"Well, I'll Be John Brown"

Real stories about folks who have blessed my life with the joy and fulfillment of laughter. Long may they live.

Location: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

A Southern Boy - Born In Alabama, Reared In Georgia, and Matriculated, Married & Initiated Into Manhood In Tennessee.

Friday, July 30, 2010

"Autumn Belle - Chapter 6"

It was well after 9:30 AM when Autumn finally got to the newspaper offices that morning. She was still a seething cauldron of anger, humiliation, and disappointment. Mrs. Sibley met her in the hall and asked how her initial interview with George Decker had gone. "It went fine," she lyingly replied. Plopping down at her cubicle, Autumn was NOT in the mood for work. She sat staring at her typewriter for most of the morning. She was still too mad to really care if anyone noticed that she was not really doing any work.

The phone suddenly rang at her desk at about 11:15 AM.

"Miss Hamilton," the switchboard operator said, "the receptionist in the front lobby says that you have a delivery." "A delivery?", she asked in a bewildered voice. "Yes, please come down right away and pick it up," the operator concluded. As she rode the elevator down from the 5th floor, Autumn could not imagine what had been delivered to her. When she turned the corner out of the elevator and saw what was sitting on the the receptionist's desk, she gasped with surprise. The largest vase she had ever seen, filled beautiful deep-red roses and cut flowers.

"Miss Hamilton," the receptionist said, "these just came for you."

Autumn could not believe it. On this terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day, who could have known that this was JUST what she needed? "Daddy must have sent them," she mumured to herself as she spun the vase around and around. Rhett Hamilton, she surmised, must have known that his little girl was in a state of turmoil. She had flown through the house that morning changing from the business suit she had ruined with the car door, and rushing back out she completely by-passed her parents without so much as a word of explanation. Daddy must have known that his little girl desperately needed this.

As she looked at the envelope with the card inside, she was surprised to see that the flowers did not come from their neighborhood florist in Alpharetta. To her further surprise, she noticed that they had, in fact, been delivered from a florist located just across Fourteenth Street from none other than the Silver Skillet. She curiously opened the card. It read, "Sorry for scaring you this morning. And, sorry about the speeding ticket. If you will come back tomorrow, breakfast is on me...Sincerely, BJ."

Autumn threw the card on the floor. "Of all the nerve!," she bellowed. "What's wrong?", asked the receptionist. "Of all the nerve!," she repeated. "Well, if HE thinks HE is going to get the best of ME with a few flowers, boy has HE got another thing coming!", she declared. Autumn picked up the card, grabbed the vase of flowers - causing its water to spill on the floor, and stomped back toward the elevator.

When she got back to her floor with the flowers, all the female staffers gathered around. They fired question after question at Autumn. "Who is he? How long have you two been dating? Is he THE one? What does he look like? Is he rich?," they asked. Autumn refused to answer any of the questions. She mumbled that someone was trying to play a smart-aleck joke on her, and that she was going to return them to him without delay.

When Mrs. Sibley heard the commotion, she came out of her office with some questions of her own.

"Why are we all gathered around Miss Hamilton's desk? Why aren't we all busy with our work? Have we forgotten our deadlines? Would we like to have an extended leave of absence from our duties through the issuance of an Editor's Pink Slip?," she curtly asked. As everyone went briskly back to their desks, Mrs. Sibley stared a long moment at the flowers, looked disapprovingly at Autumn Belle, and turned to go back to her office.

"No one ever did that for me," she whispered.

Autumn heard Mrs. Sibley's comment, and it instantly changed her whole perspective. In an instant, she began to re-think her attitude. Slowly, she began to see the gesture in a much different light. As she continued to gaze at and stroke the beautiful bouquet of flowers in front of her, the anger that had consumed her began to subside. In its place, a growing sense of curiosity took over.

Who is this man? Why had he taken such an interest in her? How did he even know her? How did he know where she worked? And, HOW did he know about the speeding ticket?

This was all too weird. Was he stalking her? Was she in danger? Maybe he was setting her up for some sort of kidnap and ransom ambush? Should she call the police? Should she notify security? Should she tell her daddy?

