a Remember WENN story
by Linda M. Young "Certainly not," Hilary Booth said firmly.
Betty Roberts knew she was fighting a losing battle but she persisted gamely. The conversation had already attracted a small audience: Gertie Reece was ignoring her switchboard to concentrate on the conversation, and Mackie Bloom had just emerged from the Green Room with a cup of coffee and was eyeing them both with interest.
It was time to pull out her big guns and appeal directly to the actress' interests. "Hilary, you would be the perfect person to interview him. After all, he has a growing reputation in New York."
She saw Hilary pause briefly at that reference, then the woman arched her neck and pursed her lips. Today she was wearing a sleek jade green dress, accented with a string of pearls and a smart velvet turban, and Betty already felt outclassed simply by means of her dress, a demure white blouse and navy blue skirt. She added quickly, "Why, the New York critics say he might be another Thomas Wolfe, or a new John Steinbeck."
Behind her, although she did not see it at the minute, Victor Comstock had emerged from his office with a ubiquitous sheaf of papers in his hands. He halted, arched an eyebrow, then joined those observing the situation.
"Betty," Hilary said, and now she was looking darkly at the young writer with an expression of exasperated tolerance, "The past few authors that have appeared on the show were bad enough. But I have told you once and will not tell you again, I will not be heard interviewing some hayseed writer. I have a reputation to maintain. If you want me to interview someone, I want someone worthy of my talents. Eugene O'Neill, David Belasco, Lunt and Fontanne."
"David Belasco and Lunt and Fontanne aren't writers, Hilary."
"But they certainly are worthy of my talents."
Betty said patiently, "We can certainly arrange an interview should they come to Pittsburgh."
"Then we must wait until that day," Hilary responded regally.
Betty tried one more tack. "If the truth be told, Hilary, I'm pretty sure this writer really isn't as young or naive as his resume suggests. For all I know he's some prominent novelist who's tried something new under a pseudonym. He could even be someone you know."
"Possibly," Hilary said airily. "I knew many insincere people in New York." She paused long enough that Betty almost started to hope. "But what makes you think I want to speak with them, especially if one of them is posing as some hillbilly artiste?" She glanced at her wristwatch. "I believe Jeffrey will be needing me in a momentnot that he doesn't always."
She swept past Betty making a motion to Mackie, then disappeared into Studio A.
"Her Majesty awaits," Mackie said in his best Travers the butler voice, made a face at Betty, and also vanished into the studio.
Gertie mimicked, "'I knew many insincere people in New York.' Presumably all of them in a line behind her."
Betty ignored the expected jibe with a sigh. "Well, I suppose that's that. I really did think it would be perfect for her."
"Not a chance," Gertie said with a snort, sounding as if someone had laced her orange juice with extra acid that morning. "Of course you did touch one of her sensitive spotsone of at least a dozen, if not more. Heaven forbid anyone should know the great Miss Booth is a country girl herself."
"You're putting me on," Betty said in surprise. "Butshe's so urbane."
"All a perfected part of her act," and when Betty looked skeptical, Gertie added, "Oh, for heaven's sake, Betty, she's from some little moose track town in Maine. All they have in Maine are pine trees, fish, and wildlifewhich is a perfect way to describe Hilary."
The switchboard chose that moment to ring, and when Gertie turned back to her duties, Betty turned back to the writer's room, only to find Victor Comstock regarding her with amusement.
"Miss Roberts? I trust you're learning to cope with Hilary," he asked with a fresh twinkle in his eye.
She had to smile at him. They'd started off on the wrong foot almost two months ago, but she'd earned his respect on her first day, his trust in the ensuing weeks. She was now writing almost all of the continuing programs, except for his special projects, Amazon Andy, and the comedy patter for The Glint Grab-Bag, and in the past few weeks had asked for her suggestions about new programming. She'd already created a children's adventure serial and a new daytime drama called Time and Tide, but nothing she had her heart into yet as he did in his own creations. "Oh, I'm coping with her, Mr. Comstock. I can't say I'm winning, though."
