For all that The Moo hates research, for Bonnie’s sake I did check out a CKR website for this. CKR apparently hasn’t done Glass Menagerie professionally but we can pretend he did it in high school. Can’t we? And I also checked for the actual name of a park in Chicago. That just might be all the research I can handle for the rest of the year – my gift to you, Bonnie, in exchange for varying your theme a little.
You ordered a happy story for Ray K/Fraser story and this I consider happy in a somewhat mellow rather than rollicking way. And it’s more Ray K than Fraser. And I only managed to throw in a quick slash-reference at the end.
One more personal note if you’ll all indulge moo. I remember last fall I was musing (moo-sing) which I would hit first (assuming I lived to see either): my 50th birthday or my 50th birthday ficlet. Indulgent and gently self-mocking chuckle. Well, (I should live and be well to post it) this one will be ficlet number 75 on the moo’s site.
Bonnie, with apologies for taking liberties, I bid you a wonderful day and a wonderful year.
Ray had a hankering to try out the new Romanian restaurant that had opened a mere six blocks from the 27th. Fraser had no particular objection, so after the Mountie finished his early guard duty shift, he met Ray at the 27th and they headed out to take the short walk together. The other Ray used to drive up to the Consulate in the Riv so that Fraser could simply step from the Consulate door into the car. The present Ray usually found himself in the middle of some pressing concerns and, more often than not, he simply forgot. Fraser accepted this as one of the adjustments he would have to make around the new Ray situation and started walking over to the 27th when he and Ray had a lunch date planned. The fact that the Mountie arrived somewhat after the stroke of noon never bothered Ray since his head would invariably be filled with whatever was going down at the time.
And so it happened that the two were walking down the street together on the way to their luncheon experiment when they met another man walking towards them who caused both of them to slow down their walking, all the better to stare as he approached.
The man looked in his early sixties. His salt-and-pepper hair and beard were long, but not quite scraggly and not quite neatly trimmed either. He hunched in a tan coat that had been expensive when new but had now reached a fine old age in coat years. The coat was too heavy for this warm spring day, and as Ray watched the old man shamble along Ray figured this was one of those homeless people who wore their protective clothing during all seasons. The man walked with that aimless shuffle of someone who wasn’t interested in going anywhere in particular. But he seemed adequately fed, Ray’s quick detective’s eye told him.
At a certain point about ten feet from the approaching man, Ray and Fraser came to a stop, both at the same time, as though on cue. They both stared at the man. Then, in stereo, they cried, “Mister Garret!”
Then they turned to each other and both exclaimed, again at the same instant, “You know Mr. Garret?”
Now it was indeed unlikely that two policeman could be wrong about his identity. The man now identified as Mister Garret came out of whatever daze he was walking in, stopped, and peered at them. The bright red of Fraser’s outfit attracted Garret’s attention first and he said, hesitantly, “You’re the Mountie.”
Garret’s hand strayed to a gold locket around his own neck and he gripped the locket while leaning forward and scrutinizing Fraser’s face. “Yes, you’re the same guy. Your name is . . .um. . . name is um . . .”
The man nodded acknowledgement of this reminder and then turned towards Ray. “And you. I’ve directed you, I know it. Wait, don’t tell me. You were in my 'Streetcar Named Desire'. You were Stanley Kowalski.”
Although surprised, Ray was still able to chuckle. “Well, sorta. I always was Stanley Kowalski, but you didn’t direct me in 'Streetcar'. I was in your 'Glass Menagerie', remember?
“Of course. I knew it was something from Tennessee Williams. You were the most unco-operative Tom Wingfield I ever directed. You never wanted to play a scene the way I told you to.”
Ray’s chuckle became a full-bodied appreciative laugh. “You hated the way I did the coffin speech. But I was good, wasn’t I?”
“Yes, I have to admit you were good. You had a gift, Stanley.”
Fraser let out a polite, interrogatory cough.
