Sunday, November 28, 2021

A Country Boy Can Survive (Hank Williams Jr.)

It was Monday night, the first official tailgate of the season. Friday would be the first official game of the season. The late summer air buzzed with insects as country music blared from the stereo. Down the hill, the marching rehearsed their half time show.

Enjoying the sights and sounds, my younger sister Skipper and I loaded our plates with ribs and other fixins from The John Wayne Diner-a western themed restaurant that always catered the booster events. Decked out in our black and orange-the school colors of the Whiskey Rebellion Blackhawks- we were in our glory as we were among the cheerleaders and football players. Wendell had begged our mom not to dress us up as he was a mere undersized sophomore and didn’t want to be picked on by the upperclassmen. All was forgiven when a busty blonde cheerleader named Tracee Yanowski said to Wendell, “Your sisters are adorable!” It was official, Skipper and I had arrived. We were on the A list with the rest of the heroes of the fall.

The event had one villain, the new coach, John Ezekiel Matthias. An import from West Virginia, he was already butting heads with the boosters and the season had not yet begun. A lot was riding on this tailgate. Everyone seemed to be ignoring the drama and having a good time. That is, until Coach Matthias decided to turn off the country music to make an announcement. We all breathed a sigh of relief because we couldn’t hear a song about a broken heart or a broken pickup one more time. Standing by coach were Douglass and Stephens, two former players of his that served as Matthias’s assistants. Both were gigantic boulders and Matthias stood in front of them, half their size, like a red neck mob boss.

Douglass was my reading teacher down the hill at the middle school. This in itself was ironic as Douglass had misspelled several words on the blackboard-public school education at it’s finest. Stephens was a tall, dark drink of water that all the ladies lusted after. I whispered to Skipper, “I get first dibs, I’m older.”

Skipper, three years younger and often light years smarter said, “With the advancements in cloning we could both have one.” We both high fived at this compromise as the cheerleaders silently swooned and the lonely, long married booster mothers snuck a peak.

Then Coach Matthias began to speak in his thick West Virginia accent, “I just want to say I am proud of these boys for all the work they have done this summer when they could have been going after fillies, sitting on their butts or playing those doggone video games. We are going to win this Friday. Now let’s get fired up!” Everyone clapped. This was nice.

Confused, Skipper said, “What’s a filly?”

I said, “I think it’s a female horse.” The look on Skipper’s face was priceless, but I had a copy of Black Beauty to back me up.

Coach Matthias continued, “I realize things have not been so good with the boosters. And I know I ain’t the most diplomatic of fellas, but I got a fundraising idea everyone can be excited about cause we need new equipment. It’s called Cow Pile Bingo.”

My dad, who was elected booster treasurer because of his taxation background raised his hand, “Coach, what is Cow Pile Bingo?” Everyone nodded, relieved my dad had asked because out of all the parents, he got along the best with Coach.

Coach Matthias said, “Wendelin, glad you asked. Cow Pile Bingo is when you get a cow in the middle of the field and bet on where it is going to poop. It’s a lot of fun and the winner gets a lotta money. Now let’s get fired up!” Coach Matthias raised his hand expecting applause but instead what he got was dead silence.

Rochelle Kelly, the beautiful red headed cheerleading captain and current senior class secretary said, “Eww Coach, that is animal cruelty!” The cheerleaders nodded in agreement.

Douglass said, “Now ladies, I know it sounds gross, but it’s how I learned my numbers growing up. It’s an effective teaching tool.” Last week, Douglass had told our class in addition to reading he was also certified to teach math. The visual as well as that other information made me worry for the future of the youth of America.

Mr. Latham, who’s son Kyle was on the starting line, was head of the math department in the district. A former football player himself, he tried to be diplomatic, “Coach, I admire the enthusiasm of you and your staff, but this is not how the kids learn math in this district.”

My mom raised her hand, “Coach Matthias, I think it’s great you want to raise money for the team and we know you care, but in our district we have a grounds staff that our tax dollars pay for that manicure the fields. We don’t even let dogs go on there because it destroys the green where the boys play. Cow poop produces trichinella.”

Douglass said, “Trica……waaa?!”

My brother Wendell, known as the brain of the team, raised his hand, “Coach Douglass, it’s a bacteria from animal poop…..”

Kyle, who acted as Wendell’s surrogate big brother/guardian angel on the team made the sign for Wendell to stop talking. Wendell shot a look of anger at our mom. It was official, she had ruined his tailgate after all and his nightmares about being on JV forever were about to be a reality.

While my mom and Mr. Latham tried to be supportive with the no sandwich, Mrs. Andrekis who’s son Tom was starting kicker, went in deep, “This is Whiskey Rebellion High School, not the film Deliverance.”

Mr. Andrekis, who was clearly whipped by his overbeating wife said, “Coach, c’mon, where would we get a cow anyway?”

Tom, wanting to keep his starting position said, “Mom! Dad! PLEEAASSSEE!!!”

Mrs. O’Shea, who’s son Ryan was the starting quarterback, rolled her eyes, “Coach, can we discuss this when we aren’t eating?”

Mr. O’Shea, who was an intolerable blowhard said, “Coach, Whiskey Rebellion is a blue ribbon school. Most kids here go to college, they don’t work in the mines like you did growing up.” Ryan, horrified and also wanting to keep his starting position, let out an audible groan.

Coach Stephens, with his million dollar good looks decided to help out, “I understand ya’ll are alarmed because this is out of ya’lls comfort zone. But this is an event that could help the less fortunate. When it’s over, we can kill the cow and donate the meat to the families that need it.”

Mr. Capalano, who was booster president, famous for his vanity plate CAPS and had a son Bobby who was second string center said, “Coach, the boosters and the coach always worked together. You have no interest in that. You have completely gone rogue.”

Bobby, ever the suck up who wanted to get off second string said, “I am all about cow bingo or whatever this is. It sounds great!” Then his cheerleader girlfriend Ashely Grant punched him in the arm and Bobby bowed his head in defeat.

Coach said, “I have no idea what rogue means but Cow Pile Bingo is a hit where I come from.”

Mrs. Andrekis said, “Where you come from is West Virginia where our church’s kids went on their last mission trip.”

Coach was now furious, “Y’all think I might be crazy, but when I came to this district ya’lls boys were about as prepared for action as Bambi’s mother was in the first ten minutes of that movie!”

Suddenly, all hell broke lose. Mrs. O’Shea, blitzed out of her mind, took her plate of ribs and threw it at Coach, “YOU ARE A DISGUSTING BARBARIAN! GET OUT OF OUR TOWN!” As the ribs hit him in the face, Matthias stood shocked. Cow Pile Bingo might have been a hit in Coach’s old district, but it was sure as hell a miss here.

For the next few days, everyone in all of the grade levels talked about what was known as Bambi-Gate. The story morphed so many times that in one version the coaches and parents even got into a food fight. Skipper and I, because we had been witnesses, became minor celebrities for the week because we saw the train wreck up close and in person. Later that week, as I was telling the umpteenth person that there was no coach/parent food fight, Coach Douglass asked to see me. I said, “Am I in trouble?”

Coach Douglass said, “No. I just am curious, where do you live?”

The question was weird, “Why, Coach Douglass?”

Coach Douglass said, “I always see Wendell walking home after practice and figured it had to be somewhere close.”

I said, “Up the hill on Foxtail Road three blocks from school. Ours is the one with the ivy and flowers.”

Coach Douglass changed the subject, “You know Coach Matthias didn’t like it when Bambi’s mother got shot. His daughter always cries at that part.”

I said, “Yeah. But I also get what he was trying to say. The team was pretty unprepared and we got eaten alive last year. Welcome to The Whiskey Rebellion School District where parents are drunk on themselves.” Coach Douglass laughed. Cow Pile Bingo had been a horrid idea, but we both agreed that seeing some of these booster parents who were hard to take lose their proverbial shit was entertaining.

That night, I rushed to complete my homework while helping my mom and Skipper cook the porkchops when the doorbell rang. Skipper, who was setting the table was too far away to get the door, and Wendell, who took double math that fall because he had tested up a year, had not one but two big tests. My mom said, “April, would you like to get that?”

I said, “Do I have a choice?” This was a running gag between my mom and me.

She said, “No.”

I said, “Dad is gonna be home in a few. We can just pretend we aren’t home?”

The doorbell rang again and now it was followed by an urgent knock, “April, if it’s a band kid tell them we will take two hoagies. If it’s a religious nut tell them you are Catholic. And if it’s a serial killer, scream.”

Making my way to the front door, I didn’t see a serial killer but saw the next worst thing, Coach Matthias. Standing there, despite the rain and the typical cold snap of early September, he was still in his gym shorts and t-shirt that said “Coach.” While I pitied the man for being in the inclement weather, I also didn’t want Bambi-Gate under my roof.

Grudgingly I opened the door and said, “Hi Coach….”

Coach stepped into our foyer, “Your daddy home?”

I said, “Not yet.” Then I called to Skipper and my mom, “Coach Matthias is here!”

My mom ran to greet coach with a smile like she wanted to kill him, my dad for volunteering to be booster treasurer and then herself, “Hi Coach, what can I do for you? Sorry the house isn’t a little cleaner.”

Coach said, “Don’t worry Grace, I grew up on a hog farm and live with a two and four year old. But I’m glad I found the place. Coach Douglass told me April said the one with the flowers and the ivy.” I turned bright red. Maybe he couldn’t spell but Coach Douglass had totally just punked me hillbilly James Bond style.

My mom shot me a look of death. I shrugged, running up the stairs and pulling Skipper with me who said, “I wondered how he knew where we lived.”

Wendell, who had circles under his eyes from studying, emerged from his room, “Girls, am I hallucinating or is Coach Matthias downstairs?”

I said, “He’s downstairs. Want to go and say hi?”

Wendell rolled his eyes and shook his head no, “Not really.” After Bambi-Gate, the team had been forced to do an ungodly amount of physical exercises as punishment for the unbecoming conduct of their parents.

Skipper said, “April told him where we lived.”

Wendell said, “You’re stupid. Big surprise. Because of Mom, I had to run extra laps and had a week that made the Hanoi Hilton look like a dream vacation. Now we have Bambi-Gate under our roof because of you!”

Angered, Wendell sneered inches away from my face. I said, “Hey jagoff, Coach Douglass saw you walking home. He asked if we lived close to the school because he always saw you walking. He’s my reading teacher. What was I supposed to do, huh?!”

Wendell sputtered, “Oh yeah…..you still brought Bambi-Gate under our roof.”

I said, “No, you did. He’s your coach. You’re the one who wanted to play.”

Wendell rolled his eyes, “No, Dad wanted me to play!” It was true, our father was living vicariously through Wendell, another reason he accepted the position as booster treasurer, “This is all his fault and I hate Mom, Dad and YOUUUU!!!!!!” He then walked in his room, threw his math book across the room and began to punch his pillow. So much for studying.

The garage opened. Dad. Skipper said, “Dad’s home. Now you both stop it before we all get in trouble.” Wendell and I sighed. She had a point.

