Disclaimer: The only part of Castle that I own is the TV on which I used to watch the show.
Martha Rodgers considers herself a modern, up-to-date woman, especially for one of a Certain Age, and living with her son and her teenaged granddaughter definitely helps keep her young. But there are things about the times that she does not like, changes that she laments, or that enrage her. Really and truly. Gloves, for one. Is she the only woman left on the island of Manhattan who still understands the importance of gloves? She's wearing a beautiful pair now, fuchsia. They set off the border on her silk scarf, which any Parisienne could tell you is also an absolutely indispensable part of a woman's wardrobe.
But as she stands here on the corner of 43rd Street and Tenth Avenue, tapping a beautifully shod (if she does say so) foot, she thinks of something far more crucial than gloves: manners. What has happened to manners? They've crumbled to dust, gone down in flames. Richard isn't here with her–no one is, which is the point–to tell her to stop mixing metaphors, so she'll go right on doing it. Why, for instance, has the handwritten thank-you note, a grace note of civilization, disappeared? Oh, that's good. She must write that down: the thank-you note as a grace note.
The most recent lapse of good manners is what has her so irritated now. She had bought tickets for a new play off-Broadway, by a young writer who was unknown until three months ago. The entire run is a sell-out. She had had to resort to Richard's ticket broker to get the coveted pasteboards that she's clutching in her fuchsia-clad hands. One hour ago–one hour!–her friend Clarissa had texted her that she couldn't come because her 15-month-old grandson was having his first haircut and she had to go. "I'm sure someone will leap at the chance to have that ticket."
There are so many lapses of manners, of endangered civility, in the text. First, it's a text! At the very least Clarissa should have phoned to apologize. Texting can be very useful, but it's also contributing to the decline of manners. IMHO, she says to herself, mentally rolling her eyes as she thinks of that darling Katherine Beckett, the best eye-roller she has ever seen. But back to the point. She may be au courant, but if she were ever going to use the dreadful phrase IMHO, she would at least type out the whole thing: in my humble opinion. Furthermore, in her experience there is seldom humility in someone's opinion that is expressed in a text. Second, Clarissa's excuse is just plain outrageous. A haircut is not a milestone. Surely her daughter will take a hundred photos, not to mention videos, of the little boy in the barber's chair. Dear Lord. Third, and most pressing, how is she, Martha, supposed to find someone to accompany her to the theater with virtually no advance warning? It's true that many people would leap at the chance to have the extra ticket, but as she scans the horde in the waiting-for-cancellations line she shudders at the prospective leapers. The five or six people holding up handmade signs that say I NEED A TICKET seem even worse as potential seat mates. She could turn her ticket in at the box office, but that is almost unthinkable. Who knows who might plop his or her derrière down next to her? They might chew gum. They might suck noisily on candies, rattling them against their teeth. They might fidget. Or worse, text!
She's approaching the nadir of despair when she notices a man joining the end of the cancellation line. Could it be? She looks a little harder. Well, knock her over with an ostrich feather! She'd met the man only in passing, and Richard complains about his curmudgeonliness, but surely he is the most promising choice out here. He's a highly educated man. With a very nice cashmere coat and actual shoes, unlike all the sneaker-wearers around him. That does it. She walks over to him and smiles.
"Doctor Perlmutter, isn't it? I'm Martha–"
"Rodgers!" He smiles in return. According to her son, the man does nothing but glower, yet here he is, beaming. He shakes her hand warmly. "No introduction is necessary. I'm surprised that you recognized me, though."
"Oh, that's an important thing for an actor, Doctor. We were introduced at last year's precinct holiday party, to which I was so kindly invited."
"That's right. And please, call me Sidney. Are you trying to get a ticket? There are so many people ahead of us I'm afraid we have no chance."
"Are you a theater aficionado, Sidney?"
"Oh, yes. I still remember the first time I saw you onstage. It was in a tiny experimental theater on East Seventeenth Street. The play was Well Furnished and lasted about a minute. Everyone portrayed a piece of furniture and you were utterly magnificent as a wingback chair. You stole the show."
