Author Topic: Call Mulligan's Studio (short story review & critique)  (Read 2831 times)

Offline ABestSeller

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Call Mulligan's Studio (short story review & critique)
« on: January 22, 2007, 05:51:50 PM »
                                                          Call Mulligan's Studio

Smoke swirled through the old converted western dance hall and the monotonous whir of the two large overhead fans provided only momentary relief to those who sought refuge from the heat at the Tuesday night auction. Outside the air was hot and sticky,with distance flashes of meaningless lightning and muffled rumglinhs of thunder breaking the calm.

"Evenin', Mr. Carmichael."  Mel Phillips, the auctioneer, had touched the tip of his oversized western hat and scuffed his feet along the floor in reverence to Cal Camichael, who always dressed a shade better than the others at the auction.  Tonight he had on a natty pair of cool checkered slacks and a short sleeve cotton shirt fresh from the laundry. Cal acknowledged the auctioneer's greeting and made a quick estimate of the crowd as he made his way toward the tables of collectibles and miscellaneous bric-a-brac, stopping along the way to nod a greeting to the many friends with whom he engaged in competition each week.

Suddenly, Cal stopped and stood frozen in front of item 113.  He trembled at the sight of the pink dogwood candy dish in the auction case.  "It couldn't be," he mumbled under his breath, then he reached down and slowly ran his index finger over the gold lettering on the bottom side of the dish.  The letters had tarnished over the years, but there was no doubt that it was the same dish, and the letters were "MAH."

The years rolled back swiftly for Cal to a rainy evening fifty years before when he and Mary Ann Hopkins had stood under the protective canopy of a carnival tent in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  "TOSS TWO PENNIES IN A ROW IN THE SAME DISH AND WIN A PRIZE," was neatly painted on the wooden sign that swung perilously from the tent top as the winds warned of approaching bad weather.  Outside, the music of the carousel sounded its familiar melodies as anxious carneys scurried about carefully checking the thick ropes that secured the canvasses to the ground, fearing the storm might uproot the tents and damage their most prized possessions.

"Just one more!" Mary Ann exclaimed after Cal had landed the first penny in the pink dish.  Carefully he measured his distancce and with a slight backspin Call flipped the second penny spinning into the center of the dish.  Mary Ann squealed with delight and quickly reached for the colorful pink dish.

"Have the young lady's initial put on the bottom of the dish for ten cents," the old carnival lady said, seizing upon the opportunity to make a few more pennies.

"Oh, can we, Cal?"  Mary Ann bubbled with excitement.

Reaching into his pocket, Call searched the lining, hoping to find a coin that might have eluded him.  Sheepishly he looked at the old lady, shrugging and smiling weakly.  "Sorry, these three pennies are all I have."

"Let's have them, sonny," the hard-faced lady said, and with a small knife she neatly etched the letters into the bottom of the dish and applied the gold lettering.

Now the dish had found its way to the Town and country Auction House in a small Texas town near San Antonio.  The nicks and chipped paint left the dish with little value to the bidders at the auction, but it would be the only item that cal Carmichael would bid on this muggy evening.  His eyes remained transfixed on the dogwood candy dish that had brought back bittersweet memories of a never to be forgotten relationship.  Desperately he seached for memories of Mary Ann as Mel Phillips lazily read the rules and regulations of the Town and Country Auction house prior to the start of the Tuesday night sale.

"Mother, mother!  look at the funny man dancing on the table."  Mary Ann was an innocent seventeen, blossoming into a trim and beautiful woman when she first noticed Cal.

"That man is drunk!  I'll not have you chasing after the likes of him!"  Her mother shook her finger vigourously at Mary Ann as she led her away from the stand where Cal was performing.  But soon Mary Ann had eluded her mother and was back at Cal's side, laughing at his clumsy antics.

Cal was enchanted by the melody in the laughter of the young lady and was delighted with the sparkle in her eyes.  This was the beginning of a relationship that would reach to the depth of Cal's soul and stay with him through his entire life.

