Memoirs of a Showstopper
Author's note: This story was inspired by my dreams of acting, which turned into my passion for writing.
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Prologue/Scene One: My Crazy Neighbor“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams- live the life you have imagined.”
~Henry David Thoreau
I was eight when it hit me. The whole acting thing. I didn’t choose to act, acting chose me. It called me out, and I put up my fists, ready for a fight. I didn’t know it would be a fight for fame.
Her name was Andy Simons, born Miranda Kate Simons. She lived in a little known place, Forlin, New Hampshire. But of course, to Andy every place that wasn’t Los Angeles or New York City was little known. Forlin had never been commended for anything out of the ordinary. It was a nice place to live, if you didn’t want any drama…
That would be Mr. Paul Simons and Mrs. Rose Simons. Forlin was the perfect place for no-nonsense businessman, Mr. Simons. He was the boss of Shire Lewison Flooring Company. The company was located in Shire, New Hampshire; Mr. Simons never wanted to move the business to their hometown.
Forlin was a normal place. Andy was normal too…on the outside at least. She had three best friends, Colleen Brickham, Jessie Cambridge and (the abusive girl she was forced to tolerate) Julia Aimes.
At the time of her ascent to stardom, Andy was thirteen, in eighth grade at Forlin Middle School, and that kind of made Andy average and normal didn’t it? Her A’s and B’s said it all.
Andy wasn’t average, she never would be. She had her future set to being a critically acclaimed actress. She came home to her house on 382 West Rhode Street everyday, and checked her favorite acting website for acting opportunities.
Andy’s parents would not let her have an agent (of course). So Andy was her own successful agent. She knew she had to start small in a very specific order: modeling for department store magazines, modeling for slightly more impressive clothing stores, commercials (sometimes for those department stores), several random backgrounds not actually speaking in movies, then brief roles in TV shows, then real TV appearances, etc.
Andy had not done any of that. She had never actually auditioned either. It would be a long way up.
Scene One: My Crazy Neighbor
We stood outside the chain link fence, staring at the yellow house less than twenty-five feet away from us. There was a large ring of startlingly green grass circling the house. Inside the circle was evenly spread dirt, though some might call it mulch. A pond sat calm, black and placid in the yard. This pond had a dock. Yes, a dock, with a rotting canoe tied up to it.
There was also mulch after the green grass circle ended. In the mulch-dirt sat two possibly fake, possibly real palm trees with a hammock tied securely on each trunk.
And of course there were the rock and shell designs. In more mulch were these crazy ten by ten designs made up of rocks and shells. I had been trying to decipher them for a while to no avail. Six sheds surrounded the odd house, and I didn’t want to know what was in them. The body of her dead husband… It was pretty clear to passer-bys why everyone called this Forlin residency “The Crazy Lady’s House”. And I’m sure the ‘No Trespassing’ signs added to the…um, charisma?
She had to be a fortune telling-psychic.
Ok, so, the Crazy Lady was actually my odd neighbor. And apparently my mom had reason to believe she was a fortune telling psychic. She had told me this tall tale, and I was about at my wits end trying to figure out if I actually had an acting future. So, the following statement came to mind: There comes a time in every person’s life when you drag yourself and your best friend to your supposed fortune-telling-psychic-Crazy-Lady- neighbor, just to see if you’ll be an award winning actress in the near or distant future. So, basically, that was why Colleen and I were standing outside the Crazy Lady’s House.
“What if she has a gun?” Colleen suddenly said.
“That’s a good point. I mean, it’s the Crazy Lady, you never know,” I considered the statement, and continued, “It would be a very dramatic story. It could work.
I can see the head line now- Acting Sensation Miranda Simons and Best Friend Colleen Brickham Shot by Crazy Lady.” I frowned, then muttered, “Well, I’m working on the acting part.”
We stood outside the gate for about five more minutes before Colleen said, “Well, G to G, sorry to bail on you on this fantastic mission, but its dinner time. You can come if you want.”
One of the things about the super-nice family of the Brickham’s was that you were always welcome in their home, even when they didn’t really mean it.
“Nah, I’m good, thanks.”
I sighed in defeat as we started back down the street. I took another glance at the wacky house.
“Follow my lead,” I instructed.
I sprinted back to the gate as Colleen trotted after me. With my long legs it only took one foot in the gate and a good push to get me over. Colleen cautiously came over as well.
“Will we be running?” she asked, pulling her curly brown hair into a ponytail.
I nodded in reply.
“Ok, let’s just go then,”
Colleen was on the Forlin Middle School track team and was a talented sprinter and hurdler, and in a normal situation she would beat me to the door of the Crazy Lady, but not that day. I knew this girl was scared.
“On three,” I said, “one, two, THREE!” And then we were off, sloshing through the muddy mulch and the occasional week old snow bank that refused to melt.
We were there much quicker than I’d expected, and I realized we were probably prepared for a mile rather than twenty-five feet. We stood breathless in front of the white front door, the only normal thing about the Crazy Lady’s House.
