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The Great American Novel


By Michael Massee


World War One was the war to end all wars.  However, 18-year-old Robert Davidson felt, as he sat in the cold mud-filled trench, that it would never end.  He wanted to be back home in Pittsburgh with mom and papa---and Rosie.  He didn’t even hear the shell explode next to him.


Chapter One

             He understood and forgave her.  No pretty young woman wanted to be seen with a man who had a face that looked like a carved-out pumpkin.   At least he had the use of one eye, one beautiful sky-blue orb that saw everything---that saw too much. 


Chapter Two

             It wasn’t a University degree or a rich father or winning the Irish Sweepstakes that got him to where he was today.  It was good old-fashioned hard work.   He started off as a Cinderman and moved up to a Salter and then they put him on operating the Pig Iron crane.  By the time he was 25 he was foreman at the steel mill.  Eight years later he was vice president, just in time to greet the Great Depression.


Chapter Three

             Rob didn’t lose everything in the crash like many of his associates but the steel industry was hit hard.  Until 1933, when things perked up a bit, there was a 75% reduction in the amount of steel produced.   But Robert had an idea that would save the company and secure his position as vice president.  They would start making automobiles. 


Chapter Four

             He didn’t drive one of the company’s navy-blue Camano sedans that he had made so popular due to their low cost and boring durability.  No siree, he was seen in his Ruby-Red Duesenberg J, navigating all over town, usually with a pretty young thing by his side. 


Chapter Five

             A fool he wasn’t.  He knew Edith had married him for his money and not for his good looks.  They didn’t call him ‘The Pirate’ just because he was a ruthless businessman but also because of the elegant black velvet patch he wore over the hole where his eye had once resided.  Velvet was appropriate for the man who was soon to become President of the Camano Corp.


Chapter Six

             “Don’t shit in your nest,” was Rob’s motto, so he kept his romantic encounters with various ladies of the evening as far away from Edith, and his mansion on the hill, as was possible.  Blond and buxom Billie Ann didn’t mind as long as the booze and the shekels kept flowing. And, as she pointed out to her girlfriends, the suite Robby kept in the William Penn Hotel was nothing to sneeze at either.


Chapter Seven

             That he should have two sons born in the same month was incredible.  Unbelievable because they were not twins but the result of two different mothers, Edith Davidson and Billie Ann Snyder.  Rob had tried to get Billie to terminate the pregnancy but she threatened to expose him if he forced her into an abortion.  And so Rudy came into the world, half-brother to Ryan Vann Davidson.


Chapter Eight


             No mother loved her son more than Edith.  Ryan was the sun, the moon and all the stars in the heavens to her.  He was a loving replacement for the ugly bully she had married at her parents' insistence.  “You can marry a rich man as easily as a poor one,” her mother told her repeatedly, “and you’ll learn to love him.”  Well, that never happened so now she concentrated on loving Ryan and making him happy.  This consisted on her granting him his every wish.


Chapter Nine

             1955 was a banner year for Robert.  The Camano sedan had been back in production for ten years after having been temporarily discontinued during the Second World War, in order for the company to be able to manufacture army tanks and trucks.  Patriotic and profitable.  Now, the corporation couldn’t keep up with the demand for the automobile known as ‘the happy family car.’


Chapter Ten

             “You have spoiled him rotten!” yelled Robert, as he sat, facing Edith, at the breakfast table in the glassed-in conservatory.  “He’s a 21-year-old drunken college dropout!  He’s had his driver’s license revoked, he’s been arrested for assault---and it took every string I could pull to get him out of that one---and you continue to give him money and make excuses for his inexcusable behavior! And this is the next President of the Camano Corporation?”


Chapter Eleven

             Rudy Snyder worked on the assembly line at the Camano car factory.  He had applied for a job at the plant right after graduating High School.  His father had nothing to do with his hiring and, in fact, would probably never even recognize the tall lanky young man installing window shields in the shiny new Camano sedans.  After all, the last time Rob saw his son was when the boy was only two years-old.


Chapter Twelve


             “More money?” Rob hissed into the phone receiver.  He was standing by the desk in his office waiting to be trucked away.  “You have been getting a generous monthly allotment for---what---twenty years?  No, Billie, we had an agreement that I would continue to support you and your boy, as long as you moved away and never contacted me, ever again, by phone, mail or in person. ------Well, maybe if you drank less.”


