Contest #53 winner 🏆

The Play's the Thing

Submitted into Contest #53 in response to: Write a story about another day in a heatwave. ... view prompt

323 comments

Funny Romance Happy

It is ungodly hot and Hamlet should shut up. 

“You cannot call it love, for at your age the heyday in the blood is tame, it’s humble, and waits upon the judgment,” overenunciates one of the actors while wildly gesticulating with a plastic human skull. The skull does not normally appear until Act 5, and Hamlet certainly is not waving it at his mother while lecturing her on how to control her sexual desires. 

The community theater auditions are going poorly. 

“Next!” 

“You may want to pay close attention to this next one,” warns Bob, handing me yet another acting resume. It’s so humid inside the moldy theater that the paper curls. 

Bob and I are old friends, finding ourselves surprisingly single at 60. How he convinces me to help him stage Hamlet in the middle of the hottest July on record chiefly results from my utter boredom. Retirement is turning out to be stupefying, as there are only so many crossword puzzles one can do. 

“Why am I looking at this actress more closely than the others? It says here she’s almost 50 years old, Bob, and she’s auditioning for Ophelia?”

“She owns five KFC franchises,” Bob states flatly. 

“So Ophelia is going to drown in hydrogenated soybean oil?”

“She can finance a large part of this operation. The city only contributes so much, and I’m not good at fundraising. Do you want to shake down some car dealerships to support the arts?” 

“Ugh,” I concede and peruse her resume more thoroughly. “C’mon, Bob. She played Annie in her 40's. It’s a half-lived life for us. Are you sure the KFC Queen is right for this production? How about we start a GoFundMe page instead?”

“How about you look at our mature Ophelia . . .” Bob pleads.

“Fine,” I sulk. 


I hear her footsteps before I see her. These are not the tentative taps of a poor, dutiful Ophelia, but long purposeful strides of a King of Denmark. She is tall with unruly hair, dark brown eyes ferociously gazing up at Bob and me as if we were auditioning for her. 

“I have rehearsed Act 3 Scene 1, immediately after Hamlet’s fourth soliloquy,” she states boldly.

“Fourth—?” I’m flipping papers for no reason. She’s gorgeous

“After To be or not to be . . .” She waits for us, suffering fools gladly. “I will need one of you to read Hamlet’s part.”

“I will do it.” I immediately volunteer while sweat pools under my armpits. I would kill Bob if he offers otherwise. I want her to talk with me. 

“Ready?” she inquires with an arched eyebrow. O, that I might kiss that eyebrow!

“I am absolutely ready.” I almost choke on my own unintentional irony. Bob audibly snickers, and I hate him for knowing me so well.

She pauses, collecting all the kinetic energy in the auditorium. 

“My lord, I have love-tokens of yours to return to you. I pray you now receive them,” she laments, suddenly a broken-hearted young maiden. Her transformation blinds me. I literally cannot find my place on the script. Bob is threatening to laugh uproariously at my besotted state, but, gratefully, he controls himself enough to point out my line.

“No, not I. I never gave you anything!” I half stand, calling out to her from behind a table in the audience.

“My honoured lord, you know right well you did. And with them, words of so sweet breath composed as made the things more rich.” She eloquently articulates each luxurious syllable. I sit down because I don’t trust my knees anymore.

“Are you virtuous?” I reply. Please say no.

“My lord?”

“Are you fair?” My god, you are so fair. She grows more beautiful the longer I look at her. I cannot stop looking at her. 

“What means your lordship?”

“That if you be honest and fair, your honesty should admit no discourse to your beauty. I did love you once,” I proclaim, probably more ardently than the script calls for. Bob looks over at me pointedly. I punch him under the table. 

“Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.” Ophelia is all vulnerability now, eyes wider than one can imagine, exposing the depths of her trusting soul to the love of her life. Due to the heat, her eyeliner has smudged, giving her a heartbreakingly desperate look. 

The next lines are cruel, and I read them poorly because they are not true. “You should have not believed me. I loved you not.” 

Broken, the actress appears as if physically in pain. In a quiet, dejected voice, she simply says, “I was the more deceived.” 

I want to run onto the stage and comfort her. Instead, as Hamlet, I rip out my own heart by uttering the words, “Get thee to a nunnery.”

Bob stands to applaud while she formally bows, smiling from ear to ear. As she gathers her things, I am paralyzed, not trusting my voice or my body language to give away the fact that I’m hopelessly in love with a 50-year-old Ophelia who sells fried chicken. 

To my delight and disbelief, I watch her make her way up the aisle towards us. 

“So how are the auditions coming along?” She fishes.

“Very good. Lots of talent in this town,” Bob offers in his genial, noncommittal way. 

