87 Stuck in Place

My mind raced. Positive thoughts, I told myself. Back to basics. “Why would I say it?” I echoed, in a taunting tone. “Why do you think?” Mr. Condrin had always said that the easiest ad lib was just to repeat a line.

“If I knew, I wouldn’t have asked!” he responded, staring me down.

There. We had started. We just had to ping-pong back and forth until one of us figured out how to continue the scene – or until Pete finally showed up.

“If you knew me, you wouldn’t need to ask!” I snapped.

He shot back, “Well, maybe we got married too quickly!”

I parried with, “Well, you’re the one who proposed!”

“And you didn’t put up much of a fight, if I remember correctly!”

We were now nose to nose. “Is that what you were expecting? Me to fight you about it?” I could see Jared sweating; I was, too. Any time now, Pete, I thought.

“Well, I don’t really know what to –”

“Now, now,” Pete interjected, finally rushing on stage, “I do hope you young people are not both saying a little more than you mean. One is so apt to in these lovers’ quarrels.”

I turned to look at him and was disconcerted to notice him zipping up his trousers. I don’t think I could have responded right then if I had had to; fortunately, the next line was Jared’s, and then we were back on track, although I did have a few seconds to wonder what Pete had been doing.

As things returned to normal, I had a chance to listen to the audience: There was nothing. No whispers as they told each other how closely we had come to messing up, or anything. They really didn’t seem to have noticed, and they were still paying rapt attention to the play. There were quiet gasps when the murderer was finally revealed, relieved sighs when the attempt on my life was foiled, and satisfied murmurs as Giles and Mollie reconciled at the end. The final curtain was followed by enthusiastic applause, which only strengthened as we took our bows.

As the curtain closed again, Jared suddenly swept me into a hug and spun me around. “Marsh,” he said, “I cannot believe we got through that. I was terrified you wouldn’t know that Pete wasn’t on stage!”

“Well, I suspected something like that,” I responded, laughing in relief. “Your eyes were wide and you looked as though you were about to soil your trousers.”

“I really was!”

“I really did,” muttered Pete, behind us. The two of us turned in surprise. “I am so sorry, guys,” he continued. “I was laughing really hard backstage and had a bit of an accident and I had to change my pants. That’s why I was late.”

Jared and I didn’t have much time to react to that before we were both swept up into another hug. “You guys!” laughed Alvin, an arm around each of us. “That was fantastic! I mean, great performances, everybody, but… You know, Pete, just because we were joking about missed entrances the other day didn’t mean that I wanted to see an example of one!”

“Yeah, I’m really sorry, Alvin, I–”

“Forget it,” Alvin cut him off, still laughing. “This is live theater. It happens. Just don’t do it again.”

“Marsh!” boomed a bass voice. I looked into the crowd of audience members who had made their way backstage to congratulate us, and there he was.

“Mr. Condrin!” I shouted, raising my hand. “Over here!”

“Great job, Marsh! And nice recovery, too.”

“I thought you always said the audience wouldn’t notice something like that,” I teased.

He chuckled. “They will if they’ve directed the show before.”

I laughed back and then called to Alvin. “Alvin, come meet my high school drama teacher! Mr. Condrin, this is Alvin Tomlinson, our director.”

“Please to meet you, sir,” Alvin said politely, “Marsh has spoken about you a lot. Glad you could make it.”

“I’m directing her sister in another production, and when she told me that Marsh had the lead, I knew I had to come up. They’re good little actresses, these Steen girls.”

“Yeah, I’ve noticed the ‘little’ part,” Alvin joked. Nikki, who had come up behind him, elbowed him in the ribs, thus saving me the trouble.


I turned to see Lee Ann and Terry and a bunch of our friends.

“Hey, guys! Mr. Condrin, these are my roommates, Lee Ann and Terry, and our friends, Susie, Phil, Jay, Fred, and Sheila.”

“Marsh, you were spectacular!” Lee Ann said, throwing her arms around me.

“Seriously,” added Terry. “You really impressed me. I… well, I was impressed.” She didn’t know I had overheard her doubts; no matter, I think I showed her.

“Give the credit to my director,” I grinned, letting the point slide. And then of course, I had to introduce him to my friends as well.

As the rest of my friends added their congratulations, Lee Ann announced, “We’re all going to the Grill, Marsh. Can you join us?”

“Sure,” I said, “let me just get changed. Mr. Condrin, it was great seeing you again. Um… did you want to come out with us?”

He waved off the suggestion. “No, I have some other people to get in touch with, as long as I’m up here. Is your family coming to see you?”

“Sure. I talked to Mom on Wednesday, and she said they would be here tomorrow night.”

“I’m sure they’ll enjoy your performance. Take care of yourself, Marsha!”


I started for the dressing room, but I hadn’t gotten more than a few feet before Vicky found me. “Marsh? Great job! I really believed you as that guy’s wife.” Then she indicated the boy next to her. “This is Kevin.”

I put out my hand to shake his, and he took it with a mumbled, “nice to meetcha.” Then he turned to Vicky. “You ready to go, Babe?”

“Just a sec, Kev,” she responded. “I want to talk with my girlfriend. Why don’t you wait outside the theater for me?”

I could have sworn he grunted as he left, but maybe I was just projecting. He was also maybe a bit too good-looking for my taste.

