The Impresario: Scene Eight

By the time they reached their building at 33rd and 8th, Sid and Zaftig were talking like old colleagues.

In the elevator on their way to the tenth floor, Rhonda pressed a handkerchief over her mouth and nose to lessen the intensity of the alien’s odor. It still made her eyes tear.

Sid walked into the office and stopped short. Wadley and four other suits ransacked the place.

“Freeze!” Wadley shouted. “You are all under arrest.”

“Treachery!” Zaftig roared. “I will destroy your world.”

“Not now, Zaftig.” Rhonda bit her lip. How was she supposed to get published if Immigration arrested and disappeared them all? This was a serious problem. She should run to save herself, but a real reporter would fight to save the story. So be it. She would have to save Zaftig and Ded.

A suit tried to handcuff one of Zaftig’s tentacles. Zaftig hurled the man towards the Eighth Avenue wall. The suit passed through the solid wall.

Rhonda had a desperate idea on how to save her tabloid dream. She used her oversized purse like a club and bashed the closest agent. “Zaftig! Follow me. Ded Lazar will help us.” She led the way to the portal.

Inside, Ded Lazar and his band played a variation on Duke Ellington’s ‘Take the A Train.’ Sid, Zaftig, Wadley and others spilled into the studio.

The music died down as the musicians noticed the brawl.

Rhonda ran up to the stage. “Turn on a Planet Buster. Use more power than the last time. Quick.”

“Check the shields,” Ded said. When the four-armed musician waved an arm, Ded aimed the remote and turned on a speaker.

“Sid get ready. Zaftig, cover your ears or whatever you hear with, but keep the Feds busy.” Rhonda turned to Ded. “Play a bass note,” She stuck her fingers in her ears.

Ded and his aliens put on industrial-sized ear muffs and Ded pressed a key on an instrument’s keyboard.

The room shook with a rhythmic pulsing. Rhonda’s legs quaked to the vibrations in the floor. Dizziness washed over her. She grabbed Ded’s arm to steady herself.

Wadley and his men moaned and tried to cover their ears, but Zaftig, with two tentacles wrapped around his head, kept tossing them around. Another note sounded and the agents collapsed to the floor and twitched in phase to the floor tremors.

Sid screamed.

Rhonda almost keeled over. Only Ded’s strong arms around her waist kept her upright.

After three more notes, the agents were unconscious and bleeding from their ears.

“That’s enough.” Rhonda kissed Ded on the cheek. She lingered in his arms, holding him tight.

“Now what?” Zaftig said, interrupting her idyll.

“Let’s drag them into the office,” she said. “Sid, it’s time for you to put on an act. Tell them they’re walking on dangerous ground. You know what I mean?”

Sid nodded, grabbed Wadley’s jacket collar and pulled him out of the studio. Zaftig collected the other four and did the same.

On her way out, Ded handed Rhonda her CD’s. She winked at him. “Sid and Zaftig have everything worked out.”

Zaftig dumped the agents and went back into the studio, leaving Sid and Rhonda alone with the Feds. She couldn’t wait to get started writing up the story. It would be so fantastic, it might even become a movie. She would be rich and famous.

Wadley groaned and sat up. He looked around and said, “Where is he?”

Sid ignored the question while the other agents come to.

“All right, Wadley. Listen up.” Sid spoke with his arms crossed and a stern look on his face. “You’ve blown our cover and our masters will not be happy about that.”

“Who are your masters?” Wadley assumed the wary look of an experienced bureaucrat sensing a controversy.

“You don’t have the security clearance to know. And frankly, you never will.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You have intruded into sensitive negotiations with powerful warlords from other worlds.” Sid changed his belligerent tone to a more friendly one. “I’m sure all of you are looking forward to collecting your pensions.” Sid stood up behind his desk and increased his height a bit by standing on his tiptoes. “If any of you,” Sid pointed to each in turn, “ever mentions what you saw and heard, you can all kiss your pensions good-bye.”

“You’re bluffing.” Wadley watched Sid through hooded eyes.

“Of course,” Sid smiled at Wadley, “you won’t need the pension because you’ll be pulling weeds at a secret government facility for the rest of your lives.”

The Feds all stared at Sid, open-mouthed.

After a pause, Wadley said, “And if we play ball?”

“My masters don’t have to know about you folks.”

Wadley nodded and stood up. He and his suits left.

Ded walked through the wall. “Zaftig and I worked out all the details. He wants me to relocate my studio to another galaxy. So this is good-bye. Thanks for your help.” He winked out of existence.