Chapter Thirteen

             When Rudy returned from working his shift, to the tiny apartment he shared with his mother, he found her unconscious in the bathroom.  She had been beaten over the head with a metal waste basket. There was evidence that she had been entertaining company, as she often did when Rudy was at work; whiskey and cigar butts and a rumpled bed.  Billie Ann Snyder died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.  Rudy held her hand all the way.


Chapter Fourteen

             “I think we have enough evidence to prove it was murder,” District Attorney Rendell asserted, “Proceed with the warrant and the arrest.”


Chapter Fifteen

             The bar was noisy, as it always was at five o’clock.   Rudy was commiserating with his work buddies, Sam and Cyrus, about the trial he couldn’t even afford to take time off from work to attend.  “He’ll go free.  The rich always do!”
             “Careful, Rudy.  Remember, he’s your boss,” advised Stan, sipping his Iron City Beer.
             “I don’t care.  He killed my mother!”  (He had never told anyone that Rob was his father.)
             “The papers say the cigar they found was the posh brand he smokes,” interrupted Cyrus.
             “That’s true,” continued Stan, “and the apartment manager identified him as the---”
             “He’s still going to walk!”


Chapter Sixteen

             It was the wedding of the year!  The Pittsburgh Press devoted a full page to the marriage of Ryan Vann Davidson to Cynthia Clarise Clayton.  Photos of the happy couple, and their respective families, enjoying the reception at the Shannopin Country Club was the perfect antidote to the scandalous coverage of the murder trial of Robert Davidson a year earlier.  Although he was found not guilty, the exposure of his tawdry affair with Billie Ann left the public divided.  At least half of Pittsburgh was sure he did it.


Chapter Seventeen

             Rudy had a hard time letting go of the past and his mother’s unsolved murder.  Until he moved out of the only home he knew, an apartment that was rife with memories of the good times as well as the bad, he was going to be stuck in a deep depression.  The company nurse suggested he see a therapist and that’s when he met Laura, the doctor’s receptionist.


Chapter Eighteen

             When Ryan brought Cee Cee and their baby home from the hospital the entire Davidson household staff was waiting out front to greet the couple and the new addition.  Robert’s castle was large enough to take in one more inhabitant and her room was next to her parent’s suite.  It was a neutral yellow but draped in plenty of ruffles and bows, with enough stuffed animals to open a zoo.  Princess Amanda Belle Davidson had arrived.


Chapter Nineteen

             Rudy would never have been able to move forward with the strike against the Camano plant without the support and strength of his wife Laura.


Chapter Twenty

             “I’m not going to make it, Ryan,” Robert whispered from his hospital bed.  “You’re going to have to step up to the bat.  I turning the company over to you.”  Ryan fought back the tears. ‘I will not weep for the son-of-bitch, not now---not ever!”


Chapter Twenty-one

             “I’ve had it!” Cee Cee screamed, as she stood over the bed where Ryan was entwined with his latest conquest, a red-head from the steno pool.  “You useless piece of shit!  What kind of fatherly example are you setting for Amanda?!  I want you and your whore out of here---NOW!”


Chapter Twenty-two

             Ryan had called Rudy into his office.  Ever since the labor strike had been settled, to both the worker’s and management’s satisfaction, the plant was running at full capacity, with night, as well as day, shifts.
             “I want to thank you for shaking things up, Mr. Snyder.  In the end you knew what was best for this company.  And because of your concerns for our welfare I want to give you a promotion.” “Thank you, Mr. Davidson, but I need more than that.  I want to be recognized for who I am.”
“Excuse me?”
             “I‘m your brother.”


Chapter Twenty-three

             The 60’s were years of great change, some very welcome changes and some not-so-welcome changes, like the automobile industry beginning its move to the Far East and to Europe.
The younger generation didn’t want to own ‘the happy family car.’  Instead of the drab Camano they were grooving on the Volkswagen Beetle (even if Hitler had designed it) and the Austen-Healey sports car.  Ryan saw his sales numbers dropping like bowling pins and turned for advice to the newly appointed manager.  “Motorcycles,” recommended Rudy, “Diversify.”


