Thursday, October 18, 2012
The Talent Show
The Talent Show
Molly Shannon walked into the Camden Corners Post Office with a package she was mailing to her sister in Elmira.
“Good Morning Molly.” Jackson Parker called out from the behind the counter. “I was just sorting mail that arrived by train a short time ago. I have a letter for you. If you would like to take it with you.”
“A letter? How exciting, I don't get many letters.” said Molly.
Jackson handed her the letter with the return address of Valentine Hart, Brooklyn, New York.
“Oh my, what a name, Valentine Hart. My papa had a cousin whose last name was Hart but I've never heard of anyone named Valentine.”
Molly opened the letter.
Dearest Cousin Molly, I have thought of you so often since our visit. My family and yours had the most wonderful time in your quaint little town a few years ago. I read all about the play that was performed in Camden Corners. My busy schedule didn't afford me the opportunity to attend during the time it was playing there. I have, however, been able to clear my calendar and will be delighted to assist you in your upcoming talent show. I will be arriving on Friday of this week. Fondly, Your cousin, Valentine Hart.
Nettie Crowley entered the post office.
“Molly dear. You look puzzled. I hope there isn't bad news in your letter.”
“Hello Nettie. I received this from someone who says she is my cousin. Look at the signature, Valentine Hart. Luke will have a laugh over that. I know we have family with the last name of Hart. I believe Bud Hart is my father's second cousin. I think they visited us when I was about six or seven. I don't recall anyone named Valentine though. That wouldn't be a name you would soon forget.”
“I should think not. Is there trouble in the family.”
“No, she says she is coming to help us with the talent show. According to this she will be here today. I'm not sure what kind of a talent show she is expecting but Luke and I thought we would keep it fairly low key. Nothing could compare to the success of Hannah's Treasure. Luke has invited a few participants from towns close by but we aren't advertising too far and wide. The library fund is very close to its goal and this will be just a fun relaxing evening with our talented friends.”
“It does sound very nice. Enjoy your mystery visitor. Please stop by the antique shop for a cup of tea while she is here. We would love to meet Valentine Hart.”
Molly was on her way to the toy shop where Luke was assembling a couple of wagons for sale. She watched him through the window as he toiled away. He was such a handsome man. Molly had fallen for him the first time she saw him open the doors to the toy store he had purchased four years ago. Luke was the oldest of four boys. Their father died at an early age leaving his mother to raise the children by herself. Money was scarce and Luke learned to whittle and made toys for his brothers. He thought a child should never be without a toy, especially at Christmas. He invested so much of his own money in making sure every child in Camden Corners had a special gift from Santa Clause that he struggled to support himself let alone a wife. Nettie Crowley knew of his generosity and hardship and organized a toy drive with all of the shop owners in town. Luke and Molly were finally married and Luke learned it wasn't a crime to make a profit in his shop.
Luke looked up and saw Molly watching him. He jumped up and opened the door to her with a big smile.
“Hello little girl, would you like a toy today? How about a bear? Maybe a bear hug.” As he wrapped his arms around his wife and squeezed her tight.
“I hope you don't sell too many of those bear hugs to the other girls in town.”
“Nope, only to you.”
Molly showed Luke the letter from Valentine and as she knew he would, he got a good laugh out of the name.
“You don't remember her at all?”
“I do remember a young girl but I think her name was Verna. I'm not sure. I have no idea why she would contact me out of the blue like this. The talent show isn't a big deal and it's only for locals anyway. She is coming all the way from Brooklyn. It just doesn't make sense. I guess I'll find out when she arrives. In the meantime, do you have any more of those bear hugs?” Molly giggled as Luke nuzzled her neck.
Meanwhile, a young woman was relaxing in the dining car of a west bound train. She was thinking back to a conversation she had just before she left.
“Don't worry, Arnold. I'll be able to find someone with talent there. Beverly Mills was the only professional in the whole cast of that play they did and the critics raved about all of the actors. I'm sure I can find someone.”
“You better Valentine. Otherwise we will be out of business. Can't keep up a talent agency without any talent.”
Valentine knew she had to come through with someone. Arnold wasn't a patient man. Valentine was his one and only client. She did everything, she sang, she danced, she played the piano she even acted. The trouble was she didn't do anything well.
She wondered if Molly even remembered their meeting years ago. Valentine knew she would have to pretend to recognize her even if she didn't. She was hoping Molly would feel a family obligation to put her up for a few days. Valentine had no money. She lost her job as a hat check girl because Arnold talked her into going through the pockets of the customers coats looking for small change. She was almost happy she had gotten caught. She didn't like being a thief but Arnold could be awfully persuasive. She winced at the thought of his fist striking her jaw the last time she defied him.
