One Month Earlier
Dear Norfolk High School Class of 2009!
It’s your class President, Tish Brinkman (formerly Talson) here to announce the date of our high school reunion! Believe it or not, it’s already been ten years! Crazy, I know. Feels like just yesterday we were all dancing at our Senior Prom to Coldplay!
The reunion will take place on Saturday, June 15th in our beloved Sanctuary Garden. There will also be a fun golf outing for anyone who wants to participate on Friday, June 14th. Feel free to bring the littles before for some pool fun! But the nighttime activities are just for the adults to kick back and reminisce about our good old days at Norfolk Senior High!
And my sincerest apologies for the short notice here, let’s just say there were a few hiccups when it came to the “planning committee.” But we’re finally doing it and I know it will be the BEST NIGHT EVER!
If you could please RSVP and let me know how many will be attending by June 1st that would be great. Go Panthers!
PS- I’ve created an online group chat for easier communication. Make sure to join it if you haven’t already. The group name is: NHS CLASS OF 2009 REUNION. AKA BEST NIGHT EVER!
The overhead lights shone bright on Logan’s face as she grabbed the microphone from the tall slender stand. When she peered into the audience the only thing she could see was darkness. She swiftly moved the microphone stand to the side of the small stage and out of her way. Her heart beat faster in her throat.
Logan could feel the invisible crowd. The weight of their expectations and hunger for laughter sat heavy on her shoulders. Excitement mixed with anxiety rushed through her, causing a tingly sensation to extend to her every limb. This moment of anticipation used to make her crumble, but now it made her buzz. It was her comedy high. Her body’s way of reminding her why she did this night after night, because it certainly wasn’t for the money.
Logan stared hard into the dark room and took a quick sip of air, drinking it in for a second longer. She loved the small wrinkle in time after she’d been introduced but hadn’t yet gotten into her set. For the next twenty minutes this was her stage and she could say whatever she wanted. It was so unknown, but so full of promise.
She stepped back into the spotlight and was just about to speak when a man near the front row let loose a high-pitched whistle, and he didn’t ease up. A few people snickered and Logan felt a painful sting at the nape of her neck. A few years ago this type of heckling would have set her off.
“Wasn’t it nice of my dad to come watch me tonight?” She gestured to the area of the whistler and the crowd ate it up, predictably. An audience wants nothing more than to feel like they’re a part of the act. “The poor guy doesn’t even know how to talk, those weird sounds coming from his mouth are the best he can do at communicating enthusiasm. So clap it up for my pops, everyone.”
Logan could tell by the applause that the room was full. The Comedy Cube felt even smaller and darker than usual, like maybe it was exceeding its fifty-customer occupancy rule. Lenny, the manager, frequently broke the fire code to make a few extra bucks.
Like the other female comics, Logan wasn’t too fond of Lenny. But she’d rather stomach his chauvinism than pass up a spot at The Cube, especially on a night that wasn’t designated as “Giggles 4 Gals,” or “Women Woos,” or whatever stupid name Lenny was calling his all women showcase he’d put together to prove to the comedy world he wasn’t as sexist as his reputation proclaimed.
Unlike the new chain comedy clubs popping up all over, The Cube had a rich history in the Chicago comedy scene having been around for more than sixty years. The scent of spilled whiskey and leftover beer was permanently engrained into the walls, next to the autographed framed photos of old famous comedians, both hitting you like a gust of nostalgia the second you walked inside the poorly lit basement club.
Located in the heart of Old Town, The Cube was the type of club where you never knew who might stumble in. Last week it was rumored Judd Apatow stopped in for a quick show before dinner. He was in Chicago filming his new Netflix series so there was a definite possibility it was true. There was an even higher possibility it was just another Lenny lie.
Logan held the microphone low on her chin, a trait she’d pick up from Joe when she was just beginning standup, and she started into her set.
“So right before I came on I got an email invite to my high school reunion,” Logan heard the shuffle of the waitresses’ feet as they made their way from table to table, taking drink orders, clinking glasses together as they cleared room for more beverages.
“I didn’t read it, but I’m pretty sure I get the idea. I just don’t understand what the point is anymore. We no longer have to go to a shitty reunion at a shitty golf course to show what terrible people we’ve all become ten years later. That’s why we have Facebook.” Logan paused for a minute as the laughter settled in. “And since we’re talking about shitty people, know what else bugs me? When men post photos of their daughters’ and caption it, ‘We’re gonna have trouble with this little lady in 15 years.’ Like, really Chad? Why are you already predicting how slutty your daughter’s gonna be? She’s two months old, Chad.”
This wasn’t her planned set, but she liked to go a little off the cuff in the beginning to feel out the crowd. They were enjoying it, so she continued.
“Every Chad I graduated with has at least five children. I know because I’ve seen all of the baby reveal videos online,” Logan smirked and slightly rolled her eyes.
“Really though, I love baby sex reveals,” she tilted her head while looking directly into the audience, “but I think that someday when I’m pregnant I want do a father reveal.”
The audience erupted with laughter so she pushed a little further.
“Like if I cut into a piñata and it’s all blue candy, I’ll know it’s my boyfriend’s. But if I cut into it and it’s not blue,” Logan waited a moment longer, making the crowd hang on her every word in anticipation of the punch line, “if instead it’s full of white candies, that say plan B on them, I’ll know it’s not my boyfriend’s.”