"I heard only the end of the conversation. What type of interview were you proposing she do?"
She showed him the book and letter in her hand. "It's for The W-E-N-N Bookshelf, an interview with this 'promising new writer,' as his publisher calls him. Hastings House published his first novel during the summer and this is the final stop on his six months publicity tour. The book has had some lovely reviews, and since the author now lives in New York City, I thought Hilary would jump at the chance to speak with him on the air. I'm afraid she jumped me instead."
Victor took the book, whose dust jacket portrayed an adolescent boy at the foot of a mountain, and examined the volume as he spoke. "Had you thought of asking our newest employee?"
"Celia?" Betty asked with slight dismay. "Well, I had asked her, but-"
"Oh, she said she'd do it," was the hasty reply, Betty not wanting to get Celia in trouble, "but she said she didn't have time to read the book and-"
Victor tried not to smile as he paged through the novel, for she sounded distinctly uncomfortable. "I just don't think...Celia is the right person to do an interview of this sort."
"Why not you then?" he asked without looking up.
He looked up then, closed the book, handed it back to her. "Certainly, Miss Roberts. You've proven you can handle yourself on air. You did an excellent job of filling in on It's Your Nickel a few weeks ago. This interview looks as if would be quite suitable for you. You're familiar with the story, I take it?"
"Oh, I read the book several months ago," she said swiftly. She lowered her head for a moment, and when she met his eyes again her own seemed a little misty. "My dad gave it to me as a going-away present when I moved here to Pittsburgh." Then, in a stronger voice, she added, "I think I would like to do the interview actually. I really enjoyed the story and have so many questions I'd like to ask."
"I look forward to it," Victor responded. Betty was quite prepared for him to continue on his original errand and had begun to turn away when instead he straightened and asked tentatively, "Betty?"
The use of her first name startled her. "Yes, Mr. Comstock?"
"Ah...I was wondering," he said in a calm voice, "since you can't return to..." and here he smiled, "...to Moosejaw for the upcoming holiday, if you might consider having dinner with me. I have no family and I would find it most preferable to spending Thanksgiving alone."
The invitation took her breath away for a moment. Finally she said, "I haven't quite decided what I was going to do next Thursday, Mr. Comstock. But I appreciate the invitation. Would you mind if I didn't give you an answer just yet?"
"Certainly, Miss Roberts," and they went their separate ways, but not before she added with a grin, "And it's Elkhart."
"Of course," he said mildly, and she retreated to the writer's room with a swiftly beating heart. Victor had walked her to the trolley several times in the past few weeks and two days earlier they had eaten lunch together at the Buttery to discuss some programming, but this was his first dinner invitation.
She suddenly swallowed hard, clutching the book in both hands, restraining tears. If only the invitation for dinner hadn't been for Thanksgiving Day! It was hard enough accepting that she would not be with her family that day, or for Christmas; she had planned to spend both days alone, writing, to keep her mind off the fact. If she spent her holiday dinner with Victor, would she suddenly embarrass herself by tearing up at some familiar song or at the scent of turkey and dressing? She certainly didn't want him to think she disliked her jobit was the joy of her life. But as the holidays approached she was becoming intensely homesick and the mention of Thanksgiving sent her awash in conflicted feelings once more.
She stood clutching the book until she had herself under control, then sat back down at the desk, picking up the phone.
"Gertie, I need long distance, please. Could you connect me with Belle Becker at Hastings House?"
"Oh, how lovely!" Eugenia Bremer exclaimed in wonder as she returned from her late breakfast at the Buttery. Someone had set a cornucopia overflowing with fruit on a small table near the chairs as well as scattering the surface of the table with carefully pressed autumn leaves. On Gertie's desk sat a bouquet of bittersweet, the vase tied with an orange and brown bow. Next to it was a paper turkey, his printed cardstock body accented by a honeycombed tissue paper tail arching around his back. "These weren't here earlier. Did you bring them in, Gertie?"
