looks almost as though she is dancing as they go down the street with her light bouncy sideways step as she turns to look at him every few feet. “That way we will be able to dance to most of the songs. It won’t be long though and we will be doing the fast ones too. Eli you haven’t said a thing. Aren’t you excited about this?”

“I did Mayme, but you are enthused enough for both of us. I love it that way. I love you that way. I want you to continue. I am listening. You see, I am being the good student already. I promise I want to do this as much as you want me to. I really enjoy being with you.” Her exuberance is infectious to both Eli and me. She makes us feel childlike.

“You make me so happy Eli. I could just bust. When you get back from overseas we will work on you taking over on the lead. If you are willing, we will go dancing every week. Is there a ballroom nearby you in Iowa?”

“Yes, there is a ballroom in Oelwein. It’s called the Coliseum. They have a band every Saturday night. Usually a big name, too, like the Dorseys.”

“How far is it to Oelwein from Fayette?”

“It’s about a half hour drive.”

“I can’t wait to get to Fayette. Did you graduate from the high school in Fayette?”

“Yes. Fayette High School, class of ’41.

“Oh, I was the class of ’41 too. Philadelphia High School for Girls,” Mayme declares proudly. “In the fall of ’41 I attended the University of Pennsylvania. I quit in the middle of my freshman year. When the war started, it changed everything.” As their conversation

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has drifted from dancing their pace has slowed. The still air makes the evening walk comfortable in spite of the temperature.

“Oh, I thought you were a native of Atlantic City,” remarks Eli then wonders aloud, “How long have you been here?”

“Less than a year, although we have been coming here most my life for holidays. Geraldine’s other uncle works at Ventnor Boat Works. He said…”

Eli thinks that was a strange way to refer to an uncle so he interrupts, “Why do you call him ‘other uncle’. We haven’t talked about any uncles”

“Oh I guess I left this out about Geraldine. Her mom and my mom are sisters so we are cousins. My dad is Geraldine’s uncle but when I refer to her dad’s brother then that is her other uncle since he is no relation to me. I have called him Other Uncle all my life. Anyway, Ventnor Boat had gotten government contracts to build boats for the Navy. He told her Geraldine should do her part for the war effort and they needed help. Of course there was no way she was going to leave me behind, so I quit after the winter semester. Our parents had brought Geraldine and me here often when we were kids. Neither of us have siblings so we ended up being like sisters.” A short pause then, “and best friends. We would jump on the Seashore Line and ride here. Geraldine and I had always promised each other we would live here when we grew up. After we graduated I decided I wanted to be a teacher so college became more important to me than a childhood dream. But now with Ventnor Boat we can fulfill our childhood pledge and help the war effort. We work long days but we still try to have fun. Being here isn’t anything like we imagined it would be when we were kids though. Most of the hotels are housing soldiers and the fun

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atmosphere on the boardwalk is nothing like it was. The nights are very different especially because all the lights are gone. All the windows that face the ocean are covered and all the lights on the pier signs are off. The war has taken away the frivolous side of life. Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t regret coming. I take my job seriously and am glad I can do my part.”

“Yes, you can be proud of doing your part. But I know what you mean. I would still be in college were it not for the war. It has definitely changed the lives of everyone forever. With what little I have seen of Atlantic City I can tell it must have been very different. I assume there must have been a completely carefree attitude by everyone. It looks like everything was built for fun with the ocean beach as the center focal point. But when we spent the evening on the pier it was like being at a party but with a feeling of impending doom hanging over it. Always alert for any threat that may be coming from the sea. The German’s have submarines that could sneak up unseen. The coast is so long it seems it would be impossible to completely watch.”

They have reached the intersection of Pacific and Tennessee.

“Yes, it is very frightening. What college did you attend?” Mayme asks, and then continues without waiting for the answer, “Was it the same one where your father works? What courses were you taking? How many years did you complete? What profession were you studying for?”

After crossing Pacific, they make the turn to head back toward the Knickerbocker.

Eli is overwhelmed by the barrage of questions. “Wow, I don’t know if I can remember all those questions but I will try.” He pauses

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for a moment then says with a grin as he has decided to answer in the same fashion as asked, “Upper Iowa University. Yes. Several. One. Radio Systems Engineering.”

“Oh, you’re real funny, Eli,” Mayme responds with a laugh. “You know I expected you to expound a little bit.”

“I thought my rapid fire answers matched your manner of query,” Eli chuckles. “But, ok, you deserve better. Yes, it is where my father works and I get free tuition there. All I have to pay for is books and any other incidental costs. I have an intense desire to get into television. Someday everyone will have televisions just like radios today and it would be exciting to play a part in bringing that about. After Pearl I thought if I could stay in school as long as possible I would get a job in the Army that would fit my ambitions. But then the Great Pencil Fiasco left me with no other choice. So now I have to go kick some German butts before returning to college. I am sure my father will still be working there so I can return when I get back.”

“From what you have told me, your father sounds like a pretty smart guy. Is there more to the father-son speech that he gave you about fate’s control?”

“Oh, yes.” recalls Eli. The vivid memory of that evening returns. “That speech rambled on for quite a while. I don’t know for sure what time it started but it didn’t end until almost nine. It was like he had so much in his mind and he had to spill it all.” Eli admits, “It’s just starting to make sense to me now.”

