Jill was peering over my shoulder through the door beside the stage. I could feel her body shaking with laughter.

"This isn’t funny," I said grimly. "Ben could write better dialogue than this. If he could write."

"You’re on," she hissed, and she gave me a shove in the back.

I reluctantly trudged onto the stage. I could feel sweat trickling down my back. I definitely wasn’t cut out for this acting stuff. The lights were bright in my eyes, which made it difficult to make out the faces of the audience. They were just shadowy figures. I wondered if they were all as appalled and disgusted as I was.

"Good morning, my precious darling," boomed Svetlana, advancing on me.

I sidled warily around her, trying to keep one eye on her while reading the stupid script at the same time. "Uh, I’m off to work, my dear." What insane person wrote this tripe? "Um, I’ll be working late, so don’t wait up for me." Well, thank God for that! "You can dream of me while you sleep." What a nauseating thought.

"I would stay up with the moon for you, heart of my heart," blared Svetlana. Then she whispered in what she mistakenly assumed was a voice that only I could hear, "Kiss me now. With vigor, yes? It will add to the reality of our performance."

"What?" I hissed. "Are you crazy? I’m not kissing you! Stick to the script!"

She advanced on me like the Soviet army advancing on Poland. "Kiss me now, my dearest!"

"Hell, no!" I yelped, backpedaling away. "I mean, I must leave now or I’ll miss my train!"

"Get back on script!" Maurice whispered angrily.

"Uh, I’m off to sell some Frigidaires," I said, quickly turning the page. "And perhaps a few expensive icemakers. It is strange that I find fulfillment in selling appliances that are cold and frigid. Do not pine for me." I felt a wave of nausea sweep over me as I read those words. It was worse than digesting bad pork. "No, do not pine, my sweetling."

I double-checked the line in the script as I stomped off the stage. Could someone with a brain actually have written that line? What kind of demented sap would call his wife a sweetling?

"And thus, the day grows colder," said Maurice, reading somewhat hurriedly from his script. "But nowhere is it colder than in the frozen, icy hearts of the Winters, husband and wife."

"My heart is cold," bellowed Svetlana. She slapped one enormous hand onto her even more enormous bosom and sighed like a walrus with indigestion. "I need a fire, a fire in my soul to warm my chill, firm limbs, to warm my frozen bed. George! George! Remember me when you sell your Frigidaires, when your slender, lissome fingers caress your costly icemakers!"

I’m afraid the play didn’t improve from there. To make matters worse, my wife was giggling like a schoolgirl backstage. She was laughing so hard that tears were rolling down her face.

"It isn’t funny at all," I said coldly. "I consider you completely responsible for this."

"Shh!" said one of the other actors. "It’s getting really good out there. Listen to her! What a great line! ‘The glacier in my heart can only be warmed by the slow, persistent passage of the rough, heavy rocks and boulders of your love, wearing away my surface. . .’ oh, that gets me right here."

"Yeah, me too," I said. "Right where my stomach acid is bubbling up."

"Harriet’s on!" hissed my wife.

Harriet marched out on stage, script in hand.

"Ah, Ms. Winter," she said, her voice grim and disapproving. "I received your urgent, tearful message. How are you feeling today?"

"Thank you for coming, Dr. Schwartz," said Svetlana. "I realize psychologists such as yourself do not normally make house calls, but this is a dire emergency."

"What seems to be the problem? Is there a man involved, such as your husband, your father, or perhaps the mailman?"

"Alas," said Svetlana, "my husband is no longer interested in marital intimacy of the physical kind."

"It is because he is a man," said Harriet angrily. "All men should be incarcerated in maximum security–"

"Stick to the script!" hissed Maurice from the other side of the stage.

"The script is fatally flawed," snapped Harriet. "The writer, who is a man, I might point out, should’ve had her leave her louse of a husband and either move in with an understanding woman, such as myself, or join a–"

"At that moment," said Maurice, reading from the script and half-shouting in order to drown out Harriet, "flush with success from having sold seven Frigidaires in the space of two hours, George Winter returns home to share the good news with his wife. With the commissions from his sales, they can now afford the honeymoon they never had twenty-three years ago."

