Wednesday, February 16, 2011

We’ll Always Have Georgetown

By Tracy Kiely

Elizabeth Parker lives in Northern Virginia, so for a night out she’d most likely go to Georgetown. Georgetown has been a favorite spot of hers ever since high school when she and her friends would head there on Fridays for the midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Although the movie’s run has long since ended and Elizabeth’s desire to sit through a rowdy midnight showing of anything has also since faded, she still loves visiting Georgetown’s cobblestone streets, stores and restaurants.

Billy Martin’s Tavern is one of Elizabeth’s favorite restaurants. Growing up her family always had Christmas Eve dinner there after which they’d head over to Holy Trinity for midnight mass.

Georgetown is great for all things midnight.

Anyway, back to Martin’s – it’s a favorite haunt of locals and tourists alike. The two-story tavern, which opened in the early 1930s, has hosted every president from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush. John F. Kennedy used to be a regular. In fact, he proposed to Jackie in booth number three. In the main dining room, fox-hunting prints and black-and-white baseball photos hang on paneled walls while Tiffany-style lamps dangle from overhead.

This Saturday night, Elizabeth slides into one of the high-backed hardwood booths that affords a view of Wisconsin Avenue and studies the menu in silence. She knows that she should get the salmon with rice because it’s the healthy choice but she also knows that she’ll end up ordering the shepherd’s pie because the shepherd’s pie at Martin’s is really, really good. It’s like a hug for your stomach.

She’s alone right now. Her boyfriend, Peter, is on his way to meet her. So Elizabeth sits and waits – which is a polite way of saying that she totally eavesdrops on all the various conversations around her. The couple in the booth behind her are fighting. He thinks she’s being dramatic. She thinks he is being mean. Elizabeth listens for a few minutes but then grows uninterested. They are both right; she is being dramatic and he is being mean. Elizabeth gives their relationship another month tops. Bored, she shifts her attention to the table in the center area of the restaurant. A young man is talking in a low voice to an older woman. The woman is one of those classic grand dames of Georgetown. Beautifully coiffed and expensively dressed, she is of a dying breed; women who still proudly wear their floor length fur coats and remember the days when the Kennedys lived on N Street. She sits very still, her posture almost stiff. However, the young man doesn’t look like he goes with her. His coat is cheap and shabby, and his hair is scraggly in the back.

The man leans forward, his voice urgent. The noise from the bar makes it hard to hear, but Elizabeth is able to catch the phrase “it has to be done.” Sneaking a glance, Elizabeth gauges the woman’s reaction; she winces slightly and her red lips pull down in distress but reluctantly nods her head in agreement. The man abruptly leaves and the woman drains her glass of wine.


By the time Peter arrives, Elizabeth is convinced that something bad is about to happen. Peter calmly listens to her. He is used to her penchant for eavesdropping. He good naturedly inquires if she’d prefer him to call 911 or if she’d rather do it. Elizabeth pays him no heed.

After all, she’s been right before.

For instance, the shepherd’s pie is delicious.


Meredith Cole said...

I've never been to that restaurant, but I used to work in Georgetown (and live in Dupont Circle). The neighborhood definitely has a unique character.

And I'm with Elizabeth. I love to eavesdrop.

TracyK said...

The hard part is trying to eavesdrop while pretending you're not and still carrying your end of another conversation. My mother had it down to an art form.

Kelli Stanley said...

Awesome set up, Tracy!! :) Now I've got to know what happens ...

And I love your description of good shepherd's pie!! :)

JJ said...

If this were a book, I'd be out the door to my local indie. Terrific opening, Tracy. I'm with Kelli - I want to know the rest!

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Oooo... Thanks for letting us eavesdrop on Elizabeth's eavesdropping, Tracy! It sounds like the start of something intriguing.

TracyK said...

Thanks! I'm glad you all liked it. (But now I really want that stupid pie.)