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Revised first two chapters of TALL BUILDINGS

Small-town girl comes to big city and rises to challenge of its

dizzying heights.

It’s 1962 and recent college graduate Junemarie Hinkle leaves the
farm to start a career with a publishing house in Manhattan.
Fighting acrophobia, she copes with living a vertical life in the
city’s skyscrapers. Throughout the summer, she falls in and out of
love with handsome coworker Ken while another, Andy, has eyes
for her, she tries her hand at a first novel, and she becomes the
victim of a stalker. All around her tragedies occur—a deadly
tornado strike, zeppelin explosion, towering inferno,
defenestration, helicopter decapitation, window washer murder,
elevator fatality, spontaneous human combustion on Wall St.,
construction worker deadly falls, talk of an alien invasion—but
Junemarie’s sights are focused only on Ken. She learns about free
love, beatniks, psychoanalysis, and the dark secrets of a hard-
boiled veteran editor, of a peculiar assistant, and of love-object
Ken. Through it all she harbors family secrets: her Eskimo
bloodline and hereditary insanity. Although she manages to survive
being forced onto a building ledge during a blackout, her psyche
can’t overcome the dizzying heights of modern Manhattan.

 a disasterpiece

A small-town girl comes to the big city and rises

to the challenge of its dizzying heights.

T he tall buildings of Manhattan are symbols of success, the

physical manifestations of one’s rise to the top. Never-ending
stairs. Express elevator. Penthouse view of a dynamic city. Tall
buildings from a distance are an attractive illusion, yet close up they
shatter all illusions. At least, that’s what Junemarie Hinkle learned that
summer of 1962 in the Summers & Maybright tall building.

Tall Buildings takes you back to the last century, that quaint time of
polio, carbon paper, and the constitutional right to an attorney. This was
the time Junemarie Hinkle learned about life and love in the shadow of
the tall buildings of Manhattan.
“Man is the only animal clever enough to build the
Empire State Building and stupid enough to jump off it!”
Rock Hudson as Robert L. Talbot in
Come September, 1961
Chapter 1—Manhattan B.K.
The Women of Cigaretteville

