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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A young man matures while watching "Perry Mason" on the landlord's TV.

Submitted: February 25, 2016

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Submitted: February 25, 2016




A Short Story in Two Chapters

Nicholas Cochran

Chapter Two


It was only ten past seven, but part of my plan was to arrive early in order to veil my intentions for a while, before revealing the true purpose of my sudden sociability.

 Arias of Turandot had been piercing our plaster for hours. Now was a good time to initiate my peaceful invasion.

Out our back door; across the landing; stepping up to ground zero; and the knock. My mouth was dry and I began to sweat. I wondered if this would happen every time I had to confront an elder about some subject or other.

Even though I had peddled magazine subscriptions and a free Webster’s Dictionary one summer to the unsuspecting citizens of countless blighted burgs across the American prairies, I found myself shaking slightly as I anticipated Mr. D’s opening of his door.

I waited. I knocked again. And waited some more. Thinking that Turandot might be clouding his senses, I raised my fist to administer a very hard hammer.

“Hello Matthew.”

Je-sus! I damn near did a Ralph Dumas through the landing ceiling.

On my way down I performed a spinning downward-looking-scrutiny of the vocal point of sound: Mr. D., in shirtsleeves with garters, stays, a tie and a huge grin—was gleefully sniggling at my discomfiture.

I decided to join him, and our forthright laughter dissipated both my nervousness; and some of his vexing sorrows.

“What can I do for you Matthew; what were you wanting to see me about; is the music too loud . . .”

“Oh, no . . . no, no,” I charged in, now sweating heavily, “not at all; really,”

Mr. D., still beaming, waited for any explanation of my presence on his stoop, “I could hear this beautiful music and I knew it would sound even better if I was closer to the player, and—and I wondered if you wanted some company.”  Mr. D. peered up at me through his tiny bifocals with a smile frozen in befuddlement. I continued, “I just thought maybe we could listen together; but it’s not really necess . . .”

“Oh, how wonderful of you to be so kind, Matthew; so thoughtful; of course, youmust come in; yes, yes.” He pushed ahead through the door and held it open for me.

“Oh, this is really kind of you Mr. Dormberg; really. I’m not interrupting your dinner in any way, am I?” I tried to keep my voice from cracking with anxiety.

“No no no, Matthew; I ate already; downstairs. Now I will have some wine; and I’ll have cookies too; did you have your supper yet?”

“Ah, yes; yes I have. Thanks Mr. Dormberg.”

“But you’ll have some cookies with me though, correct?”

“Of course,” smiling, wondering what kind of cookies he had, “I really love cookies; what kind do you have?” I immediately knew I had committed a faux pas; I made it sound like I was ordering in a restaurant; presumptuous; even obnoxious, “I just know that any brand you have Mr. Dormberg would by first class; the best.”

In a clumsy attempt to recapture my civility I had not only lied to myself but also appeared as meeching to Mr. D.

I sagged a little.

Mr. D waved me to a huge armchair covered in deep red velvet. I sat, and sank, for what seemed close to a day, but once settled, I instantly spied the new television set.

It looked like a huge cathode ray tube from our physics class; slightly convex, and the grey tube was squeezed on all sides by some bizarre, tough, pebbly material of a seldom-seen-in-nature maroon hue.

The set was a brand new Rogers-Majestic 21 inch screen. I stared; maybe gawked.Mr. D. brought a plate of Voortman chocolate cookies. Despite my recent ingestion of enough food for a four-humped camel, I dove into the offering and tried not to be uncouth.

Mr. Dormburg (I stopped calling him Mr. D. from then on; I didn’t want anything to even hint that my opinion of him was to be determined by his size. I realized that using a single initial might convey an air of superiority if used by a man over six foot four when referring to a man barely five feet tall) hovered at my elbow while I chomped a chunk of cookie number one. He was still smiling; I really think he was enjoying having some company—and, perhaps, the presence of a well-behaved, extremely well-brought-up young man; instead of his son.

I suddenly began to love Mr. Dormburg; not exactly as a father figure—but to some extent I guess that was there; but I think that most of my budding friendship with this remarkable man was based, not on the fact that he carried such a bête noir as Daniel on his back, but that he was resolute, constantly optimistic and impossible to discourage.

Mr. Dormburg revealed to me in only a few moments, a multitude of reasons why he was not only an excellent lawyer, but also an admirable man; and thereby, a praiseworthy father.

