Book Excerpt: Saturday Night at Sarah Joy's by John Allison
ISBN: 0-7414-8014-X ©2012
Book Size: 5.5'' x 8.5'' , 237 pages
Category/Subject: FICTION / General
On occasional Saturday nights, selected clients of Sarah Joy's salon convene for haircuts and socializing. One evening, a shotgun pressed against Sarah's forehead changes their little paradise forever.
The next day, at promptly 8:35 PM, Miss Florrie was back, once again cane-first through the door. She was clearly trying to be strong and confident, and was clearly wrestling with it all. She had promised herself she would be an adult about taking care of her little problem. However, the anxiety of the unknown had made her clam up again. She did, however, at least come prepared.
Miss Florrie had brought in pictures of herself, which was a great idea! She silently handed these over to Sarah Joy, who made an appropriate fuss over them. Miss Florrie was very excited to learn every detail from Sarah Joy on how wigs are made, how hair is selected, how wigs are held on. They drew up plans and experimented.
Seven weeks later, a chatty Miss Florrie walked out to her car with a smile, bangs, and her head upright—and no hat. Miss Florrie never mentioned to Helen that she knew, but spent many hours marveling at how good Helen looked.
During her many visits since, Sarah Joy and William have learned quite a lot about Miss Florrie. She, of course, always visited with her straw hat (now carrying it) and her cane, and of course always had to have her hat before she left, and William almost always had to bring her the cane, or she’d forget it. They noticed that she walked just fine without it.
William was desperate to have Miss Florrie be his friend. He would do or say anything to try to get her to smile. One day, William walked in on Sarah Joy and Miss Florrie. He was hobbling along with Miss Florrie’s cane—just a silly thing, trying to make her smile.
“That’s not a toy, Junior,” Miss Florrie scolded him.
“You break that, and I’ll be eating Ramen Noodles,” she continued.
Sarah Joy gave her a puzzled look, so she explained. They learned that Miss Florrie teaches a self-defense course. William thought she was kidding. A nephew from California, always concerned that he just wasn’t here for her if she needed him, had sent her a most unusual Christmas gift a few years ago. It took her an hour to open the taped-up box that contained her cane and a book. The book was first published in 1912, written by Andrew Chase Cunningham, and was called The Cane as a Weapon. It was an entire self-defense system making use of a “walking stick.” She explained that Cunningham was both an engineer for the navy and active in the sport of fencing. Apparently someone expanded the book by making it a combination self-defense system and basis for an exercise program. Miss Florrie took her nephew’s concerns seriously. She was an independent woman and had no intention of getting mugged. But, realistically, she knew that she didn’t have the strength she used to have, so she learned the program and followed the cane-based workouts. One day, while trying to show a few moves to a friend in a nursing home, she noticed that she was surrounded by an audience, many of whom had canes. She offered to teach them exercises (mostly) and a little self-defense (just for fun). Three months later, she was actually getting paid (well-paid!) for her lessons, offered as formal community college classes. She taught in a room in a local casino, which loved offering classes to seniors as much as they enjoyed being bused there!
Both Sarah Joy and William smiled just thinking about their little Miss Florrie swinging her cane around, and the bulging muscles that she must have hidden under that dress. William made the mistake of smiling at the wrong time.
“What’s your problem?” Miss Florrie asked him.
“So, you’re teaching classes, are you?” William stated, not sure if he believed it or if she was pulling her leg.
Looking up from the floor, William checked the back of his head for blood.
“And that’s just Chapter One!” Miss Florrie said, looking down the barrel of her weapon at him as he lay on the hard wood.
As she left that particular day, William had just taken an Advil, and opened the door for Miss Florrie. Instead of his usual “be careful out there,” he just said, “Badass.” Without raising her head, she stopped, patted his bottom, and said, “You’re damn right I am! Sucks, doesn’t it?” And out she went. She didn’t even care if that was an appropriate use of the word. It felt so right.
William chuckled for the rest of the day. Miss Florrie walked to her car, wondering if anyone made a leather jacket in her size.
Shortly after Miss Florrie’s wig wear became official, she stopped by and left a present for Sarah Joy—a beautiful box wrapped in the Sunday funnies. Only after Miss Florrie left did Sarah Joy open it. This very old Miss Florrie hat, one that belonged to her mother, still hangs on the wall of The Conscilience.
John Allison Ewing, New Jersey
Philadelphian John Allison spent 25 years at a Big Ten University teaching Chemistry, and is now home teaching at The College of New Jersey. He enjoys constructing plays, short stories, and monologues. The world premiere of his first play, "Bud's Used People Lot" (2004), was produced by the Twin City Players (suburban Chicago). Jersey Voices selected two of his One-Act plays for their productions of short play collections by Jersey Playwrights. 23 of his monologues were read in Kate Daly's Monologue Mania (Bloomfield, NJ) over a two-year period. Look for him on the Barnegat Bay, on the sailing vessel Abby-Gale.