Bridge 10

September 11th, 2010



Bridge 10–HAMLET

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Why must I be the one who has to face

These problems?  I had dreamed of other things . . .

To spend my life, my time, some other place,

Not fussing with the sins of queens . . . and kings.

At every turn there’s ambiguity,

And who am I to make it all make sense?

I’d be more comfortable if I could be

A mere observer, sitting on a fence.

But, if I must, I can make up my mind.

You force me to?  Then you must share the cost.

Some things that you most cherish you will find

Part of the price, a part of what’s been lost,

Expenses of the crown, all levied since

You first insisted that I play the prince.

[Summer, 1957]

“Our trip wasn’t as eventful as yours, Jack,” Henry said.  “Nor did we discover family values at the end of the rainbow–in New York–as you did in Las Vegas.  I envied you as you described the domestic tranquillity you managed to establish.  Laura’s a very special woman, isn’t she?”  Shoko nodded.  “With a rare sense of humor and moral stability.”  Henry squeezed Shoko’s hand.  “But that’s not the end of that story either, is it, Jack?  And I still ponder my relationship to Betty . . . what it was when we left Nebraska, what it was during those early months in New York–or what it was the last time I talked to her.  I never knew!  Some say I became her manager, but can you conceive of anyone managing Betty?”

“I suppose Jordan came closest.”

“Not even Jordan.  That was another illusion, Jack.  We think he did–and sometimes he thought he did–because that’s what Betty wanted us to think.  Then she could blame some of


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the things she decided to do on him.  I always had a secret sympathy for Jordan, particularly in the last few months of his life . . . when he probably thought I was least sympathetic.”

“You’re both so cynical about Betty,” Shoko said.  “Because she got her way with the two of you so often.  But Jordan was always a strong influence on her.  As a woman, I sympathized with her.  I’m sure that the countess did, too.”

Henry shook his head.  “You’re right about Jordan being an influence on her . . . on her attitudes, her actions . . . more than I could be.   So perhaps I am jealous.  Of Jordan . . . imagine.  What I should have said is that he had no real control over her.  He could never get her to do what she didn’t want to do.  That was probably the trouble from first to last.”

“And you had everything in your own life so nicely under control there in Wellington, Henry.  I wondered how you could bear to leave that comfortable cocoon you had fabricated for yourself.  How Betty had lured you away.  And you never went back . . . never saw it again, did you?”

“Does the butterfly go back to the cocoon?  No, I never saw that house again, and now it wouldn’t be possible, would it?  Marge finally handled everything for me, by mail–as if she were closing an estate–and sent me a couple of boxes of things I asked for.  I remember wondering if I’d ever be back as I backed out of the driveway that evening, on the way to the theatre, and realizing that I didn’t know–and that I didn’t care.  I was willing to leave everything I had accumulated there to go with Betty to New York, in a very ambiguous role–taking my friend’s wife, without his knowledge, to meet another man, who wasn’t expecting her–going on her mission, with no goal of my own beyond observing what she would do.  But that was enough.  Betty was always worth observing.

“Did I plan to seduce her? you may ask.  Had I seduced her already?  Ah, my!  No, Jack, I hadn’t.  And I didn’t.  I don’t

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believe I intended to.  At least I never did.  Never!  Though, yes, I knew others, in and out of the theatre, I’m sure did, was sometimes intensely jealous of them, briefly, until it became obvious that I was closer to her than they had been–and they were gone.  No, I’d been seduced by her, and knew that very well.  I was compelled to go, to watch, was more like a moth than a butterfly, attracted to my doom by the flame of her spirit.  I always knew that–from beginning to end–maybe from that very first meeting, when her eyes met mine, in the country club.  It was hypnotism.  I became her bald soprano, trained to sing on cue–though she seldom asked me to sing.”  Henry laughed.  “Rather, I served Betty like a worker bee his queen.  She exercised an elemental power over me.

“That’s as close as I can come, folks.  And, lame as it may sound, I knew she was right about you, Jack, that you were better off with Laura–as your story demonstrates–for I’d been observing the three of you that whole school year, after all.”

“So says the man who ran away with my wife . . . and is a professional specialist in rationalization.”

