Chapter 2: Flynn’s Olde Boston Eating & Drinking Establishment
Part 3: The Next Big Thing
YOU CAN READ
evening, at eight o’clock, Matthew and Belinda are waiting in the lounge
at Flynn’s. Matthew’s nervous. So is Belinda. She has
never met any of the people she’s about to spend the evening with.
In fact, she has never met any of Matthew’s friends; that is, she has never
met anyone who is a friend of his alone, not a friend of Liz and Matthew,
that former couple. The lounge is crowded, noisy with conversation.
“Why is this place so popular?” Belinda asks.
“It’s mostly popular with tourists,” says Matthew. “It’s probably listed in every convention package and in all those guidebooks you find in hotel rooms.”
“Why is that, I wonder?”
“You mean, who’s being paid off? Why doesn’t one of the more interesting restaurants get the business instead? I don’t know. Maybe this is really the sort of thing tourists expect. Maybe they’d be disappointed by something better, or something different, anyway. They want beans cooked to mush, fried fish, Indian pudding. But why did Jack choose this place?”
“A gag, probably,” Matthew suggests.
“All set for drinks here?” asks the waitress, grabbing up empty glasses, napkins, plastic toothpicks. Matthew orders two more martinis.
He and Belinda chat, but Matthew keeps checking the lobby for Jack or Effie, mostly for Effie. There is already a long line of people waiting for a spot in the lounge, where they will wait for a table in one of the dining rooms. Later in the evening there will be a line of people outside, waiting to get into the line of people waiting inside. Many of the waiting people have children with them, and many of the children are wearing sweatshirts that tout Boston, the Celtics, the Red Sox, the Boston branches of Tower Records and the Hard Rock Cafe, and Flynn’s itself.
Matthew spots Effie as soon as she walks into the lobby. She stands on her toes, looking over the crowd. She looks much the same as she did when he last saw her, and in the essentials much the same as she did twenty years ago when she stood in front of a classroom full of kids and tried to tell them everything at once, as if electrified. She and her husband, Richard, are just back from two weeks on a chartered sailboat in the Caribbean. She has a great tan, and she’s wearing white. Her hair has always been very light; now there’s some white mixed with the blond, and that makes it lighter still, like the exaggerated bleached-blond that Matthew has noticed on much younger women.
She looks great, he thinks, just great, a little bundle of energy, bouncing on her toes.
She doesn’t see Matthew in the line, so she comes into the lounge, wary and curious, as if this were the first cocktail lounge she’d ever entered. Richard is behind her, wearing a puzzled look.
He always has that look, puzzled by Effie, Matthew thinks, by the way she makes her way through life. She must wear him out. There’s just too much coming from her all the time, too much energy, too many ideas, too many words. I’ll bet she wears him out in bed, too. It’s her body type: those thin, wiry ones just never stop.
Matthew has had two cleaning ladies of that type—ectomorphs—and they astonished him with their energy. The vacuum seemed to run on a higher speed when they used it. What an exhausting pleasure a night with Effie would be! Matthew’s heart would be racing like a bird’s, and he’d be panting by the end, goofy with pleasure and fatigue.
“Matthew!” Effie calls when she sees him, as if she were at a high school picnic. “Hey, you look terrific. How’s the war-toy business?” This is one of their jokes; it’s the first thing she says when she sees him once a year or so.
“Excellent!” he says. He’s ready for her. “Never been better. I’m getting good responses to a new idea: generic insurgents.” A go-ahead grin. “Blood ’n’ Guts Action Figures, I call them.” The introductions ought to occur here, right here, Matthew realizes; he ought to introduce Belinda now, but he doesn’t; he and Effie are having their banter, and Matthew doesn’t want to interrupt it, doesn’t, in truth, want to end it at all.
“They’re little action figures,” he goes on. “You know, toy soldiers. Dolls. But they’re sort of racial mongrels—they can be just about any race, religion, or nationality the kid’s nasty little mind wants them to be. And, with the appropriate Guerrilla Garb Kit—sold separately—the kid can dress the miniature fanatics in the garb of the guerrilla movement of his or her choice.”
“No kidding. We’ve got the trappings of all the lunatic religions, political movements, and other terrorist groups. Actually, though, the market tests show that the parents are going to buy the garb of the guerrilla movement of their choice, but what the heck. We’re even thinking this could boost sales in the long run. The kids will start buying more figures and dressing them up to mount a force in opposition to the force their parents are backing. Soon—it’s war! Great potential for escalating profits. Unlimited, really.”
“I’ll let you in on my best idea of all.” From the corner of his eye, he sees that Belinda is watching this performance with something like tolerant surprise. She doesn’t know about Effie, and she has never heard Matthew joke about his work.
“Mmm? What’s that?” asks Effie.
“Weapons. International weapons. The next big thing. A whole arsenal of weapons. Perfect replicas of the best sellers in the international arms trade. Full size. Can’t tell them from the real thing. All the deadliest stuff from China, Russia, Israel, South Africa, and, of course, the U. S. AK-47s, Uzis, Stingers. That sort of thing.”
“Watch for ’em at Christmas,” Matthew says. He turns to Richard. “Hi, Richard. How are you?”
“Fine, Matthew,” says Richard. “Just fine.” It seems to Matthew that there is always a certain coolness in the way Richard speaks to him. He has wondered whether Richard thinks that he and Effie were lovers, and because he likes the idea, he tries to encourage the suspicion by giving Richard a wry grin and a little wink whenever they meet. The wink is not exactly a wink, more a blink of one eye that could be interpreted as a wink, the kind of fleeting wink that might be exchanged by men who have enjoyed the same woman—if men who have enjoyed the same woman exchange fleeting winks like that. Matthew hasn’t the slightest idea whether they do, but such a wink seems like a token of the sort of camaraderie that’s supposed to exist among guys, coach types. Matthew doesn’t pal around with any guys of that type, so he doesn’t know what kind of sign to look for in a guy who has enjoyed any of the women he has enjoyed. Liz, to name one. She hasn’t remarried, so Matthew supposes that quite a few guys have enjoyed her, though he doesn’t know. On the rare occasions when he and Liz have gotten together since the divorce, they haven’t discussed their romances. Matthew is curious, but he guesses that he’s just as happy not to know. He does wonder whether Liz is curious, though. He has looked for evidence of curiosity—in her eyes, around the corners of her mouth—but he can’t be sure what he has seen there, can’t decide whether she has any interest in his sex life or not.
“I want you to meet Belinda Sadler,” Matthew says at last. He puts a hand on her shoulder. “Belinda, this is Effie Parker and this is Richard Parker.”
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Reservations Recommended is published in paperback by Picador, a division of St. Martin’s Press, at $12.00.
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Copyright © 1990 by Eric Kraft
Reservations Recommended is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogues, settings, and businesses portrayed in it are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
First published by Crown Publishers, Inc., 201 East 50th Street, New York, New York 10022. Member of the Crown Publishing Group.
Now available in paperback from Picador USA, a division of St. Martin’s Press.
For information about publication rights outside the U. S. A., audio rights, serial rights, screen rights, and so on, e-mail Alec “Nick” Rafter, the author’s earnest agent.
The illustration at the top of the page is an adaptation of an illustration by Stewart Rouse that first appeared on the cover of the August 1931 issue of Modern Mechanics and Inventions. The boy at the controls of the aerocycle doesn’t particularly resemble Peter Leroy—except, perhaps, for the smile.