(Click here to go our previous episode or here to go to the first chapter of this sordid Hollywood melodrama. “Makes Jackie Collins seem like Proust.” -- J.J. Hunsecker, syndicated columnist.)
So, that was the sad and sordid backstory. But life goes on, and the day after Philip showed up Buddy had to deal with this lesbian make-out session problem with Deirdre. He had to deal with it, not Joan, because Joan and the Mariner had taken off for a romantic interlude in Brittany.
Bud was more than a little hungover that morning; he and Philip had definitely overdone their little father-son bonding thing. That shit would have to stop. It was time to pull himself together. Joan wasn’t worth it. It was true, he sort of missed her for some insane reason or reasons, but no woman who would go off with a turd like the Mariner could be worth a single hangover. No. So, he’d already decided to take the day off from work, but before he called the Mother Superior he thought it over -- what was the best time? Before lunch, so he could reward himself afterwards? Or after lunch, so he could fortify himself first? He decided finally just to get it the fuck over with; he called her up, it took a while to get her on the horn, but after pulling his “I’m a busy man” routine he got her to agree to a noon meeting. So: charm the Mother to death, then go have lunch, a little hair of the dog, a nap, wake up feeling like a king.
Buddy had never been to see the Mother before. After wandering around the school for a while he ran into a young Irish nun who guided him to the Mother’s office, or to the anteroom of the Mother’s office. She asked him to sit while she went in to tell the Mother he was there. It was all very old-school for L.A.: dark wood paneling, frosted glass on the doors, a statuette of the Infant of Prague, portraits of the Pope and the grown-up Jesus and of good old St. Vladimir. The sister came out and showed him through, and there was the old Mother, sitting behind her desk.
She looked like a mother superior, which Buddy dug. None of this newfangled shit for these nuns, no prim business suits, they had the full regalia, the long black habits and those big stiff white bibs under their chins. She had a foreign accent of some sort but not Irish. Buddy couldn’t remember her name. Hermione?
“Please sit down, Mr. Best.”
Her office laid it on even thicker with the Going My Way set design. More of the old dark wood; a big full-color crucifix; a three-foot statue of the Blessed Virgin standing on a snake and pointing to a gash in her chest with a bloody heart crowned with thorns in it; a gilt-framed headshot of a dead pope, maybe Pope Pius XII; tall bookshelves filled no doubt with the works of Aquinas and Augustine and Newman and Spillane; and broad high windows looking out over a playing field where -- perfect -- some girls were playing field hockey. And even more perfect, there was Griffith Park up there in the distance, and the Hollywood sign. Now if he only didn’t feel like a pile of warmed-over dogshit --
“So, Mr. Best, Deirdre’s mother is unable to be here?”
“Uh, no, she’s out of the country in fact.”
“No, I’m making it up,” crossed his mind but what he said was, “Uh, yeah.”
“And you are Deirdre’s stepfather.”
“That’s right. Thus the difference in last names.”
Which went over like a lead balloon.
“And you are a -- film producer?”
“Right. I also write them and sometimes I direct them.”
“Oh, how interesting.”
“Sometimes I sweep up after a day’s shoot.”
“What movies have you -- written and directed, and produced?”
Okay, chances were good she hadn’t caught Triggerwoman or Return to Death Island (Parts I or II), or Lock and Load or Plausible Deniability or Smith & Wesson & Me --
“Oh, you know ,” said Buddy, “just -- action movies -- low budget stuff --”
They both played dodgeball with each other’s eyes, and she changed the subject:
“And Deirdre’s natural father -- he is -- deceased?”
“Not that I know of.”
“Deirdre was the product of a -- youthful indiscretion. I don’t think she ever even met the, uh, gentleman. If that’s what he was. Which he probably wasn’t.”
Buddy smiled, weakly
“I see,” she said, smiling even more weakly, and blushing slightly. Well, too bad, Buddy was developing a headache and it was time to move things along a bit here.
