Copyright: Although they resemble some women we all know and love, and may occasionally fantasize about, the characters are fictional composites. I will get any song/lyric credits due in there by the end of the story. Copyright © 2001 by L.A. Tucker All Rights Reserved.
Sexual Content: It involves two women in a romantic relationship. The sex is going to be in there eventually. Have patience. I have to work up to it. It's always better that way. If you're under 18 or this type of fiction is illegal where you reside, it's best if you don't read this.
Violence: Mild if any, unless you consider umbrellas lethal weapons. There is some damage to a male bovine, but it is after it's demise.
Language: Mild profanity, dammit, it feels good to swear.
Hurt/Comfort/Angst: Parts of this story focus on the difficulties that arise because of an accident, and dealing with the aftermath of that accident. And some mental health issues. My way of thinking is we ALL have mental health issues. It also bounces from heartache to giddiness. Just like life. I'm not planning on killing anyone off, having them sexually assaulted, or forcing my own bad poetry on anyone. So rest easy. Let's have fun!
Special Thanks: The ever patient and endlessly witty Top; my cranky and encouraging conscience, SEM; the stories of Advocate and T. Novan, and especially to Patsy Cline, who is a heavenly balm to a constantly befuddled soul such as mine.
Comments/Feedback: This is my first
attempt ever at an Uber tale, and so far, it looks like it's going to be a long
one. Actually, it's my first attempt at writing anything other than a
mildly deceptive resume or a half-witted post at a few forums. I've never, ever
sat down and written a thing before. All comments, spelling corrections,
bad jokes and critiques are welcome and desperately needed. I want the feedback.
E-mail me : LA Tucker
The Light Fantastic
By L.A. Tucker
Part I : All the World's a Stooge
Chloe sank low in the red plastic chair and absently reached down to scratch her ankle. She gazed out the nearby school library window at the snow falling heavily outside on this frigid February night. It was going to be a bitch getting home, she hoped that the state had been keeping up with the plowing on the road that led to her small house right outside of town. The town itself had no snowplows, it's small number of inhabitants couldn't afford to employ a driver of it's own. Luckily, she lived on a road that the state maintained. February was always a harsh time for a town this close to Lake Erie, what with constant southeasterly Canadian driven arctic winds that picked up the moisture from the lake, transformed it into snow and dumped inches upon inches of the white stuff down on the tiny Pennsylvania lakefront township from early November right up until late March.
She checked her watch. She was early. She had agreed to meet with her friends/colleagues at 8:30, right after the town library closed. That's where she worked, full time, as the librarian. Most nights it was open until 8, to benefit any students that might need to access the information there. But those students were coming less and less, because the school library was now outfitted with the latest computers and high speed internet access, and the small town library that Chloe worked at was saddled with a dinosaur PC with a 14K modem. So, for the most part, the people that Chloe interacted with on a daily basis were the old-fashioned library users, who went in to borrow a few books of the written word. She was fine with that. She got her degree in the library sciences because she loved the smell, the texture and feel of a book. No doubt she loved the contents of them, but the sensory overload of the feel of a volume in her hands, the allure of a book on shelf, waiting to be discovered by an eager reader, pleased her esthetically. Her least favorite part of the course work in library sciences had been the increased concentration on the information available on the internet. Yes, it was practical, yes, it was the future, but no, it held no romance for her. She fell asleep, almost nightly, alone in her bed with a book lovingly held in her small hands.
A 30ish, owlishly handsome brown haired man appeared in the doorway, and saw Chloe sitting at the octagon shaped table and grinned at her. He was covered, head to toe, in apparel meant to ward off the harshest of winter weather. He greeted her as he walked towards the table, unwrapping a plaid scarf from around his mouth and nose as he approached.
"Hey Chloe, think it'll snow?" He brushed snow off of his shoulders and pulled his earmuffs off.
Chloe grinned up at him from her chair and stretched.
"Nah, Paul, I predict an early Spring. Didn't you hear? I went down to Punxatawney a week ago, and made a hit on that damned groundhog. We should see tulips pushing up any day now."
"Good thing", he replied as he continued to disperse with his coat and gloves, "I was thinking of gunning for him myself."
He piled his coat and scarf on a nearby chair. "I saw Marcy out in the parking lot, she should be in soon." He looked out the window, and shook his head at the thickly falling snow. "How the hell can she drive a Miata in this kind of weather? Its gotta get stuck every four feet or so." He sat down in a chair across from her and cracked his cold red knuckles.
"Dunno," Chloe replied, shaking her head, "She likes living on the edge? Maybe she has a death wish? Or maybe she has the hots for the tow truck driver from the Exxon station, what's his name ... Ed?"
"It's Fred, and no, I don't have the hots for him." Marcy smartly interjected as she strode into the room towards Paul and Chloe. "Although I could, if he would just ...."
"...put in his teeth." finished Chloe, looking into Marcy's sparkling brown eyes. The three friends laughed. All of them were quite aware of Marcy's interest in the male of the species. Proof of that was that Marcy was two months fresh from dumping live-in number 4, and she was Chloe's age, a breath away from achieving 30 years on the planet.
"How's the newly single life going, Marse? What's this, number six or so? Going for Julia Roberts status?" teased Chloe as Marcy put her wet coat on top of Paul's things. "You're going to have to rehook one of them soon, this town is running out of single, eligible males for you to ditch at the altar."
Paul cut in before Marcy could reply. "Who ever said they had to be single for her to go after them? There was that one that got away... the married UPS driver from up on Route 20 ... Dave D' Amico? ... she never got around to marrying him after his wife found out about their affair. Isn't he still around?"
Marcy shot Paul a dirty look as she plopped down into a chair facing her two grinning buddies. "That was when I was fresh out of college! I met Stan ... Mr. Fiancé number two ... before Dave's divorce was finalized. It dragged out for years. Yeah, I've seen him around. I heard he's doing something with that land he has, he's been plowing it for the last two summers. Flattening it out. Planting grass. I heard he's building a little 9-hole golf course out there. I know for a fact he never got remarried..." She frowned, considering this.
