Commodore – A Novel

A novel portraying the extraordinary life of Cornelius Vanderbilt

Chapter 16 of CC

                                                   

Chapter 16

1968

“It’s tearing away at you. There’s something about your parents’ marriage. When you start talking about them–it’s written all over your face. You get very tense.”

He’s had that thought again and again whenever he listens to her.  Jeremy needs to tell her that.  She needs to know it.

Before answering him, CC moves her head this way and than that, silently debating whether he is right.

“Maybe, I don’t know. When the other girls in the dorm talk about their parents– they all seem to be doing the same thing, trying to make sense of their parents’ marriage. Maybe it’s just what you do at my age–try to figure out what’s been going on as you’re ready to leave. We’re breaking out of a cocoon. You can’t just slide out. There are a lot of bumps and bruises.”

“Shrinks are making a good living off of that.”

She laughs. “This goes beyond shrinks. It’s always been this way. Figuring things out. Making sense of things. That started before people went into therapy.

As a kid…I remember. When I was supposed to be falling asleep I used to listen when my uncles and aunts came over.

Everyone had stories. Grievances. I can almost hear it now– this hush. It was like court was now in session.”

“That’s what people did before TV.”

Maybe.” She answers. “We had a TV, but it never was on when my uncles and aunts came over. I listened closely. I never heard a judge with a gavel, but you could make out that they were sitting in judgment. The tone of their voices. There was a lot to discuss. All of them, the whole Mishpucha had to be put into a position they agreed on.

Their seriousness struck me. No one cracked a joke. Their verdicts determined how they would be remembered. Not that it couldn’t be changed by new evidence, or a new persuasive voice, but they considered their deliberations final. They had great consequence.

Jeremy doesn’t say a word, which is unusual for him, but he understands what CC is describing to him. It is familiar

“Sometimes it was calm. My Uncle Herbert would do the summation to the jury, which was everyone in the room. He sounded wise, measured, forgiving.

Sometimes their voices would get very loud. My Uncle Lester and Aunt Anne– they were always going at it. My mother told me it was because we are all Litvaks. My Aunt Anne is a Galitzianer. She was something. All piss and vinegar. She was married to wise Uncle Herbert.

“That’s ironic, those two together.”

“It’s common. My uncle Herbert could remain calm, because he was married to a firecracker.”

“It’s amazing isn’t it. Billions of people with billion of stories have come and gone. Can you imagine if dead people could still talk when they were under the ground?”

“I read that’s what causes earthquakes.”

That gets a big smile from Jeremy “No. Volcanoes! Pow!”

“The passion behind the crime–the attempt to sort it out at the trial–it’s got to explode every once in a while.”

CC is again serious. She waits for Jeremy to join her.

As if reading from a court docket: “Ira and Evelyn–their verdict.”

“You think that’s what we are doing, putting them on trial?” Jeremy asks. “For high crimes and misdemeanors.” He adds facetiously.

“No. This is the pretrial hearings. There will be no final verdict until they are gone.”

“But us sitting in judgement. Is it something you have to do?

“I don’t know. Maybe I just like to gossip.”

“Well, that’s what most gossip is, trying to get other people to join in the indictment.”

“I don’t really want that from you. It’s more like I want your help sorting things out.”

“That’s fine. Obviously this means a lot to you.”

“Everyone says it shouldn’t. You need to leave the past behind. Just live your life, but I can’t imagine that.”

“I can see that”

“It’s just a marriage. Like a million other marriages “I keep coming back to the same thing…Like this is the one thing I know… That rock that Prudential always advertises? Telling people how solid, how permanent they are. This is my parent’s rock.”

She hesitates. “Stupid but true. Everything else comes out of that.”

Jeremy awaits her revelation, with an appropriately respectful look on his face.

Before telling him she smiles, amused by the stupidity of it all, then moves forward:

“When she looks smashing and she can see it in his eyes, she is on top of the world. They both are. I guess they are just like you. Beauty. That’s more important than anything else.”

