Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Slow Motion Fastball

                    for Judy Downer
Some deaths are sudden; others come at you
   Like a slow-motion fastball—where you see
It barely moving, like a snail through glue,
   And every stitch has perfect clarity.
And as that ball gets closer, bit by bit,
   You steel your nerves and feel your muscles numbing,
And gamely brace yourself against the hit,
   And think: “I’ve got this!” ‘cause you see it coming.
Then it arrives and BAM!  You’re on your ass
   And pain—pain everywhere—is all you know
Because the impact shatters you like glass.
   No matter if it’s sudden or it’s slow,
      It drops you like a bullet from a gun:
      It’s still a fastball, and it hits like one. 


Copyright 2015 Matthew J Wells


Sunday, August 23, 2015

We Say We Lost You Years Ago Today

for Meir Ribalow

We say we lost you years ago today
   Like we’re the found ones, and not just as lost—
Stuck here in Act Three of a two-act play
   Where Death’s the scribe and Life is tempest-tossed.
You were the sun around which we revolved
   And now we’re orphans in this galaxy—
Troubled by problems that you would have solved,
   Blind to the strategies that you could see—
Forgetting that you didn’t try to rule;
   You tried to teach, and find the words to guide us
To where we’d give no suffers to a fool
   And trust the little sun that burns inside us,
      And know—like work is what we’ll find success in—
      The teacher’s always found inside the lesson.


Copyright 2015 Matthew J Wells

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


It wasn’t you there lying on that bed
   And not your face that my tears landed on.
It wasn’t you when I kissed your cold head.
   It was your shell—by then, you were long gone.
And all the wailing that you didn’t hear
   And all the anguish that you didn’t see
Meant nothing—all those tears, like flames that sear,
   Were not for you.  No.  They were all for me.
I knew, then, that all I knew was a lie,
   And learned the hard way that our hopes deceive us:
This life is all about saying goodbye
   To people that we love after they leave us
      In a cold room, smothered with sorrow’s weight,
      Where all the living talk of love too late.
Copyright 2015 Matthew J Wells

