Delete

The man’s finger poised over the iPad’s delete button.

Delete or not?  After several years on Twitter, he still wasn’t sure what to do.  The Infamous Picture had kicked off his rise on the platform and to his surprise, the subscriber number had increased despite everything.   He’d been careful ever since, but that seemed to be the problem.  Was he too careful or not careful enough?

His hand dropped to the leather seat.  He gazed out at the German countryside as the limo sped to Schönefeld Airport.  For the past few days, he and his colleagues from his latest project had celebrated his birthday in style.  After his fandom had sent so many birthday greetings, he thought they might appreciate a peek into his life.  So he’d shared some harmless pictures with them. 

Harmless.  Right, he thought. 

He’d enjoyed the days before social media when he’d sent long missives through a designated website and that was that.  Nobody interfered.  It was just me and the fans, he thought.  Now it’s me and fans and the world.

He admired a lovely selfie he’d snapped of himself and a few colleagues.  The production PR said it had not authorized any release of cast and crew photos.

Damn it.

If he were honest, he really missed the silence for days and weeks after clicking “send.”   At least until he received mail in reply or curiosity killed him and he consulted the forums.  Now, the responses came fast and he just couldn’t not look.

“Nice pic!”  Hmm, yes it is.

“Is that your new girlfriend?”  Heh, not if her husband has anything to say about it.

“Were you drunk?” Wait – what? I was sober as a judge.

Sheesh!  Click. Delete.

Next, a picture of an abstract sculpture depicting a man, he was told – a cast gift.  The sculptor alerted him that the painting behind the piece was not available for public viewing.  Oops!

“Nice pic!”   Of course.

“Love the painting!”   I know, right?

“Was the sculptor drunk?”   What?  Hmmm.  No clue.

Click. Delete.

Oh.  A selfie of himself on set.  Could the production PR tell? Best to be safe.

“Nice pic!”   Right.

“Thanks for sharing!”   You’re welcome!

“You don’t have to photoshop your selfies.  We love your wrinkles!”  What??? Like I would be vain enough to rub out my  – wait, the lines aren’t that bad, are they?”

Shit.  Click. Delete.

There.  Four tweets left for the week.  That should take care of everything.

Oh wait. The funny one is still here.  He perused the entry containing a selfie with plant leaves sticking out of his ears and mouth followed by a quotation.  He wasn’t sure if everybody got the reference.  He wasn’t sure if he got the reference.

“Nice pic!”  Who is this person?

“Goofy dude!”   Yes, yes it is.

“Were you drunk?”  Am I getting some sort of reputation?  Well yes, yes I was.

Click. Delete.

Three entries left.  He smirked at the selfie of himself trying to pinch a liquor cart.

“Nice photo!”  Oh, that’s a change!

“Very cute!”   I thought so.

“Hey, you’ve deleted three entries!”  And one more makes four.

Click. Delete.

He looked at the last two entries: an innocuous quote and a selfie of him showing off some wild looking socks. Should he leave them? They were harmless enough.  But would he be giving them significance by not deleting them?  Would fans read something into it all?   Surely not.  He’d leave them.

His eyes shifted to the flurry of comments hitting his Twitter timeline.

Why do you keep deleting tweets like this?”

“You know once you post, it’s out there forever, right?”

“Are you drunk?”

The man sighed.  He had to do what he had to do.  If it meant deleting posts, then so be it.  He just couldn’t leave things on his timeline if it caused problems.  Besides, he’d noticed that the deletions gave his fans something to discuss.  They seemed almost as important as his posts which was handy during periods when he really had nothing to say.  His finger hovered over the quote entry.

Click. Delete.

“I loved that quote!”

“Dude! What are you doing!”

“You gotta lay off the sauce, man!”

He eyed the socks entry.  On second thought, the socks seemed controversial – verrrrry controversial.   He had a right to change his mind didn’t he?

Click.  Delete.

The man smirked.   That should hold them.

Total Eclipse of the Heart

[Hi all!  I know it’s been four months.  Will explain later but first, here’s what you’d rather see today.  Enjoy.]

***

The man looked at the gray sky again and sighed.

He perched on the railing, feeling all elbows and knees as he tried not to bump the two women on either side.  A young brunette to his left chattered nonstop with her companion.  On his right, a mature woman in a baseball cap sat reading a pamphlet.  He didn’t want to disturb either of them.

Around him, the excited flow of chatter rose and fell as experts on little mobile screens discussed the imminent first total solar eclipse of the century.  Everybody seemed to have prepared for the event with bagged lunches, information pamphlets, eclipse glasses and extra batteries for their mobiles.  Of course, he had come only with sunglasses that offered no protection. Don’t stare at the sun, experts warned.  So he’d spent the last hour glancing up at the sky for a only second or two. Not that it really mattered now.

His impromptu trip to this college town to personally witness the phenomenon had turned out to be a waste of time. He’d taken the needed the break in his schedule and arrived that morning unprepared.  The morning dawned with blue skies.  Now, ominous clouds had rolled in, blotting out the sun and threatening to make the thing a non-event.  It’d put him in a worse mood – just the opposite of what he’d hoped for.  Story of my life, he thought. 

Squirming on the metal bar, he managed to jostle both women.  Damn it. I’m not in the mood for small talk.

Both budged over just a bit.   The chirpy one threw him a toothy grin . “It’s packed and jammed, huh?” She waited for an answer.

He blinked at the American, trying to process the slang and the accent.  Oh, she must mean it’s close quarters here.  No shit. I should just leave. He managed a weak smile and a nod before studying the sky as if there were something to see.  He felt her turn away slowly to turn address her companion.  The woman on his right closed her booklet and looked off into the distance.

So now you’re moody and rude.  He felt like a tosser.  He should apologize somehow, or at least try to chat Chirpy up – only he couldn’t bring himself to do it. 

The man’s head dropped and he gave a sharp exhale.  It was that time of year again when he felt his mortality.  Well, not so much his age – he had reconciled himself to growing older as a fact of life.  But his youth oriented profession pressured him to strive and achieve his goals before The Powers That Be perceived him as too old.  He’d gained success later in his career; that maturity had helped him cope with it but now he felt behind the eight ball, as the Americans say, as if he had to achieve it now, whatever it was. 

He stared at his clenched hands.  What was his looking for? He had no right to complain.  He’d appeared in a play off-Broadway to positive reviews, snagged some roles in feature movies and even worked in independent films where he could hone his skills and stretch himself.  He was breaking into the US market. His agent touted him as a new kind of rising star.  Why did he feel as if aging was blotting out his star, much like the clouds blotted out the sun overhead -that he was running out of time? Damn it, was he always going to become so maudlin this time of year?

“Damn it, damn it, damn it, ” he hissed.

“Are you okay?” A soft voice on his right. The baseball cap woman.

The man glanced at her, readying a brushoff but stopped.  Two brown eyes gazed back.  No, not just brown but big and soft, steady and caring.  They seemed to pull him in.

It was out of his mouth before he knew what had happened.  “Tomorrow is my birthday!”  Alright.  Now, that explains everything.

He expected his behavior to elicit the surprise but he didn’t expect the rest, as her eyes registered consideration and then knowing.

“Ah,” she said, her lips curling into faint smile.  She nodded and regarded him for a moment.  “You need to look up.”