From upstairs we listened. My Dad said to coach, “A beer?”

Coach said, “Nah, the wife would kill me and mine wears the pants when I’m home. Wendelin, I ain’t no Einstein like your boy Wendell, but I know we need to raise money and I know I need to work with y’all. I want to make this right. I moved my family up here for this job.”

My dad said, “I think you meant well, but cow poop and food and Bambi’s dead mother werent a good combo, especially for some of these folks.”

Coach said, “Clearly they ain’t hunters.”

My dad said, “Coach, I know it looks bad but you need to see the forest for the trees. You have a lot of strengths, like Coach Stephens. He’s single. Why not have an auction where women can buy a date night with Coach Stephens?”

Coach said, “I like that. He likes the fillies and the fillies like him.”

My dad said, “Would he be up for it?”

Coach said, “He will be. I’m still his coach.”

It was settled. That Friday night, the auction for a date with Coach Stephens was a success. Not only did it raise five thousand dollars, but it was one of the highest grossing events in booster history. Miss Renreski, a lonely science teacher who had just gone through a terrible divorce, was the winner. The two would have a tumultuous cuffing season romance and would break up the following spring when Mrs. Renreski left him for Mr. Topper, a tech ed teacher who had lost his left thumb in an industrial accident.

The team would win that Friday night as well as the rest of the season. Coach learned to work with the boosters which made him the ultimate hero of the fall. And no one spoke of Bambi-Gate or Cow Pile Bingo ever again.

For more on me go to AprilBrucker.TV,and to buy my books go to Amazon. xoxo

Monday, November 15, 2021

All Fired Up (Pat Benatar)

When fall comes in Western Pennsylvania, it means one thing, football season. In the rest of the country, football is a sport but in Steeler Nation it is a religion. The South Hills, my particular area, known as “The Quarterback Cradle,” produced some of the greatest stars the gridiron ever saw such as Joe Montana, just to name one of many. Behind ever great player is a great coach, and often that coach comes with a great big personality. Case in point, our very own John Ezekiel Matthias.

For years, I saw Matthias’s antics up close and in person as my brother Wendell played for him throughout high school. My mom cursed Matthias as Wendell slaved, training his body to get faster and stronger only to be continually banished to the hell of JV on Saturday mornings and then promoted to the purgatory of Varsity special teams his junior year. As revenge, my mom put Matthias’s picture in her ice cube tray in an attempt to freeze his soul to make him a more compassionate human being. Things changed Wendell’s senior year when he was finally awarded a much deserved starting spot on the defensive line. Happy he finally had the chance to prove himself under the spotlight, Wendell became one of Matthias’s best players that season, shattering strength, speed and tackling records.

Wendell shined in the classroom, too. His top notch academics and athletic prowess earned him a spot at Brown University as a chemistry major, but also on their Brown Bears football squad. The local paper did a story on the future Ivy League athlete. Coach Matthias was quoted as saying, “The kid is an example of a role model that never gives up. Always worked hard in that weight room. He was real smart but I thought he wouldn’t amount to much a player. I’m just as surprised as you are that this is happening.” My mother was thrilled. NOT!

You see, our district got Matthias by accident. Before Matthias, Coach Stoltz had been our town’s long time head coach and long time embarrassment. Stoltz, who’s signatures were his beer belly and his clipboard, gave an interview to a local news outlet where he said several questionable things about Jewish people. After getting a letter from the Anti-Defamation League, the district was forced to publish a public apology in not only that news outlet but every one in the area. In addition to being a bigot, Stoltz was an asshole who bullied players, favored the kids of booster officers going as far as to take bribes from said parents so their kids could start, dating several mothers of players at a time and bragging when these women got into fights over him. While this was all terrible, the racism, sexism, anti-semitism and xenophobia was not what did him in with the administration, but the fact we were one of the lowest ranked teams in the conference. After a no win season, the school board decided it was time to put Stoltz and his outdated opinions out of a job.

Many of the active booster parents, happy with the nepotism despite the team’s poor record, hoped one of Stoltz’s lackies would succeed him as head coach. Candidates included such classics as Coach DiCarlo: Super Catholic who had his photo taken with Mother Theresa and mentioned it in every conversation ever, Coach Marian: Remedial math teacher who waxed nostalgic about the days when public school teachers could beat their students and of course Coach Link: Loveable cigar chewing gambling addict who spent time either dodging a bookie, any one of his three ex-wives or any of the strippers he was currently dating. The school board was between a rock and a hard place, they wanted fresh blood but there was none to be had. So they resigned themselves with the fact this was the best they could hope for.

Then a dark horse entered the race. Hailing from small town West Virginia, Coach Matthias arrived at the interview in a loud pick up truck. Stepping out in a suit and tie, Matthias pitched himself to the schoolboard in his trademark back country twang, “I aint the handsomest man or the smartest man, but I will work hard and get these boys to win! Let’s get fired up!”

Fired up they were because Matthias was hired on the spot. Matthias immediately got to work, cleaning house and replacing the old staff with his former players. (The running joke became that Wendell and the players started a West Virginia to English dictionary to understand what their coaches were saying to them). The days of booster nepotism went too, as Matthias started the players he felt earned it by hard work and talent. When parents protested, he told them how he felt of their offspring, favorable or not. When Matthias heard of players not doing homework or behaving badly in class, an epidemic that had gone unchecked in the days of Stoltz, he made them run laps until they puked. Needless to say, academic eligibility and behavior were no longer a problem. Suit and tie became required wardrobe to school on game days as well as for travel to away games and off season camps. Skeptics soon became believers when our town had it’s first winning season in about a decade. Together, as a community, we adopted Matthias and his battle cry, “LET’S GET FIRED UP!”

Always high octane, Coach Matthias was prone to superstition, especially during football season when we were playing Clairsville, our most bitter rival in the conference. One brisk October day, on the week of the game that determined which teams advanced to the first round of the playoffs, the door to my gym class burst open. Standing there, as if he crawled out of Army of Darkness with something cradled in his hand, Coach Matthias declared, “CLAIRSVILLE DID THIS! THEY WILL HAVE BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS FOR KILLING OUR BELOVED MASCOT!”

As our teacher Mrs. Mason turned down our aerobic dance music that served as a strange soundtrack to see what the fuss was about, several of the female students shrieked. Glancing towards Coach Matthias, I saw he was holding the carcass of a dead black hawk! Coach stood, undaunted that the corpse of our school mascot was crawling with bugs. Mrs. Mason, the tall beautiful, universally liked former swimming star who had several records in our school’s pool that had yet to be broken said, “Coach, while I realize you are upset this is extremely unsanitary. You should really consider washing your hands!”

The class nodded in agreement at her attempt of sanity in this insane situation. However, Mrs. Mason’s best efforts were an epic fail as Coach said, “I aint gonna wash my hands of the blood of our slain mascot! Clairsville is goin’ down! This is MURDER!”

Mrs. Mason got a FML look across her face as she struggled to maintain her diplomatic smile. Colleen O’Grady, a red head who attended regular meetings of the anime club said, “Coach, I think you should look at all the facts before you accuse Clairsville of murder. In AP Bio, our teacher was saying sick animals die in nature all the time. The hawk could have very well died of natural causes.”

What Colleen said was probably correct and was extremely well meaning, but she didn’t know Coach Matthias which meant she didn’t know when to shut up. Coach Mattias said, “THAT IS BIBLICAL BLASPHOMY RED! ONE MORE WORD AND YOU’RE ON THE CLIMBER!” The climber-an exercise machine in the weight room-was Coach’s favorite form of punishment. He would make offenders go for an indeterminate amount of time depending on the infraction but also his mood.

Justin Gurrecca, a skater boy who had a very visible crush on Colleen said, “Coach, it’s just a game. It’s not about winning but about having fun, right?”

Coach screamed, “Wrong answer, boy! Are you STUPID?! TO THE CLIMBER WITH THE BOTH OF YOU!”

Colleen, who had never gotten a detention let alone a tardy ever, began to cry. Justin glanced at Mrs. Mason for help. Coach continued to hold the dead black hawk undaunted. Mrs. Mason said, “Okay, no one is going to the climber because we still have 15 minutes left of my class. And you know what the principal would say about sending someone who’s not on the football team to the climber. You agree, right Coach Matthias?”

Coach seldom listened to anyone, but Mrs. Mason’s father and husband were his hunting buddies and she was his wife’s best friend. Coach knew if he went any further it would be a very unpleasant evening at home. It was common knowledge Mrs. Matthias wore the pants once Coach stepped foot off the field. Grudgingly, he nodded in agreement. However, he was not ready to give up just yet, “Brucker, you’re smart. What do you make of this! What is the cause of death of this animal?!”

Seeing the desperate glance from Mrs. Mason and knowing the balance of the situation rested on my shoulders I approached Coach Matthias and the dead black hawk, “Coach, while my findings are inconclusive without a complete autopsy, I feel based on the evidence, timing and motive that the hawk was murdered by Clairsville.”

Coach nodded, “See Brucker, I knew I wasn’t crazy. Tell Wendell hello from me when you talk to him.”

“Will do,” I said heading back to my spot as Mrs. Mason flashed me a thumbs up sign.

Coach jogged out the door, dead bird in hand but none in the bush, “SEE, I KNEW IT! WE'RE GONNA MAKE CLAIRSVILLE PAY TOMORROW NIGHT! NOW LET’S GET FIRED UP!”

Mrs. Mason attempting to restore order said, “Alright everyone, this has been an exciting class but now it’s time for our cool down.” That night, I relayed the story during Wendell’s evening phone call to the family from his dorm room. Via speaker phone Wendell said, “Wow, guess it’s good to know some things don’t change. I’m just glad he wasn’t trying to keep it in the locker room to surprise the team with like he did the dead rat.”

We all made the silent agreement to move on because some stories are best left untold. My mom said, “I will admit it took a while, but I love Coach. He’s right, Clairsville murdered that hawk. I know it!”

My dad said, “Come on, Grace. That’s just crazy. I’m sure the animal died of natural causes, or maybe one of his assistant coaches shot it by accident.”

Wendell said, “Could be. Coach Douglas always told us because he had a farm as a kid, when there was nothing in the refrigerator he sometimes killed dinner.” Coach Douglas, one of Matthias’s assistants, taught English at the middle school down the hill. The irony was he was barely literate himself.

Skipper, my impish 13 year old sister who was regarded as a young Sheldon before there was such a show said, “While his enthusiasm is to be admired, Coach Matthias could have come in contact with bacteria that could not only caused severe neurological issues that led to impaired cognitive function but ultimately killed him. The Blackhawk was in a state of rigor which means the post death pathogens were present.”

My dad said, “I don’t think that’s an issue. Cognitive function is limited for Coach Matthias as it is.”

My mom said, “But April is the hero for giving the right answer. Props for that.”

I said, “Nah, the hero is Mrs. Mason. She kept two people off the climber. She deserves a metal.”

