Scene 2

The kitchen, much like Melody's room, was in a state of disaster.  It was a rehabilitation project of her mother's – the last room to be remodeled since the family took over the house from Bernie's parents.

Inconveniently for anyone who wanted to make a sandwich, the process had only just begun.  Currently half of the orange and brown "chicken" wallpaper was spottily removed wherever it was already loose;  some of the linoleum floor tiles had been pried up at several corners where Lonnie wanted to see what it looked like underneath; and nearly all of the cabinet doors had been completely removed, along with the face panels and handles of the drawers.  

Melody's father Bernie, much to his chagrin, was currently in the process of prying open the silverware drawer with a screwdriver in the hopes of acquiring a knife for his jar of peanut butter.

"What are you doing here?" Melody asked him, still enraged from her conversation with her mother.

Bernie braced himself, not wanting exactly to be the recipient of his daughter's bad mood, but not finding any quick escape from it.  Melody was now blocking the only easily accessible door, and his stomach was growling at him in need of a snack.

"Well, good afternoon to you, too," he said, struggling with the lid of the massive peanut butter container.  He stopped this effort and reached out a hand to her. "Hi," he said, in a lambent tone. "I'm Bernie Jackson, and probably to your constant and utter annoyance, I'll be playing the part of your father for the rest of your life."

Melody scowled at him and opened the fridge, probably too gruffly, as all of the jars in the door clanked together in an obvious effort of communal protectiveness.  She almost stomped her foot on the ground, and then stopped. She knew that she was being ridiculous. She hated when her parents made her angry like this, but this frustration was directed mostly at herself for letting them get to her in the first place.

"I said hello to you after I changed into my sweatpants about a half hour ago, but you didn't say anything."

Melody didn't say anything this time, either.

"Deep in thought I guess."

"I was working on something." 

"Some secret project, eh?   One you seem rather reluctant to talk about.  What is it, Petunia?" Bernie said, placing his arm around her shoulders in what Melody perceived was a sarcastic and pseudo-comforting way.  “Decoding the language of hamsters? Cracking the nuclear launch codes?”

She brushed his arm aside and escaped through the door.  In his efforts to make light of sticky situations, he usually only tended to succeed at making things worse.

"Oh, come on," Bernie called after her.  "It's not going to be one of those days, is it?"

Lonnie then entered the room, looking behind herself in the direction that Melody had breezed past.  She then turned to her husband. "So what did you say to her?"

"Nothing," he said.  "Just being my charming self."

Lonnie smirked.  "Well, that explains why she's even angrier than when I left her."

"I'M NOT ANGRY!"  came a voice from the living room.

"Ears like a steel bat," Bernie said.

"THAT IS SO NOT THE PHRASE!"  Melody returned.

"Don't worry," Lonnie said through the closed kitchen door.  "It's just your father being himself."

"Thanks dear," he said, and kissed her on the nose.

Lonnie smiled at this, but it soon faded.  "You got peanut butter all over me. How do you always manage that?"

"That," he said, "is for requiring me to use a tool to open the drawers in the first place."

Lonnie grabbed a paper towel from the spindle and cleaned herself up.  "So," she said. "Did Melody tell you her latest idea?"

Bernie cleared his throat.  "Our conversation didn't progress into the use of spoken language," he said.

Melody chose this moment to somberly push forward through the swinging kitchen door.  Without saying a word, she grabbed a glass from the exposed cabinet, calmly blew off some dust from the outer edge, and tiptoed over to the sink to fill it.  She drank the entire contents, placed the glass down the counter, and the turned to face her parents, sighing deeply.

"Let me just start out by saying," she said, delicately wiping a drop of water from the corner of her lip, "that I really can't explain what's going on with me..."

Both Bernie and Lonnie offered an explanation, which appeared to be the most obvious to them.  "Hormones!" they said in unison.

Melody, still calm, took the time to breathe in deeply before continuing.  "And while it is most likely an adjustment in the hormonal chemistry of my brain, due to my current age..."

Bernie turned to Lonnie.  "It's like watching a PBS show."

