years just to see me corrupted on a stage. Then he drove me to the rehearsal.
Nearly every night he said he was going to put a stop to my going, that one
evening he’d just show up at Worm Creek and haul me home. But each time
a play opened he was there, in the front row.
Sometimes he played the part of an agent or manager, correcting my
technique or suggesting songs for my repertoire, even advising me about my
health. That winter I caught a procession of sore throats and couldn’t sing,
and one night Dad called me to him and pried my mouth open to look at my
“They’re swollen, all right,” he said. “Big as apricots.” When Mother
couldn’t get the swelling down with echinacea and calendula, Dad suggested
his own remedy. “People don’t know it, but the sun is the most powerful
medicine we have. That’s why people don’t get sore throats in summer.” He
nodded, as if approving of his own logic, then said, “If I had tonsils like
yours, I’d go outside every morning and stand in the sun with my mouth open
—let those rays seep in for a half hour or so. They’ll shrink in no time.” He
called it a treatment.
I did it for a month.
It was uncomfortable, standing with my jaw dropped and my head tilted
back so the sun could shine into my throat. I never lasted a whole half hour.
My jaw would ache after ten minutes, and I’d half-freeze standing motionless
in the Idaho winter. I kept catching more sore throats, and anytime Dad
noticed I was a bit croaky, he’d say, “Well, what do you expect? I ain’t seen
you getting treatment all week!”
It was at the Worm Creek Opera House that I first saw him: a boy I didn’t
know, laughing with a group of public school kids, wearing big white shoes,
khaki shorts and a wide grin. He wasn’t in the play, but there wasn’t much to
do in town, and I saw him several more times that week when he turned up to
visit his friends. Then one night, when I was wandering alone in the dark
wings backstage, I turned a corner and found him sitting on the wooden crate
that was a favorite haunt of mine. The crate was isolated—that was why I
He shifted to the right, making room for me. I sat slowly, tensely, as if the
seat were made of needles.
“I’m Charles,” he said. There was a pause while he waited for me to give
my name, but I didn’t. “I saw you in the last play,” he said after a moment. “I