One Last Performance

By the way, I’ll accept other title ideas. I came up with a short story idea earlier this morning and decided to play with it. Constructive feedback is welcome.


Jason looked at himself in the mirror, using an eyeliner pencil to make the last necessary adjustments to his makeup. “Perfect!” he said out loud, even though no one could hear him. He still got a private dressing room, in deference to his past greatness. He may not have the starring roles anymore. He might make more mistakes in his lines, but he still commanded the respect of audiences and directors.

There was a knock on the door. “Ten minutes, Mr. Riordan,” the assistant to the assistant director called as he opened the door just a crack to deliver his message.

Jason smiled. His timing on getting his makeup done was still impeccable. Ever since he’d started in theater, he had done his own makeup. “It helps me as I become my character,” he had told countless makeup artists. And now, his routine to get into character would continue. He stared at the mirror, inspecting his makeup one last time. Satisfied, he slowly closed his eyes and went over the play in his mind.

His first play ever had been a church play where he had been shepherd number 3 in the Christmas pageant. He saw the character playing Joseph follow this same routine, and he’d adopted it ever since. It had served him well as his characterizations had earned him three Tony nominations. He allowed himself to reminisce about that history for about five seconds, and then went back to work. He muttered softly as he told himself where to make his entrances, he recited his lines.

He needed to be perfect this last night of his career, and he got so engaged in his thoughts, that he realized he must have missed the underling’s five-minute call. He heard the overture playing. He cursed silently to himself, knowing that his routine called for him to be ready in the wings just before the overture started playing. Now, he rushed to get to his place, so he could relax for a few seconds before his entrance. The director had made a special accommodation to allow him to begin this, his last play, alone on the stage with one extra line, so that the audience could acknowledge their appreciation for his career.

They had flocked to see the once-great Jason Riordan in his last performance. Those who had acted alongside him, those who had seen him, and those who had just heard about him – he was one of the few truly beloved actors. He got to his spot on the wing with a little over a minute to spare, and he took a couple of cool-down breaths. Then, he did that which he had never done before in his career, he pulled back the curtain and sneaked a peak at the audience. The lights kept him from seeing much of the audience, but those people he saw and recognized left him with a slight case of stage fright.

He closed the curtain and took another deep breath, and then, he was on. From that first, special line, to his performance throughout the play, to his final line, he was perfect. He didn’t suffer from the missed lines or cues that had plagued him in recent years. His swan song performance was amazing, and the audience recognized it. Audience decorum was thrown to the winds as his fans screamed his name and he took bow after bow. The stage hands picked up flowers that were thrown in congratulations. He left the stage triumphantly after one of his finest performances ever. He walked back to his dressing room accepting handshakes, hugs, and pats on the backs from the cast and crew of his last show. He kept looking at the floor, lest they see his tears, and by doing this, missed seeing their tears as well. He arrived at his dressing room for the last time and sat down, laying his head on the makeup table to rest for a few minutes before taking his makeup off one, last time. He didn’t want to take it off just yet, because that would make his retirement too final.

There was a knock on the door. “Five minutes, Mr. Riordan,” the assistant to the assistant director called as he opened the door just a crack to deliver his message. This time he waited for the customary acknowledgment. There was none. He knocked harder, and called out louder. When he got no answer, he ran in and saw Jason slumped with his head down on the makeup table. He checked for a pulse. When he didn’t get a pulse, he ran out in the hall and looked for a stage hand. “Get the director!” he yelled.

“Sir, the director’s …” the stage hand began.

He cut him off. “Don’t argue with me. Get the director now.” When he saw him hesitate, he added, “This is a real emergency.”

The stage hand finally believed him, ran off and came back with the director. “Jones, I don’t know what this is about, but it better be a real emergency.”

He gestured for the director to follow him. When the director saw Jason, he stopped in his tracks. “That how you found him?” he asked.

He nodded.

The director walked over and tried to find a pulse himself. He teared up a little when he realized that Riordan was gone. He walked around and looked at his face. He couldn’t help but wipe away his tears and smile himself when he saw Riordan’s smile. It was his after-performance, embarrassed smile that he used when he’d look at the director and ask if they couldn’t make the curtain calls stop. “It would have been one, great, last performance,” he said as he closed Riordan’s eyes.

 

Last minute voting and we’re outta here

Ok, less than two hours to go to vote for your favorite story. What? You haven’t read them all? Well go to Write on Wendy’s and read all four stories, then vote for your favorite. Let’s make this #WOW555 voting one of the best turnouts ever!

Finished! – #WOW555

The prompt for this week’s #WOW555 challenge is that we have to use the phrase “I’m outta here.” As I thought about that, and the end of the school year – today’s the last day with students for me – I couldn’t think of anything more fitting than a teacher finishing the year. Then I thought, what if she finished her career. (And yes, I used a female teacher instead of me as a male teacher.) What would it be like getting ready to retire. I’ve thought about it and decided to write about that dream.

