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THE OPERA SINGER

A Novel

By Christopher G. Bremicker

Copyright 2017 by Christopher G. Bremicker

Smash Words Edition

Cover Image by: Miss Mae



TABLE OF CONTENTS:

CHAPTER I

The relationship started.

CHAPTER II

We got to know each other.

CHAPTER III

We got in deeper.

CHAPTER IV

My friend at the hi-rise helped with our relationship.

CHAPTER V

My new friendship became oppressive.

CHAPTER VI

Love started.

CHAPTER VII

I invited her to sing at my book reading.

CHAPTER VIII

She kept the crowd at my book reading under control.

CHAPTER IX

We saw each other infrequently.



THE OPERA SINGER



CHAPTER I

Kate said she was an opera singer. When I met her first, at Starbucks, where she came in, in a whirlwind, she claimed she was flying to London that afternoon, her son was at a slumber party, and she had a restraining order on her husband, from whom she was separated. She sang on the sidewalk near the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis next to a cigar box.

I was just off a relationship with a girl who was a Stanford graduate, had a master’s degree in social work, and was author of two published books. She had three husbands and two daughters. The fact of the matter was, she slept twelve hours a day and watched television the other twelve. I was wary of what women told me about themselves.

I told Kate I was a writer, gave her my card, and she checked out my website. I was a good writer, she told me a week later, and asked me to write her story. I thought nothing of it then responded with a note on her Facebook page.

“Contact me on my email address on my business card,” I invited. “Let’s write your story.”

“Wonderful,” she replied. “Let me know what might be a good time to discuss.”

“Monday at 6:00 at Starbucks,” I suggested.

“Sorry, can’t come Monday,” she answered. “But could Wednesday.”

“Wednesday works,” I countered. “See you at 9:00 AM at Starbucks?”

“Sounds good,” she said. “Thank you.”

I got to Starbucks at 7:00 and worked on a story about the Army. Nine o’clock came and Kate did not arrive. I waited for half an hour. She did not show up. I checked her Facebook page, but she did not leave a message. Not knowing whether to feel destroyed or philosophical, I took the bus home.

I was hurt and tried to remember if this was the first time I was ever stood up. Kate was crazy, and probably unreliable, but I took it harder than I expected. I liked her, thought she was a nice person, and had high hopes for the relationship, even if it was only a friendship.

I tried to slough it off. I went to bed that night and tried not to think about it. I had mental issues too and wondered if she saw my new title for my book about them on my website, Fruity Acres: Confessions of a Schizophrenic.

I woke early the next day, went to work, and, as I walked into Starbucks, Kate got out of her car and said hello. She apologized for not showing up the day before. Family obligations prevented her from doing so. I forgave her, and we bought coffee, separately.

She stood me up so, I did not feel obligated to buy her coffee. She searched for her credit card, said she did not have any money then bought a cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich. She was buying a piano, she said.

She was singing the Star-Spangled Banner, God Bless America, and Somewhere Over the Rainbow, for the fundraiser for Dai Thao, one of the candidates for mayor of St. Paul. The fundraiser for the Hmong man was at a restaurant in Lower Town in St. Paul. She said I could come down and hear her sing.

She said she sang at the Minneapolis Veterans’ Home. She got a young boy, the son of a resident, to sing with her. His voice was angelic, she said.

I told her I was a veteran and she thanked me for my service. Kate knew what it was, to love and be loved. She sat down at my table.

I was thrilled to see her and forgot how good looking she was. She was tall, slim, with long, auburn hair that cascaded around her proud, handsome, but slightly sad face. She opened her coat and showed me her T-shirt that read, “Well behaved women do not make history.”

Kate talked fast, almost frenetically, about herself. She talked about the opera and her family problems interchangeably. I asked her to stick to opera as a subject, but she slipped occasionally into psychology or social work, which I did not understand. I had no interest in these subjects.

The psychology stuff went like this. Her therapist wanted her husband to come in for therapy. Her husband refused therapy. He was bipolar. One of her children was in therapy too.

The social work stuff went like this. Her husband wanted custody of her children and was suing her as an unfit mother. Right now, she had custody of her children. He refused to pay child support and was abusive, she claimed. She was going to court soon. I steered her toward the subject of opera.

She talked about her career in Really Spicy Opera, formed in England by a friend who was a theater reviewer for the Twin Cities Reader, piano player, and opera singer. Her website showed a video of her singing in the Fringe, a local theater extravaganza, her credits as Maddalena in Rigoletto, and her singing experience overseas.

I told her I was going to dinner with a longtime friend who contracted cancer. It was two years since I saw him. His prognosis was not good, and he fought for his life. Kate sympathized.

I told her I reviewed theater for the Community Reporter, a monthly newspaper that covered West Seventh Street, from Ft. Snelling to downtown St. Paul. Recently, I reviewed Romeo and Juliet at the Guthrie Theater and Hamlet at Park Square Theater. She liked this and, for a moment, addressed me as a professional equal.

We talked for an hour. She ate an English muffin with cheese and sausage and I drank a cold press, which was concentrated coffee with ice. We got along. I used the restroom and, when I came out, she was talking to a friend. He was tall, in a light blue sport coat, had a kind smile, and said a few encouraging words to her.

“You can do it,” he told her, when she described to him her legal problems. “You can do it,” he repeated.

She introduced me to him. Kate had good manners, showed me she was proud of our friendship, and I shook the man’s hand twice, to show him I liked him and did not want to one-up him. Kate buttonholed him for a moment then he escaped out the door. Her domestic problems were difficult, and, like her friend, I did not know how to help her, except to listen. The children’s well-being was paramount, was my only advice.