I smiled at Shoko, but her expression was very sober, as she added, “But I agree, Jack, after having heard you tell the story.  Betty knew . . . knew both you and Laura–and Henry.”

“Anyway, the car was all packed the afternoon before the last performance of the play–so we could just get in and drive away.  We limited ourselves to one suitcase apiece, and what- ever else we could cram into that little car–my typewriter and briefcase, half a dozen cameras, her make-up kit–enough to fill the trunk and back seat.  No sleeping in the car for us, beyond dozing in the passenger seat.  But only a few books.  Betty said, ‘They have libraries in New York, you know.'”

“Yes, Betty believed in libraries.  For all her reading, she seldom owned a book.  If she did happen to buy one, and liked it, she’d give it to someone she thought should read it.  ‘Why

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read a book twice, when there are so many more waiting to be read?’  I guess she was a little that way with people, too.”

“Well, ten minutes after she took her last bows in Wellington we pulled out of the parking lot headed for New York, and our hazard of new fortunes.  I was borne along on the wave of her excitement, but it was an adventure, Jack, and, in spite of all of these latter-day complications, I have no regrets.  How else would I have come to know Jordan, for example?”

“You and Jordan became pretty close, too, didn’t you?”

“Not at first.”  Henry laughed.  “Because, as you say, I had run off with your wife.  It turned out that Jordan was very fond of you, and rather conventional in many of his attitudes.”  He got more serious.  “And not at the last . . . because it seemed I had run off with Betty again.  But yes . . . for years there in the middle I suppose you could say we did become close, became good friends.  I became useful to Jordan, too, probably more useful than I was to Betty, considering their two careers.  But it was Betty who took me to New York.  As she said at the time, ‘You’ve been to Wellington, Henry!  Now it’s time for those “fresh fields and pastures new.”‘

“That’s the best metaphor for her life,” I said.  “Perhaps we should put it on her gravestone: this woman was always ready for ‘fresh fields and pastures new.'”

“AndI had been to New York before, many times, but, coming like this, with her, it was still a new pasture for me, not the New York I had visited as a student.  I try to remember things that happened on that trip, to match your story, Jack, but we just drove.  We stopped to eat and get gas, and, after two days on the highway, there we were–the New York skyline, the Holland Tunnel, the big city.

“We drove all night the first night, because Betty wanted to put distance between us and Nebraska.  We did get a motel room the second night, somewhere near Youngstown, Ohio–

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but just to sleep–then back on the road.  Betty insisted on doing her share of the driving.  She liked to drive, while I preferred to read, or to sleep, as I often did traveling with her.  She had trouble doing either in a moving vehicle.  She went through moods, brooded in silence for an hour, then talked non-stop for the next hour, mostly about Jordan, telling me much of the story that you just told us, but, as you can imagine, from a somewhat different perspective.  It was clear that she thought he should have taken her to New York the year earlier, instead of ‘going off to England like that.'”

Henry paused and reflected, then went on, slowly.  “You know, Jack, because of things you said later, I used to wonder whether Jordan might be Christine’s father.  I got no clue, as she told your story on that trip, or ever, from Betty . . . or from Jordan . . . but, watching both of them over the years, I don’t think it’s possible.”  Then Henry started to smile.  “Now the football player, Tom Hazen, I’m not so sure about him.”

Shoko said, “Stop that!  You men!  I’ve known Christine was Jack’s daughter from the time she was a little girl playing in the countess’s garden.  And what does it matter?  I wish she were my daughter . . . but if she were I couldn’t love her any more.”   She saw me looking at her, conscious of her pregnancy, and smiled.  A very different smile from Henry’s.

“That’s true . . . what does it matter?” Henry said.  “Christine is such a jewel we all want to claim her.  And Betty and I had another problem.  What do you do after you get to New York?  Have you ever had that experience?  It’s go, go, go . . . and then you’re there.  When we pulled into the city, I felt a little overwhelmed, felt that we might have made a mistake after all, since we came with no plan, beyond Betty’s dream of riding Jordan’s coattails to stardom–which I was pretty sure was doomed to disillusion.  Finding stardom in New York City, no matter who you know, is like winning at

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the racetrack–the dream of everyone who comes, the experience of so few as to be no odds at all.

