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Morning in the Sun

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“That’s it, Frank. We’re all loaded in.”

Gordon McCalister, stage manager for the 53rd Street theater, grinned up at the much taller Frank Maurrant. “Looks like this one’s nice and easy. Ain’t never seen a show with so few sets – hope the audience feels like they’re gettin’ their money’s worth.”

Frank nodded, his mind elsewhere. That morning’s argument with his wife and daughter had left him distracted, unsettled, and in need of a stiff drink. He hated fighting them, particularly in public. The neighbors already had enough to talk about, what with his daughter staying out till all hours and his wife…

The thought of Anna caused a surge of anger that jolted him out of his daze. Gordon was still standing in front of him, his brow furrowed in concern. “Hey Frank, you feelin’ alright? Only it seems like these past couple of weeks you’ve come close to brainin’ the leading lady in the head three times with that drop, the one that comes in in the last scene.” He smirked knowingly. “I understand those were accidental, though I gotta say, I’ve been tempted to drop something on her once or twice too. But there are other things, Frank, just moments where you’re not all there. If you’ve got something on your mind, I suggest you unburden yourself over the next two days while the rest of us are in New Haven. You’re staying here.”

He held up a hand to halt Frank’s protests. “It isn’t up for debate, Frank. You’ve been working overtime as it is, and this show could run itself without any of us. Take the days, fix yourself up, and come in Monday ready to work. I need your best when we begin the new production next month.”

Every ounce of pride Frank had screamed at him to protest, to insist upon working, but he couldn’t muster the energy. Until that moment he hadn’t realized how tired he’d become. The idea of a few days at home was appealing. That is, if he could just keep his family in line. He sighed and glared down at the stage manager. “Fine, if that’s the way you want it. Can’t say I have a damn thing on my mind but this heat.”

A half hour later he was walking up the steps from the subway station and into the blinding daylight. The heat hit him like a wave, making him stumble back into the shade. He leaned against the wall of a building, closing his eyes for a moment. When he opened them he saw the flickering light of a neon sign that flashed red a half-block away. “Open”, it read, and beside it the blue outline of a martini glass blinked merrily. It was only eleven, but already he felt the need to numb himself, to rid himself of the nagging doubts about his wife, his daughter. Gossip drove him mad, and alcohol deadened his senses. He always felt that if he just drank enough it wouldn’t matter what people said about him or about his family. Everything would be like it used to be if he could just find peace somehow. Turning, he headed in the direction of the sign. One drink should be enough, he reasoned, to get the job done. After that he’d go home and talk to Anna. He had been too harsh that morning, he knew, and maybe Rose was right. Perhaps, if he placated her, she’d listen to reason and return to the way things used to be. He felt a terrible longing for the way things were when the children were little, way back when Rose was Willie’s age and wearing her hair in pigtails, instead of the curls and pins she messed with these days. Back then Anna had been content to tend to her duties as a wife and mother. Back then he’d thought wistfully of home during the long, hot days under the lights of the theater. Now it was a cool drink that caught his fancy, not his stifling apartment with his reckless children and withdrawn wife, and with the talk that encircled them all like a cloud. He reached the door of the bar and entered, walking purposefully up to the counter and laying a pair of coins on the counter. “Gimme a drink. Strongest you’ve got.”

It was one o’clock when he left the bar, his head a bit fuzzier than when he’d entered it. One drink had turned into three, and he would have stayed longer but the bartender kept giving him sidelong looks that he hadn’t cared for. It was no one’s business but his own if he was drinking in the morning. Still, he hated being judged. If things had been like they used to be he wouldn’t have set foot in a bar at all. A part of him regretted having left his work in the first place. He should have insisted on staying. No help for it now, though – he’d have to face Anna sometime. As he turned onto his own street he resolved to keep his cool. The last thing he needed was a shouting match in this heat. He heard a voice call his name and looked up to see Mrs. Jones leaning out her window. “Why, hello, Mr. Maurrant. I thought you was goin’ to New Haven.”

She had a gleeful smile on her face that he didn’t care for, and he felt his hackles rise. “I changed my…” His eye caught upon his own window and the words slipped away from him. The shade was closed, despite the heat, and the sight of it made all of his fear and anger come rushing back in a wave. He felt his body stride towards the stairs and dimly heard the Kaplan boy shouting at him, but he couldn’t stop. His mind was fixated on that window and the shadowy goings-on behind it. He was going to stop this once and for all; it was time for the truth to come out.