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Mike Krath
Old Timer

She was a recluse - and an ugly one at that - but in her heyday she was a star. A glamour queen. No one missed her films. She was in every column. She couldn't walk the streets without being mauled by autograph hungry hounds. There she was - Lana Lawn - Queen of the silents. Marvelous, absolutely marvelous. Until the movies began to speak and she faded quickly into obscurity - but not until she paid hefty money to create a well-known studio to take advantage of those who could talk and talk well. Lana Lawn - Queen of the silents, Mogul of the studio - and now a recluse and forgotten, except for a monthly check - and a nice one at that - from the studio she had founded.

     In all of this, she received perhaps one or two letters from fans every ten years. She had received many when she retired but they were reduced to a trickle when newer generations arose. It had been almost five years since she had received her last letter but, one day, a letter arrived from a young university student who had, out of sheer despair, decided to pick her for a school film class term paper. He had watched one silent film that she had made and then decided for extra credit to write her a letter in the hope that he would receive a reply so he could include it with his report. Lana opened the envelope slowly. No one ever wrote. Who was this? Timothy Dwight III?:


Dearest Lana Lawn,
I watched your movie. I was deeply moved. You were great.
Timothy Dwight III


     Lana had never written a reply to any of her fans during the height of her career. Her staff had done all that for her. She didn't have time and didn't care to correspond with them anyway. However, as time moved on, and as the letters grew scarce, Lana began to change her mind and every once in a while she would write back a little note saying 'thanks' and sign her name. The past few letters she had taken the time to write several long replies, talking about the weather and describing in great detail how hot it was and the unexpected rain that had come down one afternoon just before she was going to take her afternoon nap. She even included the weather report from her morning paper. The very last letter she received she went into great detail about a fishing trip where they gutted the fish. For an enclosure she put in the guts.

<  2  >

     But for Timothy Dwight III she was going to do something different. This time she was going to do something that would have been any young man's ambition during her golden years. She was going to sit down and write an invitation to dinner and when he came over, she was going to kiss him.

     Timothy was having difficulty trying to fill in his paper when he received Lana's invitation. He couldn't believe it. Here was an old movie star - in the flesh - asking him to dine with her.

     "Wow!" he said.

     At first his roommates didn't seem to care that he was going to dinner at some old lady's house, but after Timothy explained to them in great detail who Lana Lawn was and showed them her film and what others had written about her during that time, all his roommates could say was:

     "Wow! Lana Lawn - and in the flesh."

     "Timothy, what are you going to wear?"

     "Lawn attire."

     The old mansion had seen its days of mirth. It stood stately on a hill overlooking many other such posh past paradises, but the great iron gates were not used as frequently as they had been, so that the rust caused them to creak as they opened. Timothy Dwight III became a little nervous when he heard this and saw the grand home silently sitting waiting for his arrival. He had only dreamed of ever being in the home of a movie star. He never expected an invitation - even from a has-been such as Lana Lawn.

     After he rang the doorbell he waited for what seemed like forever as he heard a door, from inside, open and then shut and soft footsteps walking ever so slowly. One step at a time as though the action was difficult and laborious; however, as Timothy listened, the steps suddenly became quicker and swifter - and suddenly the door flew open and there before Timothy Dwight III's eyes was a ravishing blonde wearing quite conservative clothes.

<  3  >

     "Hello," she said, "You must be Timmy. I am Lana Lawn."

     "Lana Lawn?" Timothy said.

     "Surprised? You were expecting someone else? I hope not." this woman said. "Please come in."

     Timothy Dwight III's heart began to beat rapidly. This wasn't Lana Lawn. Lana Lawn was ninety-seven years old. This bombshell was not much older than he was.

     "Are you....are you related to Lana Lawn?" Timothy asked. Upon this, the woman laughed and chided him.

     "Related?" she said. "Don't make me laugh so. Just who do you think I am?"

