#SampleSunday – On With The Show

Time for another exercise from Quills and Quibbles. Three words to build around, 500 words at most in all.

copyright August, 2012
Marian Allen

Joel wrote the plays. Saffron figured out the staging. The rest of us painted canvas, scrounged up costumes, and memorized Joel’s not-so-deathless words. Pauly lined up the barns, empty stores, abandoned churches, and the occasional parking lot, and handled all licenses and paperwork. It made us enough to cover expenses and put some away for the coming college year. Besides, it was fun.

We started out with three generic pieces: a romance, a mystery, and a farce. We did one all around the circuit, then the next all around, then the next. Meanwhile, Saffron read local newspapers and haunted libraries, and we all kept our ears open, eavesdropping on the natives in the hardware stores and restaurants, and gave what we found to Joel, who plugged stuff into the original three plays and renamed them. 

By our last go-round, we had a play specific to each location. Our audiences were always fairly good, but the tailored stuff really pulled them in. Every place has its tragic romance, its legendary crime, and its favorite eccentric; all we had to do was decide which one we were going to do and drill ourselves on which names to use that night. 

The last show of the season was a mystery: “Death In Darson City”. True to barnstorming tradition, it was full of action and alarms, but short on subtlety. 

Saffron played Luellen Darson, oldest daughter of the town founder, who apparently stole the lumber yard’s payroll and ran off with a handsome rascal. In Joel’s play, though, the rascal stole the money, murdered Luellen, and ran off alone (one of the more lurid versions from the hardware store). 

I had just plunged the stage daggar into — or rather onto — Saffron’s bosom, breaking open the packet of stage blood and coating us both with washable gore, when the performance was disrupted by a lusty cheer from the back of the stage. Thinking it was something Joel had added at the last minute, I let Saffron’s “lifeless” body slip to the floor and prepared to ad-lib. 

A horsey-faced man I’d never seen before, wearing a costume I’d also never seen before, had gotten onto the stage. Oh, boy! It wasn’t unknown for a civilian to get tanked up and try to get into the act, and the last night of the season seemed a fitting time for it to happen.

This guy didn’t seem drunk, though. He didn’t stagger or swaggar, just stepped forward, his eyes on Saffron as if he’d stab her for real with his glare. He switched his attention to me, giving me a dimpled grin, his eyes glowing with teary joy. 

“Give it back to the hell-cat! She did it to me, you do it to her! Serves her right!”

He held out his hand for me to shake. As I touched him, he vanished.

I’m telling you what: The country gives me the creeps.

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Look up a word you think you know the meaning of and see where it comes from and if its derivation surprises you.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “#SampleSunday – On With The Show

  1. Jane

    August 12, 2012 at 6:46pm

    Nice short. Reminds me of a particularly creepy night we tried to spend at the farmhouse. Basically uninhabited for some years by then, it was automatically pretty unwelcoming. But when we started hearing all sorts of noises outside, followed by a number of bangs on the doors and porches, we decided sleeping was not going to happen, so we chose to leave in the middle of the night. Unhappily, it was so dark outside that you literally could not see your hand in front of your face. Mammoth Cave with the lights off was the last time I’d experienced such unrelenting blackness. I said, “I’ve got this,” and led us down the hill and to the car while we all three held hands. It was a really great example of actually knowing some place like the back of your hand, though the utter darkness scenario was something i sure never could’ve anticipated.
    Yay, for the country!

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      August 13, 2012 at 8:49am

      Jane, the human flashlight! It must be all the cat blood in ya.

      Brrr — that IS creepy, though. Definitely story material in that.

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