Fools Paradise: Backstage Boys Book 2
A blue-collar romantic comedy of feuds, follies, and getting your fingernails dirty!
Bobbyjay and Daisy are considered the dumbest members of their two families. When his male relatives get creative during the smelt run, Bobbyjay and Daisy have to get engaged to prevent these stagehand Montagues and Capulets from reanimating their old blood feud.
But the two families would rather make war, not love. They’ll stop at nothing zany to break the match.
A Backstage Boys romantic comedy!
The fat lady was about to sing. Up in the followspot booth, sixty feet over the audience, Bobbyjay Morton aimed his darkened Supertrouper spotlight at her. The music swelled. He heard the stage manager on his headset.
“Warning. Number two spot in color six to pick up Brunnhilde.”
In the same moment, his cell phone vibrated on his hip.
“Spot two go.”
Cursing silently, he powered up the Supertrouper. Bang, he nailed the fat lady with a beam of bright pink light. She wouldn’t move now. This was Wagner.
He checked his phone.
“What is it?” he hissed, stepping away from the window into darkness.
The voice of his father, hilarious with beer, said, “You are not going to believe what we just did!”
“Keep it down, Dad, I’m in the booth at the Opera.”
He heard his grandfather say, “Gimme that phone,” and what sounded like a tussle at the other end. Then his grandfather said, “We’re at the old smelt fishing spot. Get down here.”
“What?” Bobbyjay squeaked. “I’m running the show!”
“Get down here.” His grandfather sounded unusually grim and, what’s more, sober. “I mean it.”
“I’ll get fined! They’ll fire my ass!”
“No, they won’t.” Bobby Senior was the oldest and most powerful Bobby Morton in the stagehands union Local. “Well, they’ll fine you, but they won’t fire you. Come now.” The phone went dead.
That meant that whatever was happening at the lakefront would get Bobbyjay in much more trouble than walking off the job in the middle of a performance of Götterdämmerung. He touched the shoulder of the number one spot operator.
“Yo, Mikey Ray. I got a crisis. Can you cover for me for a few minutes?” Mikey Ray looked up. Bobbyjay added honestly, “Maybe the rest of the show?”
“You can’t do that. They’ll shitcan you,” Mikey Ray hissed. Comprehension crossed his face. “Those idiots can’t do this to you. Tell ‘em no.”
Bobbyjay tried to looked wooden. “It’s not that. I just have to go.”
“Bullshit.” Mikey Ray snorted. “I’ll cover as long as I can. Maybe somebody on the deck can come up for two-spot cues.”
Bobbyjay thumped him gratefully. “Thanks, buddy. I owe you.”
“You sure as hell do. I think Scooby’s loose on deck. He won’t rat you out. I’ll buzz him.”
“You’re a pal.” Bobbyjay manned his ‘trouper and, at a nod from Mikey Ray, the two of them crossfaded, his beam of pink light disappearing as Mikey Ray’s number one spot appeared, nailing the same mezzosoprano with the same color from a slightly different angle. “I owe you,” Bobbyjay said again.
“Get outa here.”
He wavered a moment, listening to the mezzo, then sneaked quickly down the long flights of stairs to the back door.
He didn’t worry about what he would find at the lakefront. Long experience had taught him that his family was capable of anything. He gunned the Jeep up Lake Shore Drive, swung off into Lincoln Park, and screeched to a stop in the parking lot next to a gathering of rowdy drunks under a streetlight.
“‘Sup, Pop?” The words died on Bobbyjay’s lips.
His father, his uncle Rob, and his two cousins stood gloating around a car, taking pictures with their phones. Half a dozen plastic pails lay tumbled on the wet asphalt beside them.
“Get a shot from over here,” they kept saying to each other.
His grandfather stood slightly apart, arms folded, scowling.
The car was a familiar-looking silver Porsche Targa. It looked sleek and dangerous under the orange mercury-vapor streetlight, but something was wrong.
It was full of fish.
Bobbyjay stepped closer.
