Don't have too much fun!
The World is a Very Dark Stage
Dedicated to the memory of Berton Barsky of Central High School
You made me understand him so I could really enjoy him.
If you've ever gotten a wild hair, you might know why I decided to leave a good job in the city, and head out west in an old van. It’s a privilege of youth, perhaps. With no specific place in mind, I ended up in the Green Vista apartment complex in Washington State. Aside from it being a bit run down, it really wasn't too bad of a place to live. The name was apt, because my backyard adjoined a park that held some old growth evergreens. It also meant there was easy access through a hole in the chain link fence.
One night, and it was a dark one, I slipped into the park, and watched my ol’ yellow dog criss-cross ahead of me while my eyes adjusted. I took a moment to breathe in the air. It was fresh off the river with the light fragrance of fir trees, and so different from the stench of the city. Though I waited for my eyes to adjust, I could still barely see to walk. The park lawn was flat and mowed though, and if there was some tripping impediment in my way, the dog stopped and waited. We were tight like that. The squirrels were asleep and no one was around, because he just kept pacing the same weaving pattern. What the little bastard couldn't see, he'd sniff out like a fart in a car. Then he stopped, did his territorial duty, and sat down. It seems we had stumbled upon a small amphitheater I hadn't seen before. If you ever find yourself asking what to do when finding yourself on a deserted stage, the answer is ... whatever you want!
I'd been listening to Rush when I left the house, so I launched into Limelight.
All the world's indeed a stage,
And we are merely players;
Performers and portrayers.
Each another's audience,
Outside the gilded cage.
I was kicking it out. Back then I could still crank out a decent tune, but just as I was going to transition to I'm Looking Over My Dead Dog Rover, I paused. Should it be a bawdy tune, or perhaps a bawdy piece by a playwright? After all, Rush did borrow that from As You Like It, and that guy is the best in the business. Besides, I had the dog as my foil!
I went to a heavily academic school, and while we reviewed all the major Shakespearean works, you were expected to have them already read before you enrolled. So, if you wanted to dig into English as I did, you were introduced to the lesser known works. They also dunked you into the language to some extent, so you really could understand his meanings.
Who knows not where a wasp does wear his sting? In his tail.
In his tongue.
Yours, if you talk of tails: and so farewell.
What, with my tongue in your tail?
I'm pretty sure the dog got his lines right, but I know I made a mess of mine. I may have a good memory, but not for things I read once or twice a decade ago … especially when you've had a beer or two. In fact, I was taking stage breaks to have a good slug of cheap old Rainier Beer, which tasted more like tin than the beer in the can.
I decided to go forward with an old favorite, even if it wasn’t one of the more storied pieces. Everyone always wants to be Romeo, but I'm more of a Mercutio man. I'm sure I didn't come close to the actually quote, but I tried.
Without his roe, like a dried herring:
O flesh, flesh, how art thou fishified!
Now is he for the numbers that Petrarch flowed in:
Laura to his lady was but a kitchen-wench; marry, she had a better love to be-rhyme her;
Dido a dowdy; Cleopatra a gipsy;
Helen and Hero hildings and harlots;
This be a grey eye or so, but not to the purpose.
I went on for awhile, quoting and mostly misquoting various scenes both well known and obscure. At one point the dog played Yorick as well as any actor has ever done, and he was a natural, trotting around the stage barking to me and carrying on. Then, as easily as it had started, it was over. My beer was gone, as well as his mate from the six-pack, and it was time to say farewell.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we hope you enjoyed tonight's performance of Whatever the Hell That Was, be sure to tip your wait staff, and goodnight!"
I took an exaggerated bow, and when I looked back up I saw something odd, a flickering light off towards the woods. It puzzled me for a moment until I heard a voice say, "Encore!" It was male, and didn't sound too far away. Right there in that little amphitheater, and then two lighters flared up.
I looked down at my dog and said quietly, "You Judas... You knew they were there all along!"
He darted off the stage with me in pursuit as a prettier voice said, "It was so nice, like it was just for us!"
"Your dog deserves a Tony!" The man laughed.
I was chasing after that animal as fast as the darkness would allow, and I'm not certain I've ever been quite so angry and embarrassed at the same time. He'd already slipped away, and I sure wanted to be out of there. Fortunately, once he got a good lead he slowed down, so I could follow his traitorous yellow butt back home.
"That was a piece of work, man! Give my regards to Broadway!" I heard as his voice and their titters die away with the increasing distance. I can only imagine all they could see was my beet red face, looking like a colored lantern, bobbing off as quickly as my night vision would allow. If anyone wants to know why I have a phobia speaking in public, or some trust issues with canines, they no longer have to wonder.
(Word Count – 1035)