The Lesbian Thespian
Herb Wanamaker chased down the light-skinned Negro as she was walking her Great Dane over by the baseball diamond at the Brandenburg athletic field. “Lady, your dog just defecated on the walking path and you didn’t clean the mess.” Normally, Herb left people to their own devices, but after witnessing the troublesome woman fleeing the scene of the crime on numerous occasions, enough was enough.
“Oh no, sir,” the woman replied in syrupy tones. “My dog squatted to pee, that’s all. He never moved his bowels.” She clutched a handful of free litter bags that the town provided at the entrance to the park. Never once having witnessed her use a bag for its intended purpose, Herb reckoned that she was stockpiling the slate blue bags for private use at home.
He shook his head emphatically. “Your dog urinated then emptied his bowels... a huge mess on the pavement.”
The beefy woman wasn’t the least bit intimidated. If anything, she seemed to enjoy the verbal jousting. “No, you’re mistaken. It’s those silly lap dogs that make the messes, but I most certainly appreciate your concern.” Turning away with a dramatic flourish, the woman meandered off in the direction of the soccer field leading her gangly dog on a collapsible leash.
A young brunette lounging on a bench a short distance away gestured with a flick of the head. “She used that same, bogus excuse on me last Tuesday afternoon when I tried to shame her into picking up after her dog.”
“I recognize you from somewhere,” Herb replied, “but I’m not sure where.”
“Kit Calhoun,” the woman replied extending a manicured hand. A small white Lhasa apso was curled up in her lap. “That’s my stage name, when I’m performing with the Brandenburg Theater Troupe.”
“Yes, of course!” Herb slid down on the bench next to the woman. The diminutive dog with the pushed in snout growled briefly sending up a throaty protest but quickly lost interest. “I saw you in the Alice in Wonderland production. You played the White Queen.” His smile quickly faded. “I brought my wife. It was our last evening out together as a couple. She passed away... colon cancer, a few months later.”
Reaching out she patted him on the forearm. “I’m so sorry.”
“A phantom limb,” he added as a bitter afterthought. “The mourning process… that’s what it feels like even on good days.”
Kit Calhoun breathed out heavily and her features darkened. “I recently just lost a loved one, too.”
“Was it a prolong illness?”
“Infidelity... I caught her with another woman.” In response to Herb’s bewildered expression, Kit added, “I’m lesbian.”
He paused just long enough to digest the information. “A lesbian thespian?”
“Yes, I suppose. Does my sexual affiliation bother you?”
“No, not particularly.”
“Some people consider homosexuals freaks of nature.”
A young mother with a preschooler riding a plastic three-wheeler strolled past. The little girl pedaled the bike off the path onto a tuft of weeds and, with the toe of her sneaker, the mother nudged her child back onto the tarred surface “That one there,” Herb pointed at the bulky Negro woman who had been reduced to the size of a grain of sand in the far distance, “is a bona fide freak of nature.”
The lapdog became fussy. Kit lowered him to the ground, offering the pooch a rawhide chew. “Unfortunately, my girlfriend’s name was on the lease.”
“It was her apartment,” Kit clarified. “After the blowup I had nowhere to stay and moved back with my parents.”
The Lhasa suddenly bolted upright and began scooting on his hind quarter across the grass. The dog settled down a second time but almost immediately tucked his hindquarters forward and began scooting with the front paws. “His scent glands are acting up,” Kit observed, as though it was the most ordinary detail to share with a complete stranger. “When we get home, I’ll have to ‘express’ the excess fluid.”
Herb didn’t particularly want to know what that entailed, but before he could conjure up a neutral topic Kit blurted, “There are these two, pea-shaped glands at four and eight o’clock just inside the anus. You insert a lubricated pinkie finger and squeeze to manually remove the oily, brownish fluid. It helps relieve pressure and protect against infection.”
Kit hadn’t mentioned anything about wearing latex gloves. “Sounds like a barrel of fun.”