Her children were teenagers. One eighteen-year-old was autistic and spoke his first words that morning. He said, “Mom.” Her children were tall. Like their mother, they went to Catholic schools. Her father was a doctor. Her husband was a real estate broker and lived in a new condominium near Starbucks.

She was raised in Madison, Wisconsin, educated at Notre Dame University, where she obtained a degree in French, and abroad, where she sharpened her language skills. She had a master’s degree in vocal performance from the University of Minnesota. She knew my hometown of Cable and said some friends bought a place up there. She looked at her watch and said she had to get back to her children.

She hugged me goodbye. This gesture went a long way with me. I was attracted to her and appreciated the act of affection. Then we parted. I went to work then sent her a message on Facebook.

“Enjoyed our talk,” I wrote. “See you soon.”

“Me too!” she wrote back. “Thank you.” The relationship started.



CHAPTER II



I asked Kate to send me her email address on Facebook. She did so, and I sent her the first chapter of this book. She emailed back that it needed corrections but, all in all, I flattered her. Then I asked her out for coffee.

“I have a hearing on Tuesday,” she wrote on Facebook Messenger. “It all depends on that, what I can do this week.”

“I’m going duck hunting Tuesday,” I said. “Good luck with the hearing.” When I got back from hunting, I thought of her. Suffused with the outdoors, I wrote her an exhaustive description, by Facebook standards, of the hunt.

“Hearing went well,” she wrote. “Glad your adventures were successful. Let me know a few times that will work for you.”

“I am free all day, Wednesday and Saturday,” I replied. “Maybe Friday AM before 9:00.”

“Can’t do early mornings,” she returned. “Can maybe do today around 1.”

“See you today at Starbucks around 1:00,” I stated. “Thanks.”

“Sorry, can’t,” she came back. “Sick child.”

The next day, I took the bus to work, opened the door of Starbucks, and there she was, holding a half-eaten English muffin in her hand. I tried to hug her, but she held me off. She wore a large, gray overcoat with a fur collar. Her hair cascaded around it in flowing curls.

I forgot how wonderful her hair was. It was full, like a lion’s, auburn, and hung to her shoulders. It covered her entire collar from shoulder to shoulder.

She had hair like something out of O’ Henry’s short story, “Gift of the Magi.” In the story, a man pawned his watch to buy his wife a comb. His wife cut off her hair to buy her husband a watch case. Kate and I sat down at a table.

She critiqued my first chapter. I wrote from memory, not notes, and discrepancies were expected, I told her. She had four children, not three, for example. She showed me a picture of them as she sat in the middle of her family.

She sat on the steps of what, I presumed, was her house, behind her brood. Her oldest, a twenty-year-old daughter, was studying in London. Kate looked petite compared to the girl, who was big.

Her youngest, an autistic boy, sat shyly next to her. Her third child, also a boy, was in therapy. Her oldest son was eighteen and a young man. He was big for his age, wore an open white shirt, and a red bowtie, untied at his neck. My memory could be wrong again, since Kate talked fast, when she described the picture.

We’ll lay off the psychology stuff, she said, as she outlined plans for this book. That meant social work was fair game. As usual, I steered her toward descriptions of her career. She lapsed into statements about her husband, the restraining order she had on him, and the struggle she went through to keep her family going. The hearing could have involved keeping her family, but she did not talk about it, except to say it went in her favor.

I told her I was in Alcoholics Anonymous and sober twenty-five years. Immediately, she grabbed her car keys to leave. My mention of my membership in A.A. could have been a mistake.

“I knew it,” she said. “You’re a survivor, like me.”

I tried to tell her about the duck hunting, but she wanted to do the talking instead. This concerned me. I valued a woman who could listen. Kate’s mind worked fast. She was bored easily and became impatient with my studious manner of speaking. I picked my words while Kate rattled them off.

“Are you the oldest in your family?” she asked, to take an interest in me. Family was important to her.

“Yes,” I said. “My brother, Tim, is a year younger,” I explained. “I have a sister too,” I went on. “Amy is two years younger than me.”

“The three of you,” Kate said. “How nice.” She said she had to go and dashed off.

I was happy to see her, hoped her financial situation was not harrowing, and was glad she had a warm coat for the winter and money for a breakfast sandwich. She did not have a job and I did not know how an opera singer supported a family of five.

Money was important. It defined our personalities, pursuits, and lifestyles. Poverty was stultifying.

Children were expensive. Schooling, social needs, food, shelter, and clothing for a family of five were out of my league. These needs, in an upscale neighborhood, like the one around Starbucks, were prohibitive for most people.

Still, I nurtured my relationship with Kate. My A.A. sponsor claimed I thought a one-minute talk with a bus driver was a relationship. He changed his mind, as I described Kate, our developing friendship, and the fact both of us wanted to pursue it. Our schedules stood in the way.

“I am free Saturday. Lunch?” I messaged her on Facebook.

“Can’t do weekends. Sorry,” she sent back. “Loved the photo.” I sent her a picture of me holding our hunting dog, Maddie. I was in the boat, in the sun, with duck decoys at my feet, and the dog under my arm.

I have not tried to contact her since. I believed in gestation, giving things a rest, coming up for air, and letting life take its course. I believed in working on a relationship too.

I sent my last message to her Thursday. Today was Sunday. I ushered at church and was ushering for a choral performance at church this evening. I wrote this from memory at Brugger’s Bagels.

I missed her animated, proud talk of the battle she fought for her dignity, family, and self-respect. I loved it when she leaned back, over her coffee cup, and appraised me, as if to say, here’s what we’re going to do. She was taking my measure.


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