Fiction

Listen to Your Heart

Homer was an expert on sound effects like eggs frying. When Trudy walked past her heels made music like a love song

ARTHUR GORDON May 1 1948
Fiction

Listen to Your Heart

Homer was an expert on sound effects like eggs frying. When Trudy walked past her heels made music like a love song

ARTHUR GORDON May 1 1948

Listen to Your Heart

Homer was an expert on sound effects like eggs frying. When Trudy walked past her heels made music like a love song

ARTHUR GORDON

AFTER ALL, I said to myself as I sat on the edge of our bed and put on my shoes, she's not only your sister-she's your identical twin.

When you and she were kids you had mumps and measles and whooping cough together, you wore bands on your teeth at the same time and you looked so much alike that sometimes even your mother would feed the same one of you twice. So if you saw her going through an open door to fall down an elevator shaft you’d reach out a hand to pull her back, wouldn’t you? Well, reach out a hand right now . . .

rT'rudy, I said and I kept my tone light, “you tossed and turned and sighed in your sleep all last night. What’s wrong—indigestion?”

She stirred sleepily. “No—o, I don’t think so.” “Bad dreams?”

“No-o.”

“Then what?”

“Oh—I dunno ...”

Well, I do, I told her. “You’re in love. You’re in love with that Times-Square wolf who moved into the next room last week.”

Trudy sat straight up.

He s not a Times-Square wolf—don’t be so

unfair! His name is Homer and he’s from Missouri. He’s a nice boy.”

“A nice boy is a wolf taking his time,” 1 said.

I hate to say this about, my twin, but it’s true. She’s got an open face and a trusting soul. She’s one of these girls who thinks Sir Galahad is anybody in pants who tips his hat to her and holds out a sickly gardenia. Not that I believe we’re irresistible, or that the stage-door Johnnies jjester us any more than they do the other girls at the Caravan Palace. Lord knows you don’t have to be a femme fatale to plod through four shows a day with the Caravett.es. It’s just that Trudy is so impulsive—and there are just too many ways in the world for a girl with a warm heart to get it broken, if you know what I mean.

AS WE were leaving our room for morning - rehearsal Trudy stopped short on the landing and gave a funny look at the door next to ours. It was closed and nothing was wrong, but juut the same she clutched at my arm and drew in a sharp breath.

“Jean—listen ...”

I listened. All I could hear was the loud bubbling of a percolator and the hot sputtering of a frying pan. Well? Was it any of our business if this Homer person made himself some coffee and fried a couple of eggs?

“Oh, go on, Trudy ...” I turned her around and gave her a little shove.

“But—it’s not allowed ! The landlady will throw him out!”

It was still none of our business—but before I could stop her Trudy had flung past me and was knocking on Homer’s door. A bright voice from inside called out “Just a second, please,” and Trudy straightened her hat and brushed her hair back to show her ears. Then the door opened and a tall, sort of reedy boy looked out at us. His eyes went pleased and his face beamed.

“Well, well—I should have known ! Two of you

in the same room making the same noises—you’d just have to be twins!”

That was a new one on me —sounding like twins! I wanted to say something about people who listened that close, but Trudy was already telling him very breathlessly and very fast about no cooking in the room, please excuse her for knocking but she could hear it from the landing and only last week t wo girls on the top floor were asked to leave and all they had were sandwiches. She ended up:

“It draws vermin.”

“Vermin gets in anyhow,” I said, looking straight at Homer.

He laughed. “Well, thanks—but I wasn’t cooking in the room at all. I was just playing one of my records you know, sound effecta. Come in if you don’t believe me —I’ll show you.”

Trudy had one foot in Homer’s room before he got t hrough asking and of course I had to follow. You’d have thought, it was a penthouse on Park Avenue the way she clasped her hands and looked around, but actually it was just another back room in the theatrical district which nobody would live in if it wasn’t for the housing shortage. Homer waved proudly at the portable phonograph sitting on the table and then ran his fingers across the edges of a stack of recordings.

“The one you heard was my mother cooking breakfast back home in Missouri,” he explained. “I play it once in a while, just for—well, just for the fun of it, I guess.” He swallowed and wet his lips. “Everything’s there but my mother and the smell.”

“And the breakfast,” I said.

Score a bright one for Jean. Trudy gave me that pained look which is reserved for times she thinks I’ve gone out of my way to be rude, but that was all right with me. I’d rather hurt her a little right now than see her hurt plenty later on. Homer turned away and swung open a closet door to show us some queer-looking gadgets piled up on the shelves.

“Special effects,” he said, “I’m a sort of . . . well ... a sort of artist. If it makes a noise I can imitate it and you’d never know the difference.”

“How would it sound to l>e modest?” I said.

He laughed again. I grabbed Trudy’s arm and practically dragged her out of the room. After all, the more she looked at him the more she’d drool. At the bottom of the stairs she let out a dreamy sigh.

