Main > Series > Chapters > Fame Book 2 > Chapter 17
Wednesday. Alumni Day.
Although the official events weren't due to
start until the end of the afternoon session, there was a general party
atmosphere about the day. It was generally recognized that little academic
work was going to be done, but there was more than enough compensation
in the fact that a number of the school's former pupils who had moved on
into their various professional fields had offered to come along and sit
in on lessons, give 'criticism and advice, and generally pass on the gossip
about the hard commercial world that most of the kids were hoping soon
Angelo Martelli and Charlotte Miller came along
early, too; Charlotte brought the recipe that she'd promised, and Angelo
brought an apron and a supermarket bag full of flour and everything else
that he'd been told he'd need.
Mrs. Berg showed them to a little-used kitchen
around the back of the building that had a fine view of air vents that
were splashed with pigeon droppings.
'I suppose this was a home economics class,
back when the building was used as a school for normal people,' Mrs. Berg
explained. 'Now we just use it for plays that have eating scenes in them,
Angelo looked around with some relief. He'd
been afraid that they'd have to use the large cafeteria kitchen with its
industrial-sized equipment for feeding ravenous high school appetites,
but this was closer to what he was used to at home. The years of living
singly and bringing up a boy had given him basic cookery skills,
but knowing which end of a can opener was hardly turned him into an Oyster
Bar standard chef.
Charlotte said, 'We'll only need it for a little
wile, Mrs. Berg. Thank you very much.'
I'll be just down the corridor. Call me if
you need anything,' Mrs. Berg said, and then she left them to it.
Angelo fired up the oven and cleaned down all
of the dusty work surfaces, watching as Charlotte Miller demonstrated the
first batch of cookie mix. She had him grease a couple of metal trays,
and then she loaded up an ovesized icing bag with cookie dough and started
to squeeze out evenly placed dollops onto the sheet. 'You put them about
an inch apart, like this,' she explained.
Angelo followed, a little unhappily. 'How much
of this stuff do I need?' he said.
Charlotte, for the first time, betrayed the
fact that a lot of her attention was elsewhere. 'What?'
'The globs. How many do I need to to feed the
'How do you expect me to think of globs when
our children may be facing a crisis?' she demanded, emphasizing her point
with a wave of the icing bag. A glob dropped neatly onto Angelo's shoe.
'I'm facing a crisis, too,' he said, grabbing
a piece of kitchen roll to wipe the dough away. 'I have to make cookies
for thousands of people.'
'Well . . . hundreds,' Angelo amended. 'But
hundreds of people can eat thousands of cookies.'
'Listen,' Charlotte said, barely controlled.
'I will help you with the rest of your stupid cookies if you will help
me with our stupid children.' And then, almost at once: 'I didn't mean
to say that.'
'Well, you did say it!'
'Well, I didn't mean to!'
The escalation of annoyance was ended by Mrs.
Berg, sailing past the door as she set off on some unexplained errand.
'Something's starting to smell really scrumptious in there!' she called
Charlotte and Angelo looked at the tray. It
wasn't yet near enough to the oven even to get warm. Charlotte let her
anger abate, added a few more globs, and said, 'That should be enough for
She laid the icing bag aside as Angelo slid
the tray into the oven and set the timer. As he stepped back, he said,
'Are you sure you don't want to change jobs?'
'No, thanks. I like the one I have.'
Angelo sighed. 'But you will help me with the
'Will you help me with the kids?'
'I would if I thought there was anything to
They pulled out a couple of kitchen stools,
and sat waiting for the timer to count its way down. Angelo had already
laid out a wire tray for the cookies to cool on. Charlotte explained about
the telephone conversation that had first aroused her suspicions.
'I couldn't hear everything,' she said, 'but
I definitely heard her say something about "what they would be doing later
'You sure she was talking to Bruno?'
'She called him by name.'
'Yeah, that'd be a giveaway.'
Charlotte shook her head. 'I always thought
Bruno was such a nice kid.'
It took a moment for this to register with
Angelo. Then, affronted, he said, 'What is that supposed to mean?'
'Well, I'm sure this wasn't Julie's idea.'
'What makes you so sure?'
'Because I know Julie.'
'And you think I don't know Bruno?'
Charlotte gave an elegant shrug. 'I don't know.
But now, Angelo was really angry. 'I do,' he
said. 'And if anything is going on, I'm sure it's because he was talked
Charlotte Miller met fire with ice. 'Mister
Martelli,' she said. 'No young man would have to be "talked into" . . .
' for a moment, she searched for a suitable phrase. 'Talked into being
attracted to my daughter.'
Angelo reached for an expression that he'd
once read in a magazine whilst waiting for a haircut. 'You never heard
of peer pressure?'
For Charlotte, this conjured up an image of
a line of boys all urging each other on as they waited for their turn.
She was about to blow, she knew it and couldn't help it . . .
But then the timer rang.
Doris was no lip reader, but she knew when she was being talked about.
At least half a dozen of her key people had
gone missing, and she'd been looking for them for almost twenty minutes.
Now that she'd found them, she was sorry she'd started.
They were in one of the music practice cubicles,
insulated from the outside world by a double-layer of glass and a thick,
tight-fitting door; Doris had once been told that the spaces in the walls
had been packed with sand for extra soundproofing, increasing the weight
load on the floor and giving the Education Department's building inspectors
a long-running headache. Doris stood outside, keeping back so that
she wouldn't be noticed.
