BHM That Befall Preposterously (~FFA, ~BHM, Romance, ~~WG, multi-part)

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Well-Known Member
May 5, 2014
FFA, BHM, Romance, WG, multi-part. Student Shakespeare productions and romance.
Author's Note:Thanks to Terpsichore for suggesting this.

That Befall Preposterously
by Bayone

The lecture hall was dim, and the small grey shape in the corner odd enough not to trigger immediate recognition in the ordinary human eye. Sally Ferreira happened to see it move, and so realized it was alive, but it still took her at least ten seconds to perceive what it was: a bat that hadn’t made it home the night before and was now confusedly clinging to the edge of a cement block in the History department building. The student clapped her hand over her mouth. Her first impulse had been to say oh, a bat -- and she stifled it, fearing that one of her fellow-students might react in panic.
Being out in daylight was strange behaviour, and rabies always a possibility, so after waiting for the rest of the class to file out (luckily there was nothing scheduled for afterwards in the lecture hall), she pulled off the broad crocheted band that normally kept her curly hair out of her eyes, and used it to net the little creature. It made no attempt to escape, but she thought it best to hold it through the thick fabric in case it was rabid.

The professor had left a file box on her desk when she left (it had been full of copies of the syllabus -- this was the first week of classes), and Sally gingerly dropped the bat in and closed the lid. I suppose I’ll have to wait until sunset to release it, she thought. Well, I’ll be fashionably late -- if that’s still actually fashionable.

Praying no one would ask why she was carrying a file box -- and after all they’d most likely assume she was still moving in -- she made her way back to residence. This would be the acid test of her roommate Nadia, a transfer student; it might well wreck their relationship for the remainder of the year if the Poli-Sci major couldn’t deal with wild animals, or with a late departure to the mixer Sally was really only attending because Nadia had asked her to introduce her to everyone. Sally, for her part, was unhappily conscious of how few people she really knew, even after three years at Pearson University. Need to work on those social skills, she told herself. Except there never seems to be much time, with all my studies. Never seems to be much motive, either. Her one success in getting out and mingling with her peers had been acting in student plays; it was so much easier to interact with people when she wasn’t being herself. And it’s still a month and a half until Hallowe’en, she thought. She began thinking about what costume to make this year, half-forgetting the bat until she had climbed the stairs and set the box down to unlock the door to their room.

“Oh, I’m still getting ready.” Her roommate looked a bit sheepish as she held up two blouses. “Which one do you think?” Sally gestured towards the one on the left without letting go of the file box:

“No rush. Actually there’s going to be a delay. I have to wait until sundown. Sorry.” Nadia gave the slight, wild-haired girl a suspicious look.

“What, do you have friends who are vampires or something?”

“Close enough.” Sally set the box carefully on her bed and explained the situation.

“A bat?” Nadia asked. “Like, flap, flap, catch mosquitoes? Don’t release it without letting me see.” Unfazed, she pulled her t-shirt off and slipped on the blouse her roommate had approved, fastening the buttons from bottom to top and leaving the upper two undone, allowing a flirty glimpse of her generous décolletage.

“Thanks for being ok with this.” Sally dropped her hairband in the empty laundry bin in her closet and pulled a scarf and a cowl-necked top off of hangers. Might as well get ready herself.

An hour later the girls pried open the window and Sally brought the box close to the sill and opened it. Nothing happened right away, so she tilted the box until something dark swooped out and vanished into the dusk outside.

“Did you see it go?” she asked her roommate.

“Barely. It went like a bat out of -- oh, I guess that’s why they say that.” They looked out at the dimming sky, and promptly forgot what had just passed. Sally turned to her roommate:

“I’m sorry, I’ve made us late for the party. Why am I holding this box?” She glanced down at the filebox. Nadia looked puzzled for a moment and then laughed.

“You’re funny. I bet you’re lots of fun at parties.” Sally shrugged:

“Let’s find out.”

* * * * *

Donahue, the Irving Hall ghost, gazed dispassionately out one of the third-storey gables. According to the legend passed on each year to freshmen, he’d been a workman on the building at the time of its construction in 1905, who had caught the eye of the Dean’s daughter and subsequently been killed in a duel by a young professor who’d fancied the girl himself; sympathetic students, the story went, had buried Donahue beneath the quad by cover of night. In reality, he’d fallen from a ladder in a prosaic workplace accident, and his remains lay in the local Catholic cemetery; but he did haunt the building, sensible of his place, however distorted, in the school’s memory.

His transparent eyes tracked the little bat as it swept past his window, flitting towards the Dining Hall, and the ghosts of Lila Mills, the homicidal cook whose plan to poison the entire student body was spoiled when a rat got into the strychnine-laced porridge (had never knowingly poisoned anyone and had died of natural causes in 1954, aged sixty-two) and Doris MacDonald, the girl genius who’d killed herself in shame after getting only ninety-five percent on an exam (perished in the 1918 ‘flu along with three other students, but her loss to the field of engineering was unexaggerated). They too looked up at the small swift shadow as it passed. No living humans paid it any attention.

