Thursday, July 20, 2017

Story 195: Outdoor Performances Will Be Held Rain or Shine

            The pouring rain started less than an hour before curtain.
            “We should cancel,” Stage Manager said to Director.  “It’s going to be all mud out there, and no one’ll come to see this tonight anyway if they’re drowning.”
            “Out of the question!” Director replied.  “The Outdoor Stage is our best venue and the flyers state ‘Rain or Shine,’ so ‘Rain or Shine’ it shall be!”
            “Yeah, I’d said back then that that was a bad idea, and this is why.”
            “I don’t know what you mean; rain like this doesn’t last that long, and look!  There’s someone in the audience already!”
            “That’s just our regular – she comes to every performance and no one knows why.”
           “Who cares if it’s one or a hundred: the show must go on because all the world is one giant stage and the play is the very thing!”
            “I don’t know if anyone’s brought this to your attention before, but you really aren’t suited to direct Shakespeare.”
            “…I know.”
            The shower knob turned up a notch as a trumpeter blasted rusty notes announcing the start of the show.  The Regular, sitting on a beach chair front and center on the lawn, was wearing an umbrella hat and holding a pennant that read “TEAM LYSANDER” as she clapped enthusiastically.  The trumpeter sputtered to an end and exited while the first actors entered stage left.
            The sandals of “Theseus” and “Hippolyta” squished so as to overpower their lines, so The Regular scooched her chair right up to the “stage” – after all, whose view would she be blocking?  The actors adjusted their marks and proceeded to ignore her.
            There was a close call when a barefoot “Puck” slid through the mud to the other side of the scene, but she recovered nicely with a flourish.
            “Woo-hoo!”  The Regular cheered, waving her “TEAM TITANIA” pennant.
            “I’m cancelling the rest of the show at intermission!”  Stage Manager shouted over the sounds of the crew constructing makeshift shelters over the props backstage.  “It’s getting dark and I won’t be able to turn on the stage lights later and then what’ll be the point?!”
            Director was watching the underwater play raptly.  “Who needs them?  Our audience can see everything perfectly, can’t you?”  He waved back at The Regular who had spotted him peeking through the backdrop.
          “The fairy bower is so waterlogged that the fake flowers have all rotted off!  Do you even know how much those things cost?!”
            “It’s in the budget; just pick some real ones off the campus grounds, I’m sure no one’ll notice when they’re gone.”
           “Excuse me,” “Nick Bottom” tapped Director’s shoulder.  “I don’t think I can do the last scene with the donkey’s head on: it acts like a sponge, so earlier I almost suffocated.”
            “Nonsense.”  Director did not even look at him.  “Just find a snorkel and stick it out through the back until the head comes off – improvising has never been your strong suit, you know; we really need to work on that this summer.”
            “Nick Bottom” left to figure out this conundrum as Stage Manager signaled for intermission.  “At least let me give the actors those rain coats from last year’s show – ”
            “Never!  They’re not period.”
            “These plays never were period!”
            During intermission, The Regular supported the Drama Club that season by buying almost all the snacks they sold, and posted on her updates: “Attending Outdoor Shakespeare Performance – BEST SHOW I’VE EVER SEEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE!!!  Really Makes You Think :-).”
         After intermission, the actors chattered their teeth through lovers’ quarrels, tomfoolery, reunions, and fairy magic.  The show almost stopped when the awning became so waterlogged that gallons cascaded on top of the “Rude Mechanicals” during their Romeo and Juliet rip-off, but The Regular applauded wildly while waving her “TEAM BOTTOM” pennant and the show went on.
            Once “Puck” closed out the night’s shenanigans and the actors took their bows in the calf-high pool, The Regular blew her air horn in appreciation and Director emerged to thank her for attending.
            “Not at all!”  She packed up her gear in about five seconds.  “I loved the inclusion of the rain in the performance – really emphasized the depression of thwarted love and the control Nature has over mortals’ lives.”
           “Thank you,” Director said; behind the backdrop, Stage Manager ground her teeth.  “I thought these were the perfect conditions for this work, and I wish it could be like this every night – what The Bard would have wanted, I dare say.”
            “We’re all crazy nerds for going through with this, though, amIright?  But I guess the play’s the thing!”
            “That’s what I said!”
            Crashes sounded backstage – Director excused himself to see what was being destroyed.
           “Thanks again, you all were great!”  The Regular waved on her way to the parking lot.  “I’ll see you tomorrow night – forecast says there’ll be hail, I can’t wait!”

