Sunday, March 25, 2012

All the world's a stage

In this excerpt from The Year of the Rabbit, young Sera Fletcher is once again saddened by the news of more people moving away - one of them is Gio, her biological father.  

Her mother is dying from a rapidly spreading form of cancer.  Twin sisters Dela and Gwen try to cheer Sera up.  With approval from the adults and costumes from Aunt Georgette's burlesque trunk, they and friends work magic to create a live performance in their back yard.

This excerpt represents one of the final stages of life for Marie Fletcher and the beloved cherry tree.  Readers with sharp perceptions will catch the reference to "All the world's a stage" and … the Tree of Life


~ ~ ~

Sera changed into her jeans and T-shirt. She fixed herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, grabbed a glass of milk, clenched the book under her arm and went to sit on the patio.  Tiger, the tabby cat was sprawled out in a sunspot along the bench.  Ringo sat in the shade.

She felt some comfort chewing on and savoring the flavors from her sandwich and taking occasional gulps of cool milk.  With the help of an occasional breeze, she leafed through the book on the patio table while tonguing peanut butter from the roof of her mouth.  Through the screen door she could hear the others arriving home from lunch and heading upstairs to change.  She heard Aunt Georgette ask Mrs. Johnson how her mother was.

Sera finished her sandwich and gulped down the last of the milk.  She licked her lips and wiped the remainder with her hand. 

The dwindling aroma of lilacs wafted in from the nearby bushes.  A few honeybees buzzed back and forth between the clusters of flowers, then randomly flew away and headed towards the cherry tree.  She followed their flight with her gaze.

“It looks sad,” she thought.  “It looks like it’s dying too.”

The twins came out in their jeans and light spring tops to join her.  At sixteen years old, they were filling out nicely and shooting up in height — almost as tall as their father. 

They had heard from Mrs. Johnson that Sera was feeling down.

“Hey, Sera,” said Dela, patting her little sister on the shoulder, sitting beside her and pulling the cat onto her own lap, “So you know about Mrs. Johnson moving.”

“Yeah.”  She responded, still staring at the cherry tree.

Gwen piped in, “I just learned about it on Friday.  It’s a good thing her house didn’t catch fire last night too.”

Sera stayed silent.  She almost stopped breathing. 

Dela responded, “They think it was the oil furnace.  Apparently, dickhead Daryl didn’t drain it properly.”

All three girls snickered at the nickname.  Sera breathed a sigh of relief. 

“I heard him give the constables a verbal lashing this morning,” offered Gwen, “He was yelling at them to do their jobs in finding who —” she lowered her voice in a mocking tone, “did this to me  — and — you useless faggots couldn’t even track down my family … and they’re saying back to him, it’s not our job to investigate fires and…”

Dela was sensitive to Sera’s feelings about the ‘family’ comment and interrupted her sister’s portrayal, “Okay, Gwen.  We get the picture.”

Sera just sat staring at the tree and nodded as if to acknowledge the conversation.

Dela gently dropped the cat onto the patio floor and wiped the loose fur off her lap, “Sera?  What’s up?  What are you staring at?”

“The tree.”

The twins turned their gaze to the cherry tree.

“It looks like crap,” commented Gwen with a sad tone.

“It looks like it’s dying,” said Sera in a monotone voice.  “It looks like it’s suffering.”

“Like Mom,” added Dela quietly.


Georgette came out in her house clothes to check on the girls.  She kissed Sera on the cheek. 

“Qu’est ce qui se passe, mes petits choux?” she asked.

“We’re just talking about stuff, trying to cheer up Sera,” replied Dela.

Gwen suddenly bounced in her seat, “Hey, Aunt Georgette!”

Georgette laughed, startled,  “Mon dieu!  What is it?”

The red-headed teen smiled broadly, looking at her sisters then her Aunt, “Can we put on a show?”

“A show?”

Dela grimaced at her sister, wrinkling her freckled nose, “What do you mean?”

“Can we set up a stage under the cherry tree with sheets for a backdrop and curtains, you know… and put on a little show for our Mom?”

“I-I-I don’t know.”

“We can ask Dad and the boys to carry her bed out,” offered Dela, being sold on the idea.

“Dela and I know some songs and a few dance steps from our lessons,” continued Gwen, “Dad will be happy to see that money put to good use, right? You know how he teases us about it.” 

Georgette cocked her head and made a funny face.  She straightened up and said, “Well, why don’t you ask her? Go ask your Mother if that is what she wants.”

The twins raced from the benches towards the door.

“Quietly!” Georgette shouted then realized the irony of her own loud outburst and shook her head, exasperated. 

The girls slowed their pace and walked quietly into the house then to their mother’s room in the front parlor.  Marie responded that she loved the idea of an impromptu performance in the backyard! 


Family and friends worked magic that afternoon. Walter and Sera expertly climbed the tree to tie a half-dozen bed sheets from the branches and pin them to each other.  Matthew and Perry laid planks down for the small stage and dance floor. Georgette pulled out some of her costumes. Dela and Gwen were pleased to explore the contents of her theatrical trunks.  Amy brought Harry; Jenny and Carl arrived to set up chairs and watch the show; they had even closed the restaurant for the evening. 

As the western sky glowed azure blue and orange, Perry and Walter hooked up the service lamp to the side of the shed.  Once the stage was set and the performers were ready, Matthew, Perry and Walter were on hand to transport Marie’s bed and attachments out to the back yard.

Sera forced her imagination to compare the scene to that of an Egyptian queen being carried by her servants to some grand performance along the Nile. 

The events of the day gave her a bittersweet feeling.

~ ~ ~

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