The Good Doctor Part II Chapter 2
The girl that works the desk at the gym is named Suzy and she kinda looks like that name. She’s short and perky and has short blonde hair and I’d say the odds are like seventy/thirty that she’s a lesbian.
Suzy put her hand over the phone, rolled her eyes and said, “It’s your friend.”
“Whatsername with the weird hair and the big black Mercedes.” I’ve got plenty of friends with weird hair and even a couple with black Mercedes Benz’s, but I’ve only got one with both.
I took the phone, inhaled deeply, then let it out. “Hi, Rose.” Actually, Rose’s hair is only weird for now. I mean, if this was the nineteen seventies and we were all cruising on The Love Boat she’d fit right in.
“Eric, I’m at Eduardo’s and I need you to come over right away!” That is just so typical of the way that rich people are, it’s like you’ve got nothing to do that’s more important than them.
“Rose…you do realize that I’m working?”
She sighed. “Please, Eric, you make a mockery of actual work. Besides, I’ll buy you an expensive lunch.” Eduardo’s is where women like Rose go to have three Martini lunches.
Although I’m pretty sure they’d like to forget it, Eduardo’s used to be a bowling alley. Actually it was the only one in town when I was a kid and it was only like eight lanes or something, not very big. Originally there had been a big parking lot in front of it with a huge neon sign over it that said, “Slim’s Bowling,” but when “Eduardo” bought it, he tore up the parking lot, planted grass, put in a circular drive and plastered a colonnaded porch on the front of the building. I’ve always wondered if the building resented that, or was secretly proud of its new look.
Eduardo himself was actually Larry Gomerman who was three years ahead of me in high school. Larry never went to college because it would have been a total waste of his time. When he was only nineteen he already owned a hot dog stand and by the time he was twenty-five he had three full sized, very successful restaurants. Larry was one of those guys that always acted like he was running for something and he treated everyone he met like they were a potential customer. I remember once when some guy grabbed him in the hallway at high school and tried to bully him. Larry acted like it wasn’t even happening and ended up selling the guy ten old copies of Playboy magazine that his dad had hidden in their garage. Now he lives in Boston where I’m sure he’s presiding over some huge conglomerate. Larry made all of us feel like failures and we were really glad to get him out of town.
Once inside the front door and past the gift shop, the entrance to the actual restaurant was guarded by a tall blond woman in a beige suit whose hair had been pulled back into a French Twist that looked tight enough to stop the blood flow to her face. While she was looking at me I was reading the sign that was sitting on an easel next to her.
It said, “Welcome W.A.CT. members! Meeting Room C.”
She was looking with some distaste at my Nike training outfit, and in my defense, Rose didn’t really give me time to go home and change, but more importantly, I really just don’t give a fuck.
While she glanced uneasily at my somewhat old gym shoes, I said, “Who’s WACT?”
She got a look of consternation on her face and said, “What?”
I pointed to the sign. “WACT. Who’s WACT?”
She inhaled, stood very straightly, pulled down the edges of her mouth, then said, “Women’s Association of Connecticut, of course.” Like everyone really ought to know that. I can’t begin to tell you how uneasy it makes me when women begin to form into groups. Basically they run the world anyway, and the thought that they’re gonna bring it to some new level fills me with dread. Okay, maybe my mother being like she is, is the cause of some of that, but still, it seems like my whole life women have been telling me about all of the things that are wrong with me and how they’d like to fix that. It makes me feel like always wearing an athletic cup would be a really good thing.
After being led through a forest of potted trees and plants, I was delivered to a huge tan-leather circular booth big enough for six where Rose was ensconced with a double gin Martini in front of her and a cigarette between her fingers curling it’s illegal smoke skyward. She was dressed in a midnight blue sheath with a long strand of pearls at her neck and the ugliest name tag I’ve ever seen pinned just above her more than ample breast.
