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The Wrath of the Grapes

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The Wrath of the Grapes

The Wrath of the Grapes ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp 

She wore a soiled white uniform and her duty shoes were worn-down and scuffed the color of dirt. Every time she passed the mirror she stopped and examined herself, tucking her long gray hair behind an ear or checking her teeth. She swatted at the furniture with a rag in an approximation of dusting and emptied the ashtrays into a bag. She threw the loose clothing and towels into the closet and closed the door.

“I’ll put those in the laundry next time,” she said.

“Hmm?” the woman on the chaise longue said. She was dozing and had forgotten for the moment that she wasn’t alone.

“Anything else before I go?”

She opened her eyes and pulled herself partway up. She was haggard, old beyond her years. “I must get up,” she said.

“I wouldn’t get up if I was you, dearie,” the pickup woman said. “You’re wobbly on your feet.”

“Bertha Belvedere is coming to interview me for The Hollywood Beacon. They’re going to do a lavish treatment of my life in advance of my next picture.”

“If you say so.”

“Is Neville still here?”

“I ain’t seen him.”

“If you see him anywhere about, tell him I’m not to be disturbed for the next little bit.”

“I don’t think he’s here, but if I see him I’ll tell him what you said.”

“Thank you for cleaning my room. If I need you again, I’ll call.”

“You owe me fifteen bucks. I ain’t doin’ this for fun, you know.”

“We’ll settle up next time. I’m a little short right now.”

The pickup woman sighed and, with a clink of empty liquor bottles, she was gone.

The woman on the chaise longue was Nema Gerova, the famous film actress. Life hadn’t been very kind to her lately. Her last four pictures had lost money. Her kind of Old World sex appeal was worn out, passé. The public wanted jazz babies with fresh faces, youth and vitality. The studio unceremoniously canceled her contract, informing her in a five-word telegram.

Almost overnight, it seemed, she went from Monotone Studio’s brightest young star—a string of impressive money-making hits to her credit—to a drug-addled, drunken floozy with four ex-husbands and a hundred pounds of unwanted weight. The picture business had built her up to heights she never dreamed possible and then brought her crashing down to the black abyss. What an ugly, cruel world it was! A world all too willing to forget she ever existed.

She looked over to the table and felt some comfort in what she saw there. As if they had been part of the set design of one of her pictures, a nearly-full bottle of gin stood artfully beside a glass. She poured two fingers of the delectable nectar into the glass, drank it down, and poured again. When she was beginning to feel herself going into that fuzzy world of not caring or feeling, she remembered that somebody was coming. Who was it? Oh, yes,  a female journalist to talk to her about her life and her upcoming picture, The Wrath of the Grapes.

She needed to make herself more presentable. She stood up and made her way across the room to the dressing table and looked at herself in the mirror. She hardly recognized the person looking back at her. Her face was pale and puffy, her eyes merely two slits. With shaking hands, she dabbed some rouge on her cheeks and lipstick on her lips. She ran a comb through her hair and, going back to her chaise longue, had another drink, just one, to steady her nerves.

An hour passed and more. She was in the delicious gray area between waking and sleeping when she heard a tiny knock at the door.

Entrez,” she said cheerily, pulling herself upright.

The door opened and in came Bertha Belvedere, a pig-like woman of great dignity. She wore an expensive-looking suit, a fox fur piece and a black hat trimmed with feathers.

“How do you do, dear?” she said in her simpering tones.

“Bertha, darling!” Nema said. “How wonderful to see you! Please forgive me if I don’t get up.”

Bertha squeezed both of Nema’s hands in hers before seating herself on the love seat facing the chaise longue. “I’ve so been looking forward to my interview with you,” she said as she took pen and pad out of her bag.

“As have I,” Nema said. “it’s just been ages since I’ve seen you. You’re looking so well.”

“As are you, my darling!”

“And I was so thrilled when I heard your paper wanted to do an article on me and my next picture, The Wrath of the Grapes. I’m sure it will help to get word out to the dear public about what a splendid picture it is and how much they shouldn’t miss seeing it.”

“Tell me,” Bertha said, grasping the pen in her hoof-like hand, furrowing her brow. “When will the picture be released? I haven’t been able to get any definite answer yet to that question.”

“Well, we haven’t actually started on the picture yet,” Nema said, “but I’m told it will be any day now.”

“What? I understood it was just wrapping up!”

