For August Marian Allen

copyright August, 2012
Marian Allen

Joel wrote the plays. Saffron figured out the staging. The rest of us painted canvas, scrounged up costumes, and memorized Joel’s not-so-deathless words. Pauly lined up the barns, empty stores, abandoned churches, and the occasional parking lot, and handled all licenses and paperwork. It made us enough to cover expenses and put some away for the coming college year. Besides, it was fun.

We started out with three generic pieces: a romance, a mystery, and a farce. We did one all around the circuit, then the next all around, then the next. Meanwhile, Saffron read local newspapers and haunted libraries, and we all kept our ears open, eavesdropping on the natives in the hardware stores and restaurants, and gave what we found to Joel, who plugged stuff into the original three plays and renamed them.

By our last go-round, we had a play specific to each location. Our audiences were always fairly good, but the tailored stuff really pulled them in. Every place has its tragic romance, its legendary crime, and its favorite eccentric; all we had to do was decide which one we were going to do and drill ourselves on which names to use that night.

The last show of the season was a mystery: “Death In Darson City”. True to barnstorming tradition, it was full of action and alarms, but short on subtlety.

Saffron played Luellen Darson, oldest daughter of the town founder, who apparently stole the lumber yard’s payroll and ran off with a handsome rascal. In Joel’s play, though, the rascal stole the money, murdered Luellen, and ran off alone (one of the more lurid versions from the hardware store).

I had just plunged the stage daggar into — or rather onto — Saffron’s bosom, breaking open the packet of stage blood and coating us both with washable gore, when the performance was disrupted by a lusty cheer from the back of the stage. Thinking it was something Joel had added at the last minute, I let Saffron’s “lifeless” body slip to the floor and prepared to ad-lib.

A horsey-faced man I’d never seen before, wearing a costume I’d also never seen before, had gotten onto the stage. Oh, boy! It wasn’t unknown for a civilian to get tanked up and try to get into the act, and the last night of the season seemed a fitting time for it to happen.

This guy didn’t seem drunk, though. He didn’t stagger or swaggar, just stepped forward, his eyes on Saffron as if he’d stab her for real with his glare. He switched his attention to me, giving me a dimpled grin, his eyes glowing with teary joy.

“Give it back to the hell-cat! She did it to me, you do it to her! Serves her right!”

He held out his hand for me to shake. As I touched him, he vanished.

I’m telling you what: The country gives me the creeps.


About Jim Hilton

Just having a good time writing about our little adventures.
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