(Excerpt from Chapter Two)
“Did you get rid of your relatives?” Laurie grinned when she answered the door.
“No, they got rid of me. It was Ruthie-sing-us-a-song time again>”
“Speaking which, we ought to rehearse.”
Laurie and I ae going to sing in the school show. I am very nervous about it, having written the songs. I am also nervous because, as I said before, I really haven’t performed since I was a kid–and even then I couldn’t take it being, well, formal. I remember when I was really little–around three, I think–and we went to a summer resort in the Catskills. Every day I went into the dark, musty auditorium and climbed onto the stage. Behind the curtain were cases of seltzer and chocolate syrup. I never knew why or how they always managed to disappear for the evening shows featuring singers, impersonators, and cartoons. I was scared of the cartoons. I think I couldn’t stand cats being blown up and dogs bopped on the heads and some villain or another being shot in the pants. Anyway, I’d step out on the dark stage and sing into a dead mike. The only people who saw me were the handyman and my parents. How was I to know the handyman had a big mouth?
One Saturday night, we assembled for the dreaded cartoons. Rick Bissell (Mom says that was his name), smiling M.C., stepped out.
“Tonight.” Grin. Grin. “We have a special surprise for you all.” Teeth. Teeth. “We have in our audience a little miss who can sing up a storm.” I sat there wondering who was going to make a fool of herself. “Please give a big hand to our own Ruthie Zeiler.” Loud applause. I didn’t move.
“Go on, Ruthie, it’s you.” Mom nudged.
“Get up there, honey.” Dad smiled.
I looked at both of them. They knew all along I was going to be “introduced.” I would have yelled “traitors” at them, but I didn’t know the word. So instead, I shouted “No,” burst into tears, and ran out of the hall. So much for my singing career. As I said, I performed all the time for relatives, maybe even strangers. But that was offstage. Then I stopped. I think I decided it made people think I was precocious. Now I only sing for Laurie–but that’s about to change. Once again, I’m going public. And I’m scared.
Laurie isn’t scared at all. She is a terrific strong soprano (I am an alto–or maybe a tenor), and she sings all the time, anywhere, at a moment’s notice. Funny, nobody has ever called her precocious. Of course, I haven’t told her how good her voice is. I figure she’s conceited enough about her voice, with all the compliments she always gets. i just say we sound good together. Laurie also plays guitar well–something I just can’t seem to do. But she can’t write songs at all, so I guess we make a good team.
“Yeah, we’ll rehearse–but let’s continue The Dream first.”
“No, we’ll rehearse first. Work before pleasure.” Laurie often speaks in clichés. And besides, rehearsing is pure pleasure for her. “Have you figured out what you’re going to wear yet?”
Now if there’s one thing I don’t think about, it’s clothes. I gave Laurie one of my disapproving glances. “I am not a fashion show.”
“I know, stupid, but we still have to look good. My mom says I can wear some of her eye shadow and liner.”
“You planning on wowing the boys in the front row?” I was being nasty, but I couldn’t help it. My songs are about being yourself, being natural, and here was Laurie talking about makeup and stuff.
“There might be an agent in the audience,” she said haughtily.
“Sure, just dying to take two fourteen-year-olds under his wing and book them into the hottest clubs in town. Is this another one of Sylvia’s bright ideas?”
Sylvia is Laurie’s mother. I have called her Sylvia since I was five because she asked me to. She is always pushing show biz at Laurie.
Laurie ignored my remark about her mother and said, “Who said anything about two fourteen-year-olds?”
That did it. I wasn’t in such a hot mood to start with–what with my relatives and all. And now Laurie was being rotten. I felt tears forming, but I didn’t want Laurie to see how much she’d hurt me. So I said in a calm voice, “If that’s the case, you don’t need me to rehearse. See you some time.” And I dashed out of the house.
I couldn’t go home and face the relatives again, so I headed for a little playground I always go to when I want to be alone. It has a slide, a sandbox, a basketball court which gets all icy in the winter, and a couple of swings shaped like horses. A few little kids were playing in the sand when i got there. i went and sat on one of the horses; if I looked funny, I didn’t care. I used to sit on the horses all the time when I was little and pretend I was a knight riding to save a lady in distress. I never pretended I was the lady because her part was so boring. I sat still and tried not to cry, but it didn’t work. I bawled like a baby. Fortunately, the little kids ignored me. Finally, I wiped my eyes and decided to go home.
I am not going to make up first with Laurie this time. I am always the one to make up–even if I haven’t started the fight. Laurie can just need me first this time. And The Dream can wait.