A night at the Opera

I was challenged to write a conclusion to a story started by The Haunted Wordsmith and continued by The Bag Lady

Actually, Im not really sure if it was supposed to be a conclusion or just a continuation. So I have left it a bit open ended. There are, to be sure, a couple of logical inconsistencies within the combined work…. I hope that doesn’t matter too much

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Rudolph. Rudolph the rude she secretly named him two years ago. She first met Rudolph during intermission in the lobby of this same opera house. He came on strong and the champagne cocktail encouraged her to flirt probably a little too much. She was instantly enamored by his boyish charm and definite interest. They joined each other after the performance and went to a cafe for a late dinner and live music.

Possibly it was all of it at once, or the way he held her close as they danced that made her fall so quickly. They spent the next two weeks barely able to leave each other for a few minutes, but then her vacation ended and she was immersed in her job once again.

Lana put her whole self into any endeavor, but as she sat reading manuscripts, her mind wandered to the vision of Rudolph. Lana was wondering if she would ever see him again. They promised of course, as passionate lovers always do, but she had been home for a week with no word. Her attempts to contact him came back unanswered.

***

So this was awkward.

She could not help but stare at him, of course. But nor could anyone else. He took centre stage and was, in more ways than one, magnificent. She felt more than a pang of guilt when Joshua tapped her gently on the shoulder and whispered in her ear, “this guy is great.”

“Oh, yes,” she whispered back, but more to herself than to Joshua.

But it was utter foolishness. She was a happily married woman. Well … fairly happily, anyway. And if her marriage was lacking that certain spark of romance then that was the nature of marriage. Perhaps it was the nature of romance. For romance would always be transient.

And tonight, at least, Joshua was really trying. In the car lay a bunch of flowers and the book that she had long lusted for. She could still feel the lightheadedness of the wine they had shared at dinner. He was, after all, her childhood sweetheart. What could be more romantic?

So she resolved, then and there, to put it behind her, to lock forever that window into the past. And look to a future that had been mapped out for her. Mapped out for Joshua, anyway. In the family furniture business. What future was there for the tenor? What would become of him when his good looks and his sweet voice deserted him?

But still she was transfixed. And not once, not twice, but three times she thought he made eye contact with her. Which was impossible. The stage lights were directed towards him and, looking out into the audience, he must have seen only a sea of grey faces in the shadows. Perhaps every woman in the audience imagined such eye contact. How many of them, she wondered, had slept with him?

She had little memory of the performance itself. She remembered to applaud only when Joshua nudged her.

And then, as they stood to leave, an attendant pressed a note into her hand. It was a back stage pass for the following evening’s performance. She recognised the handwriting. ‘Bring a toothbrush’ the note said.

Lana knew immediately what she would do.

My mother and Wayside.

Many of you may have heard me mention Graham Long at the Wayside Chapel. I hold him in high regard. He has recently retired. But I was reminded of him yesterday by Kate, my estranged daughter, who confused him with his predecessor, Ted Noffs, the founder of Wayside. This, in turn, reminded me of my mother who once had a cup of tea with Ted. So this is for Kate.

*****

My parents, in their twilight years, established a tradition of dining at the local RSL every Wednesday evening . In earlier times they had travelled the world together and dined in restaurants overlooking the Mediterranean and Hong Kong harbour. They had travelled in the first class cabins of jumbo jets. But, by now, they were slowing down. Their tastes had become more modest. They were old. My father was convinced (incorrectly) that they were going broke. And my mother was in the early stages of the dementia that was soon enough going to kill her.

An RSL is, for those of you unfamiliar with the concept, a club established for the benefit of service men or women whether currently serving or otherwise. My father, as a WW II veteran was such a person. Meals and booze are subsidised, at the club, by a stream of income mainly generated by gambling and whilst my parents were not poor (despite my father’s fears) they liked to be ‘careful’. The fact that, as Presbyterians (allegedly), they were profiting from the proceeds of gambling never bothered them at all.

One of the events on a Wednesday evening is the ‘Badge Draw’. The ‘Badge Draw’ is not a difficult or unusual idea to comprehend, and not entirely out of keeping with the club’s focus on gambling. Here’s how it works….. Every week a set amount of cash is put aside and put in a ‘pot’. On a Wednesday evening one membership number is chosen randomly and, if that member is in the club at the time, then the cash is ceremoniously presented to them. If not then the ‘jackpot’ accumulates for the next week. And so on.

On this particular Wednesday evening a number was read out over the PA system whilst my parents were midway through their meal. They didn’t recognise the number. They weren’t even listening. But you don’t have to recognise your own number to win the Badge Draw. When you sign in to the club the system registers your arrival and the system knows that you are there.

So, before long, club officials were at my parents table and directly addressing my mother.

“Congratulations,” they told her, “you have won the Badge Draw.”

She had absolutely no idea of what they were talking about. “Oh,” she responded politely, “that’s nice.”

“Yes,” they said, “Isn’t it just? Can we present you with your prize?”

“No.”

“What? I’m sorry? I don’t think you understand. You’ve won some money. We’d like to give it to you.”

By this time my mother was growing a little annoyed. “Look,” she explained, “this is all very nice, I’m sure, but I’m eating fish and chips with my husband. I don’t want any money.”

“Can we present it to you after the meal?”

“No, thank you.”

“But it’s money.”

My mother sighed. “Take a look at me,” she suggested, “I’m almost dead. I don’t need any money. And I don’t want it.”

“It’s a lot of money.”

“Keep it.”