* * * * *

“Stir up the Athenian youth to merriments”

The mixer, sure enough, was already in full swing, and Sally contemplated the young men in the room. As for Nadia, the vivacious poli-sci seemed to be making friends for herself with perfect ease, and had already accepted a bottle of vodka lemonade from a tall, broad-shouldered business major as they shouted conversation over the music and laughter. The music was only one of the problems Sally had with meeting people at these parties. The realization that had begun even before puberty, and which she had since come to accept, was that her taste in men was specific and exacting, embarrassingly so. She knew she wanted a man who was intelligent, kind, and funny -- so far so reasonable -- but she felt both perverted and shallow that she could only be attracted to a man who was fat.

Even so, an intelligent, kind, funny fat man did not sound, on the surface, like too tall an order – the house contained youth of all shapes and sizes from slender to muscular to chubby, depending upon their various genetics, activities and capacity for beer -- but of the four chubby young men she recognized, two she knew to be pleasant but dull as bricks; one was an irritating boor; and the fourth, Mark Donovan, whom she’d had a serious crush upon the previous year, was not only gay but had dropped fifty pounds over the summer break and no longer really qualified as even plump. She was pleased to see that he also appeared to have hooked up with her classmate Colin Hu, an angular young man whose severe good looks did not quite conceal a wry sense of humour. Sally was glad to see him at this party. At least she’d have someone to chat with, if they could hear each other over the music, that is.

She wondered idly how Bob Marley, with his religious lyrics, had come to be college-kid party music. Probably the ganja, but still – were there students in Jamaica chilling to the hymns of Charles Wesley? As she mused on this topic, smiling to herself, a girl in a sparkly halter top bumped into her. Sally caught her by the arm before she lost her balance.

“Thanks,” slurred the girl. “Are you ok? I guess I started drinking too early, I’m drunk already. Hey, I know you – weren’t you in that ancient Greek comedy last year?”

“Uh, Lysistrata?”

“The one where the women go on a sex strike for peace?”

“Again, that’d be Lysistrata. Yes, I was.”

“I thought so. You were the cock-tease,” the girl added.

“I’m never going to live that down, am I?”

“Oh, but you were a great cock-tease,” the student assured her with cheery, drunken kindliness. “You should do more acting. I think they’re putting on some Shakespeare thing this year.”

“It’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Karen,” said Colin, coming up and steadying the inebriated student. “Sally, my sister Karen; Karen, Sally. Karen can’t hold her liquor, but she’s right, you should try out. You’ve got the right look for Titania, and you’ve already established you can make love to a man in a funny costume without seeming ridiculous or crass.” Sally wondered just what he meant by “the right look” and recalling that Titania was an elf-queen, pulled her hair self-consciously across her rather prominent ears. Colin turned to his partner, “Mike, would you be a love and get Karen something non-alcoholic?”

“Do they have any cranberry juice?” Karen asked.

“Let’s go find out,” said Mark, and he ambled off to the kitchen with Karen hanging on to his arm.

“So -- you and Mark?” Sally asked. Colin sighed happily.

“We started emailing over the summer.”

“He’s lost a lot of weight,” Sally observed.

“He worked up north, tree-planting. Well you know him, he’s all about the environment. I suspect he’ll pack it back on by Christmas,” he added, cautiously. Sally’s interest in Mark, and her preference for larger men, had not gone unnoticed by him.

“Don’t worry, I know Mark’s yours.”

“Good, because I’d hate to have to fight you.”

“I hope you don’t have to fight Karen.”

“I trust Mark’s impeccable taste. Anyway, if he fills out again, she’ll lose interest. Karen likes the buff jocks.” Changing the topic, Colin added; “Seriously, you really should try out for the play. If it’s your last year at school, you should try and make the most of it. Join some clubs.”

“Alright, awriight already, I’ll try out for the Shakespeah,” Sally raised her hand in warning and adopted an exaggerated, nasal Brooklyn accent. Colin chuckled and Mark, returning with Karen and her orange juice in tow, put a muscular arm around his boyfriend’s shoulders.

“What’s all this for?” Colin asked him.

“Just making sure everyone here knows who I’m with,” the bigger man rumbled. “I had to fend off Sally’s new roommate on the way back. Sheesh, I lose a little weight and suddenly I get swarmed. I’m going to take defensive action and eat me some pizza.”

“Works for me. That’s shirt’s too loose on you anyhow.”

* * * * *

Sally chatted with Colin, Mark and Karen until someone cranked the music still louder and conversation became truly impossible. Giving up, she waved to them and pointed at the door. One last glance around the crowded room told her Nadia was still having a good time, so she slipped out and walked back to the women’s residence in the still-warm September evening.

As she passed Irving Hall she saw the light of a streetlamp falling across a poster taped to the door. Below a sketch of a donkey’s face were directions to Friday’s and Saturday’s auditions for the Saloonio Players’ production of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to be performed, unseasonably, just before the Christmas break.

“All right, universe,” Sally muttered, “I get the point.”

