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the girls on the bench

chapter 45

            “What will you do now, Mother, now that your season is over?”

     They sat on a bench together, facing the street, their backs to the wall that

     was the north side perimeter of Central Park. This street was appropriately

     and imaginatively named, Central Park North.

            Having lost her position (with the split-level corner office) at the

     Network, Petra sold her apartment as quick as she could, and backed into

     the un-renovated brownstone she had acquired for her daughter. This was

     now where they sat, across Central Park North from the brownstone,

     on a bench, backs to the wall.

            Petra had been brought before a corporate tribunal, pilloried,

     humiliated, made to walk a gamut wet and naked, and her saber broken

     across a knee. It was an auto-da-fé by any other name, and only the good

     in Petra survived it. Oddly enough, Celia was not acquainted with this

     phase of her mother, she only knew the wicked witch. Now though, she

     sat on a bench sipping neighborhood coffee with Glynda. Maybe.

            “Frankly, my Dear, as part of my former role at the former network,

     I kept tabs on small nascent production houses, so if they ever had a

     glimmer of success, could be pounced upon and bought, destroying them

     before they get going by chattelizing them. Worked great for a while, but

     I think the big networks will see their suns setting now. It was a pill to

     swallow but I guess...well, I don’t know what I guess but I do like the

     coffee, ah…café con leche. ‘Tis a gift to be simple.” 

            Never one to tear up easily, Celia found in this original moment that

     generating tears for the stage was far easier than holding them back at a

     time like this.

            “But what will you do, Mother?”

            “I sold Sutton Place right quick. That covers the mortgage here plus

     renovation. I still have a severance package with the stupid network.

     I’ll turn the top 2 floors of that,” now pointing to her building, “into 2 or

     maybe 4 apartments. I don’t need a whole brownstone. Better to rent half.

     By the way, your inheritance from your father is yours. Go speak to Michael

     at the bank and he will arrange the transfer. I’ve already started the process,

     but please please take his direction on allocation. He held your father in high

     regard, and your father him.

            “I might sell the house in Connecticut. Do you care?”

            “I was fond of the tree by my bedroom window. Provided a sort of

     portal to freedom. Did you or Dad find out about that?”

            “I had hoped that once you grew up a bit, it would be beneath

     your dignity to climb a tree. Any luck with that?”

            “Nah, not really.”

            “Well, the upkeep on Xanadu over there is not chump change.

     Memories are free. That house is not. The property taxes alone would gag


            Petra’s hand closest to Celia examined the stitching of the Penny

     bomber jacket, the jacket of many colors.

            “This is really excellent work, Dear, who did this jacket?”

            “Penny, the old seamstress in Ardensville. I saw it in her shop one

     day, and she was glad to be rid of it. Guess you can’t figure hillbillies.”

            “No, Dear, I guess you can’t. Beautiful work, though.”

            “Back to you, Mother, what pray tell, what will you do?”

            “Back to that, are we? Okay. This is what I’m thinking:

     I found a small, busted and hung out to dry production company a little bit

     uptown from here. Not for profit, which works out nicely, educational, tree

     hugging—you might like that—vegetarian, lost and lonely black panthers

     turned urban Buddhists who can’t put 2 nickels together and get a dime.

     I am going to run the show. Drag them kicking and screaming into

     their objectives and prosperity. I’m going to write the grants and manage

     the finances and review the contracts and increase the value of the building

     they own due to a pair of well-meaning old spinster sisters who bequeathed

     it to them. The sistuhs were good to them, and them to the sisters, but really,

     I think they were squatting and maybe looking out for them, taking out the

     trash and feeding the cats.

            So, after this little project o’mine becomes the most watched, most

     awarded educational network in the country and one of those big networks

     I hold so dear in my heart tries to throw some grossly inadequate bag of

     cash to buy them out and snuff them, I will stride into one of those big well-

     lit boardrooms and tell the assembled execs with diamond encrusted 

     American flag lapel pins, well, I’m going to tell them to go fuck yer mutha

     in Macy’s window. Doesn’t that sound like a plan, Dear? Enough shop talk

     now, Celia, where should we eat tonight? My treat!!

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