Jack Coey

Jack Coey is a seventy-two-year-old grandfather of two who has experienced most of life’s events, and survived them not only, but without hurting anyone else which he would say was a good life. Writing satisfies him like nothing else and he works as a cashier to eat and writes to love.  

The Snake

She thought, perhaps, he was the man who delivered oil, for she knew, she knew him from somewhere, and glancing down at the lettuce, recalled he was in the play she saw two nights before at the Orpheus Theatre. He knew he was recognized when she knowingly smiled. He was Trevor Howard, a washed up, has-been, one-time leading man who squeezed a living from playing small to medium-sized venues in silly family comedies. Eight years before, he was nationally exposed in a commercial for Thom McCann when he played a man with sore feet. He made money along with the public identity of “sore foot man.”   

“You were so funny with sore feet,” she exclaimed.

He listlessly nodded.        

        “Could I get your autograph?”

She was Noreen Phelan, a forty-five year old housewife. Trevor extended his arms out to show he had nothing with which to autograph.  Flustered, Noreen went to the meat counter, and asked for paper and a pen. The butcher annoyedly handed her an order form for salami and a magic marker.

        “The name, please?”

She told him. She loved make-believe, and thought actors were magicians who conjured truths that were unknowable. He handed her back the salami order form with Best Wishes to my friend, Noreen Phelan written on it.

        “Have you been reviewed yet?” she knew enough to ask.

        “This coming week is what I’ve been told.”

        “Break a leg,” she giggled. She loved saying that.

Wannabes annoyed Trevor.

        “Thank-you, Doreen.”

Noreen blushed.

        “It’s NOReen!”

        “Oh, yes, of course, Noreen! I have some comp tickets if you’d like to see the show again?”

        “Oh! Golly, that would be awesome!”

        “The tickets are in my hotel room. If you’d walk with me?”

        “Ah…how about you leave them at the box office, and I’ll pick them up. Leave them for Doreen,” she giggled, “she hasn’t seen the show yet.”

Trevor was outmaneuvered.

“Nice to meet you, Noreen.”

As she walked away, she smelt salami. 

        The auditions for Right Side Up were held in Boston, and Trevor read with a young girl named Sasha who was dominating. She was quick and funny, and easily won the role of the flighty, ditsy daughter of Reginald, the father, played by Trevor. Trevor was moved by how working with Sasha re-lived the excitement and drama of being young in the theatre. He watched her in awe, and was on the lookout for any advice he could give her. She was from the north end – working class, and was brash and charismatic. In the barroom after rehearsals, she out drank most of the men. It was more than once, Trevor got stuck with her bar bill that he irritably paid. One night, a boy showed up with her with his upper lip in a snarl, and didn’t talk to anybody, but stayed by her side. Nobody liked him.

        The company rode by bus to Keene, NH. where the play was to open in a week at the Orpheus Theatre on Main Street. The company stayed at the B. F. Ames Hotel two blocks away from the theatre.  Regular rehearsals were Monday through Friday with the first half of the show in the morning, and the second half in the afternoon.  The show opened on Saturday. Except for Sasha, the cast was experienced, and knew how to pace themselves to be prime for Saturday.  Omar, the director, was like a conductor in that he paced and modulated the tone of the acting to be peak for Saturday.  At the middle of the week, a reporter from The Keene Sentinel showed up and told Omar he would be reviewing the show the second week of their run.  Omar told the reporter a good review was necessary for their survival.

        “Oh, believe me , I know,” was the answer.

Omar scratched his head; not sure if that was a threat or sympathy.

        Trevor worked hard to keep up with Sasha. She came up with bits and shtick like a magician pulling rabbits from a hat.  He was annoyed when he saw the boy sitting in the audience which grew to anger when Sasha started show boating for him.  Omar too saw the change and was angry.  During notes, Omar made the stipulation that no one except cast members were allowed in rehearsal. After rehearsal, the actors met at The Drowsy Friar and Sasha and the boy sat in a corner by themselves.  Omar nodded to Trevor to go over and see if he could find out anything about the boy.

        “May I join you?”  Two sullen faces looked up at him.

        “Yeah,”she said.

They silently sat. Trevor thought,

        “This is going nowhere.”

        “Sasha, don’t take Omar wrong. He only wants the best for you as do the rest of us.”

She smirked.

        “Hello, my name is Trevor Howard,” extending his hand to the boy with the curl.

He gave a limp handshake.

        “I’m sorry I didn’t catch the name.”

        “This here is Devlin,” answered Sasha, “he’s from my neighborhood. He drove from the North End to be with me.” 

        “Devlin, there’s people who have invested money in this show so Omar has to do everything he can to protect their investment and give them the best product he can. It has nothing to do with you or Sasha.”