“So, anyway, sister, mother I mean, I am the legal guardian so let’s get down to business, shall we? Deirdre’s suspended, I can appreciate that. How long do you want to keep her out?”
“Well, we should discuss the reason for her suspension. Did she tell you --”
“I know all about it, mother. She got caught making out with this other girl, right?”
“Well, yes --”
“Where the hell were they doing it anyway?”
“In the, uh, cloakroom of their homeroom.”
“Cloakroom. Now there’s a word you don’t hear any more. I love that.”
She actually cracked something approaching a smile.
“Cloakroom,” said Buddy. “Okay, well, she got caught; what do ya think, three days’ suspension? I mean, more than that she might fall behind. Personally I’ve always thought it a little dubious to punish kids with suspension. I mean isn’t that a little more like a reward? If I was the principal I’d make them come to school even more often. You know, make ‘em take night classes. Make ‘em take an extra geometry course or something. A Greek course. No, maybe not Greek --”
“Mr. Best --”
“Call me Buddy. My friends call me Buddy. My enemies too --”
“We need to talk about the nature of Deirdre’s -- infraction.”
“It’s nature? Sister, mother, she’s what? Fifteen, sixteen? She’s got what? Hormones, like any teenage kid. The hormones get in an uproar. They need an outlet. So, next thing you know it’s smooching in the cloakroom.”
Oh, Christ, Buddy had seen this face before -- and he flashed back on getting his wise ass whacked red in an office just like this one.
“Mr. Best, you are a Catholic?”
“I was -- brought up Catholic, yes, but --” Buddy was halted by a sudden upsurge of nausea, and he put his fist over his mouth. He swallowed, breathed deeply, then said, “Sorry. Touch of gas. But. Yeah. Brought up. Catholic.”
“So you do have some knowledge of Catholic doctrine.”
“Yeah.” He took another deep, sighing breath of Catholic school air. “Drummed into me. Eight years of parochial school. Four years of Catholic high school. Yeah.”
“Well, Mr. Best --”
“Mother, look, call me ’Buddy’, please --”
“Okay, Buddy -- what I want to say is, there is the concept of sin --”
Oh, fuck this --
“Whoa, hold it right there, mother. Hold on. Just put the brakes on here.” Buddy put his fist over his mouth again. Breathed. Then went on. “Now Deirdre is a good kid. She’s a little sullen and she’s got a mouth on her, but she brings home A’s, am I right?”
“Yes,” said the bag, grudgingly.
“All A’s, or damn near, pardon me, darn near all A’s. She takes violin and ballet.” Buddy gestured out to the girls on the playing field. “She plays field hockey. As far as I know she doesn’t do drugs. Oh, she’s probably smoked some pot (As Buddy damn well knew she did. But then who was he to be critical, having just now polished off a roach out in the parking lot, which on second thought maybe hadn’t been such a great idea.), but what kid doesn’t? So, what I’m saying is, what? She’s a good kid, but, okay, she got caught making out with another girl -- hey, she needs some outlet, right?”
“No! No, that’s where you’re wrong, Mr. Best, she does not need that sort of outlet --”
“But -- but --”
“She does not need that sort of outlet.”
What a bitch. He was tempted to bring up the subject of all these pervert priests the damn Church was overrun with, but he let that slide --
“Okay. Okay. I agree, a time and a place. She should not be making out with this Trish girl in the cloakroom, and believe me, I will tell her that in no uncertain terms. But, Mother, be reasonable, you’ve seen this Alvarez girl, right?”
“Alvarado,” she corrected.
“Alvarado. She’s this little, this little -- I mean, she’s very attractive. Is what I mean.”
Buddy felt a little lightheaded. Blood sugar -- food is what he needed --
“You don’t seem to understand, Mr. Best --” food and a drink -- “that Deirdre --”
“Wait, mother. Be honest with me here. I know you have the vow of celibacy and all, but look, you’re gonna sit there and tell me that you yourself have never, um, you know, well, maybe not -- but -- okay, while we’re on the subject, what’s up with this whole vow of celibacy thing in the church -- with the priests and the nuns -- I mean --”
“What are you saying?”
