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Joe was one of fewer than fifty people at the screening of “Doctor Strangelove” that Friday and when Misty walked in and caught his eye he raised his hand in thoughtless greeting. She came up to the chair where he sat and introduced herself. “Hi. You’re in my lit class aren’t you?”

Joe looked up at the beautiful girl with her shoulder length chestnut hair and sparkling green eyes. “Sure!” he said, standing so that she didn’t tower over him. “You’re the one who got so upset when Alan stabbed out the horses’ eyes. You left the room didn’t you?”

“Oh, God! I did,” her face flashed a dark umber. “I knew it was coming but it was all so sad. It wasn’t just the horses, it was the whole fetish thing and the pain for everyone. I’m glad my life’s so simple!”

“Yeah. It’s a weird play but I’m really intrigued by it. My name’s Joe.”

“I know. I’m Misty D’Meiner. Nice to meet you, Joe.” She extended her hand in greeting.

“Joe Kleen,” he replied. Her hand was firm in his; the perfect balance of strength without force. “Nice to meet you too, though I guess we’ve talked a couple times in class. Are you here to watch the movie?”

“I am. Sometimes I get upset when Dr. Lynch goes on and on about the arms race in class. I mean, I know it’s important but I feel like we’re a captive audience and he should be using class time for class. I paid good money to take that class and I want to get the most out of it that I can.”

“Huh. I feel the same way! My dad and Lynch are actually friends so I knew how passionate he was about the whole nuclear Armageddon thing but I figured he’d keep it separate from school. Guess not though, huh?”

“I guess not. Are you here with anybody?”

“Oh, no. Hey! Why don’t you sit with me? If you don’t mind that is,” he had asked sheepishly.

“No, Joe I don’t mind. That’s a great idea.”

In class Joe had assumed that Misty was quite a bit older than he because she was always wearing professional clothes; skirts, jackets, real shoes or dress boots. Watching “Dr. Strangelove” with her that night was the first time he’d seen her in jeans and sneakers. She seemed much younger with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, no makeup and a Brewster High sweatshirt on.

When the movie was over Misty had asked Joe if he wanted to grab a bite at the Union. “Hmmm. I don’t know, it’s kind of late and I’ve got to walk home.”

“Walk? How far is it?”

“Not too far. I live over on Putnam Street.”

“Really? That’s funny! I grew up on Putnam Avenue!”

“Here in town?” he had asked.

“No, no. In Brewster, New York. You know, ‘That Girl’ with Marlow Thomas.”

“Oh, sure! Brewster’s a real place?”

Misty smiled and cocked her head to the side, “Sometimes I’m not so sure, but it’s on the map! How far is Putnam Drive from here?”

“Putnam Street. A little over a mile. It’s not a bad walk when people shovel their sidewalks but sometimes that doesn’t happen right away.
I ride my bike when the streets are clear.”

“Oh, are you a biker? I just started looking for a bike over at Newington’s. Have you been there?”

“Sure, sure. I’ve been to most of the local shops, but mostly I go to Central Cyclery. It’s right off campus so I can walk there if I need to. What kind of bike are you thinking about?”

“I’m not sure. A ten speed. I looked at a few bikes; a Windsor, a Dawes, Fuji, Schwinn, Trek. My head is starting to spin.”

Happy to have the conversation turn to a field in which he was knowledgeable Joe asked, “Are you planning to get one soon?”

“Yeah. I want it before the weather warms up, but that could be a couple more months yet!”

“If you want I could take you over to Central. Barry Lack’s the owner and he’s always got something that’s a good deal. They just picked up Bridgestone and I saw a Motobecane Mirage that was a nice value.”

“Hmm. That would be great! Maybe when things warm up I’ll get more serious and take you up on that! I can give you a ride home if you want to hang out for a while.”

“Yeah! That’d be great. If you don’t mind, I mean?”

“Mind?” she smiled in reply. “I offered. No problem.”

“Cool! That’s great. I hate walking in the dark on slippery sidewalks.”

“So you said your dad and Dr. Lynch are friends? Does he work here at Central too?”

“Dad?! No, he’s the principal at New Britain High.”

“No kidding! My dad’s the principal of Lincoln High down in Yonkers. Er, over in Yonkers? Brewster is about an hour north of the city so I still think of Yonkers as down. I guess we’re still north of the city but a whole lot further east!”

“Yeah, I guess. I’ve been to the city a few times but never to Yonkers. Your dad works in New York City?”

“Well, no. Not technically. Yonkers is just north of the city. How long has your dad been the principal?”

Joe snorted. “Huh! That’s a great question! I don’t know! My whole life I guess!? No, wait! I remember when Dad got his EdD and then he went from being a driver’s ed teacher to being principal. I was little so let’s say late sixties? A dozen years? How about yours?”

“Amazingly similar without the Doctorate of Education! Daddy mustered out of the navy and started teaching gym at Lincoln. He got his Master’s in education, then he became assistant principal when I was a little girl and principal just a few years back. Mom likes to tease him because he took a big pay cut when he retired as an officer and became a school teacher.”

“Your dad was in the navy? Mine too! Korea?”

“And World War Two. Daddy lied about his age to get in service and then worked his way up in the ranks. He was an enlisted man during World War II but an officer in Korea.”

“Phil was barely sixteen in August of forty five. He enlisted in the navy for Korea when he’d just turned 20. He always said he didn’t want to get drafted and end up an infantry man but I think he felt like he didn’t want to wait. Your dad must be older than mine.”

“Daddy was born in 1926. You call your dad Phil? What is he, your stepdad?”

“Oh! Long story! Phil worked for his dad for a while back in the late forties and rather than calling him Dad on the job he started calling him Tony. It’s weird having your dad as principal and figuring out what to call him. Dad? Dr. Kneel? Then my older brother Justin started calling our parents by their first names when they helped him get his business started. Now it’s kind of a family tradition, at least with the boys and so mostly I call Dad Phil. My sisters still call our parents Mom and Dad rather than Phil and Ruth but the boys mostly call them by name.”

“How many people are in your family?”

“I have two older brothers, an older sister, one little sister and more cousins than I can think of. How about you?”

“Really! Almost the same except that I have four older sisters and one younger one! You’re not Irish and French are you?”

“I’m a mutt. I’d better not go slurring anybody’s ancestry because I’ll probably be talking about my own people. We’re part Irish but I don’t think we’re French. So you’re the penultimate child too?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Oh, it’s what I like to say. ‘I’m the penultimate child.’ It sounds like I’m fancy but it just means that we’re the next to last in a series. Our little sisters would be the ultimate children but we shouldn’t tell them that as it’ll only swell their heads!”

Misty laughed. “You’re funny!”

“To quote Les Nessman, ‘Funny strange or funny ha, ha?’”

“Both!” she said as she took his hands and squeezed them.