“Ugh! This is awful!” Colleen said, examining her muddy and wet aerated sneakers. “My new running shoes! They’re- They’re ruined!”
I grinned slightly impishly.
“It’s what you do to me,” Colleen muttered.
I raised my hand to knock on the door, but before I could it swung open.
A tan old lady stood in the doorway. Her wispy white hair streaked with gray practically came down to her knees. She wore a baggy gray dress that ended at her knees; the sleeves came to her elbows. Her face was very cheery, with a big smile, cheeks raised, and overall she was tan and wrinkly. So this was the Crazy Lady. Well, not exactly what I expected.
“Hello,” she said, still smiling, “You must be my neighbor. It’s about time you joined me.” Gulp. She had been watching us. The Crazy Lady extended her jewel encrusted hand to me. I cautiously put my hand out as well.
“I’m Natalia Lords. And you are?”
“Um,” I stuttered. Why wasn’t she talking to Colleen? That was just it. ‘Natalia’ was acting as if Colleen weren’t even here. “Well, I’m your neighbor, actually.
My name is-“ but the Crazy Lady- er, Natalia, had interrupted me.
“Oh, yes of course. You’re Simons…Kate …Miranda, preferably Andy.”
I gasped, “How did you know that!?” I practically shouted.
Natalia turned to Colleen, “Now, you, I do not know. In fact why you’re here your best friend does not even know. You might as well leave. Your presence is not needed. You may go.” My eyes widened at every word she said. I looked at Colleen, who seldom cried or anything. She was gazing at Natalia curiously.
“What makes you say that?” she asked.
Natalia smiled in pleasure. “Colleen Melanie Brickham. Pleasure to finally meet you,” she stuck out her hand and gave her a firm handshake.
“One second, please, girls,” Natalia disappeared into her house, leaving us both in awe. She came back within two seconds, carrying an old sunflower seed sack and a quilt.
“Come. Let me tell your fortunes.” And with that, she laid the quilt out on the wet ground, sat down criss-cross, and patted the spots next to her. We nervously followed her, sitting across from her instead of next to her.
How did she know we wanted our fortunes told? Was she really a psychic? I looked at Colleen uneasily, and she returned the grimace.
Natalia must have seen this, because she immediately launched into a story, “Ok, I’ll tell you everything. First off, no, Natalia Lords is not my real name.
Secondly, I indeed am a psychic, but telling fortunes is how I describe it, really.
When I was sixteen, well, I was sort of adventure-seeking. And, well, I ran away from my safe home here in Forlin. I traveled everywhere; I was a gypsy, truthfully. Eventually I found a group from the circus; they called themselves ‘The Insights’. They were a talented bunch of fortune tellers that taught me the tricks of the trade.
Oh, it was so silly. They dressed me up in bangles and odd skirts, caked makeup all over my face, changed my name, and oh! It was all so ridiculous! I used to just be Katherine Lords, but ‘Katherine’ was just too plain for The Insights. I had to be Natalia. Oh and I was paid too! Paid in gold coins, and I felt like I had found where I belonged, I was a gypsy! I knew I must leave them, ultimately, but The Insights said if I left, I could never join them again. But I had been a gypsy for over five years, and I did have a family whom I had left behind. So, I escaped from the Insight’s. I had two hundred dollars in gold to show for my efforts of five years, which was terribly embarrassing. I came home, then twenty-one, a high school drop out, and my parents weren’t in this very home. They had left, gone away to Florida, from the information I had managed to gather. So I moved back in. Got a job, found a husband, who died when he was thirty-two, and through everything, I couldn’t stop my fortune telling. Of course I don’t get any business these days, but here you are. The first customers I’ve had in eighteen years!”
Natalia’s emotions throughout her story told me she
definitely wasn’t faking. It was really sad though, like something you’d see in the movies. I had a lot of questions I wanted to ask, but figured we should stay on track.
Natalia emptied the contents of her sunflower seed bag onto the quilt. Twelve rocks, an odd looking deck of cards, and six coins fell out. This was her fortune telling bag.
“Three days ago I saw you, Andy, in my crystal ball. You were saying that I was a fortune teller of some sort. Thank goodness for you!” Natalia said.
A crystal ball? Those exist?
“Will you show us your crystal ball?” I asked hopefully. Natalia shook her head. “If another person were to appear in my crystal ball with you watching, it would be against all my morals.”
I snorted, “Let me get this straight: It’s an invasion of someone’s privacy if they appear in your crystal ball, and we see it, but it’s perfectly fine for you to see that? You were spying on me! If we weren’t nice people we could report you to the police!” Natalia blushed in embarrassment.
“Well, yes, that’s very true,” she replied stiffly, “but what I see in the crystal ball involves me in some way. I can’t just say I want to spy on my neighbors. It whirs when it has a vision; I suppose one might say. My crystal ball has not had any information for me lately. So of course I noticed it. Would you like me to tell your fortunes or not?”
Colleen and I exchanged a look, and I replied calmly, “That would be great, Natalia.”
She looked slightly surprised, but just said, “Ok, Colleen first, left to right.” Natalia went to work spreading out the deck of cards face down. “Pick five cards, please.”
