“No gargoyles,” said the opera conductor. “We take singers, strings, brass. No granite. Join a rock band.”
I pulled the corners of my mouth to my ears and stuck out my tongue. Well, admittedly I’m carved that way. Thanks, Mason Jim! With my index fingers in my mouth and my thumbs stuck against my ears, I can’t even post invective on Instagram.
“But you’re doing Don Giovanni,” I argued. “I’d be great as the statue.”
The conductor scoffed. “The statue has to drag the villain to hell. With you, he’d end up in a room of second graders all making faces at him.”
Another failed audition. I pounded craters in the parquet lobby all the way to the exit. Well, I can’t walk, can I? I have a heavy stone trough instead of legs.
The conductor caught up with me at the revolving door. “Wait! Don’t leave!”
“Opera goers will love those holes in the floor,” I said before she could yell at me. “They can bring their golf clubs and play a few holes at intermission.”
“Never mind that. The hall is insured. I need you in the orchestra tonight. Wear a tux.” Finally! A chance at the big time.
I didn’t have a tuxedo, so I wore a black Hefty bag cinched around my neck. A pigeon provided a ruffly white streak down the front.
The conductor met me at the alley door and briefed me. “Stay on the beat!” she warned.
I took my position in the orchestra pit next to the timpani, and the overture began. I listened for my cue, but it never came. Act One began and ended and still I stood silent.
“Are you a fancy new water fountain?” the timpanist asked during the intermission. I would have sagged if I’d had flesh. The conductor was orchestrating a mean trick on me!
But when Act Two began, I stayed right where I was, listening for my cue, and at last it came. Just as the statue strode onstage, a phone rang in the audience. I leapt onto the rail between the pit and the audience. The rail shattered, but I saw what I needed. There in the fifth row, eerie phone light illuminated the face of an Important Man. And that villain was sitting by the aisle. Thump thump thump. I pounded toward him. Right on the beat. On stage, the statue clonked toward one reprobate. In the aisle, I hammered toward another.
“Can I call you back?” the Important Man asked. “I’m at the opera.”
Then he saw me, pulling back the corners of my mouth, sticking out my tongue. He jumped and fumbled his phone. The phone fell onto the carpet beside me. One quick hop (on the beat).
I smashed the phone. I’d done it. I’d dragged the villain down to hell.
The audience burst out in applause, and flowers fell around me. My opera debut was a triumph.
For decades, LM Zaerr lured students into medieval stories and abandoned them there to challenge dragons, rescue Lancelot, and figure out how to play gwyddbwyll. She wrote a book on medieval storytelling, and she memorized forgotten tales in dusty languages and sang them to the raucous tones of the vielle. Now she finds new stories dripping with sunshine and sword polish.