Monday, January 6, 2014

Operaville, the Novel: Chapter Sixteen: Catfight

Read the novel here, a chapter at a time, or buy the book (Kindle or paperback) at


I’m working in the mountains above Lexington Reservoir. Our client is one of those exec types who used to work construction in his youth, and therefore has very specific ideas about how he wants his deck stained. He claims that the gray that overtakes redwood is not what we call “oxidation” (granted, a rather nebulous term) but a specific fungus that takes up residence in the wood. The answer? Bleach the hell out of it.
Colin, who’s usually rather attached to his standard practices, took a look at the cashless, rainy months ahead of us and thought, Why not? Which is why I’m out here in an improvised haz-mat suit, using the paint sprayer to coat everything with a layer of one-to-one bleach dilute. I gotta say, though, I’m enjoying the results. The planks are taking on the stark white of driftwood. Staining it will be like painting on a blank canvas. When our client stops by at lunchtime, I make sure to express my appreciation.
“I really like the look of it. I’m sure we can use this again, on problem decks.”
Yeah, I know. Kiss-ass. But the guy is sending large chunks of money our way, and my obsequiousness is not entirely disingenuous.
Where are these words coming from? I feel lately that I may be turning into an actual writer. After work, I stop in at the Saratoga Library, smelling like a laundromat, and I come upon a deliciously succinct answer to the gray-deck question. UV rays cause cellular damage to the surface of the wood, and these damaged cells become a free buffet that draws fungi and algae. Then I send off my Trittico review, which takes a surprising turn.

[Track 9]
Half of the pleasure from this Gianni Schicchi comes from its Fellini-esque appearance: a massive checkerboard of blacks and whites peopled by characters in ‘50s-style polka dots and cream-colored suits, smoking their ever-present cigarettes (the new electronic ones, which have become all the rage in theater circles). The black icing on the white cake is Hart’s treatment of “O mio babbino caro,” forever deprived of its true intentions by endless appearances in aria collections and recitals. Hart re-establishes its original nature – a daughter wheedling a favor from her father – by beginning with a pout and ending in a stuttering sob. The spaces in between are expectantly beautiful, but it’s nice that Hart is willing to vandalize the ends for comic purposes.
A final note: The interplay of music and emotion – two faculties that live side-by-side in the brain – is such a mystery that modern science has only scratched the surface. After all, why do we need music in the first place?
But we do have anecdotes. My opera companion was a woman who suffered through seven miscarriages without seeming to suffer at all. Her reactions seemed to come through latent anger, misplaced vengeance and poor decisions.
Given her previously shut-off emotions, I was not surprised that the child-death experiences of Il Tabarro and Suor Angelica brought no reaction. Post-opera, however, I played a recording of Angelica’s devastating aria, “Senza mamma,” and something in that music tunneled its way through to my friend’s anguish. Her reaction resembled an epileptic fit. Once she recovered she was forced to address what had happened, and came to an understanding of her feelings that she had not attained for ten years. I will never fully understand the power of music, but I will always be grateful for it.