“Which sounds like love to me.”

“It is, but it’s only when they are going out. When they are not, when they are staying home she’s a different person. She can be a bitch. She’s mean.” She hesitates for effect. “Really mean.”

“What does he do with that?”

“He hates it. She claims it’s a compliment. She can act that way because she loves him. He’s the only person that she can totally be herself.”

“Is that what we are doing? Maybe you learned it from her.” He means his comment to be sarcastic, to contradict a thousand put downs she has leveled at him. But she is hardly listening to him.

“It’s just such a contrast. In public she’ll grab his head, plant a lot of kisses, like her love is just bursting out of her. It’s cute. Convincing. My dad pretends that she is just being silly, but he loves that. I mean the prettiest woman around is showing all this love for him. And she means it. It’s so strange. She means it.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“Nothing… Well… When others aren’t around. It’s hard to know what to think. Something is not right.”

“Like what?”

“A thousand things.”

“Give me a for instance.”

“It’s a thousand small things, but they add up.”

“Like what?” he asks impatiently. “Give me a for instance.”

“I gave you an example before. These fights when she puts his things away. He put it exactly where he wanted it, so he can find it easily. She moves it to where she thinks it belongs. That’s important to her.”

“This is such diddly shit. Every relationship has that.”

“But it happens again and again. “Honey”… “Dear”. They used to talk like that. Now it escalates very quickly. Yes it’s about diddely shit, but when they get going, they spit venom in every syllable.”

CC imitates first her father then her mother.

“I put it there for a reason.”

“Where I told you not to put it.”

“Where I could find it.”

Her imitation strikes Jeremy as funny and he smiles.

“It’s not funny.”

His smile ends. Her voice returns to a normal tone, “Sometimes I think my parents hate each other.”

“Hate?”

“Hate! I can hear it in their voices.”

“That’s part of love.”

She shakes her head. “That is so glib. I’m talking about hate! There’s a wellspring of hatred between my parents, decades of hate. And it keeps growing and growing. Every year a little bit more. It doesn’t matter what the issue is. One day it’s going to pop.”

“Come on,” he shoots back lightheartedly. “Stop being so dramatic.”

Unswayed , she continues, “Sometimes I hear on the news that a women has killed her husband. Or vice-versa. The neighbors are shocked. Everyone thought they were a happy couple.

I understand that. Hate builds up. The murderer snapped. For just that second.   Something like that. If my dad had a gun… Or mom… No I don’t think they could do it. But–”

“You know the opposite of love isn’t hate. It’s indifference.”

“That is such therapist bullshit. My therapist told me that four times. Four times!   Each time he forgot he told me it before. Four times! The same brilliant insight. What book did you get that from?”

Jeremy laughs, “My therapist.”

You know the more you tell me, the more it sounds like– did you read Games People Play?”

“Except it’s not a game. She is not playing with him. She is hurt. And so is he. Yeah, everyone quibbles.” CC takes a deep breath, in order to be emphatic “Not with their vehemence!”

“Who’s in charge. It’s about that. It goes on in every relationship. Not just between people in love.” Jeremy offers.

Wrong!” she tells him. “It’s not that important in friendships. I mean it’s there but no one gets that hurt….

Love is the key. There’s got to be love for them to be able to hurt each other like that…. There’s got to be love for hate.

When my father takes her on, she sees that as proof that he doesn’t love her, which gets her even more upset. One time, when he was holding his ground she cursed him for his cold eyes. It wasn’t an act. She was crying, heartbroken as she looked at him. And he didn’t care.”

“Your mother told you?”

“I was there. It’s true. His eyes were cold but I thought he was doing what he needed to do.”

“They’ve always fought in front of you?”

“Not when we were kids. After Mark left for school No. After he started attacking my father.”

“Boy, speaking of the blame game.

Mark? Well he’s brought a lot of this on

”“What really bothers me is a lot of times I don’t think they are talking to each other. They are trying to score points with me. Get me to side with them.”

