Below is a small article about the American sandwich known as the Lobster Roll:
One of the most popular sandwiches created in the United States in the New England dish known as the Lobster Roll. Not only is the latter native to the New England states, but also the Canadian Maritimes.
The sandwich consists of lobster meat served on a grilled hot dog-style bun. The lobster filling is served with the opening on top of the bun, instead of the side. The filling usually consists of lemon juice, salt, black pepper diced celery (or scallions) and melted butter. However, in some parts of New England, the butter is substituted with mayonnaise. Potato chips or french fries are usually served as sides for the sandwich.
According to the “Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink”, the Lobster Roll may have originated in 1929, as a hot dish at a restaurant named Perry’s in Milford, Connecticut. Over the years, the sandwich’s popularity spread up and down the Connecticut coastline, but not far beyond it. In Connecticut, when the sandwich is served warm, it is called a “Lobster Roll”. When served cold, it was called a “Lobster Salad Roll”. Over the decades, the Lobster Roll’s popularity had spread to other states along the Northeastern seaboard. As far back as 1970, chopped lobster meat heated in drawn butter was served on a hot dog bun at road side stands such as Red’s Eats in Maine.
Although it is believed to have originated in Connecticut, the Lobster Roll in the United States is usually associated with the State of Maine. But as I had pointed out, it is commonly available at seafood restaurants in the other New England states and on Eastern Long Island, New York; where lobster fishing is common. The sandwich has also become a staple summer dish throughout the Maritime provinces in Canada, particularly in Nova Scotia, where hamburger buns, baguettes, or other types of bread rolls and even pita pockets are used. The traditional sides are potato chips and dill pickles. McDonald’s restaurants in the New England states and in Canadian provinces such as Nova Scotia and Ontario usually offer Lobster Rolls as a limited edition item during the summer.
*1lbs (or slightly more) cooked lobster meat, keeping 4 of the claw meat intact for garnish *1/4cup finely minced celery *1/4cup best-quality mayonnaise(I prefer Stonewall Kitchen’s Farmhouse Mayo), plus additional to garnish (only if you didn’t get the claw meat out in one piece!) *1/2tsp fresh lemon juice(I literally just squeeze a few drops on the lobster) *Sea salt, only if necessary *Finely ground black pepper, to taste *4 best quality New England-style hot dog rolls *5tbs very soft salted butter *Optional but good – paprika to garnish
1. In a medium bowl, lightly combine the lobster, celery, mayonnaise, and lemon juice. Taste first, seasoning with salt only if necessary and lightly with pepper. Chill until ready to use, but no more than 8 hours in advance.
2. When ready to serve, place a griddle or a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Spread both sides of the rolls with the butter and cook each side until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes per side (check your first roll, I found the bakery rolls browned faster, and it only took slightly more than a minute per side).
3. Fill and mound each roll with the lobster mixture—they will be quite full. Garnish the top of each with a piece of claw meat, or place a little dollop of mayonnaise on top of each roll and sprinkle it with a smidge of paprika or chopped chives. Serve immediately.
Below is my ranking of the episodes from Season One (and the only season so far) of the F/X series called “FEUD”. Titled “Bette and Joan” and created by Ryan Murphy, the season starred Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon:
“FEUD” SEASON ONE – “BETTE AND JOAN” (2017) EPISODE RANKING
1. (1.05) “And the Winner Is… (The Oscars of 1963)” – The fallout from the Oscar nominations for “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” leads to underhanded tactics from Joan Crawford, while co-star Bette Davis relishes the opportunity to break a record.
2. (1.02) “The Other Woman” – With production on “Baby Jane?” underway, Bette and Joan form an alliance, but outside forces in the form of Warner Brothers studio chief Jack Warner, director Robert Aldrich and an unsuspecting bit player conspire against them.
3. (1.07) “Abandoned!” – Following the beginning of production for “Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte”, the feud between Bette and Joan intensifies. Meanwhile, Bette reveals her vulnerabilities to Aldrich during their affair.
4. (1.03) “Mommie Dearest” – The “Baby Jane” production reaches its climax, while Bette and Joan clash over every last detail. And both actresses face private struggles.
5. (1.01) “Pilot” – Cast aside by Hollywood and struggling to maintain their film careers, Bette and Joan sign up for “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” before they commence upon a feud.
6. (1.06) “Hagsploitation” – Hungry for another hit after “Baby Jane?”, Jack Warner pressures Aldrich into bringing the original team back together for a second project – “Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte”. Meanwhile, Joan receives a surprising blackmail threat from her brother.
7. (1.08) “You Mean All This Time We Could Have Been Friends?” – In this finale, Joan accepts a leading role on a new film (her last one), despite her deteriorating health. Faced with a possible new rival, Bette reflects on her misplaced feud with Joan.
8. (1.04) “More or Less” – When “Baby Jane?” opens in movie theaters, Bette and Joan face uncertain prospects, Aldrich deals with his own personal and professional difficulties, and his assistant Pauline Jameson makes a surprising offer.
I finally got around to watching the first of two movies about writer Truman Capote and his work on the non-fiction novel, “In Cold Blood”. This particular movie, “CAPOTE”, starred Philip Seymour Hoffman, who eventually won a SAG award, a Golden Globe award and an Oscar for his performance.
Penned by actor Dan Futterman and directed by Bennett Miller, “CAPOTE” turned out to be a more somber affair than its 2006 counterpart, “INFAMOUS”. Miller had once commented that he wanted to create a more subtle portrait of the flamboyant author in order to emphasize on Capote’s lonely and alienated state . . . despite his relationships with authors, Nelle Harper Lee (Catherine Keener) and Jack Dunphy (Bruce Greenwood); and his popularity with New York high society. This subtle approach not only permeated the movie’s tone and pace, it also affected the cast’s performances – especially Hoffman and Clifton Collins Jr., as Perry Smith.
I do not know if I would have automatically given Philip Seymour Hoffman that Oscar for his performance as Truman Capote. I am still inclined toward Heath Ledger receiving the award for his performance in “BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN”. But I must admit that Hoffman certainly deserved his nomination. He managed to skillfully portray Capote’s ambition and determination to create a literary masterpiece from the real life murders surrounding the Herb Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. Hoffman also revealed how Capote used his charm to manipulate others . . . especially Perry Smith. Catherine Keener earned both BAFTA and Academy Award nominations for her warm portrayal of “To Kill Mockingbird” author, Nelle Harper Lee. Granted, she deserved her nominations and I especially enjoyed how she managed to project a mixture of friendly warmth, reserve and moral fortitude in her performance. But I could not help but wonder if she could receive acting nominations, why not Clifton Collins, Jr.?
It seemed a shame that more praise had not been heaped upon Clifton Collins’ shoulders for his portrayal of the intense and soft-spoken convicted murderer, Perry Smith. His scenes with Hoffman gave the movie an extra bite of emotionalism that saved it from being too subtle. Like Daniel Craig’s performance of Smith in “INFAMOUS”, Collins brought an interesting balance of soft-spoken politeness and intense danger in his performance. Well . . . almost. The real KBI investigator in charge of the Clutter case, Alvin Dewey, had once described Perry Smith as a quiet, intense and dangerous man. In “CAPOTE”, Smith’s own sister had warned Capote that despite her brother’s quiet and polite demeanor, he was easily capable of committing the crimes against the Clutters. And yet, I never did sense any real danger in Collins’ performance. Not quite. Except in two scenes – namely his confrontation with Capote over the “In Cold Blood” title; and the flashbacks revealing the Clutters’ murders. The ironic thing is that I suspect that Collins was not to blame. I suspect that Miller’s direction and Futterman’s script simply did not really allow Collins to reveal Smith’s more dangerous aura.