I waved at the retreating Brunhilda and slid into the booth. I looked at the nametag, then at the Martini, then at the cigarette and then into her eyes. She pointed her cigarette at me and said, “Don’t start!” It was, as they say in the military, a target rich environment.
“Rose, how do they let you smoke in here?”
She took a puff and blew it out. “They don’t so much ‘let’, as they don’t ‘stop.”
I looked at the gilded thing on her chest that looked like a name tag. “When’d you change your name to Grand Dragon? And why do you feel the need to tell everyone?”
She took a sip of her Martini. “Very funny, Eric. As you can obviously see, it’s Grand Matron of the Women’s Association of Connecticut. We have a meeting today. I had a hand in founding the organization, thus the title.”
I smiled. “You mean WACT? You founded WACT?”
“Shut up, Eric! It not supposed to be said like that! We aren’t whacked and that wasn’t the original name! God you’re irritating!” She slipped a slim gold Cartier lighter out of her purse and toyed dangerously with the flame control.
I propped my chin up on my hand and said, “I’m sorry, Rose. I shouldn’t have been so crude.” I didn’t really think I’d been crude, but she probably did, so I smiled warmly and said, “So how come you hadda change the name?” I know from long experience that it’s best to get this over with as quickly as possible and the more you struggle the worse it’s gonna be. I’ve toyed with the theory that women have so many words that they have to speak every day and the sooner they get that done the better for everyone.
She looked at me suspiciously, expecting a trap, but finally leaned towards me conspiratorially. “It used to be called the Young Women’s Republican League, but using the “R” word made people nervous, so we changed it. During the last recession Sissy Titleburg, she was the last president of the league, was having lunch at the country club and just mentioned something about it being nice to be able to buy the country back for a dime on a dollar every twenty years or so, and she didn’t see that horrible woman from the newspaper sitting at the next table. I mean you’d think a private conversation would remain private….” I have no clue who Sissy Titleburg is, but I’ve got a feeling we don’t hang in the same circles. “Well, anyway, we just don’t find it productive to mention the political side of things anymore. Besides, we do lots of stuff that isn’t political.” Shopping and drinking are the first two things that pop into my head.
“But what I need from you is the use of that big piece of land next to the club.”
“The baseball diamond? Is WACT putting together a team?” The thought of Rose in a baseball uniform made my throat tighten.
The corners of her mouth dropped and she rolled her eyes. “Of course not! Is that what that is? Well, it really doesn’t matter, we’ll be putting up a tent.”
“A tent?” Why all of a sudden are tents playing such a big role in my life?
“Or we could use it for parking and put the tent further back.” She waved her fingers in the air and looked uncertain. Turn my baseball diamond into a parking lot? That is just so typical!
Suddenly she held up her now empty Martini glass and yelled, “DAMIAN!!”
The blond head of a handsome young waiter popped through the foliage.
Rose twirled the stemmed glass in her fingers and said, “Refill, Damian.” Then she cocked a thumb at me and said, “And whatever he wants.”
Damian looked at me with a look usually seen on the ravenous faces of wild dogs when they find fresh, warm, roadkill. He slid smoothly all the way through the bushes and hunkered down next to me.
“What would you like, Mr. Cortland?”
Rose looked from me to Damian. “Oh, for God’s sake! Keep your pants buttoned, Sweetheart, he’s married to a very jealous, very big man!” Damian almost jumped backwards.
I said, “How do you know who I am?”
Damian suddenly looked really worried and said, “I didn’t mean anything by it!”
“No, no, don’t worry about that. I was just wondering how you knew my name?”
“Oh. I just joined your healthclub. I just moved here.”
“Oh.” A customer.
In an exaggeratedly polite voice, Rose said, “Excuse me boys, but could I get another fucking Martini?”
Damian gave her a frightened look that was more justified than even he knew, and took off.
When Damian was out of sight, Rose said, “Eric, we desperately need new members! That’s why we want to do this tent thing. You know, something with drinks and canapé’s, just something to draw younger women in.” The thought of a salt lick flashed through my mind, but I forced it out and said nothing.