"Now when have I ever made a fuss about this place?" Gertie clucked, then smiled. "Does look kinda pretty, though, doesn't it? Betty set them out a few minutes ago. Said this place didn't look like Thanksgiving would be here in a couple of days."
"Well, I think it's lovely," Eugenia repeated. "I'll have to mention it to Betty." And then her eyes widened as she looked at her watch. "But later," and she hurried into Studio A.
A few minutes later someone else was also admiring the autumn finery. Gertie turned away from a telephone call to discover a young man standing before her desk, his hat held in one hand as he smiled and touched the bittersweet berries.
"Good morning, ma'am," he said politely. There was a warm smile not only on his face, but in his eyes. "Someone has nice taste. This almost reminds me of home."
He had a soft accent Gertie couldn't place; it almost sounded Southern but was not the deep drawl of some friends she had in Mississippi. She hadn't spoken to Hilary yet that morning, so was feeling particularly mellow as she gave him a smile in return. "Our head writer did that. She's very creative."
"Head writer?" The young man consulted a slip of paper he had in his hand along with the hat. "Would that be Betty Roberts? I'm supposed to speak with her. I'm a little early, though; I'll leave and come back if it's too much trouble."
"Are you the novelist Betty is interviewing this afternoon?" Gertie asked with interest. Certainly he didn't look like her idea of a novelist, which she imagined had wild eyes and an equally wild wardrobe: he was not only soft-spoken, but was attired in a neat three-piece grey suit, oxford shoes, a blue-and-silver striped tie, and the soft brimmed hat.
"Yes, ma'am, I believe so, unless she's interviewing more than one of us." When he smiled, his eyes twinkled. "I'm on a publicity tour sponsored by my publishers, Hastings House."
Gertie buzzed Betty and told their visitor to sit down, but he was in the process of examining the autographed photos of current and past performers at WENN when Hilary came sweeping out of Studio A. With awe, he turned and looked at her.
"Excuse me...but are you Miss Hilary Booth?" he asked, disbelieving.
She looked him up and down, decided he was worth speaking to, and offered one gloved hand graciously. "Of course."
"Miss Booth, I'm very glad to meet you," he said enthusiastically, shaking her hand.
"Most people are," she replied, and Gertie saw a flash of surprise and then amusement creep into the young man's expression. "So, are you a fan of my daytime dramas, Mr.-"
"Walton," he supplied. "Actually, no, ma'am, I'm not."
Hilary froze, then continued, "My nighttime performances, then."
"No, ma'am, I'm sorry. Actually, I've never seen...that is, heard you perform."
Gertie smothered a laugh in her hands because the color in Hilary's cheeks rose, although her voice became decidedly frosty. "Oh, indeed. How is it that you know me, then?"
"My sister was crazy to be an actress when she was younger," the young man said warmly, "and she collected all sorts of Broadway and movie magazines. She had a photo of you in The Rivals in her collection. She'll be thrilled when I tell her I've spoken to you."
Hilary swallowed, but kept her composure, which was more than Gertie was doing at the moment. "How nice. So your sister is no longer interested in acting?"
"Oh, no, ma'am. She became a nurse and then was married and is expecting her first child in a few months. But I'm sure she'll be excited just the same. You and Alvira Drummond were her two favorite Broadway actresses."
Gertie now emitted a suppressed choke as Hilary flushed more deeply. It was well known that Hilary and certain of her female co-stars did not get along. Evidently Alvira Drummond was one of them.
Still, Hilary said coolly, "I'm very flattered, Mr. Walton. So, what brings...you to WENN?"
"Miss Roberts is interviewing me in a few hours," he responded, not missing her brief but visible startled reaction.
"Oh," Hilary replied, the frost in her voice turning to snow, "you must be the young novelist. How nice that I have fans in the most obscure rural areas of our country." She paused, then asked with a bit more warmth, "Do you think your sister might still be interested in an autographed photo of myself for her collection?"
The young man arched his eyebrows, but politely answered, deliberately deepening his accent, "Why, yes, ma'am, I think Mary Ellen would like that right well. She could put it with the autographed photo that Miss Drummond gave her when she visited the Mountain."