The wild side of Cal Would remain with him throughout his youth, and he would never be allowed to visit Mary Ann in her home.  Their meetings during the next three years were brief interludes in the park or slow walks along the river.  When he was not with Mary Ann, Call could be found at "Mulligan's Billiards" in downtown Scranton,  earning his living as a pool hustler.  Cal would often call Mary Ann from Mullilgan's and leave a message for her to call "Mulligan's Studio" for an appointment.  Mary Ann had ambitions for a career in Hollywood at the time and Mrs. Hopkins always seemed so pleased that her daughter was to try out for a part at Mulligan's Studio.

"Item one hundred twelve is a blackberry carnival dish," Mel Phillips barked loudly to the impatient
auction crowd.  Again Cal's mind wandered.

"Will you be gone long?"  Mary Ann wanted to know.  It was October 1942.  The night air had taken on its winter chill as Mary Ann and Cal huddled under a tall tree on the river front.  Cal had received a notice to report to the army induction center for active duty in just ten days.

Cal smiled weakly, knowing he had failed to establish a relationship with Mary Ann that would survive a lengthy separation.  He had so much he wanted to say but it was too late now to relive his errant past. "Just call Mulligan's Studio," Cal had said.  His eyes were downcast, hiding the hurt he would never let Mary Ann see.  "They'll be able to find me."  Their laughter was empty,and though it wasn't said, they knew that when they parted that evening, it might be forever.

"Item one hundred thirteen, a slightly damaged pink dogwood candy dish." Mel Phillips drawled the description, showing his impatience with the lack of bidding at the auction tonight, resigned to the thought that he would not get much action on the old chipped dish.

"Five dollars," Cal said immediately.

Just as quickly a return bid of ten dollars was heard from a stranger.

Cal countered with a twenty dollar bid and Mel picked up the tempo of th bidding, surprised at the sudden turn in the activity.

Call focused on the stranger, who nervously wiped sweat from his brow with a handkerchief.  He was dressed in a medium weight brown suit and stiff collared white shirt.  "Forty dollars," the stranger ssid, trying to sound confident as he returned the handkerchief to the pocket of his suit coat.

Cal felt a surge of displeasure rising within him.  He wondered what possible interest the stranger could have in the candy dish.  "One hundred dollars!"  Cal stared at the dish, avoiding contact with the stranger.  Surely there would be no more bids.

A murmur arose from the crowd.  Some strained to get a better look at the dish that they had passed up as junk.

The stranger hesitated, then slowly and distinctly said,  "Two hundred and fifty dollars."  He adjusted his horn rimmed glasses and stared directly at Cal.

Cal picked up the dish as though to study it closer.  He recalled the bitterness he had felt when he recieved a letter from Mary Ann near the end of the war that seemingly  ended ther relationship forever.

"I'll be going to Hollywood, Cal."  she had said.  "And I'm going to marry the agent who helped me to get my career started."  The hurt he had felt when he'd read Mary Ann's letter suddenly flared up and  Cal was again lost in the past.  "I still have the dish, Cal. the letter continued.  "I wouldn't take a thousand dollars for it."

Mel Phillips continued his familiar banter longer than usual, sensing that Cal would make another bid. "Two fifty, two fifty, do I hear three hundred."  Going once, going twice, last call at two fifty."

"One thousand dollars!" Cal shouted.  There wa a moment of silence then quickly Cal's adversary turned and left. The crowd remained silent as Cal moved toward the door, attempting to catch up to the stranger.

"Wait!" Cal shouted.

The man hesitated, then turned to face Cal who had broken into a run.

"Why did you bid on that dish?"  Cal spoke quiclky as he tried to regain his breath.

The stranger eyed Cal coldly.  "Very well.  My name is Matthews.  I'm a doctor representing a patient who holds a great sentimental attachment to the candy dish.  She's  very ill...the return of the dish would lift her spirits tremendously and could mean a lot toward her recovery.  Whatever your price, I'm sure she'll meet it.  If I had known it was going to go so high I would have had permission from my patient to outbid you, regardless of how high you went."

"But how did the dish get away from her if it meant so much?"  Cal's eyes pleaded for an answer that would smooth the hurt of having his romance with Mary Ann flare up after so many years.

"She had a son from an unsuccessful marriage. He stold some of her valuables.  I won't go into details.  Your price, sir?"

