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Monsters and Musicals. Chapter One

by Jubbly 

Posted: 11 April 2003
Word Count: 3168

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The static from Brian Trinder's powder blue nylon flares crackled like a pig on a spit roast as he sauntered across the hall. With each step, the leather fringes of his suede waistcoat whipped about his body creating a jazzy percussion soundtrack to his entrance. When he finally took his position in the centre of the room, all eyes of the assembled were upon this short man who possessed more than a passing resemblance to Leo Sayer, a remark which in years to come he would dare take as a compliment. When confident he had commanded maximum attention and only then, he spoke.
"Welcome all of you, my friends, my fellow thespians. I'm so glad you've chosen to be a part of The Rose Lane Musical Society once again. Some of you have been members for many years and have participated in dozens of our superb productions - some of you are new and certainly by no means less consequential."
He cleared his throat with impeccable timing.
"Over the past thirty-two years our society has produced many tremendously successful shows, a fact of which I am justly proud. Because we here today, the children, the young, the not so young and dare I say the old , have one thing in common. "
Brian took time to gaze about the room, taking in every single person in his presence then speared them with his words.
" We wish to entertain and have as much fun as possible in the process. We relish the excitement, the passion, the utter thrill of rehearsing and creating and eventually presenting spectacles that will always have a place in the hearts of lovers of good, light music.
We know what it's like out there, the so called real world - where we toil for our daily bread, put up with the dull and routine.
Yes, we have to do what we have to do in order to survive, but in here, in this room and in the theatre - we have fabricated a haven from all that drudgery , a unique place where our fantasies can take on a life of their own."
He lowered his voice to a more intimate cadence and nodded with each new phrase.
"I understand your needs, your desires, I understand how you feel when you're part of something as exceptional as The Rose Lane Musical Society . And all I expect in return from you is commitment, hard work and enthusiasm. Yes they might think of us as amateurs," his lips tightened as if he'd bitten in to a lemon as he spat out the dreaded word.
" But we're more, much more than just amateurs. It's true we don't receive any monetary reward for our tireless labour, but yet we benefit - we get satisfaction, perhaps more than any of those so called professionals. We do this because we have to , we think nothing of working a 40 hour week then putting in all the hours God sends to get our productions up and running, we don't care if we're too exhausted to see straight, all we care about is the Show."
He paused and dramatically wiped beads of sweat from his brow with the back of his hand.
"So I want you to all give yourselves a huge round of applause, and a big pat on the back - you deserve it, now any questions?"

Old Mr Teddington, a founder member and recent widower raised his leathery hand - "Yes Brian, did anyone remember to buy the arrowroot biscuits? "

Chapter One.

Melanie Chase, nee Baker dragged herself downstairs on the promise of strong black coffee and hot buttered toast, instead she was greeted by a familiar white jiffy bag accidentally though strategically placed in the centre of the leopard print door mat . Scrawled old lady hand writing in purple ink, dared her to open the letter right away. The montage of Australian flora and fauna adorning the collection of stamps made Melanie homesick - Kookaburras, Waratahs and a creature that looked very much like a rat, though the tiny caption declared it a 'Bimby." What the hell was a Bimby? She'd never heard of them, was it possible she'd been away so long that an entirely new species had evolved. She picked up the package and held it close. The unmistakable odour of dog transported her right back to her aunts comfortable, white brick house on the central coast of NSW. Ahh, Australia, she could almost feel the heat rising from the padded envelope.
She'd open it when she was in the mood, you needed to be in the right frame of mind to get news from home. Once she'd been caught out, seduced by a heart shaped chocolate box, only to find the soft centres replaced by a chewed up plastic mouse, a tiny blue collar with a bell and the devastating news that her beloved 17 year old pet cat Sheena, had been mown down by a station wagon and killed , no she'd wait, open it later.

