I had never liked fly-casting the streams of Pennsylvania as a kid. I had fished the French and Brandywine Creeks with Richard Wilson and with my dad, but I always found it boring. Never caught very much, I think I only pulled in some Sunfish. Mostly we either slushed about in the rapids or sat upon the shore and watched the current go by. I would have rather been home reading. I found plunging into Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted River" more enthralling. However, I did get very excited when Dad offered to take me deep sea fishing over the Fourth of July weekend.
It wasn’t so much the fishing as the boat ride. I always enjoyed being out in a boat and still do. We left at midnight Friday evening in order to cast off very early on Saturday morning. It was almost a three-hour drive from our place to where the charter was docked. Once there we grabbed some breakfast at a 24-hour Diner and then began getting out gear on board. We set sail (not that we had a sail, this was completely a motorized jaunt) from lower Delaware through the Indian River Inlet into the Atlantic Ocean (Right, Indian River Inlet in 1960 or should this be Native-American River Inlet now).
We spent the day catching tuna. Our party caught six. I landed the first one. My father caught one. Obviously somebody missed out in our party of eight.
I came to work as usual after the Fourth of July holiday. Little had changed in my life since meeting Pat. It was about to.
Patricia Ann Gormley and I became very serious in our relationship. She was very much in love with me and this had become apparent to everyone around us. There was a good chance or so the betting went, that I would be proposing to her in the not too distant future. It seemed like a sure thing.
But when I stepped out of the elevator that July 5 morning, Pat was waiting in the hallway for my arrival. She said she had to talk to me. We walked down to the cross corridor where there was a little privacy. The first words out of her mouth were, “I can’t see you anymore.”
“It’s the too far distance,” she mumbled or something similar I couldn't quite grasp. She was in tears. I could barely understand her.
“I’m sorry,” she muttered through sobs, turned and ran into the Ladies Room.
I stood there stunned.
A few seconds clicked off and then that tall girl who always said hello to me when we passed came out of the Ladies. She walked over to me. “Are you all right?” she asked.
“Pat is in there crying her eyes out.” They worked in the same department, so were acquainted with each other. She told me what happened. "Pat's parents won’t let her see you anymore because you aren’t Roman Catholic.”
I wonder if I sounded as angry as I felt. My parents forced me to church growing up leaving me with no strong religious convictions. Religion was a series of philosophical arguments to me. What did this church or that have to do with how you lived your life. I didn’t see what difference it made that she was Catholic and I was not. We both were Christian, right? I felt our love was none of her parents’ business nor God's either for that matter.
“Are you okay?” the tall girl asked again.
“Yeah,” I said. “I’m fine,” and went back to my own office. I was in a haze the rest of the morning.
It was just past the Fourth of July and already over between Pat and me. A few days earlier we were thinking matrimony, now we weren't even speaking. I couldn’t talk to her because she went out of her way to avoid me after that stunning morning. If she saw me she hurried away, always with a glint of tear in her eyes. I have no idea what happened to her in the persueing years. I assume Pat met a nice Catholic boy, got married and had lots of children.
Peppy died that Thursday morning, the Seventh of July. This was the pup my grandfather had given me before I started Grade School. Peppy was 15 or 16 years old. I believe she developed cancer during that year and my mom put her down in the basement because she was bleeding and leaving spots about the house. She died shortly after that. My dad buried her down in the field next to Topper. It was as if he was burying my boyhood along with her. She had slept in my bed aside me for almost all her life, which meant most of mine as well.
My grandfather was dead. Both of my dogs had died. All my girlfriends had bid me goodbye. I heard that Sonja had broken up with the boy she had dropped me for back in early June. I wasn’t sure I wanted to stir up that fire again, especially since I had a date with a new girl coming up on the weekend. I was hoping for a change of luck.
Shortly after my breakup with Pat I happened to get on a down elevator at the end of the day with that tall girl. We rode down in silence, crushed in the crowd until we popped out in the lobby. We stepped outside the front doors of the Atlantic Building together and I asked her which way she was going.
“My name is Larry…” I began.
“Yes, I know,” she said.
“Oh, well, I’m sorry, I don’t know yours.”
Her name was Lois Jean Heaney (pronounced Haney). Ah yes, another Irish lass, but this one was tall. In her low heels she was the same height as I. She was 5 foot 10 ½ without the heels. And as I subsequently learned, she wasn't all that Irish, only a fourth. She was half German and another fourth Native-American, Creek.
We walked a few blocks chatting inconsequently until we reached her subway stop. I walked her down to the turnstile of the platform. Just before she stepped through I said, “Will you go out with me Saturday night?”
“Yes,” she said.
“I’ll talk to your tomorrow at work,” I shouted after her over the arrival of a train.
I waited until that moment when she was about to cross through the gate to ask for a reason. If she said yes everything would be fine. If she had said no she could have stepped through the turnstile and I could have walked away without any embarrassing moments of silence.
I drove to Lois’ house that Saturday evening with a great deal of trepidation. I wondered what her parents would do when they saw my car. It had taken a beating in the four years I had it. All those dents still remained from the front fender where I hit the post to the crowbar digs on the back fenders to Richard’s rear-end impressions on the roof. On top of that my hood didn’t fit completely down over the engine, one bent back support made the passenger side stick up a couple inches. My door latch was broken in some way. It wouldn’t catch when closed. I had the driver side door held shut by a necktie fastened around the front and back window frames. I got in and out of the car through the window like a stock car driver. Because of the tie I couldn’t even roll my windows up all the way on that side. I figured once her father saw my rambling wreck he’ll forbid her to go with me.
He allowed her to leave with me in that jalopy so perhaps he didn’t get close enough to notice the wear and tear. She and I went to The Family Drive-in Theater along West Baltimore Pike just outside of the town of Clifton Heights. Then it was one of many drive-in in the area; that drive-in is a Giant Supermarket parking lot today.
I have no idea what the movies were. We talked though them both.
All I know is no one put a plague on our booth or came requesting to sit where we sat.
I took her home. She invited me in. Her family was already in bed and she and I sat in her kitchen and chattered away until 6:00 in the morning. I think her Grandmother came downstairs and suggested I leave because, “[my] family might be getting worried”.
I knew my family wasn’t. They were used to my being out all night, but I left anyway. I wasn’t tired, I was on cloud nine and wide awake. We had made a date again for next Saturday.
Sunday July 10, 1960, the day after my first date with Lois, I bought a new dog to replace Peppy. I drove to the King Kennels in Concordville with my mom and grandmother. It was a Chihuahua about five months old. It had been born in Shelbyville, Indiana on February 4, 1960. Her father was Villa’s Muir and her mother was Donmary’s Senorita Gomez. In order to register her with the AKA I had to give her at least two names. I considered Synthia Ieanna Rosita Rojos or Lem Marie Cintez. I settled on Cynthia Wilmillar and we called her Cindy for short.
I had begun to use the name Wilmillar as a stand in for Downingtown in my fiction. I now used it as part of this new dog’s name. It was a combination of my parents and I, WILliam, MILdred and LARry.
I think she thought I was kidding.