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The Birth of a Singer

By Emma Redmer

Rated: G

Disclaimer is on the Introduction page.

August 29th, 1943 - 1:25 PM

"Phillip, must you really go back to the Philippines? Those bloody Axis may have your head when they find out that you're a double spy for the British and the Japanese! You could get yourself killed!" Hilary Booth wailed a bit more passionately than she meant to. She really needed to talk to Betty about the new plot line she'd developed for "Valiant Journey". It hit a bit too close to home.

"Only you, my superiors, and my contact know of my other identity, my sweet one," Mackie Bloom, the man of a thousand voices, said with all the fire of a man who had no idea of what was going on. "It only looked like I died in Baatan. I was really hiding out on orders of the government. I'm Jack Arington to the rest of the world, a bitter broadcaster who sold his soul to Japan and now plays Tokyo Rose every Tuesday night in order to get the goods on the enemy." Hilary looked pale, but whether it was with rage or illness, Mackie couldn't say. Her baby was due any day now and she lay on the couch in the green room more than she acted on the air, but she still insisted on coming to work every day.

"Please, Philip, take care," Hilary said in a strangled voice. Giselle, the French refugee who also worked at radio station WENN, raised her eyebrows as Hilary hurried out of Studio A.

"Oohh la la," she said in her native Gallic accent, "I do believe that Mademoiselle Danvers is in dispose. Perhaps her visitor would like a bowl of Hampton's Vegetable Soup, le soup that gives you vim and vigor for Yankee victory, while he waits, no?"

Mr. Foley poured the cup of soup he was eating for lunch into a bowl and clinked a spoon. Mackie sighed. This was one of the perils of live radio. "Delicious and energizing as usual, Gwendolyn. I'm rather glad you suggested it."

Hilary managed to make her way to the green room. Scott Sherwood and Victor Comstock were discussing a new idea for a program when she entered. "Do you really think that the character of John Bonnis would work as more than an occasional lover for Daphne Danvers?" Victor was saying.

Scott grinned. "Sure! The ratings for the 'Valiant Journey' episodes that Bonnis appeared in went sky-high, and espionage and spy stories are huge right now."

"I'm not certain that our listeners would accept a suave, licentious spy-playboy as a leading man," Victor countered.

"Excuse me," Hilary snapped, "but could we put aside the fate of John Bonnis, who doesn't even exist, for a moment here, and concentrate on the fate of my about-to-be-born child?" That got the attention of both men, who leaped out of their seats and immediately settled Hilary down in the chair that Scott vacated. "Victor," Hilary ordered, "would you please call Marguerite Singer, my mother-in-law, and ask her to come here and take me to the hospital before our listeners hear another miracle over the radio? Oh, yes, and ask Gertie to try to contact Jeff in Japan, though I haven't heard from him since he called me in June."

"Hilary," Scott told her, "I could take you to the hospital if you want. I have my car here."

Betty Sherwood rushed into the room. "Hilary, you're supposed to be on the air," she exclaimed, her breathlessness partly caused by her own advancing pregnancy. "Giselle and Mackie are improvising 'Valiant Journey', and a lot of what they're saying has more to do with Betty Grable and Charles Boyer than Daphne Danvers and Phillip Crandall!"

Victor ducked out the door while Scott hurried to the stove to boil water. "Betty, I would be more than happy to be on the air right now, but there's the small matter of the fact that the little Singer decided that it wants to be born sometime in the very near future."

Betty's jaw dropped. "Oh, no, you're not going into labor, are you Hilary?" A squeal from Hilary answered Betty's question and brought in Officers Cheri Widmark, Sandy Feemer, and Victor's wife Maple, who'd been studying their scripts for today's episode of "Wee Mary MacGregor, Veterinarian".

"Is Hilary gonna have her kid right here in the station, Betty?" Cheri asked in a New York accent that almost matched Maple's.

Betty sighed. "I don't think the couch could handle it, Cheri."

Maple looked worried. "Is there anything that we can do, guys?"

