Tom Kaplan, Bar Back at the Round Up

Tom Kaplan was glad to be working, glad to be at the Round Up, and glad to have a place to be on a stormy night.

On this night he was particularly glad to be there because his older brother had come in with his pals from the ROTC; they came all the way from Pig’s Eye and the University of St. Thomas with money in their pockets and they were making him feel like a star.

Tom was busy, the room was crowded and he would have done anything to be finished with his duties so he could join his brother for a pint of beer, but he was having the best night of his life seeing his brother with his college friends, watching them sing songs and tell stories. He was determined to follow in his brother’s footsteps.

Tom was busy pouring drinks and clearing tables when the giant, Karl Thorrson, came into the room. Tom thought it was funny, the giant stood at the bar right where a little man who couldn’t have been more than three and half feet tall had been sitting minutes earlier.

He didn’t know who the giant was but his boss did, and Tom could tell that the huge man made him nervous. Tom couldn’t hear what they were talking about but they seemed to be arguing. Then big man ordered a round of Aquavit for the house.         

His employer, Mr. Holmes snapped his fingers and nodded his head at Tom, and Tom got busy pouring, he even had to go into the basement for extra bottles.

Tom served the drinks and poured one for himself, then he joined in with the room while the giant raised his glass and silently toasted everyone.

As soon as the moment was over the big man and his boss appeared to resume their quarrel. Then the giant’s hand shot out like lightning, he appeared to barely flick his boss on the shoulder with two of his fingers, it was enough to send Holmes flying backward into the wall.

Everybody saw it.

His brother and his brother’s friends came to their feet and began to push the giant out the door, it took all of them to do it. Tom got the feeling that if the big man had not let them, he would not have been moved.

Tom was determined not to be the only guy standing around doing nothing. He tabulated the man’s bill, grabbed the bowler that had fallen off his giant head and onto the floor, and went outside to make sure that the bill was paid.

It was the right thing to do.

When he got outside the big man was coming to his feet. Tom had a hard time believing that anyone or anything could have knocked him over, but apparently his brother’s friends had suceeded.

The heavy rain felt good to Tom especially after the adrenalin that had been surging through his body when he was watching the struggle inside.

He approached the gargantuan, returned his hat and presented the bill. The giant threw his head back and laughed.

Tom looked at his meaty face, at the lifeless black glass set in his eye socket, he saw the jagged lightning bolt inlaid there, then he saw the rainbows jumping off it as he was consumes by heat and light.

Hank Jeffers

Hank Jeffers had an appointment to keep at the Round Up.

He made it there well before the rain began to soak the city, he got there early thinking he might do a little business and take a few bets for his bookie before meeting the tall blonde lady who had become the biggest brightest star of his life, the loveliest person to enter his dreary little world for the better part of a decade…maybe ever.

It wasn’t in Hank’s character to complain; who’d listen? He would say if someone asked him, and the answer was…no one.

Hank was a few inches shy of four feet tall. He was quick witted and insightful. His parents had made sure that he had a good education, they ensured it by sending him to boarding school and keeping him away from them, their other—normal children, and their society, embarrassed by the fact that their first son had been born malformed.

After that he was on his own, formally disinherited and alone.

He was fourteen years old the last time he saw them, waving goodbye to their backs after they put him on the train to Fairbault, off to Shattuck of Saint Mary Preparatory School.

They never invited him back home for the holidays, they never wrote or returned his letters. There was a couple of hundred dollars left on account for him when he graduated, along with a message asking him to find his own way in the world and never come home.

It broke his heart, but he knew it was coming.

He had brothers and sisters he would never get to know. They would have children who would never know him, or that he even existed.

Hank wasn’t the type to hold a grudge, not then, not ever, so he turned away from his past and moved on.

Things could have been worse, he would tell himself. They might have sold him to the circus.

The priests at Shattuck encouraged him to enter a monastery, to join up, but he didn’t see much happiness in that way of life, and he had a hunger for adventure.

Hank wanted to see the world, and he made his just fine. 

While he waited for Angela to join him, he talked to a few fellas’ and took a couple of bets, then he sat at a table by himself in the corner where he watched the room fill up with boys from the Saint Thomas ROTC. They had come all the way down Lake Street to lift a few pints and ogle the working girls, without a thought for the rain.

When he saw the giant Karl Thorrson come into the Round Up he was both surprised and nervous.

The big man had taken over all the rackets on Lake Street, including the numbers racket that Hank was into, and so he was operating without permission, which could mean trouble for him. In addition, the gal he was waiting for, Angela Guthrie, worked for his business partner at an reading room that had his name on glass.

Hank and Angela had been looking for a way to get an angle on him and seeing him come into the bar while he was waiting for her, had hank imagining something bad had happened to her, and was about to happen to him.