Rhonda’s cell phone rang a few minutes later. She listened and disconnected. “That was my father. No one will give him a penny for those anti-diamonds. All the gem dealers say they never saw the likes of them and they think they’re worthless.”

“So we get screwed again.” Sid slapped his forehead with the palm of his hand.

Rhonda sat down at her desk and took out her camera. She activated it to scan the pictures. A few seconds later, her caterwauling shook the office. “All the pictures are gone.” She threw the camera at a trash basket.

“It must have been the speakers,” Sid said. “Your camera wasn’t shielded.”

“All my hopes and ambitions, gone. Without the pictures, all I have is a science fiction story. Who wants to write fiction?” She sighed and sat silent for a minute or two. She stood and shook her fist at the ceiling. “The next time somebody shows up, I’ll get the story and the proof.”

The End

In October, I’ll feature another sci-fi tale called Sponsored By . . .

The Impresario: Scene Seven

The next day at noon, a beautiful April day filled with sunshine and mild breezes, Sid and Rhonda lunched at Antonio’s, Sid’s favorite hot dog chef.

Antonio kept his cart on the corner of 33rd and 7th, adjacent to Madison Square Garden. Sid ordered four dogs with sauerkraut, mustard and onion sauce. While Sid paid, Rhonda took her two and walked over to lean against a wall. Sid liked the location because it was a prime girl-watching spot. Rhonda liked it because of all the hunky guys that strolled up and down 7th Avenue.

Rhonda had trouble concentrating on guy-watching. Sid was right when he claimed that Zaftig was a public menace. His threat to launch a neutrino grenade – whatever that was – could upstage her story about Ded and the alien. Wide-spread destruction in the center of Manhattan would make her story small-time news. Zaftig had to be stopped.

A nauseating stench, even worse than the hot dogs, wafted passed her nose. Zaftig? Before she could turn towards the smell, two old ladies screeched and fell to the sidewalk. The alien stood in all his rubbery non-splendor a few feet away, his eye-stalks spinning to take in all the sights of the busy intersection.

Antonio fashioned a makeshift cross out of two hot dogs and held it in front of him.

“Really Zaftig,” Rhonda said, “you have to work at making a better entrance.”

Zaftig spun his eye stalks towards her. “How?”

“I think a neon-green bow tie would soften the impact of your slime.”

“What is this foolishness?” He turned to Sid. “I have news that concerns you.”

“Yes?” Sid said before consuming the last of a hot dog.

“I am no longer interested in Ded Lazar.”

Uh-oh, Rhonda thought. What was he up to now? She didn’t think the answer would bode well for her story.

“What’s that mean?” Sid asked.

Zaftig’s beak curved upward in what could only be a smile. It sent pedestrians fleeing. “I now have an exclusive contract with Moma Fandango. She’s a big entertainer in the galaxies near the center of the universe and the second most popular star around.”

“You’re settling for number two?” Rhonda tilted her head. “I thought you would work harder to get Ded. You’re fickle. How disappointin’.”

“I know Ded Lazar is here somewhere and somewhen.” Zaftig’s body rumbled in laughter, like a cement truck stuck in the wrong gear. “Ded Lazar will be killed when I destroy this planet, then Moma will become number one.”

Sid gagged on his hot dog. With tears running down his cheeks, Sid said, “You gave up too soon. Ded Lazar has authorized me to negotiate with you.”

“I don’t negotiate. I issue demands.”

In her mind, Rhonda saw a tabloid front page with her byline on the lead story burst into flames. She had to do something to get her dreams back on track. “Zaftig, you aren’t half as good a businessman as you pretend to be. I’m disappointed in you. You call yourself Zaftig The Magnificent. Obviously, that’s an exaggeration.”

“How dare you!” Zaftig stared at Rhonda.

“If you have Moma under contract, think how that’ll play to your advantage once you sign up Ded Lazar. You can package the two of them in one show. It’ll be boffo hit everywhere.”

Zaftig’s tentacles writhed in contorted motion. Three of them tied themselves into a knot that would make any boy scout proud.

“And why do I have to do the thinkin’ for you? What am I gettin’ out of it?”

“I don’t destroy your world?”

“Not good enough. I want a picture of Ded Lazar and you holdin’ the signed contract.”

“Let’s go to my office and work out the details,” Sid said.

Rhonda shuddered at the implication of Zaftig walking down 33rd Street to their office. She hoped a TV camera crew didn’t pop out of Madison Square Garden. They would preempt any chance to sell her story.