“I expected to be disappointed by Jordan Simms, too.  He couldn’t be as fantastic as Betty kept insisting he was.  And we hadn’t even made arrangements for a place to stay . . . didn’t know where we’d park the car!  But we came out the other end of the tunnel–and there we were.

“Betty was overwhelmed by New York, too, but not the same way.  It was more, ‘Here I am . . . at last.  Now where do I begin?’  She was consulting the map for the address of the friend Jordan had said he might be staying with when he returned, saying, ‘Won’t Jordan be surprised!’  We didn’t have much trouble finding the address, off Washington Square, in Greenwich Village, and at least the friend was surprised, as he answered the door and looked at us in bewilderment.”

“That would be Ralph, wouldn’t it?  I can just see him.”

“Yes, Ralph may still live there.  He has worked with us a lot over the years, but he wasn’t very enthusiastic that day.  ‘You came to see Jordan Simms?  Well, yes, I know Jordan.  I stayed with him in London this winter.  But he’s not back yet.  It’ll be next Tuesday, I think.  And I’m not sure he’ll be staying here . . . though he can if he wants to.  He’s been using this as his mailing address.  I have several letters for him, but he didn’t say anything about friends meeting him here.’

“Betty explained about wanting to surprise Jordan, and then about her experience with him in Kansas, the plays they’d done together.  Then Ralph brightened.  ‘Oh, yes . . . Betty Fredricks.’  He looked her over.  ‘But, according to Jordan, you were pregnant, got married and moved to Nebraska.  Is this your husband . . . Jack Curtis, isn’t it?  I’m pleased to . . .’

“‘No, this is a friend, Henry Gordon.  I guess I should say Dr. Gordon, a psychologist, who came with me to New York.  To see Jordan.’  Betty just smiled, and I smiled and shrugged.

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“Ralph gave me a strange look, and then looked back at Betty.  ‘And the baby?’

“‘Back in Nebraska . . . where she’ll be safe . . . with Jack.’

“‘I’d like to meet Jack.  Jordan talked a lot about both of you, but particularly about the interesting things he had done with Jack.  I guess they lived together for a while, didn’t they?’

“‘Yes, they did.’  But Betty didn’t care to follow that line.  She looked Ralph up and down, and I could see that she was disappointed in him.  Finally, she said, ‘I’m hoping that Jordan can help me find some acting opportunities here.’

“I thought Ralph’s mouth dropped open a little, and he laughed.  ‘He’d probably like you to help him find some acting opportunities here.  He’ll be new to New York, too, you know.  And, while you’re at it, I’d like both of you to help me find some acting opportunities, and I’ve lived here all my life.  But Jordan is good.  He’ll find something . . . for himself . . . but for you or me?  There are a lot of girls, who’ve had lead roles in a lot of plays here and there around America, available in New York.  You need an agent.  You need luck.  But you can sure talk to Jordan about it, when he gets here . . . if he does.  I’m never sure about Jordan.  If he just decided to go somewhere else . . . do something else . . . he very well might.’

“He said this last to me, and then looked at both of us again, as if appraising our situation for the first time.  ‘You’re welcome to stay here . . .  until he comes, I suppose . . . in the spare room I could offer him.  Then, we’ll have to see . . . it’d be a little crowded.  Do you have any bedding?’  I told him we had a sleeping bag and two blankets and a pillow in the car, so Betty could use the bed, and he gave me that strange look again, that had me appraising myself.

“Those first ten days we just wandered around the big city, like any other tourists from Nebraska might, going to all the famous places–the top of the Empire State Building, the

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Statue of Liberty.  I tried to act like a guide, based on my previous knowledge of the city, but Betty soon knew where everything was, and how to use the subway system, as well as I did, was taking me to museums and plays, and spending much of her time going through the newspapers, looking for places to take me.  We would walk down Broadway and look at the posters.  In a matter of days, Betty knew who was playing in almost everything in the major theatres by name.  I remember how delighted she was to take me to a revival of Carousel, which, as you told us, she’d been in in high school.