C onstance Lesley Tareyton looked around her new prison cell

and saw nothing but squalor. She thought how her entire life in
the tobacco farm town of Cigaretteville had been a prison
anyway. The only difference here would be that none of the three squares
she got would be appetizing.
The hefty prison guard with the stringy bob and bad teeth appeared
outside her cell. “Hey, Miss Hotshot with the three fancy names.”
Constance didn’t want to face her but knew there would be
repercussions if she didn’t. She turned to the guard and quickly shifted
her line of vision from the woman’s pockmarked cheeks to the cement
“I been watchin’ you since you showed here. You better watch your
step. We don’t take kindly to dirty baby killers.”
Constance could take no more. That name filled her with rage. She
lunged toward the guard and grabbed the cell bars. “Stop it! Stop it!
Stop it! I didn’t kill my babies! How many times do I have to say this? I
didn’t kill them! I didn’t kill them!”
The guard blew her whistle and pulled out her baton, beating
Constance’s knuckles bloody until she released her grasp and collapsed
to the floor.
“The judge wouldn’t believe me, the jury wouldn’t believe me, but it’s
the truth. I didn’t kill my babies. They were dead when I found them.”
Constance buried her head into her arms and released heaving sobs,
her first since the words “Guilty as charged” were uttered in court.
Junemarie closed her notebook with the freshly written start of her
first novel and slipped it into her shoulder bag. She knew crossing the
state line into New York would inspire her to write. The story was to be
one woman’s journey from imprisonment, injustice, and insanity at the
Cigaretteville Women’s House of Correction to salvation, self-reliance,
and sanity. She reminded herself she’d have to do research at a New York
asylum to add touches of psychological realism. However, it was now
time to slip on her white gloves, step off the bus at the Port Authority
terminal, and begin her new life that sunny Monday, June 11, 1962.
Barbie’s letter instructed her to exit the building and take a cab to her
midtown address. Junemarie looked around her. Which exit? Unsmiling
travelers bustled about, caught up in their own affairs, and grime from
bus exhaust coated the terminal walls and stained its signs. It wasn’t the
glamorous New York she had imagined, and for a brief moment, she
almost regretted leaving the dairy farm in rural Yankee Hollow, Rhode
“You need some help, miss?”
She turned to an older man in a dirty, frayed suit jacket. His hair was
mussed, his upper teeth were missing, and he exuded a pungency she
could taste—yet his sweet, roomy smile looked familiar. “Uncle Walter?
Is that you?”
The tramp paused just a second. “Yeah. Walter. S’me.”
Junemarie was surprised to see her uncle looking so shabby. No
matter. It was still lucky she ran into him. “Uncle Walter, how exciting.
It’s me, Junemarie. You haven’t seen me since I was a little girl!”
“Okay, yeah, Marie.”
“This is so exciting. My first time in New York, and now seeing you
here. I’m starting a new job, and I’m soooo nervous.” She set her
suitcase down and reached into her shoulder bag for a pen and paper.
“Uncle Walter, shame on you! The family hasn’t heard from you in
fifteen years. You must give me your number where I can reach you.”
The older man reached for her suitcase. “I’ll take this for you, ‘kay?”
“Oh, thank you. I need some help finding a cab. You see, my new
roommate Barb–”
Before she could finish her sentence, the tramp dashed off into the
weaving crowd.
“Wait for me!” Junemarie craned to find him and rushed off in his
direction. “Excuse me.” “Pardon me.” “Excuse me.” “Oops. Sorry.”
“Pardon.” She zigzagged around the fast-moving people until she
reached the busy sidewalk.
A young man with a greasy ducktail approached her. “You need help,
miss? Got any luggage?”
Junemarie scanned the area but couldn’t see her Uncle Walter. “I
don’t know. I think my Uncle Walter took it.”
The skinny stranger snapped his bubblegum. “Oh, okay then. Lemme
take this bag for you.” He reached for her shoulder bag, but she pulled
away. Why, the nerve of him!
A little birdie told her—actually the fat pigeon walking along the
curb told her—that there were unsavory types at the bus terminal who
wanted to steal people’s bags. And that smelly man might not have been
her Uncle Walter after all!
“All right. Leave her alone.” A freckle-faced policeman shooed away
the purse-snatcher. “You need a cab, miss? There are plenty here.” He
pointed to the string of yellow taxicabs along the sidewalk.
“Officer, this is terrible. Some man pretending to be my Uncle Walter
stole my suitcase.” She couldn’t imagine what the old man would want
with her dresses and girdles.
The policeman smirked. “Ah, no surprise there.”
“I can tell you what he looks like, officer.” She needed her clothes in
that suitcase, because she was starting her new job the next day as an
assistant editor with the prestigious Summers & Maybright publishing
The cop pointed to a passing bum. “Did he look like him?”
Junemarie looked. The same dirty clothes, same messy hair, and, ugh,
the same smell, but this one had some teeth. “Yes, similar.”
“Or like him?” He pointed to another bum.
“I guess so.”
“Or him? Or him? Or that one? Him?”
She got the policeman’s point. She hadn’t realized how many bums
were at the Port Authority, and like babies and nuns, all bums looked
alike. Her suitcase was lost forever.
“Miss, you can file a report at the station, but I wouldn’t hold out any
Junemarie sighed. “This is just terrible!” This kind of thing never
happened to career girl Doris Day.
He patted her arm. “There, there, don’t let a little thing like this get
you down. Remember, the only thing that can really hurt you is the
The truth was that she was starting out her new life in New York with
only the clothes on her back. And that did hurt. “I think I’ll take that cab
now.” Maybe her new roommate Barbie Rexroth would have an idea—
and a spare toothbrush.
She gripped her shoulder bag tightly and settled into the back seat of
a Checker Taxi. While giving the driver Barbie’s address, she noticed the
man was a chubby middle-aged colored man. She’d never seen anyone of
the Negroid persuasion up close before. He looked just like the Negroes
she’d seen in movies. Back in Yankee Hollow there were only
Caucasians—except for Sampan, Mayor Vitter’s Oriental valet. Those
two were as close as brothers, so close it was said they even shared the
same bedroom. One could only imagine the snoring that went on in that
Junemarie knew that part of her excitement about coming to New
York was to have different experiences and meet different types of
people. However, she never expected her first encounter with a Negro to
be when she was all alone and had just been victimized by a tramp who
liked women’s clothing. What if the driver victimized her, too? What if
he took her to Harlem? What if he was able to lock the rear doors so she
couldn’t escape? What if he stole her virtue from her, the most important
thing she had to offer a husband? She hadn’t been in New York for five
minutes, and her woman’s intuition told her another terrible incident was
about to happen.
“Please, stop the car.” They had only traveled one block.
“You don’t want to go to Murray Hill, miss?”
“Please, stop right here. I beg of you.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m pulling over.”
The cabbie pulled over to the curb where a small corner store sat on
the ground floor of an old building. Junemarie handed him a dollar and
jumped out of the taxi like the seat was on fire.
On the side street sidewalk, two men held ropes tied to an upright
piano as it was being hoisted to a floor above the corner store. She heard
her cab driver call out, “Hey, don’t you want your change?” but she
ignored him and tried to pass one of the men holding a rope. However,
each time she moved left, he did, too. Each time she moved right, so did
he. Distressed and frightened and lost, she clenched her fists and released
a howling, unladylike scream. “Arrrrrgh!”
The man with the rope flinched and jumped away from her, pulling
the rope with him just as several boys on bicycles sped past and rounded
the sidewalk corner. Junemarie dodged them and crossed the street back
toward the cab stand but was stopped short by the most ungodly crash-
clang-twang-clatter she had ever heard. Turning back, she saw the piano
had apparently swung like a pendulum, and it smashed the rear
windshield of the cab she was just in.
Woman’s intuition. It never lied.
Junemarie jumped into the first cab she saw, gave the Murray Hill
address, and closed her eyes tightly until the driver told her, “We’re here,

