The Guilty Party

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

"The Baer Boys"

Update: March 17, 2014

Ninety pages edited on this second go-round of a complete manuscript makeup/spruce-up/whatever you want to call it. Well over two-thirds of the way done and then it's off to my beta readers. If you would like a sneak peek at the prologue and first chapter, here you go.


The Baer Boys
by Alan Hutcheson


I’ve been on a lot of stages in my life. Postage stamp tiny and grand opera huge; inside with central air conditioning and outside exposed to the elements; proscenium, thrust and those round platforms that slowly spin like a record player on Quaaludes. On a fair number of those stages I’ve performed Shakespeare. Everything from Romeo and Juliet (Tybalt, a good role) to Julius Caesar (Cassius, a really good role) to Two Gentlemen of Verona (Panthino, which I generally leave off my resume.) But standing downstage center at the Angus Bowmer Theatre in Ashland, Oregon, about to deliver the most famous soliloquy in the history of soliloquies, I felt certain that I was going to forget my lines, throw up and quite possibly pee my pants, although in what order I couldn’t have said.
This was actually my second opportunity to land a spot with the Ashland Shakespeare Festival. The first time I was young, confident as hell and incredibly ill-prepared. Now I was brutally experienced and nervous to the point of nausea, bladder leakage or both. I tried to convince myself that this was a good sign because Laurence Olivier always felt nauseous before a performance, right? At least that’s what one of the many legends surrounding him says. Of course, the theatre world does have more than its share of apocryphal tales, most of them designed to either reassure or scare the living crap out of those of us who are drawn to the life of the actor, and the one about Lord Olivier standing backstage vainly trying to keep his lunch down before hunchbacking on stage to gleefully declare Richard III’s bad intentions may be just wishful thinking on the part of mere mortals. But at that moment I needed to believe it was gospel, so I believed.
Dani, my soon to be fiancĂ©e, and I had agreed, or rather she had agreed for the both of us, that if I got a place with the Festival this season we would celebrate by announcing our engagement. And if I didn’t we were still going to announce our engagement. Right after I accepted the job I had been offered to teach English Lit and Driver’s Ed at Ashland High. My recently acquired degree in secondary education was another result of one of our agreements. That one had been negotiated a couple years earlier, right before I moved into Dani’s apartment.
It’s not that I had anything against teaching, it’s just that there’s that nasty adage that says “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” right? So becoming a teacher meant I was officially admitting that for the last couple of decades I had been wasting my time, fooling myself about what I was meant to do with my life. That theatre wasn’t my destiny, that all I was good for was filling up fifty minutes for a revolving bunch of teenagers who couldn’t care less about Nathaniel Hawthorne’s place in American Literature or how important it is to check all the mirrors before starting the engine.
But there was Dani. She was ten years younger than me, astonishingly pretty, and smart as a whip. She laughed at my jokes, knew her way around both a kitchen and a corporate boardroom, and what she didn’t know about sex was probably just as well since what she did know had come this close to killing me in the most exquisite ways more than a few times. She even swore she loved the fact that I was an artistic sort of fellow, although she inevitably followed that up by pointing out my art had never come anywhere close to providing me with a living, now had it? So of course I saw the wisdom in making that chapter of my life story a part of my interesting past instead of my financially uncertain and potentially unattached future, didn’t I? She never exactly put it that way, but the subtext was there.
“Ready when you are, Mr. Baird.” A voice came from the small huddle in the middle of the theater of People Who Would Be Determining My Future.
“Ah, that’s Baer,” I said. “Darin Baer.”
“Ready when you are.”
“Okay.” A nerve steadying breath, a mental step into the skin of the Prince of Denmark, and I began talking to myself, but doing it in a voice calculated to demonstrate not just my exquisite understanding of Hamlet’s dilemma but also my ability to project to the cheap seats.

                             To be, or not to be? that is the question:
                                    Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
                                    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

                                    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
                                    And by opposing end them. To die,to sleep,
                                    No more; and by a sleep to say we end
                                    The heartache and the thousand...