“Mr. Garret was my high school drama teacher.” Ray turned to him to explain. “He thought I was going to be a great actor. Hey, Mr. Garret,” Ray spun around to the older man again. “I still remember that speech. Listen:
But the wonderfullest trick of all was the coffin trick. We nailed him into a coffin and he got out of the coffin without removing one nail. . . . There is a trick that would come in handy for me—get me out of this two-by-four situation! . . . You know it don’t take much intelligence to get yourself into a nailed-up coffin, Laura. But who in hell ever got himself out of one without removing one nail?
Garret nodded approvingly, as did many interested passers-by, as Ray finished off his presentation.
For all Fraser was fascinated by the events unfolding, he also knew the Inspector wanted him back promptly from his lunch hour. He had an idea. “Mister Garret, Ray . . .Stanley . . . and I were just about to go try out a new restaurant. Would you do us the honour of being our guest for lunch?”
“Please, Mr. Garret. We could talk over old times some more,” Ray put in.
“Our treat, of course,” Fraser added.
Slowly Garret nodded.
“Greatness! Let’s go,” Ray declared.
The three took off down the street together.
Happy chatter between Ray and Garret continued as long as they reminisced about the old days when Ray was in high school. But probe as they might, neither Ray nor Fraser could get the old man to talk about how he had been reduced to his present state.
“How do you know Mr. Garret,” Ray finally asked Fraser as the three of them munched grape-leaf rolls stuffed with minced meat and rice.
“He helped us with a kidnapping case. Remember? The Madison case?” Fraser said, looking significantly at his friend. “You remember the Madison case. Right?”
It took Ray a moment to recall reading about Fraser and Vecchio finding a kidnapped financier’s daughter with the help of a homeless man named Garret. He hadn’t paid attention to name at the time. Garret wasn’t all that common a name, but it wasn’t unheard of either. Ray hadn’t wondered about any connection.
“The Madison girl. That was you,” Ray confirmed.
Garret looked back and forth at the two friends. “I don’t get it. You weren’t there, Stanley. It was that Italian detective. Del Vecchio.”
“Just plain Vecchio,” Ray told him. “I’m him now.”
Garret shook his head in confusion.
“What Ray . . . Stanley . . . means is that he has assumed the identity of Detective Vecchio.”
Garret crinkled his brow and was clearly trying to wrap his head around this piece of information.
“Police business,” Ray told him. “I’m a detective now.”
“Not an actor?” Garret seemed surprised. “But you had such promise.”
Ray became sheepish. “Well, see, I had to get a real job with real pay ‘cause I got married. You remember my girlfriend, Stella?”
“Of course. I always thought it was destiny that Stanley Kowalski should have his Stella.”
“Except she divorced me,” Ray admitted.
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Still, it’s good to be a policeman if you . . . ” Garret trailed off mid-sentence and with a shrug turned his attention to his food.
When lunch was finished and paid for by Ray (with Garret looking discreetly in another direction while this was being done) Fraser realized he would have to hurry to avoid being late back to the Consulate. He bade Ray and his old teacher good-bye and dashed out of the restaurant.
Ray and Garret watched him, then Garret too got up.
“Wait, Mr. Garret. Don’t go so fast. I want us to keep in touch.” Ray was about to ask for the older man’s number but then stopped himself. It was unlikely that Garret had a telephone. In fact it was questionable whether he even had an address.
Ray could no longer resist asking what he had wanted to ask ever since seeing Garret in the street. “Mr. Garret, what happened to you? How did you get like this?”
A waiter was passing at that moment. Ray signalled him, and quickly ordered a couple of coffees so they would have a reason to stay longer.
Garret settled back into his chair with a sigh.
“Look, I know I’m supposed to say you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to, but I can’t say that. I have to know.” Ray said as he sat back down at the table with Garret. “Please, maybe there’s something I can do to help.”
