Saturday, August 16, 2014

Breaking in For a Little Light Mommy Blogging

Situation normal at Casa de Bon: we broke, broke, broke.  There are no ducats in the coffer.  We owe our soul to the company store. Etc.  But one of the nice things about living where we do is that we're a quick trot to the beach, which is the very best Chicago has to offer in absolutely free entertainment.

I love going to the beach.  I always have.  Growing up, we took a trip to Florida every year.  Lake Michigan beaches are not like those.  The sand is rocky and it's not hard to find trash.  No matter how capacious the lake, it's still a lake and has lake smells. And there will always be Eastern European types feeding the seagulls (OH MY GOD STOP FEEDING THE GODDAMN SEAGULLS. THEY NEVER GO AWAY IF YOU FEED THEM). Also a bunch of dudes wearing speedos.  I cannot get on board with the speedo unless you're built like David Beckham or something.  Speedos make me giggle.  Today I saw a dad and his 10 yr old son in matching speedos.  This is not an unfamiliar sight at a Rogers Park beach.

But I love it.  I can sit there in my chair, listening to the sounds of conversation around me, kids playing, waves lapping. I love our city beaches where all the groups are strangers to each other, but perfectly friendly (unless you're feeding the damn seagulls).  There's something about a beach that makes you feel part of a whole. It's hard not to feel accepted, at peace with the world from a beach.  It works like a tonic on me.

I watched Laney in the water talking to her friend and thought of my own childhood trips to the beach with my best friend and how much fun it was.  I felt really happy for Laney to have such a good friend.

But then suddenly, out of nowhere, I found myself pining for toddler Laney.  A Laney I could scoop up into my arms and twirl around; a Laney who was all mine.

But only for a second.  Because after that brief second….

Wait!  I want to tell you another story first.  On my wedding day, I was standing in the back of the church and I was straight up freaking up.  My dad was standing next to me utterly unaware of my freakout because I was marrying a nice guy in a Catholic church and so all was right in his world. I started to feel a little like I could turn around and walk out the door.  All those people!  My dress was a little tight and I wasn't sure I could stand up under the scrutiny. And then I looked down and saw Don and thought to myself, "Eye on the prize, Rhem.  Keep your eye on the prize."  And I walked down the aisle with, I dare say, quite a bit of élan.

I remember that so clearly because it was a moment of such startling clarity.  I think I've had maybe two or three of those in my life.

I had a moment of startling, crystal clarity hard on the heels of that small moment of pining for Laney's distant toddler-hood.  I thought, "Oh, god, I got to do that! I get to do this!"  And I felt enormously grateful.

Just for a brief moment today, despite being broke and the damn seagulls and all the other little things that make me crazy, I felt fully the privilege of my life, the beaches and Don and getting to be this little girl's mother.  And I felt absolutely at peace.

And then some guy in a speedo threw part of his sandwich to a seagull so I murdered him.  Anyone got bail money?

The March, Chapter 24: Heavy Things Happen in the Lightweight Offices

Chapter 23

Let me explain.  No, there is too much.  Let me summarize.
-Princess Bride

“You told Ellinore Ladislaw that you’d find her daughter,” said Rafferty, all these many years later as they sat in Bulstrode’s office.  “You told her you’d find her daughter and give her the money left over after she croaked.”

“She died, Raff!” said Bulstrode.  “Ellinore died before I could find her daughter!”

“You didn’t look too hard, though, did you, Bully” asked Rafferty, leaning back coolly.  “You kept that girl’s money and used it to buy more bars and set yourself up real good, didn’t you?”

“What do you know about it?” asked Bulstrode fiercely.  “You were so high you didn’t know what was going on!  You were dealing dope out of my bar!  You could have cost me everything!”

“Funny about that,” said Rafferty, still cool.  “I did sell a little coke now and again, just to augment my meager income.  Lord knows you could never see your way to paying me a decent salary even though we were such good pals.  But I never dealt out of The March.  And when the cops showed up that day, it was almost like they knew what they’d find…”

“You were obvious,” retorted Bulstrode.  “Everyone knew. If you’d…”

Oh, this dialog is clumsy and expository!  This is not the conversation Bulstrode and Rafferty had.  I am attempting to augment their conversation in order to mete out details which only they and I are privy to. But it is cumbersome and inelegant. And what, after all, is the point of all this third party omniscience if one cannot simply narrate?  So…

On her deathbed, Ellinore Ladislaw asked Bulstrode to find her estranged daughter, Althea (Will’s mother), who was off living the hippie life in San Francisco.  Ellinore was desperate to reach her daughter, to make amends and to settle her estate.  She wanted to die knowing that her daughter knew how much she loved her.  But, besotted as she was, she made the tactical error of appointing Bulstrode as the executor of her estate. Thus, Althea was never found and somehow Ellinore’s money, almost incidentally, found a home in Bulstrode’s business endeavors.

