The Last Time I Looked: (Stories, Real and Unreal) - PARTNERS Chapter Two
March 4, 2013

THE AMATEUR HOUR

Bea won the radio contest every week for four weeks, which qualified her to come back in two weeks for the semi-final sing off in the junior division.

This time her competition was a supposed thirteen-year-old. Bea was sure she was thirty and told her and anyone else who would listen. The kid sang “Un Bel Di” from Madame Butterfly. She sang it badly, but correctly. The audience and the judges thought the whole thing was too classy for words. Bea went nuts when she heard the audience’s burst of applause after that aging turd’s flat high C. Bea’s big number was “Summertime”. She swooped those notes enough to make a seagull dizzy.

Bea was more anxious than she’d ever been. She was always far and away the best…but she knew in her organic show biz gut that this was going to be a close call. She had to remind herself to breathe, as the unctuous M.C. stepped back to the mic after the commercial to announce the winner. “Ladies and gentlemen of the studio, and our listening audience. This is a first…well at least this year…could I have a double drum roll?...thank you…because our hard working judges have declared a tie…a tie…ladies and gentlemen…our two smashing songbirds…coloratura Wanda Willard and the versatile little Beatrice Franklin…share the honors…and get to come back for the finals. Congratulations little misses…and all you near misses…May the sun shine on all of you…and all of you too out there in radio land. Goodnight for all these plucky contestants, our esteemed judges and for me, Professor Carl, the Dean of Amateurs”.

Bea wanted to puke. She had to smile and go over and hug the curled, fluffy soprano. There was a photographer there from the Daily Mirror. A sincere smile did not come easily to Bea. She knew she was as photogenic as The Three Stooges...any one of them. She threw her arms around Wanda with such force it nearly knocked her down. Then Bea shrieked, the way they did on the Miss America contests: “Isn’t this GREAT?...You and me… Wanda…What an HONOR…Isn’t she the BEST?...Isn’t Wanda perfect?” Then she hugged her hard again and flashed her phony grin for the photographer once more with feeling.

Her eternally puzzled parents were waiting for her. She spent the next two weeks practicing three or four hours a day. Her mother was convinced that Bea was having a nervous breakdown. She tried to diet all day and then woke up in the middle of the night ravenously hungry. She would go into the kitchen and turn everything upside down, until she found the bag of potato chips her mother had stashed somewhere. They were her soul food. When she was depressed or anxious they soothed her. They filled an emotional, as well as physical, cavity. Halfway through the bag, after the relief and taste started wearing thin, she would try to stop. She would start to cry, thinking of her body and her face, all the while pushing handfuls of the chips in her mouth. The crying was eventually replaced by her powerful fantasizing…she’d picture herself looking like Ava Gardner being hugged by Frank Sinatra after a standing ovation for her act. She’d start smiling and upping the rhythm of her eating…in time to the imaginary encore she was singing.

She listened to the Amateur Hour radio show every week, of course, to check out the competition.  So far there was no threat except for Wanda. The last week before her final appearance, she heard the usual lousy mimics, square pop singers, and then trouble. A twelve-year-old boy. God dammit! The little twerp sang like a bandit, and had the nerve to sing Gershwin's Porgy and Bess yet. He did a mature, swinging version of “Bess, You Is My Woman Now”. She was so upset she started shaking. Her mother put her arms around her and tried to rock her to comfort. Bea grabbed those arms from around her neck and held them out by their hands with terrific force. She shook her mother's arms in time to her wailing.

“I can't stand it...all this work…I'm going to lose…I know it…I can't stand it…nothing is ever going to happen to me…I'm a loser…a loser…Help me Momma…help me!” Her mother started crying. She didn't know what to do. “Oh baby, Bezie, please let me help you, please darling, calm down…oh God…what can I do?...What can I do?”

“Tie me to the bed.”

“What?”

"Tie me to the bed…I’m going crazy, I can’t stand it…I want to win so bad Mom…so bad…TIE ME TO THE BED!”

By now, Bea’s screaming had reached a pitch and tone, so compellingly frightening, that her mother through her tears and moans started looking for something to tie her with. “Please Bea, please God…I’m looking…I’m looking.”

“GET THE GOD DAMNED TWINE, IN THE KITCHEN…HURRY…”

She did as she was told, and, under Bea’s hysterical, but precise and effective tutelage, she tied her down on her imitation maple colonial style, single bed.


Click here to read chapter three.
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1 comment
Terrific storytelling -- can't wait for chapter 3. So glad you're back.
xoJ
10:25am 03/07/2013
Janelle Palma