Victory March
By Shotzette

"Victory March"
Rated PG
By Shotzette

Maybe I've been here before
I know this room, I've walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you
I've seen your flag on the marble arch
love is not a victory march
Its a cold and its a broken hallelujah

Rufus Wainwright - Hallelujah

The nauseating smell of the exhaust filling the parking garage was the cherry on top of the sundae of Lenny Kosnowski's day. He winced as he realized he was still thinking in ice cream terms, even though he hadn't sold the stuff in thirty years. You can take the man out of Good Humor, but you can't take the Good Humor out of the man. Funny, two day ago he could have made a joke out of it. Today it proved bracingly false.

As he walked down the slick ramp to the bowels of the parking garage, he dodged the careless drivers of Beemers, Jags, Merecedes, and the occasional criminally loud Harley. The elevator would have been faster, of course, but he needed time to clear his head before the long drive home to Anaheim.

He had only meant to have one drink, his victory drink, with her in the bar near the studio. Somehow, one had turned into five.

He had been so excited when he saw Laverne and Shirley's names on one of the contestant entry forms. For the first time in the three years he had been a consultant on "Survivor: The Game Show", he actually was glad. He pulled every string he had to make sure they were chosen. He had almost been ashamed over the glee he felt when he read her bio. Almost.

Four, count 'em, four divorces! A low-paying security job at the Milwaukee Arena! Best of all, moving back to that crummy building on Knapp Street and having to room with Shirl again! All those years of her thinking she was too good for him. Him, the decent guy who proposed to her even though it wasn't his mistake when she thought she was pregnant those many years ago. Him, the guy who turned down a promotion at Shotz to follow her halfway across the country on the faintest glimmer of hope that she might finally see his true worth behind his awkwards exterior. Him, the guy that died a little bit inside every time he had to see her in the arms of yet another man.

He had counted the days until the taping.

During those long weeks, he had forced himself to slow down, to appreciate the nuances of his own life. His therapist had been telling him for years to stop and smell the roses.

He shook his head ruefully when he realized how close he had been to chucking it all and heading home to Milwaukee with his tail between his legs after Laverne's wedding. Her first wedding, he thought saracastically.

It had been at that point when Karen reentered his life.

Karen, with her Master's in Philosophy in her hand and a desire to return to California's golden sunshine in her heart. Fortunately he had been home the night she called to tell him she was returning to the west coast. If it hadn't been for the Laverne-induced hangover he was nursing, he would have been halfway through Nevada at that point.

That was the day that changed his life. In Karen's eyes, he wasn't the weird guy who was the cool guy's sidekick. He wasn't the guy who was only good enough to be someone's "best guy friend", and nothing more. He was the guy who could have a future.

When Karen became a teaching assistant at Berkeley, she introduced him to some of her new friends. A group of grad students were starting a comedy group. By the slimmest of chances, one of them found out that Lenny wrote and performed songs in his spare time. As time went by, Lenny found himself spending less time with Squiggy and more time writing for the "Edge of Reason". He didn't know if it was all the weed everyone seemed to be smoking, but he was suddenly being heralded as one of the newest innovators in observational comedy.

For the first time in his life, people wanted his opinions. He was finally being treated with respect, and he loved it. He even convinced Squiggy to give up Squignowski Ice Cream & Talent and join him. Every great man needed a sidekick, he reasoned.

The Edge couldn't last, he knew that from the beginning. A bunch of college boys, playing at performing, that's what the other four guys became to him. The quintet slowly disbanded because of unchecked egos and petty jealousies. Soon, only he and Squig remained. Luckily, that's when a few network guys paid them a visit, sniffing around to find the next fresh thing for prime time.

Lenny had to choke back a laugh nearly every time he thought about it. Him and Squig, being their raunchiest best in the living room of one of the highest paid producers Hollyweird had ever seen. Anywhere else, they would have been arrested. Here, they were offered high-paying consultant jobs, and lauded as the Next Big Thing.


For a short while in the mid seventies, he didn't think the dreams could get any bigger. He and Karen married. He owed his success to her, and she had always been there for him. She was there for the late night rewrites, the early morning breakfast meetings, and everything in between. By the time she left teaching to raise their daughter, she had cut her hours back so far that no one at Berkeley really missed her. A brief interest she had in returnng when Tabitha started school was squelched when she became pregnant with Brian.

Not that she needed to work. Lenny had always taken great pride in the fact that he was able to take care of his family. He didn't want Karen to ever feel stressed enough to run out the door, never to return, the way his mother had. Or die too young due to a late diagnosis, like Laverne's mother.

