Bells, Part II

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Updated: August 22, 2019

Bells, Part II

 

“I go and it is done. The bell invites me.”

–William Shakespeare, Macbeth

“The Japanese are taking over,” James McCoy explained as the three arrived beneath the vintage patio overhangs of The Sentinel, still wet from an earlier downpour that had since drifted eastward into open water.  Pressing his lips, Ricky threw the black BMW 3-Series in park. A young, red-vested valet smiled at the three—Ricky, Tania, and James—welcoming them to the finest dining experience in Duluth.  James snorted at that as he exited the BMW.  “As I was saying, the Japanese.  All over the place.  My old man lost an eye dodging Mistubishi Zeros in the Pacific, and here they are in Duluth Minnesota, the whole god damn starting rotation.”

Nearby, the bells of St. Helena’s chimed out seven in the evening—the light still holding out over Lake Superior through the mist of recent rains.

The valet gave a sideways glance to James.  Ricky, rounding the BMW, slid the keys and a large tip into the kid’s hand.  He smiled, admiring both the tip and the 3-series, whistling as he slid into the driver’s seat and sped away.

The three had re-convened after a brief respite—James demanded to stay at the Esquire downtown, and so Ricky barely had time to drop Tania off, shower, and find an outfit acceptable for a restaurant that didn’t have prices on the menu—then pick Tania back up, fight the traffic downtown, and collect his father, who now looked like the president of a Hampton yacht club.

Tania was dressed appropriately, like she belonged at a cocktail party with the Duluth elite, and she subdued a smile as Ricky adjusted the worn jacket he had thrown over an aging collared shirt.  She seemed to be enjoying Ricky’s torture at the hands of his father’s tirade.

“The LRS merger was the mistake of the god damn century,” James continued loudly, shaking his head.  “In fifteen years, there won’t be a white man left in the game of baseball.  Mark my words.”  He stormed off toward the double-oak doors, which an attendant opened with a wary expression that drew from James back to Ricky.

“No answer from Dan Vail?” Tania asked eagerly, frowning at James and looking to Ricky.

“None,” he answered, setting his phone back in his pocket.  “It’s four in California.  Let the man eat dinner first.”

“It won’t work,” Tania said, deflated.  “Or what if it does?  I mean, are we—are you sure about this?  The Board hasn’t—”

“I don’t really give a shit what Jason Bong’s band of Minnesota inbreds approves,” Ricky answered vapidly.

“It’s okay to be nervous.”

“I’m not nervous.  You’re the one who’s asking.”

“I mean about your dad.”  Tania gave Ricky an encouraging smile, her hands behind her back.

“Yeah,” Ricky answered as they watched James enter the restaurant.  “Sorry.”

“For your racist dad, or for dragging me around with him on a Saturday?”

Ricky winced.  “Both?”

“It’s alright.  I work for you, remember?  I’m accustomed to ignoring McCoy men.”

“Yeah,” he replied, reaching a hand up to scratch the back of his head.  Tania smiled, shaking her head and trying to salvage the knot in Ricky’s wrinkled tie.  He looked on, shifting his feet.  “He’s a little crazy.”

“Crazy like renting a BMW so your dad doesn’t know you drive a Celica, or crazy like bringing your assistant on your day off so you don’t have to be alone with him?”  She smirked, brushing off his shoulder.  “Besides, it’s nice to get out.  I’m considering changing my home address to Warrior Hall.”

He tried to smile back, clearing his throat.  “Yeah.  I mean. I guess I should probably say—”

“Hey!” James shouted comically, a hand on the door of the restaurant.  “Are you assholes coming inside, or what?”

Ricky sighed, and the pair followed James inside.  He was engaged in a description of the invasion of Iraq to the consigliere, who nodded politely with a faint smile as James described the burning oil fields of Kuwait, and the burned Iraqi bodies left along the highway.

A groomed server led the trio to their corner-table, passing an ornate grandfather clock with a beautiful chestnut finish and golden hands.  The pendulum lyre was fashioned like a celtic harp, and the bob was freshly polished, basking in the chandelier light.  Ricky paused, studying the clock with fascination.  He ran his fingertips over the glass, furrowed, working his tongue against his teeth.

“Ricky?”

Tania, clutching her purse, looked at Ricky near the table.  He shook out of his reverie, nodding and following her.  They were seated beside a mosaic-tiled fountain, James poured another glass of wine and laughed, red-cheeked, shaking his head.

