Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The March, Chapter 37: A Revolting Task

Chapter 36

I love it when a plan comes together
-        The A-Team

By the time he woke up the next morning, the school idea had concreted and he was ready to move.  He’d already been accepted at the University of Chicago.  So, he got on the phone with the Registrar’s office and begged and cajoled and found that, yes, they would let him come in beginning in the spring semester.

Now, all that remained was a check for tuition.

And so, on a freezing December morning, Will found himself knocking on the door of his loathsome cousin’s apartment, faced with the revolting task of asking him to pay for his schooling.  Will suspected that Teddy loved to give him money, since it gave him a chance to put on his favorite performance: Decency vs. Profligacy, the Weary Patriarch Provides for his Wastrel Kin.  But Teddy wasn’t there.  Instead, it was Brooke who came to the door.  She looked tired and wan, and a little depressed.

“Hi, Brooke,” said Will, as he stood awkwardly in the foyer, crumbling his winter hat in his hands.  “You look tired.”

“Oh, I started working the late night shift at The March,” she said.  “And I guess I’m not used to it.  I just don’t feel right.  My body clock is all messed up.”

“Well, give it time,” said Will.  “I bet before you know it your circadian rhythms will be set to vampire just like the rest of those bar people.”

“Feels more like zombie, now,” said Brooke.

Will smiled.  “Well, I just came to talk to Teddy.  I need to ask him something.  Is he around?”

“No,” said Brooke.  “He’s off researching at the Newberry now.”

“Jesus,” said Will, putting his bat back on.  “I can’t believe there’s a book on the subject left that he hasn’t read.  Tell him I stopped by, would you?”

“Oh, come in and have some coffee,” said Brooke.   “He’ll probably be back soon.”

Off came the hat again and Will followed her into the kitchen.

“So,” he said settling himself at the kitchen table.  “I’m planning to go back to school.”

Brooke felt that education was an unassailable good.  Education, after all, was the main reason she was living here with Teddy.  Or the second main reason.  It was a reason, anyway.  And a good one, goddammit.

“That’s great, Will,” she said.  “Where are you going? What will you study?”

“Poli sci,” he said.  “I applied to the program at University of Chicago when I graduated and got in.  But I decided against going. Now that I’m here, though, it feels like the right thing to do.  Politics is what I want to do, and this feels like a way to get started.  I thought when I came out here that the family connections we had would open some doors.  But I was wrong about that.”

“I bet Teddy could help,” said Brooke.  “I mean, not that going to school is a bad idea or anything.  But he’s older and probably closer to those times than you.”

“Nah,” said Will.  “Teddy was never part of that world.  He’s always thought of politics as beneath him.  And he definitely didn’t think much of my mother or grandmother.”

“Your grandmother and Teddy’s mothers were pretty different, huh?” said Brooke.  She was curious about Teddy’s family.  He only ever talked about them in snippets.

“Well, I only met my grandmother once,” said Will.  My mother was sort of perpetually mad at her.  I guess Granny was this society wife, always throwing cocktail parties and air kissing.  Mom rebelled with her hippie lifestyle.  She lived in communes and didn’t shave her legs.”

“Could have been worse,” said Brooke.  “She could have named you Moonbeam or something.”

“That’s true,” said Will.  “I miss her though.”

“Me too,” said Brooke. “I miss my Mom too.”

They at quietly for few minutes, sipping their coffee.  Brooke broke the silence with “My mother taught me to ride a bike.  When I was little, she used to let me sit on the seat of her bike while I rode around.  I loved it.”

“Is that why you ride one now,” asked Will.

“I guess so,” said Brooke. “My mother’s legacy”

“My mother and I came to Chicago once,” said Will.  “We came to visit Granny. I was a little kid maybe 7 or 8.  She flew us in and tried to convince my mother to come home. “ Will paused.  “I thought she was nice.  She let me go through her purse and keep all the change I could find.  And when she put me to bed, she read me as many books as I wanted.  But when I woke up the next day, my mother said it was time to leave.”

“Is Teddy like them at all,” asked Brooke.

“Oh, god no,” said Will.  “My mother said he was a little like my grandfather, but I never met him.  I guess he was one of those learned types, liked being alone and reading weighty tomes.  I’m not sure how he ended up in politics.  I guess he just kind of migrated from lawyer to judge and then the party approached him and asked him to run.  So he did.  I don’t think he was a very good alderman.”

“Can you imagine Teddy as an alderman?” asked Brooke, with a smile.  “Can you see him at a fundraiser, gladhanding the money people and kissing babies?”

They both laughed at the thought.  We can laugh wryly too, since we’ve actually seen Teddy at a political fundraiser, sipping cheap draft beer and reading about environmental devastation.  Teddy is the same man in both times.

“So, school,” said Brooke.  “I thought about going back too.”

“Why didn’t you,” said Will.

“Well, I’m doing this,” said Brooke.  “I’m getting a pretty great education here.”

“You are,” asked Will dubiously.

Brooke nodded emphatically.  “I am,” she said.  “I really am.  Teddy knows so much and even if he’s a little bleak about the future, I think he’s going to change the world and I’m going to help him.”

“I really don’t think that’s what he wants to do,” said Will.  “But I guess it’s possible.  You probably know him better than me anyway.   I’m starting to think I don’t know much of anything.”

“Well, go to school and learn more,” said Brooke. “I think it’s great.”

Brooke really was hoping for Will. She tended to want good things for other people.  And Will realized this.  He realized that Brooke wants good things for other people and is not petty and resentful. And she is smart and funny.  And she is beautiful.  But what he mostly realized was that he wanted to be with her and she was with his horrible uncle.

“You know,” he said, pushing away from the table. “Don’t tell Teddy I stopped by.  I don’t need to ask him for anything.”

And then he fled.  He ran out of that apartment like he was being chased.  Taking money from Teddy would be intolerable.

Teddy came home about an hour later and sat down in the kitchen, waiting for Brooke to bring him some lunch. He told her about what he’d done that morning and Brooke was careful to ask lots of questions.  She was conciliatory, interested and approachable.  She made him his favorite lunch.

“Will came by,” she said, carefully nonchalant as she spread mayonnaise on his bread.

“He did,” asked Teddy.  “What did he want?”

“He came to see you,” she said.  “He’s going back to school and wanted to tell you.”

“Humph,” said Teddy. “More likely he wanted to ask me for tuition money.”

“Well, even so,” said Brooke.  “Going back to school will be great for him. Maybe you should help him with tuition.”

“Why are you so interested in his future,” said Teddy.

“Oh, I don’t know, Teddy,” said Brooke, wearily.  “He’s family.  He’s a nice guy. He’s trying to do something instead of just talking about it.”

“Fine,” said Teddy, shortly. “ Maybe I will help him.”

Teddy called Will and arranged to meet him at The March, later that night.  He told Will that he’d happily finance his way through any graduate school he wanted to attend, provided that school wasn’t in Chicago. 

But Will didn’t want to leave.  And the more eager Teddy was for him to go, the more bound he grew to stay.  He told Teddy to fuck off and that he’d take out student loans and stay right where he was.  And then he ordered another beer.

Teddy’s face turned red.  He got up and moved several barstools down, opened a notebook and ignored Will who was asking Caleb for a job working door at The March.  Caleb, with no real urge to keep Teddy happy and down a doorman anyway, agreed.

Thing were going poorly for Teddy.

But, suddenly, a few decisions made, things were looking up for Will.