Our man, Rafferty recognized that something here failed the sniff test and made sure, via frequent and un-subtle comments, that Bulstrode knew that Rafferty smelled something rotten.  In between snide comments, Rafferty snorted some cocaine, angled for bar and management shifts, and found himself running with a worse and worse crowd.  And then one day he was arrested at The March by a cop who knew exactly where to find his cocaine.  And then a man Rafferty didn't recall ever meeting swore under oath that Rafferty had offered to sell him cocaine at the bar.  And then he went away to serve a 15-year sentence for drug trafficking.

And that’s where we are now.  So, exposition exposited, let’s return to the tense scene unfolding between Rafferty and Bulstrode:

“Ellinore Ladislaw is dead,” said Rafferty.  “And so is her daughter.  But I’m still here and I want what’s coming to me.”

“I owe you nothing,” said Bulstrode.  “I had nothing to do with your criminal activities or your arrest.  You made your own bed.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not so sure about that,” said Rafferty.  “I think you owe me. So what do you think, how about a job?  It’s hard to get steady employment out of the joint. I want one of those Chicago-style jobs that’s all paycheck and no work.”

“Why would I do that?” asked Bulstrode.

“Be smart, Bully,” said Rafferty. “I’d hate to end up chatting with your wife.   She was hanging around then. She’ll remember Ellinore Ladislaw.  She’ll be interested to know who else you were fucking when you were dating her.”

“Leave Susan out of this!” said Bulstrode.

Bulstrode wanted desperately to turn back the clock, lock the door and keep Rafferty out of his life.  He wished he could go back in time and stand before the parole board and let them know what a dangerous felon Rafferty was.  He wish he could blink hard and Rafferty would suddenly disappear,

But, he knew he could do none of those things.

“It makes my flesh crawl to think of letting a lowlife like you blackmail me,” Bulstrode said at last. “But I’ll write you a check right now if you swear to disappear with it. What will it cost me to get you out of my life?”

“I don’t think you have the scratch to get rid of me forever,” said Raff.  “But for five thousand bucks, I’ll disappear for a while.”

And thus, an unhappy deal was struck.  Bulstrode wrote the check and Rafferty left the building.

Everything in Bulstrode’s life has just suddenly gone to shit and he had a dinner party to go to.  Fred was turning twenty-five.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Chapter 23: The March: Flashback!

Summary 1-22
Chapter 22

Stop wasting my time.
You know what I want.
You know what I need.
Or maybe you don’t.
 Do I have to come right flat out and tell you everything?
 Gimme some money! Gimme some money!
-        Spinal Tap

The time has come to leave our young (and not-so-young) lovers for a bit and spend a little time with our friend, James Bulstrode.    All our stories will collide a bit down the road thanks to the re-emergence of a man from Bulstrode’s distant past.  And I think I’ve hinted around at this past for quite long enough. 

So, let’s leave Tré and Rosie looking gorgeous and sipping cocktails at some fabulous club.  Let’s leave Brooke listening raptly as Teddy expounds upon some depressing topic or another. Fred is pining for Mary.  Celia and Gio are lying on the couch, legs and arms entwined, watching Animaniacs.  And Will will have to remain a cipher as we are head into the Lightweight Group offices to pay a visit to Bully.  He generally thinks of himself as “Bully” when he’s in a good mood.  And he’s in a really good mood.

Just that morning, the long awaited phone call from an elder at Fourth Presbyterian had come with an invitation to coffee.  His nomination to the session was imminent. In the meantime, his protégé, Tré, was developing a solid plan and soon the rebrand of the Lightweight Group would begin.  By this time next year, his picture would be showing up in newspapers.  By this time the following year, his name would be gracing one of those blue honorary street sign.

