What Doesn't Kill You . . .

What Doesn't Kill You . . .

by Lorraine Mutschler


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781892896537
Publisher: Infinity Publishing PA
Publication date: 12/05/1998
Edition description: BUY BOOKS ON THE WEB.COM
Pages: 155
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.50(d)

First Chapter

Chapter One

We met on February 2, Groundhog's Day, 1951, my sixteenth birthday. I walked into Murphy's Five & Ten on Brownsville Road, the main street of my hometown of Carrick, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to begin my first day at my first job. My girlfriend, Mary Helen Becker, was with me. She had already been working there for some time.

I was thinking about how nervous I was, about working with the public and meeting new people. When I crossed the metal threshold of the open glass doors, I was startled by a wet mop at my feet that would change my life forever.

At the handle of the mop was a slightly-built, boyish looking young man, wearing Navy-issue flared pants and a denim shirt, with cuffs rolled up to his muscular forearms. He had light brown hair, slightly receding from a broad forehead, and his blue eyes were the gentlest I had ever seen. I froze there for a second, Mary Helen pulling at my sleeve. As he looked up and smiled at me, I couldn't breathe. The breath literally left my body and my legs went limp. He moved the mop aside and with an exaggerated gesture, gallantly waved us by.

I was suddenly aware that my hair was wind-blown and frizzy. And I hated this long black coat. It made me look even taller than my 5'9" gangly frame. I was a stick. Sixteen, and a senior in high school, and I had hardly started to blossom where it counted most. All these thoughts surged through my mind in the two or three seconds it took to make my way past his watching eyes. He was thin but well built, and the cutest boy I had ever laid eyes on. I turned to Mary Helen and said, "I'm going to marry that boy."

She laughed and told me I didn't have a chance. "He's been going steady with the same girl for the last two years."

I leaned my head to hers and whispered, "That's today." We giggled and went to our separate counters.

I worked in Notions: thread, scissors, buttons, that sort of thing. And records. Mine was the last counter before the freight elevator and the hi-fi record player was my domain. No stereo back then. It was my job to make sure the latest recordings were playing through the loud speakers to entice the teenagers to buy. It also gave me a chance to catch a glimpse of Ralph Andrew Mutschler passing through the wired glass window of the elevator, up to the stockroom and back down to the basement.

When he stopped at my floor to unload merchandise, I just happened to be at the back of the counter where he could see me, and I would smile my sweetest smile. Unfortunately, I would also blush, and my nose would turn red, which was why he called me "Rudolph." I didn't care what he called me. I began drawing the letters "RUDOLPH" on my book covers at school. The other kids thought I liked some German foreign- exchange student named Rudolph. Little did they know.

But Mary Helen knew, and tried to spark the romance. She would send me to the stockroom for supplies when she knew he was up there. I would just say "hi" at first, then after a few days, we began one-line conversations. Months later, I got my first kiss in the stockroom, on the third floor of Murphy's Five & Ten, with his face intermittently illuminated by the flashing — red "Murphy's" sign outside the glass block windows. My face couldn't have been any redder, sign or no sign.

I started wearing my long hair down instead of back in a pony tail. I would see the freight elevator stop at our floor and the inside lights go out, as he sat there, watching me. My hands would tremble, and of course, I would find it necessary to go to the turntable in front of the elevator more often — to check on the rotation of the record. The water fountain was right in front of the window, so naturally I was also thirstier when he was there . . . sitting, watching . . . making my heart race.

I asked his best friend, Dick Henry, who also worked in the stock room, if he was really going steady. All he would tell me was, "don't give up." A few days later, Dick came downstairs to my counter and stood beside me. He ran his hand from the top of his head down to the top of mine. As he was walking away, he said to no one in particular, "I told him she wasn't taller than me. I knew he meant Babe. Dick had told me not to call him Ralph, that everyone called him Babe". It seemed rather forward, and had a hard time coming out of my mouth, but when I finally called him Babe one day, his eyes lit up, and for me, he was Ralph never more.

So now it was confirmed. I was not too tall for him. He had kissed me in the stock room and made my knees buckle.

He was stopping the elevator to watch me, thinking I didn't know. Now what . . . would he finally ask me out?

Then, that week, a new girl came to work. A beautiful girl with long black hair and gorgeous eyes. Her name was Jill and she zoomed in on Babe the first day. I was heartsick. She asked me if he was going with anyone. I could say with all honesty that I heard he was going steady with the same girl for two years. I prayed for Divine intervention; but she pursued, and I retreated.

So it came as a shock one day, when I saw his '36 Chevy rumbling down Brownsville Road, with the usual contingent of male arms and legs hanging out the open windows, and he actually pulled to the curb beside me! I froze and glanced inside. There must have been ten guys crammed in there. He smiled that smile and my throat closed. "Where you off to?" he asked.

In a chorus, the boys in back sang out, "Hellloooo, Lorraine!" I was red as a beet already and could only smile. They laughed and poked at each other. "Well?" Babe was looking up at me with those eyes, waiting.

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