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Closing Time

So you all know, I’m putting this tale out piecemeal–if you think there are gaps in the telling, that’s because they are–ask me about them.


The setting is Mrs. Winterstein’s dance on Halloween Night, which Justine, dressed as Joan of Arc, has dragged Emily off to.  As Justine enters the dance floor, Emily, fingering her rosary nervously, and Mrs. Winterstein adhere to the sidelines, trading perspective on the occasion:

Mr’s Winterstein, beaming as all her guests are having a good time:  Ah, they’re drinking and they’re dancing 
As the youth, it’s all romancing 
Emily, nonplussed: And the carnal wisdom’s running very high
Mrs. Winterstein, smiling down upon Emily, in condescension, before calling out to Justine, dancing by:  You’ve a very sweet companion 
Justine, not turning away from her partner as she speaks:  She’s the Angel of Compassion! 
Emily, watching Nataly and Dominic waltz past:  She’s rubbing half the world against her thigh! 
Mrs. Winterstein, laying a hand on her shoulder, pointing something out:  And every drinker every dancer 
Lifts a happy face to thank her (We cut to see men sitting at tables lifting at the goings on in salute.)
Emily, turning away, disgusted:  Yeah, the fiddler’s playing something too sublime 
Mrs. Winterstein, bemused:  You fear, my dear, and too much scoff 
At glances which betray the thoughts
And moments worth the cost (Cut to a random couple necking.)
Emily, unmoved:  But it’s hell to pay when the fiddling stops… 
Chorus: Then it’s CLOSING TIME 
Justine, not looking up, dancing, now with another partner:  Till then we let our masks come off 
As we dance on a cloud filled with polka-dots… 
Mrs. Winterstein, smugly noting as Justine, finding someone cuter, cuts in on him, leaving her last partner burned:  And it’s partner found, and it’s partner lost 
Emily, still bummed:  And it’s hell to pay when the fiddler stops: 
Chorus:  Then it’s CLOSING TIME 

Emily, sighing:  It’s so wrong!  Justine:  But it’s romantic! 
Emily, turing to Mrs. Winterstein:  Now I don’t mean to be pedantic
But now the Spirit must be shedding tears of grief.
Mrs. Winterstein, staring out the window:  Yet the moon swims high above us
As the night persists to love us
As it grants the youth this respite of relief
I just help them in their struggle as they we stagger 
An anonymous tipsy couple walks up to her, to which she unlocks  the large door behind her.
Through the snakes and up the ladder (She gives them a gentle push up the stairs before shutting the door behind them.)
To the tower where the blessed hours chime (We see them engage in a deep, romantic kiss within the cupola before returning to Mrs. Winterstein and Emily.)
And I swear it happened just like this: (There’s a flashback sequence corresponding towhen she was young.)
A sigh, a cry, a hungry kiss 
the Gates of Love they budged an inch 
And I’ve been wealthy ever since! 
Emily:  But still we’re nearing…Chorus:  CLOSING TIME… 

The camera takes a panoramic shot of the whole dance, with Mrs. Winterstein and Emily in the prominent background.
Marriage spawns from such as this: 
A cry, a sigh, a cry, a hungry kiss 
the Gates of Love they budge an inch 
Emily, glancing up at her arms folded, then back at the party: Still, your words do not convince 
Chorus:  CLOSING TIME…(Cut to a whole series of dance partners’ kisses.)

Emily’s worried attention is again fixated on Justine, who is again dancing with somebody else.
Mrs. Winterstein, walking up behind Emily, also surveying Justine:  Yes, they love us for our beauty
But that doesn’t make a fool, you see; 
Not if you’re also in it for your beauty too (Cut to see Justine still enjoying herself, briefly.)
I, too, was once  loved for my body
But in the end, it made me wealthy, (She sports the diamond ring on her finger.)
And if I can, I’ll assist in others doing likewise, too. (Emily glances up in a brief frown, before turning.)
Mirs. Winterstein:  What if this leads to a wedding feast?
Emily, tartly:  I’ll stick to the one above (she points) to say the least.
Mrs. Winterstein, eyes sweeping the dance floor grandly:  You’re treating love just like a crime.
Emily, eyes sweeping the floor sadly:  Events like this can leave you wrecked
Mrs. Winterstein, eyes still sweeping:  Love doesn’t care what happens next! 
Emily, scoffing with anger in he gaze upon the the dancers:  It looks like freedom but it feels like death! 
Mrs. Winterstein, still looking, but turning reflective for the first time:  It’s something in between, I guess 
Chorus:  Don’t even think of CLOSING TIME… 

