GRACE THE WILD CARD

Chapter 6 Guys and Dolls

FRIDAY AT 2:00 AM. Hot Box wardrobe mistress Laverne Borg; her two hairstylist assistants; the chorus line of 12 dancer dolls and four understudies; and the two dolls at the ticket box; walked over to the small all-night café across the street from Mindy’s for an impromptu bridal shower for Miss Adelaide.

Everyone loves a romance, and they were thrilled that Adelaide, their manager and lead performer, was finally getting married before daybreak to her fiancé of 14 years, the dashing Nathan Detroit, operator of the Oldest Established Permanent Floating Crap Game in New York.

It was not the first time Laverne has set up such a party for Adelaide, her dearest friend. But in the past, the wedding has always been “postponed” and the dolls took home their gifts unopened. This time around, there was ground to believe the elopement would finally push through because it had been announced at Mindy’s on Wednesday, with all the high rollers in town, and in the presence of Police Lt. Brannigan yet.

The dolls have been sitting for half-an-hour inside the café, drinking white wine and listening to the piped-in music of Frank Sinatra’s I'm Sorry, I Made You Cry, when the bride-to-be walked in, looking forlorn. Oh, no, Miss Adelaide has been crying! So, the wedding has been postponed again! Laverne was not surprised, but her heart sank just the same.

The Hot Box was so invested on this wedding. If only to see its star performer realize her most cherished dream and give her a proper honeymoon period, it has postponed the opening of the new show and moved it to the weekend after the next.

What a shame. But didn’t Laverne herself tell Adelaide that her own date with Society Max tonight has been canceled in favor of Nathan’s big stupid game? Heaven knows how many times other dolls’ dates have been dumped because their guys would rather be at the crap game. Between craps and the dolls, craps seemed to always win.

“Oh, Adelaide, dear, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry.” Laverne hugged her friend and tried to comfort her.

“The game was over early.” Adelaide explained to the group in between sniffles. “The guys were all coming out of Mindy’s, and I accidentally bumped into Nathan. Nevertheless, I felt we needed to talk.

“He said he was sorry and even wished how we could elope that very moment, but not right now,” Adelaide wailed, “Because he was going to a prayer meeting! A prayer meeting, can you imagine!? It was the most preposterous, most unforgivable lie I have ever heard.

“And so, we fought. He said he loves me and made impossible promises again!

"I've had it! I swear I never want to see him again. Oh, Laverne, to think of all those years gone by! I am so embarrassed, I could die!”

“A prayer meeting!?” the chorus dolls cried in a chorus. They encircled Adelaide and bid her to sit down, “Oh, Miss Adelaide, we’re sorry. We’re very sorry, what can we say?”

The crying suddenly stopped when the cafe door opened and in came Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown. A low wave of whispers passed among the show dolls, “Isn’t that the hotshot Sky Masterson? What is he doing with the mission doll?”

“Sky!” greeted Laverne, with a smile and a nod toward Sarah. “Didn’t know you were in town!”

“Hello, Laverne. Good morning lovely dolls,” said Sky addressing the group, “I hardly recognized you with your clothes on.”

Sarah gave Sky’s hand a jerk, “Not funny.”

“You all know Sister Sarah?” continued Sky.

“We see her with the mission band every day,” said the chorus. “Come sit with us, Sister Sarah.”

“Hello, ‎Ladies‎,” Sarah smiled.

Still discombobulated, Adelaide, with open arms, approached Sky. He caught her by the shoulder and turned to Sarah, “Sarah, meet Miss Adelaide, Nathan Detroit’s intended.” And to Adelaide, “Sgt. Sarah Brown of Save-A-Soul. She can testify to you this very minute that your missing bridegroom-to-be is at a prayer meeting, just around the corner.”

“Nathan was telling the truth?!” Adelaide gasped, grabbing Sky’s lapels. “Oh, Sky, is it true?!

