46: “This is a metaphorical kidney I won’t give you”

Bernie received yet another invitation to one of Callum’s theatrical performances. He sent it by mail to her old address and Priscilla hand delivered it with care one Thursday evening at the end of November. She was positively delighted. Callum had included four tickets with his note inviting her. He said the tickets were “on him” because he was in a good place in his life. She wasn’t sure what exactly that meant, but it might’ve meant that he’d managed to land a role in a normal musical. As far as she could tell, it was simply a regular performance of The Sound of Music. Callum was playing Rolfe, a role she recognized. She was a little concerned about the inevitable dancing, given how terrible he was at that. She had yet to hear him sing. He was normally in a chorus line, drowned out by the voices of other downtrodden actors and actresses.

“Do you and Oscar want to come as well?” Bernie asked Priscilla while she was still standing in her kitchen. Priscilla flat out laughed in her face.

“Not a fucking chance,” she returned. “Oscar could barely sit through the pan flute at our company Christmas party. He sure as hell isn’t going to be able to endure Callum’s dancing.”

“He’s playing a real role this time,” Bernie said, not sure if she was trying to convince Priscilla or herself. “It might be good.”

Priscilla laughed again.

“Oh, Bernie,” she said, reaching over to pat Bernie on the head. “Sweet, naive Bernie. No, it will not be good. It will be absolute shite as usual.”

Bernie didn’t bother protesting because she had a sneaking suspicion that Priscilla was right. She asked Tallulah over the phone later that evening after Priscilla had gone home. She timed it so that Priscilla would be on the subway when she did it, unreachable for comment. Tallulah’s response was, perhaps unsurprisingly, even more definitive than her sister’s.

“I would give you a literal kidney, but I will not do this for you,” she told Bernie. “This is a metaphorical kidney I won’t give you.”

It was the same response she’d given when Bernie had invited her camping three years ago. Of course, at the time, Bernie had been dating this guy named Tim who was really into nature and Bernie had only invited Tallulah so that she wouldn’t be forced to suffer on her own.

She managed to convince Iggy and Miles to come with her. She caught them at a bad time. Well, it was a bad time for them, but an excellent moment for her. They had just received a group text inviting them to Melly and David’s house for charades the same night as Callum’s performance. Fortunately for Bernie, they were looking for a valid excuse not to go. They could just lie, but Melly’s pregnancy had once again made her overly suspicious and quick to anger. So Iggy agreed to come to Callum’s play with a plan to photograph every part of it so that she could post it to Instagram as proof. She photographed the four of them at the door to the theatre, waiting in line to have their tickets checked, sitting in their seats, and then another shot of the closed red curtains to show they were waiting for it to begin.

“I have high hopes for this one,” Bernie told the other three enthusiastically.

“That feels like a mistake,” Miles returned almost immediately. Bernie was reluctant to concede, though she felt certain she would be by the end of the show.

The performance was somewhat rocky right from the beginning. The woman playing Maria was not so much the enthused, beautiful young woman Julie Andrews had portrayed, but rather a tired-looking middle-aged woman with a slight limp. But she did have a lovely voice, which was a blissful relief, especially after they were subjected to the singing of the rest of the cast for the first time. Callum, as it turned out, was as good a singer as he was a dancer, which was to say positively God awful.

“Why do you do this to yourself?” Iggy hissed to Bernie, leaning over partway through the first act. “And more importantly, why do you do this to me?”

“At least the tickets were free,” Lawrence offered, clearly aiming to inject a little positivity into the situation. God knows the cast weren’t helping with that. By that point, Bernie was almost hoping for the Nazis to show up and drag them all off to work camps if only so she could leave and salvage the rest of her evening.

“Well thank God for that because there’s not a flying snowball’s chance in hell that I would pay anybody to sit through this hellscape of nightmares,” Miles returned darkly before addressing Iggy. “How do you keep letting yourself be dragged into this? You’re supposed to learn from your mistakes.”

“I have,” she protested indignantly. “That’s exactly why I don’t drink vodka from the bottle anymore.”

Sadly, Bernie knew that that was something Iggy had done in the past. She’d been present for a few of those occasions. It had led to some particularly messy evenings.

For the most part, it was endurable. Maria really saved the performance. She wasn’t especially fun or bright, but she could actually sing and that really carried the rest of the play. Fortunately, hers was the largest role so hers was the voice they heard most often. She also had quite a powerful voice, which tended to drown out most of the people sharing the stage with her.  It was a blessed relief. Or at least until the yodelling began. The teenager playing Kurt von Trapp had the voice of a dying barnyard animal. It was tough to listen to even while he was singing. Yodelling was a whole other ballgame. It was torturous. It made Bernie’s ears ring.

“This kid is aware that ‘The Lonely Goatherd’ is in fact a happy song and not the tragically realistic ballad of the lonely Goatherd’s death by strangling, yes?” Miles asked as Kurt yodelled his little tone-deaf heart out while making a marionette waddle along the stage.

“This is so very, very bad,” Lawrence said in response. Even he had given up on optimism. Bernie was dreading the second half.

Callum came out to see them during intermission, pulling a young woman along behind him. He introduce her as Abigail his girlfriend. She beamed and shook all of their hands. Iggy was still grimacing from the first half and Miles looked a little like he was ready to march outside and throw himself in front of a street car. They made smalltalk for a few minutes before Abigail launched into a glowing review of the musical up to that point. Bernie got the impression that Callum had invited her solely to prove that he could get real roles in well-known plays and also to show off his new, lovely, overly supportive girlfriend. Abigail would never stifle him creatively. Abigail thought he was wonderfully talented.

“She can’t be watching the same musical as we are,” Miles remarked as Callum and Abigail left and they took their seats again. Iggy took a photo of the program to post online.

“She must be deaf,” Lawrence agreed.


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