“Well, not that much talent,” I add lamely. “But not you, though. You were excellent. What I mean is that you definitely have talent. You are talented.” Kill me.

She looks at us both skeptically.

“Well, let me know at your earliest convenience. If I get the part, I’ll have to hire another store manager or two.” She turns on her heels to leave, but not before flashing a dazzling smile. 

“They say the owl was a baker’s daughter!” I shout one of Ophelia’s nonsensical ramblings after her, just to get her to stay a bit longer.

“We know what we are, but know not what we may be,” she replies and my heart nearly bursts. 


After the auditions, Bob and I walk out into the early evening air, still stifling hot, causing beads of sweat to trickle down our faces.

“I think we have a solid final cast list,” he says, tiredly. He dabs his face with his tie. 

“Hamlet is a little weak,” I caution him, but it would be hard to find an equal to Ophelia’s commanding stage presence. And her eyes.

“Do you want to grab dinner?” he asks. 

“No, I have other plans,” I smile at Bob.

“Are these plans original or extra crispy?” 

I place my hands over my heart, “Do not take tenders for true pay, which are not sterling. Tender yourself more dearly.”

“That’s what you’re going with? Chicken tender puns?” Bob rolls his eyes.

“You’ll tender me a fool,” I say, blowing Bob a stage kiss. And then I do what Hamlet should have done. 

I walk to my car, determined to find the fair Ophelia at one of five KFC restaurants. 


August 02, 2020 23:02

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323 comments

Zilla Babbitt
16:22 Aug 14, 2020

Quirky and compelling! This story is so unique, not unlike a Kurt Vonnegut story that I love. You never state the protagonist's gender, which is a bit confusing, but over all this is brilliant. Deserved win!

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Deidra Lovegren
16:41 Aug 14, 2020

Thanks for your comment! I left the gender neutral for a reason. People can conjure up what they wish. :)

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India Moon
09:09 Aug 15, 2020

YES YES YES. Love that this is gender-neutral! I was totally imagining one woman being blown away by another. But whatever the gender, this is a funny, heart-warming and supremely well-written story! Thank you for this. When you have the time, please check out my two recent submissions The Reunion and The Apartment. Would love your thoughts on them, THANK YOU!

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Deidra Lovegren
09:45 Aug 15, 2020

I am on it. ❤️ Reading you now!

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Dorian Gray 📖
20:39 Feb 28, 2021

OMG I can't believe we had the same idea!! I was planning on doing that exact same thing for a novel idea, that's insane!!!

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Deidra Lovegren
18:28 Aug 15, 2020

Huge fan, Zilla Babbit! Thanks for your comments :)

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Zilla Babbitt
19:26 Aug 15, 2020

Hey, no problem! I really enjoyed this one and the Latin-titled one that was shortlisted. Both made me laugh :)

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Deidra Lovegren
19:33 Aug 15, 2020

The Latin-titled one translates to M-----F------. Samuel L. Jackson would be proud.

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Deidra Lovegren
19:35 Aug 15, 2020

If you are super bored, "Can't Get Enough Of What You Don't Need" cracks me up because it's every stupid conversation I've had with my three sons aged 18-22. UGH.....

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Zilla Babbitt
17:47 Aug 16, 2020

Haha! Made me laugh. I'll give it a read one of these days. Thanks :)

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23:20 Aug 14, 2020

This story was so unexpected and fabulous. You absolutely flipped the expected stereotype of the 50 year old woman. The way the protagonist was so besotted was a delight. You are a gem.

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Deidra Lovegren
23:31 Aug 14, 2020

We 50 year old women are incredibly hot.🔥

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Jen Park
03:29 Aug 15, 2020

Oh, I'm so glad that this won! I hope many more people would see this amazing story ASAP. I liked the humours in this story, and the broken stereotype (yay!) about 50-year-old woman. KFC and Ophelia isn't a perfect match itself but it is simply fantastic together in this story. I liked the part where the protagonist is overwhelmed by the talent of the woman. I was confused if he was just wondered by Ophelia's beauty or if he really fancies that woman, but that part really made the story unique and beautiful. You're amazing writer. Can't ...

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Deidra Lovegren
07:58 Aug 15, 2020

Thanks for your amazing comments ❤️ You have restored my soul ✨

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Marilyn David
05:57 Aug 15, 2020

I switched my thoughts on the gender of the character twice but settled on male towards the end. Well written keeping us guessing.

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Deidra Lovegren
07:50 Aug 15, 2020

Choose your own adventure 😀

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India Moon
09:10 Aug 15, 2020

WOMAN ALL THE WAY. :D Also, that opening line is SUCH a great image and hook. Ok, I'm going to go read this whole thing again.