Mrs. Winterstein:  Yes, events like this can leave you wrecked,
But romancing freedom flirts with death!
Justine, dreamily, with yet her latest partner:  And you just can’t care what happens next! 
We cut to Emily,pulling out a picture in her locket of God and His angels in Heaven, with the demons and sinners in Hell, below them.
Emily, sighing: We’re someplace in between, I guess…(She pockets it, gloomily.) 
Chorus:  Not yet CLOSING TIME…

Emily, starting to lecture the dancers as they pass her by, and Mrs. Winterstein shakes her head in bemusement.
Emily, pointing to a nearby male dancer with one hand while waving off the fumes with the other:  You’ve been drinking, no one’s thinking 
And your morals, they’re all sinking
Mrs. Winterstein, laughing:  And you’re preaching Heaven here on Halloween Night?
Meantime, your prudely-raised companion (who’s quite wiser than your ranting)
The camera starts regularly cutting between Justine and our two quarreling outlooks.
Sets off rumors with entrancing (Mrs. Winterstein beams in Justine’s general direction.)
Everyone that falls within her sight. (We see that it’s clear she’s having the time of her life.)
Emily, grimly:  But in time she’ll be witness to the Awful Truth
She pauses dancing with her present partner to observe Nataly and Dominic (whom she has quite a crush on) kissing quite shamelessly by the balcony as Emily’s voice over continues. 
Which you can’t reveal to the ears of youth (Her partner tugs hand to resume, but she shoos him away.)
And at last she’ll see the lateness of the Time.  (Her face reddens, and starts fighting back sniffles as the dancers behind her blur.)
The camera cuts back to Mrs. Winterstein & Emily.
Mrs. Winterstein, a bit tiredly:  Of such things dear, you’d simply better not think twice.  (We cut briefly to Justine, still horror-struck, then back.)
Emily, still grim:  Just be prepared to pay the price
For the Boss won’t like these dizzy heights 
When he’ll come one day to pull the lights (Justine’s face turns into scowl, as they’re still necking, and turns he heel on them in a huff.)
Chorus:  Come one day He’ll pull the lights… 
Emily and the Chorus, together:  Then it’s CLOSING TIME…(We  again make a quick to Justine, still storming off as they’re, uh, still at it.)

Chorus: It’s really best to not think twice 
Of being forced to pay the price
Since the Boss don’t like these dizzy heights 
Emily, gravely:  You’ll be caught within the blinding lights
Chorus: The blinding lights…
Of CLOSING TIME…(Emily, back and center, waves her hands dramatically.)

At this, Justine, still glowering, grabs Emily’s hand dragging her off the way she came.
Justine, still frowning:  We’re leaving.
Emily, excited to hear this:  Oh, yes–let’s!
Mrs. Winterstein, coyly, as she glances between Justine and her granddaughter, still going at it by the veranda:  Oh, so soon?
Justine, still simmering:  I’m afraid so.
Mrs. Wintein, unfazed:  Have it your way.  I’ll have my ready in a jiff.

And at this, Mrs. Winterstein confers with a servant, as Justine exits stage right, dragging off Emily, who’s resisting, if only to fire off a few final parting shots…
Emily, eyes furious:  I assure you all, that you’ve transgressed
And on judgment day, you’ll be bereft!

