The Zeldenthuis Incident

Zeldenthuis's was on College Street, tucked in between a cafe and a wine bar, only open from Monday to Friday and from noon to four except on alternating Thursdays when it stayed open till nine, or thereabouts. A person could find just about anything he needed in Zeldenthuis's if he looked hard enough, and frankly a lot of things he didn't, assuming what he needed ranged from top hats to flapper dresses to bell bottomed jeans.

It was always those alternating Thursdays that brought out all the theatre geeks from the university, right from the neophytes in Introduction to Stagecraft to the departmental associate professors, all of them looking for materials with which to put together productions on the cheap. (Although a few, admittedly, were always on the lookout for something to wear to class.)

"No, no, red and black only. Red and black. Blood and death. It's all about the symbolism."

Geoffrey recognised the voice immediately, and wasn't sure whether to look up in horror at the conversation or hide behind the hoopskirts and hope that Darren never realised he was there.

"Theatre isn't about people, it's about ideas. It doesn't matter if the hat hides her face; her face isn't important. In fact, I like it better that way."

Horrified or not, Geoffrey couldn't let a statement like that stand. From the first class of his first day of his first year of university, Darren had always been there, challenging and interesting, sure, but bloody infuriating all the same. And Geoffrey didn't back down from a challenge.

"How the hell are you expecting her to express anything if you can't see her face?" he popped up to ask.

Darren's head jerked up, and he gave Geoffrey a smug little smile when he saw who it was. "Let me guess," he said. "You're planning to do your scene entirely in the nude, for maximum expression."

"Oh, you'd like that, wouldn't you?"

"Don't flatter yourself. One night in Billy McTavish's basement apartment doesn't mean a thing."

Geoffrey just rolled his eyes; eight months later and it always came back to Billy McTavish's basement. Personally, he blamed the tequila. Darren, it seemed, blamed Geoffrey.

"I'm not in the scene," he pointed out.

Darren waved him off with a flick of his wrist, his response to that conspicuously absent. "No," he said to the poor girl he'd drafted to help him select his costumes. "That's fuschia. I want red. Red, red, red."

Darren, with his detachment and his theory and his red, red, red was an affront to all things theatre, as far as Geoffrey was concerned. Even if the production of Petunia's Penchant for Purses in the tiny warehouse theatre on King was promising, and he had a lot more interesting ideas than most of the other aspiring theatre professionals in their program.

The problem with Darren, was that he had no sense of the theatrical. He couldn't see past the subtext to see the story. To see the drama.

"Yes, the one with the veil. Her lines will be muffled but that's not particularly important."

Oh, that was it.

"Draw your weapon," said Geoffrey, pulling a parasol from an elephant's foot umbrella stand and holding it aloft.

"Geoffrey, that is an umbrella."

"It's a parasol, and that's not the point," said Geoffrey, poking it in Darren's direction. "Weren't you the one going on about symbolism?"

"Fine, fine," said Darren, pulling a silver-handled cane from the same stand. "Here, this is my symbolic penis. Watch me wave it around."

Geoffrey did not comment on the relationship between Darren's symbolic penis and his actual one, and instead smacked the cane with his parasol.

"What are we fighting about, exactly?"

Geoffrey blew an errant curl from his eyes. "I," he said, "am defending the good name of theatre. You, on the other hand, are defending your right to be inane and pedantic and dull."

"Dull?" said Darren, smacking him back with the cane. "I am many things, Geoffrey Tennant, but dull will not ever be among them."

They had already drawn a crowd, of course; one couldn't be in a small, cramped, used -- no, vintage -- clothing store holding an impromptu swordfight without drawing a crowd. Geoffrey jabbed at Darren's chest with the tip of the parasol, being deflected at the last moment.

"They're theatre students," said one woman to her friend, who gave a murmur of understanding in return.

"This is ridiculous," said Darren as he lunged.

"Are you conceding, then?" asked Geoffrey.

"Not on your life."

They managed to get two more clashes in before the imposing figure of Zelda Zeldenthuis appeared between them with her hands outstretched. "That's a dollar twenty-five for the parasol," she said, while snatching the cane in her other hand. "You've torn it."

"Damn it," muttered Geoffrey. He was the one still holding his weapon, though, so he gave Darren the smug smirk of a winner.

"Satisfied, Geoffrey?" he said, rolling his eyes. Geoffrey did not miss the relief in them.

"It'll be rapiers next time," he said, leaning in close, "mark my words."

"Well, I'll be sure to have a rolled up copy of the Star on hand, then," said Darren. As soon as Geoffrey stepped back, though, he wasted no time fleeing the shop.

Geoffrey just watched him go, and rummaged in his pockets for loose change, wondering just how the hell he was going to use a parasol in his scene for their next class. He didn't have money for much more than that.

But it had definitely been worth it, if only for the look on Darren's face. Geoffrey almost looked forward to the next time.

[ by CJ Marlowe ]   [ home ]   [ disclaimer ]

Written for Yuletide 2006.