Autumn began to feel somewhat helpless to be able to make sense of all that was shooting through her brain - or to have the strength to stop it. She felt drawn to the Silver Skillet, and to this stranger. He was, after all, THE most genuinely gorgeous man she had ever seen. Her mind was made up. Whoever Beauregard Jackson was, and whatever he was, and for whatever reason he had suddenly come into her life, she now HAD to find out.

It was almost noon. Autumn went to Mrs. Sibley's office and made up a story about having an afternoon filled with appointments - including a sit-down interview with George Decker after the Silver Skillet had closed for the day.

With Mrs. Sibley's approval, Autumn went back to her cubicle, gathered her things, stroked and sniffed the flowers a final time, and then headed for the elevator. Fate seemed to be leading her back to the Silver Skillet. As she rode the elevator down to the newspaper lobby and hopped in the Jaguar, she planned her afternoon's work. Her number one goal - getting some answers to the puzzling questions confronting her.

"Look out Mr. Jackson," she said as she walked off the elevator, "here comes trouble."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Autumn Belle - Chapter 5"

4:30 came early that Wednesday morning. The night before, Autumn Belle had gone to bed one full hour earlier than normal, made sure her outfit for the day was carefully selected and laid out, and even prepared her towel, washcloth and make-up ensemble so that once she did get up, time would not slip away from her. As she sleepily went through the motions of readying herself for the Silver Skillet, Autumn wondered if anything was worth getting up this early. The steaming hot shower helped wake her enough to keep her on time and on schedule. She pulled out of the driveway at 4:55 AM, five minutes earlier than she had planned.

The roadways of the burgeoning metropolis that Atlanta, Georgia, became in the late 1970's were a daily challenge to negotiate - especially during morning rush hour. A 5:00 AM departure ensured that the commute from the Hamilton's Alpharetta estate would not be a problem. And, it wasn't - except for the fact that Autumn Belle didn't factor in the Georgia State Trooper that clocked her flying down Interstate 85 at 95 mph.

He pulled her over and began to write the speeding ticket.

Autumn began to feign a contrite wave of weeping and sobbing. She had always managed to escape, or talk her way out of, traffic citations. The batting of her pretty green eyes, the pouty curl of her lip, and the playful wink she learned in charm school had served her well in the avoidance of speeding tickets. This encounter was no exception. The young trooper eventually let her go with only a "stern" warning. Feeling more than a little like the cat that caught the canary, Autumn drove away "grinning-like-a-mule-eating-briars." She could not have known that this particular encounter with the law would have its own set of consequences.

As she pulled in and parked her shiny, new, powder blue Jaguar in the Silver Skillet parking lot, she looked at her watch. It was 5:25 AM. Five minutes to spare! Autumn was checking her make-up a final time in the Jaguar's lighted rear-view mirror when someone abruptly began pecking on the driver-side window. Autumn gave a frightened shriek - leaning quickly away from the door. With the light from the rear-view mirror reflecting off everything inside the car, she could not see to tell who this was tapping on her window. She was reaching for the glove box flashlight when she heard, just as she had twice before, THE voice. It was HIM!!! "What in blue blazes are YOU doing here at this time of the morning?," the voice asked. She could see a grinning silhouette of a face peering in the car window at her. "Are you lost?," Beau asked in a facetious tone. Before she could answer he said, "In case you don't know where you are, Missy, this is NOT your daddy's tennis club!"

Autumn Belle Hamilton had never in her life held a conversation with another human being through the window of a parked car - in a darkened parking lot - at such an insanely early hour. She barely knew Beau Jackson, but she was already developing an extreme dislike for him. She could see his muscularly defined form in the dark t-shirt and blue jeans he wore, as he stood up and walked in front of her Jaguar. He turned, mockingly waved to her and quickly bounded up the stairs and into the front door of the Silver Skillet. He kept looking back at her in the car, laughing to himself and shaking his head. He seemed quite amused that he had just scared  the living daylights out of her.

