David Connally regretted competing in the San Diego regatta. Not only did he lose the Silver Cup to team Cathcart, Cathcart was a foreigner. Was there a Chenoa, Ohio?
“You’re moping, David, and it’s unbecoming,” Mrs. Connally said when he refused his breakfast.
“I have a rope blister.”
“Yes, on your ego. Do you believe Braxton loves you less because you lost a sailboat race? If it’s true, then she’s shallow and you’d be better off without her.”
His mouth twisted. He hated poached eggs and he couldn’t think of a comeback to truth, especially when the truth was Braxton didn’t care about the race even though she was shallow.
“Have you seen the morning paper’s sports page? There’s a huge picture of Cathcart and the BeesKnees.”
“No, I haven’t seen it, and I won’t read a word written about a boat with such a silly name.”
Mrs. Connally buttered a bite of bran muffin. “A fast boat, however, at which only a twit would cast stones when his fiancé’s name is Braxton Singleton. And I shuddered when Jennifer was all the rage.”
She had a point and it punctured his self-esteem. “Mother, I wish you’d learned compassion at Bryn Mawr.”
“It was all I could do to resist Marxism. The paper said Charles Cathcart learned to sail when the son of his father’s employer broke his ankle playing polo. Sounds like a diamond in the rough.”
David felt his heart sink another yard. “Is the paper throwing him a party?”
“At the Del Coronado tomorrow night. I suggest you get a new tux with an expandable waistline for all the crow you’ll be eating.”
Yes, he’d bragged that the SeaAngel would win the race, but that’s what guys do before a sporting event. They talk trash to bolster their confidence and get their morale erect. If only Mr. Connally was here to offer condolences and a pep talk. Still, he drove to Isaacson’s for a new tux where he’d practice good sportsmanship with Levi, his tailor.
“I thought you had it going into the home stretch, Mr. Connally,” Isaac’s son said.
“The better boat won,” David said, dodging the issue of captainship.
Isaac’s other son appeared at the fitting room door and nodded over his shoulder. “Will you be long?” Levi went to the door, but David overheard the mumble. “Mr. Cathcart is here.”
“Let him wait or buy off the rack,” David whispered loudly, and made sure his fitting lasted another hour.
“Oh, you scalawag,” Braxton said when David told her the story as they waited for their lattes.
“He has no business patronizing my tailor.”
“He didn’t know Isaacson’s was your tailor, David.”
“Don’t defend the indefensible.”
“David, I expect you to behave like the gentleman you pretend to be.”
“I’ll do no such thing. I have a right to be a boor if he has a right to be a…a…”
She’d gone too far. For the first time, he saw how much like his mother she was even if she did go to Berkeley. It was if she’d been disguising her matronly, shallow self in the fresh beauty of youth, and he realized they could never be happily married “What do you mean by that, Braxie?” he said instead of breaking off their engagement in the Gaslight Quarter bistro they were so fond of.
“I mean, if one defeat in life can make you throw away your good sense and good manners, then perhaps I should reconsider our relationship.”
She left him staring into his two percent mocha. Had Cathcart already succeeded in ruining his marriage plans as well as stealing the Silver Cup? There was nothing to be done except to marry Braxton and be unhappy. He texted her an apology and a promise: No more time wasted on recriminations.
David only meant to frighten Cathcart with the palm-sized .38 he carried to the Coronado gala. More important than the defense of class and family however, was his desire to hear from Cathcart himself how his team won. A secret, silent emergency motor? “Tell me!”
Cornered in the arboretum off the pool, with a gun brandished in his face, Cathcart felt he owed the vanquished an explanation since it seemed to matter, but he had to wait out Connally’s harangue about what a cur he was, and “If you call the police, I shall deny ever speaking to you, and you will be shunned, I assure you.”
“Then you’ve no intention of shooting me?”
In the evening chill, David could feel the radiation from Cathcart’s sea-blue eyes, and the moonlight cast shadows from his arete cheekbones. Handsome men were always lionized by the press. Even serial killers.
“Certainly not. I demand to know how you managed to sail past the SeaAngel.”
He felt a gentle poking above his belt. “My crew is a good twenty-five pounds lighter than yours. The wind carries feathers easier than stones.”
Damn the man, he made sense!
Cathcart inched closer to him, so close David could smell his cologne. So close David saw the tiny flaw in his lapel stitching. Had Isaacson’s purposely made the puny pucker that’s presence seemed to drain the bile from his liver? Was Cathcart so immune to perfection that he didn’t notice? He had a Silver Cup, yes, but he had bought an ill-sewn suit making him as comical as the name of his boat.
“Have you met Braxton Singleton?” David inquired as he pocketed his pistol. Flawed people belonged together.
“We were introduced when the orchestra took a break.”
“You ought to take a run at her. You have much in common. Her dog’s name is Waddles.”
Cathcart moved past him, slowly, and then broke into a dash. And David smiled. The man could run like hell. But nothing could dispel his satisfaction in Cathcart’s wardrobe failure. It wouldn’t be the first time a small imperfection saved someone’s life. In the Winter of ’42 snowflakes defeated the entire Nazi war machine.
Jenean McBrearty is a graduate of San Diego State University, who taught Political Science and Sociology. Her fiction, poetry, and photographs have been published in over a hundred and eighty print and on-line journals. She won the Eastern Kentucky English Department Award for Graduate Creative Non-fiction in 2011, and a Silver Pen Award in 2015 for her noir short story: Red’s Not Your Color. Her novels and collections can be found on Amazon and Lulu.com.