Leona shuffled to center of the stage with an armful of coral snake hoollahoops. She was wearing a tight bronze bedazzled leotard that showed much more of bosom than she wanted. Someone wolf whistled. It wasn’t her fault, her boobs seemed to swell and bulge by the minute. She knew all the boys in the school just by looking at the tops of their heads, but she never said, “My face is up here.” Instead she opted for, “Your worship pleases me. Go in peace my son.”
She spun the first snake around her waste; it whipped around, slithering gracefully around her curvy figure. Just as she bent to add another snake, the roof of the school theater trembled. Dust from the splintered rafters spilled down.
“Earhtquake!” someone from the back yelled. Instantly, the students darted to the exit all at once, hopelessly clogging their portal to freedom with the frantic arms, fists, and legs of teenagers in a full panic.
But the earth wasn’t moving; the ceiling was; soon after, a loud crack thundered through the auditorium. A huge black bag fell from the ceiling. If Leona hadn’t dashed from the center of the stage, the bag would have squashed her, for where she had just stood, the enormous bag punched a meteoric crater.
The auditorium was silent. Everyone was looking at the contents that had just taken center stage. The students at the crammed at the doors dispersed, mindlessly toward the stage, entranced by the mysterious bag. Their gaze fixed on the shiny, huge, silver zipper attached to what was clearly a body bag.
The ribs of the zipper had popped open, revealing the bag’s astonishing bounty. Leona reached toward the bag. With much effort she heaved out a solid gold brick. Mindlessly, she lifted it so everyone could see. The stun of silence lasted only for a moment.
….The Elephant Room….
Mr Edwards had never even taken the stage for a high school production, he had never attended a Broadway show, but that didn’t stop him from becoming a drama teacher. It wasn’t as if he hated drama. In his own way, he loved it. He just didn’t have a talent for it. His degree was in Communication Studies; it was the closest he could get to the stage. And he barely escaped university with that. His professors consistently marked him down for theatrics, Professor Poole, even wrote” histrionics”.
“This is NOT the elocutionary school,” Professor Poole said, “You’re delivering a presentation about outsourcing technical support, not Death of a Salesman. Drop the bad Chinese accent. No role playing, just the facts.”
At present, Mr. Edwards looked at his classroom; there were thirty chairs, but only seven students. The room was practically a basement. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. He could still taste some of the bowl he had smoked at lunch; his latest crop of mystic magic had pleasant way of sticking the skunky taste to his teeth. He sipped some water. His mouth was really dry.
“Extra credit for attending the talent show tonight” he said. Then he took a swig of water.
“Acting” he said in loud and over articulated voice; he enjoyed the vibrations rumbling through his chest.
What magic! he thought. Wow. I’m doing the speaking thing, the thing which makes my marshmallow lungs bellow wind and strum the wet fleshy chords of my throat. I don’t even know how I do that. It’s amazing. I’m turning an invisible mess into hard sounds that drift into the to minds of my students. Speaking is so impossibly magnificent.
He took another sip of water.
“Acting” he said again, “is a cloud floating through the sky of your mind–he could see them floating--it takes on many shapes–he watched the imaginary clouds turn into an elephant–it your job to give the shapes form–the elephant solidified into a mean gray mass of fury–to flesh them out–the elephant lowered it’s tusks and charged–to draw them convincingly into a moving three dimensional picture of emotion–the elephant slammed into Mr. Edwards brain exploding in a puff of butterflies.
It is your job,” he told his students, “to make lies true.”
“It is your job,” thought Leona, “to butcher metaphors and rip off other people’s ideas and claim them as your own.” She drew swirls in her notebook next to the coral snakes she had drawn earlier. She took care not to harm the evil devil Allan had drawn during lunch break.
Something soft and powdery brushed against her face. She stopped doodling. Leona looked up at the colorful wings flapping in front of her. There was a flurry of butterflies twirling around Mr Edwards head. But that wasn’t what kept her eyes on Mr. Edwards.
