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Betty's Wonderful Life

By Emma Redmer

Rated: G

Disclaimer: This story and series belong to me. Characters belong to Rupert Holmes.

Italics denotes thoughts.

December 24th, 1955

Betty Sherwood could not concentrate on her script for "The Hands of Time". Not that it mattered, anyway. It wasn't as if anyone actually listened to radio anymore. Even her own husband finally broke down and purchased a television set for their five children.

"The Hands of Time" was one of the few remaining shows left on WENN. Music and news filled the remaining airtime. Several of the original WENN actors still performed what they could. Hilary Booth and Jeff Singer continued to portray Brent and Elizabeth Marlowe in "The Hands of Time" and Daphne Danvers and Leonard Manley in "Valiant Journey", but they appeared more on stage and television now than they did on radio. Giselle Bedeux Tracer retired three years before to raise her son Geraud. Her husband Chris wrote comedy skits for local TV variety shows. Mackie Bloom also worked more as a television announcer than he did a radio announcer. Maple and Victor Comstock and their son David moved to Washington DC a year ago to head a television station there, though they frequently visited Pittsburgh and Maple often gave concerts there.

"Aunt Betty, do you have the script for 'US Bandstand'?" Mary Foley asked. The sixteen-year-old girl played the organ on weekends and after school. Indeed, she not only played the organ more often than her mother, but she persuaded her beau George Fraiser to help her father with the special effects.

Betty looked up at the girl. "Does it matter?"

Mary knew what kind of a mood Aunt Betty was in today. Those creeps from the WAMC Television Corporation came around earlier and bugged her about selling WENN again. Why wouldn't they just leave her and Uncle Scott alone? "Of course it matters, Aunt Betty. We have listeners who want to hear the newest songs..."

"If they want to hear the newest songs, they can watch television," Betty snapped. "That's what they want, anyway. No one cares about us anymore." She snatched a pile of papers and threw some at Mary. "Here you go." Mary watched her slam the door of the writer's room and storm down the hall. Poor Aunt Betty, Mary thought sympathetically, she's really letting those jerks get her down. I'd be upset, too, if I were her. The Sherwoods could lose WENN tomorrow. I can't believe that the bank asked for three thousand dollars on Christmas Eve!

"Um, Mrs. Sherwood, ma'am?" a shy voice pestered Betty.

"What now?" Betty growled. She nearly tripped over Dexter Hines, the somewhat nebbish assistant/secretary/receptionist that Betty and Scott hired after Gertie moved to a better job with a hotel in 1951. He initially joined on as an actor, but his acting skills proved far more limited than his organizational skills.

"Um, uh, the, uh, men from the, uh, you know, the, well, that TV station is here, or rather, the men from the TV station are here," Dexter stammered. "They want to see Mr. Sherwood."

"Well," Betty said, "I'll have to do. Tell them to meet me in the office."

Two minutes later, three well-dressed, serious-looking gentlemen sat before Betty. "Mrs. Sherwood," the first man began, "we won't beat around the bush. You know why we're here. This radio station is doing nothing but losing money. Television is where everyone is at now. Sponsors are bailing out of radio like paratroopers during the war. WENN alone lost three of its most influential sponsors in less than four months. How much longer can you keep going like this?"

Betty shook her head. "My husband and I inherited this station from Mr. Thomas Eldridge, who purchased it in 1941. I don't think he would have wanted us to throw it away so quickly."

"You're not throwing it away, Mrs. Sherwood," the second man insisted. "This is a golden opportunity. The owner will pay you handsomely for the studio and the rights to the WENN name. You could both stay on as the head writer and general manager, and Mr. Hines would remain your secretary."

"What about the staff?" Betty asked.

"We'd be starting over again," the third man explained. "This new rock-and-roll sound is all over the airwaves. Kids pay big bucks to hear noisy artists like that Elvis fellow."

"I know," Betty sighed. "My oldest daughter and the teenagers who work here listen to him all the time. In fact, I think Mary's playing his new Christmas record right now." She frowned. "I'm sorry, gentlemen, but WENN is important to my family and to the people who work here. I couldn't sell it."