He blinked. Look up? What did that mean?

“Here.  Take my eclipse glasses.  They’re certified,” she stated wryly.

He donned the glasses and looked up. “But they’re completely dark. I can’t see a thing!”

He reached to take them off, but she stayed his arm. “Keep watching. Never mind the clouds.  It’s almost time.”

The man looked up.  Was something happening? Yes! Against the dark filter slowly appeared a vivid sliver of orange crescent. The crowd cheered.  The clouds have parted, she murmured.  He grinned. The clouds had parted just in the nick of time.  The moon moved in front of the sun leaving nothing but the sun’s corona. 

“Totality!” somebody yelled and the crowd cheered louder.

“It’s quite dark now. Like dawn before sunrise,” she murmured close. “But there’s always dark before light.”

“Amazing,” he breathed.

The woman murmured again.  “Now, you only have to wait for the light. When it comes, it will be brilliant.”

As the moon rolled away from the sun, a pinpoint of orange began to glow bigger and brighter until an engagement ring of light burst into view. The crowd cheered again.

The man whipped off the glasses and turned grinning to the woman.  “A total eclipse.  That was absolutely amazing!”

She smiled back and squeezed his arm.  “Don’t forget: you only have to wait for the light. When it comes, it’s brilliant. Enjoy it.”

He stared as she jumped down from the railing and turned back to him.

“And don’t forget: have a happy birthday.”

***

 

[Have a happy birthday Richard Armitage, wherever you are.]

 

Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017) SPOILERS

Just because you can remake a movie, doesn’t mean you have to.

Disney takes a second shot at its own 1991 classic animated film by the same name.  It offers what you would expect: big lavish production values, an array of stars, and a sense that this live action version must achieve parity or surpass the first mega-hit.  As I read in another review, Disney seemed to “ask themselves in every scene whether it met the original and the answer was no.” So they added new songs and subplots which served both to lengthen the story and, I suppose, justify the additional material.  Considering that Disney intends to remake its other classics like Little Mermaid in live action films, the stakes are very high. 

Unless you have never been the original, it’s impossible not to make comparisons.  In fact, several scenes are replicated line for line, frame by frame.  But there’s an inherent problem with comparing live actors to their animated counterparts.  Does Emma Watson look like Belle?  (No.)  Can you overlook it? (It depends.)  Is her voice good enough?  (That’s debatable.)  This running dialogue ran through my head all during the movie.  However, some actors rose above the chatter.  Luke Evans as Gaston has a good voice and Josh Gad is a wonderful DeFou. The scenery is beautiful.  The production is spectacular. The movie delivers on the extravaganza.  It even has some magical moments towards the end that pulled me in.

But Emma Thompson singing the title song isn’t Angela Lansbury.  Kevin Kline is miscast as Belle’s father.  Dan Stevens’s Beast needs to learn from Richard Armitage’s Thorin and use his eyes to convey emotion under all that fur.  The added songs and subplot are unnecessary and unmemorable.  The story-line changes in odd ways.  Cogsworth, Lumiere, and Mrs. Potts lose their charming animated expressions of the original.  Even though the big razzle dazzle Big Our Guest seems to strain to be as Over the Top as OTP could ever be, there is something missing.  In sum despite all the lavishness, some essential charm has been lost. 

Audiences have apparently been coming in droves to see why Disney would want to risk remaking its own classic.  Well, it’s for the usual reason: to insure that these old classics continue to make money by retreading them every generation.  That’s not to say that this Beauty and the Beast is a waste of time.  I didn’t leave wanting my money back.  Those who have never seen the original should enjoy it.  It’s just that for old-timers like me, there is a reason why a film becomes a classic after all.

On Missing Muses

I imitated one of my fictional stories and joined a writers’ group at the nearby library last November.  The group is fluid, consisting of about five older regulars and a revolving number of newcomers (to me).  They meet the second and fourth Monday on the month to read our stuff and have it critiqued. 

My attendance had been interrupted by first by the holidays, then visitors and finally an unshakable writing paralysis.  I’d submitted an old ghost story for the group to review and happily survived the process. Nobody skewered me; they’d enjoyed the story (although it needed a few tweaks) and looked forward to seeing more of my work. 

But my muse was missing in action.  How could I critique others’ work when I had nothing really to offer up?  Many in the group were working on novels and bringing in chapters.  I hadn’t written anything for quite some time and felt like a fraud. Walking past the library to the local cantina, I remembered that it was again the fourth Monday of the month.  I mulled over a rather delicious strawberry margarita. Should I go?  Sure, said the margarita.  There will be other muses there.  Maybe you’ll catch one!  Making a mental note not to order a big drink next time,  I rushed to the meeting, hoping to catch a muse that was non-alcoholic. 

The regulars greeted me as if I’d never been away but no muse jumped me at the door.  The usual suspects pulled out their book chapters.  Wait, I blurted out.  Does anybody have writer’s block?   One man raised his hand.  We exchanged battle weary sighs.  You just have to write, said the novelists.  You just have to sit down and do it.  Don’t wait for a muse.  Try to write a sentence differently.  Write nonsense.  But you just have to write and the rest will come.   The facilitator asked who would submit a story for next time?  Well, I had a short story.  It’s old, I added as if an apology.  We wouldn’t have known that until you told us, they said.  It doesn’t matter.  Then they bowed their heads and began critiquing. 

I looked around the room at the writers laboring over their literary children.  Some were inspired, some weren’t.  Then I recalled that the man with his writer’s block had yet to submit a completed story while I was there, but he never missed a meeting.  That’s tenacity.

Even though I already intellectually knew their advice, there’s nothing like a group of writers poring over their work, saying it aloud that puts things in perspective.

Happy Halloween!

halloweenI’d planned to have another spooky story ready but sadly that’s not the case.  It’s not a lack of motivation but problems with sparking something good enough to post.  Where’s my muse when I need him!

Anyway this marks the day when I indulge in too much candy while awaiting little trick 0’treaters at the door. This will take place at my friends’ house since condo building living is not Halloween friendly.  They just moved and have no idea how many children to expect in the new neighborhood.  Considering that the area is a little woodsy, probably not that many.  More candy for me!

Have a Happy Halloween folks.

The Writing Wall: Four Day Stay

haunted-houseAs many of you know, I started writing in childhood, interrupted by a very long period as a legal scrivener. There’s something about the field that kills creativity.  Thinking outside the box requires almost physical effort.  A few years ago began reclaiming that part of me I left behind and joined writing.com.  I wrote some stories, entered some contests and did pretty well. You can take a look at my portfolio here.  Then I fell into the Big Sleep.  Now that I’m out of hibernation, it’s back to the grindstone.

To keep myself honest, I will be posting short fiction pieces (in addition to The Man Series – don’t worry!) here on Writing Wall.  The subjects will be whatever strikes me, so if you don’t like one piece, you might like another.  In honor of upcoming Halloween, here is a story written three years ago. It’s a mash-up of two events: one is my great-grandfather’s apocryphal (maybe) tale that occurred in post WWI Chicago, and the other one concerns a house purportedly written about in the newspapers of the day.  It would be fun to research, yes?

Enjoy Four Day Stay.

