The parents were not at the theater by choice. If they could have been anywhere else, they would have. Their firstborn, a son, was due to graduate Harvard the coming year. Their second, a daughter and classical pianist, was currently touring Europe. Their third daughter, whose young life resembled a series of somersaults into solid brick walls, had wanted to major in drama at Schreckenholm Community College. Desperate to be rid of this disappointing child of theirs, they’d paid for her tuition and studio apartment, and this was where it had led them: to watch her play “The Sound of Music Reinterpreted,” produced with their money.
The local news-reporter, Ted Folpert, stood in the aisle mingling with the city council members. The more affluent newscaster from the next town over was in the back conversing with a TV crew. The parents could do nothing, only smile. “The show must go on,” they sang to each other through clenched teeth. They looped their arms together and strolled to their seats.
They sat in the front row—their daughter’s choice, not theirs. In addition to producing, she was playing the lead role: Maria Rainer. They noticed Ted was seated to their left and quickly huddled together as if engaged in earnest conversation, gazing over the program. A sideways glance gave them a good view of Ted. He’d had a finger up one nostril, and he was now examining the contents. They took this as a good omen.
The program had five typos, including their daughter’s own last name though she had designed and printed the program. The parents sighed.
“We must get her married soon,” the mother said.
“Yes,” said the father.
“Sound of Music Reinterpreted? What does that even mean? Maybe she meant it to be more like, The Notes of Music?”
“The Music’s Notes,” he said, correcting his wife’s grammar. “Or perhaps, it’s meant to be The Music’s Lyrics.”
“I suppose so. But then again, anything would be better than something as absurd as, The Sound of Music Reinterpreted.”
The house lights dimmed, and a hush fell. The curtains parted. Their daughter stood in the middle of the stage, surrounded by five mini beds. She’s fashioned her hair into a beehive, which quickly came undone, slumping forward and covering half of her face. Then, the music began. Hands on her hips, she swayed from side to side, bopping along to the music.
“These are a few of my favorite things,” she sang.
“My mother always loved this song,” whispered the mother.
“So did mine,” said the father.
“I never did care for it,” she said.
“Neither did I,” he replied.
Five pasty twenty-year-olds, who played the von Trapp “children,” jumped from one bed to another. One of them missed and collapsed on the floor with a big thud, not rising again. The other actors kept dancing and singing. (Was the child alright, the parents wondered. There had been quite a tremendous thud. Did he break his ankle or arm?)
Their daughter jumped over the fallen, overgrown child. Her dress split from her exertion, revealing the purple, padded left cup of her bra and her belly button. Oblivious, or perhaps undaunted, she swung the curtains from the fake standing wall partition. “I would like to take these curtains and make them into mouse clothes,” she trilled.
“Won’t father be upset?” clamored the children in unison.
“Not as upset as when he discovers I’ve used his favorite things against him.”
“These are a few of my favorite things…” they sang in unison.
They pranced around, jumping from one bed to the next until the daughter stopped. “I’d like to take you up to the treetops,” she said.
“What if we were to fall and break our necks?” asked one of the children.
“Then, that would be one child fewer to look after.”
The audience laughed. The music started again. “These are a few of my favorite things,” they sang.
The oldest girl of the group ran into the center of the stage. The music changed tempo. She heaved her shoulders and knotted her hands in front of her chest. “I have a confession to make. I want to kiss a boy. What do you think of that?”
“I think I’ll have you slapped so hard you won’t know what hit you.” Their daughter slapped the von Trapp girl. “You slut!”
The audience laughed, uneasily this time. Programs crinkled as people scanned, trying to work out how much of the play was left.
“These are a few of my favorite things,” they sang.
“I would like to take you up to the mountain tops,” she said.
“But what about the guards at the top?”
“Let them shoot us. It’s better to be dead than to live without any hope.”
Theater seats squeaked as the audience shifted.
“These are a few of my favorite things,” they yelled with their arms stretched outward in a victory stance. The auditorium became quiet. Only the actors’ heavy breathing resounded as the curtain dropped.
The curtain rose again. The actors stood and bowed, even the collapsed von Trapp child had resurrected. His shirttail was untucked, a large red welt was swelling on his forehead, and his right arm hung in a sharp angle. The audience applauded, a polite tap-tap-tap of fingertips into palms.
The parents were appalled. The actors had been off-key, the music was splotchy, the overhead lights had blinked non-stop, and five sparrows, trapped in the building, flew around frantically, looking for an exit. Ted Folpert was looking at them, notepad in one hand and a clicking pen in the other. Who knew what the camera crew in the back were doing. The mother stood up, straightening the creases in her skirt. The father wrinkled his nose as if someone in the row behind them had passed gas. They put their hands together and clapped like everyone else.
“Bravo,” they yelled. “Bravo.”
Xenia Taiga lives in southern China with a cockatiel, a turtle and an Englishman. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions and is part of Best Microfiction 2019 Anthology. Her website is http://xeniataiga.com/. Her abstract artwork is available on Etsy.