By this time Gertie was tempted to leave her chair for the safety of the hallway, for Hilary's high color had reached her ears. But the actress only rapidly murmured some polite excuse and returned to Studio A, having forgotten completely why she had emerged in the first place. It was only then that Gertieand young Mr. Waltonburst out into suppressed laughter.
"I'm sorry," he said when he was able to speak. "My mama would have thought that was terribly rude. But I believe I did take the wind out of her sails."
A voice behind him said in amusement, "Wind out of her sails? You becalmed her completely! I wish I had as much success."
He turned, and the friendly grey eyes twinkled. "Miss Roberts, I presume?"
Betty shook his hand, which was cool and dry. "The same. And you must be John Walton, Jr."
"Yes, ma'am. And as I was telling..." and here he glanced at Gertie, at a bit of a loss; she supplied, "Miss Reece," and he nodded, smiled and continued, "... was telling Miss Reece, I know I'm early and I'm sorry if I've interrupted your schedule. I had an interview at KDKA this morning and I thought I'd just come directly here. I can leave and come back if you need me to."
"No interruption at all, Mr. Walton," she said with a grin, her last vestige of belief that this was some jaded Manhattanite writing under a pseudonym having vanished. He didn't look much older than herself, tall, slim, and neat, with an open, friendly face that, if not Hollywood-handsome, was pleasant and welcoming, his doffed hat revealing a thick shock of reddish-brown hair. "In fact, I was still trying to decide what I'd questions I'd like to ask you on the air. Would you be interested in an early lunch? We can run down to the Buttery and run down some questions as well."
"I'd like that..." and he grinned, "...right well myself." Then he peered in Studio A, where Hilary and Jeff were glowering at each other while performing a scene in Valiant Journey. "Soyou work with Miss Booth all day?"
Betty, slipping her coat and hat from the rack near the door, answered, "All day, every day."
He hurried to her side to help her into her coat. "In that case, Miss Roberts, let me treat you to lunch. I think you deserve it."
Betty chose her favorite table at the Buttery, one near the big glass windows where they could see everyone walk by. John Walton held her chair for her and she took her seat, beginning as he sat down, "I'll make a little confession, Mr. Walton: my job at WENN is as scriptwriter. I haven't done any interviewing in a long time, not since I worked on the paper."
He smiled in delight. "You've worked on a newspaper?"
"Yes, the Elkhart Bugle. My dad was the editor."
"Miss Roberts, I used to run a newspaperthe Blue Ridge Chronicle. Just a small community paper, though."
"Did you truly?" Her liking for him was growing by the minute. "For how long?"
"Just a year," he admitted, then brushed at his hair. "But what I really wanted was to have my book published. When I finished it and Hastings House agreed to print it, I sold the Chronicle." He looked wistful. "Miss it sometimes, although I was convinced if I kept it up, I'd have gray hairs by the time I was 25."
She laughed. "I think my dad has had them since he took over as editor. Sometimes he'd be like the ball in a pinball machine, racing from one thing to the next."
A waiter came and took their orders, and then they were left to chat again.
"So how long have you lived in New York, Mr. Walton?"
"Let's seeit's a year and a half now. Hastings House accepted my book in May of '38 and I moved there about a month later."
"And your book just was published this summer?" Betty asked in astonishment.
"That was Mr. Hastings' fault," he said with a grin. "There really is a Mr. Hastings, you know. Quentin Hastings. Grand old man, looks a little like Oliver Wendell Holmes. His family was originally from Virginia, too, and he took a shine to my book and asked if I'd write a few more chapters and expand a couple of others. So the book was delayed." He added as he sipped the water the waiter had left, "Drove my mama wild, I'll tell you. If the Baptist Ladies' Aid wasn't asking her about it, it was one of the neighbors or her Aunt Kate. She'd write every week asking 'For heaven's sake, John-Boy, when are we going to see that book?'"
Betty laughed. "Is that what they call you at home?"
