Cast Party (Private)Photo of John.

John E. Wynne
© Copyright 1991 by John E. Wynne

"Stewart",? Someone says, leaning over me.

"Yes, who's calling"? I ask without looking up.

"Stewart," it's Doctor Bennett. "I'd like to talk to you if I could."

"Hold on," I say. "Let me see if he's in." I'm testing him. "No, Stewart's not in right now, can I take a message?." He's not amused, no sense of humor. "If it's about Sally Singleton again, I'm not up for it right now, Doc."

He pulls out one of three available chairs at my table and sits. Dr. Bennett is a middle aged man with a fatherly look and demeanor. The table helps hide the healthy paunch but does nothing to thwart the reflection of light off his perspiring bald head. His hands are criss-crossed together as he searches for something further to say.

My eye is momentarily drawn to the TV sitting on an elevated shelf over his right shoulder. Fred and Wilma Flintstone are starring today.

"Why did you do it, Stewart?" I hear him ask.

"I didn't kill her Doc." I'm staying calm, but Fred and Wilma are having a heated argument.

"The jury was convinced you did it, Stewart." I can tell he's trying to get my undivided attention.

"No accounting for taste Doc." I say in all seriousness. Fred is now scurrying through the streets of Bedrock in his car, his feet propelling it at a good clip.

"Well Stewart, sooner or later your going to have to open up to me." He says paternally. "It's for your own good, I'll be here when your ready."

"Look Doc, it was a play....a show. I've been in a million of them over the years. Do you think her not casting me would motivate me to murder her?" I say a bit louder than I mean to. Dr. Bennett continues talking, I notice that Wilma and Betty are cooking an incredibly large piece of meat.

Dr. Bennett slowly gets up from the table. "Alright Stewart, you win today. Like I said, I'll be here when your ready." He turns and leaves.

I look out the picture window, someone has pulled the blue drape away to one side. I can see the green, green grass emptying into an almost transparent duck pond. Sometimes the ducks quack loudly. I want to run out and grab one by it's long neck and squeeze until there's no quack left in it. Then I'd like to turn to the others while their friend hangs limp in my outstretched hand and say, "There, that's what's going to happen to you if you don't stop your goddam quacking." But they don't let me out much, not without a guard, at least.

It's been three weeks now since the Judge sentenced me to this 'hospital', rather than send me to prison or the chair as some would have it. The jury found me guilty of murdering Sally Singleton, the director of the play 'Blood Night', a thriller in two acts. My name is Stewart Mainstreet. I'm an actor.

This is the first time I've had to myself, I've gone over the story in great detail for the Police, my Lawyers, the Court, I'm not sure anymore what the truth is. As I stare at the insignificant happenings in the town of Bedrock my mind wanders back to the evening of April 27th, just a couple of weeks before Sally was killed. The night I may have begun to lose my mind.

After a light dinner I left my apartment on the west side of town, and headed east toward the beach. The theatre lay five miles inland on the south side of the boulevard. I was feeling good. I had bought an advance copy of the script, and had read it, knowing exactly which part I wanted, which is in direct contrast to my usual practice of giving a cold reading. The part of Wesley, the male lead was the part that was written for me, it was, no, it is me.

As I drove up the boulevard I envisioned how I would become Weseley, how I would speak as Weseley, how I was Weseley. As I passed the 'Self Serve' gas station to my right I could see the lights of the marquee:


My pulse quickened, knowing that after one reading tonight, the director would have no doubt in her mind who the lead should be, I was her leading man.

As I turned into the long driveway leading into the shell rock parking lot, I could see by the number of cars that the turnout was heavy, the fools, showing up to have their hopes dashed by me.

I opened the door, I made my entrance. The place was buzzing. Soon I could hear the rumblings running throughout the gathered readers and those who merely came to watch the action.

They knew me, and they knew I had arrived, and I was here to claim what was rightfully mine. The Director approached.

"Darling, I do hope you've come to read."

"I wouldn't have missed it for the world." I mused.

Her name was Sally Singleton, she had come to us by way of England, had done some Shakespeare and some off, off Broadway, all the same I didn't much care for her. She was a willowy blonde of about fifty five, too much makeup and much too much cheap perfume, but I hugged her anyway, while she kissed the air just to the flank of my right ear. I slid into the aisle seat in the back row, house right and waited. She would read the lesser parts first, get them out of the way and then the principals. Then the moment came.