That Friday, Coach and his squad battled Clairsville on one of the coldest, rainiest October nights in Western Pennsylvania history. Going into triple death overtime, our mud caked boys beat Clairsville by a surprise touchdown earning them a spot in the playoffs. That Monday, as Coach did his victory lap in our gym class he said, “That black hawk wasn’t murdered. Just like Jesus, he died for our sins but granted us salvation with that final touchdown and gave us a victory!” We just nodded and agreed. No one likes the climber, right?

Coach went on to have the Blackhawk, who spent the weekend in his deep freeze, stuffed and mounted in his office. Until his retirement, he was the winningest coach in school history and one of the most respected in the conference.

I had forgotten about Coach and this story until years later, I was trying to clear up some writers block while drinking my coffee on my back porch. Out of no where, I saw a Blackhawk fly overhead and squawk loudly in my direction. He was saying, “GET FIRED UP!” So in I went to write…….

Monday, November 8, 2021

Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey)

In ninth grade, right before Christmas, Mr. Angle decided to take the theatre arts class on a field trip. We were going downtown to The Byham Center to see the matinee of “a real play.” After that, it was back to school. For weeks, my friend Mikki and I had been plotting our adventures, but alas, true to form she picked that week to get mono. As I dreaded the long, friendless trip I thought, “Damnit, Mikki, your timing sucks.”

Aside from being the coldest day of the year so far, the play was a real bust. The acting was great, but the plot was unremarkable. It didn’t help that I sat near David Gehring-lacrosse co-captain- who spent the whole play snoring. Not only was it annoying, it distracted from the theatre going experience for the rest of us.

Last year, my brother Wendell had been forced to tutor David at the behest of the lacrosse coach. Wendell described the lost cause by saying, “When I look at David, I know somewhere, a village is missing their idiot.”

The reason the Theatre Arts Curriculum had inherited David was his parents-painfully aware their souffle didn’t rise to the top-were trying everything they could to change their son’s friend group. This past summer, David had been busted smoking weed with the lacrosse team in Simmons Park-where all good things happened in town. After a trip to the magistrate and probation, David’s parents, worrying for their son’s safety and salvation began their mission to save him by bringing him to their mega church’s youth group. The Teens For The Testaments had a conversion program. For every new convert, Teens For The Testaments got a point and with enough points got a pizza party at the end of the month. Helping this cult fill their quota, Teens For the Testaments welcomed their newly converted wayward reprobate with open arms.

Another reason David was in theatre arts was his girlfriend, Bethany Kensington: Abstinence Queen Bee. The reason being was The Teens For the Testaments did plays and concerts to teach people about Jesus and she wanted David and his “movie star good looks” to be ready for his big role. Bethany was hard to take even on a good day with her big, vacant smile, scarecrow skinny frame, brown hair pulled back into a bun and crucifix front and center. Making it her mission to convert her classmates regardless of how much it made them uncomfortable she said, “Jesus has called me to save people and save people I will.”

Unlike David who risked not graduating, Bethany already knew what she wanted to do with her life. She had already applied early decision to Grove City, a Christian college where students had to sign a pledge not to have pre-martial sex, could be expelled for homosexuality and the parents of perspectives had to be interviewed to make sure they came from a Godly home. Bethany said, she wanted to, “Bring Christ to the pagan children of Africa.”

While Bethany, who viewed David as a project, could not have been more different than her boyfriend they agreed on one thing, instead of celebrating Halloween, the devil’s holiday, they had exchanged promise rings. Taking the abstinence pledge in front of their pastor and youth group, they swore to wait until they were married to have sex.

As we walked out of the theatre and boarded the bus, snow fell. I was being introduced to a new sensation, being genuinely pleased to return to school in time for math. Taking a seat close to the front of the bus I thought, “Damnit Mikki, your timing sucks.”

Turns out Mikki wasn’t the only one with craptacular timing. Taking the seat behind me was Alyssa Clayton, school super tramp. Alyssa had badly dyed jet black hair and skin that was an alien orangish color courtesy of Alta, the local tanning salon that was the home of the rest of the super tramp crowd. I could tell Alyssa dreamed of Miami Beach on this Pittsburgh winter day where the mix of snow and rain fell from the sky, but was she aware those dreams could give her skin cancer? Alyssa wore jeans that were three sizes too small, a shirt that could have probably fit one of my baby cousin it was so tight and frosty lip gloss. I felt a smell hit my nose and began to cough. Then I realized it was Alyssa’s perfume. Before we got on the bus she had snuck a cigarette and this was how she was going to disguise it, a scent so strong she could have killed a small animal. Alyssa’s sexual exploits were always the subject of rumor and intrigue. Or as it was said, “Alyssa Clayton was in bed all weekend but didn’t get much sleep.”

It would only make sense that Alyssa was a super tramp as her mother was known as the most super, duper tramp of the town. Mr. Clayton, a former school administrator, was known as a conservative hard ass. Her mom was the opposite. Darlene, who had her children and their friends refer to her by first name, a questionable parenting decision that negated all boundaries, taught yoga and pole dancing, carried healing crystals and made her children meditate daily. While the coupling was strange, their older son Eric was a star swimmer and got a full scholarship to Ohio State. When Eric went away to college, Darlene began to feel the pangs of empty nest and realized that she had fallen out of love with Mr. Clayton and had been in love with her son’s swim coach, Mr. Rendell, all along.

Apparently Mr. Rendell, the twice divorced men’s coach with a winning record and even more winning toupee collection, felt the same way. The two began an illicit affair that went on for months. However, they were busted when they were discovered after hours when Bob the Janitor, afraid the school had been broken by unruly teens, followed protocol and called the police. What Bob the janitor and the cops discovered was not unruly teens but Darlene and Mr. Rendell doing some very X rated dry land exercises closeted in the kickboard room.

Angered that he had been cuckolded, Mr. Clayton was merciless during the divorce. Darlene, citing what she termed years of emotional distress, attempted to retain my father so she could begin her life with Mr. Rendell. Darlene and my father had creative differences: he wanted paid and she wanted him to work for free. Suffice to say, it seemed the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

As the last of the students came on the bus I heard a voice say, “Is this seat taken?” It was David Gehring, my most unfavorite theatre ruining peroxide bottle blonde.

Alyssa said nothing as David slid in. When the bus pulled away David said, “What you think of the play? I thought it was lame.” How would you know, Sir? You slept through the whole thing!

Alyssa said, “It was alright, I got out of my math test. I’m failing anyway.” Eye roll, of course she was. Wendell was tutoring her now too. While she was another lost cause she was a better student than David. Then again, who wasn’t?

David said, “The entire show, I kept dreaming of you on top of me.” David remembered his dreams, nice. Too bad he couldn’t remember to dream quietly.

Alyssa said, “What about Bethany? Didn’t you exchange promise rings? You can’t have sex or even talk about it and stuff, right?”

David said, “Nah, that’s more her thing. My parents just make me go to that weirdo cult because I got busted smoking weed with the guys. But you see, the Promise Ring…..we haven’t been keeping the promise if you catch my drift.” Holy mother of God, Jesus take the wheel!

Alyssa said, “That doesn’t sound like Bethany.”

David said, “Nope, the God girl is a front to keep her parents happy. Bethany’s a nympho. I went to her house when her parents were gone and she answers the door naked. Before I can talk, she just tackles me. We did it in every room of her house. She even nicknamed my dick 007 because he’s the spy that loved her.” I faced front pretending not to listen but wow, this was some good scoop. Bethany Kensington, the ultimate God girl, was a slut on the low. Move over, Super Tramp, you have been dethroned.

Alyssa giggled, intrigued. David continued, “We didn’t just do it there but in the pew of the church one day after youth group and in the hot tub.”

I didn’t want to bring up the episode of Seinfeld about shrinkage as Alyssa giggled again with that familiar, super tramp giggle. David said, “Those church chicks are off the chain. I am telling you. But I am sick of her and those church weirdos. I want someone like you. I am settling for someone with a flat chest but what I really want is someone like you because a man needs something he can grab on to.” Bethany Kensington was irritating, Alyssa was a super tramp who was currently suffocating me and David had destroyed my theater going experience. I wanted to vomit. Alyssa giggled again as David said, “I could just eat you out if you so desire. Do you want my digits so we can get down?” Sigh, now I knew who and what she would be doing this weekend. David and Alyssa then exchanged numbers.

Cheating was trashy but so was Alyssa. David deserved garbage. These two were a perfect match. However, Bethany being a slut on the low was something I couldn’t keep to myself for too long. Gosh, I could not wait to tell Mikki! The promise ring had been promised, and the promise had been broken. Oh what tangled webs we weave. As I exited the bus I thought, “Damnit, Mikki, your timing sucks.”

The next day on my way to third period, I saw a crowd gathered in a circle in the hallway. This could only mean one thing, a fight. The day was young and had been rather uneventful and Mikki was not back to school yet. Risking a tardy but wanting to see what dumpster fire was taking place, I inched my way in to get a peep.

In the center of the circle was Bethany Kensington. She had tears streaming down her face, and David on the defensive, “Baby, you know Alyssa is a lying slut just like her mom.”

Bethany said, “Maybe Alyssa hasn’t accepted Jesus Christ into her life and her mother broke the commandment about adultery but she was one of my best friends in middle school and is still a good person which is more than I can say for you! And lying is against the Bible too!!” While I didn’t agree with Bethany on practically everything, it was clear those tears streaming down her face were real and the tales David told about her being a slut on the low were vicious fiction.

David said, “Baby, c’mon….you know I love you and took that abstinence pledge for real.” Sigh, as a silent witness I knew he had not.

David moved into hug Bethany but she swatted him away, “Liar! I told you how important this was for me, for us, and you agreed! When you tried to pressure me, I told you I wanted to wait until we were married because that was what God would want and you said you loved me and understood! Instead, you lie and tell everyone I had s-e-x with you because you were mad I wouldn’t put out as you guys say. And what…..you claimed I named you THING!!!! 007! You broke a promise to God and now you will have to think about where you want to spend eternity!”

I disliked Bethany most of the time, but I understood her anger because David’s behavior had been wrong. As revenge for her not putting out he had lied about them breaking their abstinence promise to sound cool and then tried to cheat with Alyssa. When Alyssa turned on him, he tried to use Alyssa’s sexual history and her mother’s infidelity as weapons. Bethany was right. David was a jerk face.

Bethany was now angry. Her voice being replaced by that similar to the possessed Linda Blair from The Exorcist, “MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON YOUR SOUL!”

David, trying desperately to control the situation said, “C’mon, Baby, you sound crazy.”

David was about to learn the 13th commandment, thou shalt not call an upset woman crazy. Winding up, Bethany decked David right across the face with the hand that had her promise ring and knocked him down. Impressed by her right hook, the crowd applauded. The promise was broken, and now the promise ring had become a weapon. David fell to the ground knocked down by Goliath sized rage. Hell hath no fury like a God Girl scorned.