As the laughter faded she added, “I’m just kidding, I don’t have a boyfriend.”
After her set, she walked back into the green room to collect her check from Lenny. The small backstage room smelled like old cigarette smoke and pizza boxes. Almost every room Logan sat in before a show smelled this way, as if the ghosts of comedians past were still lingering in the air, taunting new comedians with their stubborn presence and awful stench.
Logan glanced at herself in the foggy mirror. She had turned twenty-eight the previous month and treated herself to a fancy balayage hair session at the expensive salon by her apartment in lieu of the $14 L’Oreal box she usually picked up at CVS. Even someone as low maintenance as Logan had to admit the subtle darkness at her roots that faded just perfectly into her honey blonde hair looked good.
Logan was able to pay her bills every month, but that was about it. As she got closer to her thirties, the “thrill” of living the gritty days of a comic were feeling less appealing. The rich Lincoln Park toddlers flaunted their money at her every afternoon when she passed them at the park on her way to the bus stop. They wore designer sneakers and designer jeans and their smugness wafted in the air over their pacifiers.
And so the thoughts she tried to keep out kept finding their way in lately, and keeping her up at night. Was this where she thought she’d be in life right now? And if it was, then why did she always feel so damn behind everyone else? She lived a cushier life in college than she did now, which never really bothered her— until it did. How much longer would she keep trying to “make it,” before finally calling it quits? Did anyone ever “make it?”
Logan peeked her head inside Lenny’s office adjacent to the green room. She imagined him hiding, crouched under his desk like the stubby little man-troll that he was. He was notorious for paying comics late, especially women, so she wasn’t leaving without her money.
The only thing sitting at his desk was a mound of garbage. She sent him a quick text.
Hanging out in greenroom, do you have my check? -Logan
She leaned into the filthy mirror and reapplied her red lipstick with two fierce strokes. There had been talk of talent agents in the audience tonight. It was probably just another Lenny lie, but she still wanted to look her best when she walked back through the bar in case anyone approached her.
Her show outfit tonight and almost every night was a tight black shirt and slim black jeans. If she had curves this outfit would have showed them off. Instead it showed off what her sister Natalie lovingly referred to as, “Logan’s ten year old boy figure.” Her friends Joe and Mikey joked that this was probably why Lenny let her on stage at The Cube, because he assumed she was another hipster boy comic with long hair.
“There she is!” Lenny shouted, causing his sparse mustache to take cover inside his large nostrils when he walked inside the greenroom as if he’d been searching for her.
“Exactly where I said I’d be.”
“You killed! You really did,” he gingerly slapped her on the back. Lenny was a tiny man who wore too much fake-tanner. Chicago wasn’t a fake-tanner kind of city, so he stood out like a sore tan thumb. With his baldhead and round midsection, Logan thought he resembled a sweet potato in a poor fitting brown suit. “How about we book you again for the second week in June?”
“I’d love that,” Logan may not have liked the man, but she’d never turn down a compliment from a club owner.
“Perfect! We’ll mark you down. It’s a fun new show on Sunday called Lady Laughs. Period!” Lenny jabbed Logan in the ribs with his nubby elbow. “Get it? Get it? Because ladies always have their periods on Sundays, right? That’s the day you’re always on the couch watching TLC and eating chocolate and shit.”
Logan nodded, “Literally me every Sunday.”
“Great! Talk about it in the show. Gals will eat it up! We’ll serve cosmos and bon bons!”
“I knew you’d love it!” he said with a wink.
“But what if I don’t actually have my period that day? Can I still do a spot? Or what if I’m just spotting, if you catch my drift?” Logan nudged Lenny this time, elbowing him hard enough to make him crouch over and tuck his knee in self-defense like a chubby life-sized Heisman trophy.
“Hey, hey! Easy! Easy, girl,” he pushed Logan’s elbow away.
“Sorry, I forget my own lady strength.”
“Of course you can still have a spot! It’s just the name of the show, Logan! You don’t actually have to be menstruating. Gross.”
“But I thought you said on Sundays that all women”
Lenny held up his hand, “Save it for Lady Laughs.”
“Sure, sure, sure. It’s right here,” Lenny felt futilely inside his empty breast pocket. “Must be in here, back in jiff!” He disappeared into his office.
Logan sank into the one small couch in the room. The thought of a show called Lady Laughs made her cringe, the fact she knew she wouldn’t turn it down made her cringe even more.
The couch was a navy blue love seat that wore the sad look of a piece of furniture abandoned in an alley by a family who no longer wanted it. Logan plucked at the cotton insides bursting from the seams. Two metal folding chairs sat obediently on each side of it with an outdoor table in the middle, a makeshift coffee table. It was the ideal furniture set for a garage party in her hometown, of Norfolk, Nebraska.
The reunion email sat at the top of her inbox. She considered opening it, if only to mine for standup material. But then she thought about Maggie and it no longer felt so comical.
“Payment for a job well done!” Lenny reappeared in the doorway holding a crumpled envelope in his hand like it was a golden egg.
“By the way, do you wanna audition for a spot on the college tour?”
A college tour? As in traveling in a beat-up old van and sleeping in crappy roadside hotels with other hungry comics, after telling jokes to drunken college kids night after night?
“Absolutely!” Logan could hardly believe her luck. “I would love that.”
Lenny didn’t ask just anyone to audition to go on tour. You had to be someone.