Chloe stared directly at Marcy and gave her a knowing smile. "Well, there ya go, then. Available fresh meat! Divorced ... although I think he has a kid, right? Here in school? What, isn't he the quarterback of the football team ... Nelson, right?" She envisioned the tall, sturdily built Nelson D' Amico, with the dark good looks and tousled black hair. The whole town revered the high school quarterback, he was the one bright light on what was otherwise a mediocre team. He could throw the ball with precision and power, unhappily, he never had a competent receiver who could catch it or hold onto it if he did. The fans would religiously attend all the games to alternately thrill to the assuredness of the athletic, spry quarterback, then groan as they watched hapless receivers fumble the ball away. Chloe was sure her grandmother, bad hip and all, could have caught and scored on some of those missiles that Nelson launched.
Paul nodded. "He's a senior here, graduating in May. I heard he's been heavily recruited. Penn State, West Virginia, even some Florida schools. I don't think he's committed himself anywhere yet. He's in my Honors English class this semester. Nice kid, quiet though." He glanced at Marcy and continued " Chloe's right, Dave is the one that got away, and hell, Dave's going to be suffering from empty nest syndrome as soon as Nelson heads off to college. Hey, Marcy, Dave's apparently going to be a mini mogul soon, what with his opening up that golf course. Maybe you could offer to help him...."
"....water his greens?" interrupted Chloe. She just couldn't help herself. Marcy reached across the table and gave Chloe a quick slap on the arm.
"Knock it off there, Chloester, like you have a lot to talk about in the romance department. My apparent ... overindulgence ... in the mating department is just nature's way for making up for your total lack of interest in anything relating to ... relating, one on one, with anyone, what, for like, forever, now, right?"
Paul, festering with a secret crush on Chloe for years now, leaned forward on his elbows on the brown table, quite interested in Chloe's reply to this.
Chloe squirmed uncomfortably in her seat, now that the topic of conversation was focused on her non-existent love life. She sighed, and thought a moment before replying with what was decidedly a non answer. "Yeah, well, yeah... I like it that way."
Good fortune intervened on Chloe's behalf, as a rustling in the doorway brought the form of a very snow-covered, gray-haired school Principal, Doris Raeburn. She was pulling on the ties of a plastic rain bonnet, and took it off and shook it to get the snow off of it. She smiled at the threesome sitting at the library table, and her mind flashed back to when they were all students of hers, some 12 years ago in this very school. She thought it wonderful that Marcy and Paul had returned to teach here, and that Chloe was the part-time drama teacher and director of the Senior class plays. The three of them had all been friends then, and it warmed her heart to see that their friendship had continued these many years later.
"Good evening, kids." she greeted them, still seeing them as her students.
The three friends unconsciously replied loudly and in unison.
"Good evening, Mrs. Raeburn."
They all had a good giggle over that.
Doris walked over to them . "Paul, get your feet off that chair. Marcy, get your curls out of your eyes and... what have you done to your hair? That color was never meant to grace a human head... and Chloe, quit slouching."
They did as they were told, and Mrs. Raeburn, never one to not get directly to the point, started talking. And talking. The friends knew better than to interrupt her, they had relapsed into being 16 year olds, and just listened and marveled at the woman that was their Mrs. Raeburn.
She took a deep breath and began.
" Well, Chloe, it looks like that time again, huh? These two going to help you again this year? Good. We're shooting for, what, the last two weekends in May? Graduation is first week of June, that'll work. You're doing a musical this year, right? Much better idea than that idea you had last year ... an opera? In HIGH SCHOOL? What were you thinking?" She looked pointedly at Chloe, expecting no answer, but was satisfied to see Chloe cringing in her chair. "Old musical this year, good idea. Classics are the best. Your art department doing the props and scenery, Marcy? Great. This year, see if you can find someone talented enough to make a tree LOOK like a tree. I'm sure you can find a picture of one somewhere. Show 'em." Doris Raeburn rolled her eyes. "Paul, you're assisting with the acting and working with the stage crew, that's good. Oh, and you need to talk with the band director, get together a decent orchestra for this. I hope you can find 6 or 7 somewhat able musicians out of that school marching band. The halftime shows at the football games sounded like we were slaughtering sheep out on the field. I was told that the song they were playing was 'Proud Mary' ... yeah, sure it was... it was enough to put Tina Turner into an early grave... " she paused and crossed herself. She took another breath and went on.
"Auditions will be held the two weeks from now after school? Chloe, you can get away from the library then? " She glanced quickly at the shaggy haired librarian who was fidgeting in her seat, who nodded at her in agreement. "Yes? Good. I've already had some parents asking what the play was going to be, seems that they want their little stars front and center for our little production. And the kids, will they be performing scenes from this on that PBS fundraiser for WQEL over in Erie? I hope it helps this year. Didn't donations actually go DOWN last year what with that opera? What WERE you thinking?" Once again, she peered at Chloe, who was now in a full out slouch and pouting in her plastic chair. "Anyhoos, I want to remind the three of you that we are dealing with fragile egos here. And I'm not talking the kids in the play, I am talking about their PARENTS. Be nice to them, be patient, be mindful that they have dreams that their little Heather or Justin is going to be the next big thing on the Great White Way." Doris stopped momentarily, just to refill her tapped out lungs. "That happened, right? Don't we have an alumni that's a star somewhere?"
Paul shrugged and said, "Well, if you count Maria Jacobson, class of '96, doing a stint as a wandering Snow White at Disney World for two years, well, yeah."
Mrs. Raeburn pursed her lips and nodded slightly. "No, I was thinking more of... yes, Sara. Sara D'Amico. She was a few, maybe 5 years ahead of you three. You never met her, did you? That's who I was thinking of. Although she never showed one bit of interest in acting while she was here in this school. She was too busy smoking in the girls room, getting detention and just generally raising hell." Doris' lips curled into a smile. "God, I loved that girl. It was hard yelling at her when she got into trouble ... which she always was ... she just had a way about her. Beautiful. I never saw such eyes, such hair. Such a smile, which she rarely did. Tall, too." Doris poked the air high over her head in demonstration of how tall Sara was. "I had to stand on a chair to talk eye to eye with her. She was a star on the basketball team, volleyball. She was effortless. Smart. And mean, too, when she wanted to be." Doris paused and looked at Marcy. "Didn't you date her older brother Dave?"
Chloe coughed quietly and answered Doris before Marcy could. "Well, if you call what they did, 'dating' ...", she turned a mischievous eye to Marcy, "yeah, she did." Marcy gave Chloe a warning glare.
Mrs. Raeburn chose to ignore that comment and went on.
