Brief Candle

Tom stood on the fire escape, clutching the rails, staring out over the apron of the stage, while behind him the living room of the apartment was in half-light beneath the proscenium arch as if illuminated only by the candle burning on the coffee table. There is jazz in the background, the kind one might hear from a nearby speakeasy. As Tom talks, Laura looks up and smiles at her mother, her dark hair falling back to let the lights illuminate her face. She has a sad smile, bright enough to satisfy Amanda, yet the pain shines through to the audience.

"Perhaps I am walking along a street at night, in some strange city, before I have found companions," he says. "I pass the lighted window of a shop where perfume is sold."

Amanda leaves, and Laura begins to put her glass figures away.

"The window is filled with pieces of colored glass, tiny transparent bottles in delicate colors, like bits of a shattered rainbow."

Laura picks up the damaged unicorn and holds it softly. She rocks back and forth.

"Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn aound and look into her eyes....

"Oh, Laura, Laura. I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I indtended to be!"

Laura gazes at the little glass horse, rubbing the place where it's horn had been, then placing it back on the shelf.

"I reach for a cigarette, I cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest stranger - anything that can blow your candle out!"

She leans forward, toward the candle.

"- for nowadays the world is lit by lightning! Blow out your candles, Laura - and so goodbye..."

As Laura blows out the candle, the lights fade to black. The music crossfades into a more somber instrumental as the applause begins.

Quinn gets up and follows the green-glowing strips leading to the door through which

Carolyn Rosenblum had just exited. Jack Morgan climbs off the fire escape and follows her. They are greeted with hugs from Carolyn and Todd Reninger, who had played the Gentleman Caller.

The lights come back up and Todd lopes back through the door, takes a bow and moves to stage left, looking back at the entrance.

Quinn follows him, feeling the applause breaking over her like a wave. She can't believe the crowd is getting to their feet, even her sister, standing in the third row back, is actually smiling. She bows and moves stage right, turning her attention to the door.

Carolyn follows with a smile at once her own and yet still partially in character, making her bow and blowing a kiss to someone in the fourth row, then steps to Todd's side, throwing her focus on Jack's entrance.

When Jack has taken his own bow, he reaches to each side, taking Quinn's and Carolyn's hands as Carolyn takes Todd's. They take their final curtain call together and step back as the lights fade again, then follow the glow-tape backstage.` The applause reluctantly fades.

The crew was also applauding them and giving them thumbs up as they waited for the house to clear so they could reset the stage for tomorrow night. The assistant director stood at his station near the stage door, grinning wide as they passed.

"Good work, Todd," he said, "Carolyn, baby, way to go! Quinnie, knew you could do it! Jack, this was your best ever!"

They thanked him and hugged him or shook his hand as they passed, then stepped from the darkened backstage to the brightly lit hall beyond.

The director was already there with bouquets for Carolyn and Quinn. "Outstanding work people," he told them, then with a flourish took a small note pad from his jacket pocket and dunked it in a nearby trashcan. "I have no notes! I'll see you in class tomorrow, and expect you to be rested up for tomorrow night."

Quinn and Carolyn waved to their costars and disappeared into the women's dressing room. Quinn pulled her dark, mousey brown wig off and shook out her hair.

"My God," she said, "my hair is soaked!"

"Thank heavens I didn't have to have one for this show," said Carolyn, getting out of her costume and sitting before the mirror. "Hate 'em! So, was it as bad as you feared?"

"No way! God, that was fantastic!"

"Did you feel it? Like I said?"

"Yes. I could feel the energy flowing from them right into me. I don't think I've felt anything like it before."

Carolyn put her hair back in a head band and opened a jar of cold cream to begin her transformation back into a young woman. "That," she said, rubbing the wrinkles off her forehead, "is what I'm going to base my senior thesis on this spring. Theatre started out as a religious ritual and I think that feeling is a big part of it."

"Is it there every time?" asked Quinn, hanging up her outfit, then sitting down herself.

"When it's good. There are times when it doesn't happen, when there doesn't seem to be anything working and the energy flags to nothing. Sometimes you just have a dead audience, sometimes, especially during an extended run, the cast is just tired." She smiled at Quinn. "Even then, it still beats 'honest work.' I'm going to hit the shower."

"Don't use all the hot water!" she giggled.

"In your dreams, freshman!" she giggled back. She stopped at the door and pointed at her. "You are auditioning for [i]Marat/Sade[/i] next quarter, aren't you?"

"Try and stop me!" she grinned.

Quinn wiped the cold cream off her face and applied the astringint. She thought back on the night and decided that there was nothing she didn't love about the experience. Even the opening night jitters, complete with the worship of the porcelin goddess wasn't so bad in retrospect. She sighed. She was tired, but it was a good tired.

A familiar monotone came from the door "'Blow out your candle, Laura.'" she said behind the Mona Lisa smile.

Quinn leaned back and smiled up at her. "I think I've found my calling," she said.

Daria nodded. "That, I think you have, Sis. That, I think you have."

Portions of this fic are taken directly from Tennesee William's [i]The Glass Menagerie[/i].