The End of Ted
Sharon didn’t often have trouble sleeping. However, the black-crowned night herons, with their particularly horrid screeching cries, seemed to be going berserk on deck. The ospreys at the masthead, having earlier spurned her efforts to befriend them, were reacting with their distinct, but equally unpleasant, cries. Even the sea lions, camped on the bait barge several hundred yards away, were adding their deep canine woofs and arfs. By the time that Sharon had thrown on some clothes and gone out on deck, nature had quieted down. However, there was an alternative commotion of another sort.
Even though it was now almost three in the morning, Diana popped up over the rail from the dock with a plastic bag full of groceries. She seemed to be in the midst of a euphoria, or even mania, which could hardly have been the result of a late-night shopping expedition. It turned out that she wanted to leave Ted and go off with Enoch.
Enoch was certainly more interesting then Ted. But it was hard to imagine Diana, despite all the pornography, doing something that didn’t seem British. What would her people back in England think? Sharon didn’t ask any questions, but made what she took to be calming noises.
Diana’s idea seemed to be to spend the remainder of the night with Ted, collect her essential things, and then make a break. It made Sharon suddenly feel like an adult.
The next morning, Sharon, despite her night of broken sleep, was up as early as Tim. They exchanged information. Tim had seen the start of the encounter between Enoch and Diana, but had withdrawn tactfully. When informed of the conclusion, he said, “Enoch had just finished telling me how we need to get together with people of similar backgrounds who understand our childhood. He immediately afterward came upon Diana, who must have had a totally different background and childhood.”
“She really is beautiful.”
“Yes. Apart from that, what people say and what they do often don’t seem to have much connection.”
“It seems to me that Enoch has a million ideas and feelings which aren’t necessarily in line with one another. Couldn’t he do almost anything anytime?”
“I don’t think it’s as bad as that. Any man could flip over Diana.”
“Including you, Tim?”
“If she’d ever made a direct approach, something might have happened.”
“I dare say. I wonder what will happen when Diana tells Ted.”
“She might just leave a note and disappear.”
“She’d also have to abandon the movie, on which she’s done much more productive work than Ted.”
“In which case, your little part might disappear forever.”
Sharon laughed and replied, “That would be no great loss. Anyhow, I don’t think Diana will just sneak away. She’s pretty honest and forthright.”
Just then, Ted appeared on deck, red-faced and carrying a partially opened kit bag with clothing dropping out of it. Without a word to them, he went over the rail, down on to the dock, and out through the gate. As they watched, he half-ran to his sports car, hopped in, and screeched off.
Sharon was tempted to say that they had seen the last of Ted, but didn’t want to belabor the obvious. As Tim looked thoughtful and remained silent, she said, “If I go below, Diana may want to vent at some length.”
“Probably better to stay up here. There’ll be plenty of opportunity for that later.”
As they again sat down, Howie and Clint, one of the kayak instructors, joined them. The newcomers were apparently unaware of the bust-up between Diana and Ted, and Sharon, feeling that Tim hadn’t sorted out what attitude to take, said nothing of it.
The talk quickly turned to the problems of leading groups of beginning kayakers, and Howie, with help from Tim, outlined the future plans of their group. Unfortunately, what had seemed exciting back in Cambridge now seemed rather tame. Or, perhaps, they had talked about it too much. In any case, Sharon had the feeling that Howie and Tim’s exposition was forced and unconvincing. Clint, quite a pleasant but outspoken young man, smiled and said, “That won’t work.”
He then explained, “It sounds like a not-for-profit version of what we do. Knowing that kayaking is a good activity with many benefits that’s naturally attractive to people, we get them started without much pressure, and without being too bossy. They have a good time, and some of them come back. They’re mostly reasonably affluent people who can easily afford our modest fees. We eventually sell some of them kayaks. We then don’t charge them for joining our outings. They contribute to the group spirit and help attract newcomers.”
Tim replied, “That sounds fine. We want to do something like that, not just for kayaking, but for other things.”
“The problem is that only a very small minority of people will actually keep up any such activity. Apart from our making enough money to support ourselves, the effort expended in getting most people to kayak is eventually wasted.”
Sharon protested, “It isn’t wasted even if you only provide a bunch of people with an occasional good time.”
Clint smiled, “Okay. Not entirely wasted. But you can compare our operation to that of health clubs. They sell memberships to ten times the number of people they can actually accommodate. They know that most of them will hardly show up after the first month or two.”
