A Play Demonic (The Queen’s Idle Fancy)
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the island’s residents—the ones who read the play more than once in a continuous cycle front to back, front to back, and started again, memorized every line, every part—filled fleeting and empty moments with devious plans, most wishing so much for a role, challenging others if they didn’t agree with their thinking: “I should play Gilda The Graceless; no one else could do justice to her role.” Sally said this the other day at practice and Martin couldn’t believe her haughtiness, he didn’t know why he found Sally’s brazen gamesmanship a turn-on; usually a timid mouse of an actress, second-string, Sally wasn’t Martin’s type. She announced this to the whole company preparing for the holiday pageant, a dress rehearsal busy with other things. When Kelly Lucke heard Sally’s attempt to claim the role of Gilda for her own, early, she said, “Over my dead body.” Others laughed, thought Kelly was joking since that was her personality, a class clown type.
“The only thing going for you is gracelessness. I’ll give you that,” Sally said. Little skirmishes, verbal spats between the players in public and private moments, thinly veiled threats behind the curtain, arose, and Martin noticed all of them, or heard about them from Carole. He’d asked her to keep him informed of any company gossip (or else).
Away from Carole’s prying ears, Martin made secretive calls to several actors on his wish list. Then, with a pinched and precise cursive Martin’s intricate mapping of stage directions soon filled another production notebook. Of course, Martin Belloon had his eye on the right actor to play each role. Come auditions in January, he’d watch them scratch and beg and mewl just to be lucky enough to assemble on stage with Queen Stormag. He wrote through several notebooks and filled two of them with his spidery cursive writing. At the top of each page he wrote a name in the center and underlined that name. These were his wished-for players, names of people in the town, some not ever professing ambition to be on stage, but whom Martin decided would be the only person who could perform naturally in a role. This list worried him. They needed to be convinced, prodded, cajoled, coerced into being part of The Queen’s Idle Fancy.
Below each actor’s name he wrote several character names. Possibilities. Main players and supporting parts and nonspeaking roles, too many to mention, popped into his head often enough to make him wonder just how many actors he could stuff up on stage, especially for the final moments where the entire town gathered to witness the Queen’s wrath. He left the role of Queen Stormag alone, as he’d been advised to do, along with that of The Blacksmith’s meaty part. All of this information came to him as if whispered in his ear from those shadows haunting recent dreams, perhaps, and usually, upon waking, he’d add to his notebooks while Carole made coffee and asked if she could leave to go shopping, visit a friend from the theater. Her interruptive annoyance made him relent and acquiesce to her meek demands.
“I’d like the salmon Dijon tonight if you’re heading to the market. Green beans. And the organic vanilla ice cream. If you make chocolate chip cookies this afternoon, during dessert we can practice the play, read to each other. I need to block possible actor movement in the second act.”
“That sounds wonderful, Martin.” Carole heard the subservient tone of her voice and willed herself to snap out of this current mindset. All she’d been doing the past week: read the play read the play read the play—it filled up every waking hour into late evening. If she complained (and even with her husband’s delicate threatening body language Carole forgot herself), Martin made sure she’d never attempt to do so again, and this next thought made her lick the side of her mouth, her tongue darting out and then in before her husband could see this new tic.
“I don’t want you disturbing me this afternoon, calling or texting me while you’re out. I trust you, Carole,” and here he paused and stared into his wife’s eyes for almost ten seconds, letting his words sink in before continuing, “I trust you to honor my wishes. Obey and you’ll find life will become a spectacular marker of ease, pleasure, and fulfillment. Disobey. Well. Just try it and see what that brings. Now, scoot. Leave me be.”
Carole scooted. Her heartbeat raced and she wondered if she had high blood pressure. The car keys wouldn’t go into the ignition and she screamed out loud in the confines of her proper vehicle, a Volkswagon Jetta, black. Carole rested her head against the steering wheel forming an indentation along her forehead.