She Only Hears What She Wants to Hear
Moxie Sharpe felt increasingly uncomfortable as a young costumer pushed and prodded her breasts into the highest possible cleavage while tightening laces through each layer of metal holes. Pearl had messed up before, but this time was the worst.
“Take a deep breath.” The girl grabbed her reigns and yanked.
“You know I’m going to slap you once I figure out what the hell is going on,” said Moxie.
“Now I do,” she said. “Usually, this is why women pay for this costume. I’m just doing my job. Enjoy the faire, me lady.” She curtsied.
Moxie saw herself in the mirror. Damn, that girl knew how to make cleavage. “Sorry,” she said as the girl strangled her with a large necklace and handed her a claim check.
“You can keep the costume, but we have your clothes and we know where you live,” she said.
The script did not move the costumed.
The dresser whispered, “I know who you are. You are Moxie Sharpe. Would you sign my hands? Like, ‘These touched Moxie Sharpe’. Here’s a marker. I won’t tell. I mean, I will, I won’t be able to help it if you sign my hands.”
This costume rental comp didn’t make up for anything. After signing the girl’s hands, Moxie left the building cursing Pearl, human beings in general, life on any planet, the universe, and skirts. She was not costumed for the show she was prepared for and she did not walk into the world she knew. She especially did not walk into Scandrum–The largest rally for all motorcycle enthusiasts, not to be confused with Scandium the largest medieval larping excursion.
It is a fact that renaissance fairs, if well costumed, are all about great boobs and cleavage, so the pawing was not what upset Moxie. Moxie was upset because she was at a renaissance fair. When Pauline Pearl, Moxie’s mentor and seriously overworked agent, said Moxie was going to play Scandrum, Moxie jumped at the chance. She had dreamed about being the headliner at Scandrum since she was tall enough to compete in the bike-o-lympics. Her dad had taken her to the annual rally every year when she was little and she continued to go even after he split. She believed one day she would run into him and he would explain why he left without saying good-bye. She thought he would congratulate her the first time she won the bike-o-lympics, or maybe the fifth time. Now, up on the huge stage, he would have to see her. And how could he not be proud? Sure, she was only a stand in—The bass player for Sex With Helmets had crashed his Harley through the wall of the Wild Boar Saloon just three days before the largest gathering of motorcycle enthusiasts in the country. It had been all over the news—but it didn’t matter how she got there. It was the big show.
Moxie would have known something was wrong if she had looked at the music when it was sent over, but she knew Sex With Helmet’s set list. The bass player liked to bang away on open strings which made stepping in a breeze. This was important since he was also accident prone. Before this latest crash, she had stepped in when he had drunkenly stumbled into a bull and then again when he accidentally took a dangerous cocktail of controlled substances and tried out his new gliding suit. His foray into urban skydiving chipped some bricks in a downtown building and his front tooth. Luckily, the band name was a reference to the fact that he always wore a helmet. He never took it off.
Moxie also might have known something was wrong if she had been asked to provide her own instrument, or organize her accommodations, but Pearl had taken care of absolutely everything for Moxie since her first band hit the charts when she was sixteen. Moxie finally noticed something was wrong when Pearl sent a car without a trailer for her bike. Pearl explained that the misunderstanding wasn’t completely her fault when Moxie finally got her on the phone.
“I never said you were playing Scandrum. I got you the gig at Scandium before Sex With Helmets called about their unfortunate accident. I was having trouble finding you anything and then this job fell in our lap. The lute player for The—”
“Did you say lute?”
“Yes, the lute player for The Midsummer Minstrels had mysteriously vanished the Tuesday before opening weekend. They were desperate for an emergency replacement. And you seemed so excited when I called. I have to admit, I was a bit surprised by how happy you were.”
“Pearl, I don’t play the lute. Why would you take that gig. Can’t we back out and get Scandrum. I want Scandrum.”
“No. They already went with Shayla. Besides, you always tell me you can play anything with strings. A lute has strings, right? I’m really asking. A lute’s kinda like a mandolin, right?”
“Yes, Pearl. But that doesn’t make this any better.”
“You’ll be fine. Plus, that lute player might show up and you can come home. You get paid either way. It’s a cushy gig. And you love camping.”
“Yes, a big fancy tent set up on pallets in the woods. It will be magical. You might even meet a wood nymph. Who knows? There could be mini-dragons.”
“You are nuts Pearl. You know that? Fine, but I’ll need a couple rehearsals.”
“The fair opens tomorrow early.” She hung up.
Pearl was known to get confused sometimes. And shiny things like motorcycles and knights in shining armor can be incredibly distracting. But Moxie had to admit she might have heard what she wanted to hear.
Moxie couldn’t get a full breath without the bodice biting into her ribs. Despite her discomfort and devastating disappointment, Moxie was surprised to feel a little excited. She wasn’t sure if she was lightheaded from lack of oxygen or if it was the bright sunlight slanting through the thick green trees combined with the dust kicked up as she walked the sawdust covered path, but she felt a little dizzy in a good way. She passed the wenches setting up their food booths along the center path and the fool setting up his slack rope at the small theater as she continued down the hill to the joust field.
The moment she reached the bottom of the hill, her nose stung and her eyes watered, her senses overcome by sweaty horse and man. She covered her nose and mouth and ran around the jousting field to the faux castle at the far side. At the back of the plywood building she gasped for air and was rewarded with the fresh scent of pine.
“Good morrow, me lady,” said a man holding the door open and beckoning her inside.
I guess my character will be mute, thought Moxie, because I am not going to talk like that.
“You must be Sir Gerald’s replacement. He’s been amiss these four days. Your lute awaits. Follow me.” He beckoned and Moxie followed.
The Midsummer Minstrels’ main job, he explained, was to entertain the king and queen during the joust, once mid-morning and once in the afternoon. They were also part of the parade in the morning and evening. Moxie was sure she would be fine during the jousts because she could read the music, but during the parades she would really be winging it.
Moxie should have known she couldn’t be mute, not even for a minute, she was too curious. “What do you think happened to Sir Gerald?” she asked.
“I assuredly do not know. Though his eye doth wandereth upon the wenches.”
“Hey, man. Can you cut the crap. The show hasn’t started.”
Moxie’s companion looked shocked. “One should express oneself in language of the day every moment one is upon the grounds.”
“Wow. My bad,” said Moxie. She sat down and picked up the lute.
The instrument was badly out of tune. The first tuning peg felt gritty and sticky. She slowly let go and looked at her fingers then held them up. “Is this blood?” she said.