"Anyway, our star, Sara. Shame about what happened to her, huh? Tragic. That accident and all. Ruined her career. I've heard so many rumors about her these last few years. Every so often, a reporter shows up here at the school to ask me about her, what was she like, where is she now? As far as I know, she's never shown up for any of our class reunions. I was reading in the People magazine the other day, about how they still want to make a sequel to that last movie she made... the Star Whatever sci-fi one.... from 6 years ago? and I hear that she refuses to even consider it. They want to throw all kinds of money at her, too. Considering that it was one of the highest grossing movies ever, you can see why they would want her back to do another one. Just wouldn't be the same without her playing that role. She owns it. Kind of like how they replaced Jodie Foster in that sequel to 'Silence of the Lambs', huh? Dumb move." Doris paused and thoughtfully tapped her lip. "I spend a lot of time wondering what happened to her."
Paul spoke up. "Um, she got pregnant, had the kid, and never said who the father was. There's been rumors about her being a lesbian, although she never confirmed it. She's still acting and directing...."
"Um, Paul," Chloe kicked him under the table, "I think Mrs. Raeburn was wondering what happened to Sara D'Amico, not Jodie Foster."
Mrs. Raeburn glared in agreement. Before she could continue on, Marcy quietly spoke.
"She, uh, well, actually, she lives out off Route 20, in a little house on the land that her brother Dave owns. She's been there since last summer. I think she lives near what will soon be ... the 8th hole."
Three sets of wide eyes stared at the art teacher in stunned disbelief.
"Aunt Sara? What're we listening to? I hate this country stuff." Nelson D'Amico asked in the direction of his aunt's long orange covered legs. The rest of her was underneath an old tractor, making some adjustments to something he couldn't determine. Nelson didn't have the head for mechanics, but he did know which tool was which, so he was being useful by leaning up against the side of the tractor, in case his aunt needed him to hand her another tool.
"Shut up. It's not country, it's Nanci Griffith. It's more ...folk." came the muffled reply from under the old John Deere. "Hand me the big monkey wrench."
Nelson placed it in her reaching hand, and it disappeared underneath. He heard some turning, scraping, metallic noises, a clank and an "OW! owowowow" which was followed by some fluent cursing.
Nelson grinned and bent to look under the tractor to make sure his aunt was alright. "You OK?" he smiled at her, his head upside down.
Even with the dimness, he could see her blue eyes, so like his own, flashing at him. "Yeah, damned nut on here is rusted. Wrench slipped."
Nelson was getting dizzy from having his head upside down. He stood back up again. Ooh, small dizzy rush. He liked that.
"Aunt Sara? how much longer you going to be under there? I kind of wanted to talk to you about something."
Sara rolled out from under the tractor. It was cold in this barn converted into a garage, and even colder closer to the concrete floor, where she had been for the last hour or so. She was cold and stiff, and now the knuckles she had scraped throbbed. It was time to call it a night with Mr. Deere.
She eyed her tall nephew slouched up against the tractor. They both wore matching thermal coveralls, although his were pristine clean and hers were filthy. Ah well, at least he was good at handing her the right tools. She stretched into a sitting position, rolled her shoulders, heard a few vertebrae pop, and then accepted his hand to help her stand up. She leaned against the tractor next to him, and slowly drew a knee up to her chest, pulled on it with both hands to keep it there, so the tight ligaments would stretch. She leaned there, a one legged bird, holding her knee.
"What's up?" she said, dropping that leg and then grabbing for the other to repeat the stretching process.
Nelson looked down at his booted feet and began quietly.
"Well, you know, I have to make a decision about college soon, and well, I just don't know, I don't want to think about it just yet, I'm not sure...."
"You're not sure where you want to go to college?"
"No, that's not it..."
"You're not sure IF you want to go to college?" Sara sternly inquired, hoping that this wasn't what was troubling Nelson.
Nelson stuffed his hands deeper into his coverall pockets but did not look at her.
"No, that's not it either..."
Sara grew impatient and said "Listen, Nelson, I don't feel like playing Twenty Questions with you here. Get to the point. Now."
She turned and put her hands on her hips, eyeballing the nervous young man.
Nelson was afraid to look up, afraid to say what he hadn't discussed with anyone yet, just had been thinking about for the last couple of years or so.
"I'm not sure about playing football."
Sara, confused, countered " For Pitt? I know they haven't been the greatest team, but they're getting better every year..."
"For anybody, Aunt Sara. I don't know how I feel about playing football anywhere. Dad is going to kill me when he finds out."
Sara let out a frustrated sigh and studied the youth who was obviously afraid to look her in the eye. Dad? His dad is going to kill him? No, she thought, I am going to kill him. This kid has the greatest arm since Joe Montana, and he doesn't want to play football? When she was living out in California, years ago, her brother had religiously sent her videotapes of every Pee Wee game Nelson had played in, JV, and his junior year in high school. Nelson was being scouted even then. Sara had even covertly snuck into some of his home games this past fall, just to watch him chuck that football. Since she moved back here early last summer, she and Nelson had slowly formed a bond, a bond that was etched out slowly by late afternoons of him throwing the ball to her, after they had seeded and weeded whatever golf hole they were nurturing for the opening of the little par 3 course this Spring. Dave was still toiling at UPS, working until after 6 on weekdays and then coming home and working until long after the sun had gone down. Dave hadn't really been around much, still wasn't, and he wasn't quitting his job until the end of March.
When Sara had moved back, in early June of last summer, Nelson was already off from school and working non-stop getting the course into shape. He didn't have much of a flair for landscaping, so Dave left him with detailed instructions on what needed to get done each day. A couple of Nelson's football buddies would come by and work on the weekends with the three of them, although Sara spent those days apart from them, working solo on different projects. But during the week it was just Sara and Nelson, starting out before dawn each day, working in the sun, riding the rusted tractor from hole to hole, and slowly but surely forging a friendship that they both trusted in and treasured. Neither one of them were talkers by nature, both could get by with an economy of words that was amazing. As the summer progressed, Nelson had to spend his mornings at football practice. Sara found that she missed his company, his lanky form riding on the back hitch of the tractor while she drove. Her only company until each day at noontime was the soft breeze coming off nearby Lake Erie, and the assorted birds that loved to come take a bath on the greens as she soaked them. Nelson would find her, bringing a sack lunch for both of them, and he would tell her about practice that day, the plays the coach had taught them, the injuries they sustained and manfully ignored.