As the rain beat down hard against the window panes Melanie drew her old knitted blanket across her body and shivered. Another typical London summer morning, oh well at least it wasn't hailing . She reached for her third cup of coffee and gulped at it like a hungry baby taking a feed. 10'0clock and very peaceful, now.
They'd left earlier that morning, her two sons and recently estranged husband. After they'd gone she'd burst into tears - just sat there sobbing in a heap on their bedroom floor amongst the dirty laundry and boys toys. Dramatically clutching their old teddies tightly to her chest. That's what had brought it all on, not the farewell hugs or watching them lug their suitcases to the car , nor the manic waving good-bye to her from the window as they drove away, no none of that. Just the sight of those old, dusty forgotten teddies lying discarded under the beds. The memories of holidays past came flooding back, the days when both boys painstakingly made special passports for their beloved teddies, complete with hand drawn photos. Ben had a toy tiger with one floppy ear that went by the curious name of Lemonade and Alfie, a panda bear called Toby, both of them gifts from her aunt Jean.
Jean was quite fanatical about protected species and any opportunity to convert youngsters to her way of thinking was rarely missed.
But this time they didn't bother with their old stuffed friends, this was to be a different sort of holiday entirely, for starters, she - their mother wouldn't be going.
Oh for Christ's sake pull yourself together she thought, they're only going away for a few weeks, get off your cross, but she just couldn't help it.
She wasn't really upset about splitting up with Matthew . There was such a dull inevitability about the whole thing that she just couldn't muster up the expected hysterics.
It would have hurt years ago, but deep down Melanie knew they were never really right for each other. No foundations, just timber and nails, sinking into slushy mud. She thought back to a party they'd both been to years earlier, before they were married, before the boys. It was in a tiny flat in Balham hosted by a musician and his girlfriend. Matthew had interviewed him for a magazine and grown pally. Tom or Tim, something like that but his lover was definitely called Maude. Melanie remembered that because it seemed such an odd, old fashioned name back then, now you can't pass a kiddies playground without hearing some dear little pink smocked poppet answering to just such a quaint appellation. "Edith! Martha! Stanley! Godfrey! Come and get your juice."
Middle class parents choosing Victorian servants names for their progeny, satisfied they were at the cutting edge of millennium parenthood.
Melanie had a strong image in her mind of the party hosts Tom and Maude, wrapped around each other on the sofa. Constantly caressing and lightly kissing , there weren't any real sexual overtones just an almighty need to be near each other all the time. Like a mother with a young baby, always touching, stroking the child's hair, smelling the delicious scent of her precious offspring. They were oxygen to each other, Tom described Maude as his best friend. Matthew for some reason found that remark obnoxious. "Best friend!" he spat. "That's American pychobabble crap."
Melanie thought a lot about Tom and Maude in the days after the party, she was jealous of what they had together.
Sure she laughed at them with Matthew, "Ergh, they're disgusting, your best friend's for going shopping and bitching with not screwing."
But still she wondered what it must feel like to be intimate with a man on both levels, of course she and Matthew were close, but she knew, he could never ever be or would want to be described as her best friend. It just didn't seem to matter then, when they were so busy, rushing from social event to social event, nurturing their respective careers, living the Yuppie eighties lifestyle to the full. Then later after they married the boys became another distraction, perhaps that's what kids do, dilute the relationship. It makes sense, your egg, his sperm all mixed together, a little bit of each of you causing a distance. What happens to those odd couples who have 18 children, you often see them featured in cheap magazines in doctors waiting rooms. "I only wanted six now we've got 23 and we love them all. We've had to buy three houses and knock the walls through to make one big house and our grocery bill comes to 5000 a week, but it's all worth it."
Melanie used to read those stories with horror, but the couples always looked so happy, so contented, his hand resting gently on her over burdened shoulder, lovingly admiring the latest arrival sucking greedily at his wife's chafed nipple. Of course they were happy, they never had time to notice each others faults, to get on each others nerves, they'd built up their own private army and were intent on using them to make their marriage last. Funny when you think of the pain and bother a woman experiences when she loses the egg, her half of the potential child each month, contrasted with the joyful release of the man's contribution, it wasn't fair.
Once while waiting for a smear test appointment, Melanie read an article about a young woman from Crewe, there was a photo of her perched on a stool, her legs crossed revealing plump thighs bursting out of a tight short denim skirt like sausage meat . Her eyes twinkled with a guilty secret and the caption said. 'I've got two vaginas and I intend to use them both!' At the same time? Melanie wondered, whatever next, joint smear tests, of course.

