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Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — Dark Carousel VIII

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on December 8, 2017 at 11:07 am

(New? Start here. I’ll have more fun answering questions if you’ve gone to the trouble of reading all that has come before. )

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Saturday, August 3, 1996 – Dark Carousel VIII

Ah, but something strange happens when we go through the door to the women’s dressing room. A quelling, calming, dampening settles over the pretty hag for whom I once had le boner debonair. I can see it in her face: she wants to inflict, to spiritually maim, but she cannot. She glances from side to side, casting about for some culprit, some target upon whom to unleash her carcinogenic petulance.

Dissipation is the best word to describe what happens to her energy. Even my tether is weakened, and, following a hunch, I step outside the women’s dressing room to inspect the door frame.

Sure enough: at every corner of the door, a coin affixed so long ago that multiple layers of paint have smoothed it to the point of near-invisibility. Yet I can see, from each coin, a line of white light connecting one to the other and all converging on the central point on the door. I look at the door itself and there, beneath decades of paint, a similar coin. All the lines of white light connect to it, but also to the invisible spot where it would be if the door were closed.

I lean in toward the coin on the door, and I smell Cloves, Cinnamon, Rosemary, Orris Root – someone is dressing this quincunx regularly. This is a powerful, protective enchantment: it filters negativity. I want to inspect it further, ascertain the nature of the coin: silver “Mercury” dime? Buffalo Nickel? Wreathed Lincoln? Something whisks me into the room, though.

To my eternal delight, there are some naked titties here and there. I won’t go into detail. It was a different time. And that’s not what pulled me in; Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit is at her station, in front of the makeup mirror, just staring into her reflection. For a moment, I think it’s she who pulled me in. But then I hear, from outside the window:

“Mama! Mama!” I glance up and there’s the little girl, her eyes still missing, looking in the window. “He’s looking at all the naked ladies! He better not stay too long, Mama! He’s got something snakey following his every tiptoe.”

I want to ask this eyeless ghost child some questions, but time shifts: costumes have changed and I hear the cues for the Act I Finale: Wells Fargo Wagon. I’ve missed an entire act, but that doesn’t matter.

I follow Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit out of the women’s dressing room and darkness blossoms around her like sharp and addictive peacock plumage. She’s heading to the upstage crossover. In the shadows there, she kicks a box.

I hear a horse whinny stage left. Not a happy whinny, either.

Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit kicks the box again and the horse offstage left screams. I hear men’s voices raised in alarm as I follow her further stage left and she sees the horse being led out of the scene shop. It sees her, too, and tries to retreat. Eyes wild, rearing up. Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit smiles and waves at it, then crosses right to make her entrance from that side of the stage.

Some of the people smile at her. Most avoid eye contact, inspecting walls. One older lady makes the sign to ward off the Evil Eye, and Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit turns immediately in another direction.

“Mama! He doesn’t understand love at all!” I follow the voice and, standing at the top of the stage right stairs that lead to the roof of the theatre is that ghost child in her church couture. Her scowl is more disturbing for the lack of eyes.

fwap!

I’m back in my seat, Wells Fargo Wagon is reaching its surprisingly operatic climax and the flats upstage center open, the horse pulling the Wells Fargo Wagon onto the stage.

Except the horse freaks out: rearing, hoofs flailing, it cracks the skull of the youngest Shinn girl.

Kicking, it shatters the face of the curvy ensemble lady who only wanted some cake.

Biting, it takes a chunk from the face of Widow Paroo. The audience, screaming, flocks for the exits. Children’s bones are shattered under the feet of their own families. Fire springs up in the set. Actors are trapped.

Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit holds her hand close to some flame, like a sleepy Girl Scout toasting a marshmallow.

“Mama! He’s got all twisted!” I glance to my right and there’s the eyeless ghost child.

“What’s your name?” I say.

“Mary,” she says. “And Mama says you’re a damn fool if you think you can stop this. The book must be fed!

Her voice echoes over the amphitheatre, and every mother in the place falls sobbing to her knees.

fwap!

I’m backstage again, with Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit. She goes to kick that box –

And the box is moved. By an old man in a black coat, with a full white beard and crazy white hair. He says, “But when I am I to get back home, I’m sure I cannot tell, sir: I haven’t half the chance to get back there, that I have to go to hell, sir.”

Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit falls back to land on her ass, then scrambles away – back the way she came, to her proper stage right entrance. I glance back toward the old man.

He’s gone.

Who the hell was that?

Ghost Child Mary is no longer at the top of the stairs.

The music reaches its climactic –

fwap!

I’m in my seat and the horse enters.

I rears, the audience gasps.

The horse is controlled. Nobody is injured.

I train my binoculars on Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit.

Her golden eyes are staring directly at me. Bright and sharp, like coins polished on demonic labia.

Mama says you better listen to Weedbeard,” a voice whispers from my left.

I smile.

Thank you, Mary,” I say.

I lower the binoculars and I’m falling forward, the floor crashing through the ceiling – only, backward – with a morphine nausea. Except it’s fading.

I’m lying on my back. Judy and Weedbeard are standing over me.

Holy shit,” I say.

We should never have hired you,” says Judy.

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Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — Dark Carousel VII

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on December 7, 2017 at 11:16 am

(Start here if this is your first time reading this series. This story is told in order, and believe it or not, the narrative works better that way. )

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Saturday, August 3, 1996 – Dark Carousel VII

Dandelion umbrels swirl down around me again and I float to my left, my feet setting gently down on the asphalt near the stage door.