Unpacked and installed in her room, but unable to sleep knowing that Nadia was not yet back, Sally went online and found the text of the play, already half-familiar from high-school English class. Skimming through it, she confirmed that there were four speaking parts that were definitely female: Hippolyta, an Amazon queen who sadly didn’t do any fighting in this story; Hermia and Helena, one-half of a quartet of mix-and-match lovers; and Titania, the proud fairy queen who, under the influence of a love potion, fell for Nick Bottom, the comedy relief who moreover had been transformed into a man with an ass’s head.

Sally supposed the point was to humiliate the queen, but having less-than-conventional taste in men, she could empathize. I see why Colin recommended I try out. She had rather less confidence than her friend in her ability to land the part, though she suspected her slender build, masses of curly hair, and, yes, her ears would make it easy enough to find a place in the fairy court at least.

She heard a key-card click in the heavy electronic lock on the door of the room, and Nadia entered, giggling and smelling faintly of weed.

“You went home so early -- missed a good time, Soph. What’re you doing on the computer?”

“Uh. Reading. I’ve decided to try out for a play. I was prepping the dialogue.”

“You’ve got to learn to have fun, honey.”

“I do. In my own way.”
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Xyantha Reborn

- Actually Very Tame!
Jul 23, 2014
Im enjoying this but the parsing seems off on my iphone...ill have to try again on my computer!


Well-Known Member
May 5, 2014
Sally read the part over again the following morning before getting dressed and proceeding to the dining hall. According to the poster, she’d already missed the first round of auditions; the second began at nine-thirty a.m., and she figured she couldn’t count on all her competition being hungover from Friday night, so she’d donned a t-shirt dress, leggings and her new flats – not an overly dressy outfit, but not as casual as the sweatpants which were usually de rigeur for breakfast — in order to head straight over to the student centre after some fruit and a piece of toast.

At the student centre, Sally followed a series of hand-drawn arrows taped to the walls until she reached a closed door, through which she could hear speech; although she could not make out the individual words, she recognized the metre. Pushing the door open a crack, she saw a broad back and shoulders, and a head of red hair. Their owner was holding a script-book and reading from it to a couple of people who she guessed by their expressions of intense scrutiny to be the director and producer. To calm her nerves she focused on what she could see of the actor. He wore jeans, sneakers, and a shirt with small grey checks, untucked and, she guessed, unbuttoned, with the sleeves rolled up. His figure looked pleasantly thick and sturdy.

“I see their knavery,” he muttered, as if to himself, yet still plainly audible. “This is to make an ass of me; to fright me, if they could. But I will not stir from this place, do what they can: I will walk up and down here, and I will sing,” here raised his voice defiantly, “that they shall hear I am not afraid.”

The ousel cock so black of hue,
With orange-tawny bill,
The throstle with his note so true,
The wren with little quill —​

His singing was not terribly off-key, but it was the pathetic slightly flat singing of someone who knows the tune well in his head but can’t quite get it to come out right. One of the director/producer people read Titania’s line from the script:

“What angel wakes me from my flowery bed?”

Bottom carried on singing, trying to reassure himself as he walked alone in a dark forest:

The finch, the sparrow and the lark,
The plain-song cuckoo gray,
Whose note full many a man doth mark,
And dares not answer nay--

“For, indeed, who would set his wit to so foolish a bird?” he asked himself, suddenly distracted from his predicament by this question. “Who would give a bird the lie, though he cry ‘cuckoo’ never so?” Musing, he turned, and Sally glimpsed his face; a round, freckled face, with full cheeks, a soft, heavy chin and very blue eyes. His red hair swept adorably across his pale forehead. His unbuttoned shirt revealed he was not quite so large as his face suggested, but a gently convex belly swelled beneath a T-shirt that read EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEAR. Mechanically, Sally opened the door:

“I prithee, gentle mortal, sing again,” she breathed.

Bottom looked startled at the unexpected turn the audition had taken; but the astonishment writ large upon his features merely pulled more dialogue out of her, as if the words were her own thoughts. “Mine ear is much enamour’d of thy note.” She stole a glance at his paunch: “So is mine eye enthralled to thy shape; and thy fair virtue’s force perforce doth move me on the first view to say,” She hesitated. “To swear — I love thee.” She took a step towards Bottom and he drew back, intimidated:

“Methinks, mistress,” he pleaded, “you should have little reason for that.” She took another step toward him. “And yet,” he added, “to say the truth, reason and love keep little company together now-a-days; the more the pity that some honest neighbours will not make them — friends?”

His eyes met hers. “Nay,” he smiled nervously, “I can gleek upon occasion.” Sally touched his rounded cheek:

“Thou art as wise as thou art beautiful.”

“Not so, neither: but if I had wit enough to get out of this wood, I have enough to serve mine own turn.” Instantly she gripped his wrist with her small hand and, dropping the pitch of her voice, intoned:

“Out of this wood do not desire to go. Thou shalt remain here, whether thou wilt or no.”
Continuing in rhyme, drawing signs as if to cast a spell o’er him, she spoke the words: “I am a spirit of no common rate; the summer still doth tend upon my state.”
Her tone softened. “And I do love thee: therefore, go with me.”
She smiled up at him: “I’ll give thee fairies to attend on thee, and they shall fetch thee jewels from the deep, and sing while thou on pressed flowers dost sleep.” Trying not to blush, she added, “And I will purge thy mortal grossness so, that thou shalt like an airy spirit go.” She wondered whether to call her minions as in the script, but at that moment a voice broke in upon the two of them:

“Thanks, that’ll do. What’s your name?” It was the one she guessed was the director.