Laverne. He took great satisfaction in the fact that he never thought about her anymore. He never thought of her almost on a daily basis. With the exception of Squiggy, he pretty much cut ties with everyone from his past. It was easy when they didn't travel in the same circles anymore.

For a while, he'd get occasional tidbits of gossip and news from Rhonda. When Rhonda started to make the less than graceful transition from starlet to character actress, he noticed she would "coincidently" run into him and Squig on the lot. Squiggy got Rhonda a few small parts in a few low budget exploitation films. Even though the work Squig found for her was stuff she would have haughtily turned her nose up at ten years earlier, Squiggy had smarmily told Lenny how "grateful" she had become.

Once, when Rhonda was in his office complaining about Squiggy's ever more eccentric demands (and hinting that Lenny could also get in on the action if he would just recommend her for a supporting role in the new sitcom he was working on), he finally got up the nerve to ask about Laverne. He was subtle. He asked about Carmine's career first. Of course, he knew better than anyone that Carmine's early flash-in-the-pan in the Big Apple was short lived. A knee injury coupled with encroaching middle age had sidetracked him into permanent anonymity. Tough break, Golden-Gloved golden boy, Lenny thought.

Lenny politely sat thru Rhonda's rehash of Shirley's life with Walter and their three kids, before nonchalantly asking about Laverne. He was floored when Rhonda told him that Laverne's marriage to Nick had only lasted two years. A surge of adrenaline had run through Lenny's body at that point, either due to judgemental triumph or never-ending hope, he wasn't sure which. Before he could analyze the feeling, it was gone. Rhonda said Laverne had re-married earlier that summer and moved back to New York. He avoided Rhonda from that point on.

As the Universe proved time and time again, what goes up eventually comes down. Fads come and go, and there was a new, brighter genius around every corner. Or in Hollywood, every rehab center. Lenny and Squiggy were no longer the wunderkinds of prime time. In a town where one bad show can be considered career suicide, they still did awfully well. Granted, they were no longer A-list material, but they still had jobs, mostly due to good lawyers and tight contracts they refused to be bought out of.

They moved around from show to show like gypsies, usually when the show was nearing the end of it's run. At that point, the producers were ready to take some risks, albeit mostly too late, to woo back it's audience and intrigue new viewers. Their salaries and their offices were scaled back accordingly. Squiggy, by virtue of a few good investments was able to hang onto his house in the Canyon, while Lenny relocated his family to Anaheim. He quipped to Karen that it was always his dream to wear the Goofy suit at the entrance to the happiest place on earth. Things like that used to make her laugh.

Even though he was now one of the smaller fishes in the great Hollywood ocean, Lenny knew that his present circumstance was still leagues above anything he could have dreamed of in his deprived childhood. And he knew Laverne would still be impressed.

For the first time in years, he was going to be on camera and was actually looking forward to it. It hadn't been easy to convince Squig to go along with his plan. As crude and outwardly hateful as Squiggy could be, Shirley alway held a special place in his heart. Lenny had to all but swear on a Bible that any pain and humiliation that was to be served up that night would be for Laverne alone.

It had been agony hiding in the base of Tiki #3 and hearing her voice without seeing her. He was thrilled, but not surprised when she elected to crawl through the entrance of the tiki to win the challenge. The few quick touches he allowed himself as she squirmed and hollered turned his blood to fire while simultaneously turning his skin to gooseflesh. He couldn't wait for the grand finale.

The look of surprise on her face made it all seem worthwhile. That and the small level of disgust he sensed from her. The latter was nothing new to him.

Which made it even more puzzling when she caught up to him in the corridor after the taping. He looked down at her from his 6'2" height, an intimidation move that had taken him years to perfect and have the nerve to execute.

As she threw her arms around his neck and pulled him down into a hug, he knew it was wasted posturing on his part. A lipstick laden kiss on his right cheek jolted him back to reality.

He was so focused on the still lingering tingle from her touch, it took him several moments to realize she was inviting him out for a drink. He forced a tight smile as he nodded in agreement. Fine Vernie, he thought, I'll let you know exactly what you've missed in a public place.

Her face lit up like a Christmas tree at his response as she gleefully took his arm and led him to the elevator. During the short walk to the bar, he looked her over surrepticiously. She had put on a few pounds, her girlish figure was defintely a thing of the past. He smiled, thinking of Karen and the seemingly endless parade of personal trainers that put her through the paces in their home gym. Laverne's dark auburn hair had definitely benefited from the fine people at Clairol, and it was one of the few things that made her seem like every other woman in Southern California. His eyes quickly raked over her discount store wardrobe as he thought, this will be too easy.