Mary Alice Everett had given her life to teaching. She looked at the clock and noted that she just had 15 minutes left. Today she was retiring. After thirty three years of caring for elementary students, studying in the summer, dealing with principals, and working with parents, today she could go home, kick her shoes off and plan for the trips she had always dreamed of. She smiled to herself as she thought about her upcoming cruise. When she looked at her second graders who were getting excited about summer break she had to grin more widely. Their mouths showed remnants of the frosting from the cupcakes they had been eating at the going away party. They didn’t realize what “retirement” meant, but they were enjoying the party.

As time got closer for the final bell to ring, a few parents came by to pick students up early. But they stayed. These parents had once been her students, and they had come by not only to pick up their students, but also to say good bye to a teacher they had loved. Ms. Everett, as they still called her, got up to greet them and there were a few tears as they hugged.

The bell rang and the kids, knowing something special was happening, lined up to hug Ms. Everett with sticky hands. She laughed a bit, knowing that it was the last time. More parents came by to say good bye and linger in her presence. Lydia Perez came by to bid her farewell on her way to check in at the office. Lydia had done her student teaching under Mary Alice. The strong recommendation Mary Alice had given Lydia allowed her to get the job that was open on the second grade team that year. The two of them had taught together for the last five years.

Soon, the classroom was empty as students and parents made their way home to begin their summer break. Mary Alice took one last look at the room as she turned out the lights and locked the door. She’d have to come back tomorrow to clean up, but she couldn’t help smiling as she said, “I’m outta here.”

Lydia was heading back from the school office when she saw Mary Alice. Lydia gasped and then ran to her as she lay on the floor outside her door. Lydia knelt down and felt for a pulse, but found none. She screamed for help as she pulled out her phone to dial 9-1-1. EMS got there quickly, but not quickly enough. They said it was a heart attack. Lydia knew differently though. She knew that Mary Alice Everett had given her life to teaching.

Yep…I did go that way. That is, in a sense, a fear that I have that when I do retire, I won’t have that time I want to write, to photograph, or most importantly, to be with my wife. Someone noted that I tend to kill my characters a lot. I guess that’s just the way I roll.

Missed

So, after a week when I couldn’t come up with anything for the #WOW555 contest, I came up with something. How good is it? Well, that will be for you to decide! For this week’s prompt, your story must feature a strong woman in a moment of weakness. Check here for the latest updates, stories and the opportunity to vote! Please note that liking my story here will not count as a vote! You must go to Wendy’s place (see above link) and vote sometime between 8:00 Saturday morning and 6:00 Sunday night.

 

Mary hated cleaning. She looked at the mess and sighed. She’d need a while to clean up this mess. “Oh well,” she thought, “better get started. Then I can get out of here.” She looked under the kitchen sink and found the cleaning supplies. The worst stain was in the living room and she attacked that first. She started scrubbing and realized it would need to soak so she headed back to the kitchen and spot cleaned the drips on the kitchen floor.

She rinsed her rag and headed back into the living room to finish cleaning that stain, then stood up and grabbed at her back. It was a bit sore from the cleaning and she still had more to do. She headed towards the hall closet. The vacuum cleaner was ready and waiting. She pulled it out of the closet and turned it on. She almost didn’t hear the phone ring over the roar of the vacuum cleaner.

She turned off the vacuum cleaner and headed to her purse. She looked at the number on the phone and grimaced. Some clients were just so impatient. “Yes, John. I’m finished. All I have left is some cleaning.” She rolled her eyes at his response. “All I can say is that you’re the one calling me. I should be able to meet you in an hour so you can pay.” She tapped her foot. She didn’t like wasting time. If she had known he was going to be this much trouble, she would have charged double. “Of course I’ll let you see my handiwork. You’re dealing with a professional.” She stifled her laughter. “No, you don’t want to get me mad, that’s right. See you in an hour.”

She looked at the phone in disgust and went back to vacuuming. This place looked like it had seen a fight. That wouldn’t do. She vacuumed and straightened up as she walked through the living room and kitchen. Finally, the apartment was cleaned to her satisfaction. She carefully placed the cleaning supplies back under the sink. Then she took the vacuum cleaner and emptied it into her garbage bag before putting it back in the closet. She hated having to take the trash with her, but it did prevent complications.

“Now, to make final arrangements,” she thought. She looked at John’s former business partner sitting quietly on the couch. She looked around the area and smiled; nothing made it look like he had been dragged across the floor and placed there. She pulled the note out of her purse and looked at it, trying to find the best place to put it. Then she gasped. The note was written by a left hander. She had forgotten that he was left handed and shot him through right temple. She blinked back the tears that began to appear unbidden. She swore at herself. “All that work,” she said out loud. “All that work and they’ll know right away that he didn’t kill himself!” She picked up the trash, stomped out the door and headed to her car. She wouldn’t have time to stay in the city and savor her kill this time.

A Break in the Clouds – #WOW555

I’m running late this week with the story, but I finally got it done. We had to include the phrase “It’s a new life” So, head on over to Wendy’s place and check out the stories. The voting will happen soon!

