The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Life Moments
New Year's Eve - A Little Past Midnight
Danny Stein, known as a hard-working and conscientious researcher at the ad agency and as being quiet and shy had just punched Douglas Warren, the agency’s Creative Director, in the face. Everyone at the agency’s New Year’s Eve party was shocked. How did this happen?
Let’s go back.
9 PM: The New Year’s Eve party was at the Pacific Heights apartment of one of the ad agency’s account execs, one of the higher paid ones, Danny assumed, since Pacific Heights was in the ritziest part of San Francisco. Danny had been a little surprised that he’d even been invited, having been with the agency for only a little over six months and being the most junior member of its small research department. But it had been explained to him that the party was an annual affair and that everyone in the agency was invited.
Danny was at the time 23 years old. He was just below middle height with a stocky build like his father, who was a plumber. He was average in his looks with brown hair and gray eyes and wore glasses. He’d come to the agency after two years in its New York office. He thought he was going nowhere in the large agency headquarters and that he might do better in San Francisco. He’d taken a modest salary and had been told he’d be considered for a raise after six months. The six months had passed and nothing had happened.
Danny rang the doorbell, causing a series of chimes to ring. The door opened and a middle-aged woman holding a cigarette peered out. Danny started to introduce himself and his date, or sort of date, Nora Brown, but the woman waved them in with her cigarette and told them the bar was at the other end of the room. Danny looked at Nora and they went in.
Danny considered Nora a sort of date because he’d really only asked her to the party because it was convenient. She was a secretary in the agency, only 20 years old and just out of community college. She was a sturdy girl with a pleasant but plain face. Danny had run into her at his neighborhood market one day and found out she lived nearby. They’d gone together to dinner a few times and to a movie once. He didn’t know any other girls in San Francisco. He’d asked her if she wanted to come tonight and she’d said Yes.
The large room which they entered was crowded with people and smelled of liquor, perfume, sweat and smoke. Danny recognized several people he knew from the agency. His boss, George Dempster, the Research Manager, a small man in his forties, was in one corner, seemingly being lectured to by a large woman. In the center of the room, surrounded by a pack of men, was Patricia Stewart, the glamorous young copywriter, looking even sexier than usual in a low-cut red dress. Danny admired Patricia but from afar. He’d had occasion to talk to her a few times when he’d showed her research data on one of her clients. He knew that would be the extent of their connection. He was much too shy to attempt taking it any further and as far as asking her out, that was impossible. Besides, gossip was that she was having an affair with Douglas Warren, the agency’s Creative Director. Danny looked around and there was Warren, surrounded by his own admirers. Danny guessed that Warren was ten years older than Patricia but the Creative Director was still fit and handsome, the only one in the room with a tan, which came from skiing at Tahoe.
Danny, as he’d been directed, pushed his way through to the bar, located at the far end of the room, Nora following him. At the bar was his friend and fellow researcher Alan Bloom. Alan was also from New York and had come to San Francisco two years before. Danny introduced Nora. “She’s a secretary in Media,” he said.
“Oh, yeah,” said Alan, who clearly didn’t recognize her. “What are you drinking?”
Danny looked at the array of bottles on the bar. “I don’t know.” He had almost no experience with alcohol, although he’d seen its effect and didn’t want to risk losing control of himself as he’d seen happen to others.
“Try a vodka tonic,” said Alan. This was the popular drink of the moment. “I’ll make it for you.”
Nora said she didn’t drink and accepted a club soda.
“Any news about a raise yet?” Alan asked Danny. He knew Danny was very concerned about this.Danny told him he’d heard nothing. Alan shook his head. “Too bad. We researchers are at the bottom of the totem pole, you know.”
“Why don’t you talk to your boss about it,” said Norma.
“I don’t know.”
“He’s right over there,” said Alan.
“I know. I saw him. Maybe I’ll see him after the first.”
The last thing he wanted to do was create a scene.
Danny sipped at his vodka tonic. He told Alan it tasted okay. They talked a while longer, then Danny thought he should be paying some more attention to Nora and they talked about what they’d been doing since they’d last been together, about the latest movie in their local theater and the new restaurant in their neighborhood. Then Nora saw some girls she knew and moved off to talk to them.
10 PM: Danny looked at his glass. Somehow, while talking to Nora, he’d finished it. The drink left a pleasant glow. He looked around at the swirling crowd and saw that Dempster was still in a corner but the large woman had left. Well, why wait until next year? He made himself another vodka tonic, took a large swallow and went over before he could change his mind. Danny said hello to Dempster and asked if he could talk to him about something. He told Dempster he’d been promised a salary review after six months. Dempster expressed surprise that Danny had been there that long. Danny made what he considered to be a good case for getting a raise. He always did his assignments on time, worked overtime when asked and had been praised by several agency clients. Dempster replied that he appreciated Danny’s good work. He told Danny to see him on Monday; he was sure something could be worked out. Danny was elated. It had been so easy. Why hadn’t he done this before? He returned to the bar wanting to tell Alan and Nora, but they weren’t there. He finished the vodka and tonic and made himself another one by way of celebration.
