By Linda McMullen
Ashley stood in front of the Cla-Zel Theatre, one fishnet-stockinged leg crossed behind the other, watching drunken freshmen stagger up Main Street in search of existential meaning, or late-night pizza. She had gotten the call that the regular Columbia had gotten stuck in traffic on her way back from Chicago, and – hoping against hope – she had assembled her painstakingly acquired costume pieces and hustled downtown to the marquis that read
Rocky Horror Picture Show
But Wendy – the real Columbia – had not only arrived in time, she had also acquired a bespoke wig for her role. Steven, the manager, had apologized, and had offered Ashley a free ticket. But now the thought of staying – of throwing toast, squirting water, and wriggling through the dance numbers, again –
She looked up and down Main Street, ran through the list of BG mainstays, the forthright, square storefronts, beads on a ‘50s-esque string. I need a new plan. Grounds for Thought was closing or closed; Easy Street Café was invariably straining the fire code’s capacity at this hour.
I could just stay.
Five years before she would have leapt at the chance, as a newly minted Adult, three time zones away from Daniel and his busy prom-night fingers – her born-again mother and the everlasting Josiah – her father’s headstone. A college student. When her mother had asked why she’d chosen such a “random” school, Ashley pled a scholarship. A nice one. She had written her final paper for her American Studies major on how The Rocky Horror Picture Show both subverted and supported sexual and gender stereotypes.
…she recalled, contemplating her fishnets.
She’d stayed before. After graduation she had gotten a job at the registrar’s – “while I’m considering my options,” she’d assured her mother – while the incumbent took time for a new baby. But Nicola had just called to confirm that she’d booked the baby into day care, and would like to return in early June. Ashley’s other applications – to companies in Lima, Toledo, even Columbus – had vanished into the echoes. The market for American Studies BAs remained Ally McBeal thin.
The few friends she’d made in undergrad had moved on. No one to meet her at Campus Pollyeyes to mindlessly consume stuffed breadsticks on a Saturday night. She sighed.
Maybe I can find something at the financial aid office, she mused. They must be coming into their busy season. One more year, until I find a new idea.
She headed back into the theatre, after all. To do the Time Warp again.
About the Author: Linda McMullen is a wife, mother, diplomat, and homesick Wisconsinite. Her short stories and the occasional poem have appeared in over one hundred literary magazines. She received Pushcart and Best of the Net nominations in 2020. She may be found on Twitter: @LindaCMcMullen.
Artwork by: Parietal Imagination Art.