Gentlemen Don’t Spank
WALTER HAEFELI, JR.
THE QUESTION surprised Jeff Bradley. He’d expected Andy to ask him something else; the moment he’d caught sight of Andy on the station platform, he’d been ready with an answer. But the question changed that.
Jeff thought it over quickly, then laughed and said: “Me act! No thanks, Andy. I’m rotten at remembering lines. As usual, I’ll work on the stage crew, but I won’t take a part. Not even the part of butler, if you’ve got a butler in your play.”
“You won’t have to do any acting,” Andy said. “You’re just the type for this part.”
Jeff grinned. “Then why not ask Bill or Matt to take it? After all, we’re pretty much alike. We’re all earnest young commuters—”
“Listen, Jeff,” Andy pleaded, “you don’t know anything about it yet. Will you listen?”
Jeff glanced at his watch and sighed. The 8.20 was seven minutes away. That meant seven minutes of listening there and thirty-three more on the train. And Andy, when a matter concerned the Fairmont Players, could be as persistent as a life insurance salesman and much harder to refuse. That was why the Players, for an amateur group, gave such creditable performances.
“It’s like this,” Andy was saying. “The play’s sort of a modem version of ‘The Taming of the Shrew,’ with you in the rôle that corresponds to Petruchio’s, and Judy—”
“Judy ! Not Judy Martin !”
“That even lets me out of the stage crew. You ought to realize that. You know we’re—”
“That’s just the point, Jeff. She’s in the rôle that corresponds to Kate’s. That’s what I meant when I said you wouldn't have to act. All you’ll have to do is be yourself with her.” Andy smacked a fist into his palm. “It’s a natural, Jeff! What do vou sav?”
“Listen, Jeff, listen to some of the lines you say to her." Andy took a manuscript from his pocket and rapidly thumbed through its pages. He stopped and said: “Here’s one: 'Just because you’ve always been given everything you want, you expect every man you know to jump through a hoop for you. Well, here’s one who won’t.’ ”
“Bravo,” Jeff said dryly.
“Listen, Jeff, here’s another: ‘What you need is a good sound spanking. If—’ ”
“That’s exactly what she needs,’’ Jeff interrupted, chuckling in spite of himself.
“Does she get one?”
“No. You say: ‘If I weren’t a gentleman, I’d take you over my knee right now.’ ”
“She ought to be spanked,” Jeff insisted.
“There’s no spanking. You win your point without resorting to one . . . Well, what do you say?”
Jeff thought it over. For some reason the idea began to appeal to him. But he didn’t say so. He sensed a catch in it; there usually was a catch in Andy’s ideas.
Jeff asked: “Has Judy agreed to take the part of Kate?” Andy nodded.
“Did she know that you were going to ask me to play opposite her?”
Again Andy nodded.
“Come clean, Andy,” Jeff said. “What’s the catch in this?”
“There’s no catch. Honest, Jeff . . . What do you say?” “I’ll think it over.”
“I’ve got to know now, Jeff. First rehearsal’s tonight at nine at the Club.”
Jeff hesitated. The idea, now that he gave it more thought, seemed pretty juvenile, but he couldn’t resist it. “I’ll be there,” Jeff said.
THAT EVENING Jeff walked into the lobby of the Club in high good humor. He glanced into the auditorium. Everything was as usual at a first rehearsal—the stage set with scenery from the previous play: the orchestra spotted with groups laughing and talking and smoking; Andy hurrying from group to group, handing out parts.
Jeff turned. Judy stood alone in the centre of the lobby, a picture of pertness in a smart black coat and a little black liât that contrasted vividly with her reddish-gold hair. For a moment Jeff was carried back to a time his heart had stood still at just a glimpse of her. But only for a moment. Judy's quick smile put him on guard. It seemed friendly enough,
but Jeff knew there was nothing friendly behind it; it was as impermanent as a truce between two armies.
“Hi, Judy!” Jeff matched her flip, indifferent tone. “Where’s the latest?”
“He’ll be back later to see the fun.”
“No fun tonight,” Jeff said. “We’ll just read through our parts quietly. Never any emphasis the first night, you know.”
“That’s too bad. Maybe we can persuade Andy to let us put it in.”
“Maybe we can ... Do you think that you can take it?” Judy's smile widened. “Of course I can.”
