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Apr 22, 2020

Funny Historical Fiction Romance


“But hark! What shards fall from yonder window’s breaking?”

Mac put his hands to his ears as he walked beside his friend. “No! What are you on about, Romeo?”

Romeo protested, “Don’t you get it? I’m doing lines. Re-her-sing.”

Mac laughed, “Without the song. Save in your dreams.” He pulled his friend to a stop.

Romeo turned. “What do you know about dreams?”

“That dreamers often lie.”

“Oh! In bed asleep, while they dream true things.”

Mac shook his head. “You have the right play… Oh, close enough. Honestly, Romeo, you think this is a good plan?”

“The best ever. How could I improve on Shakespeare’s words of love?”

“’Improve’ would not be my choice of words. But can you remember them at all? What good is borrowing the Bard if you shuffle him like cards?”

“You’re right, I’m no actor. Come. The light is fading.”

“Be that as it may. Is acting your purpose?”

“What do you mean?”

“Acting is artifice. Why wear a mask when declaring your love? Are you trying to trick her?”

Romeo continued up the road. “Of course not. I want her to notice me. I want us…”

“So you like her a lot?”

“Don’t say ‘like’. ‘Like’ is a weak tea.”

“So?”

“She makes the roses blush. Trees bow at her breezy passing and leaves the foliage aflutter.”

“How poetic.”

Romeo stopped again and turned to Mac. “You think?”

“Romeo, my opinions won’t help you. Tell her in your own words.”

“That’s what I’m trying to do. But my memory is a… ” Romeo paused, having lost the word.

Mac offered, “Colander.”

“What?”

“A coffee filter?”

Romeo paced. “I’m lost and your distractions lose me doubly. Why chase a muddled word when my purpose is clear?”

“So you prefer a goose chase?”

“That is no joke, friend. Juliet is no goose.” Romeo continued toward Juliet’s gated community.

Mac stepped up his pace. “I see your humor has taken flight.”

“Of course. I cannot remember my lines. Juliet will think I’m a fool.”

“She knows you well.”

Romeo gave Mac a hard look. “Our names brought us together. Can I defy fate?”

“Fate can be fickle, friend. Have you read the play? All does not end well.”

“And your point?”

“I mean, be direct. Don’t borrow words when yours will do. Keep it simple. Tell her you love her.”

Romeo bowed in mock reverence. “Oh, Juliet, shall I compare you to a summer’s day? Your smile liquefies my gelato. As the blush of dew refreshes grass, so my lips caress your…”

“Stop!” The guard stepped out from the guard hut as Romeo and Mac approached.

Mac muttered, “Beware of the doggerel.”

Romeo stepped forward and said, “I have a message for Juliet.”

“Miss Capulet? I can deliver it for you.”

Mac muttered, “You couldn’t do worse.”

Romeo said, “It is kind of personal. I prefer to present it. I won’t be long.”

The guard looked them up and down. “You’ve got five minutes. You know the way?”

They nodded.

The guard pointed at Romeo. “But only you. Here, sign the guest book.”

Romeo took the pen and signed.

The guard read the entry. “A Montague? Do you know where you are?”

Romeo stood his ground, “If you hate it, strike it out. No need to fear. I come armed with words alone.”

“I do not fear your words, young Montague, but for your life. Go.”

Mac sat on the curb, lit a cigarette and pulled out his smart phone. Romeo stepped around the gate and continued into the twilight.

Close now, he racked his brain for the perfect phrasing. He wondered that words ever changed a thing. “They say breath and voice created life and could also make it worth living. If only Juliet will catch the rich meaning hidden in the thicket of my poor words.”

He used the rhythm of his step to mark time. “Clouds weep, lightning pales and thunder whispers abashed. Seasons lose their savor. Autumn trips into winter after summer’s ‘sault. The birds set atwitter at her passing.”

Romeo pounded his head in frustration. “No, no, no! Why is it so difficult? Just say it.” He stood in the road and extended his arms. “How can your beauty survive this fallen world? My wits have lost their wit. How can my eyes contain your vast beauty?”

None of it expressed his passionate feelings. It sounded fake. Pre-fab. Self-conscious.