She, however, was NOT amused!

Autumn Belle jumped out of the car in a huff, grabbed her legal pad folder and purse, and slammed the Jaguar door. The echo of the slamming car door rang out over the entire parking lot. As she turned to walk toward the restaurant, she heard an intensely sickening noise - the sound of fabric tearing like a paper bag in a shredder. Autumn looked down to see her brand new skirt, caught in the car door. It was now ripped, smeared with the black grease from the door, and looking more like a grease-monkey's coveralls than the finely-appointed business suit of a professional journalist.

With a frustrated gasp, Autumn repeatedly jerked the part of her skirt caught in the car door. After the third or fourth attempt to free it from the door, she heard THE voice once again. "Are you changing the oil, Missy, or are you coming in for breakfast?," Beau teased, as he leaned out the restaurant door. "If you ARE changing the oil, my Harley over there also needs a lube job," he said, giggling under his breath. Autumn stomped her foot and grunted, "Ooooooooh, just leave me alone!"

Finally, and with great force, she yanked the piece of her skirt from the door, hurriedly climbed back into the car and peeled wildly out of the parking lot. Now she would have to go all the way back home and change! Her brand new outfit was ruined! Her first assignment as a journalist - a complete disaster! And, to top all of this, Beau Jackson had found her out - and had made great fun of her in her most humiliating predicament. Her cover was blown! The whole world, no doubt, would soon know that she had not come to the Silver Skillet so early on that morning to see George Decker.

How could she ever go near that place again?

Autumn Belle was as flushed with anger. Having been totally embarrassed by a fry cook, and in perhaps the greatest hurry of her young life, she tightly gripped the steering wheel as she sped headlong down the ramp and onto I-85 North. Weaving in and out of the outbound lanes, she pushed her new Jaguar to the limit. Autumn Belle Hamilton was squarely in the middle of a four-alarm hissy fit. She was pushing to the max one of the most powerful cars in the world. Heaven help anyone in her way!

As fate would have it, the same young trooper who had stopped her earlier that morning clocked her at 120 mph as she flew past him. He quickly gave chase. This time, however, her grace and charm would not save her. The ticket she was handed a few minutes later read, "Charges: Felony Speeding, Wreckless Driving, and Insulting an Officer of the Law....Fine: $500 or 24 hours in jail."

Autumn thought to herself as she lowered her head to cry - and this time, her tears were very real - "Please, Lord, let me die now!"

Not yet, Autumn Belle.

Not just yet!

Monday, July 26, 2010

"Autumn Belle - Chapter 4"

Autumn Bell Hamilton was now a career woman. After her first day at the paper, at dinner her daddy reminded her that the working world plays by its own set of rules. Even the aristocracy who walks amongst the commoners must observe standard practices of business etiquette. And sometimes, he was careful to point out, the upper crust must perform at an even higher level than the average Joe just to prove they do "belong" in the driver's seat. "One day, the paper and most everything I own will be yours, sweetie," her daddy explained, "but, until then you have to prove yourself. Once you have done that, then and only then can you run the paper with credibility and authority."

Such things had never been unfolded before Autumn Belle's eyes in this way. She didn't like hearing it. Everything had always come so easy for her. Why should she now have to go out just like any other young, college graduate and start all over again? Couldn't she just cash in her seven-figure trust fund and go lie on the beach in Kaua'i? Who did this Sibley woman think she was, anyway? She was not family - just a mere salaried employee. Autumn was not a happy girl on her second morning's commute. So out of sorts was she that, as she made her way through the busy Atlanta streets, the Silver Skillet never crossed her mind.

Later that morning, as she sat in her cubicle looking through the story assignments that lay before her, someone a few cubicles over unwrapped a hot sausage biscuit from the Silver Skillet. The aroma quickly filled the area. The work space was instantly in a ravenous state of hunger. As Autumn sat there, reading over the list of social events she was to begin covering, she was overcome with hunger. This also triggered her memory. She sat straight up in her chair and blurted out, "It was HIM!" One of her co-workers sitting a few cubicles over asked, "It was HIM, who?" "HIM!!", Autumn Belle declared again, with an air of disbelief in her voice. The young man at her debutante party, those arms, THAT voice, so strong, so erotic, so masculine, SO....It was HIM behind that grill at the Silver Skillet!

