Thursday, August 5, 2010


As a kid, I used to love listening to old radio shows. I'd check out tons of shows from the library, and copy them at home (remember cassettes?). I liked comedies like The Jack Benny Show, The Great Gildersleeve, and yes, even Amos 'n Andy. I also loved the action/suspense shows like Have Gun Will Travel, The Lone Ranger, and Mystery Theater hosted by EG Marshall. I was particularly enamored with the cliffhangers. Many of Mark Twain's best work was originally serialized for magazines and newspapers. As these mediums fade, I don't want to see this genre die, so I'm doing my part here. I originally wrote this story for a friend, emailing a chapter a day. I'll publish it here one day at a time, so my loyal readers will have something to read with their morning coffee, or you can wait until Chapter 8 and read it all at once. There are no rules here! I don't have a title for it, so feel free to leave suggestions in a comment....

Boston is a negative town. Negative roads. Negative smells. Negative humans. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful place. If you like history and architecture, Beantown is the place for you. If you like people, well, Boston can cure that too. When I moved here about a year ago, I thought all the negativity was a problem, something that needed fixing. Now I’ve come to realize it’s a badge of honor that Bostonians wear with pride. They revel in abrasive animosity. I wasn’t here for it, but when the Red Sox broke their eighty-six year drought and won the World Series in ’04, it must have been a horrible blow for the New England fans to lose the crown jewel in their scepter of bitterness. Perhaps my view was a little biased as well, since I was broke and angry when I got here. The latter was for many reasons and the former had a woman attached to it. I moved in with my cousin in Southie, and got a job cooking at a neighborhood bar, but my heart wasn’t in it, so I quit. I needed a change of scenery from kitchens……
That’s how I found myself at the Hobfield residence one Monday afternoon, interviewing for a job I didn’t really want, but needed. What a shitty predicament. Didn’t want to work in the field I have experience, and no experience in anything else. But then, if I hadn’t needed the job so badly, I wouldn’t have this story I’m about to unfold for you here. Since I referred to it as a “residence,” you’ve probably guessed that the Hobfields are rich. Filthy rich as the people say. More money than God, they say. Mr. and Mrs. Hobfield live in a beautifully restored brownstone on Acorn Street (the most photographed street in America according to the tour books). It’s a lovely little one block cobblestone alley of a street on Beacon Hill, with no cars, and a minimum of four window boxes of flowers per house. By law, I think. I was greeted at the door by a maid dressed in one of those 1950’s get ups; a pink dress with a white lace apron sewn over it. You know the one. Her name was Pima, and I found out later she was from Guatemala. It was very progressive of them to have a Guatemalan maid. Almost all the other maids on Beacon Hill were from El Salvador. At least they were that year, you know how these trendy things have a way of changing so quickly. Pima led me into the first floor sitting room where I met Mrs. Hobfield for the first time. She had to be in her late fifties, but she looked like she was seventy. Years of anorexia and plastic surgery had ravaged her. She must have been a looker back in the day, or she couldn’t have landed an old money trophy like Mr. Hobfield.
“You must be Robert. I’m Agnes Hobfield, but please, call me Mrs. Hobfield.” Her lips cracked a little around the edges. She knew she was being funny but didn’t want to, or couldn’t, smile.
Agnes Dougherty had grown up in Dorchester near St. Margaret’s church. She was “lace curtain” Irish, just enough that it didn’t cause too much of a stir when young Russell Hobfield met (and soon married) her at the Dorchester Yacht Club. One day she served him iced tea, and that was it. He whisked her away to Beacon Hill and she never mentioned her Irish roots again. I’m sure she even had a speech coach to teach her the proper, waspy way of saying “down Nantucket for the summa,” and “ahr family has beeen on the hill for sixty yeas noww.”
“Pleasure to meet you Mrs. Hobfield.” She had a strict policy of referring to the help by their first name, as it showed her overwhelming humanity to the less fortunate who hadn’t had the chance to marry into money. This policy was not a two-way street.
I could bore you with the details of the interview, but I won’t. Needless to say it was a handyman/delivery/errand boy/what have you position, and it was clear I was going to be Mrs. Hobfield’s bitch. But at least it paid poorly. After listening to a long list of house rules, I was offered the job I guess, but I wasn’t really listening. The rows of Mark Twain and Hawthorne first editions, the Waterford crystal, and what I assumed was an original Degas had distracted me. Anyway, she told me to come back Thursday morning. As Pima escorted me out, she gave me a “welcome to the club” look as she shut the heavy red door behind me.

1 comment:

  1. Nice to read about Robert again!