“You’d never believe it now, little lady, but Ricky here was the darling of the Outer Banks.  Had to fight the women away with a damn stick.  All McCoy men are like that.”

Tania smiled politely, thoroughly enjoying Ricky’s humiliation, a hand on her wine glass.

“Yessir, a real Carolina Casanova.  Used to list out the girls in his class like baseball prospects.  Good build.  Plus-Plus potential.  Five-tool body.”  The old man laughed at himself, slapping his slacks and shaking his head.

“I don’t remember that,” Ricky replied, shaking his head.

“Sure you don’t.  Try this merlot, Rick.  Some real vintage shit.”

“That’s Malbec.  And no thanks.”

“What’s the matter son?  Not rich enough for the Manager of a third-place Great Lakes team?”  James laughed and dabbed at his mouth with an embroidered napkin. “That’s good wine, son.  Try it.”

“Ricky doesn’t drink,” Tania said with a smile.  She looked at her boss.  “Luckily, that policy doesn’t apply to subordinates.”  She slid the bottle over and poured herself a generous glass.

“Doesn’t drink!”  James laughed again, throwing the napkin on the tablecloth.  “Rick used to take in liquor by the cartload.  Had to get the Commandant of West Point a job at the god damn Pentagon to let the peckerwood graduate.”  He snorted, sighing.  “Gave his mother all sorts of grief.  Well good for you, Rick.  A transformed man.  More for me and the lovely Tania.”  He raised his glass in a salute.

“Ricky doesn’t talk much about his mom,” Tania said curiously, looking between the two.  “She died about twenty years ago, didn’t she?”

“Cancer,” James said solemnly, shaking his head as he took in another draught of the Malbec.  “God damn terrible.  But in her case, it was quick.  She was a lovely woman, Tania.  In fact, you kind of remind me of her.”  He looked to Ricky with a coy smile.  “What kind of weird shit are you putting into the hiring process around here, Rick?”

Ricky feigned a chuckle and shook his head.

“What was her name?”  Tania asked politely, sampling her own wine.

“Evelyn,” James replied, distantly, staring at the fountain beyond the two.  “The most beautiful girl in Swansboro, even on the day she died.”

Ricky tensed, his hands balled on his knees, and he cleared his throat.

“She was a teacher,” Ricky explained, looking to Tania.  “English teacher.”

“Shakespeare, Shakespeare all the god damn time.”  James said with a laugh.  “Wouldn’t let Ricky leave the dinner table without a quote from Romeo and Juliet or Henry the Tenth or some shit.”  He laughed louder.  Tania raised an accusatory eyebrow at Ricky.

“I didn’t know Mr. McCoy was so well-read.”  Tania sent Ricky a scathing glance.

“Oh, yeah,” James answered, pouring another glass.  “Mrs. McCoy saw to that. Thee and thou and all that bullshit. Got it in his head for a couple years that he was gonna be a god damn actor.  But the girls chased baseball players, so guess what Ricky changed his dream job to?”

“Word on the street is Ricky was a pretty good player in his day,” Tania said with a teasing tone, amused with the notion of Ricky as an actor.

James shrugged.  “Every hothead with a bat thinks they’re a god damn future hall of famer.  Ricky was a big fish in a small pond.  He got eaten alive in one season of Pioneer ball and never went back.”

“Tania’s aware of my stat line, dad.”  Ricky said calmly, filling his glass with water.

“Yeah,” James said, winking.  “I’m sure she is.”

“So Mrs. McCoy,” Tania continued, leaning forward.  “She grew up in Swansboro?”

“We both did,” James replied with a nod.  “Near it, anyway.  She grew up in town, I grew up on the island.”

“The island?”

“Castle Island,” James answered with a smile.  “Named by my old man.”

“The McCoys have their own island?”

“You bet your ass we do,” James said with a wide grin, nodding.  “Dad bought a few factories after the war, made a god damn fortune, and bought Castle Island so Mrs. McCoy, my mother, could live like a Carolina Rockefeller.  You’d love it, Tania.  You ought to come down.”

Tania looked between the two and burst out laughing.  James looked on, amused, and Ricky stared back at her.

“I’m sorry,” Tania said, fanning her face and taking another sip from her wine.  “I’m just picturing Mr. McCoy here growing up on his own private island.”

“Every luxury imaginable,” James answered plainly, looking to his son.  “He liked to play Che Guerra now and then, but he always came back when the money ran out.  Had to sell my left nut to get him into West Point.”