Junemarie relaxed with her new roommate in their first-floor

apartment at Skylark Terrace. “Who are the men dressed in black with
the banana curls? I saw a couple of them from the bus. Are they interior
Barbie brought two cups of coffee into the living room and set them
on the coffee table. “Oh, they’re Hassidic Jews. You can see more of
them in the Diamond District. You’re gonna love it here. There are so
many interesting people.”
Acidic Jews? Junemarie wondered if they were peptic or grumpy.
Either way, she’d have to remember not to ask any of them for
directions. “Oh, Barbie, I’m so glad you have clothes for me to wear. I
didn’t know what I was going to do until I could save up enough money
to buy more.”
And what clothes she had! Barbie, a lively and beautiful red-headed
model, had a room full of designer clothing and insisted Junemarie wear
whatever she liked. It was serendipitous they were both the same size.
Junemarie was grateful her Literature professor at Yankee Hollow
College told her his niece Barbie in New York was looking for a
dependable roommate and asked if she’d be interested. Was she ever!
New York City was the center of the literary universe, and Junemarie was
born to write, knowing full well one day she would live on the isle of
Manhattan. When the professor’s wife secured her a job at Summers &
Maybright, it was the icing on the cake. As Junemarie reminded herself
how fortunate she was, thoughts of the stolen suitcase and near-death by
falling piano evaporated like whiskey around Uncle Walter. The real one.
As the day wore on, the young women got to know one another.
Junemarie learned Barbie grew up over the bridge in Brooklyn and was
mad about her boyfriend Johnny, who also worked at Summers &
Maybright in the Sales Department. Junemarie told her about growing up
on a dairy farm and her ambition to write the Great American Novel,
which she had just started that day. However, there was one secret she
hoped she didn’t have to tell her new friend right away.
Over the past three years, Junemarie had seen the local physician for
her fear of heights, knowing the condition would incapacitate her in New
York. She learned she suffered from acrophobia while at the top of a
ladder rescuing her mom’s tabby Puffy from the roof. Although she was
able to coax Puffy into her arms, she panicked while trying to climb
down. By the time the county fire department arrived to get Junemarie
off the ladder, ironically she had squeezed the life out of the family cat.
The horror of that day stayed with her. Dr. Berlanger cleaned her ear
canals and held weekly hypnosis sessions to help her control the
That night, Junemarie could barely sleep, being too excited over the
new job. She recalled the Dag Hammarskjold quotation Dr. Berlanger
often told her: “Never measure the height of a mountain until you have
reached the top. Then you will see how low it was.”
An elevator quotation would have been more helpful.
Junemarie stood outside the Summers & Maybright Building in
midtown Manhattan and summoned up her courage. She tilted her head
up toward the heavens, clutching the pillbox hat on her head, and spun
around slowly to take in the looming skyscrapers overhead. In
comparison to the others, the Summers & Maybright Building was quite
short—only twenty stories—and that was somewhat comforting to her.
Barbie had insisted on dressing her that morning, and Junemarie let
her take the reins. For her first day, she wore a neat Pincus & Bard pearl
gray ensemble with a taupe hat, taupe shoes, and pearl gray gloves. After
Barbie combed her shoulder-length chestnut hair into a French twist, she
strung a single strand of pearls around her neck and followed it with a
taupe and gray Arné scarf. She gave her makeup a light touch and sent
her off to work like a proud mother.
Well, this is it, Junemarie thought. If Superman can leap tall buildings
in a single bound, I can at least take elevators in them.
She pushed through the glass revolving door into the spacious brass
and marble lobby. A uniformed captain used a whistle to direct people to
available elevators, and she took the one that would bring her to the ninth
floor Personnel Office. So many other people joined her in the little
space that she realized she didn’t have to worry about fainting; she
couldn’t fall down if she wanted. Junemarie kept her cool, reminding
herself that she didn’t have time to be afraid of heights. She had a new
job to be afraid of instead.
She stepped off the elevator at the ninth floor and saw a long corridor
with many doors. Which way, left or right? She stopped an attractive
mature woman passing by. “Excuse me, but could you direct me to the
Personnel Office?” The woman, although pretty, looked weary with
heavy rings under her eyes like she hadn’t slept for days.
“Personnel?” She shut her eyes for several seconds before
