Monday, October 24, 2011

Chapter Nineteen: The hereafter is where people who never got the breaks in life get another chance

I was very gratified to learn from Jimmy that he had been keeping track of my lack of opportunity to shine with my talent in the world I had left behind, and was determined to see that I got the chance to see one of my plays performed on a big stage in the hereafter.
My son Tyrone was the only one who had ever produced one of my plays besides me.  When I was still young and strong enough I took one of my plays on the road to several towns besides my hometown. That was so exciting! How I loved it, but there are many people who never get a chance to realize their dreams.  They must be without number. 
I bought a Sunday newspaper and read the theater reviews.  I imagined my own play, Daughters of the Shadow Men, being featured in such a newspaper.  The one play that Tyrone produced had merited had merited a bad review in this paper. Well, that play had been all about being poor and living on welfare.  I supposed that it had been too grim for the critics.  I recall the critic said, 'the subject of struggling with poverty cries out for great plays to be written about it, but unfortunately this play is not the one we have been waiting for.'
The critic pasted a big prominent one star (out of a possible 5) above the review for the whole city to see.  I was so mortified I wished that I could have just deleted the whole experience of being reviewed and featured in the paper from my consciousness.  Well, possibly it was a little bit my fault, maybe some of Tyrone's, but it had not been as memorable an experience for me as I had hoped for, even though I thought everyone's intentions were good, Tyrone's, mine, and the cast's.
And that ended my short and not very notable career as a playwright in this city.  Playwrights with new plays were still not faring very well.  Tyrone was directing a new play written by a New York actor he had once cast in one of his plays he produced, probably his most successful farce in those years. I thought the actor was very good in his part, and the reviews were, for a change, quite good.
Now years later, the actor was partially disabled and unable to act any more, so he was writing plays instead.  I hoped to be able to see the play.  As for Tyrone, he had not done a play here in this city for years.  He had gotten so sad and disillusioned with the reception to his immortal works that he left the city.
Was it a good city for plays or a bad city?  Well, it wasn't New York and it wasn't Los Angeles.  My sister Deanna wanted Tyrone to come to San Francisco where she was sure his plays would have great success.  She said those people knew theater.  They would appreciate what he could write.
Tyrone did not have the money to go to San Francisco.  His truck looked like one its eyes had been knocked cuckoo.  There was a dent in the fender.  He could hardly afford car insurance for it let alone a newer vehicle.  The last one he tried to buy had to be repossessed.  Poverty was now hitting Tyrone where he lived.  He had even talked about checking out the homeless centers, but Rafe agreed to let him stay to his house while he directed this play.  But it was plain even Rafe was getting impatient with his brother's hard times.  He had even mentioned he should get a real job like he had to do, years before.
He did not  realize that Tyrone was an entertainer, first, last and always, and was not capable of surviving a  'real' job any more he was so worn out from throwing such energy into entertaining.  So now he was singing for his supper wherever he could get the work, directing this play, and talking about starting another theater company up in my home town, if he could get some financial backing.
Hard times were palpable everywhere, especially for entertainers.  People couldn't afford to pay a lot for their entertainment now days, but it did not seem like times had ever been flush for a woman playwright like me.  They had been better for Tyrone, handsome, charismatic and male, who could act, direct, and write.
It was a good thing I had died.  Maybe Tyrone could get declared either mentally ill or a broken down old physical wreck and take my place in the old LeGrand Hotel.  But it was even harder to get federal disability benefits now than it had been when I got them through being certified chronically mentally ill.  Tyrone needed to act a little more nuts, possibly, so he'd at least qualify in a few years.  People thought he was nuts all right to try to become a famous playwright still, after all these years, but would that satisfy the feds? Their qualifications for chronically mentally ill may have gotten more stringent.  Tyrone would say that he was magnificently insane, but I doubted that would impress them. 
Would it make him feel better if he knew that the once famous James Dean was going to produce my play in the hereafter, maybe even to that big theater where he had taken me that night in my dream?  I knew I had traveled to the beyond in my spirit form, because I could feel myself going and coming back.  I recall sitting in the theater, feeling so excited and satisfied.
Well, maybe they didn't make such a big fuss about recognition in the hereafter. Surely people weren't so shallow after having gone through their own deaths.  Maybe they were just a little bit more humble and inclined to share.
As for me, everyone had given up on my plays since I had gotten too old and decrepit to promote them at all any more.  Now Jimmy was telling me that my career in the spotlight was just going to begin!  How could that be.  He had been cut down when he was so young.  Surely people did not get famous in the hereafter. That did not sound right.
I would hardly be able to endure the hereafter if it was going to have all the same old crowd being famous, but if I didn't want to be famous what did I want to be?
I felt like crying again, and decided I had to go back and see what Tyrone was thinking, even if that dratted dog of his did see me.  She was part border collie.  Tyrone said he was her sheep herd.  He was her job, so anything that affected him she was going to react to if she could.

