Imagine your mind floating back in time and reading about Oklahoma during the summer of 1971—the care free days. Well… almost carefree. Ten year old Gerty prevents that from happening. Every summer, Gerty spends one week with her granny. Seems normal… right? It turns out not to be so normal when this precocious little girl does a naughty thing. Unlike past summers, something different happens in 1971. Gerty’s Aunt Bessie gets a telephone party line. Quickly, Gerty learns that she can listen in on the neighbor’s conversations. But it doesn’t stop there. She repeats what she hears to total strangers—better known as gossiping. You will have to read what happens with that.
The Party Line is a light hearted novel that will make you laugh and gasp. It is for all ages. If you’re older, I forewarn you that you will remember some wonderful times.
Targeted Age Group: any age
“Come on Gerty, everyone is waiting for you. Tommy and your dad have already left for the car,” yelled Gerty’s mom, Ann, as she grabbed a few items out of the pantry to put in the cooler. She knew they would drive straight to her mom’s house because Harry hated to stop for anything. He said if they stopped, the three-hour trip turned into a five-hour trip.
On the way to the staircase, Ann glanced at her reflection in the dining room mirror next to the kitchen. Although she had passed the ripe old age of thirty, she still had pretty features, high cheek bones with dark brown eyes and dark brown hair. She moved closer to the mirror for one quick check for gray hairs and didn’t find any. If one did pop up, she plucked it out immediately. Ann’s shag haircut fell loosely around her face, and it made her appear at least five years younger. She tossed the hair with her fingers and glanced up the stairs. Gerty was nowhere in sight.
Ann yelled at her daughter from the bottom of the stairs. “Gerty, I’m not going to tell you again, we have waited for you at least twenty minutes. You know how upset your dad gets when we don’t leave right at nine o’clock.” Ann glanced up at the black and white cat clock nailed on the wall above the stove. It read 9:09, Harry would have a conniption. Ann grabbed a bag and filled it with crunch’n’munch, RC cola, Yoohoo’s, and fruit. Once everything was placed at the door, she went back for her Tab. She couldn’t forget Tab. After two kids, she had to cut back every calorie possible. Ann tapped her foot and tried to think if anything had been forgotten, and against her better judgment she grabbed some pop rocks and bottle caps for the kids.
“Little girl, we have waited on you for twenty minutes, and you better hope your dad doesn’t come get you,” Ann shouted as she walked into Gerty’s bedroom. In a quick look around the room, she noticed the empty suitcase with all the clothes haphazardly tossed everywhere. Ann got madder than a wet hornet.
“Ann, do I look fat in this outfit?” Gerty asked while posing in front of the full length mirror standing upright in the corner of her bedroom. She practiced modeling hours on end in front of the antique mirror. Gerty and her friends pretended they were models on a New York runway making one-dollar-an-hour, a ton of money. The girls constantly chatted about the many ways of spending their earnings. Gerty decided she wanted to buy a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia fastback. She didn’t know anyone who had one, so she would be the first one in Tulsa to own one.
“How many times have I told you not to call me Ann, my name is Mom? Gerty, you need to be more worried about the time. Your granny wants us to get there by noon, and you know she will have lunch cooked for us,” said Ann as she threw Gerty’s clothes in the suitcase. This little toot did not have one thing packed. Everything was thrown across the bed; shorts, socks, tennis shoes, tops, and her Sunday dress. Ann reached over and swatted her daughter on the bottom. “I’m giving you five minutes to get down the stairs, or I’ll send your dad up here, and I don’t think you want me to do that.”
“Did you wash my pedal pushers? I can’t find my purple and white palazzo pants.” Gerty bought a new yellow peasant top the last time they were at TG & Y, and it matched her multicolored striped pedal pushers perfectly.
“Everyone is in the car waiting for you,” Harry Connor impatiently yelled as he slammed the front door. He stomped in the house. When he got mad everyone knew it. His fair Irish skin turned red, and it blended with his red hair. His stocky six-foot frame looked like a WWE wrestler. Tommy told his dad that he was built like Bruno Sammartino, a world famous wrestler. Every time someone mentioned Bruno, Harry would chase the kids through the house and act like a wrestler chasing his opponent.
“Now you’re in trouble young lady, your dad has come in to fetch us.” Ann grabbed the pedal pushers hanging in Gerty’s closet and threw them in the suitcase as she headed for the bedroom door. “You have five minutes. Harry, we’ll be down in a few minutes.” As Ann walked out the bedroom door, she held up five fingers as a reminder to her daughter.
Pushy, pushy, pushy! Adults are always in a hurry. She hummed the new Beatles song, Hey Jude that just came out on the radio. She zipped her suitcase and struggled to lift it off the bed. As it dragged across the wood floor, it made a click, click, click sound as it crossed over the cracks. When she struggled with the pulling of the suitcase, she thought, someone needs to invent a suitcase that rolls. She continued to hum Hey Jude, without a care in the world.
“Gerty, if I have to come up there, I will take away your record player for a month,” yelled her dad, madder than a Baptist in a bar surrounded by drunks. He dreaded the day she started to wear makeup. This little girl was already late everywhere they went. He couldn’t imagine how long it could take her when she started to get all dolled up and started to wear all that junk on her face.
“I’m coming, this suitcase is heavy, and it’s hard for me to lug it down the stairs,” Gerty whined. She knew if she whined loud enough—Dad would come to the rescue.
With a red face, Harry walked up the stairs and grabbed the suitcase. “You know I wanted to be gone by nine. Now it’s nine-thirty, so you better go to the bathroom before we leave because I’m not stopping.”
Ann listened to the anger in her husband’s voice. Normally he tried to be a patient man, but he never had patience when it came to being on time. Ann smiled when she thought about Gerty being born two weeks past the due date. Thinking back, she couldn’t remember any trip that Gerty was on time.