To be concluded

 

The Impresario: Scene Six

Back in the office, Wadley quaked in terror, but seemed to be relieved to be away from Zaftig. He tried to speak and made several attempts before stammering, “ Wh . . .who was that?”

“You are dealing with matters you don’t understand, Inspector.” Rhonda wanted to convince the guy to leave off his investigation before he blew her tabloid exclusive. “It’s best to leave it to us experts.”

Wadley thought about Rhonda’s warning, then gave her the briefest nod of his head just as Ded Lazar walked through the Eighth Avenue wall. Wadley squawked in amazement and fled the office.

“C’mon.” Ded Lazar beckoned with his hand. “It’s finished. I’ll give you a tour.”

Rhonda picked up the CD wallet and handed it to him. Ded flashed her a smile that made her knees grow weak. He took her arm and walked her through the wall. She gawked at the size of the room. It extended half-way to Seventh Avenue and stretched from 33rd to 34th Streets. At the far end, a stage was loaded with strange instruments and three exotic alien musicians. She snapped a few pictures. She couldn’t miss with these pictures. The tabloids would throw offers at her. She also snapped one of Ded smiling at her. That one was for her own use. Blown up on her bedroom wall.

Four black and brown objects occupied the entire 33rd Street side of the room. Trapezoidal in shape, they had three layers of different-sized circular metal devices crammed inside. Rhonda pointed to one of them. “What are they?”

“Planet Busters. I just got them. Each one has a dozen speakers and pumps out six hundred gigawatts of power.”

“What are they for?” Sid asked.

“At concerts, we suspend them a mile in the air and five miles from the stage. One on each side and two behind the stage.”

“Ohmygawd!” Rhonda took a picture of one. “Why in the air?”

“If they’re on the ground, the base frequencies will cause earthquakes and landslides. You ought to hear the twangers on these things.”

“Oh, please. Can I hear it?”

“Wait.” Ded waved to the band. “Are the shields turned on?”

A bearded figure with four arms hit a few switches.

“Got to have shielding on the instruments because the quantum frequencies generated by the speakers will bust up electronics that aren’t hardened.” Ded pointed a small device at the closest speaker. A muted hum filled the room and the floor vibrated. Rhonda felt a pulsation in her teeth. At Ded’s signal, a musician played a note. Rhonda grimaced at the stab of pain behind her eyeballs. It lessened when she covered her ears. The music stopped.

“These speakers are banned on a lot of worlds.” Ded smiled. “Too zwarky, aren’t they?”

Sid cleared his throat. Ded looked at him. “About our fees. I don’t think I can stand another meeting with Zaftig unless I have some monetary compensation to calm my nerves. The creature is about to do something nasty.”

“Let’s see. If I give you cash, you won’t be able to spend it for a thousand years or so.” Ded took a small bag from his pouch and handed to Sid. “This should do the trick.”

Sid opened the bag’s drawstring and poured a half-dozen gem-like stones into his palm. “What are these?” The stones were grayish-silver in color.

“Anti-diamonds. Very rare. They’re made from anti-carbon.”

Rhonda hiccuped and went into a spasm of coughing. Ded pounded her back until she stopped. She smirked at him. “Do anti-diamonds scratch anti-glass?”

Ded looked puzzled but then spoke to Sid. “Perhaps you can negotiate with Zaftig.”

Rhonda snickered. “Does one wear anti-diamonds to anti-social events?”

“Why the change?” Sid asked. “What are the terms?”

“I found out he can get me gigs in a whole bunch of universes that haven’t heard of me. Agree to anything that doesn’t amount to slavery.”

Rhonda poked Sid in the ribs with her elbow.

“What?”

“Are anti-diamonds a girl’s worst friend?”

“I have to get back to work,” Ded said. “I want to transcribe the music from these CD’s, then I’ll return them.”

Back in the office, Sid muttered, “How am I supposed to convert these rocks to cash?”

“My father can do it,” Rhonda said. “He charges forty percent.”

“Forty percent! That’s robbery.”

“Of course it’s robbery. My father is part of the criminal class, you know. You can’t sell this stuff yourself without gettin’ in trouble. Any legitimate gem dealer will wanna know where they came from and how you got them. My dad won’t have those problems. You have to pay for those kind of services. You’re family, so he’ll charge you thirty percent.”

“You can negotiate for your father?”

“Sure. He taught me how to do it. Along with a lot of other stuff.”

Sid held up his hands. “I don’t want to know about the other stuff.”

To be continued.