“She loved West Side Story, which we saw more than once, but we saw some play, usually off-Broadway, every evening, and sometimes a matinee as well.  Betty always had suggestions–perhaps about costuming, or the set, or lighting–but always about the lead actress’s interpretation of her role.  She had much less to say about the minor characters, anyone playing one of the roles I thought she might actually aspire to as a beginner, for she was obviously always thinking of herself in the lead.  You could put that on her tombstone, too.

“In those first days, she was just waiting for Jordan, impatiently, didn’t even start looking for work.  Nor did I.  She’d only brought about $300–not wanting to take all your money, too–but I had almost $5,000 in cash and travelers’ checks, and told her that I could finance us for a while.

“‘We’ll do fine once Jordan gets here,’ she’d say.  ‘He’s better than any of these people we’ve been seeing.  Think what he could have done as the villain in that play tonight.’  I couldn’t, of course, but there was no use pointing that out.  ‘You’ll see.  He’s good.  And so am I!’  She’d look at me.  ‘You know that.  We’ll do all right . . . put on our own show, like Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, if we have to.’  She laughed, but probably meant it.  ‘From what I’ve seen, New York can use a few more well-made plays . . . and players.’

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“Ralph turned out to be very accommodating, would help with anything he could–where to park the car, how to catch the subway, where to eat near wherever we were going.  By the end of the second day he and I were friends–as we have been ever since–already enjoyed sitting over a cup of coffee talking about . . . anything.  He’d majored in psychology at the city college, in fact, though he was then working as a nurse’s aide.  But Betty was disappointed in him, said he wasn’t what she would have expected of a friend of Jordan’s, and seldom joined in our discussions.  She had her own agenda.

“We met a few of Ralph’s other friends–and I wondered what his relationship to Jordan was myself.  After we’d been there a few days, Betty questioned him at length about what  Jordan had been doing in London, and what he’d said about his plans.  Ralph said he’d only been in London for about three weeks, and met Jordan through a friend, so didn’t know that much.  Betty decided Jordan had been drawn to him mostly because he was from New York, and had offered a place to stay.  ‘Jordan was writing to people about acting jobs,’ he told her, ‘but he’d like to stay in New York.  Like you would.  I remember he talked about you and Jack . . . about your tour with Othello last summer, and Jack’s job in Nebraska . . . but nothing about your meeting him in New York.’

“Betty thought Jordan might not be coming to Ralph’s at all, that he might have forgotten him, and already be in New York.  But then Ralph got the telegram from Jordan, giving his arrival time at the airport that following Monday, about three o’clock in the afternoon, and Betty was high again.  Ralph didn’t have a car, but I did, of course, now parked off on a side street.  We decided that, if we unloaded everything, we might get four people and Jordan’s baggage in that.

“So I first met Jordan Simms at the airport, and think we were both surprised.  He had only expected Ralph, and I know

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the surprise was genuine when he first caught sight of Betty.  She was bubbling over with enthusiasm.  ‘Jordan, you look great!  And here we finally are . . . both in New York!’

“‘Betty . . . what . . . what are you doing here?  Where’s Jack?  And where’s your baby?  Christine?’

“As she answered his questions, consigning you and Christine to Nebraska rather cavalierly, I thought, I could see he was annoyed–and kept looking sideways at me. ‘He’s who?  In psychology?  He came along why?  You just left Jack!  Without even telling him you were going?  I don’t believe it!’  She was explaining it to him all the way in from the airport.

“We were all four in that little apartment for about three days, but, after the first flood of conversation, it became too crowded, and Jordan suggested moving out, saying, ‘I’m  better off living alone, where I won’t bother anybody.’

“Betty said, ‘You won’t bother me.  And we need to talk.’

“But, as it turned out, he’d only be there for a week in any case, and, when Ralph told us about a small apartment down the street, I was the one to move . . . since I planned to be there longer.  ‘Let Betty and me move to that apartment,’ I said. ‘We’re the intruders, after all.’

“‘No, I’ll stay with Jordan, while he’s here.  But take the apartment, Henry.  We can decide who lives where later.’

“So I moved, and lived in that apartment for about three years, comfortably, by myself much of the time–though I had a dozen part-time live-in guests scattered over those years.  When I first set up as a photographer in the fall, then as an agent a couple of months later, it became my studio/office as well.  I still spent a lot of time with Ralph, who became my buddy, but less and less with Betty–for a while.  She never lived there with me, stayed with Ralph, who finally became her buddy as well–until late in the summer–and then moved in with two other aspiring young actresses on a rent-sharing deal.