Autumn sat back in her chair as if one of life's great mysteries had been solved. She felt relieved. She also was suddenly filled with anger and incredulity. "But, what was HE doing at MY party?...A cook?...Somebody who works behind a grill at a greasy spoon?!...The NERVE of somebody like THAT crashing MY party!", Autumn muttered to herself - her temper growing hotter with each sentence.

How dare such a lower-class brute show up at her party, grab her around the waist, hoist her in the air, and then lecture her about her name. "I'm going back down to that little greasy hole-in-the-wall and give him a piece of my mind!", she said, banging her fist on the desk. Autumn's voice grew louder with each passing burst. Her co-workers stopped what they were doing to watch the bratty tantrum. In a moment, Jewell appeared from Mrs. Sibley's office and wanted to know what was going on. "Little Miss 'Sugar Britches' is pitching a fit," said one of the male staff writers from across the room. Evidently, Lewis Grizzard's inaugural greeting had caught on. From that day forward, Grizzard's off-color reference to Autumn Belle became her unofficial office nickname.

Jewell calmed the storm by suggesting that everyone had deadlines to meet. There was no time for anyone to be throwing a fit, or watching one. Everyone turned back to their typewriters and resumed their work. Everyone, that is, except, "Sugar Britches."

Her mind turning wildly, Autumn ran and re-ran the images over and over. How it felt being in his arms, the feel of his hands sliding down over the top of her hips, his body next to hers, the sound of his deep, mature voice. More than this, she was exasperated that this man had come to her exclusively private party, made himself out to be someone who socially and culturally belonged there, and then so brazenly proceeded to "handle" her as if she were his own private cupie-doll. Forgetting about the fact that SHE was the one who ran into him, and that SHE was the one who spilled her drink on his jacket and into his face, Autumn could see little else beyond the image of him sweating, laboring, and hiding behind that nasty, greasy grill at the Silver Skillet.

As she sat pondering these things, her vengeful side gained the upper hand. How could she repay this ogre for his violation of her dignity? What could she possibly do that would humiliate him in an even greater way than he had done to her? Her musings about this went on for the better part of the remainder of the morning. It was not until she got up to go to lunch that THE idea came to her. Marching up the hall to Mrs. Sibley's office, she asked Jewell if she could speak to Mrs. Sibley before going to lunch. "I've got a better idea, " Mrs. Sibley suggested - coming out of her office as Autumn was speaking with Jewell, "Why don't we go to lunch together?" Autumn reluctantly agreed. She did not relish having to spend an hour in the company of a hired employee, and especially one who had insulted her as Mrs. Sibley had done on her first day at work.

Their lunch at the Rich's Department Store lunch counter went much better than Autumn had anticipated. Mrs. Sibley was charming and friendly. They talked about family, the many ways Atlanta was changing, and other small talk. Toward the end of the lunch, Autumn brought up the Silver Skillet Grill. She mentioned George Decker, whom Mrs. Sibley knew, and spoke of his being an icon in the Atlanta business community. Then Autumn made her move. She suggested, for her first really big project, that she be allowed to do a feature story on George Decker and his famous restaurant. She would cover it from all angles - the historical significance of the Silver Skillet, the celebrities who had eaten there, its local popularity, and of course, she would include a behind-the-scenes look at George Decker and his "staff."

Autumn was passionate and animated as she made the sales pitch to Mrs. Sibley. Her effort was valiant and, surprisingly, successful. Celestine Sibley agreed on the spot that the idea was a good one, and that Autumn Belle should begin the project immediately. On their way back to the newspaper offices, Autumn felt very smug and satisfied. Not only had she been able to sway one of the toughest old birds in the Atlanta news community, but she had also found a way to even the score with Beauregard the fry cook.

She could not wait.

