O. Henry Ending
I was afraid I wouldn’t fit in, but I found my place
By Nelda Howell Lockamy
In the fall of ’65, I arrived farm fresh on the campus of App State, then called Appalachian State Teachers College. Having grown up 50 miles away, I felt that Boone was as far from home as I’d ever been. I knew from letters exchanged that all three of my assigned suitemates were worldlier and presumably wiser than I was, so contrary to my true nature, I resolved to listen more than I talked. These were sophisticates from Thomasville, Concord and Greensboro, after all. I didn’t want them thinking I’d arrived on a turnip truck.
I played it cool. I wound up laughing at a lot of things I didn’t get. But one word haunted me, and it came up all too often. The word was “beach,” as in “beach music,” or “last summer, at the beach.” No way was I going to announce that I had never been anywhere near a beach, so as we planned a pilgrimage to Cherry Grove after exams, I did my best to conceal my naïveté.
Our accommodation for this adventure was a rickety, $10/night apartment over a beauty shop. But whatever our place lacked in amenities was more than compensated for by the candy land right beside us — a yellow cinder block motel just teeming with greased up guys. The soulful grooves of The Tams blared through open windows, and the breeze carried a heady aroma of Coppertone and spicy Brut cologne. My listening skills had paid off, so I knew that the crème de la crème were the guys from Carolina who had graduated from high schools like Grimsley and Broughton — those fellas had big city class. But by sundown, the pickings next door had grown slim. There were only two targets left, and there were four of us gals. My suitemates decided to seek better hunting grounds, but the heat and the pretense had exhausted me, so I stayed behind.
I couldn’t help but notice that one of the guys was much more handsome than the other. Dressed in his madras shorts and sockless Weejuns, he looked like a model, all toned and tan and fine. He said he was just down for the weekend with his brother, who appeared to be his polar opposite in every way. He was short. Shrimpy, even. And since he seemed to idolize the big guy, I figured he must be the younger brother.
Anyway, when the hunky brother told me he was a SigEp from UNC and had graduated from Myers Park High School, I knew I was dealing with the full monty! But after 20 minutes of leaning over a splintered rail listening to his nonstop soliloquy — he never even asked my name! – I decided just to enjoy my own company. But as I turned to go inside, Little Bro came out, gingerly carrying a freshly starched and ironed shirt, which he carefully slipped on Big Boy, then buttoned up the front and the cuffs so as not to make wrinkles in the sleeves, he said.
Maybe I was a fast learner after all, for I vowed then and there never to look twice at a guy who was prettier than I was or required more maintenance. So later, when my roomies told me that they met the brothers on their way out of town, I just smiled.
Silly, gullible girls, I thought. Although I stayed quiet for a while, it wasn’t for fear of sounding foolish. OH
Nelda Howell Lockamy is a retired educator and counselor. Although she resides in Greensboro with her husband, Tom, guess where they’re planning to go this summer? Yep, the beach.