"I would like to have Stewart read Weseley, and Susan, you read Marta, and Stephen, you read John."

I approached the stage, script in hand.

"Turn to page 52". The Director commanded. "And start where Weseley says: 'If you can't get it right this time, I'm leaving and going for a walk'".

I found the place, took a deep breath and began. It was good, it was flowing, I could feel it was going just as planned, I had the part.

"Thank you", she bellowed from the darkness.

I descended the stage knowing that I had read well, no, not well, damned good, there's no way she could give this part to anyone but me. She would read others for the part but it would be strictly a formality, she had already made up her mind.

"Brad, would you read Weseley for me, and Barbara read the part of the wife, same scene".

They read. What was he doing up there reading my part?

'Well, don't worry, I've got it, haven't I'? I thought. 'Of course I do, she's just giving everyone a shot'.

Brad read. He read well, although I didn't want to admit it. I left after reading at least three more times, in three different scenes, Brad had read at least six times. I drove home telling myself that she already settled on me but she wanted to give the new kid some experience at auditioning. Yes that was it.

I drove home through the humid night reassuring myself that everything was alright. I climbed the stairs, to my second floor apartment, removed a cold Rolling Rock, poured it into a frosted mug I kept in the freezer and drank it to the last of Johnny's monologue and drifted off to sleep.

I awoke the next morning to the sound of a raging thunderstorm. I immediately thought of the events of the night before and decided that I would look the script over once again to see if there was some way I could come up with something that would give me an edge. I knew that I had to be on tonight since Wednesday night is usually the night that is dedicated mainly to casting so I had to make my impression.

As time neared, I felt both nervous and confident at the same time. This was good. After so many years in the theatre I no longer felt that nervous edge anymore that causes the adrenalin to flow. Welcome back, old friend.

Someone is throwing something into the pond outside, the ducks start quacking furiously, 'Fucking ducks', I think with clenched fist.

It was a balmy South Florida, Tuesday night. I had returned home early from a day at the beach looking over the script. I showered, made myself a salad and a glass of white wine. Passing on the previously planned steak, deeming it too heavy for an audition night.

As I entered, the theatre was in semi-darkness except for the stage which was lit with the bare essentials for reading. The large red curtain hung defiantly open with no set in place to hide from the eyes of the audience. In the first few rows of seats were some flats lying in wait to become the walls of Weseley's apartment. Strip lights, ladders and buckets of paint and various tools were strewn upstage and in the wings to provide enough room for those who were to read this evening. I looked around me and saw some familiar faces, some new ones, some were standing near the Producer's table filling out audition forms, while others stood around talking. As I turned, I stopped, there in the last row over against the wall. Who is he? He was tall, I could see that, even though he was sitting. His eyes were intense, almost a cornflower gray, blue. He was dressed all in black, whips and chains would not be out of place here. 'Square-faced, anvil jaw, I thought.

"Let's get started people", I heard the Stage Manager say.

Sally began reading off the names of those she wished to read the first scene, all familiar names except one.

"Charles, I'd like you to read the part of Weseley, please". He lumbered down the aisle and took his stand on the stage just stage right of Linda who most certainly would get the female lead of Laura, the girlfriend of Weseley. He dwarfed her, almost to a fault. The black added a menacing look.

'He's too tall for the part', I assured myself.

"I'd like you to start on page 67, on Laura's line: 'Your not making any sense, Weseley'".

A slight pause, a check with the rest of the readers and Linda launched into it. Then Charles read his lines. Where did he come from? Who the hell is he, anyway? I slid up behind Sally's chair and looked over her shoulder, trying to get a glimpse of his audition sheet. Anything of any importance about him would be there.

Charles Barker, age 35, experience- vast, too lengthy for me to read within the time span allotted to me before my spying would be thwarted.

They finished reading the scene. Those in attendance applauded, something that rarely happens at auditions..... he was a hit. Who is this Charles person? She obviously knew him from some previous production at some theatre somewhere, playing some obscure part that impressed her in some way. Or maybe she'd heard of him from somewhere else and made up her mind before she ever heard him read. He looked confident as he strode up the aisle to take the seat in the corner that he had vacated just a few moments before.

