Village Square Logo

It was 3:25 when Walter walked into Bongart's Cleaners on Eighth Street. He approached the counter and dinged the silver bell. By the time he got the claim ticket from his wallet, Sally came out from the back room through the curtained doorway.

Though Sally was middle aged and a bit plump, she still held the pretty face of her younger years. She walked to the hall tree at the end of the counter and hung up Walters freshly laundered white shirt and three-piece suit. The suit and shirt had a paper covering with Bongart's name and logo on it. Sally lived in Johnstown all her life and had not seen Walter since they graduated from high school; that is until her first day working here at Bongart's ten years ago when he brought his suit in for cleaning. Since then, she came to learn that a suit cleaning for Walter always meant something was up.

She greeted Walter in her usual playful voice and said, "There must be a special occasion . . . Walter you're not getting married, are you? And if you're not, I'm still available," she teased.

Walter blushed and said, "Yes and no."

"Yes on the special occasion or on getting married?"

"No, I'm not getting married. But I am going to Duluth to get my latest ship model."

"Another one, my goodness, how many will this make now?" Sally asked.

"Sixty, and my last."

"You're not dying are you? Oh, please tell me you’re not dying."

"No, I'm not dying. My showcase will be full and I've decided to give up collecting."

"You'll have to invite me over sometime to see them. Maybe we could share a bottle of wine or something."

This encouraged Walter to pay for the cleaning and get out of the store quickly.

His next stop was Jin Huts next door to pick up his order of Broccoli Chicken for supper. It was too early for the evening customers yet so the restaurant was empty except for one old man sitting in a small corner booth drinking tea. Mr. Muyang was in a mood for chatting. Walter excused himself saying he had only six minutes to catch the 4:15 trolley down the block so as not to miss his ride home.

A short nap after supper and at 7:30 Walter awoke to his alarm-clock playing “Anchors Away,” his usual wake up greeting. He punched the off switch on the clock. Pushing against the arms of the recliner he rose slowly. Once on his feet it took a moment to maintain his proper balance. His old war injuries were becoming more prominent; probably due to the few extra pounds added to his five-foot nine-inch frame since retirement. The November sun had set over three hours ago and the house was filled with silent darkness except for the low buzzing of a pump circulating water in the aquarium on the north wall.

Walter had never married. He had a girlfriend in early retirement named Connie but she was unable to adjust to his precise daily schedule and in time they parted as friends.

He turned on the lights and after a brief shower went to the bedroom where his three-piece gray Herringbone suit, white shirt, and gray tie were neatly laid out on the bed. The anodized brass star 'Metal of Honor' Walter had received when he was mustered out of the Navy was Brassoed to a shiny finish. Black patent leather shoes were polished to a mirror shine.

Picking up the train schedule from the dresser, he checked it once more to be sure he was on time. Then, on second thought, he decided to call the depot to verify all was in order. Yes, it was correct. He was scheduled to board the Pennsylvania Limited leaving Johnstown going to Pittsburgh at 10:00 pm.

He fed the five angel fish in the aquarium  and got dressed.

The indoor/outdoor thermometer in the kitchen registered an outdoor temperature of  ten degrees. Stopping at the front hall closet, he slipped into his tweed overcoat and gray Hamburg hat. After considering it a moment, he put a neck scarf in the pocked of the over-coat just in case. He turned off the lamp on the stand by the door and stepped out into the brisk evening November air. At precisely 9:15, he pulled the front door closed behind himself and listened for the latch to click into its restraint. Inserting the key into the deadbolt, he turned it slowly, and satisfied that the bolt seated properly, he walked the twenty-two-minute walk to the train station, whistling.

From Pittsburgh the B&O would see him to Chicago. In Chicago, his car would be connected to The Northern Pacific Santa Fe and then on to St. Paul. On the last leg of the journey, the Soo-Line was scheduled to arrive in Duluth at 8:00 tomorrow evening.


In 1940, when he was eighteen, and just two weeks out of high school, Walter joined the U.S. Navy. His MOS was to serve aboard aircraft carriers. After completing Basic Training, he was assigned to The USS Arizona. All totaled he served aboard four carriers, the last being The USS Ommaney.