All of this led to what became my main problem with “CAPOTE” – namely the somber subtlety that seemed to permeate the production. Not only did the director’s desire to create a subtle film seem to mute Collins’ potential for a more balanced portrayal of Perry Smith, it also forced Hoffman to hold back some of Capote’s more flamboyant traits. I am quite certain that this was both the director and the screenwriter’s intentions. But I also feel that this deliberate attempt at subtlety may have robbed both the Capote and Smith characters of a more balanced nuance. It also denied the audience a deeper look into Capote’s New York lifestyle and bogged down the movie’s pacing in the end. During the last thirty or forty minutes, I found myself begging for the movie to end.
But despite the movie’s “too somber” mood and pacing, “CAPOTE” is an excellent movie and I would highly recommend it for viewing.
Below is a small article about the French dessert known as Tarte Tatin aux Pommes:
TARTE TATIN AUX POMMES
I love Apple Pie. I love it more than any other dessert on Earth . . . well, aside from donuts. I thought there was only one kind of apple pie. Which goes to show how limiting my thinking could be. And I eventually discovered when I learned about the French dessert, Tarte Tatin aux Pommes.
The Tarte Tatin aux Pommes is a pastry that consists of fruit, usually apples, is caramelized in butter and sugar before it is baked as a tart. The apples originally used for the dessert came from two regional varieties – Reine des Reinettes (Queen of the Pippins), and Calville. Over the years, other apple varieties have been used, including Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji and Gala. When choosing apples for a Tarte Tatin aux Pommes, it is important to pick a type that will hold their shape while cooking, and not melt into apple sauce. In North America, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, or Jonathan have proven to be popular choices. The Tarte Tatin can also be made with pears, quinces, peaches, pineapple, and tomatoes. Other fruit and vegetables like an onion can also be used. The Tarte Tatin aux Pommes should be made with puff or shortcrust pastry.
The creation of the Tarte Tatin aux Pommes proved to be an accident. The dessert was created at a hotel called Hôtel Tatin, located in the commune of Lamotte-Beuvron, 200 miles south of Paris, France. The Hotel Tatin was owned by two sisters named Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin during the 1880s. The most common tale about the dessert’s origin is that Stéphanie, who did most of the hotel’s cooking, had started to make a traditional apple pie. But feeling overworked, she left the apples cooking in butter and sugar too long. Realizing that the apples and butter might be in danger of burning, Stéphanie tried to rescue the dish by putting the pastry base on top of the pan of apples, quickly finishing the cooking by putting the whole pan in the oven. After turning out the upside down tart, she was surprised to find how much the hotel guests appreciated the dessert. There is another origin tale for the dessert. In it, Stéphanie had baked a caramelized apple tart upside-down by mistake. She went ahead and served the hotel’s guests the unusual dish. Whatever the veracity of either story, the concept of the upside down tart was new in the 1880s. For instance, patissier Antonin Carême had mentioned glazed gâteaux renversés adorned with apples from Rouen or other fruit in his 1841 book, “Pâtissier Royal Parisien”.
The tarte eventually became a signature dish of the Hôtel Tatin. Many historians and gourmets have argued whether it is a genuine creation of the Tatin sisters or the branding of an improved version of the “Tarte Solognote”, a traditional dish named after the Sologne region which surrounds Lamotte-Beuvron. Research suggests that, while the Tarte Tatin aux Pommes became a specialty of the Hôtel Tatin, the sisters did not set out to create a “signature dish”. They had never written a cookbook or published their recipe. The sisters never even called it Tarte Tatin aux Pommes. That recognition was bestowed upon them after their deaths by Curnonsky, famous French author and epicure, as well as the Parisian restaurant Maxim’s.
Below is a classic recipe for Tarte Tatin aux Pommes from the Epicurious website:
Tarte Tatin aux Pommes
*Frozen puff pastry sheet (from a 17 1/4-ounce package) *1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened *1/2 cup sugar *7 to 9 Gala apples (3 to 4 pounds), peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cored
*A well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Roll pastry sheet into a 101/2-inch square on a floured work surface with a floured rolling pin. Brush off excess flour and cut out a 10-inch round with a sharp knife, using a plate as a guide. Transfer round to a baking sheet and chill.
Spread butter thickly on bottom and side of skillet and pour sugar evenly over bottom. Arrange as many apples as will fit vertically on sugar, packing them tightly in concentric circles. Apples will stick up above rim of skillet.
Cook apples over moderately high heat, undisturbed, until juices are deep golden and bubbling, 18 to 25 minutes. (Don’t worry if juices color unevenly.)
Put skillet in middle of oven over a piece of foil to catch any drips. Bake 20 minutes (apples will settle slightly), then remove from oven and lay pastry round over apples. Bake tart until pastry is browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer skillet to a rack and cool at least 10 minutes.
Just before serving, invert a platter with lip over skillet and, using potholders to hold skillet and plate tightly together, invert tart onto platter. Replace any apples that stick to skillet. (Don’t worry if there are black spots; they won’t affect the flavor of the tart.) Brush any excess caramel from skillet over apples. Serve immediately.
*Tart can cool in skillet up to 30 minutes. It can also stand, uncovered, up to 5 hours, then be heated over moderately low heat 1 to 2 minutes to loosen caramel. Shake skillet gently to loosen tart before inverting.
Below is a list of my favorite television productions (so far) that are set in the 1900s and the 1910s:
FAVORITE TELEVISION PRODUCTIONS SET IN THE 1900s AND 1910s
1. “Howards End” (2017) – Hayley Atwell and Matthew McFadyen starred in this superb and underrated adaptation of E.M. Forster’s 1910 novel about class conflict in Edwardian Britain. Written by Kenneth Lonergan and directed by Hettie MacDonald, the miniseries co-starred Philippa Coulthard and Joseph Quinn.
2. “Ellis Island” (1984) – Jerry London directed this excellent adaptation of Fred Mustard Stewart’s 1983 novel about the lives of four immigrants in New York City between 1907 and 1917. The three-part miniseries starred Peter Reigert, Gregory Martin, Faye Dunaway and Richard Burton.
3. “The Good Soldier” (1981) – Robin Ellis, Susan Fleetwood, Jeremy Brett and Vickery Turner starred in this excellent adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s 1915 novel about the lives of two couples at a German spa and resort. Kevin Billington directed.
4. “An Inspector Calls” (2015) – David Thewlis starred in this first-rate adaptation of J.B. Priestley’s 1945 stage play about a police inspector’s investigation of a wealthy family’s connection to a working-class who had committed suicide. Aisling Walsh directed.
5. “The Irish R.M.” (1983-1985) – Peter Bowles and Doran Godwin starred in this very entertaining adaptation of E. Somerville and M. Ross’ series of novels about the experiences of a former British Army officer who becomes a registered magistrate in turn-of-the-century western Ireland.
6. “The Flame Trees of Thika” (1981) – Roy Ward Baker directed this interesting adaptation of Elspeth Huxley’s 1959 memoirs about British settlers in 1913-14 Kenya. The miniseries starred Hayley Mills, Holly Aird and David Robb.
7. “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” (1992-1993) – George Lucas created this television series about the childhood and adolescent experiences of Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones. Sean Patrick Flanery and Corey Carrier starred as the future archaeologist during two periods in his life.
