This is the second half of an excerpt of a bit of fiction I have been writing. The first part is my last post. Of course I must say that this is fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead makes it even more fun.
As his guests took their places at his table, and as his wife was retrieving a rack of lamb from her oven and wondering how her invitation to Dr. Tesh and his wife Belle had turned into a night with Scott and his scrub nurse girlfriend, Will Ryman laid out a few ground rules.
"No shop talk", he warned Murray Schram, who was already talking and bemoaning St. Sanctimonia's Press-Gainey survey. "Dis-engaged and "apathetic employees" were not a fit subject for a pleasant evening.To be sure there was a down-side to the no shop talk rule in mixed company, especially for the men, who had to confine themselves to three of the four F's- Finance, fishing, and football. Fortunately, if Renee ever came out of the kitchen , Ryman would have the help of a woman who knew how to steer a conversation.
"That is why God created the New York Times Bestseller list", Renee had once told her husband. Of course that applied to gatherings of people who read books, and those gatherings did not usually include doctors.
Lois Schram was heartened by Will's ground rules.She had spent a ghastly evening not long ago out to dinner at Barolo with Dr. Kevin Drice and his wife. Drice had pulled out some horrid little computer gadget and passed it around the table. It was a video from Dr. Drice's endoscope showing him removing a pin from the esophagus of a drunk, who had used it to pick his teeth. People need to be civilized about what they discuss over dinner. Lois was even more mortified when Drice insisted on showing the video to the wait staff and Barolo's head chef. The chef thought it was funny. "That could have been me!" he said.
And now- here was Murray, talking wistfully about tarpon fishing off Indian Pass. Lois would give him three minutes, which was all she thought a tarpon merited. After all what could one say about tarpon? That they were large? That they were silver? That they were inedible? What if I bored everyone by babbling on about the cultivation of miniature tulips from the Caucasus thought Lois, who had , in fact ,just published a monograph about those microscopic flowers in the Journal Of The Rock Garden Society.
Murray slurred a word, and Lois jumped in, pre-empting Renee, who had wanted to talk about the new book "Too Smart for Their Own Good". It was a profile and an expose of the Friend hospital empire, headquartered right here in the city. But Lois wanted to talk architecture.
"Has anyone read the piece in the City Scene about about the Tilley house? It was in last week's annual "Best and Worst" issue".
"Well, what was it Lois? Best or Worst?" , asked Scott Tesh.
"Worst!" said Darlin'." I read that piece. They said it was officially hideous. They said Judge and Clara Ritchie had a landscaping company come in and put in a row of Leyland cypresses so they don't have to look at it".
"It's going to court", Lois added," Timmy Tilley is suing the Ritchies for blocking his view . The paper says he got into a fight with one of the Mexicans who was trying to plant one of the cypresses. He had one end of the tree and the Mexican had the other."
"Who is Tim Tilley?", asked Tesh.
"He's that new singer", said Will, "He won best new artist at the Music awards. "He's not even American. His real name is Trudic or something. He's from the Ukraine. Rags to Riches."
"And back to rags before you know it, "said Darlin'" Fruit flies have longer careers than most of those guys-".
" That house is awful", said Will. "It looks like like a big pink antacid pill. 15000 square feet of fuscia stucco all on one level. It's like really bad Googie architecture".
" I think it looks like a pink Pentagon", said Darlin'".
Tesh laughed. " I can see that. The roof rolls back, and the missile silos pop out-" Tesh started laughing. Every one else did too.
Except Dr. Ashley. She seemed confused.
"Where is it?", she asked.
"Near the park. Near Cerner Road", said Will.
"Oh, the park", said Dr Ashley. "I run there everyday. Sometimes I do five miles. Sometimes I do eight. I'm running in the Boulevard Sprint next month. I had to stop running last year for two months. I had plantar fascitis. It was awful. I put on five pounds. I was up to a size 6. My father was going to disown me- My BMI was through the roof".
Lois Schram had dined with too many runners. She knew what was coming next. Carbohydrate loading. Running shoes- Dr Ashley had to be stopped.
"Where do your parents live?", she asked.
"Dallas. They're orthodontists."
That explains the teeth, thought Lois.
"Dallas! I love Dallas! I love the Galleria! I made Will take me there last summer when I could not tolerate another day in Tiptonville", said Renee.
" What's wrong with Tiptonville?", asked Scott Tesh."I like it up there. Will and I shot a mess of ducks up there a few winters back. Good times. We drank a lot of bourbon-".
Scott was still drinking bourbon, and not yet the Cotes de Rhone that Renee had chosen to complement her cumin and garlic encrusted leg of lamb, and her pancetta and rosemary roast potatoes. Scott and Will began to talk of good old times in the duck blinds. "Remember the time Timmy Friend's black lab knocked over his gun and blew a hole in the bottom of our boat?" said Scott. "We had to wade out the rest of the way to the blind. Damn. I it was a good thing it was January or the cottonmouths would have gotten us!"
AS the men talked ,Darlin' noticed Dr. Ashley had not touched her wine or the lamb.
"I don't drink", said Dr. Ashley. "And I'm a vegan".
Then why, thought Darlin', did you let Will Ryman put lamb on your plate, and wine in your glass? Darlin' was never surprised by the terrible manners of doctors. By how poorly socialized they were. Excluding Scott, of course. He had beautiful manners, though some lapses in taste.
Ashley, for example. But Darlin foregave him. Blondes from Texas were hard to resist.
Murray Schram had never shot a mallard or sat freezing in a duck blind. Now he was nodding, and Renee saw it was coffee time. Within fifteen minutes, Lois put Murray in the back seat of her Lexus and drove home.
Scott and Darlin' dropped Ashley off at her apartment, then went downtown to listen to jazz at Bennie's. They held hands until three in the morning.
"Let's go to Provence next year", Renee said to her half-asleep husband.
Will said nothing. He was thinking about going back to Tiptonville. At the rate St Sanctimonia Hospital was imploding ,he might be unemployed by next summer. He could spend the evenings out under his pecan trees reading Patrick O'Brien novels. He could get a new dog. Another chocolate lab.
Renee would not be happy about the dog. She had not been sad when Buster Brown had wandered away. "He was probably chasing a duck", Renee told their neighbors over at the next farm. Everyone in Lake County went out looking for that dog. That's what happens when you offer a five thousand dollar reward-