Wednesday 22 May 2019

Moore's Riverboat

by Phyllis Souza

house red

As Norma drove along the road beside the river, Amy looked out of the open window. The banks were dense with ferns and giant reeds. The scent of anise drifted into the car. A sign reading 'Moore's Riverboat' came into view. Norma slowed the vehicle and turned onto a rutted, graveled parking lot.
"The place is packed. Look for an open space."

"Oh look, people are parked over there." Amy pointed to a lawn around the back of the parking lot. Some cars were parked on it, but there was still space.

"Yeah, I see one." Norma parked between an old pickup truck and a motorcycle.

Amy glanced at the riverboat. People dressed in tank tops and shorts hung near the entrance, listening to the carefree sound of Dixieland Jazz.

Norma, clutching her back, slowly walked up the wooden gangplank behind Amy. She groaned, “Got to lose some weight.”

Amy sprinted ahead. When she reached the deck, she stopped and waited for Norma to catch up. She noticed Norma's baggy polyester pants swung against her ankles and showed her white socks.
Reaching out, Amy offered Norma her hand. She brushed it away. "I'm fine."

They stepped into a paneled passageway.

Along the back wall was a glass showcase filled with boating memorabilia and old photographs from the Gold Rush days in the mid-nineteenth century, when steamboats ran the waterways of the San Joaquin River in Northern California.

Across from it, saloon doors led into the restaurant and bar. Amy walked up to the doors and pushed.
"Look at the bandstand. I see the fat, blind drummer still's here," Amy declared.

"You mean Orlie?"

"Yep. Still here. Come on; let's grab a couple of seats at the bar."

Headed toward the back, they strolled by tables pushed next to a bank of windows overlooking the river.

Ladies' panties of all shapes and sizes were pinned to a clothesline above the horse-shaped bar. They billowed in the breeze from a fan attached high on the wall.

The bartender tossed a couple of napkins on the bar. "Hello, ladies. What can I get you?"

Before they could answer, a man cried out, "Norma."

Norma turned, and so did Amy.

"I didn't see you standing there," Norma exclaimed.

Frank, a robust, silver-haired man holding a bottle of beer, with his back against the wall asked, "Who's your friend?" 

"Oh, this is Amy."

Frank glanced at the bartender. "Give these ladies whatever they want. I'm buying."

He came in closer; so close that Amy could smell the woody fragrance of Ralph Lauren’s Polo. He reached between Norma and Amy and tossed a twenty-dollar bill on the bar. "Keep the change."
The bartender picked up the bill, gave a tapping "thank you" with his fist on the bar, and asked, "Okay, ladies, what can I get you?"

Norma turned in her seat. "Thanks, Frank," Amy repeated the sentiment.

"Excuse me," Frank said. "I'll be right back. Enjoy your drinks." He walked over to a table where several people sat.

"Red wine. House is fine," Norma said to the bartender.

"What about you?" he asked Amy.

"Oh, let's see..." Amy pressed a finger to her cheek. "Maybe... vodka tonic." She smiled at the bartender. "Yes, I'll have a vodka tonic. Oh, yeah, with a squeeze of lime, please."

Just then, an announcement came from the lead guitarist, "We'll be back after a short break."
After ten minutes, the band started its next set.

The elevated dance floor sloped. But that didn't matter, especially to the man wearing nothing but blue spandex trunks and boat shoes. His partner wore a sarong tied around her waist and a flowered bra top. They were doing the twist.

"Norma, look at them."

"That's disgusting," Norma replied.

Amy poked at the ice in her glass with a swizzle stick. "But very entertaining."

"I know that guy." Norma sneered. "His name is Gordo. He's filthy rich and owns a Pontiac dealership in Sacramento."

Amy took a sip of her drink. "Mmm… This is good." She put down her glass. "Do you think Frank'll come back?"

"Who knows?"

The trumpet player blew enthusiastically, the piano player plinked keys, and the singer began a lively rendition of "Goody Goody."

Frank swaggered to the bar, half his mouth in a grin. He extended out his hand. Amy surprised, raising her eyebrows at Norma, hoping for a smile and nod from her. But Norma's face dropped. Amy decided to ignore it.

Keeping time with the music, Frank maneuvered Amy under his outstretched arm. She twirled under and around. He laughed, and so did she.

After the dance, he showed Amy back to her seat, took his business card out of the pocket of his polyester shirt, and handed it to her. In bold blue letters, the card read: Raviscioni Real Estate, Frank Raviscioni, Broker/Owner.

"Thanks for the dance. Gotta go to my boat. I'll be back." Frank passed through the crowd and left.
Amy looked over at Norma. "That was fun. I hope he comes back."

"Well, if he does, you won't be here," Norma said. She picked up her purse. "We're leaving."

"Why? What's wrong?" Amy asked.

"I've got a headache. I'm sorry, but I need to go."

Amy searched the room for Frank. She wanted to tell him she was going. He was nowhere in sight.
Norma was silent in the car on the way home that is until Amy decided to talk.

"Frank gave me his business card. Do you think it would be okay if I called him?"

"No. If Frank wants to see you, he'll call."

"He doesn't have my number."

"Did you tell him your last name?"

"Yeah. But it's not listed."

"He's in real estate, believe me, he can find out where you live."

"I guess. But, I still might give Frank a call."

"I'm warning you. He's a playboy. A confirmed bachelor. Besides, he's too old for you."

"How old do think he is?"

"Around fifty."
"I'm thirty-nine. That's not such a big difference."

"You're asking for trouble. Throw Frank's card in the trash."

"I suppose you're right," Amy said. I'm not throwing his card in the trash.

One week later, when Amy was on her hands and knees scrubbing her kitchen floor, the doorbell rang. She got up, wiped her hands on a dishtowel, brushed a long strand of hair from her face, and looked out a window facing the street. There was a shiny black Cadillac parked at the curb. Whose car is that? She answered the door.

"Frank, what a surprise. How did you know where I lived?"

"I have my ways." He laughed. "Would you like to take a ride to my office?"

"Yes. Just give me a few minutes to freshen up. I must look a mess."

"You look fine. Have you had dinner yet?"

"As a matter fact, I haven't."

"Good. I know a great place. Villa Basque."

"That sounds wonderful. Come in. Take a seat in the living room while I change."

When Amy returned, she had on a pick blouse trimmed in lace and tight fitting jeans. She smiled. "Ready."

Frank got up from the couch. "Wow! You look—" He rolled his eyes. "Fantastic."
"Thank you." She curtsied and smiled.

Amy followed Frank into his real estate office. He flipped on the light. They walked to his private office in the back. The first thing she saw was 'The Godfather' spelled out in bold gold letters and a golden hand pointing an index finger stenciled on the glass window in the door. Her thoughts shifted into overdrive: Godfather. Playboy. Confirmed bachelor. Well... if this wannabe mafia don wants to play, he just found himself a playmate. Confirmed bachelor? We'll see about that!

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