Chapter Twenty-four

             Edith was not doing well all these years after Robbie’s death.  She seemed to have aged well beyond her 70’s.  Once socially active in the community she now rarely left the Davidson Castle.  Ryan and Cee Cee would find her wandering the halls, in a ratty flannel nightgown, muttering words that made no sense.  “Maybe---ride---bell---drink---lost---!”


Chapter Twenty-five

             The peace parade assembled in front of the Pittsburgh City-County Building.  Amanda was standing, holding an anti-war sign, ready to march up Grant Street, when her father Ryan grabbed her by the arm.
             “You are coming home with me, young lady!  You will not shame the Davidson name!”


Chapter Twenty-six

             Rudy and Laura arrived at the Davidson Castle for the yearly Christmas dinner, a lavish affair known for its amazing décor and extravagant cuisine.  They left their newly-born twins, Rosalyn and Roland, with Laura’s parents. Laura and Cee Cee had, over the years, become fast friends, as had their husbands, the brothers Davidson.  The outside world was unaware of the blood connection between the President and the Business Manager of Camano Motors.  However, all of the family knew the connection, with the exception of Edith.  She always remained sequestered in her room and therefore had never met Rudy---until this night.
             “Robbie!  It’s you,” she cried out, as she stood, clad in her tired gray nightgown, in the entrance arch to the candlelit dinning room.  “Where have you been?”


Chapter Twenty-seven

             The Camano Corporation Annual Company Picnic always took place on the Fourth of July.  Robbie had felt it was a good way to honor his country and his employees.  Ryan had wisely continued this tradition after Robert’s death.  There was barbeque, beer and a band at Schenley Park as well as games and swimming.  This year, however, there was an additional event, a rather  unwelcome event. Amanda Davidson had arrived with a battalion of peaceniks demonstrating against the Vietnam War.


Chapter Twenty-eight

             Rudy entered the room and was immediately hit with the smell of Lysol and urine.  Edith lay motionless in a hospital bed and Rudy wasn’t sure she was still of this earth.  He pulled a metal chair up close to her and gazed at her thin, pale body.
             “Edith? Can you hear me?  It’s Rudy.”  He saw her wrinkled lids lift slowly and tears begin to form in her bloodshot eyes.
             “Oh, Robbie!” she mumbled, “I’m so sorry.”
             “It’s me, Rudy, not Robbie,” he whispered.  But to Edith he looked so much like her dead husband that she could only believe it was really him.
             “Oh, Robbie! Before I die I have to let you know how sorry I am about what I did.”
             “It’s alright---just rest,” Rudy uttered, trying to comfort her.
             “I killed Billie Anne.”


Chapter Twenty-nine

             “I’m leaving!” Amanda yelled as she started up the stairs to go to her room.  She needed to finish packing.
             “Wait a minute!” Ryan shouted in return. “You’re leaving to go where?”
             “Sunshine and I---we are going to a commune in upstate New York!”
             “A commune?! And just who the hell is ‘Sunshine?”
             “He’s my soulmate!”


Chapter Thirty


             After the funeral, family and friends gathered at the Davidson Castle for cake and commemoration.
             “She was a driving force in the gardening community,” said the President of the Wissahickon Garden Club.
             “She alone kept the Light of Life Rescue Mission going,” added her best friend Beatrice.
             “She never forget her staff’s anniversaries and birthdays,” announced her private secretary Agnes.
             ‘She murdered my mother’ thought Rudy, as Ryan led him into his private study and poured them each a tumbler of scotch.  “I’m leaving the company, Rudy.  Cee Cee and I are retiring to Greece and I’m leaving the house, the cars, the company to you.  From now on, you are Camano Motors.” 




While the Camano Sedan, which started it all, was eventually phased out of production, the Camano Corporation continued on.  Under the direction of Rudy Snyder Davidson it began to expand and it started buying up other small business’s until it was producing everything from argyle sox to zippers.  The corporation was worth billions.

Ryan and Cynthia Davidson perished in a boat accident off the Island of Crete.
Amanda Davidson went on to become a United States Senator.

Rudy’s twin children,  Rosalyn and Roland, grew up to become the very popular rock duo R and R.  Their number one hit record ‘Brush Fire’ went platinum.

 Soon to become a major motion picture!


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