May 8, 1945, Walter was on deck when the Ommaney was hit by a kamikaze. With his clothes aflame, he dove into the ocean. Fortunately, he had turned away and ducked his head when the plane exploded. He was one of 65 who survived; 95 good men, many not yet 25 years of age, went to the bottom with the ship. Walter was flown to Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland where it was determined he sustained multiple third degree burns. After nine months of burn treatment and healing, he was mustered out of the Navy on February 15, 1946with the rank of Chief Petty Officer.

After leaving the navy Walter worked for The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission for thirty years. His main duty was checking spawning beds and documenting survival and growth rates of the fry. He retired from this position at the age of fifty-two. In retirement he took up a hobby of collecting detailed scale models of aircraft carriers, battleships, frigates, and freighters.

The first models in Walter’s collection were ordered through catalogs from companies like Authenticast. One day Walter came across an ad listing Otto Sherman of Duluth as a first-class builder of model ships. He called the listed phone number, and two days later was on his way to Duluth by rail. Otto made the models of white birch with metal extras. This pleased Walter and he and Otto were off on a satisfying relationship for both of them.

Over the next twelve years, Otto crafted twenty-five of Walter’s models. This resulted to about seventy train trips to Duluth: one to discuss the model and another to pick up the model after it was finished.


Now twenty-years since he got his first model, Walter’s collection of fifty-nine scale model ships were displayed in the well-lit, floor-to-ceiling, glass case which took up an entire wall in the den of his modest one-story home.

Six months ago, Walter commissioned Otto to replicate 'The Fitz' for him at a cost of $3,000. He ordered the model to be complete with a propeller that turned and actual screw-down clamps on the hatch covers. The wheelhouse was designed to have real glass and a hinged door that latched. The fifteen-inch-long model was to rest on a highly- polished walnut stand.

Train rides were of little consequence to Walter. Being an introvert, he preferred to sit in the last seat in the last car, the seat reserved for the conductor. He always asked permission first and only once was he turned down. And that was by a conductor who was new on the line. The conductor went to complain at the depot office and was soon instructed to the error of his ways. He and Walter enjoyed each other’s quiet company.

Walter arrived in Duluth as scheduled. He took a cab to the Hampton Inn where the room he booked three weeks ago awaited him. The cabbie remembered Walter from previous trips. Both he and Walter being introverts, the conversation was limited to the usual, how are you, and the weather. Being in a generous mood Walter gave the cab driver a five dollar tip.

Stanley, the elderly door-man at the Hampton, looked smart in his greeter’s uniform. He stood proudly at his post and greeted Walter warmly. "Good evening, sir, a pleasure to see you again. What brings you to our fair city this time."

"Hello Stanley," Walter said with a smile in his voice. "I'm getting a new model tomorrow."

"Which one this time, sir?" Stanley inquired.

"The Edmund Fitzgerald."

"I'm sure you will enjoy it, sir," Stanley said. "We hope you enjoy your stay at the Hampton Inn!"

Still in a generous mood, Walter gave Stanley a five dollar tip when he held the door open for Walter to enter the Hampton Lobby.

Before going to bed, Walter brewed a cup of chicory tea, and used the hotel warming oven to heat a deviled-ham on toast he brought just in case he got hungry. Although tired from the long trip, Walter’s sleep was interrupted often by thoughts of the new model.

It was the tenth of November, 1995. The long-awaited day had arrived. Walter arose at 5:00 a. m. as usual. After showering and shaving, he dabbed a little 'Old Spice' cologne on his face and brushed his Herringbone suit once more. Fully dressed and ready for the day, he left a ten dollar tip for the housekeeping staff on the stand by the door.

At 6:45 Walter was seated at a table in the Lake-View Restaurant on the third floor overlooking Lake Superior. He ordered his preferred breakfast of two poached eggs, plain whole-wheat toast with a hint of honey, and a cup of chicory tea. While waiting for his order, his cheeks puckered into a near smile in anticipation of what lay ahead.