The Impresario: Scene Five

 

They materialized in a room dominated by Zaftig’s bulk.

Wadley cried piteously when he saw the alien towering over them. Zaftig looked even more belligerent than when he was Sid’s office. Rhonda watched the alien through hooded eyes. Transporting them to his ship meant Zaftig intended skullduggery. She fished around in her pocketbook and put the translator ring on her right hand. Next, she found the brass knuckles her father had given her for her twentieth birthday. She slipped it on the fingers on her left hand and took the switchblade knife in her right.

“So!” Zaftig rubbed several tentacles together and said in a villainous voice, “We meet again. This time you will tell me what I want to know.”

“Pleeze!” Rhonda said. “Spare us your imitation of the bad guys from the old black-and-white detective movies.”

Wadley tried to scratch his way through the ship’s outer bulkhead.

“It’s a violation of our laws to transport people without their permission.” Sid wagged a finger at Zaftig. “I recommend that you return us immediately before you compound your troubles.”

“Unless you tell me where Ded Lazar is, I will dismember this puny human.” Zaftig stared at Wadley. “I’ll start with the extremities on his feet and you will listen to his miserable wailing until you reveal what I want to know.”

Wadley didn’t have a translator ring but he understood the look Zaftig gave him. “Save me,” he pleaded. “I’ll drop the investigation. I swear.”

“I warn you Zaftig,” Sid said. “Don’t touch the man.”

Zaftig wrapped a tentacle around Wadley’s leg and looked at Sid. “What will you do, little man?”

“I’ll turn you over to my assistant to do what she will.”

Zaftig’s eyeballs rotated to Rhonda. She smiled at him and tapped her brass knuckles against the metal bulkhead. She winked as the switchblade hissed open.

“So.” Zaftig hesitated for a few moments. “You insignificant humans have one thing in common with my vastly superior race. Much to my surprise.”

“And that is?” Sid asked.

“In both races, the females are assassins. Only an idiot would antagonize one of them.” He pointed to the transporter platform. “Go. But this isn’t over yet. No human will ever best me. If Ded Lazar doesn’t quickly agree to my terms, I’ll use your office as the target for a neutrino grenade.”

 

To be continued

The Impresario: Scene Four

Rhonda arrived at the office an hour-and-a-half late to compensate for her earlier than usual arrival the previous day. She plopped a CD wallet on her desk. It was filled with a dozen of her father’s CD’s.

Sid looked like he also had spent a sleepless night, probably worrying about Zafitg.

Rhonda called her mother on her cell phone while she filed papers in a cabinet near Sid’s desk.

A man in a rumpled, ill-fitting suit walked in and sat down in a chair by Sid’s desk. He flashed a wallet with a badge. “Immigration. Inspector Wadley.”

Rhonda stopped listening to her mother’s gossip to concentrate on the officer. She had an inkling this could be about the pair of touring aliens. What if the government leaked the news to the media? It would damage the exclusiveness of her story.

“I have a report that you hired foreigners. I want to see their immigration papers.”

“I have no foreigners on my payroll.” Sid pointed at Rhonda. “My only employee is my niece here.”

“This is true,” Rhonda said.

“What is true?” her mother asked.

“I can’t accept your unsubstantiated word,” Wadley said. “I’ll have to audit your payroll.”

“What is this?” Sid spoke through clenched teeth. “You accept the word of an informer but not a business man?

“In a way, informers work for the government. You don’t.” He put a briefcase on Sid’s desk and pulled out a thick form. “In the meantime, you can begin your defense by filling out this form IA-39/DX explaining why you believe you are innocent.” Wadley grinned at Sid. “Or perhaps we should say, not guilty?”

“Do you have witnesses or some evidence for these charges,” Rhonda said.

“What charges?” Her mother’s voice had a hint of panic in it.

“Really? Do you think I’d waste my time if you weren’t guilty. Witnesses saw two very strange people leave your office yesterday and I want to see their documents, whether they work for you or not.”

A buzzing noise interrupted the meeting and the room developed a smell of ozone. Wadley ignored the sound and smell until his feet dissolved. Then he took alarm.

“Ohmygwad!” Rhonda shrieked as she dashed to her desk to grab her purse. A girl can’t go traveling without her make up and other essentials.

“What’s happening? Tell me. I’m your mother.”

“Gotta go, Ma.” Rhonda disconnected the phone before her hand disappeared. She knew a transporter beam when she saw one.

To be continued

The Impresario: Scene Three

 

Rhonda spent a sleepless night as she tested various ideas on how to frame the story.