Elsa, Scott and Billy “Squirt” Seltzer are all there, Billy still looking at me all moon-eyed. Scott is disdainful, Elsa is pretending to be exasperated with me – but she watches closely. I can feel her concern.

We’re waiting for Ken Ross. I’m watching the stage door. A couple, a man and a woman, stand nearby, talking. The man has his back to me. It takes a moment before I realize he’s talking to me:

“Edward. Do you hear me? Edward. Clear your throat if you hear me.”

It’s Weedbeard! I clear my throat.

Good. We lost you for a moment, there. Which means someone or something is bending this memory. Which shouldn’t be possible. Edward. There’s a chance she might approach you. Do. Not. Let. Her. Touch. You. Cough if you understand.”

I cough.

Elsa says, “You allergic to waiting?” She looks at Scott, “Me, too.”

Mama! Mama?!” I whirl at the sound, and stumbling down the redwood path from the box office to the stage door is a little black girl, nicely dressed, maybe seven years old. She’s got a teddy bear clutched to her. She’s mostly in shadow, fog enveloping her every step. Turning to look back the way she came, she stops. The back of her head illuminated, her hair in neat pigtails.

I think, She’s dressed for church. In 1960.

She turns, her face in a shaft of foggy light. Her eyes are empty holes.

“Mama says you better not stay here, Mister,” she says.

I want to look behind me. Is this a prank? Before I can turn, a hand grasps my shoulder. I look to my left. Weedbeard of 1996 still has his back to me, but from the back of his head – from within mostly dark but thinning hair – his current face pushes through. He’s bellowing words that sound like, “Ringeable! Dingeable! Scringeable!” He’s staring at my hands.

I look at his arms; they’re bent all wrong, reaching for me. I take both of his hands and —

fwap!

I’m back in my seat, binoculars glued to my face, but rather than a field in the moonlight, I’m pulled through the binoculars and –

— fwap!

I’m right next to Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit, on the stage, as she’s exiting during Iowa Stubborn. I follow her like we’re tethered. As she walks offstage, she pulls a ribbon knotting some aspect of Zaneeta’s younger sister’s costume in place. The little girl playing the youngest Shinn trips and falls, gouging her knee and bleeding badly, surrounded by concerned adults.

I see Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit’s face as she proceeds offstage: calm, smiling, secure.

I also see Judy seeing the whole thing; Judy turning to look at someone else, someone off in the shadows …

Louella! She of the Aughra-like features and less-charming personality. Her expression is passive; she might have been watching a freight train pass, her thoughts elsewhere. But Judy tilts her head and Louella gives the barest of bare shrugs: left shoulder only.

Judy shakes her head, moving in to speak to Louella.

I want to stay and hear what they say, but I’m tethered to the fiend I used to date, and she’s on the breezeway. I zip after her, and apparently she’s had some meaty garlic dishes of late, because she’s let fly some farts of truly epic stench. A couple of handsome young men are whispering intimately near one of the columns. Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit stops to stare at them.

“What?” one of them says. I recognize Tommy Djilas.

“I would never judge you,” she says, all sincerity. “I would never.”

Something in her words sends ice up my spine. The boys separate. Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit continues toward the women’s dressing room. I hear the boys coughing and gagging behind us from her assreek.

There’s a curvy ensemble member standing near a cake on the desk outside Harriet’s office. She’s lifting a bite to her mouth. Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit smiles huge and, laughing, says, “I love how free you are! Nobody needs consequences anyway! Does your husband call these days?”

The woman’s face crumples. She sets down the cake and Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit walks into the women’s dressing room – where I expect to see her wreak havoc among the ladies, spreading seeds of negativity that will grow into bitter fruit from the thorniest vines.

I’m plagued with sudden dismay: How did I never see this aspect of her when we were dating? Why did I have no memory of her golden eyes before tonight? Close on the heels of this thought comes a deeper, more alarming concern: What else have I done that I’ve forgotten?

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — Dark Carousel VI

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on December 6, 2017 at 11:43 am

(Reader! Are you new? Welcome! Guess what? Start here. It will be a lot more satisfying.)
Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 12, 2001 – Dark Carousel VI

The row in front of us turns to shush and scowl at me.

“Pervert,” Elsa murmurs.

No, I’m talking about her eyes. Just her eyes. They were golden. As in, shining and golden,” I whisper. “I can’t believe you didn’t see it.”

“No doubt you want to go talk to her afterwards,” Scott murmurs, scratching the back of his neck with languid fingers.

“I’m pretty sure I don’t,” I say. And it’s the solid gold truth.

Dandelion umbrels swirl down around me and then clear away, we’ve moved forward in time and Billy Seltzer has moved to sit to my left, in a section of seats vacated by grandparents upset at my language. Billy Seltzer is trying to hold my hand. Her palms and fleshy and wet. It’s odd. I’m not comfortable with it. She won’t stop trying to hold my hand. How do I ask her to stop without causing an international incident?

It’s the scene after “76 Trombones” — Zaneeta enters with her friends. I raise the binoculars, glad of the escape from Billy “Squirt” Seltzer’s clammy palm shenanigans. I zoom in on Zaneeta again. Harold Hill is telling Tommy Djilas to escort her to the library. She smiles. Right at me.

Her eyes turn golden.