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“So Betty had taken me to New York, and then, you might say, abandoned me there.  But, no, we still went places together.  I was her most frequent escort in those early days, and she was always pleased to see me, if not much interested in what I was doing, until, again, I became useful to her–became her agent.  But, through it all, I was always her friend.

“Her relationship to Jordan was more hectic.  At first he was definitely upset.  It was clear that, whatever you might have felt, he felt the two of us had betrayed you.  His advice to Betty was to go back to you, and her baby, and apologize. ‘Go to Colorado for that Shakespeare program, if they’ll still take you.  I’ve heard about it, and it’s one of the best in the country.’  He said he’d try to help both of you, later, after he got his own feet on the ground in New York.

“He was quite serious, Jack, about insisting that we try to get in touch with you.  Over her objections, he got your phone number from Betty and called, but was told that the phone had been disconnected–so you and Laura must already have left.  That surprised me.  Then, determined to talk to you–perhaps get you to come and retrieve Betty–and, with my help, he called Marge, then Emma Brigot, then the people at the college.  Nobody had a forwarding address for you.”

“We did that on purpose, Henry . . . cut all ties with the past, with no forwarding address.  Laura didn’t even send her parents an address until Christmas, I think, though she did write to them–and sent postcards from Steamboat Springs and Salt Lake City–telling them not to worry, that she was doing what she wanted to do.  And she talked to her mother on the phone a couple of times, calling when she knew her father wouldn’t be there.  We didn’t have a forwarding address when we left, of course, had no idea that we’d end up living in Las Vegas.  But I had done that two or three times before in my life–and am tempted to do it again now–just leave, and let

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chance determine a new life pattern entirely separated from the old.  That was the way Betty wanted it.  So fine.  Laura and I would start over, too . . . and let Fate cast the die.”

“Well, I can’t say whether Jordan ever forgave Betty for leaving you, but he never completely forgave me for my part in it.  He worked with me, he tolerated me, we even became friends, after a fashion, but I’m sure that every time he saw me in those first few months, the first thought that came to mind was, ‘This man helped Betty leave Jack.  Jack’s the one who should be here in New York with us.  No . . . Betty should be back home with Jack . . . and it’s his fault that she’s not.’  At least it seemed so.  But maybe I was paranoid.”

“Perhaps Jordan was a better friend than I realized.”

“You can be sure it wasn’t his intention to steal Betty away from you–not at that time, at least.  And I can’t believe it was ever true that he saw himself as a competitor for her as a woman . . . or for any woman with any man.  Jordan wasn’t tuned that way.  He was concerned about his competitors on stage–and his professional opportunities–then and always.

“Betty had her scrapbook of programs and clippings, but Jordan had something closer to a professional artist’s portfolio.  I offered to take some pictures of Betty, and work with her to bring her credentials up to professional standards, but, at first, she wasn’t interested, expected to make her contacts in person, thinking that, once they saw what she could do, they’d be eager to offer her attractive roles.  ‘I only need one chance on stage, Henry, and the rest will take care of itself.’  It took a few months of frustration, after Jordan was off on his own and she’d tried everything, to bring her around to my game plan.

“By then, I’d been meeting with many of the same people she had, and since they were soon listening to me more than they were to her, I became negotiator.  I had begun to teach myself how to be an agent without realizing it, how to get

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in to see people, how to get to the right auditions–as you were doing with your writing, Jack, moving from sending in your poems, stories, and scripts to places where 99 out of 100 were sent back without a reading to where you were getting serious editorial consideration, as a professional.

“But I wasn’t the one who got Jordan his first big chance. He came back with that.  The people he had worked with in England had told the people at Stratford, Connecticut, how good he was, and he had auditioned for the Hamlet they were doing that summer while he was still in England.  He had been selected as understudy for the lead to an actor with a London stage and Hollywood movie name–perhaps Richard Burton, but I don’t remember–who had tentatively been cast as Hamlet, which wasn’t too surprising.  They wanted to sell tickets, after all, to get people to drive up from New York.  But before Jordan left England he had heard that the name actor had been offered something more attractive and had canceled, and that, while the Connecticut people were still looking, and negotiating, he might get the chance to do Hamlet, that they might finally decide to make a virtue of going with an unknown–if he impressed the director well enough in the first days on the scene.  That’s what he came back with–the chance to play Hamlet in Connecticut.

