Max Performs for the Last Time,
and the Last Time, and Finally the Last Time

Mark O. J. Esping

© Copyright 2020 by Mark O. J. Esping

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
                    Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Max studied to be an opera singer. He actually preformed as the crocodile in the stage presentation of Peter Pan. Health interrupted his singing career. He started a summer theatre called Broadway RFD, which presented musicals during the summer in Lindsborg Kansas. He played Santa Claus at Macys in New York City.

After the Santa Claus fiasco, Max said he would never again perform for anyone.
Well, that was not exactly true. He sang at his Uncle Klee’s church in western Kansas. He said he should have known something was going to go wrong, when he drove into town. He was to meet the church Pastor at the Pheasant Inn, which Max’s Uncle Klee owned. As usual Marie was driving and Max was looking for the sign to this restaurant that was susposed to be a real good eating place.

Klee said he named it the Pheasant Inn for two reasons. The restaurant was located in a county where pheasants were more plentiful than any other county in Kansas and they actually had pheasant on the menu. Well the portend of coming disaster was the fact that Max and Marie couldn’t find any Pheasant Inn. There wasn’t any Pheasant Inn, there was a Peasant Inn set back off of the highway, which had a painting on the sign of a Pheasant flying above the words Peasant Inn. Max said that he should have known right there what he was dealing with. Max always believed in omens. His Uncle Klee’s Peasant Inn was a pleasant place. It was just that no one had noticed that Pheasant was mispelled Peasant. Maybe no one in this town knew how to spell. Maybe the sign painter wasn’t literate. Max said it crossed his mind that he should just have Marie turn around. They should have just turned around and gone back home. But he had promised his Uncle Klee and he liked the old guy so he didn’t want to hurt Klee’s feelings. They met with the preacher and went over the church bulletin at the Peasant Inn. Atthe church Max and Marie were seated in a pew at the front of the church. The church had everything, it was well organized, so Max started thinking that his feeling of impending doom was probably just a little bit of paronia. The church service started. The pastor had a pretty good message and the organist started the into to Max’s song which was to be “How Great Though Art” Max got up, marched to the front and the middle of the sanctury and started into the solo. He said it went fabulous. He felt good, his voice was vibrant and he moved his great tenor voice to full volume. He said the words echoed slightly off the stained glass windows. He could feel the entire congregation was barely able to breath, he had them in the palm of his hand. He finished. Hesitated for a minute to let the reverbration of his singing slowly receded to quiet. He walked triumphantly back to his seat in the first pew. Seated in the front row was his Uncle Klee and Uncle Klee’s wife, both with ear to ear smiles on their faces. Marie gave Max a little thumbs up sign. Max said as he bent his knees to sit down next to Marie, he felt satisfied and vindicated from all of the bad things that had been happening to him lately.

At this point in the story first, Max would always stop and then repeat that when he saw the Peasant Inn sign he should have followed his intuition and gone straight home. Next, he would raise his voice to a bellow, shouting about how when his three hundred and twenty pounds joined the nine hundred fifty pounds that was already seated in the first pew, the pew gave way and all four people went flying backward partially onto the floor and partially into the laps of the people in the second pew. There were four pairs of chubby legs flayling in the air and Max’s heroic rendition of How Great Thou Art was lost forever in the screams and moans of Uncle Klee and his wife followed by a crack as the second pew gave way and the quick addition to the pandemonium of a falseto whailing interspersed with a bass bellowing of obsenities from the third row. He said that God told him and then showed him that he should never sing again.

He would finish the story by stating that it was his final preformance.
It turned out that was not quite true. Max sang at Don Valentine Ely’s funeral a few months later. Don had Down’s Syndrome. He was one of the regulars for coffee at the Bakery. Don’s home was at the “care” home which was a house where several persons with less than normal mental functioning lived. Don who was referred to as Donnie until Max brought up the fact that that was a kids name, and so it was demeaning to call some one who was fifty years old by a kids name. Don was 61 when he died which is suppossedly pretty old for people with Down’s Syndome. Don lived with the “Mumbler”, a man who was beaten by Police so viciously that he never was mentally cognizant. He also lived with Wally who had been kicked in the head by a horse when he was a child. Wally and Don were almost inseparable. They did lawn work around town. Leaves in the fall, cut grass in the summer and shovel snow in the winter.

On Don’s funeral bulletin it states that Max Muller sang “What a friend we have in Jesus” But after the bulletin was printed, Max switched it and sang “Jesus Loves Me” which when worked by an Operatic Baritone is fantastic.

Don believed in angels. Every time some one he knew died, Don would refer to their death by saying that the angels got em. It doesn’t say so in the bulletin but I was asked to read the obituary. I concluded the obituary and the service by saying Goodby Don Valentine Ely, born on Valentines Day.” “A gift and message of love for everyone” “Goodby Don, I guess the angels got you.”
Max sang, Jesus Loves Me, again as people got up to leave.

That really was the last preformance for Max . He died a year later.

Mark O. J. Esping lives in the Kansas City area. His wife and he share their home with three cats. Twin deer occasionally graze in their backyard. Mark grew up in Los Angeles. Graduated from a Swedish Lutheran College. Reprinted the feminist science fiction novel titled NEQUA.

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