Thursday, November 1, 2012

tales of the hotel st crispian, chapter 81: "Automat Drreams"

by Horace P. Sternwall

edited by Dan Leo* 

illustrations by roy dismas and rhoda penmarq

*Associate Professor of Sumerian Literature, Assistant Glee Club Coördinator, Olney Community College; editor of The Sheriff Wore a Petticoat and 43 Other Previously Uncollected Tales of the Wild West, by Horace P. Sternwall; Olney Community College Press; available exclusively at Woolworth’s stores nationwide.




Meet Polly Powell, aged twenty-six, the cashier at the Automat just across the alleyway from the venerable Hotel St Crispian. 

Polly has worked here at the Automat ever since she came to the city, shortly after graduating summa cum laude from Bryn Mawr, in that glorious summer of 1945, when the world seemed full of promise and hope.

Her intention upon moving to the city had been to follow in the footsteps of Jane Austen, of the Brontës, of the Georges Sand and Eliot, of Colette, of Virginia Woolf, and to create a “body of work” that would establish her as the American equivalent of the aforementioned authoresses. 

For far too long in Polly’s opinion the American literary world had been dominated by men. It was time for a woman to assume a place in the front rank, and not as a writer of mere “women’s fiction”, but of so-called “literary fiction”, fiction that would one day be a mainstay of American Literature departments, and not just in women’s colleges like Bryn Mawr and Mount Holyoke and Smith, but even in Harvard and Yale and Princeton.



Only one obstacle stood in the way of Polly’s ambitions as she got off the bus at the Port Authority that first sunny day in June, and that was her almost complete ignorance of the world outside of books and movies. She had spent most of her girlhood reading books in her bedroom in her family’s sprawling comfortable stone house in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, a house which the people in the town called a mansion, but which her father (Irving St. John Powell, the noted professor of epistemology, and heir to the Powell Shipping Company fortune) called a “cottage”, and her education at the Shipley School and at Bryn Mawr had done little to teach her the ways of the world beyond the Main Line.

And so, in order to learn the ways of the world, and despite the fact that she received two hundred dollars-a-week allowance from her family — more than enough to allow her to live quite comfortably in her own apartment on Jane Street — she had worked for the past five years at the Automat.





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