"Of course you do," laughed the third gentleman. "It's not like it's a family member. This is just a radio station. You can't possibly come up with the three thousand dollars by tonight."

"Does Mr. Sherwood share your opinion?" the first man asked.

"Yes," Betty stated. She opened the door. "Now, gentlemen, if you please, I'm very busy with our Christmas Eve programming. Have a pleasant evening, and Merry Christmas." The men muttered holiday greetings and left. Betty collapsed in her chair.

"Betty," a young voice said, "Mom wants you. Something about her script."

Betty gritted her teeth and stared up at Ophelia "Lia" Singer, Hilary Booth and Jeff Singer's oldest daughter. Juliet and Ophelia Singer spent their afternoons at the station, often helping Dexter and Mary with the kind of little chores that Mr. Eldridge left vacant after his death five years ago. Jeff took them home while Hilary did "A Woman's View on the News".

"Isn't it always something about the scripts?" Betty muttered. She pushed past the girl and into the hall. "What is it this time, Hilary? I've been having a bad day and a bad script would be the icing on the cake."

"I'm sorry, dear," Hilary said, "but who wrote this mush? 'Oh, Brent, my darling, my love, my one and only, why must we keep meeting under the mistletoe like this? We...'"

Betty grabbed the paper out of Hilary's hands. "So I'm a bad writer, is that what you're saying?"

"Do you want my honest opinion?" Hilary asked.

"No, lie to me," snapped Betty sarcastically, "I like it. It's what you usually do, anyway. You lie about everything - your age, your family history, your relationships. Why should my scripts be any different?"

Jeff entered at that moment. "What seems to be all the trouble?"

Ophelia nodded at her mother. "Mom got Aunt Betty angry again."

"Hilary," Jeff said soothingly, "Betty's mind is elsewhere these days. It's not her fault that 'The Hands of Time' isn't up to par..."

"Fine!" She tore up the script. "Then there won't be any 'Hands of Time' today! I'll bet that no one would notice, anyway! It's not like we have an audience who really cares." She threw the script into the trash. "That seems to be where you think it belongs."

"Ok," Jeff asked, "did I miss something?"

Lia shook her head. "Aunt Betty's been like that all day. I heard her yelling at Uncle Mackie because he read a line in the Capewoods Developments commercial wrong."

"She was screaming at Scott earlier, before he went home to feed the kids," Hilary added. "It must have to do with the mortgage. It's due tomorrow, you know."

"What's a morgage?" Lia asked.

"It means that Aunt Betty and Uncle Scott have to pay a lot of money to keep WENN," Jeff explained as the three of them went into the green room.

Dexter ran into Betty in the hall. "What is it?" she snarled.

"Uh, um, I mean, I'm sorry, Mrs. Sherwood, but your h...h..." stammered Dexter.

"Dexter, say it in English. It works."

"Mr. Sherwood called," Dexter explained after taking a big gulp of air. "He wants you to come home for dinner. Says that it would be good for you to not worry about the station for an hour."

"Someone has to worry about it," Betty grumbled as she took her coat and hat. "I told him very well that today is his day to watch the kids."

"Well," stammered Dexter, "its Christmas Eve, ma'am. I guess he wants to see you. And that reminds me," he blushed, "um, I'd like, uh..."

"Yes," sighed Betty in exasperation, "you can have tomorrow off. Mackie and Lester are just going to play records all day."

"Yeah!" Dexter grabbed Betty's hand and pumped it up and down. "See you in two days, Mrs. Sherwood! Merry Christmas!"

Betty nodded. "Merry Christmas, Dexter." She, too, left to catch her trolley home.


"Hi, Mom!" chorused four voices as Betty walked in the door of the small house that she and Scott rented from the owners, who preferred their city apartment to the newfangled cottage. Eleven-year-old Agatha and nine-year-old Peter were the first ones to greet their mother. The two older children sported Santa hats and beards. Six-year-old Sarah played "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" as Scott read three-year-old Tommy the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The little boy, with his big smile and his reddish-brown curls, looked so sweet next to the silver-haired man. Betty almost smiled at the adorable scene.