“Dad.”

“What?  It’s true enough.  And how does he pay me, Tania?  Shit grades.  A rucksack full of demerits.  It’s a damn holy miracle he graduated.  And when he did, his marks were so bad they made him a goddamn logistics officer.”

“I don’t really know the difference,” Tania said with a shrug.  “My parents were both teachers, too.”

James grunted.  “There are two kinds of officers in the Army,” he explained, smacking his lips, “Infantry officers, and every-fucking-body else.”

“Dad made it to Lieutenant General,” Ricky explained to Tania.  “Three-star.  His last job was with the Chief of Staff in the Pentagon.”

Tania lifted her brows with an admiring smile.  “Very impressive.”

“That’s right,” James replied.  “You look up James McCoy Junior on the internet, Tania—or whatever your pretty young girls are using these days—and you can read all about me.”  He laughed.  “But enough about me.  I guess you have to wait for god-damn ever to get service in Duluth, so why don’t you two tell me about your, ah, working relationship?”

“Tania is the Executive Assistant to the General Manager,” Ricky replied tersely.

“And the Executive Assistant to the General Manager’s expected to tag along with her boss on the weekends?”  He eyed the pair.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Tania said, motioning to her phone on the table. “It’s an important time of year.”

“Is that so?”

“We’re considering a launch of our rebuild early,” Ricky explained, relieved to move on from the previous topic.  “but it hinges on some big trade offers, and we’re waiting for the response.”

“God damn,” James replied with a frown.  “Why couldn’t you get a job with West Virginia, or Bakersfield?  I’d give the nut I saved all these years to have a catch with Alex Bothwell.”

“If you would have come when I was hired, like I asked, you could have had a catch with Don Mercer,” Ricky answered, with just a trace of bitterness.  Tania gave a short glance to Ricky.

“Jesus,” James whistled, shaking his head in amazement.  “Wouldn’t that have been something?”   He sighed.  “Still can’t believe you traded him away, Rick.  What a stupid god damn thing to do.”

“He cost 38 Million a year and we were 70 Million in debt,” Ricky answered, adjusting his watch.  “They should have never hired him in the first place.”

James shrugged.  “Now that’s a ballplayer.  God damn!  He can smoke a baseball.”

Mercifully, the waiter arrived.

“Ribeye,” James said, reaching into his shirt, unfolding a handful of bills and stuffing them into the waiter’s chest pocket.  “Rare.  And one for Little Rick over there, too.”  He waved a hand at Ricky across the table and winked at Tania. “And whatever the pretty lady wants, she gets—you understand me, son?”

When they had ordered, Tania placed her hands on the table and looked at the pair.  Ricky tapped his feet, hands folded in front of him, and James scratched his neck and admired the chandeliers.

“What was her favorite play?”

“Huh?”  James looked down from the chandelier to Tania.

“Mrs. McCoy.” Tania said, smiling.  “You said she loved Shakespeare.  I’m a bit of a bard-lover myself.”

“Oh,” James said, reaching for his wine glass and shrugging.  “Romeo and Juliet, maybe?”

“Macbeth,” Ricky answered quietly, eyes on his hands.

“Macbeth?” Tania answered, surprised.  James shrugged again, and Ricky nodded with a soft smile.

Give sorrow words,” Ricky recited softly, a fondness in his eyes, slowly shifting his glass of water in circles, “The grief that does not speak whispers the o’erfraught heart…and bids it break.”  He looked up.

Tania and James blinked back at Ricky.

“Well that is some depressing shit, Rick.  Thanks for that.”  James guffawed, looking to Tania.  Tania tilted her head and studied Ricky.  Distantly, Ricky provided a weak smile, drumming his fingertips.

Behind him, the bells of the beautiful grandfather clock sounded, mournfully, drowning the upbeat concerto.  It was a resonant, grieving tone—totally in opposition to the crisp and lightweight air of the restaurant.  The bells chimed in order, efficiently and tragically, just long enough for Ricky to close his eyes and remember.

When he opened them, his phone came to life on the table, rattling on the tablecloth.  The classical concerto returned with the bright lights of the chandelier.

“Jesus,” James said, cheeks flushed, shaking his head.  “You people and your god damned cell phones.”

“Who is it?” Tania asked eagerly, moving her chair closer to Ricky to see the screen.

“It’s Dan Vail,” Ricky answered calmly, removing the napkin from his lap and tossing it on the table.  He and Tania exchanged a somber, bated stare.