Monday, May 19, 2014

The March, Chapter One: Meet Brooke Dotry

“Ow.  Quit it”
-Bart Simpson

Brooke Dotry, tired from an afternoon spent downtown collecting signatures for Green Peace, entered the living room of the Wrigleyville apartment she shared with her sister Celia. Celia was sitting on the floor painting her toenails, while their neighbor, Gio, lounged behind her on the couch.  They were watching cartoons and laughing.  Something called The Animaniacs.  Brooke rolled her eyes. 


She rolled her eyes again, this time accompanying it with a loud sigh.

“Brooke,” said Celia.  “Why don’t you just watch it with us instead of being such an asshole about it.  It’s funny.  God.”

“I might be an asshole,” said Brooke.  “But at least I’m a grown-up asshole.”

Celia flipped her the bird with the hand she held the polish wand in.

Gio, in the meantime, had leapt guiltily off the couch and now stood awkwardly, wishing he’d just sat up straighter.  He ran his hands through his hair and grinned at Brooke, which irritated her.  It bugged her that Celia’s little meathead boyfriend was always hanging around.  And it bugged her that Celia kept insisting that Gio had his meathead crush on Brooke.  As though Brooke would ever be interested in a meathead like Gio.

Poor Gio didn’t deserve this malignant opinion.  Sure, he was good looking in a perpetually tan, slicked-back hair, leaning towards beefy way that is the common cultural representation of the American meathead.  He also had a very unfortunate predilection for Zubazz pants.  But he was a bright guy and a nice guy.  He worked hard for not much money at a local tavern while pursuing an MBA at DePaul. And he was one smitten kitten when it came to Brooke.

Gio had crushed on Brooke ever since the day the sisters had moved in across the hall.  He’d helped them with their boxes, instantly enamored by the pretty girl with her message tees and extravagant long, dark hair.  Later, they shared a pizza while Brooke held forth about saving the whales and the evil that Bush (the first one) was doing in Central America.  She was smart and passionate… and, God, that hair!  He’d been picturing it splayed carelessly post-coital across his chest since the day he met her.

Celia found the whole thing both be- and a-musing.

She slapped him on the leg and said, “Gio, tell Brooke what you told me.”

“Oh, yeah,” said Gio.  “My boss is desperate for waitresses.  I told him about you and he said to come on in.  I bet he’ll hire you on the spot.  You can wait tables a few days a week to make some money and spend the rest of your time on your environment stuff.”

“Fantastic,” said Brooke dryly.  “I can wipe spills up off the table with my college diploma.  Dad will be so proud.”

“I doubt will Dad will notice,” said Celia. “And I doubt even more that he’ll mind when you don’t ask him for rent money.”

“Jesus,” said Brooke.  “There’s a huge hole in the ozone layer and you’re worried about rent.  Who’s paying rent for the planet, Celia?  Huh?”

Brooke’s commitment to the environment was noble and all-consuming. It was also, to be fair, pretty new.  Through her first three and a half years at Loyola. Brooke had devoted herself whole-heartedly to a series of causes: anti-Apartheid, PETA, ACT UP.  She’d written letters to Lech Walesa and Gloria Steinem.  She’d bounced from worthy cause to worthier cause with boundless energy and single-minded determination.  But nothing stuck until the second semester of her senior year when she’d taken a class on environmental ethics for elective credit.  Fifteen minutes into the first lecture of the first class, she found her world both endangered and rocked.
Thus was the great passion of her life (so far) born.

She worked tirelessly at all the action items suggested by the professor, putting so much effort into Chicago’s big 20th anniversary Earth Day Event that she barely passed her other classes.  But she pulled it off in the end and graduated on time ready to take our poor poisoned planet by storm.  Brooke was convinced that all the environmental movement lacked was talent, doggedness and an extreme level of commitment.

She and her extreme level of commitment had been active her first post-university summer, waving placards at sparsely populated rallies, petitioning for Greenpeace, writing passionate letters to the editor.  By August, Brooke had grown used to feeling like a Cassandra and secretly (not so secretly) enjoyed being so much more prescient and virtuous than her fellow man.

Of course, all the prescience and virtue in the world won’t pay the rent.  And lately things had gotten a little tight. 

Back in May, at her graduation dinner, her father had given her a check for $1,000 and some jewelry that belonged to her late mother. He then, as was his wont, left quickly, eager to return to his new life, his new wife, his new children.  Brooke didn’t mind.  She was used to it.  And the $1,000 would certainly be adequate to finance her until something better came along.

But nothing better had come along.

And she was broke.

Click here for Chapter Two.