She reflected back now, as she looked at the young man who was miserably standing and staring at an oil spot on the garage floor, that he had never really spoken about football with any joy in his voice, any real thrill in his demeanor. She just remembered him dutifully telling her and Dave about the practices, the upcoming games, the scouting reports on the opposing teams. Maybe it was for my and Dave's benefit? Because we were so impressed with this young kid's abilities, so this is his destiny?
Sara tapped Nelson on the shoulder, and he finally met her eyes.
"Not sure you want to be a football hero, huh, Nels?" and she gave him a small grin.
"Nope, not really." he paused for a second, trying to formulate what he wanted to say.
"Just because I'm good at it, doesn't mean I want to do it, right?"
In a lopsided kind of way, Sara knew exactly what Nelson was saying.
Chloe watched Marcy pull away out of the school parking lot in her little red Miata . Kind of like watching a skateboard trying to navigate an ice jam, she mused. She had a fleeting vision of having to rescue Marcy out of a ditch farther up the main road. Good thing Marcy lives so close by, she could always hoof it to work if need be. This old brown Subaru I drive is the perfect thing for this kind of climate. Sure it has 140,000 miles on it. Sure it's rusted and ugly as hell, and yeah, it costs a fortune to get repaired. If I have any vanity, it isn't centered in the kind of car I drive, that's for sure.
Her thoughts turned to the surprising revelations about Stonecreek's only claim to movie stardom, Sara D'Amico. So Sara D'Amico is back in Stonecreek? How come nobody knew about it? If they did, why did nobody tell ME? I mean, I work in a library, for crying out loud, which is a veritable crockpot of gossipy, nebby information. Forget the internet, the patrons of the library could fasten on and deliver town gossip faster than any DSL line ever could. The last thing of any glamorous note that happened in this area was that ...um, Bob Hope married his wife here on his way to Buffalo. And that Alice from "The Brady Bunch" was born in Erie.
She turned on her CD player, while she waited for her old vehicle to warm up. She clicked past the first selection, and the orchestral movement that preceded the next song began with such a sweet familiarity that it brought an ache to her chest. She watched as the defroster warred slowly to remove the frozen condensation that had built up in the short time she had been in the high school in her meeting with Paul, Marcy and Mrs. Raeburn.
Marcy hadn't been forthcoming in any more information about Sara D'Amico's secret return to Stonecreek. She had shrugged off Paul and Mrs. Raeburn's questioning, and she shot Chloe a look that said 'Later, I'll tell you later.'
So the meeting had abruptly ended, with the four of them promising to meet in two weeks to discuss the results of the auditions and to get an update on how everyone was progressing. Mrs. Raeburn, who had never paused long in her long winded dissertations to even take her coat off, had simply retied her rain bonnet back over her perm and shot straight out the door. She had phone calls to make, no doubt about the return of the mysterious former movie star turned recluse, Sara D'Amico.
Paul tried to get the two remaining women interested in a cup of coffee at the diner, but both had begged off, stating the need to get home safe, out of the weather, and into warm jammies, and other such nonsense. Two more workdays before the weekend, and Chloe had to get notices made up to announce the tryouts for the play so the kids would have ample opportunity to go rent the movie version from Bob's Video Shack or travel to buy the soundtrack at the mall in Erie. Hopefully, there was a student in this senior class whose voice could do some justice to the lyrics now playing from her CD....
"Oh what a beautiful mornin', oh what a beautiful day, I got a beautiful feeling ... everything's going my way..."
Chloe peered out into the near whiteout conditions, scraped the gear shift into four wheel drive, and steadily crept home in her trusted Subaru.
Sara started again. She was trying mightily to be a patient soul. It's so hard sometimes.
"If it's not football that you want to do, then.... do you even have a clue?"
Instead of being more relaxed, Nelson seemed more pensive. "Well yeah, sort of, but I don't know if I am any good at it or not. Or would be any good at it or not."
Sara resisted the urge to grab the needlenose pliers and pull Nelson's teeth out one by one. God, am I this irritating? I know I don't like to talk alot, but this kid....
"Well," started Nelson hesitantly, "there's this girl in my honors English class, her name's Jeanette and she told me that the week after ..."
Sara leaned over and picked up the monkey wrench from the garage floor. "Go on."
"And she said that sometime the week after next, near the end of the week, well....."
If his toes are as cold as mine are, I can drop this wrench on his foot and he'd never feel it until tomorrow.....
She nodded, encouraging him to continue.
He took a deep breath, and decided to let his dreams fly free to the ears of his waiting, if somewhat impatient aunt.
It came out in a rush. "There's open tryouts for the senior class play, they're doing 'Oklahoma' and I thought I might try out for it, you know, a lead or something."
Whew, he got it out, and stared expectantly into his aunt's eyes, looking for some kind of reaction. Her face was at first blank, then one eyebrow rose, then fell, then the other did the same, her lips twitched, then pursed, then smoothed into a straight line. She blinked, looked past him for a moment as if lost in thought, then returned her gaze to meet his. Still, he waited. Nothing.
That all happened outwardly. Inwardly, an incredible amount of thoughts were happening in Sara, all in an jumbled quick passage of time. Huh? He wants to act? How deep is that snowdrift outside the garage doors, and if I threw him from here, would he hit it? I love 'Oklahoma' ... 'where the wind goes sweeping down the plain'. Oklahoma has a damned fine football team. His father is going to kill him. Oh, hell.
She put the wrench down, took a small breath and said "Can you sing?"
He looked at her, relief emanating from every blocked adolescent pore. "A little, not bad, I think." He blinked. "Will you help me?"
She gave the snowdrift outside once last consideration, then dismissed it.
Nelson walked down the long school hall towards the small theatre. He could see Jeanette's head, her white blond shoulder length curls bouncing as she chatted with a girlfriend, waiting for him outside the theatre's doors. His heart was beating wildly already. It had been for the last two weeks, every time he thought of getting on that stage, speaking his lines out loud, and then... singing. Damn. He never had sung anything in front of anyone, and it had taken him two full days to work up the courage to sing in front of his aunt. She had worked with him, every night, as she tinkered in the garage with the tractor and the assorted other motorized gadgets needed for tending to the golf course. Dave was out after work nearly every night, working with different contractors setting up final appointments, applying for licenses, shmoozing the town council and arranging for advertising materials. Tonight he was going to meet again with Nelson's art teacher, Marcy, and discuss the final designs for the golf course sign. Nelson was exceedingly glad that his dad was so busy. Sara had suggested that maybe they should wait until after auditions to break the news to him. No sense in stirring up trouble if...
