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Infernis – Chapter One

September 23, 2012

“Spirits are using me, larger voices calling.”
Jimmy Buffet

It’s the kind of thing you get used to in New York. You don’t often have the luxury of getting into a limo or your sports car and avoiding the folk who dwell here.

It was all because of the rain. Well, not all because of it, but that was the excuse.

The sixth performance of Timon of Athens at Playhouse in the Park was cut short. By rain. Sort of.

It was really little more than a steady sprinkle. New Yorkers, used to the difficulties the City can provide–nay, secretly enamored of them–stayed in their seats. Those who had checked the weather before departing home pulled out their umbrellas and were considerate enough to do so only during a large exeunt in act two.

But the star of the show, an actor best known for a sitcom he did a dozen or so years ago, was concerned about being electrocuted from being wet due to the small amount of precipitation combined with the body mic he was wearing under his costume.

Never mind that the man sweat so profusely on sunny days during rehearsal that he appeared as though he had just left the scene of hurricane landfall. He had once turned to Brian and said that he was losing weight as a result. Brian did not come back with his thought, “From where?” His agent had been happy he had been able to keep his mouth shut.

But today, His Nibs had cancelled the show before the halfway point. Though it was far from a full house, the number in the audience was still more than the cast and crew combined, the usual rule for determining a cancellation based on attendance alone. Hardly any had gotten up when it began to tinkle, just a few elderly couples from…Brian couldn’t tell exactly where but the stench of New Jersey was upon ’em.

And so, deprived of the reason he got up this morning, to say a few words of the Bard and take a bow, Brian Coswell found himself walking a few hours earlier than planned–with sunshine, of course it had stopped raining fifteen minutes after the Shakespeare in the Park management had gotten the last stragglers out of the house–on his way the subway and the long trip back Uptown. It was before he got out of the park that he was accosted by a bag lady.

Well, that description might have been pushing it. She had some of the earmarks of being a bag lady but not all. She probably had a home but lived in squalor, likely with several felines.

“You’re one of them, aren’t you?”


So many options to choose from. Actor? Waiter? Rush fan? (The band, decidedly not the radio personality.) Resident of Washington Heights?

She was looking for cans in the corner trash bin–of which there were fewer since 9/11. If making NYC look dirtier by making it harder to discard rubbish was an Al Qaeda goal, mission accomplished.

Brian decided not to take his ruined performance frustrations out on this poor soul and instead offered her the change in his pocket. She eyed it carefully before putting it away within the folds of her multilayered clothing.

“You’re still one of them. I can tell. You don’t fool Minnie.”

“Well, Minnie, I assure you I come in peace.”

She frowned at the scifi reference and walked a few paces away. Then, for some reason, she turned around and came back and spoke again.

“It’s professional jealousy, you know.”

“What is?”

“That’s why they cursed my grandbaby.”

“‘They’ who?”

“The NSA.”

“Ah. Well, I don’t believe in the supernatural. Um. Sorry.”

“You must be one of them.”

“No. Just an actor. Which restaurant, you ask? Umbar’s in the East Village.”

She found that funny, but Brian couldn’t help thinking it wasn’t because of the old joke, that she had found some other humor in it and not at all over what he had intended with self-deprecation.

He kicked himself mentally and hoped that she wouldn’t show up there when he was on shift now that he’d opened his big mouth about where he worked. It was bad enough occasionally being late or having to constantly reschedule over a last minute audition. The assistant manager hated him, he was sure, though the only indication was how she cut his hours or put him on a lousy shift after one of his call-ins for having to miss a shift. After a week, she would put him back on. He was one of their better waiters, though he was mindful that, despite the similar skill set, being a good waiter and being a good actor often conflicted. It was one thing to cater to patrons, another to the audience.

“They crashed that plane, you know.”

“What plane, Minnie?”

“Came down right near my house. I used to live in Canada.”


Brian vaguely recalled a crash, but not exactly when. Might have been a year or more, might have been eight or nine months ago. Some kind of mechanical failure, TSA had reported. Not the only one within recent history with the same problem. That one had been bad because it had hit a neighborhood in some suburb of Montreal, but it was still statistically true that riding in a car was more dangerous.

“Yeah, I remember.”

She smiled sadly and turned away again. She got only one further pace before turning back to Brian again.

“You be careful. You aren’t like the others.”

“Ok. I will be. Thanks.”

What was homeless etiquette, anyway? How many times was a non-homeless person supposed to indulge someone who was…sort of…before he could turn away guiltless and get on with his day.

Sex. At home. Maybe a decent meal together and some TV.

Brian walked toward his goal, a hole in the ground leading to rat-infested tunnels, one of which would pop him out a few blocks from home at another hole in the ground. His boyfriend would be surprised to see him early. Maybe a little daytime lovemaking to fill in the performance gap would cheer him up.

Minnie shouted one last thing at his back. He waved without turning and descended.

He was three stops uptown before it dawned on him what she had shouted.

Men shut their doors against a setting sun.

It was from the play. Of course he thought little of the coincidence or what it could mean out of context.

Crazy woman…


From → Infernis, Novels

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