“Isn’t, he grand?”

“Oh, sure -heavenly.”

“I mean—he’s got a lot on the ball, don’t you think?”

“He’s a wizard,” I said.

She gave me that. hurt, look again. “Why do you pretend to be so hard-boiled, Jean? You’re really not, you know.”

“This is New York—remember?”

Now don’t get me wrong. I like New York. It’s a grand city. A lot of fine people live and work in New York. But there are a lot of the other kind, too, and if a sensitive girl has to be careful even with gentlemen, how much more careful does she have to be with triflers and phonies and cheap skates! This Homer might look all right, but all Forty-Second Street characters don’t give themselves away by having shifty eyes and a black mustache. Besides, it’s me that’s got the savvy. I’m the twin who has to watch out for the both of us.

Trudy was pulling a letter out of the mailbox. “For you, Jean,” she said.

It was from Walt Archer, a dark-haired boy who wore bright ties and went to Grand Rapids High with us in the daytime and at night hung around our icebox. In the senior year he won a ten-dollar prize for a water color of three cows and a red barn.

“What’s Walt got to say, Jean?”

“Nothing much.”

Jean?” Continued on page 66

Continued from page 11

“Walt’s a nice boy,” Trudy said.

“Oh, sure . . .”

If anything, Walt was too nice— that’s why I was glad to get away from Grand Rapids. I’d begun to care too much and it was too one-sided. Too many heartaches. I don’t know why Walt was writing to me now. Probably asking me if I thought it was all right for him to come to New York. Asking if I thought he could get a part-time job while he studied painting at the Art Students’ League. He didn’t care anything about me, so why should I tear out my heart for him?

AT THE Caravan Palace all the ^Caravettes were excited about the grass skirts and phosphorescent sarongs they were going to wear for the South Sea Island dances of the new show. It changed once a week, but no matter what the costumes were Trudy was always the fourth pair of legs from the left and I was always the ninth. After the morning rehearsal came the twelveo’clock stage performance of the old show and after that I was ready for food. Trudy was standing at the entrance to the downstair cafeteria, j “Go in and eat, Jean. I’m—I’m waiting.”

I just looked at her.

“For a friend,” she said, squirming. I kept looking.

“All right, then—it’s Homer,” she j admitted. “I called the rooming house and invited him to lunch.”

“How lovely!—for Homer.”

“I couldn’t bear to think he might be hungry.” Her eyes were worried. “Nobody can live on the sound of food.”

“I hope he clips you and clips you good,” I said. “I hope he orders a double steak and a lobster salad.”

“I hope he does too,” she flung back. £We’re twins, Jean—but we’re not Siamese. I guess I can invite a friend to lunch if I want to.”

“Just let yourself go,” I said. “Sooner or later you’ll get hurt.”

“What’s wrong with a little hurt?” she wanted to know.

The anxious shadows in her face

didn’t lift until Homer breezed in. “Hi, sunrise!” he called out to Trudy. “Hello, crusty,” he said to me.

His face shone like an apple and the bright way he looked around gave the impression he fully intended to buy the place and was ready with the cash. If he was hungry nobody would ever have known. All kinds of good smells were coming from the broilers but he didn’t even twiich his nose in their direction. Instead he just perked up his ears and listened.

“Um-m-m! This is nice. Rattle of dishes—clink of silverware—murmur of voices—ringing of cash register . .

He listened to all the steam-table noises while we were standing in line. Trudy kept squealing “I’m starred!” —and tottering against Homer just to prove it. Cute, but not too subtle. Usually she never ate a thing between the first and second shows but now she was ordering like a stagehand. Homer moved along slowly and when he got to the end of the line he didn’t have anything on his tray but two doughnuts and a glass of milk.

Trudy let out a girlish wail.

“Why-y-y, Homer!—Is that all?”

“Waistline,” he said.

He was quiet as he followed us to a table and helped Trudy unload her tray. He stirred his coffee thoughtfully and seemed to be studying the creamy brown swirls. Finally he lifted his head and looked at Trudy.

“It’s really not my waistline at all,” he said. “It’s my budget.”

Trudy snapped her fingers, or tried to.

“Pooh for budgets, Homer. This is on me.”

“It’s Dutch,” he said.

He seemed to feel better right away and began to let off steam about sound effects. He must have been born making a noise because at his age he couldn’t be half as good as he said he was unless he’d got an early start and kept plugging. To hear him talk you’d think he was the only man in the world who could bite into an apple in front of a mike six different ways to make it sound like six different things, from man - in - leather - shoes - waLking -over - hard - crust - of - snow to wildboar - crashing - through - underhrush -in - Brazilian - jungle.

“That’s won-der-ful, Homer !” Trudy kept saying.