        “I gotta pee.”

And he stood up and walked away.

Sasha watched him walk away, smiling.

        “People misunderstand Devlin. He’s a genius.”

        “He could use some work on his social skills.”

Sasha loudly laughed. Trevor was beginning to regret talking to the two of them as he realized his affection for Sasha was being tested.

        “What does he do?”

Sasha looked around the room.

        “For now he works at a car wash.”

        “Doesn’t sound like genius to me.”

Sasha scowled.

        “See? That’s what I mean. I’m going to ask Omar to give Devlin an audition and he’ll show you and the rest of these assholes who can act and who can’t.”

Trevor thought about what she said.

        “Well, good luck,” as he stood, “keep up your good work. You’re going to get good reviews, I know.”

        “Yeah. People are going to make money off my work.”

As Trevor crossed the room to the bar, he didn’t like the sound of that at all. Several minutes later, he stood next to Omar at the bar.

        “She thinks he’s a genius.”

Omar was confused.

        “Oh, the fellow, you mean?”

        “She’s going to ask you to audition him.”

Omar looked over the rim of his whiskey glass.

        “I’m not casting anything.”

        “She wants to prove to you he’s a genius.”

Omar laughed.

“That and fifty cents will get you uptown. Other than the shows I’m working on, I have no influence in the theatre.”     

        “But if he gives a terrible audition, we could use that to talk her out of him.”

Omar tiredly smiled.

        “Trevor, there are several actresses I’ve known who destroyed their careers over a man. Sex and love are just as powerful as ambition.”

        “I wouldn’t know.”

They laughed.

        “I’ll give him an audition and we’ll see what happens. Would you like to see it?”

Trevor thought.

        “Noel will be there, right?”

        “Oh, sure. I always want a second opinion. Noel has seen things I missed any number of times.”

        “I think any more than you and your stage manager would give Sasha paranoia.”

“You’re a veteran Trevor so you know our focus is on Saturday night.”

“Cheers!” said Trevor raising his glass.

The opening was a celebration. The audience was enthralled and delighted. Sasha lit up the stage, and Trevor was her foil. He fed her the set-up lines and she delivered the punch lines. Her timing was impeccable and her energy infectious. By the final curtain, it was her audience, and everybody knew it. Trevor was happy and anxious for her. Success was an intoxicant she didn’t need; it fortified her distrust.

        The Opening Night Party was at The Drowsy Friar. The cast and crew were elated. Sasha stood in the middle of the room with a crowd around her. Trevor saw Devlin sitting at a corner table with a scowling face. He didn’t know why but he walked over to him.

        “Some show, eh?”

Devlin looked away.

        “Sasha was the star”, he mumbled.

        “No kidding?”

        “She’s mine.”

        “Lucky her.”

Trevor walked away.

About twenty minutes later, Trevor and Sasha hugged.

        “Congratulations, Sasha, you were wonderful.”

        “Oh! Trevor I couldn’t have done it without you!”

        “That’s kind of you Sasha. You know you’re going to have a busy future.”

        “Devlin and I are so excited.”

Trevor winced. He weakly smiled. A small crowd formed waiting for Sasha.

        “Oh? Are you engaged?”

        “Devlin is my manager. He advises me on any professional choices I make.”

        “You might want to re-think that.”

        “What do you mean?”

        “We can’t go into it now, Sasha. Your fans are here.”

Sasha gave Trevor a sneer before smiling for her fans.

        The following morning there wasn’t much movement as the cast was battered from carousing. Trevor, from experience, knew to moderate himself and appeared in the coffee shop earlier than the rest. Omar and Noel were in a booth. Noel waved for Trevor to join them.  The waitress knew to bring coffee.

The three silently sipped coffee.

        “She was something,” said Noel.

The other two nodded.

        “She takes the show to another level,” said Omar.

        “Don’t think she doesn’t know it and that buffoon with her.”

        “He’s giving us an audition on Tuesday afternoon. Sasha drunkenly asked me during the Opening Night party.”

        “That could help us,” suggested Trevor.

        “I asked her what monologue he’d be doing, and she said an original piece written by him. Bad move. Anything that takes away from an actor showing his talent is a mistake. Sure, I’ve heard “To Be or Not to Be” a thousand times, but if you can act, you bring it to life in your own way.”

        “She told me he’s acting as her manager.”

Omar shook his head.

        “You know,” he said, “I’ve known several actors and actresses who were really talented who had the worst people around them. It was like they didn’t know how good they were. Like they couldn’t admit it to themselves.”

        “Oh, you know, there’s all those theories about the suffering artist. Their suffering is what drives them to achieve,” said Trevor.

        “Well, right now, I’m a starving artist. Let’s order, shall we?” asked Noel.