As David lay whimpering on the ground it became apparent that Alyssa might have made some mistakes but she was never trash. He was. Instead of sleeping with David and creating a situation that resulted in a catfight she told her former middle school friend the truth and now the real villain lay on the ground suffering. However, I felt like trash for judging Alyssa as badly as I did, especially without knowing her. The peanut gallery of our peers had determined her reputation, but her character was pure gold.

Bethany, victorious, wiped her tears away and made a dramatic exit like a boxer who had just won a prize match. Sure, her beliefs were outside of the realm of my understanding, but she wasn’t letting David pressure or humiliate her which I respected. On her victory walk, Bethany received high fives from people who shared my sentiment and were also surprised she had that much of a swing, myself included.

The bell rang and the portly history teacher, Mr. Donotelli, who doubled as the JV football coach said, “Okay everyone, break it up. Get to class. Show’s over.”

David, who was still on the ground said, “Mr. Donotelli, she cold cocked me on the hand with the promise ring. That thing is gonna leave a scratch. Send her to time out or my parents will sue.”

The students who were dispersing booed David, and Mr. Donotelli said, “Son, you are lucky that is all you got. The way you have been running your mouth if this was my sister, you wouldn’t have any teeth. Get to class.” David and his injured pride picked themselves off the ground and skulked away.

I finally spoke to Mikki that night who’s health was on the mend. She said, “Damnit April. Is it just me or does my timing suck?”I told her it did, but she could make it up to me by getting back to school pronto as our was more rife with drama than an English countryside on a BBC murder show.

After Bethany dumped David, she received the happy news she had been accepted early decision to Grove City. Not only did she thrive at Grove City, but met her future husband and married him shortly before graduating. The two became missionaries that traveled around the globe before settling in Texas. Bethany voted for Trump, is pro-life, anti-vaxx and Christian home schools her four kids. I would tell her that her views suck on facebook but I have seen her right hook.

Alyssa, with the aid of my brother Wendell’s tutoring, brought her math grade up from a D to a C. She graduated from high school, got her cosmetology license, moved to Ohio and married a biker. Alyssa, by all appearances on facebook, looks like she mastered hair dye and the proper use of the tanning bed, now owns a full service salon that is highly rated. She looks happy and I am glad, because it makes me feel good when okay people are happy.

As for David, he ended up playing lacrosse at a party school who’s name escapes me, flunked out and pretty much fell off the map. I don’t know if David still calls his dick 007, but unlike David, Bond was a true gentlemen. Taking his martini shaken and not stirred and always getting the girls even at the peril of the security of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, he knows a true spy never lies let alone kisses and tells.

That’s all folks.

Visit me at AprilBrucker.TV

Friday, November 5, 2021

Brenda's Got A Baby (Tupac)

I grew up in a school district where we had abstinence education. Unsurprisingly, we also had the highest teen pregnancy rate in the area. Every fall, the local crisis pregnancy center was a guaranteed sale for the school’s football program. Council For Life ran a commercial on our televisions for years where an actress, portraying a woman who had gotten an abortion as a teenager, apologized to her ghost son who was riding a bike and catching a baseball. The commercial ended with, “Life is a beautiful choice.”

Off screen, teen motherhood had reached a near epidemic to the point where the high school home economics class set up a day care center so that not only could students receive childcare while they completed their studies, but their classmates could receive credit for taking care of their offspring that were probably conceived in the backseat of a Chevy.

In addition to cheerful advertising and subtle enabling of the pro-life message, we always had that girl who was the trend setter, the first to get knocked up in the class. We all had ideas of who it might be but never said out loud because we were Rust Belt Folk, hardworking and honest yes, but never rude.

At the end of eighth grade, it appeared we had a candidate. It was the last week of school, and my friend Kat Lovic-the local boy crazy gossip-told me her mom could give us a ride home. As we got into Mrs. Lovic’s station wagon, Brenda Capelli swooshed by with her caramel mane, bust that made her jailbait and short skirt that treaded the guidelines of the dress code. Seeing Andy Patrick-the class clown-she flipped her hair and giggled as if she were auditioning for a Pantene Pro-V ad. Kat, in a breathy faux Marilyn Monroe voice, imitated Brenda’s career day pitch to her guidance counselor, one that had become comedy fodder among our peers, “I want to dye my hair blonde, get breast implants, move to Hollywood and become a big, big star.”

Kat and I burst out laughing as Mrs. Lovic-a straight shooting trauma nurse from McKeesport who worked at Mercy Hospital with my Aunt Margaret-lit a cigarette, “Nah, ain’t gonna happen. My next paycheck bets she graduates from high school with a baby.”

Despite the fact it was mean, Mrs. Lovic’s cynicism always made me laugh. I said, “How about this, if it happens I will personally collect your paycheck, Mrs. Lovic.” We all burst out laughing, because it was year end and it was fun to take a shot at the junior high honey trap.

When the fall came and high school started, Brenda and I found ourselves in theatre arts class with Mr. Angle like every other wannabe thespian. On the first day of school Brenda said, “The only way my Hollywood aspirations can become complete is if I know the basics of acting.” Unfortunately Brenda didn’t understand that meant reading about the beginnings of theatre aka Greek Tragedy. Wanting to learn as much as possible, I did the reading and always eager to participate in class. Brenda made it clear this did not sit well with her as she rolled her eyes whenever I spoke. Of course-mind you-I rolled my eyes in return-especially as she bragged about not doing the reading.

Instead of rewarding my hard work, Mr. Angle would say, “April, cool it. You are over anxious, obnoxious, somewhat robotic and had to swallow.” Then he would turn to Brenda as she batted her fake eyelashes, “Brenda, darling, you might not believe it, under there is an artist and performer waiting to come out.”

While it hurt that my talent and hard work were doing cast aside in favor of the lesser sister of Jessica Rabbit, I redoubled my efforts outside of class because I was determined to make being a multi-disciplinary artist my life path. As my mom often assured me, the Brenda Capelli’s of the world would peak in high school, and my efforts now would assure a victory later when it actually mattered.

Brenda, a self-assured femme fatale because of Mr. Angle, began to date Matt Richards-the proverbial boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Matt’s dad was serving a lengthy sentence in prison, and his mom often worked double shifts bagging groceries at Foodland. Following family tradition, Matt was in regular trouble with the law himself. Brenda’s friends felt Matt was bad news, but she would coo, “You might think so, but you don’t know him the way I do.”

Brenda’s father, Marine Colonel Capelli, had recently been deployed to Iraq, her brother was at boot camp and her mom worked long hours as an office manager downtown. Since Brenda lived blocks from school, that meant the lovers could “get drunk and get fucked,” at her house during lunch, as the mullet wearing Prince Matt so eloquently described to his friend group. Brenda often returned to school smelling like a distillery and disguised it by wearing drug store perfume. Matt cheated often, and it was no surprise to anyone except Brenda when she got jumped outside of the Eat ‘n’ Park by a rival paramour one town over.

The following Monday, as she arrived to class with her newly wizened battle scars, Brenda randomly announced to everyone, “Jessica can run her mouth all she wants but Matt said he wants to be with me!”

Gina Bongiovani-who sat behind me said , “Say what you want, Brenda, but what chose you was a burning bag of shit!” Her boyfriend, Vito, who went one district over and was known as a universal asshole, had cheated with Brenda over the summer at a party in the South Park Grove therefore there was bad blood.

My friend Mikki Donato, a transplant from Long Island, and I laughed because Gina’s delivery was so good. Brenda turned and glared, “Shut the fuck up, April Brucker!”

I ignored her figuring she had another one of her liquid lunches. Gina said, “Yoo hoo, dumb bitch, it was me. April’s loud but she’d be too nice to tell you you’re a super slut who got what she deserved.”

Brenda said to Gina, “Could you please refrain from this, Gina. I was talking to April….”

Mikki said, “Ummmm……why are you going off on April when it’s Gina who insulted you? Are you drunk again or did that girl from South Park hit you in the head that hard?” Gina and I were now nearly peeing ourselves because Mikki was always so sweet and soft spoken.

Brenda said, “That’s it, April! Let’s go!”

I said, “Big talker for someone who just got reconstructive surgery performed on her face and probably couldn’t pass a field sobriety test.”

Brenda let out a loud squawk, and then Mr. Angle entered killing the climax of the scene. Mikki whispered, “She has really gone psycho. I have third period with her and you should have seen her then.”

Mr. Angle began the class, “Brenda, why don’t you just come to drama club and make better friends and nurture your talent? Try out for the fall play. You could be a leading lady.”

Rob O’Rouke, the local loudmouth and shit starter said, “April Brucker’s your leading lady. She’s already on public access, and the only place I hear Brenda could ever be a leading lady is a porno cause Matt told us you got those skillz!” This was followed by a him making a gagging sound and all of us breaking out into hysterics. I appreciated Rob’s endorsement, but it was coming not from a place of friendship but because he liked the pre-class cat fight. Mr. Angle sentenced Rob to time out and Brenda flicked him off as he left. End scene.

Over the next several weeks temperatures started to drop. Brenda’s short skirts and low hanging shirts were replaced by sweats and other baggier selections. This didn’t register as odd as everyone was wearing warmer clothes, especially as we were a Los Angles style open campus just outside of Pittsburgh where it rains and snows.

It was now cold outside, but Brenda and Matt’s romance was red hot. Unfortunately, Cupid had other plans for the lovers when Matt was arrested for burglary. Brenda, began missing class with “the stomach flu.” It was okay with us because she had regularly become moody and argumentative. When she was at school, she was barely present, complete with vacant zombie stare. As her looks vanished and she became more morose, Brenda, unsurprisingly, began to drop off Mr. Angle’s favorite list.

After Christmas break, Brenda came to school in a snow white dress with new makeup, a present she claimed was from her deployed dad. She glowed, but there was something that stood out like a sore thumb, her weight gain. Mikki, Kat and I passed her in the hall and Kat said, “Wow, I knew Matt going away was hard but talk about eating your feelings.”

Walking into Mr. Angle’s class later that day, Brenda entered. We all exchanged a side stare afraid her too small outfit on her too large body would rip. Seemingly oblivious, Brenda chowed down on a bag of Cheetos. Mikki leaned in and whispered, “This is her third bag today. Should she be doing that in white?

Dan Long, Mr. Angle’s unofficial senior teaching assistant that was headed to Penn State in the fall learned in to join our gossip, “Guess she’s not getting a date to snow ball.”

Jake Kebs, a snoody jerkoff who was the assistant to the assistant student director on the fall play said, “No date for the next few years, Matt is looking at being charged as an adult.”

I said, “And how do you know?”

Jake rolled his eyes, “He’s my neighbor, Dipshit.”

As we were getting to the meat of the story, Mr. Angle walked in. He said, “Participation is a huge part of this class and a few of you are really not cutting it. April-while hard to stomach-gets an A. Mikki you get an A minus. Gina, A minus. Dan you always get an A in my book. Jake, B plus.” We all nodded at each other pleased we were endorsed.