"Yes, of course."  Cal fumbled for his pen and notebook as a surge of hope that he might see Mary Ann again overcame him.

Carefully he wrote, "The dish is for sale, lady.  Call Mulligan's Studio for an appointment."

Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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Re: Call Mulligan's Studio (short story review & critique)
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2007, 08:18:03 PM »
I like this.  I've been to a few auctions, never in an old converted dance hall, but you put me right there anyway.

Your characters were well written and made me feel they could have been people I've known about for years.  The doctor came as a surprise though.  I was trying to imagine who could be bidding against Cal, never thought of the doctor though.  Good twist.

Carefully he wrote, "The dish is for sale, lady.  Call Mulligan's Studio for an appointment."

Perfect ending.  Love it.
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N.Mott

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Re: Call Mulligan's Studio (short story review & critique)
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2007, 05:58:14 AM »
Wonderful story, ABeststeller - the sort of thing I buy magazines to read.
With a bit of spit and polish you should seriously consider submitting it.

Reminds me of the story of an auction for an oil painting of a little girl and her mother standing in a garden - one of those chocolate box confections loved by Victorian and Edwardian families. A bidding war ensued between a picture dealer, down from London, who was seated at the front of the hall, and someone hidden amongst the crowd of onlookers, standing at the back. The price rose many times above estimate and when the gavel finally came down at the end the auctioneer peered at the winning bidder at the back and said 'May I be so bold to enquire, madam, whether you who are the little girl in this picture?' The crowd parted to reveal an elderly lady who blushed and nodded, and the hall erupted in applause.

:)


Offline ABestSeller

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Re: Call Mulligan's Studio (short story review & critique)
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2007, 08:52:44 AM »
Thanks for the positive feedback, Naomi.  I expect this idea has appeared in many different forms over the years.  I wrote this a long time ago;  I remember submitting it to one of the senior magazines.  They turned it down and suggested another place to submit it, but I didn't think it was a good fit so I didn't act on it.  I might dust it off and re-submit.  As I was typing it yesterday I noticed some changes that should be made.  Funny how you see mistakes you made after so many years.  I guess that's why most writer's suggest a long down time before you do a final draft. 


If you have time, visit my website at EdBarrettsPage.com.  I'd like some feedback on my novel, Psychic Rhymes. 

Thanks,

Ed Barrett


N.Mott

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Re: Call Mulligan's Studio (short story review & critique)
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2007, 10:05:47 AM »
You should seriously consider submitting it.

My genre's normally children's fiction - 'though I love a good anecdote - but I'll check out the story when I've got a spare moment or two :)

Offline ABestSeller

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Re: Call Mulligan's Studio (short story review & critique)
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2007, 12:35:39 PM »
CountryGal - forgot to acknowledge your input.  Thanks for taking the time to read my story and for the positive feedback.  There are more short stories and the first three chapters of my novel (Psychic Rhymes) on my website.  I self-published the novel, but still have allusions about getting it to a major publisher.  Go to:  www.EdBarrettsPage.com.


Offline pastrami

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Re: Call Mulligan's Studio (short story review & critique)
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2007, 07:46:45 PM »
I thought it was a great short. I liked the way you interposed the past with the present. There was a natural flow.
Other than a few typo's and spelling mistakes. It needs to be submitted.

Good story.

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Offline ABestSeller

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Re: Call Mulligan's Studio (short story review & critique)
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2007, 11:01:47 PM »
Thanks for the feedback, Pastrami.  I typed this in a hurry.  I copied and pasted my text to word to spell check it.  I didn't realize I'd left so many errors.  Only one misspelled word, all the rest were typos.  I'll have to start posting on word, then pasting and copying after I've spell checked.

I don't know where I could send this story.  It doesn't really meet the needs of contemporary fiction.

Ed Barrett

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pojoy1029

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Re: Call Mulligan's Studio (short story review & critique)
« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2007, 12:54:29 AM »
Loved it! I agree that it should be submitted, but, as you said, where? There's a definite need for gentle, easy to read stories in this age of unconcern but publishers are afraid to include them in their publications. Romance and humor are out; horror, murders, rape, sex and all kinds of criminal activities are in. That's sad. That's what sells newspapers and novels; the publisher is in the money making business so he's going to buy the type of stories that sell.