“I guess that explains it.”

“Explains what?”

“Maybe that’s why you need to talk to me about them.”

“Can’t stand when my parents do that. It puts me right in the middle. What’s worse–I hate it but I take sides. I don’t like doing that, but I do.”

“So then why do you do it?”

“I have to. How can you not do it? People say I should be a lawyer because I can make a good argument, but I’m being trained to be a judge.”

“Lawyers can argue for any side. Depends who hires them. They just have to do it well. That is not what is going on here. I want to decide who is really right and who is wrong.”

They stop for a breather to think things over before CC opens a new round.

“If it were only their disagreements. But it isn’t. The everyday kind of love– there’s not enough of that. Practically none from her.”

“What do you mean every day love?”

“Never thinking to buy what he likes at the supermarket. Well maybe for his birthday. But otherwise what he likes doesn’t mean anything to her. He likes ginger snaps. She never remembers to buy them. So he has to make a separate trip for them. Other things too… this kind of bacon that he likes. Canadian bacon. No he loves. A lot of things. Funny. I remember what he likes. I get his stuff when I go to Waldbaum’s. He really appreciates it. How come she doesn’t?”

“You tell me.”

“It goes beyond not being thoughtful, not remembering what he likes. Sometimes I think it’s a way of telling him that she won’t be his servant. I’ve heard her say something like that when he asked about the bacon.

I don’t get that. To me it’s simple. She has the time. He’s got to work 50-60 hours a week. Sometimes 70. Why shouldn’t she remember ginger snaps. Anyway that says it all.”

“I’m lucky with Carol. She enjoys taking care of me. When she shops for me it makes her day. I don’t have to ask for anything. She knows what I like– sometimes before I do. She feels great giving to me. It excites her. Seeing my enthusiasm when she brings home the groceries. I help her bring the bags in, but I am dying to see what is in them. When I get to take things out of the bag–she says I’m like a kid on Christmas morning attacking the presents. When I’ve gotten exactly what I wanted. That gives her a big smile.  Or even if I am not enthusiastic. She knows she’s getting something I need or that I will want. She’s usually right. She loves doing all of that.”

“Well that isn’t my mother. The opposite. When my father comes home from work, I can see if he’s had a bad day. I mean sometimes my heart aches for him. He’s not crazy about being a lawyer to start with. He doesn’t have that edge, the pleasure some of them get when they’ve trounced their adversary. He hates that.

He goes to work for her…And us. He’s our servant. Sometimes the office politics really tear him up. They’ re barracudas there. I mean an office full of lawyers. He’ll defend himself if he has to, but being surrounded by it!

Certain mornings I can see how reluctant he is to go in. Like he might face the firing squad.”

“Capitalism.” Jeremy announces definitively, like he has solved the mystery of human suffering, now and forever.

“Fuck you, capitalism. For you, everything reduces to capitalism. Political change is going to end human suffering.”

“It certainly would help. You don’t think you can change things?”

She practically whines but at the edge a snarl: “I don’t know…

It’s human nature! Being among lawyers… It’s like they are apache warriors, whooping it up before going on a raid, anticipating a scalp or two. But warming up by practicing on each other.”

The analogy makes Jeremy smile appreciatively.

“I’ll say this. My father’s never missed a day of work. I’m sure there were days when he did face the firing squad. And they fired off a round.

He gets over it. He hangs in there, no matter what.”

“That means so much to you. You keep going back to that.”

“It’s true. Being able to withstand it. When people pop off. They can show this ugly side. Some people think. Oh that’s their real feelings when it comes out like that. But I don’t agree. A five second burst means nothing. It’s like a fart. So what. Yeah there is bad stuff inside of everyone– smelly rot. What’s important is how you take it, how you are day after da. How you hold up…

When my father is upset it’s obvious. When I don’t know what’s bothering him I ask. And, the last few years, he talks to me about it.

My mother notices nothing! Actually, it’s worse when she does. When he’s insecure she hates him for showing it… She makes a whole production. Just so he knows that she’s noticed. And you can read what she’s thinking. Like how did she ever get stuck with a person like him?”

