Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Name Dropping by Jane Heller

This is a cute story about Nancy Stern.  She lives a quiet little life as a nursery school teacher until another Nancy Stern moves into her building.  Nancy #2 looks like she has a fantastic life and Nancy #1 is a bit jealous.  She even goes on a date as Nancy #2.  Then Nancy #2 gets murdered.  Who did it and why?

I enjoyed this light-hearted tale.  It's nice to read something that doesn't make you think constantly.

June 18, 2000
"Spirited and clever....Name Droppingis a tasty snack you'll gobble up gladly."

Excerpt from the author's site:
Chapter One
When the invitation arrived in the mail, I assumed it was a joke. America's ambassador to Great Britain was requesting the honour of my presence at a black tie reception at the United Nations?
Sure, and pip-pip to you too, I thought as I leaned against the tiny refrigerator in the tiny kitchen of my tiny apartment. What's next? Afternoon tea with the queen?
I examined the invitation, running my hand over it, holding it up to the light, checking it for some indication of who might have sent it. All I could determine was that, yup, it was addressed to me -- Nancy Stern, 137 East Seventy-first Street, New York, New York 10021-- and that it did seem authentic with its bold, black-scripted letters, heavy, wedding-invitation-type card stock, and official-looking seal. But how could it be authentic?
I was hardly a regular on the international circuit, hardly a pal of America's ambassador to Great Britain, hardly a pal of America's ambassador to anyplace. I was a teacher at Small Blessings, a nursery school on Manhattan's Upper East Side. I spent my days, not with foreign diplomats discussing trade agreements, human rights, or weapons of mass destruction, but with pre-kindergarteners singing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." Moreover, the sort of diplomacy I practiced involved convincing four-year-olds that nose-picking, while not an inherently bad thing, is nevertheless a "poor choice" when socializing with others.
Me at a black tie reception at the U.N., I scoffed as I tossed the invitation into the garbage. The last party I went to was when Lindsay Greenblatt turned five and her mother brought cupcakes to school for the class's snack.
Yeah, I'm a real party animal, I thought, mentally ticking off the more recent Saturday nights during which I'd stayed home with a good book rather than prowl the city's trendy clubs looking for love. Please. Shortly after I'd gotten divorced and found myself back in circulation, it became abundantly clear that Mr. Wonderful wasn't waiting for me on a strobe-lit dance floor. Call me old-fashioned but my idea of heaven isn't a guy in a sweat-drenched tank top, bumping and grinding and hip-hopping to Puff Daddy Combs.
Not that I didn't go out now and then, do the things typical single-women-in-their-thirties do. I attended other people's weddings, spent the occasional weekend at somebody's summer rental, dated friends of friends, you know how it works. Unfortunately, my special man never materialized no matter how often I ventured out, and so, little by little, I stopped venturing out. Perhaps I had no romance in my life because I wasn't ready for a relationship. Perhaps I had no romance in my life because I was too picky, although it didn't seem too much to ask that the man not pierce his nipples. Or perhaps, like millions of other unattached women, I had no romance in my life because of the phenomenon I associate with warehouses: Overstocked! Too Much Inventory! Surplus! Yes, perhaps, it was simply that there was a surplus of single women and I didn't have the energy to fight the odds, unlike my best friend and associate teacher Janice Mason, a veritable Energizer bunny when it came to men.
That's when it dawned on me: The invitation to the reception at the U.N. must be her handiwork!
A helium-balloon-voiced woman with pixie-short blond hair, a trim, athletic figure, and a go-for-it, try-anything, follow-your-bliss attitude toward life, Janice loved fooling around on her computer, loved experimenting with different fonts and formats, loved printing out phony documents -- sweepstakes come-ons, letters from the IRS, you name it -- and sending them to people as a goof. A real prankster, that Janice. Such a kidder.
She also loved flirting with men over the Internet, hoping her overheated E-mails would lead to equally overheated responses, which would lead to in-person encounters, which would lead to marriage proposals. (They never did.)
We spent a great deal of after-school time together, she and I, and were compatible in many important ways, but where I couldn't care less about Web sites and chat rooms and dot com this and dot com that, Janice viewed her computer with the same sense of wonder as the kids in our class viewed their Pokemon paraphernalia. Yes, I decided. She mailed me the invitation. Ha-ha, Janice. Good one.
I confronted her at school the next morning while our sixteen young charges were crayoning pictures of turkeys in anticipation of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.
"I didn't send it, Nancy," she replied. "I couldn't have sent it. My computer's down."
"Tell me something," I said. "What's so great about computers if they're always down?"
"They're not always down," Janice said with conviction, "They run into problems every now and then, just like people do. What's important here is that they're our bridge to the rest of the human race, the linchpins of our intellectual infrastructure."
Intellectual infrastructure. This from a woman I'd once caught eating Play-Doh.
"Well, somebody sent the invitation," I said, getting back to the mysterious missive. "Do we know any jokesters besides you?"
"Forget jokesters. Maybe the invitation is on the level."
"Yeah, and maybe I'm Madeleine Albright."
"Okay, what about one of the other teachers, although none of them is a barrel of laughs."
Janice was referring to Victoria Bittner, the head teacher of the other group of four-year-olds. A painter who couldn't sell her paintings, Victoria took out her frustrations on the walls of her classroom, creating ridiculously over-the-top murals to tie in with each change of season. And then there was Nick Spada, the head teacher of one of the two groups of three-year-olds. Nick was a grad student at night, getting his masters in child psychology. He was much too busy, never mind deadly serious, to send jokey invitations to me or anyone else. And finally, there was Fran Golden, Nick's counterpart as the head teacher of the other group of three-year-olds. Fran was as sweet as they come but a tad on the syrupy side. If you're old enough to remember the teacher on Romper Room, you've got Fran to a tee. As for the assistant teachers who worked with Victoria, Nick, and Fran, they were just-out-of-college twentysomethings who spent their free time grousing about the low salaries they were earning in comparison to their friends who had chosen the corporate life.
"Of course, it's possible that the invitation did come from the embassy but that their computer printed out the wrong name," Janice added. "Why don't you RSVP and see?"  Read more here.

Pages: 327

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