The Wrong Side of the River
Thou canst not speak of that thou dost not feel

After Romy’s visit I realized several things.
First, it was probably time to get rid of the wooden train set I got when I was four. She laughed when she saw it, which definitely meant it was not cool. Plus I hadn’t played with it for at least six months and Solo had chewed up the piece that makes the trains switch tracks, and that was the coolest part anyway.
Second, I wanted to teach Solo something new—something special just for Romy. She may have been slobber-shy, but I could tell she kind of liked our tricks. If she dropped by again I wanted to be ready with something awesome.
And last, even though things might not have turned out exactly like I’d planned, that didn’t mean this year couldn’t be different, or even amazing.
I had a choice. I could be sad and sulky about not being able to try out for the play and kiss the girl I’d had a crush on for more than a year, or I could enjoy working with her every day and try to be the best darn stage manager Montague Junior High had ever seen.
I read over the script at least ten times over the weekend and when I got to school Monday, I was ready to work.
I sat down next to Mrs. Kempf and pulled out the book she’d given me to keep track of everything in the production. It was my job to record all the cues, props and blocking as she decided them.
“You need to make sure my artistic vision is honored at all times,” Mrs. Kempf told me. She was dressed like a pirate today, complete with a shredded looking skirt and a shirt that laced up like a shoe. I was a little concerned about what her artistic vision might be, but I told myself it didn’t matter. She was the boss and I was just there to make sure she was happy.
We spent the hour blocking the balcony scene, which would have been pretty easy if it weren’t for Parry.
“What’s the light breaking your window?” He asked, stepping toward the part of the stage where we would eventually put Juliet’s turret.
Mrs. Kempf buried her head in her hands and groaned. “Mr. Hendricks, could you please pick up your script and read your lines today?”
He scowled. “No one else is reading their lines.”
She rubbed her temples. “That’s because everyone else knows their lines.”
“Well, maybe if this were real English instead old-timey talk I could memorize it.”
“Just go get your script!” Mrs. Kempf yelled, clearly done being nice.
He tromped off the stage to his backpack and unzipped it loudly, while glowering at all of us. He pulled out a wad of crinkled papers and stomped back up on stage waving them like a weapon. Then he sat down on the stage and rifled through them.
Romy gave me a look that said, “Can you believe this guy” and I shrugged and nodded. She took a few lumbering steps and twisted her face into a confused grimace. She was mimicking Parry exactly, and I had to look down at my shoes to keep from laughing. She really was quite the actress.
“Alright,” Mrs. Kempf shouted. “Can we please begin now?”
Parry stood up and held his pile papers in front of him. Then, in a monotone voice, he read, “This gentleman, the princes near alley… This stuff makes no sense, I swear.”
Mrs. Kempf threw up her arms with exasperation. “That’s because the word is ally not alley, and you are somewhere in Act Three. For the tenth time today, you should be in Act Two, scene two!”
She turned to me, a wild look in her eye, and pleaded, “Julian, would you be a dear and read the lines so we can actually get to the blocking.”
“Sure,” I said, grinning widely when I noticed how relieved Romy looked. I pulled out my script and tried not to make eye contact with Parry, who was definitely wishing me harm with his eyes. I knew most of Romeo’s lines by heart now, but I figured seeing a script in front of me might be reassuring to Mrs. Kempf, and she definitely seemed like she needed some reassurance.
I read through the scene with Romy as Mrs. Kempf directed her and Parry to the places on the stage where she wanted them to stand. Again, this shouldn’t have been that hard. Parry was supposed to stand stage left, quarter turned so he could see the audience and Romy, and do a few dramatic moves with his arms at key moments.
But it was too much for him.
“Seriously, when do I get to climb the tower and kiss her?” Parry whined.
Hopefully never, I thought, and to my surprise Romy took a couple steps back and looked just as disgusted at the idea as I felt.
Mrs. Kempf, probably happy to see Parry cared about anything at all in the play, perked up. “I have seen productions where Romeo climbs the tower and steals a kiss. That might be fun. What do you think Julian?”
“I…” I looked at Romy, who was shaking her head, her eyes wide and pleading. “Our prop team is focusing on the platform for Juliet. They probably wouldn’t be able to do much more than cardboard for the outside of the tower. I doubt it’s going to be climbable.”
Mrs. Kempf nodded, but looked a bit disappointed.
“What if I just used a ladder?” Parry asked. “That would be easy enough.”
“But it would look awful,” I countered. “Besides, why would the Capulet’s have a ladder just hanging around outside their daughter’s window? That wouldn’t be very smart.”
“You know who’s not very smart?” Parry asked, glaring.
“Now, now,” Mrs. Kempf said. “Julian is right on this one, I think.”
Romy exhaled and mouthed, “thank you,” and I leaned back in my chair. Maybe this stage managing stuff wasn’t so bad after all.
But then Mrs. Kempf continued, “I’m sorry it won’t work out, Parry, but if it’s kissing scenes you’re after, don’t worry. There’s plenty of kissing in other scenes.”
Parry lifted his chin to me and smirked.
I smiled back. I’d have to do everything in my power to convince Mrs. Kempf this should be a kissing-free production of Romeo and Juliet.

Keep Reading

Chapter 14

The world is not thy friend Romy

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