“All of that is in front of you?”

“I think they view me as old enough to take it.”

She smiles ironically. “Proof they love me. No secrets.”

“Look what I missed.” Jeremy interjects. “I got none of that kind of love after my parents split up. Compared to your parents they seem wholesome.”

“What’s pathetic is they can’t help it. They’re not happy being that way Since Mark stirred things up, it’s a hundred times worse. Maybe it never would have gotten started. My father would get pissed at him and she’d go ape shit. Like he should be above losing it with Mark. Like he stops being a father if he descends to Mark’s level. She loves magazine advice. Meanwhile, what she’s really saying is she’s on Mark’s side. Mark can attack him, but God forbid he does the same.”

“Your family is really fucked up.”

She ignores Jeremy.

“So, my father has to put on an act for her. Be this very steady cheerful “father”. Not that that does any good. She sees right through it. She complains that his moods are difficult to live with. Meanwhile the moods she’s complaining about, are not really observable. She totally dismisses the no sweat attitude he’s trying so hard to convey.”

“Your mother is something.”

“And if he does describe an incident with someone at work, she is invariably on the other person’s side. He must have done this to set the other guy off. He must have done that. Or… Why did you let him get away with saying that?”

“So he never gets it right?”

“No he does. Most of the time. He’d be out on disability if he didn’t. But when it happens, whether he caused it or not…”

CC seems to be slowing down. The vehemence of their conversation, requires that she take a breather. She moves next to him, leans on him, he assumes, looking for a hug. Perhaps she has gotten enough of it out. Jeremy strokes CC’s hair trying to comfort her. She’s not finished.

“It’s so strange. I guess it’s the contrast. In public he’s her trophy husband. He reflects well on her. Her good luck, a reward for how hard they have both worked.

Privately–

Jeremy stops her before she can open up a new round. “Are you going to repeat all of it?”

He’s right.

If she had her druthers she would tell him the same story 10 times and continue, hoping that the 11th telling might shed some light.

“So why does he put up with it?” he asks

“I don’t know. I don’t think he thinks there is a choice. What’s he going to do? Get divorced and hang out at bars trying to pick someone up. Or go on a love cruise to find that someone. Besides he has a friend who’s told him the same thing is going on his marriage. He’s sort of decided, that after enough years, this is just the way marriage is.”

“He told you that?”

“Yes. They’ve told it to each other, several times– when they were making up, comforted by the realization that there is no problem. every marriage is like that. But I don’t know if they are convinced. I don’t know if it true. I really don’t know why they stick together.”

“Maybe he loves the way she moans when he’s inside her. I love that about Carol.”

“You’re disgusting.”

“But it’s true. I love it. I mean love it. Em. Hm. It’s the sweetest sound. It erases everything disappointing in the marriage. I need that sound.”

“Your stupid male ego.” Despite her putdown, she smiles uncomfortably, like he now has the upper hand.

He presses on: “Those groans don’t get put in love poems. But that sound is real. Powerful. It should be the crescendo of every poem. Of every symphony. It should be part of the introduction. The way you moaned… I could get off on it right this second.”

He reaches for her. She shoves him playfully. Laughing, they grab each other in a mini wrestle. Her towel has fallen off. They stop and stare at each other with a smile, with a touch of lust.

She picks up the towel and tries to cover herself again, but he grabs if off of her. Without self-consciousness, naked, she walks over to the front of the mirror, settles there, looks herself over. She’s seen herself before, countless times, but at this moment she’s wondering what he’s going on about. She notices nothing very different. She examines her teeth for stains. He is soon behind her. His arms drape over her shoulders. She’s captured by the way he is looking at her in the mirror.

“What?”

“You’re beautiful.”

“Here we go again. Enough!”

“You may take it for granted but I’ve never seen anyone like you. And I still look around.”

“You do?”

