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The phone has been ringing off the hook for the last week.
“Historic costumes,” I paused and waited for the inevitable question given it was October. “Yes, ma’am, we do rent for Halloween. No, we only carry costumes from pre-nineteen hundred.” I rolled my eyes at the Hanna Montana as a slut request. “Yes, we have several pirate costumes in stock.”
Holding up my hand, I made mock talking motions with my fingers and thumb. My tailor, Julian, smiled and gave me a wink.
“Yes, we can. Alright, thank you and yes we are open till 8:00 tonight. Then 10:00 tomorrow night. And then till midnight on Halloween night. Thanks again, and hope to see you soon.” I hung up the phone. “You stupid twat-waffle.”
“Another request for Captain Sparrow?” He asked, not looking up from the hundred-year-old bobbin lace he was attaching to a collar. He kept checking the printout next to him, but he was still doing it not quite right. Julian made my OCD twitch.
Among other things.
“More or less. She wanted a traditional pirate costume.” With a shake of my head, I finished writing down the ladies phone number and stuck it to my cork appointment board.
“So, I need to mug another homeless guy for his clothes?” Julian gave me a wink, alluding to an old discussion of ours.
“I don’t think she knows what a traditional pirate looked like. I’ll slap something together for her. Now, are you going to get the Elizabethan lace sewn on at some point tonight?” I gave him a look over my glasses.
“Oh, yes sir! Don’t beat me, Massa.” He cringed back from me. “Julian will have it ready on time. Don’t fire me, please Massa.”
“Shut up and sew something, you Gaydar bait.”
Julian grinned and put a hand on his hip in a flamer pose, that fit him far too well for a straight guy. Then when he pitched his voice into a twink’s lilting tone that made me want to either murder him or fuck his ass till he begged.
“Oh, darlin’!” He blew me a kiss. “I ought to feel so jelly of you, that buttery backstitching pattern you can sew. I think envy is leading me to a have delicate condition.” He reached down to reposition his cock in his pants. It took my full control not to follow that motion with my eyes.
“If you were not so damn good a tailor, I would fire you just for firing sake.” I tossed a fabric ruler at his smiling face. “And you’re delicate condition is that you can’t tell 1700s needle lace from late 1800s bobbin.”
He looked down at the pattern in the open book before him and then at the 1885 Prussian ladies’ ball gown he was working on. “No, this is bobbin lace! See the pattern here is almost identical to what it shows here.” Then he saw my eyes, that I’m-teasing-you-twinkle, and frowned. “Man cunt.”
The phone again.
“Historic costumes.” Sigh. “No sir, we don’t have Power Ranger costumes. Sorry.”
** ** ** ** ** ** **
Sitting in my empty shop, listening to music Julian would have teased me about if he had been here, I was depressed.
Looking at Facebook, between silly-costume request phone calls, I saw where all my SCA friends were posting pictures of Gatalop 29. Again Fort Gaines had been invaded by the middle ages, and again I had missed it. For the second … no, the third time since I opened my shop here.
Leaving their pages for my own FB page, I pulled up my pictures. There in images was almost a timeline of my life. Goofy pictures of me, as a late teen, sitting around a gaming table, playing my Blood Angels at a Warhammer40k tournament. Then all the Cosplay pictures. And then my attempt at a beard year, and that first spring in the Society of Creative Anachronisms. Getting dragged to Mississippi for GulfWars.
Oh, the fun I had then!
The costumes! I looked at the pictures of me, and half wanted to wince at what I thought was historical back then. Then I looked at the guy in the photo next to me. Kevin the Drakecatcher. His snarky, sarcastic as hell smile. That stupid blue beret hat–color matched to his kilt and boots–with that azure ostrich feather. Had I even know what a blue feather meant when that photo was taken?
Then the photos after that. The improvements in the way I dressed at every event till I was nearly perfect. I could have stepped back through time and not been out of place. Sitting back, I looked around at my shop. My dream had come true. Perhaps dreams should stay dreams. When they come true you have to wake up.
Looking at the picture of the opening day, me holding up the first dollar I had made. How little gray there was in my goatee then, how unchanged Julian looks. The man must be a vampire, he never ages.
