note from the author:
This is Chapter Three of the PREQUEL to Blow Out the Moon. If you got to this page from the last chapter (Chapter II.) I hope you keep reading! If you somehow got here, and would like to begin the story at the beginning, you can go to either:
Chapter One. News (the beginning of the published book)
the beginning of the prequel which some people hated and some people loved:"The Adventure of the Very Loud Living Room."
Chapter III. Rumplestiltskin Part 2 (The Play )
Finally it was after lunch on the day of the play. Jemma and I went up to our room and I helped her get into her costume: a white nightgown with puffy sleeves. I tied a blue sash around it, so it looked just like a princess dress, and then carefully fastened on the necklace.
Then I put the ring on her finger and told her to be sure not to lose it.
The girl has to have a ring to give Rumplestiltskin.
But what if it falls off? Jemma said
It won't just don't touch it at all, then it can't.
| We went outside
to wait for the others. Kenny and Neil came first (they were both wearing
their costumes cloaks Pat had made); and then came Peg and Pat, walking
down the street very slowly carrying a picnic bench.
Is that Peg’s costume? I said I was really surprised: she was wearing an old raincoat.
No, that’s so the whole audience wouldn’t see the costume on the way over, Pat said.
She said we could see it after we’d finished setting everything up. The branches we’d cut for the forest scene didn’t look right. The leaves had shriveled up, and when we tied one around a pillar with green garden twine, and one to the front door knob they looked more like dead tomato plants than trees in a forest.
fancier than the cloaks Kenny and Neil
have to cut new ones quickly, Pat said.Our
hedge and the evergreen tree! I said. Pat, Neil, and I tugged and
chopped branches (luckily, my father’s tools, including the ax, were still
lying underneath the tree where we’d left them). Kenny didn’t help: he grabbed
a branch and started waving it around in the air. Duke jumped up on him,
barking really loudly.
Send him home, send him home! I shouted. What if he barks during the play and won’t stop?
He won’t. That was from Peg, of course.
How do you know?
He always obeys me, Peg said. If I tell him to lie down and be quiet, he will.
But what if he doesn’t! No one will be able to hear a thing.
Well, if he does bark, I’ll send him home. Like this — watch.
Turning to Duke, she pointed to their house and said:
Go home, in a stern voice. He put his tail between his legs and walked away very slowly, stopping at every step to look back at Peg. She looked after him as though she was about to cry.
And what if you’re on stage when he starts barking? I said. Saying that will ruin everything!
Pat chimed in.
Libby, that’s an exaggeration, she said in that grown-up voice that means the start of a speech.
While Pat was making it, Peg called Duke and he ran back to her, put his paws on her chest, and slobbered all over her face; she petted him and told him over and over that she was sorry and that he was a good dog. Meanwhile Pat was saying:
What if he DOES bark a little? _______(blah blah)
Oh, all right! I said. But don’t blame me if he wrecks the whole thing. Can we see the costume now?
She told us to close our eyes, and when we opened them, Peggy had on a long hat with bells, like a court jester’s. She was wearing tights, and short dark boots, and a bright yellow tunic with a leather belt. The tunic had bells on it, too.
It’s just right. She looks exactly like Rumplestiltskin, I said.
Peg did her hopping dance and the bells jingled. Neil said,
It’s better than the picture in the book. MUCH better.
It was, too: That didn’t have a hat or bells. Pat looked down, smiling in a modest but proud way, and said,
I cut the bells off our Christmas stockings; and the tunic is a pillowcase. I cut holes for the arms and the head— I can sew them back up later.
Then Willy and Bubby came out and asked if it was time for the show, and we said no, not yet, but we let them sit down in the seats (with our picnic benches plus Peg and Pat’s, we had three rows). Then we set up the stage with the loom and hay.
We carried out the card table and put the tickets and money box on top, the Kool-Aid and cookies underneath in the chuck wagon.
Then we put the thrones and extra hay (just in case) and the branches in the living-room, right behind the front door, so we could change the scenery quickly. Pat put the tin foil over the hay, just to make sure it was big enough to cover it, and then stuffed the tinfoil inside Peg’s tunic and tightened the belt. Neil kept saying,
Oh, I’m so excited!