8. “Berkeley Square” (1998) – Suzanne van de Velde created this limited series about the lives of three young women employed as nannies for wealthy families living on exclusive Berkeley Square. Clare Wilkie, Victoria Smurfit and Tabitha Wady starred.
9. “Titanic” (1996) – Robert Lieberman directed this two-part miniseries about the experiences of several characters during the doomed maiden voyage of the R.M.S. Titanic. Peter Gallagher, Catherine Zeta-Jones and George C. Scott starred.
10. “S.O.S. Titanic”(1979) – William Hale directed this television movies about the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic from the perspective of three distinct groups of passengers in First, Second, and Third Class. David Janssen, Cloris Leachman, Susan Saint James and David Warner starred.
Honorable Mentioned – “Parade’s End” (2012) – Tom Stoppard wrote this adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s tetralogy of his 1924-1928 novels about the experiences of three people during the late Edwardian Age and World War I. Benedict Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hall and Adelaide Clemens starred in this five-part miniseries.
Here is the sequel to the personal logs of Tom Paris, set around Voyager’s first year in the Delta Quadrant:
“THE HELMSMAN’S LOG – 2371”
STARDATE 48671.28 – Just came back from a date with Megan Delaney. Alone, this time. We had an intimate little dinner at a romantic restaurant on Gerdi Prime, inside Holodeck Two. After supper, we enjoyed a walk along the beach, followed by a nightcap inside my quarters.
Ah, Megan! Such a nice, calm person, in compare to her sister, Jenny. There were times when she almost reminds me of . . . Shit! What the hell is wrong with me? I just enjoyed a pleasant night with a beautiful and intelligent woman and all I can think about is our cook’s girlfriend. Kes. God, will I ever stop thinking about her? Or better yet, will she ever dump Neelix? End personal log.
STARDATE 48695.34 – I nearly lost Harry, today. While enjoying his Beowulf holonovel, Harry was captured by a photonic being that had been accidentally brought aboard the ship. Apparently, while we were gathering energy from a photostar. The being took refuge inside Harry’s Beowulf program and later captured him. It also captured Tuvok and Chakotay, after they had been sent to investigate Harry’s disappearance. In the end, the Captain sent the Doctor to rescue our missing officers. Thankfully, the Doc succeeded and received a special commendation for his troubles. Now, if only the Captain could order Torres to do something about his personality subroutines. End personal log.
STARDATE 48733.51 – Voyager had a strange encounter with something out of one of those old “B” movies that I usually enjoy. While investigating some dark nebula, Tuvok and Chakotay’s shuttle was attacked. Tuvok only sustained minor injuries, while the good Commander ended up brain dead. His bio-neural energy had been removed from him.
It turned out worse than we thought. Some trianic energy being had possessed Tuvok, in an attempt to convince the Captain to investigate this dark nebula matter. The being belonged to a race called the Komar, who wanted the crew’s bio-neural energy as substance for his people. Meanwhile, another entity began invading the minds of other crewmen – including mine – in an attempt to prevent Voyager from entering that nebula. This second entity turned out to be Chakotay’s bio-neural energy, displaced by the Komar’s attack. Just great! My brain nearly became food for a bunch of non-corporeal beings and was twice possessed by the Great Spirit Chief, himself. Oh well, at least we managed to escape the nebula and the Komar. End personal log.
STARDATE 48736.53 – This afternoon, Neelix had decided to hold a little celebration in honor of Chakotay’s recovery and our near escape from the Komar. Jesus, this guy would just about hold a party for anything. Not that I mind. The more parties, the better. I suspect that this was Neelix’s way of celebrating Kes’s recovery from an attack by the Komar-possessed Tuvok. Hmmm. Certainly not a bad reason to celebrate, in my book.
Captain Janeway and the Maquis seemed to be the only ones really celebrating. I guess they need something to celebrate after Seska’s humiliating revelation. Well, most of the Maquis seemed happy. I noticed B’Elanna Torres, sitting by herself and shooting jealous looks at the very chummy Captain Janeway and Chakotay. My God! Is that little infatuation of hers, still going on? Doesn’t she realize that Chakotay is not her type? Too bad Harry is still mooning over his lost love, Libby. Quite frankly, he would make a better choice for Torres. Of course, I don’t exactly relish sharing Harry’s time with her. (Beep, beep) That must be Megan. I forgot that she was coming by for drinks, tonight. End personal log.
STARDATE 48766.73 – Not much happened today. Voyager investigated a Class J nebula – one of many we have encountered since our arrival in the Delta Quadrant. The only interesting thing that happened was a minor conversation with Kes in the Mess Hall. We discussed some our favorite foods. One of hers happens to be something called Lokar beans. I told her about tomato soup (something those damn replicators still haven’t got right) and peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches. My ultimate comfort food. By then, even Neelix got into the conversation. I don’t know if this was his way of keeping an eye on Kes and me, or merely just genuine interest. At least we managed to exchange a few words without any hostility or suspicion from him. End personal log.
STARDATE 48777.42 – Another dull day in the Delta Quadrant. I guess every day can’t be an exciting encounter with a new species. Voyager stumbled into the Avery system. It seemed to consist of several Class M planets. The Captain, in one of her bouts of “science exploration”, decided she wanted an investigation of magnacite formations on some of the planets.
I was assigned to explore the planet, Avery III with Pete Durst and B’Elanna Torres. Voyager should rendezvous with us in two days. I guess it won’t be that bad. Pete’s okay. He was one of the few crewmen who had been friendly toward me from the beginning. And as for Torres – well, we have managed to strike up a cordial relationship in the last five or six weeks. Hell, it’s a lot better than spending two days with Chakotay or Neelix. End personal log.
STARDATE 48790.33 – Oh God! I simply don’t know where to begin! I feel as if I had taken part in some bizarre horror vid from the 20th century. Sigh! Might as well get it over with.
While investigating magnacite formations on Avery III with Durst and Torres, we were captured by Vidiians. That’s right. The same species who had stolen Neelix’s lungs, three months ago. These Vidiians didn’t simply steal our organs. They forced Pete and myself to become part of their slave labor. I had no idea what happened to B’Elanna. Until the following day. It seemed some Vidiian doctor named Sulan had extracted her Klingon DNA, leaving her completely Human. How gruesome!
I still remember the shock of seeing B’Elanna completely Human for the first time. Oddly enough, I was too surprised by the change to notice her looks. I must admit that she looked beautiful. But then, I’ve always thought she made a beautiful Klingon/Human hybrid. Not only had her looks changed, but her personality, as well. Gone was the tough and temperamental woman and in her place, an emotional and sad woman, driven by fear. I guess the trauma of her situation drove her to be a little more open about her past. She told me about her childhood on Kessik IV and how she blamed her Klingon side for driving her father away. She has not seen him in nearly twenty years. If that’s true, the man is an idiot. (Pauses) I think I’m getting a little personal, here. Anyway, I tried to comfort her with a little revelation of my own. I told her about the haircuts Dad used to enforce upon me, at the beginning of every summer. I don’t think it worked. Then again . . . she did smile a little.