“Well, let’s all walk over to my place to find out,” Sarah said graciously. “The prayer meeting must be about over by now. So, let’s all go and join the guys for breakfast.”

OVER AT THE MISSION, in the open dining room, volunteers laid out on two big tables a sumptuous breakfast large enough to feed a congregation: Dishes piled high with sausages, slices of ham and bacon; country fries, omelets, cheese rolls, coddled eggs, fruit wedges, buttered toasts, boxes of cereals, fruit juice, pastries and doughnuts, and plenty of milk and coffee.

Meanwhile, the gamblers politely waited until a tiny bell rang, signaling the end of the meeting. Their leader, Nathan Detroit told them to stand up and hold their hats over their hearts as the mission’s Brother Arvide led Grace:

“Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty. Through Christ, Our Lord. Amen."

Suddenly, exuberant applause, stomping of feet, and long loud whistles rose from the guys. Everyone gaped as Sky Masterson dramatically entered the room with Sarah Brown in one arm and Miss Adelaide in the other; followed two-by-two by the dozen dancers, Laverne, and the rest of the Hot Box dolls.

“Holy mesentheorum!” Harry the Horse exclaimed. "What have we got here?!”

Sky thumped his chest, took off his hat ceremoniously and boasted in jest, “Eat your hearts out, Gentlemen!”

Nathan was the most surprised. He went up to his frustrated fiancée, took her hands and attempted to kiss her, but Adelaide demurred.

Gallantly, the guys gave way for the dolls to get ahead of them at the buffet tables. They may be second-rate gangsters, con men, and tinhorns, but they knew their manners. And though they refer to women as “dolls,” and other men as “guys,” they use “gentlemen” when referring to themselves.

With Sarah by his side, Sky couldn’t be prouder. He felt he was on top of the world now that they have reconciled after the short but bitter breakup. Now he’s back at her mission place, watching guys and dolls exchange pleasantries with the mission workers. Why, even the special guest, General Cartwright, was having fun talking with penny-ante criminals.

Furthermore, Sky was happy to see the warring ex-future bridal pair, Nathan and Adelaide, talking with each other again, hopefully reconciling their differences. They have been engaged for many years but have yet to be married. Any other couple might have broken the engagement at any time but each claims to love the other forever and ever. And so, their engagement goes on forever and ever.

Meanwhile Sgt. Sarah, gracious hostess to the party, went to greet the guests, sharing small talks, and shaking hands like a politician. Then she went back to Sky, took his hand, and said goodnight. She left for her private quarters in back of the mission, as if on a cloud.

Not long after, Miss Adelaide and the rest of the Hot Box dolls graciously thanked the mission workers for the party and said cheerful goodbyes, leaving Nathan Detroit and his gamblers behind, still engaged in guy talks and enjoying the party to the last drop.

FRIDAY, SIX O’CLOCK AM. The prayer-breakfast meeting over, Brother Arvide happily said goodbye to the remaining guests at the door. He sighed as he watched the gamblers walk away and merge with other night people for whom the colorful lights of Broadway shine like the sun.

They are the people who work - or simply hang out - in seedy saloons, brothels, burlesque halls, vaudeville stages, and dime houses. They sleep during the day and are awake at night.

Brother Arvide feels great sympathy and prays for them every day. How he wished he could talk to them, to share their stories and hear of their experiences of coming to New York; their successes and disappointments; and if they got so inclined, he would like to show them a new way of life.

Mission workers are always ready to share the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ. Brother Arvide would definitely want to lead the night people to the Lord. And always, the mission is open for a little chat, or a little read, as well as for coffee-and-doughnuts.

Despite being ignored by polite society, the night people in their own rough-and-tumble world, manage to live for another night, always hoping for a better tomorrow night.

Only one guy stayed behind after all others have left: Sky Masterson who cheerfully helped the mission workers clear the tables, haul out the garbage, and put away things.

Brother Arvide couldn't help but smile.

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