With so many aliens, there were a number of ways to start the piece. She needed an opening that would catch everyone’s eye. Should she lead with Zaftig, the vile impresario, or Ded Lazar the handsome and selfless entertainer? And then there were the three parasites trying to cash in on Ded Lazar’s popularity. How did they fit into the story? She had camera shots of all of them so they had to have a role, if only to justify selling their pictures to the tabloid.

As long as she could remember, her mother never went out shopping without bringing back a tabloid sheet. Rhonda started reading them when she was in the second grade and was mesmerized by the dirt they uncovered about Hollywood and television stars. And the stories on alien abductions! And actual monsters living in New Jersey! For the rest of her grammar school stay, she daydreamed about writing a story and seeing it in print. After graduation, when she was a sophisticated high school freshmen, she put the dream aside, but recently it had resurfaced. Her mother would be so proud if she got a story published.

Sid, naturally, had other concerns, but he was fifteen years older then she, and the elderly always thought differently than the young. Sid believed that Zaftig was evil and a danger to the world. Who knew, Sid argued, what weaponry he had access to. Certainly, Zaftig didn’t respect the values of others. His only concern was about his own success.

Sid also worried that they shouldn’t have allowed the two aliens to roam around Manhattan. Maybe Sid was right on that point. Rhonda did hear hysterical screams from the elevator area right after the two aliens left the office.

Finally, in an attempt to get her mind organized, she wrote down a list of priorities in her notebook. First, protect Ded Lazar from Zaftig. Second, defuse Zaftig’s hostility. Third, get submission guidelines for all the tabloids.

 

To be continued

The Impresario: Scene Two

The impresario showed up ten minutes after Ded left and Rhonda’s euphoria disappeared like the light from a burned-out electric bulb. Seven-foot tall and at least four hundred pounds of rubber-like material covered with hideous green-gray slime, it had two eye stalks and a cruel-looking beak on a bulbous structure that sat atop a many-tentacled body. Its stench, like spoiled meat, overwhelmed the office air-conditioner. Rhonda ignored the unpleasantness while she surreptitiously maneuvered her camera until the LCD screen showed the alien and took a picture.

The creature examined the room with eyes that rotated on its six-inch stalks. The eyes paused on Rhonda sitting at her desk. Rhonda didn’t like the palpable antagonism that oozed from the creature. Anticipating trouble, she reached into her purse and took out a folding stiletto knife, a present from a nice old man in Sicily who had hired her father to whack a troublesome politician. Her father, a free-lance hit man, had taught her many of the skills necessary to prosper in the world of business. One of them was the ability to act nonchalant in the face of possible danger.

The alien’s eyes turned to Sid. “Tell me what I need to know and I will not bite off the top of your skull, suck out your brains and spit them on the floor.”

Sid smiled and replied, “Your generosity overwhelms me.” He removed his glasses and polished them with his handkerchief.

Rhonda admired her uncle’s ability to play-act while under pressure. Or even terror. Both of them had learned that a hostile alien had to be met with menacing strength and that was the only way they’d ever build a relationship with this pile of rubber.

“In appreciation of your generosity,” Sid continued, “I will instruct my assistant not to slice off a tentacle, warp it around your neck – where ever it is – and strangle you to death.”

The creature’s eye stalks gyrated to Rhonda who grinned while she cleaned a fingernail with the knife. She detected a momentary hesitation on the part of the alien. So, it wasn’t as tough as it appeared. “You have a name?”

“Zaftig the Magnificent.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Rhonda said. “You look like a candidate for life-improvement services. Would you like to see a brochure?”

“This conversation is inane. Where is Ded Lazar?”

“Who?” Sid looked baffled.

“Do not trifle with me. I followed his time-trace to this when-site.”

“Are you sure you didn’t make a wrong turn and end up in this universe by mistake?” Rhonda continued to fiddle with the lethal-looking knife.

“I made no mistake. Where is he?”

“This um, Ded something,” Sid said, “what does he look like?”

“Irrelevant question. All you loathsome humans have a disgusting sameness.”

“Not to us. Please describe this person.” Sid raised an eyebrow.

Zaftig smashed a tentacle on the floor, splattering slime in all directions. The slime spots smoldered.

“Listen,” Rhonda said. “I sense you had an unhappy squidhood. We can help you overcome these troubling memories.”

“Where is Ded Lazar? You two have only pico-seconds of life left to answer me.”