Garret sat without speaking until the coffees came. Then he stirred his own coffee pensively while Ray waited. Having insisted this much, Ray, showing rare patience, decided not to push him any further.
At length Garret began his tale. “I could always see things that other people were seeing and feel things that other people were feeling.”
“Yeah, that’s what made you such a great drama teacher.”
“It was much more than that. You know about the thing with the Madison girl.”
“I read about it when I was learning how to be Vecchio. I never thought it was you, though.”
“Imagine things like that happening in your head day after day, minute after minute. And all you teenagers with your passions and your worries and . . . it got to be too much. I couldn’t work anymore. I couldn’t do anything anymore. I had to run away. I had to run away from everything.”
Something occurred to Ray at that moment that he hadn’t thought of before. “Wait a minute here. That Madison guy is rich as hell. Didn’t he give you a reward for saving his daughter?”
“The girl gave me her gold locket. This one.” Garret held the locket out the length of its chain for Ray to see.
“What about some cash? What about some job or something?” Then another thought, even more distressing, came to Ray. “What about Fraser? Did he just let you walk away too?”
Garret dropped the locket and looked away. “Your Mountie friend, he’s a smart man. He just asked me if I wanted a lift somewhere.”
“Smart?” Ray was incensed, “Smart? That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard!”
Garret smiled to himself. Stanley hadn’t changed. He was as quick to outrage and wild emotion now as he had been as a teenager. Subtlety was lost on the man as it had been on the boy. The Mountie understood I needed to get away, Garret thought. I wouldn’t have been able to stand the attention. I don’t need money. I need peace. The Mountie knew that when he said, “Can we drop you somewhere?” He was giving me my chance to escape. No sense trying to explain that to Stanley, bless him.
“I didn’t get cheated, son.” Garret tried to assure him.
“The hell you didn’t! I don’t believe this! I do not believe it! Some money-grubbing rat stiffed you – that I believe. But Fraser? It doesn’t make any sense!”
There was no point in trying to get Stanley to understand in this mood. “You should be getting back to your detecting or whatever you do.” Garret stood up. “Thank you for the lunch. You take care.” He turned to go.
“No, wait! Where do you hang out? I have to talk to you again.” Ray pleaded.
“I’ve got a job. I’m sous-chef at the Harbour Light Mission. When I’m off work I hang around McGuane Park a lot. Most nights you can see me there,” Garret said. “Get back to your desk now, young man.”
This time Ray allowed him to amble off without hindrance. Whatever dignity the dude had left, Ray figured he was entitled to keep it.
“And you just let him walk away,” Ray blurted out to Fraser that night while they were watching television at Ray’s apartment.
Fraser had been avoiding talking about their encounter with Garret, waiting to see how long it would take Ray to bring up the subject. It had, in fact, only taken seventeen minutes.
Ray snatched up his remote control and flicked the television to silence. “Were you out of your freakin’ Mountie mind?”
There was a bowl of popcorn between them on the couch and Fraser fortified himself with a buttery handful before trying to formulate an answer that Ray would find at all satisfying. “Ray, do you know ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’?”
“Yeah, I saw the movie. And they made us read the book in school. So what?”
Fraser gulped down another handful of popcorn. “Atticus and the other characters realize that they shouldn’t draw attention to Boo Radley, even though Boo saved Jem’s life.”
Ray thought back. “I remember. Something about how every woman in the county would want to bring him layer cakes. But to take a man with his shy ways and drag him into the limelight . . . it would be like shooting a mockingbird. Do I have an ear for dialogue or what?”
Ray thought about it some more. “But Garret’s a drama teacher. Was a drama teacher. It’s not like he’d be afraid of a little attention.”
“What he was, Ray, and still is – is a wounded man.”
“It’s still not right. He didn’t get nothing for what he did.”
“Or, another way to look at it is: he got what he most needed.”
“I just wish I could do something for him. You know, Fraser, I didn’t have a lot of confidence when I was a kid.”
