Sunday, May 20, 2001

I had an idea for a short story about a couple who are interpretive dance artists. The only gigs they can get are performing at grade school assemblies, doing versions of Peter and the Wolf, or the story of the First Thanksgiving. They keep applying for NEA grants, but are never approved.

One day, they're sitting at home in their trailer drinking Buds and watching cartoons (not much else for unemployed interpretive dance artists to do in the off season) when they get an idea for a new interpretive dance masterpiece: "The Tweety Chronicles."

They set about making elaborate costumes. He's covered in black and white fur, and with the final addition of a big pink nose and whiskers, he's transformed into Sylvester the Cat. Her shawl, baggy dress, gray wig, and glasses quickly transform her into the Grandmother. Their only set piece is a bird cage set atop a tall poll, containing a little yellow stuffed bird.

Their first performance of the new show is a near disaster from an artistic viewpoint, but the fourth grade audience goes wild with appreciation, cheering each time Sylvester gets close to eating the bird, and just about booing the Grandmother off the stage.

Word spreads around town about the performance, and before long they receive a phone call inviting them to perform The Tweety Chronicles at a local dinner theatre (they need a replacement show real quick when their Felix Unger goes in for an emergency appendectomy and their Oscar Madison starts showing up for performances already drunk).

A whole series of dances are created, each based on a classic Sylvester and Tweety cartoon. They play to sold out shows night after night. They're booked on a regional tour of dinner theatres and life is great.

They upgrade their Tweety to include a light bulb hidden in the cage, just under the bird, giving it a mysterious glowing effect. The money is rolling in, and they move out of the trailer park and rent a small house in the suburbs. They even get cable.

Then, when they're about to make their big New York debut, they receive a couple of visitors backstage: The lawyers from Warner Brothers. They're served an injunction preventing them from performing any shows based on Warner's copyrighted characters. A near riot erupts when the audience for that night's show is turned away.

At their next scheduled gig they try to do the same dances, but out of costume, and to different music. Another near riot forces them to leave the theatre through the sewer lines. The rest of the tour is cancelled.

They return home to find their house vandalized, with "Plagiarizers" and "Copyright Infringers" spray painted on all the walls. They call one of their biggest supporters through the years, the Principal of G.W. Carver Elementary School, to see if they can do the Thanksgiving show. Their calls go un-returned.

The spiral downwards is like lightning. Before long they're sleeping in an alleyway, drinking wine out of a box, and fighting about whose fault it is that their lives have come to this. They start to argue, and then the fight starts to get physical.

They stand and go after each other with fists a-flying. But they're each so hungry and drunk that they can't land a punch. Instead they just dance around each other, waving their arms and legs. They look at each other, then themselves, and they smile, as they each come to the realization that what has kept them together is the spirit of dance, and that as long as they keep the spirit of dance alive, they'll be alright.

Final scene takes us to a different town, several months later. The faces of smiling children fill an elementary school auditorium. On stage are our heroes dancing out Peter and the Wolf. But this time, the Wolf looks suspiciously like Wile E. Coyote.

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