Pairings/Characters (this chapter): Sarah Simmons, Zeb/Esther, John/Olivia, John-Boy Walton, Mary Ellen Walton, Jason Walton
Fandom: The Waltons
Genres: Drama, Holiday, Slice-Of-Life
Rating (this chapter): G
Spoilers: For Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931)
General Summary: Professor Sarah Simmons takes John-Boy, Mary Ellen, and Jason to see the classic horror films Dracula and Frankenstein in Charlottesville.
Chapter Summary: Sarah makes her pitch to the Waltons.
Date Of Completion: October 6, 2018
Date Of Posting: October 5, 2019
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Lorimar Productions does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1831
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Note: All chapters can be found here.
“The Career Of
Mr. Proper Parker”
I managed a good excuse. While the kids stayed at school, I brought home a cake Miss Rosemary had baked, using a recipe Momma had given her. I gave Ben my brown bag lunch to divide up among our siblings and enjoyed a tasty lunch of pork sandwiches with baked potatoes and corn at the kitchen table with everyone. The potatoes were small and from our garden like the corn, but hot out of the oven with melted butter.
Sarah had showed up in time for sharing our meal, and she chatted about life on campus and the latest Red Sox baseball season.
“We’ve got new ownership, so I expect great things.”
“I’ve seen pictures of Fenway Park,” Grandpa said. “That left field wall is a curiosity.”
“When the park was first built in 1912, it was a steep hill known as Duffy’s Cliff.”
“Named for…?” Daddy asked as he accepted a bowl of corn from Momma.
“Duffy Lewis, who mastered the 10-foot incline while playing left field. Mr. Yawkey, the club’s new owner, is doing a major renovation of the park.”
“Not a bad idea. How old is the park?”
“Twenty-two. Their Grand Opening was pushed off the front pages by the Titanic.”
“Oh, my!” said Grandpa.
Sarah kept up light chatter and when lunch was done, helped clear the table. The dishes were left to soak in the sink as we all retired to the living room.
As a writer, I was taking more note of things, including women’s clothing.
Sarah had shown up in a dark-red pleated skirt and blazer and the knitted beret was close to the same color. She wore a burnt-orange pullover sweater over a pale yellow shirt. Instead of hose, she was sporting pale yellow knee socks and red loafers. She looked like a college professor, all right, and was still quirky enough to be herself.
I knew that Momma and Grandma didn’t approve of her pants, so she had decided not to wear them today. Clever.
“So, Sarah, what project can we help you with today?” Daddy asked.
“Broadening an aspiring writer’s horizons,” she answered, sweeping her arm out dramatically. Sunlight hit her gold-plated bracelet and winked real pretty.
I know that Grandpa was charmed. From the time Professor Sarah Simmons had shown up on our doorstep, he’d taken a shine to her. She’d been looking to find folktales here on the Blue Ridge, and Zebulon Walton was a prime source.
“And how would that go?” he asked.
“I’d like your permission, Mr. and Mrs. Walton, to take John, Mary Ellen and Jason into Charlottesville this Friday to see Dracula and Frankenstein at the Bijou Theater.”
Surprise showed on everyone’s faces, but Momma’s expression was the first to solidify into a negative one.
“Those horror movies? I don’t think so.”
Sarah leaned forward on the couch. “Hear me out, please, Mrs. Walton. I don’t make this request lightly.”
Momma sat in Daddy’s favorite chair while he sat on the chair arm. Grandpa was in Momma’s favorite chair and Grandma in her rocker, already disapproving. I was standing near the desk and leaning against the wall with my hands in my pockets.
Sarah’s earnestness certainly helped sell her pitch. Her charm bracelet jingled lightly as she gestured.
“John is a very bright student. I want him to see the difference between literary works and their film adaptations. As a writer, that knowledge could be invaluable.”
I felt a little uncomfortable. My parents knew that Sarah had loaned me some books, but I didn’t mention what they were. They probably assumed they were textbooks, not horror novels.
“But horror?” asked Momma. “Couldn’t you have picked something else?”
“Well, I’m only here for a short time before returning to Boston, and these films are being featured at the Bijou. It’s all perfect timing.”
My father spoke up for the first time. “Professor, are you sure about these films?”
“I’ve seen them before, Mr. Walton, when they were first released three years ago. The novels they ‘re adapted from are literary classics. Bram Stoker’s Dracula built on Poe classics like The Fall Of The House Of Usher and brought in a new form of Gothic storytelling. Ushered in, you might say.” She smiled charmingly. Grandpa was responding, that was for sure. “And as for Frankenstein? It was written decades before and published in 1818 and by a woman, no less, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of England’s premier poets.”
Sarah was really getting enthusiastic about the subject now. Whether my parents understood that energy or not, she was being genuine about it. I could hear the rocker creaking at a fast pace and knew that Grandma was agitated.
“I would not bring your children to a movie with no redeeming qualities. These are high-quality A-list works, not B-movies.”
Grandpa slapped his knee. “Of course not! You are a professional woman, Professor, and your opinion holds weight. What about it, John? Livvie?”
