Original Short Fiction: Life Sketch of Belmonte Segwic a.k.a. "Graveyard Whistler"
Whistling Past the Graveyard
Disclaimer: FICTION ALERT!
The characters in this story are fictional.
Resemblance to any person living or dead
Introduction by Graveyard Whistler
"We cannot choose what we are free to love." —W. H. Auden, "Canzone"
Greetings! My name is Belmonte Segwic, aka "Graveyard Whistler," a handle I used in my many Internet writings and communications in grad school. I fairly recently completed a master of arts degree in creative writing at the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. After achieving that step in my education, I have been batting around the idea of pursuing a PhD in the history of letters.
Thus, I have transferred to a large university in the eastern United States that will remain nameless. My advisor advised me to keep it nameless because of my intentions to engage heavily on the Internet. I guess she felt that my style might cramp that of this "prestigious" institution of higher learning.
Being the opinionated fool that I am, I would love nothing better than to engage in poking holes the inflated balloon of reputation that these Ivy League monstrosities like to float over the heads of their inferiors. But I will have to save that for another day because now I intend to seek, read, and research, looking backward into the history of literature.
I am particularly drawn to irony as a literary device, and likely I will offer lots of stuff pertaining to that device. But I'm also easily swayed by intriguing narratives of all sorts, from flash fiction to gigantic tomes that seem never ending. For my writing purposes though, I will likely stick to mid-sized works that can be handled in 1000 to 4000 words for the Internet, where attention spans diminish daily.
So those honorable mentions represent a brief overview of my literary intentions at the present time, and of course, I reserve the right change directions as speedily as I can close one text and open another. My apparent lack of direction is somewhat upsetting to my advisor, but I have assured her that I will have a dandy dissertation all tied up in bows by end of the three-year limitation that has been imposed on me.
A Little Bit About My Background
I was born on an undisclosed day in an undisclosed small hamlet in eastern Kentucky. I'd like nothing more than to disclose those bits of bio, but my parents are important people in Kentucky politics, and I refuse commit any act that would limit where I will go in my Internet scribblings, which I would most definitely be called upon to do if it got out who my important parents are. Just let me say that they are decent, hard-working folks, highly educated, and even to my own politics-blighted view, important to the societal, cultural, as well as political, fabric of Kentucky and the mid-South in general.
I am an only child and feel that I have not missed out on anything important by not having siblings. I did grow up with about a dozen cousins who seemed like siblings, some staying with us for extended visits. It seems that there were always a cousin or two filling up our extra bedrooms, keeping our refrigerator perpetually empty, but offering the best company a young tyke could ask for. I always enjoyed having those cousins visit, learned a great deal from the older ones, and was constantly entertained by the younger ones.
What I remember most is writing and putting on plays. All of the cousins loved movies, theater, and books about imaginary characters. From my age of six to seventeen we must have written and performed a couple hundred plays, all influenced by something some cousin had read and loved. I hated acting but was always recruited to be one of the main characters. I loved doing the art for the backgrounds and working props like swords, capes, pistols, wands, fairy dust, make-up and other costumes—whatever we needed to make the play more colorful and life-like.
Romeo & Juliet in Caricature
My Favorite Play
The summer after high school graduation when I seventeen, four of my cousins (all of us getting ready for college in the fall) came to stay for the entire summer. The first few days we just goofed off—swimming, throwing baseballs around, riding bikes, watching TV, and cooking large meals every night. Then about two weeks into the visit, the oldest cousin blurted out while we were sitting around trying to decide what to do that day, "Let's do a play!" Everyone shouted in unison, "Of course, a play!"
The next question was—what will it be about? And after batting around ideas for about an hour, we decided it would be a play based on a Shakespeare play. One girl-cousin then insisted it be based on The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, but then the other girl-cousin objected saying that one always made her "cryyy." But then a boy-cousin piped up, saying, no, let's make it a comedy. It doesn't have to be exactly like the Shakespeare, let's turn it into a comedy. That will be a barrel of fun to turn a tragedy into a comedy.
