The Big Telephone
(A Dragnet Fan Fiction Story)
By: Kristi N. Zanker
Disclaimer: All publicly recognized characters, settings, etc. are the property of Mark VII Limited and Universal. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. I, in no way am associated with the owners, creators, or producers of Dragnet. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning: This story contains strong language, adult themes, and sexual situations.
Joe was emotionally, mentally, and physically drained. From his mother’s death, to the ‘Jane Doe’ case, and tonight at Gracie’s—he wasn’t sure he could take any more. He kept tossing and turning. Sleep was the furthest thing from his mind now. But he was over tired and had to get up in six hours. He had gotten home from Gracie’s around one-thirty this morning. The night’s events kept swirling around in his mind. Part of him felt like he was a teenager again and the other was a bundle of nerves.
Here he was, forty-seven years old; years had passed since he had been intimate with a woman. Oh, he had been on many dates, but there had been no one he wanted to have relations with. Now times were changing. People didn’t care anymore or so it seemed. They just wanted to have fun. And what was wrong with that? Like everything else, he took it seriously, not just a casual thing like a lot of people did today. His mind began to wander back to his childhood, when he first started to notice girls in his class at school.
In the spring of 1928, during second grade, if Joe liked a girl, he’d pull the ribbon out of their hair and hide it in his shirt or pants pocket. He would then act like he never saw the ribbon and the girl would get so angry with him and run off. At the end of the school year, he had quite a collection. But then he wondered what he would do with all of these hair ribbons? So, on the last day of class that year, he took them back to school. Outside during lunch he got out the bundle of ribbons and one by one the girls came by to claim them. Some of the girls grabbed their ribbon and ran, while others stood by for a moment and smiled. Soon, the pile shortened to three hair ribbons, then finally one pink one. He turned around saw a tiny blonde girl in a yellow polka dot dress. Her name was Sadie and she sat behind Joe in class.
“I was hoping you would bring my ribbon back,” she said softly, as Joe handed her the ribbon.
“You wanna have lunch with me?” he asked.
“Okay. Let me get my lunch pail.”
Joe watched as Sadie ran to get her lunch pail which was underneath a tree. Instead of her coming back to him, he decided to go to her. The two of them sat under the large oak tree and ate their sandwiches and apples together. They didn’t say much to one another, but both knew that it was nice to have someone to eat lunch with. Joe didn’t have a lot of friends and neither did Sadie. She was new to the neighborhood. And Joe couldn’t run or play baseball like the other boys in his class because of his bad asthma.
Often, at night, he’d lay awake wheezing, praying to God, for the wheezing to go away so that he and his mother could sleep. He knew that she listened down the hallway and heard him coughing and wheezing. He never invited anyone over to the apartment, for he didn’t want anyone to see or find out that his mother carried him up the stairs; even walking up the four flights of stairs made him wheeze. He didn’t want the others to know that his mother was on Relief, due to his father being severely wounded in the First World War and then dying five years later as a result of the wounds. They were so poor, he felt ashamed of it.
But Sadie was poor, too. During that summer, the two of them formed a strong friendship. They would joke around and say that when they grew up they were going to get married. Sometimes, the two of them would play house (which would be a cardboard box) and they would let Sadie’s dachshund be “their” dog. Her Raggedy-Ann doll became “their” baby. If they were lucky, once in a great while, the two of them had enough money to go to a picture show. They never had enough money for candy or popcorn. But sitting in the darkened movie house, where other kids chewed on their O’Henry bars and munched on the salty concessions, Joe held Sadie’s hand and would not let it go until the picture was over.
In August, Joe went over to Sadie’s like any other summer day. But a large sign was nailed to the front door. He couldn’t read the word, so he rang the doorbell. Sadie’s mother had answered and what she had to say frightened Joe.
She told him that Sadie had infantile paralysis or polio, as the disease was sometimes called by the grown-ups. The girl was quarantined in her home until she got better. Joe had heard about polio, but didn’t quite understand it. He knew that it left some people crippled for the rest of their lives. Other times, his mother would warn him to stay away from the swimming pool, the movie house or any place that may have a crowd. He always obeyed his mother, but there was one time he asked why he couldn’t go anywhere. His mother had said something about a polio epidemic. He understood enough.