The train pulled into the station and she could only see one woman her age standing there. That must be Molly. Valentine walked off the train and over to Molly.
“Molly, darling,” Valentine said hoping she was indeed Molly.
“Hello Valentine, How nice to see you again.”
“Molly, I would have known you anywhere, you haven't changed one iota my dear cousin.”
“Tell me Valentine, was your name Verna at one time?”
“Oh dear, please don't let anyone know. My name is Valentine now.”
“All right Valentine but Verna is a lovely name. I believe you were named after our great grandmother Verna.”
Molly didn't know what to make of her visitor. She had never met anyone like her. She was very attractive and seemed sure of herself but she could see a vulnerability in her eyes. She also noticed a faded bruise mark on the side of her face. Valentine had tried to cover it up with makeup but it was still showing through. She made a note to question Valentine about it after they got settled in the apartment above the Toy Store.
Valentine was amused that Luke owned a toy shop. He looked like he could be an actor himself with those broad shoulders and handsome face. She found herself envying Molly the way Luke looked at her. Arnold never looked at Valentine that way. Arnold had many good qualities but she couldn't remember any of them at the moment. She wondered if he was missing her as much as she missed him. She hoped he wasn't downstairs in their apartment building visiting that floozy, Clara Bella. Arnold's eyes always lit up when that woman walked by him on the stairway. She thought he was coming out of her apartment the day she was fired and came home early.
Molly was very welcoming to Valentine. She wondered what her real reason was for being here. She served a nice dinner to Luke and their guest. Valentine hadn't had a meal like that since she left Jamestown to find fame and fortune in New York City.
They talked about the talent show. Auditions were being held tomorrow although anyone who wanted to was welcome to perform. Most people knew their capabilities and they didn't expect many talent challenged folks to participate. Valentine asked if she could watch the auditions and Luke told her he would save her a seat. Valentine slept well that night in the comfortable bed and the quiet of the night.
At precisely 9:00 on Saturday morning the auditions began.
Becky Bentley was only seven years old but had the singing voice of an angel. She loved to sing and could be heard singing as she played and did her chores. Sometimes she would forget and sing in the classroom too.
She wanted to be in the talent show. She liked singing in front of an audience. Caroline and Jamison, along with Kenny and their new baby, Lucy all arrived with Becky and had a seat in the church where auditions were being held. Many of their friends and neighbors were waiting too. Samantha Springer and Marty Mackenzie were a dance team, Butch Duesenberry would be playing his clarinet, some of the old timers showed their harmony talents with a barbershop quartet. Jack Mackenzie and Audrey Lynch did a ventriloquist act that only Audrey could have thought up. People from surrounding areas came too. It was a fun audition and everyone was invited to the first rehearsal that evening.
Valentine was still in amazement over the little girl with the beautiful voice. She didn't think she had ever heard such a lovely singing voice in all her life and to think the kid was only seven. That would be years of commission for Arnold's talent agency. She would have to find a way to ingratiate herself into the little girl's life.
On the way out of the church, Valentine made her way over to the Bentley family. Everyone was making a fuss over the baby and Becky was standing by herself. She tapped Becky on the shoulder.
“Hello Becky, my name is Valentine Hart.”
“Your name is really Valentine like Valentine's Day?”
“Yes, that's really my name. I bet your name is really Rebecca?
“Yes but everyone calls me Becky.”
“Well, I'm going to call you Rebecca because I think that's a very pretty name. I had a dolly named Rebecca when I was just your age. She was almost as pretty as you are but she couldn't sing as pretty as you do.”
“I see you have a new baby in your family. She is getting all the attention even though you were the one who sang so pretty. Does that make you sad?”
“No, I love Lucy, she is my baby sister and everybody loves her. Everybody has heard me sing before but they haven't seen Lucy so that is why they are looking at her now.”
Valentine knew it was going to take a little work to get Rebecca over to her side. The little girl knew she was loved and that would make it more difficult to convince her she wanted to be a famous singer and that she had to be with Valentine to make that happen.
“I'll see you tonight at rehearsal Rebecca. Don't forget to come.”
“I won't Miss Valentine,” Becky giggled.
On the way home Molly told Valentine all about how Kenny and Becky were hiding behind Caroline Bentley's hydrangea bushes. They were to be placed in separate orphanages and Kenny was saving them from that. She told of the marriage of Caroline and Jamison and the adoption of Kenny and Becky and then the surprise birth of their daughter Lucy.
After hearing that, Valentine thought it would be easier than she anticipated to convince the whole family Rebecca would be better off with her and Arnold