FINDING GINA'S JANE

FINDING GINA'S JANE

A Story by Willys Watson

FINDING GINA’S JANE

 

A Short Story By Willys Watson



1.


On the Sunday after school let out for the summer, and just four days before her elevent birthday, Gina stepped out onto the front porch of their home. It was a late humid evening, a night filled with ominous clouds that occasionally produced thunder and lightening. Usually she loved watching nature’s celestial fireworks but she was determined to focus on the decision she made earlier in the day.


Her decision, and the ensuing serious considerations that came with it, was brought about by the date her father had on Saturday night, and the one he had gone on the weekend before, both with different women. Though those dates had been arranged by well-meaning family members Gina knew, upon meeting each woman beforehand, that there would not be a second date with either. Knowing her father as well as she believed she did, she was sure neither of them came close to being his type.


Still, those dates convinced her he was finally allowing for the possibility of having some sort of social life after the loss of his wife, her mother, two years before. And, after hearing his account of the events of the boring date last night, Gina decided it was her duty, her solemn mission for the summer, to find him a new wife or at least a girlfriend her and her dad would both enjoy the company of.


She concluded the major obstacle to her playing cupid was the fact that the year before they sold their house in the city and moved back into the suburb he had grown up in so his nearby family could watch her when he was at work. Gina understood the reasoning and her relatives were cool enough to be around, but she quickly became disheartened living here when she learned, mostly second-hand, that many in this more conservative area considered her father a bit of a kook. Even though he grew up here and played sports in school, even though he served in the army, even though he had a respectable, well-paying job as an electrician and drove an old pickup truck, to these people he would always be an oddball. And she was convinced the right type of woman wouldn’t even live in a stuffy area like this on purpose.


Maybe he was a little like the goofy inventor character from ‘Back To The Future’ but her father had earned the right to be whatever he chose to be. Gina was proud that he was also a writer and creator of weird and wonderful things, just as she was equally proud that her mother had been a ballerina who taught dance in school, wrote poetry and loved the outdoors as much as her and her dad do. To Gina her folks were heros, not kooks. They were artists who lived life as they thought it should be lived and when they lived in the city her mom’s and dad’s friends were other artists, teachers, writers and theater types, none of whom ever considered her parents oddballs.


Suddenly Gina smiled because the needed details of her plan became clear. With a full summer ahead of them she just needed to steer him back into the city towards the museums, art galleries, book stores and social events where his future girlfriend would likely hang out at. And she was no longer concerned about the task being that difficult because her father usually allowed her to decide what they did during their summer weekends together. She didn’t mind missing a few camping trips, sail boating or watching new blockbuster movies at the mall if her quest was as successful as she knew it would be.


2.


Before they left the house the next Saturday morning Gina had their itinerary carefully planned to maximize his exposure to eligible women. She even chose the old truck over their family sedan because she thought, with her father’s studio logo on both doors, it would be more appealing to the artist type if they saw them arrive in it.


Their first stop was to their once favorite used book store, a sprawling establishment that also sold used movies and music. From there they went to the Museum Of Science And History, a place Gina had spent many a fond afternoon at during her earlier childhood. Then they walked a half block to the Museum Of Modern Art, browsing through the permanent collection and the touring Lichtenstein exhibit, lingering there until closing time.


On the way home Gina was uncommonly quite because she was analyzing her first attempts at match making. Contemplating the events of the day, she told herself it started out well enough because she always made sure the women she chose to talk to weren’t wearing a ring before she approached them and she quickly learned it was easy to start a conversation with a single woman. The problem was she couldn’t figured out how to introduce them to her dad without seeming too obvious. Now she just wanted to get home to go on-line for more information, needed to ask the experts, the other kids who had successfully played cupid, for advice.


As he drove them towards their house her father was also reflecting on their day together. Her daughter’s choices had seemed natural enough when they started their trip, a desire to return to a familiar past, but he started noticing, halfway through their stop at the book store, that Gina appeared more interested in starting conversations with women than with the literary and musical treasures the store had to offer. And the same pattern continued at both museums.


Yes, his daughter was intelligent for her age, though perhaps a little too serious at times, but she had a kind, loving nature and always meant well. However, emotionally she was still a kid who would not master the art of subtlety for a few more years and it didn’t take long for him to understand what she was up to. Though he found her match making attempts endearing he realized the time had come for him to try to explain to her what goes through the minds of single women his age, or at least what he believed went through their minds.

 

And he decided the best time was tomorrow before they caught the Shakespear In The Park performance. In the past, as a family, they had always arrived early to stake out better seats with their picnic blanket and food basket. Then they headed to the nearby playground until just before the performance started. This gave him from late morning to late afternoon to find the right moment to bring up the subject.


3.


Her father was sitting at his work table sketching late Sunday morning when Gina entered the studio carrying her violin case and looked up to watch her carefully prop it against an unused easel.


"Giving your fingers a rest?"


"More like giving poor Mendelssohn a break," Gina replied with a quick grin, then asked, while referring to the Coke machine, "Is Charlie finished?"