The plaster cast weighed heavily on her arm and no amount of childish scribbling and oh so funny get well messages made her feel any better about it. What in the name of all that's holy was she doing roller blading at her age in the first place, what was she trying to prove? How pathetic and cliched, so what if your husband goes off with a much younger woman - that doesn't mean you have to strap wheels to your feet and chase after them. No, it means you go out , get absolutely assholed , seduce the first decent looking bloke that buys you a vodka & tonic then never speak to him again.
Sadly Melanie hadn't got that far in her latest self help book, Over the Hill and Next to the Off licence, it lay unopened on the side table, bookmarked at page two - 'Age is just Page without a P', Christ! Right, and 'old is just cold without a c' Fat is one letter away from Fate, oh this could run and run. Who wrote this crap, her mother, remembering only too well advice her mother had once given her when she'd been caught being nasty to a school mate. "Melanie, you ought to remember your name is just one letter away from Meanie!"

Melanie's best friend Sarah was horrified on hearing how Mel broke her wrist.
"Roller blading, at your age? Are you out of your mind.?"
"No," replied Mel, indignant, "I thought it would be beneficial for me, just like you and your yoga."
"Uh, uh, " said Sarah, shaking her head and pointing her finger like a Victorian schoolmistress. "I do yoga to strengthen my pelvic floor muscles and tone my body all over, thus holding back the ageing process by natural, if not expensive means, roller blading on the other hand is an activity to be avoided at all costs, particularly by a gender who has a propensity for osteoporosis."
That was Sarah, for you, she also took a different view of the separation.
"But Melanie, God this is awful, how can you be so bloody passive, first you then whose next? We can't let these forty something bastards get away with it!"
But that was Sarah's reaction, not Melanie's. She even turned up at Mark's office and gave him a piece of her mind as they say, Matthew was furious. After all he was the successful Arts Editor of 'Urbania' the cultural bible for happening Londoners, what would his colleagues think?
"You're so selfish!" she blasted, "It's not just about you, what about us, the four of us, what the hell are we going to do on New Years Eve?"
She had a point, but the gang had drifted apart. Matthew didn't want to be in it anymore , even if they'd made him leader, nothing was going to change his mind.

No, sadly Melanie had seen it all coming for a long time, besides she didn't want them all playing happy families throughout the summer holidays all she wanted was the use of her right arm again.
Mark's new girlfriend Kim wouldn't have broken her wrist in three places while attempting to out roller blade kids years younger than her.

Oh no, Kim no doubt was an accomplished roller blader, spinning around and around, her neat trim figure cutting through the air as sharply as mower blades slicing through grass. Kim would never have been found lying on the ground, her face contorted in pain, screaming, Fuck, Fuck, Fuck! She wouldn't have been the target of disapproving middle class parents and elderly strolling couples, tut tutting under their breath, she ought to know better at her age, who does she think she is? No Kim would have glided along the path, a sprite in urban street wear, her taut and muscular midriff revealed, belly button stud in place, like an all seeing miniature eye, a jewelled Cyclops of the tummy! No, Kim would never have broken her wrist in three places and had to undergo a tricky and painful operation to correct it. But that's what happens to old bones, they betray you.
Kim however was quite happy to bounce away on Marks old bones, apparently the male bone ages much better than the female's.

When was it posted? Last Tuesday - knowing her aunt she'd probably get a phone call in the next day or so asking if she received it. Posting anything abroad was a very anxious procedure for Auntie Jean, the trip to the post office, negotiating the busy Highway, leaving the dog on his own, the purchasing of the very latest stamps , the worry of it all arriving safely, did she get it, did she like it? How long did it take? Her aunts life was filled with small details, 'The plumber put in new taps in the bathroom and they are a vast improvement and the new shower heads look good too.' ' I moved some of the furniture around in the lounge room, looks very nice will send a photo when I finish my current film.' Her days were made up of tiny, moments all of them meaningless to everyone but her.

Melanie tore open the envelope and searched for the little note inside - there was always a little note inside. Usually torn from a pad kept beside the phone. Sometimes there was part of a shopping list on the back ...Dog biscuits, margarine, yolkless eggs...sometimes words like riddles, Penguin, seven o'clock - keep the yellow, Christmas bush, shears or numbers for the lotto, always the same..family birthdays, family house numbers and her lucky number nine. Considering she's never ever won a brass farthing she should really consider changing her lucky number to something else, 13 perhaps.

