Chapter 1

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“All I can say is, you’re the cutest grievance committee I’ve ever dealt with.”

I coiled the rope once more around my hand and pulled tighter.

All I had to do is imagine I was hanging someone, that pulling this rope is what held them there.

In reality, I was just pulling on the string holding a long red curtain shut. A little extra motivation doesn’t hurt, especially while my thespian comrades around me had no idea what was going through my head. There isn’t all that much else to do but use your imagination, as you sit there, line after line, holding the ghetto curtain shut while the actors get to occupy themselves with the show.

My name’s Josh Reed. I’m an assistant stage manager for the drama department of Blake View High School, and the show we’re rehearsing is The Pajama Game.

Well, they’re rehearsing. I’m hanging. On a rope. With all the force that a two-hundred-and-ten-pound Josh can exert. I kept the rope of the traveler twined around my plastic-knuckled gloves. My hands almost looked like two black-shelled turtles tied together. And they felt even worse. The plastic knuckles protected the backs of my hands, but not the fronts, which were made of cloth--fingerless, and borderline useless.  

“Traveler in five!” hissed the commanding voice of our stage manager, Cassandra Braddock. She’s a slightly reserved ginger, with an IQ that’s probably closer to my weight, and a tendency to talk faster than normal people. While I have tons of respect for her, I’m suspicious that it may be one-sided.

I waited four seconds--it takes a full second just to stop holding it shut and start drawing it.

A rush of girls came from backstage and crowded the corner of the wing, just offstage—right where I was standing. I tried to keep out of the way. They were preparing for a number called “I’m Not At All In Love,” which should be nominated for the academy award of “wittiest title of the year.”

The cue to start the music arrived right on time, as I finished opening the curtain.

With the curtain finally open, I sat with my back against the wall opposite the traveler, about six feet away. Being six foot four—tall to the point where it’s almost obnoxious—I was still able to see most of what was going on out on the stage.

Finally having a moment to rest, I leaned back and rested my head against the cold, black, cinder-block wall. I let my eyes rest for a few minutes and listened to the lead singer as she caroled.

“I’m not, at all in love, not at all, in love, oh no…”

“She’s not, at all in love, not at all, in love, not she…”

“Josh, hey!”

I shook myself awake, feeling a momentary falling sensation. It had seriously only been two minutes and I was already dozing?

Even worse, I realized I had been leaning my head on the side of Cassandra’s chair. She nudged me away, and I stood up quickly, feeling my face heat up in embarrassment.

“Sorry, dude,” I whispered. Suddenly, the song began to sound different. It wasn’t something they were doing, it was me. By the time I realized I was having a head rush from standing up too fast, I was already hearing everything echo along with the blood rushing to my head.

“…you’ll know from the way that I shout it!”

“You’re shouting…”

“I haven’t fallen…”

“She hasn’t fallen…”

“Josh, hey! JOSH!”

“Council adjourn.”

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