*****

The place sat empty for years, but William Leary didn’t care.  Nor did he care that the nervous, shifty-eyed landlord had left him to sweep, scrub, and drag out the grime and junk from years of neglect.  His friends warned that a large apartment rented at such a ridiculous price even during these hard times spelled trouble, but that advice went ignored.  William cared only that it was cheap.  With a large five-room apartment, he could make a pretty penny bringing in lodgers to fill the space.  Sure, he didn’t have much schooling, but he prided himself on having a good eye for deals and a level head.  He paid the rumors no mind, slapped the money down on Friday, and moved in two days later.

Monday night, he walked from work, tired and foot sore.  Being a porter wasn’t easy; he looked forward to getting off his feet a bit, but he had prospective lodgers to interview first.  There’s probably five or six of them waiting, eager to line his pockets.  The thought put a little spring in his step.  He headed home.

When the lodgers didn’t beat a path to his door that night, he was surprised. He shifted in his only chair in the freshly scrubbed parlor, puffed on a cigarette, drummed his fingers, and gazed at the empty space. He had hardly a stick of furniture, and had been counting on boarders to bring their own. He heaved a sigh.

Siiiigh.”

It echoed off the bare walls and floors, and fell harsh on his ear. Illuminated only by a dingy pool of light cast by the rickety lamp behind him, he pondered the situation. He had no money to waste on ads, and word of mouth trumped newspapers any time. What had kept them away?  Surely it wasn’t the silly rumors?

After a while, he noticed something about the silence. Even on a hot summer night in the room closest to the street, he could hear nothing – no cars, doors, dogs – nothing. The silence felt almost oppressive in its completeness.  Had he gone deaf? He coughed to make sure.

Cough.”

Another faint echo.  Nah, just getting all fired up about nothing. He stubbed out the cigarette, rose and switched on the wireless, his prized possession.

“…Pre…dent Roo…velt …nounced…the…will…ceed… actment…” Static crackled through the speaker. William frowned. This old box could get a signal from anywhere on a drop of a dime. There had to be interference from somewhere.  He continued twisting the knobs in case reception improved.

Squeee floomp . Squeee floomp.

He lifted his head.  What was that?

Squeee floomp . Squeee floomp.

His head turned, following the sound. That noise – was coming from the back of the hallway!  He barely knew where the light switch was, but – aha!  The meager bulb barely came to life before sputtering, dying, and engulfing him again in gloom.

Squeee floomp . Squeee floomp.

He drew in a deep breath. All righty now. This was no time to get spooked by some noise. He just needed to walk down the hall, into the den and then the kitchen.  Placing a guiding hand on the wall, he took one step and then another.  Another jamb and glass paneled door told him that he’d found the den.

Squeee floomp . Squeee floomp

He groped again for a switch. Just as the dim bulb flickered on, the noise stopped. He strode into the middle of the empty room. Well, all the windows and bedroom doors were closed tight. He twisted the bedroom door knob for good measure. Yup, shut.  So, the only thing left was the kitchen door.

He gave it a tentative push.

It creaked, and then swung back into place.

He waited.

Nothing.

A careful check of the kitchen’s back door and closed pantry revealed the same thing.  Nothing.  He scowled at the kitchen door and tested it again.  It swung once, twice, then nothing.

He stared. The noise must have been this door swinging  – like somebody going in and out.

The fine hairs on his arms prickled. Of course that was silly; he was completely, totally alone in this damn silence. What was the matter with him?  A few noises caused by a bad draft, and suddenly he was a screaming Nelly?  He must be more tired than he thought.  He gave himself a mental shake. Tomorrow, he’d find a lodger.  That would take care of the – emptiness – of the place.  And he’d get some oil for the creaky door.

He slept well that night.

Tuesday night, William strode home, optimistic that he’d put out the word about needing new lodgers.  Skeezer had joked about the place being dubbed the Four Day Stay, ‘so good luck with those boarders,’ but he was a silly old coot. Still, that night found William sprawled in the same chair under the same dingy lamp, drumming his fingers.  He’d done some more scrubbing around the place, added a small wooden table in the den that he’d found back in the alley, and laid a few possessions around to make the place a little homier.

Squee floomp.

He sat bold upright, mouth falling open.

Oh no, NO.

Just in case he had a bad draft problem, he’d latched all the windows and closed all the doors.  That should’ve taken care of things. What in the –

Squee floomp. Squee floomp.

He jumped to his feet.

No, there had to be something else, something he’d missed.  Things did not just go bump in the night.  Sure of his bearings, he flicked the switch in the hall.  The bulb fizzled.  What in the hell?  He just changed it. Could the wiring be bad?

He glanced over his shoulder, a bit hesitant to leave the dim but comforting glow from the parlor.  He gazed down the long hall and swallowed hard.  Okay, don’t be a chicken.  Just go on in and see what in the hell’s causing that draft.  There’s a logical explanation.  Fingertips brushing the walls, he moved towards the den.

Squee floomp. Squee floomp.

A sharp bump into the paneled door signaled his destination.  He grabbed the switch.  In the seconds the bulb took to die, he stood rooted to the spot as the kitchen door swung widely open to inky blackness before quickly slamming shut.

Squee FLOOMP

The bulb exploded with a pop.

He jumped back, heart racing.

What?  What had just happened?

He waited in the darkness for heaven knew what.  Seconds elapsed, then a minute.  He heard nothing but the rasp of his own breathing.

Nothing.

Okay, Okay.  It’s okay.  He reached in his pocket for the box of matches; a strike and the match sprang to life.  He held it out before him like a talisman, moved to the center of the room and turned full circle.

Nothing.

Okay, Okay.  He approached the kitchen door.  Its silence seemed to mock him.  A tentative shove revealed nothing amiss beyond but another broken bulb.  By the fourth match, he’d collected his wits.  All right.  He had a faulty electrical system and a bad draft, that’s all.  That’s all it could be.

It took a while to fall asleep that night.

___

On Wednesday, William headed home with not as much pep in his stride.  More of the fellas had jokingly asked how his stay was going.  He’d laughed it off but it irked that people were superstitious enough to listen to stupid rumors.  Sure, there might be problems with the electrical, and some odd noises, but no logical person would pass up a great deal like his.  He sighed and gripped the package containing his supper.  At least he’s gotten a nice cheap cut from the butcher; he’d fry it up tonight.  Nothing like the smell of home cooking to bring around any possible lookie-lous.

He sat in his chair under the dingy light, peering through the plume of cigarette smoke.  Nobody had knocked on his door.  He snorted and mashed the stub into the tray. What was wrong with people?  This was the twentieth century, not some bygone time with spooks and ghouls.  If he didn’t find any lodgers soon, he’d have to foot the rent by himself.  The dream of squirreling away a little money seemed farther and farther away.

Squee floomp

He startled.

Damn.  There it was again.

He jumped to his feet, but paused.  Hold on. If it’s nothing but a draft messing with the door, then it would soon stop by itself, just like before.  All he had to do was wait it out.

Squee floomp

He reached for the cigarette box, hands shaking.  Okay, too shaky to smoke.  All right Leary, keep it together.  It’s just a bit of noise, that’s all.

Squee floomp

He wandered around the parlor, straightening the lamp shade, touching the table, checking the walls, looking for any distraction.  Teeth on edge, he tapped his fingers along the fireplace mantle.  He stopped before the old cast off clock as the hands ticked to 10:00.

