Being a novel, all characters, events, dialogue and representations are fictional ... and in no way are meant to represent any real or living persons or events... except the few annual events that are used to move me through time. The opinions expressed are my own, and not necessarily those of my author. And the story is copyrighted, by my author of course. Oh, and from time to time I may include some real time events to keep the blog more authentic. Comments and suggestions will be appreciated and seriously considered as the story moves along.

If you are just joining us, start with the Prologue and Chapter One on March 1, 2011, in the Archives.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

May 14, 2011 Chapter 18

   A few minutes early for my Thursday lunch date with Dr. Whitaker, I waited in the foyer of Café J, the quaint-yet-sophisticated restaurant just south of campus on 19th Street near University Avenue. I’d been delighted to discover its interesting and elegant cuisine in a city more well-known for barbeque and chicken-fried steak. Café J’s website declares, “Blending French techniques with Southwestern influences, an extensive wine selection, and original paintings — haute cuisine meets impeccable hospitality and service.”
   I had eaten here at least half a dozen times since my arrival in March and agreed whole-heartedly with the description. The original artwork was an interesting and ever-changing part of the ambience. 
   That was another surprise. The art scene in Lubbock seemed to be vibrant. Learning of monthly art walks and several active galleries, I was pleased to find a much more broad-based variety of art than the expected genre of western landscapes and Cowboy campfire scenes. 
   Certainly it must be due almost entirely to the art professors at Tech. Their department had grown significantly since I was a student, with a few of my old professors still teaching classes today. 
Shortly after arrival in March, I was looking for Tech T-shirts for my granddaughters in the campus bookstore. Low and behold, there was Terry Morrow, my printmaking professor from more than 30 years ago — one of my favorite teachers. Confessing he didn’t remember all his students from years gone by — at least not by their faces or names— he thought perhaps if I could show him some of my college artwork? That, he was certain, he would remember. I only have one piece he might recognize, a woodblock print from his class, but it was currently buried somewhere in storage. Maybe another time I might show it to him. Funny, he hadn’t looked too much older than me that day ... must have been just out of school himself when I was a student, but my memory of him was of a much older professor. Appearances could be deceiving, couldn’t they?

   Dr. Whitaker and I settled into a corner table at Café J, scanning the mouth-watering menu. He opted for salmon salad with champagne vinaigrette, served on a bed of mixed greens with cherry tomato, red onion, cashews, asiago cheese and poached pears. As usual, I ordered the seafood crepes, salmon and shrimp, topped with Swiss cheese and a white wine lemon dill sauce, served with vegetable medley. But being considerate of my waistline, I opted for one crepe instead of the normal two or three. 
   We exchanged pleasantries until the food arrived. After his first bite, which he enjoyed with a wide grin and closed eyes, Whitaker looked at me with what I thought was admiration. “My dear Mrs. Grant, I can’t tell you how much I appreciated your work with our donation publicity. Our patron was pleased as punch. We shall need to work together more often.”

“I’d like that,” I said sincerely. 
   “And I do apologize for exploding at you over the phone earlier that morning,” Whitaker said. “I was just so upset about the lack of coverage. I can’t believe Bennett didn’t tell you, or ask for your assistance.” 
  “You haven’t told Mr. Boyle about what we did, have you?”
  “Oh, no, my dear. Better to let him have the illusion of glory. No sense rocking the boat, you know what I mean?”

“Yes, I do. Have you known him long, Dr. Whitaker?

“Windy. You must call me Windy, please. And yes, I’ve known Bennett Boyle a long time. I must say, I was quite amused the other day ... the plant drama, you know what I mean? Brilliant way to handle the situation, Mrs. Grant, just brilliant. Perfect way to work with Bennett.”
   “Thank you, Windy, but now must call me Maggie, please. And I wonder if you could tell me a little more about him, if you wouldn’t mind. I’m, well ... if I knew more about him, maybe I could ...” 
   “Giving you a hard time, is he? Interfering in your work?” 
   I smiled but kept silent.
   Winston patted my hand, saying, “That’s just his style. Never been an especially happy person. In fact, now that I think about it, I don’t remember seeing him smile in years! What a shame. Life should be lived to its fullest, don’t you think?”
   At that, I nodded in definite agreement, but wanted more. “Is he married? Children?”