“And I’m…I mean my secretary is trying to get Reverend Johnson.” She poked me in the side. “You know, that guy they’re talking about running for the Senate. He gives lectures…about sin. I figure if we can fill up that tent and then while he’s talking, fill ‘em up with liquor and food, we’ve pretty much got ‘em.”
I put my chin in my hand. “How would I know, Rose? I can’t keep track of every nutcase running for office.”
“He’s not a nutcase! And besides, he’s got the most beautiful hair.” She grabbed my arm and leaned in close and stage whispered, “He reminds me of Joseph Cotten.” She leaned back in the booth and stared at the ceiling. “What a dreamboat!”
“He’s not married? You mean he looks like that old actor?”
“Yeah…well more like he was when he was a lot older. Anyway, his wife is dead, she owned a baked bean factory, so he’s loaded.”
“What about Lurch? You wanna cheat on him?”
“Ha! That bum is visiting his grandchildren in Palm Beach for the next four months. What does he think, a woman in her prime is gonna just hang out and wait for him?” This is her prime? Holy fuck!
“Anyway, Eric, the only thing I need you to do is let us use that lot in a few weeks and then try to not upset anyone that comes to our meetings. Basically, just don’t insult the women or seduce the men. Oh, and the Rev will be staying with me…hopefully,” She smiled and flicked her lighter, “in my guest house, of course.” Don’t think about it, don’t think about it, don’t think about it, don’t think about it!
“Oh and I’ll probably be bringing him to the club as my quest. Chester likes to stay fit.”
“That’s his name, Eric, Chester Johnson.”
When I got home my mother was in the kitchen, but was so far into the oven that all you could see was her butt. Jase was sitting at the kitchen table eating something and wearing a fuzzy blue rabbit head with long ears that were sticking straight up. He swallowed hard and yelled, “Grandma’s cleaning the oven!”
I bent down and said, “Ma, what’re you doing?”
Her muffled voice came back. “If you think I’m making baked ziti in this filth, you’re crazy!” The thing is, I never use the oven, so even though I’m gonna get blamed for it, I shouldn’t be, and besides, our oven was probably cleaner than the ovens of stoves in dealers showrooms because she was in there scrubbing it like twice a week.
Jase was sitting at the kitchen table dressed like an unhappy blue rabbit because Halloween was a couple of days away and he was trying to decide on something to wear. I walked over, pushed apart his enormous ears, kissed the top of his head, and stole a sweet and sour meatball off of the plate in front of him.
I said, “A blue rabbit…really?”
My mother pulled herself out of the oven, wiped her forehead with the back of her hand and said, “There. We’ll just have to make do.”
I said, “Ma, all you gotta do is push the button, it’ll clean itself.” I know, I know, why not just shut up, but where’s the fun in that?
She put her hand on hips, never a good sign with Italian women, then pointed her wet sponge in my general direction. “You don’t think I can clean an oven?” That’s the thing with Italians and my mother in particular, no challenge, however slight, is ever ignored.
Jase touched my shoulder and said, “I got a tiger one too and a Spiderman, but that one doesn’t fit very well.” These were on loan from Ernie’s mom’s collection of embarrassing kids costumes. The women is nuts and Halloween is her favorite holiday.
I told Jase, “Lemme see the tiger, the rabbit is a little too cute.”
He said, “I look cute?”
I nodded. “But not necessarily in a good way.”
I glanced at my mother sliding a casserole of baked ziti into the oven then looked at Jase and nodded towards the bedrooms. I whispered, “Let’s get outta here so we can talk.”
In my bedroom he sat on the edge of my bed and asked me, “What’s the problem?”
“Look, the thing with the costumes is this, the people that you’re really interested in impressing are your friends, like Ernie, Fred and Louis…and just maybe, Ernie’s sister, right?”
