This week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples continues where last week’s left off. It’s the Great Northeastern Blackout of 1965, and Adicia and Justine, ages 11 and 6, have gone next door to their sympathetic neighbor Mrs. Doyle. She’s been somewhat of a surrogate mother to them since they moved into Hell’s Kitchen on Christmas Eve 1962.

Tommy, who appears near the end, is Adicia’s spoilt little brother and the eighth of the nine Troy children.

***

“We saw Allen and Lenore this weekend,” Justine says as Mrs. Doyle pulls a big stockpot of chicken and dumpling soup out of the refrigerator. “He gave her a beautiful engagement ring.  It’s a green rock with two little diamonds on the side.”

“I think it’s a lot prettier than the one our oldest sister Gemma got from her beastly ex-husband,” Adicia says. “That ring was boring.  Gemma threw it into the street when she made a big scene at supper and told everyone she’d divorced him.”

“Would you girls like to see mine?” Mrs. Doyle twists her engagement ring off and hands it them after she puts on one of the gas burners to heat up the soup.

Adicia and Justine come close to some of the candles and examine it.  It’s a silver band with a pale blue oval-cut diamond, with two small pearls on either side.  They can make out an inscription on the inside, “From BID to SMB, 5-15-59.”

“You can get rings inscribed?” Adicia asks. “Allen didn’t have Lenore’s ring inscribed.  Is it very expensive to do that?”

“I didn’t ask Mr. Doyle how much it cost.  It’s just our initials and the date we got engaged.  He was counting on me saying yes, since he put the exact date he proposed on it.”

“Can I ask what your initials stand for?” Adicia asks. “When I was younger, I used to think all married ladies had the name Mrs.  I know it’s not polite to call grownups by their first names, but I’d like to know just because.”

“Mr. Doyle’s name is Benjamin Isaac, and my name is Suzanne Mary.  The B stands for Bowstead, my maiden name.  I took back my old name after I was divorced.”

“That name sounds familiar.  I think I heard it somewhere before, but I can’t remember where.”

“Suzanne is a pretty name!” Justine says. “It has more personality than Susan.  There are a bunch of Susans in my first grade class, but no Suzannes.”

“It’s not an uncommon name for women of my age, though I’ve heard it more on girls of your generation.  You two have names you’ll probably never have to worry about sharing with classmates or neighbors.”

“Most of the girls I’ve gone to school with have been named Debbie, Linda, Barbara, Susan, Sharon, Karen, Kathy, Carol, Diane, or Nancy,” Adicia says. “Those are the names I’ve heard over and over again.  I don’t think anyone else would ever name their daughter Adicia, since I’m named for the Greek goddess of injustice.”

“Can we eat our supper on the floor?” Justine asks. “I think it’s easier to eat on the floor than at a table when there are no lights.”

“Sure, that’ll probably be fun,” Mrs. Doyle smiles. “We’ll have a little picnic on the rug.”

When the soup finishes heating up, Mrs. Doyle ladles it into four bowls and sticks spoons into them.  She pulls some trays out of the closet and puts each bowl of soup on a tray.  Caroline eats some leftover mashed potatoes Mrs. Doyle puts on top of a metal tray, using her hands and getting them on her face.

“You’re a nice mother,” Justine says. “I wish our mother was as nice as you.  She’d never let us eat on the floor or eat with trays.”

“Our mother couldn’t even feed us our own bottles,” Adicia says. “She only gave them to Tommy after she got Sarah to be our nanny.”

“Is there dessert too?  We only have dessert on very special occasions.”

“I made a chocolate cake with chocolate icing the other day,” Mrs. Doyle says. “You girls are welcome to have some of it.”

Matthew stands up when they hear someone knocking on the door. “Can I get it?  I hope it’s Daddy coming home from work, so he can join us in our picnic.”

“Go ahead, darling.”

When Matthew opens the door, they see Tommy standing there in the darkness.  Adicia and Justine hope he’s not about to crash their nice time.

“I was just coming up to say I’m going out to a Spanish restaurant with the Gómezes.  They’ll have lanterns and candles and stuff there, and we can’t even see to cook the food at their place.  I guess Mommy and Daddy won’t be home for awhile ‘cause everything’s broken and so dark, so it’s okay for me to have supper with them.”

“Have fun,” Adicia says. “I know we don’t like each other, but I won’t tell our parents you went out to eat with your Puerto Rican friends if they ask what you did about supper tonight.”

Tommy runs back down the hall and jumps down several steps at a time, not even bothering to thank her for promising not to squeal on him.  Adicia and Justine are sorry he doesn’t trip and fall down the stairs from the way he’s foolishly jumping down them when there’s no power in the building.

4 thoughts on “Sweet Saturday Samples—1965 Blackout

  1. Mrs. Doyle sounds like my best friend’s mom when I was growing up. She was always taking the neighborhood children in under her wing. I lived at their house almost as much as my own. 🙂 Nice sample!

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