Sunday, August 10, 2014

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.