Click, click, click… Bang!

Today Action Girl asked me a question that lead to another question that led to a show tune. The show was “Oliver”. The tune was “Wouldn’t it be Loverly”. The questions that got us there aren’t terribly important, but the fact that I could summon up small facts about this moldy oldie made Action Girl give me a look that said, “And you know this… why?”. I love knowing obscure and mostly useless facts, and Action Girl knows this, but my ability to pull up character names and individual scenes from a Dickens’ classic come musical was a bit extreme, even for me. The reason I know so much about Oliver, is that I was in a limited, off Broadway production of it. Very off Broadway, in fact. It went for three nights only at St. Joseph’s primary school. Admission was, I believe, free or perhaps a dollar. I was in 5th grade and I got the roll of “Fagin’s boy #6” and “Bystander”. I also had another crucial roll. I was a prop provider.

I won’t go through the whole story. You may or may not know it so I’ll just skim through the characters and setting.

Setting: Victorian era London
Hero: Oliver (duh!)
Anti-hero and father figure: Fagin
Evil Bastard: Bill Sikes
Heroin: Nancy

So to cut right to the chase, right at the end of the story after being dragged through so much merriment and mirth like most of Dickens’s writing, Bill Sikes (the evil bastard) is hell bent on killing Oliver for various reasons possibly including stolen… cakes, or jewels or… something. My memory fails me here. It’s not really important. The scene however, I recall. Bill, mad with bastardness, lunges at Oliver with a knife and Nancy, who has been the only really nice person in the story other than Oliver himself, leaps in his path to shield our favorite little street urchin. Nancy skillfully blocks about 5 inches of rubber stage knife with her chest at the moment the police come on the scene and shoot the murderer as he turns to face them. Oliver escapes and becomes Prime Minister… or possibly a super hero.

The run down of of the props needed for the scene goes something like, “Bobby uniform? Check. Rubber knife? Check. Fake gun? Hmmm.” Keep in mind, this is all taking place at a small Catholic school and having a cap gun, if not actively forbidden, was defiantly frowned upon. Even at this age though, I had a thing for firearms. I would never have brought a toy gun to school but this was my chance to save the day! I didn’t have a cap gun that looked like something a 1850’s bobby might have, but I did have a fairly realistic snub nosed .38! I loved it! It looked like the real thing and best of all, it had a cylinder that actually rotated. It took those special caps that looked like little, red plastic cups and fit over a metal bit in the cylinder. It didn’t fit the Dickensian era exactly, but it was the one that would be used for our play. I was so proud.

Back in the dressing room (actually the second grade classroom), they would have the P.A. speaker on and switched to the microphones in the auditorium. As various “actors” got ready for different scenes, we could all listen to the play for our cues and hear how it was going. By the time the final scenes were being played out, most of us were in the dressing room listening and waiting for our chance to go take a bow with all the others. I was listing for my cap gun. Finally, I heard Nancy’s shriek, the police barge in and then nothing… more nothing… BANG! Then stifled laughter from bemused parents. I didn’t know what happened but I knew something unplanned for had transpired.

After our bows and grateful applause, I found out what the deal was. A very unhappy school mate who played the bobby came up to me and reported that there was something wrong with my “stupid gun”. Apparently the cylinder had gotten off time with the alignment of the hammer and it wouldn’t hit the cap. What the audience had witnessed was the murder of Nancy, right on schedule followed buy the police breaking down the door and pulling their gun. Sikes recoils and… click. The bobby advances, aims and… click. He advances again, Sikes is now prone on the floor and… BANG! What the audience saw was in essence, Sikes getting a cap popped in his head Dirty Harry style. Rather changes the flavor of the story a bit. It took a while to live down, but I was still proud of my cap gun. She might not be 100% reliable in a fire fight, but if you need to whack a bad guy, she did the trick. You might just need to get closer than you planned. It also helps if he’s armed with a rubber knife.

Brothers, Sisters and Animal Crackers

In just under two weeks, our son Short Stack’s life will never be the same. You see, on the 4th of April, his status as an “only” will change forever to “Big Brother”. On the 4th, Action Girl is scheduled to go in for a routine c-section and bring our daughter, Lulu Belle into the world. Her name won’t legally be Lulu Belle, but it’s what Action Girl and I have been referring to her as for months, so I’m betting that like it or not, that’s going to be her nick name. Here’s hoping she doesn’t mind.

It’s funny though. Action Girl and I both are feeling kind of guilty about turning our son’s life upside down. He’s been the center of our world for his entire life and the idea that the lime light will no longer be all his makes us feel a little mean. I mean, being an only isn’t just good… it’s awesome. I know. I am one. Action Girl isn’t but she’s the youngest by a good bit in her family, so she never knew the fun of having a little sibling driving her nuts.

My folks had decided to have only one child. Back then (gawd, don’t I sound old), it was fairly unusual to have just one child and they had to put up with a fair bit of questioning about their decision from their contemporaries and especially their elders. There’s that strange rarified position that old folks have (or at least believe they have) that makes them think they can say what ever the hell they want to because they “know” it to be true. If it hurts to hear it, well then, that’s just too bad. This is a symptom of what I call C.O.M.S. or Crazy Old Man Syndrome. One of these individuals suffering mightily from C.O.M.S. even told my parents that, “Three people wasn’t enough to be called a family”. Some people have just amazing quantities of nerve.

I can remember a time long, long ago when I was asked about a sister or brother. I must have been around four or five and my Mom and I were in a grocery store. My Mother had stopped to talk with some old woman she knew. I was mostly interested in a box of animal crackers I was about half way through. Suddenly, I was aware of the old woman bending down over me and asking me if “Wouldn’t I like a little brother or sister?” My Mother must have been mortified. She’s a very private person in a lot of ways and the idea of her bearing more children as a topic of conversation must have been hard to take.

So, here was this pushy old woman, trying to use me to convince my parents to have more kids; just about bludgeoning me with a big, leading smile. The correct answer was obvious, even to a half pint. I looked down at my half eaten box of animal crackers, thought for a minute and then looked her in the eye, arched an eyebrow and replied “No.”

If I was more eloquent at that age, I probably would have said “What on earth for? The crackers are all mine, my parents are all mine, the toys on the bedroom floor (which is also mine) will be right where I left them, waiting for me to get home a play with them again. Good Lord… No!”

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t a selfish kid. “Only” children get that reputation (rather undeservedly, I think) but I just didn’t see the logic in introducing a new variable into a very happy childhood. Things were good and why change that, possibly for the worse?

Well, as an adult things have begun to cut the other way. When I was a kid, having Mom and Dad all to my self was great. Now, I still have Mom and Dad all to my self, except it’s me trying to help them. They’re getting older and even though they are still both very capable, it will get harder and harder for them to manage daily life and I have no one to call for help. That’s the other side of being an “only”.

I hope that Short Stack won’t mind the new addition to our family too much and the good news is that since he’s only two, he’ll never remember a time before; back when it was only the three of us. We can’t wait to meet Lulu Belle. I hope that Short Stack likes her too. In time, anyway.

In the mean time, I promise that I’ll get you both your own box of animal crackers.

I promise!


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