“Excuse me.” A different voice came from the group. It was followed by the flick and snap of paper and a muffled whisper. “Ah, Mr. Barr?”
I shaded my eyes against the harsh white lights. Not much help in seeing the person attached to the voice, but it's kind of a reflex when you're talking to somebody in the house. “Ah, it’s Baer?” I said.
“Of course. Could you tell us about a decision you have had to make in your own life?”
“A decision?”
“A decision.”
“A decision.”
“An important decision,” said another voice.
“Sure,” I said. “Absolutely.” What did they want to hear? Shit, this was not going the way it was supposed to. “Well, coming here to audition was a pretty big decision. Huge.”
“Of course. Anything else?”
“I can’t think of anything more important than this,” I said. As soon as the words were out of my mouth I knew they were the wrong ones. The voice in the dark was looking for something like the decision to get married, or even the time about seven or eight years ago I decided not to have sex with Patti Keown even though everyone in the cast and crew of the Tacoma Regional Players production of “Anyone Can Whistle”, male and female, wanted to have sex with her and she chose me. I have no idea why played hard to get, but it turned out to be one of my better decisions since Patti was actually a Patrick, something I didn’t find out until a couple years later when we both showed up for auditions for Boise Little Theater’s production of  Noises Off. I was using one of the urinals in the  lobby restroom when this guy claimed the station next to me, did a double take and exclaimed, in Patti’s unmistakeable trill “Oh my lord, it’s the one that got away!”.
I’ve never had flow stop so suddenly before or since.
So I had at least a couple of good, sound decisions to trot out, but they just didn’t occur to me. Nothing was occurring to me. “Should I start again from the beginning?” I said. “Or where I left off?”
“That won't be necessary,” said yet another voice. “Thank you very much.”
“I can put more decision in it,” I said. “Or indecision. I can do either.”
“Thank you, Mr. Baer.”
He finally gets my name right and it’s to dismiss me.
I didn’t feel like throwing up any more. Stepping in front of a bus, however, seemed like an excellent choice.
But I didn’t teeter on the curb, waiting to leap into the path of the first public mass transportation vehicle. Tail tucked neatly between my legs, I headed to The Black Sheep, which is where Dani and I were supposed to meet after she got off work. I had originally planned to spend the time between wowing the Festival directors and meeting Dani by shopping for a nice little gift for my girl. One I absolutely could not afford just to show her how much I loved her and how glad she should be to be getting engaged to such a successful and accomplished actor. Instead I slumped through the door of The Black Sheep, plopped down at a table, ordered a beer, and downed the whole thing before its perfect inch and a half head of creamy foam had a chance to collapse.
I waved over Jen, my waitress, and ordered a pitcher of the same. She asked if the rest of my party was on their way and how many glasses did I need? I told her I was a party of one and that would be a large pitcher, please.
“You’re usually an iced tea,” she said. What are you doing, trying to make up for lost time?”
“Just getting ready to enter the real world.”
“Ah.” She nodded knowingly. “You’re going to want some wings or nachos to soak it up.”
“Not in the budget. Just the beer, please.”
There was a slight raising of one eyebrow and pursing of the lips but she headed back to the bar and returned in a couple of minutes with the pitcher and a big bowl of unshelled peanuts.
“Thanks,” I said.
She did the eyebrow thing again and moved on to a table across the room.
I had just poured my first glass from the pitcher, coming nowhere near duplicating the perfect foamy head Jen had achieved, when a voice said, “So, you’re the one with all the nuts.”
There was this redhead. Tall, maybe five-nine, five-ten. Early thirties most likely, with a figure made to order for the painted on blue jeans and tight, scoop neck sweater she was wearing. She eased around to the side of my table, passing close enough so her hip just barely brushed my arm, her scent washing over me like a pheromone fog. She plucked a couple peanuts out of the bowl, cracked them open and popped them in her mouth.
“Salty,” she said. “And dry.”
“You need something to wash it down.”
“Good idea.”
She lifted the freshly poured glass out of my hand just as deftly as she had taken the peanuts, took a long, slow sip and set the glass back in my hand, which conveniently enough was still in its glass holding position.
“That’s better,” she said. “I’m Julie.”
“Waiting for someone, Darin?”
“Ah, not at all.” Poorly considered answers seemed to be the order of the day, didn’t they? “Care for some more? Nuts I mean. Or beer? Nuts and beer. Plenty of both.”
She sat and popped a couple more peanuts while I flagged down Jen for another glass. For the next however long I forgot my woes as Julie and I got to know each other. Well, she didn’t say much about herself, mostly she just encouraged me to do all the talking and truth to tell I did embellish a bit. I told her I was in town at the invitation of the Shakespeare Festival, somehow managing to squeeze in their need for a choreographer and stage fight director— which I really am sort of qualified to do—in between my obligations at the Guthrie and a certain Broadway bound production. Just jetting in and out once a week or so. Julie found it all very interesting, or at least that’s the impression I got from the chin cupped in hand, hazel eyes focused on me and me alone sort of attitude she assumed. After a while her bare foot indicated even more interest by toe dancing its way up my leg.