Fraser regarded him with raised eyebrows.
“Okay, okay, I don’t have all that much now either but I had less back then. Mr. Garret, he always gave me the lead in the school play. Always trying to make me feel good.”
“Ray, he wouldn’t have given you the lead parts unless he felt you had the talent to play them well. I heard your speech from ‘Glass Menagerie’ today. It showed real depth.”
“You really mean that?” Ray asked, tentatively, then seeing Fraser’s serious expression he said. “You do mean it. You really do.”
“Ray, you’re a superb police officer, but perhaps you should give some thought to what Mr. Garret told you today.”
“He told me lots of stuff,” Ray pointed out.
“Pick the most meaningful thing out of what he said. And put the TV back on, I want to see how this ends.”
“Fraser, you lie like a rug. You don’t want to see how ‘this’ ends. You don’t even know what ‘this’ is.”
Fraser snatched up the remote control from the coffee table in front of them and turned the television back on. He stared pointedly at it and shushed Ray every time Ray tried to initiate any further conversation.
Faced with the choice of watching the wretched sitcom that was on or actually thinking about Garret’s words, Ray chose thinking.
It was ten o’clock at night a week later that Ray drove up to McGuane Park to look for Garret. Dreading that he would find his former teacher flaked out on a bench, Ray was relieved to see Garret was playing shuffleboard with some cronies and actually smiling at what appeared to be a fortuitous shot.
Ray strolled over to watch the game for a time and wait for Garret to notice his old student was there. Garret asked his friends to excuse him, came over to where Ray was standing, threw an arm around the younger man’s shoulders and led him off to a more deserted part of the park.
Ray was relieved that Garret didn’t have that stale ammonia smell of many homeless men. Besides being adequately fed he was also reasonably clean, a detail which Ray should have noticed while they were in the restaurant but he had been too excited by their conversation to have paid attention.
“How’re you doing, Mr. Garret,” Ray began, blandly.
“You never could fool me, Stanley. What are you hiding?”
“This,” Ray admitted, and pulled a roll of bills out of his pocket. “I went to see Madison. He said he’s been upset all these years that he couldn’t find you and wanted you to have this.”
“Stanley. Didn’t I just say you could never fool me?”
“Couldn’t you just take this anyway?”
”You’re a good kid. Now let me get back to my game.” Garret tried to move off but Ray caught him by the arm and held him.
“Then, will you be my manager?”
“Mr. Garret, I’ve been thinking about what you said. You said I had a gift. I don’t have a lot of time right now but if I could, I don’t know, commercials and stuff. . . and you must know some theatres around where I could get started. Maybe . . .”
Garret scratched his head. “Do you remember Mina Shum?”
“Yeah. Always said she wanted to be film-maker. Really cute. Chinese. If it hadn’t been for Stella I might have been interested.”
“She keeps in touch with me. I use the mailing address of the Mission. She’s putting together a film for the Sundance Film Festival and she’s been telling me there’s a part she’s having trouble casting. You could call her. She’s up in Canada now.”
“I guess Canada’s not so bad. Some my best friend comes from Canada.”
“Stanley, remember that I can feel what other people are feeling. You and Constable Fraser are more than friends.”
Ray kicked at the gravel path they were standing on with the toe of his shoe. “Well, maybe. But you were saying about Mina making a movie?”
“It’s not a starring role, Stanley. But it would be a start.”
“And you get fifteen per cent of anything I make. Who knows? Maybe we’ll both be rich some day. Just one condition though. You have to call me ‘Ray’ from now on.”
Ray only did small parts and commercials for the next ten years. While still working as a detective there wasn’t much more he could take time to do. Then he took early retirement from the Chicago P.D. and went into acting full time. He never managed to make Mr. Garret rich but he earned enough to keep his manager and mentor, as well as himself and Fraser (whom he had married by this time) comfortably provided for, for the rest of their days.