“So you can see that he had a lot on his mind.  And Betty, with her own ambitions and this college professor she’d dragged along from somewhere in Nebraska, was an unwelcome distraction.  I’m sure he hardly gave me a thought after the first day or so–six months later we almost had to be re-introduced.  But Betty still had faith in him, in spite of the fact that he had made her no promises, had tried to discourage her–even to get her to go back to Nebraska.  She didn’t think that I could be much help to her, but it took her a while to be convinced that he wasn’t going to be much help, either.

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“‘Well, if Jordan is just too busy until this Hamlet thing is settled, I’ll have to start without him,’ she said one day.

“‘Start what,’ I asked.

“‘Teaching myself what I have to know to get a part in a New York play–meeting people, joining groups, finding out who you have to see.  I have my programs, and reviews, and letters, from Lawrence, and Wellington.  I need to get auditions . . . and, while I expected Jordan, and his friends, to help me, I can do it myself . . . if I have to.’

“‘Then, while you’re at it, it looks like the friend could use a little help, too.’

“‘Ralph?’  Betty just laughed.

“I went with her, and listened as she tried to sell herself, usually to people hired to see that people like Betty didn’t bother the people who actually made the decisions. Just by observing, and without realizing it, I was learning a trade that would be more stable over the years than being an actor–how to manage an actor–at which I have then made my living, I guess you’d say, for most of these intervening years.

“After about two weeks I started to make phone calls and take messages for Betty, who then began to use my phone number and address for ‘professional’ contacts.  I had part of the apartment set up by then as a make-shift studio, and took a set of photographs of her, which I would send out with a profile of her acting history modeled on Jordan’s.  So, to that degree, I already was acting as her agent . . . sans contract.

“But she still expected Jordan to be her best advocate–he knew her work so well, and would be taken seriously by those who knew his. When he moved to Connecticut, she told him to call if he thought she had a chance of getting into that company.  ‘I’ll work changing costumes, sweep the floors . . . anything . . . at first.  I’ll come up early next week to see for myself . . . but you call if you think I should come sooner.’

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“He was not enthusiastic, said, ‘Yes, Betty, but remember that I’m not exactly in position to start naming my supporting cast.  I don’t know that I’ve got the part myself yet.’

“He did have the part by the time we drove up there, and was so hard at work on it that he hardly seemed to have time to talk to us, just told Betty that he couldn’t get anything for her.  I hadn’t believed that he really intended to try.  We learned later he’d even dropped a few hints against ‘signing this woman up for anything,’ not wanting her ‘distracting vibes’ there at all–was still telling her, ‘You should go home to Jack and the baby’ as we were leaving.  And, showing up without any kind of endorsement, Betty wasn’t able to talk herself in, either . . . though I don’t remember her offering to change costumes or sweep floors.  On the way back to New York she said she might’ve been able to get an audition if she’d stayed on for a few days, but that, ‘I don’t want to waste my summer doing odd jobs in Connecticut, when I might find something better in New York. . . . and it was pretty obvious that Jordan didn’t want me there, either.’   It was pretty obvious.

“Betty and I saw most of the play in rehearsal about ten days later, and I thought Jordan was already the best Hamlet I’d ever seen.  But Betty said, ‘Something’s troubling him . . . that’s not Jordan.  It may be the part.  Hamlet’s supposed to be unsure of himself, isn’t he?  But Jordan’s sweeping confidence . . . taking possession of the stage . . . I don’t know . . .’