For a week, Joe wondered about Sadie. He wished his mother had a telephone so that he could call her. But then, he wasn’t sure if Sadie’s mother had a phone either. He wished he could see her. If she was too sick to take care of her dog, he would do that for her. But another week went by. School would be starting after Labor Day. Joe hoped Sadie and him would enter third grade together.
He could remember that day well. It was raining and he was sitting by the window in his bedroom, hoping for a cool breeze. Tiny rain drops escaped into the room, but it wasn’t enough to cool him off in the ninety-five degree heat. In his mind, Joe could see himself, with his face pressed against the screen.
“Don’t do that, Joe, you might fall out,” his mother had said.
He pulled his face from the screen.
“Why don’t you come over here and sit with me for a minute? I have something to tell you,” she said.
“Is it about Sadie?” he asked, suddenly feeling his stomach do a flip-flop as he sat on the bed next to his mother.
“Yes. She went home today—“
“What? Sadie’s home?” Joe started to say. “But she was already—“
“No, Joe. She went home with the Lord this morning.” His mother put her arm around him.
“You mean…she died?” He shook his head. “I didn’t want her to die.” Tears welled up in his eyes. “We’re going to school together. Me and her.”
But it wasn’t meant to be. The first time Joe disobeyed his mother was when he ran off to Sadie’s house during the funeral. His mother had told him not to go to the funeral since the house was still under quarantine. Sadie’s house had a large bay window in the living room. Joe watched from behind a hedge in the front yard as mourners came to pay their respects at that bay window. No one, not even the grown-ups went inside the house at all. Joe guessed that they must’ve been afraid of polio too.
When no other mourners were around, he made his way slowly up the front steps. As he came closer to the window, he could see her—dressed in her yellow polka-dot dress. It was almost as if she was asleep. With his hands folded and his head bowed, he said a silent prayer for God to take good care of Sadie. When he looked up again, he saw Sadie’s parents standing by her. He slowly backed away from the window, and then stopped. He felt frightened; however, Joe hoped that they wouldn’t scold him or tell his mother where he’d been. But there was one last thing the boy had to do before he left the front porch.
In his right hand, Joe clutched a pink ribbon. He had bought it at the five-and-dime with the money he received for his allowance, which was a penny a week. He waved to Sadie through the window for the last time, stood for a few more seconds and then walked over to the front door. Instead of knocking, he tied the pink ribbon into a bow around the doorknob. That way, Sadie’s parents would see it when they opened the door. And maybe then, they’d tie it in her hair or clasp it in her hand.
Joe never knew if they gave the ribbon to her or not. He had left quickly before anyone would open the door for Joe knew he had to get back home before his mother wondered where he was. While briskly walking home, he was glad he went to see Sadie. In his heart, he knew she had been his first love. As he grew older, he realized that more and more. Every time he saw a pink ribbon or a dachshund puppy, he thought of Sadie.
Joe had lived in poverty his entire life so when the Stock Market crashed in October of 1929; he and his mother hardly noticed any changes that the country was going through. The only difference Joe could see was that more grown-ups were out of work. For the two of them at least for the next few months, things went on as they had been.
In the spring of 1930, his elderly Aunt Mary came to visit and told them she couldn’t keep up her house by herself anymore. Uncle Henry had passed away two years prior and left her an adequate amount of life insurance. However, she now needed help with the house and bills. They packed up their belongings and moved to the house on Collis Avenue. Neither of them missed the apartment one bit.
However, their Relief money ended when they left the apartment. But as soon as they moved in, Joe’s mother went out looking for work while the boy was at school and he found odd jobs around the neighborhood. With everyone pitching in, the mortgage, bills, and groceries were paid for each month. They felt lucky to be healthy and together during those hard times.