“What am I saying? I’m saying we all have desires, urges -- it’s natural -- I mean, personally -- well, okay, look -- again, a time and a place, she shouldn’t be making out with anyone in school, at school I mean, but still, it’s only natural -- I mean, really, haven’t you ever --”
“We’re not talking about me.”
“I realize that, but I’m only saying -- I mean --”
“She was kissing another student.”
“But is that really so bad? I mean, if they had been, you know --”
She stared at him, wide-eyed.
Buddy wanted a drink. He wanted two aspirins and then a drink. Two drinks --
“Look,” he said, “I just don’t see it as some big fuckin’ --”
The mother looked down at her desktop. She was probably hating her job right now. He’d fucked up. He should have just kept his fucking trap shut, let her have her say and then got the fuck out of there, but oh no --
“Sorry,” said Buddy.
She still didn’t say anything. Now Buddy was in fact feeling sorry for her.
“Tell you what, sister. Mother. Leave it to me. I’m going to ground her for a week. No movies, no going out, I won’t let her rent any DVD’s either. So why don’t we just call it a one-day suspension, let her come back tomorrow, and just forget the whole thing. ‘Cause she likes this school. At least I’m pretty sure she does. And you know what, I think it’s great she’s going here, an all-girls school. A good -- good Catholic school. Discipline. It was my wife’s idea. Joan. My wife. She wanted, she wanted, Deirdre to have, like a -- I mean, me, I would’ve probably just saved some money and sent her to Hollywood High, y’know? Which is where I sent my other two kids, and. Which would’ve meant she’d’ve been exposed to a lot more than Trish Alvarado in the cloakroom. I mean, drugs, boys. Boys, I mean, one thing about this thing with the Alvarado girl at least they’re not gonna knock each other up, right?”
The Mother was still just staring at her desk.
Buddy felt like all kinds of shit.
“So, uh, I’ll send her back to school tomorrow bright and early then?”
He stood up. He had an urge to give her some money, but (A), that would have been incredibly crass, even for him, and (B), he didn’t have his checkbook on him anyway.
“And, uh, I wish you a very good day, mother, and I thank you for taking this time with me. ‘Bye now.”
Finally she looked up at him.
Buddy was drenched with sweat when he left that office. Christ, it was like he was the one who’d been caught making out in the cloakroom.
He drove to Carlos ‘n’ Charlie’s, had a tuna melt with fries and a couple of therapeutic Anderson Valley IPAs, shmoozed a little bit with some industry people -- Julie Strain and her husband or her boyfriend; Christopher Lambert and his agent and Joe Morrow -- and then he went home, masturbated, and had a very nice nap.
(Gotta say it was a good day, Buddy -- you didn’t even have to use your AK. Continued here. Please look to the right hand column of this page to find perhaps an up-to-date listing of all other published chapters of Uncle Buddy’s House. An American International Production, produced and directed by Larry Winchester.)
Buddy must have sussed out the Mother Superior's guilty conscience. Otherwise I would think he probably would need to make a contribution to the school "friendship and solidarity" after-school prayer group. Or maybe not, because even though he censors his thoughts, he still manages to address whatever's hovering in the air.
Ah, heck, Buddy's only saying what every Catholic school product thinks.
Buddy's the kind of dad every kid wishes they had had.
You had AG at 'Lesbian make-out scene.'
Look at all the fun you missed out by not going to a convent school, AG! Of course, as Kathleen and Goodtime and Manny would probably agree, the experience would be even more fun if you had a step-dad like Buddy watching your back.
Just reread this and enjoyed it hugely. Did not "get" Buddy to begin with, was kinda rushing through to get to the story. Now I realise there is none as yet ;-) I took my time and savoured the piece.
By her choice of artworks I gather Mother is not exactly your post Vat2 type Catholic? I have never seen a picture of Mary as you describe - from an outsider's pov our religious iconry has to be the most outlandish of all - the Hindu or Buddhist icons seem quite simple and tame in comparison.
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