Scene 5

Bernie made his score on his second call.

“Found them,” he shouted. “Someone sold a large collection of old classical records at Music Millennium on Burnside three weeks ago. I have to tell you it wasn't easy. I guess the buyer in the LP department who made the initial purchase was out, but the lady I talked to happened to stumble on some boxes in the back room just this morning, so...” Bernie realized that no one was around, so he stopped talking. He then finished his thought, diminishing into a whisper, “ about happenstance, eh?

Melody walked in, reading out of an old volume of encyclopedia. “Hey Dad,” she said. “Find anything?”

“Yes,” Bernie said, the excitement having already left him.

“Great,” she said. “Where at.”

Bernie rolled his eyes, and told her the name of the store.

“Good detective work,” Melody said. “You should be happy about that.”

Bernie softened, and then smiled. “Yeah, it wasn't easy. You see the buyer in the LP department...”

There was some thumping noises on the opposite wall, following by swearing from his wife.

Melody rushed to the accordion door that led to the basement, and yelled into the darkness.

“Are you okay?” she shouted. “And why are you in the dark?” She shrieked when the voice of her mother came at her from the blackness much closer than she had expected.

“The stupid light went out again,” she growled. “Bernie, we really need to wire in a proper fixture.”

Melody looked up into the open stairwell above, and could barely make out an old shop light. She wondered how it had even gotten there with both of her parents deathly afraid of heights. “Perhaps it came with the house?” she mumbled aloud.

Finally, her mother appeared in the wan light provided by the kitchen, and handed her daughter a large, musty smelling box.

“Anyway,” she said. “I don't know how I found it, but I found it.”

Melody eyed the box suspiciously, and refused at first to touch it as though it quite possibly held a colony of centipedes. Also, she couldn't remember at the moment what exactly her mother had gone down to the basement to search for. Apparently, whatever it was, had been living on the corner of Musty and Filth.

“Here!” Lonnie insisted shoving the box into her daughter's possession. It was more as a means to insinuate herself into the kitchen than to necessitate the transfer of a heavy load. When she saw the confused expression on Melody's face, she added, “It's the record player you made me search for! So congratulations, the search is over. I hope it was worth practically dying for.”

“Oh,” Melody said, still seemingly stunned. Finally the concept sunk in. “OH! RIGHT! That's good, because Dad just found the records.”

Lonnie washed her hands in the kitchen sink and filled a glass of water for herself. “OH, fantastic,” she said, turning to her husband. “Where did you end up finding them.”

Bernie shook his head. “I am NOT starting this conversation again,” he said, adamantly.

Lonnie grabbed his cheek, and pinched it. “Oh, were you feeling ignored,” she said, in a cutesy, read demeaning, voice.

He brushed her hand away. “I might tell the story again, once everyone's ready to sit down and listen, but not before then. It’s not like it was really that interesting, anyway.”

“Here's what I got out of him so far,” Melody jumped in. “They're at a store called Music Mumble-mumblium, and something about the buyer being clumsy.”

Bernie's face began to turn slightly pink. “The buyer was out, but the girl I talked to said just today that she tripped over some boxes in the back...”

There was a pounding at the door.


“Sorry, Dad,” Melody said. “I think the universe is saying your story is too boring to be told.”

Lonnie, who was closest to the door, looked out the window. “It’s a large black truck outside. I think we got a package.”

Before Bernie could make a comment, Melody was running towards the front door. She then ducked between the curtain and the sheers and watched out the window while her mother opened the door. (Melody liked to be both part of the excitement but also buffered from it.)

The nondescript delivery man in an old yellow suit handed over a digital clipboard to Lonnie. She signed it readily and then was passed a shoe-boxed sized, plainly-wrapped package.

“What is it,” Melody said, appearing from behind the curtain as though through the mists of Avalon.

“Oh,” her mother said, looking it over, and shaking it. “You mean in this non-transparent box that arrived out of the blue, which I neither ordered nor expected? You mean, what's in that box?”

“You don't have to be so cheeky about it,” Melody said, getting up on her tippy toes to get a glimpse of the return address.

“There isn't one,” Lonnie told her. She took the package over to her chair with her and then sat down. She looked up at Bernie. “You haven't given anyone any reason to mail us a bomb, have you?”