He blushed. "Yes, ma'am. Because I'm named after my daddy. I guess it sounds funny up here, but it's a sight better than 'Junior,' I think. In fact, if you want to call me that, or John, it's fine with me. Every time someone says 'Mr. Walton,' I still go looking around for my daddy."
"It's a deal, if you'll call me Betty," and she chuckled. "Sometimes 'Miss Roberts' makes me feel too much like an old maiden aunt!"
"I can assure you, MissI mean Betty," he responded with an approving glance, "that you are certainly no one's 'old maiden aunt.'"
A few minutes later the waiter arrived with their food. As Betty spread her napkin on her lap, she proposed, "Tell me more about your family, Mr....sorry, John. Reading your book made me almost feel as if I were back home myself."
"Well, if you've read the book you know almost all there is," he shrugged, picking up his soup spoon, then laughed. "Although Miss Becker says I have almost enough material for a sequel. I decided she was right and that's what I'm working on now, between the articles I do for the AP. In fact, it starts out with that very first edition I did of the Chronicle..."
And so Betty spend a swift hour with him telling the story of the problems with his first publication, which led into another episode, this one more sobering, about his attempts to reprint excerpts from Mein Kampf in order to warn his neighbors on the gravity of the situation in Europe. He seemed to sense the pall that threw on the conversation, so he switched tactics, telling her a more amusing story about his mother's efforts to get his father baptized, and then, having sensed some melancholy in her expression, he finished up with a story about one of his last Christmases at home, when the family had become separated by an ice storm.
"...so there we'd made plans for Mama's best Christmas and it all went wrong," he concluded with a reminiscent smile. "But you know what? Mama said she'd never felt so close to all of us, even though we were scattered to the wind trying to help folks on Christmas Eve. Said it captured the real spirit of the holiday."
"And did your grandparents finally get home?" Betty asked.
"Oh, they showed up Christmas morning, both fit as fiddles, although Grandpa got upset because we'd been into the presents already." He sobered as he regarded Betty. "Miss R-...Betty? I don't mean to pry, but something tells me you're feeling awfully homesick right now."
It was probably the tears gathered in her eyes. Embarrassed, she nodded and dried them with a napkin as he heaved a sigh and continued, "That first Thanksgiving and Christmas were the hardest for me. I'd work until I was dog tired every night but it still hurt. To make it worse Mama or one of my sisters would send a package at least once a month. Luckily Miss Becker and Emily Maddocks
she's Miss Becker's secretary took me under their wing. Miss Maddocks had me over to her family doings for Christmas, which I truly appreciated.
"But when the blues got the worst I'd sit down and write a story about home." He cocked his head at her. "Maybe you ought to try it. Might make a fine radio show."
As he spoke, there was a dawning spark in Betty's eyes. Finally a smile crossed her face and she bit her lip stifling the laugh of delight that had bubbled up inside her. "That is certainly something I'd take into consideration!" And then she glanced at her watch. "Oh, good heavens...we need to get back before Eugenia's reduced to playing the theme song to The W-E-N-N Bookshelf over and over."
As they paid the bill and hurried out of the Buttery, he pointed out, "You know, we never did discuss what questions you were going to ask me."
"Don't worry," she assured him, eyes dancing. "I figured that out when you were telling me stories."
"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to The W-E-N-N Bookshelf, our weekly series about books and writers. This is Betty Roberts substituting for your regular hostess, Miss Hilary Booth. Our guest today is Mr. John Walton Jr, author of Waltons Mountain, an autobiographical work about his growing up in the hills of Virginia. Welcome, Mr. Walton."
"Thank you, Miss Roberts, I'm pleased to be here."
As Betty segued from the rote opening and began asking their guest a few brief questions about how he had begun writing and how his novel came to be published, she was conscious of a group gathering, either behind C.J. in the control room or at the door to Studio A. Victor was seated next to C.J., leaned back in his chair watching her thoughtfully, and Mr. Foley was standing behind them, wringing his hands as if nervous with no sound effects to perform. Mackie was at the door, along with Gertie, and soon she saw Hilary appear, looking as if she were only partially paying attention.
