Lila still had her old address book. She could call up some old friends and maybe they would invite her over and they could talk about things. She could call them up and maybe they would be able to tell her where she could find a good room. They might even let her stay with them for a while. You could never tell.
She saw through the window that across the street the cat was gone.
The trouble with seeing all her old friends again was that she didn't want to. It didn't feel good to think about it. She didn't want to talk to any of them. She wanted to be done with all that. She didn't want to talk to anybody.
When the waitress came with the drink Lila gave her a big smile and a big 'thank you.' The waitress smiled a little and then went away.
Lila took a sip of her drink. Oh, did that ever taste good!
She looked at the menu to see what to have to eat.
She ought to just get something cheap. The trouble was she was really hungry. Those steaks really looked good. And French fries. With all the calories. She had better be careful. She didn't want to get into that. She already had too much of that. But it sure sounded good, anyway. She remembered the French fries she made on the boat. Oh, why did she ever tell him anything? She could be making French fries all the way down to Florida if only she had kept her mouth shut.
As she thought about this Lila saw a man's face staring at her through the window. It startled her for a second. But then she thought, what's the matter, Lila, you getting scared of men?
He wasn't bad looking.
She smiled at him . . .
. .. He just looked at her. Then he looked away.
Then he looked at her again.
She winked to see what that would do.
He smiled a little bit and then pretended he was reading the menu in the window. She stared down at her own menu but watched out of the corner of her eye.
After a while he moved on. She waited to hear the door open, but it didn't. He was gone.
She wondered if she said something that made Jamie angry. He was so different this time. Something was wrong. Something had happened to him, and that was why he wouldn't give his address. He was the kind who didn't tell you. He didn't want to hurt your feelings. That was the way he was.
The Captain wouldn't know anything about that. People like him never do. They just get it off and think they've done something big. That's all they know how to do. That's why they have to pay. You try to show them something and you just waste your time. They don't know what you're doing. The Captain never knew what she tried to do for him. That nerd never would. He probably wouldn't even pay for the shirts.
She had to stop thinking about him.
The waitress came to take her order but Lila still hadn't made up her mind. 'I guess I'm not ready yet,' she said. She looked inside her glass. 'Why don't you bring me another one of these?'
She didn't want to get boozy, she still had a lot of things to do, but this really felt good. It would be a long time until the next one, she thought.
She didn't know what she would do next. It seemed like she'd done it all. She didn't have as much strength any more, or something. She was tired.
Out the window she could see the street was already starting to get old and gray and dark. She wondered where the cat went to that was prowling in the dirt across the street.
She didn't like the dark.
In Rochester it was even darker, she thought.
Maybe she could just go back to Rochester and get a regular job.
She couldn't go back. They all hated her there. That's why they fired her. Because she told them the truth.
Everybody wants to turn you into a servant. And when you won't be a servant for them then you're no good. Then you're bad. No matter how hard you try to please them you're still no good. You can never serve them enough. They've always got to have more. So it doesn't matter; sooner or later they're going to hate you no matter what you do.
She shouldn't have left the Karma. If she just hadn't got mad at George she'd still be there. On her way to Florida now. In Florida it was lighter. Because it was South. She sure had some happy times there. She'd still get there, but now she'd have to get some money first.
Maybe she could just go and tell the Captain she was sorry and he'd change his mind. She didn't want to do that. Then she'd have to put up with his nerd talk all the way to Florida. She didn't want to do that. Besides he already told her she had to get off his boat.
She wondered what he did in New York. She wondered where he was going tonight. He sure didn't want to take her with him. She didn't care. She didn't want to go with him. But she knew why. As soon as any of their wife's friends are around they get rid of Lila.
Anyway, it didn't matter.
What was it she wanted to do? It was something but she didn't know what.
There wasn't anything she wanted to do. That was the trouble. She didn't want to have anything more to do with people. She was tired of people. She just wanted to go off somewhere and be by herself and all alone.
The waitress came again. Lila ordered another drink. That wasn't good. Not on an empty stomach. Her stomach still hurt. She should have taken some Empirin earlier.
Lila reached into her purse to get her Empirin. She couldn't find them. That was funny. She knew they were right there. Her other pills weren't there either! She felt around with her hand to find the round plastic bottle. She could always find it by its shape. It wasn't there.
She poked harder and harder through the lipstick and mirror and cigarettes and Kleenexes.
She didn't leave them in the boat because she took three this morning. She brought the purse up and
looked inside. Then she looked in the other pocket of the purse. But they weren't there.
Then Lila suddenly knew that the billfold wasn't inside the purse either. She looked up and felt frightened. Outside the window the street had become darker.
She reached all through everything all over again, all her pockets, everywhere in her purse ... but it was gone. It was really gone.
That was all the money she had!
