Continuing with my own “serial” format without restrictions . . . will I leave you, poor reader, with a cliffhanger? Will the main character figure out what to say to the local theater’s director? Who is the stranger that wants The Play produced? He’ll have to reappear at some point. How is the main character changing after reading The Queen’s Idle Fancy? All will not be answered in this installment, but wonder and curiosity will, with hope, grow stronger . . . Here is Part 2! Enjoy.
P.S. I am sticking with The Queen’s Idle Fancy as the subtitle at this point, but I am open to opinions about changing this to The Queen’s Demon, The Demon’s Queen, or The Queen’s Demons . . .
“We are all demonic!” —Queen Stormag
This painting is also one of about 115 paintings completed by my father, George Bogdanovitch, during the last two years of his life. He knew darkness well, and I respect his artistic journey and miss his passionate compulsion every single day.
If you have yet to read Part 1, please click HERE to go do so first.
The Play (The Queen’s Idle Fancy)
And Roger knew of just the actress. He grew tongue-tied in her presence more than once. Kate Denisov’s haughty depth thrilled Roger. Her disconcerting beauty remained a strong and perfect muse for the stage’s distancing effect (less so for televised or cinematic examination; she’d tried those avenues before, and now, after so many rejections in her early years, Denisov disdained the medium—would always say she loved the theater, that she could never be bitter—she loved her life). But he also knew better. The battles she created clanked, created local myths, and proliferated if left unchecked by weaker personalities; the best directors took her act as a teasing performance and looked aside with steady humor as her energy filled the theater, at times, with thoughtless drama, while some episodes made unsteady directors and costars with lower self-esteem issues go into fits right before curtain call—but she was damn good at her craft. She would always have the last word. Yes, Roger thought, Kate Denisov was born to play Queen Stormag.
In his mind, outside himself looking in (how he described the dividing lines of thought), Roger kept having moments of epiphany. One after another. The Queen’s role, how central to the action and importance to the play, knitting the varied cast members together, became paramount. Roger’s epiphany following this casting moment?
I need to direct this play.
The thought stayed in his mind throughout the night and caused infrequent insomnia to stride in riding a strong wave. At three in the morning, without a wink of sleep, Roger moved out of his bedroom, a bit peeved at himself, his sleeplessness, and ended up reading The Play again. This time he envisioned the Queen’s demon in all its glory. Rigid orange-streaked darkness in the stormy eyes . . .
The demon, the person playing the part of the demon, can wear contact lenses. I can ask the Community College theater department to help locate or create them—maybe for the entire cast, the ones touched by the demons.
I will direct this play.
It was convenient that his day off beckoned, a Saturday. Roger dressed and appeared on the porch of the theater’s president’s home, a bungalow in the avenues without a Sound view. Martin Belloon ran the theater with a looser philosophy, calm steerage, and knew every person on the island who loved seeing his or her own name in the Playbills. Those who sought out recognition because of the donations they made were his frequent lunch and dinner companions. The island of golden retirees of all persuasions made the community theater a sheltered beacon; they needed activities, hobbies, small-town political groups, to block loneliness and feed narcissistic youthful memories.
Roger knocked a brisk tap tap on the Belloon front door. Muffled sound, he could hear footsteps. It was still early, and a fog dissipated over the Skyline Marina and this higher section of the island a hundred feet above sea level. The door opened and Martin’s wife, Carole, greeted him with a cocked eyebrow, make-up heavily, and carefully, applied—an unfortunate grooming habit formed from her own attachment to the theatrical life. Roger wondered how much time Carole spent, how early she arose to begin her morning application. He thought she’d be prettier with but a tenth of any of the lotions, powders, rouges, lipsticks, eye-liners she applied, but who was he to judge? The peacock Belloons, the presidential theater couple on the island, had an image to uphold.
“What brings you here this bright morning, Roger?” She held the door open, leaning against it lightly. She didn’t offer her usual air kiss.
“I was hoping to speak to Martin. Nothing urgent, but I hope to share something important—something groundbreaking.”
“That sounds mysterious. You look like you haven’t been getting much sleep, if you don’t mind my saying that.” Carole had always kept a frosty distance from Roger. Polite, sure, but he knew his station was too lowly for her to associate with. Bully for her.
“Well, a play, a unique, gorgeous, complex play has crossed my path, and I must show Martin immediately. I insist.” Roger couldn’t believe the words coming out of his mouth. They sounded so foreign, anachronistic, highfaluting, to him, and this made Carole all the more suspicious, something Roger did not want. Thoughts raced in his mind.
“Okay. I’ll let Martin know you’re here. Would you like to wait in the living room? I’ll go fetch him. A play, you say. Do you mind if I sit in when you show him your play? You’ve gotten me in a curious state.”
“Not at all. Thank you.” And Carole walked Roger into the living room area decorated in summer cottage—Ethan Allen furnishings in flowery pinks, skin tones, peony prints. Beetroot red armchairs in ridged material. He sat in one of them across from a fireplace with a gas insert. Bookshelves lined the fireplace and they were filled with hardbacks, old bestselling thrillers, and bound copies of plays and yellowing playbills.
“Would you like some coffee?”
“Yes, please, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble.”
“It’ll take Martin a few minutes to get presentable before he sees you, anyway.” And Carole said this pointedly, a small jab, and then left the room.
Roger heard her walk up the staircase to the second floor and a master bedroom door opening and closing, then murmurings, a bark of surprise, and the gruff words of those inconvenienced by sudden interruptions. Roger waited. Carole descended the stairs, peeked a head into the room without a word, and exited to the kitchen to arrange a coffee tray.
Fiddling with his iPhone apps, no email to speak of, Roger tapped a pop tune’s heavy pulse on his chair’s arm. Please don’t think he’s more social than he is—all is illusion. He’s a hermit. Married for almost two years in his twenties, divorced just shy of what would’ve been the second anniversary. Complicated feelings on both of their parts: bewilderment, inertia, a lack of social graces, a pulling apart, invisible, that grew stronger with the influence of in-laws, and his wife’s need for parenting into her thirties. She immediately moved back into the nest down in Portland. Roger was seen as the intransigent one, stuck in a flavorless life path. With the help of her dockyard father, she moved everything out of their shitty apartment, leaving him nothing but a Frisbee (Roger traded being on the local ultimate Frisbee league for the theater soon after discarding his tinny vow ring) and the worn couch. He chose to be away so his ex-father-in-law could puff and troll the moldy hallways and scorn the chipping grout in the bathroom all he wanted without an interruptive presence. Their separation bleated out its last whimper.
To read Part 3, simply click HERE!
I hope you enjoyed this open-ended section of the current Work In Progress, and will scream at me for more in the comments section. At this point in my life, I need all the encouragement I can take in. Best to you in your own writing and creative life.
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