It was an unusual day. Our benefactor Jack stopped by in the late afternoon instead of the morning. No coffee and no fritters, but an envelope of freedom and life for Rose and me. In other words, $$$.
We were sipping a little Pino Grigio and relaxing a bit when Jack finally got to his point and request: “What do you know about loneliness?”
I looked at him a second or two and then said, “With Rose nearby, it’s not a problem, for me anyway. Why do you ask?”
Jack nodded and said, “I have someone who doesn’t have a companion like Rose.” And then he just looked forlorn and said, “How does one get beyond not having a Rose?” Rose remained silent. I asked, “Do you want us to find you someone?” It took Jack a second or two and then he spoke up with a blush and said, “Not for me! I’ve got a friend. During COVID he was fine. Many people felt captive and their lives dwindled down to a bare minimum. But now, Clark seems to have rolled himself into a little ball. I think he desperately wants to have friends . . . buddies . . . pals . . . just someone to talk to.”
Rose spoke up, “So why don’t you cheer him up if you know what’s going on?” Jack looked at Rose and then me and finally said, “I don’t like him.”
After a short silence, Jack continued, “He has no brothers or sisters, no nieces and nephews and no cousins nearby; but he does have money.”
“So how do you know him?” asked Rose. Jack said, “I knew him from junior high.” I said, “Junior high? I thought you went to some private big-money school.” Jack continued, “I did later. As I was saying I knew him from Glee Club.” Two of the three jaws in the room dropped in unison. Rose and I both said, “Glee Club?” I added a question, “Alto?” There was a slight pause before Jack gritted his teeth and said, “Soprano . . . both of us. Let’s move on.”
“Clark knows most other people are socializing, and having contact with old friends, new friends and strangers. Life returning to normal is far from what Clark is looking for, or needs.”
“How do you know that, Jack?” I asked. “I ran into him last week at the bowling alley.” In unison Rose and I asked, “Bowling alley? . . . you were in a bowling alley?” Jack nodded his head and said, “I’m so glad I could entertain the two of you. I was there to meet a friend. We’re working together on a business deal. Clark saw us and walked over and said, hello and introduced himself to my partner, who had suggested the bowling alley so we wouldn’t be disturbed and recognized. My friend left and Clark unloaded on me about his loneliness. So, this is a subtle good will mission.”
Jack handed over a photograph with a much older appearance that we expected. Looking over the image I had to ask, “He did get his hair cut didn’t he?” I expected a laugh. There was a shake of Jack’s head and he added, “Some girl twenty or thirty years ago told him how much she loved his hair. You figure it out. Here’s his phone number, address, and a few more photos of him to forget my history.” Rose took the printed-out details.
Jack left and Rose and I were basically at zero on the Idea-ometer. She suggested we sleep on it and be ready with a ton of ideas that we could whittle down to an easy journey of success the next morning.
The next morning, we stared at each other and then went for a walk around the block. We had breakfast and looked at each other with blank minds. Soon our regular conversation started up about our fun schedule for the week and we forgot about Clark. We were looking forward to the annual “Panto” (English Pantomime) at CenterStage in Federal Way. Two other couples were joining us. Later that afternoon one of our friends called to cancel one seat. Rose shook her head back and forth and said, “What are we going to do with one extra ticket? Our eyes met . . . and we both smiled and said, “Clark!”
Rose called Clark and introduced herself as a friend of Jack’s, which was close to the truth. Rose said, “Jack can’t make it to live theatre tomorrow afternoon and this production’s a hoot.” He suggested you might like to join us for a fun time, followed with dinner and laughter. Clark couldn’t say yes fast enough and then said, “I’m in but, what are we doing?”
Rose explained, “CenterStage produces a wild version of old children’s story every year. There are bad jokes, singing, booing, hissing, and a ton of stupid stuff and it goes on for hours.” There was perhaps one second of dead air before Clark spoke, and then finally, “I invented stupid stuff!”
We met Clark just a few minutes before curtain time. We introduced him to our three friends. The four seemed to blend well. When the show began and the crowd was told to hiss the bad guy, Clark led the charge. When the Dame (man playing the part of a woman) came out into the audience and winked at Clark, he had the widest smile. When she told Clark he reminded her of her fourth husband, Clark asked her how many times she had been married, she said three . . . he got the joke and just roared and the entire audience joined in. With Clark’s hair, laughter, and beaming smile, he was almost as popular as the cast. He got everyone’s autograph.
At dinner Clark asked us and our friends our favorite parts of the show, shook his head, with a huge smile on his face, and you could almost see everything replaying on his face. “My favorite scene,” began Clark,” was when the dame and the prince kept going down stairs and taking the elevators up and down on the stage behind the tables and there was no basement. I once saw ‘The Regard of Flight’ starring Bill Irwin in New York and he walked down the stairs in a trunk on stage.”
Clark hit it off with our friends and even got invited to a Seattle party, that we just couldn’t make. After the fun evening Clark asked, “Is this what live theatre is about?” Rose said, “Well, that and raising money.” Clark threw back his head and laughed and said, “Piece of cake! I can help. Are there lots of other theaters around?” Both Rose and I said, “Lots and lots from Edmonds to Olympia.” Clark said, “If I can’t get a hold of Jack, I know he’s always busy, please, thank him for me. He’s not that much fun to be around, but he’s got a good heart.” I nodded my head and Rose said, “Yes, Jack does have a good heart.”
c. 2022 Don and Peg Doman