The exauhsted mother walked through the house she so carefully decorated, from the lights on the porch to the biggest tree they could afford. Garlands and greenery decked every door and window frame. Mistletoe hid in the garland overlooking the archway between the living room and the kitchen. A large, messy gingerbread house sat on the table along with something covered in aluminum foil.

"You missed dinner," Agatha said. "Daddy left you a plate."

"I'm not hungry," Betty muttered. She realized that there was one family member missing from this quiet group. "Where's Amanda?"

"Her teacher sent her home from school," Scott explained. "I picked her up on my home. She just has a cold."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Betty hissed.

"It's just a cold," Scott said lamely. "You have enough to worry about without this, too."

"Hey, Mom," Agatha called, "can we change something in the script for the Broomes Brothers Christmas Special tonight?"

"Why not?" Betty grumbled. "Everyone else wants to change my scripts."

"Mom, tell her she can't play Santa 'cause she's a girl!" yelled Peter.

Tommy reached out for Betty. "Wan' Mommy!"

"I'm going up to see Amanda, darling," Betty assured the toddler. "I'll get you in a minute." She turned to her squabbling son and daughter. "Peter, Aggie can play Santa if she wants."

"But it won't sound right," Peter complained. "She doesn't have the right ho-ho-ho."

"Do too!" Aggie shot back.

"Look," Betty muttered, "I'm not in the mood for this. Both of you play Santa."

Peter frowned. "There's only one Santa!"

"Then Agatha will play his older sister!" Betty shouted. "And Sarah," she went on, "could you please stop playing the same song over and over? Didn't Aunt Eugenia teach you anything else?"

Sarah bit her lip. "I'm sorry, Mommy, but I need to practice. Aun' Eugenia said that she wanted this to be really good for the Christmas special."

"Hey, Mom," Peter asked, "how do you spell 'mistletoe'"?

"What do I look like," snapped Betty, "a dictionary?"

"You are a professional writer," Agatha pointed out.

"Not according to Aunt Hilary," Betty muttered.

"Betty," Scott said, putting the book down, "yelling at the children is completely uncalled for. It's not their faults that we owe money on WENN. Don't take it out on them."

"I'm not taking it out on them!" Betty screamed. "Why did we have to have five kids anyway? Why couldn't we have had two or one, like normal people?" She looked around her tinsel-and-glitter-spangled household. "And why do we have to live in this little house? It can barely fit four people, much less seven!" She turned her anger from her children to her husband. "And you! Where were you today, Scott Sherwood, while I was handling creditors from WAMC? Where were you when I was separating Hilary and Jeff during 'Bedside Manor' and trying to persuade Broomes Brothers to run the Christmas show as planned instead of moving it to TV?"

"Betty," Scott fretted, "please calm down!"

"Well, I'm sorry, but this is as calm as I'm getting today!" Betty shrieked.

"Betty, stop it!" Scott ordered. "It's Christmas Eve, for God's sakes!"

"Damn Christmas Eve, you conniving, self-centered cripple!" the angry woman screamed. Betty instantly regretted her rash words. Scott's handsome, lined countenance instantly darkened. Agatha picked up Tommy. He clung to his sister. Peter dropped his script and Sarah finally stopped playing and gaped at her mother.

"Wat a 'cripple', Aggie?" the toddler asked.

"It means someone who can't walk," she replied.

Betty trembled. "Scott, I...I'm sorry. I didn't mean what I said."

"Yes, you did," Scott whispered. "Betty, you promised me that you would never use that word, especially in front of our children." He gritted his teeth. "Do you remember how I got this wound in my leg, Betty? Do you remember why I got this wound?"

"It just came out," Betty explained. She turned back to the kids. "Well, go on, everyone," she said with all the heartiness she could muster. "We have a show to perform tonight. I'd like to hear my script."

Aggie and Peter exchanged looks. "I don't feel like acting now, Mom," Peter murmured.

"Me either," Aggie added.

"Me eidder," Tommy agreed.

"Sarah," Betty continued, "why aren't you playing? The show must go on! Play, Sarah. I don't mind. Play!"

Sarah burst into tears. "I don't wanna play anymore, Mommy!"