responding. “Oh, yeah, down there. About halfway.” Junemarie watched
her totter off in a listless gait wondering what could make the woman
look so exhausted at such an early hour.
The Personnel Office had her complete forms and answer questions
for a full half hour before Madge fetched her. Madge was a short, bubbly
blonde who worked in the same pool where Junemarie would be
working. She explained, “We’re really just typists and proofreaders, but
assistant editor sounds so much more elegant, don’t you think? You’ll
love our supervisor Mrs. Deauville. She protects us from all the crazy
editors like Fran Winter. Miss Winter may be brilliant, but, oh, boy, can
she wear you down.”
As they waited for the elevator to go down to the fifth floor, the
weary woman from earlier passed them in the corridor. “Who’s that
woman, Madge?”
The little blonde’s brow furrowed. “Oh, that’s Joyce Roma. Poor
thing. She’s in love with her boss Vic Bellingham. He’s the Finance
Director—very suave, very handsome, and very much a playboy. I guess
they had a thing once, but he’s moved on, and she hasn’t gotten over
“Is she sick?”
Madge made a drinks gesture. “It’s too bad. She’ll never get a
husband now with that problem and being past her prime.”
When the typist pressed the elevator button, Junemarie put a hand on
her shoulder. “Is it okay if we take the stairs? Walking will help to settle
my nerves.”
“No prob.”
Fortunately, the stairwell had a center column blocking all views to
lower floors.
On the fifth floor, Madge introduced her to the other girls in the pool
and to Mrs. Deauville, a middle-aged, silver-haired woman with an
infectious smile. “We’re so glad you’ve joined our little family here,
Junemarie. Now, I must warn you, the work will be tough, but if you
work hard, you could get promoted to acquisitions editor. Someday you
may even rise to the top.”
The last place Junemarie wanted to be was at the top of anything. “Is
there anything I can do now to work toward a promotion?”
Mrs. Deauville smiled broadly. “Ah, I see you have ambition. I don’t
see why you shouldn’t start reading some manuscripts from our slush
pile in a few days.”
Every publisher had their collection of unsolicited manuscripts,
which came under the jurisdiction of the acquisitions editor. Most
manuscripts were poorly written and ill-conceived, but a few diamonds
in the rough were known to emerge. Junemarie was eager to find her
literary gem.
Her new boss paired her up with Gabby Andropoulos to orient her
with the office routine. Gabby was a stocky, bespectacled girl who didn’t
make eye contact when she spoke. Junemarie tried to ease the girl’s
shyness by asking her personal questions—where do you live, how long
have you worked here, where did you go to school—but they only
seemed to make her more tense, so she stopped. Maybe the girl would
warm up in time.
At noon, Madge insisted on taking Junemarie to lunch at the nearby
automat. While walking through the lobby and listening intently to
Madge discuss Heidegger’s concepts of facticity and thrownness,
Junemarie slammed into the back of a gentleman. The collision caused
him to drop his cigarette.
“Tsk. What the–?”
Junemarie turned to the scowling man as he crushed out the cigarette.
“I’m terribly sorry, sir. That was very careless of me to not watch where I
was going.”
The middle-aged man, who wore an expensive suit and a threadlike
moustache she’d only seen on movie gigolos, waved his hand
dismissively. In a clearly effeminate voice, he added, “Yeah, okay, missy,
“I’m really sorry. Can I buy you a pack of–”
Madge pulled her away, cutting her apology short, and directed her
toward the revolving door. Outside, she set her straight. “That wasn’t just
any man you plowed into. That was Evan Maybright.”
Evan Maybright! Of Summers & Maybright! “Oh, no. Do you think
he got a good look at me? What an awful first impression.”
“There was no need to loiter with him. He’s known to be quite high-
Junemarie hoped her chances for advancement hadn’t been hurt at the
company. “What’s Mr. Summers like?”
“Well, he’s the total opposite. Mr. Maybright is cultured and an
exquisite dresser and rather delicate, I mean, sensitive. Mr. Summers
smokes stinky cigars and speaks too loudly and is not the least bit
delicate, I mean, sensitive, I mean, you know what I mean.”
Junemarie did know what Madge meant. It was a subject people
skirted at home, and she was learning they did in New York, also. Mr.
Maybright was a sissy. His demeanor had revealed that right away, and it
surprised her. She had thought only interior decorators or fancy
hairdressers were sissies.
The incident was quickly forgotten as Madge introduced her to the
magic of the automat. She dropped a few coins into a wall slot and
removed her chosen food from a cubbyhole behind a glass panel. It was
quite elegant, as Madge described. And very delish.
Chapter 2—The Meeting