Ahh here it is - stuffed in the bottom all crumpled with a doodle of what looked like a five legged horse in the corner.

Dear Melanie, hope you are well - as you don't write often I take it you are very busy and therefore in good health. Joan is well though she will need another operation on her hip if she is ever to mow the lawn again. The dog has had worms but is now on the mend and the sun is getting very hot. Have picked out a new headstone for your nanna's grave as the old one is looking very ropy indeed. Man said I should get it in marble which lasts forever which is a very long time. All my love to your family, your auntie Jean.

PS: Saw this article in the Sydney Morning Herald and thought it might interest you, didn't you used to know that fella? He certainly sounds familiar to me and I'm sure I remember your mother talking about him.

Must go, dog needs letting out.

love Jean. xx

Melanie unfolded the creased up newspaper clipping and laid it out flat on the kitchen table. The headlines were disturbing to say the least. Body of young woman found in Northern suburbs garden!
What on earth can this possibly have to do with me, thought Melanie as she lit her first cigarette of the day, Melanie had a terrible habit of always believing her first cigarette would also be the last, one day it probably would.

The remains of a young woman in her mid to late twenties was unearthed in the garden of a Northern Suburbs home. The new occupants of the recently purchased house had demolished a workshop at the rear of the house in order to build a pool when the grisly discovery was made. The house originally belonged to Mary and George Trinder ,both deceased. The house was home to their only son Brian who lived there up until his death last year. The body is believed to have been buried for at least three decades. Forensic tests are being conducted and police are searching missing person records for any young women registered during that period. Neighbours are shocked...blah, blah...

Brian! Brian Trinder!

And there she was again, Melanie Baker, nearly 13 years old , ungainly, nervous, pale as a ghost and about to meet Brian Trinder for the very first time.

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Comments by other Members

Becca at 08:13 on 13 April 2003  Report this post
Hello Jubbly,
It's quite hard to crit something from 4 chapters in because I might have had a different take on it if I'd read the other three.
I found if a little difficult to get with all the names mentioned, but that's something of mine, I think.
I did notice 'next doors bathroom and wondered if you wanted it to be next door's ..
Also gale force wind billowing, would ripping or tearing be a better word?
I liked the references to famous real people and the Brian Sewell joke.
There's a lot of delightful images here, and a lot of stuff to take in, I wonder if there is a bit too much?
Although you don't imply Melanie misses Australia, as a reader, I'd have liked a bit more emphasis on how different the life is there. Manley beach being as mind blowing as it is, would she miss it, especially as she's having problems? Insects as well, english ants and say, bull ants, big difference there. I lived in Sydney as a child, so I'd focus on it like that. I'm new on this site so I haven't really got into my stride yet, so if this crit seems clumsy, forgive it.

Jubbly at 21:27 on 17 April 2003  Report this post
Hi Becca,

Thanks for your comments, they're all very specific. I'm in the process of another draft, I feel like I'm still in need of fine tuning, so I really appreaciate your opinion. Where did you live in Sydney? Oh and I really enjoyed reading Finger Buffet, I live in Hackney myself and you made it all very vivid. Is this a short story or the beginning of a novel?

Becca at 06:24 on 18 April 2003  Report this post
Finger Buffet is a short story, the thought of writing a novel is very daunting to me, although I do read books on how other people construct them.
I lived in a suburb called Chatswood, which at that time, I'd have been between 6 and 11, had bush at the end of a street near us. When we were bored we used to say 'let's go to the bush.' We used to go there and scare ourselves.
You live in Hackney now? Great! It's good to have someone nearby.

Jubbly at 08:21 on 18 April 2003  Report this post
That's a coincidence Becca, I had originally set Brian's house in Chatswood but moved it to Crows Nest, where I was born.I live in Dalston now, no more bush but just as wild, eh?

Becca at 19:19 on 18 April 2003  Report this post
yes, Dalston is as scary as the bush. I got lost on a train once with my sister and we ended up in either Red fern or Crows Nest, can't remember, but we were really frightened.

Jubbly at 16:30 on 11 May 2003  Report this post

Comments by other Members

Posted by : skyblue2 at 13:25 on 04 April 2003
This is a great idea and the writing is very proficient but it takes an awful lot to get to the point.