Bernie shook his head. “Why is everyone always asking me that?”

Lonnie took a deep breath, and slowly began to open the package.

Melody's eyes began to dance around in their sockets. While she also shared the same concerns of danger from this package of unknown origin, she also was very excited that it might have something to do with Mrs. Rogers. In all likelihood it was another letter, or hopefully even a videotape. Or quite possibly a map. Maybe that's why Mr. Rogers tried to give her father his metal detector. Maybe he was in on this game after all.

Finally, the paper was removed and only an unmarked box remained on Lonnie's lap. “I just want you all to know, if there's a scorpion in here or something, I might be throwing this box in a direction beyond my control. Melody,” she said, “you might want to stand behind me.”

Melody found that scenario highly unlikely. “I'll take my chances,” she said. Finally, she added: “Just open the box, Mother.”

Lonnie raised up her hands in acquiescence. “Right,” she said, and took another deep breath.

From over her shoulder, Bernie anticipating her needs, a pair of scissors appeared.

Lonnie thanked him, and proceeded to cut the thick tape which had secured the edges of the lid. Slowly, she opened the box, and discovered it to be filled to the top with excelsior. She used the scissors as an investigating stick, and hit something hard in the center.

“Well,” she said. “It didn't feel like a scorpion.”

“Also,” Melody added, impatiently. “There's no air holes, and no food.” The girl reached in herself, and extracted the excelsior, tossing it carelessly on the floor. She then removed two wooden objects, and beheld them in front of her as though she had just been mailed, parcel post, the Holy Grail.

“I don't get it,” Bernie said. “Is that an old timey square tool, and one of those do-dads that makes the circles.”

“It's a compass, Dad,” Melody said, rooting through the box with vigor. “I was hoping there would be another note or a flash drive with a video or something.” She picked up the box, dumped out the contents in front of her and tapped the bottom.

“You just signed up for vacuum detail, I'll have you know,” he mother told her.

Melody wasn't listening. “What is that supposed to mean,” she said, with a disappointed expression on her face. “A couple of old tools...”

Lonnie began. “Aren’t those the symbols of...”

“Maybe there’s a false bottom,” Bernie said.

“Right,” Melody said, with amusement. “Because that’s a thing people really do.”

“Fine,” Lonnie said. “No one listen to the answer lady.”

Melody looked up at her at this moment. “What?” she said.

“The square and the compass,” Lonnie said, calmly. “The tools of the Freemasons. Maybe Dondra was a member.”

“Is that even a thing that women were allowed in?” Melody folded up her arms. She was fairly certain that most clubs even up to the not-too-distant past were simply created as a means for men to avoid the smarter sex and feel smug and superior in their solitude.

“Well?” Lonnie’s eyes darted about the room. “Maybe,” she said, finally. “But I thought the ‘masons worshiped the female goddess.”

“Do you even hear yourself, Mother? These lodges were just places the men sat around, smoked, hit each other with paddles, and didn't do chores.” And then out of the corner of her eye, she saw it. At the bottom of the box, was the edge of a black line. Eagerly, she dropped the cardboard container on her mother's lap, and reached in and pulled back a glued flap.

“Ah ha!” Bernie roared. “False bottom! Up top.” He held out his hand in front of him to smack but found no takers.

“Well, these are the obvious symbols of that organization. I think we should do some research. My father was a member of...”

“But not your mother, right?” Melody stopped any further discussion on the topic by raising up her hand. “Look what I found.” She pulled out an envelope from the false bottom, on which was written the following:

“For Melody Jackson,” she read aloud. “To aid you on your quest. D. R.” Next to the initials was what appeared to be a Celtic symbol – an unbroken line, interwoven into a circle enveloped by a triangle.

“What's a D.R.?” Bernie said.

Melody looked up at him as though he had just had a stroke. “Dondra Rogers,” she answered. She eagerly opened the envelope and found the thinnest and lightest camera phone she had ever seen.

Melody cringed as she beheld it.

“Only girl I know who would be upset by getting a new phone,” Bernie said.

“What am I supposed to do with this? Call up Mom’s research squad?”

Lonnie clapped her hands together, and appeared to have stars in her eyes. “You remembered,” she said.