 

I stood up and glanced out the window. The rain kept falling at a steady pace. Great place, this. I can’t even go for a walk. I glanced over at the computer and sighed. Nothing there would interest me: not anymore, not for a while anyways. They wouldn’t let me write. No one to email even.

Then I slumped back into my chair. “It’s a new life,” they had told me. Sure. Those wise guys never had to live like this. The pain from the loss of my wife was bad enough, but then I had to re-live everything in court. They told me they’d take care of me if I testified. Sure, the mob hitman who hit my wife instead of the woman he was supposed to take out deserved to be punished. But now I sit around all day without my love of my life and he’s in prison with friends.

It was fun at first; people wondering where I had gone. My fans clamored for that third book but I disappeared. The contract on me was worth more than the contract I would get on the third book. It didn’t take too long, though, for people to lose interest. Other celebrities got married, or buried. Other celebrities had scandals and soon I was forgotten. Maybe in enough time I’d be the subject of one of those documentaries wondering where I went.

Writing was my life; now, they didn’t want to take a chance that my style would be recognized and they wouldn’t let me write. That last book was ready to be published – but only after I died. They didn’t want to take a chance on the mob finding out that I was still alive. Sure I had enough to live on because the government funneled my royalties to me – but no one to live with. She was gone.

A ray of sunlight broke through the window. I turned to look and the rain was breaking up. I decided to go for a walk. I threw on a jacket and headed into the cool day. Two weeks here and this was the first day I could get out. I walked around the neighborhood checking out hiding places and escape routes. It pays to be prepared. The air, even though it was cooler than home, felt good and I almost began to smile. I headed back to the house with a spring in my step. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad here.

“Rick! Rick Jacobs!” I heard the call and froze. That was my old name. My heart thundered as I began thinking about my escape. The stop was imperceptible to others, but I felt as if I had been motionless for hours. “Rick! It’s Elaine from High School! Everyone thinks you’ve dropped off the face of the earth.” I remembered Elaine from high school. I had to fight the urge to run after Elaine and take her home with me. I just kept walking. As soon as I got inside the house, I called my handler. Maybe there was hope.  Maybe there was new life.

Stretching Myself in #5MinuteFiction

One of the good things about #5MinuteFiction is that the prompts are so often nothing like what I would write on my own. Tonight we had a multiple choice on prompts:

  • a pizza boy running from something that no one else can see
  • a magical ukulele
  • a crystal ball
  • an ice cream shop that only sells 3 flavors and one of them is unknown
  • a really bad / poorly told joke

Surprisingly – I didn’t get the bad joke in there. That would seem like such a natural for me. Anyway, here’s this week’s #5MinuteFiction entry.

“Let’s go, it’ll be fun.” Sometimes new girlfriends can be a pain. You have to break them in – let them know your likes and dislikes. I hated fortune tellers. I hated them with a passion ever since my mom…well, that’s another story. But ever since then, I’ve never visited one. Ok, I never did before, but you catch my drift.

She was insistent though. I rolled my eyes, crossed myself – even though I’m not Catholic – and entered the tent with her. I also made a mental note never to take a girl on a date to the Midway until I had a chance to talk with her. I asked about tea leaves.

“No! Tea leaves are so old. Have her do the crystal ball.”

I shook my head. Why didn’t she want a stuffed bear or one of those “magic ukeleles” instead. Those I could win. I knew how to beat those games. She wanted a reading.

We sat down at the table and Madame Elios started her reading. “You two will resolve your conflicts,” she began.

“Oh great,” I thought. “She’s trying to make this relationship last past the second date.” I was already thinking that we were too far apart already.

“Your fate will rest upon dinner tonight.” She shook her head as if puzzled. Then her voice grew ominous. “You must not eat the pizza.”

That was different. What a crazy old witch.

She continued on in the regular generalities that made the girls think she was so terrific, but I knew applied to anyone. I yawned as we paid her and walked out.

I turned to look at Darla and just as I did, I tripped the kid. I didn’t mean to. He fell forward and his Pizza box flew to the ground. No one knew why he was running. The fall knocked him out so he couldn’t tell us. I looked at the pizza box, and started to pick it up – just for fun.

Darla attacked me before I had a chance. “NO!” she screamed. “Don’t even touch it!”

I laughed to myself until I remembered that she had also said that we would work out our differences. This was not looking good.

If you want to see all the entries, check them out at Wendy’s place (Write on Wendy) And…if you are there at the right time, you get a chance to vote. And just because you know me and are reading this, please feel free to vote for the story you like best. As of now, I don’t know if I even made the finals. Still, this is a fun contest, so jump in and join the fun.

Update:

I am one of the five finalists. If you head on over the Write on Wendy you can vote. Check out the all the stories and then vote for your favorite – which of course should be mine. 😉

The Finalists Have Been Announced!

Yours truly is once again a finalist for #5MinuteFiction over at Write On Wendy. You can see my story in the post before this one. What you will really enjoy doing is reading all of the entries and choosing the one you like the best. Naturally, I like mine. You may like mine best or you may prefer another story. Either way, you’ll get a chance to read 5 good flash fiction stories and help choose a winner. So, head on over, enjoy yourself and vote!