He was interrupted from happy imaginings of Bulstrode Boulevard when a most unwelcome visitor entered the L.G.E. offices: a skinny, rat-faced, greasy-haired, middle-aged man by the name of Karl Rafferty who wore hard living and resentment like a weathered old suit; uncomfortable and poorly fit, but all he had.  The second Bulstrode saw him, his carefully constructed persona started to pop and peel away like paint beneath turpentine. 

“Hiya, Bully,” the skinny man said, in a hard, flat Chicago accent.

“Rafferty,” Bulstrode whispered, suddenly afraid.

His past was roaring up all around him.


In 1965, the year where it all began, Bultrode worked as a bartender at The March and was not as you know him now.

Back then, Bully was the not only the kind of guy who went to see The Beatles at Sox Park; he was the kind of guy who saw something in that show that made him stop cutting his hair.  He was charming, bordering on rakish.  He smiled all the time.  He flirted.  He was the kind of man that other men liked and that women liked.  He was cool.  

He was a great bartender.

If this were one of his shifts, you’d find him grinning knowingly at someone from behind the bar.  Wearing a starched white shirt, with the sleeves rolled up, a skinny tie tucked into black pants, he mixed sidecars and old fashioneds, grabbing bottles confidently and pouring without looking.  He flirted with the girls and jollied up the guys.  He was quick with a light and a chuckle.  He grinned and flirted and mixed drinks and sang along to You Lost That Loving Feeling and did all he could to make people like him. 

He was nice enough to the down-on-his-heels barback named Karl Rafferty.  So long as Karl did the dishes and kept the beer stocked, Bully was friendly.

His regulars loved him.  “Hey, Lightweight,” they’d say.  “Pour us another one!”

They called him “Lightweight” because of a counterfeit he’d worked one night while in front of rather than behind the bar.  You see, Bully never drank to excess.  He never lost control.  But on the night of this counterfeit, he’d found himself in front of the bar rather than behind it, and The March regulars were determined to drink with him.  Everyone wanted to buy him something.  So Bully decided to fake inebriation as a defense against the drunken insistences of his sometime patrons.  After two beers, he affected a slight slur.  After three, he reeled a bit.  His regulars thought it was hilarious that this fellow who mixed drinks so expertly was so inexpert at handling them.  They found his low tolerance charming and ingratiating.  They loved him even more.  They loved calling him “Lightweight.”

The March, thanks in no small part to Bully’s ample bartending talents, was the most popular bar in the neighborhood.  And this neighborhood made up the lion’s share of a ward that a certain bookish native son with family money and good pedigree hoped to represent as alderman.

And thus it was that Judge Charles Ladislaw, Teddy’s uncle and Will’s grandfather, made the fateful decision to host a fundraiser at The March.  Well, rather, the decision was made for him.  Judge Ladislaw was running for alderman out of a sense of weary obligation, having fielded countless appeals from would be political players who had money and connections but lacked the sterling Ladislaw reputation and family name.  They planned to put him out in front.  They planned for him to be mayor.

The party was scheduled and various city bigwigs and monied interests were invited.  Judge Ladislaw kicked off his campaign at The March.  Everyone who mattered was there.

The Judge arrived with his wife, Ellinore, an hour or so before the party was due to begin.  He was quickly enveloped by advisors, eager to coach him through the list of the people whom he should be careful to engage and those he should avoid. Platforms and projects were delineated; talking points were honed.

That’s when Ellinore, bored, made her way to the bar.

Ellinore was a pretty woman, but fadingly so and prone to tempering her loneliness with a kind of calculated blowsiness.  She smiled a wry smile at Bully and asked him for a Gibson. As he mixed it, she pulled out her cigarette case and adjusted the strap of her dress as it slipped down over her shoulder.  Of course, her dress strap had slipped down over her shoulder.  It always did.  Bulstrode smiled warmly and allowed a heavier than normal pour of gin.  He liked the way her dress strap slipped down her arm.

“So,” he said, setting the drink in front of her and lighting her cigarette.  “What’s a nice girl like you doing mixed up with Chicago politics?”

Ellinore laughed and her husband’s people shot her a warning look.  They were worried about Ellinore and had entreated her husband to speak to her about her behavior at the party.  He was to urge her to keep to a two drink maximum.  But this was a distasteful a prospect for Judge Ladislaw.  He was content to leave Ellinore to her own devices while he was handled by the grasping crowd that he’d somehow let take over his life.

If he’d had his druthers, Ladislaw would have passed this time sitting quietly in his study reading Gibbon or Homer and sipping a brandy.  But somehow he’d gotten caught up in this and now it was something that would just have to be done.  Eventually the night would end and he could go home.