Little silver fish pressed against all the closed windows. Some of them were squirming. Silver fish spilled out of the moon roof, which had been left open by some very unlucky visitor to Lincoln Park, and silver fish flipped and flopped over the hood, slid down the windshield, and lay gasping on the oil-stained asphalt by the Porsche’s tires.
Bobbyjay walked around the car, surveying the damage.
“I take a nap in the middle of the evening,” Bobby Senior groused, “and this happens. I can’t take a nap around you guys!”
“I can’t wait to see the look on his face!” said Bobbyjay’s Dad, Bobby Junior. His cousins Bobbert and Raybob fell over themselves with joy at this thought. His uncle, Rob the Snob Morton, sneered.
Bobbyjay closed his eyes. Didn’t help. The car was still there when he opened them. Also about a million live smelt.
“You better hope he don’t see you,” Bobby Senior said.
In that moment Bobbyjay knew the worst. He saw the license plate. MARTYDIT. ANTIQUE.
His heart clutched up. “You have to get out of here,” he blurted.
Bobby Junior turned like a snake. “What did you say?”
“Hey, dopey, who you bossing around?” Bobbert, especially shitfaced, tried to swagger and fell against his brother.
“Yeah, who you think you are, dumbo?” Raybob said.
Bobbyjay swallowed. They might kill him, but only metaphorically. Unlike the owner of the car. “You have to go. Now. Before he gets back.”
Dad leaned into his face. “And why the fuck should we do that? This car took almost an hour to fill up. We put all the smelt we had in it. Took us all night to catch ‘em.” He raised his fist to his son. “You’re not only stupid, kid, you’re a fuckin’ killjoy!”
“Because,” Bobbyjay said, blinking at the beer on his father’s breath, “Pop is up for re-election to the Executive Board this year.”
He gestured at Bobby Senior.
Bobby Junior turned, reddening, saw Bobby Senior’s face, and straightened. Bobbyjay breathed again.
“The kid’s right,” Bobby Senior said. “You better scoot.”
“And let him take the credit for our work? In a pig’s hole!” Bobby Junior said, but less loudly.
“And let him take the blame, Bobby Junior,” Rob the Snob said in a patronizing tone, his haughty face lopsided with beer.
Bobbyjay did the bravest thing he’d done in three years. “No.”
Everyone turned to look at him in astonishment.
“I can’t take it this time.” Before anyone could massacre him, he said, “None of us can. Pop’s up for re-election. You know how Marty Ditorelli reacts. If he knows you did this—if he thinks any Morton did this—he’ll go ballistic. It’ll mean war.” He risked a glance at his grandfather. “Again. Right before the election.”
The penny dropped. Bobby Senior’s eyes bugged out. “Shit! He’s right. Gitcher asses out of my sight. Now!” he bellowed.
The other four picked up their pails and fled.
Bobby Senior looked at Bobbyjay. “Don’t just stand there, kid. Do somethin’.” Then he, too, was gone.
Alone with the Porsche full of fish, Bobbyjay walked around it again, trying to think. Man, what a mess. Some fish were actually trying to swim around. But it was just too crowded.
Bobbyjay saw his sneaker-prints on the asphalt around the car and returned to his Jeep. Might as well call the Opera House. See what kind of trouble he was in.
His cell wouldn’t work. Dead zone. He drove slowly a hundred yards through the park until he could call out.
“Yo, Mikey Ray. Am I busted?”
“Nope. Scooby’s here with me. What happened?”
“Nothin’. I just had to go.”
Mikey Ray clicked his tongue. “Whatever.”
Bobbyjay sighed. “Thanks for covering me. Tell Scooby there’s a cold case in it for him.”
“Yeah, yeah. Ya sap.”
“Bye.” He hung up. In his heart, Bobbyjay knew the damage was done. Marty Ditorelli would learn eventually that the Mortons had been smelt fishing on the lakefront. He would hear even sooner that Bobbyjay had left the Opera House in the middle of a show more or less exactly when his car was vandalized.
But there would be no proof.
