You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.
- Christmas Story
Brooke got to The March a little before her 4:30 shift started and greeted Gio, who was standing at the door acting weird. She decided to ignore his weirdness and strolled straight into the office. She tucked her bike seat away, grabbed an apron and tied it around her waist as she walked up to the wait stand. She was in a great mood. Teddy had invited her back the next day.
At the bar, Mary was leaning back, chatting with Farebrother and Fred, who was still pouring over the sports page.
“Brooke,” said Mary, handing her a bank. Did I hear that you asked about recycling here?”
Brooke smiled and nodded. “Caleb said we could do it if I took charge. I called the alderman and he said he could get me the containers, but I’d have to get them to the redemption center on my own. I don’t know how to do that. It’s ridiculous how difficult this is. We should all be recycling by now as a matter of course!”
‘You know,” said Mary. “Most of the ignorant motherfuckers who come in here have no idea that they bear any responsibility for the air we breathe. Maybe a blue garbage can or two will at least make them feel guilty. Fred, let’s help Brooke out. Can you find a van or something to carry recycled bottles to the redemption center?”
“Yeah,” said Fred, always happy to do a favor for Mary. “I’m sure I can scrounge something up.”
“Really?” said Brooke. “That’s amazing!”
“Yep,” said Mary. “The March Tavern goes treehugger. I love it.”
The Marshall Field floor managers wandered in and sat at their normal table. Brooke headed over to wait on them. She was friendly in her greeting. Why not? The day kept getting better! A recycling program at The March was a quantifiable, authentic contribution to the environmental movement. At long last she was doing something. She was very excited to tell Teddy.
She passed the rest of her shift uneventfully. As did Gio. No minors tried to get past him. No one touched her butt. At the shift change, she tipped out $4 to Gio and then asked if he wanted to have a drink before going home. Gio demurred citing homework and wandered home thinking less about the beer Brooke had uncharacteristically suggested and more about Celia.
Fred, typically gallant, decided to rescue Brooke who had been set to sea by Gio. He invited her to join him at the bar.
Business was brisk that night. The floor was full and Rosie was working the floor like a sassy tornado. Farebrother was joined at the bar by a host of other regulars and Mary, who had been relieved by Caleb and was happy to join the regular crew to drink and argue about sports. Caleb mixed cocktails and chatted with regulars. It was pleasant for one and all.
At around 9:00, Teddy came in. It was late for him, but he felt that he hadn’t gotten his usual work done during the day due to Brooke’s visit. So, he’d stayed at home compiling scientific evidence of various 19th century pollutants (you know, because we’ve always been assholes like this) before heading in for his evening beers and note review. Or so he’d have you think. Teddy was no stranger to the circadian rhythms of The March and he’d have known that Brooke was recently off duty. I’ll leave it to you to decide if he wanted her to join him at the bar or if he was hoping to miss her. I’m not sure. Teddy probably wasn’t either.
When he arrived at his usual stool, he sat down, placed a twenty on the bar, set his cigarettes and lighter next to it, and settled in. Looking around, he saw Brooke sitting at the bar with Fred and Farebrother. He frowned.
Brooke hadn’t noticed Teddy come in. Both Fred and Farebrother were encouraging her ideas to green up The March and this, plus a few beers, had left her feeling a little loose and enthusiastic. She sparkled with their attention.
Teddy watched her laughing and eagerly scribbling on a piece of paper. It probably looked to Teddy (as it might have to you) like she was flirting. Fred and Brooke were both, after all, good looking people of roughly the same age. But Brooke wasn’t flirting. Shoot, even if Brooke knew how to flirt, she was completely smitten with Teddy. And Fred’s only goal was for Mary to notice his nascent admirable interest in a recycling program.
Teddy was so sourly engrossed in observing the threesome that when Caleb approached him with his beer, he didn’t hear his friendly greeting, didn’t notice Caleb making change for the twenty, was barely aware of lifting the beer mug. He drank, broodingly.
At around 9:30, Tré walked into The March and looked around. “Tré!” said Fred when he spied him. “Come, join us. I have an idea to pitch to you.”
Tré could have believably claimed that he was there to wet his whistle after a long day of work in the Lightweight Group’s office. There was a good case to be made that he was there as part of his tour of stores, in search of “organic cohesion.” But, let’s be honest (even if Tré won’t): the beautiful, blonde waitress who was smiling at him from the wait station factored prominently in his decision of where he'd grab a drink after work.
Tré took the stool closest to the wait station and brushed Rosie’s arm as he sat down. Fred introduced him to Brooke (much to Rosie’s annoyance). Fred asked about Tré’s plans to cohere the establishments and then suggested that he think about Brooke’s green initiatives as part of the rebrand.
“Interesting,” said Tré, noncommittal at first, but warming as he thought about it. Maybe this Brooke girl was onto something. She was a nice looking girl, too. A little intense, maybe.
Rosie tied of waiting for attention, so she tapped Tré on the shoulder and commenced flirting and being flirted with. Brooke kept talking to Fred, Mary, and Farebrother about how they could manage the recycling program. Other regulars wandered in and joined them. Caleb kept everyone’s glasses filled. It was a cheerful little corner that evening.
Teddy left after just three beers (far fewer than was his wont) and made sure that Brooke saw him leave. He ignored her when she called out a greeting and made sure she was upset before exiting.
Brooke left shortly after him, all her sparkle gone.