The Play is the Thing
This is chapter 47 of The Inheritance, a serial fiction novel on FITK
A small group of masked parents had gathered at Sean and Mary’s house to see the ‘play’ their children—Benny, Jack, Sara and Mareka—had created for Halloween. Since the local authorities had recommended against large parties or trick or treating, the home school group that met in Mareka’s garage had decided that they would do this as a way to allow the children to experience Halloween in a safe way. All the parents and the children who attended the home school had been regularly tested and the parents worked from home. As they were waiting outside the garage, social distancing, Malcolm Wallen, Sara’s grandfather, called for attention:
“I’d like to say a few words before we go in. First, I’d like to thank for Mary and Sean and Jo for taking the initiative in creating this learning experience for our children. If your children are anything like my grand-daughter, the enthusiasm for learning that this opportunity has created for these children in these difficult times is most rewarding. I’d also like to thank Sean and Mareka for putting up the familiar old Halloween decorations that Dorthy Langley would put up each year. It’s been three years since they have been up. That was the last time Dorothy held her annual Halloween party, I’m sure most of you will remember it.”The side garage door opened and an eerie voice beckoned: “Enter… if you dare!” and the small group went in.
Sean had increased the ventilation of the garage/classroom to minimize the risk of a Covid infection. Despite added heaters, the garage was cold. There were folding chairs spread out and the far end of the garage had a small stage with curtains. When everyone had settled in, Jo came out from behind the curtain.
“Welcome to the first annual North 105th Street Home School Halloween Pageant. The children have worked hard on this all week, and they hope you will enjoy it. Sean, would you douse the lights?”Sean turned off the lights and the garage was plunged into darkness. Jo was holding a small LED candle in one hand and a piece of paper in the other. She began to read:
“Each Halloween the spirits of those who have departed this vale of tears return to earth at the stroke of midnight. Throughout the night, on the hour, a different spirit will appear and tell their story. Please hold your applause until the stroke of four signals their return to the underworld.”She turned off her light and a bell began to toll in the blackness. At the stroke of twelve Jack appeared, wearing a Pirate’s costume, holding an LED candle, and with a gnarly set of teeth painted on his protective mask. Jo sat down next to Sean.
“Arr, I am Black Jack McGee, the scourge of the seven seas. I preyed on the weak, and was feared by the strong, but no man alive could cut me down. I came back to earth to smell once more the tang of the salt air and drink strong rum with my Pirate crew. Arr, no man alive could take me down, t’was a treacherous disease felled me in my prime. Beware the foul vapors of dismal swamps, and the loathsome diseases of scurvy knaves. Beware!”
In a homeless encampment alongside of I-5, John Stroud was trying to salvage a bad drug deal. One of his customers had accused him of cutting his heroin. Stroud knew it was probably true, his last batch had been on the ‘lean’ side.
“Look Wally, I’m not out to bone ya,” said Stroud, “I’ll make it up to you. I’ve got some stuff here that is guaranteed top-notch. Just don’t go nuts on it.“
“It better be good. Fool me once, fuck me. Fool me twice, you’re fucked,” said ‘Wally’ as he paid Stroud and took the small packet into his tent.
Stroud moved on.
“You’ve been here a week and I have yet to show you the ballroom,” said Marcel Dupage to Barbara Merrit, “It’s a bit dusty, I’m afraid, of course, the last dance was eight months ago.”
“Lead on, Maestro,” said Barbara, “We’ll trip the light fantastic… ”
The couple went down the building’s back stairway, reaching the ‘stage door.’
“Just a second… I’ll get the lights,” said Marcel.
Barbara stood still in the darkened auditorium as she heard Marcel opening the breaker panel door and begin to flip the switches. The ballroom became bathed in light.
“Oops, too much,” said Marcel as he dimmed the lighting, “That’s better, more romantic, yes?”
Barbara was amused by his antics. When she had kissed him the night before he responded, but then made no further advances. “Savoring the process?” she thought, “Or still thinking of Emily?” Then she spoke aloud: “We need some music.”
“Just a sec, ” he said, going into a control booth. In a short time the sound of big band music filled the air. “Shall we ‘Begin the Beguine’?”
