Drop 173: Review

curtains

‘So, what did you think, Sam?’

‘Honestly?’

‘What do you mean honestly? Of course.’

‘OK,’ Sam said, lighting a cigarette and squinting. ‘Then I’ll tell you: I hated it. I really hated it. It was just plain awful. What the hell kind of directing was that? No skill in it, no flow, no intuition for pace. No knack at all for the simple art of story telling. What was he trying to do? I mean, sure, put your stamp on a famous work, by all means, but this guy’s artistic license was off the charts. The plot was all over the place, and none of the characters were believable, though maybe the fault there lay more with the actors — god, don’t get me started on the actors! Every last one, clueless. Not one bright spot among them. No one understood the conflicts inherent in the characters, and the two leads showed none of the ambiguity that drives the story’s critical undercurrent. It was sad. Just sad. All of it. The sets were lame – not period appropriate at all; in fact, the production value overall was appalling, the effects idiotic. Admit it, the horses looked more like overgrown rats! And what were those brown hanging blankets supposed to be?’

‘Wow, that’s harsh.’

‘Well, you asked for the truth,’ Sam said, looking away from Mary as if something had caught his eye on the other side of the street, then snapping his head back to face her, ‘and this is it: every last person involved in that atrocity should be taken out back and shot. I’m upset I had to sit through it. Outraged. Honestly, I’d rather have eaten a bad oyster on my wedding day, got dengue fever in rural Gabon, sawn off part of my pinkie, or lost my only set of house keys during a blizzard in Minsk.’

‘Man! You felt that strongly about a 4th grade play?’

‘Oh Christ, Mary. You fucking asked. You know, just cause your kid is nine, doesn’t mean she can’t wear a ball gown with a soupçon of panache.’

By E.M. Vireo

Drop #18: Air Ball

I started smoking again because I moved apartments and the new one has a perfect smoking balcony I just can’t waste. It looks out over the playground of a school where most of the students are Chinese, and yesterday, while I was out there, about fifteen eight-year-old boys and girls in navy blue sweat pants and sky blue tops had gym class on the fenced off basketball court. They took turns shooting free throws: a daunting task for weak little arms and legs. Some cheated, sneaking well past the free throw line, but still missed. Balls struggled to hit the net, even the rim, let alone go through. Only one boy did well, showing good technique in hitting two of four.

Their teacher, a thin Chinese man in his thirties, fetched each miss and returned the ball to the next in line, but took a few shots himself from various spots on the court while doing so. He missed badly too, every time; in fact, most were air balls.

I finished my smoke but stayed out on the balcony, watching. I found it soothing, smiling here and there at a particularly wayward, if enthusiastic attempt.

Class ended and the kids got in line to go back indoors. A woman who had been standing near the gate met the teacher as he led them out; he stopped to talk to her, asking another adult to take over his duties. The kids went ahead, leaving him alone with the woman, perhaps another teacher. He hugged two basketballs against his chest as they stood close together and talked. He looked happy to see her.

But soon the mood changed. Of course I couldn’t hear anything from the balcony, but it was obvious things had suddenly become strained. She put a hand on his shoulder to say something final, paused briefly, then left, walking away quickly without looking back.

He stayed, motionless for few seconds before throwing one ball, then other hard against the fence. He dropped to one knee resting head in hand, remaining like that for more than a minute; then got up to solemnly fetch the balls that had rolled to opposite ends of the court.

 By E.M. Vireo