Hilary let out another wail. "Cheri and Sandy, I want you two to stay with Hilary and attend to her needs until her mother-in-law arrives. Maple, you take Hilary's place on the air."

"Does that mean I get to do her cooking show, too," asked Maple enthusiastically. "I have a new recipe for hamburger pie that I wanted to try on the air."

Sandy rolled her eyes. "I hope it tasted better than the sweetbreads soup you made last week. That stuff gave half the Pittsburgh Canteen cavities!"

Maple looked upset. "Hey, I worked hard on that soup! I didn't mean to get the flour and the sugar mixed up. The jars weren't labeled!"

Betty decided to divert the women back to Hilary's condition before a cooking war broke out. "Maple, you're due on the air," Betty reminded her. She went out and her husband came in. His narrow countenance was troubled.

"Hilary," Victor said, "Mrs. Singer said that her car is not in working order and no mechanic can get the necessary parts to repair it until next week at the earliest. She is able to meet you at the hospital but is unable to collect you at your workplace."

Scott dropped the water on the table. "That settles it. Hilary, go get your coat. I'm driving you to the hospital."

Hilary frowned and let out yet another shriek. "Normally, I'd say no, Scotty. You're not such a bad fellow but you're not my husband and people might talk." Her face screwed up in pain for a second. "However, the little Singer seems to be saying that it doesn't care who takes it to the hospital, just as long as it comes out."

Betty went to get their coats. "I'll go with you. I have an appointment with Dr. Drake in an hour, anyway."


3:09 PM

The Pittsburgh Canteen was unusually quiet. There was buzzing throughout the room, but the conversation wasn't nearly as rowdy and spirited as it normally was. Gertie tried to get a hold of Jeff, but the lines to Japan kept getting put on hold or cut off. There was an air of apprehension apparent throughout the station. Maple sang "Baby Mine" and Eugenia put over an energetic version of "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby", but the tension throughout WENN and the W.E.N.N was thicker than the tension created by an episode of "Sam Dane, Private Eye" or "Tales of Tension".

Scott was nearly pounced on by Gertie, Mr. Eldridge, and Giselle when he came into the lobby. He looked decidedly weary. "Any news yet?" Gertie asked.

"Well, Betty's pregnancy is doing fine," Scott said, "and Hilary is in a private ward. She's fairly far into the birth now. She should be having her baby in a couple of hours. Betty is going to stay with Marguerite, who's going to stay with Hilary until the baby is born."

"Is that allowed, Monsieur Sherwood?" Giselle inquired.

"If its not, Marguerite will make it allowed," Scott grinned. "She's as obstinate as Hilary. She was the one who insisted on the private ward and badgered the nurse into calling Hilary's own doctor over instead of one of the ones at the hospital."

Mr. Eldridge let out a satisfied sigh. "Oh, I'm sure Hilary will be fine, and the child will be as beautiful as its parents. The only thing that's stronger than Hilary is an Army tank."

"And the only thing that's louder than her is a blackout siren," Gertie grinned. "I don't envy the doctors and nurses who'll have to tend to Hilary after she gives birth. They'll probably all be deaf and will know every insult in the book, and even ones that aren't."

"Can I read the book?" Mr. Eldridge asked.


5:49 PM - Pittsburgh General Hospital

Betty Sherwood laughed at one of the many stories Marguerite Choiux Singer told her that evening to keep them amused while Hilary was with the doctor. "Did he really tell you that, Mrs. Singer?"

"Oh, yes, my Ben could be a very charming man when he felt like it. He spent most of his life saving for that trip to Paris after he heard the stories that his friends told him about the wine and women across the sea. He was actually quite inebriated when I first met him." She sighed. "I miss him so. He was a good man, but he was so hard on the boys. He didn't approve of my acting and defiantly did not like Jeffrey acting. He considered it a profession for weaklings and people who wished to throw their lives away. Real men worked in factories, railroads, and stock yards, not on the stage." Her voice steadied a little. "He and Jeffrey had a great many quarrels about Jeff's career choices. They had the last one a few days before Ben died in an accident at the mill. All three of the boys quit the mills after that." She smiled and nodded at Betty. "Where are my manners? I should have said 'Hello' to you instead of talking about Ben and taking the whole conversation."