That is when I should have flashed a worldly and regretful smile, murmured, “Dear, sweet Julie, if only I wasn’t late for my appointment with Mr. Hammerstein.” and scooted out of there as fast as my long if currently gooseflesh covered legs allowed. I would have to call Dani and tell her to meet me somewhere else and there would be a bit of explaining about that, but then there’s always explaining about something when you’re in a relationship, isn’t there? But I didn’t scoot. I stayed. I couldn’t help it. One of the nearly inescapable truths about being a guy is the logical part tends to shift into idle when another part pops the clutch, as it were. Julie scooted closer and her hand took over for her foot.
So what was so bad about sticking around for a little while? A man’s ego is a delicate thing and mine sure needed a boost right about then. The more territory Julie’s hand covered the less worried I was about Dani and the more about the fact that when I get more than a couple of beers in me I risk my reputation as a, shall we say, marathoner, or at least a quality middle distance man. Not that there wasn’t a voice in the back of my head trying to point out that if I acted quickly and wisely the woman I would be apologizing to about my alcohol induced sprinter’s syndrome would be the one who already knew I was capable of better, but at the moment it was being completely overpowered by the shouts of “Audience of one and she’s in my pocket! Hoo! She is literally in my pocket! Who cares what those stupid Shakespeare Festival people think!”
At the very moment I leaned in close to Julie to murmur something I just knew she would find both funny and incredibly suggestive Dani walked in the door. She scanned the room and practically pinned my head to the wall with her stare. My mouth did some sort of flapping thing that failed to produce anything funny, suggestive or even intelligible. Dani, on the other hand, exercised perfect vocal control with a five word explosion beginning with a common two word profanity and ending with my name, given, middle and sur. She then did an emphatic one-eighty and was out the door. No stage training at all and yet a hell of an entrance and an even better exit.
I stood to chase after her, but Julie’s fingers were hooked into my pocket, making me lose my balance. I reached out to catch myself on the table next to us and dumped a plateful of buffalo wings on some large college boy’s lap. He assisted me to the door, although I would have appreciated it more if he had given my hand a chance to get there before my head. All of me made it outside just in time to see Dani’s one finger salute shoot out the window of her shiny black Camaro as it went hurtling down the street. 
My car, a vintage Geo which isn’t designed for hurtling anywhere except maybe down the side of a cliff, started right up in an uncharacteristic bit of automotive cooperation, but Dani still had a hell of a head start.
When I got to our apartment complex the pool in the middle courtyard was festooned with floating clothes. And they all looked familiar. My favorite pair of sneakers came flying out of our door, touched down briefly on the diving board at the deep end and bounced just high and sideways enough to plunge into the water.
“Shit! Dani!” I yelled up to our landing. “What the hell are you doing?”
“Figure it out!” she yelled back from somewhere inside the apartment. My vintage mp3 player, with just about every show tune that ever was, came whizzing out the door. It hit the pool decking, bounced once then shattered.
“Shit! Shit! Jesus Dani!”
I ran around the pool and was almost to the stairway when my foot locker came plummeting down, coming this close to pile driving me into the walkway. Instead it made a direct hit on the concrete, creating a nice, long crack. On the walk, that is, not the trunk. My parents gave me that trunk when I moved out and over two decades later it’s about the only thing I own that’s quality. The thing is built like an armored vehicle and packed full it must weigh at least a hundred pounds. If Dani was steamed enough to launch it off the landing maybe now was not a good time to try to initiate negotiations. I dragged the locker back to the Geo, fished my clothes out with the pool skimmer and went looking for another bar.
Three or four hours, at least half a dozen more beers and somewhere around a hundred pay phone calls to Dani later, none of which made it further than me saying “It’s not what it looked…”, or “I know you’re angry, and I under…”or “Please don’t hang…” and her either telling me to go to hell or just snapping her phone shut, I made a really important decision. With or without her I needed to change my life. For way too long I had been kind of sort of trying to make a life as an actor and kind of sort of trying to make a relationship work and neither of them were really wasn't working out one little bit. I needed to face facts and put my life in order. Time to get a real job and forget about women. Right? Am I right or am I right? Damn right I’m right.
The guy sitting next to me didn’t disagree, he just moved to the other end of the bar.