Then everything went from bad to worse. The Vidiian guards took Pete Durst away. That was the last time I saw him. I tried to prevent the guards from taking him, but they didn’t want me. Can’t blame them, I guess. Who would? I later found out that they didn’t want Pete to send a message to Voyager. Instead, that monster, Dr. Sulan had Pete’s face grafted upon his. The guards came back for B’Elanna, leaving me feel even more useless. God only know how long I would have remained part of the slave labor force, if Chakotay hadn’t shown up, disguised as a Vidiian. Too bad we couldn’t take the Talaxian with us, but the guards were even reluctant to let me go. We found two B’Elannas being confronted by Dr. Sulan, with Pete’s face plastered to his skin. I don’t know what shocked me more – seeing both a Klingon and a Human B’Elanna at the same time, Dr. Sulan, or witnessing Klingon B’Elanna’s death after she saved her counterpart’s life. Too bad she died. I would have liked to have known her. End personal log.
STARDATE 48791.56 – I still can’t help thinking about that Away mission on Avery III. To me, it’s a reminder of my failure as a Starfleet officer. I can’t help but wonder what I could have done to avoid capture or save Pete. I had a dream about it, several hours ago. At one point, Human B’Elanna’s face transformed into the dying Klingon B’Elanna’s, and eventually into Dr. Sulan, with Pete’s face. I woke up in a sweat, after that. Unable to sleep, I decided to head for Sick Bay to pay B’Elanna a visit. She still looked Human. Unfortunately, Chakotay was also there. And since they seemed to be sharing a tender moment, I didn’t want to interrupt. Oh well. Perhaps I can read myself to sleep. End personal log.
STARDATE 48799.76 – I finally spoke with B’Elanna. She came to my table, while I was eating a late dinner in the Mess Hall, last night. We were the only ones there. She looked normal. Her Klingon traits had returned, ridges and all. B’Elanna told me what happened to her on Avery III. Apparently, Dr. Sulan had used a genetron to remove her Klingon DNA, creating two B’Elannas in the process – one Klingon and one Human. He fell in love with the Klingon Human and used Pete’s face to woo her. He must have been a sick man. Sulan also needed a full-blooded Klingon to test his theory that Klingon physiology was resistant to their phage. As it turned out, he was right.
B’Elanna told me that after her Klingon couterpart’s death, she had assumed she would remain completely Human. I guess the Doc ruined that dream when he informed her that he needed to restore her original genetic structure, using Klingon B’Elanna’s DNA. She seemed disappointed that she would never be completely Human. I’m not. Although I found both her Human and Klingon selves to be beautiful, she seems more interesting as a hybrid. I even told her so. My little remark managed to produce a small smile, but I could tell that she didn’t draw much comfort from it. I hope that one day, she will learn to appreciate her true self. She can really be fascinating. Now, if only I can learn to do the same about myself. Hmmm, fat chance of that ever happening.
Anyway, B’Elanna thanked me for supporting her during our captivity. We also discussed Pete Durst, whose face is now grafted upon that mad bastard’s own face. When I asked if she would like to accompany me to Sandrine’s, she declined. B’Elanna told me that she needed more rest. Oh well. At least we’ve finally buried the hatchet between us and can finally become good friends. I guess that’s one thing I can be grateful about Avery III. End personal log.
STARDATE 48804.91 – God, I’m exhausted! Not a surprise, since I had my sleep interrupted by a call from the Bridge. Crewman Henley failed to show up for Gamma shift. Again. This is the third time in two months. I had to give her a personal reprimand the last two times. Last night, I personally roused Henley from bed and ordered her to report to the Bridge. Or consider herself on report. After a fifteen minute debate, which ended with me threatening her with the Brig, she complied. I really don’t know what to do with her. I can’t threaten her with the Brig, forever. I also realize that she resents being stuck on a Starfleet vessel, thousands of light years away from home. But one day, she will have to realize that she has very little options. End personal log.
STARDATE 48837.63 – Voyager stopped at an M-class called Napinne. Pleasant little place. And the inhabitants were also pleasant. Harry, B’Elanna and myself visited the surface for a few hours, while the Captain, Neelix and Chakotay set about obtaining food supplies. With the fruits and vegetables now growing in the Hydropondics Bay, hopefully Voyager won’t be so dependent upon food supplies from other planets, stations and ships in the near future. End personal log.
STARDATE 48840.42 – Once more, Crewman Henley failed to appear for her duty shift. This time, I put her on report. Not long after I finished Alpha shift today, Chakotay requested my presence in his office. To discuss Henley, unsurprisingly. He wanted me to reconsider my decision to put Henley on report. Give her a chance to fit in with the crew. Then he bored me with some speech about Starfleet officers learning how to lead subordinates. Something that already bored me to tears during Command school. The big hypocrite! I can’t believe this is the same man who had gave me nothing but grief since we first laid eyes upon each other. Hell, I’ve been giving Henley a chance for six months! At least until now. Like it or not, both she and Chakotay were going to have to live with that reprimand on her record. Being an ex-Maquis, I doubt that Henley even cared. End personal log.
STARDATE 48845.9 – After Tuvok’s encounter with Ken Dalby, the Captain has ordered Henley, Dalby and a few others to undergo basic Starfleet training, under Tuvok. Poor bastards! Meanwhile, various ship malfunctions have plagued the crew, since leaving Napinne. Something to do with the bio-gel packs. End personal log.
STARDATE 48854.3 – Life aboard Voyager has returned to normal, thank goodness. No more malfunctions for the time being. The Captain ordered the ship’s systems to overheat, in order to kill the virus that had infected the gel packs. My God, the Bridge almost felt like a furnace! For a while, I wondered if I would ever be able to breathe again. All thanks to that damn cheese Neelix had purchased during our stay on Napinne.
Henley and the others are still undergoing their field training. Must be working, since Henley has reported for duty without any problems. She also requested additional training in shuttle maneuvers in the holodeck. We’ll probably never be friends, but thank goodness I no longer have a troublemaker on my hands. End personal log.
STARDATE 48892.4 – Harry told me an unusual tale. The Doctor’s programming and the holodeck systems had malfunctioned, thanks to the kino-plastic radiation from a anomaly that Voyager came across. While stuck in one of the holodecks for six hours, the Doctor believed he was a real person named Lewis Zimmerman and that Voyager and the crew were all a holographic simulation. He even thought Kes was his wife. Sigh! I knew it. I’ve always suspected that the Doc had eyes for our favorite Ocampan. And this only proves it. Kes is quickly becoming quite the little heartbreaker on this ship. She has already captured mine. End personal log.
STARDATE 48921.4 – This has certainly been a day to remember! I’ve just spent hours at the Helm, dodging a swarm of . . . hell, I don’t what they were! Some kind of life forms that resembled a . . . Okay, they resembled human sperm. There! I said it. I only hope that Starfleet Command never get a hold of this log. Although the creatures resembled sperm, they had mistaken Voyager as some kind of sexual mate. Even worse, they began draining energy from the ship’s systems, in their attempt to procreate. More problems appeared when a large creature appeared also began to regard Voyager as a mate. Jeez! I didn’t realize the ship looked that desirable! Both Torres and Tuvok wanted to destroy the creature, but Chakoay suggested that Voyager mimic the smaller ones, giving the impression to the large creature that we have no interest in procreation with space born creatures. Ha! Sex in the Delta Quadrant!
Speaking of sex, the Captain made a joke to the Commander about referring to expertise whenever the subject of procreation appears. It wasn’t the joke that caught my attention, but the way she said. I do believe our captain was flirting. The look on B’Elanna’s face was certainly memorable. She seemed completely shocked. When I brought up the topic in the Mess Hall, she gave me a death glare that rivaled the mighty Janeway herself. I see that she still has that crush on Chakotay. God, when will it ever end?
