Mixed Signals; The Summer of ’62, Episode 3

As soon as they drove out of sight Rich raced to the ticket booth and asked for a phone book to look up the number of the Casa Lu Al. Rich dialed. The barmaid answered. Rich asked for Mrs. Larsen. In the background jukebox music blared, big talk bellowed, laughter echoed, and the sound of beer bottles and glasses banged on the bar.

The movie is over can you pick me up?” Rich said.

As soon as your Dad finishes his beer we’ll be on our way,” Mrs. Larsen said.

Don’t let him finish it while you come for me,” Rich cautioned.

He said he wants to come back after we pick you up for a quick one,” Mrs. Larsen said.

Dad never has a quick one. I just want to get home,” Rich said.

Me too, but you know your father,” Mrs. Larsen said.

Yeah, I know,” Rich said exasperated.

We’ll be there as soon as he drinks up.” Mrs. Larsen said

They hung up.

A half hour elapsed. Rich walked to the corner hoping to spot their car He turned and walked another half a block, then Rich thought, “If I was not at the theater they may drive by and miss me.” He jogged back to the theater.

The first call was at nine forty-five and it was now ten twenty. Rich thought, “Perhaps there was an accident or they just forgot, but how could that be?”

The streets were lonely and glassy from the reflection of the neon lights and drizzle on the pavement. The Sigma Theater stood next to an alley that looked like some haunting cave. Rich moved as far away from it as possible, but still under the protection of the marquee. Shadows of dark mysterious men coming out of a bar’s back door in the alley crept close to the walls of the buildings.

One man walked quickly toward the theater. Rich rushed to the curb praying that his mom and dad’s car might suddenly appear. The man looked strangely at Rich as he walked by.

Mom and Dad please come. Dear God, make them suddenly appear.” He mumbled quietly to himself over and over, but they did not come.

The theater closed. The lights were turned off inside and the marquee lights dimmed. After an hour from the first call, Rich knocked on the door of the theater. The manager peered suspiciously through the window.

Can you let me use the phone?” Rich implored.

We’re closed,” he said as if annoyed.

I was at the show and I used the phone an hour ago and my parents haven’t come yet. Can I use the phone again, please?” Rich said.

He reluctantly opened the door and led Rich to a phone on the concession stand.

Rich phoned again and asked for his mom or dad.

Where on earth are you?” Mr. Larsen screamed and cursed angrily.

I’m at the theater,” Rich glanced at the manager to see if he heard his dad.

That’s bull!” Mr. Larsen bellowed. “We’ve been up and down the street a dozen times and no Rich. Now where are you?” He insisted as if Rich were lying.

At the Sigma.”

The phone clicked and twenty minutes later Mr. and Mrs. Larsen’s car turned the corner and pulled to the curb. Mrs. was driving and Mr. Larsen was waving his arms in a rage. They were arguing. Mr. Larsen was a big man with long arms and it looked as though he was taking up the entire front seat.

Rich slid into the back seat. The car was saturated with the stench of beer. Rich settled into the back seat.

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