Sorry; I get irritated just thinking about it. I have several stories of this nature. Not as good as yours, but I sure would like to know where to submit them. Being able to sell something once in a while encourages me to write more. not being able to sell discourages writing.

Keep up the good work even if you can't sell it. I liked the ending; brought the story full circle.
Joyce

Offline jeanette

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Re: Call Mulligan's Studio (short story review & critique)
« Reply #9 on: January 28, 2007, 04:13:26 AM »
Hi there. really nice story. I thought the other bidder was going to be Mary Ann, so you fooled me! I think you might try some womens magazines in the UK for this. Like the other reviewers, I think you could sell it.
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N.Mott

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Re: Call Mulligan's Studio (short story review & critique)
« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2007, 06:19:19 AM »
Yup, I was thinking UK woman's magazines. Does The Lady   accept fiction? This is definitely something that would suit their readership.

Offline Gyppo

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Re: Call Mulligan's Studio (short story review & critique)
« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2007, 10:48:08 AM »
One for the People's Fiend I think...

Seriously, I think it falls into the quietly emotional style they rather like at The People's Friend
80 Kingsway Street East
Dundee
DD4  8SL

They offer guidelines in return for an sae, but who knows, they may well email them if you ask nicely.

peoplesfriend@dcthomson.co.uk

(And yes, it is thomson and not thompson.)

They take short stories from less than 1000 wds up to 4000, and use several each week.

Their entry in the Writer's handbook also includes the magic phrase 'payment on acceptance' ;-)

Best wishes,

Gyppo

PS:  I liked it, otherwise I wouldn't have broken out the necessary reference book.

My website is currently having a holiday, but will return like the $6,000,000 man.  Bigger, stronger, etc.

In the meantime, why not take pity on a starving author and visit my book sales page at http://stores.lulu.com/gyppo1

Offline jeanette

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Re: Call Mulligan's Studio (short story review & critique)
« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2007, 10:50:43 AM »
Hi Gyppo

Can't resist it:
The People's fiend?  ;D

I was thinking of that very same mag for this. It's just up their street.
\"Abandoned\" is available from www.lulu.com/content/2072117<br /><br />\"the Dragon\'s Promise is available from<br />www.lulu.com/content/8075592<br />visit my website at www.jeanettemccarthy.co.uk

Offline ABestSeller

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Re: Call Mulligan's Studio (short story review & critique)
« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2007, 06:00:15 PM »
Thanks for the additional positive feedback and the suggestions for submitting.  I'll brush it up a little and give it a try.


Offline fett80

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Re: Call Mulligan's Studio (short story review & critique)
« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2007, 01:03:29 PM »
"muffled rumglinhs of thunder "  -  uh......."rumblings"?

"Just one more!" Mary Ann exclaimed after Cal had landed the first penny in the pink dish.  Carefully he measured his distancce and with a slight backspin Call flipped the second penny spinning into the center of the dish.  Mary Ann squealed with delight and quickly reached for the colorful pink dish."  -  Maybe one too many of the word "dish"?

"The wild side of Cal Would remain with him throughout his youth, and he would never be allowed to visit Mary Ann in her home.  Their meetings during the next three years were brief interludes in the park or slow walks along the river.  When he was not with Mary Ann, Call could be found at "Mulligan's Billiards" in downtown Scranton,  earning his living as a pool hustler.  Cal would often call Mary Ann from Mullilgan's and leave a message for her to call "Mulligan's Studio" for an appointment.  Mary Ann had ambitions for a career in Hollywood at the time and Mrs. Hopkins always seemed so pleased that her daughter was to try out for a part at Mulligan's Studio."  -  Again, now with "Mulligan".  I realize the importance of establishing location, but it was somewhat noticable.

"Carefully he wrote, "The dish is for sale, lady.  Call Mulligan's Studio for an appointment.""  -  I liked the repeated line in this case, giving poignancy  to what could be passed off as a simple phone call request.

Overall, I liked the descriptions and really got a sense of how Cal thinks.