He had bought the machine at an antique shop last month, hauled it back to his studio and started reprogramming it to talk when someone stepped in front of it. So far it had at least twenty phrases it randomly spoke when anyone got near it’s motion sensor. Gina wasn’t sure how old this rusty, ancient, round-topped machine was, which she fondly christened Charlie, but it still worked and the sodas it sold only cost twenty-five cents.


When he reached behind his chair to plug the machine back in Gina stepped in front of it and it asked ‘Is it time for my oil change yet?’


She chuckled and stepped to the side of it so it’s motion sensor could reset itself, then stepped in front of it again. This time it complained, ‘I’m not getting paid enough for this gig.’


Gina repeated the process again and it asked her, ‘What? Is it something I said?’


"Cool, that’s one of my sayings," she proudly announced as she approached the work table. "How many of mine have you picked?"


"Five so far, Sweety. And maybe you can come up with a few more because I haven’t decided on the final play list," he replied as he unplugged the machine. Then he rose from the table and looked at her earnestly.


"But not now, huh?" she asked when she noticed him pulling the cord out.


"Gina Martina?"


"Yes, Doc?" she replied.


Her father’s real name was Daniel, though everyone called him Doc. To Gina he was always Pop or Dad, depending on her mood, except when she heard him add her middle name and realized a serious talk was coming. Her response was her whimsical way of acknowledging the tone in his voice and Doc always accepted this with good natured humor.


"There’s something we need to discuss."


"Pop, I agree, but it’s too pretty a day to be doing indoor serious. Can we wait until we get to the park?"


"Sounds fair enough," he agreed, patting her on the shoulder as she picked up her violin case. "How about we go get the picnic lunch ready?"


4.


Gina was three years old the first time her parents took her to see a Shakespear In The Park performance and she was mesmerized by the story, the actors, the costumes and the Renaissance music. From that moment on it became a family tradition that lasted until her mother’s passing.


Now she was excited that the tradition was being continued, but wouldn’t allow her enthusiasm to interrupt her mission. The play was ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and she researched it the night before, memorizing it’s basic story line in case she got distracted during the production. Gina also received some encouraging feedback from fellow amateur match makers while on-line and was confident she would have better success with the women she approached this evening. The most common suggestion was to have her father standing beside her when she introduced herself and Gina had to admit this was one of the flaws in her original plan. It made sense to her now because a polite single woman would feel obligated to respond with a kind hello and, if she was interested enough, the conversation would then take it’s own course.


5.


Her father hung upside down on the monkey bars watching her climb the steps of the highest slide at the playground. Her long established routine, once at the top, was to push off quickly to accelerate her speed, then grab both railings midway down to slow her decent before reaching the end of the slide. She had taught herself this trick to spare her bottom from hitting the sand bed. When she stood up and started back to the steps again he called out to her.


"Gina Martina?"


"Pop, if it’s time to get serious it would help if you weren’t upside down," she playfully scolded her father as she approached him.                                    

 

Doc flipped himself upright, then did an airborne somersault to land squarely on his feet. Gina applauded, then pointed towards an empty picnic table that he followed her there.


"Honey, it’s so sweet that you’ve decided to start playing cupid - " he started to say as they set across from each other at the table.


"Guess you’ve noticed, huh?" she asked and when he nodded yes she added, "Well, you weren’t having much luck and I figured you needed some help.’


"Probably do," he admitted, "because it’s been eleven years and I’m out of practice."


"So you practiced on that Joan woman and that Betty woman? Pop, the first one was too way old fashioned for you, the second one was way too religious."


"Yeah, I figured that out soon enough, but I didn’t want to hurt your Aunt Alice’s or Uncle Roy’s feelings by saying no to their efforts."


"And the others back home will be the same stuffy, boring kinds. That’s why I needed to head you back towards girls who are more your type."


"Are you so sure you know - "


"Mom was."


"Honey, she was one of a kind, a gift from fate to both of us, but we can’t replace her."


"Jeeze, Pop, I know that, and I don’t want to try, but there’s got to be someone who would love someone like you."


"Hey, I brush my teeth in the morning and even use deodorant sometimes," he teased her.


"We’re supposed to be serious now," was Gina’s retort. Then she stuck out her tongue at him to mimic his attempt at humor. "You’re not like most dads, you know. You listen to opera when you paint, you know, and you do serious things like rock climbing just for fun. You’re like a smart Tarzan with a tree house full of books and art who needs a Jane as smart as he is."


"Unique analogy, my little genius, but the chances of meeting a woman like that may be asking a lot."


"It happens all the time, Dad."


"In romantic movies and novels."

 

"Mom knew it happened to real people. She called it serendipity."


"You know this?"


"We never talked about it but I read the story you wrote last year about how you two first met, remember? You changed the names but it was about you and Mom and that’s what she said it was in the story," she stated while rolling her eyes for effect.


"The thing I’m trying to say, Honey, is that finding a second right person by accident may not be that easy and I don’t want you to get your hopes up."