Monday, August 17, 2015

Still harping on daughters

Tragedy?  Really?
“He keeps writing these plays where dads get their daughters back,” says Lily Rabe about Shakespeare in the program notes to Cymbeline at the Delacorte.  She’s talking about the late romances, and except for The Tempest, where everybody else is lost except the daughter, she’s right.  It’s all about dads and daughters in these plays. 
It’s also all about a mode of storytelling that can easily be dismissed as primitive or archetypal, and can best be visualized by thinking of a Shakespearean comedy as a house that’s mostly reality except for a room labeled FOLK TALE, and a Shakespearean romance as a house that’s mostly folk tale except for a room labeled REALITY.  And in a house like that, architecture defines function.  If we take Cymbeline seriously, the plot complications require so much heavy lifting that the play collapses under the weight of its own improbabilities.  The trick is to do the opposite, so that it becomes serious in flashes, like lightning in fairyland.  Ground this play and it will sink without a trace; give it wings, and it will have a chance to soar when, like Chesterton’s angels, it takes itself lightly. 
This production has that lightness.  It doesn’t just accept the fact that the play is barely dipping a couple of toes into the shallow end of the real world—it flaunts it.  After all, when one of the major characters doesn’t even have a name (the Queen), we are in a country where function follows form—she’s the Queen and an evil stepmother, which is what you need to know because it’s what the plot requires.
And is there a ton and a half of plot here or what?  It’s like three years of Days of Our Lives compressed into three hours.  How do you make something like that work? 
Director Daniel Sullivan does it by making the artificiality part of the visual premise.  The set is a frame within a frame, with the title of the play in big bold letters, surrounded by props, statues, and packing boxes on which have been stenciled the names of other Shakespeare plays.  There’s a small orchestra in the back wearing modern tuxedos, and the stage is flanked on one side by a photo of a World War I tank and on the other by David’s Napoleon Crossing The Alps, as befitting a play where pre-Christian Britain is just a shipwreck away from Renaissance Rome. 
The opening sets the tone.  Instead of the usual Oskar Eustis pre-recording, we get a couple of actors dressed as ushers delivering pretty much the same speech live, with the rest of the cast sitting upstage watching them, which does a lot to make the speech feel communal and celebratory.  (Throughout the rest of the evening, there will always be at least one actor back there watching the action.) There’s also a delightful bit where Raul Esparza whips out his cellphone to take a cast selfie, and the admonition is: “Don’t be like 4-time Tony nominee Raul Esparza; shut off your cellphones.”  Not only did it do the trick, but it made me anticipate an upcoming anachronism which (sadly) never happened.  (See below.)
These same ushers spent most of the pre-show chatting up two sections of on-stage audience, and when the play begins with its extended expository scene between two gentlemen, pre-selected audience members stand and deliver statements or ask questions on cue, reinforcing the fact that this is not a play which anyone should be taking very seriously. 
Plus everybody in the cast doubles, which is like holding up a big neon sign that says LOOK AT HOW WE’RE PRESENTING THIS instead of LOOK AT WHO WE ARE.  The chief joy in all this is watching Hamish Linklater play both the bad guy (Cloten) and the good guy (Leonatus).  Linklater rules as Cloten.  In a blond Moe Howard wig and with a Dumb And Dumber Jim Carey manner, he makes every Cloten line feel like it’s from the Shakespearean version of English As She Is Spoke.  His Leonatus is nowhere near as memorable, but then it’s hard to play someone who switches back and forth between blind trust and blind rage and not make him look like an idiot.  Even though he's in good company—because this play is full of idiots.  Everyone talks about seeing, and is always deceived.  Only the audience sees it all; and this too creates distance, like a third frame around the action.
Raul Esparza’s Iachimo is a delight.  Sleek and sharp, he puits the rat in Rat Pack, and gets the drinking song from Antony and Cleopatra as his entrance, during which he does a torrid little dance number with a waitress who on closer examination turns out to be Lily Rabe in a silver-lame minidress and Anna Karina wig.  Sleek to the eye and slimy to the touch, the role of Iachimo fits Esparza like a glove with brass knuckles; his scene with Imogen is one of the high points of the show. 
And Lily Rabe, as Imogen, gets to channel a moment from pretty much every Shakespearean heroine she’s portrayed so far for the Public.  But it’s a hard role.  Imogen reacts,  she doesn’t initiate.  At best, she’s the plot’s sparring partner; at worst, its punching bag.  (Part of me thinks that, whoever the chief boy actor was in the King’s Men around 1611, he had nowhere near the  talent of 1600’s boy actor; and another part of me thinks that, even if he was the most talented actor alive, Shakespeare wanted him to play those dad-renounced daughters as victims of their fate rather than the masters of it
So no—this is not your moving or emotionally-engaging Cymbeline, and its relentless playfulness might just annoy the hell out of anyone who comes to it expecting to be swept off her feet.  But if you like what the Fiasco Theater has been doing with Shakespeare lately, then you’ll kick yourself if you miss it.
Oh—and than potential anachronism I mentioned?  In the bedroom scene, where Iachimo is taking notes on his surroundings,  I half-expected Esparza to whip out that cellphone again and take naked selfies of Imogen—it would have been sublimely perfect, because we all believe it when we see a picture of it, right?  Ah well.  Maybe next Cymbeline.

Happy Birthday, Gary

Happy birthday, brother.  It’s 9AM.
   You’d be on your second Guinness by now.
“Breakfast of champions!”  Not pacing them—
   You never paced unless you had a cow—
Downing them.  Each one with its own glowing
   Jamie shot—a glass for every last year
And one for good luck—which was always throwing
   Brickbats at you.  Who needs luck?  You had beer,
And an undying hope behind each toast—
   And plans.  Always a plan.  I bet you even
Planned for this—me alive and you a ghost,
   Knowing that nothin’ stays alive like grievin’—
      And all that pain of might-have-been and never
      Is just another way to live forever.
Copyright 2015 Matthew J Wells