Possibly people like this endless detail style but it reminds me of someone who talks incessantly.

I recently did a story where the recipient of a letter delayed opening it for some reason and it was spectacularly unsuccessful. Maybe my judgement is clouded as a result of this, but I rather think the bit between spotting the package and opening it doesn't help. And a lot of this information could come later.

However I really think you have something here if you sharpen it up.

Posted by : Jubbly at 18:16 on 04 April 2003 Owner Edit

Thankyou skyblue2 for your comments. I do have a tendency to waffle so I'll certainly take your thoughts on board.


Posted by : Anna Reynolds at 18:18 on 04 April 2003
First, something general to say:

Please everybody do remember to be constructive, senstive and thoughtful when you comment on another writer's work. This is a general note to everybody.

Jubbly- this really made me laugh. I think Melanie is a lovely bit of characterisation-- she's funny, sharp, slightly bitter and has the potential for some odd behaviour that makes me want to know more. I personally liked waiting for the letter to be opened- it's the structure of this section and it works for me. A thought though-- take it or leave it-- I feel you've made Melanie and her life dilemma so involving that Brian Trinder interests me much much less. Maybe it's because the opening section is very short and there's not much sense of as rounded a character in that part. You might have set up a hard act to follow with your woman here! But I'm now very keen to read more about the 13 year old melanie. How much have you written? do let me know more about this piece of work. Beautifully sharp and dour humour.

Posted by : Jubbly at 20:21 on 04 April 2003 Owner Edit
Thankyou so much for your positive feedback Anna. The Brian character is one of those people you meet in your life who for whatever reason has a strong impact but you don't really ever get to know them. He tends to live as a fantasty to the people he comes in contact with and is the least explored character in the book. I've written the whole shebang, all 81,000 words and I'd love you to read the next chapter.

Posted by : giles at 13:56 on 05 April 2003
Jubbly, this is a story everyone can relate to--brought back memories of my one and only terrifying audition (I failed it obviously). Personally I like the way you run off on amusing little tangents--makes the work less predictable and in my view more inventive (maybe it's because I like to do the same thing!) The hard bit I guess is keeping the story on track, but you can do it.

What I think might be useful is a little more development of how impressionable young Melanie imagines this Brian fellow to be. That would make the moment they meet all the more striking.

The other thing is, in the Prologue it would be nice to know a little bit more about the Rose Lane Musical Society--the context, the legacy, Brian's hopes and fears etc, perhaps tongue in cheek.

Hope these comments are useful--please know that they are meant to be constructive and encouraging.

Anna Reynolds at 16:59 on 11 May 2003  Report this post
Jubbly- not quite sure why the above post is here, is it copied from the previous time the work was posted? anyway- I have commented on this chapter and others at some length before, so won't repeat myself, and you know I enjoyed it hugely- but what I want to know is, why has the title changed? I loved The Rose Lane Musical Society. Do tell!!

Jubbly at 13:36 on 12 May 2003  Report this post
Oh sorry Anna, I am so technically crap sometimes. I just wanted to get everything under one roof so to speak. I changed the title because I always felt it was a bit whimsical and it was always a working title. I like the illiteration of Monsters and Musicals and I thought it might grab more attention when being considered by agents. I've done another draft of the whole novel this past month and found many monsters lurking there and when no one commented on Chapter 4, I got a bit paranoid and rewrote like mad, hope that clears it all up and thanks for your genuine interest.

Anna Reynolds at 22:03 on 14 May 2003  Report this post
You know, I suppose my thought with the title- tell me to mind my own business, for goodness' sake- was simply that Monsters and Musicals made me think it was a childrens book. And the Rose Lane Musical Society is just so different, slightly camp, slightly odd, all good things- and initially made me choose to read it because of the title. But like I say, tell me....

Jubbly at 15:52 on 15 May 2003  Report this post
I would never tell you to mind your own business. Eee, don't know really, but as for the children's book reference, there are bits dealing with Melanie's son's fear of a monster under his bed and all the odd critters her other son keeps in jars are referred to as monsters. But maybe you're right, my first instinct was the best. I've sent it out to an agent now, so I'll keep you posted. Thanks as always.

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