“Sally Ferreira.”

“Great reading, Sally, but you do realize the audition for Titania doesn’t start for half-an-hour? We were just running lines with Donald here.” Sally wanted to sink through the floor, but Donald took her hand and shook it.

“I liked your performance,” he whispered. “Don’t worry; and give them your email address; they’ll want it.”

* * * * *​

Gordon raised his hand and Sally gritted her teeth.
The student had already spent the first week-and-a-half of the “English Literature, Medieval to Early Modern” class demanding “hard evidence” that Geoffrey Chaucer had existed at all and that he’d really written the poems that were credited to him. She hadn’t yet decided if he was sincere, or deliberately angling for the result he usually got, which was to force the professors to spend ten minutes of each class defining and defending basic terms and principles. Actually, considering that it was a third-year course, he had to be trolling.

“How do we know Sir Philip Sidney didn’t just write all this stuff because he was insane, or on drugs?” he asked. The professor sighed.

“There are no incidents on record that suggest Sir Philip suffered any mental illness,” she began wearily; “and recreational drugs in Europe at the time were pretty much limited to alcohol; also The Fairy Queen fits within a tradition of fantastic allegory.”

“How do we know the other poets in the tradition weren’t all insane?” asked Gordon smugly. Everyone else groaned under their breath.

“You know,” snapped the prof, “I’m not even going to dignify that with a response.”

“I paid good money for this course. You can’t refuse a question.”

“An honest question, yes, but every time we’ve introduced a writer in this course, you’ve asked whether he or she was insane. At a certain point you have to accept that if there’s no known evidence that they were –"

“But isn’t the writing itself evidence?”

The prof jumped on a counter-argument: “You consider all works of fiction to be evidence of a mental disturbance?” The class tittered in support, but Gordon doubled down.

“If it’s got all this supernatural stuff in it, I want to know if they thought it was real. And if they did, doesn’t that make them disturbed?” He folded his arms.

“Like I said, there’s a tradition of the supernatural as literary device—”

“But how do you know they thought it was a device? Maybe –"

“Maybe the entire literate population of pre-Modern Europe were all just insane?”

“In a word, yes.” Turtles all the way down, Sally thought. She raised her hand:

“Doesn’t this sort of argument come along later with the Enlightenment? In which case, can’t we save it until then? The rest of us paid to take this course too, and we’d like to be able to learn a bit about the material before we start deconstructing everything.”

“YEAH!” bellowed a student at the back. He had the physique of a football player; it was the first time he’d opened his mouth since the beginning of the semester; and Gordon was surprised, and perhaps cowed, into silence long enough for the professor to resume her lecture.

Afterwards, Gordon watched the big student shoulder his bag and head out. Others were making their way to the next class or chatting with the professor. He stood up and made for the door himself, pausing by the left-hand side of Sally’s right-hand desk.

“No hard feelings.” he stated, rather than asked. “Asking questions is good. Shows you’re using your brain. Independent thought isn’t always welcome, you know, especially when everyone else in the room has drunk the kool-aid. You ask a lot of questions,” he added, “but she doesn’t seem to mind when you do it.”

Unsure if there was an accusation buried in the comment, Sally decided to shrug non-committally. She focussed on getting her books back in her tote bag as quickly as possible, hoping that doing so would convey the impression of having an appointment elsewhere. In fact she did, but she suspected that if she said so he’d demand proof of it.

Luckily at that moment two other students pushed by, brushing Gordon’s elbow, and as he turned his head in annoyance she muttered something vague enough to be unassailable and flipping up the writing surface on her desk, made her escape. The Saloonio Players had finally emailed her an announcement of the first cast read-through.

Sally checked her watch and decided there was no way she could make it to the Dining Hall and back before they started, so she bought a large coffee and a slightly-stale muffin from the student centre’s coffee-shop, and five minutes later was climbing the stairs to the Players’ rehearsal space.

Early as she was, she was not the first arrival — several people were hanging about, conversing excitedly. Nor were they all strangers: perched on one arm of a battered leather sofa, Colin grinned back at her, a bit sheepishly. He was holding a script and wearing a black t-shirt with PCUK printed on it in large white block letters. Sally walked up and dropped her tote bag on the sofa. She dropped it somewhat emphatically.

“Did you know you’d been cast when you suggested I try out?” she demanded.

“No! No — had a good feeling about it, but no, I wasn’t sure; and I didn’t want to mention it because how embarrassing would it be if you’d got in and I hadn’t?”

“Hey Colin,” murmured a voice behind her, and Sally almost jumped.

“Oh I’m sorry,” Donald said, noticing her expression and taking it for alarm. “Didn’t mean to startle.” He unslung his knapsack, grunting slightly as he bent down to set it on the floor. Sally felt an excited twinge at the sight of his hefty midriff overrolling the waistband of his jeans as he performed this action. Today’s T-shirt read: THERE ARE 10 KINDS OF PEOPLE IN THE WORLD — THOSE THAT UNDERSTAND BINARY AND THOSE THAT DON’T.