Momma was still unconvinced. “Why do you want to bring Mary Ellen and Jason if this is for a writer like John-Boy?”
“The music used in these films would be of interest to Jason, and as for Mary Ellen, a girl should have the same opportunities as her brothers.”
I was hoping that last point would score points with Momma, but you can never tell. Sometimes she’s all progressive with female rights and other times, no soap.
Momma looked at Daddy, and I could see that he was wavering. He wasn’t much for classical literature himself. Give him a good Zane Grey or Lone Ranger novel and he was happy, but he respected education.
I could hear the ticking of our grandfather clock. I was feelin’ edgy as I would have to be goin’ back to school soon. I stayed motionless as clearly, Momma and Daddy were silently discussing this. I had wanted to go before, but now with the possibility of being denied the chance, I wanted it more than ever.
The clock sounded even louder than ever. I hoped a decision was coming soon. The silence was crushing, like my soul.
Huh, now there was a good writer’s sentence!
Sarah was patient, but as the silence stretched out, she began to look uncomfortable. By now I was getting a little agitated. Didn’t they trust Sarah? She was sincere in her assurances. I wondered if I should speak up.
Grandpa beat me to it. “Livvie, John, I think the professor here is being honest with you. She will take care of our young’uns, and this isn’t exactly the big city. They’ll all be safe and be a little more educated when they get back.”
Yes! Tell it, Grandpa!
Grandma’s gravelly voice cut through the air like a whip. “I think you’d be crazy to let them go.”
I could feel all the air leave me like a popped balloon. Leave it to Grandma to queer the deal. My frustration and disappointment made me feel like I was going to explode.
My father was the one who spoke. “Okay, we give our permission. We trust you’ll keep our children safe, Professor.”
“Oh, I will. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Walton.”
She stood and shook their hands and smiled at Grandpa, who rose from his chair and said, “I’ll escort you out.”
“Time for you to get back to school, young man,” Momma said.
“I can give you a lift,” Sarah said.
“That’s okay,” Daddy said.
Out on the porch, Grandpa took one of Sarah’s hands in both of his and patted her hand. “Don’t you worry about them changin’ their minds. I’ll see to it things stay the same.”
“Why, thank you, Zeb.” Sarah smiled. “How can I ever thank you for all your help?”
A glint came into my grandfather’s eye. He chuckled and patted her hand again, lingering a little with his touch. “Just lend me those books you loaned John-Boy. I’d like to read Stoker and Shelley.” He laughed as my jaw dropped.
“Certainly, Zeb.” Sarah squeezed his hand and extricated herself gracefully from his grasp. “Time to get you back to school, John.”
Grandpa asked, “You takin’ everyone out after the movies?”
“Yes, I’d thought of it.”
“Go ahead; I’ll square it inside.”
Sarah bestowed a dazzling smile on Grandpa, who waved happily as she and I drove off in her red roadster.
“Your grandfather is delightful, John.”
“Figures he knew the novels you’d given me.”
“He’s a sharp old bird.” She smiled at me. “Glad you can go. The material is mature, but you can handle it. And I assume if you felt your brother and sister couldn’t, you would have said something by now.”
I felt a little nervous. “Well, I trust you.”
“Good. There isn’t any gore. Dracula’s seduction of Renfield is mostly off-screen, and his attacks on Mina aren’t really shown, at least not in detail. And you’ve seen pictures of the Frankenstein Monster, right?” I nodded. “Good. Some people were really affected by their first view of the creature. The make-up is extraordinary.”
We reached the school and I said, “I can’t wait. See you Friday.” I got out of the car.
“You bet. I’ll be here around five.” She waved and drove off.
Lunch recess was over, so I hurried through the deserted schoolyard. I was able to slip in just as everyone was settling into their seats. Mary Ellen and Jason looked at me hopefully and I smiled, giving the OK sign. They grinned happily and lessons resumed.
On the walk home after school, the three of us walked behind the other kids, who were chattering about something that had happened during lunch recess.
“I can’t believe it. Momma and Daddy actually said yes?” Mary Ellen asked as she kicked a stone down the dirt road.
“It was touch-and-go for awhile there,” I admitted.
“Well, I’m glad they did,” Jason said. He frowned. “How are we supposed to dress, John-Boy?”
“I guess not Sunday best, but a cut above overalls. Maybe you and me wear white shirts and our corduroy pants. Sorry, Mary Ellen, a dress for you.”
She kicked another stone. “Sarah wears pants.”
“Yeah, but your only pants are overalls. We’re goin’ out with Harvard college students, y’know. No hicks from the sticks.”
Mary Ellen made a face but she didn’t argue any more. Instead she nodded toward our siblings.
“They’re gonna put up a fuss when they hear we’re goin’, ‘specially Erin and Ben.”
“They will, but Sarah judges they’re too young,” I said.
She snorted. “You think they’ll care about that?”
“They better. Sarah’s a Harvard professor!”
“Still won’t matter to them.”
“It’ll have to matter.” I shrugged.
“Momma and Daddy got good sense. They won’t let ‘em pitch much of a fit.” Jason sounded confident as he trudged along.
I sure hoped he was right.
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