This situation, understandably, was not something that the staff had encountered previously. They had no clear direction. And by now, of course, my father was in something of a state. The notion of giving up what had been described as ‘a lot of money’ did not sit well with him. He reached his hand over to gently touch hers. “Listen, darling,” he suggested, “perhaps it would be easier ….”

The staff leapt to his support. “Madam,” they assured her, “we’re not allowed to keep it. I think your husband is right. It would be best if ….”

“Then give it to someone else.”

“We can’t do that either.”

The situation was at a stalemate. Everybody was looking at each other. My father shrugged his shoulders. The staff shrugged their shoulders. My mother resumed her meal with gusto.

The manager was called. He arrived with a broad smile on his face and shook everybody’s hands. “Well. Firstly may I offer my hearty congratulations on your good fortune. I have been advised of your feelings. But the money is yours. And it is yours to do with as you please. If you wish to give it to someone else then that is entirely your business.”

My father couldn’t help himself. He had to ask. “Just how much money are we talking about here?”

The manager smiled again. “Just short of thirty-seven thousand dollars, Sir.”

*****

So my parents returned from their cheap night at the club with just short of thirty-seven thousand dollars in their pocket.

My father urged a reconsideration of generosity. But my mother could not be dissuaded. First thing the following morning she was on the phone to the Wayside Chapel. “I want to speak to Rev Ted Noffs,” she declared, “ I’d like to make a donation.” Wayside receives a lot of small donations from kind people. Frequently it is just loose change. But everything is appreciated. My mother made no mention of the size of her donation.

Rev Noffs was a busy man back then. He couldn’t take every call personally. So he had one of his staff deputise for him. “Well, that is very kind of you,” the lady said to my mother, “and we would be more than happy to accept it. We rely on the support of kind people like …”

My mother cut her off. “How do I do it?”

“Well, you could drop it in here or you could post a cheque if you like…”

“What’s the address?”

The address was supplied and that was that. She hung up the phone and turned to my father, who was still in a state of shock. “Get me an envelope and write out a cheque for thirty-seven thousand dollars,” she instructed.

*****

It was the following Monday when the phone rang at my parent’s house. My mother answered. The caller was the Rev Fred Noffs.

“I was wondering,” he said, “if you’d like to drop by for a cup of tea.”

NaNoWriMo

50,000 words in November

Inspired by Marquesa (I will, no doubt, learn to despise her as a result) I thought that I would put my name in the hat for this month of torture.

It will, at least, have the positive symptom of keeping me too busy to bore you people with inane and essentially meaningless posts on here.

But here’s the problem. I think I need some sort of pre-prepared basic plot in my head before putting the first word on the page. I have no such plot.

So I am fishing around for ideas.

Does anyone have any plots in their heads that they have been meaning to act upon but have never got around to? And would you like to witness your beautiful project being ruined? If so, I’m your man.

Any ideas more than welcome ….

Two – for the price of one (but for less than the value)

3 things challenge …. affair, share, after hours

SoCS …. flowers

OK. This is just plain lazy. Sitting here this morning and waiting for the sun and trying to contribute something. Was tickled a little bit by 2 Challenges (above) but too slack to give either of them the attention that they deserve.

Don’t bring me flowers

And expect

Anything

After hours

Bring respect

That we can share

Man and wife

Until then

It is my life

And not your affair

It’s a desert out there. And I was parched.

I’ve created such a mess

I am here to confess

There’s no way for me to justify my actions

Though I’m taking all the blame

I cannot supply her name

But I offer you my unreserved retractions

I’ve been missing you so much

You know I pine for your touch

I was parched for your love and for your kindness

I really wasn’t thinking

After she and I’d been drinking

Please forgive me for my temporary blindness

#159

A minor reversal of form

Those of you who have been following my sad entries in writing competitions (yes, both of you) may be startled to hear of an apparent form reversal in the most recent Fiction War event.

The final 15 were selected and somehow (conceivably via a clerical error) my name found its way onto the list.

Go figure.

Eccentric. Not in our street, thank you.

Word of the day – eccentric

We were told, in hushed tones, that he was crazy. And that was made clear from the day he moved into number 21, next to Mrs Simpson. Although the word ‘crazy’ was never used, of course. He was, more commonly, referred to as ‘eccentric’. But we quickly learned that ‘eccentric’ meant ‘crazy’. It was just a more polite way of putting it. A polite sort of insult, I suppose. For we lived in a very polite street.

He was from Afghanistan and he had a thick accent that no-one understood very well but from which everyone could tell that he was not very intelligent. And probably dangerous.

And my mother told me that, under no circumstances, was I to accept any offers of lollies or cold drinks from him. And perhaps that it might be best if I didn’t talk to him at all. Ever.

But here was the problem. I walked past his house everyday as I came home from school and if he wasn’t tending to his vegetable garden at the time he was sitting on his verandah sipping on hot tea and staring out into the distance. And when he saw me he said hello and before I knew it we were talking daily about football and the weather and how to make lemonade and what sort of roses grew best in dry soils.

And he told me about his former life as a doctor and how, one night, the police came and took his wife away. And then he said, “but don’t you worry about that because this is a better country where everyone is free and they don’t put people in jail for no reason.”

And so I was a bit surprised when they came with their flashing lights and their sirens and their air of self-importance and they pushed him into the back of the van and drove him away. I was walking home from school just at that moment so he had the opportunity to say, “don’t worry …. a misunderstanding … “ or something like that. I never saw him again.

There are laws against eccentricity in this country, of course. I realise that now.

Eccentric