©  Copyright Rachell Elaine Jackson.  All Rights Reserved.  Website design and hosting by North Mobile Internet Services, Inc.

Starrin’…Loretta Padgett!

Prologue

On stage; spring, 7th Grade The name of the assembly play was The Corpse that Died Twice. Loretta Padgett was the main character—in a way. She was the corpse. And she died a lot more than twice that fateful evening. She was backstage in the tiny theatre space, which was stuffed into one end of the cafeteria in the Garden District Middle School in sultry New Orleans. And she was peering through a rip in the curtain, watching parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other students filing into the “auditorium” and filling the hard, folding chairs on the lunchroom floor. They had paid their ten dollars that would help mend the tear Loretta was lengthening with each tug, and they were seating themselves to catch a glimpse of their sons and daughters and nieces and nephews and friends preening on the stage. Mrs. Owens, the social studies teacher and novice play director, had painted Loretta’s face and hands a pasty green color so she would look like a dead body under the stage lights. Two of the other characters in the play were to “kill” her early in the action and spend the rest of the time trying to dispose of her body. But each method of disposal was to fail and, in the end, the body was to come back to life, sit up, and moan in an eerie fashion, “Who’s been movin’ my body?” whereupon one of the “murderers” was to have a heart attack and die on stage, while the other was to go insane. Suellen, Loretta’s closest friend and the prettiest girl in school, or possibly second to the popular Molly Blankenship, was the romantic lead and the one who would marry the handsome hero and inherit a fortune. Suellen always got roles like that while Loretta always got roles like “the body.” Loretta was taller and heavier than Suellen and not nearly as attractive. It was the heavier part that bothered Harv and Jimbo. They had to carry her “lifeless” body. Throughout most of the play, Loretta was the perfect corpse. The “murderers” bumped her head on the floor—twice—when they tried to stuff her into a trunk that was too small for her. But she did not scream, or moan, or open her eyes. Later, when Harv and Jimbo tried to lift her onto the table, Jimbo dropped one of her legs, which got caught between the table and a chair. As the boys tugged at it, Loretta suffered the sharp pain quietly, though she cursed silently to herself. When the play is over, she thought, I’m going to scream so loud, houses will shake and windows will shatter! After a struggle, Loretta’s limb was finally hoisted onto the table with the rest of her, and she was covered with a sheet. The play was nearing its end, and her great moment—the time for her to speak her only line—was close. All the bumps and bruises were forgotten as her stomach began to churn with a growing case of stage fright. Unfortunately, that was not the worst of it. Jimbo was not the brightest kid in school. Tall, stocky, with red hair that always stood straight up in the back and enough freckles to sink a battleship, he did not seem capable of being serious about anything—including at this point in the play. As Harv recited his lines mechanically, Jimbo surreptitiously raised Loretta’s sheet slightly and whispered to her, “How ya doin’ under there, ‘Retta? You know, I can see your belly movin’ up and down. Dead people’s bellies don’t move up and down like that. So how come your belly’s movin’ up and down?” Loretta thought she would croak. She started to respond, but remembered she was supposed to be dead. Jimbo dropped the sheet for his few lines. Then, as Harv launched into another monologue, Jimbo lifted the sheet again, winking under it at Loretta. “’Retta, it’s your line,” he said. “My line?” she asked silently mouthing the words. Jimbo smiled and nodded. “My line?!” Loretta shouted as she shot up into a sitting position and glared at Jimbo. “Now?” In the middle of a long speech, Harv paused just long enough to shove Loretta back down, saying, “Not now, Loretta,” and picked up where he had left off. There were a few chuckles from the audience. They were not sure if that had been part of the play or a miscue. Either way, it was funny. Or so some thought. Jimbo lifted the sheet again but, before he could speak, Loretta grabbed the dangling end of his tie and jerked his face toward hers. “Jimbo,” she sternly said in a stage whisper, “When I get out of here, I’m gonna pull those freckles off your face one-by-one.” “It’s your line, ‘Retta,” he replied, grinning mischievously. “Oh, no, you