Back at the garage Jack had finished his soliloquy and had turned off his light. In the darkness the bell tolled one.
“I am Benjamin Franklin, I am one of the founding fathers, and otherwise known for my portrait on the one hundred dollar bill.”A smattering of laughter made its way through the garage as Benny continued with his oration—it was obvious that he idolized his namesake. He prattled on for several minutes, whimsically strutting back and forth as he listed his gifts to mankind.
“And now, my time on earth is over. Don’t forget me!”Benny turned off the light. There was the sound of whispers in the dark before the bell rang twice. Mareka appeared from the darkness, all glammed up, wearing a shiny red dress and make-up, with bright red lips drawn on her protective mask. A stir went throughout the small audience.
"I am Emily Carroll, grandmother of Sean Carroll and great-grandmother of Mareka Robinson-Carroll.“Oh God!” thought Mary and Sean, simultaneously, “The family secrets!” thought Sean. “You go, girl,” thought Mary.
“I have returned to earth from the mists of time and the land of the norns, returned to see that the plague that is upon this land banished. years ago I was imprisoned by a teufel, a devil in human form. Now that devil has returned, reincarnated, and I am here to see him finally banished.”Mareka/Emily continued her speech, telling of her lost years spent in a limbo between life and death, and how she was finally freed by the love of her grandchildren. Mary was relieved that Mareka’s channeling of Emily didn’t include the exact way that Emily was freed. The audience was spellbound and when she turned off her light the only sound you could hear were the ventilating fans. The bell then chimed three and Sara, the final presenter, appeared.
In his tent in the homeless encampment Gerald Wallen, commonly called ‘Wally’, had just shot up the heroin John Stroud had sold him. The last batch from Stroud had been weak so Wally adjusted his dosage upward. In two minutes he knew that this was the ‘good stuff’. In three minutes, the fentanyl in the heroin had stopped his breathing. In eight minutes he was dead.
As Sara stood nervously before the small group, dressed in informal work clothes that Mareka had found in the house, Jo wondered if she might be on the verge of another meltdown. Sara had done well in the rehearsal and her choice of the person she wanted to portray was someone who she, Benny and Jack all remembered fondly. Jo gave a sigh of relief when Sara began to speak with a clear, calm voice:
“I am Dorothy Langley, recently departed. I have returned on this special night, a night when we had so many good times with the children in the neighborhood. A night when all the misunderstandings and troubles of the world could be forgotten by remembering and honoring those who have departed. We, the dead, will do you no harm, that is a truth that the children learn on Halloween. I gave parties for the neighborhood children and their parents. That companionship was one of the joys of my life. People working living together for the common good, to be able to touch each other, to smile at a baby and have that baby smile back. To see that baby grow up and have babies of their own, that is what is important, and that is the gift that those now dead have given to all of us.”There were sniffles in the audience. The adults recognized Dorthy’s gardening outfit. Except for Sean, Mary and Mareka, the parents and their children had all known and loved Dorothy. Sean, Mary and Mareka—living in her house—had felt her presence every day.
The EMTs working on ‘Wally’ Wallen were too late. A crowd of people were milling around as the EMTs worked on the inert figure. The police had found an expired DL in his wallet and relayed the info to HQ to see if it could be used to notify his next-of-kin. The police usually didn’t get much cooperation from the people living in the camps but this time, when asked if anybody knew where Wally had gotten his fix, there were a couple of shouts from the back of the group: “Stroud.”
“And now my time on earth is almost over until next year. In time you may forget me, but if you do think of me remember that I love you all. Now listen!”Sara turned off her light and then the bell struck four times. After the last chime faded away the four children reappeared on the stage, each holding their own LED-candle. They stood still, without expression, and then began to slowly wave. One by one, in the order that they had spoken, the first three children flicked off the lights and went behind the curtain. When only Sara was left she suddenly cried out “Father!” and crumpled to the stage. Sean turned on the lights as Sara’s mother and Jo rushed to the stage.
“Father… father is… dead.” Sara said, sobbing, as her mother held her in her arms.
A cell phone rang in the audience. Malcolm Wallen answered it. After he listened to the caller for a few seconds he said, “Yes, I am related. I’m his Father.”
Next Chapter: Resolutions