However, it wasn’t long before Angela came through the door herself, looking out of place in the room, but not ill at ease. She handed Thorrson a journal of some kind and a small, metal money box, who slipped them into his pockets as if they were a child’s playthings.

Then he dismissed her with a glance.

Angela spotted Hank sitting by himself in the corner. She quietly walked across the room and sat down with him at his table, Thorrson didn’t even notice her, or pay any attention to her movements. To him, she was nothing.

Seeing that made Hank feel better.

Amelie Elmquist (Forrester)

Amelie Elmquist stood by her window in the antechamber of the wing she occupied in the Forrester mansion. She stood there watching her father, Colonel Forrester, as he interviewed a poorly dressed young man at length in the garden below her.

It troubled her.

She couldn’t peel herself away from her perch where she concealed herself behind the long white curtains, wishing more than anything that she could hear what was being said.

The staff was preparing a room for him in the guest quarters at that very moment. Until this morning she had not heard a thing about it. Nils, their butler. had kept the information from the staff and from her until this morning, though he had probably known for some days that her father wanted to put the boy up for a term of days, possibly longer.

Amelie positively loathed these kinds of secrets, they were disruptive and she had been feeling so out-of-control lately…

She had managed to squeeze a little information from Nils about the shabby boy, and what he would be doing at the mansion.

His name was Johnny Holiday, he worked for the evening paper, an aspiring journalist and a student at the University of Saint Thomas, across the river in Pig’s Eye.

Her father had enjoined him to do some research, Nils said, concerning Amelie’s husband, Bjorn, who had gone missing a few months earlier.

Nils told her that the Colonel, on account of his fondness for her husband, wanted something tangible to remember him by, a piece of prose to capture the essence of the man and remind him of their time together.

Her father was obsessed with stories, believing that narrative had a mystical quality, the way some aboriginal tribes believed that photographing a person could steal their soul, or rob them of their essence, as the renowned anthropologist Margaret Meade had reported.

Amelie suspected what it really meant was that her father was not satisfied with the notion that Bjorn had decided to leave her without a good reason, and without saying goodbye to anyone. The Colonel wanted to find out why he had gone, and he wanted someone who was unknown to both his friends and enemies to carry out the inquiry.

This made her nervous. She didn’t want anyone asking questions about her marriage. Bjorn was gone, her father should just accept it and move on; he would never be heard from again.

She watched them drinking coffee, while she drank a tumbler full of strong liquor, to settle her nerves and prepare her for own interview with the aspiring journalist.

She was determined to discover his purpose. Nils would bring him to her when her father was done with him, then she would but his heels in the fire.

Dr. Quintin Marshall – Professor of Classical Philosophy

Dr. Marshall arrived early in the morning.

The drive down Summit Avenue was beautiful, though the humidity was stifling.

There was a breeze with cool jets of air laced through, it spoke of storms and perhaps a break in the weather.

Students were returning to campus. The Freshmen were in the quad doing drills for R.O.T.C.. Dr. Marshall enjoyed watching the young men exercising, wishing that he had been afforded the benefit of such training before his own service in the Great War.

While his summer sabbatical at the University of Chicago had been illuminating. He was glad to be back in Pig’s Eye. He particularly enjoyed the conferences he had attended with eminent philosopher and physicist, Alfred Whitehead he had to confess that it made him feel small.

His work is groundbreaking, Dr. Marshall thought, even though he was forced to confront the very real limits of his imagination as he tried to comprehend Whitehead’s theory of concresence, and such things. Quintin Marshall knew this much, Whitehead was articulating a whole new cosmology, a signal change in the basic understanding of the nature of reality, one that was based on all of the groundbreaking work that was being carried out by famous men like Einstein and others.

The old world, his world would become just a footnote to theirs.

When he got to his desk in Aquinas Hall he found it much as he had left at the end of the spring term, Freshly cleaned and dusted but his work was right where he left it. There were even a couple of papers he had not graded before leaving.

There was a paper from Johnny Holiday, an exceedingly bright but functionally derelict student who Dr. Marshall had been all too happy to see dismissed, even helping to facilitate his suspension, never mind the fact that it necessitated a less than honest report on his comportment.

The boy was a bright and a gifted writer, but arrogant, and he did not belong in the university.

He looked out the window thinking about Whitehead, wondering why he felt hollow inside. He realized then that he had become a historian, a cataloger of other people’s thoughts. The world had moved on from Socrates and Plato, revolutionaries in their time, now become little more than shining tiles in the mosaic of modern thought.

He looked back at his desk and read the title of Johnny Holiday’s final essay:

Concresence and the Square of Opposition, the end of Aristotle in the Age of Uncertainty

Hubris! Dr. Marshall thought, knowing that he was jealous. He hadn’t read the paper, and he didn’t plan to, but now seeing the title again, he realized that Johnny Holiday had already progressed to the place in philosophy that he himself aspired to. He was with Whitehead, a creature of the modern world.