Joe attended a new school and began to make new friends. One year, he tried selling magazines to raise more money for his mother and Aunt Mary. There was one article in a magazine that interested him about the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. He brought the magazine to school and showed it to his friends during lunch time. All the boys would huddle together and stare at the article. They weren’t talking about the many events and attractions at the Fair. The only attraction that interested them was the fan dancer Sally Rand, who stood in the flesh, waving the fans in a seductive motion, and yet leaving everything to the imagination. As they gazed at the article and her picture, all of them wished they could see something like that in person. No one said it out loud, but they all thought it was fun to dream about what was hidden behind those moving fans, what a grown-up lady looked and felt like. For months, Joe saved up his allowance to pay for that one magazine.
When Joe entered high school, he noticed a different breed of girls and learned quickly that there two kinds--those who “did” and those who “didn’t.” After school, the boys would talk about which girls they thought “did” or some would boast about their experiences in the quietness in a friend’s garage or backyard when no one else was home. Joe didn’t know if any of them were telling the truth, but he sure was getting some information! He would just listen and nod, as if he understood everything they were saying. You had to get experience somewhere. And who were the boys supposed to get experience with? Why the girls, of course and not the ones you’d bring home to your mother.
At sixteen, Joe began to see Peggy Sanders. The two of them met in Latin class. Peggy did very well in Latin and he got up some courage and asked her for help. After school, the two of them would study and do their homework. She would quiz him on different words and their meanings.
One Monday in February of 1937, school was closed due to Washington’s Birthday. Peggy came over after lunch to help him study for the next day’s Latin exam. He had been doing well during this quiz, but at one point, she asked him, “Do you know what coitus interruptus means?” And Joe’s reply had been, “Is that going to be on the test? I don’t think we learned that in class.” Her response to that was a slight giggle and, “Good heavens, no!” And the conversation was halted due to his Aunt Mary, who at that moment strolled into the dining room, then wandered into the adjoining living room.
Minutes later, Joe heard the radio and an announcer saying boisterously, “….deep cleaning….deep cleaning….deep cleaning….Oxydol’s own Ma Perkins.” It seemed as though his aunt did not hear what had transpired just before she bustled through. At that particular moment, Joe guessed that the Latin words Peggy told him were something dirty. It had to be, why else would the girl giggle all of a sudden? What was so amusing about Aunt Mary’s favorite radio program? Maybe it had to do with the announcer's repetitious pronunciation of the word deep.
Still, when exam time arrived the next day in Latin and others after that, Joe’s grades rose from a C to an A. He was glad and appreciative of her help. He thanked her profusely. He decided to take her out on a real date, on a Saturday night.
They had gone bowling and then out to a diner. Afterward, the two of them walked around the neighborhood for awhile and then found a secluded, wooded area about three blocks from his house. It was there that the two of them would neck and pet one another. Joe realized that Peggy was definitely not a shy girl when she took his hand and placed it on her breast. She then, lifted her dress and moved his hand down further. She too, reached out and touched him, but after a few minutes of this exciting, new sensation, his teenage hormones couldn’t take it any longer. After that, she taught him how to please a woman and finally learned what coitus interruptus meant.
Joe would’ve been lying if he said he didn’t enjoy being with Peggy, but something always bothered him about her. He wondered how many other boys she done this to and also thought that she must not have a lot of respect for herself. But for awhile, the hormones gave in.
The two of them would sit in the balcony at the movie house, not the watch the screen, but to pet and neck like the other couples around them were doing. After that it was to their “special” spot. For a month and a half, they met there and explored one another.
But one day, Peggy did not show up and Joe thought he’d die. But his conscience knew better. He knew she had found another boy to take advantage of. Later that year, Peggy disappeared from school. Whispered rumors were carried through the hallways saying that she got into “trouble.” Joe thought it served her right for treating others like that. It was bound to happen sometime. On the other hand, he had some experience, but he knew better than to brag about it to his friends.
Joe’s mind drifted again to Gracie and what had happened that night. He had arrived for dinner. When she opened the door, he was surprised to see her dressed up in a black and red floral party dress. She had made a very appetizing dinner and both shared wine afterward. He offered to wash the dishes while Gracie dried and put them away.