Mr. Angle said, “But I believe in second chances and extra chances, so why don’t get some folks who are failing up here.” Sure, this was a violation of The Buckley Amendment, but Mr. Angle was unaware that I knew that.

“Dylan, get up here.” A skater boy with his hair in his face, Dylan was notorious for smoking weed and falling asleep in class. Yawning, Dylan made his journey to the front of the room. Mr. Angle said, “And you Brenda.” Rolling her eyes and throwing her empty bag of Cheetos down, Brenda joined Dylan.

Mr. Angle said, “We are going to do an improv. You two are a couple, and Brenda, you have to tell him you are pregnant. GO!”

To begin the improv Dylan said, “Yo shawty, wassup.” The class laughed because everyone liked Dylan and he was a character.

Saying nothing, Brenda turned bright red, began to tremble, looked at us, burst out into tears and ran out of the room. Slamming the door, we all sat in stunned WTF silence. Dylan, visibly confused said, “Mr. Angle, dude, she messed up the scene.”

Mr. Angle rolled his eyes, “Dylan, you have raised your grade to a C. She is still failing and gets a time out.”

Dylan made his way back to his seat. Then it clicked. The weight gain, the cheetos the mood swings, the stomach flu, the baggy clothes, the fact she ran out upset, Brenda wasn’t depressed because Matt was in jail but because she was having his kid and was keeping it a secret! SHIT!

We all were sex obsessed, but Brenda was the pregnant girl, the negative consequence, the monster no one wanted to acknowledge but everyone wanted to pillory. Class proceeded and no one mentioned it again, it was as if we were all afraid a mirror would shatter.

I kept my suspicions to myself, but they were confirmed the next day after gym class while Kat and I were changing in the locker room. Brenda was talking with her bff, Danielle Mills. I didn’t know Danielle well, but I was on the literary magazine with her sister Shelly. Brenda said, “Mr. Angle is such a dick. I mean, do you think he knows?”

Danielle said, “Um, everyone knows. I mean hello! Look at you!” Kat and I learned in to listen.

Brenda said, “I have been trying to keep it a secret because people talk.”

Danielle said, “Um…..they are talking. Did you tell Matt?”

Brenda said, “Yeah, and he says when he gets out in two months, he is gonna take me to live with his uncle in California and we are gonna get married.”

Danielle said, “But…..why don’t you tell a guidance counselor or something? You need to go to a doctor and get vitamins and stuff. You are pushing a person out of your vagina. My stepmom just had a baby and there’s a lot to it.” Kat and I nodded in agreement. While Danielle was known as the dumber Mills sister, this was probably the smartest thing anyone was saying to Brenda right now.

Brenda said, “Nah, Matt is gonna be out in two months, we’ll go then.”

Danielle said, “Brenda, why don’t you just tell your parents? I mean, c’mon.”

Brenda defiantly said, “I am never telling my parents!”

Danielle said, “What are you going to tell them when this kid pops out of you?!”

Brenda took her things and rolled her eyes, “By that time I will be in California with Matt and they won’t have shit to say.” Exiting with Danielle behind her, Kat and I exchanged a glance that seemed to last until eternity.

Finally Kat said, “Well April, looks like you’ll be collecting my Mom’s next paycheck.” Kat, knowing her, would make the rounds with Brenda’s misfortune. I didn’t need to, Brenda’s life, in many ways, was effectively over as she was now a walking cautionary tale.

Brenda continued to live in her cloud of denial that she could keep her pregnancy secret long enough for Matt to be acquitted and rescue her, and Mr. Angle redoubled his efforts by making her the butt of his mean spirited roasts. In turn, Brenda became a shell of a person in class when she showed up. The fact Mr. Angle didn’t support me no longer came as a disappointment but as a relief. Instead of helping Brenda, he was bullying her for sport, that wasn’t just cruel but predatory. His behavior, to say the least, was extremely disappointing.

Matt fought the law but the law won. Due to his lengthy juvenile record, he was sentenced as an adult to five years at Western Penn. The downside was that Matt and Brenda’s California dreams had died, but the upside was that he was reunited with his father who was doing a 40 year sentence in the same facility.

That summer, Brenda’s father returned from Iraq. At Colonel Capelli’s welcome home celebration, Brenda went into labor. Brenda was shocked as she never had prenatal care so didn’t know when the due date was, and her family even more so because they had no idea she was even pregnant. Continuing another generation of good decisions Brenda named her daughter Destiny Beyonce.

Colonel Capelli, angry that all had imploded while he was away serving his country, decided it was best to get his family out of the place where his daughter had become “that girl.” Upon hearing Matt was in prison for five years, Colonel Capelli hired a lawyer and was victorious in pressuring jailbird baby daddy to give up his parental rights. Brenda, now living three hours away in the town her father grew up in, began attending an online cyber school under his supervision. Her mom and grandmother helped her learn to care for Destiny Beyonce. When not in school, Brenda worked at the family’s bakery where she could earn money and be productive in a way that didn’t result in the creation of another human being. Eventually becoming a medical assistant, Brenda married a firefighter who adopted Destiny Beyonce, bought a house, had two kids with her new husband and seems to be living happily ever after.

I laugh now and think if MTV had 16 and Pregnant then, Brenda could have made it out to California with Matt after all. This story also makes me cringe, too. As lawmakers legislate how women use their bodies, I know a Planned Parenthood and trusted, non-judgmental adults were what Brenda really needed. I hear the Christian Right talk about abstinence education and know first hand how not only is it harmful to women and children, but ultimately ineffective. While I am no fan of teens having sex, if Brenda would have known about proper use of birth control her life would have been drastically different. Bottom line, just because you can have a kid doesn’t mean you should. Or in the immortal words of Tupac, “Brenda’s got a baby, but Brenda’s barely got a brain.”

Check out my comedy and merch at AprilBrucker.TV

Monday, October 25, 2021

Feed My Frankenstein (Alice Cooper)

It was a dark and stormy night when I answered a casting call for a low budget, non-union music video for “a well known metal band” in Brooklyn. As my umbrella completely broke and the rain drenched me, I approached the Bushwick warehouse where either I would meet my big break or end in a snuff film.

Entering, I saw the remnants of broken glass and nails beneath my feet. Looking around, I saw a white piece of paper taped up with the stuff kindergarten teachers use with the words, “MUSIC VIDEO CASTING.” An arrow pointed upstairs. Excited, I pounced to destiny.

Opening a heavy door that felt like it weighed more than I did, I was greeted by the sound of loud music where the vocalist screamed with the most small dick rage I had heard up to this point in my life. As my ear drums were being assaulted, so was my nose as the amount of cheap perfume made me choke and cough. Wall to wall, women were scantily clad in next to nothing. I felt out of place in my jeans and t-shirt, and even more out of place because the rain made me look like a wet dog. I would find a bathroom to clean up, but before I did I needed to find a sign in sheet. Looking around, I saw no proctor.

Approaching a young woman with short hair, tattoos and enough piercings to make a magnet have a seizure I yelled over the loud music, “IS THERE A SIGN IN SHEET!?”

The girl yelled back, “WHAT’S THAT?!”

This was bizarre. Every audition had one. It was an unwritten law, “HOW DO THEY KNOW WHO IS THERE AND WHEN TO SEE YOU!?”

The girl shrugged, “I WAS JUST TOLD TO SHOW UP!”

“DO YOU GIVE YOUR HEADSHOT AND RESUME TO ANYONE!?”

“WHAT IS THAT?”

I held up mine. The girl said, “OH YOU’RE AN ACTRESS! I’M JUST A GROUPIE. I MET THE DRUMMER LAST WEEK AND HE TOLD ME TO SHOW UP!” As she spoke, stars in her eyes flashed and a big satisfied smile of a dream come true crossed her face.

“WHO IS THIS BAND?!”

Now she looked at me stunned and puzzled, “DEATH BY RAT POISON, THE GREATEST BAND TO EVER LIVE!!!!”

Death By Rat Poison, interesting. While the rat poison wouldn’t be my death, their music was certainly killing my hearing. Then there were the Rogers and Hammerstein gems such as, “You broke my heart, farted in my chest, but you still are the girl who FUUUUCCCCCCKKKKKKEDDD THE BESSSSSSSSSTTTT!!!!” In short, they were Metallica minus the talent.

As I digested this information along with clever lyrical musings a girl with jet black hair, a bunch of tats and more piercings than the groupie approached. She said, “MONICA, I WAS LOOKING FOR YOU!”

“JENNY DEMON, YOU ARE MY FAVORITE CAM GIRL! I AM SOOOO FAN STUCK RIGHT NOW!” Monica and Jenny were now shouting over the music and very quickly Monica forgot about me. Aww shucks.

Jenny said, “BOB SAYS YOU WANT TO GET INTO PORN, I CAN HELP!”

While fascinating, I decided to exit the Lifetime Movie star I had accidentally wandered into and found the bathroom to freshen up. This way I could clean up and rescue what was left of my auditory senses. Opening the bathroom door, I caught sight of a busty peroxide blonde and a girl with jet black hair and a tacky fake tan applying makeup.

The blonde-who spoke exactly like Kelly Bundy said, “My husband was so nice to pay for my breast implants and tummy tuck after two kids. But he says once I get the Playboy centerfold we are having a third one.”

The bad tan-who was a Poor Man’s Pussycat Doll said, “My boob job was seven grand and no one is undoing that.” Taking paper towels to dry myself off, I listened to this brilliant bon vivant. Poor Man’s Pussycat Doll said, “Tonight, I am getting into this video and fucking Frankie the lead singer.”

Kelly Bundy said, “It’s great you are bouncing back from DeShawn.”

Poor Man’s Pussycat Doll said, “DeShawn paid my rent for about a year, took me to Miami and I got a bunch of jewelry. He just wouldn’t leave that pregnant bitch he was engaged to.” Sigh, every rose has it’s thorn.

Kelly Bundy said, “That must have really broken your heart.”

Poor Man’s Pussycat Doll said, “I decided to let her know about me. I sent her a DM and she ignored me. I called her and she told me she knew about me, I was a whore and she got the house and the man so she didn’t care. This is what I get for sleeping with someone from the New York Jets.” I agreed, she should have gone with someone from a winning team like The Cowboys.

I continued to dry myself off. “You know, he turned into a real dick. He was being way melodramatic with that restraining order,” Poor Man’s Pussy Cat Doll said.

I finished drying off, fluffed my hair, and applied my lipstick. Poor Man’s Pussycat Doll said, “Who invited you? Yeah, I’m talking to you.”

“Oh….” I said, shocked she would come from her self-centered star fucker bubble to talk to yours truly, “craigslist.”

“Our photographer who shot us for Playboy tipped us off,” Kelly Bundy said. She had a sweet, vacant smile. While I could tell she wasn’t the sharpest tool at least she was nice.

“You got into Playboy, congrats,” I said.

“I did, she’s still waiting,” Kelly said, completely oblivious that her jealous friend stood feet away, “I’m not a centerfold but my spread was really good they said. You see it?”

