After she paid me to distribute the flyers, she said she liked my southern accent, and offered me a part in the play: a slave trader.
I thought, Why not?
I went to the audition, and got the part.
The play was set in the time of the underground railroad, and I was to play an over-the-top redneck of wretched disposition who flew off the handle. I flew off the handle. Did it well.
After a week’s rehearsal, the play opened. It even got good reviews. But it became clear that I didn’t want to be an actor: It was interesting while learning how to do it, but who would want to do the same old thing night after night?
The lanky actor who played The Preacher disagreed. “Not at all,” he droned in his deep voice, “That’s the challenge. Being able to create it brand new very night.”
Hmmph. Not my cup of tea. But no problem. This play was only for the one performance.
I wouldn’t have missed it though, because at the final rehearsal, two very strange things happened.
. . .
I’d shucked my motorcycle jacket in this little room where we waited. It was a semi-dress rehearsal. We all wore black trowsers and a white shirt. My boots were OK.
While we were waiting, the male lead, a large black man of great charm, said something, and somebody else said, “Yo’ mama,” and there was a great laughing, which puzzled me tremendously. He saw the look on my face.
“It’s a kind of insult thing,” he said. “You insult somebody and their mother. For example …”
And then he blistered into the most amazing rapid-fire diatribe against me, calling me all kind of names that were at once confusing, irritating, and hilarious. Then he turned to insulting my mother.
“Your mama,” he said, “Your mama so fat she use the equator for a belt! Your mama so ugly she got to sneak up on a glass of water to get a drink! Your mama so mean her smile got arrested by the police!”
All the black actors rolled around. I’d never heard anything like it. Wierd!
Then we went to rehearse the play. And when we got back, my motorcycle jacket had disappeared. It wasn’t just missing; it had been stolen.
In my shirt sleeves, angry and depressed and shivering, I rode home to Third Avenue, and put the motorcycle away. Back up in my room, I warmed up with a glass of tea, then became depressed further, realizing that my green smoking material in the fancy box and my clever folding pipe were in the jacket pocket, along with my little notebook of things to do.
I looked out my window, and riding high above the victorian across the street, the full moon peeked down through misty strings of cloud to shine moonlight on my face. I smiled.
“Ms. Moon,” I said to the moon, “I sure do like my jacket. And if it’s gone, well, that’s the way it happened. But I sure would be grateful to have my jacket back.”
Ms. Moon smiled down at me.
A few minutes later, the door buzzer went off from downstairs. I wasn’t expecting anyone but buzzed them in, and, looking out at the hallway, was surprised when the cop came up the stairs with my jacket.
He asked me if I was me. I said yes. He asked me if it was my jacket and I said it was. He asked me what happened, and I told him how it disappeared from the rehearsal room. He told me how it came to him.
“My partner and I were driving along near the auditorium, and this guy was walking and when he saw us, he took off. That made us curious, so we followed, and then he ran down an alley, threw off the coat, and climbed over a fence.
“Your name is in the little book, and when we investigated, it didn’t seem like you were that guy, so here you are.”
I thanked him and he left.
In the pocket, my little book, and the little pipe, and the fancy wooden box for the smoking material. The smoking material was gone, but how much can one ask of the police?
I said, “Thank you, Ms. Moon.”