Chorus:  It’s your CLOSING TIME
Mrs. Winterstein, having sent the servant off, is now gazing at the retreating redhead with capricious fondness.
Mrs. Winterstein, more to herself, than anyone, as we cut to a closeup of Justine’s fuming face:  Here,  it’s always partner found and partner lost… 
Emily, still being dragged, turning her finger’s wrath on Mrs. Winterstein:  But it’s Hell to pay when the fiddler’s stopped…
Chorus:  It’s CLOSING TIME 
Emily, returning her wrath on the crowd, but the women in specific:  We’ll leave before you hussies tear your blouses off 
Arousing men with hungry thoughts!
Chorus:  It’s CLOSING TIME…
And thus it ends, with crowd still dancing, Nataly and Dominic still making out, and Mrs. Winterstein still shaking her head in unabashed mirth…


Learning Something Only Dead Men Know

Justine has clandestinely gone to the the home of the blind fortune teller, only to to have Betsy follow her surreptitiously to the entrance of his house, begging her to return past the door that has seemingly opened of itself upon being told to come in, even as she herself crosses the threshold after her.

Betsy:  Pl-please–don’t do this!  (The pair both snap their heads up to see the Fortune Teller clunking down the stairs with his staff.)
Fortune Teller, cackling:  I’m coming, my lovelies! 

You may think I know nothing ’bout anything,
But you’d be quite surprised at what my sources bring. 
At this, reaching them, he jams a bony finger right in her nervous face, smiling triumphantly, even as Betsy, terrified, clutching her friend’s back, looks on.
You, my girl, hunger for every single finer thing
And just like every woman, you a-crave the sting!
At this point, his pointy finger turns into an open palm, upon which, after doing a double-take, Justine gets the hint, and deftly proceeds to grease it.

Fortune Teller, happily counting his largess:  Now I’ll give what I’ve got until I got no more
Ghostly Chorus: Uh huh.  (At this, Betsy starts edging towards the open exit behind them.)
I take what I get until I even the score  (At this, he holds up a coin, running his hands over it.)
Now you know I’m a merchant, and further more
At this, the Fortune Teller seems to have spied the sneaking-off Betsy, and proceeds to give her his full attention.
When it’s time to go you got an open door!  (At this, sparks erupt from behind his glasses, the door slams shut, and Betsy starts, petrified, as the Fortune Teller proceeds to amble her way….)

Poor Betsy, practically wailing:  Please, Justine–we’ve gotta go!
Fortune Teller, coldly:  Not before she sees what I show!
Betsy, desperately, as he’s right on top of her, even as Justine looks on impassively:  Please Justine–we gotta go!  (She utterly cringes as he brings his hand down upon her.)
Fortune Teller, gleefully:  Not before finding out something only dead men know!  
And with that, he rubs his knuckles into her skull, causing her to wince and look up, surprised at his gentleness, only to find an open palm awaiting her.

Betsy, appearing apprehensive:  You want…
Fortune teller, beaming:  Uh huh.
Betsy, even more awkward:  Money…
Fortune Teller, beaming a little less:  Yep
Betsy, becoming nervous again:  You want…
Fortune teller, starting to frown:  Uh huh…
There’s an awkward silence as Betsy fishes around in her pockets, with the Fortune Teller’s look becoming ever more stormy.
Betsy, timidly:  I don’t–
At this, sparks again erupt from the corner of the glasses, as he starts jamming his finger into her chest, causing her to start backing up.

Fortune Teller, angrily:  Honest as the next jade rolling that stone,

You come a-knockin’, yet you throw me no bone?
I’m a dirty old badger, yet you’ve come to my home,  (At this point, Betsy has now backed into the door, sandwiched between it and the Bishop.
And if you don’t like it, you should’ve left me alone!
At this, the terrified Betsy, trembling shuts her eyes as his hand again comes towards her, this time with true menace, or at least until Justine catches it.   
Justine, cold and firm:  Uh…she’s with me.
Fortune Teller, genuinely surprised:  Oh?  You mean she doesn’t want her fortune…?  
At this, Justine just nods, to which he just shrugs his shoulders and moves on, much to Betsy’s s sighing relief, motioning them to follow him to the fireplace, which they do.  Once there, he starts making passes at it with his hands, causing it to seeth, twist, and grow to his touch.

