A music staple of the 40s and 50s, Your Hit Parade, made its radio debut on April 20, 1935. It lasted for nearly 25 years before being done in by rock and roll music – and perhaps Snooky Lanson. It began as a 60-minute program with 15 songs played in a random format, and eventually moved to television where the seven top-rated songs of the week were presented each week in elaborate production numbers requiring constant set and costume changes. The list of top songs was compiled through a closely guarded top secret algorithm that involved record sales, quarters plunked into jukeboxes, shoplifted sheet music and the divination of an unidentified mystic in Memphis, Tennessee.
Dorothy Collins , Russell Arms, Snooky Lanson and Gisèle MacKenzie were top-billed during the show’s peak years. And Lucky Strike cigarettes starred throughout its run.
As the rock and roll era took over, the program’s chief fascination became seeing a singer like Snooky Lanson struggle with songs like Splish Splash and Hound Dog.
Matilda, Part 1: The Poobah
Goes to Sea
It couldn’t have been easier.
The Pooh-Bah’s engine roared to life without protest, and Humberto negotiated his way past the other yachts attempting to outsway each other as a show of sovereignty over the Playa Marique harbor. Behind him, the Bacchanal Beach Club sleeping off a night of hedonism with a reggae beat became tiny and meaningless.
Odus, useless as usual, lazed in a deck chair, dead to the world. But Humberto didn’t need him at the moment, and he enjoyed the solitude. He stood at the wheel as though he were the very proud – and legitimate – owner of the Pooh-Bah, as she plied the now glistening water. He whistled a lilt he had learned as a child on the streets of a less cosmopolitan Caracas. When he delivered this fine yacht to Caracas he would be rewarded handsomely. This time he’d take a little vacation. Buenos Aires, maybe. Or Rio.
Humberto’s reverie was shattered by the appearance of someone who wasn’t Odus – a young woman whose tousled blonde hair and oversized T-shirt suggested that until a few minutes ago she had been sleeping. She half glared at him through half-open eyes.
“Who the hell are you?” demanded Humberto, his eyes very open.
“Who the hell are you?” the young woman retorted.
“I asked first.”
“I don’t care. It’s my boat.” She paused. “Well, it’s Harold’s.”
“None of your business. Get off this boat.”
“Is that the son?” She didn’t answer. “Or the father. You are a mistress to one of them, aren’t you?”
“You animal. Harold is my stepfather. It’s his boat.”
“Of course,” said Humberto. “I didn’t recognize you all messed up like that. You’re the daughter.”
“Matilda,” she answered. “Now who are you?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Humberto growled. “I’m in charge here.”
“Like hell you are.” She rested clenched fists on her hips, yielding not a bit. “You’re trespassing. Just what are you up to?”
“I am stealing your stepfather’s boat. And why are you here? You should be on your way to the volcano with your mama and papa.”
“I was with Ramon. He left and I fell – hey, this is none of your business. Who do you think you are? My nanny?”
“Your parents, they will be worried. Damnit. They’ll come looking for you, find the boat gone. I ought to slit your throat.”
“You bet your sweet ass they’ll come looking for me. The police maybe even the navy are probably after us already. You’re ass is grass.”
Odus stumbled toward them, tucking his shirt into his pants. “Hey man, who’s the chick?”
“Don’t call me a chick,” Matilda snapped. “My name is Matilda. But don’t call me that either. Just don’t call me.”
“Hot little chick, isn’t she?” said Odus, staring at her and grinning. “What’s she doing here?”
“She’s a stowaway,” said Humberto.
“I am not. I belong here. But you don’t, and you’ll both be in jail before long.”
“Nice legs,” said Odus, inspecting her. “I’ll bet she’s got a cute ass, too.”
“God, you’re slime,” Matilda said, making a face to suggest she was about to throw up.
“You little bitch,” said Odus, raising his arm to strike her.
“Stop it,” said Humberto.
“Yeh,” said Matilda, who had flinched only momentarily. “If I have any bruises when they catch you, you’ll probably never see the outside of a cell again, that is if they don’t shoot you.”
“What’s she talking about?” asked Odus, turning to Humberto.
“Our plans may have been fouled up, thanks to little miss hot pants here,” said Humberto. Matilda smiled at him. “Let me think,” he said.
“Oooh, that should be exciting,” said Matilda. “Can I watch?”
Matilda is one of the 15 stories from Calypso, Stories of the Caribbean, available as an ebook or in a print edition with real pages and everything.