With a sigh, I reached for my coffee and looked up to see a zombie, in 1817, French-cut, blue waistcoat, walk into the shop. I closed my eyes for a half-second and took a deep breath before putting on my professional face. Not only had this guy just scared the whey out of me but he was in a movie level quality makeup and costume. The Walking Dead had nothing on this izmir escort guy.
I smiled. “Can I help you? If you’re after brains I’m afraid we’re all out.”
He smiled, which was pure gruesome.
“Lord, I hope so. That you can help I mean.” He turned and there on his backside was a massive tear in the fabric–threads sprayed out like a dust broom–of his pants. Smiley face boxer shorts showed through the tear.
Laughing, I nodded. “That, I can fix. But, from the looks of it, whoever made that should probably do the work. They might have more skill than I do.” I gestured with my hand, showing him my acceptance of the fact that there were other historical tailors out there better than myself.
“It belongs to a theater production company. We’re putting on a play tonight. I went out, in my costume and makeup, to an early Halloween party at a friend’s house.” He managed to look embarrassed even under all those latex appliances and layers of paint. “I shouldn’t have done that. Now, if I show up with it like this, I’m going to be in trouble. I have an understudy that’s getting too big for his britches.” He shrugged. “No reason to give the director even more reasons to put him in my place.”
I smiled and nodded. “Sure. I’ll keep you out of trouble.” I gestured behind me to the curtained-off back room. “There is a dressing room back there where you can drop trou.”
I watched the smiley faces and smiled along with them as he walked past my work desk. When he went between the curtains, I got out my kit and moved some paperwork I had been fiddling with earlier. I closed my laptop and got it out the way.
He reappeared in a moment, holding the pants through the parted curtain.
I smiled and took the pants. “Modest much?”
“No, not really. I just didn’t want to embarrass you if were. Plus someone might come walking in.”
I chuckled and turned to my work top and got my fabric scissors to do the de-threading. A good place to start anyway. This was a mess. “I don’t get embarrassed and you are the first customer since sunset.”
He shrugged and stepped out into the shop again. I saw very nicely muscled legs molding those silly boxers. I did my best to keep my eyes off the Bowie bulge he was sporting, but I did take at least one good look.
“So what play?” I asked as I worked.
“Les Misérables the zombie version.”
That stopped me in mid-cut. Twitching, I looked around at him. “Do what?”
He nodded, with a tired look. “We have a strange director. He came up with the idea for Halloween. You know how in the normal play everyone dies? Well, in this one everyone is already dead at the beginning, and when their character dies they are reborn as children. They reappear on the stage as laughing, happy children and then go running around asking for candy from the audience members.” At my smile he nodded. “And of course, all the zombies are heartbroken when this terrible thing happens.”
Laughing, I shook my head and went back to work. “Clever. Twisted, but clever.”
“Yeah, it’s doing well. We did one show yesterday. Two today, one at lunch, then the one tonight and then we have the big show tomorrow night.”
“Damn. Who are you playing?”
I grinned and sang “Undead Prisoner 24601.”
He laughed and then struck a pose. “My name is Jean Valjean!”
“And I’m Javert!” I grinned. “That was always my favorite play. I must have seen it a dozen times.”
“So what did you think of the movie?”
“You’re kidding, right? Russell Crow, Hugh Jackman, and Sacha Baron Cohen all in the same movie? They could have been reading names out of the phone book and I would have loved it. For it to be Les Misérables, even with what the director did to the source material, I still went and saw it four times. My friends hated it.”
He nodded. “Yeah … I’m about the only one in the cast at the theater that liked it, too.” He suddenly looked a bit nervous. “I’m Scotty by the way.”
“Gene.” I put down my scissors and offered him my hand. “Gene Scranton.”
He held my hand for a second longer after the grip. “So Gene, want to see a play?”
** ** ** ** ** ** **
The theater was a century old when I was born. Just how close to the time period of this play the theater was, when it was built, brought so much home to me, sitting there enraptured by the music. The time I loved above all modern times, the early to late eighteen hundreds, when the clothes were so much more than simply a way to cover yourself with a cloth. When they were not the frame but were art in themselves. The wardrobe makers for this production company had spared no expense on the costuming, but a few of the actors? Well, my friend Scotty was by far the best in the cast, but then he was supposed to be, I guess.
And the direction?