“It’s all right,” she said.

“Guess who’s playing Bottom?” Donald grinned down at Colin, who threw a suspicious look at his castmate:

“Are you setting up a punchline for me?”

“Just thought we’d better get all the bad puns out of the way early.”

“It’s Shakespeare,” Sally interrupted. “There is no end to the puns. Age cannot wither nor custom stale their infinite variety.” The big young man chuckled and an adorable dimple appeared in his left cheek.

“If you can do nerd humour,” he said, “then it’s going to be a pleasure working with you.”
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mostly harmless
Sep 29, 2005
The great white north, eh?
This chapter was just sublime, and I use that term deliberately. So many small touches that deftly build things up, everyone note perfect on its own but also adding to the whole. Totally aside from the FFA/BHM angle, a pure pleasure to read.

Xyantha Reborn

- Actually Very Tame!
Jul 23, 2014
Oh, lovely...

I have to say i am just as eager for the urban fantasy aspect as the rest of the characters/play!!!

I am really enjoying the style here...i think im going to have to re-read this about five more times (ttc sucks for iphone perusal)

Grundsau 11

Oct 17, 2010
Starting this well, will any other chapters have a lot to live up to? Tad's certainly right; it's a dam' good read.


Wondering Where You Are
Apr 11, 2008
I think anyone who knows my own story writing work will know I adore a story with Shakespearean references. Very excited to see where this goes next.


Well-Known Member
May 5, 2014
Part III

To Sally’s chagrin, she did not see much of Donald over the following two weeks. He was a student at one of the other colleges, so he did not eat in the same dining hall as herself; and she did not wish to draw Colin and Karen’s comments by asking after him too frequently.

He’d sent her a Facebook request after the first rehearsal; they frequently “liked” each other’s posts and occasionally exchanged comments. Once or twice they had exchanged messages about rehearsals, but more often than not she found herself checking the sidebar to see that he was online, only to freeze up at the thought of messaging him -- pestering him, more like. Instead she would re-read their earlier exchanges and try to satisfy her longing that way.

The players continued to meet, of course, when not attending classes. They’d done a few full-cast read-throughs, and were now meeting in smaller groups a couple of times a week to rehearse individual scenes. The director, perhaps wisely, was mainly focussed on directing the Helena-Hermia-Demetrius-Lysander scenes, striving to help the actors make the love quadrangle believable; and so Bottom, Peter Quince and the Mechanicals were left much to their own devices, while Sally was usually called to rehearse with Oberon or with the four girls who played Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustardseed. It was a little over a month after the audition before she quietly admitted her frustration:

“It’s just over two months till the show and Donald and I haven’t had a chance to work on our scenes with (director) yet.”

“Don’t worry,” said Mustardseed. “You two were fine in the read-through.”

“But we need to think about the blocking. I’m not even sure how physical the director wants us to get.”

“Yeah, I don’t envy her that,” Cobweb said to Peaseblossom, casually and just loud enough for Sally to hear.

“Oh I don’t mind getting up close,” she said deliberately. “I just don’t want us looking awkward on the night -- at least, I want any awkwardness to be the characters being awkward and not us being unprepared,” she finished, hoping the explanation had made sense to the other performers.

* * * * *​

Passing through the Student Centre’s reading room on the way back to residence, Sally noticed the Old Lady in Flip-flops, seemingly lost in a book; she recognized her, for she was one of the people who showed up to every public performance, regardless of whether they knew the players. There were several of them, though they never interacted as a group: the man in the tan coat and the too-small feathered hat; the two old ladies with hair-dos hearkening back to the 1940s; the silent young man who observed every performance, comic or serious, with the same gravity. Sally could never figure out if the Old Lady in Flip-flops was homeless or a highly-eccentric alumna of the school; not that the two states were mutually incompatible. She was, at any rate, evidently someone entirely without fear of the fashion police: beside the flip-flops, she was clad in a boxy, navy-blue jacket and grey trousers. Lipstick in a salmon-pink shade glared against her withered face, and her bobbed hair was dyed a severe, unflattering jet black, with an off-centre white streak where the side-part showed her roots. Unexpectedly, she cut short Sally’s assessment by looking up:

“Hello dear -- rehearsals going well?”

“Pretty well.”

“My husband used to act. I remember he once played the part of an old sea captain. I glued cotton swabs to his face. He looked very convincing. When does the show go on?”

“Just before Christmas break; I don’t remember the exact date, but we’ll put up posters well before then.”

“Ah good. I’ll be there.”

* * * * *​

Thursday next, after an afternoon lecture on The Shoemaker's Holiday, with interruptions by Gordon, Sally, wrapped in a nubbly cardigan (they evenings were beginning to be chilly), dashed across campus, dodging cars as she crossed the road from the corner with the War Memorial to one with the Student Centre, and arrived at rehearsal with her usual coffee-and-muffin-in-lieu-of-dining-hall, only to find Donald and the other Mechanicals all running lines.
Donald’s t-shirt fit a bit more snugly than the one he’d worn at the audition, though Sally did not think it was a smaller size -- his belly looked to have grown a bit rounder and more prominent. He was putting on weight as the autumn progressed, and she could not resist speculating on how delightful he’d look by the end of the semester if he allowed himself to keep going.

