Title: Sunday Speakeasy
Notes: I wrote this in response to a challenge issued on August 23rd by me to a fellow writer. I have never done so much research for such a little story before, but it was fun! Please don’t critize my history too much. I tried to be as accurate as I could from information I gleaned off the internet.
On the Picture: This was the inspiration for the story. I actually came upon a rebuilt 1932 Ford Model B while driving to my Celt’s house on Sunday afternoon after this challenge was issued. I took that with my phone camera while I was driving. 😀
I like to take the back roads when I drive to my boyfriend’s house every Sunday for dinner. It makes me feel like I live out in the country, instead of just outside one of the largest cities in Illinois. It was the beginning of September, just a few days shy of the season when the leaves would begin to turn from the brilliant green of summer, to the luscious red and yellow of fall. My little Chevy Malibu was trudging along, when I turned a corner, and spied an old Ford Model B in front of me, like it came out of nowhere.
It isn’t too unusual to find classic cars on the roads this time of year, when nearly every city hosts at least a handful of Cruise Nights a month. My little village is no exception. Two restaurants hold Cruise Nights once a week and there’s a bigger car show once every season. But a mint-condition car from the thirties is still kind of rare. I was intrigued by the shininess of its black exterior, and the way the late afternoon summer sun made the car seem glow.
I had no choice but to follow it.
It turned left off of Hamborg Road, and onto Burr Oak Road., and I managed to keep a few car-lengths behind and still keep track of it. The weird part was, I’d been on Burr Oak Road dozens of times, but nothing looked familiar. Instead of smooth blacktop all the way to Main Street, Burr Oak dropped off into a gravel drive. The Ford pulled up to a stop in front of a massive house, where the lawn was littered with other old Fords, Auburn Cabriolets, Marmon Sedans, Lincoln Murrays, and even one DeSoto 8 (all in pristine condition, minus a little gravel dust). Piano music filtered out from the open windows of the house, and men in fedoras lingered around the porch, checking out each other’s cars and smoking cigarettes.
I parked my car out of sight of the house just past the driveway and climbed out, stuffing my keys into my front pocket. Creeping as quietly as I could, I managed to stay out of sight by darting between the cars, and keeping low. Every car I touched felt warm from the sun, and I couldn’t believe I was surrounded by such classic machinery. The leather of the interiors looked shiny and well-taken care of, and most of the cars still had keys dangling from the ignition.
As I watched the men on the porch, picking up bits and pieces of conversation about “the crash” and “that fancy new building in New York City,” a woman dressed in a red crepe day dress stepped out and murmured something to the men in a tone too quiet for me to hear. The men all stubbed out their cigarettes and followed the woman inside, closing the door behind them, and blocking my view of whatever was going on.
I crept around to the side of the house and managed to find a window to peer into just as a round of applause sounded. A tall man, sat down at an upright Broadwood piano and stretched out his fingers. All around the room, the din quieted, as people held glasses of amber and clear liquid; not a single person stood with their hands empty, and all of them trained their eyes to the pianist.
The song began slow, with a trickling, sweet melody. And as he began to sing, I felt my face flush with shame, as if I was a voyeur to two lover’s kissing. It was a song I’d heard dozens of times, by different artists; even Paul Anka had a cover of it – but none of the covers even compared to the way the singer crooned over the words. The crowd stared with rapt attention, some of the women sporting blushes like my own.
As the music continued, I began desperately searching for clues that this might be a re-enactment. I looked for the telltale signs, like a modern shoe; a cell phone accidentally left out; maybe a Bic lighter instead of the silver-plated Zippo one man was using to light a woman’s Lucky Strike. All the stemware looked like Depression glass, and I’d never seen so many women wearing pin curls and costume jewelry. My brain couldn’t process what I was seeing, and I could not figure out what to make of it all.
I had to take a step back, and breathe. Could it be that I was really witnessing a scene from the early 1930’s? No way was this happening. My mind raced, and a sick, nervous feeling bubbled up from my stomach. If this was the 1930’s, where was the present? Had I gone back in time, and if that was true, how did I get back.
As my foot moved backwards, I found a hole in the grass, and let out a yelp as I fell down onto my butt in the lawn. Sounds of people gasping and moving spilled from the open window I’d just been peering into; chairs scrapped against the wooden floor, glasses were quickly set down, and I could distinctly make out the sounds of bottles clinking against each other. “Hide the hooch! Its the coppers,” I heard someone say, and I blinked in confusion.
“I’m not a cop,” I managed to get out, trying to make it as loud as I could. I didn’t know what else to say, since “I’m from the future” just sounded way too weird. “Really, keep playing, I’m not a cop,” I insisted.
The woman in the red crepe dress appeared at the window. There was something different about her that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It was something about her expression, and the tone of her stare. It was like she knew I didn’t belong there. “This party is invite only,” she said, her voice sounding cold, and sweet at the same time, like she was used to being polite to people she didn’t like. “You were not invited.”
Her eyes began to glow, followed by her face. The radiant light traveled down her arms, covering her dress and the windowsill. It spread to the wooden siding, and down into the cement foundation, around both sides of the house, covering the porch and eventually the roof. The light grew so bright that I had to shield my eyes and when I could finally open them again, dots of light floated in front of my vision as if I’d stared into a light bulb too long.
When my sight cleared, the house was gone. A handful of sheep stood grazing on the grass that had grown up around the left-over foundation. They baaed at me and gave me their blank stares, as if I was of no concern to them. In a daze, I picked myself up and dusted off my pants where I’d fallen. Several times I glanced over my shoulder as I made my way back to the car, which was now parked on a paved road that led west toward Main St. There was no sign of the house, or the Ford Model B and the piano music was gone, leaving the empty silence of the pasture in its place.
As I climbed back into my Chevy Malibu, I took a moment to close my eyes and think about what just happened. But even as I tried to remember the sound of the piano, and the color of the woman’s dress, the details began to fade, as if I’d woken up from a dream and the light of the day was washing away the memory. But no matter what, I will never forget the taillights of that old Ford Model B, or the sound of the young man singing.
“Goodnight, my love; pleasant dreams and sleep tight, my love. May tomorrow be sunny and bright…
…and bring you closer to me.”