Some other customers were coming in. They looked cold. Lila didn't see the little old lady waitress. It looked like another waiter had come on duty in her place. He had a bow tie. She didn't like his looks.
She still couldn't believe it. How could she lose it? All her money was in there. It couldn't possibly have dropped out. She had it this morning. She bought the shirts with it. She remembered because she put the receipt in the billfold in case she had to take them back. Now that was gone too.
The new waiter was looking over at her.
She remembered that friend of Jamie's. He sat next to her. The purse was between them.
It had to be him. She knew there was something wrong about him the way he looked at her. Wait till she told Jamie.
Lila looked down at her glass. It was empty.
She didn't have Jamie's new number. He didn't give it to her. What was she going to do now? She couldn't even order dinner. She had to stop and think. She couldn't even think straight. Is that why Jamie didn't give her his number? So there was no way she could tell him?
So he could set her up?
The waiter came over.
'I'm not ready yet,' Lila told him.
He gave her a nothing look and went away.
Jamie wouldn't have done that. When Jamie wanted money he just said so. He didn't have to steal from her.
It was so hard to think. She wished she hadn't had these drinks. There was a coin purse inside. He didn't take that. She took it out and counted it. Two quarters, four nickels, and seven pennies.
She didn't even have enough to even pay for the drinks. There was going to be trouble.
She felt sick. She had to go to the toilet.
When she went past the waiter he looked like he already knew she wasn't going to pay.
The toilet stunk. She tried to wash but there wasn't any soap. This was a god-damn dump, this place. Her face was dirty too, but there was nowhere to wash. This dirty city. She saw in the mirror that her hair was dirty too. She needed to wash.
If she used the coins to call some friends they could come and help. But it was four years now. Nobody stayed still for four years in New York.
When she got to the phone, on the first coin, she tried Laurie's number. The phone rang and rang. While it was ringing she realized that if she wanted to she could go out the door right from where this phone was and they wouldn't be able to stop her.
The waiter was watching her. He'd stop her. He looked mean. He looked like he'd been around.
Laurie's phone didn't answer. That was all right. That meant she got the coin back. But then it answered and the voice asked who was calling. She said, 'Lila Blewitt.' The woman went away and Lila waited. Thank God Laurie was still here.
But then the voice came back and said, 'You must have the wrong number,' and hung up.
What did that mean?
She tried two other numbers and got her coin back. She was going to call another address but she realized she really didn't know her. She wouldn't help even if she remembered her. The waiter was still watching.
Lila thought about him for a while. What could he do? She might as well get it over with.
She braced herself and went over and told him. 'Somebody stole my money. I can't pay.'
He just looked at her. He didn't say anything.
She wondered if he heard what she said.
Then he said, 'What were you puttin' in the telephone?'
'That was coins,' Lila said. They took my billfold.'
He just stared at her some more. She could see he didn't believe her.
After a while he said, They took your billfold.'
'Yes,' she said.
He stared some more.
Then he said, 'I just work here. The manager isn't here.'
He turned and went out to the kitchen.
When he came back he said, They said to leave your name and address.'
'I don't have an address,' she said. He stared some more.
'You don't have an address,' he repeated.
That's what I said.' She was starting to get mad.
'Where do you live?'
'On a boat.'
'Where's the boat?' he asked. She wondered why he wanted to know that. What was he going to do now?
'On the river,' she said. 'It doesn't matter. I have to leave tonight. I don't know where the boat is.'
The waiter kept staring at her. Jesus Christ, what a starer!
'Well, just sign the name of the boat,' he said.
He looked at where she signed the piece of paper. Then he gave her a dirty look and said, 'And now, when you get back to your boat please get some money from your boat and bring it back here, OK? Because other people gotta live too, ya know?'
She picked up her purse and shirts from the floor by the telephone and saw him smile at somebody back in the kitchen and shake his head as she went out the door. At least he wasn't as bad as she thought he was going to be. He could have called the cops or something. He probably thought she was some kind of crazy person.
It was getting cold and the street looked spooky now in the dark.
The restaurant door closed behind her. She could have left this box of shirts to pay for it, she thought. Now she had to carry them. But he never asked.
She thought about going back and giving them to him . . . No, it was all over. He wouldn't take them, anyway . . .
But there was no reason for him to look dirty at her like that, Lila thought. She buttoned her cardigan. They didn't pay him to look like that.
Maybe the Captain would like them when he saw them. Then he could give her some money to pay the restaurant and they could go back and have a meal and he wouldn't give the waiter any tip. No, they'd give him a super big tip just to make him feel bad.
She didn't have any money to take a cab now. She couldn't call the police. Maybe she could call the police. They probably wouldn't remember her. Nobody remembered her. But she didn't want to do that.