Fortune Teller, plucking a flame:  Seems the man in your future has one hell of a past 
It’s a closeup as he holds it up to Justine’s face, transforming itself into the fiery image of a teenage boy as he does so, causing her to grap in wonder.
And the day of his arrival is a-comin’ on fast (She gasps again as the image smiles at her.)
And I’d stop complaining over what I’ve got
Seems he’s faded with time (at this, he waves the flaming image away, even as it scowls back at him) but who has not?  (At this, the Fortune Teller turns ruefully to the camera.)

Betsy, pleadingly tugging on Justine:  Please, Justine–we’ve gotta go!
View of the Fortune Teller, gazing into the heart of the fire, with the girls standing behind him.
Fortune Teller, not looking up:  Did ever say that I was done with the show?
Betsy, tugging againat an unresponsive Justine:  Please Justine–we gotta go!
Fortune Teller, laughing:  But she’s not finished learning what dead men know!  
At this, he turns again to face them, satisfied the flame will say all they’re going to…for now, and the n proceeds to pin a shocked Justine next to and below the fireplace’s mantle.

The Fortune Teller, seriously:  Now I can tell your fancy I can tell your plain (He stamps his staff, shaking the whole building, including an ornate vanity mirror glinting ornately next to the ledge of the mantle. 
Ghostly Chorus:  Uh huh.
You give something up for ev’rything you gain
 (His staff is stamped again, as a quick cut to the mirror shows it shake once more.)
Ghostly Chorus:  Come on.
Just know ev’ry pleasure’s got an edge of pain (Another stamp and another cut to the mirror, causing it to wobble still more violently.)
Ghostly Chorus:  That’s right.
And you paid your own ticket, so don’t complain!  
He stamps it again, causing the mirror to fall…snugly into Justine’s waistband.  Justine’s too busy staring into the fortune Teller’s glasses to look, but she starts to grope for whatever it is that lodged there with her left hand, but not before he picks her and Betsy up by the collar, and tosses them out onto his porch, leaving them equally stunned.
Ghostly Chorus:  Whoooo, whoooo!

Fortune Teller, shoving his head out the window, again catching them by surprise:  Now remember…
It’ll be one of these days (and it won’t be long)
I’m just playing with fire as I sing my song
But I sang it loud and I sang it strong

Let the events decide if I was right or wrong!
At this, he raises his darkened glasses to reveal roaring flames pouring out his eye socket, compelling them to scramble pell mell back home.

The Fortune Teller, calling goodbye after them:  Farewell, my friends, and thanks for the gold–
In time you’ll recall what you’ve been told!
Betsy, taking his words after the as all the reason to vamoose:  Quick Justine–we gotta go!
Justine, annoyed, but still hustling:  Just tell me something that I don’t know!

And at this, the camera pans in to the vanity mirror, again glinting, lodged into the back of her waist sash, before fading to black….

I Want to Know If Love Is Real & Dancing in the Dark‏

The sky fades from overcast to sunny, as now the camera pans down, the music changes, and see slightly changed courtyard and townscape, altered with the years, a we zero on the Bishop’s mansion, transitioning to two teenage maids, cleaning house whilst conversing with each other….

Redhead, grousing to blond:  Every day I sweat it out harboring these runaway dreams
They say to look for mansions of glory, well, I wanna know right now what that means.
Alas, my class and faith they do confine
Blond, her face expressionless, focused on sweeping, not looking up:  Best watch it, Justine
–you’re stepping out over the line
Justine, stopping her labors:  Emily, this place, it weighs hard on my back
Bishop, now much older, striding up behind her, kindly:  Even if your escape mean risking a suicide trap…?
At this, Justine nods.
Justine:  But I’ve just gotta find out how it must feel