don’t, you crud!” she said. “I’m not fallin’ for that a second time.” “I’m not kiddin’, ‘Retta.” “Jimbo!” Harv leaned under the sheet. “Any day now, Loretta.” “M-m-my line?” she asked shaking. “It’s my line?” Harv answered between gritted teeth. “Yes, Loretta. It’s your line.” The audience began to snicker. The two boys onstage had their heads under the raised sheet, but no one was speaking aloud. Standing backstage, Mrs. Owens was in near panic. This was the first play she had directed. She wanted it to be so good. She wanted it to be great. “Loretta!” she shrieked loudly enough for the entire auditorium to hear. “Say your line!” Okay, okay, Loretta thought. Don’t get all bent out of shape. I’ll say it already. She slowly raised herself to a sitting position, as was the plan, and turned to face her “murderers.” She was still holding Jimbo’s tie, and he was not going to let this opportunity pass. Turning his back to the audience and facing Loretta directly, he stuck out his tongue, crossed his eyes, and held his breath, pretending he was choking. His face ballooned into a big, red ball. Loretta’s mind went blank. She opened her mouth, but nothing came out. Shock registered on her face. Jimbo had distracted her, and she had forgotten her line. Confused thoughts raced through her mind. She thought about the math homework that was waiting for her at home. She thought about the wallpaper that was peeling off in a corner of her bedroom. She even thought about how embarrassing it was to be sitting in front of a hundred and fifty paying customers, including her father, mother, and younger brother, and not remember what to say. Everything she had ever felt or thought passed before her. Everything, that is, except that crummy little line! Harv went into shock and stood riveted and rigid. “Loretta,” he whispered angrily out of the side of his mouth. “You’re makin’ me look bad.” Jimbo leaned over Loretta and laughed in her face. Nothing could have made the situation worse for her. Well, almost nothing. Mrs. Owens nervously squirmed and bit her lower lip fiercely. “Who’s been movin’ my body, Loretta?” she half-whispered. “That’s your line. Say it. Say it!” “Say it?” Loretta questioned. “‘Say it’ is not my line. I don’t think.” A painful groan arose from her throat. Harv was still standing like a robot while Jimbo was engulfed in laughter. The audience began to mumble aloud and chortle. A small kid in the front row knew her line. “Who’s been movin’ my body?” he shouted. It was Tadpole, her brother. He had helped her with her single line so often that he knew it. But she didn’t. Loretta heard him. The audience heard him. The entire Garden District had probably heard him. She opened her mouth again to speak, but some things just don’t come out right—especially when you’re on stage in front of all your relatives, friends, neighbors, and strangers. “Who’s … who’s been bodyin’ my move?” she said. She knew immediately that was wrong, but she didn’t know which part was wrong. Maybe it was all wrong. The audience now began to understand that there was a lengthy blooper taking place onstage. There were chuckles, titters, and soon giggles and laugh-out-louders. Cackles and roars rang up and down the room. Two girls in the back row shouted, “That’s Loretta Padgett! Loretta Padgett is a ninny!” Bewildered and embarrassed, Loretta could not think clearly. She sank back down on the table and pulled the sheet up over her face, hoping that the curtain would fall or that she would wake up and find it had all been a bad dream. But the curtain did not fall. And it was not a dream. Mrs. Owens was determined to bring a happy ending to an otherwise dismal situation. Standing in the wings, she called to Loretta, “Say it again, Loretta.” Then louder. “Say it right!” Loretta froze for what seemed like an entire semester. Urged on in full view of the audience, though, she had little choice. She pulled herself together as best she could and rose up mysteriously. The audience grew quiet. She had their attention again. She had an opportunity to redeem herself. In a weak, cracking voice, she mummered, “Movin’ whose body you with?” That was it. The audience went wild. They laughed, they clapped their hands, they stomped their feet. One woman laughed so hard she actually fell out of her chair and onto the man sitting next to her. It was funny. It was hysterical. Never mind that this was a serious play, or that the girl under the sheet was dying many times over. Click here to find out how to purchase this book.
©  Copyright Rachell Elaine Jackson.  All Rights Reserved.  Website design and hosting by North Mobile Internet Services, Inc.