"Mr. Walton, I enjoyed your book so much that initially I wanted to ask you dozens of questions. But now I think I'd rather our audience hear something of this extraordinary novel. Would you mind reading some of your favorite passages to us?"
"No, ma'am, not at all," he said, taking up his own copy, which was neatly bookmarked with white slips of paper, each noted in a neat hand. In a clear, clean voice he began to tell the story of the Christmas when he discovered his father knew he wanted to become a writer, then effortlessly continued with a narrative about his first love and loss. As he finished a short chapter about his grandfather teaching his youngest sister about woodcraft, Betty broke from her absorption in his tale and glanced up again. Mr. Foley had reached for a handkerchief and was wiping his eyes, Mackie had a dreamy expression on his faceand to her surprise, Hilary was listening intently, with an expression that Betty almost thought was wistfulness.
Finally, glancing over his shoulder at the clock, John concluded with a short passage about nightfall coming to the hills. "At night across the mountain, when darkness falls and the winds sweep down out of the hollows, the wild things with their shiny eyes come to the edge of the clearing. At such an hour the house seems safe and warm, an island of light and love in a sea of darkness. At such an hour the word 'home' must have come into being, dreamed up by some creature that never knew a home. In his yearning there must have come to mind the vision of a mother's face, a father's deep voice, the aroma of fresh baked bread, sunshine in a window, the muted sounds of rain on a roof, the sigh of death, the cry of a newborn babe, and voices calling 'goodnight.' Home, an island, a refuge, a haven of love."
Eugenia, who had been seating at the organ throughout his reading with a rapt face, broke into spontaneous applause, then blushed and folded her hands in her lap. Betty bit her lip to keep from laughing, then, conscious of the time, began to conclude the program. She was afraid Mackie and Mr. Foley had been too charmed by the young writer's recitation, but as she concluded, "That was indeed wonderful, Mr. Walton. I want to thank you for being with us and urge all our listeners to tune into The W-E-N-N Bookshelf next week," both men rushed into the studio, Mackie to take his place by the main microphone and Mr. Foley to his usual station behind the effects table.
As the second hand of the clock swept over the twelve, Mr. Foley rang the station identification chimes and Mackie intoned, "This is WENN, Pittsburgh, and the time is 1 p.m. This is the afternoon news. A tragedy today in Monroeville as fire destroyed..." As Betty and John left the studio, he gave them an enthusiastic thumbs up without losing his place on the teletype printout.
She turned to see Victor's reaction, but he had already vanished from the control room.
Gertie was the only one left at the double doors when they emerged, but as the receptionist shook John's hand, praising his performance, Hilary emerged from the Green Room looking a bit flushed. She had two photographs in her hand. "Mr. Walton!"
"Yes, Miss Booth?" he asked politely.
"Mr. Walton-" and she took a deep breath. "Mr. Walton, that was indeed an extraordinary reading." Gertie did a double take and Betty's eyes widened, but Hilary had lowered her eyes for a moment before speaking again and did not see their reaction. "I know it's hard to believe by looking at me, but I was born in the country, up in Maine and...well, you brought back some very happy memories. I remember catching fireflies, wading barefoot in a little stream near our home-"
Then, as if noticing Gertie and Betty for the first time, she collected herself and continued in more normal tones, "In any case, here is the autographed photo I promised you for your sister. Careful, the ink is still wet."
Betty peeked over his shoulder to look at the photo and was again taken by surprise. Instead of her usual stock autograph, Hilary had written, "To Mary Ellen, best wishes from Hilary Booth." She glanced at Gertie and saw the older woman's eyebrows raise as Hilary offered yet another of the precious photos. "And this is for you, Mr. Walton."
This one was yet more astonishing, for it said, "To John Walton, from a devoted fan, Hilary Booth." Betty was just about to wonder if in the past few minutes Hilary had suffered from the same amnesia that seemed to strike Brent Marlowe every two episodes on The Hands of Time when Hilary continued brightly, "You know, Mr. Walton, I was hoping to conduct your interview, but Betty simply insisted on keeping you to herself. I was quite crushed!"