At this, she sighs, and looks out the window, draping her hands on the window sill, gazing out upon the fine landscape below and beyond.
For I don’t really know if love is wild, but I simply want to know if love is real
At this, there’s an interlude (a pause, I think) as the music shifts to a new song, with Emily and the Bishop looking on, as Justine continues to brood…
I get done come the evening, tired and I don’t have nothing to say
I get up in the morning, numb while feeling the same way
Emily, a little worried:  You’re just nothing but tired.  Justine, glaring, but still staring out:  Guess I’m just weary and bored with myself
Perhaps, maybe, if I had just a little in wealth…

Emily, a mite annoyed:  What you seek is fire!   Bishop, placidly:  You can’t start a fire without a spark
Justine, with a touch of melancholy in her  gaze:  But that’s still my desire–even if I’m just dancing in the dark…

Emily, sighing herself:  Well, your dissatisfaction keeps getting clearer–you keep ranting on as I’m working ’round the place
And when you check yourself out in the mirror, you just wanna change your clothes, your hair–your face.
Justine, in self-pity:  I slave around here getting older–there’s a joke here somewhere that I just can’t see.
Bishop:   You’ve just gotta shake this weight off  shoulders.  Justine chuckling bitterly:  I guess, really, the laugh’s on me
At this, Emily nods, even as Justine sighs at her reflection in the w3indow pane.

But that’s just my desire, and you can’t start a fire without a spark
Emily, frowning at her as Justine’s back is turned:  Still, it seems you’re for hire, even if you’re just dancing in the dark….

At this, the Bishop spies a dark cloud far away on the horizon.
The Bishop, firm, but kindly, looking straight at Justine:  A storm cloud keeps drawing nearer, one I’d avoid, if you were me
The danger keeps getting clearer, but what I just can’t see

Man I ain’t getting nowhere just sitting in a dump like this
There’s something happening somewhere but I just don’t know what it is
Emily, annoyed, to the Bishop:  She just keeps getting bolder; (she turns grave) and it fills me with deep worry.
They pause a moment, their gazes locked on this unhappy maid.
Bishop, half to himself, stroking his:  Seems the nights will get colder–something’s a shade familiar, still it remains a mystery.

At this, the Bishop turns, preparing to go, but not before turning his head back, sternly:

Best beware if you seek fire; beware still more if you find your spark
To elude a fate most dire; for your own sake I hope you’ll just keep dancing in the dark.
At thus the Bishop turns and walks away, followed by Emily, leaving Justine to stew by the window in her own juices.

The Stranger

The tale fades in to ravens perched on a prisonyard gallows still being set up as the workmen whistle placidly, even as a cowled prisoner, face completely shrouded, watches them work from his barred upper-story cell window in impassive silence.  Finally, the music starts in full as he begins to sing, as the images flitting past carry us backwards and forwards in time.

Convict:  Well, we all have a face that we hide away forever
Quick cut to guards leading his faceless form down the hall.

And we take them out and show ourselves when everyone has gone
He glances at his own reflection through a puddle on the floor.

Some are satin some are steel, some are silk and some are leather.
Still covered, the scene shifts to show him testifying at his own trial.

They’re the faces of the stranger–but we love to try them on.
At this, two gusts of flame flickers into view from out of his hooded shadows.

Bishop, testifying on the stand:  Yes, he did lead a girl astray who did disregard the danger
Convict, contemptuously:  Love, it doesn’t make you cautious, nor does it make you wise.
Pregnant mother, from out of the crowd:  Tom, you’re a fiend–you’re a dog within the manger!
Tom turns to her, allowing us to at least see the smile across his lips.
Tom:  Then it shall be my pleasure, now, to pierce you with my eyes….
At this, sparks erupt from the cowl, even as the woman tumbles back in instant miscarriage and the guards knock Tom down before hustling him away.

Tom, merrily:  Now don’t be afraid, my friends, to sin
If the urge is strong; just don’t try to win.
Bishop:  I’ve refused, and so have others too.
Tom:  You’re quite rare–your kind is few….

