Fletcher Assumes

 

Fletcher Assumes


Fletcher hadn’t answered Brooke’s calls because he had spoken “at some length” with the troupe’s regular director. They acknowledged that Kirsten should be stronger, but who cared? Fletcher did, of course, but if Terrible were Ophelia, he would need to direct her.  “Or did you assume your little sister would comply with your every dictate, Abominable?”

“We might have agreed. And what if I was calling about something else?”

“I assumed not.  Because Kirsten rang Alan, who rang me. Yet my faith in you never wavered. I trusted you to smooth any ruffled feathers. Just as you always do.”

“Oh.”  Brooke still wanted to talk about the play, for he had never openly praised her before.  But if she asked to talk later, after she’d had some toast and coffee, he might not answer until next spring.  Or if he did, he’d ridicule her.  Sometimes his rants were funny, and usually instructive, but Fletcher cultivated a scathing manner so that if he drunkenly lashed out, people were like “typical” and left him alone.

Upbraiding her was Fletcher’s style of mentoring. Because if he didn’t respect her, he wouldn’t have given her Hamlet.  He wouldn’t have insisted that Brooke be his assistant director starting when she was only twelve-years-old. Then as now, Ma was the house manager, the PR director, and producer for the summer theatre.  Fletcher required infinitely more assistance than Jenny could give him—but why Brooke?  When the general consensus of her even then had been: wild, extravagant, and impudent.  Ma had said that wasn’t true but as it happened, Fletcher appreciated such traits.

Brooke did not. If she could, she’d be restrained and focused, not excessive and impetuous. Most of all, she would be the kind of girl whose father never beat her up.

Tara said that because of Pop, Brooke must always beware of confusing abuse with affection.  So insulting! Did Tara view her as a candidate for a pop psychology TV show?  Like, calling Dr. Phil?

“Not exactly, but you can’t dismiss the documented results of child abuse.”

“Shut up, Tara.”

Only the girls, Ma, and Pop knew. And for now, Pop stayed away.  Brooke would never admit that she missed him, but she did. So let Tara think Fletcher was the worst of it.

Anyway, sporadic tirades aside, Fletcher liked them both. And he loved Ma, who made sure he remained the lifelong director of Woodstock’s summer theatre.  Because Fletcher’s long dead lover, Sir Jeremy, whom Fletcher called Dickie (to this day) had especially loved Ma.

When the couple had arrived at the realty after opening The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, Sir Jeremy was immediately taken by Ma, who reminded him of his cousin Lily. Ma had just started working at the realty, upon finishing high school. She answered the phones and listed places for sale, which she kept in a black binder. But Sir Jeremy had requested her opinion. first on the property and then on the house they were building.

Fletcher was the one who told Brooke that his lover, who died before she was born, had been a baronet, like a character in Jane Austen. And that Dickie had known Andrew Lloyd-Webber all his life. In most of his theatrical extravaganza’s, Baron Lloyd-Weber casually added handful of Dickie’s lines, and then Fletcher’s, to The Phantom of the libretto.

Fletcher in those days had been like a punk-rocker. The big craze was in the 70s. Fletcher belonged to the Trainspotting  era.  Dickie had seen him hanging around and so Fletcher, who was doing “nothing legal” picked him up. Dickie, who loved Fletcher on sight, thought he was brilliant and promoted his ideas for all Lloyd-Webber’s pre-1990s productions. “Nothing but smart ass wisecracks! But then Dickie taught him everything.

Ma had been their one friend in Woodstock. They would invite her to their parties at the octagonal house rising from the creek near Mid-Mountain Way. Then in 1993, they moved there for good—Dickie was fatally ill.

Ma ran errands and arranged appointments. She fixed martinis and listened to them trade lines from Shakespeare and Noel Coward. Both of them, it turned out, hated musicals. When Dickie died, Fletcher drowned his sorrows in gin. During the 21 years since, Fletcher’s one activity was directing Woodstock’s summer play.

But at that moment, he was telling Brooke about Children’s Minds. Fletcher, like Ma, Tara, and billions of others, loved the show about a pediatric psychotherapist who figured out kids’ secret torments and what to do about them.

Brooke said, “I’ve never watched a whole episode.”

“So he said.”

She panicked, hearing this.

“You babysat for his children, did you not?”

“Yes. But Jasper was away, working on the grand finale.”

“But when he was there…?”

Her impulse was to throw down the phone.

Fletcher shouted at her. “Certainly, you know your boyfriend earned four Emmy’s before he was 25.”

“Fletcher! What do you mean—boyfriend?”

“Tut-tut, nothing personal. Few so-called straight actors are so…unpersuadable.”

“You mean unpersuadable by—you?”

“Naughty minx, by any man.”

“I can’t believe you asked him that.”

“Don’t be coy, Abominable. Jasper King is so good-looking he must acquire real skill or his career will amount to audiences drooling over him.”

“Disgusting.”

“Indeed. After saying your Hamlet amazed him, he accepted my offer to coach him next summer. The man has a lot to learn.”

Brooke felt creepy. Something about Fletcher guessing she’d be home with a hangover…But she refused to let Fletcher get to her, and said, “Any other weekday, I’d be at school now.”

“Appalling! You must cease your attendance this minute!”

“Last fall I attended a playwright workshop on 42nd Street, because you recommended me! I applied to Vassar early, using my freshman year test scores. So Presidential Scholarship or not, I’m going.”