Starrin’…Loretta

Padgett!

Prologue

On stage; spring, 7th Grade The name of the assembly play was The Corpse that Died Twice. Loretta Padgett was the main character—in a way. She was the corpse. And she died a lot more than twice that fateful evening. She was backstage in the tiny theatre space, which was stuffed into one end of the cafeteria in the Garden District Middle School in sultry New Orleans. And she was peering through a rip in the curtain, watching parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other students filing into the “auditorium” and filling the hard, folding chairs on the lunchroom floor. They had paid their ten dollars that would help mend the tear Loretta was lengthening with each tug, and they were seating themselves to catch a glimpse of their sons and daughters and nieces and nephews and friends preening on the stage. Mrs. Owens, the social studies teacher and novice play director, had painted Loretta’s face and hands a pasty green color so she would look like a dead body under the stage lights. Two of the other characters in the play were to “kill” her early in the action and spend the rest of the time trying to dispose of her body. But each method of disposal was to fail and, in the end, the body was to come back to life, sit up, and moan in an eerie fashion, “Who’s been movin’ my body?” whereupon one of the “murderers” was to have a heart attack and die on stage, while the other was to go insane. Suellen, Loretta’s closest friend and the prettiest girl in school, or possibly second to the popular Molly Blankenship, was the romantic lead and the one who would marry the handsome hero and inherit a fortune. Suellen always got roles like that while Loretta always got roles like “the body.” Loretta was taller and heavier than Suellen and not nearly as attractive. It was the heavier part that bothered Harv and Jimbo. They had to carry her “lifeless” body. Throughout most of the play, Loretta was the perfect corpse. The “murderers” bumped her head on the floor—twice—when they tried to stuff her into a trunk that was too small for her. But she did not scream, or moan, or open her eyes. Later, when Harv and Jimbo tried to lift her onto the table, Jimbo dropped one of her legs, which got caught between the table and a chair. As the boys tugged at it, Loretta suffered the sharp pain quietly, though she cursed silently to herself. When the play is over, she thought, I’m going to scream so loud, houses will shake and windows will shatter! After a struggle, Loretta’s limb was finally hoisted onto the table with the rest of her, and she was covered with a sheet. The play was nearing its end, and her great moment—the time for her to speak her only line—was close. All the bumps and bruises were forgotten as her stomach began to churn with a growing case of stage fright. Unfortunately, that was not the worst of it. Jimbo was not the brightest kid in school. Tall, stocky, with red hair that always stood straight up in the back and enough freckles to sink a battleship, he did not seem capable of being serious about anything—including at this point in the play. As Harv recited his lines mechanically, Jimbo surreptitiously raised Loretta’s sheet slightly and whispered to her, “How ya doin’ under there, ‘Retta? You know, I can see your belly movin’ up and down. Dead people’s bellies don’t move up and down like that. So how come your belly’s movin’ up and down?” Loretta thought she would croak. She started to respond, but remembered she was supposed to be dead. Jimbo dropped the sheet for his few lines. Then, as Harv launched into another monologue, Jimbo lifted the sheet again, winking under it at Loretta. “’Retta, it’s your line,” he said. “My line?” she asked silently mouthing the words. Jimbo smiled and nodded. “My line?!” Loretta shouted as she shot up into a sitting position and glared at Jimbo. “Now?” In the middle of a long speech, Harv paused just long enough to shove Loretta back down, saying, “Not now, Loretta,” and picked up where he had left off. There were a few chuckles from the audience. They were not sure if that had been part of the play or a miscue. Either way, it was funny. Or so some thought. Jimbo lifted the sheet again but, before he could speak, Loretta grabbed the dangling end of his tie and jerked his face toward hers. “Jimbo,” she sternly said in a stage whisper, “When I get out of here, I’m gonna pull those freckles off your face one-by-one.” “It’s your line, ‘Retta,” he replied, grinning mischievously. “Oh, no, you don’t, you crud!” she said. “I’m not fallin’ for that a second time.” “I’m