Squee floomp

He retreated to the chair and held its arms in a death grip.  He closed his eyes, willing his heart to stop racing. That damn noise, it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard. He could wait this out. He could – block the door!  Yes, he could find something to prop against it, and then tomorrow, he’d get a latch.

Satisfied with the plan, he made it to the den’s entry before realizing he had nothing to use.  A strike of a match, and he spotted the solution.

Yes, the table!

The flame blew out.

Damn it!

He struck another match and froze.

The glow caught the kitchen door swinging open like a giant mouth before slamming closed and snuffing the light.

Squee FLOOMP

Heart pounding in his ears, he grabbed the table and shoved, its legs grating across the floor.  It slammed against the door with a bang.

YES!  That ought to do the trick.

SLAM SLAM

What in the hell was that!

He struck another match.  He turned, his jaw dropped.  Now, the glass paneled door was closed and the back bed room door – stood wide open like a gaping maul.

He didn’t sleep that night.

__

On Thursday night, William hurried along, very late.  Sweaty fingers clutched the parcel holding tonight’s supper.  He wanted to head anyplace besides home but had no choice. Friends had sent his way locals from down South who needed quick lodgings tonight and more importantly, knew nothing about the rumors. With new boarders in the place, things should stay quiet.

He sent up a prayer: Oh please Lord, let them come.

The moment he opened the front door, he knew his pray had been answered.  He could hear the voices drifting from the den and sighed with relief that they had arrived.

Hang on, what was this?

He paused on the threshold and stared.

They already moved in lock, stock, and barrel!  He eyed the old settee in the parlor, and other pieces he didn’t recognize.  Did his friends tell them they could do this?  He’d never intended to send them away, but it would’ve been nice to a look them over before he took their money.

He walked down the hall. Well, they’d fixed the lights, hung some portraits, thrown down a nice runner in the hall.  Was that really oriental?  Their stuff was mighty nice, not anything they’d want to leave anywhere.

At the den’s entry, he gawked in amazement.

His table was gone. In its place, sat a large dining set surrounded by four hardy looking men, ties and high stiff collars loosened and sleeves rolled, engaged in a rowdy game of poker.  They laughed and joked, their glasses of amber colored liquid tinkling and clinking as they sipped and revealed their hands. Smoke wafting from their cigars enveloped the room in a haze.  William admired the two pretty young women with gold combs flashing in high-piled, dark hair, long white dresses, and high-top buttoned shoes peeking beneath the skirts. They hovered behind the men, smiling and whispering to each other.

William blinked.  Well, this was – interesting and a bit disturbing.  How could strangers move into a man’s home and make themselves comfortable like this?  Didn’t they realize they were just boarders?  He called out a greeting.

“Hey there.”

Nobody looked his way.

Were they ignoring him?  What the hell was going on?

He wandered in, at a loss what to do.  His damp fingers reminded him of the soggy package in his hand.  He went into the kitchen and thrust the parcel into the ice box, none too gently. Were these folks raised in a barn?  Sure, he needed lodgers but they took the cake.  Moving in, taking over, smoking, gambling, without so much as a ‘howdy do’ or ‘here’s your money.’  He’d give them a piece of his mind, by God.

BLAM  BLAM

AAAAAAAUUUUUUUUGH

He jerked around.

What in the blazes?

He’d heard enough to recognize gunshots.

Trouble!

He raced towards the scream, pushed back through the swinging door and –

– Ran into utter darkness and absolute silence.

He blinked like a mole.  Who turned out the lights?  What happened?  Where were they?  He called out in confusion.

Hello?

Hello.

A faint echo. Not surprising but should he hear one if -?

His mind reeled.  He felt at once hot and cold, his body fighting what his brain already knew.  He brought out the box of matches.  No, no, no. It can’t be.

“C’mon now, I know you’re here.”

Know you’re here

“Now look here, this isn’t funny.”

Isn’t funny

“Stop playing games!”

Playing games

He gulped.  His shaky hands moved of their own accord.  A few false strikes and the match flared.

He stepped forward and bumped against something small.

Startled, he held the match closer.  His table.

Swallowing hard, he willed himself to look up.  The glow revealed what he knew would be there –

– An empty room.

No people. No furniture. Not even a lingering whiff of cordite.

Nothing.

His mind raced, filling in the details he’d been too busy to notice. The old light fixtures – where had they come from? And the wallpaper, nobody could’ve hung that in a few hours. Those people – they looked like something from his childhood with the high collars, long skirts and high-buttoned shoes. And they had that strange gauzy look like cheesecloth, if he could’ve reached out and put his hand –

– No, no, no, NOOOO!

He opened his mouth in a silent scream; his legs carried him forward, ramming against the table, bumping into door frames, into walls.  He groped and stumbled for the exit – for the escape.

He didn’t stop for his clothes, his furniture, or his beloved wireless.  He flung open the front door, and rushed headlong down the stairs and into the night.

The door closed behind him.

He never went back.

 

Repost: Happiness

Since I’m behind in writing and many of you enjoy The Man Series, I’m reposting a story written for the Crucible premiere.  It still seems appropriate.

Enjoy.

*****

The man stood smiling, nodding, murmuring thanks.

Thank you.

More hands reached out to deliver congratulatory slaps on the back.

Thank you so much.

He felt like a bobble-head as faces -both friendly and unrecognizable – swam in and out of his vision.  The after party’s din rose, signaling the arrival of another cast member.  A hand thrust a glass of water into his.  He took a grateful sip, cooling his parched throat.

Oh thank you.

A voice called into his ear – the red haired bloke holding up his smartphone – “So you want to hear what the critics said?”

The man blinked.  What, press reviews already? His stomach clinched at their mention.  He wasn’t ready.  No, he was but – no he wasn’t.  From all the kudos around him, things had clearly gone well, but still.  He opened his mouth to answer when another face swam into view. Who was he?

Thank you.

The bloke chuckled, launching into the many preliminary tweets. Ah yes, Twitter – no more waiting for morning after print reviews.  Above the noise, the man head “astounding,” “masterful presence,” “great performance.” His eyes grew round.  They liked him, they really liked him!  He didn’t think his face muscles could smile or his head nod any harder.  It was all good.  He’d done it!  He’d worked years to reach this night.  He’d really arrived.  He allowed himself a moment to savor it all.

But now that the verdict was in, he felt – past tired.  He must have hobnobbed with everybody in the ball room and back stage at the theatre.  Oh damn. Frowning, he rubbed his forehead.  Well, everybody but his fans who’d been waiting at the stage door.  He’d tried to get to them but the autograph hounds had pushed forward, blocking most of them.  He’d had so little time. Damn it.  He hoped they understood and forgave him.

Another hand at his shoulder.

Thank you so much.

He took a deep breath as exhaustion from the four hour play washed over him. He ached.  The faces seemed to press closer, the din grow louder.  He felt light headed and oddly unreal.  Air.   He needed some air.

***

He leaned against the hotel’s facade, breathing in the cool night air, the claustrophobic feeling receding.  Despite the throng of press and people inside, the Strand was peaceful and almost empty.  One or two cabs whizzed by.  Nobody stood around except for him and the doorman who’d glanced his way a few times.   The man nodded at him and looked away.  He would stay out here for a few minutes then head back in before they came looking for him.  Right now, he would just enjoy the solitude.