She kept trying to get his check, too; but he would always put out his hand and edge it away from her just in time. On the way out he put down a dime and five pennies and then looked hard at the rest of his change before putting it back into his pocket.

“Who’s the boss at the Caravan Palace?” he said. “They use sound effects, don’t they? Maybe I could get a job.”

“Would something near the top be all right?” I broke in. “Say—ten

thousand a year?”

“It’d be a start,” he said.

Trudy already had him by the arm and was plowing through scenery and stagehands to where Clancy was working at the switchboard setup for the typhoon in the South Sea number. Clancy was the assistantstage manager. Nobody with any sense would dare bother him the day before a change of show, because that was the day he came nearest to the nervous breakdown everyone expected him to have at any time.

“Look, sister,” he told Trudy from one side of his mouth. “A million boy friends kin imitate a boid and youse goils want him to woik at the Caravan Palace. Now scram—I’m busy.”

“But, Mr. Clancy . . .”

“Scram,” said Clancy.

Trudy followed him across the stage, her lips tight. “You listen to me, Clancy,” she began — and then I nabbed her and yanked her away. After all, we didn’t own the controlling stock in the Caravan Palace. We just danced there and a lot of neat fresh biddies with legs just as straight and long as ours came in every day looking for a chance with the Caravettes.

Homer said, “Well, thanks just the same,” and left.

RIGHT after the six-o’clock show I lost track of Trudy for five minutes. Five minutes, that’s all; but when I saw her again she was high-tailing for the street door and before I could find out what had happened I was in a cab with her and she was throwing our address at the driver.

“What’s the rush?” I kept asking. “Where’s the fire?”

“It’s the landlady,” she said.

I waited.

“Just because Homer can’t pay his rent she’s moved all his stuff downstairs and locked it up!”

“Now wait a minute, pet,” I said. “No arguments with the landlady, d’ya hear? Rooms are scarce.”

I could have saved my breath. There wasn’t any argument with the landlady. Trudy just asked her how much Homer owed and then counted it out and handed it over, just like that. If there’s a name for a woman who pays a man’s rent, don’t tell me.

I couldn’t stand it. Even the landlady gave us a smelling-salts look as she held out her fingers like tongs to take the money. Then she called up the stairs to tell Homer she had his rent and he could come for his things.

Homer jumped down three steps at a time but stopped short when he saw us. He looked at Trudy and then he looked at the landlady still tucking away the money. His eyes slumped. His lips got tight and a deep, dark pucker showed up between his eyebrows.

“You haven’t got my rent,” he said. “/ haven’t given you any money.”

The landlady didn’t care whose money she had. . She went to a closet and unlocked the door. Homer turned his head slowly and looked at his records and his phonograph and his gadgets. He kept pulling at his shirt cuSs.

“It’s all right, Homer,” Trudy broke in. “There’s nothing so terribly wrong with it. It’s not as if . . .”

He turned away and started to leave. Trudy ran around in front of him. She caught him by the arms and made him look at her.

“Now you’re being stubborn—stubborn and foolish. You listen to me . . . ” and then she told him something that surprised me as much as it surprised him. She said she didn’t like the way Clancy had treated him and so she’d gone over Clancy’s head and seen Mr. Warburton, the big boss at the Caravan Palace. She had made an appointment for Homer at ten o’clock in the morning! “It’s a kind of audition,” she said. “Don’t you see, Homer —you’ve just got to have your things!”

“You’re right, you’re absolutely right,” he said looking down at her. “But I can’t take your money,” he went on. “If I’m there at ten o’clock in the morning it’ll be because I’ve earned the dough, not because it’s been given to me.”

He made Trudy step aside and then he walked out of the room. I heard him open the street door and then close it behind him. I heard him run down the steps. Trudy tried to go after him but down went my foot. 1 blocked the doorway.

1 calmed her down. I made the landlady return the money and I got Trudy back to the Caravan Palace in time for the nine-o’clock show . . .

THAT night Trudy flung herself on the bed and stared at the ceiling while I tried to write an answer to Walt Archer’s letter. It wasn’t easy and it didn’t help any for me to be so peeved at Trudy and so annoyed because she kept wondering out loud if Homer would get the money and be there for the interview.

I finished the letter and read it to Trudy. I kept my voice steady and calm.

“Dear Walt:

New York is so overcrowded —I dcubt very much if you will even be able to find a place to live. Naturally the Art Students’ League will be jammed—it always is. But of course I don’t own the city.

I can’t tell you not to come.

I can only give you fair warning what to expect.

Trudy let a long time go by before she spoke. I sealed and addressed the envelope and put it in my bag where I’d find it to post in the morning. Finally she raised herself on one elbow.

“That’s not a very friendly letter, Jean.”

“It’s friendly enough,” I told her.

“Walt likes you,” she said. “I never could understand why you were so cold with him.”