“What’s with the demands and the threats?” Sid banged his fist on his desk. “You barge into our office, don’t even ask about the consultation fees and insist we give out free information. You and I are both businessmen. How about we approach this as a business deal?”

“Listen to me. I control the most popular entertainers in seventeen universes. I have started an operation in this benighted galaxy and Ded Lazar is the most popular entertainer here. I have to add him to my collection. Where is he?”

“Who?” Sid stalled.

“Hey, Mister Zaftig.” Rhonda wagged the knife blade in his direction. “You said you were new here, so you have no idea of the human condition. We don’t like to be ‘collected’.”

“I have no concern about what humans like or don’t like.”

“See. This is the kind of behavior I was talkin’ about.” Rhonda rolled her eyes. “You need a lot of work, Mister Zaftig the Magnificent.”

Zaftig glared at her.

“I think a diet modification could change your slime to a more neutral color. An earth tone, maybe.”

“Bah. I waste my valuable time here.” Zaftig bunched up the end of a tentacle and waved it under Rhonda’s nose. The stench was almost unbearable. She slashed her knife at the tentacle. Zaftig barely pulled it back in time. He gave her an angry look. “I have other business to attend to. When we meet again, you better give me the information I seek. Or else!”

Zaftig disappeared, leaving behind a dozen scorch marks on the rugs, the furniture and the walls.

The rest of the day was a bonanza for Rhonda. Three more aliens showed up, following Ded’s time traces. One, a toothy fish in a tank of grayish water, claimed to be a song writer. Another resembled a mechanical troll and wanted an audition with Ded Lazar. Finally, a yellow-furred creature with a face like a fox, tried to sell her and Sid a sound mixer. These last two decided to play tourist for a while.

Rhonda took pictures of all three and filled several pages of her notebook.

To be continued

Romeo & Juliet: Scene Ten

© 2010 Hank Quense

Outside the Capulet family tomb, Romeo steeled himself for the sight of a dead Juliet. The workers hadn’t sealed the tomb yet, so he and MacBath had no trouble entering the dark crypt. Dozens of dead Capulets lined the walls. Romeo wrinkled his nose at the stench of mold and decay. Juliet lay in the center on a stone catafalque wearing a white gown. Her hands were crossed on her bosom.

“There you are!” Romeo almost jumped out of his boots at the sound of Dreadmona’s booming voice. “Juliet is dead, and it’s all yer fault. “ The yuk stood in the entrance and shook her fist at him. “Come outta there.”

Dreadmona’s command puzzled Romeo. Why didn’t she come in and grab him? He looked around the tomb, hoping to spot an exit. Coffins and stone statuettes filled every nook. If the yuk came in here, he would have to elude her long enough to bash her head with a few of the statues. He looked at Dreadmona. “I’m busy. You’ll have to come in.”

“Yuks are afraid of tombs, laddie. It’s about the only thing that scares them.” MacBath looked at Dreadmona. “But, you have a big problem when you leave. That is one very angry yuk.”

“Dreadmona,” Romeo said. “I came here to bring Juliet back to life.”

“Yer a magician?”

“Not me. I hired this wizard to do it. Watch.”

Confusion and indecision painted Dreadmona’s face.

MacBath moved to the catafalque and scattered a powder on Juliet. The dwarf chanted softly then sprinkled a second powder on her.

Her hand twitched.

Romeo smiled.

Seconds later, Juliet’s eyes popped open and she glared at MacBath. “Who let you in?”

Romeo moved to the edge of the catafalque. “It’s all right, darling.”

“Oh Romeo! I guess the poison didn’t work.”

“The poison worked. You died. I had this wizard reanimate you so we’ll be together again.”
“How romantic you are,” she cooed as she sat up. “Hey! Who took my toe rings?”

“Jewelette!” Dreadmona bellowed. “Ya selfish brat! Ya killed yourself widout thinkin’ about anyone else. Like me. Yer nasty brothers kicked me outta the house. Widout my back pay. ”

“Can you move?” Romeo asked. “We’ll go to your brothers and force them to give back your inheritance, because if we’re rich enough, no one will care that you’re undead.”

“And my toe rings. Can this old dwarf marry us?’

Romeo looked at MacBath. “Aye. I’m licensed for that.”

She grinned and waved a hand at MacBath. “Make it quick. We have things to do.”

“I pronounce you husband and wife.” MacBath made a mystical sign over their heads. “That’s as quick as it can be done.”
Juliet looked at the tomb entrance. “Dreadmona, I’m sorry about your troubles. I’m married now so I don’t need a chaperone, but I’ll need a maid if I’m to be respectable. The position is yours if you want it.”

