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The Origin Of the Tart
“Sheryl! I don’t want to hear another word of this whole acting business!” exclaimed Sheryl's mother, Agatha.
It was the early morning, and Sheryl had just broken into her charades and started informing her mother of how amazing of an actress she would be.
“Ain’t no woman in my family gonna be an actress. Women don’t work for money. We work for our family. Money is a man’s responsibility!” repeated Agatha.
“But Mama!-” Sheryl shouted.
“No buts. You heard me. Now go clean the house.”
Sheryl stomped up the stairs and slammed her door, with her hopes dashed.
She cried, “I’ll never leave Salinas! I’ll never leave!”
Like always, Sheryl kept up her tantrum for an hour and later, when Agatha was cleaning the dishes, she slipped out of the window and walked the half-a-mile to the Riverside Dance Palace, where she always relaxed after a significant argument. The lights from the ceiling lit up the room with magnificent grandeur. There were images of famous dancers such as Louise Brooks lining the walls staring at the crowd. Everything was lined with a gold coating, and there was only a sliver of light coming through the closed doors that brought those inside back to reality. It was the perfect place to just relax and let go of worries.
Sheryl knew that she was free to dance here, so she started dancing to the jazz music coming from the local band and took over the floor. As far as she was concerned, this was her building and everybody else were guests. After about an hour of jazz, a slow song started to play, and Sheryl reluctantly headed off the dance floor. In the beginning, Sherly did not have a partner; however, all of a sudden a man approached her asking for a dance. Although she had practiced slow dancing at home, she had never done so with a partner.
“I saw you dancing from afar...you really have a talent. I know professionals who can’t dance half as good as you,” the man noted.
“Well, thank you! I’ve been coming to the Palace once a week since I was six,” responded Sheryl in a shy manner.
“Have you considered acting?” the man inquired.
“No. Why do you ask?” Sheryl lied.
“I work for one of ‘em shows that just came through here. All of the actors and actresses dance because it is a musical. Our last actress got hurt, and we need a new one. With your skill, I don’t think anybody would mind.”
“Really! You think I could become an actress?” Sheryl responded excitedly.
“I’ll go home right now and grab my things.”
“Hurry back now; I leave in a half hour.”
Unable to contain her excitement, Sheryl sprinted home. Jumping up the stairs two at a time to her room, she threw anything she could find in her bag and headed downstairs. Agatha was standing at the door with a face as menacing as a pit bull.
“Now where in the heck are you goin’ Sheryl?” Agatha asked.
“I’m headed to the Palace!” Sheryl answered in elation, “A man there said I have potential as an actress for his show, but he said that I had to get there soon because they were leaving town.”
“Absolutely not! You’re not going to just go off with some man you met five minutes ago!”
“What do you mean? I’m fifteen years old. I am responsible and can take care of myself.”
“Really, you think that being a teenager makes you responsible? You couldn’t be more wrong. Now go back to your room. I don’t want to hear a peep. Oh, and by the way, I put a lock on the window so don’t think you can sneak out. As punishment for this whole mess, you are not allowed to go to that silly dance palace.”
Sheryl stomped up the stairs with frustration. I don’t care what she thinks, Sheryl thought, I am going to make something of myself.
Only a few weeks had gone by before Sheryl had another chance at her dreams. It was the middle of the summer and to keep from suffocating Agatha had to open a few windows. She had warned Sheryl that she would be given a curfew if she left the house, but Sheryl couldn’t resist. Sneaking out of the house once again, she made sure the window was closed in order to gain a little more time outside before Agatha caught on.
Once she reached the Palace, Sheryl felt at home once again. However, this time she wasn’t dancing. After giving thought to a possible performance career, she decided to give it a shot. Sheryl was going to act in one of the Palace’s weekly plays. She got dressed up and did a final run through of her lines. This is my time to shine, Sheryl thought as she walked onstage.
Sheryl could still hear the crowd’s applause from backstage. She had found a new sense of accomplishment; she had performed for somebody and made them happy. No longer was she relegated to dancing all by her lonesome where she didn’t matter to anybody else.
Then, for the second time, a man approached her. Sheryl recognized him; he was in the front row of the audience.
“I was just in town visiting my girlfriend when I decided to stop by and see the performance. You were...” he stuttered for words, “quite amazing. I have never seen anything like it. Now I know this sounds a bit forward, but I am in the acting business in Hollywood. The movie I’m workin’ on needs a co-star. You look like you could perfectly fit the role. So whaddya say? Wanna make it big?”
“Why not?” Sheryl answered.
Sheryl knew she was going against Agatha’s wishes, but she didn’t care. She had been confined for too long.
“Amazing! I’ll send you a letter telling you when and where to come once I reach the city. Goodbye!”
Every day from then on, Sheryl would run out eagerly in the morning hoping to find the letter before Agatha. Mama would never let me leave, she thought. Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months until finally, Sheryl concluded that Mama must have taken the letter from her.
“Mama’s heart is made of stone,” Sheryl said to herself, “she saw that I was talented, got jealous, and decided that she wasn’t going to have none of it.”
Sheryl marched downstairs and demanded that her mother hand over the letter she stole. Agatha denied everything and at the end of the interrogation said, “You, a Hollywood actress?” and began laughing hysterically. Sheryl determined then that she would escape her household; she started to walk out of the house.
“Where are you going?” Agatha inquired.
Sheryl didn’t respond. She merely walked down the road towards the Palace. Her mother made no effort to bring her back.
Sheryl was still trying to figure out what she would do when she entered the Palace. While trying to devise a plan she witnessed couples dancing on the floor, and then an idea suddenly popped into her head.
Sheryl walked up to the closest man she could find.
“What’s your name?” Sheryl inquired.
“Curley,” the man stated matter-of-factly.
“Well Curly, how would you like to marry me?”