Melody shook her head, disappointedly. “Maybe there’s some pictures on the phone.” She tapped the screen, there were no buttons of any kind, and nothing happened.

“Hold the button down and swipe,” said Bernie.

“There is no button, dummy. I don’t think you know what you’re talking about,” Melody told him. However, she tried it just the same, or at least held her thumb down approximately where the button should be. “I'm sure the battery's dead.”

“What kind of phone is it?” Lonnie asked, getting up. “Maybe we can get a charger for it.”

“Yay!” Melody said, lifting up her hands. “A new quest. Maybe not as interesting as going after the Grail, but suitable to our times. The hunt for the Holy Phone Charger. They’ll write books about us.”

“Just give me the name of the phone, funny lady.” Lonnie snatched the device from her daughter’s hands. “Hmmm,” she said.

“If it doesn’t have a name,” Bernie jumped in, “can I name it?”

“You’re not naming it Yushude McSomecalls or something dumb,” Melody intercepted.

Lonnie looked the device up and down. It was black with a slight red metallic shimmer and a plain glass front. It looked very much like any other generic phone on the market, but felt like a sturdy piece of thick cardboard. “It doesn’t have any markings...or holes.

Melody raised her eyebrow. “Holes?”

“You know,” Lonnie said, scratching her head. “Like a headphone jack, or a place to plug in a charger. I don't think this is real.”

“It probably has some sort of lift off panel,” Bernie said taking the device into his possession. However, after a minute or two of examination, he handed it back to his daughter. “Must have been damaged in transit,” he said, finally.

“The mailman bumped it around so much that it filled in the holes?”

Bernie shrugged.

Frustrated, Melody tapped the top of the phone several more times, and finally held it down for roughly thirty seconds before giving up and dropping it back in the box from whence it came.

“Oh,” Bernie said. “Maybe the tools turn it on.”

Melody sighed dramatically. “This isn’t one of your old timey text adventure games, Dad,” she said. “Our universe uses real logic. I sincerely doubt DROP TOOLS ON PHONE is going to suddenly make it work.”

“We’re spitballing here,” Bernie said, defensively. “Throwing out ideas, seeing what sticks.”

“That’s a rather gross analogy,” Lonnie said. “Why are men always spitting on things?”

Bernie continued, undeterred. “Also, there was a certain amount of logic and dare I say elegance in those games that video games can’t even come close to copying today.”

Lonnie stared at her husband intently, and then said, finally: “You’re starting to sound like Melody describing her manual typewriter. What’s with you two and your appreciation of old garbage?”

Bernie and Melody looked at one another, and then turned back to Lonnie, and shouted at her in unison:

Bernie: GARBAGE??!


Lonnie laughed, and shook her head. “No one was attempting to make fun of your games, Bernie.”

“I was,” Melody said, eyebrow raised.

“No one, except Melody,” Lonnie corrected “Anyway, we've got bigger fish to fry than this phone.”

Melody shook her head. “What fish are you talking about?”

“Like what are we going to wear for the funeral tomorrow, and we should also rehearse how we're going to act so we don't embarrass ourselves.”

Bernie chuckled. “Re-hearse, because...”

“This is exactly what mom's talking about,” Melody said, shaking her head.

Bernie seemed taken aback. “Me? I'm not the sullen one who doesn't fit in with society, and can't keep thoughts in her brain.”

“ALRIGHT!” Lonnie shouted. “Before this turns into a thing, let's just all take a deep breath and realize that everyone has some issue with fitting in and has something to work on.” Under her breath she added, Besides me.

She turned to her husband, “Since you never got a formal invitation you need to find out from Rogers where and when this event is taking place.” She turned to Melody, “Let's you and me find some clothes to wear.” Before either of them could offer a complaint, Lonnie raised her finger. “This is going to be in a church, which is not a place for complaining. If you find yourselves wanting to say something snarky tomorrow, please hold it in. Bite your tongue or dig your nails into your thigh if you need to. And always keep in mind that I can make things very uncomfortable for you if I need to.”

It Happened on Lafayette Street

Season One: Episode One

Melody Jackson

vs. The Message from Space

by BMB Johnson

Scene 5

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