“For how long? ‘Til ya throw me out like yer brothers?”

“Oh, no. For as long as you want it.”

Romeo didn’t think this was such a great idea but held his tongue.

“All right.” Dreadmona folder her arms across her chest. She had a devious smile on her face.

“Hey!” A frown flicked across Juliet’s face. “Can we still do . . . you-know-what?”

“Once we get your money, we’ll rent a room.” Romeo winked at her. He felt a
breathtaking sensation in his loins. At last! No more chastity belts. “Then, we’ll find out about . . . you-know-what.”

Juliet clapped her hands and giggled.

“Ain’t no one gonna do ya-know-what wid my mistress.” Dreadmona cackled.

Romeo stared open mouthed at Juliet.

“But . . . Dredmona, what if we want to do . . . you-know-what? Juliet gave Dreadmona a pleading look.

“Don’t care. Ain’t gonna be any ya-know-what while I’m around.”

Romeo felt an icy hand grip his guts. All his dreams and hopes were about to be crushed by Dreadmona. “You’re doing this to Juliet because you can’t get revenge on her brothers.” Romeo pointed a finger at the yuk. “Aren’t you?”

“Don’t know what yer talkin’ about” Dreadmona smiled. “And I’m gonna sleep at the foot of the bed to make sure it don’t happen.” Dreadmona folded her arms.

Juliet and Romeo stared at the troll, open-mouthed.

Dreadmona grinned at the happy couple.

MacBath snickered and shook his head.

Juliet and Romeo stared at the troll, openmouthed.

Romeo had an idea, one that would save the situation and taunt Juliet’s brothers. “Juliet, do you have any aunts or uncles or cousins?”

“No. The Capulet name is doomed to die out with my brothers.”

Romeo’s stomach clenched with anxiety; so much depended on a fickle yuk. “Dreadmona, do you want to get even with Juliet’s brothers? They’re the ones who fired you and cheated you out of your wages.”

“Yeah. Dem’s on me list of things to do. Me get even someday.”

“Well, the worse thing that can happen to them is for Juliet and I to have a child. Just imagine how mad they’ll be. Everyone in town will hear them howling.”

Dreadmona picked at a clump of hair on her arm. After a minute or so, she gave a gruesome grin. “Dat good. Me can’t wait to see dere faces. Me gotta be de one to tell ’em, all right?”

“Fine, you can tell them.” Romeo nodded his agreement. “But before we can have a baby, you’ll have to stay outside our room.”

“Uh-oh.” She made hideous faces while she struggled with the problem.

After what seemed to be an eternity to Romeo, she sighed and said. “Dis a big problem, but me think gettin’ even wid de brothers is bedda than getttin’ even wid Juliet. Me sleep inna next room.”

A wave of euphoria swept over Romeo. His child stood to inherit the emerald mine!

Juliet jumped off the catafalque and threw herself into Romeo’s arms. “My hero. I knew you were short, hairy and strong. Who knew you were also smart?”

 

The end

Romeo & Juliet: Scene Nine

© 2010 Hank Quense

After a sleepless night, Romeo wandered the streets of Verbona in a brain-dead fog of desperation. His beloved was imprisoned and he couldn’t rescue her until he discovered her whereabouts. For all he knew, her brothers might have advanced her wedding. She might already be a reluctant bride.

He felt a hand on his arm. It belonged to an elderly elf crone who looked familiar.

“Remember me?” the crone said. “I’m Juliet’s servant.”

“Where is she?” Romeo’s heart surged with joy. The servant could lead him to his beloved.

“She feared her brothers would kill you last night.” Tears formed in the crone’s eyes. “But when I saw the condition of those three, I knew you weren’t dead, and I came looking for you.”

“Where is she?”

“She said she couldn’t live without you.”

“Where is she?” He stamped his foot.

“She took poison last night, rather than marry Count Paris this morning.”

“Dead?” Romeo slumped against a wall.
“Her brothers were most irate at her actions.” The crone sighed. “They’ve already placed her in the family crypt. Without even holding a proper funeral ceremony. They even removed her toe rings.”

Romeo slid to the ground and held his head. All his dreams were dust.

“Listen to me,” the crone said. “Dreadmona holds you responsible for Juliet’s death and she wants revenge. She plans to hang you upside down over a fire.”

If Dreadmona killed him, maybe he’d find Juliet. He wanted to be with her, no matter her condition or state. She made any situation bearable. If he killed himself in the mines, it would be a lot quicker than getting caught by the troll. He made a face. There must be a better way. One that didn’t involve getting killed.