Then again, who am I to complain? I still have feelings for Kes. In my case, I can say that it’s more than a crush. Before our encounter with the swarm, I helped her gather Oblissian cabbages from the Hydropondics Bay. On our way to the turbolift, we encountered Chakotay, along with Ensigns Bennett and Gallagher. It seems the good Commander caught them “fraternizing” in the turbolift. Hmm, perhaps the Captain was right about him being the right man to solicit advice about procreation. End personal log.
STARDATE 48925.38 – Plenty of surprises awaited me, when I found Kes in the Hydropondics Bay, following my shift. First surprise – Ensign Sam Wildman from the Science Division is pregnant. It seems that Ensign Wildman, who happened to be a very nice lady, had left behind a Ktarian husband on Deep Space Nine. Considering how flat her stomach looked, my first guess was that she sought solace in the arms of a crewman, here on board Voyager. After all, Voyager has been in the Delta Quadrant for over seven months, now. But according to Kes, the embroyo is definitely half-Ktarian. Perhaps Ktarians have a longer gestation period.
The other surprise? Kes informed me that the electrophoretic activity from the swarm, yesterday, had sped up her elogium. Namely, the sexual maturation for Ocampan females. They usually go through this phase between the ages of four and five. And since this elogium would have been Kes’ only shot at conception, she asked Neelix to mate with her.
Neelix and Kes as parents. Good grief! Now there’s an image that makes me shudder! At first, Neelix felt reluctant. Hell, if I had known, I would have offered Kes my services. However, Neelix eventually agreed to mate with her, but she changed her mind, after realizing that she was not ready for parenthood. Kes’ elogium ended when Voyager left the swarm behind. I thought she had lost her chance at motherhood and was prepared to console her. But Kes assured me that her elogium was false and the real phase will probably return after her fourth birthday. I only hope that she and Neelix are no longer a twosome by then. I realize it’s a rotten thing to say, but I can’t help feeling they’re wrong for each other. End personal log.
STARDATE 48946 – God, I must really be pathetic! While playing pool with Harry and B’Elanna in Sandrine’s, last night, I spotted Kes and Neelix cuddling around a corner table, happy as pie. Depressing sight. In typical Tom fashion, I decided to hide my disappointment by flirting with nearly every female in sight. Except with B’Elanna, of course. One doesn’t flirt with a close friend. I guess the old Paris charm must have worked. Later that night, I ended up in bed with Yoshi Kyoto. After I “subtly” sneaked out of bed this morning, Yoshi caught me. She assured me that she wasn’t looking for a permanent relationship. I’m relieved . . . but now, I also feel like a complete shit. End personal log.
STARDATE 48964.07 – Today was Kes’ birthday. Sigh! Kes’ birthday. Huh. All I can say is that it certainly didn’t turn out the way I had expected. Not long after we surprised her with a party inside Sandrine’s, Voyager encountered a distortion ring that transformed the ship into a labyrinth. First, the Captain, Chakotay and I got lost, while searching for the Bridge. We ended back inside Holodeck One. Later, Torres and I used the turbolift to reach Engineering. To my surprise, we were fortunate. Thanks to the distortion ship, B’Elanna almost walked in on Crewman Nozawa inside his quarters, dressed only in his skivvies. Let’s just say it the first time I ever saw a Klingon woman blush. A sight, I suspect, I’ll never see again.
The distortion ring proved to be the third or fourth non-corporeal life form we’ve encountered since our arrival in the Delta Quadrant. And all it wanted to do was greet us and exchange information. Hell of a way to say hello. Both B’Elanna and Chakotay nearly came to blows with Tuvok on how to stop the distortion ring. In the end, Tuvok had the best suggestion. Do nothing.
Kes’ birthday party turned out to be a disappointment. I gave her a gold filigree locket as a present. She seemed stunned by it – much to my delight. That delight didn’t last. After our encounter with the distortion ring, the party eventually resumed. Kes, who had been worried by Neelix’s disappearance, declared that she wanted a photo of him, inside her locket. Great! Just great! A photo of Neelix’s mug will be inside the locket I gave her. Even worse, I had to stand there on the Bridge and hold Kes’ birthday cake, while she and Neelix locked lips.
Sigh! I’m beginning to think that my feelings for Kes are just as hopeless as B’Elanna’s feelings toward Chakotay. But I can’t help it. All I can do is hope that she realizes one day that Neelix is not the man for her. End personal log.
STARDATE 48972.4 – Voyager came across an old 1936 Chevy truck, here in the Delta Quadrant! Being a connoisseur of anything 20th century Earth, my heart nearly leapt with excitement at the sight of that old vehicle. I even got a chance to demonstrate how the truck’s engine worked, once Harry tractor it to Voyager. I don’t think he, the Captain and the others appreciated the noise or the carbon monoxide.
The truck also emitted an old S-O-S signal that led us to an L-Class planet not far away. The trinimbic interference in the planet’s upper atmosphere made the shuttles and the transporters, ineffective. So, the Captain ordered me to land Voyager on the planet’s surface. All I can say that it was one of the most thrilling moments in my life. And I did it without a hitch.
The Captain, Harry and members of the Away team not only found a Lockheed Electra aircraft (which I would have loved to get my hands on), but several Humans in cryostasis. Kes and I later joined the Captain and Harry for a closer inspection. Would you believe it? Among the Humans were the legendary pilot, Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan. It seemed she, Noonan and the other Humans had been abducted from Earth by aliens over 400 years ago, during the late 1930s. Voyager has discovered the mystery of Earhart’s disappearance. If only the Alpha Quadrant knew. Noonan proved to be a paranoid who managed to hold us hostage. The Captain eventually convinced him and Miss Earhart that we meant them no harm. Also, a group of aliens had fired upon Tuvok, Chakotay and another Away team. Harry told me that after the Captain disarmed them, she discovered that they were also Humans. Boy! Things really seemed to be heating up! End personal log.
STARDATE 48974.55 – I did it. I decided to remain aboard Voyager and continue the journey to the Alpha Quadrant. I’m probably the only crewman, who has a good reason to remain on New Earth. Well, it’s not really called New Earth, but that’s what most of the crew has decided to name the planet.
It seemed the planet’s original inhabitants, a race called the Briori, were the ones responsible for abducting Amelia Earhart, Noonan and 289 other Humans from Earth. They brought the Humans to this planet to serve as slave labor. However, the slaves revolted, killed the Briori and established a new civilization. Hence, New Earth. I even managed to visit one of the cities. It really surprised me on how it closely resembled San Francisco. Maybe that was the reason I had decided not to remain behind. It simply reminded me too much of Earth. Too much of the bad times I had endured. But I must admit that Kes’ decision to remain aboard Voyager played a part in my decision. Along with the feeling that I could not abandon the Captain. Not after all she has done for me.
I also got a chance to show Miss Earhart, Voyager’s helm. I don’t know about her, but I got a big thrill. Miss Earhart, Mr. Noonan and the other “37s” (the original ones abducted), decided to remain on New Earth. I wish them all the luck in the world. Meanwhile, not one member of the crew decided to remain behind. Hmmm. I thought at least the Maquis crewmen would consider. I guess not. End personal log.
STARDATE 48999.17 – New Year’s Eve. Huh. I can’t remember the last time I celebrated the New Year. Oh yeah, it happened two years ago and I was at this casino on Perdon Gel. With that . . . Gods, what was her name? Damn! I don’t even remember.