J unemarie’s first day clipped along. She tackled typing projects

requiring five carbon copies and was amazed to find that the
bottom typed page was actually legible. The state-of-the-art electric
typewriter she used was a remarkable machine, and Mrs. Deauville told
her she was doing excellent work. The problem came when she asked her
to bring a manuscript up to Mr. Maybright’s office on the twentieth floor.
The twentieth floor! That was a steep climb. She’d have to take the
elevator. With such a long ride, she was bound to faint, and if she didn’t
faint and reached the top floor, would Mr. Maybright recognize her as the
oaf who nearly knocked him over?
Her hand shook as she pressed the elevator button. A few seconds
later, the door opened to a young woman in a very chi-chi navy Paulo
DiFlorsi suit and thick blond mink stole. A veil hung from her large bell-
brimmed hat, masking an exotic beauty. Junemarie gave her a strained
smile as she stepped inside. Seeing that the twentieth floor button was
pressed, she grasped the railing tightly and hoped for the best. I will not
pass out. I will not pass out. They passed the sixth floor, seventh floor,
eighth floor, and then it happened. The elevator stopped mid-floor with a
“Good heavens, not again!” The chic young woman furiously pressed
the twentieth-floor button and another one labeled Emergency.
Junemarie felt her knees begin to buckle and tried to recall Dr.
Berlanger’s soothing voice. The size of a mountain. A huge mountain.
Don’t fall off the mountain. Oh, god!
The other woman waved her kid-gloved hand in the air. “Don’t
worry. This happens all the time. It’ll only be a few minutes. It’s just a
glitch. The cable isn’t going to break.”
Junemarie hadn’t thought about the elevator cable breaking. What if
the threads of the cable were snap-snap-snapping apart right now? When
that one final thread snapped, their little box would plummet so fast She
and the pretty woman would bounce up against the ceiling. That’s when
she’d see her life pass before her. Writing poems at age six. Milking
cows at age ten. Kissing Bobby Parnell at Willow Creek at age fourteen.
Kicking Bobby Parnell in his crotch for getting to first base at age
fifteen. Studying Pilgrim’s Progress from age eighteen to twenty-one.
Sweat beaded on her upper lip. “I should confess something now. I’m
afraid of heights. If I faint, I just want to apologize beforehand.”
The woman snapped down a round seat from the wall. “Here, sit
down. You won’t faint.” Junemarie did as told and continued listening to
the stranger while clutching the railing. Her voice was reassuring. “I told
my husband they should never have gotten rid of the elevator operators.
They know what to do in cases like this, but, no, he said the elevators are
fully automated now, and an operator would be just another body taking
up space. Well, what if you were alone and this happened?”
“I’m really grateful you’re here now. I do feel better sitting down.”
The woman went back to pressing the Emergency button. “I know
they already know we’re stuck, but I just like pressing the button. It
sounds an alarm on their end. The noise must be driving them crazy.”
Junemarie forgot about their danger and wondered who her husband
was. A Summers & Maybright executive, perhaps? A famous author?
Maybe Mr. Summers himself.
“Like I told my husband, what if someone were on here with their
children and this happened? What if–”
She heard the catch in the woman’s voice and thought she saw a tear
stream down her face. “Are you all right?”
The woman pulled a handkerchief from her purse and daubed at her
face under the veil. “Oh, we’re a fine pair. You about to faint and me all
The new assistant editor clung tightly to the railing and almost
regretted saying, “Maybe you should sit down here.”
“Yes.” The woman snapped down another seat behind her. “Let’s
both sit. It’ll be several minutes anyway.”
Junemarie continued the conversation as a distraction. “I suppose this
could be scary for children. Do you have children?”
The woman released big sobs and curled over on her lap.
Junemarie didn’t know what to do. Normally she would have gotten
the woman a drink of water. “I’m sorry I asked. It’s none of my
Her elevator companion stopped crying and sat up straight. “Don’t
apologize. I’m the one being melodramatic here. To answer your
question, no, I don’t have children. However, I hope to one day. It’s
really up to my husband now.”
She felt sorry for the stylish woman. A married woman without a
child was like a Jell-O mold without Jell-O. “He doesn’t want children?”
“I don’t know!” She waved her hanky in the air. “I just know he’ll
only try to make a baby once a year on my birthday! Five years and five
strikeouts so far.” She curled over and resumed her crying.
The small-town girl was shocked with the woman’s confession. She
never heard anyone discuss their conjugal intimacies before.
The woman sat up again, composing herself. “Please, forgive me.
I’ve just come from the doctor’s, and I’m still quite disappointed.” She
pulled out her compact and repaired her makeup. “We all want children.
I’m sure it will happen some day. I’m just being impatient.”
“I’m so sorry to hear–”
“Besides, my story certainly kept you from fainting, now didn’t it?”
She released a light laugh and resumed pressing the Emergency button.
“I hope you don’t think what I told you about my husband was true.”
For a second, Junemarie wasn’t sure if the woman told her a phony
story or not but decided the sad stranger was only trying to recover her
dignity. “You’ve proven to me a good story trumps a fainting spell.” She
wanted to tell her that her secret was safe with her, but that would have
made the moment even more awkward. She knew about secrets, because
she had her own family secrets, secrets she would have to confront head-
on one of these days. They were secrets that brought her even more
anguish than the acrophobia.
A whir sounded, and the elevator jolted before making the ascent to
the top floor. Junemarie was grateful the problem was just a glitch and
not a fraying cable. When they got off, she asked for directions to Mr.
Maybright’s office.
“Oh, I’ll take that to him.” The woman snatched the envelope from
her hand. “If you go near that office, you’re certain to faint. It’s got floor
to ceiling windows. Even I get woozy.”
Junemarie headed down to the fifth floor, this time by way of the
stairs, thinking how she would never fall in love with a man who didn’t
love her and want children desperately.