You do not see a face that doesn’t frown.
   You do not know how deep the wound will go
Until you’re stabbed—or even how far down
   You’ll fall, until you’re pushed there by some foe
Who makes you see this world’s a twisted plot
   Where faith turns into hatred on a dime—
Where grief and growth are tangled in a knot
   That cannot be untied but in good time.
And when all’s been unraveled, what’s revealed
   But that design which under chaos dreams
That death’s a sentence that can be repealed
   And love a tree that shelters and redeems.
      Hang there like fruit, my soul, till that tree die;
      Pardon’s the word for all, from low to high.


Copyright 2015 Matthew J Wells

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Elvis At Auschwitz Diaries

6/5/15.  I prep Elvis At Auchwitz to submit it to Nylon Fusion’s 50’s & 60’s Ten Minute Play Festival.  The play was written in 1998 as part of a bunch of one-acts about the Holocaust entitled The History of The Lagers.  (I am now starting the first act of a full-length play with the same title, about a woman in 1982 who discovers she’s the daughter of a notorious escaped death camp commandant.)  EAA is also one of the half-dozen Orpheus and Eurydice take-offs I’ve written as stories or plays.  The only time it was ever read was back in 1998 as a table read at Fazil’s, a Times Square studio that no longer exists. As I re-read the script, I realize that, seven years before I meet the women I call Ava and Eva, they show up in this play as German twins.  I immediately scour the rest of my collected works to see if there are mentions of other people I have yet to meet, like Christopher Lee.

6/7/15.  Christopher Lee dies.  So much for that theory.

6/19/15.  I submit Elvis At Auschwitz 

7/9/15.  I get an e-mail from Ivette Dumeng, the Artistic Director of Nylon Fusion, telling me that EAA has been accepted in to the Festival.  This makes three things this year (Great Plains and Red Bull being the other two).  I send out "I am on a fucking roll!" e-mails to the immediate world.

7/13/15.  Romeo and Rosaline gets read at the Red Bull Short New Play Festival.  (See separate diary.)

7/21/15.  Ivette e-introduces me to Lori Kee (the director) and the three actors in the cast.  After getting our available dates, the first rehearsal is set up for 6:30 the day after my birthday, which gives me a chance to take a brief nap if I’m hung over from the previous evening’s festivities. 

7/24/14.  I have now outlived Carl Sagan, and lasted a year longer than Hemingway while looking a year more like him.  Plans for tonight’s pub crawl fall through at the last minute, but then Omaha friend Kat Ramsburg invites me to see King Liz with her at the 2econd Stage Theatre uptown, after which I meet Barry and Shannon at the rooftop bar at Connelly’s, after which Barry and I end up at Jimmy’s Corner till it closes.  The starlings are bitching at each other when I get home, and as usual I get four solid hours of pass-out sleep before dehydration kicks in and I am wide awake. 

7/25/15.  After napping from 1 to 3, and working on the second of three flashback scenes in the first act of the Lagers play, I head off to the table read, where I meet Lori (and her cute little dog, whose name I immediately forget because I don’t write it down), and the actors: Rob, Ryan and Michael, playing Red, Felton/Elvis and Lamar.  The reading goes well.  During it, the actors make minor word changes of a deliberately ungrammatical nature, like saying “weren’t” instead of “wasn’t.” Since to my ear this helps to solidify the regionalism in the speeches, I tell them to do it whenever they think it feels right for the character.  Ryan asks how much of a caricature of Elvis’s voice he should do, and when Lori and I both say it’s fine if he goes a little over the top, he says: “Then I guess I’ll just get it from Bubba Ho-Tep.”   I put one finger on my nose and point to his and say “Yes.  Yes please.”  And then we explain the reference, to those who do not know.
(For those who do not know, go here.)


I promise to send everyone online links to pictures of the real Red and Lamar, and manage to do that within the next couple of days. 

