Dear Arlie – bike

Dear Arlie is a fictional tale about five friends in their early 20’s, set in 1911. While fictional in nature, snippets about these real women have been taken from actual postcard correspondences between Pauline Washburn and Arlie Shinkle.

In Tuesday Tales, we write to a weekly word prompt. Once a month we write to a picture prompt. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘bike.’

Return to TUESDAY TALES here, to read other fun tidbits of upcoming works.

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Arlie rushed to the front door and flung it open to reveal George standing on the covered porch.

He held his straw fedora in his hands, nervously twisting it in circles. “My, aren’t you a lovely vision for this fine Fourth of July?”

Arlie tucked a few strands of loose hair into her bun and primped. “Why, thank you, kind sir. And you are so handsome in your freshly pressed shirt and striking tie. Is it new?”

George shuffled his feet and dropped his head as if suddenly shy. “It is. Got it at John Campbell’s mercantile for our outing today.” He tipped his head up and raised his shoulders as if finding an inner well of courage. “Are you ready to go? I heard the band practicing on the way here. The parade should be starting soon.” He held out an elbow, ready to escort his girl.

“Let me grab my parasol and tell Mother that I’m leaving.” Arlie dashed back inside, leaving her guest standing on the wrap around porch in front of a wide open door.

George awkwardly stood, as if unsure whether to enter, stay where he was, or sit on the porch swing and wait. Before he could decide which plan of action to follow, Arlie appeared in the doorway, tucking an embroidered handkerchief in her waistband, a white lacy parasol dangling from her wrist. Taking his offered elbow, she slid a gloved hand into the bend and the two stepped down off the porch and headed towards Main Street.

A squeaky noise appeared behind them, accompanied by a soft scrunching sound. Both George and Arlie turned their heads to look and saw Arlie’s neighbor on a bike soon to overtake them.

Arlie squealed with delight. “Look at Mrs. Henderson go!”

George chuckled as he watched the woman ride past them, her eyes intent on the road and never veering towards the pedestrians. “Bet the whole population of Ellwsorth will be in attendance today.”

dear arlie_woman on bike.jpg

By the time they’d reached the downtown of their small community, Arlie already had her parasol open and was shading them both. Heat waves shimmered off of roofs and surfaces. Dust from the foot traffic billowed around the crowd, but everyone was so caught up in the excitement, that the heat didn’t slow anyone down.

A drum cadence announced the start of the parade and those mingling in the middle of the street quickly moved to the sides, clearing the way for the uniformed drum crew. A vendor passed along behind the crowd hawking his wares. “Flags here. Get your flags here. A penny a piece.”

George dug in this pocket and handed the stubble-faced man two pennies. He and Arlie now had a flag in hand to wave with the other observers. Three motor cars followed, with billowing drapes of red, white and blue festooning each vehicle. The local suffragettes followed at the tail end, waving flags high above their heads, while two women on each side of the group handed out flyers to the crowd lining the street.

dear arlie_parade.jpg

Arlie frowned as they passed by. “How I wish Millie were here for the fun today. It’s just not fair that her father spirited them away to Michigan. She’s always been here for the festivities. And Pauline too. This is the second year she’s missed. I wish she hadn’t moved all the way to Los Angeles.”

“Do you ever hear from her?”

“From Pauline?” Arlie waited for George’s nod of agreement before continuing. “Yes. A postcard now and then. Not often enough. But several times a year. We were so close for so many years. She’d often take the train down from Bloomington and join us at Old Settler’s Park for different events. Now our little group this year is down to me and Alla.”

“And me,” George reminded her.

Arlie patted his shoulder in reassurance. “Yes, dear George. You too. The best part of the day.”

He grinned slyly. “Maybe before the day is over, I can make it even better for you.”

“Better? Come now, dear man. How could that be? Do tell.” Arlie pursed her lips in a pout.

“Tell? And ruin the surprise? That would never do. You’ll just have to wait for the fireworks to find out.”

“Not find out till the fireworks? But that’s hours and hours away!”

The crowd began dispersing and moving down the street towards the park. George, the ever perfect gentleman, held out his arm to guide Arlie along. “My sweet Arlie. You’ll just have to wait in suspense. Now, let’s join the others at the picnic, lest they think I’m hogging you all to myself for the whole day. Much as I’d love to do that.”

“Give a little hint at least?”

George stopped and turned to look her square in the eye. “A hint? Hmmmm…fireworks and the desire of my heart…a lover’s moon…Arlie Shinkle on my arm…”

George Noble Paxton. That does not constitute a hint.”

“Then I suppose you’ll just have to wait. Let’s go eat. I’m famished and my stomach has been rumbling for some of your Cook’s delicious fried chicken.”

Dear arlie_picnic.jpg

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