Ellinore was happy, though, to be out, passing the time with this handsome young man and his ridiculous haircut.

“Everything is politics,” she said.  “Surely you know that. Bartenders know everything.  Ipso facto, you know that everything is politics.  We’re all just part of the machine.”

 “Not everyone,” he said gently.  “Not everything.”

The March was hazy with calculation and machination, and it’s hard to know if Bully was being genuine.  But I think he probably was.  There was something about Ellinore that made him sad.  At that moment, when it seemed like the rest of the room was busy either ignoring or tolerating pretty, blowsy Ellinore, he might not have been looking at her as a mark.  At least initially, I think Ellinore engaged in Bully a kind of lingering capacity for kindness. 

Ellinore was so surprised by his gentle response that she was momentarily at a loss for words.  She looked at him over the rim of her glass and found him looking right back at her.

A young man interrupted their moment when he walked up behind her and planted a dry kiss on her cheek.  “I’m here, Aunt Ellinore,” said a very young Teddy.  “As requested.”

“Hello, Teddy,” she said.  “And it was your mother who ordered this command performance, not I.”

“Well, Mother thinks it’s important that I be involved in family business,” said Teddy.  “Since Grandfather died, I’m sort of the paterfamilias.”

“Yes,” said Ellinore.  “Sure.  Now just… have a drink or something.”

“I’d like a draft of beer, please,” said Teddy, without looking at Bulstrode.  He took a seat at the far end of the bar, pulled a book from his pocket, and opened it.  Bully grinned at Teddy’s poorly managed pomposity and drew the beer.  Ellinore smiled.

As the party went on, Ellinore did a modicum of wifely duty.  She smiled when introduced, hooked her arm through her husband’s affectionately, made plans to meet political wives for tea at The Drake, and kept her blowsiness to a minimum.  But she glanced at the bar every so often.  And when she did, and Bulstrode noticed, he smiled back at her, cheerfully conspiratorial.  Ellinore was delighted.

It didn’t take much past that for the affair to begin. 

A few nights later, Ellinore stopped in on her own and plans were shortly made for a liaison at Bulstrode’s tiny apartment.

The affair went on for years.  The longer it went on, the more besotted Ellinore became.  It was she who loaned Bulstrode the money to buy The March.  And The March continued to make money under his ownership.  Bulstrode moved from behind the bar and started spending more time in the office than the front of the room.  After a bit, he borrowed more money from Ellinore and combined that with his March profits and bought another restaurant. Ellinore used her husband’s political connections to grease the wheels for liquor licenses and zoning approvals.

And during those heady years of property accrual and infidelity, Judge Charles Ladislaw died suddenly of a heart attack.

And then Ellinore got sick.

And Bulstrode got a lot more restaurants.

And Karl Rafferty, who’d been there the whole time, went to jail.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Quick Story

Like a lot of you, I've been glued to social media watching the events transpire in Ferguson and it reminds me of something that happened 25 years ago.

I was 19 years old and it was the start of the sophomore year at Loyola.  There was a liquor store on Granville that would accept my incredibly lame fake ID.  It was nighttime, maybe 10:00 or so, and a girlfriend and I walked to the liquor store to buy a 12 pack of beer.  On the way out, a black guy in his 20s stopped me and asked me to help him do the clasp on his necklace.  I was a little squiffy, and happy to be grown up and living in my own apartment, and exactly in the mood to spread the good will.   I handed the 12 pack to my friend and did the clasp on his necklace.  While I was doing it he joked with me and his friend about how mad his girlfriend would be if he weren't wearing the necklace.  Apparently, if he weren't wearing it, his girlfriend would think he was cheating.  I struggled a bit with the clasp and wondered if his girlfriend were paranoid or if she just knew him really well.  It could have gone either way, really.

I got the clasp done.  He said "thanks."  And we parted ways.

After just a few steps, I heard a voice yelling, "Hey, Leroy!"  I ignored it since my name's not Leroy.  Another, "Hey, Leroy!  Stop!"  Then I heard the guy who I'd just helped with the clasp say, "My name's not Leroy."

When I looked around the guy was being cuffed on the hood of the police car.

Now, it could have been that the guy was guilty of something and the cop knew.  But, come on.  That guy was guilty of talking to a 19 year old white girl while being black.