In that moment she's over the moon that Clarissa ditched her in favor of little Tyler's tonsorial outing. Sidney Perlmutter, to her delight and astonishment, is obviously a man of taste and culture. "Oh, my, I'm stunned that you recall that," she says, hand at her cheek. "Never mind that you were even there."
"Recall it? I still have the Playbill. Well, nothing as grand as that, but the mimeographed piece of paper listing the cast and the behind-the-scenes team. It's pink, rather like your gloves–minus the elegance, of course." He chuckles and smiles again.
"Believe it or not, Sidney, I found myself with an extra ticket only an hour ago. Would you care to join me?"
"Really." She waves the tickets in a small gesture of triumph.
"I'm thrilled. I'll write you a check as soon as we're seated."
"Nonsense. It's on me. Actually, it's on my friend Clarissa, who cancelled so abruptly and for a ridiculous reason. She doesn't expect to get her money back." She lowers her voice as if she were passing along secrets to a co-conspirator. "She doesn't need it, either. Shall we go in?"
Both experienced theatergoers, they head for the restrooms before the intermission-less performance, but still have a few minutes to chat before the curtain rises.
"Oh, that was marvelous," she says two hours later, as the house lights come back up and she gets to her feet.
"It's exciting to find a new talent, isn't it?" he responds, helping her on with her coat. "To be present at the creation."
"What a lovely phrase."
"I wish I could take credit for it. It's the title of a book by Dean Acheson, about his years in the State Department, but I occasionally apply the language to other things."
"Exactly like this." He checks his watch. "It's just past five. May I buy you a glass of wine? There's a nice, quiet place about ten minutes' walk from here where we could have an actual conversation as well as a good Merlot. Or something stronger, if that's your inclination."
"Merlot will do very nicely. Thank you, Sidney."
They spend a companionable hour and a half in the little bistro. It interests her that though they get on famously, there is no romantic attraction. None. Oddly, it's also a relief. They talk at length about the play, and to a much lesser extent about their personal lives.
She tells him a little about having raised Richard on her own. She doesn't tell him exactly why she moved in with him and Alexis, but maybe she will one day. She has a sense that they're on the road to being good friends.
He tells her that he has been a widower for many years. "I'm a scientist, and have no truck with the notion of soul mates, except when it came to my late wife. It was an ideal marriage and I have no intention of marrying again. Besides, I'm too set in my ways. And living on my own, I can indulge myself, like going to the theater twice a week. And eating peanut brittle for breakfast, which I often do on the weekend."
That makes her laugh. "That sounds like something Richard would do. Right from the start he was rigorous about feeding Alexis nothing but healthy meals, and he has become a terrific cook. But he does love to indulge his inner junk food junkie."
"Peanut brittle isn't entirely junk."
"I'm sure that my son would agree with you. Although he'd probably argue that it's health food."
"Ah, because of the peanuts. Let's see. Protein, for one. Antioxidants. Fiber. Iron. Magnesium. I can almost hear him reciting the list."
There's a silence with an undercurrent of awkwardness as Sidney shifts uncomfortably on his banquette. "I apologize, Martha. I'm afraid that sounded rude."
"Not at all. You know, I think you two might have more in common than either of you realizes. Or admits."
"We do tend to snipe at each other. Perhaps I should offer him some peanut brittle the next time I see him. A peace offering."
"Well, I'm aware that Richard can be something of a know-it-all, which can be very irritating. And a show-off, though far less so than he used to be, for which I credit Detective Beckett."
"Ah, Detective Beckett. She's a remarkable young woman." He pauses and looks at his hands. "I assume you know her family history?"
"You mean her mother's murder? Yes, I do."
"Beckett was in a forensic pathology seminar I taught when she was at the Police Academy. She was dazzling–an absolute standout. I do it once every year, and the students' questions are usually fairly predictable, especially with the advent of TV shows like CSI. But Beckett brought up such fascinating issues, and displayed such a sharp intellect. I was so impressed that I asked her training office about her and learned that her mother had been killed only a few years before. She was very mature and composed, but I could sense that mix of grief and anger just under the surface. Cops tend to have a mordant sense of humor. I understand, because it's a form of self-preservation. But of all the ones I've worked with, Beckett has by far the most respect for the victims."