It took a while, but finally he came up with a plan. He returned home to grab the bag of coins he had saved. Romeo ran to the district populated by immigrants. After an hour of searching the side streets and alleys, he found the shop he sought.

When he entered, an elderly dwarf eyed him suspiciously.

“Are you the wizard, MacBath?” Romeo asked the kilt-wearing dwarf. A strange plant bent long tendrils towards him. The vine sniffed his body and he could hear tiny teeth clicking behind the blood-red petals of a flower bud.

“Leave the customer alone!” The wizard whacked the plant with a wand and turned to Romeo. “You’re wanting something?”

“Aye. I need something precious. Something that you can provide.”

“Precious somethings cost a lot of money.” MacBath combed his flowing white beard with the fingers of his left hand.

“I’m prepared to pay.”

“And what is it you want so badly?”
“I want you to animate my dead beloved.”
“You’re wanting me to break the law? Making an undead is illegal.”
“I know. That’s why you charge so much.”

“This is true.” MacBath nodded. “I charge a hundred silver pennies.”

“Agreed.”

“Laddie, are you sure you want this lady brought back?”

“I’m sure.”

“Let me get some things and we’ll bring back your lover.”

 

To be concluded

Romeo & Juliet: Scenes Seven and Eight

© 2010 Hank Quense

Romeo suffered through the longest day of his life. He could hardly wait until it was time to return to the garden. When Juliet didn’t show up for the ballet class, he worried she might be sick. Eventually, he convinced himself that she had much to do in preparation for their meeting.

“Romeo!” the dance master yelled. “Pay attention!”

He colored under his beard. The dancing master had never before reproached him. He tried to clear thoughts of Juliet from his mind but didn’t succeed. Finally, he excused himself from the class and went to visit his cousin the locksmith.

Later on at work, he fingered the ring of keys in between wall smashes. He pictured himself unlocking Juliet’s treasures and many times his iron cup became painfully tight. Images of happiness with Juliet alternated with scenes of deadly combat with her brothers. The mood swings left him emotionally drained. After his last charge, he cleaned up, removed his cup and set out for the Capulet’s garden.

~ ~ ~

The key ring jangled when he dropped over the wall. Romeo, giddy with anticipation, stood still and listened to see if anyone had heard the noise. After a moment or two, he advanced further, avoiding the thorn bushes. In the center of the garden, he paused and looked around. “Hsst?”

“L . . . Looking for someone?” The voice came from the shadows.

The hair rose on the back of Romeo’s neck when he heard two more voices chuckling. Juliet’s brothers dropped from tree limbs, carrying naked rapiers and came at him from three sides. Romeo’s hand reached for his ax. A knot constricted his throat. Since he planned an evening of love, he had left the weapon at home. All he had was the pair of metal snips in case the keys didn’t work.

“J . . . Juliet has been sent away,” Foberon said.

“Too bad you won’t live long enough to miss her,” Banquette added.

Puque, on his left, lunged and nicked his tunic.

Romeo jumped backwards and took out the metal snips. When Puque lunged a second time, Romeo caught the blade in the jaws of the snips and squeezed. The rapier snapped in two. Puque gawked at his two-inch-long rapier while Romeo lowered his head, roared a curse and charged. He slammed into Puque between the knees and hips. He pushed forward with the elf on his back. He heard a bone crack when he ran into a wall. Puque groaned and fell to the ground.

Romeo turned to confront the other two. His attack had changed the alignment of the brothers and Foberon now stood behind Banquette who limped forward.

Using a stone bench as a launching point, Romeo executed a ballonné with a grand buttement. In the midst of the leap with his right leg fully extended, his foot connected with Banquette’s chest and drove him back. The elf bounced off a tree and stumbled forward. Romeo landed on his feet. He grabbed Banquette and hoisted the elf over his head into the stulchak position. He pirouetted twice then hurled the screeching Banquette at Foberon who jumped out of the way, exposing his unguarded left side. Romeo, head lowered again, charged into the elf. He drove Foberon into a tree trunk. Foberon’s body went slack and slid down the tree trunk to a sitting position.

Romeo took a few deep breaths to compose himself. How was he to find Juliet? Her brothers would die rather than tell him where she was.

He clambered over the wall and walked back to his rooms. He shuddered. Where earlier, he had been filled with hot-blooded anticipation, now he suffered from cold fear for both Juliet and himself.

To be continued