I'm not proud of myself for walking away.  I should have had the guts to say something.  But I was 19 and I was, in fact, breaking the law with my illegally purchased 12 pack.  And I'm kind of a coward anyway.

This happened 25 years ago.  There are some kinds of racism that we don't see anymore.  I think of Forrest Whittaker's character in Fast Times or, I don't know, separate water fountains.  But even though we put a black guy in the white house,  this kind of random arrest is likely so common as to be banal for your average black male youth.

You're living in a state of evilly willful ignorance if you don't accept that "serve and protect" might feel a little ironic to a chunk of America. And I don't even get how so many white Americans seem bound and determined to blame black people for their own victimization.

I know that there are a lot of good cops out there; a lot of good people who do serve and protect. And I know that this is a hard job.  But the assumption of black male criminality runs rampant throughout American society and when it comes in tandem with the kind of authority the police have it becomes an excellent tool to delegitimize the citizenship of a chunk of Americans.  

I read this story about Ezell Ford, an unarmed 25 year old killed by the police Monday:

It was unknown if the "suspect" had any gang affiliations, police said in the news report.

We don't know that he had gang affiliations but he *could* have! It's important that we note that, right?

I guess that guy who was worried about his jealous girlfriend 25 years ago should feel lucky he only got arrested.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The March, the Story So Far

This is a weird way to put your novel out - sticking chapters in here and there into a personal blog. But, let me just be clear: I spent five years on this thing and I have got GOT to get it out of my face.  Right now it's like a 26 year old kid who's still living at home, sleeping until noon and texting me in the middle of a work day asking me to bring home Cheetos.  I love this kid, but I am sick to death of her.

So, I figured if I just put it out there, I would be done with it. This way I can continue telling myself that if only I'd figured out how to start the damn thing right or been a little more aggressive about trying to get it published, maybe I would.  But now it is Out In The World, paying its own rent, buying its own Cheetos.

But, I also get this that it might be hard to keep up with what's happening.  So every 10 chapters or so, I'll publish a "The Story So Far."  I'm 12 chapters behind.  Forgive me.  I am nothing if not less-than-diligent.

So, here we go:

Brooke Dotry is our main character.  She's a self-righteous and ineffective environmental warrior.  She's recently graduated from college and was, until recently, living with her sister, Celia, in a Wrigleyville flat.

They have a fairly sad backstory.  Their mother died before the girls started high school.  Their father collapsed into grief and then met another woman, married her and moved to the suburbs. He left Celia and Brooke living on their own in a Rogers Park apartment through high school. Thus, the girls are very attached to each other.

They live across the hall from a fellow named Gio who began this story with a mad crush on Brooke but who has, since then, entered into a relationship with Celia.  Gio and Celia are getting along gangbusters.

Gio has helped Brooke get a job at the bar where he works.  The bar is called The March (hence the name).  Once there, Brooke met a man named Teddy Causobon. Teddy is a fifty-something guy who's never held a job, instead spending all his days working a compendium of man's environmental neglect and abuse.  Teddy is horrible.

Brooke has managed to fall in love with Teddy and has since moved in with him.  Because she's naive and kind of dumb.  She's completely fallen for this dude and he's horrible.  Celia is really unhappy about it.  Actually, all our characters think it's pretty messed up.

The March is owned by a fellow named Bulstrode.  Bulstrode owns a whole slew of bars.  His son, Fred, is something of a dissolute - hitting the bars and living on credit cards because he's not ready to grow up and doesn't really know what he wants to be when he does.  His plan is to go to law school in order to appease his father.  He's also started doing a little light gambling since he's pretty sure his dad is gonna cut him off at any point.

Fred is in love with Mary, who is in law school because she wants to be.  Mary has big plans for her future.  As such, she's decided to spare no time to Fred unless he gets his shit together. Mary tends bar during the day at The March where her father, Caleb, works as the general manager.  Caleb's a stable guy and is something of a father-figure to his staff.

Bulstrode's daughter is named Rosie.  Rosie is super mega- hot and has big plans to be famous in some capacity.   She hasn't quite worked out how.  She's recently entered into a relationship with Tre Little, who is heading a project for Bulstrode to rebrand and cohere all his holdings.  Bulstrode is hoping to dust off some of the seediness of his past.  Tre entered the story with a laser-like focus on his work, but is starting to enjoy living the high life with Rosie more than may be financially advisable.  Rosie is my favorite character. I really like her.