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Story 194: Household Appliances All Talk to Each Other

            Friend 1 called Friend 2: “So, want to come over tomorrow?  We can catch up on the last season of Sword Slash and make our predictions for the next hundred episodes before it comes back on Sunday.”
            “I’d love to, but I have to wait for the plumber tomorrow – I’ve got toilet trouble.”
            “Uh-oh, has it been naughty?”
            “Very, and I can’t sacrifice any more gallons of water to its greed.”
            “Need to use mine in the meantime?  It’s usually not occupied.”
            “Thanks, but between work and supermarkets I’ve got a system that should tide me over until it’s fixed.”
            “Suit yourself.  Maybe I’ll come over and wait for the plumber with you – it sounds fun.”
            “It isn’t.  I’m just afraid the call will go out to the rest of them and I’ll be doomed.”
            “The rest of who, plumbers?”
           “No, the rest of the appliances in the apartment.  Once one goes, they all decide to break down; you know they all talk to each other.”
          “Heh-heh, they sure do.  When I was a kid, one summer the sprinkler system and pool simultaneously sprung unknown leaks so bad, my parents had to request rations of water from the reservoir for five years.  I blamed my bad childhood on that, but I didn’t really mean it.”
            “…Yeah, OK, bye.”
            Friend 1 arrived at Friend 2’s apartment bearing chips for the wait and tissues for the tears.  She knocked on the door, but it slid open after the first rap.  There was a lot of noise coming from the living room; as she made her way there, she tripped over a cord.
            “Easy there, toots,” a tinny voice addressed her.
          “Hm?”  She looked down and could only see a radio lying on its side on the floor, so she picked it up and set it on the kitchen counter.
            “Thanks,” she heard the same voice say.  Must be a random appropriately answering station.
           In the living room, Friend 1 saw Friend 2 surrounded by all appliances great and small.  Friend 1 was afraid that she was having a stroke: the appliances appeared to be mobbing Friend 2, who was writing notes on a clipboard and slowly rotating in a circle as she spoke.
            “Now, Microwave, your settings are tied into your timer, so if that isn’t working then you’re really just no good to me.”
            Microwave had a few choice words: “Fine!  Wait forever for your dinner plate to heat up on the plain old stove!”
            “I hardly ever use you now as it is, so that means nothing to me.”
            “Now – Internet Modem!”
            “Yes, ma’am!”
            “What is going on with the network lately?  I keep having to unplug you.”
            “Hate to be the bearer of bad news, chum, but the time may have come for a factory reset.”
            “Ewwwww!  All right, I’ll settle that with a paper clip later.”
           “You might want to unplug me from the wall one more time before you do that, if you know what I mean.”
           “Excuse us!”  Water Heater and Furnace were approaching from the hallway, with their various pipes entwined; Water Heater was the spokesmachine: “As you know, we’ve both been running steadily and under extreme conditions for 18 years and cannot bear to be apart; with your permission, we would like to go ahead and permanently break down together now.”
            Friend 2’s face narrowed: “While I appreciate the romance behind that sentiment, your manufacturers clearly indicated a life expectancy of 20 years, so 20 years I will get and NOT A SECOND LESS!”
            As the two trundled dejectedly back to their extended service in the utility closet, Friend 1 finally found her voice: “What all this?”  Her supplies had long since been dropped on the floor and forgotten.
            “What’s it look like?”  Friend 2 snarked over the din of noisy machinery.  “It seems that I have a mutiny on my hands.”
            “What about the toilet, it was only just the toilet, what happened to the toilet???”
            “We’ve reached an understanding.”
            “Yes, Fridge – ”
            “It’s Refrigerator, if you don’t mind.”
            “Yes, Refrigerator, I know the freezer is completely iced over and the main section is a desert – I’m still sore about those lost leftovers – but the company said they’d send over someone any day now.”
            “And you believed them, did you?  If they’re not here by tomorrow, say good-bye to your ice cream.”
            “Is that a threat?!”
            “It’s a promise: simply nothing will survive the Ice Age that’s going on right now.”
           “Fine, fine, I’ll beg them to come tomorrow.  You do realize that if they don’t, though, then you’ll be replaced?”
            “I withdraw my complaint.”
            “Should I leave?”  Friend 1 was back at the door with one foot outside.
            “You don’t have to, unless you want to pick me up a new TV; this one’s absolute rot.”
            “Next time don’t show me snow when I want to see anything but.”
            Friend 1 tried again: “You seem to have things under control here, so I’m going to, you know, head out.”
           “All right, go ahead, I’ll talk to you later.”  A massive THUNK sounded from the utility closet.  “Who was that?!  Washing Machine or Dryer?!”
            Silence for a few seconds, then: “Both.”
          “That tears it!”  Friend 2 slammed her clipboard on the floor; the surrounding appliances scurried back a bit.  “I’m tired of having my life run by all of you!”
            “Guess it’s a trade-off for the convenience,” Friend 1 said on the way out the door.  “Imagine if they really knew their power over our lives; we could have a real dystopia of our very own!”
            “Don’t give them any ideas!”