Sara seemed impressed with Nelson's singing, that is, once he got over his shyness and stopped squeaking in his nervousness. She finally got him to let loose by promising to sing along with him. So, they started, he shyly and quietly, and thankfully, on tune, and she, well she just stood there and belted it out like the reincarnation of Ethel Merman. He had to sing louder just to hear himself sing, and by the end of "There's No Business Like Show Business" she had slowly lowered her volume to the point where he found himself vocalizing the ending refrain by himself. She was grinning like mad at him, all white teeth, and when he finished with a flourish, she leaned in and gave him an enormous hug that spoke of her enthusiasm and pride. They then sang tune after tune, not just show tunes, but some rock and roll, and she even got him to sing along with some folk music. For two people who were not the most expressive souls in their every day lives, they sure came alive when the music came on. Nelson even jokingly suggested that they go hit karaoke night at Stan's Bar and Grill. He quickly regretted that he even mentioned it when he saw how that idea turned Sara's face from happily beaming to rock hard and impassive. He wanted to take it back, but it was too late. He had just nodded and looked contrite.
The acting part came surprisingly naturally to him. He found it quite easy to imagine himself as another person. When he wondered aloud about this trait in himself, Sara merely chuckled and said that many actors were in reality shy, insecure people who found release in being someone else other than themselves. The idea was to understand the character, then with that understanding, slip into that persona. Sure, there were brazen, confident actors out there, but that's what they were mostly doing. Acting it. Believing it.
Nelson wanted to ask her more about her acting past, but knew it was taboo topic with her. She didn't share many, if any stories from her days as a working actress, she merely shared her knowledge of the craft with him. At times she would share where her influences and learning came from, and the names that she dropped so casually, big, big names, made him stare at her in awe. But she never said their names with any reverence, just brought them up as a point of reference, just as she would when she told him that Mr. Baughman taught her everything about repairing motors in her high school shop class. Actually, now that Nelson thought about it, Sara did speak of Mr. Baughman with bit of an reverent air. Funny.
He arrived wordlessly in front of the excited Jeanette, and she tugged his sleeve and looked in his eyes with a sympathetic smile. "Ready, big guy?"
Chloe ran a hand through her shoulder length red blonde hair to get the bangs out of her eyes. She needed a trim. She was feeling rather ... shaggy. She was sitting near the back of the theatre to make sure that the auditioning students voices carried that far. Every time she leaned a bit forward to check her clipboard, wisps of her bangs trailed down and obscured her view of the sheet in front of her. Damn, this is annoying. She saw a member of Paul's AV. crew walking down the aisle past her.
"Hey buddy, what's your name?"
He stopped in his tracks and said "Larry, Ms. Donahue."
"Hi, Larry. Larry, give me your hat. You aren't supposed to be be wearing hats in the school building. You know that. You can have it back later."
"Aw. Jeez. OK." He lifted off the hat that was perched on his head in the fashionable backwards way and handed it to her.
"Thank you, Larry, you can get it back after the auditions are over." She grinned and then promptly put the cap on her own head, backwards, too, and tucked her straying bangs into the sides of it.
Larry laughed and went on his way down to the stage area.
Jeanette and Nelson entered the theatre and strode down the aisle adjacent to Chloe. Jeanette tugged on Nelson's sleeve to stop him, and Jeanette cleared her throat to get Chloe's attention. Jeanette was in Ms. Donahue's drama club that met every Thursday. Chloe looked up to see Jeanette beaming at her, and saw the handsome tall guy with her, who she mentally identified as Nelson D'Amico, the football quarterback. Jeanette was bubbly and vibrant, an apt pupil and a bit of a ditz, truth be told. But she was a nice girl, not hard to take when she was concentrating and kept on subject. Today, Jeanette's dippy enthusiasm made her the poster girl for blonde jokes everywhere.
"Hi Jeanette." smiled Chloe.
"Hi, Ms. Donahue. You know I'm going to audition for Laurey, right, I think I told you that?"
About a million times. Chloe nodded indulgently.
"Well, this is my friend, well, my boyfriend, well, he
doesn't know that yet" and Jeanette giggled and slapped Nelson on the chest
several times ,
"Nice to meet you, Nelson. You here to cheer your girlfriend on through her audition, just like she cheers you on in your games?" Jeanette was also head cheerleader. Perfect.
Nelson's brain was still spinning about the 'boyfriend' remark. Not like he didn't have enough on his mind today.
"Um, no, I'm actually going here to try out. For Curly. The lead." he said stiffly.
Chloe flipped through a few pages on her clipboard and then found his name.
"There you are. Well, try and relax and have fun with it, OK? You'd better both get down there, we're starting up shortly."
Jeanette bobbed her head excitedly and grabbed Nelson's sweaty palm.
"Thanks Ms. Donahue, and by the way, nice hat!"
Jeanette turned and pulled Nelson down the aisle towards the stage.
Paul appeared on the dimly lit stage, and nearly tripped over some wires that were laying across it.
"LARRY! I thought I told you to move these! Chloe, you out there? Ready to start? " he boomed in voice that he hoped she could hear back in the cheap seats.
"READY!!" shouted Chloe then toned it down a bit. "Let's start with the girls trying out for Laurey, OK? And I will need a stand-in for Curly for her to sing to.... get a volunteer."
A rather short, wide, and apparently star struck 13 year old stagehand came out of the wings and waved his hand in a desperate 'pick me, pick me' kind of gesture.
Paul shook his head and agreed. "OK, buddy, for today, you're Curly. Just stand there to the side of the girls trying out for Laurey and let them sing to you."
Marcy plopped down in the aisle seat directly behind Chloe. "You ready for this, kiddo? I brought a cane with a long hook on it if you need it." Marcy bit the inside of her cheek, and then said casually, "Nice hat."
Chloe whispered loudly without turning around. "My bangs are falling in my eyes, what do you want from me? Now shush, the first one is coming out now."
The lights were dimmed throughout the theatre and the spotlight hit center stage. The faux Curly stood on the edge of it.
