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Publisher SunRise Writing
eBook Kindle Edition
An off-beat love story set in the turbulent 1960's. Selma Katz, a serious, sophisticated woman has a beautiful body, but a less than attractive face. She's thirty, and beginning to accept her future as a single woman. Selma's earthy, Jewish father offers a substantial dowry to someone who'll take her off his hands. Connor Sullivan is a handsome, intelligent, womanizing twenty three year old who's just flunked out of college. Connor and Selma are thrown together and, almost begrudgingly, develop a mutually supportive friendship that moves in directions neither of them can predict or control.
Izzy Katz didn’t drink much. He’d have a Manhattan, on rare occasions two, and then he was done. Con Sullivan drank wine in place of cocktails, a taste he’d acquired as a guest in the British officers mess in North Africa during WWII. At a neighborhood bar, decent wine wasn’t an option, so Con settled for a bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon. When Izzy was building in South Jersey, which nowadays was most of the time, after paying their workmen on Fridays, Con and Izzy would get together for a drink. Over the past two years this meeting had turned into a ritual that happened more often than not.
Izzy was half way through his Manhattan. “It’s a great shame, ya know; Selma’s going to waste. She’s such a wonderful girl: smart, hard working, loving. Beautiful, she’s not, except to me. The only men she hangs around with are this arty-farty professor and his queer friends.” Izzy sighed as he sadly shook his nearly bald head from side to side. “You know Selma’s thirty now, not much hope for her getting married; breaks my heart.”
Con didn’t interrupt; Izzy had given this speech a dozen times and would likely do so a dozen more before he gave up trying to marry-off his only daughter.
Izzy was a successful home builder and Con had been Izzy’s primary, carpentry subcontractor for thirteen years. They both trusted and respected each other and their business arrangements were always done with a handshake rather than a contract. Con and his wife, Ellie, had been invited to all of the Katz’ weddings and bar mitzvahs; they were part of the extended family. Although Con had seen Selma recently, he always remembered her as a child; a chubby, serious little girl with beautiful porcelain white skin, and wire-frame glasses.
“Con, you won’t believe it, I finally came up with a solution to her problem. It’s so simple I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, what our people have been doing for centuries. I’m going to give her a dowry, a big dowry, big enough to attract a decent husband.”
Con chuckled under his breath, this was a new addition to the speech. “Izzy, this is nineteen-sixty-three, people don’t give dowries anymore. What are you gonna’ do, put a classified ad in the paper? ‘Husband wanted: marry my daughter and I’ll give you lots a money.’”
“Nah, nothin’ like that; I’ll just put the word around. I’m not thinkin’ of a lump sum sort of dowry. I figure I’ll give the two of ‘em a new house and buy the husband a big car; Caddy, Lincoln, whatever he wants. I’ll give him a good paying job, but he won’t have to work if he doesn’t want. He can go fishin’ or golfin’, whatever he wants to do, and I’ll still pay him. All he has to do is make Selma happy and maybe give me some more grandkids. You think it’ll work? There’s gottta be a half-decent boy out there who would go for this deal; it’s not like Selma’s a leper.”
Con half-smiled, “Izzy, you just might be onto something. What’s Selma think of the idea?”
Izzy shook his head, “I figure I have to find the husband first and get Selma interested. Then, I’ll explain the details to her.”
“No Izzy. Not a good idea. You need to explain the dowry idea to her before you try and cut a deal with a potential husband, otherwise she’s going to feel like you’re putting her up for sale. Selma won’t like that.” Con tapped his beer glass on the bar for emphasis.
Izzy didn’t agree, but decided not to argue the point. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Anyway, would ya help put the word around? Anyone who’s got an unmarried son, one who’s healthy and not stupid, and under thirty-five; they should give me a call. I’ll check out the boy and if he’s okay, I’ll introduce him to Selma; alright?”
“Izzy it’s a pretty far-fetched scheme but I’ll do what I can to help, I know how much you love that girl.”
They clinked glasses.
“Yes I do, I surely do.”
Con and Ellie Sullivan always dined at home on Friday nights; it was their time to catch up on the week’s events. Con came into the kitchen from the garage and was immediately enveloped in a fragrant cloud of spices and garlic. “Whoa, does that smell great.”
Ellie put her arms around his neck and kissed him while he squeezed her rear, “Your favorite Friday night meal, linguine with garlic and shrimp.”
She removed a large frying pan from the cook top for his inspection. “I finally got the fish man to get me large shrimp with the heads on. He thinks I’m crazy because he has to charge the same per pound with the heads on or off. ‘Lady, you really wana pay extra money for shrimp heads? You eat em?’