Everybody was gone. Where has everybody gone? she wondered. What's happening that everybody's gone? First the Captain is gone and then Jamie is gone. And Richard too, even Richard is gone. She never did anything to him. Something really bad was happening. But they weren't telling her what it was. They didn't want her to know.
Lila began to feel her hands shake a little.
She reached in her handbag for her pills and then remembered they were gone too.
She began to feel scared.
This was the first time since the hospital that she didn't have them.
She didn't know how far it was to the boat ... It was toward the river, in this direction, she thought. . . Maybe not . . . She'd try not to think about anything bad and maybe her hands would stop shaking . . . She hoped this was the right direction . . .
. . . It was so dark now.
It's dark out, Phaedrus thought. Beyond the large sliding glass doors of the hotel room there was no trace of light left in the sky. All the light in the room came from the wall lamp where the moth was still fluttering.
He looked at his watch. His guest was late. About half an hour late. That was traditional for Hollywood celebrities. The bigger they are the later they come, and this one, Robert Redford, was very big indeed. Phaedrus remembered that George Burns had joked that he'd been at Hollywood parties where the people were so famous they never showed up at all. But Redford was coming now to talk about film rights and that was vital business. There was no reason to think he wouldn't be here.
When Phaedrus heard the knock on the door it had that special metallic sound of all the fireproof hotel doors in the world, but this time he was suddenly filled with tension. He got up, walked over to open it, and there in the corridor stood Redford with an expectant, unassuming look on his famous face.
He seemed smaller than his film images had portrayed him to be. A golf cap covered his famous hair; odd, rimless glasses drew attention away from the face behind them and a turned-up jacket collar made him even more inconspicuous. Tonight he didn't look anything at all like the Sundance Kid.
'Come on in,' Phaedrus said, feeling a real wave of stage fright. This was suddenly real time. This is the present. It is as though this is opening night and the curtain has just gone up and everything is up to him now.
He feels himself force a smile. He takes Redford's coat, tensely, trying not to show his nervousness, being smooth about all this, but accidentally he bunches the
coat in the back, clumsily, so that the Kid has trouble getting one arm out . . . My God, he can't get his arm out. . . Phaedrus lets go and the Kid gets the coat off by himself, and hands it to him with a questioning glance, then hands him the hat.
What a start . . . Real Charlie Chaplin scene. Redford goes ahead into the sitting room, walks to the glass doors and looks over the park, apparently orienting himself. Phaedrus, who has followed behind, sits down in one of the overstuffed silk-upholstered gilded Victorian chairs they have put in this room.
'Sorry to be so late,' Redford says. He turns from the glass doors and then moving slowly, at his own discretion, settles down on the opposing couch.
'I just got in from Los Angeles a half-hour ago,' he says. 'You lose three hours coming this way. At night they call it the "Red-Eye" flight . . .' His eyes dart in for a reaction. 'Well named . . . you don't get any sleep at all . . .'
Redford is saying this but as he is saying it he is becoming somebody real. It's like The Purple Rose of Cairo, where a character comes off the screen and shares the life of one of the audience. What is he saying?
'Every time I go back I like it less,' he says. I grew up there, you know ... I remember what it used to be like . . . And I resent what's happened to it . . ." He keeps watching Phaedrus for reactions.
'I still have a lot of beautiful memories from California,' Phaedrus says, finally taking hold.
'Did you live there?'
'I lived next door once, in Nevada,' Phaedrus says.
He is expected to speak. He speaks: a jumble of random sentences about California and Nevada. Deserts and pines and rolling hills, eucalyptus trees and freeways and that sense of something missed, something unfulfilled, that he always gets when he is there. This is just rilling time now, developing rapport, and as Redford listens intently, Phaedrus gets the feeling this is his normal habit. Real stage presence. He's just flown across the whole country, probably talked to a lot of people before that, yet he sits right here with his famous face listening as though he had all the time in the world, as though nothing of any importance had occurred before he walked in this room and nothing of importance was waiting for him after he walked out.
The rambling goes on until a common point of connection is found in the name of Earl Warren, the former Supreme Court chief justice, who Phaedrus says represents a kind of personality not too many people think of as Californian. Redford concurs wholeheartedly, revealing personal values. 'He was our governor, you know,' Redford says. Phaedrus says yes, and that Warren's family came from Minnesota.
'Is that right?' Redford says, 'I didn't know that.'
Redford says he's always had a special interest in Minnesota. His movie Ordinary People was a Minnesota story, although they filmed it in northern Illinois. His college roommate came from Minnesota, and he'd visited his house there and never forgotten it.
'Where did he live?' Phaedrus asks.
'Lake Minnetonka," Redford says. 'Do you know that area?'
'Sure. The first chapter of my book touched down for a second at Excelsior, on Lake Minnetonka.'
Redford looks concerned, as though he had missed an important detail. 'There's something about that area . . . I don't know what it was . . .'
There was a certain "graciousness,"' Phaedrus says.
