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Roger N. Meyer "...of a different mind "
Puzzle Pieces Image

Bee Baxter Meyer

13625 SW 79 Ct

Miami, Fla.  33158

 

COUSIN ANN AND GEORGE THE CUTTER

 

 

     By the time Ann was thirty-two, she decided she might as well marry George.  If not George, who else?  The family had so long considered her homely -- she'd heard the word and used it for herself enough -- that it was actually harder for her now, deciding to marry George, than if she hadn't made a success of the business with her brother, Lennie.

 

     George worked for them as a cutter in their Brooklyn garment factory.  George was as good looking, in his happy-go-lucky, short but pleasant fashion, as Ann was homely.  Then how come he wanted to marry her?  He could have kept his job, not only because of protection from the Union, but because he was a good cutter and a top production man.  Ann figured he wanted to marry her because, like herself, he had nobody else to choose from.  She preferred to think that, rather than thinking he possibly could have loved her.  She couldn't have borne being loved when, if she didn't actually dislike him, she didn't think much of him.  She couldn't decide if she had a lower opinion of him than she needed to have of anyone she married, because he was so pleased with himself and his life and seemed to enjoy her so much, or if it was only that he made so much less money than she.

 

     Naturally he made less money.  She was a partner in a business which had grown from manufacturing aprongs which she used to sew up in a tiny little shop she and Lennie leased from their father, who ran a novelty business under the L that rumbled overhead.  By the time she was twenty, she was sewing full length aprons that Lennie hauled out to sell by bus or on the EL or by subway.  They hadn't expected their aprons to catch on so quickly.  They weren't even geared for success.  It seemed very suddenly to them that they had a shop of cutters and sewers and manufacturers' reps across the country, and that their kid brother, Dick, had married a professional designer who had begun to extend their simple cotton line with smart cotton house dresses and summer casuals.

 

     And then came George.  George, the cutter.  When George stopped by Ann's office the first time and leaned over her desk, she drew back.  Even he was carrying things too far, leaning over her desk like that?  He laughed.  "Hey Ann, how's about taking in a show with me some night?"  Ann was embarrassed.  How could she say "no" politely enough so she wouldn't hurt the feelings of one of their best cutters.  On the other hand, how could she say "yes" without demeaning herself.  She wasn't often faced with such problems.  It had been months since anybody had asked her for a date.  And she wasn't all that homely, either, if she really stopped to take a good look.

 

     The only places she looked at herself, hard, were at her hair, brick red and shining and way below her shoulders.  And at her body.  Sometimes when she was undressing, she would stand in front of her mirror.  Good shoulders.  Pretty good breasts, firm and high and full.  A good belly and thighs.  Her legs are good, too, and her ankles.  Then what was so homely?  She could have used a nose job to straighten the too generous nose that fronted her freckled face.  But in those years she couldn't.  Girls like Ann didn't go to doctors to be remodelled.  She didn't start using make up until much later, either.  Didn't want to draw attention to what she thought was her worst feature, her face.  In today's terms Ann could have been said to have a "low level of self esteem," at least about her face.  And with that, practically no expectations.

 

     So she couldn't bring herself to say "no" to George's invitation and they went to the movies.  And he laughed and leaned close to her and said, "How's it if you let me hold your hand?"  In embarrassment, because he asked, she reluctantly let him hold her hand with the glove on it.  And she never forgot how it felt when one by one, he pulled off the fingers of her glove and held her hand warmly and closely in his own.  He didn't press it or squeeze it.  He just held it.  And before the movie was over, he brought her hand up to his face and held it against his cheek.  Something happened to Ann that was the most embarrassing of all.  She felt deep, hot, pulsing feelings all through her body and was ashamed, ashamed.

 

     The next time George asked her to a movie, she refused.  Curtly.  She told him she had to go to her sisters' or her brother's  or somewhere and he leaned against the door and said, "Never mind.  Don't make up stories.  Just tell me if you never want me to ask you again and I won't.  But if you don't tell me that, I'll ask you.  Because someday I want you to marry me."

 

     "Oh my god," Ann remembers thinking, "Marry him?  A cutter?  He laughs too much.  And he'll never make much money.  How can I do this?

 

     But when she was thirty-two and there was nobody else and George said, "I've waited now, Ann for nearly two years.  If you'e not going to marry me, I'm going to leave Levy and Company because I love you.  I dont want to have to see you every day and know you don't want me."