7/29/15.  Ryan sends me a thoughtful and perceptive e-mail about concerns he has with the Mengele and Auschwitz references in the play, and suggests two solutions.  This is the best thing about (a) getting a play up on its feet and (b) working with good actors—the stuff on the page gets tested, and questions I never would have asked myself need to get answered.  I write Ryan back agreeing with his observations and solutions, and promise him some rewrites in the next couple of hours.  Lori’s in on the e-mail chain too, so when I make the fixes, I first type them up like sides, with intro and exit speeches and the page numbers where they can be inserted, and then I edit them into the current script and create a whole new version, which somehow still comes in at 9 pages even though I’m adding in almost a full page of dialogue.  Ryan likes the rewrites, Lori tells me they’re good but she’ll reserve judgment till she hears them read.  (Smart.)  Part of me feels bad for the actors, since they’re probably halfway off-book by now.  But the changes are good ones, and they go a long way to reducing the glibness-when-it-comes-to-Nazis air of the original draft. 

8/4/15.  My six days of crazy begin by me getting up at 4:30, and getting to the Delacorte Theatre in the on-again off-again rain by 6:30, to get tickets for Cymbeline.  I draft the final scene of Act One for the Lagers play, and come up with a really bad Byron and Shelley pun. By 10:30 there are only 102 people on line, not counting the seniors, which is the smallest amount of people I can ever remember seeing at that time of day.  I figure there are going to be a lot of empty seats tonight. (There aren’t.  The place is packed.  And the show is delightful.  Don't listen to Christopher Isherwood.  But then who does?)

8/5/15.  I go to the 6:30 Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Plays performance.  Gwen Rice, a friend from Great Plains, has a play in it, which is far and away the best thing of that slot.  Me, I’m excited because it’s an actual play, and not just a scene or something that sets up a situation that doesn’t get resolved.  It’s constructed so that the ending echoes darkly a moment that was originally delivered brightly, and it mixes humor with tragedy to make the tragedy sting, and it is not afraid to go dark, and it is so well-acted and well-directed. It totally deserves to make it to the finals.  (It does.)   

8/6/15.  In the morning, I makes notes for a Cymbeline review and write a sonnet about my natural inclination to equate blowing my own horn with excessive vanity.  (Irish Catholic upbringing, anybody?)  I start re-reading A Natural Perspective by Northrop Frye and making notes for my Shaxpere book.  I head to the Morrison Hotel Gallery on Prince at 7, ostensibly to see the David McClister opening, but really to meet my friend Dawn’s new boyfriend Jason.  At  9 we adjourn to the SoHo Grand for birthday drinks with Dawn's friends, after which I lead an intrepid foursome to Toad Hall, after which I get home at 3, because that is what happens when the bartender at Toad Hall is an old friend from the Cedar Tavern. 

8/7/15.  I get up at 8:00, grab a coffee, and from 9:30 to 5:15, I work on two 1200 word articles about golf with my golf- trainer friend Roberto.  I go home, shower, change into The Writer Uniform (vest, dark jeans, white shirt with blue stripes) and go to the first performance of EAA at 7 PM.  Sadly, this is also the night that Bella Poynton’s play is getting done at Sam French (she’s another Great Plains friend), so I’m going to miss it.  When I get to the theatre, I see my friends DJ, Courtney, and Carrie.  We all sit together.  Elvis is the second play, after which there’s a brief intermission to get a drink; then two more plays and another drinking break, then the last play.  This is all emceed by a guy and a woman from the company, who pop up to remind us to drink and give us Nylon Fusion news.  My director Lori is in the first play, which would have gone a lot better if some guy who walked into the show drunk hadn’t walked out of it even more drunk while they were saying their lines.  Ugh.  Elvis goes very well.  The actors have a great time with it, Ryan’s Elvis is a delightful tightrope walk between caricature and reality, and I am pleased and relieved that the rewrites feel seamless.  The evening of five plays ends up being a combination of wistful, farcical, and dead serious, with the fourth play, May 10, also directed by Lori, getting the best response of the night.  

