by Brian Phillips · May 5, 2010
Tonight they were driving to the banquet. Odyssey was driving. Odyssey always drove. Beauclair was massaging his throat and looking at New York, which slid up to them in the windshield like a waiter who never stops bringing fresh trays.
“Seventh, Odyssey,” Beauclair said with satisfaction after trenchantly clearing his throat. “Seventh. A fine position. Not titanic, no; not regal; they have not carried the league; but fine nevertheless. I am proud of the boys, Odyssey. The boys have superbly come through. I shall mention it in my speech.”
Odyssey gave Beauclair a glance full of sidelong dubiousness. A few minutes ago he had successfully dissuaded his employer from stashing the old ‘Aunt Marguerite’s Delight’ costume in a valise, but the unusual compound of stresses the evening promised—the Faircliff banquet hall, the uncomfortable presence of the soccer team, a late supper, the speech—gave him ample reason to be cautious.
Beauclair had never been to see the team play at the City Ground. His friends, indeed, occasionally made the amused observation to Odyssey that he seemed to seize on any pretext to avoid being in the same room with his players. He took a tremendous interest in their exploits, however, and frequently walked about the living room exclaiming and tapping on the newspaper. Odyssey approved of this. It was Odyssey’s careful oversight, since he arranged for Beauclair to purchase the team six years ago, that had led to the club’s gradual and carefully orchestrated rise. Beauclair’s major contribution had been to reveal an intention to change the name of the team to “Brooklyn Gallopers,” only to relent when (as he said) he sensed a chance to show the world that he was more a traditionalist than an egotist. The less he had to do with the team, the less chance for him to interfere with Odyssey’s prudent work on his behalf. Still, it made for the prospect of a difficult evening.
“We have done very well, Odyssey, with this team, you and I,” Beauclair continued. “Do not be bashful, my friend! I insist that you not be bashful. I give you full credit for your share in this day. It was you, Odyssey, who persuaded me that the club would be an investment. A pastime, you said, whose future popularity was assured. You were correct, but you were also incorrect. It has been more than an investment. It has been an investment, but it has also been a cri d’amour, as the great Amanthia once said of her song. I love this team with all my heart. Their attainments on the field of athletic battle do not yet rival my own. Nevertheless, they remind me of them, of course. And in the six years, Odyssey, since you came to me in your dry way, yes, dry, do not be bashful, Odyssey, with talk of an ‘investment,’ I have provided something which I believe they sorely needed. I have graced them, Odyssey, with the cornucopia of my—ah—the cornucopia of—”
“Your absence?” forwarded Odyssey.
“Of my leadership, Odyssey. My leadership has been as a cornucopia to them, spilling forth the riches of its grains. I have inspired them with my firm and, so to speak, distant leadership. I have not allowed them to grow too familiar with me, of course. Boys such as these need a strong and distant hand. Spare the rod, and so forth, Odyssey. Instead, I give them a figure to look to. I have been as the captain, invisible in his quarters, is to the sailors who know that he charts their course. I once heard the tragic Middle Western orator Dan Champion recite the following lines at an opera house in the state of Idaho, Odyssey:
As the captain, conceal’d in his cabin,
Remembered, though unnoticèd,
Gives his sailors the courage to struggle,
Till they finally find out he is dead.
I think you would agree, old friend, that the same lines apply to my leadership. Well; apart from the captain being dead, of course. I am very much alive, Odyssey.”
“So you are, sir,” said Odyssey.
“Still,” Beauclair went on, frowning, as the car pulled in sight of the Faircliff Hotel, “I am furious over this Wilcox business. You should have told me sooner, Odyssey. If one of my managers quits—on the last day of the season—minutes after our final game—after a triumphant finish in seventh position—I expect to be told promptly, Odyssey. I give you full credit for your share in this day, but I expect you not to keep secrets, Odyssey.”
“Well,” said Odyssey. “He only quit three hours ago.”
Beauclair crossed his arms. “How do you expect the team to feel about it?”
“They shall be as furious as you are, sir,” said Odyssey.
“Ah,” said Beauclair. “Ah. And they will—they will—”
“Yes, I suspect that they will blame you, sir.”
“Because of the tour, Odyssey?”
“Yes, sir, because of the tour.”
“Ah. Yes. Well, I shall show them inflexible leadership,” said Beauclair, sounding choked.
“Never fear, sir,” Odyssey said mildly as the car slid up beside the hotel. “I believe you can tell them that we have a replacement in mind.”
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