“Excuse me, sir.”  The doorman appeared at his side.  “Don’t mean to bother but I think those are for you.”

Long stemmed red roses lay carefully placed to the side of the steps.  The man walked over and picked one up.  What was this?  Tied around the stem was a piece of paper stating “JustGiving: £10, much love.”  He retrieved another. “JustGiving: £15, with love.”  And another – “JustGiving: £5, all our love.”  His confusion cleared.  Of course, these were from the fans!  Each rose must represent a donation to his charities.  Stooping, he quickly retrieved every one.  As his arms filled with flowers, the exhaustion fell away.  He stood, a giant smile on his face.

A perfect bouquet.

Thank you,  he whispered.

*****

Congratulation to Richard Armitage and the cast and crew of Love, Love, Love.

NaNoWriMo 2016

nanowrimo-calmWriters, it’s that time of the year again.  NaNoWriMo (say that three times really fast) or National Novel Writing Month begins next month.  Do you have a novel locked inside and just can’t get it out?  Then NaNoWriMo is for you.  For those who know nothing about it, you spend 30 straight days pounding out a novel from beginning to end.  How do you write a novel in 30 days?  Well, badly of course.  The point is to get the idea out of you head and on the medium of your choice.  Organizers set the word minimum at 50,000 although you certainly are free to go over.  NaNoWriMo is not a contest in which you submit a story and win a prize although you do race to the 50,000 word finish line with yourself and/or writing buddies.  What you win is the satisfaction of having produced a draft novel.  It’s doable!  Just pledge to yourself to type 1,667 words a day and you’re there.

October is usually prep month in which writers mull over characters, solidify plots and prepare outlines.  But if you don’t have enough time and hate outlining, you can be a pantser but sitting down and writing free form through inspiration.  I’ve done it both ways.  Several years ago I started late and wrote a 30,000 word story starring Marion and Guy of Gisborne that was pure pantsing.   Two years later I used an outline for a 51,000 word psychological thriller.  With fine editing assistance, I posted the Guy story for Christmas that year on my blog.  However like most first drafts, the thriller was simply dreadful and has not seen the light of day.  Still, at its center is a good story.  So this year I will rewrite it into something hopefully readable and worth editing.

So join me at NaNoWriMo.org and let’s start writing!  If you have any questions and need more gentle *cough* persuasion, comment below.

On Quitting Whining

QWSW postcard

QWSW postcard

Continuing from yesterday’s missive, I really needed a shot in the arm. A friend told said there was a writer’s conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan the first week in October and did I want to come?  Well, the name intrigued me: Quit Whining, Start Writing.  It was direct, blunt, and what I needed to hear.  It would be my first writer’s conference. I was game.

We arrived late Friday afternoon at Holiday Inn Grand Rapids Airport, a supposedly upscale but slightly seedy hotel that was neither near the airport nor particularly well managed.  We felt like Goldilocks with that being too this or this being not enough that.  But the place was priced more reasonably than downtown hotels and we had a car, so things balanced out.  We opted to skip the opening dinner that evening and freeze in the too cold pool and nearly pass out in the too steaming hot tub.

We arrived at the college building downtown near the river bright and early at 8:00AM.  I don’t know if this is usually the case but the conference consisted of five one hour long section divided by 30 minute breaks to talk to the speakers/vendors.  Each section had three sessions from which to choose.  Choices ranged from copyright law to illustrating book covers to marketing.  My schedule included Your Story Needs A Skeleton, Writing Mysteriously, Why Social Media Never Works Out the Way You Planned, and Writing About Place. The sessions were interesting but only so much material could be covered in an hour.

Writing Mysteriously (surprise surprise) was my favorite.  Finally I would learn how to outline a mystery.  Well, not exactly.  I learned there is no one way to do anything.  In fact, some teachers contradicted what I’d just heard in the previous session.  This wasn’t a revelation – I’d read many differing books on writing – but somehow being in a room with baby writers like me who aspired to be *Authors*  like the speakers seemed to make it more real for me.  The possibility was real.  So while I failed to come away with a mythical blueprint, I felt inspired -which is why I attended the conference – to start writing again.  And here I am, back to blogging.

More tomorrow.

The Great Driving Experiment

A western suburb. 12:15PM

The car’s engine hums smoothly.  I nervously clutch the gear, ready to shift into “Reverse” and take a deep breath.

Jodi, my psyche id, grumbles from the back seat. “Did you turn on the heat? It’s still cold in here.”

I pause to fiddle with the controls. “It’ll take time for the engine to warm up.”

Jada, my superego, clears her throat from the passenger side. “How can you be cold? You’re an id.”

Jodi pouts. “Still get cold. I notice we’re all bundled in coats just like Judi’s.”

Quiet One, my ego now called Julie, snickers in the back. “We are Judi.  Just don’t make her more nervous than she already is.”

Jodi sighs.  “I know she hasn’t driven in 20 years!  She just needs to relax and forget that she’s maneuvering two tons of steel out onto the road with other moving tons of steel and reach the movie theater.”

I shrink a little. “Right.”

Julie elbows Jodi.  “Ready when you are.”

Jada clears her throat again.

I shift gears, back out of the space and start making laps around the building ring road to familiarize myself with the controls.

Jada beams. “You’re doing well!”

Jodi leans forward points over my shoulder.  “OMG!”

I nearly stamp on the brakes, looking for an oncoming diesel. “What? WHAT?”

Her surprisingly manicured finger points more. “The windshield is fogging up!”

Can a psyche fog windows?  I was pretty sure I’d stopped breathing.  Pulling over near the meadow, I fiddle some more.  The window defogs.

Jada frowns.  “It’s sunny out.  You should put on some shades.”

Now suddenly aware of the sun, I squint. “Don’t have them with me…”

Jodi tuts.  “We should go back for them.”

I add, frustration rising, “… because I can’t find them!” I stare pointedly in the rear view mirror back at Jodi.

Julie intercedes. “Another time maybe?  We should be getting to the theater.”

I nod nervously, head to the main road and stop at the light.

Jodi sits back and chirps brightly. “Let’s kick it.  I can taste that popcorn now.”

Jada frowns.  “If we’re heading just across this street, shouldn’t we be in the middle lane?”

Uh oh. I peer at the chalky road where salt has whited out the lines. “I think we are.”  It looks like the middle.

The left turn light flashes.  A car behind me honks.

Jodi yelps. “OMG, we’re in the wrong lane!  What will we do?”

I grit my teeth. Can I murder myself – just a little piece?  Was she always this excitable? “There’s nothing I can do.”

Julie suddenly speaks.  “It’s okay.  We’re straddling the line just a little. Just shoot across when you can.”

The light turns green.  I cross the road and head onto the mall’s ring road.

Jada nods encouragingly.  “Nice right turn.”

Jodi is ever helpful.  “Look out, stop sign!”

I grip the wheel.  “I can see the stop signs!”

She’s relentless. “And watch out for that woman walking to that car…”

“She’s forty feet away!”

Jodi takes umbrage. “Well, you don’t have to yell.  You know gals, Judi seems way too stressed.  Say, you’re passing up parking spaces….”

