Chapter no 91 – ‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌Understudy‌


Via brought home three tickets to her school play a few days after Daisy died. We never mentioned the fight we had over dinner again. On the night of the play, right before she and Justin were leaving to get to their school early, she gave me a big hug and told me she loved me and she was proud to be my sister.

This was my first time in Via’s new school. It was much bigger than her old school, and a thousand times bigger than my school. More hallways. More room for people. The only really bad thing about my bionic Lobot hearing aids was the fact that I couldn’t wear a baseball cap anymore. In situations like these, baseball caps come in really handy. Sometimes I wish I could still get away with wearing that old astronaut helmet I used to wear when I was little. Believe it or not, people would think seeing a kid in an astronaut helmet was a lot less weird than seeing my face. Anyway, I kept my head down as I walked right behind Mom through the long bright hallways.

We followed the crowd to the auditorium, where students handed out programs at the front entrance. We found seats in the fifth row, close to the middle. As soon as we sat down, Mom started looking inside her pocketbook.

“I can’t believe I forgot my glasses!” she said.

Dad shook his head. Mom was always forgetting her glasses, or her keys, or something or other. She is flaky that way.

“You want to move closer?” said Dad.

Mom squinted at the stage. “No, I can see okay.” “Speak now or forever hold your peace,” said Dad. “I’m fine,” answered Mom.

“Look, there’s Justin,” I said to Dad, pointing out Justin’s picture in the program.

“That’s a nice picture of him,” he answered, nodding. “How come there’s no picture of Via?” I said.

“She’s an understudy,” said Mom. “But, look: here’s her name.” “Why do they call her an understudy?” I asked.

“Wow, look at Miranda’s picture,” said Mom to Dad. “I don’t think I would have recognized her.”

“Why do they call it understudy?” I repeated.

“It’s what they call someone who replaces an actor if he can’t perform for some reason,” answered Mom.

“Did you hear Martin’s getting remarried?” Dad said to Mom. “Are you kidding me?!” Mom answered, like she was surprised. “Who’s Martin?” I asked.

“Miranda’s father,” Mom answered, and then to Dad: “Who told you?”

“I ran into Miranda’s mother in the subway. She’s not happy about it. He has a new baby on the way and everything.”

“Wow,” said Mom, shaking her head. “What are you guys talking about?” I said. “Nothing,” answered Dad.

“But why do they call it understudy?” I said.

“I don’t know, Auggie Doggie,” Dad answered. “Maybe because the actors kind of study under the main actors or something? I really don’t know.”

I was going to say something else but then the lights went down.

The audience got very quiet very quickly.

“Daddy, can you please not call me Auggie Doggie anymore?” I whispered in Dad’s ear.

Dad smiled and nodded and gave me a thumbs-up.

The play started. The curtain opened. The stage was completely empty except for Justin, who was sitting on an old rickety chair tuning his fiddle. He was wearing an old-fashioned type of suit and a straw hat.

“This play is called ‘Our Town,’ ” he said to the audience. “It was written by Thornton Wilder; produced and directed by Philip Davenport.… The name of the town is Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire—just across the Massachusetts line: latitude 42 degrees 40 minutes; longitude 70 degrees 37 minutes. The First Act shows a day in our town. The day is May 7, 1901. The time is just before dawn.”

I knew right then and there that I was going to like the play. It wasn’t like other school plays I’ve been to, like The Wizard of Oz or Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. No, this was grown-up seeming, and I felt smart sitting there watching it.

A little later in the play, a character named Mrs. Webb calls out for her daughter, Emily. I knew from the program that that was the part

Miranda was playing, so I leaned forward to get a better look at her. “That’s Miranda,” Mom whispered to me, squinting at the stage

when Emily walked out. “She looks so different.…” “It’s not Miranda,” I whispered. “It’s Via.”

“Oh my God!” said Mom, lurching forward in her seat. “Shh!” said Dad.

“It’s Via,” Mom whispered to him.

“I know,” whispered Dad, smiling. “Shhh!”

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