Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Call this a prequel to my Sheriff of Sorrow series. A few years back I read a story in Smithsonian on how Shakespeare riled the west. It got me to thinking about the duke and the dauphin in Huck Finn and how they plan to use Shakespeare in their next con. Twain was right there, after all, as the bard made his way across the Plains. I'd been kicking around an idea of bank robbing thespians for a while. Sorrow provided the perfect backdrop. 

I'm introducing many of the major characters here. I'm also taking a few timid steps along that free trail. Hopefully this will generate interest in the rest of the series. 

Sweet Sorrow
by Jack  Bates

The city of Sorrow had seen a spat of dour days. When a troupe of traveling actors arrived and asked the contentious city council if it could put up a tent outside of the city limits and offer up some good, old fashion Shakespearean entertainment, the handful of men and one woman agreed it might do Sorrow some good.
            “Well, gentlemen, this is indeed good news,” the guild’s director said. His name was Hiram Snoops. He went by the name of Professor. “I’ll need to see the sheriff to obtain the proper permits, no doubt.”
            Myron Overmeyer, a rotund man who usually displayed a jovial demeanor, rolled a fat cigar between his thumb and fingers. A great cloud of gray smoke billowed around his head as he exhaled.
            “We’re between sheriffs right now, Professor Snoops,” Overmeyer said.
            The elated smile faded from Professor Snoop’s face. 
            “Is this a problem, Professor?” Anthony Capparucio asked. He was the newest member of the council. His two restaurants were well known in the industrial northern city and beyond it. People making their way up into Michigan’s other peninsula were known to go to either eatery before settling into their hotel room.
            “It shouldn’t be,” Snoops said. He played with the brim of his gray, stovepipe hat.
            “But it could be,” Overmeyer said. The cigar was wedged into the corner of his mouth. He eyed the Professor.
            “Gentlemen, I’m sure you are all well aware of the Globe theatre and its history with the Groundlings.”
            The men on the council looked at one another. The lone lady in its ranks cleared her throat.
            “The Groundlings were the riff raff of the theatre going crowd,” Aggie St. Pierre said. When she spoke, the men listened. “They tended to get a little rambunctious.”
            “More than a little, history tells us. They were as interested in what was taking place on stage as off. Fights, cursing, philandering. And need I remind you of what happened in New York City not so long ago.”
            “You can remind me,” the youngest member of the council said.
            “Shut up, Zenas,” Olds Langston barked. If Jeremiah Zenas was the youngest to obtain a seat at the table of city affairs, then Olds Langston held the seat at the other end of the spectrum. A withered, stretched-skin hand clutched the silver globe of a walking stick. “I knew it was a mistake to allow a representative from Pineville.”
            “We’re not going to go into that now, Olds,” Overmeyer said.
            “Why the hell not?” Olds Langston asked. His voice was as irritating as fingernail on slate. “We currently are not discussing anything of any importance.”
            “If you could keep your prejudice out of your head long enough to listen, you’d realize the man here is asking for security at his intended show,” Aggie St. Pierre said. Olds Langston lifted his free hand and waved it through the air. “Is that what this is about, Professor?”
            Professor Snoops smiled delicately at the lady. “It is indeed, Madame. Your beautiful city is, how shall I say this, somewhat isolated from the rest of your fine state.”
            “He means we’re hicks,” Zenas said.
            “I know what he means,” Overmeyer said.
            Professor Snoops drew up his shoulders. He tucked his hat under his arm. “I am in no way insinuating anything of the sort. What I am trying to point out is riding into Sorrow this afternoon as my troupe and I did, we noticed there was quite a few men walking about with guns on their hips or rifles in their arms.”
            “That’s just because the lumber yard and coal mine payrolls arrived today,” Jeremiah Zenas said.
            “Shut up, you idiot!” Olds Langston smashed the silver tip of his walking stick onto the polished pine floor.
            “I don’t see what the big deal is,” Jeremiah Zenas continues. “The banks are closed now until Monday.”
            Professor Snoops cleared his throat.  “This is of the matter to which I am greatly concerned. News like this could bring in an element of ne’er-do-wells.”
            “There wouldn’t be news like this if idiots like Zenas over there kept their mouths shut,” Langston said. He gained a chorus of approval from his long time confederates Ollie Flath and Ham Jonson.
            “What is your concern, Professor?” Aggie St. Pierre asked once again. She was clearly trying to keep the discussion on the item at hand and not let Olds Langston go off pontificating about Pineville, the poorer section of Sorrow.
            “Knowing how the words of the great bard can generate deep empathy within the patrons, my actors have some grave concerns about their safety.”
            “Grave being the key word,” Aggie said.
            “Indeed, Madame, indeed. It took very little for the audiences in New York to riot and all they were upset about was who played the better Macbeth.”
            “Are you performing Macbeth?” Overmeyer asked.
            “Henry the Fifth,” the Professor said.
            “Ah, the St. Crispin Day speech,” Aggie St. Pierre said.
            Professor Snoops bowed his head and smiled. “When we fire the cans, the audience rejoices.”
            “What is the issue here?” Olds Langston demanded.
            Overmeyer took the cigar out of the corner of his mouth. “The Professor is concerned that some of the men in town waiting to be paid might get a little enthusiastic during the play and start shooting holes in the actors. Am I right, Professor?”
            “Yes, Mr. Chairman. It is why I was hoping to speak to the sheriff about collecting any and all firearms before patrons entered the tent.”
            “Outlandish!” Ollie Flath said. “Why this is still America. A man has a right to carry a gun anywhere he pleases.”
            “Well don’t allow them at town meetings, Ollie,” Aggie said. “Not since Kipper Wells put a slug in Quentin McKay’s back.”
            Ollie Flath slammed a fist on the table. “You know that had nothing to do with town business and everything to do with a strumpet of a wife.”
            “But it happened here,” Overmeyer said. “And ever since people have understood there is a time and a place for a gun. Folks, I need a motion.”
            Aggie raised her hand and Overmeyer recognized her. “I move all patrons must check their weapons at the gate prior to seeing any performance of any theatrical presentation.”
            Ham Jonson demanded to know who would be in charge of this.
            “No debate until we have a second,” Overmeyer said. Jeremiah Zenas seconded the motion. The vote went down to a three-three tie leaving the deciding vote to Myron Overmeyer. He voted in favor.


  1. Love the irreverent humor, the elegant language and the sense you've somehow been enfolded in a Western version of French farce or maybe Abbot and Costello Meet The Wild West. Featuring of course that brand new desperado on the desert, Wild Willy Shakespeare, The Avon Kid -- when he comes a'callin' he'll shoot you or sell you some cosmetics. A very helpful aid -- in both cases, if you happen to be in the Hilarious Town of Sorrow. The only caveat to the total happiness of all present is Oblivious Overmeyer naming the Scottish Play. A distinct omen of something wicked their way comes. Cool.

  2. Wonderful atmosphere. Love the dialog and the characters so far!