As I looked around at their sullen faces, I suddenly felt like Wendy from Peter Pan in the midst of the Lost Boys. "I could tell you a story," I wanted to say, but of course I didn't.
"I told you to wear pants," Jerry said later. Then he burst out laughing. "I'm sorry..." he said, "I just keep getting the picture of you and those papers everywhere. I wish I'd seen it. It's like... hey! Did you ever watch I Love Lucy?" He laughed even harder.
I gaped in astonishment and hit him on the arm.
"Oh! Take it back!" I said.
He kept laughing. "Take it back!"
After he'd regained his composure and apologized enough to mollify me, he told me the boys' plan for the nights of the performance. Each night, as soon as we got there, I'd go open the door. The boys would take turns standing inside the door so they could open it for each other. They had worked out some signals... It all sounded terribly uninteresting.
Jerry was incredulous. "Don't you want to go back down there? That place is so cool!"
I scratched my eyebrow and said, "Not really. I thought it was kind of creepy and dirty." The memory of the cobwebby-spidery thing on my hair was still very fresh. I shuddered.
"No, listen," he said. "Tuesday night, before the dress rehearsal starts, I will give you the grand understage tour: the trapdoors, the special effects, the lights. You'll love it."
I shrugged. "Okay, if you say so."
"I do say so," he replied.
Unfortunately, Tuesday night was so busy, and there were so many adults everywhere, that it was impossible for me to get past the dressing rooms. Boys were changing clothes at the far end of the hall, so the monitor wouldn't let me through.
The rest of the stage crew was very put out. We were all in a group backstage. I was the only one standing. The boys were sitting or half-lying on the ground, or on boxes and props. As I looked around at their sullen faces, I suddenly felt like Wendy from Peter Pan, in the midst of the Lost Boys. "I could tell you a story," I wanted to say, but of course I didn't.
"How is she going to get in tomorrow, and the night after, and the night after that?" one of the boys asked.
"We're never getting down there again," another lamented.
"It's the only reason I was on stage crew," sighed a third.
"I have an idea," I said, with a big smile. "There is a way."
"What?" Ryan asked, his face full of doubt.
"I could disguise myself as a boy."
"No way!" Jerry scoffed.
"I think I could make it work," I told them. To Jerry I said, "I need your Giants t-shirt and baseball cap."
He grinned. One of the other boys groaned, "Oh, give me a break!"
I borrowed an ace bandage from my aunt, and used it to tape down my breasts. I put my hair up under the hat, and didn't use any makeup. Wearing Jerry's t-shirt, I walked right past the monitor with Ryan and another of the Lost Boys. Jerry didn't come — I figured that if he was along, it might make someone recognize me.
Once past the monitor, the rest was easy. I did the chimney climb and down the ladder by myself. Then the narrow hallway, down the stairs, through the understage area, and finally up the stairs, where Jerry was tapping. I quietly opened the door, and one of the Lost Boys went inside.
That done, I skipped off to the bathroom, removed my disguise, and put on a little makeup.
"Ta da!" I said, posing this way and that in front of Jerry.
"You're amazing!" he said. "What a transformation!"
"If you only knew!" I quipped. He shook his head, smiling.
"So will you let me give you the downstairs tour later?"
To tell the truth, we didn't have a lot to do. The crew was at least twice as big as it needed to be, so there was no problem with people hiding under the stage. I guess that was the idea from the start.
After the second act was well underway, Jerry asked if I wanted the tour he'd promised. On stage, the students playing Kim's mother and father were about to sing "Kids!" which is kind of a boring song, so I said yes.
The two of us slipped through the door and down the stairs. He picked up a flashlight and the two of us walked around, hand in hand. He showed me the different machines and explained what each one did. A lot of kissing was involved, but the machines were interesting, too. There were some that blew stuff up on the stage, like fake snow or fake fire or confetti or whatever.
"I don't think any of them blow papers all over the stage, though," Jerry noted.
I gave him a sock on the arm and he pretended it hurt.
You'd never guess from above, but there were little elevators and trapdoors of various sizes all over the stage. Some could make people disappear (there were piles of mattress-like foam to catch the falling actor), but most were just plain doors, so if you had a street scene, for instance, you could have someone climb down a manhole, or walk into the subway.
The trapdoor that interested me most had a strange device like a cage under it, and two huge springs.
"Jerry, what does this one do?"
"This one is the coolest of all! See, the actor gets in here..." He led me inside the cage-like part as he talked. "Last year we took turns going through this..."
"I feel like I'm locked up," I complained. "I want to get out."
"Don't worry," he said. "Nothing will happen. You cross your arms over your chest so you don't whack them." He crossed my arms for me. "See the door above your head? It makes you pop up in the middle of the stage near the front. It looks like you appear out of nowhere. The trapdoor over your head opens the moment the platform under your feet starts moving. See the wood you're standing on? It matches the stage, so you can't tell from above whether the platform is up or down. It's a perfect fit."
He went on describing how it worked. I was a more than a little uncomfortable and wanted to get out, but I didn't want to interrupt him.
While he was talking, one of the other boys came sauntering over. Jerry didn't see him, but when the guy got closer, I suddenly realized what he meant to do: he was going to send me up on stage.
I couldn't get out of the cage without help, so I cried out, "Jerry!" and pointed at the other boy with my chin.
"No, you idiot! Don't!" Jerry shouted at him, but the other boy was faster. He slammed the button with his fist, and with a click and a whoosh! I was standing on stage, facing the audience.
The auditorium was full. I knew that my mother and Aunt Jane were out there somewhere. Instinctively I reached up to push my hair back from my face, and then I froze. I gaped at the crowd before me, and couldn't move. It seemed like a slow eternity as I gazed into that dark sea of faces. It was probably only a few seconds that passed, but it seemed like an hour, and what finally broke my spell was quick thinking by one of the actors.
The kid playing Kim's father grabbed my arm and spun me to face him. "Kids!" he sang. "You can talk and talk till your face turns blue!" Then he spun me away from him and gave me a shove. I stumbled forward, and the force of the shove kept me stumbling until I was safely offstage.
One of the Lost Boys looked at me with dismay. "Oh, Marcie! What did you do? No more going understage! We're all going to be in trouble now!"
© 2006, 2007 by Kaleigh Way
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