Dear Darling Twins,

I hope Baby Heaven is a nice place. You both deserve to
live in a nice place after what you’ve been through. I want to
say that I’ll tell you about it when you get older, but you
never will get older. You will stay perfect for all eternity.
Not all things last forever, though. The pretty house is
gone, all your toys are gone, and Nanny Beulah is taking
care of someone else’s babies.
Mommy isn’t living in such a nice place now. She’s got
lady roommates, hundreds of them, and they’re all messy
and say bad words and make her do things she never
dreamed she’d do in her entire life—like peel potatoes and
much, much worse. But now that Mommy has a special best
friend, not so many bad ladies bother her.
Mommy’s still hoping her appeal comes through, so that
justice can be served. Justice. Ha! What a laugh. Ask the
angels to tell you about justice. It may exist in Baby Heaven,
but down here on Earth, it’s nothing but a myth. It’s the Big
Lie. The Cream of the Crock.
Well, it’s time for Sally’s massage. Gotta run.
Love always,
Your Real Mommy

The next couple of days went by swimmingly. Gabby was very

helpful to Junemarie but still painfully shy. Barbie had promised to show
Junemarie New York City on the weekend, but a last-minute modeling
job came up that would take her to Montreal for a few days. Junemarie
was surprised to learn that models were on-call like doctors.
After telling Mrs. Deauville about the cancelled plans, the kindly
woman introduced her to Andy Culpepper from the Production
Department. The lanky, plain-looking young man in the crewcut and
cardigan offered to give her a tour of Manhattan on Saturday and she
On Thursday, Junemarie reminded Mrs. Deauville about the slush
pile. She sent her to Gabby, who was hunched over a stack of papers and
flinched when Junemarie tapped her shoulder. “Oh, I’m sorry to break
your concentration, but I was hoping you could show me the slush pile.”
The shy girl turned to her but didn’t level her gaze with Junemarie’s
eyes. “The slush pile? But aren’t you too new for the slush pile? I was
here three years before I read from the slush pile.”
“Well, I hope I’m ready for it.” Junemarie wondered if Gabby was
right. “Mrs. Deauville thinks I should give it a try.”
The stocky girl turned back to her stack of papers. “Well, you’d better
be sure you’re ready for it. When you read one of these manuscripts,
you’re holding someone’s life in your hands. That manuscript may be her
only hope, the only thing keeping her from taking a bottle of pills or
leaping out a window. It may be her only reason to live.”
Good lord, no author could be that desperate! “Thank you, Gabby. I
promise to take that into consideration.” Junemarie didn’t want to argue
with her. “Would you have time to show me how to check out
manuscripts from the slush pile?”
She selected three manuscripts at random—Beyond the Light, Timmy
Trent: the Misadventures of a Crossing Guard, and The Importance of
Being Sternest—but none looked promising. In the back of her mind, she
hoped Gabby wasn’t right. She didn’t want her rejection letters to be
nooses around these authors’ necks.
Before the closing bell that afternoon, Andy phoned Junemarie to
arrange a meeting time and place for Saturday. She found his easy
manner charming and allowed herself to giggle freely once she saw that
everyone had left the office at five. It wasn’t long before she realized her
giggling had attracted a straggler.
“Oh, good, you’re still here.”
Junemarie looked up to a middle-aged woman with strawberry
blonde hair pulled tightly into a chignon atop her head. She was average
height and weight, well-dressed, and attractive for her age. Junemarie’s
father would have called her “a handsome woman.”
“Tell your friend you’ll phone back. I need to speak with you now.”
Her voice had an urgency that Junemarie couldn’t ignore. “Andy, I’ve
got to go now. I’ll see you Saturday.” Hanging up, she turned to the
woman, curious as to who she was.
“I need these typed tonight.” The woman dropped a stack of papers
onto her desk. “When you’re done, you can leave them in my office.”
Junemarie thought the woman had her confused with someone else.
“Excuse me, but have we met?”
The woman held her chin high while responding. “I’m Miss Winter.”
So this was the infamous Fran Winter! “I’m sorry, Miss Winter, but
I’ve made plans for this evening.” Junemarie was eager to tackle her first
slush pile manuscripts. “Maybe if you speak with Mrs. Deauville in the
morning, she–”
“Miss Hinkle.” Miss Winter’s stance became more erect. “I know
you’re new here.”
Junemarie was surprised she knew her name. She felt like a field
mouse that was to be the next meal of a circling hawk.
The notorious editor continued. “Because you’re new, I’ll overlook
your error in judgment this time, but if you want to make anything of
yourself at Summers & Maybright, you’ll have these typed tonight and
on my desk first thing in the morning. Do I make myself clear?”
At that moment, the young assistant editor wanted to tell Fran Winter
that she did not need to take her bullying, that her free time was her own,
but she didn’t. Instead, she bit her tongue and removed the plastic cover
from her typewriter. “Yes, Miss Winter.”
The editor relaxed her shoulders and softened her expression. “Good.
I’m glad you understand. Good evening.”
Junemarie watched her stroll away through the typing pool area and
disappear into the hallway’s darkness. So that was how she operated.
When the time was right, she made sure you knew your place in the
company pecking order. Junemarie never understood what made some
women so bitter. Mrs. Deauville was around the same age as Miss Winter
but was the complete opposite. She was warm, maternal, and fair, while
Fran Winter was cold, hard, and soulless.
She rifled through Miss Winter’s letters and internal memos and saw
that none looked pressing. Well, Fran Winter won round one, but
Junemarie would have to learn how to beat her at her own game. She had
a feeling the veteran editor would be an excellent teacher.

