Fletcher Assumes

 

Fletcher Assumes


Fletcher hadn’t answered Brooke’s calls because he had spoken “at some length” with the troupe’s regular director. They acknowledged that Kirsten should be stronger, but who cared? Fletcher did, of course, but if Terrible were Ophelia, he would need to direct her.  “Or did you assume your little sister would comply with your every dictate, Abominable?”

“We might have agreed. And what if I was calling about something else?”

“I assumed not.  Because Kirsten rang Alan, who rang me. Yet my faith in you never wavered. I trusted you to smooth any ruffled feathers. Just as you always do.”

“Oh.”  Brooke still wanted to talk about the play, for he had never openly praised her before.  But if she asked to talk later, after she’d had some toast and coffee, he might not answer until next spring.  Or if he did, he’d ridicule her.  Sometimes his rants were funny, and usually instructive, but Fletcher cultivated a scathing manner so that if he drunkenly lashed out, people were like “typical” and left him alone.

Upbraiding her was Fletcher’s style of mentoring. Because if he didn’t respect her, he wouldn’t have given her Hamlet.  He wouldn’t have insisted that Brooke be his assistant director starting when she was only twelve-years-old. Then as now, Ma was the house manager, the PR director, and producer for the summer theatre.  Fletcher required infinitely more assistance than Jenny could give him—but why Brooke?  When the general consensus of her even then had been: wild, extravagant, and impudent.  Ma had said that wasn’t true but as it happened, Fletcher appreciated such traits.

Brooke did not. If she could, she’d be restrained and focused, not excessive and impetuous. Most of all, she would be the kind of girl whose father never beat her up.

Tara said that because of Pop, Brooke must always beware of confusing abuse with affection.  So insulting! Did Tara view her as a candidate for a pop psychology TV show?  Like, calling Dr. Phil?

“Not exactly, but you can’t dismiss the documented results of child abuse.”

“Shut up, Tara.”

Only the girls, Ma, and Pop knew. And for now, Pop stayed away.  Brooke would never admit that she missed him, but she did. So let Tara think Fletcher was the worst of it.

Anyway, sporadic tirades aside, Fletcher liked them both. And he loved Ma, who made sure he remained the lifelong director of Woodstock’s summer theatre.  Because Fletcher’s long dead lover, Sir Jeremy, whom Fletcher called Dickie (to this day) had especially loved Ma.

When the couple had arrived at the realty after opening The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, Sir Jeremy was immediately taken by Ma, who reminded him of his cousin Lily. Ma had just started working at the realty, upon finishing high school. She answered the phones and listed places for sale, which she kept in a black binder. But Sir Jeremy had requested her opinion. first on the property and then on the house they were building.

Fletcher was the one who told Brooke that his lover, who died before she was born, had been a baronet, like a character in Jane Austen. And that Dickie had known Andrew Lloyd-Webber all his life. In most of his theatrical extravaganza’s, Baron Lloyd-Weber casually added handful of Dickie’s lines, and then Fletcher’s, to The Phantom of the libretto.

Fletcher in those days had been like a punk-rocker. The big craze was in the 70s. Fletcher belonged to the Trainspotting  era.  Dickie had seen him hanging around and so Fletcher, who was doing “nothing legal” picked him up. Dickie, who loved Fletcher on sight, thought he was brilliant and promoted his ideas for all Lloyd-Webber’s pre-1990s productions. “Nothing but smart ass wisecracks! But then Dickie taught him everything.

Ma had been their one friend in Woodstock. They would invite her to their parties at the octagonal house rising from the creek near Mid-Mountain Way. Then in 1993, they moved there for good—Dickie was fatally ill.

Ma ran errands and arranged appointments. She fixed martinis and listened to them trade lines from Shakespeare and Noel Coward. Both of them, it turned out, hated musicals. When Dickie died, Fletcher drowned his sorrows in gin. During the 21 years since, Fletcher’s one activity was directing Woodstock’s summer play.

But at that moment, he was telling Brooke about Children’s Minds. Fletcher, like Ma, Tara, and billions of others, loved the show about a pediatric psychotherapist who figured out kids’ secret torments and what to do about them.

Brooke said, “I’ve never watched a whole episode.”

“So he said.”

She panicked, hearing this.

“You babysat for his children, did you not?”

“Yes. But Jasper was away, working on the grand finale.”

“But when he was there…?”

Her impulse was to throw down the phone.

Fletcher shouted at her. “Certainly, you know your boyfriend earned four Emmy’s before he was 25.”

“Fletcher! What do you mean—boyfriend?”

“Tut-tut, nothing personal. Few so-called straight actors are so…unpersuadable.”

“You mean unpersuadable by—you?”

“Naughty minx, by any man.”

“I can’t believe you asked him that.”

“Don’t be coy, Abominable. Jasper King is so good-looking he must acquire real skill or his career will amount to audiences drooling over him.”

“Disgusting.”

“Indeed. After saying your Hamlet amazed him, he accepted my offer to coach him next summer. The man has a lot to learn.”

Brooke felt creepy. Something about Fletcher guessing she’d be home with a hangover…But she refused to let Fletcher get to her, and said, “Any other weekday, I’d be at school now.”

“Appalling! You must cease your attendance this minute!”