I can’t look anywhere else. They are huge and bright and I’m very sleepy now. I’m ready to go to sleep forever. Her eyes are filling the binoculars with light. I hear a voice … is it singing? … or screaming … and her eyes are inside of me. I can feel it, they’ve passed through my own eyeballs and are in my brain. Which is where they were supposed to be, I realize. This is where they belonged all along.

I open my eyes. I’m lying on my back in grass, outside, at night. The only light comes from a gibbous moon. It’s cold. I sit up. I’m in a large field. There’s a structure of some kind nearby, and thick tule fog wreathes the field with its eldritch creep.

Taking off my glasses to mop the fog from them with my shirt, I realize I’ve been here before. Right? It feels familiar.

There’s a sound behind me, like a group of people running in unison over the field. I turn around, standing up. Tule fog eddies around me, settling as I stand surveying the field and the surrounding trees.

There’s nothing there.

From behind me, echoing in the darkness, I hear, “Mama! Mama!

For an instant, I’m frozen in fear. Until I realize it’s the sound of an actual child calling for her mother. Unthinking, I run in that direction.

“Edward!” Elsa slaps me on the back of the head, cold water shocking me to awareness. I feel the binoculars slam into my chest, their plastic strap pulling hard at my neck.

The show is over. The seats are almost entirely empty. Scott is still shaking the last of a water bottle over my head, saying, “The Lord commands you: awake!”

“Fuck, did I fall asleep?” I say.

“No, asshole, you sat there like a pervy peeping tom, binocularizing the hotties in the show all night,” Elsa says.

“Actually, he didn’t move,” Scott says. “So … points for commitment.” He’s languid at his neck again.

“I don’t remember anything,” I say.

“Sure you don’t,” Elsa says.

I look at Billy Seltzer. She looks scared and upset. Oh fuck, she’s mad I didn’t hold her hand, I think, until I follow her gaze.

There are about ten other places in the amphitheatre where people are sitting up, binoculars stuck to their faces, surrounded by their family or some ushers. Each one is stock still, unresponsive.

Elsa looks where I’m looking. So does Scott.

“Um … creepy. Is this one of your long-form pranks, Edward?” Elsa is trying to sound nonchalant.

“Let’s go see Ken,” I say.

It’s an unseasonably warm night. But as I stand, I’m shivering like I’ve got a fever.

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — C&R X

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on October 12, 2017 at 11:54 am

(Sometimes you are dusty. Let these mummified hands brush you clean. Listen to their first insidious whispers here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 21 2017 – C&R X

As he braces himself to fire,Weedbeard’s right bootheel touches a small patch of the insect grool and is burned away on the right side. He doesn’t notice, racking a fresh charge with a lever on the underside of the shotgun as he shouts, “Rocksalt, Fatherfucker!” The second blast is a dull roar; my ears are still ringing from the first.

The blast of salt tears through the baby doll, its larval plorper and the rotting hand, burning chunks splattered backwards onto Dolly Lurker’s porcelain skin – which now cracks, like actual porcelain. Dolly Lurker is gnashing its giant flapping shutter trapdoor teeth, breaking spider legs with juicy, meaty chunkings; the arm of the rotting hand holding the nightmare baby doll jutting off at an odd, jaunty angle like FDR’s cigarette holder. We have nothing to fear but a giant mouthful of spider legs! This thought is all mine, and it’s a relief to not hear others in there.

Weedbeard racks a third charge with the lever – I look over: this is a revolving shotgun. I say, “Fucking rad!” – but I’m drowned out as Weedbeard bellows, “Thrice-blessed by Rabbis, Priests and Pagan Conjurers! Smoked in the Smokey Smoke of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme!”

As he says those last five words, ancient harmony wells up around us: thousands of monks, angelic choirs, every hippie who ever lived? Whoever it is, there is a moment of soul-wrenching beauty as that harmony coalesces around Weedbeard. He fires the shotgun on the button of the musical phrase.

There is a strange stillness to the blast – the salt crystals meet a barrier in the air for an instant, but the words Smokey-Smoke appear in the air, in a circle, around the blast. Is this the smoke of the blast, or the smoke in which the salt was smokey-smoked? I don’t know. But it puffs out into those words and then is sucked into every shard of salt – and the barrier is broken.

Dolly Lurker is blasted back against the wall, shrinking, two hands reaching up to hold its cracking face together, spider legs scrabbling at odd angles for purchase on anything. One of them is caught on the doorjamb of this upper door and rips out, falling to the floor with a clatter. Weedbeard has racked a fourth charge and blasts the leg away from the door; it shatters, but even the shards twitch and jumble about. I have a feeling that they’d slice anyone they could reach right now.

“Ma-MA! Ma-MAAaaughlghghghllllrrrrrghhhhh … ” Dolly Lurker sounds like it’s back down at the bottom of the stairs. I’m standing – when did that happen? – and I move toward the door to look.

Judy and Weedbeard both grab my arms and pull me back. I’m fighting them. Why?

“You heard the voice, didn’t you, Edward?” Judy says.

“It’s got a deeper hold on you that it would if you’d never heard it,” Weedbeard says.

They’re strong, but I’m determined to look through that door. I’m dragging them toward the opening. It looks innocuous. Just a doorway. I say, “How do I tell you both to fuck off but in a very respectful way?”