“Well, there were delays, as there usually are with these things, but we’ll get going with it real soon.”

“And do you really believe you’re right for the part of Caroline in the picture, who sacrifices her lover for the greater good?”

“I feel it right down to my bones. I was born to play the part of Lady Caroline.”

“I heard several other actresses were vying for the part.”

“That’s true but I beat out all of them.”

“And who will direct the picture?”

“We don’t actually have a director yet, but my husband, Neville Marks, will produce. He’s in negotiations in with several of the top directors, all of whom want to do the picture. It’s just a matter of ironing out the details.”

“And who will be your leading man?”

“Well, we don’t know that yet, either, but you can bet it’ll be somebody top-notch, with not only the physical presence to carry the part but also the acting experience to convey the deep emotional torment of Captain Witherspoon.”

“Can you tell me who might be in consideration for the role so I can inform my readers?”

“Well, so far as I know, there’s Herman Dare, Dalton Dixon, Matthew Robinette, and a couple of others.”

“Oh, my, but that is an impressive pool to draw from!”

“Yes, we want only the best,” Nema said, placing a cigarette in her holder and lighting it.

“I hesitate to bring up an unpleasant topic,” Bertha said, “but your last few pictures haven’t been as successful as you might have wished. I’ve heard that Monotone Pictures lost money last year and will lose even more this year. Do you believe The Wrath of the Grapes will be successful enough to lift the studio out of its financial doldrums?”

“I have the utmost confidence that The Wrath of the Grapes will be the biggest hit of the year and will restore Monotone Pictures to its rightful place of prominence in the motion picture industry.”

“Not to mention what it will do for your own career.”

“Of course! A motion picture career is a roller coaster ride of ups and downs. Although my last couple of pictures haven’t sold well with the public, I assure you it’s only a temporary aberration and The Wrath of the Grapes will put me right back up there on the top where I belong.”

“And you don’t believe that Monotone will cancel your contract?”

“Of course not! That’s just an ugly rumor being perpetrated by the hordes of people in the industry who are jealous of my success. There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that my contract has been, or ever will be, canceled. Just the other day, Mr. T. T. H. Gottschalk, head of the studio, assured me that my position there is inviolable.”

“How reassuring it must have been to hear that!”

“Yes, yes, yes!”

“Now, getting on to other matters, I wonder if you might tell us something of your early life and of how you got your start in pictures. It’s a well-known story, of course, but I thought it would be fun to hear it from your own lips.”

(The truth was that she was born, out of wedlock, to an alcoholic mother in a tenement slum on New York’s Lower East Side, but that wasn’t the story she liked to tell.)

“I was born in Budapest to an American mother and a Hungarian father. My father was a physician and my mother a magazine illustrator. We moved to New York when I was ten years old. In school I performed in amateur theatricals and eventually enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. When I was seventeen years old, I entered a beauty contest in Atlantic City at the urging of friends and, when I won the contest, was given a screen test in Hollywood. My mother and I went by rail across this huge continent in the middle of July. Can you imagine?

“The screen test turned out well and I was offered the lead in a film they were just then preparing entitled The Call of the Virgin, even though I had no acting experience. The producers took a chance on me based entirely on my looks and my personality. And I had such a wonderful director—Carleton Fiske—that it didn’t matter that I had never acted before. He extracted—there’s no other word for it—the performance from me as if it had always been inside me. I became an overnight sensation and a big, big star and married Carleton Fiske, even though he was thirty-eight years older than me.”

“Bless your heart!” Bertha said.

“He died soon after but I always felt that he was the one person, more than any other, who was responsible for my success in films.

“My first year at Monotone Pictures, I starred in four pictures. My next picture after The Call of the Virgin was Night Wind and it was just as big a hit as the first one. Then came Queen of the Dust Bin and The Lady is Indiscreet, all making vast amounts of money for the studio. And everything had come so easily to me, as if it had always meant to be. You hear about people struggling to achieve success, but I never had to struggle at all. It just seemed to come naturally to me!”

“It happens that way sometimes,” Bertha said in her knowing way, “but it is very, very rare.”

“Yes, very rare.”

“Now, if you will indulge me for a bit, I want to ask you about your domestic life. Our female readers especially love knowing about that side of the lives of our Hollywood luminaries.”

“What side is that?”

“How is your marriage with Neville Marks?”