How often I smiled at the sick humor of this wonderful musical being done by hideous zombies. And then, when members of the cast began to alsancak escort die off, and all these cute-as-hell little kids began to come running out into the audience, hopping up into laps and asked for candy, the whole theater broke into peals of laughter. And this became all the more humorous as the play went on and more and more people fell into … life?
I had little Fantine sitting next to me swinging her feet when Scotty sang out his last line and slumped over dead-ish. She hopped up and ran up onto the stage to hug the child Valjean that suddenly appeared. They went skipping off to join the growing crowd of children gathering, I realized, to sing ~”Do you hear the people sing?”~
And when at last only zombie Cosette and Marius were left dead, the children surrounded them and began to sing the ending. Each child kept bringing them flowers, but the two undead would try to eat the flowers.
I stood with the rest of the audience and clapped with all my heart. I smiled at Scotty when he came back out on stage with the rest of the cast and then they, with each child they were teamed with, took a bow and waved. A man in a modern suit came walking out on stage and the cast members joined in the applause. He too bowed to the audience and then, with a huge smile, went cast member to cast member shaking hands and thanking them.
As the curtain came down and the lights came up, I stood to leave but had a hand catch my sleeve. It was the little Fantine, smiling up at me.
“Scotty asked me to come get you and bring you backstage.” She tugged at my arm.
Who could refuse that face?
The area behind the curtain was a whirlwind of people getting out of the outer layers of heavy costuming and handing them over to people placing those jackets and coats on rolling racks. I let my hand brush the fabric of a couple of them as we went past. Feeling the authentic weaves under my fingertips, I smiled. Real craftsmanship. So very rare to see nowadays.
Scotty was standing next to Javert and a woman who was an extra from the Jean Valjean’s factory cast, but she seemed to be talking to them with authority. She looked at me when I came walking up.
“So you’re the one to touch a needle my work?” she demanded.
I looked to Scotty, he looked embarrassed, gave me a shrug and a nod.
“Yes ma’am, I made the repairs.” I confessed to, but unlike Scotty I held my head high in the face of this woman’s ire. I was, as I always am, proud of my work. “I own a historic costuming shop. Was there an issue with the work?”
“Nope, I barely noticed it. Least ways not till I had the pants back in my hands.” She looked me up and down and then smiled. “Carol Wilson, wardrobe director. I was rushed the night I stitched those the first time. Your stitches were better, neater, than the ones I had put in. The only reason I noticed them. Nice work.”
“Do you do commissioned work? We often have dozens of repairs after a production ends; I mostly take care of them, but that because I don’t trust others with my work.” She eyed me critically again. “Where did you learn?”
“I’m in a medieval group.” I started to explain.
“Good, you’re hired. Let me get your number and I’ll have you more work than you can do after tomorrow. We have to make all the repairs to this lot, and then get ready for our Christmas show. I’ve been thinking of trying to find some help.” She smiled. “I did the SCA back in the eighties. The Middle Kingdom.”
I was about to say something when she was called away, from a dozen directions.
Scotty gave me a smile. “She pounced on me the moment I got back from my fist act as M’sieur le Mayor.”
Javert laughed at him.
“You should have seen his face.” He popped Scotty in the stomach with the back of his hand. “She was about ready to skin his hide to make buckskin pants for the Thanksgiving Indians.”
Scotty nodded, sighed, and then looked at me. “We’re about to get a beer. It’s been a long night, hella long week and my voice is about gone from the singing. I thought I might see if you would like to join us?”
For a moment, all the work I need to do was there, ready to be used as an excuse, but then just how long it had been since I had been somewhere fun came to me.
“Sure.” I looked at my phone checking the time; damn its 1:35 in the morning! “Where at? It’s kind of late for the normal bars.”
“Yeah, Valjean here is playing host to the Devil’s Night cast party.” Javert grinned. “I’ll be there soon. Save me a beer or three.”
When he walked off, I suddenly felt uncomfortable. “It’s a cast party? I was thinking you meant just a drink at a bar. If it’s a party for just the cast.”
Scotty caught my hand.
“It’s not. That was just Tim, being an ass. It’s only about four or five of us going to get together, talk for a bit and drink a beer to the end of the show tomorrow. You are more buca escort than welcome, Gene.” He smiled. “You’re my guest, and I promise you, after the way she acted tonight Carol would have had Phillip Ross, the director, toss me out on my ass if I had shown up with those pants ripped. So I own you one.”