“B.J.? Oh, heavens no!” laughed Winston.
   “He’s not ... ?” I left the question unsaid.
   “Gay? Oh, definitely not. He doesn’t join me in that particular persuasion.”

“I didn’t mean to ...” I said quickly.
   “No, no. No offense taken. I’m quite comfortable with my choices and preferences in that area, you know what I mean? And these days it’s perfectly acceptable to come out ... even in West Texas. Well, in some of West Texas. But Bennett is definitely straight. Just look at his new secretary. He certainly didn’t hire her for her brains. What’s her name again?”

“Allison.” I almost spat it out.
   “Yes, yes. Allison. Oh, don’t worry, my dear. I’m sure our little Miss Allison won’t last long. Stupid idea of Bennett’s. Don’t know what he was thinking. Every few years he does something like this. Just can’t seem to help himself, I guess.

   “However, it certainly worked out in my favor, you know what I mean? Miss Katherine reported to the museum yesterday and I think we’re a perfect fit for her. I’ve admired her work and style for many years. She’ll be there this afternoon, in fact. She’s joining us on the tour to learn more about my windmills. Absolutely delightful woman. I couldn’t be happier!”

   At that, we continued to enjoy their well-prepared lunches, Winston insisting on ordering two decadent desserts. His was black forest gâteau, a nine-layer chocolate cake with black cherries soaked in kirsch and topped with whipped crème. For me, he ordered a southern fusion buttermilk tart with fresh seasonal fruit compote nestled underneath, and topped with Greek yogurt ice cream. Protests about the calories fell on deaf ears. After the first bite, wasn’t I glad he had been insistent — it was heavenly. I vowed to swim extra laps that evening.
  “You simply must try this one also, my dear Maggie. It’s simply ‘deliciaromanious’!”
   “‘De-lic-i-ar-o-manious’?” I laughed. “What kind of a word is that, Windy?”
   “It’s not a word. It’s jabberwocky.”

“Jabberwocky? From Through the Looking Glass? The poem by Lewis Carroll?”
   “Excellent, my dear. You’ve been well educated!”
   “I am a Tech grad, after all.”
   “Ah, yes, so you are. We are an intelligent group, are we not?” he said proudly. “Jabberwocky is nonsense speech or writing that gives the appearance of making sense. You understood what I meant, didn’t you?”
   “I did ... it’s delicious and smells wonderful. But why not just say that?” I asked, chuckling again.

   “Because it’s more fun to make the words up, you know what I mean? And it’s a necessary part of my persona,” he said, shrugging matter-of-factly, finishing his last bite of cake.

   “Your persona? What does that mean?”

He looked at me squarely for a long moment. “How old do you think I am?”

I studied his face, his light blue eyes set between long, but neatly trimmed thick shock-white hair and an equally thick white mustache. Bushy white eyebrows drooped over his eyelids and nearly met in the middle. Ben Franklin bifocals rested on the end of his rather pinkish nose. His facial features were soft and rounded. He wore a light brown linen suit, darker brown vest, heavily starched white dress shirt replete with gold cufflinks— miniature windmills, no less — and his usual bow tie, pocket watch and chain. Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit came to mind, the one who led Alice down the rabbit hole to Wonderland.

   “How old?” I said confidently. “A lot younger than you want me to think.”
   He laughed out loud, saying, “I do like you, Mrs. Maggie Grant!” Then pulling out his watch as if he’d read my thoughts, he added in perfect imitation of the White Rabbit, “ My goodness, we’re late! So that’s a discussion for another time. My windmills don’t like to be kept waiting, you know what I mean? Waiter? Check, please.”
Though the Looking Glass, is, of course, Alice in Wonderland. Scared me silly when I was a child, even though I don’t think Disney intended it to. The recent Johnny Depp version was interesting, and he did utter some jabberwocky. Of all the great Disney stories, the cartoon version of Alice in Wonderland is the one I didn’t buy for my boys, and hopefully, the granddaughters haven’t been subjected to it either. Maybe when they’re older. Scared me silly, it did.

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