In Which the World Scrambles to Catch Up

Robin Hood looks up with a smile and wave from his seat at a coffee shop table. “Danielle! Good to see you again.”

I settle into the seat across from him. “Right? It’s been too long since last time.”

“Just a bit over a year now, I believe – with that so-called coffee shop a mere set on a stage, you portrayed by the Merry Men’s minstrel, and my crazy cousin directing the show.”

“Yeah, well,” say I, recalling fondly, “Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre skits are fun, but take a lot of brain energy to script. Easier just to hang out with you one-on-one in some quiet corner of imagination.”

Robin nods, sipping his beverage. “So, what’s new?” His eyes sparkle through the aromatic steam. “Or might well I ask, what isn’t?

I loose a long and multilayered sigh. “So, so much is new. To start with, remember how excited I was last year about landing that Amazon fulfillment center job?”

“Weeping with delight, if I rightly remember.”

“Mm. Well, the weeping remained,” I say grimly. “Turns out the job’s demands and culture are not, shall we diplomatically say, a good fit for me and Tirzah. Work-related injuries led to her resignation, and I was eager to follow before my own body and soul broke down beyond repair. But until she or I could find another job, I needed to stay where I was; rent for our adorable little home wasn’t going to pay itself, alas.”

Robin’s hum and crinkled expression radiate sympathy. “That sounds like quite the unhappy burden to bear.”

“It was,” I acknowledge, “but for Tirzah’s sake, ‘twas borne voluntarily. Her body and soul needed to know they were in a safe place for recovery before she could fully face the challenge of finding something new.”

JournalQuote_AlreadyASuccess
From my personal journal, Oct. 18, 2019

“Was the Fresno job search better, this time around?”

I’ve only just been served my tea, and I almost snort the first mouthful out my nose. “As desert-dry as ever. Sometimes I’m amazed there are two employed folks to rub together, in that city. Tirzah did come across an extraordinary opportunity elsewhere, though. And by elsewhere, I mean San Francisco.”

San Fran Magic Triptych

Robin’s brows rise. “You love that city.”

“I do! And the idea of moving there…” I break off, speechless with overwhelm. “It would have been magical. But she didn’t get the job.”

“Oh, luv…”

The time-honored nod of a mourner accepting condolences. “That was really hard – to have hopes fly so high, then come crashing down. But it served a purpose. It raised our gaze. We realized that if we aspired to live in or near San Francisco, there was no point continuing to apply for jobs in Fresno. So we centered our efforts on the Bay Area. Even visited there again, at the start of my birthday month, to help cement our intentions via a neuro-linguistic programming conference.”

“Neuro-linguistic…?”

NLP, for short. Any case, we were dreaming big and striving hard for— huh.” A retrospective pause. “It felt like a slogging eternity, but I guess this chapter had its beginnings in July and is in the midst of coming to a close. I’d sort of dared the universe to get me free of Amazon by my birthday.”

“…And?” Robin prompts, when I leave him hanging.

“That’s the day T and I drove three hours, one way, so she could have an in-person interview at an assisted-living facility.” I smile. “And she got offered the job on the spot.”

Robin’s grin could outshine the sun (*cough* nobody tell Raeóryn *cough*). “DAR-ling!”

31 years old

I wriggle with joy. “That was a Wednesday. They scheduled her to start on Tuesday. That gave us less than a week to pack up and move out – which we managed, like the legends we are, though it would’ve been worlds easier,” I say pointedly, “if we’d had a legendary band of outlaws physically present to lug boxes and furniture into storage.”

Robin shrugs his apologies. “You know we’d have been there if we could. Same for when you’re ready to move in somewhere new. Which will be… when?”

“Not entirely sure yet. It’s hotel and Airbnb life, to start with, because Tirzah’s job alone won’t provide income enough to reassure any potential landlords of our financial stability.”

“Ah. So it must wait until you’ve found a job, too.”

A casual sip of my tea. “Oh, I’ve just done that.”

“YOU—?!”

“At a children’s museum. The day before drafting this blog post,” I say, smirking to keep from squealing. “That was a Wednesday. I’m scheduled to start—”

No.”

“Yep. Tuesday.”

JournalQuote_RealMagic
From my personal journal, Oct. 28, 2019

“One week and a whirlwind apart,” Robin marvels. “’Twould seem you’ve got a strong share of magic to work with, after all.”

“’Twould indeed,” I murmur, weary and wonder-filled, tired and twinkling with hope. “It’s been a ride-and-a-half, Robin Hood, but I think it’s taking me where I need to go. Where I want to go, even. I can’t wait to see which blessings land in my lap next!”

“If things carry on at the rate they’ve been,” says Robin, raising his drink in salute, “that wait may not be long at all.”

