Morgan Reginald Hollingsworth III was nervous. He had butterflies in his stomach. His mother had told him it was normal and if the lights were set right he wouldn’t even see the audience. It would be just like when he practiced in his room or in the garage. “Nuttin’ to worry about, Reggie,” she said, “easy peasy,” she assured him, “piece o’ cake! Now go break a leg!”
She put her hand in the middle of his back and shoved him out onto the stage and into the spotlights. He stumbled forward and squinted out at the crowd. Mom had been wrong. He could see everyone in the audience, in great detail. He could see his Aunt Fiona’s mustache and the large mole Uncle Alfonso wore so proudly in the middle of his chin.
Nervously Reggie tried to smile and wave at the crowd. He opened his mouth to begin his well rehearsed line of patter but nothing came out. He screwed up his face and tried again with the same results.
Why had I agreed to this? He asked himself. What had I been thinking?
He tried to picture everyone in the crowd naked, he had heard that this technique worked to lessen stage fright, but then his eyes fell on his cousin, Elsie and her fraternal twin Edgar. Just the thought of those two naked was enough to make him a bit nauseated. Looking down at his feet he studied the worn oak boards of the stage.
His grandfather had performed on this stage; Harry Houdini had performed on this stage. Blackstone had trod these boards. Even Claudio and Evangeline had gotten their big break here. He took a deep breath and reached up his coat sleeve to pull out his wand. This was the part of his act where he would always say “Abra Cadabra” but he found that his voice was still missing so he simply pointed his wand at the audience, waved the tip ever so slightly, and a shower of stars flew out over the entire theatre.
Oohs and aahs echoed towards the stage from the seats.
“Catch one if you can,” Reggie said, “Catch one and put it in your pocket. You never know when you’re going to need a light.”
He smiled and watched the audience reach upwards, as one, to capture the tiny lights and secrete them into their pockets and handbags. He glanced to the side of the stage and watched his mother pluck one of the stars from above her head. She placed it gently on the palm of her hand, held it up to her mouth and blew it, like a kiss, towards her son, Morgan Reginald Hollingsworth III, tonight’s headliner.
Butch waited for Gerald to get close then stepped around the corner, “Gimme yer fuckin’ lunch money, Twink!”
“I don’t have any money, sir.”
“Don’t lie to me. I’ll smash you. Turn yer pockets out.”
Gerald set his things on the linoleum floor and did as he had been asked. All he had was a small pocket knife. Butch took it.
“How are you gonna eat without lunch money?” Butch asked. He poked Gerald in the belly and sneered, “Yer obviously not missin’ any meals.”
Gerald pointed at the paper bag stacked atop his books, “I brought my lunch.” He said and looked Butch in the eye.
“Wadda ya got? Gotta boloney sammich? Got some o’ them wavy tater chips? Maybe some chocolate chip cookies? I like chocolate chip cookies.”
“No sir, I don’t eat a lot of sandwiches. I have grilled chicken and roasted vegetables wrapped in a flour tortilla with a garlic aioli. I brought some of those new Goldfish crackers, and I have apple slices for dessert. I have a lot. I’d be happy to share with you.”
A puzzled look crossed Butch’s face, “You fuckin’ kiddin’ me?”
“No sir, I’m on my way to the Cafeteria now. Come with me.”
Butch thought for a few seconds before nodding his head, “OK, let’s go.”
Gerald picked up his stuff and they two boys continued down the hall towards the lunchroom. “May I have my pocket knife back sir?”
“Don’t push yer luck Twink.”
“Sorry, sir. Could you call me Gerald instead of Twink? My name is Gerald.”
Butch slapped him on the back, “Gerry, I ken call you Gerry, but I’m not gonna call anybody Gerald.” They got to the lunchroom and paused to look around.
“There’s an empty table over there in the corner,” intoned Gerald.
“I don’t like that one. Let’s go take that one over there,” Butch pointed towards a table by the window where three or four of the Student Council members were sitting.
“There’s no seats over there.”
“Come on Gerry, we’ll chase em off.” He grabbed Gerald’s jacket and pulled him along.
“Lucinda watched as a fly made its way to the top of the large picture window. Once at the top, it descended, flying, hitting the glass a million times a second, bashing its small body against the unforgiving barrier between it and freedom.” She named him Magellan.
When the fly reached the bottom of the glass he would make his way back to the top, move over a bit and do it all again. She determined that he must be following a grid pattern, looking for a way back outdoors. Lucinda waited for him to reach Grandma’s collection of Hummel figurines that she kept on the window sill. Poor Magellan would have to detour around them.
She watched Magellan search, and listened to her grandma in the kitchen preparing another lunch of chicken and dumplings. Grandma boiled the chicken for hours in a stock pot with spices that turned the chicken green. When she pulled the chicken apart she boiled the dumplings in the same pot, in the same water. The dumplings turned green as well. Lucinda, concerned about the green food, always waited for someone else to take a bite first. If they survived, then Lucinda would eat too, and hope for the best.
