Not a Flyboy
Charlie fell back, flat-out hit the floor and saw stars dancing on the ceiling of the Harvard Cooperative Society.
“Stay down, fella.” The smirking face of the guy who had hit him came into view, and Charlie could hear the man’s friends giggling behind him. “These locals never know what’s good for them.”
Charlie didn’t get into fights very often but the student had pegged him right – he wasn’t about to back down. He rolled over and felt the blood flowing out of his nose from the sucker punch and then he pushed himself upright.
“How about we make this a fair fight, fella?”
Charlie had been drafted a few years before and had just gotten home the prior month from England where he had been an aviation mechanic. Victory was declared in May of 1945 and he was one of the lucky ones to be shipped home quickly. He was in the Harvard COOP that afternoon because he wanted to take a look around the old neighborhood. He had wandered in to look at the books when this hoity-toity, draft-dodging excuse for a man decided he had looked at his girlfriend a little too long. Charlie knew it was a ruse to instigate trouble.
“I doubt you could send me down like that if I had seen you coming. While you’ve been sitting on your rump here in Cambridge I’ve been fixing planes overseas – my fists are used to knocking into steel.” Charlie put his fists up and he took his best fighter’s stance.
The man he was taunting, a young good looking and well dressed Harvard student, did the same. His snickering buddies circled around. Just as they were about to get started, Charlie heard an exclamation behind him.
“Jonathan! What is the meaning of this?”
Charlie turned at the lyrical voice and saw the girl who he had looked at earlier. She was a young woman with long wavy blond hair and she wore a snow-white sweater and tan wool skirt. Before he knew it, he was looking at her peep-toe high heels and realized he was headed for the floor again. Another sucker punch got him while he was mesmerized by the girl’s beauty.
Charlie stayed down this time for a moment and he heard the group of laughing students walk away and leave the store.
“Here, let me help you up.” The young woman reached down to help him.
“No thanks!” Charlie groaned as he got up on one knee and used a shelf to pull himself up. “Who knows what your boyfriend will do if I actually talk to you.”
“Oh dear – you’re bleeding.” She pulled a handkerchief from her purse and it smelled like flowers, vanilla and peaches but he waved it away and found his own in his pocket.
“I’ll use mine, thanks. The blood will only ruin yours.” He dabbed at his nose and realized his left eye would have a good shiner from the second punch.
“And…” The girl continued. “I am most definitely not his girlfriend, though he never wants to take ‘no’ for an answer.” She put out her hand. “How do you do, I’m Timea Joie.”
Charlie held his cotton hanky to his nose with his left hand and shook her hand with his right. “Charlie. Charlie Carillon with two Ls but pronounced with a Y.” He looked into Timea’s baby blue eyes and thought he saw stars again.
“Like ‘carry-on,’ how interesting.”
“That’s right. Let me tell you, the Brits loved that with all their ‘keep calm and carry on’ and stiff upper lip stuff.” She laughed at that and Charlie never wanted to stop talking to her.
“If I’m not mistaken, Carillon means ‘chimes’ in French.” She looked at him as if she expected an explanation and so he complied.
“Well, my great-great-great grandfather used to take care of the fancy clocks for the royal muckety-mucks in Versailles and Paris. At least that’s the family story. Somehow we ended up with the name because he could fix any clock and get it to chime.” Charlie loved the way Timea’s expression changed as he told his story. She looked at him like she hadn’t a care in the world and that he was the only person around.
“Well that is quite a tale! Are you a student here too?” She asked to be polite because she could tell by his out-of-date clothes that he was not. Even the less wealthy students were able to scrounge up an outfit or two.
“No. I was just discharged from the Army Air Corps.”
“Oh! A flyboy?”
Charlie was used to the question. No one realized that there were ten times more soldiers on the ground than there were pilots. The crews had to make sure those flyboys took off and landed safely.
“No, but I can fix any plane ever made - I was a mechanic. Now I’m helping my father out in his shop – fixing clocks.”
“So the family business continues, Mr. Carillon! Or, should I call you ‘Charlie Chimes’?” Timea laughed and Charlie joined her.
“Clever. Even my French teacher in high school didn’t come up with that!”
“Well, Charlie Carillon. I should get home now.”
“Home? You mean you don’t live at the women’s college?”
“No, I’m a student, but I’m local so I live at home. Father would never have let me go anywhere else. He’s a Harvard man through and through. It was very nice meeting you.”
“You as well.” Charlie decided to take a chance. “Timea, could I take you out sometime?” Charlie saw her smile fade immediately so he quickly added, “How about just a cup of joe?”
“No. I’m sorry, but take-care Charlie.” At that she turned and her long blond hair and her skirts swooshed in unison as she hurried out the door onto Massachusetts Avenue leaving Charlie standing and wondering if he had somehow insulted her.
Charlie picked up the book he had been looking at when the hubbub started. He was standing at the counter to pay when he saw Timea outside the window. That jerk, Jonathan, took her harshly by the elbow and whispered something in her ear. Charlie saw her shoulders droop like she had heard bad news and she let him drag her roughly away.
“Gee, Charlie. Jonathan and his gang usually work a feller over worse that you got. They get their ha-has pushing people around. I guess you were lucky they stopped for Ms. Joie.”
Charlie knew the clerk. Richie was the younger brother of one of his high school class mates. One who hadn’t been lucky enough to come home from the war.
“I guess, Richie. Do you know if she’s seeing anyone?”
“Seeing? She engaged to Jonathan! Anyone who’s anyone knows that.” Richie put the book in a paper sack and handed it to Charlie.
“Engaged? She said he wasn’t her boyfriend. Why would she lie about that?” Now Charlie was confused because she seemed to like him.
“Well…” Richie continued. “I don’t know if they ever were actually dating, but their marriage is going to close the deal between Joie Paper Industries and Boland Packaging Incorporated. It’s supposed to be the biggest conglomerate outside of New York City!”
“Well, how do you like that?”