I somehow managed to pick up on the second ring, even though seconds before I been dead to the world, having arrived home from the clubs in the wee small hours of the oh what a beautiful morning. Truth be told, I’m not quite sure how I managed to arrive home...I had some vague memory involving a skinny blond youth who seemed quite fetch until he opened his mouth...to speak, that is...
“Hello?” Ah, it was, it was! Exactly whom I suspected. “Oh, hello, Vern! Nooooooo, not at all.” Here it comes, here it comes...
That blessed nine o’clock on a Sunday call.
And with that, I dived balls-first into the conversation.
“Oh yes, I’m sure it was a tremendously difficult decision. From what I could see, the assembled talent rivaled that of Grand Hotel. What’s that? Oh, really? Oh...really. Yes, I see...well, of course...of course. I’d be happy to accept. No, no, no...not at all. First rehearsal is next Tuesday. Yes, of course, seven o’clock at St. Basilica’s. Yes, yes, I’m familiar with the routine. Yes, ha ha, yes! I’m...I’m looking forward to it. Yes.”
I hung up my cell phone and threw it across the bed. Then, I placed my head under the bedcovers and placed my thick pillow on top of that.
Really, it was far too early in the morning for a funeral. Time enough to face the grim realities of the day at a more decent hour. The afternoon would do.
The phone rang again at 9:30.
Then every half hour until I finally fell back to sleep and lost track until—
2:30 in the afternoon was the time I finally had the fortitude to deal with it. I threw the pillow off my head, pulled the covers away from my naked body, and searched around the bedsheets for the accursed cell phone. Ah, left corner pocket, right on the edge of the bed. Grabbing the sheets, I moved the cell phone over to my hands and snatched it up. “Hello,” I said softly, giving Brenda Vaccaro a run for her money, barely able to find the strength to utter the word.
“Dante! It’s Kevin...Kevin! Are you okay?”
“I...” I lifted up my head a bit, trying not to sound as sad and as tired as I felt. And it wasn’t from the hangover. “I—I’m doing okay. Well, as well as can be expected.”
“Miscarriage!” Kevin shouted, and I completely had to remove the cell phone from my ear. “It’s a complete and utter miscarriage, like when Judy was canned from Annie Get Your Gun. Your fans are NOT going to stand for this, Dante D’Angrande! As soon as Missy called me about this flagrant snub on the part of that imbecile Vern Slater, I knew I had to voice my support. To YOU. And I’m not alone, Dante, in telling you that RJ should never have been offered that role.”
“I thank you, Kevin,” I said, sounding wearier than Camille. “That is awfully nice, but...the truth is...he is the one who ended up being cast in the role of—“ I stopped myself, unable even to mention the name of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Even trying to say it caused me to choke up inside.
“Disgraceful! To overlook the most brilliant actor of our generation in the entire troupe. Irresponsible! Then, to make things worse, to cast that shrew Danita as Mrs. Lovett. Incomprehensible! Missy is so upset about this that clumps of her hair are falling out. To spend all those shows doing choreography for Vern, and then THIS, the one show she ever really wanted to star in. That man does not know how to cast a show if his life depended on it!”
Well, he did have a point. “He is a rather poor director. At least, I always thought so.”
“I wonder how much RJ and Danita had to pay him to get cast as the leads,” Kevin fumed, and I have to admit, he was almost starting to pull me out of my funk. “Even an idiot such as Vern has to see how superior you were at auditions. The way you sang ‘A Wandering Minstrel, I’...why, just the thought of it makes me want to break out in goosebumps!”
“Thank you,” I said. Darling Kevin, his enthusiasm was soothing. His enthusiasm was getting me to sit up in my bed! Whatever should I plan for lunch? Mmm, a cheeseburger might be nice. “I worked awfully hard on that number. Glad you noticed.”
“I only wish that Vern and Vilhelm had noticed,” Kevin shouted, veering toward the shrill once again. I moved the phone away from my ear. Then, back again. Suddenly, his voice was eager, smooth, and sexy. “Want me to come over and have sex?”
“Not now,” I said with compassion. “I’m too sad for that.” However, a nice two patty cheeseburger with a few dabs of ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise? Oh, child, that beats the taste of a hot dog in my mouth any day of the week...
“I understand. Even so, what a shame. What will this show be without you or Missy playing any of the singing roles?”
“Oh!” well, I hardly wanted to mention it, but perhaps I should, especially since he sounded so distraught about the whole thing. “Actually, I was offered a role. Just not the part of—“ I stopped again, still unable.
“GET OUT!” As Kevin squealed with delight, I lifted myself out of my bed coffin cocoon, sat up, and looked around the room for my plush slippers. Oh, there they were. “That I didn’t know. Brava! What were you offered? Did you accept?”
“I was offered the opportunity to perform...” Then, I stopped myself, Danita’s cruel words ringing in my head from the other night. I cleared my throat, to will myself to action. “I was offered the role of...the Beadle.”
“The Beadle?” I could see that Kevin was hunting around for something...anything...kind to say. The thought of Kevin plumbing the depths made me sad beyond belief, and I sought to comfort myself by slipping my plush slippers onto my feet. Perhaps the faux fur would offer some faux relief. “Well...that’s...that’s something, at least. He does have a clever song at the end of the play. Yes! Do say that you’ll do it, Dante!”
A clenching of the teeth. “I’m considering it.”
“Don’t just consider it, do it! You simply must see this show through. At least, until something better comes along.”
Well, what a charming gesture. “I will.”