The remark puzzled Jeff. Surely she didn’t mean that. Not the quick-tempered Judy he’d known so well ! Staring at her, Jeff wondered, as he'd wondered so often during the day, that she’d agreed to play opposite him.
Jeff shook his head. “I’ve never seen anybody so eager for a tongue-lashing.”
Judy’s smile faded. “What—what are you talking about?” “The big scene in Act III where the hero tells the heroine exactly what he thinks of her.”
“You’re joking, Jeff!”
“Not I. I never joke about the important things in life. You ought to know that. Remember the night—” Jeff stopped, recognizing storm signals in her eyes.
“Andy never mentioned any such scene to me,” she said shortly. “I don’t believe you.”
“Well, why don’t you ask Andy about it, then?”
“I intend to.” She walked to a door leading into the auditorium. “Andy! Will you come here for a minute?” Andy came. Andy looked as though he anticipated trouble.
“Yes, that scene’s in Act III,” Andy said, after Judy had questioned him. “Why didn’t I tell you? What difference does it make, Judy? When you read the play through, you’ll see that it’s necessary.”
“Necessary or not,” Judy said, “I want you to strike it out.”
“Hear! Hear!” Jeff said. “That’s a typical Martin line for you, Andy. Better make a note of it.”
Judy said: “Keep out of this,
Jeff . . . Andy, are you going to strike it out or aren’t you?”
Jeff said: “Stick to your guns,
“It’s got to be struck out,” Judy insisted.
Jeff grinned. “Just because you’ve always been given everything you want, you expect every man you know to jump through a hoop for you. Well, here are two who won’t.”
Judy snapped: “Shut up, Jeff.”
“Nothing personal in that, Judy,”
Jeff said amiably. “I was just rehearsing one of my lines. Would you like to hear it again? I don’t know what your cue is—” He
stopped and sidestepped and ducked just in time to avoid Judy’s hand. “Say !” he protested, no longer amiable. “What’s the idea?”
“That’s my cue,” Judy explained in an exasperatingly sweet tone. “As Andy described things to me, the heroine slaps the hero somewhere in Act III . . . Isn’t that right, Andy?”
ANDY nodded. His hands tightened on a manuscript, as • though in resolution.
Jeff said: “So that was the catch, eh, Andy? Well, I don’t care what her lines are, but I’m blessed if I ’ll let her slap me unless I spank her.”
“Spank me!” Judy flared. “I’d just like to see you try. Td—”
“Listen, you two,” Andy interrupted. “Let’s settle this right now. I’ll admit I baited both of you. I had to. It was the only way to get you here.”
Jeff said: “A questionable case of the end justifying the means.”
Judy said: “Keep quiet, Jeff. Goon, Andy.”
“You’re naturals for these parts,” Andy continued. “I’d like to have you in them, but not if you’re going to stage such juvenile exhibitions off the stage. It’s got to be one thing or the other. You step out now, or you stay in the play with the understanding that there’s to be no more of this.
And one more point. The play stands as it’s written . . . Well, what do you say?”
Judy’s eyes held a challenge as she glanced at Jeff. “What do you say, Jeff?”
"Nothing doing," Jeff said. "I’m no prima donna, but I can't see myself letting you slap me without retaliating.”
“In other words,” Judv said, "vou can’t take it.”
“Listen,” Andy said, “there’s a knack to slapping on the stage. It can be done so that it sounds real but isn’t real. I’ll show Judy how.”
Judy said: “Well, Jeff?”
“All right, but I warn you. If you pull a fast one on me, I’ll turn you over my knee—even though the play doesn't call for it.”
Judy disregarded the remark. She faced Andy. “Any more Donnybrook scene?, Andy?”
“No. That’s the only one. That’s the climax.”
Jeff asked : "What’s the anticlimax?”
“A love scene.”
“You mean the hero and heroine fall in love after the fight?”
“Not exactly. They’re in love right along, only they don’t realize it. The fight’s what brings them together.”
“That’s not true to life,” Jeff protested, with a glance at Judy. "In real life they’d say a lot of things to hurt each other, but they wouldn’t make up. And she wouldn’t slap him. She’d suddenly tum a slim, angry shoulder and walk away, and he'd—”
Judy cut him short. "Nobody’s interested in the Bradley version, Jeff.” She held out a hand to Andy. “I’m in, no matter what Jeff does.”
‘Tm in—I said I was in,” Jeff said, wondering at her decision.
