she's wearing rouge. And I'd have to say it really does help her."
Â Â Â There is a strange quiet in the Infertility offices. The top editors are nowhere to be found. No one has seen the publisher for a while. Systems that have always worked well seem to be breaking down; ten cases of Xerox paper, which would normally be delivered to the supply room, appear in Agnes's office. The cardboard is damp, and leaves marks on her rug. Jeff Tetter's pearl-handled umbrella (it was his father's, bought during the war) disappears from a closet.
Â Â Â Infertility is sold.
Â Â Â "I'm kicking myself," says Agnes. "It's like when you're really in a bad mood for a few days, and you keep dropping and spilling things, and then you come down with the flu. Suddenly, everything makes sense."
Â Â Â A veil has been lifted. Infertility is now owned by Grinnel Publishing of Phoenix, Tampa and Des Moines. The staff is assured that no one will be laid off, at least for the time being. However, several new peopleâgood, sharp new peopleâ will be brought on board from other magazines in the Grinnel stable.
Â Â Â The new editor-in-chief is named Margaret Eden. Jeff Tetter shows Agnes a copy of the last magazine she put out, The Granary.
Â Â Â "Look at all those threshers and combines," he says snidely. "Look at this advertorial for Ralston-Purina. We're really in the big time, now."
Â Â Â "What's the difference?" says Agnes. "Tractors, petri dishes--it's all the same anyway."
Â Â Â "To you, maybe. I can already feel the noxious influence of the Midwest. I've heard they're building a staff canteen. Good Lord."
Â Â Â "I won't be here anyway," says Agnes. "Who gives a shit?"
Â Â Â "Where are you going?"
Â Â Â "I'm sure to be fired, my friend."
Â Â Â "Well, yes, if there's any justice," he says. "You've been doing an awful job."
Â Â Â Agnes is given a promotion. Jeff Tetter is fired within the week.
Â Â Â "You wished this on me," he says to Agnes. He's ready to cry.
Â Â Â The next day Agnes gets a frantic call from Mrs. Blair Stanhope. She must see Agnes immediately. She directs Agnes to meet her at a restaurant, The Cupping Room, in Soho.
Â Â Â "It's a nice neighborhood place," says Mrs. Blair Stanhope.
Â Â Â Agnes waits for Mrs. Blair Stanhope at the bar. The bartender has a ponytail and a superior attitude. When Mrs. Blair Stanhope arrives, she is out of breath. A few strands of hair are alluringly out of place. The bartender becomes much more civil. She has a white wine. Agnes has a beer, a Theakston Old Peculier. Mrs. Blair Stanhope, making small talk, shares with Agnes a few morsels of Theakston family gossip.
Â Â Â "But on to Madelaine," says Mrs. Blair Stanhope. "I don't think I've ever seen her quite this upset."
Â Â Â "What happened?"
Â Â Â "Sarah's been expelled from Miss Clavelle's."
Â Â Â Agnes drinks her beer. "What did she do? Smoking after lights out? Did she miss chapel? Did she have a boy in her dorm room?"
Â Â Â "Miss Clavelle's isn't quite that Neanderthal an institution," says Mrs. Blair Stanhope testily. "This was much more serious. I don't have all the details, but apparently there are criminal charges being filed."
Â Â Â "I'll bet it was shoplifting," says Agnes. And so another rich, psychotic teenager cries out for attention by ripping off a K-Mart.
Â Â Â "Oh, no!" says Mrs. Blair Stanhope. The very notion affronts her. "Sarah's not that way at all. No, this was criminal trespass-something about breaking into an office."
Â Â Â "I'm sorry to hear it," says Agnes. "But what's it got to do with me?"
Â Â Â "Agnes, Madelaine likes you very much. She thinks maybe you can help her out again. Let's go see her. She's just down the street."
Â Â Â They leave the Cupping Room and walk west, away from the galleries and cafes and into the real cast-iron