In the last chapter I published, we meet Will.  Will is a Teddy's second cousin.  Teddy's mother and her sister owned the schmancy apartment that Teddy now owns (and where Brooke now lives).  The sister, Ellinore, had a husband who held one term as an alderman and a daughter named Althea.  Althea fled Chicago for reasons which have not yet been established and had Will.  Will's just come back to Chicago because he wants to break into politics. So far, he's kind of a jerky cipher but some shit's coming down the pipe with Will and Brooke.  It's pretty romantic.

And that's the story so far.  :)

Chapter 22, The March: Brooke Meets Will

Chapter 21

So, Lone Star, now you see that evil will always triumph because good is dumb.
-        Spaceballs

After a while of this, Caleb decided to give Rosie’s night shifts to Brooke and move Rosie to DJ on Friday and Saturday night.  He needed a waitress who’d show up on time and work until he decided she was through.  Rosie was still reliable enough on Friday and Saturday nights as, apparently, the fabulous people did not deign to nightclub amongst the working folk on weekend nights.  And Caleb had to admit she did a pretty great job as a weekend night DJ.  She knew how to keep the room at a hum without overwhelming it. She could banter the most recalcitrant group right into pleasant party people mode.  And she seemed to like it.  And Caleb liked for his staff to like what they were doing.

As for Brooke, she was glad to get those shifts.  She’d had to leave Teddy’s at 4:00 to make her cocktail hour shifts and Teddy was usually right in the middle of things then.  It was such a distraction for him when she packed up to leave!

Brooke moved into her late night shifts, and her routine with Teddy shifted into a more convenient pattern.  Awake at 9:30, they’d meet in the kitchen for coffee and toast.  Brooke did the dishes and swept up the kitchen while Teddy retired to his bathroom to prepare for the day (this is Teddy’s euphemism, not mine).  For the rest of the morning, they worked on compiling notes; with Teddy reading and adding to them, pontificating amply and portentously as to his discoveries. Brooke filed them away according to a system they’d developed.  At around 1:00, Brooke left to make sandwiches for lunch. 

In the afternoons, Teddy traveled to various libraries to further research man’s imminent and self-inflicted extinction, while Brooke managed the domestic side of things; shopping, cleaning, laundry, cooking, etc.  When Teddy returned at around 6:30, they had dinner and then left together for The March.  If it was a slow, Teddy might wait until Brooke was cut and would escort her home.  But, more often than not, he left around midnight while Brooke was still in the middle of her shift.  She usually made it home by 2:30 or 3:00, though.

On nights Brooke didn’t work, there was some deviation from routine.  They might sit together in the living room, reading various indictments of man’s criminal assault on his environment.  Sometimes they went out to eat.  Occasionally, they had sex.

Celia had relaxed her anti-Teddy position somewhat.  Gio had urged her to give Brooke a call, reminding her that family was family no matter how much you hated family’s boyfriend.  And he knew she was missing Brooke.  So Celia had taken to calling Brooke here and there, and even dropping in from time to time during Brooke’s domestic hours (always making sure to be gone before Teddy came home).

Celia was still unhappy with the relationship, but knew that Brooke would see it through to the end.  And everyone but Brooke knew that it would end.  They talked mostly about Celia’s life, since Brooke’s whole life was Teddy. So they chatted about Celia’s last year of school. Celia told funny stories about her life in retail. They talked about Gio.  Brooke was happy that Celia and Gio were together.  She’d only disliked Gio as he sought out a relationship with her.  He was fine for Celia (oh, Brooke…).

They chatted.  They had small talk.  Small talk, as you may know, requires great social adroitness and serves a vital social function: it carves out a place which later, when trust and comfort are gained or restored, can be filled with… I don’t know, let’s call it Big Talk.  Talk about important and personal things.  For Brooke and Celia, who don’t quite trust each other right now, small talk makes a warm, tidy space for Big Talk once they attain full restoration of their sisterly closeness.

At this juncture in their relationship, Celia and Brooke were getting along, lightly.

Brooke didn’t spend too much time, though, missing the Big Talk with Celia.  She was too busy as amanuensis and muse and maid and cook and lover. She was everything that Teddy needed. Teddy was engaged in a great work and Brooke was thrilled to be playing such a pivotal role.  She expected to feel completely satisfied any day now, just as soon as she grew into everything.