Redford nods, as though that is right on.
There was a Minneapolis neighborhood called "Kenwood" that was the same way. People there seemed to have that same Earl Warren "charm" or "graciousness" or whatever it was.'
Redford stares at him intensely for a moment. It's an intensity he never shows on the screen.
'What caused it?' he asks.
'Money,' Phaedrus answers, but then, realizing that isn't quite right, he adds, 'and something else too.'
Redford waits for him to continue.
'There was a lot of old wealth out there,' Phasdrus says. 'Fortunes from the lumber days and the early flour mill days. It was easier to be gracious when you had a maid and chauffeur and seven other servants running around the place.'
'Did you live near Lake Minnetonka?'
'No, nowhere close, but I used to go to birthday parties there back in the thirties when I was a kid.'
Redford looks engrossed.
Phaedrus says, 'I wasn't one of the rich kids. I was on a scholarship at a school in Minneapolis where the rich kids went . . . by chauffeur usually.
'In the morning these big, long, black Packard limousines would pull up outside the school and a black-uniformed chauffeur would jump out and dash around and open up the back door and this little kid would pop out. In the afternoon the limousines and chauffeurs would all be back again and the kids would pop in, one kid to a limousine, and they'd be off to Lake Minnetonka.
'I used to ride my bike to school and sometimes I'd see in my mirror one of these big Packards was coming up behind me and I'd turn and wave to the kid inside and he'd wave back and sometimes the chauffeur would wave too, and the funny thing is I always knew that kid was the one who envied me. I had all the freedom. He was a prisoner in the back of that black Packard, and he knew it.'
'What school was that?'
Redford's eyes become intense. 'That's the school my roommate went to!'
'Small world,' Phaedrus says.
'It certainly is!' Redford's excitement indicates something has connected here, a high spot in the surface of things that indicates some important structure underneath.
'I still have kind memories of it,' Phaedrus says.
Redford looks as though he would like to listen some more but that, of course, is not why he is here. After some more conversation about desultory subjects, he comes to the matter at hand.
He pauses and then says, 'I guess I should say, first of all, that I admire your book greatly and feel challenged and stimulated by it. The ideas about "Quality" are what I've always thought. I've always done it that way. I first read it when it first came out and would have contacted you then but was told that someone else had already bought it.'
A funny woodenness has crept into his speech, as though he had rehearsed all this. Why should he sound like a poor actor? 'I really would like to have the film rights to this book,' Redford says.
'You've got them,' Phaedrus says.
Redford looks startled. Phaedrus must have said something wrong. Redford's biographies said he was 'unflappable', but he looks flapped now.
'I wouldn't have gotten this involved if I hadn't intended to give it to you,' Phaedrus says.
But Redford doesn't look overjoyed. Instead he looks surprised, and retreats to somewhere inside himself. His engrossment is gone.
He wants to know what the previous film deals were. 'It's had quite a history,' Phaedrus says, and he relates a succession of film options that have been sold, and allowed to lapse for one reason or another. Redford is back to his former self, listening intently. When that subject is covered they turn cautiously to the question of how the book will be treated. Redford recommends a writer whom Phaedrus has already met. Phaedrus says OK.
Redford wants to make full use of a scene where a teacher faces a classroom of students for a whole hour and says nothing, until by the end of the hour they are so tense and frightened they literally run for the door. Apparently he wants to build the story in terms of flashbacks within that scene. Phasdrus thinks that sounds very good. It is remarkable the way Redford has homed in on the book. For that scene he completely bypasses all the road scenes, all the motorcycle maintenance, where other script writers have bogged down, and goes right to the classroom, which was where the book started - as a little monograph on how to teach English composition.
Redford says that the road scenes will be made on location. He says that Phaedrus can visit the sets whenever he wants to, 'but not every day.' Phaedrus doesn't know what this involves.
The central problem of abstract ideas comes up. The book is largely about philosophic ideas about Quality. Big commercial films don't show ideas visually. Redford says you have to condense the ideas and show them indirectly. Phaedrus is not sure what that means. He would like to see how this is going to be done.
Redford senses Phaedrus' doubts and warns that, 'No matter how the film is done, you won't like it.' Phaedrus wonders if he says this just to keep himself covered. Redford talks about how the author of another book he filmed saw the movie and tried to like it but you could see that no enthusiasm was there. 'That was hard to take,' Redford says, and then adds, 'But that's the way it always seems to happen.'
Other subjects come up but they don't seem to be quite to the point. Eventually Redford looks at his wrist watch.
'Well, I guess there are no big problems at this point,' he says, 'I'll go ahead and call the writer and see where he's at on this.'
He sits forward. 'I'm really tired,' he says, 'and there's no point in romancing you all night about all this . . . I'll call the others and then, sometime after that, our agency will get in touch with you.'