"Stewart, I'd like you to read the part of Stephen," I heard her say, I couldn't believe it. Stephen was a mediocre, relatively small part that anyone could play. What was she trying to pull, anyway? She was obviously so impressed with Charles or Brad or anyone but me that she had the principal role already cast.

I approached her. She saw me coming.

"Stewart, I want you to read the part of Stephen, please."

"Look, I want to know what's going on."

"What do you mean, Stewart?"

"Why are you having me read a part like that? You know that I will not take a part of such insignificance."

"Insignificance? Are you forgetting that this is Community Theatre, and that everyone pitches in to do whatever is required?" She was standing her ground.

"Well, if taking a small role like Stephen means pitching in for the good of the group, then I guess I don't want to be a part of this Community Theatre thing after all." I started for the door.

"Well Stewart, I have, of curse seen your work and I have to admit that I have been impressed in the past by some of the characters that you've played, but, I don't know, there's been something lately. I.....well, something I can't quite put my finger've changed Stewart, and frankly....I don't know if we can effectively work together. In fact, I doubt it very much. That's why I thought that I'd try you in a lesser role and maybe see if things could work out." She was looking me right in the eye, she was good.

I felt the rage welling up inside of me. This, this.... stupid, stupid person...this inadequate excuse for a Director...this woman. Who ever told her tat she could do such a thing as direct a show anyway? As she continued her pep talk on why everyone should pitch in, her face flushed with emotion. That false sense of passion (which always showed through whenever she did appear on stage) was present, there she was in front of me, lecturing me on the value of being a team player but I couldn't take my eyes off that long, willowy, slender, white neck, which by now was bulbous with blue veins trying to pop out of skin. IS thought about how wonderful it would be to end her tirade right there on the spot by wrapping my hands around that neck, yes that damn annoying neck, and snap it. That would end it. Then the noise would stop, and I could take over right then and there and direct this show the way it ought to be. I felt my fists clench, then open and start to raise, yes, it is time to say goodbye Sally, say goodbye to everyone, Sally. They were waist high now then the fingers began to open. They weren't a part of me anymore, she was saying something about how all the great actors had to start somewhere or some gibberish, all the time ignoring the fact that these claws that no longer belonged to me were now only a short motion away from squeezing the living breath out of the bitch.

"Miss Singleton, the actors are waiting". Someone said, breaking the spell.

My hands quickly seized my chest as the stage manager stood there wearing a bored expression that made me want to......

"Waiting for instructions from Miss Singleton". She said.

"Well, Stewart....."? She snapped.

I turned and left, quickly enveloped by the evening humidity while making my way to my car. 'I would never read for another part at this small time theatre again'. I vowed.

As I drove down the boulevard, a light spatter of rain began to fall, lightly at first, then hard enough to engage the wipers. Rather than fight it I pulled into the nearest bar which happened to be close enough to throw an elephant through the window.

'Spanky's' has always been one of my favorite watering holes, especially after a performance. It's quiet enough to talk to whomever your with, without requiring throat surgery the next day, yet crazy enough to keep you awake. As you enter the place there's a square bar directly in front of you with booths and tables all around, a pool table is in a separate area to your left with a seating area as a partition. Off to the right are the video games and record machine. Not much of a crowd tonight, most of Spank's gang are regulars and hold-overs from happy hour which ended centuries ago by now. I sat at the bar.

"Hi Stewart, what's up?" Jessi, the barmaid was there as soon as I sat down.

"Whoa, I thought you get crazy when you drink that stuff, at least that's what you always told me." She said with genuine concern.

"Tonight is one of those nights, my dear when I feel like getting crazy. That is if you don't mind." I said through clenched teeth.

"Whatever you say, 'Master Thespian'. Isn't that what you call yourself?" She said with a crooked smile.

"Only in jest my dear, only in jest."

She turned to the service bar, a beer and a marguarita placed on a cork top tray for the lone waitress for the evening.