Unless one of his cousins sneaked back to watch Marty find it, in spite of Pop’s order.
Bobbyjay started the Jeep and crept back until the Porsche came into view. Oh, shit. The old man loved that car. A vintage ’77 Targa with all original seats and dash. Marty hadn’t loved a car that much since the last car a Morton had destroyed for him, burned it back in 1979, the fateful year, a brand new powder blue Chevy Bonneville with crushed white velvet seats. Bobby Senior was still boasting about that one.
Let Marty Dit figure this out and there would be bloodshed.
Someone walked out of the orangey-black shadows and slowly approached the car.
That wasn’t Marty Dit.
Bobbyjay crept the Jeep closer.
It was a beautiful brunette in a floaty little dress and sandals. A brunette he knew. She stood limply in front of the Porsche and raised her hands to her face. Then she crumpled.
Bobbyjay gunned the engine and raced back to the scene of the crime.
When he jumped out, she was on her knees, sobbing.
The moment she’d seen the car, Daisy Ditorelli had thought, The Mortons did it. Eighteen years of peace and quiet, almost her whole life, and now it was starting up again. She sank to her knees, stunned at the size of the disaster.
Goomba would blame her, too, because she’d left the car where they could get at it.
The trees around the parking lot were dark with menace. She was alone on the lakefront with muggers and Goomba’s destroyed car and the invisible, gloating Mortons. Daisy sobbed harder.
So it didn’t surprise her at all to see Bobbyjay Morton tear up in his Jeep and jump out.
“How-ow could you?” she accused, hiccupping.
“Hey, it wasn’t me.” He knelt beside her. “Are you okay? You’re kneeling in all this water.” He lifted her just as a fish leaped clear of the moon roof and slid, wriggling, down the windshield. “C’mon, let’s sit down.”
He made her walk to a park bench, fussing over her the way everybody did.
She slapped his hands away. “Stop that! I’m not made of china!” Sniffling, she eyed him. He didn’t look very guilty. Of course with that dumb jock face he never looked like anything. Maybe he wasn’t lying. “Who did it, then?”
Bobbyjay turned his head as the smelt skated off the windshield and plopped onto the hood. “Beats the shit out of me. Your grandpa’s gonna burst a blood vessel. Why you driving it?”
She gulped. “We had a fight. I asked him to find me a job. I want to be a stagehand in the Local.” She clenched her fists. “I’m sick of cooking for my loser cousins and dodging their macho and breaking up their fights and picking up their socks and—” No point in going into details. “Anyway he said I couldn’t handle the job! Right in front of Tony and Vince and Wesley! I ran out of the house.” She took another look at the car and hysteria rose up in her throat. “Now he’ll kill me!”
Bobbyjay looked doubtfully at the car. “Do you want help cleaning up?”
Everybody thought she was helpless. “No, thanks. You’d better go.”
“I can’t leave you here with this.” He got up and walked over to the car, examining it, and she followed. “Got the keys?”
“They won’t work.”
“Let me try.” Daisy handed him the keys and watched him try them. “You’re right.” He stepped back and put his hands on his hips. “Looks like the only way in is through the top.”
She looked at the fish spilling out of the moon roof and shuddered. “No, thanks,” she said again.
“I’ll do it.”
She made a noise of protest and Bobbyjay looked at her, and Daisy saw a goofy look spread across his face.
Oh, no. Not you too, Bobbyjay!
One by one her childhood playmates were growing into men and getting stupid about her. She had thought Bobbyjay was immune.
On the other hand, he was willing to reach his arm through that moon roof into a car full of cold, slimy, wiggling fish.
They locked eyes. He swallowed.
She bit her lip. “You’d do that? For me?”
“Sure,” he said huskily. He bounded up onto the hood, crawled out over the Targa’s humped top, and slid a tentative hand into the fish. “Cold.”
His jeans were ripped a little across the seat. As he stretched, she could see his bare buns work.
“I bet,” she said, swallowing.