Lonnie shushed him.  "I want to hear this."

"I would just like to formally apologize for my earlier outburst, and would like to state, for the record, that while these reactions may be quite beyond my control I would hope that they will subside after a couple of days."

Bernie choked.  "Couple of days." 

Lonnie stabbed him in the back with her thumb.

He turned to his wife, and whispered.  "But she's been this way since she was nine."

"In conclusion," Melody continued, showing no notice of her father's objections, though she seemed to look directly at him for the remainder of her presentation, "I would hope that we could all move past this with the maturity that is required of the situation."

Bernie applauded the speech, bowed, and called for cheese and refreshments.

Melody raised her hand in the air, calling for silence as though Caesar to release the lions.  "Now," she said, "I will take my leave of you, as I'm bound for City Hall to make my case for the destruction of this supposed weather station in favor of my proposal of the Phineas J. Foghoot memorial, Lafayette Street Communal Garden."

At this, Bernie closed one eye and widened the other.  "Huh," he said. "Did something happen to Mr. Foghoot?"

Lonnie shrugged her shoulders.  "I saw Donovan sleeping on him earlier.  He might have some drool on him, but that's about it."

Melody cleared her throat.  "Mr. Foghoot is fine, but now that I'm twelve, you must realize that my appreciation for stuffed animals will soon be dwindling, I just felt that my friend should be remembered in some way before being crated off to the attic."  She turned and began to walk towards her bedroom.

"But what's all this business about City Hall?"

"She wants to talk to the government about her plan."

"Where even is that?”

“Where is what?”

“City Hall.  Is that the mayor's office?"

"Yes," Lonnie said, her eyes narrowing.  "It's where the mayor works. It's downtown."  She shook her head.

"Oh," he said.  "Like you knew that before your daughter told you."

Lonnie laughed.  She leaned forward and rubbed her husband's shoulder.  "I'm sure there's lots of people who are dumb about local politics."

"Laugh while you can," he told her.  “My I.Q. test results come back Thursday.  Then you’ll see.”

"I will, and I am and I won’t," she said, chuckling under her breath.

"However,” Bernie continued,  “her explanation, like much of the time, leaves more questions than answers.  Fr'instance, she's on her way to this City Hall right now?!"

"That's what she said.  You're taking her, right?"

"No," Bernie said.  "I just got home from work and I want to have a snack and watch television like every other local taxpayer."

"Well, there you go."

Melody emerged from the hallway, wearing a very smart, professional outfit, and carrying a small satchel.

Bernie looked at his daughter, and it suddenly felt to him as though it were the first time.  “When did she grow up?” he whispered to his wife.


“She looks practically like an adult.”

“Girls mature faster than boys,” Melody jumped in.

Bernie raised an eyebrow, and Melody pointed to her ear and mouthed the words “Steel bat.”  

He narrowed his eyes, and then nudged his wife with his elbow.  Lonnie nodded back knowingly. He looked at her again, more discerningly this time.  Melody was now almost as tall as he. She was beautiful with long, though slightly tangled brown hair.  Small, rectangular-lensed glasses hid her dark blue eyes and added to her commanding appearance. The only betrayal of her true age, was a light sprinkling of pink spots dotted about her face.

"Wait, how old does that make us?"  

"As the hills, Bernie," Lonnie said.  "As the hills."

Lonnie and Bernie were probably much older than the average parent to child age ratio.  They had waited, which seemed like the responsible thing to do, until they could afford to have children.  The result, however, was often very tired and cranky parenting. 

"Well," Melody said.  "I'm off."

"Okay," Bernie said.  "Just make sure that you fill the tank on the way home."  He threw her his set of keys.

"Funny, father," she said, throwing the keys back at him.  "But like you, I'm not officially licensed to drive a car, so, also like you, I will take the bus.  I have checked the Tri-Met website and found that I just need to hop on the #9 Powell bus, get off at SW 6th & Main, and then walk a short 0.1 miles southeast to Portland City Hall."

Bernie swallowed deeply.  "First of all...You're taking the bus?  By yourself?  You?"

