By John McDonnell
Dolores lost no time when she discovered that Larry had a set of pipes like an extraterrestrial Tony Bennett. She bullied a local banker into giving her a home equity loan, and used the money to pay for a complete overhaul of Murphy’s gin joint. She added mahogany woodwork, a bar with a mirrored backdrop, shelves of liquor with names Murphy couldn’t pronounce, and a staff of cosmetically enhanced waitresses and barmen.
She also put in a dance floor (Murphy thought it was sacrilegious to put such a thing in his establishment) and a stage for Larry and his band.
Murphy took to drinking alone in the back room, watching sports on the big old Zenith that you had to whack a few times to get the picture right.
Larry practiced every day with his band, although Dolores had to monitor him to keep him from turning into a walrus or a team of Clydesdale horses in the middle of a song.
The night of the Grand Opening, Larry went to see Murphy in the back room.
“I can’t go on tonight,” Larry said. “I have stage fright.”
“Tell Dolores,” Murphy said.
“I can’t say no to her.”
“I understand. She tends to swear a lot when people use that word to her.”
“You don’t understand. We don’t use the word ‘no’ on my planet. We prefer to make up elaborate stories to avoid saying no. Our whole civilization is built on saying yes and then avoiding the consequences.”
“You’ll never rule the universe if you can’t say no once in awhile,” Murphy opined.
Just then Dolores peeked in the door. She was dressed like someone who had decided she needed more drama in her life, and her eyes were sparkling so much they could have lit up a small city.
“This is exciting!” she said. “The place is packed. Everybody is here, including the mayor and all of the licensing people we paid off. Oh, and Larry, mother wants to wish you luck.”
Edna walked in and went up to Larry and planted a big kiss on his cheek. “Break a testicle, dear,” she said. “Or, whatever it is that you show business types say to each other.” She opened her enormous black pocketbook and took out an envelope. “This is from that sweet girl who works with rats. Myra, I think her name is. She asked me to give it to you.” She kissed Larry one more time and walked out with Dolores.
Larry opened the envelope, took out a note, and started reading. His face turned ashen, and he moaned. “Myra is breaking up with me. She says I’ve gone Hollywood. ‘You have no time anymore for a simple girl who loves rats,’ she wrote.” His lip started twitching dangerously.
“Larry, calm down,” Murphy said, but it was too late. Larry was on a crying jag, and in minutes he was weeping and gnashing his teeth, a sound that reminded Murphy of a wood chipper in a tornado.
Somehow Murphy got Larry calmed down and into his satin tux, and when the MC announced, “The brother from another galaxy, Larry the Alien!” Larry went out and launched into his first number.
About midway through, however, he noticed Myra sitting rigidly at a table up front, her thick glasses steamed over, her black pageboy hair severe in its reproach of him, and his facial tic came back. The band kept playing, but Larry was fading in and out like a TV set that’s losing reception. The crowd was getting restless, and the band looked at each other quizzically. Larry yanked his tie and jacket off, did a split, launched into “When You’ve Got A Heartache (There Ain’t Nothing You Can Do)” and at the climactic moment there was a shimmer in space-time and Larry changed into a large platter of three-month old Limberger cheese.
There was a silence as the band stopped playing, and into that silence came the sound of thousands of tiny feet scurrying across the floor.
“Rats!” someone shouted. “Look at all the rats!”
Rats were coming from every corner of the building, all converging on the stage. Myra jumped on stage with tears in her eyes, and said, “Larry, forgive me for doubting your love!” but she was drowned out by the sound of hundreds of people scrambling to find the exit. Tables were overturned, bottles crashed to the floor, and the general mood was one of abject terror.
Dolores was holding her own in the decibel department, having already broken several wine glasses with her bravura high C, her pitch climbing just shy of the upper limits of dog hearing.
Murphy could have screamed at how hard it was going to be to pay back that home equity loan now, but he thought he’d better go calm Dolores down before she damaged her vocal cords.
COPYRIGHT JOHN MCDONNELL, 2010. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.