When I went into Tyrone's I thought of how angry he might be about me spying on him and snooping into his business, but he was having such a time of it, and I was so excited about my news I could not help myself.
Tyrone was talking on the phone, as he often did.
"I miss Mom so much," he said, shedding a tear.  "I hope she is getting her plays done in heaven.  I wish now I had done more of her plays, but I just could not get them done.  Now I will never have the chance to see her smiling face when I produce one of her plays.  She wanted me to do her play "Daughters of the Shadow Men" the worst way, but I was frankly afraid to do that play.  Nobody was going to touch it.  We have got her memoir Daughters of the Shadow Men but she left instructions that if necessary not to published it for 100 years after her death!  It might take a hundred years to cool that memoir off.  What is it about?  Oh, outlaws. Mom was the daughter of a guy who was kind of like the western mafia.  You do not tell their secrets if you are smart.  She was always afraid she was going to get killed."
I sat down in the chair, trembling.  Jilly raised her head, gave me a look, and decided not to make an issue out of me being there.  She acted like well, okay, you are back, you are his mother, so no matter how spooky you are I guess it is my job to accept and not to question why.
Whoever was on the other end of the line must have laughed, thinking that Tyrone was just kidding as usual, but he was not in a way.  Daddy did have criminal tendencies, but I was not afraid he was going to kill me when I was young, I was afraid he would try to kill anybody who hurt me, and he wasn't the best shot in the world, so it was not certain who would die if guns got involved.  Later, of course, Daddy tried to shut me up every chance he got, in the way of those old western outlaws.
Everybody was an outlaw in those days, even the religious ones.  After polygamy was introduced Mormonism was called a cult. Daddy wasn't a polygamist, far from it, but some of my other ancestors had been.  I was only trying to tell a true story about what I had witnessed growing up in such a wild west among a bunch of outlaws.
It was hard to explain Daddy, but I had tried in my play and my memoir and even a novel all by the same name, Daughters of the Shadow Men.  Whatever form it took to tell the story, I was going to try everything.
"No," said Tyrone on the phone. "I would never do her play by that name.  I didn't tell her that, but nobody wants to see a play like that, even if somebody dared to produce it.  They are going to have to be brave even to produce it in the hereafter."
Was Tyrone nuts?  He was trying to make this story sound so terrible it could not even be told.  Daddy was just human.  As long as people were human their stories could be told.  But what if Daddy was in the Camp of the Resisters?  He had shown no sign of reforming in his last days on earth.  He was defiant to the last, still shutting me up, still trying to control me.
What if he had never changed?  Poor Daddy.  What if he had become like those other hollow eyed men I had seen in the Camp of the Resisters.  I thought he was about as hard core resistant as anybody I knew to change, reformation, repentance, what have you.  He was like flint stone, cold and mean when he got his back up. Just an ordinary old tough as nails westerner.
Mafia.  Well, he wasn't a cold blooded killer like the mob.  But what did happen to those people given to so much resisting, that you despaired they could ever act like you and me?  I felt I had a mission on earth, I had been sent into hell to try to see if anything could reach this man.
Nothing had touched him that I knew of.  He had never let it it be known if anything had gotten to him, oh yes, once he said to me after I came out of the mental hospital, 'You would steal the soul right out of a man's body!"
What did he mean? He never said.  He shut up and never said a thing like that ever again.  It was no wonder I was afraid to see him again.
What if I looked the old devil right in his mean red eyes, when I come face to face with my dad once again. I swore that I would never talk to him again, if he did not back down and start talking to me with respect instead of contempt and willfulness.  He told me something else years after I got disabled that I never forgot, during his last year on earth, "As far as I am concerned, you have landed in the gutter."  What he meant was that I was a complete loser.  I had never accomplished anything, and could not even work at anything he respected. "All you can do is sling hash!" 
I felt despair over him being so cruel.  He could not acknowledge disability in a daughter.  She was just lazy.  She did not want to work. She certainly had not done what he had done, made a million dollars to leave to his heirs when he was gone.  With sheer will and hard work, he implied.  So all he had for me at the end were sneers.
Well, I could hardly avoid him forever now that I was in the hereafter, but I was sure going to have to work up my nerve to see what had become of him.
I was so distracted I could no longer pay attention to what Tyrone was saying.  I couldn't tell him my news anyway, but he had picked up on it.  He did say that he hoped someone was going to produce my plays in the theater in the hereafter.What more could I expect of him?
I wandered out and down the street.  Wondering where to go now.  Pretty soon I was lost.  I turned and saw the sun setting.  Just then I saw a man on a horse riding my way.  I started running away from him.  I turned back and he had disappeared.  No, he wasn't going to bother me if I did not want to be bothered.  There was still time to think about and prepare for that fateful meeting day.

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