Monday, April 4, 2011

"Starstruck" by R. E. Bradshaw

Samantha Hammer fell in love with a star. Not just any star, the star. The star of the show Samantha, Sam, had been working as Assistant Stage Manager for four weeks, with six long weeks to go.  On most nights Sam sat in the chair stage left and called the show over the headset. It was Sam that brought the lights up on the beautiful star at just the right moment when she entered the stage. It was Sam that held the lights while the star soaked up the applause and then dimmed them just as the roar peaked, moving the show along like the choreographed ballet it was. This ballet was danced by the many men and women, dressed in black, moving effortlessly in the dark, unseen and unheard, and Sam was there leader.
Sam’s voice began and ended every nightly performance, except on the weekends. Then the Production Stage Manager (PSM) stepped in to call the show. Sam was relegated to covering positions of people with days off or too hung over to function. Such was the life of a summer stock Assistant Stage Manager. Sam would graduate next spring and hoped desperately that this was her last summer in the sticks doing Broadway for the masses. For God sakes, they actually sang along if they liked a song. Sometimes Sam had to hold the show to get them quiet again. And God forbid if they got backstage after a show. It was like cattle in a shoot stubbornly refusing to budge until they saw the star.
It was Sam’s job after every show to get the star to her waiting vehicle at the backstage door. The PSM handled all the preshow rehearsals, while Sam worked with the crew. She didn’t meet the star until final rehearsals. Sam remembered vividly running smack into said star rushing into the rehearsal hall with coffee in both hands. She was able to avoid pouring the coffee all over the star, but did end up doing a wet tee shirt thing herself in the cold hall, which became difficult after only a few minutes. The star, seeing Sam’s predicament, hell everybody could see, offered Sam her sweater.
Sam took it gladly. It was still warm from being on her body and it smelled sweet, just like her.  That had started the infatuation that grew into a bone aching crush that just would not go away, no matter how hard she tried. Every night she met her at the door and escorted her to her dressing room. She knocked on her door at intervals to let her know how long she had. She called her to the stage and played the part of the stage manager for the beautiful star’s entrances and exits. Out there Sam controlled the world her star shined in.
After the first week, the star started asking Sam to sit down and talk before the show. Their chats were brief, lasting only ten minutes, before Sam would have to go check on something or call another time. Then she would come back and they would chat some more. Always about anything but the show, their conversations ranged from where to get the best pizza to how to get to Wal-Mart on the outskirts of town, at first. As the weeks went by they shared more personal thoughts and details about their lives.
They attended a few cast and crew parties and always ended up talking to each other. The star was here only for the summer, too. She would return to New York to start rehearsal for a new show as soon as she was done here. She was paid well to be the centerpiece of this little summer theatre, but she wouldn’t be doing these anymore. She finally had her break on Broadway and she wasn’t looking back.  Sam could only hope to get a job humping cable around backstage in New York.
Sam was a lesbian, no doubt in her mind or anyone else’s. She dressed like a stagehand, black pants, black shirt, black everything. She didn’t own anything that wasn’t black. She was tall and lanky with not too many curves. Her body could have belonged to a teenage boy, well, except for the boobs. She wore her blond hair cut short and never wore makeup. She was good looking enough to catch the girls and catch them she did.
She chased women around all summer and had a blast. For three summers in a row, Sam had gone to some stock theatre and had her way with their women. She was young and alive and making the most of every minute, but then she met the star. Slowly the star took over her every thought and the women chasing stopped.
A few of the same faces appeared every summer, so some people new Sam and her reputation. They were stunned when she started hanging out with the star and refusing even the women that threw themselves at her. Sam hadn’t turned down a good-looking woman in her lifetime, but she just couldn’t bring herself to do it anymore. She wanted the star and all other women paled in comparison.
Her friend Jen kept saying, “Just ask her, Sam. All she can say is no.”
Sam just couldn’t bare the thought of being shot down by the star. Other members of the cast and crew started to comment on the two of them spending so much time together. There had been signs of interest from the star, but Sam couldn’t trust her judgment. It could all be wishful thinking. They had to work together for six more weeks. So she kept her mouth shut and watched the star twinkle on the stage, just out of reach.
Tonight she stood in the wings ready to push scenery around and listened to the star sing the love song to the leading man and lamented that it wasn’t her she was singing to.  Every night when the star’s heart was broken, Sam felt the urge to rush on to the stage and swear her undying love to her. Sam thought if you looked up “star struck” in the dictionary, her picture would be there as an example of one of the worst possible cases. Sam had even thought about leaving and going home. Her mom would love to have her for the summer and she could lounge on the beach. Escaping the star would ease the pain being in her presence was causing, but leaving her was an even more difficult proposition. So Sam watched her, lived for their moments together, and suffered.
After the curtain call, the star brushed passed Sam, smiling. “Thank you,” she said, as she always did on her rush to the dressing room.
Sam answered, as she always did, “It was my pleasure.”
At the end of the night, it was Sam’s job to reset the stage and make sure everything was put away. When she finished it was usually time to pick up the star and deposit her in the waiting limo, a Cadillac rented by the local theatre board. Sam went downstairs to find the star’s dressing room empty. In fact, the whole damn place was empty. Sam hadn’t remembered being invited to any after show festivities. She stood in the empty hallway contemplating her dilemma when a crewmember came running toward her.
“Sam, you have to get back up on stage. Something’s wrong.”
“What’s wrong?” She asked, but she was already running for the stairs leading back up to the stage floor.
“I don’t know, they just said come get you fast.”
Sam topped the stairs and ran out onto the stage. All the lights were off except for the ghost light, a single bulb on a stand left on in theatres overnight. She turned around to ask the crewmember what was going on, but he wasn’t there. Suddenly the ghost light went off and she was plunged into complete blackness.
“What the fu…,” she started to say, when the star curtain at the back of the stage started to glow, filling the space with twinkling crystals of light.. Fog began pouring in from the wings and the lights overhead began to cast a soft blue light over the stage. A batten overhead, used to fly scenery in and out, started lowering slowly toward the stage. A rose, suspended from the batten by fishing line, appeared to float freely into her view and stopped just in front of her. Music started playing and she immediately recognized the song.  A huge grin captured her face. It was right at the chorus when the words became audible.

“Are you gonna kiss me or not
Are we gonna do this or what
I think you know I like you a lot
But you’re ‘bout to miss your shot
Are you gonna kiss me or not”

The star stepped out of the shadows, fog swirling at her feet. She sang the chorus right into Sam’s eyes and without hesitation Sam swept the star into her arms and kissed her passionately. The cast and crew came out of the shadows applauding and true love took wings.

The moral of the story:  Stars shine brighter out in the country, seems like you can almost touch them, and sometimes you can.

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