     "Er," Timothy said, "er . . ."

     "Do you do this with all your dates?" she asked. "Forget who they are the moment you take them out?"

     "No . . . er," Timothy said. "It's just that I was expecting . . . well . . . I was expecting . . . and I don't mean that I am against plastic surgery or anything like that . . . but I was expecting to meet someone much older . . . and I do mean much, much older than me."

     "You are so sweet." she said.

     "You should still be in the movies." Timothy said.

     "Let's sit down and have some dinner," she said, "and you can flatter me some more. I should have invited my fans over for dinner years earlier." She took Timothy's arm and walked him to the dining room. It was during this time that they walked past a full length mirror with ornates of the twenties decorating its stand. Lana's eyes caught a slight glimpse of another person in the room besides Timothy Dwight III and she suddenly jumped.

     "Oh," she said, "oh . . oh."

     "What?" Timothy said.

<  4  >

     Lana looked around the room. There was no one there.

     "I saw someone. Another woman." she said.

     Timothy looked around. He saw nothing.

     "I am imagining things," Lana said, "Ghosts from the past, I suppose."

     She put her hand to her breast and breathed heavily and then laughed. "Oh, the joys of old age," she said and then laughed again, "Shall we continue our walk to the dining room?"

     Timothy nodded and then began to think this quite a queer woman - albeit a beautiful one. He tried to avert his staring from her, but he was unable. This was a true goddess. Someone you would welcome as a work of art in your finest museum.

     Once they reached the dining room, Timothy's eyes temporarily feasted on an elegant setting: the finest china, silver and crystal, orchids in decorative pots, champagne, caviar, the best meats, rich, tantalizing deserts, frozen berries in solid gold platters, all the trappings of the rich and then some. Lana took his arm and led him to a chair next to hers at the far end of the table.

     "Please sit down," she said, "I had to put something together quickly before the cook left. This is her half day, I'm afraid."

     Lana sat down and daintily put a silk napkin in her lap. The light from the setting sun basked her face in a soft glow as though she was not really there but, instead, a holograph, a character from a movie from her past. She leaned towards Timothy.

     "I let the maid go as well. I want this evening to be ours and ours alone." She said. "Nothing must disturb that."

     She touched his hand and Timothy immediately grew weak.

     "I feel faint," Timothy said.

<  5  >

     "Faint?" Lana said. "Overwhelmed, perhaps? I am so happy. I didn't think I could still elicit such a response from my fans. Oh thank you, Timothy, you are so kind. Now you must try these blueberries. They have been quickly chilled . . ."

     Timothy couldn't think. His heart was sinking fast. He was unworthy to be in the presence of such greatness. Who was he - Timothy Dwight III - to be sitting next to Lana Lawn. His mouth grew dry.

     "Er . . ." he said, "water."

     "Water?" she said, "No champagne?"

     Timothy's vision began to get blurred. He couldn't think. This wasn't happening. It was not real. It was an illusion. It had to be. Lana Lawn was ninety-seven years old. There was a trick with the lighting. This was some type of hollywood magic.

     "What's wrong?" Lana asked. "You are faint, aren't you. Oh, please don't. I can't kiss you if you faint."

     "Kiss me?" Timothy said.

     "You are thinking of my kiss, aren't you?" she said. "Of course you are. Don't worry Timothy Dwight III, I have made a very firm committment to kiss you before this evening is over."

     Upon these words, Timothy's eyes rolled upward and his limp body collapsed to the marble floor.

     "Oh dear," Lana said, "I remember this happening many years ago, but I did not believe it would still happen. He must have such a marvelous imagination to think of me in this way."

     Lana arose and went to the phone to call for help. It wasn't less than five minutes when the local medics arrived to administer first aid. They were surprised to see this beautiful woman greet them at the door, but they didn't give it much thought as they went about their business to revive Timothy Dwight III. As Timothy began to stir, they turned to Lana Lawn.

