Here goes nothing yet again. I'm tossing up the next bit of my NaNo project to see what it looks like in the cold harsh light of day (and my office.) Deep breath...
“Hey! Pizza Face! Phone for you.”
Porter’s voice came through the intercom into the rumpus room, where I was trying to figure out how to make a macramé plant hanger to take to Nana for the lake house. It was raining outside and had been for a while. We get a lot of rainy weather in Florida in the summertime, but this was a lot even for us.
“Thanks. And make sure you hang up when I pick up. I mean it, Doofus.”
I got up off the sofa to get the phone. Which was in a real phone booth. My dad found it at a salvage yard and thought it would be cool to have at home. He’s an architect and likes weird stuff like that. Our house is kind of crazy, actually, especially in comparison to the other houses in our neighborhood. Daddy designed it and oversaw the construction himself. He’s very proud of it. It’s three stories with two parts -- the rumpus room is separate from the rest of the house but is connected to it by a closed-in walkway that runs over the driveway. Daddy said he wanted a place for us kids to be able to go and bring our friends and be as noisy as we liked and not bother anyone else in the house. Jack uses it a lot -- he and his friends come over and play pool and pinball and darts and listen to the stereo all the time. One night, it seemed like the whole junior varsity high school football team was down there -- it took Mama and Miss Bea (our maid) a whole day to get rid of all the soda cans and dropped food and sticky that they left. I overheard Mama and Daddy talking to Jack not long after about some things that went on at the party that they were not happy about at all -- I think they must have been talking about pot, but I couldn’t get close enough to hear. They were in the family room and I was in the kitchen and would have heard it all if Porter hadn’t come in with his remote control car and scared me half to death. Jack was grounded for a week after that, so I guess it was pot after all.
Our house has got some other unusual things too -- like an open stairwell with a rock garden and a dumb waiter, which Daddy had put in because the kitchen is on the second floor and it’s easy to put the groceries in it and send them up rather than carry them up the stairs. When Porter was little Jack and I tried to put him in the dumb waiter and send him from floor to floor. We almost had Porter convinced to do it, except Mama came home from her weekly hair appointment right then and we had to “abort the mission.” We were very into space and astronaut talk back then. Sometimes I miss those days when we would all play together.
I sat in the phone booth -- thank goodness there’s not a pay phone in there. I saw that episode of the Brady Bunch where Mr. Brady puts a pay phone in the house and just held my breath hoping that Daddy wouldn’t think that was another “smashing” idea. He likes to use words like “smashing” and “brilliant” when describing things. Mama says he picked up talking like that when he went to college in London for a semester and that he should just cut it out because he sounds pretentious. I secretly think it’s kind of cool and spend time trying to use words like that when I talk.
I picked up the phone. “Porter! You can hang up. Now! I mean it! Hello?”
“Hey Nix. Whatcha doin? This rain is terrible, isn’t it? My mom says that if it doesn’t stop soon, we’re going to need to build an ark. Whatcha doin’?”
It was Pammy.
“Not much. I’m in the r- room working on my macramé -- you know, that plant holder we tried in art class. I want to make one to take to the lake.” I walked out of the phone booth and over to the pit sofa -- the phone had a really long cord so you could move all over the room and still talk.
“I’m also trying to stay away from Porter who smells and is being a real pain today!” I raised my voice purposefully, in case he was still listening in. I heard a snicker and then the phone slam down. “Watching TV a little. But there’s not a lot on right now. The Watergate Hearings are on instead of other stuff. No As The World Turns today.”
“I know. It’s sooooooo boring. You’d think they could have scheduled them for a time when we weren’t on summer vacation.”
“Sure Pammy. Why don’t we write Congress a letter and ask them to move the hearings to September when we’re back in school.” I sighed.
“Well, you did write that letter to Henry Kissinger and got an answer back, didn’t you?”
I made a face. One of our assignments in English class this year was to write a persuasive letter to someone we admired -- people like Bobby Fisher and Elton John and Robert Redford and Reggie Jackson and Randolph Mantooth. Pammy wrote her letter to Ryan O’Neal, because between “Love Story” and “What’s Up Doc” she was convinced he was the man of her dreams. As for me -- I decided to write to Dr. Henry Kissinger, the Secretary of State. He was always in the news and I really was interested in what was going on in the world. I read the newspaper every day and watched the evening news, although sometimes it was a little weird to see film from the war on the screen during dinner time. Mama wasn’t happy about the television being on while we ate, but Daddy thought it was a good exercise for us to watch and discuss the news as a family. As long as Porter and Jack remembered the “you must wear a shirt to the dinner table and no hats” rule, she was fine.
I didn’t want to tell Pammy this, because she sometimes has a hard time not telling everything she knows, but I was kind of interested in the Watergate Hearings. More than kind of. I liked to see “government in action,” as my history teacher Mr. Daniels called it. There was something very dramatic about them as well -- it was like a big realistic play. And watching it made me feel smart and grownup. No wonder Jack called me Nerdy Nixie.
“Yeah, I did. And yeah, I got an answer back.” I had the letter from a State Department Under Secretary pinned to my bulletin board in my room; I was disappointed that Dr. Kissinger didn’t write me himself (one boy in our class got a hand written letter from his person, a wrestler named Dusty Rhodes. I figured that he probably didn’t have anything better to do, so he wrote back) but was even more disappointed that he didn’t send a picture like I’d asked for. I guess important government officials don’t have autographed photos like other celebrities do.
“But I think that me writing a letter won’t stop the Hearings from being on television.”
I heard munching on the other end of the phone which meant that Pammy had gotten into the Charles Chips. I saw the delivery guy in the neighborhood yesterday and the Campbells had been getting them brought to their house as long as I could remember.
“Um, Nixie. I gotta go -- my mom is yelling at me to come help with the laundry. Gilly left a bunch of stuff in his pockets and it all went through the wash and now there’s a big mess. I’ll call you later. Want to have a sleepover tonight? Ask your mom. We just got the Charles Chips and the Partridge Family is on TV. Bye.”
And with that, she hung up. I walked over to the phone booth and put the receiver back in its place and grabbed a grape NEHI from the little refrigerator in the corner. I sat down on the pit sofa, fully intending to work some more on my macramé. But the twine just sat there as I became glued to the set, watching Sam Ervin ask questions in a way that reminded me of Andy Griffith. Government in Action.