        It was late Tuesday afternoon and Trevor was at the bar talking about the Red Soxs to Eugene the bartender and Omar and Noel came in having an earnest conversation. One man stood on either side of Trevor. Eugene went to get their drinks. Trevor sensed their agitation.

        “It was weird,” said Noel.

Trevor sympathetically smiled.

        “Thank-you, Eugene,” said Omar as he set his whiskey in front of him. “He gave this Satanic Curse rant that was so full of anger and hate that we’re talking about notifying someone about his mental health. It’s not uncommon for actors to confuse therapy with art, but My Lord, I’ve never seen it quite to this degree. He has obviously been maltreated in his life, and I suspect, he’s latched on to Sasha to alleviate his pain, that is, if he doesn’t consume her first.”

        “That’s what I’m afraid of,” said Trevor.

        “It’s more than that though,” said Noel, ” let’s be honest, the show will tank without her.”

                “I don’t agree,” said Omar, “we can survive with an understudy, but I agree, we won’t flourish.”

“There’s a chance we could get a run in Boston which would be a big deal for most of the cast. I would for me,” said Noel.

“True,” said Omar. 

“Isn’t the theatre critic for the paper coming to review us?” asked Trevor.

“This week,” said Noel.

“I expect she’s going to get excellent reviews…” said Trevor

“Without a doubt,” agreed Omar.

“For sure,” said Noel.

“I think we have one shot at getting her to see Devlin for what he is…”

“How’s that?”

“We wait for the good review to come out and use that as evidence that she has more to lose than gain by sticking with the snake…”

Omar and Noel looked at each other.

“Won’t hurt to try…” conceded Omar.

“We owe it to the company…” said Noel.

“Good Luck,” said Omar.

It was the way they thought it would be with The Keene Sentinel giving the show enthusiastic praise, and highlighting  Sasha’s performance. The trinity of Trevor, Omar, and Noel were pleased professionally and personally. Especially, Trevor for now he had proof of Sasha’s skill he could use to leverage her away from the snake. He asked her in the Green Room if they could have coffee in the morning, and she looked suspicious, pausing, before saying yes. He was annoyed when he entered the coffee shop in the morning to see Devlin with her even though he made clear he wanted to see her alone.

“I thought you agreed to meet me by yourself?” he said still standing. She gave a dopey smile which graduated his annoyance to anger. Suddenly, Devlin stood up, and for a second, Trevor was fearful, and with a scowl, walked out of the coffee shop. Trevor froze.

“Now I’m alone.”

The fear drained out of Trevor. He slowly sat across from her.

        “Let me buy you breakfast.”

The waitress brought Trevor coffee. Sasha ordered a ham omelet and he an order of toast. They sat in silence as they ate. After the waitress poured their second cups of coffee, Trevor started,

        “Sasha, you know, I’m sure, that you are on the brink of events that will change your life…”

        “Yeah? Like what?”

He held up The Keene Sentinel with the headline: Right Side Up is that: and more! He read from the review its description of Sasha. Sasha Murphy is a consummate and instinctual comedic talent that is exhilarating to watch…Sasha couldn’t keep herself from smiling. “You are at the beginning of a fulfilling and rewarding career if you don’t screw it up…”

“In Keene, NH.?”

“There’s a grapevine, Sasha, in the theatre as in many professions.” He held up The Sentinel. “This review will travel who knows how far? Boston is not that far away. With your looks, you are a natural for TV and the movies. But it takes not only talent but discipline too. There’s plenty of talented actors sitting in AA meetings and drug rehab places who thought they were invincible. Who are trying to figure out where their careers went.”

“I don’t drink in the morning…”

“I’m not talking about that…”

She distrustfully scowled at Trevor.

        “Sasha, Devlin is no good for you.”

        “Everybody knocks Devlin when no one understands him.”

        “Bullshit, Sasha. He gave a terrible audition. Just ask Omar and Noel.”

        “Them two queers don’t know nothing…”

        “That’s not true, Sasha. Don’t you see if you want to be happy and successful, you have to have some understanding of what is real to keep you grounded – to keep you in a healthy relationship with all aspects of life. If you invest in Me and Devlin Against the World, you won’t last. That I promise you. No one likes Devlin, and I’m sure there’s reasons why he is as hostile as he is, but you can’t afford him. He’s using you for his benefit and will take you down with him.”

Sasha stared at Trevor across the table, and Trevor, for the first time, felt she heard what he said. Devlin slid into the booth beside Sasha. Trevor put a twenty-dollar bill on the table, stood up, and walked out.

It was at the half-hour call at that night’s performance that Trevor got an uneasy feeling about where she was. The following day the headline in The Keene Sentinel read: Boyfriend Abducts Actress.                          

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