We are excited to excerpt part of a chapter from Once in a While in Philadelphia by Ron Neumer. The book is available on Amazon. If you live in the Philly area, Ron will be joining other authors at an HOPress-sponsored book expo at Marple Library in Broomall, PA on April 14, 2018 at 1:30 PM
Rico James Paradise
Arlene Marie Denali
To Find Real Love or Tragedy
Damn grimy south bound freight train couldn’t go any slower behind the century old five- story high power tool factory nationally renowned for the quality and durability of the “Made in America” product manufactured there. Connected together in the dusty railroad yards at the Frankford Junction Depot with empty box cars having their graffiti marred doors flung open, orange trimmed with black chemical cars showing signs of recent spillage, and low slung gondola cars heaped high aloft with twisted and rusted scrap metal, the sixty- car freight train gave off this annoying screeching sound going through trash littered switching tracks; and it seemed like the screeching would never stop and you just wanted to scream at whoever was driving the damn thing.
Then there was this relentless directly overhead going nowhere orange sun making everything hot to the touch, and it wasn’t even the afternoon yet and weather forecasts indicated it was only going to get hotter and hotter as the day went on and you just might snap from the sweltering heat.
And somehow you could figure things out on your own without some smart-mouthed educated jerk pointing it out to you that this isn’t a trendy Main Line area like those featured in some glossy sophisticated magazine targeted towards the cultured, affluent, and the soiree having in-crowd. Around here you won’t find any street signs
with lavish and moneyed-sounding names like The
Court at Avondale East or The Mews at Elan Down with haughty high-society people living there and they have this propensity to look down on those who they deem as being “outside the realm of the financially well to do.”
Maybe it just comes down to this basic fact: A trendy Main Line area doesn’t have a century-old five-story high power tool factory (encased in worn- out bricks situated alongside a trash littered railroad right of way) giving off this incessant, over and over, iron-on-iron pounding noise. And if this isn’t enough, this might add to the aura of the place; the factory gives off airborne factory dust and grit swirling out through exhaust fans in high up opened windows.
Some messed up neighborhood we have here.
Go ahead, feel that dust and grit on your clammy skin.
Just listen to the noise until it gives you a damn migraine.
Maybe you heard the police sirens late last night wailing on their way to quell a family ruckus at the Shumaker house on Bermuda Street.
Meet neighborhood smart-ass, tough guy, and the direct opposite of a cultured main liner, Rico James Paradise. Rico grew up having it in his mind that he had a striking resemblance to movie icon James Dean. But most folks in the neighborhood thought he was nothing more than a fresh kid strutting around sun-glassed, his brown hair tousled and unkempt, wearing tight fitting dungarees and black motorcycle boots while stashing his cigarettes in the rolled-up sleeve of his white tee-shirt. Now with a name like Rico James Paradise, you might think he was a hot stud movie actor, a hip-talking Dee-Jay on a hot hits radio station, or maybe even an astronaut out there in deep space.
Truth is, the smart-ass tough guy non-astronaut got up some five hours late for some mandatory Saturday overtime at the chemical plant located under the elevated train structure in the blue-collar Kensington section of the city. Rico’s been warned over and over again by his burly cigar-smoking supervisor on the loading dock at the chemical plant. “Shape the hell up and do what’s right. Miss work again and you’ll be signing for un-employment checks.”
Rico’s supervisor always had a hard one for him. Besides work related issues, he couldn’t stand Rico’s smart mouthed attitude.
Finally, the screeching freight train, the blasted late morning heat and the relentless factory noise woke Rico about a half-hour before noon, when he should have got up at six. What can you damn expect though when you get in after 3 a.m. liquored-up after a night out at the race track drinking bottled beer at the Turf Lounge and betting on the ponies, downing hard liquor and playing cards with the unsavory crowd, almost getting into a brawl with Raysel the Neighborhood Bookie, and there was something else and it had to do with a pretty girl with high cheekbones and intelligent eyes, but we’ll let that go for the moment.
Rico woke up hung over and damp with perspiration having already transferred significant amounts of it to the musty sheet he slept on. He had this dry, lousy, cigarette and stale liquored taste in his mouth and he felt as if he was somehow secured to the bed by some kind of a tie down system. First thought that hit him with a start after the outside noise and the broiling heat turning his place into a second-floor oven was, So what! So, they fire me! There’s always another job out there somehow or somewhere.
The “something else” will hit him in a minute. And on and off, it would trouble him for a long, long, time. There were times when he thought he was free and clear of it, but like personal demons it would keep coming back now and then and grab hold of him and torment him.
It was this: What happened with Arlene last night?
What happened with Arlene…?
Deep down inside, Rico knows what happened. He will never admit it. He just came up less than a man when things were being said about having a chance for something in his life.
Arlene Marie Denali, 29, had one main aspiration for her life. She just wanted someone who loved her to come home to her and take her in his arms and hold her close and keep her safe and secure. Even though she doesn’t recall exactly how she heard it, or where she may have read it, Arlene believed this: With love in your life, you can do great things.
It’s really not too much for anyone to ask for, just a basic human need. And if you should go through life without it, either the waiting at home for someone or the going home to someone you love, what do you have in your life that really counts? Somehow though, even at just 29, Arlene felt her dream was slipping away and getting more and more out of reach.