Whereupon the World Rears Its Ugly Head

Whereupon the World Rears Its Ugly Head

The People vs. Sara-Mae Yang.
The Kitchen, Thirty-Three Chipwood Avenue.
(Court Reporter: Sara-Mae Yang)

Sara-Mae Yang hereby terminates all verbal communication with her mother-in-law Hyacinth Grey.

Since Mrs. Grey did assess Ms. Yang’s stenography skills as “redundant and useless in the modern age”, Ms. Yang has resolved henceforth to use these skills as her only means of communication in the household.

Ms. Yang will persist in this mode of communication until Mrs. Grey a) apologizes or b) dies.

The household at Thirty-Three Chipwood Avenue consists of Ms. Yang, her cowardly husband Richard Grey, and their two children Pearl and Marlon (both of whom are yet to be conceived but hope remains eternal).

Said household does not include, but rather has been invaded by, Mrs. Grey.

Mrs. Grey, who did fail to ever water the wilted petals of her son Richard’s heart, now profits from trampling upon them.

Mrs. Grey claims to be afflicted by some unspecified terminal illness. Based on this claim and the extra attention sought because of it, Mrs. Grey resides in the children’s bedroom at Thirty-Three Chipwood Avenue instead of in her own apartment at Headwater Hills Retirement Residence.

Despite firm expectations of her impending demise, Mrs. Grey has failed to show any progression toward death for these past eight months.

Ms. Yang, being the only child of a librarian and a second-generation stenographer, prefers to avoid all verbal confrontation. Thus, Ms. Yang has been the silent keeper of many unsaid truths about Mrs. Grey.

Mrs. Grey’s verbal assault on Ms. Yang’s profession and character did set the latter’s heart ablaze and the truths will now come out.

What follows is an accurate transcript of the proceedings in the kitchen at Thirty-Three Chipwood Avenue.

*

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

Prosecution (H. Grey): Sara-Mae, that racket will drive me to drink.

Whereupon Court Reporter continues to transcribe the proceedings on the antique stenotype machine willed to her by her Grandmother Hua Zhu, former head stenographer for Brown and Bailey Condensed Milk Company, Brooklyn, NY.

Whereupon every word is recorded verbatim as is the protocol.

P: Why don’t you answer me?

Court Reporter: (inaudible) What would be the point?

P: Richard, are you just going to sit there while she ignores me?

Defense (R. Grey): (No comment).

P: Stop fiddling with your fingernails, boy. What have I done to deserve the lot of you in my house?

(The Court acknowledges that the house is deeded to Richard Grey and Sara-Mae Yang.)

P: You are crazy. You hear me, Sara-Mae? Crazy as a snake.

Whereupon Prosecution crosses to Court Reporter and attempts to decipher the completed stenograph scroll.

P: What is she typing there, Richard? It’s Goddamn Chinese, isn’t it?

(The Court acknowledges that, in addition to a sharp mind, it takes several years of training and practice to become proficient in stenographic shorthand.)

D: It’s not Chinese, mother. It’s shorthand.

Whereupon Prosecution approaches Defense with her index finger outstretched.

P: You should make her tell me what it says. Just because she’s mad at me doesn’t mean she can sit there insulting me in Chinese.

(The Court acknowledges that the transcript is being typed in English.)

D: Sara-Mae, what are you writing? Mother wants to know.

Whereupon the power goes out and the kitchen is left in semi-darkness.

Whereupon the transcript continues as the stenograph machine is self-powered.

Whereupon Court Reporter smiles and considers Prosecution’s well established fear of the dark.

P: The power’s gone, Richard. Do something!

D: (No comment).

Whereupon Prosecution pretends to be blind and swats at nothing.

P: Richard! Where are you? Everything’s dark!

(The Court acknowledges that it is not yet dusk.)

P: Sara-Mae! Stop your banging! Get up off your skinny rump and do something.

D: (No comment).

P: I’ve always said I’d strangle you some day, Sara-Mae.

(The Court acknowledges that Prosecution is free to try it and see where that gets her.)

Whereupon Prosecution crosses the room unsteadily with hands outstretched.

P: Sitting there every minute since they sacked you from the courthouse, doing nothing! You never talk. You never cook. All you do is sulk. Richard could make something of himself if he’d only stop sucking around you and whispering till midnight.

D: (No comment).

(The Court acknowledges that the only time Richard Grey and Sara-Mae Yang can converse together is after Mrs. Grey retires for the evening. Since she inhabits the bedroom adjoining theirs, they must, even then, whisper.)