She shrugged. “Do you live by yourself?”
“Yes, but it can be quite dull… emotionally stultifying.” Since the stunning, drop-dead-beautiful brunette had no use for men, at least not in the romantic sense, he didn’t mind baring his soul. Nothing would come of their clandestine tete-a-tete. It was like making small talk with a cloistered nun or younger sibling. “Last month my company closed down for a week to upgrade machinery. I figured I’d hike a small section of the Appalachian Trail in northern New England... maybe climb Mount Katahdin in central Maine. I did it once before and it was loads of fun.”
“So what happened?”
Herb shrugged. “I don’t know. Without my wife it just wasn’t the same.”
Kit swept the dog back up in her arms and began rubbing his furry scalp with her alabaster chin. “Synchronicity… are you familiar with the concept?”
He shook his head from side to side. Lesbianism, anal scent glands, synchronicity - the woman had the weirdest habit of leapfrogging about from one random topic to the next. Still, she was rather pleasant company. “Synchronicity suggests that life isn’t just a series of random events but an expression of deeper order in the universe.” “There’s a scene in Through the Looking-Glass where the White Queen says to Alice: ‘It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards’"
“Yes,” Herb confirmed. “I distinctly remember that line from the play.”
“The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday but never jam today.” Kit had slipped effortlessly into a reprise of her role with the theater troupe. 'It must come sometimes to jam today,' Alice objects, but the Queen insists, ‘No, it can’t. It's jam every OTHER day: today isn't any OTHER day, you know.'”
Kit Calhoun suddenly fell silent.
They watched as a steady parade of joggers, dog walkers, nature enthusiasts and a random rollerblader with bulky knee pads made the rounds. Lowering her eyes momentarily, Kit paused to collect her thoughts. All the giddy theatrics - the posturing and gesticulations – had fallen away, replaced by a muted gravitas. “Synchronicity… maybe that’s what drew us together on this bench today… this random moment in time and space.”
“Through the gracious auspices of a coffee-colored Negro and her Great Dane.”
Kit ignored the facetiousness. “Synchronicity allows the luxury of living backwards… the great advantage being that one's memory works both ways.”
Herb had lost track of whether the woman was expressing a personal conviction or mouthing yet another cryptic line from the play. “My mind only operates in one direction.”
She glanced off in the direction of a row of matchstick pines bordering the park. “What if you and I set up housekeeping together?”
“A gay actress and middle-aged widower?”
“We could split expenses fifty-fifty. I’d be free of my judgmental parents and you would have a sympathetic shoulder to cry on when you felt blue.” When there was no immediate reply, Kit rose to her feet. “It was just another one of my cockamamie ideas. I’ve always been one of those artsy, bohemian types who tend to color outside the lines.” She leashed her dog. “Goodbye, Herb. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed our talk.”
“Maybe we’ll meet again,” he noted wistfully.
“Yes, I’d like that.” Kit struck off down the path in the direction of the main gate.
In early December a freak snow flurry deposited an in inch of fresh powder on the ground, the first snowfall of the season. The temperature would rise to a balmy fifty degrees by noon and the whiteness that carpeted the park and its walking trails would be a pleasant memory.
“Pick it up,” Herb snarled.
“What did you say?” The light-skinned Negro was clutching a thick pile of bluish bags in her pudgy hand.
“Pick up your dog crap or there’s gonna be hell to pay.”
“You’re a goddamn bigot, who don’t especially like Afro-Americans, so you look for every opportunity to torment us.”
At eight o’clock in the morning, it was still quite nippy and Herb Wanamaker adjusted the stocking cap on over his ears. “I’ve worked with plenty of colored people… Jamaicans, Haitians, even a couple of Liberian immigrants, who fled the West African civil war. I always got along with them just fine.” He pivoted, gesturing at a steaming pile of excrement - a huge, moist, fetid, freshly-baked turd that stood out in bold relief thirty feet away on the snow-carpeted ground. “You can’t use a public park as your private toilet.”