“My chief humour is for a tyrant --” he was declaiming:

The raging rocks, And shivering shocks,
Shall break the locks of prison gates!

He struck a heroic pose, brandishing the hockey stick handle that someone had brought along as a sword. Raising his arms pulled up his shirt and exposed several inches of jiggling stomach.

“No, that’s Bottom the Reaver,” someone quipped. Sally installed herself on the sofa and took a sip of her coffee, enjoying the spectacle of Donald blushing and tucking his shirt back in.

“Ok guys, take a break. Sally, you’re here, good. You and Donald will be working on your scenes later.” At her name, Donald looked up with a start, and she ducked uselessly behind her muffin -- Oh, like that’s going to impress him -- but he came and sat down heavily beside her.

“I don’t think they’re going to need us for a bit,” he said. “Mind if I go get something to eat? I came straight from class.”

“Me too. We can talk about the script on the way, if you like.” The big young man nodded:

“There’s a truck selling Chinese food on the next block. That do for you?”

* * * * *​

Fifteen minutes later they were back at the student centre, opening plastic bags and foam cartons on a bench outside the rehearsal space. Sally speared a bit of beef with a plastic fork; the food truck had not been the sort to give out chopsticks, but the food was tasty enough. Donald was happily shovelling fried rice into his mouth as she watched; she was glad that his earlier wardrobe malfunction, even if it had caused him to blush, had not translated into any shame about eating.

“Sorry,” he gasped when the rice had been reduced to a few remaining grains. “I was starved -- not that I look it, I know.” He patted his stomach and his dinner companion tried not to stare too hard at the way it jiggled. “Still, I guess it goes with the part. Bottom can’t be too handsome or no one would take him seriously as a fool.”

“He’s not exactly a fool,” Sally retorted, “or else he’s the sort of fool who knows the right way to behave when you find yourself in a fairy tale: conceal your surprise and be polite to all the weird beings.” Donald paused with a forkful of noodles halfway to his mouth:

“Also works for Philip Marlowe. Next year I say we do a sequel – Nick Bottom, Private Eye.”

"Ooh -- can I be the femme-fatale client?”

“Absolutely.” He downed the noodles just as Sally commented:

“You seem to have pretty wide-ranging taste in literature.” Unable to answer with his mouth full, Donald chewed and swallowed frantically.

“We have to do at least one Humanities course per semester as a breadth requirement," he explained when he was able to speak again. "Luckily it’s taught by Dr. Liege. He used to be a naval officer – word is he captained a submarine during the Cold War – and he absolutely loves the Romantic poets; he can’t read Keats out loud without choking up. So it’s hard not to like him.”

“I’ve got Professor Avery – he looks as though he should be either hosting a BBC nature documentary, or smuggling guns; possibly one as a cover for the other. Also, I think he really does have an obsession with Charles the First’s head. He’s brought it up twice since the start of the semester. What are you majoring in, then?”

“Civil engineering. Though," Donald added, spearing a chicken ball with his plastic fork, “I’ve spent the last two weeks working with slime mold. We’re trying an experiment they did in Japan, where they grew slime mold on a slide that looked like a map of Tokyo, with the food sources placed where the major stations are. The idea is that the mold will grow in a network that either matches the actual layout of the supply lines, or is even more efficient than the layout humans devised.” He popped the chicken ball in his mouth.

“Planning layouts by slime mold?” Sally asked, then realizing she needed to keep talking until Donald finished chewing, added “Well, there are worse ways I guess.” The engineer nodded gratefully.

“I like the one,” he continued, “where you don’t lay any paths for the first six months, and then put them in where the grass has worn down, because those are the routes people take in real life. But it’s a bit hard to explain the delay to the public.”

“Someone needs to apply that to the crosswalks on campus. Right now your choices on the corner outside are: chance it and try not to get hit by a car; or walk three blocks over to where they’ve put the actual crosswalk so it connects one empty lot to another.”

“I know, Marco’s started an online petition to get one put there.” Colin had come up the stairs without them hearing, and was now folding himself to sit down on the other side of Donald. “I’ll forward it to you both if you like it or not.”

Just then the door to the rehearsal room opened:

“Are Bottom and Titania back yet?”

“Aye aye!” Donald raised his hand, although the director could not see him through the half-open door. “We’ve also got a Puck.” They began the scene of their meeting, as they had on the day of auditions. Every so often they would stop to discuss a line reading. This time, Sally called Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustardseed.

“Be kind and courteous to this gentleman,” she began, “Hop in his walks and gambol in his eyes.” Cobweb made the acting decision to roll her eyes at this line. Sally pretended not to nice and continued: “Feed him with apricocks and dewberries; with purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries.”

As Titania, she glanced admiringly in his direction and noticed Donald looked pretty well-fed already after having downed one container of fried rice, one of noodles, and a half-dozen chicken balls. To keep from squirming, she half-closed her eyes and tried to focus on the night breeze coming through a window someone had opened earlier. “The honey-bags steal from the humble-bees, And for night-tapers crop their waxen thighs, and light them at the fiery glow-worm's eyes, to have my love to bed and to arise.” Her voice grew breathy as she pictured glowing candles in the crisp darkness outside the window.