One chilly afternoon near the end of Chicago’s brief fall, Brooke returned from the grocery store to find Teddy at home, sitting stiffly in the living room, looking disapprovingly at a handsome, sullen young man, standing equally as stiffly by the fireplace.

“Hello,” said Brooke, setting her parcels on the floor.

“Hello, Brooke,” said Teddy.  “Allow me to introduce my second cousin, Will, who has just arrived from San Francisco.”

“Oh,” said Brooke, smiling and crossing the room to shake his hand.  “Hi!”

Will shook her hand, surprised at how young and pretty she was.  Well, he thought, there seems to be more going on here than intellectual romance. He sneered a little as he shook her hand.

“Welcome to Chicago,” Brooke said, as she sat down next to Teddy. “You came at the perfect time. It’ll be subarctic in a few weeks.”

“I’m sure I’ll be fine,” said Will, as cold as a Chicago February. 

“Will plans to go into politics,” said Teddy suddenly, derision dripping from his voice.  “Chicago is evidently the place for that.”

“Teddy thinks politics are beneath him,” said Will, matching Teddy’s derision.  “Apparently, though, they aren’t beneath me.  It’s in my blood.  It seems that I’m not too noble for early and often politicking.”

“I'm afraid I don't know what that is” said Brooke, a little uncomfortable.

“Vote early and often,” said Teddy.  “It’s an old cliché about the sleaziness of Chicago politics.  All politics are sleazy though, not just Chicago ones.  It’s beyond me how anyone could want to be part of it.”

Brooke was a little embarrassed at Teddy’s rudeness. “I’ve always wanted to understand politics better,” she said.  “But I just never got it.  I was always too involved in organizing at the grassroots to be involved in the establishment.  I’ve probably been missing something.”

Will narrowed his eyes at Brooke.  She seemed free of guile; she wasn’t shooting any smirking glances at Teddy.  But Will interpreted her statement the obvious way: as an oblique slam on his political aspirations.  She was with Teddy on purpose, after all.  There was no way she wasn’t an asshole.

They sat awkwardly for a few minutes until Brooke couldn’t take it anymore and stood up.  “It was nice to meet you, Will.  I’m going to put the groceries away and get something together for dinner.  Would you like to stay?”

“I’m sure Will has plans,” said Teddy.  “Right?”

Yeah,” said Will.  “Whatever.  Dinner with a friend, or something.   I’m leaving.  Always a pleasure, Teddy.”

Will shook Teddy’s hand curtly and left.

Brooke picked up the groceries and carried them to the kitchen.  “Well,” she said.  “He seems sweet.”

Teddy followed her, lighting a cigarette. 

“Will says he moved back because he wanted to exploit some of our family connections to break into politics,” said Teddy.  “But I think he’s just angling for the apartment.  He can’t have it, though.  It’s mine by right.”

“I thought it belonged to both your mother and aunt, who'd be Will's grandmother, right?” asked Brooke.

“It did,” said Teddy.  “But, when Aunt Ellinore died, she made no arrangements and Althea was nowhere to be found.  The estate went naturally to me.  And then, right before Althea died a few years later, she reached out to me and asked me to help Will.  I paid for his schooling and sent him money every month.  But he’s 25 now and an adult but I’m still expected to pay for him to live here.  It’s intolerable.” 

“Maybe he could just take one of the other bedrooms,” said Brooke, pulling out some pasta to boil for supper. “I mean, he is family, after all.”

“God, no,” said Teddy, shuddering.  “We do not get along.  His whole side of the family is dissolute and lazy.  My mother kept her finances healthy enough for me to live comfortably.  But my aunt lost all her money in some scheme or another and my cousin lived like a hippie until she died.  Now here pops up Will, who’s graduated from college, paid for on my dime, with no clear plan in place, expecting me just to write him a check.”

Brooke sliced chicken and thought that Teddy was being a little harsh. But, rather than say that aloud she asked about Teddy’s uncle the alderman.  “There is some history in politics, huh?” she said.

“Well, he died years ago,” said Teddy.  “And it’s not as though he were a successful politician.  He only served one term as alderman.”

“Maybe Will has better political skills,” said Brooke, smiling.  “Maybe he’ll be mayor,”

“Will is a wandering, drifting, lazy man,” said Teddy.  “And I expect him to be asking me for money until the day I die.  But such is the burden of family.”

“Well,” said Brooke.  “You never know what a person will turn out to be.  I thought I’d do chicken over pasta tonight.  How’s that sound?

