MR. STERNE • by Michael Tracy

“H… hello, Mr. Sterne.”

“Oh, yes. Jonathan, please sit down.”

“Th… thank you.”

“You look terrible, my boy. You’re shaking. Are you all right?”

“Not… really.”

“And you smell as though you’ve been drinking.”

“I may have had…”

“Well, that’s quite all right. I’ll have Simpson bring you a nice cup of coffee.”

“Thank you, sir. I guess you know what happened.”

“Yes, yes. And you can rest assured that Angela is very sorry for the fright she gave you.”

“She tried to kill me.”

“Yes, well, as I say, a great deal of anxiety.”

“When I woke up, she was standing over me with a knife. I had to jump out of a second story window.”

“Yes, yes. I’m certain she will quite relax after the wedding.”

“That’s really what I wanted to talk to you about, Mr. Sterne. I think after last night, Angela and I might need some time to… get to know each other a bit better.”

“Do not try my patience, young man. You will marry my daughter as scheduled.”

“But, Mr. Sterne…”

“Did you really believe that when a girl with such a generous trust fund agreed to marry a 46 year old — forgive the term — failure, there wasn’t going to be a catch?”

“But, sir…”

“Look at yourself. You drink cheap blended Scotch during the day. You call yourself a painter, but you’ve never sold a painting.”

“But, sir.”

“Marry Angela and you will have financial security. You can buy yourself some presentable clothes. Your debts will disappear.”

“I — I…”

“Walk away, and you will simply grow older and more pathetic. Regretting that you missed your one opportunity to save yourself from your own failure.”

“Sir…”

“You are far from the first person Angela has tried to kill. She tried to kill me for the first time when she was eight years old. She burned down our house in Montauk when she was twelve. And then there was that incident at her boarding school in Switzerland. Her mother was very much the same way. Of course I have had to learn to make certain adjustments in my lifestyle to insure my own survival. You’ll soon learn to do the same.”

“I…”

“My daughter’s happiness is the most important thing to me, young man. She tells me that she cannot be happy without you. She has covered her walls with her drawings and photographs of you. I am offering you an opportunity to become a man of substance, of respect. And all that I ask in return is that you demonstrate a tiny bit of kindness to a beautiful girl who loves you.”

“I really think I need some time to digest all this, sir.”

“Your time is up, Jonathan. I have a board meeting to attend. Why don’t you stay and have a few more drinks. They’ll put everything on my tab. And don’t look so dour, my dear boy. Angela is a beautiful girl. And I think that you will be surprised at how receptive galleries can be to an artist who has made the right sort of connections. I shall see you at the wedding.”

“Will there be anything else this evening, sir?” asked the waiter.

“No… You know, Simpson, I’ve just been sitting here reviewing my alternatives and I’ve realized something interesting. I don’t have any. Mr. Sterne is right. I’ve failed at everything and now I’ve run out of options.”

“Haven’t we all, sir. Will there be anything else?”

“No… yes. What… what is your most expensive Scotch?”

“The Kinclaith, sir.”

“How much is it?”

“$415 per glass, sir.”

“Perfect. I’ll have a double on ice.”

“Very good, sir.”

“Oh, and Simpson.”

“Yes, sir?”

“Bring me the bottle. I’m getting married tomorrow.”


Michael Tracy is an avid reader and occasional writer.

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