                                                                CHAPTER ONE

I was leaving, practically out the door, when the phone rang. I could have ignored it, just kept going. After all, it really wasn't my phone. But you know how it is with phones: they ring, we answer.
“Theatre room, this is Darin Baer.”
“Wonderful. I was afraid I might have missed you. Could I ask you to come to the principal's office?”
It was a voice that gets a guy’s attention, the aural equivalent of a finely manicured female fingertip attached to a fine female tracing figure eights on your belly. Yes, that kind of voice. In my experience such ravishing tones are most often distributed to women who, from a personal appearance standpoint, are often uncharitably referred to as designed for radio, or, as in this case, the telephone. Which was just as well, I was just over four months into my self-imposed moratorium on women and holding fast.
Still, it was a killer voice. “The principal’s office?” I said, phrasing it as a question just to get her to talk some more. No harm in listening.
“You will find it just past the counselors’ offices, at the end of the hallway,” she said. “One of the ladies in the front office can direct you.”
“I'm on my way.”
Heck, I was on my way to the office anyway to turn in the keys to the Theatre room. Like I said, it wasn’t my room, I was just a substitute.
I had been to the Westview High School principal's office before, just not recently. Westview was where I attended high school and as a student I paid my share of official visits to Principal Jameson Sturdevant. The person doing the summoning back then was Sturdevant’s secretary, Mrs. Crumbkaeuer, a wizened apricot pit of a woman who, according to school lore, was something over one hundred years old and drank a quart of Johnnie Walker Black Label each and every day. Her age may have been exaggerated, but, judging by her voice, which was gravelly to the point of boulder-strewn, a couple fifths and a carton of Camels might have been a closer estimate of her daily ration of vices. Or maybe the woman never touched a drop or lit up at all and her voice was a genetic fluke or the result of a traumatic childhood injury and we were all being cruel teenagers, I don't know. I do know that she didn't have a fingertip on the belly sort of voice. But then, hardly anyone does. That’s what makes them so intriguing.
I locked up the theatre room and headed for the administration building.
The office was hopping with kids, support staff and what I supposed were a few faculty members. I didn’t see Mrs. Cahill, the lady who had sped me through check-in that morning, registering my presence so I could get paid the ninety-two dollars and forty-eight cents that is the daily stipend for high school substitute teachers. She had also given me the keys to the theatre room. Now nobody said boo as I went past the counters, around a corner and down the hall. I figured The Voice, if she was stationed in the same spot Mrs. Crumbkauer used to stash her scotch, should have her desk in the big open area at the end of the hall, just outside the principal’s office. There was a desk but it was unattended so I couldn't see if my Ravishing Voice/Lumpy Exterior theory held up in this case. But whatever she looked like, she certainly kept a nice, clean desk. Nothing on it but a computer monitor and a telephone. Not even a name plate; every desk in a school office has the occupant's name displayed on or above it. Except this one didn't.
“Is that you, Mr. Baer?” It was The Voice, this time combined with a faint background of violins. It took me a second before I realized the voice and music were coming from the phone on the desk. An intercom.
“That's me. I mean, I'm me.” I waved at the phone. “Hello.”
“Please, come on in. The door just to your right.”