Her plan was to get up way before dawn and be standing at the door when the Silver Skillet opened for business the very next morning at 5:30 AM.

Friday, July 23, 2010

"Autumn Belle - Chapter 3"

Scurrying off the elevator at the fifth floor, Autumn ran headlong into one of the most revered celebrities in the Atlanta newspaper world - humor columnist Lewis Grizzard. Almost spilling her coffee on his clean white shirt, Autumn brushed by Grizzard with no clue as to who he was. "Hold on there, sugar britches," Lewis barked in his thickly-southern, Georgia accent. As she pulled away he continued, "you don't crash into old Lewis like that without leaving yo' driver's license number and insurance information - not to mention yo' phone number!" Autumn muttered an apology of sorts as she resumed her torrid pace down the corridor and toward her Chief Editor's office door.

Celestine Sibley had been with the Atlanta newspapers seemingly since The Flood. She was a crusty old warhorse that first started writing for the Atlanta Constitution in 1941. The Managing Editor of the Atlanta newspapers, Ralph McGill, had once referred to her as the, "Matriarch of the Old South." Her over 10,000 columns, the vast majority written for the Atlanta news public, had earned her the pinnacle of reverence and power among her peers. Autumn Belle did not know these things about her new boss. All she knew was that she was hungry, in a hurry, and late. As she stumbled into the outer area of Mrs. Sibley's office, Autumn announced to the secretary who she was and asked to be shown to her new desk.

"So, you're Rhett Hamilton's girl, are you?", Sibley said as she walked out of her office and into the waiting area where Autumn was standing. "Yes I am," she said, "and if someone doesn't show me to my desk, I think I am going to faint!" She was out of breath, her golden blonde hair was tussled and falling wildly about her head, and her purse and breakfast were barely hanging from the tips of her fingers. Mrs. Sibley eyed her in a most unamused fashion, as her sunglasses kept sliding from the top of her head down toward her nose. Sibley pointed a long, skinny finger down an adjacent hall and said in a very stern voice, "third cubicle on the left." She sounded much like one of the old school "marms" that Autumn's granddaddy used to tell about at family gatherings when she was just a girl.

As Autumn plopped down at her desk, Mrs. Sibley's secretary, Jewell, followed her into the cubicle with an arm full of personnel documents for her to fill out. As she laid them on the desk, Autumn looked at her with a great expression of puzzlement. Jewell explained, "These are your employment papers...We will need them filled out before we can process you into the permanent records system." Autumn patted Jewell's hand and said, "That's alright, honey, I'll get to them later...Right now, this girl's gotta' find the john." Jewell Barnes had also worked for the Atlanta papers, and Mrs. Sibley almost exculsively, for the better part of twenty-five years. She did not appreciate this spoiled, little, rich girl referring to her as, "honey."

"I am old enough to be her mother," she thought.

Autumn came back from the bathroom, sat down at her desk and ate her now-cold breakfast. She got up just before her last bite of the cinnamon roll and began looking for the coffee pot. As she flitted out into the hallway, Mrs. Sibley met her and asked if she would come to her office. Autumn replied, "Sugar, I'll be right there, just as soon as I warm up my coffee cup, unless of course you would rather take care of that for me while I touch up my make-up...It has been a very hectic morning." Celestine Sibley's eyes began to dilate. She held her composure well considering the urges she felt. Her first instinct was to turn Autumn over her knee in an effort to teach this insolent "kid" respect for one's elders. She motioned to the opposite end of the bullpen where all the staff writers worked. "You'll find the coffee pot down there, " Mrs. Sibley said through clenched teeth, "when you are done, I would like to see you in my office."

When Autumn finally came back into Mrs. Sibley's office, she was offered a chair. As she slowly sipped her coffee, Mrs. Sibley gave her a brief overview of the Atlanta newspapers and their operating policies. She discussed the goals and weekly deadlines for the paper's Society Section, and informed Autumn of the variety of assignments she would be covering in her new position as Mrs. Sibley's Assistant Editor. Those assignments would include weddings, bah-mitzvahs, funerals and wakes, grand openings, election campaign meetings, and even beauty contests. If any society-related event happened within fifty miles of Atlanta, Autumn Belle was to cover it for the paper.

