I have to brag just a tiny bit…I have some pretty creative family members. And today’s post will demonstrate just how creative one of my family members can be. This story was inspired by Betsy Lee Carter, my beautiful big sister. I could tell you all about how lovely Betsy is, how great she’s always been to have as a sister…etc, etc. But all of that would just be to say that she is remarkable. Here’s her idea…
“Sally is tone deaf and has illusions of grandeur. Idaho, 2025. Auditioning for a Community Theater. Conflict: the leading man is her dream man, but he never noticed her before.”
Sally spun on the stage. Her skirts swooshed and flared. She stopped, center stage. She sang. In her ears her voice was lovely with it’s trills and crescendos. She felt every word in the song. She finished. Stood with arms spread, palms up, face tilted toward the sky.
“Hey, gettin’ better, Sally,” Alfred said. “Keep practicing. They might just let you in a show.”
“Thanks. I sure hope so. I will be the best actress they’ve ever seen! People will come from different states just to hear me sing and dance and act!” She held her hands, clasped to her chest. “
“That’s real nice, real nice. But I gotta mop that stage. And you’d better get that costume off before somebody sees ya. Then you won’t have no cleanin’ job her no more.”
“Okay, Alfred. Thanks for the warning.” She walked off the stage.
“That girl wanna be a singer,” muttered Alfred. “But she sing like a hard a hearin’ cat with it’s tail tied in a knot.”
After Sally changed into her work uniform, she got to work cleaning out the dressing rooms. Organized make up. Hung up costumes. Cleaned up spilled coffee and dusted up cigarette ashes.
When I’m a famous actress, I’ll be more considerate, she thought.
She saved Thaddeus’ dressing room for last. His dressing room door had a gold star on it. And his name printed on a plastic plaque.
“Thaddeus Ribald,” she said, tracing the letters with her finger tips. “Sally Ribald. Thaddeus and Sally. Mr. and Mrs. Ribald.”
She turned the doorknob, entered slowly, with reverence. She cleaned. But it was different in his space. It was more like an act of love.
“Oh, Thaddeus, darling,” she said, sweeping up pieces of a smashed glass. “You really should be more careful. You could hurt yourself.”
Righting an upset chair, she giggled. “Well, I didn’t realize you could be so clumsy. Didn’t you see the chair before you tripped over it?”
Sally went all through the room, pretending to be cleaning up after her beloved. And that he sat, talking with her. She reasoned with herself that this play acting wasn’t crazy. It was rehearsal for when she would be on the stage, performing by his side. And for the time when she would become his wife.
She spotted a treasure under the mirror. A used make-up sponge. Her eyes grew wide. It was soft in her fingers. She stroked it gently, pretending to caress his face.
“I love you, Thaddeus. Wait for me.”
Sally walked into the theater the next day. The actors were on the stage, heads down. Muttering among themselves. They looked up, but didn’t acknowledge her. Hushed tones made Sally strain her ears.
“I can’t believe…”
“Thaddeus will be devastated…”
“He’s in that dressing room, just distraught…”
Alfred stood at the back of the theater. Back resting on the wall, arms crossed on his chest.
“Hey there, honey,” he whispered. “Monika’s dead.”
Monika. The female lead in all the plays.
“What happened?” Sally asked.
“Don’t know. Don’t care. She was a witch.”
“What will the do about her part?”
“Probably gonna have auditions.”
“When? Do you think I could make it?”
“Oh, Sally. You don’t wanna act with these people. They’re animals. All of ‘em. Even that Thaddeus.”
“No. Don’t ever say that.” Her voice was harsh. “He’s good.”
“Whatever you say. But he ain’t gonna marry you.” Alfred walked away.
“He will. He loves me.”
Women from all over the town came to audition. They sang, danced, read lines. Thaddeus took the stage with them. The director wanted to see them together. Hear them speak and sing together. Chemistry. They were hoping for chemistry. Like he’d had with Monika. On and off stage.
“I’m so nervous,” Sally told the girl next to her. “I know that I can sing. I’m very aware of my talent. But I just feel so nervous about standing by Thaddeus.”
“He’s really not all that great,” the girl said. “He’s kind of a drunk. You know. Washed up.”
“You are mistaken. He is wonderful. And he’s in love with me.”
“He is, really? I doubt it.”
“Well, you don’t know him.”
“Sally,” the director called from in front of the stage. “Sally, it’s your turn.”
She walked to the center of the stage. Her janitor uniform dusty and stained from cleaning before the audition.
“Aren’t you the cleaning woman?” Thaddeus snorted. “You hear to mop up the floor?”
“No. I’m auditioning.”
“Can you sing?”
“Yes. I’m like a songbird, Thaddeus.” She had to remind herself that this wasn’t her time in his dressing room. This was real.
The pianist started to play. Sally mimicked every move that Monika had made while performing with Thaddeus. She poured her soul, her love into the song. It felt like a flowing ribbon coming from her throat and curling around the air by his head.
When the music stopped another sound erupted. From Thaddeus. He was laughing at her. Laughing with tears in his eyes. He bent at the waist, holding his stomach. And laughed at her.
She backed away from him. Confused. Broken hearted.
“Was that a joke?” he asked between screams of hilarity. “Good one.”
“No. I was singing. For you.”
“Who put you up to that? Denise? Roger?”
“I wanted you to hear my voice.”
“Oh, we all heard it. You really don’t have to do that ever again.”
“Did I make a mistake?”
“You sure did.”
“I promise, I’ll do better next time.”
“Next time? Oh, please, don’t let there be a next time! You might just kill us all.”
“But I never thought you’d be like this. I thought you were wonderful. And kind and loving.”
“Why would you ever think that?” He looked at her. “Wait. You thought that? So, are you in love with me? That would be rich. The cleaning girl and the lead actor.”
Sally ran off the stage. The backstage door was open. She stepped across the threshold. Alfred sat on the steps, smoking a cigar.
“He’s an animal, Sally. Just a dirty, stinkin’, ugly animal.” He puffed his cigar. “They all is.”
Sally walked into her apartment. Flipped on the light. The walls were covered with pictures of him. Play bills with his name on them. Old pieces of his costumes from various shows. Strands of his hair were in a plastic bag on the table. Used cigarette butts were in a dish.
“This is insane,” she said to herself. “What kind of crazy person does this?”
You are the kind of crazy person that does this, Thaddeus’ voice rang in her ears.
“You are a terrible, untalented, slimy person!” The words released her just a small bit.
She tore one picture down. Then another and another. All things Thaddeus were collecting into a pile on her floor. The walls beneath were cream colored. Clean. Fresh.
Sally collected everything, carrying it down to the dumpster. It was late in the night. As she threw them in, piece by piece, she lit them.
There was a glow in the dumpster.