Sunday, October 9, 2011

32. hyacinth: miss brown to you

by horace p sternwall

illustrated by rhoda penmarq and roy dismas

click here for previous episode, here to begin at the beginning

"stand up straighter please, anne marie. the part of esmeralda calls for forthrightness and standupishness. don't stand there slouching like an upstairs maid who has just finished her weary rounds."

"oh but my ankle is sore, miss dorian. and i am sure you can guess why."

"no, anne marie, i can not guess why. and i am not sure that i want to try."

"because agatha brown bites me on it, that's why!"

"i am sorry but you have to stop telling these ridiculous stories about your classmates. if you want to compete for a part, you will have to behave like a grownup, not a kindergardener."

"but she does bite me, miss dorian, she does! and scratches and pinches me and pulls my hair - she counts on nobody believing it! she is the nastiest thing on two feet!"

"stand up straight, anne marie, and begin esmeralda's speech again, if you please."

"and you always stick up for her - that's the worst part! it's not fair!" anne marie burst into tears.

"sit down please. when you have composed yourself sufficiently, i will, against my better judgment, allow you one more chance - one more - to read the part. now, who is next?" miss dorian turned to the three girls still seated on the right side of the school auditorium. the six who had already auditioned for the lead in the school play were seated on the left. except for the inseparable ellie smith and mae hawkins, they all kept their distance from each other. the two boys who had auditioned for the male lead were also seated on the left. bill bradford, who had easily and predictably won the part, sat with his arm over the back of the seat beside him, in a pose that enabled him to casually look back at the girls and nod and wink at them. bob johnson sat with good natured resignation two seats to his right, staring straight ahead.

"i am next, miss dorian." agatha brown held up an unfolded piece of paper with the number 8 written on it. deciding things by lot was a favorite tactic of miss dorian's, to give an impression of impartiality , although her obvious playing of favorites was the subject of constant complaining and jokes among the students.

"i hope anne marie's outburst hasn't discomfited you, agatha."

"oh no, i am quite prepared, thank you."

"then, let's have at it." miss dorian couldn't help beaming as agatha confidently ascended the steps to the stage.

the play being auditioned for was "the corn never stops growing" by eden p dendry. miss dorian liked to stage contemporary plays by unknown playwrights, and usually succeeded in overcoming the feeble objections to this practice by the principal, mister wagman, who had no strong opinions on the subject of drama, and much else on his mind. he only asked that the playwright not be a member of the communist party.

"if you had bothered to raise your face from your ledger, father, and wipe the dust from your office windows, you would have seen that the corn has indeed stopped growing - stopped growing thanks to the greed and lack of foresight of the oligarchal cabal of bankers who have brought the nation to the brink of ruin -"

"nonsense, my girl, nonsense -" miss dorian perfunctorily read the part of "father" whom the unfortunate bob johnson would play on stage - "it is only a blip in the eternal cycle of nature. nothing ever changes - nothing. as it was, so shall it ever be."

"no, father, things have changed - and will never be the same again. and there will be more changes still - changes for the better, as a new day is dawning." pause. "yes, i am going away with tom - going away to meet that new dawn, and to hasten it. a dawn i hope that even you will see."

"that is excellent, agatha, excellent! forceful, but without histrionics. " the two girls still seated behind miss dorian made faces at agatha. after a pause, miss dorian turned to them. "well, who is next?"

"does it matter?"

"excuse me, jennifer?"

"i am next, miss dorian."

"good. i hope agatha's excellent reading will inspire you to outdo her. and you, pearl, are in the envious position of being last and therefore able to profit from listening to all the others."


later, as agatha was walking up the hill to her house, she was overtaken by an only slightly out of breath bill bradford.

"ah, agatha -" agatha didn't look at him, but clutched her little samuel french copy of "the corn never stops growing" and her one schoolbook closer to her chest. "or should i call you miss brown, ha ha."

"was that a witty remark, mister bradford?"

"no, miss brown, i was just wondering, you know -"

"no, i don't know -"

"i was wondering, since we're the stars of the show, if we could maybe get together and practice -"

"i know my part perfectly well, thank you. and speaking of practice, shouldn't you be at foot-ball practice -"

"um -"

"i really think it's so gracious of you to take the time off from foot-ball to be in the play ."

"why, miss brown, you say that with such a sneer. what's wrong with football? "

"only that it's played in the mud."

"say, that reminds me, you ought to go out for the cheerleader squad. i don't know why you don't. you might make head cheerleader "

"and get myself all splattered with mud? and maybe ruin my voice screaming at the top of my lungs? i would rather not."

"suit yourself. say, i heard something about you this morning and i was wondering if it could possibly be true?"


"i heard you go over to miss dorian's house and have tea with her."

"oh!! and what business is that of yours? what, do you follow me around? you can take time off your busy schedule - from football and working on your souped-up jalopy to follow me all over town, can you?"

"whoa - easy, cowboy, easy. i was just asking a simple question."

they had reached the top of the hill and the white fence outside the brown residence.

"good-bye, mister bradford." agatha opened the little gate.

"can i ask you one more question?"

sigh. "i don't suppose i can stop you?"

"do you really bite and scratch anne marie wilson?"

"i didn't even hear that."

to be continued

33. across time and space

No comments: