Alex Patriquin

Marginalia & found poetry. Short fiction and other projects. Musings  on startups. Photos from NYC and travels.

The Great Silence

The humans use Arecibo to look for extraterrestrial intelligence. Their desire to make a connection is so strong that they’ve created an ear capable of hearing across the universe.

But I and my fellow parrots are right here. Why aren’t they interested in listening to our voices?

We’re a non-human species capable of communicating with them. Aren’t we exactly what humans are looking for?

The universe is so vast that intelligent life must surely have arisen many times. The universe is also so old that even one technological species would have had time to expand and fill the galaxy. Yet there is no sign of life anywhere except on Earth. Humans call this the Fermi paradox.

One proposed solution to the Fermi paradox is that intelligent species actively try to conceal their presence, to avoid being targeted by hostile invaders.

Speaking as a member of a species that has been driven nearly to extinction by humans, I can attest that this is a wise strategy.
It makes sense to remain quiet and avoid attracting attention.

The Fermi paradox is sometimes known as the Great Silence. The universe ought to be a cacophony of voices, but instead it’s disconcertingly quiet.

Some humans theorize that intelligent species go extinct before they can expand into outer space. If they’re correct, then the hush of the night sky is the silence of a graveyard.

Hundreds of years ago, my kind was so plentiful that the Rio Abajo forest resounded with our voices. Now we’re almost gone. Soon this rainforest may be as silent as the rest of the universe.

There was an African Grey Parrot named Alex. He was famous for his cognitive abilities. Famous among humans, that is.

A human researcher named Irene Pepperberg spent thirty years studying Alex. She found that not only did Alex know the words for shapes and colors, he actually understood the concepts of shape and color.

Many scientists were skeptical that a bird could grasp abstract concepts. Humans like to think they’re unique. But eventually Pepperberg convinced them that Alex wasn’t just repeating words, that he understood what he was saying.

Out of all my cousins, Alex was the one who came closest to being taken seriously as a communication partner by humans.

Alex died suddenly, when he was still relatively young. The evening before he died, Alex said to Pepperberg, “You be good. I love you.”
If humans are looking for a connection with a non-human intelligence, what more can they ask for than that?

Every parrot has a unique call that it uses to identify itself; biologists refer to this as the parrot’s “contact call.”

In 1974, astronomers used Arecibo to broadcast a message into outer space intended to to demonstrate human intelligence. That was humanity’s contact call.

In the wild, parrots address each other by name. One bird imitates another’s contact call to get the other bird’s attention.

If humans ever detect the Arecibo message being sent back to Earth, they will know someone is trying to get their attention.

Parrots are vocal learners: we can learn to make new sounds after we’ve heard them. It’s an ability that few animals possess. A dog may understand dozens of commands, but it will never do anything but bark.

Humans are vocal learners, too. We have that in common. So humans and parrots share a special relationship with sound. We don’t simply cry out. We pronounce. We enunciate.

Perhaps that’s why humans built Arecibo the way they did. A receiver doesn’t have to be a transmitter, but Arecibo is both. It’s an ear for listening, and a mouth for speaking.

Humans have lived alongside parrots for thousands of years, and only recently have they considered the possibility that we might be intelligent.

I suppose I can’t blame them. We parrots used to think humans weren’t very bright. It’s hard to make sense of behavior that’s so different from your own.

But parrots are more similar to humans than any extraterrestrial species will be, and humans can observe us up close; they can look us in the eye. How do they expect to recognize an alien intelligence if all they can do is eavesdrop from a hundred light years away?

It’s no coincidence that “aspiration” means both hope and the act of breathing.

When we speak, we use the breath in our lungs to give our thoughts a physical form. The sounds we make are simultaneously our intentions and our life force.

I speak, therefore I am. Vocal learners, like parrots and humans, are perhaps the only ones who fully comprehend the truth of this.

There’s a pleasure that comes with shaping sounds with your mouth. It’s so primal and visceral that throughout their history, humans have considered the activity a pathway to the divine.
Pythagorean mystics believed that vowels represented the music of the spheres, and chanted to draw power from them.

Pentecostal Christians believe that when they speak in tongues, they’re speaking the language used by angels in Heaven.
Brahmin Hindus believe that by reciting mantras, they’re strengthening the building blocks of reality.

Only a species of vocal learners would ascribe such importance to sound in their mythologies. We parrots can appreciate that.

According to Hindu mythology, the universe was created with a sound: “Om.” It’s a syllable that contains within it everything that ever was and everything that will be.

When the Arecibo telescope is pointed at the space between stars, it hears a faint hum.

Astronomers call that the “cosmic microwave background.” It’s the residual radiation of the Big Bang, the explosion that created the universe fourteen billion years ago.

But you can also think of it as a barely audible reverberation of that original “Om.” That syllable was so resonant that the night sky will keep vibrating for as long as the universe exists.

When Arecibo is not listening to anything else, it hears the voice of creation.

We Puerto Rican Parrots have our own myths. They’re simpler than human mythology, but I think humans would take pleasure from them.

Alas, our myths are being lost as my species dies out. I doubt the humans will have deciphered our language before we’re gone.
So the extinction of my species doesn’t just mean the loss of a group of birds. It’s also the disappearance of our language, our rituals, our traditions. It’s the silencing of our voice.

Human activity has brought my kind to the brink of extinction, but I don’t blame them for it. They didn’t do it maliciously. They just weren’t paying attention.

And humans create such beautiful myths; what imaginations they have. Perhaps that’s why their aspirations are so immense. Look at Arecibo. Any species who can build such a thing must have greatness within it.

My species probably won’t be here for much longer; it’s likely that we’ll die before our time and join the Great Silence. But before we go, we are sending a message to humanity. We just hope the telescope at Arecibo will enable them to hear it.

The message is this:
You be good. I love you.


by Ted Chiang in e-flux journal

Life After Brooklyn

Leroy Martin had just crossed the last ‘To Do’ off his list when his heart exploded. He had gone grocery shopping that morning, paid the bills, called the repairman about the tapping noise coming from the furnace, exchanged the coffee grinder that didn’t make fine enough grounds and picked up his houndstooth knit cap from the same dry cleaner he’d patronized for 25 years.

He was wearing that selfsame knit cap and his rabbit fur-lined gloves when he put his hand on the doorknob to leave his brownstone apartment for a walk around Fort Greene park, and the thin but critical rivulet of blood that had been sustaining Leroy’s 69-year-old life stopped, no longer able to wend its way through the massive clog in his aorta.

Leroy's heart beat twice, air pressure surged, and it literally exploded, with a pop in his chest audible from the hall. His gloved fingers slipped off the doorknob, clutching for his chest, as the door swung shut. He lay supine on his chenille braided rug, where I observed him expire alone, as he had lived lo these many years.

For the first few minutes, Leroy did his best to cry, but only emitted a faint, inarticulate gurgle. As the oxygen supply to his brain dissipated, he began to flicker and passed.

Leroy's last coherent thought was a recognition that he should have seen the mountain beyond the molehill, should have realized he was living like a shut-in, should have befriended his neighbors, volunteered at the library, conciliated with his son and perhaps adopted a rescue dog. It all rushed into his penultimate instant, a full-blood chute of regret.

A few days later, Leroy came into my office. His fate hung on him like a leaden bathrobe as he approached my desk. “Where am I?” he asked.

“The Waiting Center,” I told him. “Department of The Undiscovered, Special Bureau for the Unmissed.”

He looked at me dumbfounded. “Nobody’s looking for you, Leroy,” I explained. “You’re here until somebody finds you... or your corpse decomposes.”

“Is this a dream? Who are you? Where am I?” Leroy demanded, rubbing his sallow forehead.

“Look, Leroy Martins. Here’s your file,” I said, handing him a manilla envelope from the stack on my desk. He began to read and it all unfurled before him. The 35 years as an insurance adjuster at MetLife, the progressive estrangement from his colleagues, forced retirement at 59, resentment directed at neighbors for perceived slights, wife Margaret's cancer and death, and falling out with son over handling of her care, until the present day, when he was left with no one but his precious routine and To Do lists. He looked more anemic with each page.

“Leroy, take a seat,” I said, offering him my chair. “You’re beginning to look like a ghost.”

He sat, and let the file’s contents carelessly slip off his lap. The story of his life fell in disarray on the linoleum floor and he began to shake and whimper “why, why, why” while smacking his skull gently.

“Nevermind all that,” I said to Leroy, intercepting his bony old fist, “I’m sure your stay won’t be long here. A neighbor will call, or maybe your son will miss you or the ConEd man will come next month to turn off the gas and trip over your corpse.”

“My son?” He looked up at me, eyes wide with hope, “how… do you… know my son?”

“It’s all right here in your file, Leroy,” I swept the air, doing my best Ralph Edwards from This Is Your Life. “Don’t worry too much about it. You’ll be very comfortable while you’re here at the Center.”

The Red Hook Crit

I wanted a killer start at the Crit, so I downed a caffeinated energy gel pack before the race start. That was on top of the Six Point IPA that I'd downed a few hours before, a nice recovery gift to myself for qualifying in the heat. It's kind of fucked they call it a "heat" because Red Hook on the last Saturday in March is cold as a witch's tit.

I brought my bike up to the starting line and, from the center of the track, saw the crowd had grown massive this year. That afternoon it was just a bunch of dudes in spandex, sporting an above average percentage of beards, even by Brooklyn standards.

Now with the sun sunk behind the East River and the floodlights on the truck parking lot, the crowd waited at the edge of the racetrack and on top of the trucks as if they were sky boxes.

No cops. The Crit still had that James Dean vibe from the early years, even though Rockstar Energy Drink logos blazed on every surface and riders came all the way from Italy and France for the decent prize money and the pure love of hurtling through a truck parking lot at night on a bike without brakes, alongside 100 other maniacs.

We took position at the starting line, some 99 dudes and the single chick who'd qualified. We were twitching to ride. The dude on my right had a Bianchi Dura Ace and the dude on my left had a Scott Foil Premium. Some serious hardware, but honestly I didn't give a flying fuck. Me and my Fuji roll with the best of them.

"Hey watch it!" somebody yelled and a couple of dudes up front tangled handlebars. The dude with Bianchi made a wisecrack about "lovers locking horns" and a few of us chuckled but mostly we were quiet and focused on the race.

The pacesetter, an old motorcycle, rolled onto the track and scanned the crowd with a headlamp and the crowd leaned back. Somebody said "Let's do this" and, it sounds cliche, but time felt like it literally froze. We were all standing there, ready to push off and the low rumbling from the motorcycle and the chatter from the crowd seemed to trail off and leave a Zen-like silence.  

Then out of nowhere the starting gun fired and the motorcycle ripped a huge snort and the lizard brain kicked in and we were pumping down the straightaway for our lives and the crowd was cheering like crazy.

I caught up with the front group at the first turn, wide and gentle as a wet nurse. These were famous or semi-famous dudes, dudes with Strata sponsor deals and sick cameos in Red Bull commercials, and they were jostling like dogs to set up an early dominance.

We turned and faced the main drag. The crowd was pressed against a steel guard rail, made to keep 18 wheelers on the highway. On the inside, there was a line of orange cones that ended at a hairpin turn, swiveling the course 180 degrees, back to the finish line.

We sped down the main drag, leaning right into the rail, to max out the turn radius. We were inches from the crowd, eye-level, a flashy blur of smiles and smartphones.

"Hey, watch the fuck out!" A dude ahead of me screamed and then I heard it: the crash of bike and bones against steel. 

He went down hard, his helmet flew off, and a spurt of blood flew. The crowd shrieked like banshees but we kept charging. This is what they come for anyways, the blood sport. It's about 10,000 times more exciting than their Sunday morning loop through Prospect Park, apres-lattes.

I glanced back to catch the race officials lifting the dude and his mangled bike off the track, as the peloton came charging through.

The next 13 laps were a blur. We simmered through the turns, so nobody crashed, and my tires sliced through the asphalt like chocolate pudding. It felt good and smooth like fixies do.

I love to ride when I get in the zone. I feel like time sucks down some big drain pipe and it's just me and the road sharing a spliff with nowhere in particular to go. And then there's my bike, a Japanese beauty who speak fluent stone and man and only lets herself known through smiles.

When the lap counter snapped 10, I felt a surge of killer instinct from all the riders around me. We leaned in and pushed momentum and, up ahead, the pros snuck ahead, one quick centimeter at a time. 

That's when my man Bianchi came from behind me, completely out of nowhere, pedaling like a maniac. I saw motherfucking Bianchi's plan. He was going to veer into the cones and take the hairpin on the inside. Fucking crazy, I thought to myself, no way he makes it. Let him go.

Sure enough, Bianchi shit the bed. He slammed his pedals too late and the dude behind him yelled, "Fuck!" They went down together at full speed in an ugly sale of bike and limb.

It was gnarly and I sped across the finish line on pure adrenaline after that. The pros pulled away even more, putting Bianchi a and his amateur nonsense officially behind them.

Somebody yelled, "You got it dude!" and at first I thought he was cheering for the pros, but then I realized the front group was too far ahead. I was on my own, flying between the front and chase groups, and he had to be cheering for me.

At Lap 8, a chick yelled, "Hey, it's that guy!" and her friends cheered for me. As I came around the next few times, a bigger section of crowd was screaming "It's that guy!" and "Lone wolf!"

Somehow I was getting more love than the front group. Each lap I came around, more of the crowd was cheering for me, even though I had no shot at winning

It was crazy. People were throwing their arms up in the air as I sped by, like it was their happiest moment on earth. A group was chanting "Lone wolf! Lone wolf!" in unison. A guy on the roof of a semi did a crazy dance. The Press Corps snuck onto the track to get a shot of me as I came barreling down the pike, and the race officials had to muscle them back. As I took the final lap, the whole crowd did The Wave.

I came in 11th place. After the race, the winners took the awards stage and got handed fat stacks of dollar bills and bottles of champagne. They sprayed each other and the prize babes in a gushing wet mess. It all looked pretty fucking glorious from my place on the loading dock, in the shadows behind the stage.

Anyway, at the after-party some dude saw me and yelled, "Lone wolf!" He and his buddies asked me like a hundred questions about the race and bought my beer. Chicks asked to take their picture with me. One dude said, “Next year, I am going to ride.”

I didn't win The Crit, but you know what? If you don't win, it's good to be popular.



Fifth period. Used to be my favorite. Until Ms. Woodcock began making us all do yoga. Oh, brother.

We used to have recess in the parking lot. We used to play kickball. We used to split up into two teams and play rocks-paper-scissor to see who would go first.

That was before Nathan Mendleton slid into home on asphalt. Why did he do that?!??!!! I don't know. Maybe 'cause he always wanted to be team captain but Bobby Hurstweiler and Ethan Cohen always got picked instead?

His leg looked like somebody had smeared a greasy piece of pizza  from the cafeteria all over it. Like lots of red sauce.

After that we went to music room for yoga at fifth period and took laps around the school at 3:30 instead of having a normal recess like every other school in America. It was pretty lame.

Ok, sometimes it was ok. I kind of liked how everything seemed to glow a little bit after class, but in a weird good way. And one time, Ms. Woodcock bent completely over backwards so that her hands went from above her head to behind her on the ground.

Ms. Woodcock could do moves like that. She was really flexible.

Nathan tried to imitate her and totally fell on his butt once. "Wipe out!" Bobby yelled. I cracked up for the rest of class. Even Ms. Woodcock smiled and had to remind Nathan to breathe deeply and take it easy.

Bobby always rolled his eyes when Ms. Woodcock said yoga stuff. One time she said, "The first principle of yoga is Ahimsa, which means non-harmful."

It means don't hurt anybody or even wish bad stuff happens to anybody or anything. Even a bug. Which is kind of stupid I thought. Bugs are stupid! Who cares if I squashed one?

"I told my mom about Crazycock," Bobby said at lunch. "All that stuff about yoga. She was pissed. So was my dad. They're going to get her fired."

Bobby's dad is a lawyer and they are super-rich.

"Dude, that's awesome!" said Ethan. "No more yoga! We're totally going to get to play kickball again."

They were pumped up for the rest of lunch. I didn't say so but I kind of wanted to do both. Like get rid of Math class so we can do kickball *and* yoga.

On the ride home from school, I asked my Mom if she thought Ms. Woodcock was going to get fired. She looked at me in the rearview mirror and said, "What are you talking about, honey?"

I explained the situation to her. "Yoga is healthy for kids," she said. "I'm going to call Mrs. Hurstweiler tonight and get to the bottom of this."

Two days later, we had a substitute teacher in class and Bobby was bragging to everybody that his dad was going to end yoga forever.

"He's suing the school district," Mom said over dinner. She said the Hurstweilers don't understand yoga. The Hurstweilers think it’ss religious, like fake church, but it's really different.

Mom asked me if I wanted to go to Ms. Woodcock's yoga class for kids at the YMCA the next night.

"I don't know," I said. I really just wanted to play X-Box. She took me anyway. Oh, brother.

"Simon, it's so good to see you!" said Ms. Woodcock. She was really happy and she looked really tired.

We lay on backs for most of yoga class and just breathed in and out. And the end of class, we sat in cross-legged position and Ms. Woodcock asked us if any of us knew the meaning of Ahimsa.

I raised my hand and said, "Non-harmful".

"Very good, Simon!" She super smiled at me. I was awesome at yoga.

Then Ms. Woodcock said that everybody in the world is really a good person but sometimes people forget to practice Ahimsa. She said sometimes people think and do harmful things, but that we need to love these people most of all, because they're hurting on the inside and they don't know how to deal with it, so they harm others.

I thought it was a pretty good talk.

The next morning I was in the boy's bathroom washing my hands when Bobby pushed me into the sink. My head slammed into the mirror and it broke into like a thousand pieces.

I looked at Bobby in the reflection and there was Ethan and like every boy in my class behind him. Then my forehead was bleeding.

"That's what you get for going to Crazycock's yoga class!" Bobby yelled. All the boys ran out of the bathroom.

I started crying because I could feel my heart beat in my forehead. I thought I was going to die.

The substitute teacher heard what was going on and she rushed into the Boy's Room. She took me to the nurse's office down the hall. An ambulance came and took me to the hospital. The doctor put three stitches in my forehead.

Four days later, I went back to school and the principal brought me and Bobby into his office. Bobby apologized but I could tell they made him do it.

I tried to remember what Ms. Woodcock said about some people hurting inside. I told him it was ok.

On the ride home, my mom told me Bobby was going to get expelled. "It’s karma,” she said.

Southern Cooking

The Tennessee sun sliced its way past the shade in my examination room, across my newly framed diploma and disappeared down in the thick stack of Bobby's medical records on my desk. I picked up the latest test results, and the charts showed a red line dive to the 150th percentile below healthy insulin levels, the celebrity signature of diabetes.

I'd felt a sense of levity that morning at the gym, sailing through the air on the treadmill, and my post-workout Guatemalan roast tasted sweetly of bergamot and cashew. My travel mug was still by the sink, and I wanted to tip back the last gulp in the mug and savor its final stimulating warmth.

"Bobby, it's not looking good," I had to tell him, tapping the scale weights up to 255, more than thirty pounds since the last read on the charts. "What's Annie been cooking up there?"

My sister-in-law had a heavy hand with the bacon grease. The stuff found its way into the most unlikely meals, lunch sandwiches and dinner salads.

"Oh, ya know Annie. Greatest cook on Apple Mountain. Her fried chicken and grits brings all them boys to table. Say, Doc, when's the next time you're planning to grace us with a visit?"

I ignored the sarcasm, though my facial muscles twitched involuntarily... an old reflex. It had been a good while since I'd been back to the homestead. The last time, July 4, 2007, my first year of residency, I'd seen enough lewd and illicit behavior to swear off a return. Bearing witness to such wanton drug use, especially around young children, also presented a serious professional concern.

"Get up on the table," I pointed to the stepstool. As he climbed up, his morbid obesity nearly burst my examination gown. I didn't want to see Bobby this way, or at all really, but the bastard had lost his job and let his COBRA expire.

"Listen, tell Annie to cut the grease and to serve more fresh vegetables," I ordered.

"Ha! Good luck with that Petey,” he replied with his usual contempt. “You know she's angling for a big summer cookout season."

"Bobby, we're talking about life and death here." I shoved the chart in front of his face. "Do you see this? It's the insulin level of a normal, healthy adult male."

I drew my finger across the chart and his squinting eyes followed. "Now look here. This is your insulin level... it's dropping off a cliff."

I drew back the clipboard and his brow furrowed. "Bobby," I said, "it's almost certainly the case that you have diabetes."

My brother is not an idiot, but like so many from this rural corner of Tennessee, he is lazy and carries a sense of self-entitlement as it were a badge of honor.

"Diabetes? This mean you can get me on disability?"

I'm not a man that's prone to fits of rage. I pride myself on maintaining a high degree of professionalism, even in difficult situations. But I have never wanted so badly to take my clipboard and slam it down over someone's head.

"Doubt it, Bobby," I managed to reply, somehow accidentally slipping into the Southern stage accent he'd cultivated since high school. "Uncle Sam's been cutting back."

The irony, of course, is that I'd come back to our corner of the country after Vanderbilt, when I could have gone anywhere in the world, specifically to tackle the epidemic's impact on rural populations.

I handed him a fresh yellow pamphlet off the wall: "You've got diabetes. Now what?"

"Take this home and read it to Annie," I told him, "and tell her to read it."

"She is going to kill me," he replied.

She already is, I was about to say, but kept the fact to myself.

Stage Lines

Vera Burghal did her best to ignore the dozen red roses at the edge of her makeup table. They could burn so close to the lightbulbs on the mirror.

There was a knock on her dressing room door.

"Don't let it be Harry," she muttered under her breath, wiping the cold cream off of her crow's feet. "Come in!"

It was Thalia, in costume. "Well, well, looks like someone's got a secret admirer," Thalia winked at her reflection, maneuvering her billowing silk dress around the wardrobe closet.

"Ugh, I wish. At least there would be a bit of mystique," Vera said, drawing a mole with a red pencil on the round of her cheek.

"Come now, honey," Thalia said in her Big Mama accent, "There are lies told simply for the pleasure of lying, as Saint Augustine says."

"Poisons," Vera got into the act, "Venomous thoughts and words! In hearts and minds - That's poisons!"

"Listen," Thalia squealed with porcine relish, "there's going to be a critic from the New Yorker in the house tonight."

"The New Yorker?" Vera whisked some extra mascara off her eyelash. "What would The New Yorker want to do with a threepenny stage in a seaside elbow like this?"

"I don't know. Maybe he's up on vacation with his family. Maybe's he's got a taste for the local shellfish. Who knows? All I know is that Richard wants us all to be fabulous tonight. FAB-U-LOUS," Thalia said, a dead imitation of their flamboyant director.

"Ladies, your adoring public awaits." It was Harry, hovering at the door, ready-to-roll in his white seersucker suit and suspenders.

"Well, hey there Big Daddy!" said Thalia, back in her Southern drawl. "Don't worry 'bout him, honey," she whispered to Vera, standing to leave, "He's just an old dog on the paw for some new tricks."

"Now you best scurry on back to the kitchen, Big Momma," Big Dadddy née Harry chuckled, patting Thalia's ample rear as she flew out of the dressing room. "And check to see that Lacey's got them butter biscuits cookin in the oven!"

"What can I do for you, Harry?" Vera said flatly, doing her best to ignore Harry's grandeur in her mirror.

Harry saw himself, his ridiculous Southern Gentry get-up, the 120 watt bulbs of her dressing table lighting up his liver spots.

"Come, come now, darling." It was poor old Harry again. "I just came to say hello. Let's let the ice between us melt, Vera. I miss you. Truly."

Vera leveled her eyes at him in the mirror. "I know it was you who leaked our little dalliance to the paper, Harry."

Harry shuffled on his feet, heaving deeply. He ambled over by Vera's dressing table. His gaze lingered longer than necessary on the little card affixed to the roses, though Vera's glare did not avert.

"So, what if I did, Vera?” asked Harry, falling into the folding chair. “Will you begrudge a washed-up old man a sliver of your spotlight?"

He is head sank nearly down to his two-tone shoes. Who was this puppy of a man before her? She resisted the urge to lift one his suspenders and shake it like a collar.

There was going to be a critic from the New Yorker in the audience tonight. It wasn't enough that she be in her finest form. She needed Harry to be too.

"Don't talk to me about has-beens," Vera turned towards him and shot daggers. "I've seen plenty of puppy-dog men like you trample into my life and shit on my carpet before."

Harry sprang up, knocking back the folding chair with a clang. He stared into her icy eyes and his jaw hardened.

"You're right, Vera. If anyone doesn't need to hear about has-beens, it's you."

Vera bit inside her lip, but not enough to let him see.

Harry walked to the dressing room door, knocking through boas and dresses. At the door, he wheeled around on his heel. Their eyes locked in the mirror - a pair of caribou about to lock ornate horns.

"Still, I've got to hand it to you, Vera. Even without our “little dalliance”, as you call it, your story makes quite the lede. Despite her age, Ms. Vera Brughal steals the show as the much-younger Maggie in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof."

He turned on his heel again, and slammed the door behind him.

A few minutes later, the backstage lights flickered. She scurried to take her place behind the curtain.