That Saturday, Junemarie had only been waiting a few minutes on the
busy street corner when she felt a tap on her shoulder. Turning to face
Andy, she was relieved to see he was casually dressed in a madras shirt,
Bermuda shorts, and moccasins. She, too, was informal in a comfortable
shirtdress and flats. She didn’t even fix her hair, instead pulling it back in
a pony-tail.
“Good morning! The city has been kind to us today.” Andy waved his
arm expansively. “The sun is shining and there’s not a cloud in the sky.
Smog, of course, but not a single cloud.”
Junemarie returned his warm smile. “It is a beautiful day.”
“And our first attraction has just arrived.” He pointed up between two
skyscrapers at a coral and white zeppelin slowly passing by.
She was impressed. “Wow! What’s that for?”
Andy shielded his eyes and stared at the floating bubble. “I think the
banner reads Swirl Cigarettes. Yes, that’s it.”
She had never picked up the smoking habit and wasn’t familiar with
many brands of cigarettes. “Swirl?”
“Sure, you’ve heard the ads on the radio. Curl up to a Swirl, the
smoke for the modern girl.”
Junemarie laughed at Andy’s dramatic flourishes as he recited the
product’s hook.
“First on our agenda is a New York breakfast.” He grabbed her hand
and led her to the crosswalk. “I know the perfect spot.”
As they leisurely walked along, Andy shared some basic geography
of Manhattan. He explained that Fifth Avenue divided Manhattan into the
east side and west side and provided brief descriptions of some of the
different Manhattan neighborhoods. “Hell’s Kitchen is where West Side
Story was set. Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side have beatniks.
Wall Street’s down in the Financial District. Sutton Place is ritzy. Of
course, I’m sure you know that the Upper East Side is old money and the
Upper West Side is rich, too. Mostly creative types and very Jewish like
me. Only I’m from Morningside Heights, just south of Harlem. And you
must see the Bowery, because–”
“Culpepper is Jewish?” Junemarie was surprised to hear Andy was
not Christian.
“No, but my father died in Pearl Harbor and my mother is Jewish.
She married my stepfather Saul Hornung when I was ten, so, of course, I
had a bar-mitzvah, despite my veddy propah English lahst name. You
know, a lot of people who don’t know I’m Jewish don’t hold back their
anti-Semitism in conversation. Sociologically, it’s quite revealing.”
Junemarie had never met any Jews in Yankee Hollow. Andy could be
mistaken for any bookish-type boy from home. “Do you have any Negro
“Well, of course. Morningside Heights overlaps with Harlem. I know
a lot of different people.”
“How exciting. And do you know any Orientals? We have one back
“Uh, yeah, okay.” Andy gave her a half-smile. “You probably know
we have a wonderful Chinatown here. I know a few guys from Columbia
who grew up there.”
Junemarie was surprised that South American immigrants lived in a
place called Chinatown.
“Anyway, here we are.”
After walking five blocks west, they came upon a fenced-off area. In
its center was a fifteen-story, partially demolished building surrounded
by cranes with wrecking balls. Andy told her to wait at a certain spot
while he went over to a nearby vendor cart, and he returned with two
carry-out coffees and a bag of donuts.
“Breakfast, Manhattan style.” He handed her a coffee and set the
donut bag on the fence ledge.
“You, Mr. Culpepper, are a kook.” She blew the steam off the black
“True enough, but I think stuff like this is fun.” He jammed a jelly
donut into his mouth and gulped loudly before continuing. “It’s not often
you get to see such an old building wrecked in the center of Manhattan.”
“What building is this?”
“It’s the old Endicott Building. A landmark. It was built at the turn of
the century and for decades was where many secret men’s clubs were
headquartered. There are all kinds of stories about it, but I can’t divulge
them in mixed company.”
“You mean dirty laundry? If I promise not to blush, will you tell?”
“Not on your life.” Boom. A wrecking ball pounded against the stone
structure and its impact reverberated through the city smog.
“Why are they tearing this down?” Boom. “Erasing years of sin,
“I suppose so. That and National Pride Insurance plans to build a
really huge skyscraper here. All glass and steel. Very futuristic.” Boom.
Junemarie drank her coffee as she watched the bruised building
crumble. “Andy, we’re not going to spend all day here, are we?”
“No, c’mon.”
The next few hours flew by. They toured Seventh Avenue, the fashion
and garment district, where Junemarie almost bought the same
fashionable Lady Tearose girdle she had seen Barbie wear. She reminded
herself she’d have to come back for it when she wasn’t accompanied by a
man. Andy wanted to take her to the Statue of Liberty and the Empire
State Building, but she skirted those high-rise attractions by telling him
she wanted to see the real New York, not the weekend tourist New York.
He brought her to the Museum of Modern Art, where she viewed works
of art with secrets she’d never understand. They followed that with a
