“I dost not see why thou art so upset,” Bob spoke in melodic fashion.
“Are you kidding me?” Woodruff replied.
“This wast on thy list.”
“Ay, tis exactly what thou wrote,” Bob argued. He walked over to a wooden crate, beneath rack of knobs with several rope pulleys tied to them. Bob beckoned Woodruff to him as he pulled up his floor-length gown and removed a rolled up rabbits pelt from the side pocket of his cargo shorts.
“Take me not at my word,” Bob said as he unfurled the rabbits pelt and pointed to the first line that had not yet been marked off. “Thou didst desire to partake in a Shakespearean production.”
“But’ist what?” Bob interrupted. “Did not Shakespeare pen Romeo and Juliet?”
“And ist this not a production,” Bob blew the wispy hairs of his wig from his face and turned with a grand gesture to the stage and curtains to his right.
“Granted, this is a Shakespearean production, but it’s not exactly what I had in mind,” Woodruff said.
“Come on, Woodruff,” Bob said as he pulled off his wig. “You need to get in character. We go on in, like, two minutes.”
“About that,” Woodruff said. “I don’t think I can do it.”
“What?” Bob exclaimed. “This is an exclusive theatre troupe.”
“A little too exclusive.”
“This audition is a big deal,” Bob said. “There is only one orthodox Shakespearean company in the country.”
“Maybe we should have gone with an unorthodox company,” Woodruff said tugging at the high frilly neck of his costume.
“Woodruff and Bob,” a portly man in a cravat shouted back stage. “You’re on.”
“Bob I don’t want to do this,” Woodruff whisper-yelled after Bob, who quickly fixed his wig, hiked up his gown and hurried to center stage. The curtains rolled open and a spotlight fell on Bob. He laid down dramatically on the stage floor.
“Wilt thou be gone?” Bob projected out at the three men in the front row of a nearly empty theater. “It is not yet near day. It was the nightingale, and not the lark, that pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear. Nightly she sings on yon pomegranate-tree. Believe me, love, it was the nightingale.”
Woodruff reluctantly shuffled onto the stage and knelt down next to Bob.
“It was the lark, the herald of the morn…Bob I can’t do this.”
He stood up and began to exit stage left. Bob scrambled and caught him by the leg.
“Yon light is not day-light, I know it,” Bob shouted as he clung to Woodruff’s pant leg. “Therefore stay yet, thou need’st not to be gone.”
“Let go, Bob,” Woodruff said. He fought to free himself from Bob’s grip.
Bob released Woodruff and stood up, gracefully straightening his dress.
“The lark sings so out of tune,” Bob said with a bashful chuckle to the unamused judges in the front row.
Woodruff hurried off the stage and Bob followed sheepishly after him.
“Some say the lark makes sweet division,” he said before he passed behind the curtain. As soon as he was out of view of the judges, he pushed aside the hair from his wig that had fallen in front of his face and found Woodruff taking off his costume. “You are embarrassing me.”
“I don’t want to do this,” Woodruff said, pulling his frilly shirt over his head.
“Is this because I’m a dude?”
“They’re all dudes.”
“I know, that’s my problem.”
“In Shakespeare’s day all the actors were men,” Bob argued. “These guys are old school. This is legit Shakespeare.”
“It’s a little too legit.”
“This is all because you don’t want kiss me, isn’t it?”
“I so don’t.”
“Is it because I didn’t shave?”
“No!” Woodruff shouted. “I mean, that didn’t help but I just don’t want to do a romantic play with a bunch of men.”
“It’s really not.”
“Fine,” Bob said. “So no Romeo and Juliet.”
Bob sulked over to the corner and sat on a stool with his arms folded. Woodruff took a deep breath and joined him in the backstage nook. He leaned against the wall and sighed. Bob sighed louder and Woodruff forced another sigh in return. Bob looked up at him and sighed again. Woodruff took another deep breath and sighed aggressively. Bob stood up from the stool to face his friend and sighed back at him. The two of them stood almost nose to nose and traded earnest sighs.
“Hey!” the man in the cravat shouted. “Take it outside!”
Woodruff pushed open the metal door beneath the red exit sign and they both scurried outside. Bob looked up the alley to the busy street in front of the theater. A large raccoon crawled out from behind a dumpster and stood up on its hind legs. It hissed threateningly at Bob, and Woodruff quickly jumped in between them.
“Back!” Woodruff yelled as he spread his arms to shield Bob. “Back, foul creature!”
The raccoon hissed again and swiped at the air menacingly.
“Wilt thou provoke me?” Woodruff said. He picked up a trash can lid and lunged at the raccoon. “Have at thee!”
“O Lord, they fight,” Bob said. “I will go call the watch.”
On one knee Woodruff fended off the attacking raccoon while Bob crouched behind him.
“Lunge, parry,” Bob coached Woodruff from a safe distance. “Strike.”
Woodruff threw the lid at the raccoon and missed badly, hitting the dumpster. The loud bang from the impact sent the frightened raccoon fleeing down the alley.
“Go,” Bob yelled at the raccoon. “Get thee hence.”
Woodruff and Bob turned and smiled at each other, quite satisfied with their victory.
“You hungry?” Woodruff asked.
“I could eat,” Bob said.
“I saw a pottage stand around the corner.”
“Can I wear the dress?”
“Ay, if thou wilt forsake the wig.”
“Then wilt thou walk a measure behind me?”
“Forsooth, and onward to pottage,” Bob declared.
Woodruff led the way out of the alley with Bob sauntering beside him, trying to keep his blue silky skirt from draping in the gutter.
“What do raccoons have against you?” Woodruff asked.
“It’s an old grudge from back in my dumpster driving days,” Bob said.
“You mean dumpster diving,” Woodruff corrected as they left the alley and started up the street.
“Nope, dumpster driving,” Bob clarified.