My late and ex, a theater amateur in that best sense of the word that means for love alone, liked to tell the story of a summer repertory troupe in New England which became restive as, over a period of weeks, wages were shorted or didn’t appear at all. Perhaps the management felt they could get away with stiffing second-string actors as long as their rooms and meals were all found. It is a brave man, however, who presumes to fuck with artists. As the curtain rose one night on the second act of some version of Tod Browning’s fairly awful Dracula play, the actor playing the undead Count rose slowly from his coffin — fingers of one hand over the side first, upper half gradually coming into view, you know the shtik. “If I’m alive,” he said in the rich, vaguely Eastern-European accents we expect of the King Vampire, “what am I doing in this coffin?… But if I am dead, why do I have to go to the bathroom?”
Legend has it that the troupe was paid full whack thereafter. I don’t know if it’s true, but it occurred to me early yesterday morning. If I’m asleep, how did I reach this familiar seat by the bathroom window? But if I’m awake, why am I seeing this in the back garden?
“There’s a frog on a bicycle in the back yard,” I said blearily as I crawled back into bed next to the Cute Engineer, who had spent the night after a marathon opera evening. I think he replied something like “bsiuytoihrslplk.”
David the gardener seems to have gone upbudget. For uncounted seasons he has suspended a used aluminum disposable pie plate from a stake, hoping to frighten off an increasingly brazen tribe of birds who pillage the tomatoes. It is quite a metabolism for such a work of craft to take the pie plate’s place, but he explained to me later that evening that his wife likes things like that. “I figured maybe that was it since I knew I hadn’t had a thing to drink when I saw it,” I replied.
I can’t decide if my excitement threshold has dropped to a dangerously low level.