“Perish the thought! You’ll then direct Hamlet like everyone else.”

by kathleen maher

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The Real Reason

Loganhousesm

When Brooke dived from the waterfall’s highest ledge, her body became a spirit in mid-air. A lesser yet still irresistible transformation occurred when she bicycled down the mountain, flying over crevasses and bouncing off rocks. After her despair in Jasper’s meadow reached its peak, she sprang up and pedaled furiously away. A few seconds of relief and then she crashed headlong into a car stopped at the light. The driver hadn’t anticipated the blur of her hurdling out of nowhere and the awful sound of her bike breaking as she catapulted into a field.

A person, anxious even in shadow, got out of the car. Brooke leaped to her feet and waved. She cupped her mouth and called, “Is your car okay?”

Back in the SUV, the shadow-person sped away, leaving Brooke’s ruined bicycle in the street. She hauled it into a ditch and walked the remaining mile home. Tara heard her, staggering up the rickety outside stairs, because of course she was crying again.

The door swung open and Tara pulled her into the living room. Unable to suppress an air of triumph, her sister clapped a hand over Brooke’s mouth. “You want the whole world to know?”

Brooke didn’t care and collapsed on the floor. The room had a low ceiling and one rectangular window behind the couch. Sitting on it, holding a pillow, Tara said, “Told you,” and turned up the volume on a little boy screaming at his parents. Brooke, rolling up and hiccupping, watched a creepy TV kid supposedly making a documentary about his overweight parents. The mother and father sat catatonic in lounge chairs while he yelled. “More venom! More menace!”

Just stupid. Brooke jumped up. Her voice raw from crying, she asked, “Did anyone call the house?”

“The house?”

“Guess not.” She paced the room and tugged her hair.

The creepy kid was saying, “Great! We’re golden!” and Tara turned him off.

Brooke’s arms swung. She circled the room in long, loopy strides. And Tara tossed the pillow aside and closed in on herself. She averted her chin.

“Don’t do that.” Brooke knew the gesture, thanks to small-minded people who said, and very well might say again, that Brooked was beautiful, not to mention sexy. Tara was either “pretty” or “looked just like their mother.”  Sometimes they said this to the girls’ faces!  Brooke hated it that Tara took this shit to heart. But why now? When Brooke was a teary mess?

“Stop pacing.”

“What?”

“Stop performing in all your ravishing pain, okay?”

Brooke stopped to stare at the ceiling. “Did anyone come over while I was gone?”

“What?”

“Did anyone ring the doorbell?”

Tara laughed.

Brooke sank to the floor. “You’re right. Why did I think he liked me?” She hiccupped and rocked, about to get up.

But Tara finally pitied her enough to get off the couch and sit beside her. “So I guess the movie star stood you up.”

Hiccupping, tears pouring, Brooke said, “Yep. He…did…He stood me up.”

Tara said, “But it’s one night, one disappointment.”

Brooke stared at her fingers crisscrossing the carpet. “It feels like a lot.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Stay there.” Tara went upstairs to her bedroom and returned with a bottle of Maker’s Mark. “Stole it from Pop.” Their father worked in a bar forty miles away. Tara still visited him the way they both had until Brooke was 10 and he had slammed her head against the wall. She didn’t know if she passed out. Tara said she did and Pop acted scared and sorry.

Swinging her legs in front of her, Brooke arched her neck and took a big swig. She had never drunk whiskey before and shuddered, but it cured her hiccups. She stood up and drank some more. “Okay if I take this to bed with me?”

“Drink it in here. We’ll watch anything you want.”

“I need to lie down.”

“All right. But don’t spill it.”

In her narrow, little bed, Brooke drank, woke, drank, and then—the stench of puke forced her up and out of there. She fell in the hall and crawled down the three steps into the living room where Tara was watching her favorite show Children’s Minds, in which Jasper King played a clairvoyant child pschiatrist.

“You’re shit-faced.”

Brooke tried to stand and fell.

“Dammit,” Tara grabbed her sister’s hair, dragging her into the bathroom. She shoved Brooke into a freezing cold shower and yanked her out again to peel off the smelly T-shirt.

“Take your underpants off.” Brooke tried but Tara had to crouch down and lift her feet. Then Tara stood in shower, adding hot water, and rubbing Brooke all over with a soapy wash cloth. Brooke giggled and gagged and Tara pulled her hair hard. “Shut up!” She shampooed Brooke’s hair, cursing at how long and thick it was.

Later, Brooke woke in Tara’s bed, wearing Tara’s nightgown. She got up and leaned against the warm washing machine full of towels, and then jumped back from her own stinky sheets piled on top. It was still dark. Their mother was still meditating with her group.

In the TV room, Tara was snoring in front of an early episode of Children’s Minds. Brooke turned it off and nudged her. Tara’s eyes opened. “Looks like you’re still staggering.”

“I’m okay. And really sorry. But, Tara, you’ve no idea what you did for me. ’Cause getting drunk like that helped.”

“Did you have sex with him or something?”

“God, no! Making people think he likes them is his job.”

“Not exactly. It could’ve been anyone, Brooke. And next time? You’re not supposed to care about a no-show.”

“Maybe he was worried. Like I’d ruin his reputation.”

Tara laughed. “You couldn’t ruin Jasper King in a million years. He left because he wanted to—the real reason for everything.”

(To read the previous and intervening episodes, go here, here, and here.  Don’t worry, I won’t be listing every link. A few to start and an occasional two or three you might want to read, if you happened to wonder what else occurred.)