“Then, one night when we least expected it, there Jordan was, back at Ralph’s.  It seems he and the director had differed over the interpretation of the character, over just how mad Hamlet was . . . and subtle homosexual echoes in the scenes with Ophelia.  A week before the play was to have opened, the director had stopped him right in the middle of one of the soliloquies, and said, ‘Good God, Simms, I thought we’d agreed he’d be much wilder here–not more reflective!’  And

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Jordan had responded with something like, ‘Didn’t you hear what he said to his father’s ghost?  That would still be on his mind, when . . .’ and the director, used to having his way, replaced him in the middle of the speech with his own understudy, an actor of less natural brilliance but a more established name, who had played Hamlet before, thought he should have had the role in the first place, and was steady and dependable.  At least he had more sense than to argue with the director–agreed that Hamlet should be wilder there.  And evidently everyone in the company breathed a sigh of relief.

“So Jordan had blown his first chance in the big leagues.  At the time I thought it might have been moving up from the minors too quickly.  If he’d played Horatio, or Laertes, that summer, he’d have been well enough reviewed to establish himself in the company, and been doing Hamlet, and other lead roles, two or three years later.  But that was not Jordan’s way.  He never saw himself as part of a group any more than Betty did, and definitely was never inclined to yield to anyone else’s critical judgment . . . ‘this above all, to thine own self be true’ was first gospel for him.  He got the part because people who should have been able to judge saw how good he was, and he thought they should have trusted him, once he was in character.  And they should have.  But when he came back he was just smoldering, in a kind of ‘I’ll show that bastard’ mood.

“So, while Jordan was back in New York, he was in no mood to talk to anyone–especially not Betty.  It was soon obvious that, after what had happened in Connecticut, he didn’t have the leverage to deal for himself in New York, let alone for her.  You never knew him except in triumph, Jack, but he could be surly when pushed into a corner.  That’s not the only time I saw it.  Betty tried to console him, or to explain what she thought had gone wrong in Connecticut.  ‘Now, if I’d been there as your Ophelia, I would have . . .’

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“‘Been as much help as Ophelia was to Hamlet, and probably wound up drowning yourself–or being drowned by him!  No, I could have worked it out.  But I let that guy’s stupidity get to me . . . then got mad at the wrong people . . . at half a dozen professional actors with a dozen years experience apiece, who thought I had no business being Hamlet . . . and did everything they could to spin me out.’

“Then, as Betty would start to talk about their future together as professional actors, about offering themselves as a team, it just made him madder, was counter-productive.  He finally blew up at her, shouting, ‘Keep that woman away from me–or I will drown her!  In the nearest bathtub!’ and moved out, without telling any of us where he was going.

“By a week later Ralph knew where he was living, was forwarding mail and messages, but wouldn’t tell us.  ‘Jordan made me promise not to.  He wants to be by himself for a while . . . to think about things.  He said it’s hard for him to do that with Betty around.’  So we had come to New York to see Jordan, saw him do a rare Hamlet in rehearsal, and then didn’t see him again for two or three months, as he ‘was keeping his own counsel.’  Not exactly the reception Betty had expected.”

“Yes, I can believe that of Jordan . . . hard to figure out.”

“Wasn’t he!  Well, that definitely put Betty back on her own, and she did finally turn to me–as if by default.  On my advice, we began to consider the problem more systematically, and initiate a long-range campaign.  We continued to go to plays, but almost exclusively off-Broadway, and off-off Broadway, plays, since that was where she now accepted she’d probably have to start.  ‘It’s going to be harder than I thought, Henry,’ she would say, ‘but that makes it a challenge, doesn’t it?  I’ll have to prove what I can do.  Then they’ll know.’

“Betty liked to sit right down front, so she could watch the actors’ faces, and I got in the habit of preferring that, too.

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We might then go backstage afterward and talk to the actors, about their experience, about how they got these roles, about what advice they would give.  But while they were pleased to talk about their performance, and their own careers, most got a blank look on their faces when asked to give advice on someone else’s.  What advice they gave usually sounded a lot like Ralph’s . . . ‘Whoever you talk to, tell them about me.’

“I thought Betty might get discouraged, but she kept looking for that opening.  And she did get a part or two, the first for two weeks when we heard that an actress in a supporting role had gotten some kind of food poisoning and Betty was able to step in with a single day’s rehearsal, then,  later, two others coming out of friendships made in that company.  I got her a part as a telephone operator in a TV commercial, and, well, she was good enough, dependable enough, and ambitious enough, that it was beginning to work.  In the meantime, I started to know who to see to get a chance at that occasional commercial, or fill-in when somebody was sick, so, by about six months after we got there, even Jordan began to listen to me–as Betty had come to.  Soon after, I had other clients as well, including Ralph and half a dozen of his friends.  And, by then, producers would sometimes call me.

