Billy stood in the middle of the room, as if on stage. “And here’s what I have in mind for the Jerry who gets bayonetted.” He enacted a dramatic death scene, which caused Gabriel to howl with amusement. Billy then mimed what he imagined to be a French fisherman, motoring his boat, cutting the engine, and then throwing a line over the side – and immediately hooking a large, slippery fish that eventually pulled him overboard.
“You’re not going to have time for all that,” his older brother Mickey protested. “And you can’t overdo it. It’s not supposed to be funny.”
“Okay, so I’ll tone it down.” Billy mimed using a smaller pole and catching a smaller fish.
“We still need a role for me,” Gabriel reminded them. “I don’t want to be Jerry Number Two in no-man’s-land – he doesn’t have any lines.”
“Gabriel’s right,” said Amy. “The plot was his idea, so he needs a good part.”
“How about the ghost of his friend?”
“We decided – no ghosts,” said Tommy. “There’s no time for it. It’s already way too long. We can’t add more roles.”
“How about the captain of the ship that picks him up?” suggested Billy.
“That happens off-stage,” said Tommy. “We could add a second fisherman.”
“Nah,” said Gabriel.
“How about a farmer at the end?”
Gabriel frowned at the idea.
“I have it!” cried Amy, jumping to her feet. “You can open and close the play! With a prologue and epilogue! My mom took me to see Rom – a Shakespeare play this summer, and there was a guy who came out and told everyone what the play was going to be about and then made a comment at the end.”
“What was the play?” asked Tommy.
“Something with a lot of fighting in it,” said Amy, causing Lillian to smile.
Tommy sat up. “That’s a great idea. Gabriel can tell the audience exactly where and when it takes place and what’s going on. That’ll save us time, too.
“That’ll solve a lot of our problems,” said Mickey. “How about it Gabriel?”
“Hmm,” he said, rubbing his chin, Henry-like. “Could be interesting. What about a costume?”
“You could be a Father Time sort of character,” said Amy, “or a WWI soldier – a doughboy.”
“Or Father Christmas,” offered Billy. “Or all three.”
“What will I say?” asked Gabriel.
“You’ll set the scene and describe the basic plot,” said Tommy.
Mickey was writing down the ideas as fast as he could. “And at the end you can say a few words about war and Christmas.”
“And say something nice at the very end,” said Billy. “Like Tiny Tim.” He spoke out of one side of his mouth in a cockney accent so thick he could barely be understood. “‘God bless us. Everyone!’”
Tommy looked slightly worried as he watched Billy. “Or maybe just wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Keep it simple.”
“And we’ll write it in poetic language, so it really stands out,” added Amy. “Let’s all bring some ideas and lines of poetry to work on next time. This is going to be great!”
“We’ll ask Henry for some ideas on Thursday,” suggested Gabriel. “He’ll have some real humdingers. Some real doozies!”
Tommy groaned and realized that letting Gabriel have the final lines could be a big mistake. “You can’t mess up, Gabriel. Especially with the ending. It wraps up the play, so it’s really important.” He turned to Amy. “Maybe it’s not such a good idea.”
“Think you can memorize poetic lines, Gabe?” asked Mickey.
“Or,” said Amy, holding her finger up, “we could make a scroll and you could read the Prologue, or refer to it if you forget. Like a prop. And we’ll keep the Epilogue short and sweet – easy to remember. Our time will be up, and everyone will want to have punch and snacks by then. One line, and then Merry Christmas! Something like that.”
“Swell!” said Gabriel. “That’ll leave more time for acting. I think I’ll be a wounded Father Christmas from the Great War.” He brought his mug to the kitchen table, dragging his leg behind him.
“We’ll work out the details later,” said Tommy, cracking his knuckles.
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