When Mrs. Sibley completed her explanation she asked if there were any questions. Autumn sat up in her seat, slid it over to the edge of Mrs. Sibley's desk, and said, "Now, sugar, you KNOW who I am, of course, and you KNOW that my daddy would want me to be involved in only the very top level of operations here at the paper...So, I was wondering if maybe there was something a little more glamorous and exciting that you might have for me to do while I am here?...We wouldn't want to get off on the wrong foot, now would we?"

Celestine Sibley slowly got up, walked around behind Autumn Belle and closed the heavy wooden door to her office. She sat back down, slid forward in her chair, folded her hands on her desk and looked at Autumn in the same fashion a bull looks at a rookie matador before he charges. "My dear Miss Hamilton," Mrs. Sibley said in very deliberate and measured phrases, "Your daddy owns this paper, that's true enough...But, you are just like the rest of us - an employee of your daddy's...He has instructed us NOT to give you any preferential treatment or undue consideration because of your lofty pedigree...Therefore, you will be shown the same courtesies and expressions of respect as anyone else in our offices...But, nothing more...You are NOT starting at the top of this paper...You are MY assistant...Therefore, you WILL do what I tell you to do, WHEN I tell you to do it...If that does not suit you, you may then go running back to daddy and suck on your privileged, spoiled-rotten thumb until it rots off the end of your pretty little hand...Either way, from now on, I am, 'Mrs. Sibley'...My name is NOT, 'S-U-G-A-R'...And, this office starts work promptly at 9:00 AM, Monday through Friday...Is that clear?"

Autumn blinked her eyes, shook her head, and tried to collect her emotions. No one had ever talked to her like this, ever! She was hurt, offended, angry, and extremely taken aback. The only words she could manage were a noticeably weak and timid, "Yes ma'am..." With this, Mrs. Sibley sent Autumn Belle back to her desk with the assignment of filling out her employment documents and returning them to Jewell's desk before lunch. Quite a rude awakening for a privileged southern princess like Autumn Belle Hamilton.

Following this very highly emotional exchange, the rest of Autumn's day passed as a blur. Five o'clock seemed like it would never come. She forgot all about going by the Silver Skillet, as well as the mystery about the cook's voice. All she wanted to do at the end of her first day was to go home and cry on daddy's shoulder.

Before her time at the Atlanta Journal was done, it would not be her last.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Autumn Belle - Chapter 2"

The days of that summer flew swiftly by. Autumn Belle divided her time between her daddy's four palatial homes - the horse plantation at Louisville, the Florida house at Clearwater Beach, the brand new condo at Princeville on the north shore of Kaua'i, and of course the family's home place near Alpharetta. When September rolled around, Autumn was NOT ready to assume her duties as the new Assistant to the Society Page Editor for her daddy's newspaper, the Atlanta Journal. "To be a socialite, sweetie pie," Rhett Hamilton had explained, "you gotta' pay some dues." Autumn's "dues" would be to write about the very people that she would one day take her place among. With Labor Day falling on that Monday, her start date was set for Tuesday, September 6th, 1977.

On her first day, Autumn Belle did what she had been accustomed to doing for most of her life - she overslept. Getting up far too late for breakfast, she breathlessly announced, "I'll find something on the way in," as she kissed her folks and made a mad dash for the new Jaguar waiting in the breezeway. As she fumbled for the keys, she remembered her father saying something about a local diner near the newspaper offices that served down-home, southern breakfasts. "Maybe they'll have a pastry or doughnut," she thought, "but what I really need is some coffee."