She must have lain awake all night listening for Homer to come up the stairs. In the morning she had purple patches under her eyes and looked old for her age. Homer was still missing and I practically had to tow her to the Caravan Palace.

At the door the watchman had a telephone message for her. A man named Homer had called and said to tell her he was at an all-night garage washing taxis for sixty cents an hour. Trudy’s mouth dropped open.

“Is that all?” she said.

“That’s all, miss,” said the watchman. “Heck, that’s good pay for washing taxis.”

AT TEN O’CLOCK the stagehands . were all set to try out the typhoon. In fact, Mr. Warburton had already

given Clancy the signal and the lights were going low when there was a sort of commotion offstage and Homer showed up. He looked tired and worn.

“Hi, starlight!” he called to Trudy. “Hello, holdback,” he said to me.

On one arm was a pile of records and a kind of water wheel in a wooden box with the words, “Gurgles, Gulps, Splashes, Etc.” on the outside. Under the other arm were all his other gadgets for imitating sounds.

“Quiet!” called Clancy.

The typhoon was one and I’ve got to give Clancy credit. He’d worked on it all week and it made an awful racket but I’ve got to admit it certainly sounded like a typhoon. The wind machine just moaned at first, then it whistled, and finally it howled. The palm trees only rustled at the beginning, but soon they were swaying and at the end they were bending almost double with the branches lashing out like whips. When the lightning flashed Homer covered his eyes and when the thunder clapped he fell back against the scenery. His ears stood out like saucers and just quivered.

“Ho-ly cow!” he kept saying.

Mr. Warburton raised his hand and Clancy pulled the switches. The typhoon died away fast like stage storms do and in 20 seconds the sun was shining again in the South Seas. Homer was still in a daze when Trudy introduced him to Mr. Warburton.

“So you’re a sound-effects engineer, eh?”

Homer gulped and nodded.

“And you’re looking for an engineer’s job, is that it?”

Homer looked down at his records and his water wheel. He looked up at Clancy’s wind machine, at Clancy’s thunder drum, at Clancy’s lightning lamps and at all the buttons and lights on Clancy’s switchboard. He scratched his head comically and gave a wry twist to his mouth.

“As a matter of fact, Mr. Warburton, I’ll take anything, just so long as it’s a chance. That’s all I want, a chance.”

“I like your attitude,” Mr. Warburton said.

And Homer’s job for the new show was lugging bowling balls up a ladder and dropping them down a chute to give the effect of thunder rolling in the distance as the typhoon was approaching the island. He loved it. He gave it class. You’d have thought he was in a symphony orchestra at Carnegie Hall the way he watched Clancy for cues. The typhoon was a smash hit with the twelve-o’clock audience and after the show everybody felt swell.

Homer breezed over to where Trudy

and I were standing in the wings. He took her by the arms.

“Listen, Trudy . .

She looked up at him and her eyes went wonderful. Homer swayed. He drew in a deep breath.

“Wanna know something, Trudy?” His voice was low and earnest. |“I’ve been listening to you, lots—the click of your heels, the rustle of your dress, your voice, everything about you.” He pressed in hard against her elbows. “You’re the nicest-sounding girl I’ve ever known,” he said.

A warm color was glowing in Trudy’s cheeks. She put her arms around his neck.

“I’m glad, Homer . . .”

Homer could have kissed her. He was tall enough. He could have bent his head and kissed her. But he didn't. He just looked into her eyes and smiled. But leave it to Trudy—silly, impulsive Trudy. She went up high on her toes and kissed him. Right in front, of Mr. Warburton and Clancy and all the Caravettes, she put her lips against his and held them there.

1 TURNED away and ran down the spiral staircase to the dressing room. I changed clothes and hurried to the street. I turned up Broadway, right or left, what difference did it make? I just had to walk. I just had to figure things out. In front of a flower shop a boy and girl were having a quarrel. The girl was angry and the boy was trying to explain something. All of a sudden he turned and walked away without looking back and then I saw the girl wiping the tears from her eyes with a handkerchief.

I went in a drugstore to buy a stamp. I took Walt’s letter out of my bag and put the stamp on the envelope. I walked along and saw a mailbox on the other side of the street. I saw a clock in a window and a sign which said: “Don’t Write—Telegraph.” At the corner the traffic lights were against me, so I waited.

Look, I said to myself suddenly, you’re being an awful fool and you know it. You’d really like to tear this letter up, wouldn’t you? You’d really like to send a telegram instead. You’d really like to tell Walt Archer to come to New York and you’d really like to say how glad you’d be to see him. That’s what you’d really like to do, so why don’t you do it? You’re not afraid of losing some sleep now and then, are you? You’re not afraid of a little hurt?

“You haven’t signed it,” the clerk said. “ ‘With love—Jean,’ ” I told him. ★