Mr. Edwards said, “Did someone turn on the heater” he felt feint, nausated, and more drunk than stoned, but also surging with a strange electrical crackle. He was sweating furiously; his breath swift, shallow, but suffcient; he had enough air, it was just coming into him in a different way; he was panting.
Leona’s mouth gaped. She blinked; she rubbed her eyes; she blinked again, but nothing changed what was happening. She watched Mr. Edwards eyes shoot around the room.
Was his skin changing color? she thought. No, it was just the heat. Heat in an air conditioned room? Just a wild flush? No,it was more than that. His skin turned into the color of blood.
Leona looked at the other students; good she thought I’m not the only one. I’m not crazy, this isn’t a hallucination But she wished it was just a hallucination because from Mr. Edward’s wispy hairline burst two twisted ivory horns.
(The stories above are from my first ever YA novel. It’s a compilation of shorts that all tie together somehow. Everyone is barefoot.)
When I was 19 nothing could divide me except 1 and myself; I was a prime number: invincible, impractical, and energetic.
I “attended” DeAnza college in Cupertino, CA where I majored in skipping out on class to drive a few hours to Woodland to skate with my friend Troy, drinking coffee with girls who put scars on their faces from drunk driving, and eating poppy seed muffins full of chemicals that would make me fail a drug test.
Some nights, I drove myself to a chain-link fence. I used my tattered coat to cover the bared wire; behind the fence was a prime loading dock called “Memorex“. It featured a smooth asphalt embankment with a curb on top. I would grind the curb and catch air quarter pipe style on the bank. The huge bright, lamp above the bank made Memorex and excellent night spot.
Most of the time, the security guard on duty chased me away; unless the security guard was Johnny. Johnny didn’t care. And I always knew Johnny was on duty when I saw the orange glow of his cigarette at the end of the loading dock. He wasn’t supposed to smoke and I wasn’t supposed to skate. When I got tired of skating, we’d talk about our lives and occasionally about philosophy. Johnny was surprising well read, but miserable. He had a wife and a child to support. He felt locked into his job, but found a ways to bear it, like sneaking a smoke and letting some crazy 19 year old catch air on the bank.
One time, instead of skating Memorex, I made the three hour drive to Troy’s house in Woodland, CA. I didn’t care that my brake lights were broken and that I didn’t even bother to call Troy to let him know I was stopping by. We skated an empty pool in a slum apartment complex for a few hours, then I headed home. As soft magenta hues dwindled from the vibrant evening sky, my eyes drooped. A loud blasting horn and shriek of skidding tires jolted me awake. The person behind me narrowly missed my car. Luckily, both of us were OK and there was no damage to either car. I popped on my headlights and used my parking lights as substitute brake lights until I got safely home.
The next time I went to Memorex, Johnny wasn’t on duty, he wasn’t on duty the time after that, or time after that. It was annoying because the other guards were total a-holes. One of them even brought a German Shepard with him. I told my friend, Mike, how f-up it was that Johnny wasn’t on duty.
Mike lit up and said, “You don’t know!?” Then he told me that Johnny was smack addict and that he ODed. Johnny didn’t seem like the junkie type and Mike was the BS type.
It was difficult to picture Johnny sticking needles in his veins. But when I think back, Johnny did seem depressed the last few times I saw him and he did mention how it would be nice to just “fall asleep and never wake up.”
I’ve never fully trusted Mike; he was after all a drunk and liar. To this day, I hope he was lying about Johnny’s OD. Even though I never did see Johnny again, I still hope that it was because Johnny got promoted or found another job. But laced inside my hopes and in this memory is a deep residing sadness.
Yet a part of me, still imagines Johnny is out there somewhere in the crisp evening air letting some punk kid skate a well lit bank, smoking his cigarette and quoting Nietzsche: “The true man wants two things: danger and play.” I hope danger didn’t overtake Johnny–that somewhere he’s still out there, playing the way he did when he was 19.