“It couldn’t be better. He and I are very, very close. Soul mates, you might say. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have his strong shoulders to lean on and his wise counsel guiding me in my career.”

“Is he at home today? I was hoping to get his take on The Wrath of the Grapes and to get a couple of snaps of the two of you together in your happy home.”

“I’m sorry. He’s out scouting locations for our picture.”

“Of course. Well, perhaps next time.”

“Yes. Next time.”

Here she fell into one her dozes and when she awoke she was alone, as she had been alone ever since the pickup woman left. She had another drink and then another, and then she stood up and made her way across the room, the act of walking a delicate balancing act for her.

She went to the window overlooking the back of the house and from it saw the open door of the garage and the empty space in the garage that had recently held the car of her husband, Neville Marks.

He left her three days ago for a much-younger woman, a twenty-one-old ingénue who had recently made a splash in her first picture, just as Nema had made a splash in hers all those years ago. And his leaving her had been the cruelest cut of all, the one thing she could not tolerate and go on living.

She went into the bathroom and, standing at the sink, swallowed an entire bottle of sleeping pills that her doctor had told her to take sparingly because they were very strong and dangerous if not taken according to directions. She washed them down with plenty of cold water and, when she was finished, she went to the bed and lay on her back to await the coming of the blessed blankness, weeping, as she did, for the poignancy of her own passing.

Copyright © 2014 by Allen Kopp

If Evolution had Taken a Different Turn…

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We might look like this:

Evolution 1

Happy Fourth of July!

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Header ~ Declaration of Independence2

We are indebted to the Founding Fathers (George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, John Hancock, and others) for their wisdom and foresight in establishing a system of government with “checks and balances,” meaning that the United States government is a government of many rather than one. We don’t want—and never did want—a king or a dictator. 

The Declaration of Independence

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. 
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. 
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: 
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. 
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. 
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

 

Tennessee Williams

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Tennessee Williams image 2

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983)

~~~

“There is a time for departure even when there’s no certain place to go.” 

~~~

“Don’t look forward to the day you stop suffering, because when it comes you’ll know you’re dead.” 

~~~

“Enthusiasm is the most important thing in life.” 

~~~

“Most of the confidence which I appear to feel, especially when influenced by noon wine, is only a pretense.” 

~~~

“I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell the truth. I tell what ought to be the truth. And if that’s sinful, then let me be damned for it!” 

~~~ 

“All cruel people describe themselves as paragons of frankness.” 

~~~ 

“Physical beauty is passing—a transitory possession—but beauty of the mind, richness of the spirit, tenderness of the heart—I have all these things—aren’t taken away but grow! Increase with the years!” 

~~~ 

“Life is an unanswered question, but let’s still believe in the dignity and importance of the question.” 

~~~ 

“Friends are God’s way of apologizing to us for our families.” 

~~~

 

Our Insect Friends

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Our Insect Friends ~ 

Being drawn to the bizarre, the macabre and the twisted as I am, I’m a fan of the artistry of Travis Louie, as seen in these four examples:

Our Insect Friends 1

Our Insect Friends 2

Our Insect Friends 4

Our Insect Friends 3

Bye Bye Blackbird

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Bye Bye Blackbird image 1

Bye Bye Blackbird ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp

The year Nellis Folts was eleven years old was the year he decided he would enter the school talent contest. He chose Bye Bye Blackbird for the number he would perform, and he wouldn’t just stand there and move his lips to some stupid record the way some people did. He would actually sing the song. He asked Miss Mullendorfer, the assistant music teacher, to accompany him on the piano and she readily agreed, saying that she thought it was “simply splendid” that a boy like Nellis, who was usually so standoffish, was going to participate in something she knew was going to be “lots of fun.”

“I’m not doing it for fun,” he said. “I’m doing it for the prize money.”

That evening when Nellis told his mother at the dinner table that he was going to perform in the talent show, she was less than enthusiastic.

“Are you sure you want to be up there on the stage in front of all those people?” she asked. “They’ll laugh at you.”

“I know. They laugh at me anyway.”

“I didn’t know you could sing.”

“Well, I can.”

“I’ve never heard you.”

“I want you and father to come to the talent show. You can hear me sing then.”

“I’m sure your father will be too tired to go out after having worked all day, but I’ll try to come if it’s a night I’m free.”

“You’re free every night.”

