Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The March, Chapter 49: Slut

Chapter 48

Penny Pingleton - you are absolutely, positively permanently punished

- Hairspray

Teddy awoke equal parts relieved and bereft.  He’d lost his helpmeet and research assistant, his maid and his cook. But the companion he’d really wanted, the one who adored and revered him, left a long time ago, if she’d ever really been there at all.

He bundled up the rest of her things and took them to The March early in the morning when he was pretty sure she wouldn’t be there.  He set them at the bar and handed a note to Mary.

Darling Brooke (it read)

I understand why you’ve left me.  I am too old and too set in my ways for a young woman like you.  Youth is delightful but capricious.  Perhaps if we’d met later in life, when you were a bit older, we’d have managed to make a life together.  Alas, you are too young and I am too old.  I have enjoyed our time together though.  I will remember you fondly and wish you nothing but happiness in your future.  I only ask that you remember the promise you made on our last night and stay true to my one small request.

Yours, Teddy

Then Teddy left The March.  It would be his last visit there.  Teddy didn’t really regret its loss, even though it had been his place for so many years.  A bar was just a bar and The March had gotten a little trendy for him, anyway.  He’d stick with Scottie’s around the corner.  He liked his tiny table just off in the corner by the cigarette machine.  It had become accepted as his table and was always empty and waiting for him when he arrived.  The beer tasted just the same there as it had at The March.

But he was not as sanguine about everything as he let on.  He felt cheated.  He felt like Brooke had won.  And he felt that  Brooke didn’t deserve to win.

When he got to Scottie’s that evening, he sat at his little table, papers strewn inelegantly about, ashtray teeming, shirt mis-buttoned, unable to concentrate on what he was reading.  He felt revolted and disturbed and it had nothing to do with his research that day.  He’d long been inured to the revulsion caused by man’s abuse of the planet.

He sat at his table, drawing cigarette smoke in, his mood emanating poisonously.

Scottie’s assistant manager and nighttime bartender, Gracie, walked past him on the way to the bar.  Consummate professional that she was, she greeted Teddy on her way past. “Hi, Teddy,” she said.  

“Here again?  I guess you’ve given up The March all together and gotten some taste.”

She expected a grunt, a curt request for another beer and for Teddy to carry on with whatever endless, boring task he had at hand.  But she was surprised when he stopped reading and looked at her.  He seemed to be pondering something, trying to make some decision.  And then he started talking.

“As you may be aware,” he said.  “I was involved romantically with Brooke Dotry, who works at The March.  That relationship has ended, making my presence there unwanted.”

“OK,” said Gracie, nonplussed.  “Sorry to hear that, I guess.”

“Love affairs will end,” said Teddy.  “Such is the sad fact of them.  And Brooke has promised that she will not engage in a romantic relationship with my cousin, Will, whom you may also know works there. I believe it was as he interjected himself into her life that our relationship ended.  That promise made, I’ve decided not to burden her with my presence at her place of business.”

“Wow,” said Gracie.  “I guess that seems fair enough.  Can I get you a beer?”

“Please,” said Teddy, returning satisfied to his work.

Of course, a bar is not just a bar.  All bars have their own personality and flair (or lack thereof).  As such, Scottie’s and The March, sibling members of the L.G.E. family, practiced a fairly intense sibling rivalry.  They were similar in tone, had the same prices and roughly similar regular clientele.  But Scottie’s had long held itself as the alpha sibling.  The Marcia to The March’s Jan.  It was above ground and had windows that opened to the out-of-doors.  So Scottie’s was fresh and airy while The March was dank, sequestered and odoriferous.  But then Tré and Bulstrode had decided on The March as their rebrand flagship. Now Scottie’s looked a little run-down and shabby next to the pretty new March.

Scottie’s staff and patrons were resentful of this and prone to grumbling about Tré and Bulstrode.  The fact that The March’s least appealing regular had migrated to them did little to mitigate their disgust.

At around 3:00 or so that morning, the crowd at Scottie’s had emptied a bit.  A few regulars were scattered about the bar, but the staff was mostly killing time until last call.  Gracie, a waitress, the doorman and one of the late night regulars were lingering around the wait station, chatting.

“So, you know that guy, Teddy,” said Gracie.

“Who?” asked Regular.

“He comes in before you,” said Gracie. “The old dude who sits at the cigarette table and drinks draft beers.”

“That guy is gross and he tips for shit,” said Waitress.

“Did you know he was dating Brooke, that bartender over at The March,” said Gracie.

“She lived with him,” said Doorman.  “I’ve seen them walking home together. I never got it.  She’s pretty hot.”

“I know that girl,” said Waitress, who may have had a bit of a crush on Doorman.  “She’s smug and weird.  Plus, if she dated that dude, there must be something else wrong with her.”

“Well,” said Gracie.  “Apparently there was something going on with his nephew, Will, who also works at The March.”

“The doorman” said Waitress.  “That guy is cute.  He could do better than Brooke.”

“So, wait,” said Regular.  “She’s living with the old guy and fucking the his nephew?”

“That’s how it sounded to me,” said Gracie.

“Does the old guy have money or something,” asked Regular.

“Must,” said Gracie.  “I can’t figure why else anyone would be with Teddy.  But, apparently part of the break up was that she not go out with Will anymore.”

“Wonder if she made that agreement out of the goodness of her heart,” said Regular, with an evil smile.  “Somehow I kind of doubt it.”

The four of them closed out the evening discussing it.  Over the next few days, the information emanated out into the crowds amongst beers and Jager shots.  Before too long, Brooke’s reputation in the L.G.E. world had metamorphosed from “Girl Who’s Into the Environment” to “Girl Who Took a Payout from her Gross, Old Boyfriend to Stop Fucking his Nephew."

Which was pretty much exactly how Teddy imagined it would go.