I park in a wide open area and shut off the engine, sagging in relief.   Julie gives me a quiet nod of approval.  “You done good.”

Jada pats my hand and smiles.

Jodi cheers. “Told you we would get here alright.  We’re a team. Now we can see the movie and drive back home.”

I groan, then follow my posse into the cold.

Now I’ve Gone and Done It

honda fitI’m the excited owner of a new car.  Since I still don’t have my new driving glasses, the dealership kindly drove me and Red (yes, she has a name) home.  She’s now resting comfortably in tenants’ parking awaiting her first foray across to the mall to see Selma at the newly reopened, super fancy AMC Theater.  My friends and I went to dinner to celebrate and I’m beyond stuffed, tired too.  The suburban metamorphosis continues.

For certain inquiring minds:

Brand: 2015 Honda Fit

Color: Red, red, red.  Really red.

iPhone/USB/Bluetooth connectivity;  YES

Audio connectivity:  YES

GPS: No

Will talk more tomorrow.

 

The Allure of Freedom vs the Power of Crazy

Anxiety+GirlAs you already know, I’ve transplanted from the city with its public transportation and no car to the middle of suburbia with its endless malls and no car.  In fact, I reside across the street from a major mall.  But like most of these developments, the mall covers literally acres.  I can’t, say, walk from here to the cinema, or Target, or any of other stores and restaurants.  I need a car.  Did I mention I sold my last car in 1996 and haven’t driven in 20 years?

I learned to drive at age 26.  Prior to that time, my poor vision and lazy eye stopped short of the legal requirements.  Then with a good eye doctor who gradually changed my prescription glasses over time, my vision improved to 20/40.  Overjoyed, I took a driving course and got my license.  But that happiness bubble burst when I started sharing the road with all the other guy.  Let’s face it, city driving can be harrowing.   Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a bad driver.  But city driving required such defensive maneuvering that I developed anxiety.  By this I mean I was anxious – not panic stricken).  So  I stopped driving.   Then I became engaged and a bought car in anticipation of living in a new house in the burbs.  When things went south, I took the car back to the city where I drove it seldom.  Why did I need it?  Public transportation and taxis took me anywhere I needed to go.  I sold the car (but kept the license).

Flash forward to now with friends driving me around.  They haven’t seemed to mind but we all know I could benefit from more freedom to get myself around – like across the street to the mall.  So where does the anxiety enter?  Over the years, I’ve had two types of anxiety dreams: the first has me forgetting to attend classes until finals; the other has me driving, sometimes well, sometimes badly.  I’d awake glad I didn’t even own a car.  Everybody with whom I talked have reassured me that suburban driving is much easier and less stressful, especially if I venture out between 10AM and 4PM.  I could refresh my skills by driving around parking lots and going short distances.  My confidence would grow; the anxiety would lessen, and everything would work out.  And with eye surgeries, my vision has improved even more.  I want to believe them.

The allure of freedom bested anxiety today.  My friend (who is knowledgeable about car buying and leasing) and I went to a car dealership, asked questions and started crunching numbers. (I drove a little but my friend took it out on the major road).  After extensive back and forth,  I got the best deal for my financial situation.  The salesman expects me back tomorrow to finalize the deal.  I feel anxious and little fearful.  But buying a car will force me to deal with the anxiety issue and get out on my own.  As with other things that have happened to me over the past six months, a strange feeling of karma came into play during the talks, as if a way had been cleared for me to have this car.  Even my friend remarked on the strange unexpected turn of things in my favor.  I’m not the mystical sort, but even it gave me pause.

Wish me luck.

Surreal Saturday: Blogging Is Non-Habit Forming

clockSo I just missed the deadline for yesterday’s post.  Ordinarily I write for the next day but this time, I’ve been leaving things until the night of that day’s post.  Oddly since retiring, I’ve not fallen into a routine.  Before, I fit my life into the limited free available after work.  Blogging didn’t pose such a big problem; a three hour post-dinner deadline always loomed.  Now with all the time in the world – you’d think I would write reams.  That’s not been the case.  After 25 years working, it’s hilarious to develop time management problems in retirement.  This goes back to an issue I touched on last year.  I spent my time always reacting to negative motivation on the job (i.e., work deadlines, micromanaging etc).   Now I have to be proactive; all the impetus must come from within.  But that’s one of the problems with/recovering from depression – finding the mysterious self-motivation.

Then I wonder about other people with illnesses who seem to have no problem in the respect.  People like Stephen Fry who acts, produces, lectures, hosts, blogs, geeks, writes, advocates and seemingly has his fingers in every UK entertainment pie despite being bi-polar.  Closer to home, The Bloggess, Jenny Lawson writes books and a hilarious bawdy off-kilter blog even with depressive and anxiety disorders.  Both of these people manage to regiment their time quite well.  Are they juggling many balls to stay ahead of their illnesses, or is The Secret keeping busy and productive with many things.

Maybe I’m suffering from too much time on my hands.

Since you made it this far, here’s a treat – a man who doesn’t have enough time on his hands.  I’d love to ask him about time management.

Enjoy.

 

Richard Armitage photo by Robert Ashcroft

Richard Armitage photo by Robert Ashcroft

 

Interlude XLII: What Me, Volunteer?

There’s no polished piece tonight.  I spent most of the day with my friend Mary shlepping from store to store purchasing materials for an upcoming high school production of The Snow Queen. The costumer had a hacked credit card, and although she’s the musical director Mary had to leap into the breach.  Where do I come in?  I’m now her volunteer assistant and she’s over the moon at the prospect of putting me to work.  But before I can actually interact with the kids, I must sift through hours of paperwork for background checking, online training, and what I exasperatingly call “Chester the Molester” instruction so that I know of, am vigilant about, and don’t run afoul concerning inappropriate interactions with minors.  Becoming a volunteer sadly isn’t the same these days. This prep school is quite posh and quite large, so they have a lot to protect by dotting all “i’s” and crossing all “t’s.”  I must be squeaky clean.  All this must be done pronto, naturally.  Mary wants me in place for the next production, Phantom of the Opera, one of my favorite musicals.

So I leave you with my latest Richard Armitage favorite that he recently tweeted.  I think it’s the cold and lovely snow that really pulls me in.  Would I lie?

Enjoy.

RA skiing

 

A Stage of Grief; or Disciplining the Discipline

stages-of-griefDay 2

I’m stuck in a stage of grief.  I gaze out the window overlooking a snowy prairie and a charmingly named furniture store called The Dump, and a mental tape in my head plays: I’m only here temporarily. My motivation wanes.  I consider trial leasing a car to acquire a bit more independence here in the ‘burbs, despite not having driven for 20 years. I’m only here temporarily.  The determination leeches away.  My friends and family reassure me that my apartment is lovely and decorated beautifully, it’s really not much smaller than the condo. I’m only here temporarily. Satisfaction dwindles.  I sit at the computer poised to say – something.  I’m only here temporarily.  The procrastination kicks in.