"Richard has said that about her, not in those exact words, but that's the sentiment."
"I'm interested in what you said about Beckett's influence on him, making him less of a show-off."
"Oh, it's true. I think initially she might have been doing it to bring him down a peg or two, but later." She stops there. Perhaps this is territory she shouldn't be exploring just yet. She sees Sidney's expectant look, as if he's about to finish her sentence–and he does.
"But later she was a little softer? One might even say affectionate? Though she'd probably throttle me for suggesting it."
They both laugh over that. "Yes, she might."
"I hope I haven't sounded hard on Cas–on your son. What I wanted to say is that I think he has had a softening affect on Beckett, too. He makes her laugh, which is transformative. And I should add that when we're discussing a homicide he also often asks questions that no one else does."
"Sometimes a little loony?"
"Sometimes Martian, but the good ones are remarkable. I'm ashamed to say that I don't compliment him as often as I should. In fact, virtually never."
"I think his ego can stand it, Sidney. Though some peanut brittle might be nice."
"I'll remember that." He smiles again. "What a delightful afternoon this has been, Martha. An unexpected treat, to say the least. I would love to return the favor and invite you to the theater sometime, if that's of interest."
"I wouldn't dream of saying no."
"There's something that's about to close that I've got my eye on. The Rabbit in the Hat. Have you heard of it?"
"Oh, yes. It's supposed to be beyond awful."
"That's sort of why I want to see it. So I can enjoy watching that appalling Joy Connors fall on her face."
"I loathe Joy Connors. She stole a man away from me decades ago, for which I've never forgiven her. Also a part, for which I have forgiven her."
"She stole a part from you? Which one?"
"This one! Alice in Rabbit in the Hat."
After a good deal more laughing they agree to meet on Wednesday afternoon for the matinee, since he has the day off. As they live in opposite directions, they take separate cabs. On the way home she makes the executive and maternal decision not to tell her son that she not only went to the theater with Sidney Perlmutter, but had a terrific time.
As she gets ready for bed, the germ of an idea begins to sprout. She wonders if she has, in fact, found a conspirator. She'll see how things go on Wednesday.
Things go very well on Wednesday. Joy Connors gives a terrible performance, which she and Sidney relish. At dinner afterward he explains that his intense dislike for her stems from a Theater Talk evening he went to years ago when she was "self-aggrandizing, wildly self-promoting, and dismissive of Uta Hagen. That did it for me."
"Music to my ears, Sidney," she says, and they clink glasses.W
When they're nearing dessert, she decides to take the plunge. "May I ask your opinion about something?"
"I'd be flattered."
"It's about my son."
"You want my opinion about your son? Really? And by the way, I've not forgotten the peanut brittle."
"You're a man of science, as you said the other day, but you're also obviously a fine observer of the human condition. It's obvious from the way you talk about drama."
"Well, thank you. Although I'm not sure what that has to do with Castle."
"In your honest opinion, what do you think he thinks of Detective Beckett?"
"What do I think he thinks? I think he thinks she walks on water. The Hudson, the East River, the Central Park Reservoir, the Atlantic Ocean. Any water in the world."
"And? Because I'm sure there's an 'and' just waiting to come out."
"And I think he's madly in love with her."
"Mmhmm. So do I. Not that he's told me, of course. And what do you think she thinks of him?"
"I think that's a lot more complicated, though it needn't be. I think she's trying to resist, and I doubt that she'd admit it to anyone, but I think she's madly in love with him."
"You know what I think? I think, different as they may appear to be? They're soul mates. And they're driving me crazy. Those two belong together and they keep screwing it up. They never talk, which is really odd, because Richard is a very talkative man."
"And? Because, to quote you, I'm sure there's an 'and' just waiting to come out."
"And I want to get them together. If there were ever a time for me to be a matchmaker, this is it."
"I saw you be a matchmaker once. When you filled in for two weeks in the Hello, Dolly! revival in 1995. I have no doubt you'll be just as successful offstage."
"Not on my own, I won't. Those kiddos need to get together, and I need help doing it. Are you in?"
He looks right, and left, and right again, before looking at her. "I'm in."