“Ugggg, Stop, stop, just break already. Take fifteen!” Danny hollered.
“Make it twenty,” his stage manager called out with a sigh. He pinched the bridge of his nose and reminded himself that Danny had never been so uptight at the start of production before.
Several feet away, Danny sat front row center, a crumpled coffee cup clutched tight in his fist. First he scowled at the stage, then he glared at the clipboard on his lap before drawing a large, red X through one of the scenes.
“Alright, spill,” Herman demanded as he dropped into the seat beside Danny.
Danny glanced up at his stage manager and longtime friend, then back at the clipboard. “It’s all crap, all of it. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking. This wasn’t ready for casting, it wasn’t even ready for a reading, the whole damn thing needs to be tossed in a shredder and…”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a second, where the hell is all of this coming from?”
Eyes wide, Danny threw up his hands, the crushed cup sent flying. “Are you watching the same rehearsals as I am!”
“They’re pretty rough right now, but not bad enough to burn the entire play.”
“Burning is more final,” Herman reminded him . “More dramatic too. We work in a playhouse, we have to do things right. “
“And what if we’re not certain that we know what’s right anymore?”
Herman beamed and got comfortable in the old, cloth seat. “Now it seems like we’re getting somewhere.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means that you’ve been out of sorts all week. One minute you tell people to slow a scene down and a couple run throughs later and you’re telling them to speed it up again. The cast has no clue what you want, hell it doesn’t seem like YOU know what you want, which really isn’t like you Danny. So what’s really going on, because I’m not convinced its issues with the play.”
Danny groaned and ran his fingers through his hair. “I didn’t realize I was being such a pain in the neck.”
“Yeah, well, you were, still are really, so let’s get to the bottom of why so I can stop needing to spike my coffee every morning before I come to work.”
“You’ve always spiked you’re coffee in the morning, you’ve been doing it for as long as I’ve known you.”
“Longer, but I’ve had to up the amount lately and that I attribute to you, not stop avoiding the subject and tell me what’s got your tie in a twist.”
“I kicked Sean out!” Danny blurted. “Had to go down and get a restraining order too.”
“And it’s about time. Please don’t tell me you’ve been a dick all week because you’ve been pining for that jerk and wishing you could take it back, because I swear if that’s the case, I’m going to tie you up in the rigging and leave you to hang there until common sense wins out. Sean was a jerk, he treated you like crap. I say good riddance and move the hell on.”
Danny looked over at his friend and couldn’t help but smile. Herman’s curls looked frazzled, his eyes were animated and he’d gone from slouching in the seat to perched on the edge of it, leg bouncing wildly as if he planned to launch into some crazy scheme. One that would likely leave Danny locked in a prop room or swinging from the rigging just to keep him away from Sean.
“I’m not pining for Sean.” Danny quickly sought to assure him. “You were right about him, you were all right about him and I’m sorry I didn’t listen.”
Herman’s leg stilled and his hands gripped the edge of his seat as he leaned forward intently, staring into Danny’s eyes. “Exactly how much was I right about?”
For a moment, Danny considered not telling him, but the look in Herman’s eyes told him that his friend already knew, he was just waiting for Danny to confirm it.
“All of it, okay. I didn’t get hit in the eye by a stray football while I was walking through the park. I got hit by Sean’s fist and it wasn’t the first time.”
“Son of a bitch! What the hell Danny! Why did you lie! Why did you let him stick around! We could have made him disappear easy! A prop coffin, some chains, no one ever would have heard from him again!”
“And then we’d all be in jail and they’d be making a play about an entire playhouse full of actors and producers gone insane and committing murders.”
“One murder, perfectly justified and it would make for one hell of a dramatic comedy,” Herman grumbled.
The look on Herman’s face was enough to send Danny into a fit of laughter. His friend looked so serious and so ready to commit the acts he’s spoken of that Danny found himself doubled over, laughing so hard his stomach hurt. But it was a good hurt, and he couldn’t remember the last time he’d laughed so hard. Well, he could, but that would mean thinking about Jax. The fit of laughter ended as soon as it started and Danny sat up and wiped the moisture from his eyes.
“Okay, seriously though, Danny, if you could care less about Sean then what’s the issue?”
Danny sighed, all the good feelings fading away. “The night that I kicked him out, my new neighbor had to come break things up. Wasn’t the best way to meet, but we ended up having dinner the next night, wanted to thank him for helping. It was fun. I think, up until that point, I’d forgotten how nice a good meal and conversation could be. Anyway, long story short, I um, I’m pretty sure I offended him and I’ve been trying to catch up to him to apologize.”
“Only, you can’t,” Herman supplied, shaking his head at Danny like he was the most pathetic person on the planet. “So you’ve been growling at everyone else while you stew over whether you have or have not alienated this neighbor with the amazing conversation skills.”
Herman just shook his head. “You need to get out more. Seriously, Danny, that’s kind of pathetic. I mean, the guy could be working late or have a billion and one other things going on, hell he could be out on a date, which is where you should be instead of holed up in your apartment every night.”
“I have no intention of dating anyone for the foreseeable future, At least a year, maybe two.”
“And your junk will shrivel up and fall off if you neglect it for so long.”
“I don’t need to date for that,” Danny muttered, blushing.
“I just felt like Jax and I really hit it off and thought it would be cool to have a friend in the building for a change. Someone who was actually interested in hearing me talk about the plays I’ve been working on and doesn’t mind hanging out long after most folks have gone to bed.”
“And what am I?”
“The guy who leaves here, changes and rushes to whatever club has caught his fancy this week, all in the hopes of picking up the next Ms. Wasn’t Meant To Be.”
“Ouch, that’s, kinda harsh.”
“Tell me isn’t accurate, though.”
“Okay, it is, but damn, you don’t have to say it so bluntly.”
“I’ll remind you of that the next time you’re lecturing me about my poor relationship choices.”
Herman had the good graces to look sheepish and avert his eyes. “Okay, so maybe we both suck in the relationship department.”
“You can say that again.”
“Look, why don’t we call it a day? I doubt you’re going to be easy to work with until you’ve had a talk with your new friend and I um, did have my eye on a new club tonight. You know the one that opened down on Court Ave?”
“Nope, and before you ask, I have no intention of knowing it either, thank you. I think I will go home, work on the new play and hope I can catch up with Jax. Maybe I’ll throw a pan of lasagna together, see if he’s hungry when he gets home from work. If he gets home from work.”
“There ya go. And if he doesn’t show up, do us all a favor, Danny.”
“Call in sick tomorrow.”
Danny laughed at that and stood, stuffing his clipboard back in his backpack and searching around for the accidently launched cup. Once he’s found and properly disposed of it, he was on his way. Hoping that the long walk would untangle the thoughts that had been running through his head all week. It wasn’t like him to become so fixated on someone so fast. So what was it the big tattoo artist that had him all tied up in knots? One thing was for certain, he’d better figure it out quick and get it resolved, before his stage manager staged a mutiny.