Everyone piled into the white 1968 Mercury Colony Station Wagon, and just before Dad drove out of the driveway, he asked one last time. “Does anyone need to go to the bathroom? Speak up now or hold it until we get to Granny’s.” He glanced around, and no one said anything.
Ann smiled and knew no one dared say one word regarding going to the bathroom. Gerty had already made Harry mad, and everyone knew to keep their mouths shut, or Dad would go into a tirade for the next thirty minutes.
“Honey, did you remember to go by the gas station yesterday?” Ann wanted to change the subject.
“Yes I did. I filled up at Sinclair gas station, and next stop will be your mom’s. I’m sure glad the stations started this self-service option, the gas is cheaper. It’s worth it, not having to pay someone to check my oil or wash my windshield. I can maintain my car at home.” He had calmed down, and he reached over and squeezed his wife’s hand.
“You know Spiro won’t have any self-service stations,” Ann commented as she pulled down the visor to block the sun.
“I know, but I’ll find one along the way, and we’ll fill up there. If not I’ll stop at Stuckey’s. But it doesn’t matter where we stop, the price of gas is still high. Can you believe gas costs thirty-six cents a gallon? That’s highway robbery.” He got angry every time he thought about the price of gas.
Ann wished she had never said a word. She knew he would gripe for the next fifty miles. “Now Harry you can’t fuss, it has been thirty-six cents for almost a year.”
He thought about what Ann said and then took a deep breath. “You’re right honey, but it won’t stay at that price if we don’t get Nixon out of office. Maybe we’ll get lucky, and he’ll resign.”
Ann couldn’t win for losing. If it’s not the gas prices its politics. “Now Harry, you know I don’t like it when you to talk disrespectfully about our President in front of the kids. I want them to grow up and make their own choices,” said Ann as she squeezed her husband’s hand. She always knew what to do to calm him down, and get him off the subject.
“They can make any decision they want, as long as neither one votes for Nixon,” he said while his face turned bright red. His face always turned red when he talked politics. “Since we’re on the subject, I’ve wanted to ask you a question. Is your hometown Spiro named after Vice-President Spiro Agnew?”
“No, he’s from Maryland, but his name did put Spiro on the map. People always ask me that same question all the time. I think Spiro is now as famous as New York City, and it’s because of our vice president.”
Out of nowhere their conversation was interrupted. “You touched me. Mom, Tommy is touching me,” yelled Gerty annoyed at her brother. It happened every time they went anywhere.
“Tommy, please don’t touch your sister,” answered Ann. On one of these trips, she planned on tying Tommy to the suitcase rack on the top of the car. Her last nerve couldn’t take anymore.
“I’m not touching Gerty, I’m just getting really close to her ugly face,” Tommy said as he giggled. Tommy and Gerty looked identical in the face. Their only difference was his hair. His never looked combed, and it always looked windblown. Both kids got Ann’s dark skin and brown eyes, and Harry thanked God they didn’t get his pale skin. The kids could play for hours in the sun and get as dark as an Indian. If Harry spent five minutes in the sun without protection, he turned the color of a pickled beet.
With every ounce of her being, Gerty hated her seven-year-old brother. She couldn’t wait to be alone with Granny for a week. A whole week! A week without this monster pestering her! She couldn’t wait to get rid of one bratty brother. One day she planned on knocking the snot out of him. “Mom, his finger is almost picking my nose. Leave me alone you little brat. If Dad hits a bump, your finger will go up my nose and into my brain.”
“What brain?” Tommy giggled, not moving one inch.
“I can’t wait to get away, I wish I could stay two weeks with Granny,” Gerty griped as she put her finger up to his face. She wanted to show him what it felt like, to have a finger nearly picking his nose.
“I wish you would stay forever then I can be the only child,” said Tommy while making clown faces at his sister.
“You’re disgusting,” Gerty snapped at him while rolling her eyes.
Without any forewarning, Tommy took Gerty’s finger and stuck it up his nose, giggling the whole time.
“Oh my God, I’ve got cooties. You are the most despicable person on the face of the earth. You’re a paramoeba,” screamed Gerty as she tried to wipe the boogers off her finger.
“Well, you’re a … you’re a … a monkey face,” Tommy screamed at her. His mind went blank, but at least he tried to make fun of her. “It’s sad you got no friends, and you got to look words up in the dictionary.”
“It’s sad you’re so dumb,” snapped Gerty as she held her hand out the window to blow off the boogers.
Finally, Harry had enough. “Both of you stop fighting, and don’t make me pull over. You know what happens when I pull over the car.”
Tommy laughed. “You’ll sick Mom on us.”
“Tommy, that’s enough,” said Ann, but she couldn’t help smiling at her young, contrary son.
About the Author:
I was born in California to two hard working parents. My mom was a housewife and my dad worked for Whirlpool. With luck on my side, I was the second of four girls. Some people hate being the middle child, but I loved it. I didn’t have the responsibilities of the oldest nor coddled like a baby. Anyway, my father’s job moved us all over the US, and finally we ended up back to our roots—Oklahoma. We settled in Tulsa, and I went to Daniel Webster High School through my junior year. Unfortunately my parents divorced, and I went my last year of high school to Spiro High, the home of the Bulldogs. Even though my parents divorced, and even though I moved my senior year, I didn’t mind. I was home. All the family lived in the area, so I always had someone to hang out with. My memories of visiting my granny were where the idea of The Party Line originated.
Once I graduated from High School I wanted to move to a to a new gigantic continent. So I ended up in Texas. Hey, it’s big. Settling in Huntsville, city where the executions take place, I went to Sam Houston State University and got my MBA. I met my husband and had two children, Cody and Victoria.