Curbside Fiction: Go East, Nice Woman


Claudia was discontent.  Having reached that point in her life where she was beginning to second guess some of her life decisions, the curiosity for what might be was getting the best of her.  People would later give this time period for men the name of “mid-life crisis”; for women such as Claudia, there was nothing quite so charitable in the 1950’s.

She thought she had been working in Bend, Oregon, for the past three years.  Upon further reflection, she realized it had been nearly five, the longest period of time she had been in one place in her adult life.  Sure, she had spent her entire childhood just north of Biloxi, Mississippi, but that was a time period she did not allow herself to think about.  One must focus on the future, Claudia reminded herself.

Having spent the better portion of a week analyzing her discontent, Claudia realized it was time to move on.  In her career, Claudia had hoarded her money to the point she had few material possessions.  The only splurge she had ever allowed herself was her Packard.  Claudia was living proof one’s childhood exerts great influence on the adult portion of one’s life; one example was her refusal to walk any distance to go somewhere.  She drove.  And she refused to drive in anything less than top shelf, thus her Packard.

She had purchased the Packard sometime after arriving in Bend.  Her co-workers thought her very ostentatious by driving one of the very few Packard’s in town.  Claudia did not care.  She knew Packard was reliable, comfortable, and respectable – all elements she sought in life.  The blue Packard had quickly become her trademark.


That evening, Claudia packed up her few possessions into the Packard.  She had devised a plan to head east, her only criteria was to stay west of the Mississippi River.

The next morning was an early one for Claudia.  Firing up the Packard, she realized she had never had quite so much freedom in where to go.  Claudia spent the next four weeks meandering around the territory one could see labeled on maps in textbooks as The Louisiana Purchase.  Claudia was quite happy she didn’t need to think about work and how she was able to see so many things she had only heard about.  Yes, there just might be more to life, she thought often.

Throughout these four weeks, Claudia developed a plan for the rest of her life.  She realized planning was something she had never really done, although she realized she was pretty good at it.  She had decided to exercise her entrepreneurial streak upon arrival at her new destination.  From her various inquiries and research, she thought a small town would do her nicely, a town with a pronounced tourism industry, a strong historical past, and a relaxed demeanor.  She had read Tom Sawyer years ago and thought the real St. Petersburg sounded very tempting.

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Claudia arrived in the tiny, northeast Missouri town of Hannibal eager to set up shop.  Her Packard had been flawless throughout Claudia’s seven thousand mile sojourn; she was certain it would help her establish her new business in a very professional way.

As luck and fortune would have it, Claudia found a newly vacant lot downtown, just a block or so from the hub of tourist activity, amongst the town merchants, and facing the Mississippi River.  She paid cash for the lot with money she had in a suitcase.  There was suddenly an aura of mystery surrounding the new stranger in town who drove a Packard and had lots of cash.

Upon purchase of the lot, Claudia set out to find a builder.  She wanted a building for her new business; she figured if she was going to all the trouble and cost to establish a business, she was going to have a building that met her demands and requirements.  Her ready supply of cash certainly attracted the highest quality builders around.


As Claudia’s building was being built, her air of intrigue certainly grew exponentially.  “Who is that loaded woman with the Packard?”, many would inquire.  Nobody knew.  All anybody knew – or was willing to divulge – was this new woman was quite charming, knew what she wanted, and was always within eyeshot of her Packard.  As in Bend, Claudia possessed one of the few in town, so people automatically took notice.

As the weeks went by, and Claudia’s purpose built building was nearing completion, the rumors and gossip swirled ever more furiously.  The women were all talking – in hushed voices – about how scandalous it was this stranger was going to open a lingerie store – as if they had Claudia figured out.  The men all chuckled at the rumors, not really caring what she did as they were fairly certain her business would not be competing with any of theirs.

Soon after Claudia’s building was done, she vanished from town as quickly as she had appeared.  This created an even greater furor of gossip.  Of course, Claudia’s purpose was two-fold:  she knew her sudden disappearance would draw attention, but she also needed to have help with her business.  Claudia knew she must be as choosy about who she hired as she was about what she drove.


Claudia ferried each of her new employees back to Hannibal in the Packard.  Upon the arrival of her hand-chosen group of employees, she was ready for business.

Opening a business can be a tiring affair.  There are simply so many things to do.  Yet in going about executing her plans for her new business, Claudia always looked ebullient.  She simply did not tire as she had motivation that sprang forth from deep within her psyche.  She was determined to overcome all those things that had happened so many years ago.  Claudia was truly driven.  Her blue Packard could be seen criss-crossing town as she worked to make her new business venture a success.

At last opening night arrived.  Shortly after 9 pm, as the porch light spilled a crimson hue over Claudia’s blue Packard, somebody opened the front door to Claudia’s new building.

“Good evening, Senator,” Claudia said.

The Senator’s face lit up.  “Why hello.  What is your name?”

Claudia smiled.  “You can call me Madam.”

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