For those who may not be familiar with my first book, Moral Ambiguity, I wanted to introduce you to Claudia Stronghorn who figures prominently in singer Kevin Gregory’s saga about his unfortunate alliance with the televangelist James Standridge. Claudia was Kevin’s voice teacher in college, and after he graduated and moved on, they were reunited several years later when she accepted a job at Julliard and persuaded him to move to Manhattan to work as her personal assistant. The scene takes place in the 1980s. Kevin speaks:
Claudia was striking with her olive skin and dark hair swept into a tight French twist. She wore large earrings set with expensive stones, which sparkled when catching the light. Her suits were tailored to accentuate her marvelous figure, and I can’t remember ever seeing her wear the same pair of shoes more than once. Her jewelry was minimal during the day, limited to earrings and a simple Van Cleef and Arpel’s diamond-studded gold salamander, which rested near her left collarbone as if considering a climb over her shoulder. When she attended evening events she exchanged the bejeweled reptile for a silver choker with a star sapphire, resting on a bed of diamonds, at the center.
I arrived at the Plaza Hotel a quarter past three, but wasn’t too concerned because Claudia is habitually late unless she’s going on stage. The concierge informed me that Ms. Stronghorn was out, but had left a message saying she would meet me in the bar for a drink upon her return. In the meantime I was to be her guest and charge my drinks to her room. At 6:30 Claudia finally arrived dressed in a white tailored pantsuit with an Hermès scarf trailing down her left shoulder; the salamander was holding it in place. She was also wearing an enormous hat.
“Kevin! Darling! Forgive me. I’m running late,” she said as she kissed me on both cheeks, the brim of her hat nearly scratching my right cornea, and then to the bartender “I’ll have a double gin sling, keep them coming, and another round for my friend. Same tab—Claudia Stronghorn.
“Darling, I hope you haven’t been waiting long. Were you bored? I had an afternoon appointment, and I had no choice but to go today. I hope you understand.”
“You look wonderful.”
“Do I? This damned humidity. While I was lunching with the girls they were all complaining about it… So, how did you occupy yourself for the few minutes I was detained?”
“I stayed in here so I wouldn’t miss you.”
“What a wise one you always were. Ah! The drinks are here. What are you drinking?”
“I’m having a glass of Chablis.”
“We’ll have to work on that. You should consider drinking something with more of a kick. My summer hooch is gin, and in winter I prefer scotch. Bartender, I’ll have another, and my friend will have what I’m having.”
“Claudia, I don’t think I should.”
“Certainly you should. Tonight we celebrate; tomorrow we get down to work.”
“What are you having again?”
“Gin sling. It’s like lemonade with a purpose. There’s no better way to fight the heat. Save your wine for dinner.”
“Speaking of dinner, are you hungry?”
“It’s early yet. I’d almost considered having tea with you, but since you were already at the bar, I thought what the hell. After we have a drink we can get a bite. There’s a charming little bistro not far from here. It’s haute cuisine, which is all the rage these days. You know, terribly minimal, but the wine list is to die for. You might enjoy it.”
“I don’t know. I have some cash, but I probably ought to conserve it until I get paid.”
“Don’t worry about that darling. Until you get settled, everything’s on me. By the way, I set it up with my accountant that you’ll get a check every Friday and you’ll get your first one tomorrow. Is that okay with you?”
“Sounds great. What is it that I’m going to do exactly?”
“For starters I thought you could handle my personal calendar to make sure I don’t miss anything important and that I manage to miss everything that’s not. Then you’ll manage my wardrobe. You’ll have to see that the rotation is set up and running smoothly.”
“What’s the rotation?”
“It’s simple. I have an extensive wardrobe, which is divided into thirds. One third is at the cleaner’s, one third is hanging in the closet, and the other third is in transit to or from the cleaner’s.
“Sounds simple enough.”
“If you manage to keep everything straight…Bartender, another round if you please.
“As far as your other duties are concerned, you’ll act as project manager for the redecoration of my apartment. After that job is finished, you’ll be the one who makes sure that the house is set up for the occasional party. I don’t foresee having more than one soiree a week, but there will be those rare occasions when I have people in twice. I can’t think that I’d go so far as to have three, but certainly never more than four. Mine are usually cocktail parties, but once or twice a month I have people in for dinner. I dine out for the most part, so you’ll be cooking for yourself. Buy whatever you like, but make sure the pantry is ready for anything impromptu. The soirees are always catered, and you’ll have to make sure the caterers do what they’re told. Most of my affairs will be for six to eight, so I’ll have to ask you to sharpen your bartending skills, which reminds me you’ll have to see that the liquor cabinet is stocked for any emergency. When I arrive home in the evenings, I like a drink waiting on me. I never know when I’ll be home, so you’ll have to learn to be quick. I hate mixing my own drinks. Bartender. That’s right. Thank you darling.
“As I was saying, I’m untalented in the kitchen and nearly as incompetent at mixing drinks. I do better this side of the bar. There may be occasions when you’ll have to serve as my envoy. Everyone seems to be communicating through fax machines and telephones these days, but there are times when an urgent message must be delivered in person. You’re terribly bright and I know you’ll learn your way around the city before too long.” The bartender sat a fresh drink before her and she began drinking it immediately. “I hope you won’t be too bored with this life. Do you think you’ll be okay?”
“I don’t see why not. You’re paying me well. Should we be thinking about dinner?”
“It’s early yet. Have a drink and then we’ll go. Bartender, we’re ready for another round. On the tab, that’s right. Claudia Stronghorn. Oh, and write yourself in a nice tip.”
© 2011–2015 by Patrick Brown
Visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1 to learn about my books “Moral Ambiguity” and “Tossed Off the Edge.”