Looking at Kelly Bundy, I realized she looked familiar and then it hit me, Girls Next Door had a talent search and she had been on TV. I said, “You were on the Girl’s Next Door Talent Search.”

“OMG! I cant believe you saw me!!!! They said I had the goods and I wanna be a part of the Playboy family sooo soo bad,” Kelly Bundy said.

“You should be, you definitely have the goods,” I said. She did, I mean she paid enough for them, right?

“I hope so. I am going to be 26 in two months and time is running out. If you don’t get it by then it’s not gonna happen,” Kelly Bundy said. “And having two kids didn’t help.”

“I hope I look as good as you after two kids. And I am twenty four and just killed a plant so you are light years ahead of me,” I said. Kelly Bundy laughed and Poor Man’s Pussy Cat Doll glared.

“What do you do?” Kelly Bundy said.

“Comedy and acting…..”

“Oh, you should. You are funny,” Kelly Bundy said.

“Yeah, you are.” Poor Man’s Pussycat Doll said glaring at me. “We have to go, excuse us.” Poor Man’s Pussycat Doll dragged Kelly Bundy out the door. As the door closed, Kelly shot me an apologetic look and Poor Man’s Pussy Cat Doll sneered.

My head still spinning from the encounter, I needed to find someone who knew what was going on and fast. After leaving the bathroom, I saw a table with water bottles. Maybe the sign in sheet would be there. No such luck. Eyeing the water bottles, I realized I was thirsty and took one. Just as I was about to open it a kid with a backwards ball cap who looked about 19 and seemed like he belonged at the nearest methadone clinic said, “If you want one it’s a dollar fifty.” Call me clairvoyant, but when I heard this I had the sinking feeling this video was going nowhere and this was not going to be my big break.

“Do you have a sign in sheet?” I was still hoping to salvage the evening by networking.

Ballcap said, “What’s that?”

Just then I heard a familiar voice say, “APRIL BRUCKER!” I turned around and it was my pal Johnny Leonne from college. A Five Towns kid, Johnny’s family was wealthy and supposedly mobbed up. Johnny was a character, but at least this was a friendly face. “How are you?” I gave my old chum a hug.

“April, I am AD on this. Frankie is gonna love you. Come on, I want you to meet the band!” My questions were unanswered but at least I was getting a resolution, right?

I followed Johnny down a dark hall that looked like it was out of some condemned asylum in a B grade scary movie. As we walked, Johnny and I talked about old classmates of ours that we both knew but barely cared about because that’s what you do when you see an old school chum. Making our way down the hall I swore I heard the sound of high heels.

“Is someone else coming?” I said.

“Nah, the way we are calling people is if I see someone I like I am taking them to meet the band. Why?” Johnny said.

“I hear footsteps.”

Johnny laughed, “Yeah, this building is creepy like that. I know some of those girls can be intense but I wouldn’t worry.”

After what seemed like an eternity, we entered a room where the members of Death by Rat Poison were hanging out. It was damp, smelled like mold, and was lit by a few amber hanging lights. One who looked like Pinhead from Hellraiser texted rapidly and didn’t even bother to look up. Another, a long haired lad, stared into space and didn’t acknowledge Johnny let alone myself. Then a spikey haired kid who looked like his mode of transport was a skateboard said, “Fuck you, Frankie. Suck it!”

As he pushed his way out he nearly knocked me over, not caring let alone apologizing. A guy who was tattooed from head to foot with black contacts yelled back, “Oh yeah, well fuck your ugly girlfriend! We can always get a new bass player!”

Undaunted, Johnny, complete with big cheesy grin said, “Frankie this is April. She went to college with me. She’s a comedian and ventriloquist.”

Instead of exchanging pleasantries Frankie said, “Fuck you, Johnny, this has been a waste of my Goddamn time. How many of these bitches are we paying? I don’t want a video with all bitches, I play guitar!”

Not only was Frankie eloquent but he respected women, it was definitely time to take him home to Mom and Grandma. I wasnt a fan of Death by Rat Poison and didnt need to be, after all, Frankie knew where he was going, what he was about and most certainly didn't need my support.

Then the door flew open. Standing there was Poor Man’s Pussycat Doll. My mouth dropped open in shock. This had not been my imagination, she had been following us! I looked at Johnny, who half smiled and mouthed, “Sorry.”

Poor Man’s Pussy Cat Doll elbowed past Johnny who stood speechless. Walking up to Frankie she said, “I am such a fan of your music and I just shot for Playboy. Let me know if you want a signed copy of my prints.”

Her issue had not come out yet, and when it did I was sure she was going to be on the back pages used for bird cage lining. Sitting down on Frankie’s lap, a smile of satisfaction crossed his face. Death By Rat Poison would never be the Beatles, but they had just met their Yoko Ono.

Johnny said, “As I was saying, April is a comedian and a ventriloquist.”

I said, “Yeah, I perform around the city and tri-state. If you want to check out a show let me know.” I had a bringer show-a show that requires you to bring audience to get onstage-coming up. Frankie was revolting but you never know who will show, and I was three reservations away from making my seven person quota and desperately wanted to break into that venue.

Poor Man’s Pussy Cat Doll looked at me angrily. If her eyes were bullets I would surely be dead. In a voice that sounded like she had crawled out of Salem’s Lot she said “And why are you still talking?!”

I looked at Johnny and Frankie, “You know what, I think it’s time for me to go before my head turns to mush and Frankie, you can save your money because I am willing to leave for free. Good luck with your video.”

Frankie's mouth dropped open, incredulous that anyone would walk away from Death by Rat Poison let alone his small dick male charm. Johnny, visibly embarrassed, walked me out, “Sorry about the groupie.”

“ Good luck with the Poor Man’s Pussycat Doll,” I said, thinking only Johnny could hear me.

Apparently, she could hear me because Poor Man’s Pussycat Doll screamed, “FUCK YOU! I HATE YOU, YOU FUCKING COW!”

I turned and said, “Good. Moooo!!” Then I closed the door. I got outside and the rain had stopped.Clinging the what was left of my hearing and braincells, I sprinted to the train.

When I got home I was thankful this shitstorm was not my big break and even more grateful it wasn’t a snuff film, although I had come close to DBG: Death by Groupie. Kelly Bundy, Poor Man’s Pussy Cat Doll, Monica, Jenny the Cam Girl, Ball Cap and Johnny disappeared into the black hole of obscurity, but I got a great story out of the whole deal I still tell to this very day. So in the end we all won, so that’s all folks

April Brucker

AprilBrucker.TV

Friday, August 13, 2021

Crazy (Patsy Cline)

                                                              

Several years ago I dated George Washington. His mother named him after a founding father hoping he would do great things. At first, I thought the name was appropriate as George was a rising star criminal lawyer who quoted Thomas Paine, loved the opera and prided himself on his knowledge of Shakespeare.

The name was where any similarity ended. George Washington the president could not tell a lie, but my ex George could not tell the truth. While I could not speak to George’s abilities in the courtroom he had the lying part down pat. Classics include but are not limited to: telling people he went to The University of Michigan when he went to Michigan State, claiming he was a studio musician with The Violent Femmes and Detroit Cobras, waxing nostalgic about a storied semi-pro boxing career, sleeping with three famous actresses (famous outside of the US but too famous for the worldwide web), and finally, telling people Jimmy Hoffa was his dad’s godfather.

After three months, while I was willing to give him half credit for the boxing career as he wore boxing shorts, George’s vivid imagination became too much to handle. After a huge fight because he told yet another fibaruski, George and I broke up.

I was sad as George was sweet, smart and looked good on paper, but being with a compulsive liar was kicking up every trust issue I had. The lies still continued to reveal themselves after we broke up. George had claimed to have written a song about me. One day, while listening to the radio, I had discovered Snow Patrol had actually recorded it. Feeling I deserved someone who could tell the truth and who’s constant garbage didn’t stink up my life, I put George’s memory on the curb.

Enter Lizzy Nebowicz. Tall and angular, Lizzy was a musical theatre drop out and aspiring standup comedian who worked the door at a venue where I was a regular. A long Islander who still lived with her parents and took the train to the city, Lizzy wore flannels sans makeup, smoked pot, and performed a pale imitation of a Carlin-esque act where she boasted of a teenage shoplifting conviction and drug experimentation. While her jokes got laughs, the content was hardly original and blended in with every would be edgy lady comic. If anything, Lizzy’s street persona was a mere put on for the 21 year old lost follower.

Offstage Lizzy was affable, friendly, and was a welcome sight at a venue riddled with behind the scenes drama. One day I said to Lizzy, “Find me on facebook and let’s do coffee. I like you.”

“You too,” Lizzy said, “It’s tough to find girls that arent petty bitches.” After that, we high fived rocking out to Nirvana as the club janitor put up the chairs.

Lizzy never found me on facebook and I let it slip from my mind as life became a busy mix of singing telegrams, other survival jobs, road dates doing comedy, first drafts of manuscripts, lovers coming and going, roommates coming and going and my brother’s wedding.

That is, until Valentine’s Day when I got to the club and my $100 poster and $50 post cards were gone. I worked three jobs to pay for those things, and had worked even harder to promote the show running my immune system down. My posters also helped with foot traffic which was at times fifty percent of my audience.

Kirk, the club manager, who was usually a hard ass, contrary to his nature reimbursed me for my stolen posters and post cards in cash. Uncharacteristically apologetic, Kirk not only promised it wouldn’t happen again, but as a good will token booked me in the big room where the national headliners performed, an honor for a little fledging who looked up to those folks.

As my show for my five audience wrapped, Lizzy arrived at the club. Instead of her normal self, Lizzy looked like a shell of a human. Blotchy face and puffy eyes, Lizzy looked like she had been crying. Valentine’s Day was the day for love but the day for loss, so I decided to say hi and to comfort my friend. Lizzy responded by letting out a yelp and running away as if she had seen Godzilla. I scratched my head, what the hell had just happened?

In the back I could hear Kirk tearing into Lizzy who sobbed like an injured animal, “I don’t care if you are dating an asshole. You destroyed property and cost me money! I want to see you succeed. Do it again and you are fired, understand?!” No wonder she was upset, she was having a crappy day. Yeesh.

I didn’t connect the dots as Kirk was usually melodramatic, and painstakingly planned my March show. The show date arrived, and I saw my post cards and posters were stolen yet again, and Kirk apologized and reimbursed me for a second time. I also heard Lizzy had been fired, but Kirk fired people constantly. Shortly thereafter he hired her back, but this was typical Kirk.

I decided to take a break from producing the next month as not only had my things been thrown away by an anonymous hater, but busting my butt to perform for five people two months in a row was disheartening, especially when I was being sabotaged. Plus I had scheduled a trip to the beach with my family.

When I got back from vacation, I ran into Benny, a mutual friend of George’s and mine. Truth is, until I saw Benny I hadn’t thought about George in so long that I barely remembered his last name.

Giving me a long hug on the street that seemed to last an eternity, Benny said, “April! What a pleasant surprise! Hannah and I would have loved to have had you at our wedding!”