"I’m just improving your chances."


"Kiddo, sometimes you’re a little too mature for someone who just turned eleven years old," he stated with a hint of lament. Gina responded by pretending to pick her nose and flicking the imaginary bugger into the air. Doc grinned broadly at her defusing wit, then cautiously conceded, "Okay, if you’re that determined give it a shot. But work on being subtle and try not to embarrass us or them."


"Me, Pop? I’m more worried about you embarrassing us!" she countered and Doc laughed, then glanced at his watch.


"It’s time we went over the hill," he announced and Gina nodded in agreement.


The hill was actually a long, man-made flood control dyke that separated the larger area of the park from the Trinity River. On the other side of the dyke was a narrow strip of the park where the Shakespear In The Park Festival was held every year. As they started up the hill Doc turned around to face the playground, then beat his chest with both hands.


"Not now, Dad!" she chided him because she knew what was about to happen.



"Hey, I’ve got a repetition to live up to now."


Then he cupped his hands in front of his mouth and let out a blood curling Tarzan yell that was a respectable facsimile of Johnny Weissmuller’s famous vocal calling card. Suddenly, from the other side of the hill, they heard a female voice respond with her own version of the Tarzan yell.


Gina and her father scurried to the top of the dyke and peered down onto the grounds where the festival was being held. Although the trek to the top took only a moment neither of them could locate any woman, young or old, glancing up at them, who seemed to acknowledge they had responded to the yell. When Doc shook his head and shrugged his shoulders Gina knew it was their cue to head to their spot.

 

6.


By the time they were seated on their picnic blanket the grassed area nearer the stage was full and the latecomers could only find places to watch farther up the hillside facing downward. And this was still a half-hour before the performance started. In past years Gina loved this final waiting time because she relished hearing the musicians playing their Renaissance instruments as they slowly ambled through the crowd, but tonight she was preoccupied casing the women spectators. After their earlier conversation, which she interpreted as having her dad’s support, Gina wasn’t even trying to appear subtle. Doc simply chose to let her be herself.


As she scanned the crowd for possible prospects, out of the corner of her eye Gina noticed the presents of two long, tanned legs stepping to the edge of their blanket. Her eyes quickly followed the lanky body up over a faded pair of cut-offs, then past a brightly colored tank-top, until she found the face of a red haired woman wearing owl’s eye glasses, perhaps thirty-five, at least 5'10", smiling down at her. Gina stared, trying to decide if she recognized her somehow.


"Excuse me, Miss," the redhead said to Gina. "I couldn’t get away from work in time to get a good seat, and it's my favorite Shakespearian comedy and I was wondering - "


"We’ve got all kinds of extra room," Gina responded quickly and, to prove her point, she pushed the picnic basket backwards and then scooted her behind closer to her father. When the redhead turned to Doc for his confirmation he smiled, nodded and gestured with his hand for her to sit.


"We reserved a place just for you." was his response.


‘Not bad, Dad, you’re learning fast’ Gina thought to herself as she intensely watched the redhead seat herself in a lotus position, then reach behind her to rest her water bottle against the basket. ‘A tall, skinny southpaw. Well, the lefties I know are cool people,’ she noted.


"I think I remember you from somewhere back when I was a kid," Gina told her when she was settled. The redhead peered over the top of her glasses, looking closely at her young co-spectator.


"Were you that little green eyed girl at one of my lectures a few years back who asked dozens of questions about the family lives of dinosaurs?"


"Uh, well, uh, I was just being curious," an embarrassed Gina admitted.


"And I hope you’ll always stay curious."


"You teach over at Science and History?" Doc asked and the redhead studied him for a split second, enough time to notice he also had green eyes. And she figured, though his hair was auburn and the girl’s hair was nearly jet black, they were probably father and daughter.

 

"Not really a teacher. The lectures I volunteer to do because it’s fun and I learn a lot from the kids. I’m actually one of the curators. I design most of the exhibits and sometimes help with the construction of the displays."


"Cool," Gina responded, beaming with admiration. "My dad’s an artist, too."


"Hi, I’m Daniel," Doc stated, then reached over Gina’s head to offer the redhead his hand and she warmly shook it.


"But everyone calls him Doc," Gina added.

 

"And this little aspiring virtuoso and semi-curmudgeon is Gina."


"He also writes," Gina explained to the redhead in a near whisper, almost an apology.


"I would have never guessed," the redhead replied in her own near whisper, followed by a gentle laugh. The she offered Gina her hand and said, "Hello again, Gina. My name’s Jane."


As the wide-eyed, bemused Gina smiled at her new friend several musicians blew antique horns to announce to the audience the curtain was going up.


"Your name’s Jane?’ Doc asked over the horns.


"Not now, Dad. We’re here to watch the play." Gina replied with a wide grin on her face.

 

 

               END


© 2017 Willys Watson



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Added on June 13, 2015
Last Updated on January 4, 2017
Tags: Serendipity, fate, cupid, romance, shory story

Author

Willys Watson
Willys Watson

Los Angeles, CA



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