One hour later, Walter walked into the familiar fragrances of wood species and oils that Otto used for building models. At the counter, he and Otto made small talk about the trip and the weather. All the while Walter was bursting with wonder to see the actual model that rested within arm’s reach but was covered with terry cloth.

"I hardly think you came all this way just to talk about the weather," Otto said.

"Is this it? Can I see it?" Walter asked.
 
Walter lifted the cloth and much to his surprise, he burst into tears. Where that emotion came from, he didn't know. Maybe it was the culmination of all the years of searching for models and now knowing he had succeeded overwhelmed him.

Otto placed the model in a special cushioned box. It was an emotional goodbye for Walter and Otto. Otto invited him to come back anytime, but this was the last they would see each other.


The next evening Walter was back home. After a relaxing shower he put on a  burgundy terry-cloth robe and wool slippers. He poured a glass of champagne and christened his new model by pouring a shot glass of champagne on its hull. The model was placed in the last available spot in the well-lit, floor-to-ceiling showcase in his den.

Sitting back in his recliner he looked up Sally's number and picked up the phone.


Bio: After retiring from a career of custom woodworking, Willy J. decided he would like to try his hand at writing. His passion is writing about his ancestors and memories from his growing up years. Living on the land has been the love of his life. He has self-published a book of memoirs and is working on revising it for a second printing. He is also working on a second book, a book for children called Tadberry Makes New Friends. (Tadberry is a toad.) Willy J and his wife have five grown children and live in Central Minnesota.


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Coulda

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Bibliosmia

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To Thwart a Wild Turkey Hen

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Home

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Enjoy the Ride

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Cocoa and Biscuits

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Livin’ the Dream

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Fall in Maine

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by

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One January Morning

by

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The Ruins and the Writing Technique of Negative Space

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by

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A Monarch Chrysalis

by

Brigitte Whiting

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Monarch Butterflies

by

Brigitte Whiting

I had no idea what milkweed looked like because I'd never seen it, but I'd always wanted it to grow in my yard so I could see the monarch butterflies.


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Canada, Marty, and The Exorcist

by

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...

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The Goldfinch

by

Brigitte Whiting

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My Mobile Space

by

Janet Harvey

 

In June, I will expect to find my special place in Townsville, Queensland. Last year it was in Darwin, Northern Territory, and today my place is in Hobart, Tasmania.

 

 

We live in a truck, a 2004 Isuzu 350NPR turbo automatic...

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My Desk

by

Luann Lewis

Another rejection letter and I feel like a loser. Yeah, I know, I’m not trying to make a living doing this. I even claim to be “writing for myself.” Butwe all want validation and, let’s face it, us writers want readers. So here I sit, ...

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Of Heroes and Holiness

by

Angela Hess

What does a hero look like?

 

George Bailey is a hero.

 

George Bailey dreamed of traveling the world.

 

George Bailey gave up his dreams to care for his family and community.

 

Rudy left his family...

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Lynn’s Tree

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs

Lynn’s maple tree
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The Scream That Is Also a Song

by

Enza Vynn-Cara

Free verse on the page that
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smooth and thin, dipped
in blood-tinted ink—

...

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Lake Katherine

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs

turquoise water of the lake
stretches for miles,
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...

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Be Leery Of What Falls From Above

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Déjà Vu

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Enza Vynn-Cara

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Haunted House

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs

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The Moods of McCorquodale

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ARS Poetica

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs

I paint with words

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I see
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Neighborhood Walk Meditation

by

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Dream Metaphor

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So glad it rained last night. Now, late morning, sun shines,
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Solitary

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Malkeet Kaur

For eons now, the very core of my being
has become inaccessible.

Solitary.

Once it used to be...

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The Blanket Hugs Me

by

Louise E. Sawyer

I’m grateful that I have a daybed
downstairs where I can rest during the day
with my Guinea...

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On Love and Dreams

by

Miriam Manglani

1.
Love is a beast and angel and dream on fire.

2.
Your soul wakes in your dreams.

...

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The Writer’s Breastplate

by

Louise E. Sawyer

…apologies to St. Patrick


Creative Spirit with me,
Creative Spirit before me,
Creative Spirit behind me,
Creative Spirit...