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Deidra Lovegren
09:44 Aug 15, 2020

How great is India 🌝 Moon? Loving you like crazy over here!!

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Cee Rani
02:48 Aug 15, 2020

A very quirky, believable story. The characters felt real especially because of their dialogue. A deserved win 👏🏽

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Deidra Lovegren
08:00 Aug 15, 2020

Thanks 🙏🏻

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Laura Clark
21:46 Aug 14, 2020

Ahhh! I’m so happy you won! Your last story was so good that I’m not surprised that you went on to bigger and better things. I loved this one as well and think that it’s a deserved win. The humour in it was deftly managed and I really, really liked that you didn’t specify the gender. It’s a great way of allowing the reader to project onto the character. Given that you ate a cheesecake to celebrate a previous shortlisting, how are you going to celebrate the win? I feel like you have to top cheesecake somehow. Congrats again!

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Deidra Lovegren
21:47 Aug 14, 2020

I'm going to top the cheesecake with another cheesecake -- and then get right back to writing :) LOVE YOU LAURA

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Laura Clark
21:50 Aug 14, 2020

DOUBLE CHEESECAKE FOR THE WIN (literally). LOVE YOU TOO! Winner, winner, cheesecake dinner.

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Jacob Flematti
02:13 Aug 15, 2020

Definitely understandable why it won. Short little story, makes me think flash fiction, with good wit and humor. Great job and congratulations.

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Deidra Lovegren
08:01 Aug 15, 2020

I appreciate the ❤️ Thanks for the encouragement ✨

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Neomi Shah
14:35 Oct 01, 2020

I loved your story! You broke he stereotypical age restrictions on love and I also liked how effortlessly you have conveyed their ten-year age difference. These two points show that love is not bound by age, and true love finds beauty in all faces! Although, I would like to make a suggestion. The conversation between the protagonist and Bob doesn't give the impression of a conversation between two sixty-year olds. Don't get me wrong- I am not discriminating them on their age or anything but different age groups of people share a different...

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Deidra Lovegren
15:09 Oct 01, 2020

Thanks for your comment. As someone in her 50’s — I can assure you that’s exactly how we talk. No one is “really” over 20. We still curse and lust and make horrible puns. We use allusions younger people don’t get but crack us up. We still feel all the same emotions as when we were younger.

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Neomi Shah
15:54 Oct 01, 2020

Thank you for the explanation. As I said before, I am an amateur writer still in her teen years, so I don’t have much experience about behaviour of old people. It was just a thought that I had while reading this. I am glad you took this positively :)

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Deidra Lovegren
18:25 Oct 01, 2020

It's all good. Old people are just like young people, just fatter and saggier :)

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Stafford Morgan
08:05 Sep 14, 2020

This was fantastic. I was riveted from start to finish. And I love that you kept the narrator's gender ambiguous.

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Deidra Lovegren
09:31 Sep 14, 2020

Thank you! ❤️

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Kate Le Roux
20:03 Aug 16, 2020

This was great! Memories of Hamlet from my Matric/Grade 12 year a long time ago. Nice to see more older writers on Reedsy!

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Deidra Lovegren
20:19 Aug 16, 2020

Can I swap out "older" for "experienced and still rockin' hot"?

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Kate Le Roux
20:52 Aug 16, 2020

The story proves you can :)

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Niveeidha Palani
12:34 Aug 16, 2020

So unique! I love how you didn't state the gender, it made me feel like one of those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books as I kept on changing my mind...I eventually settled on a woman though... :)

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Deidra Lovegren
13:18 Aug 16, 2020

You do you. 🌹 All the world’s a stage! Thanks for commenting YAY

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Niveeidha Palani
21:54 Aug 16, 2020

Thank you! No problem :)

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Jonathan Blaauw
07:27 Aug 15, 2020

Ha! This was incredible. Talk about suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune! Sorry, that's the only Hamlet I know, just wanted to sneak it in there, even if it isn't entirely relevant... This was so clever, the way you build in the lines from the play is masterful. Genius, really. Old William would be proud. The whole thing is slick, funny, enjoyable, and refreshingly different. What more could you want from a short story? Well done!

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Deidra Lovegren
07:48 Aug 15, 2020

So now I’m in love with you ❤️ and the rest is silence...

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Jonathan Blaauw
09:08 Aug 15, 2020

😊 It was quoting Shakespeare, wasn’t it? Works every time! Watch this: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.” Feels like he was referring to me personally there, although in the ‘madness’ or ‘greatness’ is yet unclear. And yes, okay, I had to google that. I was going to go with: “A rose by any other name art more lovely and more temperate.” But I think that would’ve been a disgraceful mixing of metaphors, or switching of sonnets, or whatever it’s called.

