Monday, May 30, 2011

FIVE: Circle Jerk

            Alexia Farrell had tears in her little gnome eyes. “I should have been nicer to her,” she said, letting the tears slide down her cheeks. “She had more costume changes than anyone else and I just lost my shit with her.”
“She wanted to talk about breaking up with Doug and I was too busy to listen,” Tammy DeBardeau said. She was sitting with the others in a circle on the theater stage and she looked out into the darkness of the house. “Now I have to live with that.”
Jerry Taller pressed his hands flat against the floor. “Yeah,” he said, “she was hurting and I didn't see it.”
            “I could have paid more attention to her,” someone else said. “Maybe I could have helped her….”
“I kept meaning to help her learn her lines—“
“This production had forty-seven costumes,” Alexia said loudly. "It was insane." Snot leaked from both nose holes. “And on closing night, I had to take care of all of them by myself.”
“Jesus fuck, Alexia, I’m sorry I had to bail, all right?” Keneesha White said, shifting from lotus to Japanese sitting position. “I was in the goddam infirmary for fuck’s sake.”
“Easy, Keneesha, nobody’s blaming you,” Jim Bolton said.
“This isn’t about you,” Alexia said.
Jerry Taller said, “It’s just really hard for me to think—“
“No, it’s about you,” Keneesha mumbled as she checked one of her fingernails.
“--that maybe I had something to do with her killing herself, that’s all.”
“I feel the same way,” Joanne Dark said. She was pulling her hair tighter into her pony tail.
            “Speaking of having something to do with it: is Douglas coming today?” Tammy said.
“Ohmygod, Tammy!” someone gasped.
            “Yeah where is he, anyway?” someone else said.
“I heard he left a rose in the hallway outside her door Saturday night.”
“Yeah, real late—sometime yesterday morning—she was probably inside...already…you know….”
“Aw man, he’s gonna carry that around for a long time.”
“Yeah, maybe about a week.”
There was a silence. And a couple of snickers. Then:
“Where’s Temple?” someone asked.
“Does he even know we’re meeting today?”
“Maybe Caleb’s picking him up.”
            Another snicker.
“Or maybe they’re still having breakfast, hee hee.”
“Yikes, inappropriate.”
“C’mon, if I had to listen any more to how amazing Temple’s play is and what a wonderful privilege it was to design the lights, I was going to puke for days.”
“How about Caleb and Les and their constant pissing contest?”
“Moira got caught big time in the middle of that.”
“Well, to be fair, her inner diva was getting pretty much outer.”
“Yeah, outer control.”
"Les, you’re asking me to be two things at once. I can’t do that. I mean it’s impossible for Octavia to be so completely different from one scene to the next and still be believable."
"Moira, we have the playwright here and he clearly asks for Octavia to be a ball-busting bitch in this scene. Temple, will you please explain to Miss O’Hare exactly what you have in mind."
"Um, well, I suppose I could do a rewrite but I think it’s apparent what my artistic goal is--excuse me while I jerk off."
"And, Moira, if I can just interject here--it’s such an amazing privilege to work on this magnificent play. We can talk about it after the rehearsal, okay? Maybe you'd like to join us, Temple, honey. Or better yet, maybe I could just join you."
            "Hah! Hah!"
“Caleb might have been out of control, but you know what pisses me off even more? Les bringing townie Diana Whatsername into rehearsals as if we wouldn’t know what the hell that was all about.”
“Well, I for one don’t know what you think it was all about. She’s a family friend.”
            “And I'm glad she's a townie. We should extend ourselves into Falkes Hollow as much as we can.”
“Yeah well, Les is extending himself way into Falkes Hollow.”
“I asked Diana to come today,” Alexia said, finally wiping her nose and cheeks with something.
It was at this moment that Olivia Troute’s voice came from the back of the auditorium. “James Bolton, I am assuming that as stage manager you have keys to the theater and that you let everyone in.”
Everyone went quiet. Jim Bolton sat up a bit straighter. “Yes, Miss Troute.” 
She came down the center aisle. She was wearing a grey suit and heels. “And I’m assuming that you are all meeting here to help each other through a traumatic, even a tragic, experience.”
“Yes, Miss Troute.”
She stood at the foot of the stage, her hands folded in front of her. “I just passed Professor Overchord outside. He will be in momentarily. And I assume Professor Deering is on his way.”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Beginning tomorrow and extending through reading week and finals, a grief counselor will be available to the department. I advise you all to take advantage of him or her. And a week from tomorrow there will be a campus-wide memorial service in the chapel. I expect the entire theatre department to be there. Now let’s go around the circle and each share a favorite Moira O’Hare story.”