Jessi is a dear friend. A few years ago, five to be exact, I was going through a particularly bad time trying to survive a divorce, while at the same time struggling with one of the most challenging roles of my career. She was eager to help at the time and I was glad to have someone show an interest. She has a talent for listening to people's problems and somehow knew the right thing to say, and more importantly, what not to say.

"One Jack on the rocks," she said with a bit of terseness.

I sipped. "What's your problem?" I said a bit louder than I meant to.

"I just got a call from a friend of mine over at the theatre. She said you had a run in with the Director and stormed out of there. In fact, she said you looked like you wanted to kill her." She said with a dead-pan stare.

"Yeah, well you can't always believe everything you hear." I drained the glass.

"Well you forget that I know you and I know what you're capable of and I've seen that look myself." She was exacting and annoying.

"Look Jess, I didn't come here for a goddamm lecture, you know what I mean?" I held out my empty glass.

With a back off gesture she surrendered, knowing that it was futile to try to tap into the skull that she so skillfully tried to penetrate previously and which has grown increasingly thicker with age.

It was all rushing back at me again. I had not thought about it for a long time, I had learned to control it to a great extent. Life had almost become bearable. When and where did it all start anyway? Is this what it feels like when you are losing your mind? I finished my drink and told her to stop by for a visit when she closed for the night.

"Where did you get such a nasty scar?" She asked while running an index finger lightly over my right shin.

"I went to pull a door open in the midst of a hot battle with a woman I'd rather forget about. The only thing was, it was a sliding glass door." I said in a hoarse tone.

"Sometimes it's best to talk." Jess at her best.

"Look, Jess, it's better to let it rest."

"Okay, but I care about you and I'd like to help."

"Well, you could start by not prying into my past. Okay?"

"You were right, you do get nasty when you drink that stuff."

"Yeah, well you can leave anytime you want."

She did.

An Orderly stops and asks if I'll be having lunch today. I tell him roast duck, he shrugs and walks off confused.

The next day was Wednesday, the night the show would be cast. I still hadn't fully recovered from the night before. How could an incompetent like Sally Singleton blow me off like so much sawdust left on the workroom floor?

Expectations would run high this evening, some would have their hopes dashed, others will be surprised, self conscious, still others jubilant and aware of the many nights of self-sacrifice and work ahead of them. But that was not my problem. I wasn't part of the cast.

The weeks passed and I had heard that things were going well save a few outbreaks from Charles aimed at his Director, but that's to be expected. Brad had accepted the role of Stephen.

I was driving by the theatre on Friday, the Friday in june when the show opened. Instead of going by to see it, I went by and had a drink with my favorite barmaid. I was in the middle of my theory of how the loss of a woman manifests itself in oh so many ways, to a captive audience of three, who could care less as long as I was buying. "In my case." I was explaining through a gauze-like haze. "There was an added see she didn't leave me for another man, it was another woman."

Jessi turned, "Yeah, you might say that she's pluggin' up the dike." She laughed.

I turned on her. "What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" I screamed.

She stopped abruptly. "Look, Stewart, it was just a joke, no big deal, okay?" She said uneasily.

"So, all this bullshit I've been through for the past five years has been a joke huh?" I must have said half crazed, my audience of three and half the bar seemed to take a step back like a scene in an old Western when the gunfight is about to begin.

"No, I didn't say that Stewart........look why don't you call it a night and I'll put Jack Daniels here to bed."

She was getting on my nerves now. "I'll leave, when I'm ready, and you can leave good ol' Jack right where he fact, gimme' another." I spoke through spongy teeth, attempting not to slur.

I felt a large object on my right shoulder, I turned to see that it was attached to an incredibly large bouncer named 'Bubba'.

I knew, it was time for my exit. As I stumbled toward the door I could hear Jessi.

"Sally was right when she didn't cast you in that show, she was right when she said you were an incompetent asshole who's in love with himself." She was screaming through sobs as the door closed, turning her off.

Later that night as I lay on my bed I thought about the play and how much I wanted that part. Tears were making their way to the outer cusps of my eyes. It was then that I heard someone making their way through my apartment, they were getting closer, sure footed, they knew the place. I started to get up when she was upon me. Even in the dark I knew it was Jessi, she fell upon me with a familiar dexterity, she smelled good, she had been crying, I could taste a saltiness as I kissed her cheek. I began to speak and she put a hand over my mouth.

