Lovely Theater

Lovely theater friday nights, festival nights, a holiday weekend after the 4th, firecrackers, they’d all rejoin each other, come back out into the night, revel, free from their works, and Lovely would watch, a time for playing out the themes of a week like playing out lobster lines, buoy by buoy, letting them loose into the water while the distractions onstage soar, reciting Shakespeare, there is love in that, not the meaning but the sound, they say if you’re native to the noise the ululation of Islam is proof enough, thus Shakespeare, native-enough, nowadays, to not understand the inside jokes, the signifiers, but through movement of the actor’s lips outside in the evening as bats dart through ballistics you hear trance riddles, alliterations, midsummer slipping into chance, trickier, there might be cases of mistaken identity, certainly lovers kissing accidentally in bushes, thinking they hold their possessors at bay, twigs and berries, but the boys have swapped places in the darkness, wandering in, wandering out, the crowd comes and goes, it’s causal, casual, music, the players focus energy on you, Lovely, you alone, they sense your trance, trace you darting with the bats, entanglement with their words, openness, having received a first dose of man the brightest of them all opts to descend into man, fire, learnedness, four elements, the rout,

nothing linear for the learned, no betters, none worse, no caste, but processing, there’s only 10 kinds of people in the world, the on-off switch fires or doesn’t fire for them, the on-off switch doesn’t exist, it is shades and tones and entanglement, two types duplicated into the infinite, binary joke,

Lovely alone laughing

*

Do You Want Popcorn,

no,

brushes at the air like bats land, actor sees the bat swooping, he’s in the middle of the fairie king’s trope, without stopping, ululation unbroken, he points a finger at the bat and shoots it, pantomime, so serious, the magic detonation of monologue, imbued with dead now, the act of killing spontaneity coupled with the bard’s couplet, the bat swoops, dips, hearing in sonar the sound of the tittering mass, virtuoso turning a sky-borne hunter into his prop,

I’m Going To Get Popcorn, Okay?, Okay, Lovely?, If You Need Anything I’ll Be Right Back,

Lovely claps, whistles after the whistling and clapping has long ceased, there’s a bit player sweeping through, low humor, scene change, he nods at Lovely, thank you Lovely, nice of you to notice me, resonance extends, it’s been smoking all along, tinder and match and Lovely raucous in the pine-board bleachers, there’s swaying in the air, fair festival, the ribbons of the fairies, chestnut deluge, here is the pinnacle of their work, all the world alive, processing, the length of day longest and the night warmed for lovemaking,

as She rises for popcorn, forces her way down the aisle between knees, the emptiness beside Lovely opens wider, yawn, she shivers, warm, pleasant, but shivers, how long has this emptiness been beside me?, how long have I been here?, they’re into a series of ‘m’ allusions now, merchant, medico, monster, machine, ambulatory, missile, the bat,

Lovely pats the flat pine board, come sit here player, bit part, you can see me, the birth mark of my smile, but do you know me like I know you already from the sound of your eyes?, off stage left, bowing as the main characters come robed and pompous, big-voiced, he was a boy, that’s all, a brownberry boy snuck into shadow, did he have ice cream backstage?,

*

there’s a beautiful old man on the theater bench in front of Lovely, beautiful, straight-backed, in a white suit with a white hat he doffed when he sat, a cane, seersucker, maybe a man from down south, that gentile tan, white-toothed, white-haired, a man cast in two tones, white, the suit, hair, teeth, hat, and tan, his face, hands, his watch golden, the accents on his costume pale yellow, fleshy, hinting at surprise and interior softness, he’s a beautiful man, straight-backed, frail and possessed at the same time, he must be near 100,

Lovely claps, whistles, the man turns around and smiles, It’s Over Now But We’re All Glad You’re Enthusiastic, A Performance!, Certainly A Stellar Performance That Boy Gave,

Lovely’s embarrassed, not that she was clapping, no, she knew why she was clapping, certainly, for the Phoenician, it’s just, well, she looks away, up into the sky, the bats swoop and gather, the stars ask hypothetical questions about distance and nearness, if you can see me am I not nearer to you than the scientist said?,