 “Then why didn’t you invite me?” Benny had talked about his wedding to Hannah, his NYU Law School sweetheart, constantly. Even to strangers.

Benny struggled to form the words, “We thought it would be too hard.”

“We’re friends and I want to see you happy. Why would it have been too hard?” Now I was confused. Although we hadn’t spoken in sometime, Benny and I had remained friends after I parted with George.

“George said you were so distraught over the breakup that you tried to kill yourself,” Benny said. Shocked and flabbergasted at this ridiculous claim, I burst out laughing. Sure, the year and a half leading up to this was filled with struggle and getting my teeth kicked in more times than I could count, but I would be Goddamned if I gave up. It was also a relief to leave that relationship.

I said, “Benny, honey, sweety, tell George the only place I was distraught was his dreams. So while I did not try to commit suicide, George’s credibility just did.”

Benny said, “April, just so you know, George has a new girlfriend?”

“Is she real or made up just like his cancer was?” Shortly after we broke up George was facing discipline from the legal board for trying to punch a colleague. He told everyone he had cancer, but in six weeks he had been cured, curiously in enough time to save his legal license.

“April, no need to get bitter….”

“Bitter! The ass hat lied about having cancer and just tried to kill me off!”

“True, but the girlfriend is real. I met her and she’s also a comedian and she knows you,” Benny said.

“What’s her name?” I said, curious to know who this broken creature was.

“Only met her once. I think it’s something like Julie but I know that’s wrong. She’s real young, like 21 or something….”

While I knew I should have cared less, morbid curiosity had gotten the best of me. Going home, I logged onto facebook and went to George’s profile. He was in a relationship with guess who? Lizzy Nebowicz. I thought my head was going to explode. First he has to rebound by dipping his dick in my pond. Second, I knew I was looking at the girl who ripped down my posters. Now everything made sense. Maybe George had lied about me trying to kill myself, but if I saw these two in person I swore to God I would murder them both!

I was livid, but my friends tried to talk me down. One pointed out perhaps George had changed, but if so why was his girlfriend destroying my property? Others told me I had no proof, but sometimes a woman’s intuition is all the proof you need, especially when the man involved is a walking shit pickle. The majority of my social circle assured me that Lizzy had George which was punishment enough and I should just work hard, ignore the ass hats, and soldier on like I always did. Instead of picking up a felony I chose to do the latter.

I wanted to move on to a bigger venue, but Kirk reeled me back in by pleading that he needed content and by personally promising that my stuff would not be stolen. Kirk, despite his flaws, was a man of his word. Not wanting to risk Lizzy’s moods, I invested in a simple $20 poster in case it ended up in the trash.

When I arrived at the club to drop off my poster, I discovered Kirk had sent me a text. His father, a movie theatre mogul, had a heart attack. Kirk needed to drop everything and head to Jersey. Like Cerberus at the gates of Hades, Lizzy there to greet me.

Not in the mood, I eyed the back entrance. Too late. Smiling like she was about to kill herself and take six people with her, Lizzy ran up to me and gave me a long hug. Picking me up, Lizzy twirled me around giving me the easily some of the most terrifying ten seconds of my life “April, I missed you!!!!”

“Missed you too,” I said, as Lizzy set me down, my head still spinning from the unwanted twirling and surreal experience.

 “We need to have that coffee and talk about boys!” Lizzy said jumping up and down, her unwarranted excitement coming from no where.

“Speaking of boys, you seeing anyone?” I knew the answer to that.

Lizzy now swayed nervously, “Yes, a lawyer in Queens!”

“I was seeing one of those too. Lied like the sun came up. But it’s probably not the same guy,” I said, hoping to plant it in her head the next time she felt like destroying my things. While I could tell she knew she had been caught, I also pitied her as George was the best she thought she could do. I didn’t want George back, but I wanted to work and mind my own business so right now I had to stand my ground.

 “Yeah. But seriously, we need to get that coffee and talk about boys!” As she spoke her tone mellowed which made me second guess myself. Maybe I was overreacting and George had changed after all.

“It was weird, you never hug your man’s ex,” I said to Sally-my palm reader friend-as we both shared a cigarette on her stoop.

Sally said, “April, she was hugging you because she wanted to strangle you. And she trashed your posters because he still talks about you. And she is going to take them again.”

“Kirk promised…..”

 “Hell hath no fury like a jealous woman. You don’t have to be a psychic to see that,” Sally took a puff of her cigarette, “April, you want out of there anyway. This place annoys you and pays you shit to begin with. You have better things coming. Just cancel the date now and move on.  I’m tired of hearing about those assholes.”

Sally was right. Two days later, I found out from an inside source my poster had been trashed again. I scratched the date fibbing about being double booked. Kirk however had seen the poster in the trash and fired Lizzy. While the hands of justice made me happy, I had also gotten another opportunity that would serve me better in the long run. All and all, this was for the best.

George and Lizzy became an after thought until one night I was walking down the street. George looking shriveled and tortured like a gremlin who had given up on life, skulked behind Lizzy who was wearing a dress that resembled a garbage bag. Pulling him along as he dragged his feet, the coupling resembled a man being marched to the gas chamber rather than two people in love. I tried not to snicker, but this was karma in all it’s splendor.

Later that year, I filmed for My Strange Addiction with my puppets. As a result I got a job hosting a web show, was cast in a horror movie, got the chance to model, record music, and had international magazines interviewing me. As fan mail from all over the globe poured in, I had my pick of future ex husbands and ex wives from all over the world. George again became a blip on the radar.

That is, until I logged onto facebook Lizzy appeared on my feed. Instead of the mousy brunette or badly dyed whatever, Lizzy was my exact color of blonde, which would have been a lot of expensive salon visits to get to. Unlike the woman I had known previously, Lizzy who never wore makeup, was now wearing Sephora shades similar to mine. This didn’t strike me as odd as performers change their look, especially at the urging of managers, all the time. Lizzy was also kickboxing and auditioning for reality TV, again performers go on trendy fitness kicks and reality TV was a quick way on TV. Then I I saw Lizzy signed up for a puppetry class. This was single white female come to life!

Whenever I posted a video on facebook, Lizzy would post one of her own within the hour. One day I posted two and Lizzy did the same. While her singing voice was better than mine, it creeped me out that she was watching my every move. She had her own talents, why couldn’t she just focus on those? When the platinum was growing out of my hair, I low lit. Within a day, Lizzy proceeded to low light her hair, too.

Some friends thought I should be flattered and told me my “psycho girl stalker” officially made me famous. Others suggested I strip naked, shave my head, smear myself in chocolate, and run down the street screaming to see if she would do the same. I needed the laughs, but it was also apparent Lizzy was deeply disturbed.

Through the grapevine, I heard George, was telling people he was the infamous fiancĂ© from My Strange Addiction, the one who made me choose him or the puppets. George would lament that my love for ventriloquism ruined our relationship, but he was proud of me and had become a fan. My friend Rick said, “April, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t your ex-fiance a different asshole?”

Yes, Rick was right. My ex-fiance was a different asshole, but asshole George was gaslighting Lizzy and now she was sucking me into their codependent abyss. More sad and pathetic than anything, I gradually got better at ignoring her.

Shortly thereafter, George moved Lizzy into his Queens pad and got her a cat. Once cohabitated, Lizzy announced on facebook aspirations to teach high school English, and then plans to attend law school and clerk for Justice Ginsberg. While this was shocking for someone who bragged of never attending college, studying or reading, Lizzy was focusing on positive goals and leaving me alone and that’s all that mattered.

That fall, I released I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl. This meant being profiled by Mensa, signing at Brown University, and pitching my ideas to network TV. These opportunities were hard won after writing the first draft the two summers before in an apartment without air conditioning coupled with endless hours of revising that I thought would surely kill me.

One day, after submitting a writing packet to an editor, I got a call from a blocked number. I ignored it figuring it was spam, but the number called again and again. Figuring it might have been in regards to my writing packet, I picked up. A woman’s voice on the other end screamed, “STAY AWAY FROM MY BOYFRIEND, POLLY POCKET!”

Immediately recognizing the voice I said, “Better Polly Pocket than Lizzy Borden, Lizzy.” CLICK.

Like the alien monster the crew thought they slayed, Lizzy had not in fact died but was back for the sequel. Recommitted to her resentment towards me, Lizzy created a blog of her own. Using her virtual blank canvass, Lizzy penned angry poetry directed at me. According to Lizzy, I was her sworn “psychotic enemy.” She ranted about how I was mean, told lies about her, tried to break her and George up, lacked talent and was delusional in regards to my goals. I would say the poetry sounded like it was written by Lex Luther, but Lex Luther’s understanding of rhyme would have been better, metaphors more original and he definitely would have used spell check.

Lizzy, not wanting to limit herself merely to poorly written poetry, branched out into the personal essay. Opining about the pain of being bullied as a teenager, struggling with her weight and battling cystic acne, the words sounded so familiar it was as if they were mine. Then I realized they were, because Lizzy had plagiarized my work!

Part of me wanted to beat the hell out of her, as plagiarism is a capitol crime in the writing world. I also wondered why she couldn’t write about her own shitty life, I mean she did sleep next to George every night. Ranting about her as I always did my friend Sally said, “April, block her now, she is making you as crazy as she is. And you are becoming just as obsessed with her as she is with you, and you are making yourself sick over this bullshit person and that’s what she wants,”my friend Sally told me.

“But that bitch is trying to pass my work off as her own!”

“Let her. She can’t write, she’s a marginal singer, and she looks terrible trying to be you. Lizzy is better than any joke you could ever write,” Sally said.

Taking Sally’s advice I blocked Lizzy. Redoubling her efforts to cause chaos, Lizzy told anyone who would listen that I was “a mentally ill drama queen” who cyber bullied her because I was jealous of her relationship with George. Lizzy also claimed that I had plagiarized her work in parts of I Came, I Saw, I Sang. Those who knew me knew this was ridiculous as I was guilty of being married to my work and had little time for flimsy flame wars. Even people who disliked me would give me that. However, Lizzy successfully managed to manipulate those who had either only known me in passing or had never met me at all. I had people confronting me in person or sending me nasty messages online, and each time I said, “I have no idea what a Lizzy Nebowicz is.”

I was going high, but Lizzy, being the ultimate succubus, was determined to drag me right down to her hellish level. Posting a comedy sketch she had filmed with her friends on a site she knew I trafficked, a character named April, described as “a fame whore,” had was jumped and beaten up junior high style by Lizzy and a group of girls. I reported the video and it was taken down. However, Lizzy had crossed the line from shrill annoyance to dangerous stalker.

I had repeated nightmares that Lizzy broke into my apartment to kill me. My stomach began to have issues and I could barely keep food down. On the street I feared running into her, so I found myself snapping at strangers. Focusing at work became a challenge because her harassment was sucking all my mental energy. I was being bullied, it wasnt fair and I was honestly scared of this woman.