not kiddin’, ‘Retta.” “Jimbo!” Harv leaned under the sheet. “Any day now, Loretta.” “M-m-my line?” she asked shaking. “It’s my line?” Harv answered between gritted teeth. “Yes, Loretta. It’s your line.” The audience began to snicker. The two boys onstage had their heads under the raised sheet, but no one was speaking aloud. Standing backstage, Mrs. Owens was in near panic. This was the first play she had directed. She wanted it to be so good. She wanted it to be great. “Loretta!” she shrieked loudly enough for the entire auditorium to hear. “Say your line!” Okay, okay, Loretta thought. Don’t get all bent out of shape. I’ll say it already. She slowly raised herself to a sitting position, as was the plan, and turned to face her “murderers.” She was still holding Jimbo’s tie, and he was not going to let this opportunity pass. Turning his back to the audience and facing Loretta directly, he stuck out his tongue, crossed his eyes, and held his breath, pretending he was choking. His face ballooned into a big, red ball. Loretta’s mind went blank. She opened her mouth, but nothing came out. Shock registered on her face. Jimbo had distracted her, and she had forgotten her line. Confused thoughts raced through her mind. She thought about the math homework that was waiting for her at home. She thought about the wallpaper that was peeling off in a corner of her bedroom. She even thought about how embarrassing it was to be sitting in front of a hundred and fifty paying customers, including her father, mother, and younger brother, and not remember what to say. Everything she had ever felt or thought passed before her. Everything, that is, except that crummy little line! Harv went into shock and stood riveted and rigid. “Loretta,” he whispered angrily out of the side of his mouth. “You’re makin’ me look bad.” Jimbo leaned over Loretta and laughed in her face. Nothing could have made the situation worse for her. Well, almost nothing. Mrs. Owens nervously squirmed and bit her lower lip fiercely. “Who’s been movin’ my body, Loretta?” she half-whispered. “That’s your line. Say it. Say it!” “Say it?” Loretta questioned. “‘Say it’ is not my line. I don’t think.” A painful groan arose from her throat. Harv was still standing like a robot while Jimbo was engulfed in laughter. The audience began to mumble aloud and chortle. A small kid in the front row knew her line. “Who’s been movin’ my body?” he shouted. It was Tadpole, her brother. He had helped her with her single line so often that he knew it. But she didn’t. Loretta heard him. The audience heard him. The entire Garden District had probably heard him. She opened her mouth again to speak, but some things just don’t come out right—especially when you’re on stage in front of all your relatives, friends, neighbors, and strangers. “Who’s … who’s been bodyin’ my move?” she said. She knew immediately that was wrong, but she didn’t know which part was wrong. Maybe it was all wrong. The audience now began to understand that there was a lengthy blooper taking place onstage. There were chuckles, titters, and soon giggles and laugh- out-louders. Cackles and roars rang up and down the room. Two girls in the back row shouted, “That’s Loretta Padgett! Loretta Padgett is a ninny!” Bewildered and embarrassed, Loretta could not think clearly. She sank back down on the table and pulled the sheet up over her face, hoping that the curtain would fall or that she would wake up and find it had all been a bad dream. But the curtain did not fall. And it was not a dream. Mrs. Owens was determined to bring a happy ending to an otherwise dismal situation. Standing in the wings, she called to Loretta, “Say it again, Loretta.” Then louder. “Say it right!” Loretta froze for what seemed like an entire semester. Urged on in full view of the audience, though, she had little choice. She pulled herself together as best she could and rose up mysteriously. The audience grew quiet. She had their attention again. She had an opportunity to redeem herself. In a weak, cracking voice, she mummered, “Movin’ whose body you with?” That was it. The audience went wild. They laughed, they clapped their hands, they stomped their feet. One woman laughed so hard she actually fell out of her chair and onto the man sitting next to her. It was funny. It was hysterical. Never mind that this was a serious play, or that the girl under the sheet was dying many times over. Click here to find out how to purchase this book.
RachellElaineJackson

Author of middle grade books for tweens and teens

RachellElaineJackson

Author of middle grade books for tweens and teens