Magellan made his way back to the top of the glass and Lucinda returned her attention to the tenacious fly. He was tiring. She picked up one of Grandma’s throw pillows and held it to her face, waiting to see what would happen to Magellan. The pillow smelled like Grandma. Finally Magellan hit the glass one last time and fell to the window sill where his body rolled beneath one of the Hummels. She realized that Magellan had had a different goal in mind all along. He had achieved it. “Beneath the statue, at last.”
A good part of my adult life was spent working for The Firm. I didn’t drive fast cars, assassinate despots, or steal state secrets. I was more of an indoors type. I would sit in a building on the outskirts of some small, usually European town, surrounded by radio equipment, video equipment, and other electronic gizmos. My job was to monitor things. I was more of an “Electronic Spy” than a “Physical Spy”. I listened, watched, and reported.
I’ve retired now and it took me awhile to figure out what to do with my golden years. I have no family. No wife, no children. I have lots of money and speak seven languages pretty fluently. I tried arts and crafts but I can’t even draw a straight line, and don’t even get me started about the hazards of decoupage. It didn’t take long for me to donate my brushes, paints and other supplies to the VA center in the city.
Farming was the next thing on my list but that didn’t work out too well either. My career had been relatively sedentary. I sat around a lot. Farming is hard work for which I was woefully unprepared. I kept the acreage but the land sits fallow, with the exception of about ten acres along the road that I lease to Mr. Coates. He grows stuff there and it makes the property look like an active farm; from the road at least, if you don’t look too hard or too carefully.
I tried working at a repair shop in the city. I can fix almost anything electronic but it’s hard to get excited about repairing a vacuum cleaner or a stereo when you’re accustomed to working on non-linear RF spectrum analyzers and the like. So I got bored and just quit going to work. They called a couple of times but I simply didn’t pick up. Eventually they quit trying.
I think I’ve found my niche now though. I added a shop behind the house and I’ve begun to tint glass. Not like the tinted glass windows on cars but small fine optics I grind the lenses and darken the glass. Grinding the lenses is the easy work; getting the tint right is the challenge. I’m darkening these things up in order to make it safe for the user to view a solar eclipse. I find that the sales are somewhat seasonal and tend to follow the occurrences of events but the demand is high enough during those times that it keeps me busy in my shop all year round. I stockpile inventory and business is good. I’m thinking of taking on an assistant.
Ideally I would like to find someone close to me in age who spoke Sami, Vepsian, Udmurt, Frisian, and Rumantsch but I recognize that is a pretty tall order so I would settle for just Frisian, such a beautiful language.
I would be willing to train the appropriate candidate in the finer points of grinding lenses and tinting eclipse glass. Tools, room and board, along with a generous stipend, will be provided. If you think you’re up for the challenge fax me a resume at (123) 555-3690. Include a recent photo.
I shook my head as she shook my hand. I must have gotten a puzzled or confused look on my face.
“What seems to be the problem, Mr. Jensen?” she asked.
“Oh, there’s no problem,” I replied, “It’s just that you seem very familiar to me somehow. Are you sure this is the first time we’ve met?”
“I’m certain,” she responded, “Perhaps we knew one another in a previous life!” She smiled, then she laughed and her entourage laughed along with her. She was younger than I had expected and decidedly more beautiful.
I led them into the conference room where my team was gathered around the table waiting. This meeting could be the one that finally put Peter Jensen Advertising on the map.
Introductions were made all around, business cards were exchanged. I studied her card.
I knew everything there was to know about Ana Petroff. I had studied a long time for this meeting. She looked younger than the photos I had seen and I commented on it.
“You may have been looking at photos of my mother, we share the same name. I’m quite protective of my privacy so I’m pretty careful to keep my photos off the internet but my parents have not been so lucky. I’ve been told that I look a lot like her.” Her accent was quite slight, yet very musical. I thought I could listen to her speak forever.
Her father, I knew, had been Sasha Petroff, a popular Russian Cosmonaut. Always in the public eye as he traveled the world marketing and “ambassadoring” for the Soviet Space Program.
Then it hit me, like a ton of bricks. She was that girl from the West View.
The West View is a luxury apartment complex, situated directly across the river from my house. For years I had been spying on the residents of West View with the telescope I kept set up in my bedroom window.
Ana Petroff had moved into the West View about six months ago and had captivated my attention since I first noticed her. She had floor to ceiling bedroom windows that offered a spectacular river view. She liked to stand naked in her window to bathe in the morning sunlight, and watch the river traffic. I knew because I liked to stand in my window and watch her through my telescope.
I grinned and thought I suddenly know a whole lot more about Ana Petroff than I did just seconds ago.
What a perv, I am! I thought to myself. Then immediately, I thought, how much that sounded like something my mother would say. Something she would say right before she sent me to my room and grounded me for life. My smile broadened.
“Well, let’s get started, shall we?” I suggested, “There’s coffee and pastries on the sideboard. Please help yourselves.”
Step away from the keyboard. Your 25 minutes are up. – No editing other than to place the quotes around “ambassadoring”. I’m pretty sure I just made that word up.