“You, my lamp, reveal the world reflected in the light from your heart’s flame. The stars swoon with envy and the moon dismays. The sun sadly sets and the wind grows short of breath.” Romeo slowed and murmured, “That wasn’t too bad. If I can only remember it when I face her.”

He rounded a bend and saw her home. Feeling his heart pounding, he stopped. “This is it.”

There was movement on the balcony overlooking the garden. Romeo moved closer, unseen through the trees. He watched Juliet tend two parakeets in a cage. She spoke gently as if they could understand.

“My darlings, would you not be my keets, should I call you starlings? If my budgie were my Tweety, would you not still tweet? How then must perfect Romeo remain only known for his wretched name?”

Juliet looked up and peered into the deepening gloom. “Hello? Is someone there? Reveal yourself, thug, if you dare.”

Romeo stepped into the lamplight. “Hark, what slight slips from yon gander’s beak?”

“Come again? Who goes there?”

“My smile should shine brighter than the moon should you declare your love is mine.”

Juliet peered out. “Do I know you? Have we met? Your voice is…”

“Hush. The night listens. Do you know Romeo?”

Juliet gasped. “Are you insane? Your life is forfeit should my father find you.”

“My life is worthless without you beside me.”

“Why do you talk so?”

“Were we together now, my life would end complete.”

“Yet we remain apart.”

“You stand upon a balcony.”

“You admire my architecture?”

“And your birds.”

“My parakeets.”

“A nice pair. Do they speak?”

“Only to me.”

“So they will not repeat what they hear to any inquiring ear?”

“They would not.”

“I would happily serve you as you tend your birds.”

“I’m not their servant, they are my friends.”

“Friends?”

“We pass the time and play together.  They are but birds, I know, but they ground me, offering grace as a buffer from this dark world.”

“I offer you something deeper.”

“Roses without root are but a tangle of pricks.”

“Juliet, I am no thorn.”

“I know thorns have their purpose. Roses are won with a thorn.”

“As stockings are run by them.”

They stood for a moment in silence.

Romeo whispered, “I would not harm you, Juliet. I speak of kindness.”

“Then dear Romeo, we shall speak as friends in kind.”

“And more?”

“You heard me say it.”

“And you hear me now. I love you more than life itself.”

“You would not lie?”

“A fool wastes his breath spending his dear life lightly.”

“So what, then?”

“Come away with me. We’ll change our names, live and love as strangers to all. Known but to each other.”

“And my birds?”

“Your birds will fly with us.”

“And marry?”

“Of course!”

“Text me tomorrow. We’ll meet and plan our escape.”

“A text? Such a mean finger won’t fit my ringing.  This smart device makes me stupid. Many slaps may awaken and leave one smarting but yet not wise. I prefer to speak, Juliet, and hear again your mellifluous laughter. Not the hell of l-o-l.”

Juliet laughed. “But my privacy may be compromised.”

“Forgive this humble Luddite his clumsy thumbs. They trip as if shackled. Texting’s brevity sentences my nimble brain to incomplete thoughts. It stings my wrist and dulls my eye.”

“You need practice, is all. But if you prefer, then call.”

“It’s the smart phone itself I balk at. I find it neither euphonious nor clever. An itching ear always at the fingertip waxes tedious. This smart contrivance smacks of the cave man’s matchless knack for inventing a fire already burning. I crave a person, not a thing to talk at.”

“Get your words to me as you may. I hang on them however they land.”

“My Juliet, I may protest to much the texting. Let our words sing harmony with tonight’s exchange, lest my actions be in no wise smart.”

“I will not sleep ‘til I hear, dear Romeo. Fare thee well.”

“I’d prefer to keep your parakeets company.”

“I’ll keep you yet, but uncaged. Call and we will plan. Until then, goodnight.”

“Good night, my Juliet. My love.”

She ducked through the door into her room. Romeo turned and whistled into the night.


With apologies to Old Bill.















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1 comment

Philip Clayberg
22:38 Feb 20, 2021

This was far better than the modernized version of "Romeo and Juliet" with Leonardo di Caprio as Romeo. Thank you for writing it. It sounds like you had fun writing it. I hope you'll rewrite another of Shakespeare's plays, giving it a modern (and equally enjoyable) twist. Maybe "Hamlet" or "As You Like It"? Btw, if Mac is supposed to be Mercutio, why not call him Marc instead?

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