Come, Come, Mr. Bond

(This is episode 11, from Jasper’s point of view.) 

mrbond

Last summer during Hamlet’s intermission, a very drunk man in his 50s, wearing a beautifully tailored beige summer suit and matching shirt, knocked over chairs, spilling drink from a plastic champagne glass, and stumbled over to Jasper King beneath a rear archway.

“Tell me, please, Dr. Monroe—”

Jasper hated being addressed as his character on Children’s Minds and suspected this man with the slight English accent and precise diction knew it.

The man threw his empty champagne glass on the ground. “—what do you think of Abominable putting the intermission at the end of Mouse Trap?”

“I don’t know what to think. I’m astonished.”

“Of course, but the curtain falling on Claudius’s: ‘Give me some light—away!’ was splendid. Bloody lot of nerve for Abominable to disregard my script. And yet as she has it, nobody will snooze through Hamlet’s aborted voyage to England.” Fletcher inserted a black cigarette into a long black holder and gestured. “No smoking in here but as I was saying—or asking—is Abominable not proof that diabolical imps dart among us?”

“Pardon me?”

“Granted. You may speak candidly. Have her spirit and beauty compromised you? A rude guess but an even wager—yes, she’s obviously discomposed you.”

Watching the cigarette holder between Fletcher’s teeth, Jasper recalled Tara’s opinion of the renowned director. Perhaps, she hadn’t been overly harsh, after all.

He held out his hand, “Pleased to meet you, Mark Fletcher. I’m Jasper King.” and waited while Fletcher capped his flask. The men shook hands without any clenching or clammy limpness.

Fletcher smiled widely and raised his tinted spectacles. “Good Lord, you are magnificent looking. If as reputed, however, you are unpersuadable, I hereby double my bet concerning you and the ravishing Abominable.”

Jasper raised an index finger. “I can’t imagine whom you mean.”

“You said whom—how utterly charming.”

“Mr. Fletcher, if you’ve been referring to Brooke, my children’s care-giver, by some loathsome name, don’t do it again.”

“Slow to catch that, weren’t you? She happens to be my godchild and I’ve always called her that. Save your ultimatum for someone else and heed my evaluation: Your attempt to speak English fails, because you wield a dread bit of knowledge and not a working whole. Fortunately, my affinity for autodidacts is pronounced, because you need me, Jasper King. Thus I shall tutor you next summer, providing you star in my play.”

“Will Brooke assist you?”

“This year, I gave her Hamlet as a testament to her prodigious gifts. The troupe performs Shakespeare exclusively, but never with the lucid complication and catharsis Abominable has orchestrated.”

“I haven’t seen Hamlet before. Of course, I know its reputation. But I didn’t anticipate it to be a revelation.”

“The words are luminous, but most productions are a shambles. Next summer poses an altogether different challenge. The playwright is an untalented, dim-witted boy with a tin ear, whose parents are generous backers. However, I shall direct and you shall learn to speak like an Englishman of the upper military class, which will be crucial for the role the multi-hyphenate Korean is devising.”

“What role and who is your Korean?”

“Come, come, Mr. Bond, you disappoint me…”

The lights dimmed and Fletcher stole the seat next to Jasper, fanning the previous occupant away. He drank from his flask and whispered details Jasper would have missed otherwise. Both men, and the audience in general, experienced Hamlet as a bonafide tragedy, catharsis and all.

After the actors’ curtain calls, when Brooke stood on stage, Jasper King bolted. Fletcher’s mockery about her derailing him barely scratched the surface. The girl had caused him to lose his bearings twice—and that was before he’d recognized even a glimmer of her inner light.

Jasper ran for his rented car and Fletcher wheezed in the distance.

Shifting into reverse, Jasper saw Fletcher still in pursuit and waited a minute.
Reaching the car, the old man heaved, hands on his knees, gasping for breath.

Jasper said, “My apologies but I must leave immediately.”

“Fear not. I shall tell Abominable you simply couldn’t stay long enough to congratulate her.”

Jasper waved and hit the gas. Was it possible she’d see on her own that his invitation to watch a movie had been insanity? No, it was not. He felt sorry and stupid but knew no alternative.

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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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