I stepped into the sound of Mozart and the look of professional success. The walls of the office were covered chair-rail high with deep-toned wood paneling. From paneling to ceiling the walls were painted in a greyish-green, with some sort of dimensional treatment to it. Thanks to a short term live-in relationship I had in my late twenties with a domestically ambitious—hence the short term—young woman named Rachel—I think it was Rachel although it might have been Kirsten, no, I’m pretty sure it was Rachel, although it doesn’t really matter, does it?—I’ve seen enough decorating shows on television to know some sort of faux-something technique had been applied, but I hadn't exactly been taking notes so I couldn’t begin to tell you what it was called. In the middle of the floor was a plush looking oriental rug and in the middle of the rug was a massive desk with carved detailing. Everything in the office, with one exception, gave off an aura of refined, confident masculinity.
The exception was the woman standing behind the desk. There was nothing even remotely masculine about her.
She had shoulder length chestnut hair framing a face that, if I had been casting a play requiring a Helen of Troy, would have been overqualified. Think a Lee Remick or Ingrid Bergman sort of cool smolder and that will get you somewhere in the ballpark. She was wearing a conservative dark blue suit with a buttoned to the top cream colored blouse, that failed miserably to conceal that underneath it all was a figure capable of launching an armada or three all by itself.
She pointed a tiny remote control at one of the bookshelves and the string quartet faded.
“I can’t seem to get anything but the classical station,” she said. It wasn’t an apology, more a statement of fact. She came around from behind the desk and offered her hand. I can't identify perfumes any better than I can paint treatments, but I'll tell you this: I have never grasped the hand of anyone who smelled quite so good. “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Baer,” she said. “I'm Natalie Willoughby, the principal here at Westview.”
The Face and the Body was also The Voice. So much for my Rule. She gestured to a chair in front of the desk. “Please, won’t you have a seat?”
I sat.
She sat.
“Mr. Baer,” she said. “I want you to know how much I appreciate you helping us out on such short notice.”
“I'm a sub,” I said. “That's my job. Besides, I live just a few blocks away.” I started to motion in the direction of the house, but it came out more than a little spastic, so I crossed my arms, which had to look awkward, so I put my arms on the armrests. That felt awkward too. “I am sorry about missing first period.”
“Well, that certainly was not your fault.” Which was true. Usually I got called for my substitute jobs the day before I was needed. This morning the call had come just in time for me to make it in just as the second period bell started to ring.
She leaned across her desk just a bit. A light dusting of freckles across her cheeks came into focus. Damn it, I love lightly dusted freckles. I tried like hell not to stare and I was pretty successful, if you don’t count a couple of very brief lapses. Nanoseconds, if that.
“Mr. Baer?”
From her tone it seemed that maybe she had said something before my name and was expecting some sort of response from me.
“Hmm?” I said. Then a bit of misdirection. “That’s quite an impressive bookcase.” It was a nice bookcase, heavy and dark wood with beveled glass doors you pull out and slide back. The hardware was highly polished brass.
“Thank you. It came with the office. I hope your day went well?”
“Oh, absolutely. It was great. A really great day.” Which, from a substitute teacher's perspective, was absolutely true. You know how pilots say any landing you can walk away from is a good one? For a substitute teacher any day you make it through with your will to live intact and the inclination to lobby Congress in favor of mass sterilization kept in check is a great day.
“I understand you applied for a regular teaching position and there were no openings at the time.”
“Well I did just move back to town a couple of months before the semester started,” I said. “I'm sure it was kind of late to be raising my hand.”
She referred to something I couldn't see on her computer monitor.
“Mr. Baer,” she said, still looking at the computer.
“Darin,” I said. “If that’s okay, I mean. I know teachers and administrators need to be Mr. And Mrs., and Ms. and whatnot to each other when we’re around students, I just...” Just what? Was trying to make it painfully obvious that I didn’t know the difference between a first time meeting with a high school principal and casually chatting up an attractive woman at a cast party?