Weedbeard steps in front of me, grabbing me by the shoulders. I’m able to push him toward the door. I’m not usually this strong. “This is why I told you the memory was unsafe!” he says. “This doorway is warded and therefore acts like a portal – memories are malleable and can be changed here! You passed out when Alan fell, you didn’t see all of this. You need to step back to your present before you alter this leaf of time!”

But I’m pushing him. We’re almost at the door. I’m winning.

It feels so good!

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — C&R VII

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on October 9, 2017 at 11:43 am

(Applebee’s sucks. In your heart of hearts, you know it’s the Fuller House of chain restaurants. If you love both of those things, you probably won’t like this story. If you loathe both of those things, you’re in the right place. Start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 21 2017 – C&R VII

Lanky dark hair just beyond the doorjamb moves in a breeze I can’t feel. I see it now: an eye. Golden iris, pupil far too large. Locked onto me. Skin porcelain white. A gigantic, goofy grin, with way too many huge square teeth. The expression in that one eye: towering, giddy, ravenous rage. A clear thought forms in my head, the entire sentence sounding inside my cranium as though spoken, It wants us dead, and it wants to be the deadening.

Then another voice speaks in my head, shadows of terrified screaming beneath every vowel; my ears itch inside as it slithers around in my brain, unlocking every worst memory, breathing fresh fuel into every fear and insecurity:

No, no, no, no, no, my tasty, I am the deadening. Oh my, oh my, oh my, yes. I am the deadening. I am the deadening.

I shake my head against its slithering brain eggs; the nodule and sporangia all shift to focus on me with wet squish and plorpings. I’m trying to ignore the whirlwind of bad memories in my mind.

No, no, no, no, no, my tasty — all of the things. You remember all of the things. They are your esssssssence. Why try? You are that rejected ring. You are the miscarried child. 

Weedbeard says, “Alan, now!”

I can see outside the door, at last: Judy is there, and now there’s a face to the voice of Alan – it’s Obi-Wan-point-five! He’s throwing a Crown Royal bag full of something that isn’t a bottle to Weedbeard, who catches it without looking, eyes on the nodule. Obi-Wan-point-five is covered in oil. Judy is upending a box of kosher salt over his head, then pouring on more — olive? — oil. There’s another box of kosher salt nearby. I want to make a joke about savory sex, but I’m afraid to speak, and the voice in my head won’t stop:

You are the broken heart, abandoned promises, mistaken love, foolish indiscretion, erotic obsession, shameful indulgences, every dark and bad thing you work so hard to hide is why you should give up.

The nodule and sporangia shift back to Weedbeard – shphleurk-pop-pop-pop! – when he catches the bag, but I can’t stop shaking my head – I can feel it moving in there! – and they shift back to me, the frond fluffing to cover the ceiling and come halfway down the walls. It sounds, I realize, like a tom turkey puffing up his feathers. This strikes me as funny, until the nodule presses against the skin surrounding it, stretching the skin thin enough that it looks like the nodule will break through.

My tasty, when you tell this story, others will come looking for me, and oh how I want to be found.

It’s the face of a turkey. If a turkey was part vulture and part newborn baby. Grinning, with wriggling tongues for teeth, its eyes crudely-chopped mismatched triangles like a psychopathic jack-o-lantern. There’s a flickering light inside, casting horrid little shadows on the inside of its skull. It’s the light of a candle made from human tallow. How do I know that?

I am the one standing at the foot of your bed, that’s how.

Weedbeard is muttering something over the open Crown Royal bag, moving his hand in a pattern as he does so. The turkeybaby is getting closer to my face, the sporangia growing darker, like they’re engorged with blood.

I am in your closet, watching you sleep. Sucking at your dreams.

“You’ve got one chance, Edward,” Judy says, all calm business, tearing open and dumping the next box of kosher salt on Obi-Wan-point-five, “But you’ve got to shut your eyes. Trust me. Shut your eyes, and when I say NOW, you turn and reach out your left hand. We’ll try to get you in time. Edward? Shut your eyes.”

Mine are the grabbing hands waiting under your bed, reaching up to touch you.

I do as she says, shutting my eyes. Something warm and wet gloms onto my face, wrapping my head in flesh, clogging my nose, sealing my mouth shut. I try to breathe, to scream. I can’t!

I use your mouth to spill my seed in your lungs. Hold real still. Hold
real still. Hold real still.

“Edward, listen to me,” Judy says, her voice still low and calm. “It’s making you think you’re suffocating, but you’re not. And if you open them again, it’s going to breathe those spores right into your eyes and you will be lost to us forever, with no memory of any of this. Be ready, Edward; to your right, with your left hand. Trust me, you’re breathing. Just trust – NOW!”

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — C&R V

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on October 3, 2017 at 12:06 pm

(You’ve maybe clicked on this because I’m bugging you to read it, but you don’t know where to begin. Hint: start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July 2017 – C&R V

Beneath this last letter is most of a neatly-penned page from a journal:

May 10, 1952

Bess and I snuck out last night. The moon is so bright! We brought flashlights, but we didn’t need them. And by God, if she didn’t bring a damned pitchfork! I snorted so loud when I saw that thing, I think I may have inhaled a firefly.
We had all sorts of plans: walk to MVC, egg Sadie Ballard’s house, dance an actual quadrille. I liked that one until Bess pointed out that requires at least eight people. She’s a good dancer. She knows this stuff. So instead of all that, we climbed up into Georgie’s tree fort and smoked cigarettes.
It was so exciting and dangerous. Bess said, “Do you think Holly Granger was this excited when she ran away?”
I said, “I’m not sure. Because of her dad.”
Do you think anyone told the police – ?” Bess was saying, but she stopped. “Do you hear that?”
Hear what?”
That sound. Listen.” Bess gets annoyed with me when I ask questions sometimes.
I don’t hear anything – ”
Shh!” she said, “It’s like … sleigh bells.”
I was going to say something about Santa and the Nice List, but I just listened instead.
I hear it,” I said, “It does, it sounds like … ”
Jingles,” she said.
That’s when something

The page is torn and burned at that point.