The scene shifts back to Tom in his cell, visited by the Bishop, who’s offering him Last Rites.
Bishop:  Once, you used to believe you were such a great romancer.
Tom, disgusted, eyes folded:  Then I visited a woman in a form she could not recognize.
When I pressed for a seduction, but said too much within my answer
Quick cut to a shadowy flashback of a smirky smile.
Bishop:  Was it then that she recalled the stranger, and it led to her her demise...?
Another quick cut to a girl’s gasp, a knife, a brief struggle, and a scream, to which Tom in the present grimly nods.

Bishop, kindly:  Well, we all fall in love but we disregard the danger.
Tom, placing his hands behind his head:  We may share a lot of secrets, there’s some we never tell.
Bishop: Why were you so surprised when she finally saw the stranger?
Quick cut to show Tom’s face getting angry.

Have you ever really, truly, see
n the stranger in yourself…?
At this, Tom turns to spit a stream of sizzling venom at the floor before looking up, glaring and growling, at the Bishop, who calmly returns his gaze, before getting up to leave as Tom watches through a barred window.

B strolling down the hall:  Against all your remorse don’t try to win.
Someone does repent, every now and then.
If I’ve done it, why can’t someone else?
It’s not too late, even for yourself….
Cut to Tom’s half-shadowed face, looking grim and moody as slumping, he turns down to look at his still-sizzling venom.

The scene is now Tom on the scaffold before his execution, giving his last words.
You may never understand how the stranger is inspired (Quick cut to a heckler in the audience.)
But he isn’t always evil and he is not always wrong.
At this, Tom turns the heckler’s way as the sparks erupt from the cowl, and as their eyes lock,  the heckler’s pupils literally start to burn.
Though you may drown in good intentions, you will never quench the fire
You’ll all succumb to your desire when the stranger comes along….

And with that, the trapdoor swings open, the noose tightens, and Tom is left swinging for all the crowd to see–and cheer, even as we cut briefly back to the heckler, slumped on the ground, hand over his eye sockets, which are still smoking.  As he still swings, the music fades, the crowd vanishes to denote the passage of time.  At last, it ends as it started, with ravens perched on the gallows, only with whistling workmen taking them down, instead of setting them up before we fade out.

Preface: A New Blog, a New Tool for a Soul’s Reflections

Well, folks, this blog will primarily be for what I happen to call, collectively, The Vanity Mirror Project.  I’ve been on it since 2007, it’s ungainly, and messy, and…I’ve probably lost my best friend over the course of it.

I may share other creative works unrelated to The Vanity Mirror here, but The Project will be my first priority.  It’s a strange story, and all the involved copyright issues I can’t fathom, but this is the only I can think of that will let my Mirror see the light of day…not that it is a good thing, as my family will attest.

If we looked into our soul, what would we see?  If we truly saw, and by it I mean the good the bad, and the ugly, it would be a great gift and guide, assuming we used it properly.  We’re as much if not more, governed by what we don’t want as by what we do, and horror can be a wonderful teacher.

Recall that scene in Wall Street, where Ed Asner’s character counsels Buddy Fox, played by Charlie Sheen, as they lead him away in handcuffs?  About where a man looks into a pit but he does not fall into the Pit, and does not do so because he looks inside and and does not like what he sees?

Truer words were seldom spoken, friends.

I wrestled in the mud with madness, once, and have happily concluded that sanity is stronger, if not by much.  Doing so wasn’t a ton of fun, but far as I’m concerned, those skeptical over evil have never really peered over the ledge into the Pit (and I don’t blame them).

Jekyll and Hyde, Dorian Gray’s picture–such are all just attempts to capture our innate capacity for evil made manifest. To them, I add my own contribution, The Vanity Mirror, shard by loving shard, as this blog will attempt to catalog.

This blog  may be as far as this story goes.  I’ve tried to publish a form of it, but so far, no bites.  I’d love to see this musically staged, or as un-Disney Disney-esque cell-animated flick, but even if not, I”l try to use this blog to un-burden myself with my vision.

Sincerely, Philip Brock Carpenter