What the hell are you doing here I gasped. Sid sat down and said they were wondering what our first Thespian production at the high school was going to be. I asked Dean why he hadn’t sent a letter instead of traveling eight hundred miles and did their parents know where they were and where the devil could I put them that night. It was now ten after twelve. The Hulk answered soothingly that he had already made arrangements with a neighboring tourist home shortly after the boys arrived. How did they arrive, what time, I asked. Dean answered that they had flown into Boston at seven and arrived at the front door of the theatre, via Greyhound bus, at 10:30.
The Hulk had taken them on tour of the stage and made the sleeping arrangements. He now quietly sat between the boys and put an arm on the back of Dean’s chair. We had made the Leisure Hour an open invitation at the beginning of the summer but apparently nobody buy myself and Bud cared to fraternize with the help. I was very surprised that the Hulk hadn’t just directed the boys to the bar and left it at that. At one o’clock we left the Inn and walked back. I said I’d see them around 8:30 and Nora said if they wanted to pay $2.00 each that they could eat in the mess hall. My separation of teacher/personal life was going to be badly strained by this visit.
At seven the next morning Nora dragged into my room and said the boys had just beat on her door, wanting me to dress and come down to the lounge. When I arrived they were in the middle of an argument with our high school senior who was paid to do the heavy construction. Sid, whose sole credit in set construction was an outhouse he designed for Lil’ Abner last year, was defending the creative versus practical approach to designing sets. I could see from their eyes that they never went to bed at all and then discovered that they had been walking on the beach since 5 a.m. With breakfast not starting for another forty-five minutes, I took them to a cozy restaurant by the Lighthouse. I had three additional cups of coffee while waiting for them to consume their second round of eggs, bacon and toast. Afterward, while hobbling on the beach, I explained that I’d be busy till three and they had to shift for themselves till then. My attempt at diplomacy failed completely. At two minutes to twelve they were in the kitchen asking if they could pay for lunch in the mess hall. The Hulk immediately rose from his usual seat and joined us at a corner table. Between bites of potatoes soup he offered to entertain the boys while I rehearsed after lunch. I agreed and wondered if the Hulk were making shy advances to me through the boys. Wrong again. His chumminess irritated a little when he left the dining room with an arm around each of the boys.
At 3:15, sitting on the kitchen table and drinking Nora’s coffee, I told the boys what the agenda would be for the remainder of their visit. Due to the all-male play, I still had Friday and Saturday night free but Sunday they were to be on the noon bus back to Boston. Sid, I said, with your artistic abilities, you will immediately create and execute a superb painting to advertise our Shakespearean comedy. And Dean, you will spend your time in the construction shop acquiring the knowledge and ability to assemble a first-rate set. We’ll eat dinner here tonight and you can spend the evening backstage watching the technical production of a show. Maintaining the same vigorous authority I used when directing a high school production was my only means for separation of Church and Stage.
During dinner Sid said he had completed the charcoal sketch of the poster and could finish it by Saturday afternoon. Dean was excited by what he’d learned in the shop. He added that the Hulk had volunteered as guide for the backstage tour and invited Sid to come along. Suddenly noticing the averted face of the Hulk at the next table, I put 2 and 1 together and got 3. So that was his bag. I requested the boys to stay together and join us in the Leisure Hour after the performance. They did but not until 12:30.
Dean’s face was flushed when they entered the bar but Sid was laughing. On the walk home I maneuvered them into telling why they were so late. Dean looked away but Sid launched into a five minute description of the Hulk’s offer to drive them to the Inn, his roundabout route there and his subsequent laying of hands on Dean’s knee and later, thigh. I had a suspicion that both boys were enjoying this but weren’t fully aware of the consequences. They objected to my suggestion that they catch the 8 a.m. Saturday Greyhound and begged to remain till Sunday. On one condition, I said, you remain with me like glue.
I spent part of Saturday morning watching Sid paint a beautiful poster and the afternoon on set construction helping Dean build a section of the ramp for our final production. During coffee break one of the crew painted my cast. Using a sponge, she alternated lavender and blue and made it a work of art.
The boys had paid their way that day and I took them to dinner at Wesquosette Inn. My painted cast and matching lavender knit suit caused a slight stir. Several people stopped by the table to express their enthusiasm for our summer season and one romantic even sent a martini with a single rose. I ordered wine with our dinner and the waiter unblinkingly placed wineglasses in front of the boys. Since no one questioned the boys’ ages, we later moved into the patio bar for an after dinner drink. I suggested they dance if anyone was available and Sid immediately trotted over to a 45ish blonde who had been smiling at him. Dean, his sun-bleached hair falling over his eyes morosely stirred his drink. I asked him why the depression and he said Sid had been working on him to befriend the Hulk to see what would happen. I said do you know what could happen. Yes. I asked are you willing to deal with the results just to satisfy your curiosity. Dean said that was the problem, he didn’t know. This guy’s over 40 Dean, this is neither a game nor a novel experience.