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Deidra Lovegren
10:11 Aug 15, 2020

Actually it was the face mask. I appreciate your support of science and the Age of Enlightenment. Sonnet 130 is the one to read. Basically it says my girlfriend is Hella ugly and has bad breath, but I totally love her. And the all time best stage direction; “Exit, pursued by a bear“

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Jonathan Blaauw
13:30 Aug 15, 2020

Science and the Age of Enlightenment? I just don’t wanna go to jail. They say masks in public is the law, and Reedsy is public, so… Not to destroy your romantic notion of sonnets, but I once read this: “If he writes her a sonnet it means he loves her. If he writes her 100 sonnets, it means he loves sonnets.” I feel like I’ve just told a kid Santa doesn’t exist now. Don’t hate me… Maybe you could use that in a story though. I bet you could do it very well 😊

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Deidra Lovegren
13:34 Aug 15, 2020

I am totally stealing that.

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J.L. Schuhle
19:12 Aug 14, 2020

This made me smile so much! So cute,sweet, intelligent and beautifully written. Very funny and easy to read while having depth. I feel like you said so much with so little. Puns were amazing. I have nothing negative to say!- congrats on winning!

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Deidra Lovegren
19:25 Aug 14, 2020

Thanks, Jessica! Everyone (should) love Hamlet :)

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Nandan Prasad
12:03 Aug 09, 2020

Amazing story! I really enjoyed reading it. Well-done!

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Deidra Lovegren
20:56 Aug 13, 2020

Thanks for your kind comment!

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Nandan Prasad
04:05 Aug 15, 2020

I had a feeling this would be shortlisted, and I was rooting for it to win. Well-done and congratulations!

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Deidra Lovegren
07:55 Aug 15, 2020

I was totally surprised 😲

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Nandan Prasad
01:30 Aug 14, 2020

No problem. Would you mind checking out my story ‘Number Theory’ if it’s not too much trouble? Thanks and good luck!

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K V Chidambaram
23:26 Aug 08, 2020

Nice. Reminded of the numerous beautiful lines of Hamlet like, I loved Ophelia, forty thousand brothers with all their love cannot make up my sum and To be or not to be that is the question ? Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of the outrageous fortune. Best Wishes. Chidambaram K.V.

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Deidra Lovegren
23:48 Aug 08, 2020

I'm firmly convinced that all the answers to any question reside somewhere in Hamlet.

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K V Chidambaram
16:23 Aug 12, 2020

i also read your story of praying and find mention of Dido and Aeneas and lot of Latin. Hope you have read works of Christopher Marlowe - Dido Queen of Carthage. I am a great fan of Christopher Marlowe and planning to do my PhD on something related to him. Best Wishes.

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Deidra Lovegren
16:38 Aug 12, 2020

Christopher Marlowe is a hero of mine! Good luck with your thesis and let me know when it's published :)

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K V Chidambaram
16:42 Aug 12, 2020

Thanks. Sure I will. Have you submitted for Contest 54. If so wish you all the best. Awaiting result of Contest 53. Your comments on my article/stories will be highly appreciated. Regards Chidambaram

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15:07 Apr 07, 2021

This is my second back to back read. I said i loved the first, but this! you outdo yourself in my eyes with every read. I love everything about your writing- be it your writing style, excellent vocabulary, lovely Shakespearan dialogues, wit and sarcasm, all loaded for a delectable fare. I have become a huge fan of your writimngs. I have written two stories. I would love if you read them and give your views. A very well deserved win!

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Deidra Lovegren
16:27 Apr 07, 2021

YAY -- Thanks for reading!! I've read your 2nd story, and I'm excited to read the 1st. You have a gift -- great pacing and plot and imagery. You definitely know what you are doing :) I look forward to more of your work.

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Cookie Carla🍪
16:37 Jan 07, 2021

I LOVED THIS STORY SO MUCH!! (P.S. - I also love your little avatar! It's so unique and cute!!) It was so funny and attention-grasping. Great work!

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05:29 Sep 08, 2020

NICE STORY LOVED IT WHERE DO U GET THESE IDEAS

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Deidra Lovegren
06:25 Sep 08, 2020

Living a looooong life

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05:52 Sep 09, 2020

hahaha how old are you

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Sampada Sharma
05:07 Sep 05, 2020

I LOVEDDDD THIS ONE!! Funny and so so unique. You had me at Hamlet. Totally deserved the win!

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Deidra Lovegren
07:28 Sep 05, 2020

Hamlet always classes things up ❤️

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Laura Everly
18:28 Aug 30, 2020

Great story love the use of Hamlet and the desire in this short story nice job

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Deidra Lovegren
19:40 Aug 30, 2020

Hamlet always classes things up.

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