Joe now sat at the kitchen table and watched her finish up. He was glad he wasn’t sitting in the living room, because he knew he’d be dozing on the couch. Coming home and doing the dishes was not something Gracie liked to do, Joe noticed after several dinners. It wasn’t his favorite thing to do either, but he knew it was one of those nuisances that had to be done. He continued to stare as she carefully placed each plate and cup on the shelf.
When the middle shelf was full, she bounced up on the counter, and sat there, trying to fill the top shelf. His eyes wandered over to her ample cleavage and danced as he saw her breasts stir beneath her dress. His eyes quickly darted to the ceiling. She knows how to put the dishes away, he thought.
“Enjoying the view?” she asked him, grinning.
“What? Oh, yes,” he replied, looking back at her, realizing his voice was husky. He cleared his throat, and then smiled at her. He walked over to help her down when the last dish was put away.
Instead of the assistance off of the counter, she placed her arms around his neck, as his went around her waist. Before he could lift her, they were kissing. It grew more passionate and intense as their hands wandered. They only pulled away for a moment to catch a breath.
“You need to relax,” Gracie said, her voice very sultry, as she kept tugging at his tie. Joe could only nod in agreement as he proceeded to untie the tie himself.
Even he had trouble because he was so nervous and yet couldn’t wait to see what was in store for the rest of the evening. She just ran her hand up and down his arm slowly, nearly whispering that it was okay, there was no rush at all. Finally, what seemed after an eternity, he got it undone and threw the tie into the air and didn’t see or care where it had landed. They picked up where they left off.
As they kissed, Gracie’s hands undid the buttons of Joe’s shirt, while his hands found their way to her breasts, playing with and squeezing them and watched her face as she smiled at his touch. His mouth made its way down her neck, and then back to her lips. With one hand gently kneading her breast, his other trailed down to the bottom of her dress and then snaked its way up underneath. She arched herself toward him and let his fingers press into her warm, waiting flesh. Her breathing quickened and she began to sigh pleasurably. He kept this up until he felt her body quiver. In an instant, Joe felt Gracie’s hands quickly unbuckling, unbuttoning and unzipping his pants, freeing him, all the while his eyes never leaving hers. With her legs wrapped and squeezed around his waist, she pulled into him, and he found his way into her. All the emotions that had piled up in the past week had risen to their peak. He shook at the intensity of their passion, gripping tighter to Gracie as each of his shudders subsided. Then in a moment he nearly collapsed from exhaustion on her. A few seconds passed and he looked at her. She was still sitting on the counter.
He kissed her as he helped her off of the counter and while cleaning up after themselves, they joked and said they were like a couple of teenagers. He was honest with her and said that it had been a very extensive time for him. She too was up front and told him that she had been engaged to be married a couple of years ago, but that had fallen through. She also mentioned that he need not to worry about anything because she was on the Pill. And she let him know that she wasn’t one who slept around either.
They lay in her bed and talked well after midnight about everything. She even asked him to spend the night with her. Oh, how he wanted to! It would be wonderful, but that darned conscience got in the way. It just didn’t seem right. Not yet. They both knew they crossed a huge line and they were going to take everything very carefully. Both still preferred the old fashioned ways, but sometimes, the new-fangled ones slipped in.
Before Joe left, Gracie asked him if he was sure he didn’t want to spend the night and that there was nothing to feel guilty about. He told her he’d better go back to his place. He might receive a call; after all, it was the truth. There were times when that damned phone rang in the middle of the night because crime didn’t go to sleep. He gave her a lingering kiss at the door and told her he would see her tomorrow after work.
It was now two-thirty in the morning and sleep began to envelope Joe. After this night, and being with Gracie, it really made him think of Sadie and other long ago memories. After remembering the feelings he had for her during that beautiful summer, he knew he had those same feelings for Gracie. He just couldn’t bring himself to believe it until now.
Copyright © 2010 by Kristi N. Zanker
Continue to The Big Telephone -- Chapter Three!
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Copyright © 2013 by Kristi N. Zanker
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