A Night with the Swells
A Short Story by BR Chitwood
I’m not a party-animal! Well, more accurately, my first reaction to a party invitation is, ‘I don’t want to go’! I’m basically a more private person and don’t like the first hour or so among so many people I don’t know. Now, with a few drinks, I can open the can to all my scintillating party skills that will ‘wow’ anyone within my auditory range. That is my self-appraisal! Others might not agree.
The special element for this party is the bar. Charlie got that right. This spacious barroom-library is stunning, with its Mahogany lower walls, golden touches, sconces and a beautiful wall of books. Charlie Pollard is my gad-about pal who seems to be connected with all the ‘swells’, and it doesn’t go to his head. Charlie is ‘real’, a guy you can depend on in the trenches. He’s in PR and darn good at his job.
A movie mogul-dude named Bryce Cummings is throwing this party for a new actress who recently won a coveted award for her ‘supporting role’ in a major motion picture. Mr. Cummings owns this magnificent bar and the whole luscious domain with its spiral staircases and carpeting so deep you could almost breast-stroke through it. Cummings is connected with the movie industry. This palatial Pacific Palisades pad (seems heresy to call it ‘pad’), and this spacious bar-room-library is absolutely stunning, with its Mahogany lower walls, golden touches, sconces and a beautiful wall of books…oops! I already said that! But, then, it is impressive enough to say it twice!
The friendly bartender is nice enough to keep my highball glass filled with his delicious version of a Manhattan. Of course, I’m the only one at the bar except for young waiters at the ‘service station’ filling their trays with drinks for the wandering mass of people discovering the beauty of style and substance this mansion displays. Every bachelor should have a bar like this in his home. If this bar would fit in my pad I would just crawl onto one of the soft auburn sofas that dots the aforementioned walls and never leave the huge room. Of course, this bar wouldn’t fit in my pad, and, hey, I live in Marina del Rey next to Santa Monica which isn’t at all shabby. But this place! It speaks of the kind of wealth most of us will never know.
Don’t get me wrong! The funny thing is, many people have this built-in expectation that these ‘swells’ are rude and snobbish, opinionated, and pretentious. And, some really are. The majority, however, are real and know where their roots are. They were not ignoring me. In fact, some engaged me in short conversations, inviting me to join them in their wandering. I suspect they were feeling sorry for me because I sat musingly at this rapturous bar.
With my strange humor, I told anyone who came near to rescue my lonely soul that I was merely building some ‘party power’ before unleashing myself on the crowd. In other words, I was building a ‘glow’ that would get me through the evening and to a point where I could be polite and gracious in taking my leave, unless, of course, someone or some event caught and held my rapt attention. Of the one-hundred plus stags and lovely couples roaming the rooms, all nice and beautiful people, I was just not in a sufficient mood to mix. Plus, I fell immediately in love with this luxe barroom.
Gibby, the bartender, for all I knew, was an actor making some extra money at this bash. He was in-deed an excellent mixologist to go with whatever his main occupation…perhaps, a bartender! Would that not be unique? Okay, get over yourself, Sam!!
Samuel Bellows is my name, and I’m a would-be author, sometimes subbing as a humorist! There is nothing particularly abstract and/or unique about me except for a bald spot on the back of my close-cropped black hair. Inside that small bald spot is an almost perfect near-imperceptibly milk-chocolate outline of the USA. The ladies for some obscure reason love that birthright!
Speaking of ladies, there is a fetching lass taking a soft-leather seat next to me.
“Hi, mind if I join you?” her perfectly aligned white teeth gleaming in the soft lights of the bar, her elegantly light blue evening wear disclosing some tantalizing cleavage. (Sorry, men do not stare but do otherwise notice parts of women’s anatomies! It isn’t an art! It’s only a fact! Personally, I cannot see having it any other way!)
“Oh, please do!” I offered, beginning to lift my body from the low-seated comfortable chair.
“Please, stay seated!” she purred – well, indeed, it did sound like a purr. “These high-heels are killing me, and I had to sit! Do you mind?”
“Not at all, Ms…”
“Megan, please, no ‘Ms’! I’m far-distanced from that used-up nomenclature.”
“I think I’m in love!” I said, with a slight bend of head and twinkling eye. “I’m Sam. Samuel Bellows, trying to be a ‘Samuel Clemons’.”
“Oh, an author!?” she smiled so sweetly with her order of a Daiquri.
“It sounds so real when you say it!” I gave an extra blink of eye.
“Now, don’t tell me you’re one of those tortured artists?” she offered her hand and I took it and most gently shook it.
“Oh, no! That bus left town without me! I do op-ed articles and an occasional novel.”
“Are you good at what you write, Sam?” She sipped while eyeing me.
“Here we are, having a conversation about writing, and we’ve just met, but, yes, I’m very good at what I write. Thank God I have me on my side. I’ve had good reviews which outweigh the bad ones…I like you, Megan! Immediately, I like you! Does that sound phony somehow?”
“No, Sam, it does not sound phony. If you’re at all interested, I like you, too! That’s a bit strange for me!”
“Liking me is strange?” I cooed.
She laughed, and I loved her laugh. “My goodness, Sam, you’re really good at repartee. No, I’m feeling strange, liking you so suddenly, I mean!”
“Is that a good thing? I hope.” I really did, hope!
“It must be, Sam. It’s been a year since my divorce, and you are the first man I’ve encountered that has a certain way I like. I came to this gala with a dear couple I adore, who want me to be doing more with my spare time, you know, like, dating and so forth, and so forth!”
“Okay, I’m going near the ‘so forth and so forth’, but I can say in all honesty that I’m delighted with your analysis of me…” I paused to gaze into her dazzling hazel eyes. “Was it a tough ordeal, Megan, your divorce, I mean?”
She took a quick sip of her daquiri, and answered. “Not really, Sam. We met at our jobs, both in the advertising business, just got comfortable with each other and allowed that to eventually push us into a marriage neither of us was really ready for. He was, is, a nice person, and it was all so very dull and amicable, our divorce…not nasty, at all! We’re still good friends. How about you? Married?”
“Yes, not now, but, once! A college romance, still too young and not enough sense to know we should not marry. She was a nice young lady, and I have no idea where she is today. I’m thirty-three and at times feel like sixty-three. My op-ed job has in some ways made me cynical, Megan, too uneasy, too wary of people and their duplicity. I don’t like being that way, but the world seems to be going the direction of some robotic reordering and a ‘me, too’ mentality. I’m by no means a hermit, but there are times when that deserted island sounds pretty doggone good to me… Wow! Listen to me! What did you put in my drink, Megan?”
We both laughed and our eyes stayed for some extra moments in their stare.
Something in that ‘stare’ told me we were on the very same wavelength, that we had broken through a barrier that ofttimes took months or years to pass through.
We sat, had a few drinks, and totally enjoyed our time. More than that, we knew there was some sense of destiny in our meeting.
A couple of hours passed before her friends found us in that marvelous bar, laughing and doing our schtick!
After introductions, the couple had no doubt how their question was going to be answered…
“We’re leaving, Megan. Are you staying a while?”
Megan and I looked at each other. I gave her a small nod with a silly smile thrown in.
“Sam will be taking me home, Cynthia. Thanks for bringing me with you tonight. Love you and Mel!”
Megan’s friends left.
We stayed for one more drink in that now most sacred and beautiful bar-room-library.
We now have a reasonable facsimile of that bar in our own home in Chestertown, Maryland.
You know, it’s true, ‘Love is Lovelier the Second Time Around’!
Short Story by BR Chitwood – August 18, 2018
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