Then I saw the Pearsons crossing the street, so I told the others to wait in the dressing-room and I sat down at the table to collect the tickets. All the Pearsons, except for the baby, came — their mother asked me if I’d watch them and not let them go out of the yard until she came to get them and I promised to do it; all the Candies and Johnsons came, and Ricky Alzamoora, with a friend. Everyone I invited came — they knew that when I said something was going to be good, it would be.
It was quiet, and a very hot day: even the grass smelled dry.
All the little boys looked very clean — even their T-shirts looked whiter than usual. Hollis and Joyce wore dresses and hair-ribbons. I stood in front of the curtain and looked at them all: everyone looked serious but really excited. Then I said,
We now present Rumplestiltkskin, starring Peggy and Patty Tampone, Jemma Koponen, Kenny Paley, and Neil Grant.
I ran down the steps to the very back of the audience; I didn't sit down. I stood behind the back bench, where I could see the audience and the stage.
The boys all had crew cuts and their heads looked boney from the back. No one talked, and when the curtain opened, everyone, including me, clapped.
It opened on Pat, the miller’s wife, teaching her daughter how to weave in a very bossy way. That went on a little too long and I started to get nervous. Then the King came on and the miller’s wife bragged,
My daughter here can weave hay into silver.
As she said this, Pat shoved Jemma forward; Jemma tripped on her long skirt and Kenny caught her before she fell all the way down. Jemma looked around in a surprised way. That worked perfectly: of course, saying the girl can weave hay into silver is a complete lie and the mother hasn’t even told the daughter she’s going to tell it.
I was relieved that Kenny did not talk like a beatnik.
When the King said,
Now set to work — and if by tomorrow morning early you have not woven this hay into silver, you will die, he looked really fierce.
You could SEE how scared the poor girl was. When she was left alone with the pile of hay she looked at it helplessly. Then Rumplestiltskin appeared and asked what was wrong and she told him and he said,
What will you give me if I do it for you?
So Rumplestiltskin wove and after awhile the girl moved between him and the audience — when she moved out of the way there was a huge heap of glistening silver where the hay had been. Rumplestiltskin took the necklace and hopped off the stage, smiling.
Then the King came on and rubbed his hands greedily — you could tell that he wanted the silver even before he said,
A whole pile of silver! Even if she be a miller’s daughter, I could not find a richer wife in the whole world.
But he said she had to do it again that night. The curtain closed, and opened on the girl crying over another pile of hay. Again, Rumplestiltskin appeared and said he’d weave it into silver if she’d give him something; this time, she offered her ring.
Slowly, Jemma she it off and he put it in his pocket and again, he wove the hay into silver. But the greedy King made her do it again and that night, when Rumplestiltskin asked her what she would give him, she said she had nothing left.
Then promise me, if you should become Queen, to give me your first-born child.
The girl promised and once more Rumplestiltskin wove hay into silver.
When the King saw the glistening heap on the third morning, he asked the girl to marry him and be his Queen and she said yes. The curtain closed.
It opened with the King and the girl, now the Queen, sitting on their thrones wearing crowns. The Queen was holding a baby and the King patted its cheek and said how cute it was.
I was afraid Kenny was going to start acting silly (he had just said Googoo gaga in a ridiculous voice and some of the boys in the audience were laughing) when, suddenly, Rumplestiltskin JUMPED onto the stage and shouted:
Now, Queen, give me what you promised.
Everyone gasped, even me.
The Queen argued and pleaded and the King offered jewels instead but Rumplestiltskin said,
No, something alive is dearer to me than all the treasures in the world.
He tried to grab the baby and the Queen hugged it tight. Then she started to cry and Rumplestiltskin said,
I will give you three days, and if by that time you find out my name, then you may keep your child.
The curtain closed and opened: the thrones were gone and instead, there was a forest. Under one branch Rumplestiltskin was dancing and singing:
Today I bake, tomorrow brew,
As he sang, he did a hopping dance. The bells jingled; it all seemed kind of magical — and the messenger peeked at Rumplestiltskin from behind a tree long enough for the audience to see he was watching and, maybe, guess that he would tell the Queen.