San Fran Magic Diptych

It Gets Better (Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre)

W.A.I.T. Button, 78 percent“Welcome, one and all,” says Will Scarlet, with a broad smile and a bow, “to the continuation of last week’s Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre, All About the Author Edition!”

“To catch up on what you may have missed or forgotten,” says Allyn-a-Dale, “click here. Or simply read on. Given the slapdash way Will scripts these things, there will probably be an info-dump summary soon after curtain-up.”

“Nobody asked you to go all theatre critic on me, minstrel. Anyway!” Another smile for the audience. “Make yourselves comfortable as we now present to you: ‘It Gets Better’!”

<<<>>>

[The curtain rises on a table set for two. On one side sits Robin Hood. On the other, Allyn-a-Dale, dressed like Danielle in a casual Allyn-a-Dale cosplay. Behind them, the backdrop shows other occupied tables in silhouette. A dark roasted scent spritzes into the house, transporting the audience toward a 4D coffee shop experience.]

Robin [hand up like, ‘hold on a moment’ ]: So, let me get this straight: You left your job and residence in Yosemite National Park, applied along with Tirzah Duncan for a spot in Fresno’s new Amazon fulfillment center, stormed the stronghold anyway when she got hired but you didn’t, and briefly ended up taking orders at a Burger King drive-through?

Allyn/Danielle [glancing out at the audience like, ‘called it’ ]: In info-dump summary, yeah.

Robin: Whew.  But you said ‘briefly’. So you weren’t there long, right? What happened next?

Allyn/Danielle [brightening ]: Ah. Now we’re getting to the good part. It began around the same time I started at Burger King. You see, there was this neighbor of the Duncans’…

[The general stage lights dim, leaving two bright spotlights – one on Allyn, and one stage left, where enters Lady Marion Hood, arms full of half-painted holiday lawn ornaments.]

Marion/Neighbor: I don’t know how in the world I’m going to get all these spooky decorations finished in time to sell for the Halloween rush! If only there were a reliable someone in the neighborhood with time, artistic talent, and the desire for a little ready cash.

Allyn/Danielle [raising a hand ]: I think you’ll find I match that description fair well. Fret no more, for so long as I’m working under 20-some hours a week, I shall help you with your professional painting projects.

Marion/Neighbor: Oh, thank God!

Robin [as the general lights come back up, returning the stage to the coffee shop ]: Painting, eh? Sounds fun.

Allyn/Danielle: It had its moments. Mostly, I was just glad of the gas money it provided.

Robin: Why, do you have a car now?

Allyn/Danielle: Oh, did I skip over that part? Yeah. Used Camry. Insurance shopping. Ongoing games with the DMV. There’s been a lot of adulting I don’t have time to recall in detail.

Robin: Well, outrageous gas prices these days notwithstanding, it’s gotta be handy having your own transportation to work.

Allyn/Danielle [smile spreading across face ]: You mean, to the Amazon fulfillment center.

Robin [astonished ]: But… you didn’t get the job…

Allyn/Danielle: Not back in summer, no. But applications reopened in September. And this time, I got in.

[A shout of “BABE!” erupts from offstage, and in rushes Will Scarlet as Will Scarlet, sweeping Allyn from his chair and into a hug. The lights sparkle and dance in pink and red; gold confetti rains from above.]

Festival Lights

Will: I’m so happy for you, Dani-babe! You’ve slogged through so much – circumstances less than ideal, both outside your body and inside your brain – but at last, it gets better! At last, the full-time Fresno employment you’ve been trying to land since leaving Illinois! WAY. TO. GO!

Allyn/Danielle [half laughing, half trying to wriggle into a position more comfortable for breathing ]: Thanks, Will. For the flamboyant congratulations, and for supporting me inside my head all along the way. But put me down so I can tell Robin about the second best part!

Will [depositing Allyn back in chair ]: By which you mean, the Best Part, Part 2!

Robin [amused and intrigued ]: What news can possibly bear that distinction?

Allyn/Danielle [grinning at Will ]: Cue the lights.

[With a snap of Will’s fingers, the celebratory lights are replaced by the two flashback spots on Allyn and on Marion, returned to stage left.]

Allyn/Danielle: Huzzah and alack, good neighbor! My hours are soon to bump up to 40 a week. I must needs bid goodbye to Burger King and, I fear, to assisting with your painting projects.

Marion/Neighbor: Alack indeed! You’ve been wonderful, Danielle, and I’m sorry to lose your aid. But hey, I’m participating in an art show across town, next week. I hope you’ll come.

Allyn/Danielle: I’ll be there.

[The backdrop lights up like an evening backyard full of vendors’ tents. Jazz music wafts through the air. Will steps up to share Allyn’s spotlight, back in his Tirzah costume.]