Once they got to the bar, he snagged a table in the middle of the floor, and settled back with his martini. He politely answered her perfunctory questions about his job. Yes, it was exciting working around all those famous actors. No, he never would have beleived in a million years back in Milwaukee that he would have a writing career. Yes, he had met Troy Donahue, and no, he had never mentioned Laverne or Shirley.

He ordered his third martini as Laverne ordered her second beer. Not surprisingly, he thought, she's talking much more than I am and she doesn't have time to drink. The conversations then went on a more personal level. She didn't seemed shocked or upset that he knew of her four divorces and five kids. Even though she had few kind words for any of her exes, there was still a gentleness in her eyes that belied the absence of any deep-seated rancor in her heart. When she discussed her children, however, Laverne glowed. Her youngest son, Jeff, had just started at Georgetown University. Fortunately for Laverne, a partial basketball scholarship insured that the Hoya's newest point guard could afford to attend school for the next four years.

She seemed a little less happy with her next eldest son, Dave. He was currently on an aircraft carrier somewhere in the Persian Gulf, scaring his mother to pieces.

Laverne's mood brightened perceptably when she discussed her youngest daughter, Robin, who was a neo-natal nurse in San Diego. She and Shirley had planned to spend their vacation with Robin when they got the idea to be contestants on his game show.

He gave Laverne another small smile as he ordered his next drink.

His show. He hadn't had a show in years.

She spoke with pride about her other son, Tom. The young fireman had recently become engaged, much to Laverne's delight, to his high school sweetheart. The only negative was that Laverne's ex-husband (Ex- husband number two, by Lenny's calculation) was already making noises about his new wife being included in the formal wedding pictures. "But, I swore to Tom and Kelly that I would take the high road at the wedding, as long as that cow doesn't get in my face."

"Same old Vernie," Lenny said, surprising himself with his first giggle of the decade.

She merely winked and clinked her beer mug to his martini glass in response. Laverne's biggest news involved her eldest daughter, Nicole, who sold real estate in Miami. While Laverne didn't seem to be overly fond of Nicole's husband, Rick, she was head over heels gaga over Madelyn, Laverne's granddaughter.

Years of practiced posturing fell away as Lenny snorted Absolut out of his nose in surprise.

"You're somebody's grandmother?"

"Beleive it or not. Well," she said, as she glanced down at his left hand,"Do you and your wife have any kids?"

Lenny glanced down at the gold, obscenely shiny band on his ring finger. He wondered why he hadn't taken it off before meeting her, then wondered at himself for wondering.

"Karen and I--" he broke off suddenly, "You remember Karen, Vernie?" At her nod, he continued, "We have two kids, Tabitha and Brian. Tabitha is a junior at USC."

"What's her major?"

"You'd have to ask her mother that," he replied glibly as the Absolut began to work on his detached coolness, "Tabi switches majors at least twice a year." Lenny cleared his throat suddenly as he realized the conversation was not going quite as he planned. "Brian's great. He's a freshman in high school. Plays a little lacrosse and a lot of Xbox."

She smiled that damned intoxicating smile again. "We've done pretty well, haven't we, Lenny?"

His blue eyes widened in shock at her words. Well? Her life was a train wreck, couldn't she see that? She had a dead-end job, four broken marriages, a shared apartment in a neighborhood he knew had just gotten worse over the decades, and five kids that she had raised pretty much on her own.

His mouth opened, but no sound came over as she reached out and patted his hand encouragingly. "We've been so lucky that we've been able to give our kids so much more than our parents ever gave us."

This was the Laverne he remembered from his childhood, he thought, overwhelmed by his epiphany. The tough girl that never quit. The girl who made lemonade out of lemons, who was indestructable.

The woman he had intended to publicly embarrass tonight for rejecting him so many years ago.

Suddenly, Lenny's world seemed so small and meaningless. The scales fell from his eyes and he saw his life as it really was. Not his career, the place he had spent all of his time and energy and focus for the last thirty years. His life. The large, neglected void of space between writing and business meetings.

Abruptly, he grasped her hand in his, as he looked into her green eyes, hoping against hope to see the spark, to see their special connection.

"Vernie?" He said nothing else, allowing his tone and the desperation in his blue eyes to say what he could not articulate.

She looked at him and smiled, but with an old sadness in her eyes. Laverne leaned across the table and kissed him softly, allowing a moment's touch to have an eternity of poignancy.

"Good bye, Lenny," she said as she walked away.


He sat behind the wheel of his Acura, keys in hand and his eyes bright with unshed tears.

She was going back to her world, and he to his. In Anaheim, a still beautiful woman who'd loved him for more than twenty-five years waited for him with their two children.

Lenny took a deep breath and tried with all of his strength to be happy, just like his therapist said he should be.


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