The curtain closed and opened on the King and Queen on their thrones.
Rumplestiltskin came in and said,
Now, Mistress Queen, what is my name? and the girl said,
Is your name Conrad?
Is your name Harry?
And then she said, with a mischievous smile,
Perhaps your name is Rumplestiltskin?
The Devil has told you that! The Devil has told you that! shouted Rumplestiltskin.
He stamped his foot and fell to the floor; the King ran over and looked down at him.
Rumplestiltskin is dead, the King said. Our child is safe forever.
Do you think that was a good ending? The audience did: when the curtain closed they clapped and clapped. Kenny, Neil, Pat, Peg and Jemma came out in their costumes; Kenny swept off his crown and bowed, the others just bowed. Jemma curtseyed (I don’t know where she learned to do that!) and everyone clapped harder. Even I clapped harder — after all, it was a really good play (except, maybe, for the very end: what do you think?).
Then Kenny, Neil, Pat, Peg, and Jemma ducked behind the curtain, the clapping stopped, and the audience didn’t move — they didn’t even turn their heads to talk to each other. The backs of all the crew-cut heads stayed completely still, looking at the stage, as though they were waiting for the curtain to open again. And suddenly I saw that they thought it was going to.
The backs of those thin little necks looked so trusting and hopeful.
I ran backstage where the others were wriggling out of their costumes.
We have to do something else, I said — whispered. They’re all still sitting there, expecting MORE.
The others just stared at me stupidly. I explained that Rumplestiltskin had been too short. (I was surprised, it had always seemed to last a long time while we were rehearsing it — but that was with interruptions and fights. Without them it was much shorter — probably less than five minutes.) The audience, I said, expected something longer, so we had to do something else. Everyone still just stood there, staring at me.
I know! Cinderella! Jemma can be Cinderella, Pat can be the Fairy God-Mother, and Peg and I will be the wicked step-sisters. Kenny, you be the Prince — we don’t have time to argue — and Neil, you be the footman.
What about the Wicked Step Mother? Pat said.
Can I talk like a beatnik? Kenny said at the same time.
Yes, you can. We’ll leave her out — or we could have just one sister, I said.
Two sisters, Peg said.
And we better add things to make it longer, Kenny said. I’ll tell Cinderella some jokes at the ball.
I’ll be funny, too, said Peg.
What will I do? Jemma asked.
Don’t worry — you’ll just be working, and saying you wish you could go to the ball; then Peg and I will boss you around; just do what we say.
The play started with the wicked step-sisters (Peg and I) in bed (we had a real blanket and were both lying under it), ordering Cinderella to bring breakfast. I yelled for cinnamon rolls. Peggy kicked her feet, making the covers rise up and down. While she kicked, she screamed,
Hot cawfee! Hot cawfee! over and over in a New York accent.
Her face turned red with yelling and kicking. You shouldn’t laugh while you’re on stage (unless it’s part of the play), but Peg’s New York accent when she said Hot cawfee! Hot cawfee! and the faces she was making and the kicking were so funny — it was all so ridiculous — that I couldn’t help it. I laughed out loud and couldn’t stop.
Trying to talk only made me laugh more. I think my laughing so much encouraged Peg, because her kicking and screaming:
Hot cawfee! Hot cawfee! got louder and funnier and her face got redder and redder. Then I looked at the audience — no one there was laughing at all. And Jemma still hadn’t come on. I stopped laughing and shouted:
Cinderella! Bring the breakfast at once!
No one in the audience laughed at Kenny’s jokes, either. At the end, there was much less clapping than there had been for Rumplestiltskin. I was not the only one to notice this — we all looked at each other, then looked away. No one said anything while we took off our costumes.
Then we went to the chuck wagon and Pat poured Kool-Aid for everyone. Kenny held the Dixie cups and I passed them out. When I gave Mark Pearson his, I said, casually,
What did you think of the plays?
The first one was much better, Mark said promptly.