“I promise, Kevin.” And with that, I lifted my naked bearish body out of the bed and stumbled around on a quest to find my waist length silk kimono. “Thank you for calling. You’re truly a dear.”
His voice was becoming insufferably shrill once again. It always did so at even the slightest drop of sincerity. “Please let me know if you need any—“
“I will!” Slam! I shut the phone off and threw it onto the bed. Now, where was that...ah, there it was, right on top of my laptop. I walked over and lifted up my thin kimono. The movement interrupted the sleep silence of my laptop, which sprang to life, revealing my Newsies screen saver. Ah, those sweet boys.
A hamburger. Yes, a hamburger! Although I was a committed every-other-day vegetarian—and today was my off day—I was going to forego my passionate, rock solid commitment to semi-vegetarianism and whip myself up the biggest, greasiest, reddest, juiciest burger ever known to man. Before this day was done, several cows would have lain down their lives for my lunch. Some choose to drown their sorrows in drink, but I was determined to assuage my unhappiness with a double decker layer of—but there again, a cool appletini didn’t sound half bad, either.
One thing I will give myself, although there are of course many rooms of which I am a maestro, I am above all a fabulous performer in the kitchen. With that in mind, I threw my robe over my bare ass naked body and stumbled into that kitchen and had the burners roaring and a nice fat patty broiling away in no time. And, a chilled bottle of Smirnoff on the table, too, just waiting to be mixed and concocted.
I knew exactly where I wished to consume my creature comforts, too. On the balcony of my fifth floor apartment in the smartest section of Boston possible. My only hope was that my nosy next door neighbor, Sylvia Mastadore, wasn’t hanging around on HER balcony, allegedly watering her flowers. I had no desire to change into anything decent, but also no desire for her to catch yet another glimpse of that which nature had endowed me.
Sure enough, though, when that burger was finished and pleasingly placed in a bulky roll, along with a giant dill pickle sitting faithfully by its side, and as I navigated my way to the balcony with a plate in one hand and a giant appletini in the other, who should I encounter but the widow of witheredness herself, plucking away at her hideous weeds.
The nerve of that woman! She didn’t even bother looking away when I stepped out onto the balcony. She simply stopped mid-pluck, and looked me right in the eye. Then she let go of the plant she was strangling, stood up, and puffed on a cigarette stub. “Good morning, dreampuff.”
And then, she cast her gaze downward.
Well, fuck. If she was so bloody interested, she might as well take a good look at the uncircumcised piece of magic that God has blessed me with between my legs. “Is it still morning, Sylvia?” I asked, sounding bored to the world and sitting myself down in a chair located directly across from her, spreading my legs akimbo. “And here I thought it was mid-afternoon.”
“From the way you’re dressed, it’s morning to you,” she said clinically, sucking away on her cigarette like a fiend. Another curious glance downward. “Although, perhaps, from the looks of your...um, giant pickle, I am mistaken.”
In response, I glanced at the dill spear on my plate and crunched into it. “Spare me the double entendres today, Mastadore. Right now, all I crave is a good meal, a stuff drink, and a beautiful view.”
Sylvia smirked and gave one of her wilting weeds a firm yank. “It’s a good day for that, too. They’re having a foot race on Beacon Hill in about a half hour. Just think of all those beautiful runners, Dante. All those firm muscular legs!” She allowed herself one more downwards glance, and then snatched up her watering can. “Well, dreampuff, I’ll leave you to your...beautiful view.”
Egad, the nerve of that woman! How dare she turn an innocent day sitting semi-naked on my balcony into a dirty and sordid thing. Why, I had half a mind to register a complaint with the landlord...that is, if I wasn’t sitting half-naked on my balcony, enjoying the day. Which Sylvia could always...well...hold against me.
Still, she had given me a heads up about the road race. If there was one thing that Boston managed to produce, aside from liberal politicians by the bushel, it was gaggles of beautiful male runners, courtesy of the colleges and universities that surrounded the city. God bless higher education.
I lifted my appletini to my lips and took a nice long sip, then adjusted my seat to take in the beautiful view from the balcony. As it always did, the first martini of the day attacked my sense like a miniature nuclear bomb in my mouth, helping to wash away the pain I felt over seeing my beloved Sweeney slip through my fingers.
Oh, well. As Kevin had said, Beedle was a fun..little part, with a nice...little solo at the end. And who knows, if I stuck it through, perhaps RJ would drop dead of a heart attack in the middle of rehearsal and I’d be forced to take over the role. Stranger things had happened, after all.
Ah, that was a cheery thought, kind sir. I’ll drink to that! I scratched at the hairs on my left leg and took another deep sip from my appletini. In an instant, my troubles seemed just a smidgeon farther away.
Oh, drat. Company. Was there any way to simply ignore them away?
“Dante, answer your goddamned door, someone’s come over to play,” squawked out Sylvia Mastadore from inside her living room.
“I can hear that, Sylvia,” I replied, setting my martini down with sorrow. Grabbing what remained of my dill pickle, I readjusted my robe and padded back into my stylish Boston apartment.
Well, wasn’t somebody being a little freaking aggressive with my door chimes? “Hold on hold on for just a minute I can’t possibly be expected to simply drop what I’m doing to answer doors at the slightest—“ And with that, I reached the door, stopped my grumbling, and opened the door to reveal...
The person who stood before me came as a complete exclamation point, so much so that I almost loosened my firm grip on the martini.
“After all these years...you?” I managed to sputter.
“Dante D’Agrande, I desperately need your help,” he said, with an intensity that took my breath away.