"Yes," she said.  "For an independent young woman, such an act is not beyond the realm of possibilities."

"Well, no, not at all, but..."

"I think what you're father is delicately trying to say is that there's no precedent set for you...taking the bus by yourself.  That's all."

Melody didn't know what the big deal was.  Sure she had had some fears of traveling on her own in the past, but she figured that since these obtrusive hormones were forcing her to become more independent that they would also logically just make these fears go away should she suddenly be faced with them.  "It's the least they could do," Melody suddenly said out loud.

Bernie shrugged.  "The least what could?"

Melody shook her head, scornfully.  "Never mind," she said. "That should have been internal dialog."

"Starting to bleed over, is it?"

Melody brushed him off.  "Well," she said. "I'm off."  She bowed in a rather silly and awkward way, and then opened the front door and stepped out onto the porch.  She stood there for a few moments staring into the front yard, the sun beginning to wane. She wasn't sure which she was hoping for, her hormones to kick in to increase her sense of boldness, or for her parents to rush out and stop her.  At the moment, while she would have been welcoming of the former, her heart was begging for the latter. She closed her eyes, and felt the small breeze on her face. Breathing deeply she took the first step down from the porch to the sidewalk. 

Her journey to the bus stop, which was barely a block away, was slow and deliberate.  In that time it occurred to her that her somewhat sheltered life, both self-imposed and also from being a home-schooler, might possibly have a downside.  While she didn't care for the Pavlovian-style of modern schooling, something could be said for how it made anti-socialism seem functional. Melody didn't want to join a gang or anything, but it might be nice to be able to skip to the end of the block without becoming catatonic.  

Lost in this contemplation, it took her nearly fifteen minutes to arrive at the covered stop on the busy street around the corner.  Once there she found both her parents waiting for her.

"Hi there," said her father.   "We weren't sure if you had any money with you.  Also, did you take the scenic route or something?"

"I had to work my way up to it."  She shook her head. "Why didn't I see you pass by me?"

"We walked the other way around," said Lonnie.  "We didn't want to discourage you."'

"Also, I looked it up, and City Hall actually closed about twenty minutes ago."  Bernie shrugged. "It's not like the government burns the midnight oil, I guess."

Melody slumped, and more or less gave the impression of a melted candle.  However, this was mostly just for show, as she was quite relieved by this news.

A bus approached, and slowed to a stop despite Bernie waving at it.

The door opened, and the man leaning forward stared at them expectantly.

"Sorry," Bernie said.  "We don't actually need a bus today."

The driver shouted at them.  "This isn't a homeless camp," he roared.  "If you don't need a bus, please vacate the bus stop area."

"I waved at you," Bernie said, sheepishly.

The bus driver sat with his door open for a few more seconds as if deciding whether or not to continue berating the trio.  Finally, he shook his head, closed the door and resumed his route.

Bernie turned to his wife, a flash of anger on his face..  "I waved at him. You saw me do that, right? It's the universal sign that we don't want the bus to stop."

Lonnie shrugged.  "I don't know what to tell you," she said.  "That wasn't your driver, was it?"

"No," Bernie sighed.  "Thankfully." He then turned to his daughter.  "Well, child. I think it's about time..."

Melody, however, seemed lost in thought, and was not reachable at the moment.  It took a tap her on the shoulder by her father to rouse her back to reality.

"Nickel for your thoughts, four cents added for inflation.”  He smiled but quickly stopped, realizing how corny he must have just sounded.  “Although, it better not be what I think you're thinking."

Melody smiled at her father, broadly.  Gone was the idea for a communal garden.  Gone now was the plan to bulldoze the weather station.  Her mind was on to expansion.  The bus driver, while unnecessarily grouchy -- perhaps he had some hormonal changes of his own swelling in his brain -- had given her a great new project idea.

"Picture it," she said.  "Phineas J. Foghoot's Commemorative Homeless Shelter and Rehabilitation Center."

It Happened on Lafayette Street

Season One:  Episode One

Melody Jackson 

vs. The Woman in White

by BMB Johnson

Scene 2

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