Anyway, the Captain gave us permission to celebrate the arrival of 2372 at Sandrine’s. Neelix has even volunteered to create a few delicacies to entertain the crew. In defense of our stomachs, the Conn Division pooled their replicator rations to provide refreshments not cooked by Neelix. I’m sure the crew will thank us. Meanwhile, I have to shower and change for the party. I’m suppose to take Marie Kaplan and I’m already running late. If I don’t return until tomorrow, Happy New Year! End personal log.
“THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN” (2003) Review
Comic novel writer Alan Moore must have a legion of fans to rival or maybe even surpass Marvel Comics icon, Stan Lee. I have noticed that whenever one of his comic creations is adapted as a motion picture, many of these fans seemed to crawl out of the woodworks to express their judgment on the finished film. This certainly proved to be the case for 2003’s “THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN”.
Based upon Moore’s comic series, “THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN” followed the adventures of famous 19th century literary characters that became part of a league to stop a madman named the Fantom from starting and profiting from a major world war, during the summer of 1899. Among the members of the new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen are:
*Allan Quartermain, British big game hunter and explorer *Captain Nemo, the Indian pirate/captain of the Nautilus and inventor *The Invisible Man aka Rodney Skinner, invisible thief *Mina Harker, British chemist/widow of Jonathan Harker and vampire *Dorian Gray, British gentleman and immortal *Dr. Henry Jekyll/Mr. Edward Hyde, British scientist/evil alter ego *Tom Sawyer, American Secret Service agent
The story begins in the spring of 1899 with an attack upon the Bank of England by men dressed in German Army uniforms, using explosives and automated weapons. A month later, men dressed in British Army uniforms, attack a Zeppelin factory, using the same or similar weapons. Both the British and German Empires seemed to be on the verge of war. A British government emissary arrives in British East Africa to recruit the famous big game hunter and explorer Allan Quartermain to investigate. Quatermain expresses disinterest in the mission, until some armed men attack a gentleman’s club in order to assassinate him. Upon his arrival in London, Quartermain learns from his new boss, a mysterious government official named “M”, the latter’s plans to form a new version of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in order to thwart the war mongering plans of the Fantom. According to “M”, the Fantom plans to start a war and profit from it by blowing up Venice, Italy during its Festival.
While recruiting the immortal Dorian Gray at his home, the League is attacked by the Fantom and his men. During the attack, the League acquires a new member, an American Secret Service agent named Tom Sawyer. As the League sets out to recruit Dr. Henry Jekyll/Mr. Hyde in Paris and later for Venice aboard the Nautilus, Nemo’s submarine; they remain unaware that the Fantom’s plans to start a world war involves more than just blowing up a major city. His plans also involve acquiring and selling the League’s collective skills as weapons of war.
I have never read Alan Moore’s comic series. Nor do I have plans to read it. In fact, I have not laid eyes upon a comic book or novel since the age of nine. For me, comparing Moore’s story to the movie adaptation seemed irrelevant to me. But I can give an opinion of the movie. What did I think of it? Well, I had enjoyed it when I first saw it, eight years ago. And I still continue to enjoy it, whenever I view my DVD copy.
Mind you, “THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN” was not perfect. One, I never understood the reasoning behind the Fantom’s attack upon the League members at Dorian Gray’s home . . . especially since he proved to be so interested in acquiring or stealing their skills/talents. My second problem concerned a certain invention created by Captain Nemo – namely an automobile. I realize that the movie was set in an alternate 1899. I also understand that Nemo’s character was supposed to be the creator of various inventions a’la Jules Verne. What I did not understand was how Tom Sawyer knew how to drive Nemo’s car throughout the streets of Venice at top speed, without any previous experience behind the wheel. Three, I found Quartermain’s description of American shooting (“buckaroo” that shoots too fast without any real accuracy) not only ludicrous, but false. Who on earth came up with this opinion in the first place? My father, who had been an expert shot in the military, immediately dismissed Quartermain’s description of American gunmanship, claiming that he had been taught to utilize patience for long distance shooting. My final beef has to do with Dan Laustsen’s photography for the movie’s exterior shots. Quite frankly, I found it unnecessarily dark. The only exterior scenes or shots that featured any bright light were the sequences set in British East Africa and aboard Captain Nemo’s submarine, the Nautilus, while above surface. All other exterior shots were either at night, in the rain or overcast. I have the deepest suspicion that all of this was done to save money on the exterior scenes.
However, despite my complaints or those by the fans were disappointed with the movie’s adaptation, I enjoyed “THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN” very much. Hell, I saw it twice when it first reached the movie theaters, eight years ago. And the moment it was released on DVD, I immediately bought it. It may not have been the perfect adaptation of Alan Moore’s comic series, but I thought that it had a pretty damn good story, thanks to screenwriter James Dale Robinson.
One, I like stories about friends or colleagues that form a team to achieve a goal that involves a great deal of action. For me, “THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN” is like a 19th century forerunner of The Justice League of America or The Avengers. And I have to give credit to Moore for coming up with the idea of using 19th century literary characters as members of the team and the story’s main villain. I found it very innovative. Many fans and critics had complained that with Sean Connery in the role of Allan Quartermain, the latter seemed to dominate the film. I agree that Connery’s Quartermain turned out to be the movie’s main character. But I do not agree that he dominated the movie. The other supporting characters were given a good number of chances to strut their stuff . . . so to speak. If anything, the movie seemed to have a strong, ensemble feel to it. This was especially apparent by the time the Nautilus reached Venice.
Speaking of Venice, the movie seemed to reach a turning point by the time the League reached it. During Nautilus’ voyage between Paris and Venice, the story showcased the numerous conflicts and jealousies that the team seemed to engage, as they became more acquainted with one another. But when forced to work together to foil the Fantom’s plans to destroy Venice, all conflicts were thrown aside and the League worked together as a very effective team. Venice also represented a major plot twist in the story. It is in Venice, when the League discovered a traitor within its midst . . . and the fact that they had been betrayed on a major scale by the Fantom. Personally, I found it to be one of the most satisfying aspects of the movie.
I read an article that Stephen Norrington had a great deal of trouble with Sean Connery and vowed to give up directing. Needless to say that despite the conflict between director and star, the latter gave one of his more poignant performances as the aging hunter who has become disenchanted with the British Empire, after his service to it has caused him so much loss. I was also impressed by Naseeruddin Shah’s portrayal of the intrepid Captain Nemo. He seemed to be the only member of the cast who seemed as commanding as Connery. I also enjoyed Peta Wilson’s performance as the sexy and intelligent vampire, Nina Harker. One of my favorite scenes featured her character’s surprising revelation that she was a vampire. Most people seemed to dismiss Shane West’s portrayal of Tom Sawyer, but I rather enjoyed it. He managed to create a strong chemistry with Connery, and I also found his quiet wit rather endearing. Tony Curran was a blast as Rodney Skinner, gentleman thief and the Invisible Man. He gave a hilarious performance and projected a lot of style for a character that was barely seen. Stuart Townsend seemed to be the epitome of degenerate style and sexuality as the immortal, Dorian Gray. He also had the good luck to spout some of the best lines in the movie. Richard Roxburgh gave an effectively quiet and intense performance as the man who created the League, the mysterious “M”. But as far as I am concerned Jason Flemyng had the best role in the movie as the morally conflicted Dr. Henry Jekyll and his alter ego, the ferocious, misshapen giant, Mr. Edward Hyde. I really enjoyed how he managed to slip back and forth between the two personalities. More importantly, Flemyng did an excellent job in incorporating Hyde’s darkness into Jekyll and the latter’s decency into Hyde with great ease. Well done.
