Chapter 5 – January 10D

The Bird opened her eyes. Hamlet was approaching her mother, which she suddenly realized was more accurate than saying that Hamlet was approaching Gertrude because her mother was no longer in her Gertrude costume. She was dressed as Save-Anna, wearing the Bride of Frankenstein wig and horn-rimmed glasses from her television commercials, looking ready to inform Hamlet that he could save 10% on all purchases over $100 each Wednesday this month at his local Shop-N-Save.

“Now mother, what’s the matter?” Hamlet did not appear to notice that he was now speaking with Save-Anna.

“Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended,” replied Save-Anna/Gertrude/The Bird’s mother.

The Bird sensed something else was wrong. Their voices, sounded different. Cleaner? Then she realized — she wasn’t hearing them over the auditorium’s loudspeakers.

“What’s the matter now?” The Bird could see the perspiration on Hamlet’s face, that shouldn’t be possible, she was sitting in the back row of the auditorium, with Mr. Jacobs and her friends on the Bark Bay High School fencing team — they had sat there during this dress rehearsal so they could discuss the play without interfering with the performance.

“Have you forgot me?” And as her mother followed Hamlet’s pacing about the stage, her eyes caught her daughter’s, and widened in surprised recognition. She can see me? From so far away

The Bird looked down. She wasn’t sitting in her auditorium seat, she wasn’t sitting next to Annie. She was in an armchair, on the stage.

“You are the Queen, your husband’s brother’s wife, and, were it not so, you are my mother.” Hamlet rushed past The Bird without even a glance in her direction. She looked back at her mother, who blinked, regaining her composure. “Nay, then I’ll set those to you that can speak.”

Her mother’s head was tilted to her right, projecting her voice toward the audience. The Bird looked in that direction, hoping to locate her friends —

But there was no fourth wall. Or actually, there was — an interior wall. In Queen Gertrude’s chamber. Of Elsinore Castle.

Chapter 5 – January 7C

The Bird leaned forward, her chair squeaking loudly even under her slight weight, and asked Rune how he knew so much about Shakespeare.

Rune looked back, made eye contact with her. “I don’t, really.” He shifted in his seat again, so that he was again facing the stage. “We had to read ‘Romeo and Juliet’ last year in CP English, and everyone was all like I’ll be glad when this is over.” An appreciative chuckle percolated among his friends as Rune waved his right hand dismissively over the greasy waves of his red hair. “But when I started reading it, I was like, cool. Took a while to get used to the language, the thees and thous and wherefores — what made a difference one day was when actors came in to play the roles, the way they said the words, it made a lot more sense then.”

The Bird nodded in the darkness, and remembered the recordings of performances her mother played when preparing for a Shakespearean audition or performance. Her mother would often read along to those performances, and would give her daughter the same play to read, if she liked. The television and stereo not being options at these times, The Bird had learned that reading along with her mother would at least make the time seem to go by quicker.

“We had to do an essay about ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ and I got an A on it.” The Bird saw a contented smile on Rune’s face, as he gazed across the rows of empty seats at the stage. It was the most relaxed she had ever seen him. “Miss Guthrie, she gave me a copy of ‘Hamlet’ to read at the end of the year, for the summer. Had a lot of notes in it.” He smiled like he didn’t care what others might think of him. “Read it in a week. It was — awesome.”

The Bird saw Mr. Jacobs lean forward, place a gentle hand on Rune’s shoulder. “Good for you.”

Chapter 5 – January 7B

A voice commanded from a man standing in the distant front row. Start in five minutes. The man dropped into a seat, only his head now barely visible to the members of the Bark Bay High School fencing team.

“Everyone knows the story, right?” Mr. Jacobs’ voice was an urgent whisper.

“Sure.” Two seats to Mr. Jacobs’ right, Double-J made no attempt to lower his voice. “Hamlet sees a ghost, says hey man, I’m your old man, and I was murdered by my brother. But Hamlet, instead of going out and getting revenge, killing his uncle, he goes around talking a bunch of nonsense.” The Bird, sitting four seats away, saw Double-J throw his right hand dramatically into the air. “To be, or not to be.”

Mr. Jacobs cleared his throat. “That’s — one interpretation.” Double-J lowered his hand, then tilted his head back against the wall.

“We’re studying ‘Julius Caesar’ in English this year.” It occurred to The Bird that Annie’s explanation probably wasn’t necessary, since Mr. Jacobs taught English at the school. “We study ‘Hamlet’ next year.”

“Really?” Butch sounded worried.

“Only CP.” Butch sighed in relief at Rune’s explanation.

Rex leaned forward in his seat, his head high above the seats. “Is it a good idea to talk about the play before we see it?”

Mr. Jacobs replied in what seemed to The Bird his Coach Dan voice, definitive and assured. “For this play, yes.”

“And it’s what they did, back in Shakespeare’s time.” Rune, sitting in the row in front of The Bird, had turned his greasy red head so that he could easily make eye contact with everyone. “Outside the theater, they’d post the plot of the play, so people could read it before it started. They called it the argument. Back then, they didn’t worry like we do about ‘ruining the surprise.’ All they cared about was the performance.”

A dismissive snort spurt from Double-J’s upturned nose.