“Well, while it isn’t so much of an issue right now, these are the kids you’re gonna end up going all through school with and it’s probably better that they remember you as a tiger or Spiderman, rather than a blue bunny.”
“How come? I mean rabbits are cute.” I decided not to mention them eating their own poop.
“Jase, rabbits are cute, very cute, but they’re also lunch meat, furry, four-legged lunch meat.” I sat down on the bed next to him. “I mean, I know it doesn’t mean much now, but it’s better that they think of you as someone who eats bunnies rather than is one.”
“Dad, that’s sooo mean. I could never eat a bunny!”
“Look, Jase, I’m not sayin that you actually gotta be that guy, but you’ll find that to one degree or another, people remember everything, and it’s better that they think of you as someone who just might eat their faces if they pissed you off.”
“Dad, it’s just Halloween.”
“Hey, you know, tigers can be cute too.” He didn’t look convinced, but he did look thoughtful. Jase is a thinker and he doesn’t reject ideas quickly. I figured by the weekend I’d have him convinced.
“Are you gonna wear a costume when you drive us around?” I always go with Jase on Halloween and it used to cause arguments, but he’s given up, and now I’m a liability that he knows he’s gotta live with. That’ll stop in a couple of years when puberty starts to lift its ugly head.
I nod my head and grin. “Yep, I’m goin as your bodyguard.” Nothing has ever happened to a kid on Halloween in our little town, but there’s no way that I could sit at home while he was out knocking on the doors of strangers.
In the end he decided on Spiderman. My mother volunteered, well, insisted really, to tailor it so that it fit perfectly.
That night when Pete slid into bed behind me, he laughed, kissed the back of my neck and said, “You know, I could go with you when you take Jase and the kids for Halloween. We could go as Batman and Robin.”
I pushed my butt back against him and said, “I dunno, you really think people seeing their doctor in a costume would be good for the doctoring business.”
He gently humped my butt and said, “It might create a demand for prostate exams.” I imagined Pete in a Batman costume and figured that he was probably right.
I said softly, “You think I was wrong about the blue bunny costume?”
He sighed against the back of my neck. “Maybe a little. I mean I don’t really want to think of Jase eating someone’s face off.”
“Well…remember you asked me once it anyone had ever tried to bully me in high school and I told you no?”
He said cautiously, “Un huh.”
“Well, that was true, nobody ever tried to do that in high school, it happened in seventh grade.” I could feel his body tense up a little. “Jessie Smith, you know, the guy that plows driveways in the winter, he tried to do that. I mean, it was totally out of the blue one day. I had just gotten to school and he made some nasty remarks in the hallway, but at first I wasn’t even sure he was talking to me, so I was kinda blowing it off. Then in the afternoon I was walking down the hallway and it was packed with kids and up in front of me, there was Jessie, standing with a couple of his halfwit friends.”
I stopped talking for a second and Pete’s arms grew tighter around me and I could feel his breath harder on my neck.
“So anyway, I look ahead of me and can tell immediately that this isn’t good, but it’s not like there’s a good alternative. I could have turned around and ran for it, but that would have just been the beginning. So I just figured, ‘Fuck it!’ whatever happens, happens and when Jessie tried to shove me, I jumped up, grabbed his fucking ears as hard as I could and bit his chin as hard as could. He went fucking insane, screaming and crying and trying to get the fuck away from me, but I just hung onto his ears and bit the shit outta any part of him that I could get at. He was trying to hit me and knock me off and finally he did. Then he just started to run. It’s weird though, cause the next year we became friends and when I asked him about what caused all that he said he didn’t have a clue. He just came to school one day feeling like he needed to be an asshole, but when I went apeshit on him he figured I was crazy and he didn’t want any part of that. But the thing was that all those guys who liked to pick on other guys, they got outta my way like I had the plague or something.”
I could feel Pete’s breathing beginning to settle back down.
“So anyway, that’s why I told Jase that. Sometimes having people not really knowing what the fuck you’ll do can be a good thing.”