 

     Suddenly Ann said, "Don't go, George. Don't go."  And to this day, high in their luxury condominium in Hallandale, she had never faced the question as to why she did that.  Was it because she didn't want the company to lose its best cutter?  Was she afraid no one would ever ask her to marry him?  Or could it be -- no -- that was ridiculous --- could she have liked, maybe even loved that crazy guy, who found so much to laugh at?

 

     So where was George already.  He'd gone out for his morning walk a little after nine and it was nearly noon.  Making friends all over the complex again.  Probably walking across the freeway to the beach laughing with any child.  With the storekeepers.  Crazy.  Absolutely crazy.  How could he talk to everybody like that?  He talked the same way to their kids and they laughed with him.  That was always so funny.  And he'd hug her in front of the children, always so embarrassing to her she'd duck her head when he would say, "Your mother is never going to admit she's crazy about me."  Ann thought, "He's crazy, that's all there is to it."

 

     And there they were up on the eleventh floor, overlooking the ocean and the inland water way and the plants George had growing out on their patio.  Ann couldn't figure out why she enjoyed their life so much, never loving this man and sometimes ashamed of him.  When their new friends would ask, "So you're retired, George, and what did you do?"  And George would laugh and say, "I worked for my wife's firm, a cutter.  It's really my wife who's retired.  I just came along for the ride."

 

     Ann wished George had the good sense to lie a little.  He didn't have to be this honest.  He could have said that they gave up the manufacturing business and sold out to her kid brother.  But no, not George.  He thought it was funny.  He thought life was funny.  He even laughed about the pace-maker in his chest.  Especially the time they didn't find out for three weeks that the pace-maker hadn't been working, but that his heart must have picked up and taken on the pace-maker's job.

 

     Ann rushed him to the North Miami hospital, but George laughed about it.  "  "It's possible I don't even need the damned thing," he said.  "You're so concerned about using up our Medicaire, you don't want to let them off without some more surgery and another pace-maker."  But Ann was terrified until George was out of surgery.

 

     As she sat near his bed, he opened his eyes and grinned at her.  "Ann," he said.  "We made it again.  Is it time now to admit you don't want to live without me?"  Ann ducked her head, her hair still showing shades of the brick red George loved so much.  "Don't be ridiculous, George," she said.  "Don't talk.  Shh. Take care of yourself."

 

     "Ann," George said.  "Will you make one promise to me, Ann?"  Ann leaned over, tucked his blankets up around his neck and said, "Shh.  Not now."  "Ann," George said.  "Tell me once before I die.  Ann, did you ever love me?"

 

     "Shh," Ann said.  "Don't be ridiculous."

 

     George grinned up at her.  He said, "Ann, don't forget to give my good acutron watch to Danny.  I promised it.  And to Dickie and our first grandchild, be sure to give that crazy diamond ring you gave me because you wanted it to look as though I had money.  I even began to like it.  After awhile, anyway."

 

     "Oh George," Ann said.  "Shh.  Close your eyes now.  Please George.  "Sleep awhile."

 

     George looked up at her.  "You've been getting better looking ever since I met you, Ann,"  he said.  "You never liked your face.  But I love your face, Ann.  And I ways loved you."

 

     "Stop it," Ann said. "I'm going to call the nurse.  You've got to rest."

 

     George closed his eyes.  But there was a smile on his face still.  "I'll rest, Ann, " he said.  "Now.  I'll rest."

 

     Ann sat quietly by his side.  In a minute she could see his chest was still.  It wasn't rising and falling.  The monitor over his bed....oh my god.  "The monitor had stopped.  "Nurse," she screamed.  "Nurse.  Doctor.  Oh my god.  Oh George.....George....I love you.  Don't leave me George.  Don't leave me."

 

     But George had stopped laughing.

 

Copyright Issues

 

This article is copyright, all rights reserved by the author, Bee Baxter Meyer.  It may be reproduced in single copy once for personal use, and in no more than ten copies total for educational purposes.  Fair Use is authorized for all purposes and under conditions established by US Statute and the International Copyright Convention, to which the United States is a signatory nation.  No person shall publish, distribute, copy, or by other means make this material available to others for purposes of personal gain or professional self-aggrandizement.  Individuals wishing permission to exercise other than fair use or limited distribution as outlined above must contact the author, in writing, and receive explicit written permission from the author prior to engaging in further use of this material.

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