“Last fall I attended a playwright workshop on 42nd Street, because you recommended me! I applied to Vassar early, using my freshman year test scores. So Presidential Scholarship or not, I’m going.”

“Perish the thought! You’ll then direct Hamlet like everyone else.”

by kathleen maher

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Peace on Earth

 

We’re visiting family in Chicago.

chrstimas-tree

Villanelle for My Mother

me-and-cameron-sf

My daughter and I at the SF museum after she received a Masters in Statistics.

After writing a sonnet for my father’s 85th birthday, I attempted a villanelle for my mother’s birthday. She married my father two days before her 18th birthday. On their honeymoon, she expected a birthday party, cake, candles–the works. My father hadn’t expected this, thinking getting married was enough for that long ago week. But he never forgot my mother’s birthday again.

I’ve read that villanelles often serve as eulogies. Like sonnets, they use iambic pentameter. But what really emboldened me was that the first two lines were ones my daughter and I really exchanged. She remembers us saying the exact words. It’s not just me.

The poem glances upon the difference between a long life and a very short one. Decades ago, my youngest sister was killed by a drunk driver. She was eight and holding her best friend’s hand in front of our house. They stepped off the curb and my sister disappeared. Her friend looked around in disbelief. My sister had landed 80 feet from the spot where she’d just been alive and happy. No one in my family is or was the same after this. As a fiction writer, I wonder about the widely praised and much loved stories in which a dead sister intervenes from heaven. Or the famous short story by a writer bedeviled by his editors in which a child’s death feels less crushing after the baker serves the parents fresh baked, whole wheat muffins.

Too many people refuse to acknowledge their own tragedies, let alone embrace another’s.We all have limits and short comings. But society should champion those brave and sensitive enough to acknowledge another’s pain. You’ve no idea what a difference it can make–when someone’s hurt, instead of telling her to cheer up, tell her you recognize what she’s going through. She’s not alone.

When I said life if long, my daughter said
That she had heard it's short, so which is it? 
In truth,I said, our Life has hard, fast limits.

The puzzle will prevail in heads 
And hearts until our world is finished. 
When I said Life is long, my daughter said,

Perhaps lifespan relieves annoying dread,
Unlike the instant end--torture isn't it? 
In truth, I said, our Life has hard, fast limits.

But if you suffer shocking loss within it, 
Oh yes, it tears, it rips, and never quits.
When I said Life is Long, my daughter said,

Who measure Life in any given minute?
No one. For time enforces awful exits.
In truth, I said, our Life has hard, fast limits.

Enjoy the moment! Love exists ahead: 
Surprise! A birthday party, candles lit! 
Hurray for you--and Dad--beyond all limit.


June 22, 2016 by Kathleen Maher

Sonnet for My Father

 

green pond, dappled light

I’m not a poet, but a fiction writer. I like sonnets and often wrote poems for my father’s birthday. This year he turned 85 on March 29. I sent the sonnet, which was inspired by my earliest memory. My father read poetry from his Notre Dame text books to me and my sister when I was two and a half and she was one and a half.

He didn’t remember reading Gerard Manley Hopkin’s “Pied Beauty” to his baby daughters us in our matching cribs. But the words “dappled things” have always floated through my life. When I rode my bicycle down leafy streets or played in shallow water. Fixing my hair, squinting at the sunlight.

While writing it, I realized my father and I shared an especially dappled relationship: sometimes very bright, other times quite dark. We loved each other beyond all doubt but rarely agreed. I always admired him, even when I couldn’t go along with him. I admired his faith, which I’ve lost for many years, but once felt strongly. My father went to Mass every day since he was six. As long as I lived in his house, I, too, went to Mass every day. His idea was that sinners especially needed to participated in the sacrament. Of his five children, I often looked like the most trouble, or  perhaps merely troubled.

Two weeks weeks before his birthday, before I sent the sonnet, he fell and suffered a concussion. Complicating this was the titanium cage supporting his neck for fifteen years. He was having trouble with his arm, but still working, still shoveling snow and hiking. When the titanium cage was in place, the doctors discovered he had no discs between his vertebrae. He was a champion at overcoming pain. Nevertheless, over the years, he had his hips replaced and his knees. Many years earlier, he had a heart valve operation.

The concussion left him unable to swallow. His medical directive stated no IVs, fluids, or nutrients unless recovery was likely. By his birthday, it wasn’t. We had the chance to say good-bye. A dying person often has intermittent moments when of returning to oneself. Still, I doubt he followed my sonnet. As an especially rough years draws to end, with even further debasement of democracy in the offing, I take some solace in those bright moments past.

Before The Little Match Girl dies,
Before The Brothers Grimm, bed time meant poems: 
Notre Dame inspired quatrains and sighs,
Divine as prayers received at heaven's throne.

And still I hear your voice, buoyant and clear,
In "Pied Beauty," Glory Be, Dappled Things.
Imagine, father, all we must revere, 
Possessing blessings true Faith brings.

If infants could embrace the Holy Word, 
Too young to know what they can never know,
How seldom then would life appear absurd.

Instead, each tale untold I can't resist.
Against all odds, I strive and never win. 
Forlorn, estranged, in truth, I will persist.
If you rewind, you'll see my joy begin.

Recall how often against the wind we'd run
Becoming, you and I, wild boundless fun.
___________________________________                     
Kathleen Maher, March 29, 2016