What’s The Matter?, the man says, then he corrects himself, noticing Lovely’s squint, her stoop-backed way of looking upward, O, I’m Sorry,

he turns forward, embarrassed himself, muttering for a moment, then back again, gathers himself, It’s Intermission, Do You Want To Go Get Some Peanuts With Me?,

yes, okay, yes it’s okay, peanuts, don’t choke,

he stands, he offers Lovely his arm, he’s a row lower than her but they hold hands, just at the right pace, a chapel roof over the seated pew, the people beneath them watching the stage for the darkness that comes next as they pass, he limps a little, dragging his leg along, but that’s alright, and no it’s not intermission quite, but that’s 1-0, it doesn’t matter, either-or, not when you’re listening for allusions, Lovely hears it still, pike hunters and merry-go-rounds, it’s all there, newborn,

tall cans in the air, gels spinning aureate on the stage, feel the heat from the transom above, like brighter stars aimed exclusively at them, in stages, the players,

peanuts, two packs of peanuts, What’s Your Name?,

Lovely digs in her pocket for money,

no, don’t worry about it, please, my treat,

Lovely,

thanks, it’s my honor,

*

why is everyone so nice, suddenly, why?, is there a new scent to me?, this man is old enough to be my chaperone, my grandfather, where did my father go when he went down to the Vineyard to visit his momma?, brushing up on his Brahmin, perhaps he’d rent a bike and trek around the island, out into the space in the middle that didn’t feel so much like island as it felt like nowhere, there’s got to be a dump, a refuse pit, somewhere out by the airstrip, cut directly across it on the one good road, out to the lighthouse at the clay pot cliffs, a long bike ride, and back, eventually come back when the air chilled, wildflowers on the roadside, shy in the evening, and, just for awhile, there are no other people,

standing with toes on the edge of the cliff, bicycle under his arm, he could touch the cliff-edge, never let his strange daughter see it, the vertigo he loved, she inherited, be still on the cliff right near the lighthouse, a dangerous occupation, looking south to New York City, there’s a channel of water, so much traffic, looking back on the interior of the passage, it’s too far, too much to comprehend, the other way, looking east over the vast ocean, this is easier to understand, just one chunk to bite this lifetime, one mystery, New York City, no one notices amid the traffic two people coming and going, it’s ceaseless, it’s obscure, we want to be so independent, so much older, but it feels as if the Bay exists only because the City is beneath it, so much coral and muck, over the years, traded for a handful of beads,

he’ll stay in the Methodist Campground, they’ve got a house there, rented usually, or just boarded up, momma lives on the northcoast, she’s got shoreline, dunes, a boardwalk of her own out to the lawnchair where she likes to sit, she keeps the Campground chapel because it’s expected, and lovely, nice for tea, Shel Silverstein lives just behind her, a crooked little place with a likeable front porch, not much for jig-saw work, really, compared to the others, but festival, painted pink, shades of pink, and the old church among the oaks presiding over it like a shadow, father opens the house these trips, dusts mementos, takes his shelter in it’s linen and stuffy for a night, feeling closeted, it’s the shoal for him, he ventures out to the cliff’s edge, watches for the sharks, slits his finger with his jackknife and drops blood on the wave,

he knows the scent of it, spread in the water, drawing them, a wound, a weakness, he eats oysters on the half-shell alone, his finger wrapped in bandage, waiting for the sharks, the restaurant resting right on the water’s edge, with mosquito nets to shield bats from the porch, a short walk from his Campground dollhouse, his little place alone,

this is his trip, when the shark comes he knows what to do with it, how to ensure it doesn’t shy from the devouring, he’s a quiet man, quieter now wounded, having asked his mother for money, the recipe, got to maintain that big place you wanted me to have, mom, me and mine, Lovely’s doing alright, the therapists say its just a matter of time, a phase,

it’s your inheritance, son, that house, that girl,

*

at theater, everything a recitation in form, but thrown into the wings of chance when performed, like the arrival of a bat, predator shot in pantomime, prop, swooping away from the laughter, brilliant blackness darting in the sky,

he’s got them two bags of peanuts, he’s talking to Lovely, it’s a wonderful name, lowercase like that, Lovely looks at him directly, lowercase, it’s a wonderful name, useful for so many things, you don’t speak much do you?,

no,

maybe she’ll uppercase the answer, he’s been so nice,

No, Not Much,

see, there, that’s a good girl, these are my favorite peanuts, fresh-roasted, can’t figure out where they get them like this or I’d start a business, import them so to speak, though they’re already here, so I suppose it wouldn’t be importation, listen to me I’m blathering like I’ve never been with a girl before, how old am I?,

100,

damn near it feels like!, but no, not quite 100, thank heavens, 1-0,

you limp,

lost my leg in the expedition,

Lovely’s eyes dart downward, she wants to ask about the gun case, what was in it?, she wants to see the peg, has walking worn it flat inside his shoe?, is it comfortable?, does it itch anymore?,

you’re not dead,

no, not dead,

he’s laughing now, the show’s ending, intermission at least, and the others are around them, a throng, he’s laughing heartily, his teeth are white, chalky, he’s got a bit of peanut on his lip, Lovely reaches up and brushes it away with the back of her knuckle, he’s not the dead man, he’s not dead,

there, she says, better,

peanut rubbed away, out of danger, they look at each other, the throng around them, a little space between them like the cushion of air caught between the skin and the fine hair on the back of a neck when the beast is moved to fear, not dead at all, he says, feeling quite alive now, quite,

*
 
close encounters, her favorite movie, they speak to each other in music, lights and music, the same refrain repeated, repeated until it becomes koan, essential, a base understanding between lives so that subtle variations may enter, the themes toyed, tinkered, expression on the scale of shared understanding conveyed in the changes of key, tone, timbre,

any idiot can play the tune, but only the savants fly, will they approach the government workers, the classification ready to be completed, a sample taken, and be there to hold open the gate, enter the lights, look in through the horse chestnut trees as the ceremony of spring commences?, you’ve got to go hide in the well, break through the illegal, not-supposed to do it, be alone for awhile, suffer some to see it, the ceremony,

they’d called to Richard Dreyfuss specifically, that’s why he’s the hero, he heard the call, intuited it in his mash potatoes, was willing to go crazy for it, see the dead cattle and continue to the lip of the cliff, look out into the staring ocean, tempt the sharks, he became the explainer at some point, believing in them despite the fact he could not read them, geschält, open up to me and let me in I am prepared to step away from the cliff now, though you and the children won’t like the direction I go, you see, I’m leaving, I’m going with them, I’ve waited this long, crazy, yes, crazy, I’ve waited and listened to the music in the undertones of the theater and I think I understand why it shakes me,

you’ll just have to wait a few years, I wish I could say goodbye but I’ve lost the capacity to yell, sing, I’m mute and afraid of the words I’d choose to leave you if I had to tell you I’m leaving,

there’s an answer for causation but it’s impermanent, based on theme and variation, like music,

I’ve written it under the toilet bowl, my finger is the moon,

*

when the beast is moved to fear the cushion of air prevents penetration, the hairs tingling, adrenal dopamine of fear, what if?, what if she’s like Lovely, mute, prone to step up to the edge of the cliff and require a program of such fence-building?, make it a beautiful fence, something for the fishermen to see, yes, and banish her from the parties, she looks like you, she’s moving in you, separated from you, tangential and free,

when the beast is moved to fear silence surrounds it in the midst of movement, they all must piss together, one deluge of letting go, pent up, come for cotton candy and champagne, it’s strange things at the vendor stands in an outdoor theater, slushies and strawberries dipped in Godiva, cheeses, pixie sticks, you’ll find it all, the movement, many of them, intent on what they want, where they’re going, what’s next in line and how to get there, the hushed raised-hair partitioning of Lovely from the world can’t last, can’t last too long, it’s built on fibers of energy, someone will step through, they’ve got too much space to themselves, either move forward, into it, or backward away from it, his hundred year-old lip was wet, soft where the peanut stuck to it, the back of Lovely’s knuckle, the brush, wet, soft, qualities imparted by the lip, he’ll say something, maybe he’ll say something, he’s got that way of breaking tension, Phoenician nervous as a schoolchild, what is it about you today, Lovely, that scares men?,