Thankfully she didn’t seem to be paying that much attention to what I was saying. After a moment she turned back to me.
“I see from your resume you have quite a bit of professional experience in the theatre.”
I shrugged my well practiced self-deprecating shrug.
“Just regional stuff,” I said. “Not exactly the Great White Way.”
“Isn’t that boxing?”
“Isn’t what boxing?”
“The Great White Way.”
“Actually, it’s Broadway.”
She nodded and bit her lip. I won't even bother to tell you my assessment of the attractiveness of her lip biting. “What was I thinking of?”
“Great White Hope?”
“That must be it.” She tapped the monitor. “I also see that you were voted best actor right here at Westview.”
“Twice, actually. Junior and senior years. I think it was the first time that happened here.”
“And apparently,” she said. “no other student has matched that accomplishment since.”
I was the holder of a twenty-five year record at my old high school. For the briefest moment I felt kind of proud. But let's face it, unless you happen to be a female gymnast reaching your peak at the age of seventeen could be considered more than a little sad.
“Well,” I said. “I don't really like to live in the past. Here and now, that's my philosophy.”
Until that moment I don't think I had articulated or even thought about my philosophy. Even pretending to have one was a first for me.
“A commendable attitude,” said Principal Natalie. She put a fingertip to her chin, leaned in and asked, “Do you happen to know Ms. Daviot?”
“Maureen Daviot. Our theatre teacher. The one you substituted for today.”
“No, I haven’t had the pleasure.”
“She turned in her resignation on very short notice. By email. I’ve tried to get in touch with her several times but haven’t had any success.”
“Just up and gone?”
“That's the way it looks.”
“That’s a shame.” Not really. Not if it meant a few more days of gainful employment for me. Gainful employment in the vicinity of the world's most beautiful school administrator. “If there’s anything I can do to help.”
“As a matter of fact,” she said, “there is. Would you possibly consider accepting the position of permanent substitute drama teacher?”
“Permanent substitute?”
“It’s our human resource department’s way of distinguishing the position from what is called ‘long term substitute’. I believe the number of weeks remaining in the semester determines the status.”
I must have still looked puzzled.
“Essentially it means you would take over Ms. Daviot's classes for the remainder of the semester.”
“So I'd be like a real teacher?”
She smiled. “In a way. I am afraid it only means a fifteen percent increase over the regular substitute rate.”
Not exactly a featured player Equity contract, but it would put me into three digits a day. For me these were giddy financial waters.
Principal Natalie seemed to mistake the cause of my hesitation. “I know it’s probably not what you have been hoping for.”
“It's great!” I said. “I get the theatre department at my old high school. That's about as good as it gets.”
“It is just for the rest of the semester you understand. But if things go well it could work to your favor in securing a regular contract.” She took a small stack of papers out of her desk. “And since the compensation does not include any provisions for the extra time and work involved in extracurricular activities, of course you would not be required to direct the fall play.”
“The fall play?”
“Mrs. Daviot had auditions scheduled for, let's see.” She tapped a couple of keys on the computer and checked the monitor again. “Tuesday. That's tomorrow. I know it is short notice to call it off, but from what I understand there was a strong possibility she would have had to cancel anyway. There has been an unfortunate decline in student interest the past few years.”
“What play was she going to do?”
Again a glance at the computer. “It looks like she was planning on doing something called Twelfth Night.”
No, Mr. Numbnuts, Neil Simon's Twelfth Night.
“I believe so, yes.”
“And she didn’t know if she would have enough kids for the cast?”