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The Sweater

by

Malkeet Kaur

As I rummage through the clothes,
I spot it, the well-worn white sweater
that now had aging spots...

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The Holly Tree

by

Nolo Segundo

We have a large holly tree
in our backyard—
is it foolish to say
you love a tree?

...

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waiting on an email

by

Gerardine Gail Esterday

rain beats against the metal awning.
winds whipped up against two storms
racing each other over the Mississippi
...

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Looking for Weeds

by

Louise E. Sawyer

Pushing my walker with the purple
pet carrier propped up on the seat,
I walk down the driveway.
...

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Ocean Mood

by

Malkeet Kaur

The roaring, crashing surf summon us.
Soft and damp ecru sand lies beneath our bare soles.
The sun-baked...

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The Beetle in the Sink

by

Miriam Manglani

There is a beetle in the sink.  
A big fat one,
shiny and black
with sharp needle...

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Four Cats – Four Friends

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs

I
the painting of four cats
hangs on my living room wall


II
you can see
Glory Barrie...

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On Eating an Orange and Seeing God

by

Nolo Segundo

I miss the big navels, the big navels when they are not in season,
but almost any orange...

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Summer – A Pantoum

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs

I sit on my deck and enjoy summer sun.
Zephyrs caress my cheeks with soft kisses.
Bombay cat...

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Who Is Margaret?

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs

I find the small black and white picture in a box
of old letters untouched for twenty years.
...

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Your Broken Heart

by

Miriam Manglani

I found your heart’s hinge —
I knew it could open!
Inside, I saw all of its broken...

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Made Whole by Others

by

Miriam Manglani

Some people fill deep holes in us
the space that’s left when our loved ones leave
they plug...

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Autumn Villanelle

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs

leaves don orange, crimson and yellow gowns
as they prepare for Cinderella’s autumn ball,
soon the leaves will...

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Sunny Day Epiphany

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

Umberto, my Golden Retriever is sad,
Sparkie and Sal, his companions, have died

I wanted to adopt a...

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All The Dead I Know

by

Nolo Segundo

Let’s start with Eric—a nerdy-looking kid before
nerds were invented, and only 18 when he crashed
his funny...

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The Dinosaur Will Get a Makeover

by

Miriam Manglani

She talks of makeovers with friends,
using contour sticks and beauty blenders,
making “Tiktoks” with dance moves
called...

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Ocean City

by

Nolo Segundo

I saw it then as my own little Shangri-la,
for I was very small and knew nothing
of...

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Flores Para Los Muertos

by

Alberto Rodriguez Orejuela

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Post Modern Totem

by

Alberto Rodriguez Orejuela

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Raccoon Delight

by

Alberto Rodriguez Orejuela

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Constructing a Crew

by

Alberto Rodriguez Orejuela

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Moth in the Mirror

by

Alberto Rodriguez Orejuela

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Cat's in the Cradle

by

Alberto Rodriguez Orejuela

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A New Day Begins

by

Bob Hembree

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Angst

by

Alberto Rodriguez Orejuela

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The Fly on the Wall

by

Bob Hembree

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Glancing Vulnerably

by

Alberto Rodriguez Orejuela

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Fowl Squabbling

by

Bob Hembree

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A Mid-Photo's Daydream

by

Alberto Rodriguez Orejuela

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Solar Reflection

by

Bob Hembree

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Being Held Up

by

Alberto Rodriguez Orejuela

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Reflections

by

Paula Parker

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Jack

by

Gerardine Gail Esterday

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Hollister

by

Alberto Rodriguez Orejuela

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Evelyn

by

Gerardine Gail Esterday

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Curiosity

by

Alberto Rodriguez Orejuela

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Rebecca

by

Gerardine Gail Esterday

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Hazel

by

Alberto Rodriguez Orejuela

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Working Hands

by

Paula Parker

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Maya

by

Alberto Rodriguez Orejuela

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The Birds in the Flower

by

Alberto Rodriguez Orejuela

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Pst... Hey

by

Alberto Rodriguez Orejuela

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