They were having a meeting of some kind. Darlene
'Smokey' Smolinsky was clearly in charge, and she was presiding over a
debate that had a lot of give and take in it. The central point of interest
seemed to be a sheet of paper that was being passed from hand to hand;
kids were reading it through and then adding their signatures.
A petition! They were getting up a petition
of protest against the way that she'd been running the Alumni Day preparations.
They couldn't even have waited until the dance was over. Bruno Martelli
was adding his signature now, and he hadn't even bothered to read the text.
Perhaps he'd even helped to draw it up.
So she'd even managed to alienate Bruno, one
of her best friends in the whole school. And all because she'd said that
one of his dance numbers had a few glitches that she could help iron out!
Couldn't they see why she was doing it, and who she was really doing it
Well, obviously they couldn't. Perhaps she
ought to just walk away right now, take all of the plans and the rosters
and the duty lists that she'd devised and let the struggle through the
evening on their own.
But she couldn't do that. She couldn't cave
in, give up.
But then, she hardly felt encouraged to go
She needed to think this over. Slowly, she
descended the stairs towards the school auditorium. It was about the only
place that she could think of where she'd be alone for a while.
The auditorium, was almost dark, the only glow
coming from the emergency exit lights that had to be kept on all of the
time. Through the twilight, she could just make out the result of the weekend's
efforts; even in this light, it didn't convince. It was supposed to be
based on a postcard of the interior of Bird Cage theatre that was
still standing in Tombstone, dusty and peeling now but still the same building
where Lola Montez had danced for the men from the silver mines. What it
looked like was a school hall with a few painted canvas flats along the
walls, and Western-style posters that would have looked unconvincing in
Bonanza. Why were things always better in your imagination than they ever
turned out to be in real life?
It was tempting. Very tempting. This was Will's
last night in New York for what seemed like and eternity. They'd blame
her if she walked out now - but then, they were blaming her anyway.
Doris gave a start. Somebody was sliding into
the seat next to her. In the dull green glow of the emergency lights, Doris
was that it was Elizabeth Sherwood. There was concern in her eyes.
Doris tried to put a brave face on it. 'What
do "Alumni Day" and a three week vacation in the Bahamas have in common?'
'I don't know,' Elizabeth said.
'Not a damn thing.'
Elizabeth tried to adopt a conversational tone.
As a member of the staff, she was used to having a feel for the emotional
temperature of the school without always needing to know the specific details
of a situation. We she'd seen Doris heading for the auditorium with all
the cares of the world seemingly on her shoulders, she'd followed. Doris
had asked for her help once, and perhaps she'd be needing it again now.
She said, 'I hear the kids have been working
'So have I,' Doris said. 'That's what it takes.
you tell us that all the time - all the teachers do.'
'And it's true. But when people are working
hard they need a little praise along the with the criticism.'
Doris sighed. 'I just want so much for the
whole thing to work out.'
'I know,' Elizabeth said. 'But sometimes a
pat on the back works a lot better than a slap in the face. Sometimes that's
an easy thing to forget.'
'They hate me,' Doris said flatly.
'No. They're mad at you; they don't hate you.'
'How do you know?'
'Because I used to think Leroy hated me. He
didn't - doesn't. He's just got a lot to be angry at.'
Doris managed a smile. It wasn't much, but
it was a start.
'You just ended a sentence with a preposition,'
Elizabeth smiled back. 'Keep my secret,' she
In the teachers' lounge, David Reardon was sitting back with the telephone
receiver crammed between his shoulder and his ear. He had a glass of wine
in one hand, half of a Giro sandwich in the other, and a broad smile on
his face as he waited for his Florida connection to come through. The wine
came from a visiting alumnus, a member of the class of '74 who'd quit performing
and who now managed a thriving supermarket chain in Hartford, Connecticut;
every year he came back, and every year he brought a case of Paul Masson
for the staff. It was against the rules, but Alumni Day was a day on which
the rules tended to get bent a little.
After three rings, the phone at the other end
of the line picked up. A voice said, 'Garabaldi's nursery.'
'Hi,' Reardon said, settling back a little
more. 'Is this Mister Garabaldi himself?' It was. 'Terrific. My name's
Bernie Rettig, Mister Garabaldi, and I've got a little place in Daytona
Beach, not too far from you. The reason why I'm calling is that I've decided
to get into gardening in a big way, and your ad in the phone book says
that you're the biggest supplier of fertilizer in the area. Now, I want
the real thing . . . organic, you might say.' Reardon glanced up; Benjamin
Shorofsky was standing only a few feet away, a look of total puzzlement
on his face.
Mister Garabaldi wanted some details. 'Two
tons, I suppose,' Reardon said, and then: 'No, better make it three. Wouldn't
want to run short, would I? Just dump it in the front yard. Okay, now here's
Reardon turned over the piece of paper that
had been resting on his knee. On one side was a list of fertilizer suppliers
that he'd compiled from the Florida Yellow Pages on his second visit to
the library, and on the other was the address of Bernie Rettig's place
in Daytona Beach. Reardon had seen a snapshot of the house; it was one-storey,
two bedroomed frame building in a sedate-looking neighbourhood.
This was Reardon's third call so far. By the
time he'd finished, Bernie would need a shovel and a truck to get to his
front door. He wasn't going to be too popular with his neighbours, either.
He smiled at Ben Shorofsky, and raised his
glass. 'Cheers,' he said, and then he started to dial the next number.
No copyright infringement intended. For entertainment