from the collection of short stories I finished recently, of which a few are true, like this one:
1.the high school play
Tom rode team roping with his brother. Said he's gonna be on the pro-circuit, you're gonna see his name in the paper with a record, maybe in bronc bustin. He was a tallish lanky youth, strong, cocksure, blond curling hair and reddish tan all summer.
In school he sat in the back and shot the shit with the boys, talkin dirty like their mothers would whip em for, flirtin with and generally terrorizing nearby gals. His girlfriend was Tammy, tight blue jeans over her little bubble butt and tall blond hair bouncing with hairspray discipline. She liked to watch Tom rodeo. Everybody knew her and Tom were gonna get hitched just as soon as he was done with college, rodeo college, down in Pueblo, if she don't get knocked up first.
The Dwayne Brothers had a shared reputation. Joshua, a year older than Tom, led the way in gettin up to no good in a charming way, with athletic talent that when applied to a school team sport like wrestling made the greater slew of misbehavior more likely to be dismissed by the male faculty, at least, as boys being boys. Joshua and Tom still frequently found themselves both waiting to talk to the principal, exchanging giggling notes in much the same way and for the same hijinx that had gotten their family banned from church on occasion, to the mortification their hardworking mama.
His senior year saw Tom as the only Dwayne Brother at the Plain County High School, and for the most part he had himself a time. Never worried much about studies, he enjoyed being cock of the roost and basked in what seemed like golden possibility.
His first semester of senior year he was in drama, and by tradition seniors got the choice parts in the play. It was with a strange look and solemnity that Mr. Perkins the drama teacher assigned Tom the role of Dylan. He handed Tom a pair of thick black prop glasses and explained the part quietly, directly to Tom.
"I want you to understand, it's a sensitive part, Tom. Dylan is soft spoken, you know, maybe not particularly sure of himself, but he's got something, you know? Your job here is to find out what that is."
Responding to the sincerity of the frequently disrespected teacher, Tom looked at Mr. Perkins from underneathe bronze blonde eyebrows like his daddy was tellin him which animals to bed down where and with what before a storm, nodding his understanding perfunctorily.
Tom goofed offed plenty with Tammy and the gang whenever possible during rehearsal, making faces and doing Loony Toon voices wearing the prop glasses. He'd make out like he hadn't studied his lines but kind of let on that he really had. Tammy was playing an ingenue of sorts, and Tom could be caught once or twice delicately coaching her on the spirit of her character, to the bemusement of Tammy and their pals.
"Yea she's pretty and all, Tam, but you gotta find more to her, there's a part there where she really breaks down and it just breaks your heart."
The last half of senior year went by in a flurry of mild snow storms and sports victories, including those with Tom as captain of the wrestling team. Soon it was opening night, backed by the giddiness of upcoming holidays.
The day of opening night however brought tragedy. It was afternoon when the news began to circulate, the president is dead, shot in front of his wife in Texas. That wasn't all that far away. What was even closer was the grief, rising, waiting to realize itself. Sure he wasn't perfect. Some folks around here might've even had something to say about him, before, but not now. Death revealed his youth, his idealism, and the unrealized dream of the rest of his life. Everybody felt like his brother, or wife, or little children.
So it was with some surprise that evening saw the high school auditorium steadily filling with somber faces. It seemed everybody had nowhere else they wanted to be; they didn't want to be alone, they didn't want to leave the kids alone on their big night, and so the town congregated for the fall play, dressed in Sunday best, girded by thick coats against impending winter.
The play opened to the applause of solidarity, ringing on for an extra moment with deliberate defference. The play's lead, a generally stalwart brown haired youth who captained the football team, had the wide-eyed look of a boy becoming a man through the dawning of reality. His lines arrived with odd cadence and emphasis. The leading lady carried on, with a certain commitment, she liked acting. Tammy, unbeknownst to herself, stole the show from her however; her subdued mein, her eyes fresh from crying, tapped into the sweet, sad core of the ingenue.
Tom did his part. It wasn't much for most of the play. As the drama ran to a crescendo, a comparatively modern piece for the area, touching more emphatically now than ever on the basic struggle of existence, the other students beginning to run into shambles as the scenes progressed, it became his time to take center stage.
"Now settle down," his voice reverberated. Nobody expected that. The command, loud, authoritative, but gentle, rang to the backrow. The cast was genuinely moved to stillness. He held his head high for a moment, the stage lights blazing off his gold curly hair combed to obedience with pomade, and the shiny black prop glasses. The whole theatre waited with him. He dropped his head. He delivered his lines partially to the pit, and they spilled over the room.
"Janice, it's all right. Charles is not in his right depth. You see, he's in a position, where I spend most of my time. He's in a world in which he doesn't belong. Can't you see? For me, it's the world where you all seem uncomfortable, where words come with a clambering in your head, a clutching of your stomach. When the stillness in your soul clashes with the rhythm and confusion of life, as I understand you know it. I would not know. For me, there may be no reconciliation with life. Except Charles, Charles is in love with you, Janice. There's a cure for his malady, if you choose to dispense it. For him, through your love, this world will change. not to what it was before, but to a better one, for having known what it means to live without you."
He said it frankly, naturally. He hinted at a monster, a castaway amidst peers, that drove the depth of his character. He wore it like his own. When he spoke to the other actors, he looked in their eyes, and they looked back at him, rapt, as he gracefully circled the stage.
"Well, T- Dylan," Hank, in the role of Charles, began haltingly. The faces of the audience sparkled here and there wetly. "To me, there seems like nothing else to do."
Nothing like this had happened in rehearsal. Tom had gaffly delivered his lines to which Hank had routinely responded with pat bravado. He delivered himself now as if delivering himself to the woman he loved, heart and soul. On fortuitous cue Tammy burst into silent tears, as the play strode resonantly to conclusion.
The cast stood center stage, and for a moment the hall was silent. It then erupted one clap then another in a cascade of sound. The parents, teachers, students and sundry assembled from the town rose as if in unison. As the actors took their final bows, the town poured its emotion onto the stage, in one long wall of applause, ripped from the typically stoic hearts of ranch folk. The actors turned back into high school students stepped back instinctively at the wave, gathering themselves to look into each other’s eyes and bow shyly once more.
The stage light dimmed. The house lights came up. People began to file out. The cast and crew fluttered somewhat gigglingly to the lobby, where the girls were greeted with flowers and the boys with pats on the back. For Tom, though, cast, crew and audience alike came to him one at a time, looking him in the eye curiously, shaking his hand meaningfully, or hugging him an extra beat. The eyes of many, his mother, his father, his brother, Tammy, and Mr. Perkins included, still shone.
Tom did go on to rodeo. For a while, you saw his name in the paper, on the top of the champion's list, in bronc bustin.
I write a lot. Always have. If you pay attention to this site, you might eventually see some free books because I don’t know what else one does with poetry and short stories.
I’ve read a bunch, not as much as some. Russian authors, they’re a big blind spot, I’ve got suggestions to start on.
I like Steinbeck. Nabokov. Palahniuk. Vonnegut. Dickensen. Dickens. cummings. Sappho. Shakespeare. Richard Bach. William Gibson. Connie Willis. Uncle Walt. Bukowksi. Hemmingway. Lewis Carroll. G. G. Márquez.
So I write. And I read. I probably read better than I write.