Thirty Somehow

He stops to talk to that fellow. His jocular self-assurance, the fluid competence of his money. He’d be the same at Buckingham Palace or in a Bangkok cathouse. Settings, ambiance, are meaningless to him. Unimpressed, he carries his own reality, commerce behind everything. Old Mannybags. Here he comes, no idea he is late, tuned only to the business at hand.

“Ethan won’t do the interview without a list of questions. And no close-ups.”

That manner of addressing her, as if were talking to a wife. He utters these un fait acccompli, like a lawyer. He has swooped onto the minimalist chair, his legs a causeway around which the assured waters of his enterprises flow.

Cafe Chantant II, 1929
(58.5 x 47 cm)
BY Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Brücke-Museum, Berlin

“Good morning, Emmanuel,” she hectors in her trained voice, “it’s a social custom — greeting one’s fellows. “Who’s the elderly gent?”

“You’ll save a packet on camera angles.”

“Manny, who were you talking to?”

“Close-ups are out and no live singing.”

“God forbid on the latter, who were you talking to?”

“And no questions about Amie, the whole matter is sub judice.”

“Manny!”

“Felix.”

“Felix who — Felix Unger, Felix the Cat?”

“Hoffman. They say he’s gone funny since his wife died, touch of Alzheimer’s, but he seems alright. He likes your blouse.”

“Indeed. He’s been stripping me naked with his eyes. An expert on blouses, is he?”

“Well, yes, he was a fashion designer with his wife Margaret McConnell. Her real name was Helga.”

“You knew them?”

“My folks did. From the same neck of the woods.”

Yes, yes, Margaret McConnell. She’d considered that piece, but it had never happened. But her radar is sounding, probing the gap.

“There’s something about him, Manny?”

“You tell me. You’re the art buff. ”

Of course, her journo instincts, Felix Hoffman, the artist, hardly a name to the public but an icon in the art world,

“I nearly did a piece on the wife.”

“I told you the Amie matter is sub judice. Do I care who he bashes up?”

“Not Ethan’s wife. Hoffman’s wife.”

“And you can’t say his last album was a flop.”

“It was a bad album. What am I supposed to say?”

“He is appealing to a more discerning audience.”

She rolls her eyes.

“Tell me about the Hoffmans, Manny.”

“Came out as engineers, after the war. Had problems with their qualifications, started a little garment factory in Surry Hills. My folks bought from them. I remember them once, sitting and sewing together, him too, and once, greasy as hell, both doing maintenance on the machines. Place ran like a Swiss watch. And they were telepathic, hardly needed a word between them, and they knew what you wanted.”

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