Will/Tirzah: Hey, check out that little guesthouse by the pool!

Allyn/Danielle: A ‘for rent’ sign in the window. Too bad we probably can’t afford anything in this neighborhood.

Will/Tirzah [pointedly ]: We probably couldn’t score an extra photo session with John Barrowman at Comic Con either. I’m gonna go talk to people. [steps out of spotlight ]

Allyn/Danielle [shuddering with social anxiety ]: Better you than me. Oooh, someone’s selling a really cool coat!

Robin [taking Will’s place in Allyn’s spotlight ]: Tell me your Best Part sequel isn’t just a new coat.

Allyn/Danielle: Could’ve been, depending on the coat, but no. Look ye there.

[He nods toward the second spotlight, which follows Marion and the newly arrived Queen Guinevere, dressed in a snazzy old-lady pantsuit, across the stage.]

Allyn/Danielle: Robin, meet Flashback!Art Show Hostess/Landlady. Ma’am, Robin Hood from the future.

Guinevere/Landlady: The future?

Robin: By way of the distant past, yes.

Guinevere/Landlady: Huh. Well, Danielle, I’ve spoken with Tirzah, and our mutual neighbor friend here – [gestures to Marion ] – speaks highly of you as a person, so how would you two crazy kids like to rent my guesthouse?

Allyn/Danielle [gasping ]: We can afford that?

Will/Tirzah [back in the spotlight ]: With our Amazon salary times two? Quite reasonably.

Allyn/Danielle: And… how soon can we move in?

Guinevere/Landlady: Next week should allow time to finish having the bathroom painted a lovely blue.

Allyn/Danielle: My… favorite color… [swoons into Will’s arms ]

Robin: A new job, AND a new house?!

Will/Tirzah [beaming at a thousand watts ]: And all settled in before her 30th birthday, too.

Allyn/Danielle [coming to ]: I mean, we still need a dining table, but yeah. We actually made it. [teary smile ] We’re finally… home.

[Robin and Will group hug Allyn tightly. Marion and Guinevere raise plastic cups from the art show’s mini bar in a toast. The party music segues into a jazzy version of “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, just because Danielle really likes that song. And the curtain comes down on the happy tableau – though, as far as Danielle’s real life is concerned, it may still be on the rise.]

<<<>>>

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you, rarely enough, to real life,” says Allyn, “for providing us with inspiration for our art to imitate.”

“If you enjoyed yourselves (or if you didn’t, but you totally did, right?), don’t forget to leave suggestions for future productions in the comments! Words or phrases we’ve got to include, a prop to use, a prompt to run with… anything goes! ‘Til next time, friends: Will and Allyn out!”

What’s New? What ISN’T? (Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre)

W.A.I.T. Button, 78 percent“Welcome, one and all,” says Will Scarlet, with a broad smile and a bow, “to Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre!”

Allyn-a-Dale blinks in surprise. “What, really? After all this time? What throwback madness has possessed you now?”

“Well, the thing is this,” Will explains. “Danielle has been accumulating a lot of real-life news, lately. But she doesn’t like talking about herself, or about real life in general. Our author gal likes fiction. So you and I and our friends from the story world of the ‘Outlaws of Avalon’ trilogy—”

Available now,” Allyn inserts the obligatory plug.

“—Are going to talk about it for her, except one better, by adapting it into a skit! So make yourselves comfortable,” Will addresses the audience, “as we now present to you: ‘What’s New? What ISN’T?’!”

<<<>>>

[The curtain rises on a table set for two, in one chair of which sits Robin Hood. Behind him, the backdrop shows other occupied tables in silhouette. Hidden speakers provide ambient chatter, laptop keyboard clacking, pop music, and calls for randomized names to come pick up their lattes – the volume of which fades as Allyn-a-Dale enters from stage right, costumed in hoodie, stylin’ boots, badass coat, broad-brimmed hat, and (the only departure from what he might wear on any given Outside venture) glasses.]

Robin [sitting up straighter with a smile ]: Danielle! So glad to see you!

Allyn/Danielle [taking seat opposite Robin ]: Robin, hiii! So glad we miraculously share a plane of reality today! Even if we have to share it in a public coffee shop full of noise and germs and people. I don’t suppose we could meet up in the forest, next time?

Robin: Bugs, though.

Allyn/Danielle [glum-faced ]: Oh, yeah.

Robin: But enough about establishing your characteristic phobias. How’s life in Yosemite National Park?

Allyn/Danielle: Oh, you haven’t heard? I don’t live there anymore.

Robin: No? Why ever not?