The parking lot was full that morning at the Silver Skillet on Fourteenth Street. All the locals went there. The owner, George Decker, had served the business community of Atlanta its breakfast and lunch in that little diner since the 1950's. He was a fixture behind the register, and greeted all the customers as if they were family. "Well, looky here," George smilingly said as Autumn walked through the door, "you must be the Hamilton girl that everybody has been talking about." He hurriedly began helping the busboy clean the dirty dishes off a nearby booth so Autumn could sit down. "Oh, no sir," she said, "it's my first day at work and I am really late already...Could I just get something to go?" Though Mr. Decker protested her haste, Autumn persisted. "Well then," he said, "you'll just have to start gettin' up a little earlier so you can come and sit a while and visit with old George in the mornings...Deal?" "Deal!", she nodded and smiled as they firmly shook hands.

Before Autumn could order from the to-go menu, Mr. Decker shouted back through the rectangular portal where the hot food was served by the cooking staff, "Gimme' a sausage biscuit, a cinnamon roll, and a cup of coffee with cream to go!" Before Autumn could say a word, a male voice came back through the portal, "Roger that...one sausage biscuit and one cinnamon roll to go." She could not see the actual faces of the workers behind the grill, but Autumn Belle KNEW she had heard that voice before. She was still a bit woozy from having overslept and very much in a hurry to get going - it was already past nine o'clock and this was, again, her very first day on the job. In just a few minutes a brown paper bag appeared on the portal shelf and THAT voice rang out again, "To-go order UP!" Autumn hadn't ordered the sausage biscuit and cinnamon roll - Mr. Decker had taken care of that for her. She didn't really care about the food as long as the coffee was hot! George Decker refused payment from her, saying that her first breakfast would be on the house. "We're also open for lunch, little lady," he said, winking, "come back and see me whenever you can."

As Autumn Belle turned to leave she happened to glance at the inside front wall of the old diner. It was covered with pictures. Autographed pictures of politicians, actors, musicians, celebrities from every corner of public life - Marilyn Monroe, Nipsey Russell, Dean Martin, Laurence Welk, Robert Redford, Billie Jean King, Lyndon Johnson, and even John Wayne. Autumn had no idea that she had been standing in a place where so many famous people had eaten. As she got in her new Jaguar and drove away, the image of those famous names and faces, though, was not as prominent in her prissy little mind as was the nagging question, "where HAVE I heard THAT voice before?"

With the morning Atlanta commute having subsided somewhat, Autumn was able to make it to the Journal parking lot in record time. As she gathered her purse, along with the hot cup of coffee and the brown paper sack full of food, Autumn Bell Hamilton locked her car, quickly checked her appearance in the reflection from the Jaguar's driver-side window, and hurriedly galloped through the front revolving door. Her focus should have been on the fact that she was a full half hour late on her first day in a new job, as well as on meeting and making a good impression on her new bosses and co-workers. However, all she could think of was the voice from behind the Silver Skillet grill. Her rabid curiosity was growing by the second. This little magnolia was GOING to figure out the mystery behind the identity of that voice if it was the last thing she did - even if it meant retracing her path back to the Silver Skillet before the sun went down.

As she got on the elevator, her focus shifted back to her appearance - she made one last check in the elevator's mirrored interior doors. She was finally ready to face the "real" world.

But, was it ready for her? 

Friday, July 16, 2010

"Autumn Belle"

Miss Autumn Belle Hamilton - a name was reminiscent of a character from Margaret Mitchell's classic,  "Gone With The Wind." Her mother, Bea Hamilton, chose her little girl's name two days after learning of the pregnancy. For the next nine months the world readied itself for April 14, 1955. From birth, everything in little Autumn Belle's world was deeply and traditionally southern. Well before she fell into into the waiting arms of her delivery room physician, Dr. Robert Manget, this long-awaited baby girl was already bringing monumental change into her dominantly male, Southern family. She was the first girl born into the Hamilton family of North Fulton County, Georgia, in three generations.