“Fine,” Andy said. “Do you think you can agree off the stage? Or do you think you’d better keep at a polite distance?”
Jeff said: “I can be a diplomat for tact. I think, if Judy’s willing, that we—” Jeff stopped.
Judy’s latest had just come into the lobby. He was a tall, slender chap with a black mustache. He reminded Jeff of Arch Gaffney. He walked with the same arrogant slouch; he tapped his cigarette with the same careless gesture. He reminded Jeff so forcibly of Arch Gaffney that Jeff wanted to say something about the resemblance. Jeff refrained with effort. But he knew he couldn’t refrain for the length of the show. Some evening, when his guard was down, he’d make some crack, and that would set Judy off, and . . .
“I think,” Jeff said, “we had better keep apart.”
Judy spoke sweetly. “I’m disappointed in you, Jeff. I’d love to see you trying to be a diplomat for tact. The change wou'd be—”
Andy spoke up: “For goodness sake, Jeff, beat it before something starts again.”
JEFF WENT into the auditorium and sat down alone in the back row. He wanted to think things through. What Andy had said was true. They had put on a juvenile exhibition. They usually did, though, since the night they’d split. They started on that flip, indifferent note and then, bang, there were fireworks. WTiy? Jeff wished he knew why. After all, the affair was over—over and done with, cold. Why couldn’t they forget it? Why couldn’t they talk pleasantly, impersonally when they met?
Andy put a hand on his shoulder.
“This play means a lot to me,” Andy said. “It’s the first I ’ve w'ritten. I’m counting on you to come through for me— on the stage and off.”
“I’ll come through,” Jeff said. “Only I am rotten at remembering lines.”
“You’ve got six weeks to get them pat.” Andy handed him a manuscript. “Let’s get to work.”
Andy called the cast together and they went up on the stage and read through the play. It wasn’t, Jeff discovered, very much like “The Taming of the Shrew.” But it did have two young [people in it who put on a fight from curtain to curtain.
At the end of the evening Andy called Jeff aside. Andy said: “You overdid tonight, Jeff. You’ve got to remember that under-emphasis in acting is more effective than—” “May I interrupt?” Judy asked.
Jeff turned. Judy’s latest stood beside her. Judy introduced him and then said: “About this keeping at a polite distance, Jeff—does that mean w'e don’t speak to each other at all off stage?”
“Don’t be absurd,” Jeff said shortly.
Continued on page 51
Gentlemen Don’t Spank
Continued from page 13 Starts on fragt 12
"Then it’s all right if i say ‘Ili, Jeff' and ‘Good night, Jeff.’ " She continued before Jeff could answer: "This must sound
awfully silly to Mr. Conover, Jeff, so I'd better explain it to him. You see," she said to her escort, “Jeff takes his acting very seriously. It affects him off the stage
Andy spoke up anxiously. “Let it go, Judy, let it go."
Judy smiled. “Sorry, Andy . . . Good night, Jeff.”
“Individually," Andy said, after Judy had left with Conover, "you and Judy are the grandest people I know. Why can’t you let bygones be bygones and make up?"
“With things the way they are,” Jeff observed dryly. “Not a chance.”
THINGS REMAINED the way they were. Three evenings a week for six weeks Jeff said “Hi, Judy" and she said “1 li, Jeff.” Then Andy drove them through a rehearsal. And then Jeff said “Good night, Judy,” and she said “Good night, Jell" and left with Conover. In spite of himself Jeff bristled when he saw them leave together. Except for that, he succeeded in being as indifferent as he’d wanted to be.
Things remained the way they were through dress rehearsal. That over, Jeff said "Good night, Judy,” and she said “Good night, Jeff” and left with Conover. A moment later Jeff went out. He got into his roadster. From the car ahead came voices. Conover was saving: "By the time you’ve packed your suitcase I’ll be back for you. Then we’ll drive to
“That's out of the question,” Judy said. “I can’t quit the plav. I promised Andy I’d ”
“What difference does the play make?” Conover asked impatiently. “It's only an amateur show. And you’ve got an understudy. Let her
The roar of the motor drowned out his voice, but Jeff had heard enough. So Conover wanted Judy to elope ! That was perfectly all right with him, Jeff told himself, but it wasn't all right otherwise. Judy’s understudy was terrible. She’d ruin Andy's play. She’d make it seem dull, when it really wasn’t dull. A lot depended on the acting. And Judy, everybody said, did a grand job. She had a flair for comedy. When she was on the stage, the play sparkled.
