I Have a Problem
“It’s unlikely we’ll pull this off.”
“Don’t talk like that.”
“It’s the truth.”
“How can you say that?”
I did and saw many Club Dead members looking as if they had eaten from an day-old seafood buffet. Dawn held her stomach and rocked forward from a chair. Emig paced and held his head with two hands. Tallie whimpered. Koptich applied makeup to Tuttle - who looked as if he had been in a fight - with shaking hands.
“You should talk to them,” Brink said.
“Me? Why? I’m only number six.”
No words of mine would avert disaster, if that was where we were headed. Frankly, I felt jaunty. I had discovered that being on stage, playing a part and reciting lines not of my creation was terribly liberating.
And then there was that harmony-before-disaster thing working on me.
CJ Stark, certainly not Fabian Stark, did not exist. Emma must have understood that this was doing something on a grand scale. My worry was that I would take my role so seriously that Zombie Number Six would occupy CJ Stark’s chair in history class on Monday. Who knew how I would respond when Miss Kerr asked me about what I thought of The Great War? “ I might say “Great!”
Why bother with this Stark girl?
I whistled as Fretwell applied makeup to my face.
Emma, however, touched upon a point I had been trying to make, to myself. I needed a new act. Since talking with Mr. Blok weeks ago, and starting Club Dead, that had been my goal. Change from this to…That remained elusive.
Brink asked me to do something. Told me about Ben Franklin. Okay, I would try.
Brink assembled the cast. We met in the music room adjacent to the stage. Black fold-up chairs formed a semicircle. Some kids sat, other stood among the bass drums, music stands, and a grand piano. I stepped up to a small platform and picked up the baton lying on a music stand. I whipped in the air, once to the right, once to the left and then down. I looked down upon my friends.
“I know I’m silly,” I started.
No one laughed or smiled.
“Gosh, you guys look horrible.”
They did. I saw that they sensed that they have gotten into something they had no ability to do. I knew that feeling of doubt.
We, I, had a problem.
“Okay, what’s the problem? Emig, you look especially freaked out.”
“I can’t remember my lines.”
“Emig, you mostly moan and say ’Get them!’”.
“That’s not helping me CJ.”
“We need a line feeder. Someone to whisper out lines when an actor forgets. The line feeder stands off-stage. When an actor needs help, viola, there’s the line feeder.”
“Hold it. Anyone else having a hard time with their lines?”
Many hands stretched upwards.
“Look, we can’t have the entire cast next to the line feeder. They have to be on stage acting.”
“Let Carrie do it,” Brink said.
“Brink, sometimes your humor is not wanted.”
“She knows all the lines.”
“She memorizes things. No rhyme or reason. She just does.”
“But she doesn’t speak.”
“Carrie, will you be the line feeder?”
“Sure,” Carrie said.
I hadn’t expected that.
Carrie would troll the stage as Zombie Number twelve. Anyone who flubbed, she’d be there to share a line of dialog.
“Next problem?” I asked.
“I’m scared to death,” Dawn said.
“Of going on stage!”
“What’s it like at school?”
“What do you mean?”
“How do you feel at school, going to math, then history, then chemistry?”
“Not scared to death, right?”
“So what do you feel?”
“Fright. Fear. I’m so tense I could crack.”
“So it’s different than the death you associate with school?”
“Is school worse than this feeling?”
“And you do school five days a week, seven hours a day. You get through that, get through this.”
“Don’t tell me what to do CJ,” Dawn said.
“Fine Dawn. Anyone else scared?”
Many hands went up.
“Good, me too. But what are we afraid of?”
“People hating me.”
“Which we go through every day of the week off-stage. I can’t believe this is Club Dead. I always thought you guys were tough.”
That hit them good.
“We are tough,” Tuttle said. “This play is nothing I can’t handle. I may not be able to handle Jimmy Swindle’s death, but for me, my fear is under control. Thanks CJ.”
“No problem. Anyone who is too afraid to get on stage speak now so we can make adjustments.”
No one said anything.
“Good. Other problems?”
“The electricity is about to blow.”
Emma stood next to me.
“How do you know that?”
“Why do you always have to question me? I know things, okay Fabian. Last night’s lightening storm hit a town transformer. The network is fragile. It is hot in the auditorium, and the AC is on. There is a chance that the lights will go out.”
“During the play.”
“What will we do?”
“Stop the play.”
“Until the lights come back on,” Emma said.
“Why do I feel you know something that we don’t?” I asked.
“Break a leg!” And Emma exited.
Club Dead looked better, more confident and willing to go through with the play. We went back to getting into our costumes and having makeup applied. Carrie helped Emig recite his lines. I thought my words helped, but I suspected they were more comforted with Emma’s news. Dawn slapped me hard on the back and says “Not bad, for a zombie.”
I peaked through the curtains. The dignitaries had arrived and the zombies assembled.