Colleen looked at the deck and randomly picked five of the purple-backed cards. “Good, now pick six rocks, and two coins,” said Natalia. Colleen obeyed.
Natalia examined her choices, “Interesting. You picked the card of healing, animals, marriage, mild wealth and death.” Colleen jumped at the word ‘death’.
“Oh, Colleen, relax. You will live a very normal life. If I am correct, then you will have a career in animals and healing, you will be married, you will have mild wealth, and in the end, you will die. Everyone does eventually. It’s nothing to be worried about. As far as rocks go…” Natalia examined the two red rocks, one blue rock, and three green rocks, “Good, very good. You will have two children, one house, and you will be very healthy, including your family. The coins are simple. I don’t even have to look. It’s always the same thing: family and health. That is in your future. No guarantees, but I’m almost always right.”
“Great. A normal future. I didn’t have to come to a fortune teller to figure that out,” Colleen said unhappily. “And a vet? That is not me!”
“Ok, me next!” I was frazzled to know my future. Come on fortune and fame!
“Hand, please,” Natalia requested. I extended my hand.
“Aren’t I going to be picking rocks and coins and cards?” I asked anxiously.
Natalia shook her head, focusing intently on my palm. One minute later, she looked at me. “Oh, well that’s very interesting,” Natalia said quietly.
“What?” I demanded.
“Clarence. I see Clarence. Not just in the future, but in the near future,” Natalia put my hand down.
“Clarence? Clarence? Colleen do we know a ‘Clarence’?” I asked going in to hysterics. What could this mean?!
Colleen scoffed. “No, I don’t think so!”
“Look at the bigger picture,” Natalia said, “Five bucks each.” We both dished out the cash. “Now you girls had better get home.”
We nodded, without protest, though neither of us could shake the feeling that we just got scammed.
The sun was setting, and my mom thought we were at the river. We mumbled some thanks and ran through the mud back onto the street. We started back to my house, very slowly, lost in thought.
“What could she mean? I don’t get it! ‘Look at the bigger picture’ what does that mean? Clarence,” I fumed.
Colleen shrugged. “Well, Clarence: a person, a pet, a name, name of a country, body of water...”
“Colleen, that’s it! Maybe that’s the bigger picture! Clarence is a name! Most names have meanings!”
Colleen shrugged, “So, Clarence probably has some significant meaning. And whatever it is, it’s related to your ‘near future’.”
I smiled, “Yeah, I like that. Unless ‘Clarence’ means something bad!”
Colleen waved goodbye and headed down the street to her house in a full out sprint.
“Track team,” I snorted.
I went inside the house to see my mom stirring something in an electric skillet. Simmering vegetables and pork wafting through my nose told me it was stir-fry night. My mom then turned to me.
“Where’ve you been?” she demanded.
I shrugged casually, “Like I said, the river. Of course, if I had a cell phone, you could have called me to check up on that.”
My mom rolled her eyes.
I stepped over to the skillet, “Looks good, smells good,” I took a scoop of it, “tastes good too!” I laughed at my food stealing.
“Hey! None of that! I had to double the recipe because Jeff ate the whole thing last time. We can’t afford to lose any food, we’re out of leftovers!” Mom said.
I grinned, remembering how once my brother Jeff had eaten all the stir-fry when my mom was at the grocery store.
I skimmed through the newspaper.
“Wow! Tom Gardner’s new movie got three stars! That’s impressive for such a small budget.” I remarked.
“That’s nice, Andy.” Mom mumbled.
“I gotta go, I have homework,” I only partially lied, “No me gusta la tarea, pero tengo mucha tarea de espanol,” I stated in rough Spanish. My mom gave me a ‘in English please’ look. I sighed, “I don’t like homework, but I have a lot of Spanish homework.”
Mom nodded, and continued stirring. I escaped through the living room, up the stairs, and into my room.
My room was light blue. In it was a bureau, closet, desk, bedside table, and a bed. On this bed was my comforter that was white, and detailed with hearts in various shades of blue. I had a large rug, which was dark blue as well. It was a cramped space, but it was my cramped space.
I swung open the closet door and reached up to the bookshelf. It took me a while to figure out which book it was, but I got. It was very thick, for one thing, so how I could have missed it, I don’t even know. “What Should I Name My Baby? The Book. By Cheryl Lotley,” the title read. Half of this book was powder blue, the other half rosy pink. I opened the first page, which was a complete repeat of the front cover. Next page. Same. Next page. Same. Next page. Finally. I began to read:
Dearest future parent friends,
I am so delighted you have picked my book to find the right name for your future bundle of joy! I… (Skip)
I have (Skip)
Will your baby be a boy or girl? This plays an important role in baby-name-picking.
Ok, that was no help. I had to skip three pages before I found one that said “Boy Names”. I then skipped seventy-two pages before I found the “C is for Cuddly” section. Fifteen pages later, I was on the page that had the name ‘Clarence’ on it. I nervously read the definition:
Clarence- a good strong name, is Greek for ‘fame’.