“That is my understanding.”
“There must be at least some who come out for the plays. It would be a shame to cancel on them.”
“I imagine a few students would be disappointed, yes.”
Disappointed? When I was in high school I lived for the two plays staged each school year. Straight play in the fall and a big musical each spring.
“If I can get enough students to put together a decent cast, will you let me do the play? You won’t have to pay me one nickel extra.”
“That is very generous of you, but I’m not sure it’s such a good idea.”
“How can Shakespeare not be a good idea?” I grinned a confident grin. I’ve got a good grin. It's not exactly compensation for no discernible pecs and crappy income prospects, but you go with what you’ve got.
“It would mean a lot of extra work. And I’m afraid the performance schedule had already been cut from three to just one. We have the Manitoba Winter Road Show renting the auditorium the rest of the week.”
“Manitoba Winter Road Show?”
“They apparently have grown out of the performance venue at Golden Vistas Mobile Home Estates. It’s a very popular event and we can use the rental funds. Are you sure you want to take this on? There does seem to be the very real chance you won’t have enough students.”
“Then we’ll do Zoo Story.”
“I’m afraid I’m not familiar with that one.
“Two characters, not much in the way of scenery. It’s not important. Just give me one day with the kids in my classes and I guarantee they’ll not only show up but they’ll bring their friends.”
“You are quite confident, Mr. Baer.”
“I'd just like to try to pay good ol' Westview back for some of the best times of my life. Is it a deal?”
She hesitated for a moment, then nodded. “I suppose it would be all right.”
“Then you’ve got yourself a permanent substitute. Where do I sign?”
For all the attention I paid to the contract she slid across the desk I could have been renting out my soul or buying a house with adjustable rate financing and wouldn't have had a clue. But all I cared about was that for the next eight weeks I was going to be getting a regular paycheck doing something that was at least peripherally associated with my life's passion. And as a bonus I was bound to come up with some very plausible excuses to get myself invited back to the principal’s office. Just because I had sworn off relationships didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy some spectacular scenery.
I put a flourish on my signature, the one I’ve practiced for decades just in case somebody asks for my autograph. Principal Natalie welcomed me officially to my temporarily permanent position on the Westview faculty and walked me to the door.
When I’m nicely drunk, which is not very often, or very happy, which happens with even less frequency, I am inclined to burst into dance. The hallway was empty and my feet couldn’t help themselves.
I was in the middle of a flurry of one over the top steps, when I came around the corner into full view of the front office.
I didn't stop dancing, just toned it down to a Gene Kellyesque soft shoe over to the Attendance Counter.
A woman behind the counter was slamming a three hole punch against the side of a desk, apparently trying to convince it to release the stack of papers jammed in its jaw.
“Dear lady,” I said. “May I be of assistance?”
The woman paused in mid-slam.
“And you are?” she said.
“I am the newly appointed permanent substitute teacher of all things theatre,” I said, finishing with a flourish and slight bow.
“Is that so? Welcome to Westview High.” She gave the punch one more good whack against the desk, releasing the jaws and scattering the papers.
I vaulted over the counter, scooped up the papers, deposited them in her hands, began to vault back again, felt a slight twinge in my left hamstring, found the swing-gate and made my exit.

A Bit About Me

My photo
I am a writer with a longtime interest in photography. I'm a dad, husband, photographer, and not very good guitarist. My first novel, Boomerang, is available in both paperback and ebook form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and As a matter of fact, my second novel, The Baer Boys, can be found at exactly the same places.