The Writer's Voice

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Chris Alexander

"Look at that old woman over there, by the door."

A grey haired woman, hands on hips, waiting for a waitress to seat her was holding hands with two small children. She was trimly built, flat-chested. I'm sorry, but that's what I notice first. I am a guy who can't throw any of my old Playboys away.

"Yeah, so what?" I said, knowing Susan's affinity for secretly observing people and making judgments.

"She has a tattoo, on her arm. I can't quite make it out."

Across the table from us were Jim and Patti, our best friends. They turned around and stared, but they too could not make out the tightly scripted lettering on the woman's lean muscled bicep.

As she passed our table, the old woman turned to stare at us, and I suddenly decided the menu was very interesting.

"It says Kenny," my wife said, her voice echoed.


Susan gave me a sidelong glance that said, "Shut up," so I did. If she wanted the old woman punching her in the mouth, what did I care?

"A tattoo and short sleeves - I know MY grandmother would cover something like that."

"Why would she want to," I said cynically. "Besides, I know the whole story. You see, her name is Rebecca Barton; her friends call her Becky. When she was 16, she had a dumpy figure, or to put it another way, she was fat. Then, at the old malt shop she met Kenny Chesterton, a boy from another high school. She blushed when he told her she had pretty eyes and a charming smile. Actually, Kenny was plain looking but since no boy had complimented Becky about anything, she saw him as Prince Everything - the boy of her dreams.

"For three days she and Kenny did everything together. They went to the Five and Dime for a Coke; they saw three movies in three days, and they learned about love in the back of Kenny's dad's old car. Although they had just met, she felt secure and warm in Kenny's loving arms.

On the fourth day they had made plans to meet at the malt shop, which was next to a tattoo parlor, and celebrate their "anniversary." Becky arrived a half hour early; after waiting 10 minutes, she decided to surprise Kenny with a tattoo. Although it hurt, she winced through the pain while constantly looking out the parlor window for his Ford.

After the "arteest" was finished, she paid her $10 and waited in the malt shop. She waited all afternoon. At 4 o'clock she walked home; his name tattooed on her arm. She kept repeating, "Something must have happened. He's all right."

After walking in the front door, she called him immediately and he told her it was over.

Realizing I was finished, my wife laughed and shook her head. "You don't know what you are talking about."


"First of all, look at those gorgeous grandchildren. She was never ugly. In fact, she was the type that held her nose high up in the sky and ignored all guys except the best."

Jim, Patty, and I leaned closer; my wife's observations were usually pretty good.

"She has a close bond with those kids. In fact, she is raising them because her son and his wife are too busy traveling around the world attending to their own lives. She taught her son everything except responsibility. Now she is in the golden years of her life and receives monthly checks from her son."

"Why does she have Kenny on her arm?"

"I am explaining the story," Susan said. "Just listen. Of course, her son's name is Kenny. He was an only child and she did everything for him from picking out his clothes to doing his homework to working a part-time job so he could have spending money for the weekend. After putting him through college, she gets the natural extension of her son's life, his children."

"I don't believe her son or his wife would leave their children," Patty said. "I've listened to your stories but I've been thinking the whole time, 'Why on Earth would she want to make sure the tattoo was visible?' It must be a proud, happy landmark. I think she was just 19 years old and on her own. She wanted to live the city life so she saved up her money to spend her vacation in New York City. She was from a small, no-name town in Ohio and had never really gone anywhere. Her parents were both in their 50s when she was little, and they were homebodies. The big city did not frighten her; it excited her.

For two weeks she lived in the nicest hotel she could afford. She went to a rock concert, a Broadway play, a Yankee baseball game, even though she didn't like baseball. She lived it up. At the coffee shop just down the street from her hotel, she met Kenny; the man of standard dreamland - tall, dark, and handsome."

"What else?" said Jim.

Patti frowned at him and continued. "He was 24 and he went to Columbia University. He took her out just one afternoon and showed her the Statue Of Liberty. They met at the coffee shop the next morning, exchanging addresses, before parting on the sidewalk. She had stared after him and knew that someday she would come back to the city and live this exciting life.

After she returned to Ohio, she could not get the big city out of her mind. Kenny was the most constant memory; he was still there; he was in the midst of all that excitement. She wrote him once, but her unopened envelope had "He Moved!" scrawled hastily on it. After returning to her job at the supermarket, she settled in her old routine. It would take her quite a while to make enough money to go back. She had blown all of her savings, nearly $4000 on those two weeks. But she would get back there.

As time would have it, she never did go back. Gradually her memory of Kenny started to erode and one night, a year later, she could not remember his face. That day, she took time off work to do it, she went down to the local tattoo parlor and had his name inscribed on her arm. She would get back to the city life; she would not forget him or those two weeks."

"What about those kids? Did she ever return?" Susan asked.

"Those kids are her sister's. She watches them occasionally. She now knows she will never go back because she wants the memory of those perfect two weeks to remain perfect."

As Patti finished her story, the woman strolled past our table on her way back to the salad bar. Jim said loudly, "Enough of this speculation. None of you know nothing about it. I'm going to find out who Kenny was and settle this thing so we won't be talking about this again."

"Forget it Jim," I said. "It's just fun."

"No, I know you two," he replied. "You two probably will get a divorce over it."

As the woman came back, Jim tapped her on the arm. "We've been admiring your tattoo. In fact, each of us might be getting a tattoo in the near future. We've just been wondering what does "Kenny" stand for?"

Tears welled in the old lady's eyes as she placed her salad plate on our table. She pulled a handkerchief from her pocket and wiped her eyes. Her voice squeaked sadly.

"I just love Kenny Rogers!"

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