I had worked hard and was reaping the rewards, yet I was always having to apologize to this real life gorgon who’s mental state was threadbare. Instead of ending her dysfunctional relationship with George, the thing actual causing her pain, I had become the scapegoat. Sick and tired, I took to my blog, a place I knew she compulsively visited, and let this boundary allergic chicklet know the next time she tried to contact me for any reason I would make sure she broke out into handcuffs.

I found out through the ever open gossip channels what triggered Lizzy’s latest burst of fury was George was growing unhappy in their relationship because Lizzy refused to work, drank all day and terrorized him nightly when he got home. As a result of the stress from Lizzy’s behavior, George developed migraines and a twitch. I couldn’t feel bad for him because he had created this monster. Desperate for better times, George was vocal, saying he wished he had been better to me because maybe his life would be different. An avid reader, George purchased a copy of I Came, I Saw, I Sang. Lizzy of course found it and went ape shit.

 Interestingly enough, I was not the only ex of George’s that Lizzy harassed either. One-a law school sweetheart of George’s who at the time was clerking for Ruth Bader Ginsberg-wrote Lizzy a cease and desist letter. Another, a high school English teacher in Lansing, was so upset that her husband called George angrily and threatened to drive to New York to shoot him if Lizzy ever contacted his wife again. While Lizzy’s ability to multi-task was impressive, it sucked to know I was no longer special.

Shortly after I put my foot down via blogosphere, George decided to commit to Lizzy for real in a surprise wedding ceremony at the courthouse. This took Lizzy off of all of our collective hands thus ensuring peace and quiet in all the land. As an added bonus, Lizzy abandoned all of her literary endeavors which was a victory for all humankind.

Lizzy and George left NYC and moved to his uncle’s pig farm outside of Dallas. He no longer practices law and plays guitar while Lizzy sings live in bars local bars. George manages Lizzy, so George might just get the music career after all, and Lizzy gets to use a gift that her own. To pay bills between gigs they shovel manure on the farm, which means they are both knee deep in mutual shit, but the most important things is these soul mates are doing it together.

THE END

Monday, March 8, 2021

Bizarre Love Triangle (New Order)

There are some people you meet in life that are in the chorus of your story and they remain there indefinitely. Such was the case with Mikki Luckinbill for a time. I didn’t like her because she was irritating and was clearly shtuping her way to the middle, but didn’t dislike her either because that would involve caring.

Mikki was the quintessential divorcee who’s therapist suggested she try comedy. It was because Dr. Finkelstein, her Park Avenue shrink, was tired not only hearing about her successful Columbia psych professor ex who was bopping a TA, but about the crabs she got afterwards. According to her “act,” after the affair Mikki moved out of their Riverside Drive apartment and back into the home of her parents: a doctor father who emigrated from India and a debutante mother who went to Radcliffe when it existed and was “rather disappointed” when Mikki was rejected by all the schools she applied to and could only get into her safety, Skidmore.

Whenever she graced the stage, Mikki’s act was a monotonous monologue that couldn’t even pass as tragedy, because alas, tragedy is interesting. Listening to her after one minute made you consider slitting your wrists, and after five minutes you wanted to draw up a warm bath and then throw in the toaster.

Sucking onstage is one thing, but sucking off stage is another, and Mikki was the master at both. A student of Jed Kemp, a one time rising star who coked his comedy career away, he assured Mikki she would be the next great female comedy superstar next to Chelsea Handler. It wasn’t because Mikki had talent, it was because she was sleeping with him and would tell anyone who listened.

As his star student and paramour, Mikki was all over Jed’s website, giving testimonial videos clad in low cut dress that her melon breasts hung out of. Acting as his ambassador, she tried to recruit other comedians to be a part of this “school.” Then Mikki would try to get these students to sign their friends up for a discount, thus creating a pyramid scheme that exploited hopefuls. After a while, she said she wanted to dump Jed because he could only get her so far and wanted a bigger fish.

Mikki was hard to stomach, but we also never had a bad encounter. When I could I avoided her because she was annoying. If I saw her on the street we would exchange a quick hi and kept it there, because that’s how you treat a chorus person in your play, right?

However, Mikki was soon to be upgraded to guest star in a dramatic arc lasting several episodes. Enter Isaac Rabinowitz, my on again/off again flame who I had recently decided burned me for the last time. After a series of events the complicated relationship had lost it’s luster and appeal. Finally, to the relief of everyone around me, especially my mother, I ended it with Isaac once and for all.

Isaac did not take it well. After a text where he accused me of being “cold”, we had a long two hour phone conversation where I was forced to hear about Isaac’s feelings, and I kept telling him to eat shit and go to hell because I was sick of his mind games. Isaac said he wanted to be a part of my life as my friend because he liked me as a person, and I believed him because I felt some of the same.

Despite our differences, when it came to my comedy and my puppets Isaac was always in my corner. As a comedian, every joke writing instinct he had was completely and utterly wrong, but he had a sixth sense as to what bookers would like my act, how to approach them, and ideas on how to guide my career. In return, I was always gung ho to guest host his shitty open mic  if he couldn’t make it. All and all, it was an awesome development, or so I felt.

 

 

Don’t get me wrong, Isaac could be a pick but at least he was an honorable one. Extending the olive branch, he invited me to do the guest spot at his open mic which meant I didn’t have to pay $5 to perform. Arriving at the club on that sweltering August day, it was a record breaking high. Not only was the place jammed with sweaty hopefuls, but the air conditioner was broken and the fans were going at full blast. To add to the ambiance, the place, which usually smelled like rotten urine, had an extra pungent odor.

I was icky and grungy, because in addition to the smelly scene the subway had broken and I was forced to trek thirty blocks with May Wilson in tow. My makeup was messed up and my clothes were stuck to my body. If that’s not a way to greet your most recent ex I don’t know what is. That’s when in walks Mikki Luckinbill with her jet black hair styled just so and wearing a low cut white dress, generous bosom bouncing with each step looking better than ever.

As his eyes caught site of her, Isaac ran over and was stuck to her for the rest of the night like Gorilla Glue, leaving his usual hosting corner so he could sit next to her. Smitten with his new squeeze, Isaac auspiciously placed his hand on her leg. I wanted to vomit. Why did it have to be her? On the other hand, it was making me realize I had done the right thing by ending it. I knew better than anyone how Isaac could be. Now he was Mikki’s problem.

Sunday Isaac texted me to have brunch as friends. My instincts told me not to go because the breakup was not only still fresh but I had just started seeing a new guy, Sean, two days before. Isaac and I were just friends, and if I wanted this friendship to work I had to give it a try, right?

I met Isaac at a diner in Murray Hill around the corner from his apartment that his millionaire father financed. As we ate, we talked comedy and our favorite mutual subject, The Marx Brothers. Bruch turned out to be more fun than I thought it was going to be. I said, “I forgot how much fun you were to hang out with.”

Isaac said,  “Me too. I am glad we are friends, April. It’s weird because we used to date.” My instincts had been right after all, “Come on, April, you can’t just pretend we didn’t used to date.”

“I am doing it right now. It’s not that hard, Isaac,” I said.

“How can you say that? I still care about you.” Isaac said.

“Just stop with the games,” I said, angry at myself for not seeing this was the usual Isaac trap of him reeling me back in, me taking the bait, him hurting me and then the cycle repeating.  

“Just so you know, I don’t want to get back with you anyway. I am seeing Mikki Luckinbill. We were talking about you. We both agreed you are self-absorbed, immature and are completely ruthless when it comes to your ambition.”

Now I officially had enough, “I think Mikki is a better match for you. She’s not funny and neither are you. And as for immature, I am looking right at him. So I am going to be the adult and end this once and for all. Have a nice life, Isaac because you are sure as hell dead to me.” I got up, threw my napkin down, and walked out onto the busy New York City Streets free of Isaac and his bullshit.

Two weeks later, Sean and I became engaged because why settle for a love triangle when you can have good old fashioned soul crushing codependency? Upon hearing about my engagement, Isaac became more determined than ever to win me back. He began texting furiously, telling me he was only with Mikki because he couldn’t have me, and if I said he the word he would dump her for real and we could be together. I ignored him and even went so far as to block his number.

To no ones shock except my own, Sean turned out to be a terrible fiancĂ©. Even on it’s best day, the relationship was text book dysfunctional. Controlling and jealous, Sean made me choose between him and my puppets, and I chose him feeling it was time I forget my dreams and become a good wife. When Isaac heard about this development through mutual friends, he confronted Sean and the two nearly got into a fistfight.

Isaac blamed himself for this development in my life. He told anyone that would listen that had he been a better man to me I would never be engaged to Sean. Of course as usual, Isaac was making everything about himself. My bad decisions were my own and my own alone goshdarnit. Meanwhile, Isaac was still seeing Mikki who was growing to steadily resent me.

Back at the ranch, Mikki was not only becoming increasingly jealous of me, but tired of Isaac and his wandering eye. Sloppy as usual, Isaac left his laptop open. This led Mikki to discover that in addition to trying to win me back, Isaac was also seeing two other women: one was Emily, a childhood sweetheart, and the other was my former friend Sharon, who he would later go on to marry, and referred to her in their exchanges as his “girlfriend.” To compound the drama, Mikki had introduced Isaac to her family at Thanksgiving the week before. If this is making you dizzy reading this, try living it.

Mikki’s frustration came to head when she was onstage one night at a show Isaac had produced. Unable to contain her age any longer, Mikki exploded at Isaac confronting him about me, Emily, and Sharon. In front of a free comedy show audience, Isaac denied the accusations. This infuriated Mikki further as she laid into him about his epically small penis size. When her verbal assault was finished, she hopped off the stage, slapped him across the face, burst into tears and ran into the night. While I was not there to see it, witnesses claim this was the funniest thing either had ever done.

I eventually dumped Sean, picked up my puppets, and recommitted myself to becoming a professional ventriloquist. Fortunately I was able to shake that mistake, and it got me a Daily Mail UK article that went viral before COVID made it cool. Each of the other players in this dramatic story faded into the background.

That is, until years later when I saw Mikki at an audition. At first I was shocked because it had been so long, but I was also glad to see she was still in the game. She still looked the same, except the low cut clothing was replaced by an all black motif that most first year drama students wear to look tortured and emotive as they wax nostalgic about Shakespeare and Chekhov.

Because time plus distance equals comedy, I had developed a sense of humor about those painful early days and regarded them as coming of age follies. When I gave her the big hello, she looked at me as if I was the Baby Ruth that invaded her pool party. She said, “I will have you know that I am doing well. Really well. I have an MFA in Acting.”

Before I could respond back she snarled and  stomped off.  For the heck of it, I went to her facebook page to see what she had been to later that day. In a five paragraph rant, she talked about seeing “the ghost from her past who was the succubus who seduced her boyfriend once upon a moon.” Then she called me “fame hungry” and said I was used, “as a regular Method substitution for an evil person.”

In honor of the completion of Mikki’s MFA in Acting I will quote he late, great William Shakespeare, “Life is a tale told by an idiot. The sound and the fury signifying nothing.” With that, I logged off the computer and relegated her back into the chorus of my story.