He pulled his arm out. “I’m thinking, roll the window down and let some water out. Then we can get inside.” Lying on his stomach over the top of the car, his arm and tee-shirt sleeve dripping wet, he looked at her with that goofy new face. “If I drown, you’ll explain to the cops, right?”
“I won’t let you drown, Bobbyjay,” she said in a small voice.
With a deep breath and a determined expression, he dove headfirst through the moon roof. Water and fish poured out around his body. Daisy squeezed her hands together. His arm and shoulder and then his face appeared at the side window of the Porsche, squishing fish against the glass. She heard his elbow bump on the window. Then the window began to leak water from the top, and water began pouring out of a growing slit as the window opened, and fish slithered past in a silvery flood, and then, just as she was worrying that she wasn’t strong enough to haul his big, heavy body free, his legs thrashed, and he withdrew. A nasty squeak sounded as he slid back out of the moon roof, and then he rolled over on his back and slid, gasping, to the ground.
Daisy rushed to his side. “Are you okay?”
Bobbyjay heaved air and coughed. “Think I scratched the paint on top. Belt buckle.” He hacked some more. A fish slid out of the sleeve of his sopping tee-shirt.
Goodness. He’s been hiding a lot in that teeshirt, she thought. It clung to his shoulders, pecs, and tight, ripply stomach. She thought again of the rip in the ass of his jeans and her tongue touched her lips.
He looked up at her sorrowfully. “I think it’s gonna take more than detailing, Daisy. Can you tell him some lie, go visit a friend for a couple of days, so he won’t expect to see it right away?”
“He’ll be here any minute,” she said. “I called him right before I saw you.”
“Whaaat!?” Bobbyjay leaped to his feet.
She wrung her hands. “Well, who else could I call?”
“I didn’t see you! I mean, I was driving through the park and I noticed the car—I saw you walking up to the car—” he sputtered, and Daisy shook her head. Mortons, all right. “He’s gonna kill me!”
“No, he won’t!” She grabbed him by the arm. Big, muscly arm, she noticed. And wet. And fishy. Goomba would blame him on sight. “I won’t let him.”
“Yes, he will!”
“No,” she said, gritting her teeth, “he won’t. I’ll think of something.”
“Oh, that’ll be a help,” Bobbyjay said. She felt like slapping him. Everybody assumed she was dumb. Nice, yes, pretty, sure, but dumb. She opened her mouth to make a point about pots and kettles and she heard her grandfather’s voice.
“You sonofabitch! Get your hands off her!”
Goomba grabbed her from behind and yanked her away from Bobbyjay. They squared off, Goomba panting and red-faced and Bobbyjay wary, holding his hands up.
“Take it easy, Marty. I didn’t do anything.”
Now Goomba was looking at the car. His fists opened and closed convulsively. “Goo—uck—fuh—” He looked from her to Bobbyjay to the car. Then he threw himself through the now-open window, scrambling at the glove box. Fish and water slopped out. “Jesus! Jesu Christu—” and a lot of bad-sounding Italian.
Daisy sidled over next to Bobbyjay.
Goomba spun around with his police .38 in his hand. “Prepare to die, you stupid little fucker!”
“Goomba! No!” Daisy threw herself in front of Bobbyjay.
“Get out of the way, angelina,” Goomba said in a quiet, scary voice. “I found him here molesting you and fucking with my car and that’s all the cops will know.”
She waved frantically. “Goomba! You can’t!”
Bobbyjay tried to push her behind him. “Get back!” He thrust her off with a shove that made her stumble.
Goomba whipped his arm up, took aim at Bobbyjay’s face, and squeezed.
The gun went click.
Goomba swore in Italian.
Daisy threw herself on Bobbyjay again. “Don’t you dare! You can’t kill him!” In desperation she shrieked, “We’re engaged!”
Her grandfather stopped cursing his weapon. “You’re what?”
She took a deep breath. “He’s my fiancé.”
Take a look at Bobbyjay’s best friend, King Dave Flaherty,
and his nemesis Nadine Fisher in
King of Hearts, Book 1 of Backstage Boys