“Deception! Deception! Deception!” cried Linda, as she marched into her mother’s room at the assisted living facility.
Startled, Dorothy looked up from the newspaper she was trying to read. With her failing eyesight, she could only make out the headlines, and some of them were too small. She looked forward to the end of the day when Linda came and read her the evening paper. As Dorothy looked at her daughter, she could tell Linda was angry at her about something.
She said with a smile, “Hello, dear, I was just looking at the headlines. It’s funny you should walk in here like that because I heard the theater guild is holding auditions for The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, and I think you’d make the perfect Amanda. Remember when we were in that play years ago. I played Amanda, and you played Laura.”
Linda snatched the newspaper and flung it aside. “Why did you do that?” asked Dorothy.
Linda sank into a nearby chair and sighed. “I went to Day Break today to tell them you’re recovering from pneumonia and you’ll probably be returning in a few weeks.”
“Imagine my shock when Diane told me you hadn’t been there in a month. I can’t believe you’d deceive me like Laura did to her mother in The Glass Menagerie. If you’d thrown up all over the floor in front of everybody like Laura did at the business school, I would have understood, but Diane didn’t say you did anything like that. It’s not in your nature to be shy and deceptive. Why did you pretend you were going to Day Break all this time?”
Dorothy sighed. “Linda, you’ve been under a lot of stress, and I didn’t want you to worry about me. I don’t like being around those old people. I went once just to see what it was like, and all they did was watch TV, play cards, and eat, and I can do those things here.”
“But you don’t do anything here except sit in your room all day and listen to those recorded books the library lady brings you. Even before you got pneumonia, you only left your room to go to the dining room for meals.”
“That’s because they only deliver meals to your room if you’re sick. I don’t like being around old people.”
“You’re just as old as they are.”
“You may think so, but I don’t. I have nothing against these people. They’re all very nice, but they’re just not my crowd. Now, let’s talk about you. I think you should go to those auditions for The Glass Menagerie. You’re old enough to play Amanda, and you’ve demonstrated that you’d be perfect for the part.”
“Mother,” said Linda with an exasperated sigh. “real estate is a twenty-four hour business. I just don’t have time for the theater anymore. You know that.”
“Honey, I really appreciate you coming here every day to read me the paper. So, I’ll make you a deal. If you try out for The Glass Menagerie, I’ll start going downstairs to the lobby where somebody reads the paper aloud, so you won’t have to come every day and do that. If you get a part, I’ll be there opening night.”
“How will you get there? It would be hard for me to drive you if I’m in the play.”
“I know that, silly. I’ll call Gladys and ask her to drive me. You remember Gladys, don’t you? For years, we taught at the college together.”
“Of course, I remember Gladys. Are you serious about going to this play?”
“Yes, I want you to take some time and do things you enjoy and you want me to get out more. It’s a perfect deal, don’t you think?”
Linda sighed. “Okay, Mother, you win, but the doctor says you shouldn’t be out and about too much for the next few weeks.” She rose and picked up the paper. “Let’s see. It says here that the auditions are next Tuesday. Rehearsals will start the following week and the play will run at the end of next month. To be on the safe side, why don’t you wait to hold up your end of the deal until after opening night? Now is probably not the time to overdo it.”
“Fair enough,” said Dorothy, breathing a sigh of relief.
“Mother, I worry about you,” said Linda, taking Dorothy’s hand. “Once you’re recovered from this pneumonia, I wish you’d get out more. I know you can’t play golf or tennis anymore, and it would probably be hard for you to play bridge and be involved in the American Association of University Women or the Arts Council, but the YMCA has an excellent water exercise program, and there are some nice things that go on at the senior center.”
“I’ll try,” said Dorothy with a sigh of resignation.
The day after the audition was supposed to be held, Linda rushed into her mother’s room and said, “I did it! I tried out last night and got the part right on the spot. The director says I have natural acting abilities. I don’t think any director has ever said that before.”
“Didn’t it say in the paper that the director is retired and used to produce plays on Broadway?”
“Maybe you should have tried Broadway first before going into real estate.”
“Maybe, but I still use my acting skills in the line of work I do now. You have to convince customers that this is the house they want to buy. You can’t let them see that you’re tired and stressed out.”
“That’s true. In any case, congratulations! Come here and let me give you a hug.”
Over the next month, when Linda came to visit Dorothy, she talked about the rehearsals. She gave her mother all the details, including who the other actors were, the blocking, the set, and the costumes. Dorothy enjoyed hearing Linda talk about the rehearsals because it brought back many pleasant memories of her involvement in the community theater when she was younger. Since they agreed that she wouldn’t participate in any activities until after opening night, she was content to remain in her room, listening to audiobooks and visiting with Linda and Gladys when they came.
A few days before opening night, there was a rave review of the performance in the local newspaper. The article spoke highly of Linda’s portrayal of Amanda. “Even though this actress has never lived in the South, you can tell by her authentic Southern accent that she’s a born southerner,” wrote the reporter.
“Honey, that’s wonderful,” said Dorothy when Linda read her the review. “I can’t wait to see the play.”
It was true. For the first time in a long while, Dorothy looked forward to going out, despite failing vision and difficulty walking. Gladys agreed to accompany her, and on opening night, they set off in her car.
The theater was crowded, but since Dorothy and Gladys arrived early, they found seats in the front row. Dorothy didn’t think she would be able to see everything that went on, but at least she would be able to hear the voices of the actors. Since she knew the play by heart, she knew what would take place. Her heart pounded with excitement, as the lights dimmed, and the curtain opened on the first act.
But as Amanda spoke, Dorothy realized something was wrong. It wasn’t Linda’s voice portraying her. The actress spoke like a true southerner, but Dorothy knew in her heart it wasn’t Linda. Although she couldn’t see the actress very well, she knew she didn’t have to look at her to know it wasn’t Linda.
They’d apparently called in an understudy, but why? Where was Linda? Had she been in an accident? Dorothy pictured her daughter lying in a hospital bed, seriously injured or possibly dead. At intermission, she fought to remain calm.
“It doesn’t even give Linda’s name in the program,” said Gladys. “It says that Amanda is played by Pamela Warner. I noticed that in the paper, too, but since you said it was Linda, I assumed it was a mistake. I think Pamela Warner is very good, but what do you suppose happened to Linda?”
“I don’t know,” said Dorothy, close to tears.
She felt a light touch on her shoulder. “Hello, Mother,” said Linda from the row behind them. “Are you enjoying the play?”
Relief that Linda was unharmed was replaced by anger as Dorothy realized what had been going on in the past month. She turned and glared at her daughter. In a soft but icy voice, she said, “Deception! Deception! Deception!”
Note: The above short story appears in the fall/winter 2020-21 issue of Magnets and Ladders. It was also published years ago in Disability Studies Quarterly.
By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Services for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. No matter how you read it, please be sure to review it wherever you can. That goes for all my books. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, happy, and healthy.
Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books
When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.
Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.
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