“Vicky, what in the world?” I asked, as we moved to a corner to get away from the crowd.



“Oh, he’s just really shy, that’s all. He’s not all that comfortable around people.”

“I don’t like him. Couldn’t you have done any better?”

“Actually,” she said archly. “No. You may remember that my last boyfriend isn’t currently available, so I’m doing the best I can.”

“I’d have thought that after m– after your last boyfriend, that you’d have higher standards.”

“Higher standards don’t do a girl much good if there’s nobody around who can meet them. There’s kind of a shortage of guys on campus, you may remember – and one less than there should be, at present.”

“Yeah, right… Look, a bunch of my friends are going to the Grill. You want to join us?”

“No, I told you, Kevin isn’t very social.” At my look, she hurriedly added, “But he’s very sweet in private. Besides, after my last outing with your friends, I’m not sure I’d be all that welcome.”

“You’re my friend, Vixy. Of course you’d be welcome.”

“Thanks all the same. I just wondered if you’d made any progress on that research you were doing.”

“Oh, yeah.” I gave her a chagrined look. “Well, it turns out that the timing of fertilization can strongly tilt the odds towards one sex or the other, but the effect isn’t nearly strong enough for anybody to rely on. So either they didn’t really understand biology, or there’s something else going on.”

“Or maybe Peterson doesn’t actually know the experiment at all,” she pointed out. “Maybe all he had to go on was what was in the article.”

I shook my head. “I don’t believe that. He seemed really sure that…” I looked around and lowered my voice. “… that certain types of changes shouldn’t happen. Just because they weren’t listed in the article shouldn’t have been enough to convince him of that.”

“Then I don’t know what else to suggest. I don’t suppose you’ve heard back from Eric?”

“No, he didn’t expect to have…” I broke off as I noticed something.

“Vicky, what’s wrong with your arm? That’s the third time you’ve rubbed it in the last few minutes.”

She looked embarrassed as she answered. “Oh. You remember how you fell on the wet leaves when we were talking the other day?”


“Well, I did the same thing, only nobody caught me.”

“Ouch! I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Yeah, I’ve been kind of clumsy, lately. This whole thing has me out of sorts, and I keep losing my concentration.”

I stared at her. “I don’t get you. I would have thought that, you know, with this new romance of yours, my changing back wouldn’t be such a big deal for you.”

“Well it is,” she snapped, glaring at me. “Why, are you happy the way you are, now that you’re a big deal actress? Are you saying that all this was worth…” and she did, thankfully lower her voice to continue,” … was worth losing your manhood?”

“Of course not! But… this was a triumph for me. Can’t you let me enjoy it? Do I have to spend my entire… however long until this gets resolved… agonizing? I worked really hard for this, Vicky! Give me a chance to revel in my success and then first thing after we close, I’ll start worrying about what to do next.”

She bit her lip, sighed, and nodded. “You’re right, Marsh. I’m sorry.”

“And you do need to take care of yourself, Vix. Don’t get so distracted that you get hurt or anything. You mean a lot to me, you know.”

“That’s really nice to hear you say that,” she smiled. “I really appreciate it. Now, I should really let you go so you can meet your friends; besides, Kevin will get impatient if I make him wait too long.”

“OK, Vix,” I said, hugging her. “Talk to you later.”

“You, too. And you really did a terrific job, Marsh. I’m sorry I was a little mean about it.”

“I understand,” I said. “And I promise that I’ll pester Eric as soon as the weekend is over. OK?”

She nodded and walked off to join Kevin, and I watched her go. It seemed odd, but sometimes it really did feel as though her problems were even worse than mine.


  1. von says:

    >>.“Yeah, I’ve been kind of clumsy, lately. This whole thing has me out of sorts, and I keep losing my concentration.”


    >>Well it is,” she snapped, glaring at me. “Why, are you happy the way you are, now that you’re a big deal actress? Are you saying that all this was worth…” and she did, thankfully lower her voice to continue,” … was worth losing your manhood?”

    “Of course not! But… this was a triumph for me

    Months and months of morbid introspection, and a line like this can just fly by? Times they are a changing 🙂

  2. Hoopla says:

    A nice fun little chapter, Vixxy is getting more and more annoying though.

  3. scotts13 says:

    I’m with von:

    >> Do I have to spend my entire… however long until this gets resolved… agonizing?

    WTF? Squealing tires and burning rubber, what a reversal! “Yeah, hun, I’ll get back to work retrieving my pe*is REAL SOON NOW, don’t you worry your little head.”

  4. von says:

    Von chuckles and wonders if Scott intended the rather graphic pun.

  5. von says:

    >>Stuck? Had I just thought that we were stuck? No, I corrected myself. We were not stuck

    Awkward. Very awkward.

  6. Michael says:

    87 chapters in two nights. Now I can sleep…

    I can’t help but think Daddy’s cannon story was a big hint.

  7. Russ says:

    Awkward. Very awkward.

    I’ll buy that. Suggestions? I had originally started with, “No, I corrected myself…” but thought it needed more of a connection from the previous chapter.

  8. Hoopla says:

    No update today? 🙁 Hoopla is a sad panda 🙁

  9. von says:

    Hmmmm. How about starting with

    ::My mind raced, searching desperately for an ad lib. “Why would I say it?” I echoed, in a taunting tone. “Why do you think?” Mr Condrin had always said…

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