he doesn’t say anything, the bat swoops above him, three bats, whirligigs, the crowd stirs insects from the branches of the park trees as they mill and move, active bats, he touches the corner of his mouth where Lovely had touched him, reflexively, he blushes, he drops his hand, he raises it again, halfway, perhaps he’ll simply lead you back to your seat, take your hand and lead you back, that would be alright, a denouement, not tragic, not comic, gentlemanly, it need not be theater, after all, just real, it could be just plain ol’ reality come to call, the moment,

the space,

surrender,

the moon touches the finger, moon already,

a woman enters the shared circle, three now, not two, everything noisy, the prayer-singer in the tower pauses for a drink of water, flips to the next verse in his mind, flips forward, the Phoenician rolls up his sleeve, slits his wrist with a sharp shell from the peanut bag, squeezes his forearm until a drop of blood falls on the park grass, he says, maybe, oh, here you are shark!, I was waiting!, I’ve been calling out all along,

the woman in the circle speaks, circling:  I thought that was you, Mayor, how nice to see you again, what a crazy chance!, I’ve noticed your blood on the lawn,

old lady, her hair white as snow, she’s got glint in her eyes, she’s got approach in her feet, she’s got chance all over her belly, it’s golden like sunlight, it’s rising into her cheeks, she looks away from him, the Mayor, the 100 year-old man, it’s shyness, at first, but a shyness from him, from his gaze, and a quick but deliberate at Lovely, sizing it up, the situation, what’s she doing here?, should I acknowledge her?, old woman’s only got a second to decide, damage and faith, what had once been, was, will be, he’d written the love note, promissory, that wouldn’t change no matter what,

who’s your friend?,

that’s what the new old lady says, it’s friendly, it’s polite, it denies prior knowledge, clings to the recognition of him, of the two of them, they’ve got history, seduction, she wants to ask the Mayor if his wife has come to the show tonight, if his kids, his grandkids have come to the show tonight, or if he’s all alone, and if so, why?,

except her, all alone except her, of course that’s the answer, old lady wiles tell her already, flash and smile, Lovely and the Phoenician in a scene,

we’ve come to get peanuts, the Mayor says, pregnant, she’s Lovely, Lovely this is Adelaide, an old friend of mine,   

*

the rats come home, home to the dollhouse, they begin unpacking the box of elephant bones in the attic, doing the work a bounty of archeologists could not, tanning thick hide, stretching it over doll-chairs, matching bones by scent alone in the husk and shell of the evening,

you’d hear scratching, if you were home, the itching emptiness of work, remodeling in the dollhouse, they’ve lit little lights, candles 3/31st scale, and they chant in rat as they work,

rise up, rise up, rise up,

the first act closes, Lovely returns to her seat, she looks straight ahead at the stage, hears nothing,

Where Have You Been?  I Was Worried About You.  I Told You I Just Went For Popcorn.  You Didn’t Have To Run Away.

just for a moment there are pauses between the sentences filled with nothing, that’s a new something, the pure nothing, the numbness, still capitalized but broken up, parsed, She speaks without flow, Lovely has never known it’s like before, she’s an enemy now, she’s been threatened, she’s been recognized and threatened all in the first moments of the show, entanglement, I’ve stepped away from my watcher, recognition in one place, from one mouth, threat from another direction entirely, old man, hunter near,

Don’t Leave Me Again Like That, Okay?  Lovely, Nod To Show Me You Hear,

the parsing stops, the pure sound flows again, it had been a brief lucidity, the best we can hope for, surrounded by truth, to behold it a little at a time through accident and disciplined attention, if only Lovely had mustered a full sentence, a mouthful, philosophy, had she, the spell would have uncast, thorny bramble eviscerated from the Sleeping, Lovely, speak, Beauty, do,

Lovely nods,

the actors come back onto the stage, Lovely hears them even

before the curtain

Posted in Fiction and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • Contribute a Story

    Identity Theory publishes fiction from new and up-and-coming writers, with special attention paid to promoting strong literary voices. To contribute a short story, read our fiction submission guidelines.