All over town, people were reading about the Settlers’ Club. Lydia’s ex-beau, Burkhard Whittlesey, was particularly enjoying the article as he rode a stationary bicycle at the cheapest, smelliest gym in New York City. It was all he could afford at the moment. But he was determined to get back in Lydia’s good graces, so he had to keep in shape. She was his best shot at a decent life. I should have treated her better, he thought. I got a little too cocky.
Of course, in the long run, he considered himself much better suited to an aristocratic type. After all, he was a good-looking guy with a certain amount of charm. That’s why he kept crashing all the high-class gatherings in town. He was always on the prowl for a bigger, better deal.
Since college, he’d managed to get himself on every party list going. He’d also mastered the art of dropping in at the cocktail hour of big benefits held in hotels, cruising around in his tux to see if there was anyone worthwhile, and then disappearing when it came time to take your seat. If he met anyone, he’d claim he had someplace else to go, but could they get together another time? But so far nothing had stuck. Every woman of means quickly figured out that he by no means had any means.
If Burkhard had put half the effort into working at a real job that he put into finding someone to take care of him, he might have been president of a Fortune 500 company. But every job he’d had started out with great promise and then imploded. Stocks he recommended tanked, deals he put together fell apart. Now at age thirty-five he was beginning to worry about his future. His roommate-whose name was on the lease of their dingy one-bedroom cockroach palace-had decided to join a commune in New Mexico. In a matter of weeks, Burkhard would be out on the street.
As he read the newspaper, he rode the bicycle faster and faster. That club certainly has its problems. It’s going to be quite a scene tonight, he thought. I don’t care what Lydia says. I’ll go and turn on the charm for her. Show her what an asset I can be. If she doesn’t take the bait, I’ll make a point of wandering over to any reporters who show up.
At the very least, she’ll write me a check to keep my mouth shut.
Burkhard got up from the bicycle and walked to the showers. The sight of woolly-looking mold festering on the drain was too much for him. He went to his locker and threw on his sweat suit. I’ll shower when I get home, he decided. Then I’ll take a little walk around Gramercy Park, to prepare myself psychologically for tonight.
Lydia was his last shot before he’d have to move back to his parents’ house in the sticks and take a job chopping firewood. He had no intention of letting that happen.
As he exited the “health” club and finally breathed some fresh air, he smiled. It’ll be a benefit tonight. He laughed to himself. A benefit to benefit Burkhard Whittlesey.