"It's my turn to make up this time." She whispered in my right ear.

"So, am I forgiven"? She asked with her head resting between my left shoulder and chest.

"For what"? I asked and I felt her smile.

As I drifted off to sleep I wondered where she heard those things that Sally said about me.

The next morning I awoke to the smell of coffee. I ambled into the kitchen only to find a half pot of coffee and a note scribbled on the back of an un-paid bill on the bar. "Dear Stewart, hate to eat and run but had a lot to do before I go into work this afternoon. Stop in and see me later. See Ya, Jessi. XXX OOO.

I poured, I drank, spraying coffee into the sink, I had forgotten how bad Jessi's coffee was.

I wasn't sure how to perceive the previous evening, how to put it into perspective. She intruded, she pushed herself on me. The audacity that she must possess to think that I need that part of my life somehow justified or validated in some way. Or maybe she had the need. I wasn't sure. The only thing I could think about was that ape playing my part. Someone had to pay. I could think of nothing else. It stayed with me all day while i perused the pawn shops in search of a weapon. I had read the reviews in all the papers, they all loved him, he was interviewed on T.V. Charles Barker, the new 'Golden Boy' of the theatre crowd. That was my need, the need to make someone pay for this crime, this atrocity.

"Mr. Mainstreet, what do you think of Mr. Barker's portrayal of Weseley"?

"Well, I'll tell you, Chuck, I think somebody's gonna have to die." Ha,Ha,Ha,Ha,Ha,Ha, (slow fade).

I was lying on the bed, staring at a water stain on the ceiling that looked curiously like Pete Rose. I decided not to drop by Spanky's.

I started down the slow slide into a soft gauzy haze of sleep when I saw him. He was peeking out from behind the blue satin drape he was a miniature person, almost puppet-like, he was curling a finger and saying, 'Come on Stew', 'Come on over here, Stew.' I resisted, he popped his head back out again grinning, his teeth were maggots crawling around like the ones you see scurrying around under an upturned piece of rotten bark on a trail in the woods. The more I protested and resisted the more he popped that damned ugly face out from behind the curtain, 'Come on Stew', it's free over here, behind the curtain, then his hair turned to snakes, his nose was a mass of open sores, puss dripping from it. He opened his mouth wide to laugh, no longer confining himself to the curtain, a green smoke spewed forth. It smelled of death. I was sitting up in my bed drenched in sweat, screaming, my heart hammering like it was determined to rip through my chest and out onto the floor. For a moment I'd wished it would. I looked around the familiar room, I was alright, physically anyway. I shook my head, trying to clear it. Finally I got myself together enough to get up. I quickly dressed and left. The digital clock on the bureau illuminated a green 1:30.

Jessi had tried several times during that night to reach me, the phone tang off the empty walls. She even stopped by when she got off work for what she thought would be return engagement. I know all of this because it was all brought out at my trial.

It was in all the papers, you must have seen the headlines:


etc., etc.

The thing that clinched it oddly enough was Jessi's testimony that I got crazy whenever I drank Jack Daniels, (they found an empty bottle near Sally's body.) She also told them that she tried to reach me all night to no avail. But, I know better, I know it had to be Charles, he could never take criticism. Just that night Sally had berated him in front of the entire cast for taking it upon himself to change a bit of his blocking. I couldn't have done it. I was nowhere near the theatre at the time of the murder.

The papers failed to report in any great detail the small story on page 37ish in the corner column about the two women who died in their house fire caused by a cat overturning a lit candle. The Coroner had released the names of the deceased as Betty Cally and Stephanie Mainstreet.

My lawyer, appointed for me from the Public Defenders office fought a valiant battle. He couldn't convince them that I didn't do it but with the help of a team of psychiatrists he was able to convince them that I should be put in a hospital and not electrocuted, which they still do here in the 'Sunshine State'.

Today was a bright, sunny day. Day has given way to night, an old black and white movie is silently playing on the T.V. I've been here for some time now, unable to move. I'm being very careful not to look around the room too much. I did earlier and I'm certain I saw something move behind the blue drape that's been pulled across the picture window.

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