“That’s pretty cynical.”
“It’s the only way they can cover their expenses. We don’t sell memberships, but we do sell boats knowing that most of them will end up permanently decorating garages.”
Sharon sensed an almost palpable deflation from her friends. It was obvious that Clint had much more relevant experience than they did, and that their hopes were naive. But, then, Clint relented, “Of course, your group is different. You’ve got famous athletes and beautiful women. People will stay with you and do what you do just to be with you.”
That almost made it worse. Sharon was sure that neither she nor the others wanted to lead a bunch of sycophants around. After she and Howie had registered dismay, Clint replied, “One way around that is to raise the bar of entry. People who get things free don’t appreciate them, and won’t put any effort into the enterprise. We charge, which helps, but, in your case, rich sycophants might be happy to pay.”
“That makes it sound even worse.”
“Instead of having them pay, you could make people test into your program by accomplishing something that’s difficult but worthwhile.”
Just then, Clint got a call on his cell phone from the kayak agency. As he left, he said sideways to them, “A problem with a difficult customer.”
As Sharon looked to Tim and Howie, she hardly needed to say that they had to re-think their whole approach.
Howie left for Cambridge that week, anxious to be re-united with Audrey, but promising to work on the screenplay and confer with Diana at all stages. Diana remained on the boat, and reported that Ted had left for England. She said to Sharon, “He took his part of the money, but my accounts have always been separate. The movie is mine, and I can actually accomplish more without Ted. Howie is going to do an entirely new screenplay for the first part, and I can put things together.”
Sharon asked, “Didn’t Ted outsource the straight porno part?”
“Yeah. I can keep the same arrangements, but I have been wondering if there isn’t something I can do to improve the product.”
“That would be a worthy project.”
“I think Ted rather liked the porno, and he may have included more of it than is strictly necessary to reach our audience. Or, at any rate, a slightly refined audience.”
“How did you happen to marry Ted?”
“The glamour of the upper class in England still holds people like me in thrall, even if I know better. And, of course, Ted and his father are perfect specimens.”
“It sounds as if his mother is different.”
“Oh my, yes. Marjorie liked me, and told me at the beginning that Ted was no world conqueror. But she said that, if I did marry him, I could count on a gentle easeful life. It was also implied that I could have exciting affairs as long as I was reasonably discreet. She, apparently, had done the same.”
“Could you just have had an affair with Enoch?”
“Enoch wasn’t what she had in mind. Besides which, as they say here, I’ve totally flipped over Enoch. In addition to that, he isn’t prepared to share me with Ted or anyone else. Marjorie’s parameters have been busted in all directions. I think, when Ted arrives back, she won’t be entirely surprised.”
Sharon was actually rather pleased at the turn of events. She had sensed that Enoch had some interest in herself, and had begun to wonder what sex with him would be like. It was probably just as well not to find out.
The next day after practice, Enoch came along with Tim, probably to see Diana. However, finding himself seated next to Sharon while Diana talked with Tim, he said to her, “My initial assumption was that you’d think me crazy. But, now, looking over at Diana, it seems obvious that I’m not.”
“No. If I were a man, I’d think that she’s too lovely to pass up.”
“What would a lesbian think?”
“Insofar as I can judge, she doesn’t have the little nuance of behavior which is a sexual trip wire for other women.”
“I probably wouldn’t recognize that if I saw it.”
“Diana and Ted both noticed it in me. But I’m leaning away from lesbianism.”
“It may be related to athleticism. I wouldn’t be afraid to throw a football to you.”
“I’d catch it. I have better hands than Tim.”
“But I wouldn’t throw one to Diana.”
“No. It might bop her in the nose.”
“She’s slim and fit from her aerobics and dance classes. But that’s different.”
“Very different. It’s feminine all the way, not rough and tumble.”
There was a brief pause during which Sharon wondered if she really belonged in the ‘rough and tumble’ category she had implicitly placed herself. Enoch, seemingly deep in his own thoughts, suddenly asked, “Would people think that my thing with her couldn’t last?”
“They usually expect celebrity affairs to be brief. But you’re not like the others, Enoch. You and Diana might both be outsiders from your cultures.”
“And it’s natural for the ostracized people to come together. Often to commiserate.”
“I don’t think you and she will be doing a great deal of that.”
Enoch tipped his plastic chair further back on its hind legs, looked at Diana, and smiled.