Autumn Belle Hamilton was given every possible advantage in life. Showered with the finest clothes, accessories and appointments, food, schooling, and medical care, her father, Rhett Hamilton, used his considerable fortune to give her everything. He had come from, "old Atlanta money," and was not about to let his baby girl be out-dressed, out-charmed, or out-spent by anybody. If this wasn't enough, Autumn Belle was constantly bathed in attention and accolade. At Woodward Academy, her very exclusive private school, she was "Miss Everything" - Star Student, Homecoming Queen, President of the Student Body, Miss Woodward. You name it, she was it. Over time, as a result of these things, it became quite evident that humility, unselfishness, and concern for others were not this girl's crowning attributes. To the contrary, a Southern female version of "Frankenstein's Monster" was being fashioned - a bonafide, spoiled rotten, precocious, little, southern, aristocratic brat.

After her graduation from the prestigious Agnes Scott College for Women, she was given THE most unforgettably gawdy debutante ball that Atlanta had ever seen. Everyone that was anyone was there - movie stars, politicians, professional atheletes, bankers, and the elite of Atlanta's snooty society crowd. The Queen, herself, would have felt quite at home in the aire of such a royal event.

On that moonlit night, Autumn strolled through the multitude of guests who had come to the Atlanta Lawn & Tennis Club. Her senses were filled with everything, "me." She graced the arms of several of Atlanta's finest and most eligible young men during the course of the evening - as she danced, sipped occasionally from the slew of potently-alcoholic "Savannah Slings" that came her way.

During the evening's crowning moment, Autumn Belle delivered a nauseatingly self-ingratiating speech about her life, her accomplishments, her dreams, and her inevitable future as a wealthy Atlanta socialite. Afterward, in an almost-tipsy fashion, she laughingly sacheted her way through the sea of linen covered tables - making every effort to be charming and polished.

She was just about to offer the last of the obligatory thank-you's and good-bye's to her guests when it happened. As she chugged yet another Savannah Sling, not at all watching where she was going, Autumn staggered headfirst into what seemed to be a large wall. Only this wall had arms, muscles, and a deeply southern male voice. Autumn spilled her drink in the collision - with some splashing back into her face and eyes. She could not see what she had just hit, but could she ever hear and feel it. "Hey, watch where you're going!", she said as she wiped the liquor from her eyes. "I'm sorry, I didn't see you," the male voice said. Autumn felt two strong forearms wrap around her, and strong male hands slide along the small of her back - a very erotic moment, indeed.

Her spike heeled shoes slipped from her tiny feet and fell to the tennis court beneath her. Dangling in the air and firmly in the grasp of her new acquaintance, Autumn could feel her lower body press closely against his. When she finally got her eyes cleared enough to see, this half-drunk little debutante found herself face to face with a living dream. He was a ruggedly handsome young man dressed in a white tux jacket.

"Hello there, Miss Hamilton," he said, "that IS your name isn't it?" For the first time since she first learned to talk, Autumn Belle Hamilton was totally speechless. Here she was, at the end of the most important day in her life, in the arms of THE most gorgeous man she had ever seen, having just spilled alcohol over the both of them. Yet, she could barely catch her breath, let alone say anything coherent or charming. Finally she gathered herself enough to respond. "Uh, yes, yes that's me alright," she replied - their two faces not more than a few inches apart.

As this brutally handsome specimen of manhood released her from his grasp, she felt her bare feet touch the tennis court. "Please allow me to introduce myself," he said, "I'm Beauregard Jackson...but YOU, little lady, can call me, Beau." He talked as smooth and sultry as Elvis sang. The alcohol having gained a foothold, Autumn mustered a reply that resembled something between a hiccup and a giggle.

"You're kidding, right?", she giddily answered, "B-E-A-U-R-E-G-A-R-D!?..WHY, nobody in this world is named 'B-E-A-U-R-E-G-A-R-D!" The words blurted out of her tiny mouth in a slurred and exaggerated tone, as she bent over backward in laughter. "Oh, I assure you, that IS my name," he said softly and calmly. He continued, "But, you know, if I had a name like, 'Autumn Belle,' I don't think I would be making fun of anybody else's name...Good night, Miss Hamilton." Beau smiled, playfully poked Autumn's face in the crevice of one of her dimples, and walked away - leaving Autumn breathless and speechless for a second time.

Little did she know that it would not be the last time.