50th: Otto Boutin’s Night Watch — Speak and Squeak Softly

“You’re a printer?” she asked, hopefully. Marvin nodded. He was a good lip reader and those were beautiful lips to read.

“I’m hard of hearing,” he said. “You’ll have to speak a bit louder.”

“Oh,” she seemed disappointed. Then she continued, “My husband died, almost a year ago. And I’ve been trying to keep the business going. It’s tough.”

Marvin studied the Miehle Vertical, standing clean and idle. He winced as he saw all of those undistributed forms on the slanted tops of the type cabinets, and he didn’t like those flower pots around the presses. He felt a sudden urge to go to California, but he felt sorry for this poor widow, stuck with a print shop. A horrible fate for any woman.

“I’m an all-around printer,” he said, finally. “I’ll help you out.”

“I’m so glad,” she said, taking off her cap and letting her blonde hair fall to her shoulders. “I’m pretty good at setting type,” she said modestly, “but when it comes to presses, I get scared.”

“I can run any press,” he said. “Real good. Want me to start now?”

She looked at the clock. “It’s almost four already. We’ll let it go for tomorrow. Have a cup of coffee?”

From the apartment in back of the shop, she brought an electric coffee pot and a tray of cookies. They stood at the make-up table, eating and talking, for more than an hour. Now and then Marvin gave a cookie to a white poodle who had taken a liking to him.

The Lady Boss nodded in satisfaction. “A dog is a good judge of character,” she said.

Marvin was on the job 15 minutes early the next morning. The Lady Boss wore a simple yellow dress, but she filled it like an Italian movie star. She needed no nylons to enhance the beauty of her smoothly shaven legs.

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