I set it down, looking at Weedbeard. He sees the question in my eyes.

“Yes, I think that may be the first appearance of our enthusiastic passenger from earlier tonight,” he says.

“I have a fuckload of questions,” I say.

“Have some more of that cheese,” he says.

I take another bite of the cheese, which I’ve been quietly avoiding since the strange vision that came with the first piece.

I see pools of light illuminating statues and ancient reliquary in what looks like a Victorian museum of antiquities. An older man, professorial in a three piece suit, is gasping as he struggles to pour a circle of salt around an ancient, sealed funerary urn on a marble pedestal. He mutters under his breath, words that sound like, “Mae Mirthin in chenouk hen galen thon, Protego! Servo! Praemunio!” A crash of shattered ceramic from the darkness behind him, and he freezes. A guttural chuckle rolls from the shadows. All color drains from the professor’s face as he falls to his knees.

The vision recedes and I reach for my tea. “What the hell is in that cheese?”

“It’s not so much what’s in the cheese, as it is what’s in you. The nature of the Mont Perdu Abbey and all it produces is to draw from within us that which is hidden, lost or obscured. It seems to me you might have some … lostness. Is there anything you need to find?”

“I lost time,” I say, before realizing I’ve spoken aloud. I eat a third piece of cheese.

“When and where?” Weedbeard says.

“Backstage at the theatre,” I say.

Weedbeard’s eyes widen, he leans forward: “Wait!” he says, “That memory isn’t safe!”

His voice echoes, fading down a long tunnel, blending with another sound until I’m standing somewhere familiar. I don’t just see it; I’m here. There are two or three mannequins. Boxes labeled GARLANDS and BANNERS. My cell phone light is on. I’m at the top of a set of dusty red concrete steps. They lead down to an open steel door. And from the inky darkness beyond,

“Ma-MA … Ma-MA …”

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Seven — Voice Memo IV

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on September 13, 2017 at 12:32 pm

(You, like me, are a geek. Timelines matter: start here.)

Day Seven: Tuesday, 25 July 2017 – Voice Memo IV

[Sound: rusted steel doorknob rattling, stuck.]

Edward: It’s locked. Fuck. Okay, moving along the wall …

Where was I? Pyramid, chanting … right. So I was listening to the chanting, standing up, getting ready to jump out and scare them. Because it would be fun to scare Burton Thomas. I think he’d enjoy it, actually. He’s that kid, at your 8th birthday party, the one who brought a VHS tape of Faces Of Death. Tells your mom it’s a comedy.

Anyway, I’m standing there and a leaf goes up my nose. I snort it out, shake my head, rub my nose.

The chanting stops. Someone says, “What was that?” Sounded like Weedbeard. That would be fucking weird.

[Sound: footsteps on concrete, occasional crunching leaves.]

… Another corner … and … a tree near the wall … and more trees, feels like … Redwood. Growing right against the wall. Listening …

[Sound: wind in the trees, Edward breathing. Forest, night. Nothing else.]

Okay, I’m waiting here for a minute. These trees make me feel safe. And I need to record this. Phone’s at 8%. So … I was breathing in to jump out at them. The leaf goes up my nose again. I smack the branch away.

It’s solid. Meaty.

It’s an arm. I think it’s Burton, because Burton would stick a leaf up your nose in the dark.

I turn to my right and there’s a face. Bone white. Grinning at me. It says, “Yeuhls-yeuhls-yeuhls-yeuhls-yeuhls-yeuhls-yeuhlssssssssss …” Rocking side to side, moving closer. Hands in white gloves. Squeezing my shoulder. Puffy, striped sleeves. I think, I swear I saw … a ruff around its neck? Like, an Elizabethan ruff. Or lace?

[Sound: whispering from the right, then, barely audible, a jingle.]

Okay, moving along. Away from the trees … feels like metal … another door, wait …

[Sound: pulling, turning knob that doesn’t want to move.
Whispering moves closer, jingles are louder.]

Double doors. Also locked. Moving on … the ground is sloping and the wall is curving outward. I’m following …

[Sound: from the right, jinlging and high-pitched giggles.
From the left, overlapping: Ma-MA! Ma-MAAAAaaaaaa … !]

Voice: I am silent when I need;
Sneaky-sneaky, peeky-peeky!
Thickly do you think you’ll bleed?
Reeky-creeky, cockie-leeky!

Edward: What the holy fucknuggets?

[Sound: from the right, jinlging – much closer, overlapped with keening screech laughs.
From the left, louder than before, closer, angry: Ma-MA! Ma- MAAeurghghgllllllphhhmmmmmnnn … !]

Voice: Some are here who should be not!
Interloper! Dolly groper!
I will bite you, like as not …
Filthy roper. Secret doper …

Edward: There are two of them. (A shout, surprised:) Fuck!

