Evelyn Brown rarely ventured into downtown Carmel on weekends when the influx of tourists could be suffocating. But today was important so she threw on her floppy brim hat, big sunglasses and heavy black cape, bulldozed her way through tourists along Lincoln Avenue and disappeared into the Cypress Inn.
The Spanish stucco boutique hotel was an oasis for travelers seeking fine accommodations for their dogs as much as for themselves. It would be hard to say whom got the better treatment, pooches or their people. Understandable, since one of the owners of the Inn was movie/recording icon, and dog lover extreme, Doris Day.
Welcomed by the doorman, Evelyn stopped at the front desk and visited with the Manager while stealthily scarfing up dog biscuits from an elegant crystal tureen on the counter. Weaving her way past pampered pooches in the hall, she made a hard left into Terry’s Lounge, the inn’s cozy dark bistro and bar, walls adorned with posters of Doris Day movies. Before she could plop down on the stool at the end of the bar, Gus was already mixing her Old Fashioned.
“A little early for you, isn’t it Evie?”
“I must fortify myself! I am having lunch with a very dear young man.”
Savoring her drink, Evelyn looked around the empty room, relaxed, and took off her hat and sunglasses.
“How are Butch and Sundance?” Gus asked.
“The Boys are fine. They’ll be pleased you asked…”
Turning from Gus, Evelyn saw her lunch date enter the lounge. Flashing a grin, she slid off the bar stool and opened her arms inviting a big hug from this good looking clean shaven man clad in a black turtleneck and sport jacket.
“Before I forget…” Evelyn said, breaking the embrace, “A dear friend would like you to be the guest author at her next literary luncheon.”
Jerry Newman’s face morphed into painful resistance.
“It’ll be fun! You can discuss your work. Read from one of your—”
“There’s nothing to discuss. Nothing to read.”
A middle-aged woman entered the lounge, saw Evelyn. “AHHH! I knew it was you!” The woman advanced toward Evelyn, “Once Upon a Murder was my favorite show. What happened? Why did they take it off?”
“Do you not have eyes to see, dear woman? Thou is no longer tender and ripe for high definition consumption!” Evelyn grabbed a cocktail napkin off the bar, scribbled on it and thrust it at the woman. “Now away! Shoo. Shoo…”
Evelyn’s favorite booth was tucked away in the secluded upstairs dining alcove around the corner from the bar. The plate before her bore scant evidence of her tasty lunch. The club sandwich in front of Jerry pretty much intact, the man looking like he’d just been chastised by the school principle.
Holding Jerry in her resolute gaze, Evelyn said, “The pleasure I derive from delivering a serious butt-kicking is the feeling I get that I am not entirely worthless.”
“Never. And thank you. You’re the only one…”
“You’re welcome. Now. Cut to the chase. How much longer are you going to hibernate in that little tin can?”
Jerry offered a hapless shrug.
“Enough! I commute your sentence. I’m a cranky old bitch, Jerry. And I’m getting tired of your crap.”
Jerry nodded, guilty as charged.
“Good. We agree.”
Gus came around the corner and delivered a fresh Old Fashioned to Evelyn who took a drink, and studied her lunch date. “You’re a good man, Jerry.”
“Once. Maybe… In a previous life.”
Evelyn took his hand. “Yours and mine.”
The memory made him smile.
“So. My book. Talk to me.”
“I can’t do it, Evie.”
“Of course you can. You have extraordinary source material!”
Jerry nodded, smiled. “Any hack could take– ”
“I did not entrust my life to any hack.”
“Evie… I can’t write. I’m done.”
“Horse pucky! You can. And you will!”
Jerry stared blankly across the room.
Evelyn gave him a moment, then, “It’s been, what… two years?”
Jerry breathed deep. “Yeah. One month from tomorrow.”
Evelyn took a drink, debated whether to push into no-man’s land. “My darling Jerry… You know how I feel about you. And I don’t mean to be heartless. But… Comes a day when you just have to keep it to yourself and get over it.”
Evelyn let that hang, then… “They are gone. Laura and Max are gone. You have to let them go.”
“Don’t know if I can.”
“You must. You can’t go back.”
Evelyn stared across the room at an old Doris Day movie poster, Lover Come Back. “Trust me. There is no going back. There’s only stuck in the muck. Or get on with it!”
Evelyn slugged down the rest of her drink. “We are all in the gutter, my sweet. Only some of us are looking up at the stars!”
“I saw Max this morning. Looked just like him. Everywhere I look… I gotta get out of here.”
“Then go. And don’t let anything or anyone get in your way.”
Jerry knew. No argument.
“As my shrink confessed after thirty years listening to my sniveling, You have to give up the life you have, to get the life that’s waiting for you!”
Evelyn moved close, whispered, “Life goes on, baby. Life goes on.” Then planted a kiss of life on Jerry’s lips.
On the top step to the dining alcove, Abby watched the lip lock when Jerry noticed her and pulled away from Evelyn.
“Sorry to… interrupt,” Abby said.
“The man is insatiable. Can’t keep his hands off me!”
“So I noticed.” Abby acknowledged Jerry with a curious smile – hard to believe the transformation from the man at the Farmer’s Market that morning.
“Jerry, this is one of my dearest friends… And current therapist, Abby Purcell.”
“I work with the Boys.”
Jerry turned to Evelyn. “Something wrong with the Boys?”
“They’re old, tired. A little arthritis in the hind quarters. Just like me.”
“They’re not done yet,” said Abby. “They just need something to rejuvenate their spirit… And so do you, Evie.”
Evelyn fixed Jerry with a dreamy smile. The room grew deadly quiet.
Jerry jumped up from the table, “Gotta run, Evie.” He gave Evelyn a kiss on the cheek, regarded Abby with a cool nod and headed down the steps.
Abby looked after him.
“Best writer we had on the show,” Evelyn said. “When Jerry left, it was all downhill to reruns and reunions.”
“What happened? Why did he leave?”
Evelyn considered the question, shook her head in amused reverie.
~ ~ ~