I smiled, shook my head, suddenly feel the weight of the money he paid me for the work in an odd way. As if I had charged a good friend for help. I realized, as I felt that, where it was coming from. Scotty had this infectious personality. He was instantly likable, and would be your best friend in the world after you had known him an hour.
“Give me about twenty minutes and the just follow me to my place.” He started trying to loosen the heavily starched white collar. “I have got to get out of this.”
“Here let me.”
Standing in front of him, I avoided his eyes while I removed the ties and decorative pins holding the stiff piece of cotton linen in place. But I could tell his eyes were on me the whole time. A not unpleasant feeling. When I had it undone, he sighed.
“You have no idea how hard it is to sing for hours when you can hardly breath and are feeling like you’re about to be choked. Thank you,” He took a deep breath. Alright, let me get the rest of this off, and get out of this makeup and I’ll be ready in just a few minutes.”
I nodded and watched him rush into the back, then I made my way back the direction I had come in and out to my car. I sat humming and singing songs from the play as I waited.
“Don’t you fret, M’sieur Marius ….”
** ** ** ** ** ** **
Scotty’s house was, in fact, a loft apartment. The old building it was in had once been a small department store, then a dry cleaners, then a coin Laundromat, and finally had sat empty for a decade. Now it was under renovation into lofts and he had the first one to be finished and leased out.
“Does the construction not cause problems?” I asked him when we climbed the two flights of stairs up to his unit. The elevator had yet to be installed.
“Only when I want to sleep in.” He fished his keys out his pocket. Behind me on the stairs I heard other of the cast following us up. “They are hammering and what all by six-thirty every morning.”
By the time he had the door open the others were there, with six packs and bags of food from whatever 24 hours fast food place of their choice, they had stopped at. Scotty had promised DeGionos Pizza and salad when, in the parking lot of the theater the others had been talking about stopping and I had I asked him about food. I had him swing us through a gas station and I grabbed a six-pack of Redd’s Apple Ale for me, and whoever else wanted one.
Which proved to be everyone. They all wanted to give one a try.
The others, Tim (Javert), Mark (Marius), Terry (Thenardier), and Beth (Eponine) each shared whatever they had brought as well and soon we had a buffet of food and drinks on Scotty’s table. When the pizza came out the oven, I was in the kitchen discussing the play with Tim. He had been cast for his voice and the fact his hair had turned gray at thirty. He looked my age but was a decade younger.
“Yeah, I auditioned for Valjean. But then pretty boy there, with his perfect tones, showed up and stole the role. He has to have a wig, though, as you saw.” He threw a French fry at Scotty. “Worked out all’s well that ends well, I love playing the villain now.
Terry began to shake his head. “No, no, no. Clearly you are not the villain of the play. That is my part. You are merely misinformed law enforcement. What? I’m abusive to the poor girl, Cosette. Abusive to my daughter.” Beth pantomimed crying while nodding her head and rubbing her bottom. “I steal for the poor and give to myself. Hell, I even rob the dead at the barricades. I try at every turn to get Scotty here turned over to the law and back into enslavement.” He struck a nose in the air pose. “You, Tim, are merely Darth Vader, when it comes to evil I am the Emperor.”
He hid behind Beth, laughing at the rain of fries thrown his way.
Over the next hour, the discussion of this play drifted into talk of the next. A Christmas Carol, done from the point of view of the ghosts. Comments about the director and his mental health seemed to top their lists of party games.
Then Beth and Terry had to get going. At some point, I had come to realize that, father and daughter in the play, were engaged to be married in real life.
Mark and Tim hung around till the sun was coming up outside before they headed downstairs. Then, with Scotty and I joining in from the balcony, we four seriously confused the arriving construction workers by singing ~”One more day!”~ at the top of our lungs.
Laughing, Scotty and I went back in after they drove away, him getting another drink to ease a tired throat.
“Well, I guess I need to be heading out as well.” I sighed. “Let you get some rest, you’ve had a long night. And I ….”
“You don’t have to leave, Gene.” He reached over and tapped his beer bottle to my Redd’s “Stay and ah, well … am I wrong in thinking that you are, well…” His eyes and face were telling what he wanted to ask.
“Yeah,” I said simply.
He nodded. “I wasn’t sure, but … oh, hell I’m terrible at this.”
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