Welcome to the newest slot on my blog, the Sunday night Novel Nights In where I bring you guests’ novels in their entirety over a maximum of ten weeks. Tonight’s is the seventh instalment of the first novel in this series and features the first section of Book 3 (of three) of a novel by literary author, poet and interviewee Rose Mary Boehm.
For shorter pieces I would run the story then talk more about it afterwards but because this is a longer post (12,016 words), here is an introduction to Rose then the seventh part of her novel…
A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm now lives and works in Lima, Peru. Two novels (‘Coming Up For Air’ and the follow-up ‘The Telling’) have been published in the UK, as well as a poetry collection (‘Tangents’). Her latest poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in US poetry reviews. Among others: Toe Good Poetry, Poetry Breakfast, Burning Word, Muddy River Review, Pale Horse Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Other Rooms, Requiem Magazine, Full of Crow, Poetry Quarterly, Punchnel’s, Verse Wisconsin, Naugatuck Poetry Review (contest semi-finalist), Avatar…
Her poem ‘Miss Worthington’ won third price in the coveted Margaret Reid Poetry Contest: http://winningwriters.com/contests/margaret/2009/ma09_epaminondas.php
You can find out more about Rose and her writing at her blog: http://houseboathouse.blogspot.com, and you can also read one of Rose’s short stories on http://shortstorywritinggroup.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/short-story-for-critique-003-mrs-boffa-by-rose-mary-boehm.
Coming Up For Air
A young girl’s struggle to take control of her life – click to read Book I: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Book 2: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. If you don’t want to wait the 10 weeks for the whole story, you can purchase Coming Up for Air at Amazon.com (just $2.95) Amazon.co.uk (only £1.87). The rest of the ‘adventures of Annie’ can be read in THE TELLING.
Book III: Spitting against the Wind (part 1)
I am slowly walking back towards the large room where so many people are typing, shouting into telephones and at each other, where machines clang and clatter, and where I have a small desk and a typewriter. I am still not quite sure what they expect of me and who exactly my boss is. Up to now they are all using me to run errands, make coffee or to tease me mercilessly. Between copy boy and cub reporter … but I’ll show them. Just because I am the first girl they have ever had in here, that doesn’t mean they can ignore that I have a brain! I’ll show them. But I need a break to show what I can do. There must be something I can do. It won’t happen until I make it happen…
The moment I open the door they all look up from whatever they are doing and stare at me. Then they hoot with laughter, and some slap their thighs. Yes, alright, I suppose I deserve this one. But I feel deeply embarrassed and stupid. How could I possible fall for this?
One of the reporters had sent me down to the typesetters to bring him back a Rasterpunkt – a matrix dot – one of the dots that make up a newsprint black and white half-tone picture, the same dots that are now counted to indicate resolution, as in, for example 300 dpi. This was one of the oldest jokes regularly inflicted on the latest recruits to the press room, and I dutifully walked all the way downstairs to the typesetters and asked for one. They had been warned by the jokers upstairs and had been ready for me. One of them made quite a performance out of putting something very small I couldn’t see (he used tweezers) into a relatively big box and handed it to me saying that I must handle it with great care. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. That at least was the moment when I should have tweaked. But no. I was too eager to please, too determined to make this work. I had promised myself that I’d run every errand, make every coffee, take any shit with a smile to make them like me and give me that chance I so craved.
Especially the editor-in-chief was intimidating. His office was halfway up the stairs. From there he could more or less control the editing room. He kept his door open and there was no passing his floor without being seen by ‘the führer’. Ernst Führing seemed old to me then, but he must have been a young man of around 36, built like an American football player. Weary brown eyes looked out from a frame of thick, rather feminine eyelashes, he had a large, handsome face, and his dark curly hair gave him a slightly dishevelled appearance. He only ever wore white shirts, open at the neck, his tie knot pulled down, the sleeves rolled up until his elbows. I usually saw him sitting behind his huge desk, either speaking like machine-gun fire into the black telephone, or ‘parking’ it between chin and pulled up shoulder when he was looking for some papers. When I brought him material to sign off he would normally ask me to wait and then he’d dump even more papers and photos into my arms with delivery instructions. Standing he must have been around 1.80 m but one saw the beginnings of a belly, and since his trousers where usually just belted below that slight protuberance, they took on a life of their own, cascading down to his highly polished shoes, the turn-ups at the back of the trouser legs disappearing beneath them.
He often stopped me when I was on my way up to the art department or asked in the press room for me to run an errand. Every time I was near him he’d make some comment, some sexual insinuation, some joke I didn’t get, or indicate that I should be doing something different, something that women do. I began to dread my contacts with ‘the führer’, even though he never made a pass, for which I was grateful.
The in-house photo reporter, Wald Radetzki, had quite some reputation. And I was fascinated by his urbanity. It wasn’t just that his name turned up on most news pages of the paper, he also photographed local society and was more than once the object of other photographers when he accompanied some of the famous (and the infamous) women to various events.
To everyone here he was just Radetzki, and when I first met him on the stairs, I felt considerable awe and worried immediately that I may have a shiny nose. The Radetzki I knew from photographs was far less impressive than the real thing. Blinded by my admiration for his local notoriety, I didn’t see a man of already middle years, with a lived-in, somewhat sloppily designed and cruel face, a man who desperately wanted to stay young by donning ‘beatnik uniform’: black tight trousers, black roll-neck sweater, black leather jacket and black leather cap, his cameras slung carelessly over his shoulder; I only saw what I wanted to see: an admittedly older but sexy male, tall, slim, and handsome.
I was on one of my never-ending errands from the pressroom down to the printers, just passing the dark room which I’d never seen open, when Radetzki came up the stairs, taking two steps at the time. He looked up.
“Hey, gorgeous, and where did they hide you? What, are you on your way to me? Lovely surprise.”
I stand still, desperately wanting to be the most attractive woman on earth, thinking Rita Hayworth, definitely not Doris Day. But all I can come out with is, “Oh, hi, I am the new trainee.”
“Well, well, well … turn around, would you? Let me check you out!”
I know I blush and I am angry with myself. I also hate the fact that I have absolutely nothing witty to say to this apparition. While he scares me a bit, he is also incredibly attractive in a forbidden sort of way. I know immediately that Mother wouldn’t approve of me being even near this man. That alone makes him irresistible. Not knowing what to do, I smile what I hope is a seductive smile and do a very fast turn on one foot, losing my balance just a little on the small step. Radetzki immediately reaches up and puts two strong hands on my hips: “Wow, little treasure, easy… mind you, you’re welcome to fall!” and he lets go.
“We’ll be seeing a lot more of each other. By the way, what’s your name? … Annemarie? That’s Anne for short, surely … Must dash, have just come from an assignment and they’ll want the photos like yesterday … until soon. I’ll make sure of it.”
He takes out some keys, opens the darkroom and disappears into it. Shuts the door behind himself. My legs are like jelly. I can barely continue my descent down to the basement. I feel his hands on my hips and I feel my insides knotting up.