Sweet Juice

Unlike Percy who grew up in a small town west of Grey Grove, Ontario, Bash was a ‘lifer’. The midsized city was home to four major penitentiaries, so long-term residents were called lifers. His parents owned and operated Ashbarrow Drugs, an independent pharmacy in the downtown core, established during the first year of their marriage. They met while completing their Doctor of Pharmacy degrees at GGU (Grey Grove University) and were wed on the day of their mutual graduation. Both were avid theatre goers, so when the building next to the Guild Theatre (where their eldest son would one day become the LD) came up for sale, they combined their savings, issued a down payment, and opened their own business.

Being the eldest child meant Bash was the first to help out in the pharmacy. Initially, his responsibilities were confined to basic custodial tasks like sweeping the floor, however, his quick learning advanced him rapidly and within a year, he was performing the odd managerial duty. From the ages of fourteen to seventeen he remained in his parents’ employ, but the pull of the theatre next door proved irresistible after graduating high school. Becoming an apprentice within the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) was natural for someone who grew up accompanying his parents to plays, ballets, and operas, all of which inspired his dream of becoming a playwright.  

As a child from an upper-middle class family, he never wanted for anything. The newest toys were always under the Christmas tree. Birthdays were equally lavish affairs. But material things didn’t substitute for love. Bash got all the nurturing a boy could want, and probably would’ve become spoiled had it not been for weekend shifts at the drugstore, dragging on mercilessly while friends stayed footloose and fancy free, wringing drops of sweet juice from the fast-drying cloth of youth. Holding down a job at a young age set him apart from his peer group. This lent him a precocious gravitas, yet he wasn’t nearly as serious as Percy when her costume came off and Brittany appeared, squint-eyed, and a little confused.

Percy and Bash had nothing in common whereas Brittany and Bash were similar, but Brittany’s affections stayed hidden until such a time as he’d earned her trust. Eventually, she decided he could be trusted and that’s when Brittany and Percy became his Melpomene and Thalia, the two masks of theatre. From then on, they served as secret muses, inspiring him to write the play he’d always wanted to write.

The final touches to Brittany’s alter ego weren’t applied during the six months she spent at The Clown Academy in Toronto. In fact, they were never fully applied because she subscribed to Paul Valéry’s idea that art is never finished, merely abandoned. Indeed, she took the French poet’s aphorism to heart, staying in character for as long as possible, adding more and more nuance to her creation. The boards of the world were almost exclusively tread by Percy the Clown About Town while Brittany remained in the wings, a willing onlooker with a backstage pass. Brittany, the sober, sensitive one, wasn’t able, nor did she want to take stage time away from Percy, who happily endured life’s onslaught, provided the drugs were available and working.


9 thoughts on “Sweet Juice

    1. I hear you, Anony. With the exception of ‘binge worthy’ content on streaming platforms, attention spans are hard to come by. The glut of stuff competing for a person’s interest means writers need to come out of the gate on the back of a goddamned bull, juggling pin-pulled grenades and blowing rainbows out their assholes. And then there’s the even bigger problem of maintaining interest over hundreds of pages. There are gifted poets who try to go the distance and fail because their stories bog down in beautiful language. Death by chocolate, is what I call it. A well paced plot will always be the big driver of cover-to-cover readability. On a more philosophical note: The age of experimentation is over. The movement–within the arts, at least–is dead, and it died with post-modernism. Ulysses, Naked Lunch, even On the Road will never be as widely read by younger generations. Why? Well, it’s like you say: Our ever shrivelling attention spans won’t tolerate visionary indulgence. People nowadays just find that shit annoying. They don’t have time for it. But the one thing that’ll never fall out of favour is a well told story. Shakespeare must’ve known this, right? Or is Will’s staying power more the result of Western hegemony continuing to force him on school kids? Anyway, This 400 word snippet and a couple of the others I’ve recently shared here on TH have been of a ‘telling’ rather than a showing nature, and I know that too much of that is considered bad writing. However, I’m using a portion of the first 5k to build a wee bit of foundation, as you say, and will now be switching gears. Thanks for your input, as always.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks for not taking my comment as derision, as, I’d never intend it that way.
        Death by chocolate — yes. But perhaps, if there were chili spice, toffee crunch, peppermint, gooey cherry liquor…
        This transition to cause and effect vs posturing and scene setting, did media do this to us? Are we bred to this eventuality or conditioned? What analogies in life can we point to and say, “That’s human focus, in a nutshell. That’s representative of how we ended up this way.”?
        It appears as if my own writing verges on the Victorian. I asked ChatGPT to transcribe some of my writing and it barely nudged it. That era feels swollen with needless, scenic fill. Well written examples blather on and on at the start. When did we drift from that tendency?
        I just now went off and read the beginnings of a number of Steinbeck’s novels. In media res? Hardly. Of course, the narrative is evocative, effusive even. But I had to don my hip waders to get to the meat.
        What have we lost? Will only calamity drive us back to the paced consumption of grand introductions?

        Liked by 2 people

    2. I can no longer do the ethnic opus. The Italians, the Jews, the African-Americans, the back roads of Georgia or West Virginia, the Old South, New York, any of it. If it is long with a complex family, a thousand aunts and uncles and people doing bad things to each other, I can’t read it. About, sentimentality, well, as I’ve said before, to write sentimentally is a style of writing that was very hard earned. Shakespeare has given us our image of love and we have hung onto it for most of these years. But outside of that, it was really not until the mid-1800s that women and men could dare to stray from the class boundaries that ruled their lives. This was why Jane Austen was such a radical. Speaking sentimentally is something that is near to my heart and I don’t care what others think. There is no other way for me. Such is the grip of the authentic style even at the risk of others never reading the crap I write. We are counting down the days and it could all come to an end in the blink of an eye. I guess that is something that I am rising to during these last few days that I have. Thanks. Duke

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I don’t think Jane Austen was a particularly sentimental author – she was highly critical of false sentiments and actions and her main characters always considered themselves logical thinkers. I’ve always identified with them because I think of myself as very logical – ha! But it is cold and drippy here and the kitty has horrible gas and we have gone wildly off course (well me at least). Sorry Aaron.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. This is getting to be more of a tangled web – almost feels like the set up for a murder. Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde? The theater, the pharmacy — now all we need is the fog – or maybe some massive snow event.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, this reads like a novel. Imagine that. Just keep going. Give the reader a reason to turn the page. In the end, people read you because they want to know what you are thinking and how those thoughts gather on the page. They want to see how you bring people to life, the way they die, how the babies are born and how one lies down in the hole, against the wall. They want to see the way things change and people cry. They want to know how you think. Like I always say, style trumps content and the way you think is your style. So the trick is can you get it out from between your ears and onto the page in a funny, eloquent, surprising way? That’s the rub. Duke I sent this to Jan earlier. It is from Little Wings:

        Hill hidden nog and what else?
        No waiting for the light to change
        Beside the curtain and the shelf, I hope to never be the same (never be the same)
        Remounting moments like wave caps and ever changing surface sea
        Never mind all the fake crap, we’re hanging in the zone to be

        Hill hidden nog and what now? The day is gone before we know
        Those other days were so long, these new ones sure know how to go (know how to go)
        Lately of course, it seems gorgeous, that’s after all the horror show
        Accidents, quakes, divorces, the multicolored rainbow (multicolored rainbow)
        Swiss Super Block ascends and hanging on the wind of this same day
        Only to bend, ever to move, also sway, hill hidden nog and I know

        Liked by 1 person

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