Jeff followed them at a distance. When they stopped in front of the Martins’, Jeff stopped. He watched them get out. They talked for a long time at the front door and then Conover drove away. Jeff moved up to the Martins’ driveway and shut off his motor. If Conover came back he didn't know what he’d do. He only knew there’d be no elopement that evening. He’d stop that somehow. Not for any personal reason, Jeff reassured himself; purely for Andy and the play.
A police car drew up next to his. Jeff recognized Captain Gargan at the wheel.
"So it's you, Mr. Bradley,” Captain Gargan said. “It's been some time since I’ve seen you here. Everything all right?” “Sr> far,” Jeff said.
Captain Gargan chuckled. “She's at the window now . . . Good night.”
JEFF LIT a cigarette. A few minutes later the Martins’ front door opened. Judy came toward him with short, quick steps. Judy stopped and stared. She looked as surprised and lovely, Jeff thought, as she had the night they'd quarrelled over Arch Gaffney.
"You!” she exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”
“Reviving old memories,” Jeff said in the flip, indifferent tone. “Remember? Remember I never used to leave until you came to the window and waved.”
“You’re not a bit funny, Jeff . . . What are you doing here?”
“I told you, but you won’t believe me. eems like old times, doesn’t it? You’d
believe me when what 1 told you was what you wanted to hear, but when it wasn't well, take what I told you about Arch, for j instance."
"We'll leave Arch out of this," Judy said ! shortly.
Jeff disregarded her. “When you asked me I what I thought of him frankly, as friend to friend, I told you he wasn't regular. And you got mad and said I was jealous "
"You were jealous."
“Me jealous?” Jeff laughed. The laugh didn’t sound convincing, so he laughed again. “Not me. If he’d been a good egg. I’d have said so. But he wasn’t. You found out for yourself that he "
‘ “That’s beside the point,” Judy said, even more shortly. "Are you going to park here all night?”
"No. Only until I'm sure Conover isn't coming back I overheard you, Judy.
Only I didn't catch your final answer. Is the elopement set for tonight, or are you waiting until after the play?”
Judy snapped. "What business is it of I yours?”
"None. I'm just thinking of Andy and the play."
"Suppose it was set for tonight. What would you do about it?”
“You wouldn't dare !”
"Wouldn't I? Just try it and see. You promised Andy you’d see the play through, and that's what you’re going to do. You've got to. You make it."
Judy's eyes held storm signals. “Do you think I'd let Andy down after giving him my word?”
"I don't know," Jeff said dryly. “This Conover bird seems to have the same fascination for you that Arch did."
Judy stepped closer. She looked at him, Jeff thought, as Andy had coached her to look at him just before she slapjred him. Jeff waited.
Judy spoke suddenly. “Sit here and find out.” She turned a slim angry shoulder and walked into the house.
Jeff sat there, remembering. The quarrel over Arch had ended like that, only then he’d been mad, too. She’d said things that had made him want to take her over his j knee and Jeff broke off the thought. What was the use of looking back? What difference did it make now that something fine something he hadn't been able to find since had been ended by that quarrel?
Jeff waited an hour, then drove home. In the morning he phoned Andy. Andy said: “Don’t worry, Jeff. She’ll be on hand tonight.”
She was. She walked past Jeff without a word and went directly to the dressing room. She didn’t come out until Andy called the cast together for final instructions. When he was through, Andy waved Jeff and Judy aside.
Andy said: “What I said goes double for you two. Set a fast pace and keep it fast.”
Jeff nodded and walked to the wing from which he made his entrance. Through a hole in the curtain he glanced over the footlights. The auditorium was crowded. Looking at the crowd made Jeff nervous. He sat down, wondering if he’d remember his lines, wishing he’d never let himself in for the play. Thank heavens it would be over | tomorrow night! Then Judy’d go her way and he’d go his . . .
The curtain went up. Jeff got up and stood near the door. After a while he heard | his cue and went on. The moment he said his first line he felt all right. It seemed natural to be saying what he said to Judy. ! But it took him some time to get used to I the audience’s laughter. He hadn’t thought the play was that funny.
After the first act Andy said4 “Nice! going.” After the second act: “It’s a riot, j Don’t let down. Give that fight scene all you've got.” ¡