This is a leap. I have never dared to make a review personal. But this one seems important. I send it to, then I plug it into my blog with an image of Sister Angelica, reaching toward the child in the window.
The surprises are hardly over. Sometime during the second inning, my guy-vision latches onto a striking brunette picking her way into the bleachers. I’m in the on-deck circle when I finally make the I.D. The ham instinct kicks in immediately: a triple off the left-center fence. I chug into third, a little winded, and wave to Allison, who is standing and screaming. After I score, Dougie gives me the expected interview.
“Who’s the babe?”
“My beloved ex-wife.”
“You married that? I don’t know whether to hate you or start a cult in your honor.”
“It’s weird. We’ve sort of become friends. I’m like her favorite chew toy.”
In the sixth inning, another face appears. My ham instinct is immediately overwhelmed, and I have to focus like crazy just to put away a couple of easy flies. As I’m jogging to the dugout, she gives me a cutesy finger-wave, as if everything is just hunky-dory. I’m relieved to see that she’s sitting a good distance from Allison. Perhaps hell is just a bleacher full of all the women you’ve ever slept with.
“Wait a minute,” says Doug. “That one, too?”
“That’s my ex-girlfriend.”
“I think there’s something you’re not getting here. ‘Ex.’ E-X. A prefix meaning ‘former.’ As in ‘get the hell away from me.’ As in ‘restraining order.’”
At the end of the game, I take a lo-o-ong time removing my cleats. I am climbing the grass hill behind the bleachers toward Allison (how odd that she’s the lesser of two evils) when I’m blind-sided by Katie, who locks me in a barnacle embrace.
“Mickey! I miss you. Take me home. I promise I’ll be good.”
I’m attempting to formulate some kind of response when Allison grabs Katie by the shoulders and hurls her to the ground. She lies there, flat on her back, as Allison goes all dominatrix.
“Stay the fuck away from him. Haven’t you done enough?”
“Who the hell are you?”
“I’m his ex-wife. I’m the one who gets to fuck up his life. Not you.”
Katie straightens up and slaps the grass from her pants. “Ah. So you’re the raving bitch.”
“Absolutely.” She steps right up to her. “But at least I know when he’s in love, and when to back the fuck off. And what was that pathetic shit with the cell phone? What’re you, twelve? You were just the weekly fuck, you stupid bitch. That was the deal. And now you’ve got the nerve to come back here and beg for more? Why don’t you stop being a little cunt and go the hell away?”
They’re in a good seething standoff now, and for a moment it seems that Katie’s going to back down. (For one thing, she barely comes up to Allison’s tits.) In that frozen second I look around and notice that we’ve attracted a ring of onlookers, including Doug, who’s close to drooling.
I gotta hand it to Katie, though. Just when Allison has fallen off her guard, she plants her feet and charges, wrapping her around the belly and driving her backward.
Unfortunately, the slope just behind the bleachers is precipitous, dropping thirty feet to a path below. As gravity takes over, our combatants perform a two-woman roll all the way down, blonde-brunette-blonde-brunette, legs and arms flailing like punctuation marks.
“Hey Doug. Get the short one. I’ll get the tall one.”
“I don’t know. Mama told me never to break up a catfight.”
“Well if we don’t, they will kill each other.”
When we reach them, they’ve achieved a microcosmic illustration of Mutually Assured Destruction. Allison’s got Katie in a headlock, but Katie’s got a grip on Allison’s hair and is pulling hard. I’ve never really considered the term, but the steady stream of hissing, mewling and shrieks really does resemble a pair of cats.
I turn to Doug. “Ready? Now!”
We grab our targets as well as we can and tear them apart like human Velcro. I hold Allison around the waist and lift her off the ground as she delivers a couple of farewell kicks in Katie’s direction. Katie manages to knee Doug in the groin and take off, a blonde streak, down the path and past the tennis courts.
“Joke’s on you, bitch!” yells Doug. “I’m wearing a cup!” After she’s gone, he turns around and grabs his crotch. “Son of a bitch!
Allison crawls to the base of the hill and collapses. I kneel next to her for a little triage: a scratch above the eye, a bit of a swollen lip, but otherwise she seems okay. She grins, her eyes wide with excitement.
“That was fucking awesome!”
“Honey, I’ve never loved you more than I do right now.”
“Hey!” says Doug, still trying to catch his breath. “What about me?”
“I love you too, Doug!”

DD: Wow, Mickey. This story! I always sort of wonder what effect singers might have on people.

M: It was pretty scary, and pretty phenomenal.

DD: Was this “friend” by chance your ex-wife?

M: Yes. It seems that we have become friends. Tonight, in fact, she put herself in physical peril on my behalf.

DD: Wow! Any danger of getting back together?

M: Oh no. Too much history.

DD: I’m just a little amazed. I remember that story about “Song to the Moon,” and the terrible things she did to you. I’m astounded that you had the capacity to forgive her.

M: That goes right to “Senza mamma.” That little episode gave me an understanding of why she hated me so much, why she was so bent on beating me into the ground.

DD: You are a remarkably compassionate man. Why don’t you forget that Maddalena bitch and visit me sometime?

M: As soon as I get to Michigan, dinner’s on me, babe. Meanwhile, I’ve decided to hang on to my feelings for Maddie at least until she leaves town.

DD: After Lucia?

M: After Lucia. I’ve always been in love with Maddie, really. Onstage, offstage. So I will indulge myself for one more performance, and then, once she’s on that plane, I can begin to work her out of my system.

DD: Buona notte, signore.

M: Buona notte, signorina.

            I’m brushing my teeth, watching myself in the mirror, when a couple of stray thoughts wend their way through the madrones. I think I have a thing for Devil Diva. And I don’t remember telling her about “Song to the Moon.” By morning, both of these thoughts are gone, and I am off to the great white deck.

Photo by MJV

1 comment:

Blogger said...

Did you know that that you can make money by locking selected sections of your blog / website?
To begin just open an account on AdWorkMedia and run their content locking tool.