Monday, September 28, 2009

A Death Backstage

The Flash fiction prompt was -My own flesh and blood, What have I done?

I always thought that it was one of my life’s greatest tragedies that the last words I took in while in human form were. “My own flesh and blood. What have I done? ” Followed by the clapping and the lowering of the stage curtain which subsequently caused the end of her life.
I had been standing backstage when a sandbag which was ballast to the curtain broke loose and fell on my head.
All in all dying had been the easiest part. I had spent my life trying to avoid the pain of it, committing horrible acts of inhumanity to avoid it and in the end it had been the easiest thing I had experienced.
What was less easy was being stuck in one place, this wretched theatre for the past 100 years. With that horrid line in my head, I would repeat it outloud from time to time to try to shake it, but I could not.
One may be tempted to think a theatre a grand final stop, not so. Imagine for yourself having to sit through hours of terrible script writing fit only for the drunkards of the old west, only to give way to terrible music practiced by school children for their parents and nowadays the awful styling’s of would be rock bands which often sound like a bunch of whiny boy-men. Men of my time would never have cried about love lost, and certainly not in front of a sellout crowd.
It is the crowds though, that keep me sane somewhat. Brushing up against young love and falling apart marriages alike. Old women coming in to see an off, off, off Broadway production. I like some of those women the best. They still dressed up in their best thinking theatre a treat. Not like the youth in tonight’s crowd.
Tonight I am in my most comfortable spot off stage, close to where I had perished, although not exactly there. It was something superstitious in me that I can’t explain even to myself. The long learned superstitions of a theatre life. You don’t stand where death stood. In any case a young pianist was on stage, having been billed as a performance artist, which usually means that more would somehow be involved than just the piano. There were projectors set up, a complicated light show and amazingly enough circus people. People that would have been recognizable in my own time.
It was the circus people who most interested me, but I am pleasantly surprised that the pianist is actually quite good. I like to be surprised. It was so very hard to keep up enthusiasm day in and night out as a haunt.
I of course was not alone, this night or any other in my haunting. Theatres are both places of danger and intrigue and so there are in my midst an actor from before my time who claims to have built the theatre, but was killed by his business partner. A child who was the son of a whore left at the doorstep one night to die, he being eternally about age three. Also in residence are three elderly ladies who in recent years had been supporters of the arts, and hung about because this was their most beloved place. They generally didn’t mix much being disappointed that there were not more spectral actors putting on plays in the afterlife. They could be found mostly in the box seat during shows, they were a quiet lot. There was a famous gunslinger that had died in an ambush as he spent the evening with a hired lady and a rock musician, nobody who ever made it, who overdosed behind a stack of speakers one night. There was also a roadie who had been stabbed by a jealous girlfriend at another concert.
Sometimes we mingled…how could we not? The days drew out dreadfully. But a lot of the time our different time periods and prejudices got the better of us and we spent time alone. Tonight I found myself with the boy who we had called Seth for lack of any other name holding his hand and explaining to him that the midgets were not children but small adults. He was disappointed. He loved to sit next to children and sometimes if a show was running long enough he would make “friends” with an actor’s child. His favorite time was when children’s theatres would come through; he would follow everyone with an air of excitement unable to decide on which activity to join.
It was not what any of us had expected of the afterlife. But it was a family. If only I could get that stupid line out of my head.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dost Thou Know Thy Neighbor?

This question was posed by Soulpancake hit the link to read their article to get a reference point.

This is a subject I have been pondering for some time myself. Let me just say to give reference I live in Northern California, in a college town. It seems that every community/neighborhood has its own rules of engagement. In every home we have moved into we have made effort to get to know those around us. We go and knock on doors to introduce ourselves. Take time to be outside in the front so we can chat up the people passing by on their walks. When new people move in we bake something and take it to them. If we notice something out of the ordinary; say, someone coming home in a cast or with a new baby we make a meal, or do a service like mowing a lawn they can't get to. In some areas it has worked and the neighborhood banded together. Parents would congregate and talk while children played. Toys would be borrowed from front yards without any concern of where they were going because everyone knew where to find them and they would be back. It turns out that these areas where people were most friendly and open to helping and getting to know one another were lower income areas. Places I lived in when I was first married and starting out.

In other areas it doesn't work at all. I have noticed the areas where people haven't been receptive are mostly middle class neighborhoods where people live in look alike houses and there are rules about silly things like what color of paint you can use and what ratio of grass to plants you can have. My thinking is mostly people pick these areas hoping to be left alone. The rules provide structure for them that makes them feel comfortable and safe. Unfortunately one of those rules seems to be no making nice with others. However fortunate or unfortunate for my neighbors I don't follow rules. So they still get cookies and notes of appreciation. I still welcome them when they move in, and offer to help carry boxes when they move out. I decided long ago that my actions won't be dictated by other's responses, and maybe...just maybe my behavior will make a difference in their thinking if not now then later down the line.

So Let me ask the question of all of you. Dost Thou Know Thy Neighbor? Have you tried? What has your experience been? How do you think we can make neighborly congress better? Should we make an effort at all?