I am only here temporarily, until the summer of 2016 when my credit has healed enough to let me purchase something. But that’s over 18 months away – a year and a half of living to do.  But as the days go by and I go through the motions, something inside keeps me from smoothly accepting the permanence of this particular transition.  What I knew is completely gone against my will: the job, the career, the mental wherewithal, the condo, the lifestyle. It’s so damn final.  I recognize nothing but my friends.  They ask how am I doing in the ‘burbs and I always answer: adjusting.  How long does it take to adjust?  My pragmatic self is silent – strangely so.  I check in on my sartorial psyche Jodi, Jada, and Julie but they are silent too.  Well, not Jodi; I suspect she’s the one resisting change, resisting acceptance.  I’m not sure what to do for her.

This feeds a kind of mental paralysis. I procrastinate and magnify issues until I’m an inert, anxious, fearful blob.  There are things I need to do: physical therapy, going for the final post-cataract exam, getting new glasses, test driving, exploring my new world, writing.  Those same baby steps, all over again.  I think about toddlers and their determination to walk just like everybody else. After three and half years of barely holding my life together with spit and wire, I want a “normal” existence too.  If psychological acceptance isn’t happening right now, then determination and discipline is the only way through.

So I plant my butt in a chair and type while that tape plays: I’m only here temporarily, and remind myself that I don’t need an ideal setting to pour out my thoughts.  While my psyche still mourns for what was lost, part of me must look forward and do somethingIf you can’t write about the fandom or HIM, Dr. G. says with a twinkle in her eye, then write what you feel now.

So here I am. Writing.

Serene Sunday: Winter Wonderland

Happy New Year all!  Hope you enjoyed your holidays.  Mine was festive and filling – very filling – which leads me to one of two resolutions I made.  Usually I resolve to not make resolutions because I’ll be sure to keep that one.  But this year I really need to accomplish two things.  The second is to lose the all the weight gained during my dark period.  I’ve done it before and will do it again.

The first is to WRITE.  Dr. G. mandated that I park my butt and put fingers to the keyboard.  Every day.  One story.  One paragraph.  One word.  It doesn’t matter what about what as long as I discipline myself to get the words out and over the dreaded Writer’s Block.  I’d love to talk about whatshisname, that Armitage dude, but first I need to examine what’s obstructing the flow.   Then I’ll tackle The Crucible, RA’s surprising effect on me, the Marlise Boland debacle, my final opinion on Thorin, a certain blog nomination, and my place in fandom now.

So this is me, writing.  You, Dear Reader, will keep me honest.  Go ahead.  Hold my feet to the fire.  This is important.

In honor of the fresh snow on the ground, the oncoming winter storm, and my love of the fluffy stuff, I present a favorite song probably posted already, but hey, this is a new January.  So here is Winter Wonderland sung by Johnny Mathis.

Winter Wonderland sung by Johnny Mathis

♪ Make sure to see the new wide screen version; a link is below and also in the video responses. Winter Wonderland ~ Sung by Johnny Mathis ~ No copy infraction intended on my videos. ~ Dedicated to the romantic Christmas heart that beats in each of us.

Transitioning the Transition; or Where the Hell Am I?

I’m in a peculiar state of mind.

Last summer I talked about transitioning from major depression to “normal life,” but that’s turned out to contain it’s own triumphs, setbacks and pitfalls crisscrossing each other.  So now I’m at the junction of several smaller transitions in the middle of one overarching one:

Ongoing move from working to retired life and the resulting changing identity;

Moving away from intense psychological and physical stress and their conditioned responses;

Dealing with the ongoing residual fallout from the stress and the confounding battle with inertia;

Dealing with the drastically different changes in living environment;

Just deal –

Jodi butts in.  “Hello all!  Judi’s id here.  She does get boring doesn’t she?”

Jada coughs delicately. “This is Judi’s post.”

Jodi waves a hand.  “And if you’ve forgotten, Jada is Judi’s superego which leaves Quiet One over there.”

Quiet One sighs.  “I’ve been calling myself Julie for months.  Do keep up.”

Jodi sighs.  But you’re still so…quiet.”

Julie  nods.  “I speak up when it’s important.”

Jada arches a brow at Jodi.  “THAT, she does especially when you get a bit too rowdy.”

Jodi huffs.  “How was that incident in London too rowdy?  I wasn’t even looking at him!”

Jada coughs delicately again.  “We talked about this, dear.”

Julie chuckles.

Jodi’s mouth opens then snaps shut.  “Well.  Anyway, what Judi was trying to say was – ”

I gape at the trio.  “Hold on now!  London wasn’t Vegas. Nothing happened there we can’t talk about.”

All three stare at me.

I carry on, suddenly feeling insecure.  “Erm, er, so.  Can I continue with my post?”

Jodi tuts.  “But it’s sooo dry.  Can’t we just recap and get on with talking about London?  I love talking about London.”

I scowl.  “I can recap.  I wanted to say that-”

Jodi jumps in.  “She wanted to say that she was depressed being a totally stressed out, mentally and physically sick, broke mess who couldn’t see her way clear, and now she’s a less stressed, mentally better, physically creaky, solvent mess in a new home who can’t figure out where to go next with all the possibilities!  Right Judi?”

Jada purses her lips.  “Wellll, maybe that was a bit… harsh.”

Julie snickers.  “I think Judi means to say that her situation is constantly evolving, but for the better, with small transitions coming fast along the way.  Now she has to learn to adjust to adjusting – learn new behaviors for her new world.”

I sigh.  “Thanks Julie.  Yes, I’m trying to adjust to adjusting and not being able to predict what happens next.  Very aptly put.  It’s such a strange feeling.  Don’t think I’m very good at it.”

Julie pats my hand. “You’re doing great.  As Dr. G. says, don’t rush it. Just consider plans and chart a schedule.”

Jodi sits up brightly. “Okay!  So can we talk about London now?  You know, that Armitage bloke.”

I blink tiredly.  “What?”

A soprano voice sings out. “Have no fear, FAN GURL is here!”

I groan. “Oh no.”

The trio hoot and holler.  “Oh yes!”

 

Happiness

The man stood smiling, nodding, murmuring thanks.

Thank you.

More hands reached out to deliver congratulatory slaps on the back.

Thank you so much.

He felt like a bobble-head as faces -both friendly and unrecognizable – swam in and out of his vision.  The after party’s din rose, signaling the arrival of another cast member.  A hand thrust a glass of water into his.  He took a grateful sip, cooling his parched throat.

Oh thank you.

A voice called into his ear – the red haired bloke holding up his smartphone – “So you want to hear what the critics said?”

The man blinked.  What, press reviews already? His stomach clinched at their mention.  He wasn’t ready.  No, he was but – no he wasn’t.  From all the kudos around him, things had clearly gone well, but still.  He opened his mouth to answer when another face swam into view. Who was he?

Thank you.

The bloke chuckled, launching into the many preliminary tweets. Ah yes, Twitter – no more waiting for morning after print reviews.  Above the noise, the man head “astounding,” “masterful presence,” “great performance.” His eyes grew round.  They liked him, they really liked him!  He didn’t think his face muscles could smile or his head nod any harder.  It was all good.  He’d done it!  He’d worked years to reach this night.  He’d really arrived.  He allowed himself a moment to savor it all.

But now that the verdict was in, he felt – past tired.  He must have hobnobbed with everybody in the ball room and back stage at the theatre.  Oh damn. Frowning, he rubbed his forehead.  Well, everybody but his fans who’d been waiting at the stage door.  He’d tried to get to them but the autograph hounds had pushed forward, blocking most of them.  He’d had so little time. Damn it.  He hoped they understood and forgave him.

