Saturday, July 23, 2005

How Henry Became a Muse--of Sorts--A Tale for Duwamish

He had lived in the abandoned theater along with a variety of other street people for what had seemed like years. Then again it might have been forever, it was frequently difficult for Henry to remember. He'd been to a nearby clinic once or twice where a doctor had given him pills and told him to come back when they were finished but he'd forgotten what the pills were for, so he'd never returned.

Henry was a slight, small man with thinning gray hair who tended to stammer when he felt intimidated, which was most of the time. On the day that turned his life around, he was sweeping the barroom floor behind the curtain when he heard a noise out front. He peeked through one of the holes actors use to count the house and saw a woman sitting alone in the second row. She had a notebook on her lap and was scribbling furiously. Henry nearly passed out.

Where'd she come from! Street people stayed in the building all the time, Henry invited most of them, knew them well and the reasons they'd come but, not only was this woman not from the streets, she was bare foot and wearing pajamas, as if she were in her own bedroom!

Henry had lived in the theater so long, it was in fact, or at least in his mind home and, despite his natural timidity, he intended to find out what she was doing in there.

"You there, behind the curtain, come out and show yourself," a shrill voice demanded, breaking Henry's resolve and nearly tumbling him backwards. He grabbed at the curtain to keep from falling and she asked again, "Who are you, and why are you hiding back there?"

Struck mute, Henry felt the floor buckling beneath him, but then the woman spoke again, and in her voice he heard uncertainty and the beginning of fear. "I don't do plays," she admitted and I don't understand why I'm here. Will you please tell me who you are and what you want of me?"

He cleared his throat and prayed he wouldn't stammer. "Henry," was all he could manage.

"Henry, please come out so I can meet you."

Henry peeked out and realized the woman was on the verge of tears. He parted the curtain a few inches and watched as she self-consciously lifted the notebook in front of her breasts. He squared his shoulders, drawing himself up to his full five foot seven inch height and strode out with as much confidence as he could muster.

"My name is Barbara," she told him, "Are you an actor?"

"Oh, no, no, not an actor!" Henry said vehemently, struggling not to dive back under the curtain .

"Please don't go. I mean you no harm. I'm a writer, but all I can write lately is blah, blah, blah, and then suddenly I saw the curtain move--and I thought someone had come to inspire me--to be my muse."

Henry blinked, struggling to keep up. He remembered the empty pill container in his pocket. He really should go back and get it refilled. He'd missed something--the woman was babbling on--what was she saying?

". . . . . . but if you wanted the job, I'm sure we could work something out."


"Anything you could do, I'd be grateful." She wiped away a tear. It's very hard. I come up with plots, I'm quite good at that, but I have problems finding the right characters."

And that was how it began. Henry told her to come back in the evening and when he opened the curtain at last, he introduced her to Phil, the bartender, who pointed out the lovers seated at a table for two, and the kid down the end with his uncle who'd just bought him his first drink. Henry brought over Mrs. Flynn, who knew all the local gossip and would gladly get back to her after she tracked down Mr. Flynn, and a frazzled blond with purple eye shadow came over and said she'd love to play the girl-next-door or a prostitute with a heart of gold, whichever was needed and, finally, a middle-aged English teacher, who painted houses to make ends meet over the summer, told them all he'd once been a drama major and would be thrilled to appear in one of her stories.

The bartender apologized that the place wasn't as crowded as usual and warned the writer not to approach the solitary figure drinking alone in the shadows.

Henry took a deep breath after musing it over, and added that if she was working on a crime novel, for a few dollars more, he'd consider asking the man about his friends.


At 2:21 PM, Blogger Anita Marie Moscoso said...

Barbara! This is wonderful and I hope you continue this story. Here I thought I understood Duwamish and hidden in it all along was Henry.

Anita Marie

At 2:36 PM, Blogger Believer said...

Thanks, Anita. I tinkered with the ending and just found I messed something up. Gotta go fix it.

Henry's really gotten into the muse thing and has been freelancing lately, so if you know anyone looking for characters let me know and I'll pass it on.


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