For two weeks before the talent show, he practiced Bye Bye Blackbird every night in front of a full-length mirror in his bedroom, with hand gestures and a couple of dance steps that he made up himself. He sang in a quavery tenor that sometimes verged on the soprano:

Pack up all your cares and woes.
Here I go, singin’ low.
Bye bye blackbird!
 
Where somebody waits for me,
Sugar’s sweet and so is she.
Bye bye blackbird!
 
No one here can love or understand me.
Oh, what hard-luck stories they all hand me!
 
So make the bed, light the light!
I’ll be home late tonight.
Blackbird byyyye byyyye!
 

(At the end of the song, he held out his arms and went down on one knee.)

For his clothes, he would wear black pants, a white shirt, and, from a trunk in the attic, a decades-old yellow sport jacket with wide shoulder pads and a red-and-yellow bow tie. Just the thing.

The night of the talent show brought with it heavy rains and thunderstorms. Nellis’s mother heard on the radio that storm warnings had been issued, but Nellis was not to be deterred. At six o’clock, one hour before the talent show was to begin, he put on his yellow plastic patrol-boy raincoat and, with his satchel containing the clothes he was going to perform in, walked the half-mile to school. He was soaked all the way through when he got there but was gratified to see that a lot of people had already shown up and taken their seats in the auditorium. The school was abuzz with excitement, in spite of the weather.

Without speaking to anyone, Nellis went into the deserted boys’ room to prepare. He took off his raincoat and set his satchel on the floor and opened it. His hair was still wet, so he took a wad of paper towels and dried it off the best he could and poured some Vitalis into his palm, rubbed his hands together and smoothed down his thick mess of dark hair. He then combed his hair exactly the way Sammy Davis Junior would have combed his if he had been there. He felt certain that anybody who owned a television set could not fail to make the comparison.

After dressing, he checked himself in the mirror and, when he was satisfied with the way he looked, especially the bow tie, he went “back stage,” where he and all the other contestants had been told to gather at seven o’clock sharp to draw their numbers out of a hat to determine in what order they would appear on stage. When he picked his number from the hat and realized he was last, his heart did a little thump-jump inside his ribcage. But no matter, he told himself. He didn’t mind being last; he would be freshest in the minds of the judges.

To begin the show, Mrs. Pepper, the music teacher, went out on the stage and waved her flabby arms to shush the audience. She was only four-and-a-half feet tall and almost as wide. Somebody in back of the auditorium whistled at her and yelled “Oh, baby!” but she pretended not to hear.

“Welcome to the annual school talent show!” Mrs. Pepper said in her whiny voice, training her myopic gaze on the middle distance. “It looks like we’ve got a capacity crowd! I’m happy to see that so many of you have braved the bad weather to be with us tonight! And I don’t think you’ll be disappointed! We’ve got a great show for you!”

The public address system squawked and sputtered, eliciting whistles and hoots from the audience.

She tapped on the microphone before continuing. “To make our competition a little more interesting,” she intoned, “our first-place winner, as decided by our three judges, will win a prize of fifty greenbacks. Our second-place winner will win twenty-five greenbacks, while our third-place winner will receive a complementary pass for dinner for two at the Lonesome Pine Restaurant and Grill on Highway 32.”

“Woo-woo-woo!” somebody in the audience yelled. Mrs. Pepper frowned for a moment before resuming her smile. “So, without further adieu,” she said, “we now bring to you our little show.”

The first contestant was Cecelia Upjohn, wearing lots of makeup, even though she was only twelve years old, and a skin-tight, glittery costume with red-white-and-blue diagonal stripes. She twirled her baton to a recording of I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy, all the time with a fixed, doll-like grin on her face. When she tossed the baton high above her head, she somehow caught it without even looking at it. She finished her routine with a perfect split, one leg in front and the other behind as she went down on the floor with seemingly no effort at all. The audience rewarded her with resounding applause.

Then Ralph Krupperman with his hair the color of a new penny and Belinda Cornish took to the stage to do their Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance routine. He wore a tuxedo with a swallow-tail coat and she a curly blond wig and a satiny white dress that clung to her immature body and dragged the floor. He flung her around and around at a dizzying pace to keep time with the music as the tails of his coat flapped and she tried hard to keep from falling. After a frenetic five minutes, the music ended and the routine was over. Ralph and Belinda clasped hands and smiled like onscreen lovers as they took their bows and exited stage left to polite applause.