“Oh, I’m sure whatever you make will be fine,” said Teddy, picking up a book he’d left on the table earlier.

Brooke carried on cooking and feeling sorry for Will. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Chapter 21, The March: Rosie and Tre Start Hitting the Clubs

Chapter 20

Stay gold, Ponyboy
-        The Outsiders

When Tré came home, he found Rosie right where he’d left her in bed, but showered, legs shaved, hair fixed.  Tré rubbed his hands together and dove right in.

An hour or so later, Rosie said, “Do you want to go out tonight?”

“What, like dinner?” asked Tré, dozing a little.

“No,” said Rosie. “I don't eat.  My friend Hector is working the door at Lobo and says he’ll get us in past the line.”

“Can we get dinner first,” said Tré.  “Because I do eat and I’m starving.”

“Sure,” said Rosie.  “No one goes to Lobo before 11:00 anyway.  Let’s go to Blue Moon and eat first.”

“11:00?” said Tré.  “All right but not too late, OK?  I have to work in the morning.”

“Oh, you’ll sleep when you’re dead,” said Rosie. “Come on and take a shower with me.  I brought some decent shampoo over.”

They took a nice long shower and then got dressed.  Rosie wore a black slip, with motorcycle boots and red, red lipstick.  Tré wore Girbauds and his long jacket. They looked pretty great heading out the door.

They got to the club a little after 11:00.  The line-up to get in was about 20 people deep.  Rosie and Tré headed straight to the front, where Rosie kissed Hector on the lips, introduced Tré to Hector and rolled her eyes a little through their manly hand shake.

And then Rosie and Tré waltzed right into the club.

Neither Rosie nor Tré were lacking in confidence.  In fact, they both had pretty healthy opinions of themselves and each other.  They were young, good looking, cool and smart. They'd also just spent the last few days having spectacular sex, which tends to ratchet self-esteem up to eleven.   When they showed up at Lobo, a prevailing sense of their own special-ness tickled around their brains, not exactly landing in explicit thought, but lingering around their personal periphery.  They were, when they got to Lobo that night, pretty pleased with the people they were.

But when they glided past those other 20 saps and felt their jealous gazes, they looked at each other with the dawning realization that they were the people everyone else wants to be.  It was intoxicating and empowering.  It was the cherry on top of their really excellent week.

Tré put his arm around Rosie and they grinned at each other as they sauntered in.

Inside, Lobo was all pulsing music and flashing lights and really good looking people, whom Rosie and Tré still managed to easily outshine.  Thanks to Hector, they got a really good table, along with a table visit from the manager.  When they got up to dance, the DJ gave them a shout out.  They had a blast.  They stayed until 4:00 am.

The only downside of the night was when the check came.  The bill totaled up to about a quarter of Tré’s monthly rent.  Nightclubbing has never been a thrifty pursuit.  Tré didn’t have the cash to cover it, so he put it all on his American Express.

He bounced back quickly from the shock of the bill, though, when they got in the cab and Rosie climbed up on his lap, smiling, and handing him her panties.

Tré’s alarm went off about two hours later.  He dragged himself out of bed and into a shower.  He was exhausted, but energized by the night he’d had and the person he was with Rosie.  He was still grinning when he walked into the office.

They shortly established a nightclubbing routine.  Tré worked until 6:00, when he went home and took a 4-5 hour nap while Rosie waitressed at The March. At 11:00 or 12:00, he came into The March, had a Heineken and waited for Rosie.  When she saw, Tré, she handed her cash envelope to Caleb and then went to the bathroom to reapply her makeup and fix her hair.  When she came out of the bathroom, they left The March and headed to the clubs: Lobo, Smart Bar, Berlin, Neo.  Their good looks and style, their compelling inter-racialness, their growing reputations moved them to the front of every line at every club.  Before long, they were stars of the scene, minor luminaries of the Chicago nightlife.  Every night they sat at the best table with cocktails at the ready when they arrived.

They partied and danced at the clubs with a widening circle of admirers and hangers on.  They charmed and amused until it was time to head to whatever after hours was hosting that night.  Then Tré paid the bill.  Tré liked to pay the bill.  At the after hours, their circle narrowed to only the hippest among them.  At around 6:00 in the morning, they headed back to Tré’s, where they made sleepy love.  And then Rosie fell asleep.

And Tré went back to work.

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