"Oh, that's all right, Mrs. Singer. Do you mind if I call you that?"

"Actually, I would prefer it if you would call me Marguerite."

Betty shook her hand. "And you can call me Betty."

Marguerite gestured at Betty. "How's your own child coming along?"

Betty's face lit up like the marquee outside of an all-star Hollywood revue. "Dr. Drake said that the baby is doing fine. Scott and I are already thinking up names for it. I've never seen him so happy. It's hard to believe that the man who brings me chocolate candies at 4 in the morning is the same man who once rigged a quiz show and walked on a window ledge to create news." She frowned for a moment. "I think the incident in February with the two Nazi spies scared him, too. He and Victor meticulously grill every sponsor, intern, and Armed Forces member the minute they enter the station. Scott almost never leaves me alone. I'm probably lucky I convinced him to let me go to my appointment by myself."

One of the nurses interrupted. "Mrs. Singer, Miss Booth's baby is almost ready to be born."


6:30 PM - Radio Stations WENN and the W.E.N.N

You could cut the tension with a knife. Victor was so tense that he actually ate one of Maple's Honey-Turnip Muffins without realizing what he was chewing. Mackie, Maple, and Giselle were performing "Amazon Andy" in Studio A. Scott was in the control room, but he wasn't really watching the show. Cheri and Sandy were interviewing Jean Nelson, an opera diva who did frequent USO tours, in Studio B. Gertrude Reece drummed her fingers on her desk and stared at the switchboard. Mr. Eldridge swept the lobby.

"Gertie," he amiably scolded the receptionist, "your staring at the phones like that is not going to make it ring with news about Hilary and her baby. We all have to be patient."

Eugenia and her adopted daughter Mary sat together in the Green Room. The ears of most of the Armed Services officers were glued to the radio. "Is Miss Booth really going to have her baby, Eugenia?" the 4-year-old girl asked.

Eugenia beamed. "Yes, she is. She's going to have a wonderful baby. I bet it'll be as pretty and as smart as its' parents."

"I hope it's not as loud as its parents," Mary said. "Miss Booth is always yelling about something."

Eugenia stroked the shy girl's hair. She and Mr. Foley signed Mary up for a daily nursery school that a friend of Eugenia's ran a few doors down from WENN. Mary seemed to like her new parents but was distant and clung to them. It took a major effort just to get her to attend the little nursery school. The WENN staff thought that she was the most precious creature in Pittsburgh. She knew that the Armed Forces officers fed her apples and peanuts between meals, but Mr. Foley recently stopped this when Mary was so full one night that she wouldn't eat her dinner at all and found herself sent to bed.

Gertie nearly jumped five miles when the phone rang. "Hello?" She was immediately barraged by flood of strange and excited words. "Mrs. Singer, could you please calm down? I don't speak French!" She turned to Mr. Eldridge. "Tom, would you be a dear and fetch Giselle from Studio A for me?"

The old man beamed. "You need but only ask."

Gertie stared at him. "I'm asking."


6:40 PM

"We interrupt this broadcast of 'Amazon Andy' to bring you a very important news bulletin," Mackie announced in utter delight. "WENN is proud to announce the birth of Ophelia Beatrice Singer at 6:30 PM tonight. She weighed 7 pounds, 5 five ounces, has brown eyes and brown hair. Her mother, Hilary Booth Singer, is doing well and will be released from the hospital in a few days and back to WENN in less than a month's time."

This war won't last forever...

So, how's Hilary going to react to motherhood? Will Mary get used to her new surroundings? Will the WENN staff get used to having kids around? And where is Jeff Singer? Will he ever find out that he's a father? Why did he ask for Victor Comstock?

On the Edge of the Precipice Series

Go to On the Edge of the Precipice#13 - Stormy Weather!
Go Back to On the Edge of the Precipice#11 - Baby Mine!
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