11 PM: Danny wasn’t sure how he’d come to be talking with Patricia Stewart. He knew that after his third drink he’d started feeling dizzy and the room had become unpleasantly warm. He thought he’d found a little balcony to go out on and that Patricia was also there and that they’d agreed the fresh air felt good and he’d been surprised to find out that she was another New Yorker and he said that he’d thought she was a California girl and she’d laughed and asked if he didn’t detect her accent and he said he didn’t and that she was beautiful but he didn’t think he’d said that out loud.
She asked him if Times Square was still tawdry and if Toffenitti’s restaurant was still there and what about the Automat and were theater tickets still so high and did he ever go to the Museum of Modern Art and he was stunned at being so close to her and he tried not to keep staring at her breasts and her perfume was intoxicating and he thought that if hadn’t had those drinks he wouldn’t have been able to talk to her like this and this was a great night, he was going to get a raise and he was having a conversation with Patricia Stewart and in the back of his mind he wondered where Nora was but that didn’t matter right now.
Midnight: A television set Danny hadn’t noticed before was showing the ball sliding down the pole in Time Square and people were shouting Happy New Year and yes, there was Nora, kissing him. He was surprised to feel her tongue inside his mouth. Nora? But she was holding him tight and prolonging the kiss and she whispered into his ear, “I like you, Danny,” and he didn’t know what to say. Had she been drinking and had this loosened all of her inhibitions, as it had seemed to do with him. Then, as in a dream, the scene had changed and he and Nora were in a dark bedroom and she still clung to him and he knew he was getting aroused and he didn’t have a condom, he’d never even considered the possibility of needing one, and his head was spinning and he didn’t know what to do and the vivid picture of Patricia Stewart was still in his mind. Then he heard a crashing sound and yelling from the big room and he tore himself away from Norma’s embrace.
A little past midnight: For a moment Danny saw the big room as if it was a frozen movie scene, people standing still with open mouths, a woman in a red dress sprawled across a sofa, hand to her face, a man standing over her, hands clenched into fists. The woman was Patricia Stewart; the man was Douglas Warren. Then the scene unfroze and the sound came back. Men were running toward Warren but Danny got there first. “Did you hit her?” he yelled at Warren.
“Keep out of this, kid,” said Warren. He reached out an arm to push Danny away. Danny had never started a fight while he was a kid in New York, but as a smallish kid with glasses that bullies thought was easy pickings he’d been in a few. He ducked the arm, moved in and hit Warren in the solar plexus. Warren sank down with a whoosh. Then the room started to spin around and people were grabbing at Danny and the sound increased in volume and people were yelling at him and he wanted to make sure Patricia was all right but he couldn’t move and he wondered if Nora was there and then everything went black.
New Year’s Day, 10 o’clock in the morning: Danny opened his eyes. His head felt as if it had been cracked open like a coconut. His mouth had a horrible taste. He was lying in his bed in his studio apartment. He got up. What had happened? Then he remembered. The New Year’s Eve party. He’d gone with Nora Brown. He’d talked with his boss George Dempster about getting a raise. He’d had that conversation with Patricia Stewart and thought she liked him. Nora had kissed him and then what? Then he remembered. Douglas Warren had pushed Patricia Stewart, or at least he’d thought so. He’d wanted to kill Warrant. He’d hit him. What had happened after that?
He saw a note on the kitchen table. It was from Alan. It said: “Nora and I brought you home. You’re in trouble at the agency. Dempster wants to see you first thing Monday morning. Also, call Nora.”
Danny sat down. His head now felt like a balloon. He considered. Did he still have a job? Could he be sued for assault and battery? What did Patricia Stewart think of him? Was he a hero who’d saved her from the villainous Warren or was he an idiot? And how far had he gone with Nora and what would she expect from him? The new year was just starting and this was supposed to be a time for new beginnings. He wished he knew where he was going.
© Martin Green October 2013
Another Drink or Two...
Paul Weiss went into the bar. It was seven o’clock on an unusually warm weekday evening in San Francisco. The bar, a neighborhood one, was almost empty; too early for the regulars.
On the way back to my office from the so-called oral exam, which I knew I’d flunked brilliantly, I stopped at the State Building Number 8 cafeteria for a cup of coffee. It was, I thought, the least I could do for myself.
In recent weeks I’d been thinking a lot about my secretary Jane Harper and now here she was. “Mind if I join you?” she asked.
I was a little surprised when our ten-year old son Greg suddenly developed an interest in the environment shortly after entering the fifth grade.
Paul Lerner was alone in his house, which was in a retirement community near Sacramento, California. It was mid-afternoon. The house was quiet. His wife Sally was off visiting her sister. The cats were sleeping.
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