But I was much too preoccupied with inhaling cookies to philosophize concerning the positives and negatives of Mr. Dormberg as a parent.

I suddenly realized that I was negating the ‘well-brought-up’ word thoughts that I had been using only moments ago to convince myself that Mr. Dormberg would appreciate me as company, more than he would appreciate his oafish son as company.

I swallowed; dropped most of three clutched cookies back onto their landing zone, a fine plate of Wedgewood that Mr. Dormberg had thoughtfully placed at my elbow for easy access.

When he offered to pour me some Manischewitz, I immediately knew that Mr. Dormberg had been waiting for this moment for many years; a moment when he could display his remarkable talents as a host and a conversationalist with someone; anyone; even a sixteen year old adolescent tenderfoot.

Rarely, before or since, have I seen such pure emotions expressed in face, hands and movements; the warmth of a genuine welcome; the gratification of having an educated person to converse with; the fully-opened and unguarded heart; and, overall, every symptom of an untethered, boundless joy.

I quickly accepted his kind offer of wine, a brand that was not new to me; most of my summer-camp mates had parents who would bring and pour the good grape of Manischewitz for us on visiting days. And then I had another ‘Mano.’ .

It must have been almost an hour, and three downed glasses of Mano’ later, before our rapid-style confab paused, as Mr. Dormberg dispatched himself to commandeer his basement stash of Mano’ and biscuits.

I sat precisely where I had plopped down when I first entered and received my first Voortman. My eyes were a bit narrower; the tongue mildly thicker; any necessary movements a tad sluggish; but, overall: gratification level on all fronts: over the top.

Then, all of a slurred sudden, I recalled my mission: Oh, Jesus, Della! Our mutual enjoyment of each other’s company had kicked the hands of time to damn near bottom of the hour; the eighth hourthe ‘whatever’ show was half over!. . . Damn.

Without warning, a novel emotion slid over me; or wrapped me in its mystery; or maybe it was an offshoot of ‘wine-wisdom’, but the feelings and the sense of new doors opening completely filled my inner senses; almost like being dunked in some new species of baptismal water.

I silently revealed to myself, that I was now changed; I had shed an old skin; I vaguely sensed that I had even matured.

When Mr. Dormberg returned with perspiration on his smiling lips and a look of ecstasy shining in his eyes, I immediately picked up the latterly-snipped thread of our conversation and Mr. Dormberg and I didn’t part company until well after nine.

* **

For many years Mr. Dormberg and I—along with my mother and sister—became extremely close friends.

Many gatherings with his family answered a number of our questions concerning love and marriage, divorce and parenting. And the law.

Several Sundays served to peel back so many new layers of Mr. Dormberg’s scintillating personality.

I learned so much from him: about life; about being a divorced-with-children dad, and, at the same time, I received my primary lessons about the practice of law.

Perhaps eight or nine weeks following that first indelible early evening conversation, I once again knocked on Mr. Dormberg’s door around five–thirty. By six-thirty we were both well toasted and cookied.

By seven-thirty, while he was emphasizing the paramount importance of knowing the rules of evidence for successfully winning jury trials, Mr. Dormberg mentioned a television program that centered around a trial lawyer.

Mr. Dormberg was well Manoed by that time and leapt to the 21 incher, tuned in the correct station and—there they were; all of them; all those beguiling voices matched to those unforgettable faces.

Pure heaven.


Mr. Dormberg and I watched every episode together over the next five years.

Then my sister went to the Sorbonne and came home with a husband.

I graduated and took off for Hong Kong.

And my mother ran away with some other woman’s husband.


It was an extremely sad farewell when all three of us inched down the steps of the front porch and along the sloped walk to my uncle’s car.

We turned and waved a long last farewell to Mr. Dormberg.

He stood on the front porch and gave us his inimitable radiant smile; and he continued to wave and grin as the car bore us off to new adventures.

* **

Mr. Dormberg died a happy man in Boston.

His son Daniel, finally ‘got it,’ and graduated first in his class at Harvard medical school. More importantly, he became a sterling person—as well as a noted brain surgeon.

Mr. Dormberg’s daughter still teaches at Juilliard.

I practice with my wife in the area of Criminal Defense Law in Santa Barbara..


She and I occasionally watch DVDs of “Perry Mason” and she doesn’t become alarmed if I’m overcome by tears at times, because she knows that they’re among the happiest tears I’ve ever shed.

© Copyright 2019 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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