Scott took the little girl in his arms and glared at his wife. "Betty," he ordered, "it's bad enough when you deliberately hurt me. But to hurt a bunch of innocent kids..."

"What's going on?" asked a sleepy, stuffed-up voice. Seven-year-old Amanda wandered downstairs in her robe and slippers, wiping her runny nose with her fingers. Her mother threw her arms around her.

"Amanda, honey, are you all right?" she wailed. "How are you feeling? Did Daddy take your temperature? Did you get lots of orange juice?"

"Don't worry, Mom," Amanda assured her, "I'm ok. It's just a code." She sniffled. Betty just held her and sobbed. "It's not like I'm dybing."

"I have to get out of here," Betty said suddenly. "I can't handle this anymore." She grabbed her coat and took off in the battered station wagon that Scott purchased not long after World War II.

"Gee whiz," Peter exclaimed, "what's eating her?"

"Mommy's had a bad day," Scott explained.

"Remind me not to get anywhere near Mom on her next bad day," Agatha grumbled.

Tommy lay his head on Agatha's shoulder. "Wan' Mommy happy!"

"Me too," Aggie admitted.

The phone rang. Everyone leaped at it, but Amanda got it first. "Hedo?" she asked. She relinquished the phone to her father. "Itb's for you, Dabby."

Scott took the phone. "Hello, Scott Sherwood speaking."


Betty was so upset that she didn't know where she was driving. She only knew that she couldn't stand the pressure anymore. Everything seemed impossible. She and Scott were going to have to sign their livelihood and their second home over to the bank tomorrow. WAMC would stop hounding them, anyway. They would have what they wanted. Betty sighed. Maybe she was worth more dead than alive. Hilary would certainly be happy. She could have the real author she always wanted. Scott would be happier. He would be able to walk normally and would still be carefree and unfettered. Her kids wouldn't have a failure for a mother.

She stopped only because she couldn't go any further. She was at the waterfront. She got out of the car, not caring if it was stolen or not. It was unlikely that any thief would want a station wagon with so many dents it looked like King Kong used it for a chew toy. She sat on the edge of a rotting wood pier, next to a little old woman. "You thinking of jumping too, ma'am?" Betty asked half-humorously.

"No, I'm not, and you shouldn't be, either," scolded the old lady. She was a kindly looking creature. Her faded coat and ridiculous flower-topped hat looked about two decades too old. She was a rather comical, in an odd way. "You don't know how lucky you are, Betty Roberts Sherwood, or how much you've done."

Betty frowned. "How do you know my name? I've never seen you before in my life."

"Why, I'm your guardian angel, of course," the lady said with a smile.

Betty didn't believe her for a moment. "Do you know a Hilary Booth?"

"Only through you," she explained. She grinned. "Very exciting."

"If you're an angel," Betty asked, "where's your wings and halo?"

"I haven't gotten them yet," the lady admitted sheepishly. "I have to earn them"

Betty shrugged. "Whatever." She noticed an open book on the lady's lap. "What are you reading?"

The lady smiled. "The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodges Burnett. It's my favorite book."

"It's a favorite of mine, too," Betty said. She looked out to the foggy night. "I've made a real fool of myself today. I'm going to lose WENN, my family hates me, my husband hates me, the staff hates me." Betty put her head in her hands. "I wish I was dead."

"Don't say that!" exclaimed the woman. "You don't understand all the wonderful things you've done for so many people!"

"Oh, I understand," Betty snarled. "My family would be better off, my husband would be better off, the staff would be better off..." She sighed. "I wish I was never born at all!"

"That's..." The old woman looked up at the dark, cloudy sky and nodded sagely. "Do you think that would do the trick?" A lone star twinkled through the clouds. "All right, we'll try it." She turned to Betty and said with finality, "Ok, Mrs. Sherwood, you were never born."

A fierce but brief wind nearly knocked the two women off the pier. "You don't have to make such a fuss about it!" the woman shouted to the heavens.

On the Edge of the Precipice Series

Go to On the Edge of the Precipice Christmas Special: Betty's Wonderful Life, Part II!
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