A rather tall and skinny redheaded girl entered and stood in the spotlight's circle.
"Moreen Dean. Trying out for Laurey." she mumbled.
Paul recognized Moreen from his fifth period English class. "Moreen. You're going to have to speak up so they can hear you in the back of the theatre. That's where Ms. Donahue is sitting. OK?"
"MOREEN DEAN. TRYING OUT FOR LAUREY."
Chloe and Marcy were quite sure that she could be heard quite clearly even in the school lunchroom, which was at the other end of the building.
Paul directed her to speak her monologue towards the short, plump Curly. Words of flirtation, which, by the look on the young adolescent's face, he never heard from girls in real life. Moreen boomed out her words with such a southern twang attached that Paul thought that maybe she was channeling Scarlett O'Hara.
Right in the middle of Moreen's lines, Marcy leaned forward and whispered into Chloe's ear.
"Hey, didn't she play 'Flo' on 'Alice'? Kiss my grits, Mel!!"
Chloe had to chomp down on her pen to keep from laughing out loud.
Moreen had stopped her recitation and waited. Her pimpled short partner, flushed with silent adoration, motioned to her to lean down so he could whisper in her ear. "That was great, Mo, now knock them dead with the song". She straightened back up, and peered towards the back of the theatre, with a newly resolved glint in her eye.
Paul stepped toward her and said, "That was fine, Moreen, now for the singing part. Make sure and emote, move around a bit when you sing to Curly, so we can see how you move, OK?"
Paul moved off to the side of the stage, and then nodded to the pianist, who struck a few opening notes to "People Will Say We're In Love". He had positioned Moreen, who was a good head and a half taller than the diminutive Curly, in the center of the spot.
Doris Raeburn slipped into the seat next to Marcy. Then leaned forward and said to Chloe, "Who's that?"
Chloe rasped back, irritated with the peanut gallery behind her, "Moreen Dean. Trying out for Laurey"
Marcy said, "Trying is the word for it."
Mrs. Raeburn pointed at Chloe's head and leaned over and said to Marcy. "Nice hat." Marcy bit her lip and nodded in agreement.
The first verse was starting up, and Moreen's voice lifted out over the theatre like the Starship Enterprise entering warp drive. Chloe, Doris and Marcy all unconsciously leaned back in their seats from the sheer force of it. Doris even gripped her armrests tighter.
Doris leaned and spoke directly into Marcy's ear, not sure she could be heard above the din, "She's not singing that song, she's beating the hell out of it!!"
Moreen was standing statue still while in the midst of her singing, and had forgotten Paul's direction to move around during the song.
Paul caught her eye, and made a twirling motion with his hand to jolt her into some movement.
A bell went off in Moreen's head, and she made up for lost time by immediately swinging her arms out, emoting wildly to the lyrics. Her left hand caught the stand-in Curly squarely in the jaw on an upswing, and thus suckerpunched, Curly, knocked senseless, dropped like an oak to the stage floor. Moreen, lost in the moment, and determined to show off her skills at tripping the light fantastic, succeeded only with the tripping part. She landed in a heap on top of the prone Curly. The pianist stopped cold, and the darkened theatre became eerily quiet.
Paul rushed over to them from his spot near the wings and shouted frantically " CURLY ! MO! ......LARRY! come help me!!"
Believing that they had been summoned, Chloe, Doris and Marcy sprinted for the stage.
Sara D'Amico, sporting a ball cap of her own, and sufficiently hidden by the bulk of her big down jacket, had slipped into the theatre unnoticed just as Moreen was starting her lines. She had looked around, and was satisfied that no one had noticed her enter. She slid her tall form into a last aisle seat farthest away from the two women that she barely see in the dark theatre, sitting on the other side near the back. One was a young, short, strawberry blonde in a backwards ball cap, hands busy with a clipboard. Sara figured she must be the director, Ms. Donahue. The woman behind her was a little taller, and stockier, and had hair color of an undeterminable shade. She looked familiar, but it was hard to tell since only light was aimed at the stage area. Sara tried to make her body as small as possible, but she didn't fret long about being discovered, for all eyes were directed toward the stage and the tall red head auditioning for... Laurey? The short guy next to her was supposed to be... Curly?
Sara saw the older woman come in and join the other two women, just as the sonic boom that was masquerading as Moreen's singing voice began to erupt. Sara had the odd sensation that her eyebrows were becoming singed just by the sheer explosiveness of it. She blinked in astonishment. Where was that skinny redhead hiding the lungs that were feeding the power of her vocal cords? Nelson had teased her about her own Ethel Merman like vocal skills, but they paled in comparison to this red haired stick of dynamite that was exploding on the stage. It was too painful to watch and listen at the same time, so Sara closed her eyelids until she felt the girl on-stage was nearing either a powerful climax to the song or self implosion. She opened her eyes again just in time to see the redhead whirling, stage left, and saw the powerful uppercut connect with the small geek standing entranced next to her.
"People will SAY we're ... in ...(Clonk!) ... LoooOOVE!!" (Crash!)
Startled, Sara reflexively clamped her legs together in an all out effort not to pee her pants. She heard the man on stage cryptically call out for the Three Stooges, and at his yell, the ball capped director and her two female friends went stumbling down the aisle towards the stage. Sara felt herself get up, and she quickly but cautiously approached the stage from the other side, keeping her distance. She saw Ms. Donahue somehow vault the not so small orchestra pit at a dead run, and saw her land almost directly in front of the fallen students. The other two females prudently went the long way and up the side steps to the stage. The students from the wings had all clamored out to see what was going on. Most of them hadn't heard the commotion when it happened because they had their hands over their ears, protecting their delicate eardrums from the near AC/DC proportions of Moreen's vocal stylings. Sara stopped just short of the stage, near the front row, and looked to see what was going on.
The brown haired man was helping a dazed Moreen to her feet, and out of the way of Chloe, who was quite worried about the unconscious small Curly. She squeezed his hand, and got no response. She tapped his cheek, and rubbed it softly, and he let out a small moan. The stocky woman with the odd colored hair, who Sara recognized as Dave's friend Marcy, was standing directly behind Curly's head, and hitting numbers into her cell phone, and after talking intensely for a few moments, she hung up. All eyes were on the softly moaning Curly. Everyone was nervously quiet. Paul led Moreen over to a chair on the side of the stage, and went to get her a glass of water, for lack of anything else constructive to do. Curly was becoming more lucid, well, in that his moans were becoming louder, he felt a strong ache at the back of his head, and underneath his jaw. Chloe, in order to get a better idea of his condition, brought her face just inches from his, inspecting him for any signs that he was coming back into touch with the real world. Just as his eyes slid open, and he grasped the fact that a gorgeous, sexy woman was breathing softly on his cheeks, her lips a breath away from his, his vision blurred again, and he blissfully passed out. Chloe, in her confusion at the downward turn of events, was slipping her hand under his neck when...
