Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

Nights at the Vestige

Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

Nights at the Vestige

Article excerpt

Ellington's Caravan stirred her gently. Stretching, she switched off the flashing alarm an the clock radio as the music continued. Who starred in her dreams last night? Was it Buster Keaton or perhaps Harold' Lloyd again? ' ^

Several minutes later, she held the phone. The disk jockey's deep voice announced an offer of two tickets to the first caller for tonight's movie. She pressed the familiar seven digits.

"Hello, you are the winner."

Although she won every morning, no trace of sarcasm tainted her tone. "Wonderful! My name is Jeanne Stamford. J-e-a..."

"Right. I know how to spell it. Congratulations. Tonight's film is The Sheik. The tickets are at the box office at The Vestige. Enjoy the show."

"Thank you."

The DJ's next selection was The Sheik of Araby.

Using her key, she entered Guy Poulard's apartment. Through the floor-to-ceiling windows, she spotted him on the balcony. Donning his beige terrycloth robe, he paced while shouting into his phone. She headed to the kitchen to start the coffee.

Determined footsteps pounded the ancient wooden hallway. "Jeanne! Jeanne!" He found her. Brushing a strand of her wavy auburn bob from her face, he kissed each cheek.

"Good morning, Monsieur Poulard."

He pointed to the French press. "It's not ready? Were you late to- day, Jeanne?"

"No, sir. I am always on time." She lowered her eyes.

"Of course, like the clockwork as they say, right?" He patted the lapel on his robe. "Well, I must get dressed." Glancing at the coffee pot, he mumbled, "I'll have it at my meeting."

Having taken her coffee at home, it was time to get to work.

In his office, she filed contracts and other paperwork. When she reached for the V folder, her thoughts veered to Valentino at The Vestige.

The portly man sitting in the box office wore his tuxedo well. She had to give him that. Yet, his wide face contorted with disgust at the sight of her.

"Good evening, Gene. I won tickets on the radio for tonight's show. My name is Jeanne Stamford." She blinked nervously.

He conducted the unnecessary practice of tapping his pen on his notebook and flipping pages before he finally agreed. "Yes, you won two tickets again, Jeanne Stamford. Your wallflower act doesn't fool me. I know you have some contact at that radio station. You're a cheat!"

Despite his outer girth, he was just a little man inside relishing his power as gatekeeper to the cinema. She squinted at his plastic nametag. "Unlike your name, Gene, my name is pronounced Zh-ahh-n. I may have mentioned it."

He shrugged.

Leaning closer to the glass separating them, she lowered her voice. "I have no connection. The only reason I win every morning is because it's the traditional jazz hour on a college radio station. No one calls. I doubt anyone else is even awake and listening. I don't understand why you don't believe me."

After glimpsing the notebook, he gave her a sour smile. "So, it says you won two tickets. Is it just you tonight then?"

Gene always got the last word. She accepted her lone ticket.

Josephine Baker's Haiti playfully roused Jeanne. Minutes later, she held the phone. The announcer offered two tickets to the first caller for tonight's movie at The Vestige. She pushed the familiar seven digits and listened for the ring.

"Hello, you are the winner."

"Oh, great! My name is Jeanne Stamford. J-e-a..."

"Right. I know how to spell it. Congratulations. Tonight's film is Zouzou. The tickets are at the box office as usual. Enjoy the show."

"Thank you."

The acne-ridden teenager raised his eyebrows to her. "Hey, it's the gal to pick up Guys cleaning."

While he searched the racks behind the counter for the order, she nodded.

In a whisper, she offered an explanation. "His name is actually pronounced ghee, like the clarified butter popular in Indian cuisine. Yes, Monsieur Poulard calls me his Gal Friday, but it's only because he sees absolutely nothing wrong with it. …

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