Knowing they would do exactly as they wanted, I said no more. At. 9 o’clock Sunday morning, Nora, Dee and I were having coffee in the kitchen and Sid strolled in. I was planning on ten o’clock church, an early lunch with the boys and escorting them onto that noon bus. Where’s Dean I asked. Sleeping I suppose he said and smiled. Oh you ass, come on and I grabbed his arm and headed for the tourist home. Sid refused to go upstairs and remained in the living room. I opened their door to find the Hulk standing beside the bed staring down at a sleeping Dean. I closed the door softly and the Hulk looked at me. I moved across the bed from him and pointed to the door. Get your sick body out of here or I’ll write your school board and screw your ever putting a foot in the classroom again. When the door closed I sat on the bed and shook Dean. I’m awake he said, just slightly petrified. I asked if Sid had done that and he said probably. Come on I said, get dressed and packed, you guys are going to church with me.
The noxious bus fumes were like perfume when I watched the boys out of sight.
Starting at one o’clock that afternoon rehearsals for As You Like It would run around the clock until Wednesday’s opening. My part as the Fairy Queen only entered the last half hour so I’d be free from four til nine with nothing to do. There was one final move I could make and with one week of stock left, I decided to do it today. At four-thirty I walked into the bar beside the wharf where George’s boat would dock. I sat at a corner table over-looking the water and opened a book. I watched every boat that entered the harbor. At ten to six the Herself Alone began her circle up to the dock space. I left the bar and stood about 100 feet from the dock site. I could see George on the deck rewinding a length of rope. Ben, his best friend, was piloting. George had lost weight and had deep circles under his eyes. I wondered if he were ill. His movements were slow and aimless. Ben. looked up, gazed at me for a moment, yelled something to George and headed the boat back out to open sea. George had not seen me and now had his back to the dock. I hoped that Ben would tell him later that I had been on the wharf. It was over. He was to call my parent’s home twice at X-Mas, but I was not to see him again. Driving back to the theatre I decided on one week of self pity, and with my exit from summer stock I would start some planning for the future. Miss Stratford, our director of this final production, was beginning to suffer some pangs of remorse. Sherri, the luscious bitch, had warmly befriended that lonely old maid and literally sweet-talked her way into the lead role. Now that she had no more use for her, Sherri cold-shouldered Miss Stratford every chance she got. We felt sorry for Miss Stratford but it was the kind of pity you have for someone dumb enough to get bilked.
It was generally a good opening. The review was quite praising of everything . . except for the lead female. They compared her to milktoast after a bout of the flu.
The last two days were great. There was a great deal of warmth, sharing and laughter. Most were leaving on Sunday and I made plans to drive Dee and Nora to the Hyannis Airport as soon as the noon meal was over. I was going to spend a week in Falmouth and head home Labor Day weekend. On the way to Hyannis we stopped at the hospital and I had the front part of the cast cut off and the bottom half rewound with gauze to keep it in place. I was supposed to wear it another two weeks, but at least now I could remove it for swimming and replace it myself. I figured that a lot of swimming would enable me to discard it a week early.
Falmouth was great. The sun every day, the ocean and salt breezes, a great Inn with warm hosts, and a variety of eligible males. It soothed. I had an address in my wallet and a letter that had to be written by Labor Day. On the opening night of the last play, a grey haired man, a good friend of our noble director, met me backstage. He had a proposition. In October he was having tryouts for a Broadway play and if I was interested, he would guarantee me a part. There it was, take it or leave it. I said I would have to think about it. He said one week, write and I’ll send you a contract. No lights, no music, just a straight forward business offer.
I lay on the beach the last day of summer. Suddenly the forth coming new crop of students and the future seemed much more exciting than a play could ever be. My daily acting in the class-room far exceeded the exertions for any theatre.
I laughed when I found one of the pictures the baby had stuffed into my jewelry box. It showed a tall, starry-eyed creature costumed for John Brown’s Body. Winnie was just beginning my education in real dramas!
Almost, hang on for one more minute. I’ve never said much about that summer because when we married, five months later, it was still too close and raw for me to handle objectively. Delighted with our life style, you and Winnie, I wanted to explain my infrequent eruptions of hambone. They’re part of me and will continue. I hope you can grow to love that facet of me too.