There was a tense pause at this moment. Maurice glared over at the door beside the stage. Harriet glared at Maurice. Svetlana toyed with the top button of her blouse. The audience seemed frozen in fascinated horror.

"Frank," hissed Maurice. "Get out here, now!"

My wife punched me hard in the back. "You heard the man."

Reluctantly, I trudged back on stage. The whole thing seemed like a nightmare. Perhaps I was about to wake up and find it all one of those figments of the imagination. Sadly, I did not wake up. I tried to focus on the script in my hand. The words didn’t seem to make any sense.

"Uh, sweetmeats," I said, half-disbelieving what I had just read. The author was obviously plunging down into previously unreached depths of insanity. What the hell kind of endearment was ‘sweetmeats’? "I have had a truly amazing day selling Frigidaires. Oh, who is this person visiting our, uh, happy home?"

"This is my beloved psychologist," boomed Svetlana. "Dr. Helga Schwartz."

"Aha!" I said. "So, you are carrying out an affair with this so-called psychologist behind my back while I sell Frigidaires! Does he say he loves you like I do?"

Svetlana advanced on me, her arms outstretched. I dodged behind the stepladder with some pretty quick footwork.

"Kiss me, George," she said, her voice rumbling like a small earthquake. "Kiss me now! I will prove my love to you!"

"I’m a woman, not a man!" shouted Harriet angrily.

"Well, you sure look like a man to me," I said, evading another grab from Svetlana. "In fact, both of you do."

"Stay on script!" shouted Maurice.

"Perhaps I shall hurl my naked, willing body from the dangerous heights of this window ledge," declared Svetlana. She began climbing the stepladder. It creaked in protest beneath her mighty bulk. "I shall hurl myself down. I shall do it nude. Then you will take my love for you seriously!"

"Go ahead and jump," I said. "But for the love of Mike, keep your clothes on!"

I have to say that this line elicited a burst of frenzied applause from the audience. I may not be a real actor, but I can connect. Sometimes.

"Stick to the script, you idiots!"

At that moment, a shadowy form stood up in the middle of the audience. It was Murdock. He clutched his throat, stumbled into the aisle, and then fell over with a crash. Someone screamed. I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, things were looking up.

"He’s dying!" shrieked a woman in the audience.

I jumped off the stage into the pandemonium. People were freaking out. Some were running for the exit. Others had their cell phones out and were filming Murdock thrashing around the floor.

"Out of the way!" I said. "I know CPR! Get out of the way!"

I knelt down next to Murdock. He was frothing at the mouth. His eyes were rolled up into the back of his head and his limbs were flailing around like a marionette.

"Someone call 911 for an ambulance!" I shouted. "Quick! This man has swallowed his tongue!"

Just then, there was a tremendous crash from the stage. I looked back. Svetlana had jumped off the top of the stepladder. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you looked at it, she had landed on top of Maurice.

"Someone call another ambulance!" I yelled. "And a crane!"

The first ambulance came in short order. The EMTs rushed in, loaded Murdock up, and rushed right back out. I hurried along after them. They took off with a roar, right as the second ambulance arrived for Maurice.

"Shall we exit stage right as well?" murmured a voice.

It was Jill. I nodded. We hopped in my truck and drove off.

"Murdock was going to do it a lot sooner," said Jill.


"I told him to wait. I ran into him in the lobby when people were coming in. I overheard the two of you conspiring in the garden this morning. Murdock has always had great difficulty telling me no."

I was speechless for a moment before I found my tongue. "You are a traitorous, cold-hearted witch of a wife."

Jill began to laugh helplessly. "The expression on your face when Svetlana started chasing you around stage. Priceless! You looked terrified. Calm down. Don’t glare at me like that."

"She probably would’ve smothered me like an octopus," I grumbled. "All for the sake of art. Crazy actors. They should all be deported to France."

We drove along in silence for a while.

"Let’s go to Burgermaster," said Jill.

"Great idea. I still love you."

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