<  6  >

     "Are you her new nurse?" one of the men asked.

     "Nurse? Who's nurse?"

     "Lana Lawn's nurse?"

     "I am Lana Lawn."

     Both medics laughed.

     "You should be in show business." the men said.

     Lana looked at them in amazement. What on earth were they talking about.

     "I am a little too old for show business." she said.

     The men laughed again.

     "Stop it," they said, "you are killing us."

     Lana Lawn didn't understand and decided to leave it.

     "Is he going to be alright?" she asked.

     "There's nothing wrong with him." One of them said. "He just needs some fresh air."

     "Oh dear," she said, "and I wanted this to be such a romantic dinner."

     "Lana Lawn let's you have these elaborate meals on her premises?" one of the men said. "Must be nice."

     "I am Lana Lawn."

     Both men laughed again.

     "Lady, from the looks of you there is absolutely nothing wrong, but I suggest you see a psychiatrist." One of the men said.

     "Yeah, and I wouldn't tell Mrs. Lawn about your delusion. You might lose your job," another man said.

     "I AM Lana Lawn!"

     "Lady, you are not Lana Lawn." One of the men said.

     Timothy Dwight III began to stir and open his eyes. Lana bent down beside him.

     "Timmy, please tell these men who I am. Tell them that I am Lana Lawn."

<  7  >

     "You are . . ." Timothy said, "er . . . er . . ."

     Timothy again rolled his eyes upward.

     "No, Timothy. Don't faint on me again," Lana said and grabbed his arms and tried to keep him from falling over, but to no avail. The two men picked Timothy up.

     "I think he needs some air now," one of the men said.

     Lana watched the men take Timothy out the door and into her gardens. All of this was truly something her friends would want to hear, but she stopped herself when she realized she had out-lived all of them. She looked sadly at the dining room where an untouched meal grew cold. There was, perhaps, some slight spark of romantic notions in her asking Timothy over to dinner - no, not perhaps, most definitely was - but it was a notion nonetheless as she realized ninety-seven years old was not the time for make-believe.

     "How could he possibly faint?" she thought. "Have I really grown that ugly?" Lana walked over to the mirror with the nineteen-twenties ornates.

     "Mirror, mirror on the wall," she said looking into its glass. Suddenly she screamed and jumped and the woman in the mirror jumped too.

     "What?" she said. "No, this can't be."

     Lana put her hands up to her face and felt it. The wrinkles were gone. She looked at her hands and gasped. They were young and smooth.

     "This is not possible," she said. "I am imagining this. One of my medications must be bad."

     Noticing the men still outside, Lana ran out and confronted them.

     "Do I look old?" she asked.

     "Boy, you really milk this act for all its worth, don't you," one of the men said.

<  8  >

     "Please," she said. "The mirror, it's lying, its saying that I'm young but I am not young. I am ninety-seven years old, but my mind is going. I see a smooth hand. Do you see a smooth hand?"

     Lana held up her hand and the men looked at it.

     "It's smooth," the men said.

     "And my face? Is it smooth or wrinkled?" she asked.

     "It's smooth," they said again.

     "Am I ugly?" she boldly asked.

     "You really have a bad self-image." one of the men said.

     "No, really." she said. "Please, I think I am losing my mind."

     "You're gorgeous," the men said. "Whoever told you that you were ugly?"

     Lana thanked the men and began to walk back to her house. When she did she noticed that she was really walking, not hobbeling. She lifted her skirts and saw beautiful, silky smooth legs with no varicose veins. Right before she reached the door she suddenly reached up and touched her hair. She turned to the men again.

     "Is it gray?" she said pointing to her hair.

     "Gray?" the men asked. "You are as natural a blonde as they come."

     "Oh, you are both so kind," she said. "I am going to come over there and give you both a big kiss."

     Upon hearing this, both men's eyes rolled upward and their limp bodies collapsed to the ground.

     The End

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