“Well, did it start in the afternoon or early evening?” Mayme pries in a way to help him remember.

“I guess I can figure it out.” Eli says as he restarts the vision in his mind again. “Mom always serves dinner at 5:30 or at least close to it.

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As soon as my sister and I had the dishes done he sent her and mom out of the kitchen and….”

“Wait a minute.” Mayme excitedly interrupts then chastises, “You didn’t tell me you had a sister. You can’t leave out a detail like that. Tell me about her.”

Undaunted Eli complies calmly, “Betty, the one I was doing dishes with, is two years older than me. And there is another sister, Jean, almost five years older than me, but she had already left home at the time of this story.”

“I still want to hear your speech story but you will have to come back to your sisters after that. I am going to have two sisters?! I must know all about them! This is exciting but I want to hear the other story first. Okay, you were determining how long the speech was when I interrupted you.”

“Okay, so…” Eli stammers as he tries to maintain his concentration. “Let’s see… after mom and Betty left it must…..”

“Eli!” Mayme shouts as she stops dead in her tracks. She had tightened her grip on his arm and jerks Eli to a stop which automatically swivels him around to face her.

He is baffled and with a calm voice he says, “What?”

“I am not going to have sisters!”

“Why not?” Eli can see her sudden distress and wonders what provoked the turn of Mayme’s temperament.

“This is terrible. I have jumped to a conclusion! You haven’t asked me to marry you.”

“I can assure you Mayme that you didn’t make any jump that I hadn’t already made. But you are right and I will rectify my mistake right now.” Eli kneels down onto his left knee. After a few second’s

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thought he has formed the words he wants to say. As he opens his mouth it occurs to him that he doesn’t have a ring. “Mayme! I don’t have a ring!” he exclaims in a desperate, almost pleading tone.

“That will not do Eli.” Eli thinks her meaning is that the omission of a ring will not do, she then continues. “This is no time to be punctilious. The ring is unimportant. I don’t care about the ring. If it is important to you, you can mail me one when you get one or get one when you get home. Our souls will be bound by betrothal of which the ring is only a symbolism.” Eli is still on his knee but is thinking this is not the way he imagined this moment to pass. “I am going to consider myself betrothed if you ever get around to asking. If you want me wear one to prove my engagement then I’ll buy one myself tomorrow.”

He wants to ask but something else occurs to Eli, “What about your father. I must get his permission first!”

Mayme scolds, “Are you looking for reasons not to ask, Eli?”

“Of course not, Mayme, but these are very important to issues to Lancelot. You would think less of me would I not bring them up.”

Mayme concedes, “I must allow your argument, Eli, but this is a desperate situation. I will deal with my father. I will tell him you were hesitant without his blessing. These are circumstances that our beyond our control and he will understand. But still, it is very important that I hear the words from your mouth. Even more importantly is that you ask, not because I am telling you to, but because it is your desire. I have looked into your soul, Eli. I will know if your proposal is not earnest.”

“Then as I am on bended knee I will ask you two questions.”

“What are they?” Mayme asks with a bewildered look.

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Eli is looking up into Mayme’s eyes. “Will you forgive me for not being totally clear on my intentions and allowing you to jump to a conclusion?”

“Yes. I will and do forgive you.”

Without taking his eyes from hers he takes Mayme’s left hand in his right hand and continues, “It is my desire, if you would have me, to spend eternity with you. It is also my desire to announce to God as my witnesses, my vow to love, keep and cherish you as my wife. Mayme Myrna Richards, will you do me the honor of marrying me as soon as possible after my return?”

Mayme’s eyes are welling with tears as she replies, “Oh, Eli, you are the most wonderful man in the world. You can’t imagine how happy I am. I have waited my entire life for this moment. Yes, yes! Sir Lancelot, please rise, hold me and seal our betrothal with your kiss.” Eli stands, puts his arms around her and firmly pulls her close. They kiss passionately then hold each other in tight embrace for a couple minutes without talking. She then continues, “I love being held by you Eli. There is so much I want and so little time. We have to get back to the ballroom, so we must press on. Please finish your father’s story as we go. Forget about how long the speech was but I do want to know more of his words of wisdom.”

Eli gives some thought to which part of his father’s advice Mayme would find interesting. “It was so long and had advice on so many of life’s dilemmas but there are a couple points that would pertain to us when I return and we resume our lives together. He is a keen observer and sees things in other people’s relationships. He said the most important rule is that a husband and wife must make this pact. Both must vow to never go to sleep angry at the other. All

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disagreements must be resolved without exception. Rule two is related to the first. He said most arguments arise from misunderstandings. Never read anything into what your wife has said. Never respond to something she has said with: “Are you saying that….?” Or “Do you mean that…?” When you do that you are throwing your words into what she has said which will often lead to insult then an argument. If you are unsure of her meaning then your response should be “Please explain…” or “I need to understand…” Your statements to your wife should always be unambiguous.”

Mayme asserts with a laugh, “If your father were here right now he would have to scold you then, Eli.”

“Why is that?”

“You forgot to pose the most important question and left you me with doubt.”

“You’re right. He would not be happy with me.” Eli agrees as he laughs along with Mayme.

“Well, you have certainly made me happy. I can’t wait to start my life with you. We are going to have so much fun!” Mayme exclaims as they arrive at the door of the Knickerbocker.

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