Monday, January 21, 2008

November 4, 1931

Today I returned to Mrs. Vanderford's to pick up the signed document. It was from there that I had to travel to Brooklyn Heights and see my charge safely to Mr. John Rapalje. When I arrived Robert was there to hand me the document. "Mrs. Vanderford is playing tennis. She instructed me to give this only to you and call you a motorcar to take you to Brooklyn." His accent was slight, but just enough to pepper his words with intrigue.

"That won't be necessary," I said. I could barely look up at him. "I can take a train."

"Don't be foolish, the car is on it's way." He smiled adding a quiet pause to our interaction. "I play on Friday and Saturday nights at the Big Apple. If the mood strikes you. It's up in Harlem."

Suddenly a horn was blown from outside. "Thank you," I knew my face was turning red. "Is that my car?"

He opened the large door and peered out. "It is ma'lady." He held the door for me and then quickly opened the door to the car waiting by the curb. "Safe travels to Brooklyn." He shut the door before I could thank him again. I must say, and I only admit this to the page, Robert is the most charming man I have ever met.

"So we're going to da Heights, huh?" The capped driver said through his large cigar. "To Mr. Jack?"

"Excuse me?" I asked through the haze of smoke.

"Is this thing bothering you? The ladies never like it."

"My roommate loves them," I said thinking of Dottie shooting pool and smoking cigars. "It's fine."

"She must be some dame."

"Oh she is... Who is Mr. Jack?"

He looked in his mirror. "Da man you're going to see."

"His name is John Rapalje."

"Right and everyone who knows him well calls him Jack." I was amazed at his ability to drive while never looking at the road.

"You know him well?"

He smiled wide, "I'm his driver."

I felt a twinge of embarrassment. I forgot how green I am about some things. "He sent you all the way up here for me?"

"Uh huh. By da way, I'm supposed to be a proper gentleman and introduce myself. These was his instructions. I'm Rudy. My mudda called me Rudolpho but that was back when the nuns would hit me with rulers." He extended his hand into the back seat.

I shook it, "Nice to make your acquaintance, Rudy. I'm-"

"Ms. Graydon. I know. I got your whole run-down. I'd love to go up to them tracks up in Saratoga one day. I love playin' the ponies."

At this point, little shocked me, especially that people I would've ever dreamed of knowing knew more about me than my hall mates. "Oh in Saratoga they're horses, not ponies."

He started laughing through his cigar. "You're funny, Ms. Velma. Can I call you Ms. Velma? I hate last names. It's so formal"

"I see. Of course. You can actually call me Velma."

"No, no, not to a lady. It wouldn't be proper."

"Whatever you choose."

"Horses," he continued to laugh. For the life of me, I still can't figure out what he found so funny.

Some minutes later, he made a series of sharp turns and then one giant left turn onto a grand bridge. "Ever been to Brooklyn Ms. Velma?"

"No, this will be my first trip."

"Ever seen da Brooklyn Bridge?"


"Well you're on it. A marvel of human engineerin'."

He wasn't kidding. We drove through the cathedral-like towers and seemingly floated over the river. I'm not sure I had ever been that high in my life. Or at least high enough to see the entirety of Manhattan Island and the low rolling hills of Brooklyn. It looked like a patchwork of brownstones and churches. The river was spotted with ships and to the left, two other massive bridges. And then for the first time, I saw the Statue of Liberty. All at once I lost my breath.

"You've never seen dis have you? Your nose is on da glass."

He was right and my fingers too. "I apologize," realizing I was leaving smudge marks on the glass.

"No, please. It isn't often I show someone dis site for the first time. People, they forget when they do dis all the time. People forget you can see da ocean from here. Makes me proud to be home, Ms. Velma."

"I'll bet it does."

We made it over to the Brooklyn side and landed in a small neighborhood of quaint homes. "This is what they call Brooklyn Heights. I guess cause it's so high up."

EDITOR'S NOTE: The entry ends here and continues onto the November 6th. Velma offers no explanation as to why she stopped there.

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