“None of them compare. I keep looking at you and then them. And then you.” He smiles happily

“I’m discovering new things.”

“Like what?”

“The cellulite under your ass.”

Alarmed CC shoots back, “Really?”

“The mirror’s right here. Take a look.”

She looks over her shoulder examining herself closely.

“I don’t see it”

He laughs. He likes that he can tease her with a defect that isn’t there. It allows him to get in a dig and be innocent in the end. He runs his hand over her ass and down her leg, contentedly. More than that. With stars in his eyes.

“Don’t know how to say it?

“I’ll bet you do.”

He continues to look at her with wonder. It isn’t an act.

“Your breasts.”

He knows to tone it down before leaping. “Your nipples. They’re perfect. They’re exactly like I imagined them before I ever met you.”

“You mean you saw it in Playboy?”

“Playboy Penthouse. I must have looked at the breasts of a hundred women. Only one of them had nipples like I like. Like yours. I just had this idea of a perfect woman.”

“Yeah. Formed from pictures in Playboy.”

“From one picture in particular. I saw her nipples and I whacked off to them. Maybe five or six times.”

She looks at him skeptically.

“Okay 10 times.”

“Do you still have that picture?”

“Carol found my stash. She threw away all my Playboys and Penthouses.”

So it’s not just Marlene Schneider.”

“The woman in that picture wasn’t that pretty. Well… pretty, but her looks didn’t do anything to me. Her nipples… I can’t believe you have the same nipples.”

He sucks on her nipple. Moves his lips to her lips. Her body is crying for his.

“Jeremy… Jeremy.”

They have lost consciousness of anything other than their bodies’ craving. Eyes, lips, arms, legs, her clitoris, his penis, her vagina each needing the other one.

Afterwards they pass a joint between them, which accentuates their awareness of the silence, and the gap between them. Both of them know how it has failed them so far, the sadness that is growing between them. But they have no choice other than words to grope and grab and try to approximate what they need from each other

“What are you thinking?” she asks.

“How much I love you.”

“That’s not what you were thinking.”

“It is.”

“Come on.”

“Boy. You don’t miss a beat.”

“What is it?”

“You make it seem like you are so connected to your mother. But you don’t cut her any slack.”

“She doesn’t cut much for me. That’s what you do when you are connected, demand from each other what you expect.”

“Have you ever confronted her on how she treats your father?”

“Not really. Mark and I have talked about it. And I don’t have to tell you he’s got a lot to say about my father. But just straight out tell her? For what purpose? She could never take it. She wouldn’t understand. I’m not sure I do.

“Sounds like Mark says plenty to your father.”

“That’s exactly the point. You can’t tell your parents you don’t like them. When he began I understood that Mark had to tell my father off. But now. When I hear Mark go after my father I’m outraged It’s a betrayal.”

“Of what?”

“He should be grateful. I should be grateful”

“Oh come on. You sound like a Hallmark card commercial”

“But it’s true. We should be grateful.”

“And you’re not?”

“I am, but putting them down. I’m as bad as Mark. It’s like everything they have done for us counts for nothing.”

“Boy speaking of judgments. You go overboard on yourself.”

She won’t be distracted. She goes on.

“ It just isn’t fair? Yeah our relationship with them can get messed up. I understand how Mark can be angry. How I can be. I don’t understand the reasons, but I know he is and I am. There has to be a reason. A good reason

“I agree. Your mother sounds impossible.”

But when I was home Thanksgiving I was watching how much Dora loves my nephew. She’d jump in front of a train if she was needed. And then I started remembering how my parents were the same. Towards each of us. Particularly my grandmother, when she cooked every spoonful of sugar, every finger full of salt, she was carefully measuring for us, for us to savor what she was giving us.

My parents were the same. Yeah, it was more complicated than cooking a meal. They demanded from us what they wanted. Still it was 99% giving.

Carol times ten. Even when they worried. Okay a lot of it was bullshit stuff. But no one else gives a shit. Even if someone likes us. Likes us a lot. All the friends I’ve made at school.”