[Sound: huge splash, phone submerged; when it comes up, sound is garbled and watery; we hear gasping, coughing and retching.]

Jesus! … Christ, I’m … I’m in … disgusting water. It’s all goopy and full of algae. I’ve got … chunks in my mouth …

[Sound: more coughing, hacking, retching.]

Fuck. Is my phone still working?

Wait … goopy water, curved walls …

[Sound: wet hands smacking concrete, water sloshing.]

I think … I’m at the theatre. In the fountains … that means the parking lot’s …

Voice: I can hear you in the dark.
Secret noser, red-red-roser …
You will not escape this park,
I’m the poser, moving closer …

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Seven — Voice Memo II

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on August 30, 2017 at 11:52 am

(This blog is a gateway drug: start here.)

Day Seven: Tuesday, 25 July 2017 – Voice Memo II

[Sound: fumbling thud and scrabble, a muffled curse; footsteps on gravel, panting, more fumbling]

I dropped my phone. I’m … trying to catch my breath. I’ve been running. I threw a pot out a side window of the shed; that thing, whatever it is, went lurching off in the direction of the impact and I bolted from the shed but it’s dark. In the movies, there’s always ambient light in the forest. There’s no fucking ambient anything. Except darkness. I’m completely turned around.

[Sound: in the distance, Ma-MA! Ma-MAAaaaaa … !]

Okay, there’s there’s maybe a sliver of a moon tonight. Marginally helpful. I see a building ahead, I’m heading for it. I don’t have enough battery to keep this going for long.

I was talking about the pyramid. I found it on a map of the park, it seemed like an easy walk. I drove my car to the lot closest to that spot, parked, and took the right fork; according to the map, I thought it would take me to the pyramid.

[Sound: footsteps on gravel, the night breeze.]

Wait … the thing has been quiet a while. I think it’s quiet when it travels. So fucking dark. I can’t risk the flashlight on my phone.

[Sound: Ma-MAAAAAaaaaa!, far away.]

I’m not sure it’s Dolly Lurker. But it fucking sounds like Dolly Lurker. At least … I mean, after I ran away. Not at first. At first it just giggled.

I saw its face.

All white.

Like the mask.

Wait, there’s a gate here, near this building. Chain link … locked. Fuck. Okay. Okay. Up the hill to my left, trees. Probably poison oak, too, so … down the hill. Next to this building, there’s a trail. Right against the side of the building. Okay. I need to rest, I’m sitting down with my back to this wall. Nothing can sneak up on me here.

[Sound: Edward panting, but in the distance, jingles]

Oh shit.

[Sound: jingles, louder.]

It’s the other one.

[Sound: high-pitched giggling]

Time to go.

Woodminster: South Pacific — A Day Off

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on August 28, 2017 at 11:52 am

(All the cool kids are doing it: start here.)

Day Off: Monday, 24 July 2017

A day off for actors – must be fun, right?

You’d think so. We spend our lives putting on pretty costumes and gallivanting about for applause, some of us actually get paid for it, and then on our days off we go to the seaside and eat fried fishes and bonbons. Right? Life is easy for the actor, all she has to do is learn her lines and be on time. Of course. It’s not like we have three or more other jobs we work to make ends meet. It’s not as though we’re up until 2 am cramming lines so we can drive for Lyft in the morning before heading to an audition that might get us work, but will take three hours from our day. It’s not possible that, in our mid-forties, we’re still being pressured by our family to be a Chiropractor [nurse, dentist, lawyer, brain surgeon, insert pressure here] as well as (read instead of) an actor. Despite prowess. Despite awards. Despite whatever successes may arise.

My day off:

Start a load of laundry. Make the bed. Sweep, vacuum, then mop the house (hardwood floors collect dog hair like I collect random bits of paper).
Laundry into dryer, start second load. Dishes haven’t been done in a week. I’ve seen larger kitchens on sailboats. There’s a stock pot full of rotwater in the sink, several frying pans as well. Start by taking all the dishes, silverware and cups/glasses out of the sink and organizing them on the counter. This actually makes processing them much easier in the long run. For me. (Not your style? You can do my dishes any way you want.) Now that the small things are out of the sink, start on the large things.
Ah, but they’ll need a spot to dry. Push the dishes on the counter over, clean up that wine glass I’ve broken because I wasn’t careful enough, lay paper towels down and cover them with a large, dry, clean dish cloth.
Now start with the washing.
Ah, but I’m out of dish soap.
Okay. Check the bathroom.
Out of toilet paper.
What was I doing in here?
There’s the scale. How much do I weigh? 193? I was 187 last week. What did I eat? I can’t remember.
Is that a zit? Ouch. That needs to cook a while before I can get it. Try again. HOLY FUCK THAT HURTS. Okay, tea tree oil and time. I’ll get you, my pus-laden friend.
I want some coffee. Is there coffee in the kitchen?
Oh, shit. The dishes. What was I … ?
Soap! Right. Check the bathroom.
There’s … shampoo. And shower gel. Both from Trader Joe’s. Probably safe? Hmmm. Let’s give it a try.
Ah, where’s the scrubby sponge? Look under kitchen sink …
Dish soap! Holy crap. Should have looked here first. What else is under here?
Mold and mildew spray, never been used. I consider the shower, I read the label: USE IN PROPERLY VENTILATED AREA. I don’t want to pass out while I’m doing dishes. I put it back. What else do we have? Borax. Hardwood floor cleaner, unopened. A variety of spray bottles, all repurposed, with their indelibly-inked new uses crossed out like the tattoos I want on my arms for this show. How long ago did I refill each of these, and with what? Most of the labels are warped, peeling, illegible. I should open one up and pour some out to see what’s in it.
BUZZ – dryer is done. Downstairs to the basement, check the load. 80 minutes on high and it’s still wet. Okay. Reset, head upstairs.
Mailman delivers package.
Open door, take Maxwell outside. Good Lord, it’s hot. How is he so energetic in this heat? It must be 105 degrees out here. Package isn’t for me, it’s for my landlord/neighbor. Drop it off at their front door. Make the circuit with Maxwell, because he likes to migrate with his pack.
The chickens – not my chickens, my landlord/neighbor’s chickens – are literally screaming, fighting each other for my attention, trying to push their way through the wire of the coop. Their water is murky and their food is empty. I feed them, I rinse out their water thing and it refills because gravity and technology. I have chicken shit all over my slippers. I’m still in my pajamas. I leave them inside their coop because if I let them out, they will further destroy flowers and herbs in my garden. Where the hell is Maxwell?
I find him reclining in the relatively cool grass, in the shade of an arbor. He does not want to come inside. I take off my shirt to try to get some color on my pale pudge. Billis is supposed to be brown from the sun. No real time for that, but a little color wouldn’t hurt. I turn on the hose to do some watering. I’ll just water a little. I had no idea how thirsty my Mr. Lincoln was.
45 minutes later, I’m done watering. A little dizzy from the heat. Maxwell went inside long ago. I head in.
My house is dark, but the cool of the morning is almost gone, now. It’s very warm.
Fuck. The kitchen.
BUZZ – check the dryer. Still damp. Check the lint trap. A little lint. Not a lot. I cleaned it before I started this load. That’s something. Restart the dryer. Hang load in washer on lines in basement and start a new load … ? No, dishes.
Still a little dizzy from the heat. Maybe have some water. Yeah, sit down. Have some water. Check my phone.
An hour and a half later, I wonder if I turned of the water. I dash outside. I did! Yay. Back inside.
Fuck. The kitchen.

And that’s how it goes. Because there’s never time to do all of this stuff during the rest of the week, it piles up until it’s near insurmountable.

What did I intend to do with my day? Work on my lines. And I do run them via recording while I’m washing the dishes, which takes about two hours total – pots, pans, then a load of dishes. While that’s running, a second load rinsed and ready to load. But it’s not the same as sitting down with my script for several hours and working with the words right in front of me. When the second load of dishes is in the machine, I realize my clothes are wet from the sink.

I’m still wearing my pajamas.

I shower. No need to shave, not for Billis.

I look at the clock as I’m pulling my boots on. It’s 3 pm. Where did my day go?

The floors are clean, but you can’t tell because of my clutter. The bed is made, but it’s overshadowed by the avalanche of crap on my desk. The dishes are done, but the counter is still somehow a wreck. Looking at it, all I want to do is go to sleep.

I sit down with my cold coffee from the microwave.

Left low back and leg really hurt.

I open my eyes at 7 pm when Max nudges me. His tail is wagging. It’s dinner time. The house is hot and stuffy. What was I doing? Was there something I forgot to do? I should work on my lines.

I open the door to the deck and put a fan in front of it, on low. It will blow coolish air into the living room. Around 3 am, it might be 67 degrees outside. Which is better than 108, the high in Livermore today. I feed Max and sit down with my script. I’m hungry, but the kitchen is clean and I don’t want to cook. Trail mix, I tell myself, is a suitable substitute. I’m trying to focus on my lines, but I’m exhausted. I feel like I’ve failed today. Netflix beckons. The Marvel Universe has untold secrets, calling to me. I need a break. I need to relax. I can work on my lines tomorrow.

This is my day off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fuck. The laundry.

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Six — Rehearsal

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on August 23, 2017 at 11:59 am

(Did the cool kids mock you again? Craving validation? Start here.)

Day Six, Rehearsal: Sunday, 23 July 2017

The Hardy Boys had it easy.

Their dad was a detective. They had their chum Chet with his jalopy. They lacked any libidinous impulses whatsoever, so they never walked into a piece of scenery because they were staring at a dancer’s ass during rehearsal.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I asked my server if anyone had given her the note, and she seemed genuine in her bafflement. I looked around at everyone in the restaurant, recognizing none of them and seeing no furtive skulkery or subtle chicanery. I looked so long that some people began to get uncomfortable. I’m told I have a penetrating gaze. But I haven’t done that since college.

I headed for Woodminster, vigilant in scanning my surroundings for lurkers and observers. I saw nothing out of the ordinary.

Rehearsal began for me at 12 pm with the staging of Honey Bun. I fell off the platform, landing hard on my left leg and then my right ass cheek – kind of rocking backward onto another, perpendicular platform. This is what happens when Edward tries to learn a dance step that doesn’t belong to him. Foolish Edward, attempting the Sailor’s Hornpipe. Which sounds dirtier than it is. Speaking of getting ahead of myself. Zing! (Calm down, Perry.)