Despite my complaints about Laustsen’s photography of the movie’s exterior shots, I must admit that he did a pretty good job in shooting the film. And Paul Rubell did a first-rate job with his editing – especially in the sequence that featured the League’s attack upon the Fantom’s lair at the Asiatic Artic. I also thought that Jason Barnett and his team did an excellent job in handling the makeup – especially for the Captain Nemo, the Invisible Man and Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde characters. One last aspect of the movie that truly impressed me was Carol Spier’s production designs that nicely captured an alternate or Jules Verne-style take on the late Victorian Age. This was especially apparent in the interior designs for Nemo’s submarine, the Nautilus.
I could recommend that others keep an open mind in watching ”THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN”. Although it does not bear a close resemblance to Alan Moore’s comic series and I am not particularly fond of its dark exterior shots, I must admit that I was impressed by James Dale Robinson’s screenplay, the ensemble cast and some of the production designs. Considering what he had to work with – especially an allegedly difficult leading man – I think that director Stephen Norrington did a solid job in bringing it all together for what I believe to be a very entertaining movie.
RATING: PG-13 E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org FEEDBACK: Please feel free to send a little feedback. Please, no flames. SUMMARY: Just before meeting Evelyn for the first time, Rafe and Danny recall the former’s past love life. DISCLAIMER: Yadda, yadda, yadda! All characters pertaining to the motion picture, “Pearl Harbor”, belong to Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay, Randall Wallace and the Walt Disney Company . . . unfortunately.
PART 1 – First Love
MITCHELL FIELD, LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK; DECEMBER 1940 . . . Lieutenant Daniel Walker stood in line behind his best friend and fellow Army pilot, Lieutenant Rafe McCawley. He noticed how the older man shifted from one foot to another, almost like a jackrabbit in flight.
“Godalmighty, Rafe! Simmer down!” Danny hissed into his friend’s ear. “You act like a man trying to run from his own hanging.”
Fearful brown eyes bored into those that belonged to the twenty-three year-old pilot. “You can call it that,” Rafe shot back. “Jiminy cricket! A physical! Dammit Danny! Why didn’t you tell me there was gonna be one?”
“I just found out about it, yesterday,” Danny explained. “And you didn’t return to the base until lights out. What took you so long in getting back?”
Rafe sighed. Both he and Danny moved a step forward toward the nurse. She was about to stick a needle into Anthony Fusco’s bare bottom. The two friends squirmed at the sight of their fellow pilot’s plight.
“Claudia,” Rafe finally answered. “We broke up.”
Danny tried not to express any jubilation over the news. He loved Rafe. Both had grown up together in Shelby County, Tennessee. They started out as best friends. And when Danny moved in with the McCawleys following his daddy’s death, they virtually became brothers. The pair had gone through a lot together – childhood, love of flying, high school, college and now, the Army Air Corps. There was a lot about Rafe that Danny admired. However, the former’s love life did not happen to be one of them.
“Oh, hey Rafe! I’m sorry to hear about you and Claudia.” Danny tried to sound mournful over his friend’s romantic mishap. Apparently, he had failed, judging by Rafe’s scornful expression. “What?”
Rafe’s scorn deepened. “Did you know that you were a lousy liar, Danny?”
“You never fail to tell me, if you must know.”
“Well, I was right,” Rafe shot back. Anthony cried out in pain and moved on, rubbing his behind. The two friends took another step forward and watched another man bend over before the nurse. Rafe continued, “I’ll bet that you’re jumping for joy over what happened between me and Claudia.”
Danny tried to sound innocent. “Of course not!” he protested. Rafe gave him a hard stare. As usual, Danny wilted. “All right, maybe I am. I never liked her anyway. Big deal!”
“You’ve never liked any of my girlfriends,” Rafe accused.
“What are you talking about? What about Fenton Marsh? Or Julie Fisher? I liked them!”
The soldier at the head of the line walked away, rubbing his rear end. Everyone else took a step forward. Only Billy from the two friends’ squadron, stood between Rafe and a shot in the behind. Which Danny felt temporarily grateful.
Rafe whirled on the younger man, his eyes shining with suspicion. “Oh yeah?” he countered. “What about Mary Jo Burnett? From grade school? Did you like her?”
* * * *
SHELBY COUNTY, TENNESSEE; OCTOBER 1926 TO APRIL 1927 . . . The final bell at Shelbyville Elementary School in Shelby, Tennessee, announced the end of another day. Scores of children poured out of their classrooms and rushed toward the exits. Among them were ten year-old Rafe McCawley and his best friend, nine year-old Danny Walker.
The pair paused in front of a large oak tree in the schoolyard. The older boy dug into his pockets. “Look what I got!” He triumphantly produced two shiny blue marbles and showed them to Danny.
The younger boy’s eyes grew wide with excitement. “Hey! Don’t those marbles belong to Carl Jordan? How did you get ’em?”
“A bet.” Rafe flashed his usual cocky smile. “I bet Carl that I could beat him in a bike race on Shelby Road. I won, of course.”
Danny declared breathlessly, “I reckon Carl must be pretty sore. Those marbles must have cost him a fortune.”
Rafe sniffed. He had never harbored a high opinion of Carl Jordan, the younger son of a local merchant. “Fifteen cents. Course, I would have never bet anything this valuable. Carl, on the other hand, never had much sense. Much like his daddy.”
Admiration shone in the younger boy’s eyes. “Yeah, that’s Carl alright. Did you know that he once . . .?”
A scream from the other side of the schoolyard interrupted Danny. Rafe’s eyes immediately shifted to the sight of two boys around his age, trying to wrestle a paper bag from the clutches of a girl. The other kids in the yard seemed determined to ignore them. Not Rafe.
The moment the ten year-old became aware of the situation, he became a knight in shining armor. The Southern gentleman who always saved the honor of a fair damsel. With a roar reminiscent of the Rebel yell, he charged at the girl’s tormentors. Rafe knocked one to the ground and punched the latter a few times to ensure that the boy remained down.
The other boy, whom Rafe recognized as Carl Jordan, stared at him with baffled eyes. Before Carl could react, Rafe snatched the paper bag from the former’s clutches. A snarl left Carl’s mouth and he tried to rush Rafe. Fortunately, the latter proved to be quick. Rafe avoided Carl’s fist with a duck and responded with a better aimed blow to the other boy’s face. Carl fell to the ground with blood gushing from his nose.
“Rafe!” Danny rushed forward, obviously prepared to come to his friend’s defense. “Rafe, are you okay?”
The older boy shot back, grinning, “Just fine and dandy!” Rafe glanced at the paper bag in his hand and remembered the girl standing nearby. When he turned to face her, Rafe found himself staring into a pair of dark brown eyes. He forgot about Danny, Carl Jordan and just about everyone else. “Uh,” he began nervously, “I reckon this uh . . . this belong . . .”
The girl smiled. “Thank you,” she said in a soft voice that could melt butter. “Thank you for returning my bag to me.” She held out her hand.
Rafe blinked. “Huh? Oh.” He handed the bag to her.
“May I know the name of my rescuer?”
He gave a slight cough. “Rafe. My name is Rafe McCawley.”
“And mine is Mary Jo Burnett.” A smile curved her generous mouth. Groans from the ground interrupted the conversation and Mary Jo’s smile transformed into a frown. Carl Jordan and his friend slowly scrambled to their feet.