“But before that there was another development.  One morning at breakfast, where we game-planned the day, Betty was looking at the paper, and suddenly exclaimed, ‘Of course!’

“I asked her, ‘Of course what?’

“She said, ‘This is where Tom Hazen is–in New York–where he plays football now.’  She pointed to an article on the sports page with a picture of Tom getting into condition on the family farm in Kansas lifting bales of hay–‘only while they took that picture,’ he told us, when we had dinner with him, and his wife of the moment, about three nights later.”

“So that’s how you got to know Tom–before Laura did.”

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“I didn’t know him well until the last few months of his life, but like to say I knew him when he was flying highest–the championship-winning quarterback of the Giants, his second season with the team, with the town at his feet–then later, when he was holding on to what was left of his career, and found him not a bit different as a dinner companion–or to talk to about anything–a very comfortable man to be with.”

Henry paused to reflect.  “I guess I also renewed my acquaintance with Laura through Tom–which was the biggest surprise.  I liked both of them, but would never have thought of them as a matched set–I had met the wife, after all–and was sure Laura would never leave you.  So when Betty told me Laura had run off with Tom I couldn’t believe it.  I felt the way Jordan must have when he saw me with Betty, ‘What’s that man doing with Jack’s woman?’  But you’ll have to explain that to us.  And it really hit me–by then he was a friend–when Tom was killed in the motorcycle accident, just shortly after I’d helped him with the legal papers for Laura on this property.  So I knew he’d owned this place before you and she did.

“Well, he owned the land . . . bought it with some of that excess football money.  But Laura and I built this cabin . . . in another life . . . another memorable interlude.  An interlude that should be memorable for Christine, too, I think.”

“Jordan and Betty already knew Tom well, of course–but had very different attitudes toward him.  Tom got us tickets for the home games, and I went with Betty.  As you were telling about your experience in college, I was amused at how similar my experience in New York had been.  Betty became a dedicated fan, and, at first, I was just going along to keep her company.  Then I became a football fan, too–like everyone else in New York–knew just enough about the game to be dazzled by what Tom could do, and, since Betty didn’t talk much about ‘the old days,’ never told me that she had

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considered marrying Tom, I had no reason to make such a connection.  The only other time I saw him before he was traded to the Los Angeles Rams–and back into your life–was when he came to see Betty and Jordan in Miss Julie.”

“My whole experience with Tom was ironic.”

“And, you’re right, I never saw Jordan at a football game–it probably was a matter of principle with him–though he always spoke well enough of Tom.  He would occasionally glance at the sports page when there was an article on the Giants, and joined us in watching a game on television for half an hour or so once, then remarked, ‘How can anyone be interested in a play with no dialogue for a whole afternoon?  But he is pretty good, isn’t he?  Has made it in the big time–though it’s even harder to stay there in football than in theatre.’  Then he left the room, and the game, to Betty and  me.

“We still followed Tom’s career while he was out here, but not with the same intensity, and, by the time he left town, Betty was getting busy.  She never listened to my advice, of course . . . unless I was giving advice she wanted to hear.  But what finally brought me solidly into the picture was when I arranged Betty and Jordan’s first appearance as a team on stage in New York–in Miss Julie.  It was what she wanted from the time we left Nebraska.  And I can say ‘I did it!’

“But I’ve talked long enough, Jack.  I get tired–need a beer–and I’d like to know what happened to you and Laura in those early days out here . . . and then with Tom.  We should have plenty of time.  Do you see the boat out there?”

I looked and I didn’t.

Shoko said, “They’ve probably pulled in at the marina to get a sandwich.  Do you want something to eat, Jack?”

“No, but I could use a beer.”  By then I was pretty sure I knew who was out in the boat, but didn’t say anything.  Now I was the one who didn’t want to spoil Henry’s surprise.

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Assignment for Bridge 11:

Read Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat and/or The Raven, or listen to a good recording, like the one by Basil Rathbone.

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