V Romeo O Romeo
It didn’t look that I’d quickly make it home to a double Irish and feet up on the coffee table. Seeing as Drew offered, I left him to cover dinner and to finish his chat with Corrine. From Madge’s Restaurant, I headed again down Main Street past the firebarn toward my house.
Almost out of what you’d rightly consider “downtown,” Main Street narrowed from a wide boulevard with a park-like center divider into a comfortable two-way, entirely residential street. Houses either side beyond the “business” district were late nineteenth and early twentieth century homes built by earlier, more affluent citizens. As years passed, owners became mid-century, mostly now retired folks and up-and-comers who could afford the cost of maintaining these spacious relics of times past.
Just two blocks from my front steps and that double Irish, I bumped into Walter Brubaker, current owner of Claxbury’s last remaining independent pharmacy. Pharmacy. What we called in the old days, “The Drug Store.” Recognizing me, Bruno halted his race the opposite direction up Main.
“Say, would you have a minute?” he asked.
“Sure, Bruno. What’s up?”
With the likelihood a run for mayor was coming up, I took every opportunity to schmooze with the electorate. As an independent, every vote, if I did in fact run, would be important. My decision would have to come soon. Election day wasn’t far off. The retiring mayor’s party had no candidate and the “loyal opposition” could only find a candidate who like me, was not excited to be running. That speaks to the allure of the mayoral office. You understand my indecision.
Walter “Bruno” Brubaker deserves a little biography here. His story is interesting and adds considerable color to the streets, people, and life hereabouts.
Bruno’s father owned and ran what was a while back one of two Claxbury drug stores. A real place where the face behind the counter knew your health history as well as your family doctor. The store still today has a “soda fountain” because removing it would cost more than any revenue increase from additional merchandizing space. You can though, if you want, still get the best chocolate malt you’d ever want to sit behind.
With two older sisters, one already a pharmacist and the other eager to become one, Bruno went off to college to study drama with the family blessing. As a six-six, three-hundred-pound former Claxbury High football tackle, Bruno does not impress you a thespian. As it turns, that wasn’t destined. Well, it was deferred.
Bruno’s senior year at college was cut short by his father’s fatal heart attack. Grief-stricken Momma Brubaker wasn’t much help with the business. The younger Brubaker sister was late in her PharmD, so Bruno coming home to help his eldest sister with business made sense. Bruno was a keen businessman. In boom times, the Brubakers ran both Claxbury pharmacies through Bruno’s diligence.
After settling the pharmacy business, his sisters manning the store, Bruno discovered the old local movie theatre. It dated back far enough it had a real stage, in the style of an old vaudeville house. Last used only for Grange meetings some time ago it was for sale for a sum Bruno felt opportune. Opportune to refit the place to house a local theater group. The worst part of rekindling Bruno’s long-delayed love for theater was the theatre upgrade. Fortunately, there was no shortage of local people ready to help put together the Claxbury Playhouse. Bruno found himself working all things “director” from the get-go.
Which brings us up-to-date and to the Irish-delaying conversation. Bruno answered my question. Sort of.
“Won’t take a minute. Late for rehearsal on our current production.”
“Need players? Woulda thought that’d be all settled seeing as you’re in rehearsal and all.”
“Had a bump. Mrs. Cousins got a bit testy over her husband Bob playing opposite Winnifred Gottlieb. Threatened to make him step away from the role.”
“Winnifred is a looker and all, but Cousins is as steadfast as they come. How’d you handle that?”
“Offered the opposite role to Mrs. Cousins. Scared her to death. She relented. But she’s at every rehearsal. Got eyes on Winnifred like a cat watching a grain bin mouse!”
“So, you’re good. Don’t need actors.”
“No, not at all. But an understudy to Bob Cousins would be nice. Maybe. We could do something with make-up to drop about twenty years.”
“Yeah. She’s really harmless you know.”
“Pig’s eye! She eats men for breakfast. Doesn’t fret the calories either.”
“Nah. She’s harmless.”
“So, what can I help you with?”
“Well, you see, I’m working on the next production and there’s a bit of a snag in the script.”
“Still not clear, Bruno.”
“Maybe you could take a look and see if you can’t fix it up.”
“I was a newspaper editor. A small-town editor at that, more newshound than editor sometimes but not much good at fiction. I’m not that kind of writer.”
“Thought maybe, you know, just a quick look, might jump out at you.”
“What jump out?”
“Transition from the second act to the third.”
“It’s a good one! It’s a modern spin on Romeo and Juliet.”
“That’s been done before.”
“This is really modern.”
“Wait. Don’t you buy your scripts?”
“Too expensive and they’re all silly, or the same thing over and over. Arsenic and Old Lace.”
“Romeo and Juliet is not the same thing over and over, Bruno?”
“No. This is Romeo and Juliet in name only. Modern, edgy, corporate!”
“Just read it? Take a look?”
“Tell you what…”
“That’d be great!”
“No, Bruno. Got an idea.”
Bruno, what I could see of him under the yellow streetlighting, was crushed.
“What? Okay, if it will get us a complete script.”
“Why don’t you contact Ms. Maverson?”
“At the High School?”
“Yes. Have her put her most talented students to work reading your play. Put it to them as a contest to help you shore it up?”
“You think so?”
“Lotta talent there, according to Ms. Maverson. You might even get some new acting blood. Ask her to give you an in with the Vo-tech and Art teachers.”
“Stage crew. Set design. Like that.”
“Say. You know, that could work. We got time. Thanks.”
“I get free tickets to the play?”
“Community Theatre. Everybody does their part. Gotta run. Thanks again!”
So. A potential theater crisis averted, I watched Bruno, all three-hundred and change pounds of him, hurry off, knowing he wasn’t rushing to Brubaker’s Drug Store but to the Claxbury Playhouse.
Completing the two remaining blocks to my house, I climbed the stairs to my front door. Once inside, dinner already taken care of, what was needed to nicely wrap the evening was a glass, some ice, and the patiently waiting O’Clannahan.
Oh. Winnifred? We all thought Bruno was a confirmed bachelor. Winnifred had other ideas. Yeah. I’m a newspaper man, remember? Don’t write fiction. Those are the facts.
© S P Wilcenski 2021