"STOP! Don't touch him, don't move him!!" Chloe froze her hand and suddenly felt the presence of a blue jeaned, green jacketed creature crouching on the other side of Curly. She saw the red of a ball cap, and long raven hair hanging loosely down, obscuring Chloe's view of the stranger's face. She watched as the stranger's long fingers reached up and felt for a pulse at Curly's neck, and she heard the stranger's relieved sigh as she felt his pulse throb strongly under her finger tips.
"He could have a neck injury, a head injury or something. It's best not to move him at all." Sara said, never raising her head or taking her eyes from Curly's face. "Did someone call for help?"
Marcy, who was still standing at the head of Curly, quickly said, "Yeah, I called 911. They're already on their way. Thank god they're right across the street."
Chloe, intrigued by this stranger, but feeling suddenly useless and stupid, mumbled, "Oh, god, I'm sorry, I knew that. Not to move him. I just wasn't thinking." She looked up to Marcy with sorrow and and embarrassment in her eyes. Chloe sat back on her heels, still crouching. She held onto Curly's right hand, the stranger was holding his left. Just then the mass of students parted, and two volunteer firemen made their way to Curly. Both Chloe and Sara stood up, and backed away, and stood side by side, watching the firemen work. They stabilized his neck with a collar, and eased him onto a stretcher. They lifted him up, and started towards the rear exit of the stage. Chloe and Sara watched mutely as Marcy, Paul, Doris and the students followed them out to the ambulance, all of them shouting encouragement along the way. Chloe and Sara were left on the stage, still strangely lit by only one still spotlight. Chloe still hadn't caught sight of any of the tall woman's face, all she realized was her own wonder at the woman's quiet strength and... height? God she is tall.
Sara turned even farther away, and softly said, "I guess I'd better get going. I hope he'll be OK.", and started to move away.
Chloe, without thinking, grabbed the woman's elbow and blurted, "Wait. I didn't thank you. Thank you. You stopped me from doing something really stupid there. I could have really hurt him."
Sara, hearing the soft, pleading quality in Chloe's voice, stopped her movement away, but did not turn around. The hand tugging at her sleeve released it's tightness, but did not let go.
Chloe, her curiosity peaking, tugged at Sara's elbow again. "I'm Chloe Donahue, the drama teacher here, and the director of this play. Are you a parent of one of the students here?"
Sara had to make a decision, and make it quickly. Either walk away, or talk to this insistent small woman. She took a breath, then decided. With slow determination, she turned, inch by inch, to face the woman who was still hanging on to her sleeve. She glued a grim smile on her face, and turned to meet the eyes that were searching out her own. Their eyes finally met in the stage's deep shadow and locked. Chloe looked into eyes the color of blue that only an artist could imagine. Sara saw green irises the same hue that was was abundant when the earth was new. They blinked, in unison, and never lost their gaze. Small smiles started on the corners of both their mouths, blossoming into larger inexplicable silly grins as they both realized what the other was doing. Which was not looking away. A softly intent curiosity captured them both. Each realized the other was wearing a ball cap, Sara wearing hers in the proper manner, Chloe looking like a teenage home girl in her backwards cap. Chloe had never let go of the tall woman's elbow, and as they searched each other's eyes, felt each other's smiles, Chloe realized that Sara was now holding Chloe's elbow in a return light grasp. They stood just outside of the harsh circle of the spotlight, faces only lit in profile, and both were made breathless by the other's unique beauty.
"Aunt Sara? What're you doing here? " came Nelson's bewildered voice. "How did you get here?" Both women, the moment broken, quickly turned and faced Nelson as he strode into the spotlight and came to a stop in front of them.
"I have my ways, Nelson. I came to see your audition. I wanted to do it on the sly... you know, so I wouldn't embarrass you..."
"Did you meet Ms. Donahue? She's the director. Oh, I guess I told you that." I can't believe she's here!
Chloe noticed how uncomfortable both aunt and nephew seemed to be, and jumped in to rescue what seemed to be an awkward moment. She turned towards Sara, eyes searching for and finding Sara's hand in order to give it a proper shake in greeting. She grasped it and pulled Sara into the spotlight and as she was starting her gaze upward past their hands, up past the tall woman's shoulders, she smilingly said, "And this must be your famous aunt, the mysterious Sara D'Amico." Chloe's eyes traveled up Sara's long regal neck and onto Sara's face, where her gaze froze along with her smile.
A bright red scar, starting at the bottom of Sara's chin, traveled with almost ruler like precision, straight up across the very edge of her lips, onward past an incredibly high cheekbone, stopping at the bottom of her eye and then continuing on above it, splitting, like a part, her arched eyebrow, and then disappearing under long straight cut bangs.
Sara let go of Chloe's hand and said " Yup. That would be me."
Marcy chose that moment to arrive on stage, making an already uncomfortable moment even more grindingly tense. Chloe, thinking that maybe Marcy could help save her from her own awkwardness, quickly stepped to Marcy's side.
"Marcy, I want you to meet Nelson's aunt, Sara D'Amico. This is my best friend, Marcy, she's the art teacher here at the school, and is the art director for the play."
A heartbeat passed when Marcy casually replied , "Sara and I have met. How are you doing, Sara?" What is she doing here?
"Fine, Marcy. Just stopped by to see Nelson here make a fool of himself." she tried to make a joke, failed miserably and felt herself edge out of the spotlight that Chloe had dragged her into to make her 'proper introduction'.
Chloe saw the tall woman retreating and all of a sudden felt an outraged clenching rising in her gut. How had her best friend, Marcy, somehow neglected to tell her she had met the infamous Sara D'Amico, not only met her, but seemed comfortable in her presence, and not at all shocked by her appearance? Somewhere, in her rising anger, she realized that this scarred tall woman needed protecting from peering, uncaring eyes, and she felt with a sudden certainty that she wanted be that protector.