carriage ride through Central Park, lunch from a hot dog vendor, a
promenade along Millionaire’s Row in the Upper East Side, and a glass
of wine at the renowned Algonquin Hotel. Throughout the day, they
shared dreams and memories. Andy confessed to being a part-time
inventor and hoped to perfect his remote-controlled floor-cleaning robot
someday. “Wash and wax a floor while you watch teevee!”
As they wound up the day strolling through Times Square and
discussing the optimal number of Geiger counters in a fallout shelter, a
man’s voice called, “Hey, Andy!”
Her tour guide turned and waved to a strikingly handsome man. “Oh,
hi, Ken.” His response to the man was less enthusiastic.
The attractive man joined them. He was in his mid-thirties, almost as
tall as Andy, muscular, dark-haired, and dressed in a business suit.
Junemarie had the feeling she’d seen him before.
“Junemarie Hinkle, meet Ken Davenport. Ken is an editor at
Summers & Maybright.”
For the first time that day, she felt self-conscious about her
appearance. She wished she didn’t look so ordinary while meeting Ken.
“How do you do? I started working for Mrs. Deauville this week.”
His handshake was firm and energetic. “Oh, you can learn a lot from
her. On top of that, she’s a wonderful person.”
Andy took Junemarie’s hand. “Well, nice seeing you, Ken. We’ve got
“Mr. Davenport–” She didn’t know why Andy was in such a rush to
leave Ken. He was certainly affable enough.
“Please, call me Ken.”
“Ken.” She felt slightly awkward saying his first name aloud, as
though she were being intimate. “Andy has been giving me the most
wonderful tour of New York City.”
The editor shifted his briefcase to his left hand and gestured
expressively with his right. “New York really comes alive at night. You
should make the Greenwich Village scene, if you want to see the real
New York.”
Andy tugged on Junemarie’s hand. “Well, like I said, we’ve got to–”
“Oh, I can’t wait to see it.” That wasn’t entirely true. She was a little
apprehensive about making the beat scene, because J. Edgar Hoover had
lumped beatniks in with Communists as enemies of the state. However,
Ken’s endorsement made her more open to the idea. “My roommate
Barbie mentioned a place called Bongos, some big basement beat club.”
“Your roommate has good taste.” Ken laughed lightly. “I play bass in
a jazz trio there on Wednesday nights just for fun. Come on down. I need
all the fans I can get.”
Junemarie promised she would before Ken excused himself,
explaining he had a previous engagement.
She and Andy resumed their walk. “He seems very nice.”
“I guess so.”
Andy’s easiness had faded, and Junemarie detected some rivalry. She
hoped not, because she had no romantic feelings for Andy. Ken, on the
hand, was a definite possibility.
An awkward silence hovered like the smell of boiled cabbage.
Junemarie was the first to speak. “Andy, I couldn’t have asked for a
better day than this. I’ve had a wonderful time.” She was sincere. “But
there’s one more thing I’d like to do.” She gave him a coy grin as she
pointed to the subway entrance. “That!”
Andy tugged at his shirt collar. “Uh, no, I, um, I don’t think so.”
Junemarie sensed his discomfort. Was he really upset with her
attention to Ken? She had no time to think it through, though, because
the cries of people drew her attention.
“Look!” People pointed up into the afternoon sky.
She turned to see the Swirl zeppelin losing altitude and heading
straight for Times Square. A stream of people dashed to the subway for
shelter, and her woman’s intuition told her to follow them. “C’mon.”She
tugged at Andy’s arm.
Andy pulled away. “No, you go.” Panic registered on his face. “Go!
Just go!”
She didn’t understand his resistance and didn’t try. After scurrying
down the subway steps, she turned back, but Andy had vanished from
An explosion and a chorus of screams above-ground followed.
Moments later, Junemarie and the crowd climbed back to the street level
to witness the carnage. People were screaming and pointing. Pieces of
the zepplin’s coral and white balloon material were strewn all over Times
Square. She turned to the top of the subway entrance and saw what
appeared to be a human arm! At that gruesome sight, she raced off, until
tears seized her. She stopped to blow her nose into her hanky and to get
her bearings.
Nearby, people were recounting what had happened. The zeppelin
had been descending, but before it reached the ground, the balloon was
pierced with a skyscraper’s flagpole. The impact caused an explosion and
eliminated any chance for a somewhat safe landing for the aircraft.
While the sound of sirens roared through the streets, she looked for
Andy. Not finding him and figuring the police would soon be clearing
the area, she went down the subway stairs and rode the rails a couple of
stops to her new home.
During the ride, Junemarie’s thoughts weren’t on Andy or the faceless
victims of the crash. She couldn’t help but worry how close Ken had

gotten to the tragedy.

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