Daring another glance at “Bottom,” she found Donald’s face lit up like a full moon in a very believable impression of a man who has stumbled across a larger world and, though unafraid, isn’t quite certain what to make of it.

And pluck the wings from Painted butterflies
To fan the moonbeams from his sleeping eyes:
Nod to him, elves, and do him courtesies.
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Well-Known Member
May 5, 2014
Part IIIa.

Donald sat on the floor with his back against a chair that had been pulled to the side of the room, representing an as-yet-unbuilt set piece. Perched on the chair’s arms and seat, the fairies were mussing his hair as Sally curled up beside him on the carpet.

“Hey,” came the director’s voice. “Maybe pat his stomach on the line, ‘say, sweet love, what thou desirest to eat?’”

“Do you mind?” Sally asked Donald with a sidelong glance at the director. Donald smiled and shook his head. Gently, she rubbed his belly, noting how tight and full it was after the meal she’d watched him down. He closed his eyes as though he enjoyed it -- or he’s just acting, she told herself firmly.

“Maybe lay your head on his chest, now.” They’re having me do everything I’d like to do to him, and I can’t let on that I really am aroused. How do I cope with this?

Over the next hour, Sally received and obeyed instructions to kiss Donald’s chubby, freckled cheeks, chuck him under the chins, wrap her arms about his thick yet supple love handles, and pretend to sleep with her head pillowed on his round, gurgly belly. The struggle to do all this and remember her lines was enough that she didn’t notice his widening, delighted eyes. At last the delicious torture ended:

“Okay, that’s all for tonight, people.”

“Are you coming to the pub?” Donald asked Sally as she looked around, somewhat dazed. Had there been this many cast members watching when rehearsal began?

“Sure. Is everyone going?”

“Looks like most of us are.” The hefty young man struggled to his feet and made his way towards the couch where her cardigan lay draped across the back. He took it and handed it to her before picking up his knapsack.

The seats in the Jolly Roger pub were long wooden benches, and the tables equally rough, though at the insistence of the local Department of Health they were clean. When the waitress came ‘round Sally ordered a vodka lemonade and next to her Donald asked for a beer and a large plate of nachos. Recalling the apparent comfort he’d shown earlier with having his belly played with, she asked impishly:

“Still hungry?”

“I do like my eats.”

* * * *​

At lunch the following day, Sally was gazing at the plate her sandwich lay upon, trying to estimate its size relative to the plate of nachos she’d watched Donald consume the night before, when:

“Nadia! Are you ok?” Her roommate had walked in with eyes wide in shock.

“Almost got hit by a car on the way here,” Nadia said flatly, setting down her bag by the dining-hall table and pulling up a chair. Sally edged her chair closer and put her arm around her.

“Corner by the student centre?” she asked. “The one where there’s no crosswalk but should be?” Nadia nodded as Sally turned to Marco:

“Did you ever hear back from Town Council about that petition you sent?” Marco tore open a packet of butter.

“Got back a form letter,” he grunted, and spread the butter across his toast as though taking out his frustration on the innocent bread. “At this point I’m tempted to go out with a bucket of paint myself.” Sally’s eyes lit up fiercely:

“Maybe we should. Get some spraypaint and tape, we could stencil it in quickly.”

“I was kidding.”

“Yeah, but it would force the town to pay attention to that corner, even if they only went out to try and wash it off -- I don’t think they can wash spraypaint off of asphalt, and if they painted over it, that would still mark it as a crosswalk. We should totally do this,” Sally exclaimed, turning to Nadia, who made a face.

“Um, Black person here? If I get caught spraypainting anything, the authorities are going to get out their stereotype goggles.”

“Oops, sorry,” apologized Sally, shocked. “Good point. Um, you heard nothing of any of this.”

“Any of what? Of course,” Nadia added, taking a sip of coffee, “I’m writing my term essay on the idea of citizen interventions, so if it works I’m totally citing it as a case in point.” Marco swallowed the last of his buttered toast. Like Donald, he’d put on weight since the first week of school, but he looked square rather than round.

“So, as a detached observer,” he asked Nadine, “with a Poly-Sci background, what might a group of… citizens... do, to help an unofficial crosswalk get taken seriously?”

“Good morning, Sally,” came an overly-loud greeting as Gordon passed the table in dining hall where Sally sat talking with Nadia and Marco. She kept her expression and tone carefully neutral as she answered:

“Good morning.”

“Hey, Big Guy” (this was addressed to Marco), “you’re sitting with the girls instead of at our house table?”

“Looks like I am,” said Marco, not looking up. “And I’m holding the empty seat for Colin, if you don’t mind.”

“Oh, I wasn’t trying to intrude,” Gordon said, but he dragged his feet as he walked to the table where the other men of West House were finishing up their lunch.

“Is he as annoying to you guys as he is in class?” Sally whispered to Marco.

“He’s quiet enough around us. Usually on the computer.”