He looks at her skeptically.

“Well okay there have not been a lot of friends. I mean that really care? You know that song, strangers in the night…”

“About one night stands?”

That’s how I feel sometimes about people I’ve known, even people I’ve known for years. They don’t really care. I don’t really care about them. I mean they’re nice and I’m nice, and sometimes they’re enjoyable, and funny, and I learn about new things from them, but I really don’t care about them. Not that much! Not like Dora loves her baby. Not like my father loves me.”

She hesitates but is forced to admit the obvious Not like my mother loves me.”

She hesitates further. “Not like my father loves Mark. It pisses me off. Why is Mark like that?”

She sits back down on the bed. Lies back. Looks at the ceiling, then sits up again.

“Let me cut to the chase about my parents. I usually don’t want to admit it, but right now it’s clear. They don’t love each other. It’s that simple.”

“You really believe that?

“Well… Sometimes. I don’t know. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t.”

She thinks it over further: “I keep coming back to it. The one thing that is real… That fires him up. Which fires her up.”

She stops. For the moment CC’s doesn’t want to go further.

“I need a shower”

She is soon balancing the hot and cold water seeking the perfect temperature. When she has found it, she settles in to her memories. The usual one grabs her attention. She sees that picture taken on the landing of the staircase, Evelyn’s triumphant entrance when she was a child.

CC has framed the picture. Sometimes she studies it, trying to find something she hasn’t noticed before. But she doesn’t, in fact, have to look at it.   It is burnt into her mind.

Jeremy gets in the shower with her. They soap each other’s bodies. Whatever his intention it isn’t hers. Her mind is razor sharp but she speaks as if in a daze. Perhaps it is the pot “I told you about her entrances. They were something.”

She proceeds along the string of imag that have by now become a ritual of recollections.

“Like the Queen going out on the balcony to wave to throngs of her subjects,. I saw this video of Queen Elizabeth–everyone enthralled. There wasn’t a sour face in the crowd below.

Jeremy puts Carol’s shampoo in her hair, lathers it, moves the lather the length of her hair, halfway down her back. Feet after feet of lather, smooth, soft, yet substantial enough for his hands to be surrounded.

As she directs the water to rinse off the shampoo, he protects her eyes with a washcloth, as his mother used to do for him. That accomplished she moves on. Something about rinsing her hair. She often thinks clearly as the soap washes away.

Total clarity

“Like Cinderella after she has married the prince. The two of them out on the balcony. Do you remember the way she smiled? The way he smiled?

CC’s enchantment has begun to cast a spell on Jeremy. Captured, Jeremy marvels with CC as she speaks. She is talking about an actual person, her mother, a living person, but her mother has ascended to a dimension that CC owns, one in which CC’s possesses her

CC describes the image again:

“Thousands of people ecstatic that Cinderella’s waving… To them!”

“You really go for Disney.”

“I do. I like that you know exactly what his characters feel. Nothing complicated.”

The power of Evelyn’s entrance on to the landing of the staircase in Cedarhurst, has now implanted itself in Jeremy’s mind. It fascinates not only CC but Jeremy

Jeremy never had experiences like that as a child. Nothing like that with his mother. Perhaps the beginnings of her cancer were there when he was small child. Or perhaps because his mother was not Evelyn. Or perhaps he can no longer remember.

The only time Jeremy had a anything resembling a magical experience was as an undergraduate. After a friend described it, he found his way to New Mexico, and took mushrooms at a Lipan Apache ceremony.

He had read up on it. Now he doesn’t want to seem naïve and gullible. So when he speaks about what he expected and what happened it is in a measured and intelligent way. But at the time? Like all of his friends at school, at least those who wanted to go deep, and nothing else mattered, he thought the answer to all important questions awaited him among the apaches. Several had finally found enlightenment. It was the best thing they had ever done. And he hoped, he wanted to finally find the answer.