Nelson, being the astute, sensitive young man that all young women fantasize about, but never find, felt that same protective streak when it came to his aunt.
"Aunt Sara? Do you think you could go over my lines with me one more time? We could go to the back of the theatre. We're going to be starting the auditions again soon, right, Ms Donahue? That's what Paul... er ... Mr. Hoderman said."
Sara softly said, "Sure." although her heart was telling her to flee the theatre, right now, just leave, don't ever make the mistake of coming back. But her pride was greater than her fear this day. And she was NOT going to make a fool out of herself in this young woman's eyes. Sara nodded at both Marcy and Chloe, and both weakly smiled back. Aunt and nephew headed towards the side stairs of the stage.
Once they were safely out of earshot, Chloe leveled her barely contained anger and aimed it directly between Marcy's eyes. "Marcy, I need to talk..."
She was interrupted by the return of the students, and Paul and Doris. Paul saw that Chloe was shooting Marcy daggers and looked like she was ready to blow, so he stepped up between them and folded his arms. They both looked at him.
Paul cleared his throat. "Well, the girls think they are jinxed for today, but they want the show to go on, at least for the guys. I thought that was a good idea, and maybe we could continue the audition the girls tomorrow right before the secondary part auditions. That OK with you two?"
Both silently nodded their assent. But Chloe, having to stifle her anger, felt jittery and unfulfilled, and she wanted an outlet for it. Her outlet had always been ... talking. Loudly. So these folks, undeserving as they all were, were going to get an earful from a cranky and still embarrassed Chloe.
"EVERYONE!!" she yelled. The theatre quieted. "I want everyone here to place themselves, quickly, in the front three rows. I have something to say, and I'm going to say it, NOW!!"
Students, teachers and a principal, too, made haste to follow her command. They never were this organized in fire drills. They settled into their seats, and looked expectantly up at the stage, where Chloe, agitated, was pacing back and forth. Even Sara and Nelson, who were in the back corner of the small theatre, acquiesced to the small blonde's demands and stilled themselves.
God, she looks like a caged tiger up there..... Sara watched her interestedly, wiping her sweaty hands on her jeans.
Chloe continued to pace as she glanced at the student's faces. She was relieved to see a hesitantly smiling Moreen looking up at her, a little shaky maybe, but no worse for wear. Chloe's anger faded just a tad to see that Moreen was alright.
A cell phone rang. Mortified that Chloe might toss a stage prop at her, Marcy answered it before the second ring, although she almost gave herself a hernia wrestling it out of her front pocket in her panic. Damn damn damn.
Chloe instead chose to ignore the intrusion and started to speak. Loudly.
"Well, I guess that what happened today could be considered a bad omen for the play, but I chose to believe that the worse has already happened, and things can only get better from here on out, right?" She stopped in mid pace and squinted meaningfully at them all. "I didn't hear you.... RIGHT?"
"RIGHT!" they all roared back. Even Sara.
"GOOD! Mo, here, gave it her all, and I must say, she has bounced back like a trooper. She's displayed remarkable ..." Chloe searched her mind for the right word here, "ENERGY towards her part, and I expect that same energy from all of you, throughout this whole production. Right?
"And just because Curly..." she stopped short again. "What is his real name, anyways? Does anyone know?" She glared at the blank faces seated in front of her.
Paul wracked his brain for an answer before he spoke up "I know that when the firemen were loading him into the ambulance, he woke up and told them his name.... he's from the junior high, he's not one of my regular crew."
There were more murmurings from the front three rows as everyone tried to figure out Curly's real identity. Chloe was getting visibly irritated again at the complete ignorance of everyone, well, almost everyone involved in today's unfortunate incident.
"THIS IS JUST GREAT!!" Chloe fumed at the group seated nervously in front of her. She resumed her pacing.
From the darkness of the rear of the theatre, a deep male voice cleared itself, and said with authority (mostly because his aunt was elbowing him after he quietly told her that he knew who the kid was) " I know his name!!"
Chloe, happy that something was going better, yelled back into the darkness where she knew that Nelson was seated with his aunt, "Don't keep us in suspense, Nelson! What's his name?"
" Charlie!!" said Nelson, hoping his voice was carrying to the stage.
"Charlie? Charlie WHO?" yelled Chloe in impatient frustration.
Nelson responded seriously in his best stage voice, " Charlie... Charlie SHEMP!!"
Sara, seeing the incredulous expression on Chloe's face, once again clamped her knees together, and prayed her thanks to the gods for a strong bladder and silently voiced her desire for the existence of a nearby ladies room.
Chloe sunk cross legged onto the floor into the spotlight. The discovery of the elusive fourth Stooge had left her speechless. She dropped her head in defeat, and took off her hat and laid it aside. She ran her hands across her face, then fluffed her flattened hat -head hair. The front 3 rows were quiet, waiting for her to speak. She could think of nothing to say. Then she heard it, starting low and slow, a steady chortle that expanded into a chuckle that was trying to restrain itself. It was emanating from the rear of the theater where she knew who the source had to be. It was Sara. The laugh stopped for a few moments, then exploded forth, louder and louder, this time unfettered and contagious. Chloe felt her shoulders shaking in response, her own helpless giggle rising up inside of her, and it erased all her tensions and anger. She grinned sheepishly in the direction of the back corner of the theater, and grabbed her hat and stood up, still giggling. The students in the front rows were mesmerized by the laughing figure in front of them, standing in the spotlight, and the mystery laughter coming from a woman behind them, bathed in darkness. Chloe trained her flat out grin in Sara's direction, knowing Sara could see her plainly, but not being able to see Sara at all. She could just hear her. Damn, Chloe could FEEL her back there.
Chloe, holding the ball cap by the bill, slapped it back on her head, this time in the proper fashion.
The front three rows burst into hysterical guffaws, and the deep laughs from the rear of the theater started anew.
Chloe, confused at the new eruption of mirth, pulled the bill of the cap lower over her face and placed her hands on her hips and yelled, perplexed, to the crowd howling in front of her. "NOW WHAT??"
Chloe was woefully unaware that the insignia on the front of the cap read, in bold embroidered letters : PORN STAR.
Sara, in the back row, could take no more.
"Nice hat!" she gasped to Nelson, as she bolted in search of a ladies room.
Continued in Part II