“Then it’s the internet I pity,” she muttered, as Nadia made muffled choking sounds into her coffee. “Anyway, I’ve got to get to class.” She carried her tray to the conveyor belt that carried it back into the kitchen, avoiding any glance in the direction of West House’s table as she passed in case Gordon took it as permission for a conversation. She knew he was anxious to denounce their professor’s latest retort to him:

“But it’s so unrealistic,” he’d complained. “People don’t just get up and start talking in poetry in real life.” Professor Carlsberg had drawn herself up to her full height of five feet, three inches, and fixed Gordon with her gimlet eye: “Speak for yourself,” she’d hissed, as the rest of the class laughed.

Passing the West House table was like running a one-man gauntlet, but fortunately several of the students were discussing decorations for the Hallowe’en party, and Gordon’s attention was distracted, allowing Sally to escape without comment. She stepped outside; the fall air filled her head with images of fresh apples; and from there it was only a short step to picturing Donald’s rounded cheeks. She sighed, and headed to her class.


Well-Known Member
May 5, 2014
Part IV.

The air had been lightly crisp -- by the following Wednesday it was distinctly chill, and the leaves were nearly all turned to orange and red. Early mornings were still bright, though, and Sally blinked painfully.

She did not actually have a class until later; nor had she meant or needed to pull an all-nighter -- her paper had been ready to print shortly after one a.m. -- but the coffee she had drunk while writing it had kept her mind racing, and by seven, sick of staring at the walls, she’d left her room telling herself that if she couldn’t sleep, at least the fresh air might nudge her from half-awake to fully so.

She walked around the campus twice, feeling slightly unreal. Once a leaf blew across her path, and for a moment the memory of a tiny winged creature flitted across her mind, but didn’t stay. Drifting towards the engineering department, she glanced up from her shoes just in time to note a familiar figure slouching towards her.

“Hey Donald!” When his broad face brightened in recognition, she added “You’re up early too, I see.”

“Had to get a project done before Thanksgiving*. I guess you had a similar situation?”

“Something like that.” The stout engineer yawned:

“Want to get a coffee and breakfast?”

“I’ve had too much coffee already, but I guess I could eat something.”

“Lord knows I could. I haven’t eaten since --” he squeezed his eyes shut, thinking: “seven o’clock last night. I require bacon. And French toast.” Sally smiled:

“So, Athens, then?”

The Athens Grill was an old-school diner founded three generations back be a Greek family. Situated just off-campus, it had long been a popular hang-out, and frequently a hangover cure, for the local students. Sally and Donald stepped into the warm, yellow-toned interior and took a booth. Donald squeezed in without too much difficulty, but Sally was not too sleepy to notice that his paunch just grazed the edge of the table. It was a pleasant sight and perked her up greatly as she sipped an orange juice and waited for her toast to arrive. When it did, it was dwarfed by Donald’s breakfast. For twenty minutes, he munched on stacks of french toast bacon and sausage as he listened to Sally describe her history paper, and the sleepless night that had lasted until now. For her part, she slyly watched his stomach round out and gently press against the table, until she stumbled over her words and her eyelids lowered.

“Sally --” Donald was touching her hand gently across the table. Dimly she noticed his empty plate.

“I’m ok.”

“No you’re not. You just tried to explain how Sir John A. MacDonald completed the railway with lasagna. I think you need to sleep.” He waved to the waitress and mimed calculating their bill, then squirmed awkwardly and fished his wallet out of his tight back pocket. “I’ll pay for both of us -- you hardly ate anyway,” he added as he struggled out of the booth. Sally giggled drowsily as she got up, and patted Donald’s belly. His straining t-shirt (“STAGE NINJA”) was smooth and warm across his full-fed body, and at her touch he gave a little start of surprise that caused his sides to jiggle. “Jeez,” he murmured, putting an arm about her, “You’re really out of it. Can you make it back to your room all right?”

“No, just let me go to sleep here,” Sally mumbled, resting her head against his chest.

“Sally,” Donald whispered. She looked up, and his chubby face was earnest. “My room is closer -- do you want to go crash there? I’m pretty sleepy too, especially after all that food.” When she nodded, walked with her to the counter at the front, paid their bill, and the two of them made their way slowly to the concrete-block co-ed residence on the newer corner of the campus. The engineer’s room was cluttered but clean, with a big cork board on one wall that held dozens of photos, cartoons and newspaper clippings, mostly relating to his chosen career or to his friends and their interests. That was all Sally could take in before she collapsed gratefully onto the bed next to the cork board. Donald peeled off his jacket, folded it and placed it on the floor by his desk, then lay down with his head upon it.

“No, you shouldn’t have to -- ” she protested this excessive gallantry. He waved to her from the floor:

“Better this way. I’ve got to unbutton these pants -- I’ve got roommates, and I don’t want them to get the wrong idea. Besides,” he added, “Bed’s too small.” Sally could not fault this logic, and pulling the blanket over herself, she closed her eyes. It was delicious to feel sleepy now that she could give into it. Donald was snoring on the carpet, but not loudly enough to keep her from drifting off.

*(Canadian Thanksgiving is before Hallowe'en)
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