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Story 193: Reverse Puberty

            (Associate escorts Client into the office and they sit at opposite sides of a desk)
            Associate: So, as I mentioned on the phone, we were most taken with your application essay.
            Client: Thank you; I put a lot of thought into it.
           Associate: Yes, well, as you know, this is a life-changing process that cannot be entered into lightly, so we very carefully select only those who demonstrate both a great need and a complete understanding of what this involves.
            Client: I agree entirely.
            Associate: And that’s where we come to the interview portion of this program; it shouldn’t take too long.
            Client: That’s all right, I’ve got nowhere to go.
            Associate: Hm.  (Looks at a printed list of questions) Your essay covered a lot of these, so I’ll skip ahead a bit… ah, here: You received the manual detailing the medical process of reversing your puberty, which basically means that your hypothalamus will be tinkered with and the appropriate glands and organs will be removed or revert to their pre-adolescent state.  We have perfected the technique so you will not develop the unwanted symptoms that come with Kallmann Syndrome and the like, and you will retain your current height and muscle mass; however, in certain respects, you basically will have the body of a child.  Are you completely prepared to accept all the possible consequences, real or imagined, that will result from this traumatic procedure?
            Client: I most certainly am.  At this point in my life I don’t intend on having any children of my own, and none of this (Gestures across her body) is doing me any good, know what I mean?
            Associate: (Writes notes) Please don’t make me answer that.  Now, another side effect of the process will be to considerably lower your levels of aggression due to the complete lack of both estrogen and testosterone in your body.  Are you currently in a home, work, and/or social situation where that would be a problem?
            Client: Quite the opposite, actually: I’ve been told that I have “anger issues,” so this should be a relief to us all.
            Associate: Hm.  (Writes more notes) Standard confirmation: Did you sign the attestation that undergoing this procedure will not, in fact, return you to your own childhood where all was bliss and nothing bad ever happened?
            Client: Yes; don’t worry, I know this isn’t a time machine.
            (They both laugh, then abruptly cease and stare at their hands)
          Associate: Um, let’s see.  Do you understand that fundamentally changing your body chemistry also does not release you from any debts or contractual obligations that you currently possess?
            Client: Sadly yes.  They’ll be a bit confused the next time they see me, but they’ll still want my money.  I actually have a question.
            Associate: Oh?  Yes?
           Client: It’s a little embarrassing, but will this also get rid of, you know… (Waves her hand at her face)
            Associate: Your… nose?
            Client: No!  You know – unwanted body hair.
           Associate: Oh, good heavens, yes.  At least it should; you might want to avoid ingesting certain types of milk and meat to make sure.
            Client: Oh.
          Associate: You also didn’t mention if acne was a problem, but that too should go by the wayside.
          Client: Yes!  I try not to think about it anymore; you probably don’t have to worry about anything like that, but it’s so irritating that I still have to deal with it at my age.
           Associate: I have an inkling.  (Scratches her back)  Right, we’ve come to the last question: Once you have completed the reversal, do you intend to spend the rest of your days convincing your family, friends, and/or total strangers to undergo the same process?
            Client: Heck no!  Let them figure it out for themselves if they want.
            Associate: (Writes more notes) Perfect.  (They both stand and shake hands) Well, that’s all for now.  I have to submit these for review, but judging by your answers I can say with confidence that you should be reverted to pre-pubescence in a very short time indeed; congratulations.
            Client: Thank you so much!  It’ll be such a relief – you have no idea how puberty ruined my life.
            Associate: I think most people would agree.