Here we continue publishing of excerpts from Paul Kastenellos new book, Count No Man Happy… with one from chapter one.
FROM CHAPTER 1
Beth Pagane climbed the three flights to her one bedroom apartment over a bakery on Broad street in Newark, New Jersey. Balancing a bag of groceries on her hip as a mother might a small child, she unlocked the door and entered. Beth was not a mother, not even married yet, and the clock was ticking. The year was 1956. Women were “girls” until “matronly,” or were “ladies,” depending upon the circumstances. Men were “boys” until married and “unavailable.” Eisenhower was president and The Great Pretender by The Platters was the hit song of the month. Beth liked The Platters; everyone did.
Beth put the groceries away and began to undress, slipping out of a pair of well-worn flats, a simple white blouse, and the tan pedal-pushers that accented her rump. Except for that concession to the boys Beth preferred to dress comfortably when not working. But in the mirror wearing only her undies she scrutinized another Beth, the pinup model — the fantasy gal — Beth with the big butt who had to constantly watch her otherwise slim figure or be out of work. She knew she was pretty, but no more so than a lot of other girls. True, God had blessed her with a beautiful body, winning smile, and light blonde braids that fell to her waist when she let them; but still, with her hair up and without makeup she might pass most men unnoticed. That was good. Not that she didn’t like men; oh, she surely did, but she didn’t like being stared at when she wasn’t working.
On her bedside table were two crystal bells – Christmas ornaments she’d bought on a lark some weeks before. She held them, listened, and watched them take the light before placing them in the far back of a drawer behind an Arabian harem pajama and a pair of frilly panties. The panties she’s purchased more for their frill than their coverage which was minimal, but she wasn’t sure if any of these things really belonged in her trousseau. That would depend on what sort of guy she would marry one day, and at the moment that day seemed to be very far off.
Evening was approaching and she had nothing scheduled for the night. That too was good. Too much partying had become boring. She had to dress for parties and if she did guys drooled all over her, which did little for her popularity with the other girls and wasn’t fun for her either. She would have loved a guy who’d ignore her a bit –- just a bit –- not too much, mind you. Tonight she’d just put on her old jammies and relax. Perhaps read a bit, she thought. Read some history. Beth had always liked history. If she’d not taken up modeling she’d intended to get a degree in it; probably teach, do some research, maybe specialize in the eighth century when according to historians Charlemagne was inventing Europe.
Tonight there was nothing on her schedule so after a quick TV Dinner without the TV Beth grabbed her old blanket and settled herself on the couch to read. If she was hoping for exciting reading Beth was to be disappointed. The first pages were anything but promising.