To make a really, really long story much shorter than the original, we began right away to write our version of the Shakespeare tragedy into a comedy. We titled it "Raymond and Julie: A Funny Tale with a Happy Ending." We worked and worked. I painted sets, helped make costumes, and we then asked the principal of our high school to let us use the auditorium to put on the play. Then we got the brilliant idea of selling tickets. I typed up a ticket, took it to Kinko's and ran off a thousand copies. And we sold every one of them!
The auditorium only held 850 people. So on performance night, roughly 200 people had to stand around to watch this amateur group of ragamuffins scuffling across a stage performing their original version of one the great bard's masterpieces. Luckily, the play went off without a hitch, the audience loved it, some even asked if we would do it again!
Then all hell broke loose! The county clerk's office contacted the principal of the high school and asked if a certain unapproved event had taken place at the high school. The clerk asked for details such as tickets sold, capacity of the room, and what permits the administrators of the event had applied for and obtained. Well, we had not applied for and obtained any permits, and when the clerk had gathered all that information, he sent the sheriff to our house for a little sit-down with our parents. The sheriff found that we were in violation of a number of county and city ordinances, and the fines for those violations amounted to $15,000!
We had sold tickets for 50 cents each. We sold a 1000, so that means we took in $500 for the sale of the tickets. My parents were stupefied about all those ordinances and that's how they got into politics. They first ran for council positions to try to eliminate the coercive nature of government into the lives of young people who were actually doing good creative work. But for the time being, before they could actually do anything politically, my parents owed $15,000 in fines for allowing us to perform a play for the community.
Luckily, they were friends with neighbor who was a tax attorney. He also knew quite a lot about the ordinances that we had violated. He came over to our house one evening to explain what he had found out about satisfying that ridiculous fine. He told us that we could retro-actively apply for a permit for the play, but that we would have perform the play again after we received it—that is—if we received it. He then said that if we apply and receive the permit and re-perform the play, we must turn over the proceeds to a county or city charity. We didn't have sell tickets again, we could just turn over the money we had collected from the first performance.
So here is how it went down: we had paid $50 to get the tickets copied. We took in $500 for the first performance of the play, which had left us with $450. After the lawyer-friend told us about getting the permit, we shelled out $100 for the permit. It didn't cost us anything to re-perform the play, and actually we loved getting to do it again, and our audience loved it so much that they donated money because we had not charged them for the second performance.
And they donated big time: the 1000 people who attended, donated roughly $60 each. That meant after we gave the original $500 to the charity (our three sets of parents made up the $150 missing from the original intake of $500 that paid for the tickets and application for the permit)—we chose to give to the "Little Brothers and Sisters of Saint Francis"—we ended up with roughly $55,000! We did not have to pay the fines because we donated our $500 to the "Saint Francis" charity, so all that money was ours. So we gave $5000 more to "Saint Francis" and split up the rest of it among ourselves. We each got $10,000, and we all were entering college in the fall.
When we get together now, we all wonder how we would have managed to enter college that fall without that windfall. Sometimes we get silly and say things like, we should do that again, I got car payments that could use it, or who knew we could sell our skills so cheap and then reap a big payout like that?
It all seems surreal now, but the play, "Raymond and Julie: A Funny Tale with a Happy Ending," will always be my favorite. I have a worn-out copy that I take out from time to time when I need a smile or two. I thus have no doubt about what sealed my interest in the literary arts. Our play had included rich dialog, poems, songs, jokes, biography, and even a play within a play.
Thank you to those who have stayed with me to this point. I will now go off to play in the world of literary arts, and wherever you go off to, I wish you as much fun as I will have in mine.
Belmonte Segwic, aka The Graveyard Whistler
Some good whistlin' goin' on!! Enjoy!
© 2019 Linda Sue Grimes