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  • I didn’t have an inkling what I was in for that bright October morning. I was happily hauling the rotting porch off the front of the house. A Saturday. A project. Everything was right in the world.

    Dad. The tryouts are at 10. Are you going like that?

    Carly peered out the front door that no longer lead anywhere but down.

    Community theatre, she’d told us all about it. Everyone was going to be there.

    I’d made up my mind she’d forgotten. She was in the sixth grade. She was good at that.

    I set the wrecking bar and hammer on a joist. Wiped my hands on my jeans. Did a quick calculation. Trip up to the Middle school. Audition. Trip back. Be back at it by lunch and see if the rot had spread to the sill.

    OK. OK. I’ll run you over.

    In the auditorium, Carly gravitated to the fringes of the flock of almost teens. I faded even further back and found a seat by the doors.

    Bill took the stage. Bit of a bulge on the front of his faded blue shirt. Worn jeans. Leather jacket. Mr. New York theatre come to small town Maine.

    You’re all in the play, he announced.

    Not me, I called out. I just drove the car.

    He smiled.

    I still don’t know how it happened. I don’t know how he did it. But there I was, on the stage. In front of 100 people. Singing 76 Trombones. I’ve sung before, still do. In the shower, when the house is empty. Aboard the boat when the diesel pounds out the rhythm. But to stand alone on stage. Out there for all to see and hear. That is the stuff of nightmares.

    Peeking through the back stage curtains on the last night I thought how the set would be struck, costumes folded, and how we’d all go back to the lives we had before. How, after all the weeks of effort, there’d be nothing to show but snatches of songs like a fading scatter of summer freckles. How the community of energy that brought to life a town called River City would lose focus and dissipate as the demands of everyday life pulled us apart.

    The production ended and the connections forged during the four months of shared effort did stretch and thin but the magic didn’t vanish. We shared something with one another and with all who came to see and in doing so opened the curtains between us.

    It’s all too easy to be separated. Professional veneers, high school attitudes, overloaded schedules, we stay separate until the pot is stirred. In new combinations and endeavours we discover neighbours. I learned more in those few short months than I had in years of living down the street.

    Who knew the high school kid in black with chicken bones strung around his neck wrote poetry.

    Who knew Andy down to Viking Lumber was so light on his feet and quick with his lines.

    That was my cancer doctor, said Kathy, the school secretary after she saw the show. Right up there. Now more in awe of the man for his daring to dance across the stage than she’d ever been for his wall of certificates and diplomas.

    You have to be careful. Somewhere out there a child is thinking, it could be me, I could be up on the stage in the glow of colour and light. It could be your child. It could be you next time, swept off your front porch.
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