She flashed a disappointed smile and Betty's jaw dropped for a moment, then she closed her mouth, straightened and pasted a fixed smile on her face as Hilary added, "Really, Betty, you mustn't be so selfish next time."
"Why certainly, Hilary," Betty responded in a warm voice. "I promise you that next time the interview is all yours."
"Of course he or she will have to work very hard to live up to you, Mr. Walton," Hilary said, extending her hand, which John shook gravely. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I must be on the air in a few minutes. My public awaits. Have a safe journey back to New York." Just as she was about to enter the studio she flashed a last smile over her shoulder. "And give my regards to Broadway."
"Yes, ma'am, I willand thank you for the photos."
When she was out of earshot, still watching her, he added, "So who is your author next week, Miss Roberts?"
Betty, her eyes on Hilary but the glassy smile still on her face, responded, "Alma Butterfield, author of 75 Ways to Cook Pot Roast."
And now he grinned at her. "Miss Booth should find that right enjoyable."
Mindful of Hilary's presence just beyond the studio door, she and Gertie restrained from laughing aloud, then Betty offered to escort him to the elevator. As they stood waiting, he proffered his hand once more. "Betty, I've really enjoyed meeting you."
"The same here...John-Boy," and her eyes twinkled. "I'll be looking for that sequel, okay?"
The elevator doors opened and the "buttons" slid the gate aside. "Don't worry. No one will keep me from writing it. Happy Thanksgiving, Betty Roberts."
"Happy Thanksgiving to you, John Walton," she returned, with a small wave of her hand as he turned to face her. "And you can give my regards...to Waltons Mountain."
"Yes, ma'am," he said as the doors closed, "I surely will."
Her step light, she returned to the station, arching her eyebrows playfully at Gertie, then hurried down the hall. When she reached the office, she rapped smartly on the door.
"Come in," Victor said.
She opened the door and before she could say a word, he was on his feet, offering her his hand. "Miss Roberts, that was an outstanding interview. I'm impressed. You know, although I was raised in an urban environment, Mr. Walton's reading almost made me homesick for the rural life. I may have to obtain a copy of his book."
"Why don't you take the one Hastings House sent over? I have it in the writer's room," she offered, then added, tentatively, "Victor?"
"Yes, Betty?" And for just a moment, his eyebrows lowered as if he expected to hear something he didn't want to.
"I just wanted to tell you I'd be happy to have Thanksgiving dinner with you. I can't think of anything nicer than spending my holiday with a friend."
His expression cleared and he smiled broadly. "I'll...be looking forward to that, Betty. Shall we meet here or-"
"Why don't we discuss it later, when we have more time?" she suggested. "I have to finish today's episode of The Crimson Blade and...and I'm planning to work on a new series that I've been thinking about."
"Oh?" he said, cocking his head with genuine interest.
"You'll be the first to see it," she promised, and vanished.
In the writer's room, she rattled through the next chapter of Crimson Blade in ten minutes. It was the culmination of a story arc and she could see every action unfolding in her mind. Now she inserted a fresh sheet of paper in the typewriter, sat back in the chair, and began to think. After twenty minutes she took a deep breath, rested her fingers on the keys, and began to type.
(warm and folksy, but not excessively so)Hello and welcome to Brownstone Farm, nestled at the edge of the picturesque town of Bonneyville Mills. This is the world of Becky Rowland, her younger sister Trish, their guardians, hard-working Uncle Charley and fun-loving Aunt Min, and loveable Grandpa Brown, a world of church suppers, farm work, summer picnics, harvests, ice cream socials. As our story opens, Becky is just arriving home from college, her mind filled with the thoughts of Christmas revels to come...
She stopped, rolling the paper up to read what she had written so far. With her pencil, she crossed out "Brownstone" and replaced it with "Silverdell," and scribbled the title across the top: This Girl's Kinfolk.
Then she rolled the paper back and continued to type.
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