Allyn/Danielle [gaze in the distance – more specifically, on the backdrop shadows, shifting from its suggestion of a coffee shop interior into a mountainous skyline, featuring the iconic shapes of Half Dome, El Capitan, and the Three Brothers. ]: Well…

[The general stage lights dim, leaving two bright spotlights – one on Allyn, and one stage left, where enters Will Scarlet, wearing shorts, crocs, a lightweight hoodie against the glare of the California sun, sunglasses for the same purpose, and a T-shirt that reads ‘Flashback!’]

Will/Tirzah Duncan: Fare thee well, D! I’m moving back down the mountain!

Allyn/Danielle [rising in dismay ]: But bestie mine, you only recently joined me on staff at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel! How can you so soon abandon me??

Will/Tirzah: You know the long-game plan’s still to get a place with you, babe, but sharing a tent-cabin in the mountains with you and a random third roommate? Not sustainable. Besides, I applied for full-time work at the new Amazon facility in Fresno…

Allyn/Danielle: So did I!

Will/Tirzah: …And got hired!

Allyn/Danielle [plunking back miserably into chair ]: …I did not.

[The Will spot goes off. The general lights return, along with the coffee shop backdrop.]

Robin: Wait, what? Why in the world would the Amazon warehouse hire Tirzah, but not you? You’re equally dedicated workers!

Allyn/Danielle: One, it’s technically a fulfillment center, not a warehouse. Two, I KNOW, RIGHT? I was devastated. All I could do was ask myself—

Robin [sympathetically ]: What you’d done wrong?

Allyn/Danielle: No – ‘How would I handle this if I were an entitled white man?’

[Backdrop change! This time to a massive building with a smiling arrow logo. General lights, down. Spotlights up on Allyn and, stage left, Merlin, dressed from T-shirt to baseball cap to badge-carrying lanyard in Amazon gear and seated at a paperwork-covered folding table.]

Merlin/Amazon Rep: Will all prospective new hires please find your paperwork and have a seat.

Allyn/Danielle [standing, politely bright smile plastered on face ]: Yes, hello, I don’t believe you’ll find my name on your list, because there seems to have been a mistake.

Merlin/A.R.: What kind of mistake?

Allyn/Danielle: You didn’t hire me?

Merlin/A.R.: …

Allyn/Danielle: …

Merlin/A.R.: Have a seat.

[Back at the coffee shop…]

Robin [awed, amazed, maybe even admiring ]: Wait … so you just walked in … and they hired you on the spot??

Allyn/Danielle: Lol, if only. I mean, yes to the part where I just walked in like a ballsy boss, but it didn’t land me a job. They just told me I could reapply when more positions opened up. But time marched on and on, and nothing.

Robin: At least you had the Yosemite job in the meantime, though.

Allyn/Danielle: Without Tirzah? It was torment! What use is money when the only way to share it with those you love is to take a 3-hour bus ride down the mountain for a too-short visit on weekends? No, good sir, I put in my notice and followed her to Fresno. I blogged about it and everything. [wounded expression ] Doesn’t anybody read my posts?

Robin: Right, of course, just slipped my mind. So you got a part-time job somewhere…?

Allyn/Danielle [with a scoff ]: More like part-part-time. There were hardly any hours to speak of. If I wanted anything like a steady paycheck, I needed a second gig.

Robin: Did you find one?

Allyn/Danielle [looking haunted ]: Briefly.

[Backdrop changes to a line of cars. Seated before the shape of the front-most vehicle stage left, detached steering wheel in hand, is a spot-lit Loren McCaughley.]

Loren: Yes, lemme get the, uh, number seven? Sorry – five?

Allyn/Danielle [resignedly replacing awesome hat with a Burger King cap and microphone headset ]: One number five. Would you like to make that a medium or a large combo?

Loren: Um, large, with a— do you have diet (mumble-mumble)?

Allyn/Danielle: I’m sorry? Could you repeat that, please? Oh, diet root beer. Yes, we do. Will that complete your order?

Loren: Yeah, that’s all.

Allyn/Danielle: All right, I’ll see you at the second window. Thanks so much.

[Coffee shop returns.]

Robin: That… does not sound like a job you’d enjoy.

Allyn/Danielle [speaking noncommittal volumes while returning to the better hat ]: Mm.

Robin: But you said ‘briefly’. So you weren’t there long, right? What happened next?

Allyn/Danielle [brightening ]: Ah. Now we’re getting to the good part…

<<<>>>

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

Allyn startles. “But we’re only halfway finished.”

“So ‘scene to be continued next week’,” Will amends. “Meanwhile, my beautiful audience, if you enjoyed yourselves (or if you didn’t, but you totally did, right?), don’t forget to leave suggestions for future productions in the comments! Words or phrases we’ve got to include, a prop to use, a prompt to run with… anything goes! ‘Til next time, friends: Will and Allyn out!”