I didn’t even try to explain how the heads add flavor. I just told him that we deep fry the shrimp and eat ‘em whole.” She put the pan back on the gas. “There’s a bottle of Chablis in the fridge; open it before I die of thirst, please.”
Con pulled the cork and half filled two glasses, while Ellie poured the shrimp and garlic sauce over the linguine. “Can you bring the wine and my glass? We’re in the bar room tonight.”
The bar room was an intimate room off the main living area; a comfortable room with a recessed ceiling and crown molding, a chandelier, and parquet flooring. At the end of the room in front of a large bay window stood a small, custom made, slate top bar and three barstools, and in the middle, a round, inlaid antique table and four leather chairs. They usually used the bar room for dinner alone or with their closest friends.
Ellie tossed the spinach salad then served the shrimp and linguine. “So how’s old Izzy doing? You two did have your regular Friday board meeting didn’t you?”
“Izzy’s same as ever. He’s still going back and forth about moving to Jersey. Now that Jack’s moved into Quail Run it’s only a matter of time before he leaves Philly; just he and Selma rattling around in that big old house.”
“And how are Jack and Syd doing? Are they gonna stick it out?”
Con broke the head off a shrimp and dropped it in the refuse bowl. “I haven’t seen Jack in almost two months and Izzy doesn’t bring up the subject of divorce anymore. I talked with Roz, Morty’s wife on Tuesday; she said that Jack and Syd are doing just great. Roz said they went to Venice for a week and came back madly in love, like teenagers. Roz is a pretty sharp judge of people so if she says their doing great, they probably are. Actually, Jack called just this morning; I’m meeting him tomorrow to go over some drawings.”
Ellie picked up a shrimp and began to peel, “What about Jack’s floozy?”
Con shrugged, “I guess she’s out of the picture.” He took a sip of wine. “So, listen to this, Izzy’s got a new twist on finding a husband for Selma. He’s going to give a prospective husband a dowry to marry her.”
Ellie almost choked on the linguine she was swallowing, “A dowry, you’re kidding?”
“I think he’s at the end of his rope. He asked me to put the word around; about the dowry, I mean. I told him I would. I know that Angelo has a son about thirty or so who’s a mechanic, I don’t think he’s married. Joe Dunny has a boy in his twenties; I don’t know anything about him except that he used to be on TV when he was in high school, a regular on Bandstand. I sort of remember Joe saying his boy was in California trying to break into the movies. It would take a pretty unusual guy to be interested in Izzy’s scheme; someone really lazy, someone who could handle the stigma of being kept by his wife’s father. Not many guys around like that.”
Ellie bit her lip, “Let me tell you a sad story and you just might think otherwise. I was going to save this until after dinner but you might as well hear it now. We got a letter from Saint Stephen’s today and…”
Con interrupted, “You don’t need to tell me, they finally followed through on their threats and threw him out?”
Con put down his fork. “No surprise, this has been in the making for awhile; ever since sex and booze took over his life.”
“I’d sure like to come to his defense, but I can’t; fun seems to be the only thing important to him right now. I guess we should be thankful that he’s not into crime or drugs.” She wrinkled her forehead, “At least I think he doesn’t use drugs.”
“Connor’s drifting around without a rudder but I doubt that he would do anything self destructive. He loves life too much. Somehow that’s what this is all about, having fun and ignoring responsibilities -- I don’t know what to think.”
Ellie refilled their glasses. “That’s not all, after I read the letter I called his apartment and, surprise, surprise, he was there. I think I woke him up. I asked him what he planned on doing. He said that he got fired from Acme Markets but got his old summer job bartending at Cappy’s back. He asked if he could come home for a while; I said that he could. I know I should have asked you first, but I didn’t; I said he could come home.”
Con reached across the table and took her hand. “You did the right thing. Of course he can come home, he’s our son, and I love him. I’d still love him if he was a serial killer and he hasn’t done anything that depraved yet. He’s been working hard at screwing up his life for the last couple of years, but it is his life. I can’t live it for him and neither can you.”
Ellie sighed, “It’s just a pity to see him squandering the opportunity to get an education and a good job. He’s such a bright kid. He can be so charming, and he’s honest. I don’t think he’s ever told me a direct lie, not even when he was little.”
Con released her hand and sat back in his chair. “Well it’s not time to give up on him; took me a few years to get myself together after the war. Maybe it’s genetic. My father roamed around the country for a while when he first came to America, before he settled down. Anyway, when’s he coming home?”
“He didn’t say, probably when his rent comes due.”
Con snorted, "That's exactly when he'll come home."
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Jac Simensen is an incurable wanderer... For most of his adult life, Jac has lived and worked outside the United States in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Frankfurt and the Middle-East. His publications include dozens of non-fiction articles, a technology column for an English language Hong King newspaper and four novels