P: How do you ever expect to fall pregnant if all you do is mope?

(The Court acknowledges that, despite their desperate wish to have children, Richard Grey and Sara-Mae Yang have not engaged in sexual intercourse since the arrival of Mrs. Grey for fear that they will be overheard.)

Whereupon Defense rises anemically from the table.

D: I will call the power company. Come on and have a seat now, Mother.

Whereupon Prosecution purposefully knocks the side of the court reporter’s desk with her wooden cane.

Whereupon Prosecution returns to the kitchen table.

Whereupon Defense exits the kitchen.

P: You are a curse on me, Sara-Mae. Every day I wake up and wish that you were gone.

(The Court acknowledges that the feeling is more than mutual.)

Whereupon a squirrel chatters at the window.

Whereupon the oak tree in the back yard emits a faint groan.

Whereupon Defense re-enters the kitchen and sits at the table.

Whereupon Defense stares fixedly at the knot in his shoelaces.

P: Well, what did they say?

D: They said they will look in to it.

P: Goddamn, Richard. Can you do anything really? I am calling your brother.

(The Court acknowledges that Prosecution is referring to Jefferson Grey who resides next door with his slag of a wife and their countless children.)

Whereupon Prosecution creaks her way out of the room, staring death at Court Reporter as she passes.

Whereupon Defense rises from the table and approaches Court Reporter.

Whereupon Court Reporter smells the appealing scent of Defense’s soapy skin.

Whereupon Defense pinches a stray piece of smooth black hair between his fingers and tucks it behind Court Reporter’s reddening ear.

Whereupon Defense stands behind Court Reporter and gently touches her neck.

(The Court acknowledges that Court Reporter will continue the transcript despite Defense’s obvious attempts to seduce her.)

D: (whispers) What are you writing? Tell me quick.

Whereupon Defense examines the most recent line of the transcript.

(The Court acknowledges that Defense is well able to read stenograph shorthand due to his long association with Court Reporter.)

D: (laughs) (whispers) Ok, firecracker, can I read the rest then?

Whereupon Court Reporter nods and shifts her gaze sideways.

Whereupon Defense reads the transcript from beginning to end.

Whereupon a shadow passes over Defense’s face.

Whereupon Defense removes his hand from Court Reporter’s neck.

D: (whispers) You are right, Sara-Mae. I am a coward and I am sorry for it.

Whereupon Court Reporter attempts to catch the sleeve of Defense’s shirt as he passes back to the table, but misses her mark.

Whereupon there is a knock at the door.

Whereupon Jefferson Grey enters with his wife Dhalia Grey and some wailing child.

Jefferson Grey: Richard, can’t you see the lights are out?

Defense: (No comment).

JG: What the hell is that sound?

Dhalia Grey: It’s Sara-Mae on her granny’s machine again.

JG: Jesus, Sara-Mae can’t you stop that?

(The Court acknowledges that Court Reporter is not permitted to stop the transcript for any reason.)

Whereupon Prosecution re-enters the kitchen.

P: Jefferson! You took your time, didn’t you? Sara-Mae is mad at me again and she’s done nothing but write insults on her little Chinese typewriter all morning. Richard is useless as always…

DG: Sara-Mae, you’ve gone off your rocker since they fired you.

D: (No comment).

Whereupon twin stains of wetness appear on the front of Dhalia Grey’s ill-fitting shirt.

Whereupon Dhalia Grey schleps out one of her veiny breasts and feeds the wailing child.

CR: (inaudible) Disgusting cow.

DG: Did you say something, Sara-Mae?

D: She’s not saying anything to any of us. She’s writing a transcript.

JG: Of what?

D: Of what we are saying.

DG: You think I can’t read lips, Sara-Mae? You know I can, and that’s why you said it.

(The Court acknowledges Dhalia Grey has never, before this moment, been known to lip read.)

DG: A cow, am I? You try having six children and see how your perfect waistline fares!

(The Court acknowledges that if a person did call Dhalia Grey a cow it would have been an allusion to lactation and possibly her obtuse nature.)

JG: Did you call Dhalia a cow, Sara-Mae?

Whereupon Dhalia Grey ceases breastfeeding.

Whereupon Dhalia Grey crosses the room.

Whereupon Dhalia Grey examines the transcript.

DG: She’s not even writing anything. It’s all mad symbols. You are screwed in the head, Sara-Mae.

