Mary Jane pushed her chin farther forward over the edge of her forearm.
"El. . ." she said.
"Why won't you tell me how he was killed? I swear I won't tell anybody. Honestly. Please."
"Please. Honestly. I won't tell anybody."
Eloise finished her drink and replaced the empty glass upright on her chest. "You'd tell Akim Tamiroff," she said.
"No, I wouldn't! I mean I wouldn't tell any--"
"Oh," said Eloise, "his regiment was resting someplace. It was between battles or something, this friend of his said that wrote me. Walt and some other boy were putting this little Japanese stove in a package. Some colonel wanted to send it home. Or they were taking it out of the package to rewrap it--I don't know exactly. Anyway, it was all full of gasoline and junk and it exploded in their faces. The other boy just lost an eye." Eloise began to cry. She put her hand around the empty glass on her chest to steady it.
Mary Jane slid off the couch and, on her knees, took three steps over to Eloise and began to stroke her forehead. "Don't cry, El. Don't cry."
"Who's crying?" Eloise said.
Le Mixeur Sharky: Nine Stories is Sunday, March 11, 5-10pm, at Inner Chapters Bookstore & Cafe, 419 Fairview Ave N, Seattle. Tickets are $25 (includes 3 cocktails) and should be pre-purchased here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/229073
As I mentioned in the previous post on Ben Perri, sometimes Seattle gets lucky and a some of the most superest bartenders around move here to Seattle and make really super drinks and act like really super people in public places called bars. And Marley is one of these super types. Since moving to Seattle, most of us first got to know her while she was bartending at Spur. Then she started sneaking down the alleyway to Bathtub Gin and making drinks there too. Then she disappeared from Belltown all together and helped open the bar at Golden Beetle in Ballard! Oh that mischievous Marley! (It was right at that time we all started calling her "Crazy Marley." We stopped calling her that a few moments later because, well, it was pretty silly.)
After proving her point at Golden Beetle, she moved on to create a brand damn spanking new bar program at the brand damn spanking new restaurant and bar The Sexton (at least is was brand damn spanking new at the time. After a few months the city comes out to the restaurant and removes the brand damn spanking seal. Then you're just "new"). There you will find the bar front and center and Marley making delicious drinks, and you will also find a menu of southern-influenced food items that are delicious. And the best part, all you have to is ask for them, and someone brings it right to where you're sitting and you can eat it! Woohoo!
Marley came to us from Boston, where she was inspired to pursue a craft cocktail lifestyle by Misty Kalkofen, these days of Brick & Mortar in Cambridge. Misty is organizing a Le Mixeur Sharky event in Boston in April. Marley is contributing to the Le Mixeur Sharky event in Seattle. See how everything is coming full circle? Perhaps it's more like two straight lines going back and forth between Boston and Seattle. But if you push the ends of those lines towards each other, they might bow into two arches, at which point the ends can be welded together to form a circle. Our operatives are working on this as we speak. Bow those lines, m'boys! Bow those lines m'ladies! Raise High The Roofbeam, Carpenters!
All I'm really trying to say is, I'm glad Marley's here now.
UNCLE WIGGILY IN CONNECTICUT
1 ½ ounce Dewar's blended scotch
¾ ounce Riesling Simple Syrup*
¾ ounce Campari
¼ ounce lemon juice
2 dashes Laphroaig
Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass
Strain into Collins glass, top with soda and ice
*1 part water to 3 parts sweet, aromatic Riesling, heated to boil and then mixed with a 1:1 ratio of sugar. For example: 8 ounces water, 24 ounces Riesling, mixed with 32 ounces sugar (by volume).
Marley took seriously the task of making a drink that relates to its story. Also, her story has some elements that make for guides to the drink. For instance, the two principal characters in the story are described as drinking highballs throughout the afternoon they spend together. Towards the end of the story one picks up a near-empty bottle of scotch, revealing that they've been drinking scotch highballs.
They also chain smoke throughout the story (as do pretty much all adults in Salinger stories) so Marley adds the dashes of Laphroaig (which worked much better than the original idea to build the drink in a Collins glass over ice and a wet cigarette butt).
So essentially what Marley has done (and I will paraphrase her own description), is to create a scotch highball with nostalgia, love lost or gone up in smoke (the real reason for the smoky Laphroaig). The Riesling syrup represents the sugar-coated sophistication, or plastic/candy facade, of the life of comfort that Eloise, the main character leads. The Campari represents the bitterness of her life, caused by the loss of her true love.
SO IS THIS STORY ABOUT ANYTHING BESIDES DRINKING AND SMOKING?
Yes and no. It is about two women getting together one snowy afternoon in Connecticut. They were college roommates their freshmen year, and neither one of them would finish school. Both fell into romances instead. Mary Jane ended up a career woman. Eloise ended up marrying a successful man she doesn't love after her true love, Walt, died in the war. Eloise is spirited, sharp, and funny. But she's miserable. She doesn't even seem to like her husband, and her daughter is a source of annoyance and embarrassment for her, despite the fact that she is a sweet child. Eloise complains about the maid, the pillows, the furniture, and anything else that comes up.
As the afternoon turns to evening and Eloise keeps serving up scotch highballs, convincing Mary Jane to cancel her work appointments and stay with her, the women get more inebriated, the topics of conversation become deeper and more emotional, and eventually it is revealed to us with heartbreaking clarity how Eloise, once a sweet, naive, and fragile girl in love has become a lonely, isolated, and bitter woman buried in her Connecticut palace.
This is my favorite story in the collection, and I don't want to reveal anymore about it here or give any hint as to the meaning of the title. One day, please make yourself an Uncle Wiggily In Connecticut (or go to the Sexton and see if Marley's got some Riesling syrup she can use to make you one), get out a copy of Nine Stories, sip, read, and don't worry. Everything's going to be OK. It really is. You were a nice girl, weren't you?