Another hand at his shoulder.

Thank you so much.

He took a deep breath as exhaustion from the four hour play washed over him. He ached.  The faces seemed to press closer, the din grow louder.  He felt light headed and oddly unreal.  Air.   He needed some air.

***

He leaned against the hotel’s facade, breathing in the cool night air, the claustrophobic feeling receding.  Despite the throng of press and people inside, the Strand was peaceful and almost empty.  One or two cabs whizzed by.  Nobody stood around except for him and the doorman who’d glanced his way a few times.   The man nodded at him and looked away.  He would stay out here for a few minutes then head back in before they came looking for him.  Right now, he would just enjoy the solitude.

“Excuse me, sir.”  The doorman appeared at his side.  “Don’t mean to bother but I think those are for you.”

Long stemmed red roses lay carefully placed to the side of the steps.  The man walked over and picked one up.  What was this?  Tied around the stem was a piece of paper stating “JustGiving: £10, much love.”  He retrieved another. “JustGiving: £15, with love.”  And another – “JustGiving: £5, all our love.”  His confusion cleared.  Of course, these were from the fans!  Each rose must represent a donation to his charities.  Stooping, he quickly retrieved every one.  As his arms filled with flowers, the exhaustion fell away.  He stood, a giant smile on his face.

A perfect bouquet.

Thank you,  he whispered.

*****

Congratulations to Richard Armitage and the cast and crew of The Crucible.

 

The Allure of the Accent; or RA Goes Okie

british accentYears ago in the film Love Actually, British Colin Frissell can’t find a girlfriend at home. So he journeys to the U.S. in search of one. To his surprise, he finds himself a hit with American women the moment he opens his mouth. It seems American women dig British accents. Of course, this was hilarious to me because I’ve been exposed to British accents since I can remember. (I blame PBS and my mother’s undying crush on Laurence Olivier). So this phenomenon didn’t really surprise me, although my crushes on British actors have been totally incidental. Naturally.

Flash forward to last week. A few of us were chatting about the latest Into the Storm trailer and analyzing what we could of Richard Armitage’s American accent. While I couldn’t separate his voice from the background noise, a few said they thought the accent pretty decent. Then I heard something to this effect:

“As soon as he spoke American, he lost part of his sex appeal.”

My mouth nearly fell open at the heresy before my inner anti-fangurl exclaimed “that’s right, he’s British!” One chatter recounted how one favorite actor’s sex appeal leached away the moment he spoke in an American accent (dreadfully). This brings me to another meandering thought: it that why Americans are so keen on foreign actors getting American accents right – is it because of the aural dissonance, or the resulting perception of declining sex appeal? They’re just not that hot without the Queen’s English?  There’s no real reason why this should be except maybe prove the adage “everything is greener on the other side of the street,” or pond, as the case may be.  I picture RA trying out a Chi-caw-go accent with me listening incredulously and wondering what I ever saw him. Would I beg him to “speak British” again?   Could that possibly happen if I were wearing a blindfold?

I can’t decide how I feel about RA sprouting an American accent. I do know what if he fails to impress in the few scenes, I won’t be able to take him seriously the rest of the movie.  It sets my teeth on edge to hear an accent done poorly.  Truly, I’ve reacted the same way with other actors.  But will I find him less sexy? I don’t know yet.  Maybe the wet shirt will make up for that.

What do you think?  Honesty will get you kudos.  Total heresy will get you cookies.

 

 

Midnight

Miiiidniiiiight… Not a sound from the pavement…

The Man strode away, hands in pockets as the music on his iPhone barely drowned out the klunk of his boots.  Behind him, the theatre Stage Door light clicked off, plunging the lane into half darkness.

Has the moon lost her meeeeemory?  she is smiling alone…

He sighed, pulling out the earbuds.  Of all the songs to pop up on his playlist, this would be it.

He’d felt at once exhilarated and exhausted after almost four hours on stage.  Hobnobbing and taking selfies with well wishers left him a bit antsy too, still pent up with adrenaline.  He’d decided to head back to the rented flat, walk it off, while listening to something relaxing.

With each step, the melody from Cats drained him, leaving him oddly morose.  He sighed again.  There was no help for it.   He clicked off the player and walked on.

A couple breezed past him, racing down a flight of stairs.  He glanced up in surprise, taking in the Southwark Tube station, realizing they were racing past him to catch the last train of the evening.  He looked around in slight confusion. Where could he go? He didn’t want to go home just yet.  After a few moments of thought, he turned onto Blackfriars Road and headed towards the Thames.  Yes, contemplating the water might help him sort things.

He had a problem -actually, two problems.

His cast mate distracted him and not in a good way.  Unknown to her, she grasped and groped his legs and thighs on stage in the most ticklish spots.  He always fought hard not to laugh.  Imagine him breaking into giggles while struggling to be stoic and imposing at the same time.  Breaking down like a silly novice. He’d never live it down.  Even his PR people wouldn’t be able to spin that.

But that wasn’t his worst problem.

He might have laughed at the irony had the situation not been so serious.  Like the character in the song, he remembered a different life too, a life filled with agile young dancers, of which he’d been a part.  But he’s left that behind, gone into drama, and not performed a pirouette in 20 years.

He’d forgotten how to dance.

Not that he needed to actually dance in the play but a lot of the actions required full body balletic movements, something he feared he’d lost.  He’d spent three years walking like he had gonads of stone during his long project and now, he wasn’t sure he could shake that.  Watching his young 23 year old cast mate dance circles around him in their scenes had been a revelation and a wake up call.  She was so spry, bouncing off chairs, slinking under his to grab his legs – she couldn’t be more graceful.  And the rest of the cast spoke volumes with each movement and gesture.  No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t seem to hit that old balletic stride.  He felt rusty, oafish, clunky in comparison.

A jolt at his shoulder. He muttered a reflexive “excuse me” before noting that he’d reached the river at Blackfriars Bridge.   He took the stairs down to the bankside and continued walking east until St. Paul’s majestic dome came into view. Walking over to the railing, he gazed at the London nighttime skyline of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Millennium Bridge, and city skyscrapers in the distance. The river sloshed in a calming rhythm but did little to settle his nerves.  He gazed up into the night sky, too bright from the city lights to reveal any stars.  He sighed.  His people said he was the “star” but he didn’t feel like one.  He couldn’t even keep up with the portrayal by a girl still in drama school.  He was sure she’d noticed his rusty style – gonads of stone.  Had the rest of the cast?

He thumped the railing in frustration.  Him – an ex-dancer!  It was just too outrageous.

He’d have to get himself together, unlearn the last three years.  Didn’t they know that he was Macavity?   He was a CAT in his former stage life!  Fingers raking his hair, he thought hard.  His teachers told him the best refresher was to go back to basics.  Then that’s what he would do then.  Oh, he’ll show them – he just needed to get the tights and leotard back on to get himself into that right frame of mind again.  He had to set himself FREE again.  Yes, that was it.  He’d go home and get the tights…the whiskers… yes, it was all coming back to him now. He’d practice up a storm.

Running back up the embankment steps, he hailed a cab, his face wreathed in a smile.

Macavity Cat, Macavity Cat, Macavity Cat come out tonight!!!