Two Blind Men and a Fool
by Sherman Smith
Earl Crier wakes screaming from nightmares in which his ship sinks in the Arctic in World War II. He has survived but is now blind. He takes refuge in music and in the kindness of Stella. Meanwhile, other veterans return, and their most serious wounds are not always visible.
Chapter 42: Top of the Mark
Brooks knew the future was bleak, but for now he was not going to dwell on that. There was one positive in this sea of carp, once and for all: he was rid of Earl Crier. No one was looking over his shoulder telling him what he could or could not do. The silk masks that Stella had made for him worked wonders for his self-confidence. He was headed to the Mark Hopkins Hotel, one of the most prestigious places in town. Top of the Mark. Yes, sir, why not?
This is it, old boy, Mr. Dark whispered. Gloom and Despair missed this ride. They’re yesterday’s fair-weather friends. You got no future, so why the hell not enjoy today before you cash in your chips?
Take a room at the Mark; room service, if you want it, and charge all the booze to the room. When they get wise, what will it matter? You went out on a high note. Yes, sir, if you’ve got to go, you might as well go out in style.
Brooks laughed aloud. “Why the hell not?”
“What’s that pal?” he heard his host and driver ask.
“Nothing, nothing at all. I appreciate the lift.” Brooks introduced himself. “The name is Oscar, Oscar Brandt.”
Oscar Brandt was a pretty good piano man he had met back in Hollywood before the war. He rarely worked the club circuit, did mostly movie scores and studio work. He had heard that in late 1945 Brandt had died in car accident. Rumors were that he had jilted his wife for a platinum blond twenty years his junior. Either way, he had a recognizable name that just might get him a suite at the Mark Hopkins without too many questions asked.
“Saul Feldman,” the man answered. “Holy cow! Did you say Oscar Brandt? And you play the piano? You’re not...?” he asked incredulously. “I heard you were dead.”
“Almost.” Brooks answered. “It’s a long story I don’t care much to talk about.” He brought his hand up to his silk mask and left it there long enough for the driver to see in his rearview mirror. “After my accident, I’ve been taking things slow, one day at a time. I couldn’t take the quiet anymore so I thought I’d step out. To think that I came this close to being squashed like a bug, gives a guy pause to think. I sure appreciate you being there.”
That a boy, Mr. Dark, whispered, just don’t lay it on too thick.
“I came in on the train this morning,” Brooks continued. “The cab driver thought he could pull a fast one on me just because I’m blind. He ripped me off for eighteen bucks then left me off God knows where. When we get to the Mark Hopkins, it would be my pleasure to buy you a drink.”
“Mr. Brandt, I couldn’t...”“I won’t take no for an answer. Besides, I’d appreciate a friendly hand checking into the hotel. If you will help me find the piano at the Top of the Mark, I’d be pleased to play you a tune.”
“Before the war,” Saul said, “I used to do a little studio work, played the oboe.” Boy, oh boy, this is going to be a day I’ll never forget. “You wrote three or four of the scores I had the pleasure of working on. I’d be honored, Mr. Brandt, you just name it.”
Copyright © 2013 by Sherman Smith