It had the opposite effect on Jeremy. It created a thousand more questions, not too surprising given that it was Jeremy, not his friends taking the mushroom. The bottom line? He wasn’t eager to repeat mushrooms. But now, whatever it is that happened under the spell of the mushrooms, he senses something familiar in CCs recollections, a similar power, a depth that’s close to the source.

Ira and Evelyn may have simply enjoyed the moment on the stair landing, or most likely, forgotten it, but for CC, it is the apotheosis of her connection to her mother. CC has imagined, Evelyn’s entrance again and again, and it invariably is associated with what followed.

Her imagination has elaborated on what followed her appearance on the landing, almost to the point where it has become a movie in her mind:

Her parents at the Copacabana. They went there often, usually with one of Ira’s clients and the client’s wife. In CC’s movie the Copacabana is Casablanca. With changes. It isn’t a sleek café in a North African port. It is a good deal larger. No one tells Sam to play it again. Rather, the electrifying sound of the Supremes greets every couple who enters. But, like the movie, the atmosphere encases everyone. The air, thick with cigarette and cigar smoke, people conversing at each table, but always at the next table, elegant strangers. In the corner of every eye they watch each other, glimpsing at people throughout the room.

That brought a certain intimacy. The celebrities. Former Met. Lenny Dykstra trying to grab everyone’s attention, with broad, sweeping, exaggerated movements, with laughter a little too loud. Audrey Hepburn– the night she was there her mother told her she was mesmerized, but ordinarily, in CCs fantasy, her mother plays that role. It is not an unfair characterization of her mother and not because she wanted so much to be Audrey Hepburn. She is that pretty. She has the same star quality. She lights up in everyone’s eyes.

Ira and Evelyn and Ira’s client and wife are being shown to a table. Mr. Gordon tips the maitre de. Evelyn languorously peels down her long gloves like Lauren Bacall, her eyelids half closed enjoying the attention she is getting from men all around, great and small. Women too.   Every table, shares the vision. It’s what they expect when they go to the Copa. A visit to Casablanca. Lauren Bacall, queen of the Copacabana. That and the Supremes.

There is nothing finer than a woman turning the heads of other patrons. That’s why everyone is here. Not just her father, his ego swelled by his possession of her mother, her father’s clients feel like a million bucks, merely sitting at her table. At the Copa, nothing is more important than being at the table of a stunning woman.

Ira never thought it out. There wasn’t a Machiavellian bone in his body. Not even in his pinky. But he knew Evelyn was an important part of his success. He is a good lawyer, more than competent. He deserves a busy practice, but he’s done far better than expected. The woman behind the man? In his case it is the woman in front of the man. His clients are serious business men. They carefully go over every investment. But at night in the Copacabana a fudge factor blurs over, and changes the calculations of even the most serious investor. With a wife like Lauren Bacall, with Ira’s at-ease demeanor, they feel like they are partnering with someone from the highest order. You want someone like that as your lawyer. You also care what they think of you.

Hence they are willing, even eager, to reward Ira generously as part of the deal. He often receives sweat equity on top of his bill. Say three, even five percent of the real estate Ira has negotiated for them to buy. All good deals are win–win. But, out of appreciation for having Ira as their lawyer, or perhaps the sparkle dust added by Evelyn, clients usually sign the deal with plenty of win for Ira and his family.

They each step out of the shower. CC first. She dries her face

“I’ll give my mother credit” CC tells Jeremy. “The beauty she was born with was her starting point, but she is…” Rising to the challenge before her– she is gradually becoming confident that Jeremy is going to relent to whatever she claims. Or will he jump all over her–CC takes a breath before continuing.

“She is–”

“She is what?”

“She is Wittgenstein’s equal in remaining there.”

Jeremy doesn’t go wild. He’s more amused than shocked, in a snotty way, but he isn’t actually dismissive.  He wants to hear more.

“You really are going to compare them?”

She dries her neck then her shoulders. There is only one towel between them. He bends, grabs the bottom of the bath towel and dries his face.

“My mother is as passionate about getting it right as Wittgenstein was about truth.