D: (No comment).

Whereupon Jefferson Grey crosses to stand beside Dhalia Grey.

JG: If it’s a transcript, Sara-Mae, then read it off. If you didn’t call her a cow, then prove it.

Whereupon Court Reporter continues the transcript.

JG: Read it, Sara-Mae! I’ve got a right to know what you have been saying about my wife!

DG: You are nuttier than squirrel’s shit. It’s no wonder you lost your job.

P: They fired her because she kept writing trash about everyone in the courtroom.

(The Court acknowledges that Alice Jennings, Head Stenographer at Mayfield County Courthouse did accuse Sara-Mae Yang of adding inappropriate comments to official court documents. Said comments were merely descriptive and added context to the proceedings.)

DG: Maybe it’s a blessing that you are barren, Sara-Mae. If you ever did have children they would turn out to be just as crazy as you are.

Whereupon Court Reporter breathes in slowly.

Whereupon the air hangs heavy in the kitchen as all present consider the line that has been crossed.

Whereupon Court Reporter’s eyes rest on the closed lips of Defense.

Whereupon Court Reporter’s fingers crouch above the stenograph keys, ready to transcribe any comment (audible or otherwise).

Whereupon Defense rests.

(The Court acknowledges that Court Reporter had hoped, in the end of things, Defense would have some objection.)

D: (No comment).

D: (No comment).

D: (No comment).

(The Court acknowledges that Defense NEVER HAS ANY GODDAMN COMMENT.)

Whereupon the oak creeks and the squirrel fusses.

Whereupon a moment stretches into infinity.

Whereupon a chair timidly creeks.

Whereupon Defense rises.

D: Do all you bunch of jerks want to know what she’s writing? Since you asked so bloody politely, I’ll read it out.

Whereupon Defense crosses to the stenotype machine.

Whereupon Defense unrolls the transcript scroll.

Whereupon Defense clears his throat.

Whereupon Court Reporter touches the back of her neck.

Whereupon Defense reads the transcript aloud from the beginning.

Whereupon the complete proceedings, accurately and truly recorded by Court Reporter, are revealed.

Whereupon gasps emit from all in attendance except Defense (who reads relentlessly), and Court Reporter (who unceasingly documents the proceedings as they unfold).

Whereupon all sit in the stunned silence of a life suddenly gone off-course.

Whereupon Defense stands behind Court Reporter.

Whereupon Defense places his moist palms on Court Reporter’s shoulders.

Whereupon Prosecution approaches Defense.

P: So you want me gone that sorely, do you Richard? Your own dying mother?

D: You heard the transcript.

P: I will never forgive you for marrying her.

Whereupon Defense grips tightly on to Court Reporter’s shoulders.

P: I am going to live with your brother, Richard. You can consider yourself an orphan.

JG: Ma, we’ve got no room for you at our place what with the baby…

P: You have six children, Jefferson. That’s plenty.

Whereupon Prosecution exits the kitchen with the vigor of a woman who will yet live to a great age.

JG: Goddamn you to hell, Dicky. You too, Sara-Mae.

Whereupon Dhalia Grey emits a high whine.

Whereupon the child wails.

Whereupon Dhalia Grey and Jefferson Grey exit.

Whereupon the squirrel buzzes and the leaves rustle.

Whereupon the stenotype machine purrs.

D: (whispers) Sara-Mae, I think she’s gone.

Whereupon Court Reporter acutely feels the nearness of Defense.

Whereupon the last twilight disappears and the kitchen becomes all darkness.

D: (whispers) I think she’s actually not coming back.

CR: (whispers) Stop whispering.

Whereupon Defense slides both hands down Court Reporter’s arms.

Whereupon Defense leans forward and kisses Court Reporter’s neck.

Whereupon Court Reporter closes her eyes and inhales her favorite soapy scent in the silent darkness.

D: How are your ovaries feeling, love?

Sara-Mae Yang: They are buzzing, Rich. Practically on fire.

END OF TRANSCRIPTION

Kate Felix is a writer and independent filmmaker who splits her time between Toronto and Cape Breton Island. She wrote in secret for twenty years, gathered her nerve, and started submitting her work at age forty. Her stories often feature strong female protagonists who are not afraid of the darker side of the fence. She has been shortlisted for many fiction prizes and appeared in several anthologies. Find her in Reflex Fiction, Room Magazine, Blink Ink, or online at www.katefelix.com

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