A groggy Carl began, “Wha . . .?”
Rafe grabbed the boy’s arm. “You get out of here, Carl Jordan. Both you and Orwin. And if either of you ever bother . . . uh, Mary Jo again, both me and Danny’ll whup you good. Or I just might do it myself. You hear?”
The two boys gulped nervously and raced away. Rafe turned to Mary Jo with a smile. “May I see you home, Miss Burnett?”
Her smile dazzled Rafe. “Of course.” Mary Jo nodded at Danny. “Both of you can.”
“Huh?” Rafe turned and saw his friend standing next to a tree stump, squirming with discomfort. He had forgotten about Danny. “Oh! Danny. Well, yeah. Sure.”
Still looking uncomfortable, the nine year-old murmured, “That’s okay. You two can go ahead. I gotta get home, anyway.”
Rafe knew that Danny had lied. For the latter, home meant a broken down two-room shack off Horton Road, with a drunken brute of a father still recovering from the war. Danny usually delayed going home after school, as long as he possibly could.
“What are you talking about, Danny?” Rafe protested. “You usually . . .”
But the younger boy quickly bid Rafe and Mary Jo good-bye and ran off, leaving behind a bewildered Rafe. A soft hand touched the latter’s arm. “Rafe? You ready?” Ah yes, Mary Jo.
Danny quickly forgotten, Rafe offered Mary Jo his arm. She accepted it and the pair strolled away from the schoolyard.
* * * *
Mary Jo Burnett. From the moment Rafe first laid eyes upon the nine year-old girl, he could not get enough of her. In fact, it did not take long for the pair to become a romantic twosome.
Rafe developed a habit of escorting Mary Jo home, after school. In doing so, he missed the school bus that usually conveyed him to his farm. But he did not care. Especially since either Mr. Burnett or his dad would give him a ride home.
During his growing romance with Mary Jo, Rafe learned that the Burnetts originally came from Arkansas. Little Rock, Arkansas. Mary Jo’s daddy happened to be one of those men who helped local farmers with their crops. Mr. Burnett was one of those what Daddy called an agriculturist, who worked for the Federal government.
Despite his new relationship with Mary Jo, Rafe made sure that he spent some time with Danny. He had hoped that his best friend and his best girl would become close friends. Mary Jo seemed willing. Whenever she invited Rafe over to her house, she always included Danny in the invitation. The latter usually had an excuse not to join them. Only when Mary Jo became unavailable, did Rafe spend time with Danny.
Rafe enjoyed those increasingly rare times with Danny. However, any time spent with his best friend could not deter his feelings toward the lovely Mary Jo. He realized that he had found the love of his life. Okay, he was only ten year-old and would turn eleven in April. But Rafe recalled that his mama once told him that she and Daddy had once been childhood sweethearts. If his parents could end up married, he decided, so could he and Mary Jo.
One Saturday afternoon in late March, Rafe expressed his desires to Danny. “I’m gonna marry Mary Jo, one day,” he announced. The two friends stood in the middle of a field behind the McCawley barn, tossing a baseball back and forth.
Danny’s arm paused in mid-air, after catching one of Rafe’s tosses. He stared at the older boy with an expression Rafe could not fathom. “Marry?” A frown darkened Danny’s countenance. “You’re in love with that girl, or something?”
“Her name is Mary Jo. And yeah, I’m in love with her. I plan to make her my wife.” Rafe spoke with his usual self-assurance.
Disbelief now shone in Danny’s eyes. “What you talking about, Rafe? You’re almost eleven. You’re too young to get married!”
“Not now, dummy!” Unbeknownst to Rafe, Danny winced. “Later. When we’re grown up. I plan to marry Mary Jo, just like Daddy married Mama. They also used to be childhood sweethearts.”
Danny’s eyes focused on the large, red barn, beyond. “Oh.
Rafe noticed his friend’s lackluster response and frowned. “What’s wrong?”
“Don’t you want me to get married?”
Danny shrugged his shoulders. “Sure. I reckon. Only . . .” He sighed.
“Only what?” Rafe demanded.
“What about flying? I thought we were gonna join the Army, together. Become pilots, like your daddy did during the war.”
Rafe retorted, “Of course we are! That don’t mean I can’t get married. Army officers get married too, you know!”
“Yeah.” Danny tossed the baseball at Rafe. Who neatly caught it.
At that moment, Rafe decided that he had enough of Danny’s tepid attitude. Every since he met Mary Jo, his friend seemed to be in a snit. Which led Rafe to wonder what Danny had against her. “You don’t like Mary Jo, do you?” he said, as he rushed forward to confront the younger boy. “Well?”
Danny’s face turned red. He mumbled, “Course I like her.”
Rafe could usually tell when his friend was lying. Like now. “Oh yeah?” he continued, “Then why do you always have something else to do when Mary Jo invites you to her house?”
A resentful tone resonated in Danny’s voice. “Hey, she’s your girl, not mine!”
“What’s that suppose to mean?” Rafe thrust his face just inches away from Danny’s.
The other boy scowled. “Back off, Rafe! I don’t feeling like arguing with you!”
“That’s too bad! You should have thought of that before you made those scurrilous remarks about Mary Jo!”
“What are you talking about? You don’t even know what ‘scurrilous’ mean!” Danny shouted back.
Rage gripped Rafe. If there was one thing he hated, were insults about his reading and spelling inabilities. He dropped his mitt and the baseball and tackled the younger boy. The two friends wrestled for a few seconds, before Rafe managed to pin Danny to the ground. “Now what was that you said about Mary Jo?”
“I didn’t say nothing!” Danny shot back. He squirmed to free himself from Rafe’s grip, but to no avail. “But if you must know, I don’t like her! Not one bit! I hate that she gets to spend more time with you, than I do!”
Danny’s frank confession shocked Rafe. Dazed, the older boy released his friend. “What are you saying, Danny?” he asked quietly.
“What do you think? You spend every chance you can get with Mary Jo! I hardly get to see you anymore! How do you think that makes me feel?”
Rafe calmly replied, “Mary Jo has asked you over, a couple of times. You always turn her down.”
“Because it’s obvious that you wanna be with her and not me! You’ve made that quite clear, ever since you met her! You always walk her home! And you two always spend time together, either during lunch or any other time. I want it to be the way it used to be, Rafe! Before Mary Jo, we used to be like brothers! But now . . .” Danny struggled to his feet and glared accusingly at Rafe. “Now, I don’t know what we are, anymore!” He quickly raced away.
Rafe called after his friend. “Danny? Hey Danny!” Unfortunately, the other boy did not hear. Or simply ignored him, leaving behind a stunned and bewildered ten year-old.
His argument with Danny plagued Rafe’s thoughts over the next several days. To the point that it created a schism in his relationship with Mary Jo. The day following the argument, Rafe did not bother to escort her home. He excused himself on the grounds of an emergency at home. After that first day, he did not bother to make any more excuses. Rafe simply boarded the school bus without saying a word. For a while, Rafe wondered why he even bothered. Especially since Danny usually subjected him to the silent treatment during those bus rides home.
One blustery Friday, Mary Jo finally confronted Rafe during the lunch period, in the schoolyard. She demanded to know why he avoided her for nearly a week. When Rafe failed to give her an adequate explanation, Mary Jo accused him of growing weary of her. Their subsequent argument spelled the end of the romance.
Later that afternoon, Rafe boarded the school bus for home. Just seconds after he sat down, a second figure filled the empty seat next to him. It was Danny.