                    *                    *                    *                    *                   *                   *

Outside Diana hadn’t concealed her shock at Les’s announcement. “You’re leaving Lydia?” she said.
“I’m moving out. Getting an apartment in town.”
“Soon. I don’t know. Soon as I can find one.”
“Does she know? What about Patti and Derek?”
“Look, all the details aren’t worked out yet. It’s going to be a rough couple of weeks.”
“Let’s go inside. The students are waiting.”
“You said you and Lydia are separating.”
“Well, Jesus, I’m moving out.”
“But I mean—“
“So, yes, we’re separating.”
“Does she know? What did she say?”
“I don’t want to talk about this right now.”
“When did all this happen? I mean, since last night, right?”
“Things came clear last night, yes, and this morning.”
“Can you afford an apartment as well as a mortgage?”
“I’m telling you I haven’t worked everything out yet! Leave it alone!”
“Les, I'm thinking you might want—“
“I’m going inside. Are you coming?” And he was gone.
Diana stood for a moment not actually unsure of what to do. A few yards away in front of the theater was a bench sheltered by mountain laurel. She sat on it. The air was still. She thought of Tippi Hedren sitting on the bench outside the school house, smoking a cigarette as the crows gather on the jungle gym behind her.
“Chicken,” a voice said and Diana jumped.
“You scared me,” she said to George.
“Sorry. I have that effect whether I want to or not. Afraid to go in?” George was smiling or smirking and Diana couldn’t tell if the smirksmile was being shared with her or if it was being aimed at her.
“Is Caleb inside?” George asked. She was wearing a purple peasant dress that fell in tiny gathers from her breasts, which, Diana noticed for the first time, weren’t in themselves all that big. And sandals.
“I don’t know. Les just went in.”
From her bag George took a pencil and a small notepad. “I’m not sure why I came," she said. "It’s not that I need further demonstration of the young ones’ capacity for self-or-over-dramatization--"
            Was she going to take notes?
           "--but I promised Caleb.”
“They’ll appreciate it.”
“Are you coming?”
            Diana wanted to ask George why the sudden solicitousness. “I think I’ll sit here for a bit longer,” she said.
George went in. And Diana sat. She thought she might think through what Les had said, but she didn’t. She just heard him saying over and over again, Lydia and I are separating. 
            And then she saw Caleb and Temple coming down the walk. They didn’t see her. At the door to the theater Temple said, “Go on in. I’m going to have a smoke.”
“I’ll wait with you,” Caleb said.
“No, please don’t. I just want a smoke out here by myself, okay?”
“I’ll join you.”
“Caleb, I need to be alone for a minute. Please.”
Caleb went in.
Temple walked over to Diana. “I don’t want to go in the same time he does,” he said, taking a metal cigarette case from his pocket and opening it. “He doesn’t hear what they say, but I do." He worked a hand-rolled cigarette into shape. "I don’t give a crap, but I know he would. He wants them to respect him.”
“And they do, don’t they?”
“Most of them. I do.”  He struck a wooden match on the bench and lit the cigarette. He saw the look in her eye. “Artistic pretension,” he said, tossing the match.
“Lubiak,” a voice came from behind the laurel bush. Douglas Wrythe appeared, walked toward Temple, and punched him hard in the face with his fist. Temple went down. Wrythe stepped over him and walked across the grass and into the theater.

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