Jemma, Neil, and Peg all took their Dixie cups away from their faces.
The first one was thought-out — planned. The second one seemed like you just made it up as you went along.
I was astonished that he could tell that; and at his age, too! I was too astonished to say anything.
Peg reached into the money box and took out a quarter.
Here, she said, and tried to give it to Mark. He wouldn’t take it. No — if you didn’t think it was good, you should have your money back, she said.
Then she bent over and patted Duke, putting her face right in his fur — I think she was crying.
And Mark was at least nice enough to say,
See? Everyone clapped a lot at that — especially for you and Jemma, Neil said, kneeling next to Peg and kind of patting her arm.
That was true — and anyway, what was the sense of going on and on about it? I poured myself some Kool-aid, and when it was gone, I scratched LIB on the bottom of my cup, and showed the guests how to do it, too.
So we’ll know whose cup is whose, I said. When you hold it up to the light you can read the letters — see?
I held the bottom of my cup up to the sun and Mark
Pearson’s littlest brother did the same and Mark said,
Finish drinking it first, you idiot.
— but too late, Kool-aid was all over the little brother’s face. Some people laughed, and the little brother, who was only about three, poured the rest over his head, which made us laugh more. Hollis and Joyce Johnson looked uneasy and moved closer together. Then Kenny put his cup over his mouth and held it there without hands, by breathing in. The other boys copied him and then they all started butting each other, using the cups as little horns — some kids had to hold onto theirs with their hands.
Kenny was trying to keep two cups around his mouth at once, and I was running for one of the costume cloaks to be a bull-fighter, when we heard Peg’s voice yelling that there was going to be another act.
She was all dressed up (in the tunic without a belt and with Jemma’s sash tied around her head as a turban). Jemma was the assistant, and the act was Duke doing tricks with the audience. The tricks were very simple, but the kids loved them — they clapped and clapped, and all of them wanted to have a turn catching the ball Peg threw and then holding it while Duke begged for it.
So the last act was long — and when it was over we had more Kool-Aid, and the oatmeal cookies (which we had left in the chuck wagon in the all the excitement). We played tag, and Kenny explained Sardines; even though there were really too many people for it, it was a good game.
People stayed so long playing that everyone (except Hollis Johnson, who had gone home crying as usual), was still there when Mrs.Pearson came over to say it was supper-time.
Everyone stopped what they were doing. I looked around — the sky was still blue, but the air was full of gold, not clear as it is in the middle of the afternoon, and the shadows from the trees were very long. It was the end of the day.
Oh, do we have to go home now? Mark said.
His brothers ran up to their mother. She said yes, and picked up the brother with purple Koolaid all over his T-shirt, sighing as though he was heavy. The whole family left together, in a little clump with Mrs.Pearson at the center. Mark looked back at us and said,
Thank you very much — I really enjoyed myself.
And he said it without any, What do you say, boys? from Mrs. Pearson.
Everyone else thanked us, too, and told us what a good time they’d had or how good the show was, and you could tell that they really meant it. When they were gone, I said:
They all really did think it was good, I said. They really had fun.
Especially watching Duke’s tricks, Peg said. I didn’t argue with her.
That night in bed, listening to the cars going by, I thought about the play.
As usual, I heard one in the distance and then it got louder and closer until the headlights swept along the wall and across our beds and away; then the room was dark and, after awhile, quiet again; until the next car.
After a long time of listening and thinking I said:
Which play did you think was the best?
Jemma sat up.
Rumplestiltskin, she said.By far.
So did I, I said. Cinderella was funny, and having Duke do tricks was a good idea, but Rumplestiltskin was the best. We planned and rehearsed it well, I thought.
The published book is more about the boarding school in England. You can get it at the library, invite me to come to your school (my favorite!), order it from amazon, or buy it in bookstores. If you don't see it in a bookstore, please ask them to get it! If you DO see it, PLEASE TURN IT FACE OUT SO OTHER PEOPLE WILL SEE IT AND BUY IT. Thank you.
Copyright © 1999, 2000 Libby Koponen. All rights reserved.