Authors: Dorothy Parker Ellen Meister - Farewell
Tags: #Fantasy, #Humour, #Adult, #Historical, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Women, #Fiction
FAREWELL, DOROTHY PARKER
ALSO BY ELLEN MEISTER
The Other Life
The Smart One
Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA
G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS
G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS
Publishers Since 1838
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3,
Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand,
London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland
(a division of Penguin Books Ltd)
Penguin Group (Australia), 707 Collins Street, Melbourne,
Victoria 3008, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)
Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd,
11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi–110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive,
Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)
Penguin Books (South Africa),
Rosebank Office Park, 181 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parktown North 2193, South Africa
B7 Jiaming Center, 27 East Third Ring Road North, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100020, China
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Copyright © 2013 by Ellen Meister
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.
Purchase only authorized editions.
Published simultaneously in Canada
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Farewell, Dorothy Parker / by Ellen Meister.
1. Parker, Dorothy, 1893–1967—Fiction. 2. Self-realization in women—Fiction. 3. Women authors—Fiction. 4. Film critics—Fiction. 5. Spirits—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3613.E4355F37 2013 2012039838
Printed in the United States of America
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
Book design by Jennifer Daddio/Bookmark Design & Media Inc.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED TO
IN LOVING MEMORY
The first thing I do in the morning is brush
my teeth and sharpen my tongue.
FAREWELL, DOROTHY PARKER
Table of Contents
Violet Epps stood before the maître d’ in the lobby lounge of the Algonquin Hotel, waiting to be noticed. She cleared her throat and he looked up, glancing right past her.
“Who’s next?” he said.
Me, she thought.
But before she could summon the courage to get the single syllable across her tongue, a young man behind her spoke up.
“We have a reservation,” he said, putting his arm around the pretty girl at his side. “Dr. Walker.”
Doctor my ass, Violet thought. Guy was maybe twenty-three years old, probably a waiter who just walked over from his afternoon class at the Actors Studio.
Violet closed her eyes and tried to find the gumption she needed to speak up and tell the maître d’ she was there first. But as usual, social anxiety paralyzed her vocal cords. Too bad she couldn’t channel Dorothy Parker the way she did at work.
Violet Epps was a thirty-seven-year-old movie critic whose withering zingers were inspired by the famous wit who had made the Algonquin Hotel her home for many years. Dorothy Parker was Violet’s hero, and not just for her scathing reviews, clever jokes, quotable poetry, and insightful short stories but for her potent social courage. The diminutive Mrs. Parker, as she was often called, was so commanding that even her friends thought of her as larger than life.
So far, Violet had been successful in summoning her muse only when writing her movie reviews. In her personal life, she was held captive by her own timidity. Today, she hoped, would be different. She was meeting her boyfriend, Carl, for dinner, and needed to tell him it was over. She had tried this once before—just a few weeks ago—and failed. Worse, Carl had made a strong case that the only problem with their relationship was that they didn’t spend enough time with each other. He even managed to convince her that if they were together more he would drink less. And so she caved, agreeing to let him move in with her. In two short days it would be happening. Everything in the “apartment” he rented in the basement of his parents’ home would be loaded into a U-Haul and moved to her house.
As the maître d’ led the young couple to their table, Violet glanced inside her oversized handbag, where a tiny bundle of fur lay sleeping. It was Woollcott, a funny-looking little dog who had survived the car crash that killed her sister and brother-in-law. Violet had petitioned for temporary custody of her thirteen-year-old niece, who had also survived the accident, but wound up with the dog.
Violet knew that Dorothy Parker, whose most famous quotes were uttered right here in this room, would have made a glib joke about the trade-off. After all, it was life’s most painful events that brought out Mrs. Parker’s famously wicked sense of humor—like the time she responded to an unwanted pregnancy by saying,
That’s what I get for putting all my eggs in one bastard.
Violet gave Woollcott a pat. He was, she had discovered, a mellow companion who had a calming effect on her nerves. That was why she had decided to sneak him into this meeting with Carl; if she couldn’t channel Dorothy Parker from the hallowed walls of the Algonquin Hotel, at least she had this little dog to help steady her.
A grab from behind gave Violet a start. It was Carl. She pulled his hands from her waist.
“Hey, babe,” he said. “Where’s our table? Didn’t you tell them who you were?”
“You scared me,” she said.
“But I was just horsing around.”
Violet sighed. What did one thing have to do with the other? Surely she was entitled to be startled regardless of the intent.
But that was Carl. He was so sure he never did anything wrong that you couldn’t suggest otherwise without feeling like you had done something truly villainous.
Violet shook her head. This relationship was not just dead. It was starting to rot.
They had met three years ago at a crafts fair in Stony Brook, Long Island, and Violet was immediately intrigued, as he was the opposite of her rigid ex-husband. Carl McDonald was an artist and looked the part, with a messy mass of long wiry locks, parted in the middle. He was thickset with large hands and bitten nails, which usually had paint embedded deep in the cuticles. Carl had carved out a niche for himself painting nostalgically kitschy designs on small pieces of furniture, and eked out a living selling his work in cramped booths at local shows. Recently, he launched a Web site to try to broaden his customer base.
He was handsome in an offbeat way, and Violet, God help her, loved his disheveled-artist look and the intensity of his dark blue eyes. Yes, he was different, but that was why she felt so immediately electrified. Here was a man with passion—someone who could love. But when they met, she was still on the rebound of her failed marriage and got involved way too soon. What seemed like disarming emotional honesty in the beginning revealed itself to be nothing more than a self-involved kind of neediness. And then there was the drinking.
She leaned in to take a whiff, hoping he hadn’t stopped someplace for a shot or two on his way to meet her. He misinterpreted her body
language and responded by kissing her on the mouth with passion more appropriate for a private room than a hotel lobby.
She pushed him away before her body had a chance to react. She was, she believed, too easily stimulated by the smallest touch. “How much did you have to drink?”
“Nothing. Just two little Bud Lights.” He snapped his fingers at the maître d’.
Violet cringed. “Don’t
that,” she whispered. “For God’s sake.”
“Can I help you?” the host asked. He was classically handsome—almost a central-casting version of a maître d’, Violet thought—with dark hair, rigid posture, and a wisp of Middle Eastern accent.
“Reservation for Violet Epps,” Carl said to him, pronouncing her name loudly enough for several diners to overhear. This was typical. He loved having a well-known girlfriend and always thought it was a good idea to use her celebrity to their advantage.