When I wasn’t onstage, I took a few hasty moments to jot down further notes and questions:

Montclair Historical Society: does not exist as a brick-and-mortar location – so how do I meet there tomorrow?
What the hell was Louella (Aughra) talking about – the girl with the eyes?
How did that card get into my pocket to begin with?
Why does Bill Weedbeard keep leaving me clues?
Who is watching me and leaving notes that arrive with my bill at restaurants?

When I was onstage, I admit that I was a little distracted: the puzzling messages, the overheard conversations. I started thinking about detectives. Holmes would be storking around, observing things with his aquiline brow perfectly smooth, fully in command of the situation. Watson would be by his side lending able assistance, steadfast and firm. Holmes would already have an idea of who Dolly Lurker really is (because in his universe it wouldn’t be anything supernatural), all based on the rolling of an actor’s cuff, the brush technique used to paint the clouds on the backdrop, or that dancer’s amazing ass.

Poirot would be asking many charming questions, his eyes all warm twinkle, his moustache perfectly waxed. He would be stepping around drifts of sawdust as Captain Hastings makes a series of social gaffes, and Judy would be Poirot’s true assistant in solving the mystery. Quick and nimble, he’d gather all his evidence; he’d pause for a revelatory tisane; then assemble everyone in the men’s dressing room for a stunning and climactic reveal based on the way this actor was staring at that dancer’s ass.

Nick Charles would send Nora off with a series of false clues to try to get her out of the way long enough that he could do some solid detection. She and Asta would see a suspicious character and inadvertently fall into the basement of Woodminster, where they’d find an abandoned distillery and the body of the man everyone thinks is the killer. But Nick would have known it wasn’t Cranky Jack the whole time, because Cranky Jack was really Rooster Carruthers, crime-boss-turned-alchemist, who gave it all up twenty years ago to turn lead to gold. Nick would stage a climactic reveal as well, with plenty of pithy commentary from Nora. And, truth be told, I’m deeply in love with Myrna Loy. So she can comment all she wants. She’d probably make a crack about me staring at things that don’t belong to me. In her incredibly fashionable but utterly impractical hat.

The Hardy Boys would be up to all good, just being clean-cut American white boys who only ever interact with other clean-cut American white kids, when they’d hear a scream from the abandoned old theatre on the hill. They’d run up there just in time to see a figure disappear into the trees, dropping a creepy doll as it ran. They are each other’s companion, but they also have their chum Chet with his trusty jalopy and unreliable fortitude. Because fat guys are weak, right, Franklin W. Dixon? Or do I mean Edward Stratemeyer? I wonder if Frank and Joe ever solved the Mystery of the Old Publishing Syndicate. Either way, you can bet that they wouldn’t have noticed anybody staring at that dancer’s ass. They’d solve the mystery sans craving.

But what is the damned mystery? There’s no body. Some girls disappeared in the 50’s, there’s a creeper with a doll, there’s a group of old hippies who like to talk about fountain pens, Louella (Aughra) drives a very nice car. But there’s nothing right now to connect the Peet’s Eager Quintet to my experiences at Woodminster. And until I know exactly what the Montclair Historical Society is, there will be no connection. For all I know, someone could have put that card in my pocket while I stood waiting to cross a street. And if I spent more time working on my lines than trying to solve this mystery, my work on stage would be a lot more solid. Almost as solid as that dancer’s amazing ass.

That’s a lot to think about. And so maybe you can see how all of these competing thoughts could easily lead a grown man to walk into a wall of the set. I think Judy saw it happen. I tried to play it off like a bit of intentional slapstick. She just stared at me, no expression, then turned to watch the scene onstage with a slight tilt of the head that said, “That’s what you get for staring. Fuckmook.”

We broke a little before 4:30 to get into costumes for program photos. I made a lot of jokes. We took a lot of photos. I was released around 5:30, I think. By the time I left, my left leg was in a lot of pain.

There is nothing sinister about Woodminster in daylight. The smell of pine dust is strong in the parking lot. Taking my keys from my back pocket, the mysterious Historical Society card fell out. I bent down to pick it up, and there, in charcoal on the curb next my driver’s door was:

get to leave

Same font, same medium: mesquite on concrete. Well, now, that seems to be the kind of connection I was lamenting earlier. I looked around for Bill Weedbeard, as he is my chief suspect in this game of smoky messages. Again I saw nothing out of the ordinary, but I had the distinct feeling I was being watched.

Getting into my car, I tossed the card into one of the cup holders in my center console, then wrote this new phrase in my notes; together, they read:

was my purpose
get to leave

More damned anagrams? Red herrings? Bad poetry?

I did a Google search and found articles about the purpose of dogs, and millennials trying to find their purpose. Useless. Until one remembers that this cast is made up mostly of millennials. Is this a cry for help? Are they all confused about their futures? Do none of them want to admit the crushing guilt they experience every day over their secret shame that they voted for Jill Stein?

There was the possibility of my seeing a performance of The Four Immigrants at Theatreworks, but I was sweaty and smeared with sunscreen. My leg hurt, and maybe my head. How I hit my head, I have no idea. But one attends the theatre only in appropriate attire. Shorts, sandals and a Hawaiian shirt are unacceptable.

I went home. Veronica was making thick-cut pork chops. There was a hot shower and cold beer. I was able to set all these thoughts aside for a time.

Just as I was falling asleep, a thought occurred to me; I wrote it in my notebook, then closed my eyes. It was this:

A good detective has a companion.