In the evening when the lights are low…

I don’t recall her name but I remember how she looked: red lipstick, dark Bette Davis hair, tattered velvet robe, pink blush on her cheeks, thick mascara on her tired eyes,  red polish on her fingernails as she handed me money to pay for her subscription to the newspaper I delivered to her house every afternoon.

I’d seen her before. But I’d never seen her like this. I was making my rounds later than usual, maybe around 8 in the evening, collecting my payments for the week. I was 13 years old. She must have been in her late 40s. She was alone. She had clearly been crying — the trails of her tears were marked by lines of mascara running down to her cheeks.

“Come in,” she said. “I’ll get you the money.”

I’d never been in her house. I sat down and waited. Music was playing. I didn’t know the song then but now I know it was by Frank Sinatra, and it was a song from “In the Wee Small Hours” and he was singing “Mood Indigo”:

I always get that mood indigo
Since my baby said goodbye
And in the evening when the lights are low
I’m so lonely I could cry

The woman returned to the room and asked if I might like a glass of soda. I said “No, thanks” to the offer of water, stood up, and said I had to get going — I had more collection stops to make along my newspaper route.

Then I heard the radio announcer.  He said we were listening to WNEW in New York and to a show called “The Milkman’s Matinee.” The program’s theme song came on. It was the Modernaires singing “It’s Make Believe Ballroom Time”:

It’s Make-Believe Ballroom Time
Put all your cares away
All the bands are here to bring a cheer your way

As I left I turned around and took one last look and I glimpsed her as she stood near her hi-fi with a highball glass in her hand and sang along softly as Glenn Miller played and the Modernaires sang:

It’s Make-Believe Ballroom Time
And free to everyone
It’s no time to fret
Your dial is set for fun

.

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X Minus One

Cruising the XM radio channels in search of Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio show and I encountered a broadcast of an episode from an old science-fiction series called X Minus One.

The one I heard was from September 1955 and titled “The Martian Death March.” It’s set way in the future, in the 1990s, several decades after Earthlings have colonized Mars and confined the Martians to reservations.

Turns out that the X Minus One show was a real trailblazer, an ancestor of shows like “The Outer Limits” and “One Step Beyond” and “The Twilight Zone,” and featured episodes based on stories by some great writers, including Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov!

This great link includes two X Minus One episodes you can download for free and a list with very entertaining and intriguing synopses of all of the episodes:

http://www.xminusone.com/scifi.htm