The brawny woman, who ran a solid two hundred-fifty pounds, dropped the leash, and her dog traipsed off sniffing the frozen ground. Curling her hands into tight fists, she rested the knuckles on her ample hips. Chalky puffs of icy air burst from her nostrils with rhythmic regularity. “And if I don’t pick it up, what you gonna do?”
Herb stepped closer. The formidable woman never budged or blinked. “First thing, I’m going to knock you to the ground. Then I’m gonna drag your worthless carcass over there and reintroduce you to your dog’s artistic handiwork.”
“You and whose army?” The parking lot was empty, not a single footprint, animal or otherwise, graced the trail beyond where they stood.
There was no going back. If he had to club the cantankerous mulatto to death with a fallen tree limb so be it. Because of the woman’s low center of gravity, he would need to tackle her around the kneecaps. Once she lost footing, the rest would be easy. Lowering his shoulders like an NFL linebacker, Herb Wanamaker prepared to rush the woman.
“Private Calhoun reporting for duty!”
Herb glanced over his shoulder to the right, where a slender brunette sporting a mint green, mohair sweater was cradling a Lhasa apso in her arms. Placing the dog on the ground he scampered off in pursuit of the Great Dane who was foraging in the brush on the far side of the jogging path.
“Who the hell are you?” The Negro woman demanded.
Ignoring the question, Kit pulled a digital camera from her handbag and waved it in front of the woman’s face. “I’m your worst nightmare.” She clicked off a series of pictures and, approaching within inches, snapped several more. Kit backtracked to where the Great Dane had done his business and, circling counterclockwise, took a half-dozen pictures of the dog poop. “Exhibit A.”
“You a cop?”
“No, I’m not a cop.” The young woman drifted closer. “My name is Kit Calhoun. I’m an actress with the Brandenburg Theater Troupe. I just finished a six-week run playing Ensign Nellie Forbush in South Pacific. This past August I was the White Queen in a production of Through the Looking Glass.”
“That theatrical crap don’t interest me.”
“No, I shouldn’t imagine that it would.” Kit cocked her head to one side in thoughtful rumination. “Did I mention that my brother, Ted, is a detective with the Brandenburg Police Department? He might enjoy a little chat with you down at the station. Ted’s been on a crusade lately to rid the town of child molesters, pyromaniacs, drug dealers, wife beaters, general riffraff and public nuisances.” Kit returned the camera to her purse and fished around in the bottom of the bag until she located a cell phone. “Last chance to pick it up,” she whispered in a diabolical monotone.
The woman’s eyes compressed to tiny slits. Draping a blue bag over her stubby hand, she went and scooped up the dog waste. Retrieving the Great Dane, she hurried off.
“That was quite a performance.”
“I studied Stanislavsky’s method,” Kit clarified. “What would you have done,” she laid her actress’ mantle aside in favor of a normal speaking voice, “if I hadn’t visited the park this morning?”
Herb shrugged. “Something terribly regrettable.”
“This was my first visit back,” he deflected the conversation elsewhere, “since our meeting in September. What’s the likelihood we would all converge on the park today?”
“Nil to nothing.”
“Then it’s a classic case of synchronicity.”
“Yes, of course. There’s no other, reasonable explanation.”
The sun, which finally broke through the hazy gloom, was gathering strength now. The biting chill had abated and, in some areas, the snow had already melted away to nothing. “Still residing with your parents?” Kit nodded. Her white dog had finally picked its way back to where they were standing. “It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards," Herb noted with a poker-faced expression.. “I live at fifty-seven Larchmont Street. It’s a quiet cul-de-sac. You and the dog can move in whenever you like.”
Kit Calhoun wrapped her arms around Herb Wanamaker and kissed his cheek, a thoroughly heartfelt, Platonic gesture. “Would later tonight be too soon?”