Strictly Business (Henry)

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Strictly Business
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: Two vaudeville performers, Bob Hart and Winona Cherry, form a successful partnership and fall in love, only to discover that they have been married for two years.

Bob Hart, a talented vaudeville actor, had written a sketch called "Mice Will Play" and was looking for the perfect partner to perform it with. He found Winona Cherry, a young actress who was also focused on saving money and building a stable future.

Bob Hart — vaudeville performer; serious, hardworking, dreamer.
Winona Cherry — vaudeville performer; business-minded, ambitious, practical.

The two formed a partnership based on their shared business-minded approach to their careers. Winona Cherry proposed a business partnership to Bob Hart, emphasizing the importance of saving money and planning for the future.

“Mr. Hart,” said she thoughtfully, “come inside just a few minutes. We’ve got our chance now to make good and make money. What we want to do is to cut expenses every cent we can, and save all we can.”

Together, they worked on perfecting the sketch, making changes and rehearsing tirelessly. The sketch became a huge success, earning them a high salary and a long run in New York and on the circuits. Both Bob and Cherry were able to save money for their respective dreams - Bob wanted a bungalow with a Japanese cook, while Cherry wanted to invest in a small business.

“Miss Cherry,” said Bob Hart in his smooth, serious tones, “you’re in on your own terms. I’ve got ‘strictly business’ pasted in my hat and stenciled on my make-up box. When I dream of nights I always see a five-room bungalow on the north shore of Long Island, with a Jap cooking clam broth and duckling in the kitchen, and me with the title deeds to the place in my pongee coat pocket, swinging in a hammock on the side porch, reading Stanley’s ‘Explorations into Africa.’ And nobody else around. You never was interested in Africa, was you, Miss Cherry?”

During a performance in New York, Cherry accidentally shot Bob in the neck while performing a scene. Although the injury was not serious, Cherry was devastated and revealed her deep love for Bob. Their friend, Sam Griggs, informed Bob of Cherry's feelings, but Bob was shocked and claimed it was impossible for them to be in love.

“Cherry loves me? It’s impossible. It’s impossible, I tell you. I never dreamed of such a thing.”

In a surprising twist, it was revealed that Bob and Cherry had been secretly married for two years. Their love for each other had been hidden behind their professional partnership and shared focus on building a secure future.