When Curtis Bellinger came onto the stage, a questioning murmur arose from the audience because he carried a chair in one hand and a saw in the other. (What was he going to do? Saw the chair in half?) He carried the chair to the middle of the stage and set it down. Then he sat on the chair, put the saw between his knees, and, producing a violin bow, began playing Some Enchanted Evening. The audience was transfixed as the mournful sounds of the saw carried over their heads and out the doors into the rainy night. When the song was over, the audience applauded enthusiastically—more for the novelty and daring of the act than for its musicality.

(As Curtis Bellinger was leaving the stage, a huge crack of lightning caused everybody to gasp and the lights to flicker, but the lights stayed on, and the moment of danger, if that’s what it was, was forgotten in the wake of the next act.)

Three large-for-their-age girls, who looked enough alike to be sisters but weren’t, came onto the stage, their hair in snoods and dressed in women’s army uniforms. They stood side-by-side, looking silly and self-conscious as they waited for their music to begin and, when it did, they began swiveling their hips and moving their arms like marionettes. They moved their lips to Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy, while everybody (even the most naïve person in the audience) knew they weren’t really singing.

The next act was Gus Goldblatt, a fifth grader who already weighed over two hundred pounds and wore men’s clothes. His grandfather had started teaching him the accordion when he was only two years old and since that time he had become steadily more proficient with that instrument. He favored the audience with Lady of Spain, segueing smartly into I’m Just a Vagabond Lover. The audience was most appreciative.

Gus Goldblatt’s exit brought Bertha Terhune to the stage. She was dressed in a black, full-body leotard with red ribbons in her hair and what appeared to be a bedroll under her arm. She curtsied in the direction of the audience, and, spreading out the bedroll that was really a tumbling mat, began her routine. She did a series of cartwheels, then forward somersaults and backward somersaults. She jumped into the air one way and then the other, twirled, twisted, leapt, spun, and turned, all with the agility of a flea and so fast that she was only a blur. The audience hooted and whistled.

Nellis watched all the acts from the wings as he waited to go on. He stood near a window and was aware of the storm, but what the weather might or might not do was the least of his worries. He knew he could remember all the words to Bye Bye Blackbird, but what he was worried about was “putting the song over,” as they say. The audience had sat though a lot of acts. Would they be ready for his? Would they laugh at him, as his mother had said? Would they boo him off the stage? Suddenly he wanted the whole thing to be over and to be back home where it was safe and quiet. He took deep breaths, felt light in the head, and hoped he wouldn’t be sick.

Miss Mullendorfer was standing beside him with her sheet music when Mrs. Pepper came to him and told him it was time for him to go on. He took a deep breath and walked out onto the stage. When he was installed behind the microphone, he looked out at the audience and tried to smile and they looked back at him, waiting to see what he was going to do. Two hundred eyes trained just on him, waiting for him to begin. Could he remember how the song began?

When Miss Mullendorfer from the piano played the little intro she had worked out, Nellis opened his mouth to let out the first notes. That’s when the storm hit with all its force and fury. The row of windows behind the audience blew inward as if from an explosion. The audience screamed, a prolonged wail of terror, and, as if being awakened from a dream, jumped to their feet and began running in every conceivable direction, except toward the exits and safety.

Nellis was stunned. He didn’t know what was happening. He looked over at Miss Mullendorfer at the piano to see if she might give him some cue as to what he should do, but she was gone. He was all alone on the stage, grasping the microphone stand in both hands. The thing sputtered and sparked. He might have been electrocuted if the power hadn’t failed at that moment, bringing him to the reality of the situation. He was just able to make his way out of the building in the dark as the roof was picked up and deposited someplace else and the walls around him began to collapse like a house of cards.

Copyright © 2014 by Allen Kopp

Edgar Allan Poe

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Edgar Allan Poe - Copy

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

~~~ 

“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.” 

~~~

“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.” 

~~~ 

“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things that escape those who dream only at night.” 

~~~ 

“The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?” 

~~~ 

“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” 

~~~ 

“Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears.” 

~~~ 

“The true genius shudders at incompleteness and usually prefers silence to saying something which is not everything it should be.” 

~~~

“I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat.” 

~~~ 

“That pleasure which is at once the most pure, the most elevating and the most intense, is derived, I maintain, from the contemplation of the beautiful.”

~~~ 

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