Nobody puts baby in the corner
- Dirty Dancing
As Brooke listened raptly to Teddy run down the various scenarios for earth’s inevitable demise and the cool regulars chewed over the future of Chicago sports, a table of lusty off-duty salesmen from the local Marshall Fields discussed girls. Two in particular.
“I thought that new waitress was pretty hot,” said Hector (menswear). “I love that long hair. And she had a nice ass.”
“Yeah, she was all right,” noted Ted (women’s shoes). “Maybe a little cold, though. Didn’t smile. But, yeah, nice ass.”
“Well,” began Jimmy (housewares) authoritatively. “She looked all right, good body, nice hair. But she didn’t have the personality, man. Not my type on all. Rosie, on the other hand. I would totally get on that. I would be on that like white on rice.”
This assessment was met with robust, manly agreement.
Rosie, deemed so exceedingly tapworthy by menswear, women’s shoes and housewares, stood in the wait station, resolutely ignoring their empty pitcher, studying her nails in between disgusted glances at Brooke and Teddy.
Rosie was spectacularly blonde. She wore Doc Marten boots that went up to her knees and a short pleated skirt. Her blouse was tied up beneath a red bra that peeked up just enough to draw your eyes to her cleavage (where they’d probably be drawn anyway). She wore thick black eyeliner and red, red, red lipstick.
To be fair to the retail wage slaves at table four, she was really hot.
Caleb walked over to the wait station to remind Rosie that her one table was on the floor, not in the wait station, and that they had an empty pitcher. Perhaps a visit was in order.
“Whatever, Cal,” she said. “Check out the new girl. What is up with that? Is she blind? Stupid? Unable to identify really really gross people?”
“Rosie,” said Caleb, wearily. “They’re into the same thing. They’re just talking about pollution or the apocalypse or something. Go get those guys’ pitcher.”
“Yeah, yeah, in a minute,” she said. “I’ll get there. Hey, if you cut me at midnight, can I DJ until close?”
“Yes,” said Caleb. “You can DJ if you promise that you won’t go bananas with the volume, don’t play anything weird and stop when I tell you to.”
Rosie was an exasperating employee. She was often late and always heavy on the attitude. She refused to wait on tables that didn’t tip well. She was rude to the regulars. She was constantly angling for shifts in the DJ booth. But when the room was full and the atmosphere was crackling, no one worked the room like Rosie. She could keep ten orders in her head, get them called, dressed and out in no time flat. She navigated a packed room with a full tray with flair and grace. She could charm the irritation right out of a customer who’d been waiting 10 minutes for a drink. And she never got involved in tragic love affairs with doormen.
Her shortfalls and talents weighted pretty evenly. Still, Caleb thought about firing her from time to time. He probably would have if she weren’t the boss’s daughter.
Rosie’s father was named James Bulstrode and he was the owner of The March as well as a host of other bars and restaurants in the Chicagoland area. James Bulstrode was only ever called Bulstrode or Bully or Mr. Bulstrode. In fact, it was so rarely used, I’ve forgotten his first name and am guessing at James. It may have been John. Or Jacob. Regardless, this may be the last time you’ll hear of his first name, but hardly the last time you’ll hear of him. He’s a very important character in this narrative!
Long, long ago, Bulstrode had been a bartender at The March. But through some mysterious circumstance (which I’ll address in some detail later… it’s very juicy !) he came up with enough scratch to by the place outright. He ran The March with some moderate success for a few years until, via yet more mysterious circumstances (which are even juicier!), he made enough money to start buying up other bars, forming a corporation called The Lightweight Group. At the time of our story, The Lightweight Group was comprised of about 35 bars and restaurants all over Chicago.
For a long time, The March had functioned as the flagship of the Lightweight Group, but around 1980 or so, Caleb came along. By dint of his considerable expertise and flair for the non-dramatic, Caleb managed to ease The March into independence. While Bulstrode kept an eye on (and a finger in) just about every bar and restaurant he owned, The March managed to float quietly along on its own, profitable in a non-volatile, easy-going way. It was a perfect place for Bulstrode to secret away his wild daughter.
Caleb kept Rosie on despite her failings as a server because firing her would cause Bulstrode to cast his narrow, critical eye on The March. And Bulstrode was no dummy. He knew that corporate attention was a very effective punishment for Caleb’s disloyalty. Rosie’s arrogance and self-interest may have irritated Caleb, but they were far less irritating than her father’s attention.
Rosie stepped off the wait station already planning her set list. The songs she planned on playing were not as cool as she’d have liked, but she knew how to play to a room. She was cutting her teeth DJ-ing at The March. Once she got as good as she knew she could be, she’d make her move to Smart Bar or Berlin or some other cool club in Chicago. Once there, she’d move to New York or LA where she was sure to become a star.
What “star” meant was vague for Rosie. If only she’d been born 10 or 15 years later! She was a natural for reality TV. She’d have made a hell of a Big Brother competitor or roommate on The Real World. Shit, Rosie would have rocked her own Bravo show straight out of the gate. But, alas, in those days, fame was harder to come by. Still, she imaged herself in a variety of roles: pop star, TV star, movie star, musician, celebrity wife or serial celebrity girlfriend. The persona Rosie was planning on for her big breakthrough was precise, fully architected and robust. She would be cool. She would always have the right clothes, the right makeup, the right guy. She’d be killer at cocktail parties, the suicide blonde at the clubs. Every girl would want to be her, and every boy would want to fuck her. She was primed for the big time, and the boys at table four knew it.
At around 10:00, Rosie’s brother, Fred, who was not interested in the big time, strolled in. He paused at the front of the room and looked around. His eyes lighted on Mary talking to Farebrother and a smile broke across his face. He strolled happily up to the bar for some family style chitchat with Rosie, since the wait station provided a good view of Mary and he’d be able to plan a strategic approach. First, though, he noticed Brooke, who was saying to Teddy –
“Well, um, I had this idea about a service that would pick up recyclables and take them to the redemption center. I think if someone would pick the recyclables up, people would be more likely to recycle, you know?”
“Yes,” said Teddy. “I appreciate your optimism and energy. But, you understand, recycling will not resolve the problem. The American people are entrenched in narcissism and ignorance and, unfortunately, they are poisoning the rest of the world into the same arrogant somnombulance.”
“God,” said Fred to Rosie, “He’s a barrel of laughs, isn’t he?”
“I know!” said Rosie. “And I think she likes him. How weird is that?”
“Yeah, weird, whatever,” said Fred, distracted by Mary walking past, “You’re not leaving already, are you, Mary?”
“Yeah,” said Mary. “Early fucking day tomorrow! I wasted my study hours tonight boozing with Farebrother, so I’ll have to make some time up tomorrow. See ya!”
Fred’s face fell as she left.
“Seriously, Fred,” said Rosie. “What is the big deal? She’s blah. And kind of fat.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake, Rosie,” said Fred. “You think any girl who weighs more than you is fat. And you’re a freak. And you never eat. Mary is amazing.”
“Freak” may have been harsh, but Rosie didn’t eat much and she did set the fat bar unreasonably high. Mary had a lovely figure.
Fred wandered over to the corner and sat down next to Farebrother. He sighed deeply and ordered a beer.
“Pining, huh?” said Farebrother, kindly. “Missed your Mary, didn’t you?”
“You should talk to her for me,” said Fred, eager and pitiful. “Tell her how much I like her and that she should go out with me.”
Fred had never noticed if John Farebrother shot a longing glance or two Mary’s way himself. Fred was not prone to noticing the longing glances of others. There was no space in his reality to notice another’s unrequited feelings.
And John Farebrother was too old for Mary anyway.