Jeanie’s Jin­gles

Hon­esty is the best pol­icy in this amus­ing short story by Ali­son Carter.

The People's Friend Special - - OUT AND ABOUT -

JUST grab a chair,” the woman said. “We all muck in here.” There looked to be no muck of any kind, Jeanie thought, at the Morn­ing­ton Ladies’ In­sti­tute.

The hall was smart, with faux tim­ber beams and pen­dant lights, and the ladies were even smarter. They had money and they had class.

“We’ll learn some­thing this evening,” the woman said, and she bus­tled away in her tweed twin-set and match­ing small felt hat.

Jeanie had worn a dress, and its wide skirts were al­ready get­ting in the way of the in­sti­tute mem­bers on ei­ther side of her. Clothes in 1957, Jeanie ob­served, were a mine­field.

“Per­fect pas­try!” a boom­ing fe­male voice with an ed­u­cated east coast ac­cent an­nounced. “Here to tell us about that topic – Mrs Margery Schultz!”

Fifty pairs of gloved hands clapped softly.

Mrs Schultz had brought along slides to ac­com­pany her talk. Jeanie lis­tened to the whirr of the pro­jec­tor as the lec­turer gave ad­vice on avoid­ing tough choux, and why it was vi­tal to keep a pâte brisée cool.

Jeanie couldn’t stop her­self from mak­ing up a jin­gle in her head: “Try Pat­ter­son’s Pas­try, for per­fect tarte aux pommes!”

The syl­la­bles worked, she thought. It would be best sung by an alto voice, to ap­peal to older housewives.

Mrs Schultz was point­ing to a batch of her own rough puff on an im­age pro­jected on to the can­vas screen.

These ladies, Jeanie told her­self, would never buy ready-made!

Jeanie tried to stop the jin­gle fac­tory at work in her head. No­body here wanted to hear what she laugh­ingly called her “cre­ations”.

Jeanie Ste­wart wrote ra­dio jin­gles for a liv­ing. Ray, her hus­band, had lost his job, and they had moved to Morn­ing­ton so he could take up an­other one that paid far less.

The jin­gles had be­gun as a hobby when Jeanie had been thumb­ing through a mag­a­zine in the den­tist’s wait­ing-room, but they had be­come a vi­tal ad­di­tion to the fam­ily bud­get.

It was an in­con­ve­nient way to make money, be­cause Jeanie was obliged to sell the items she won

– a vac­uum cleaner, bowl­ing balls, a pres­sure cooker – and to serve up oth­ers to her fam­ily – two dozen cans of lun­cheon meat, a month’s sup­ply of oranges.

The move to Morn­ing­ton had been an up­heaval for them, but at least Jeanie could be near her sis­ter, who strug­gled with an ap­palling hus­band.

“Try chill­ing this in a disc shape!” Mrs Schultz ex­claimed from the stage. “Eas­ier to roll out for that lemon meringue pie.”

Jeanie was re­minded of the last jin­gle that she’d writ­ten: “Lemon Whoppee Whip – light as a spring breeze!”

She’d thought it was ter­ri­ble, but the im­ages of prim­roses on the ad for the com­pe­ti­tion had made her think that the man­u­fac­turer had a theme in mind, and she had won a year’s sup­ply of in­stant pud­ding.

These women, Jeanie thought as she looked around her, didn’t know what in­stant pud­ding was.

She won­dered why she had come here, but then re­mem­bered that she was lonely.

The lec­ture ended and the lady who had wel­comed Jeanie at the door re­turned.

“Now,” she said, “let me see who you’d get on with.”

She led Jeanie to a ta­ble where fruit punch and bowls of potato chips were laid out (“More crunch with lunch! Ma­son’s Chips make noise!”) She met Jane and Ruthie, and a stern lady who pro­vided a sched­ule of the talks to come.

“Amer­i­can com­posers are next week,” the lady said. “We’ve a gen­tle­man com­ing from Day­ton for that one. On the fif­teenth . . . Har­riet, what’s on the fif­teenth?”

Har­riet, a tiny per­son dressed all in mauve, thought for a mo­ment.

“Vac­ci­na­tions,” she said firmly. “Sci­ence of.”

Jeanie won­dered what the women around her were chat­ting about. One thing she could be cer­tain of was that she wouldn’t be telling them about the jin­gles.

If she was go­ing to come here, she was go­ing to have to skate around the facts of her own life. Hon­esty, when one was try­ing to fit in, was cer­tainly not the best pol­icy.

What would the posh ladies at the In­sti­tute have to say about her lit­tle se­cret?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.