8/8/15.  As a deliberate challenge, at the coffee shop this morning I write a sonnet where the metre is anapestic and not iambic.  It’s about me walking home at 3AM from Dawn’s party, and it needs work, but I like the way it bounces against that iambic pentameter wall in much the same way that I was staggering back and forth on the sidewalks of West Broadway. 
At 12:30, it’s the Great Plains brunch at The Banc Cafe, which Gwen can no longer make because she’s having a pre-finals meeting with her cast and director, and Bella can barely make because her play goes up at 2.  Besides Bella, there’s Kat, David Hilder and Helen Banner from the writer group, with Simon Harding and Ali Hall representing the design contingent. I make a mental note to organize something like this once a month, and since Jim Brown is coming into the city from LA in early September, that's going to be the next one.   

I watch last week’s Hannibal when I get home (in preparation for this week’s Hannibal), then meet Alan and Judy for dinner at Mexicue on 5th and 27th.  It’s the usual fun time with them, muted by what’s going on with Judy’s sister, during which we get onto the subject of the beer they’ll be serving during the play (PBR’s and Yngling)—and from the dark backward and abysm of my brain, I picture someone doing a New Yorker cartoon of CS Lewis , JRR Tolkien, Nevill Coghill, Roger Lancelyn Green and Charles Williams all hoisting a Yngling, and I cry out: “Inklings drinking Yngling!”  and Alan says “I dare you to say that three times fast.”  Dare not taken; it's impossible.

When we get to the box office and I announce that I’m one of the writers, I finally get to meet Ivette, the Artistic Director, who introduces herself.  I mention to her that there’s an error in the program—it says that I’m the author of the first play (Face Value) which is obviously a misprint.  (The author is David Csontos.)  I ask her if the two emcees can make some kind of announcement clearing this up, but they never do. 

Tonight, my friends Rob and Patrick, Elijah and Jennifer, Bram and Fiona, and Walter end up coming (along with Alan and Judy), so we commandeer an entire row.  The audience tonight is warmer, and the laughter is more infectious.  Jacques and Lori are so much better in Face Value now that they don’t have to worry about being interrupted by drunks, and during Elvis there’s an air of “I can’t believe I’m laughing at this, but it’s hilarious,” like the play is tapping some deep well of humor.  The audience loves it, and even better, my friends are laughing like crazy. 

There is also a script save.  There’s a section, just before Elvis goes into the Army, about this recurring dream he has, which sets up the whole Auschwitz angle.  It gets skipped tonight, so when the time comes for Elvis to see the camp pictures that look like his dream, the audience isn’t going to know what the hell is going on.  Except that Ryan saves it by ad-libbing the whole dream sequence into his recognition scene, and he does it so seamlessly that nobody questions it.  I thank him profusely after the show for what he did, and I can tell that he’s completely jazzed by it.  And rightly so.  

Plus—icing on the cake—as I’m congratulating the actors and Lori, Ivette grabs me and says “I want to introduce you to John Patrick Shanley,” and takes me back into the theatre and plants me in front of a tall handsome guy dressed in white who’s sitting in the front row next to this model-gorgeous blonde in a little black dress.  “This is the author of the Elvis play,” she announces, and Shanley extends his hand, and we shake, and he introduces me to the blonde, and she and I shake hands, and he congratulates me on a job well done, and I say something about how the actors really made me look good, and then he asks me what everybody ends up asking me when they hear about or see this play: “So did Elvis ever go to Auschwitz?” and I say no, not to my knowledge,  and then I start blabbering about all the history that is true in the play (the twin stuff about Elvis and Ed Sullivan, the Gladys stuff) while there’s another voice in my head yelling STOP BLABBERING YOU SOUND LIKE AN IDIOT.  So I stop, and there’s an awkward moment of silence, and I say, as unblabberingly as I can, “I’m so glad you liked the play, Mr. Shanley; thank you very much, and it was a pleasure meeting you,” and we shake hands again and I go back to the foyer and chug three PBR’s in 45 seconds. 

8/9/15.  My Moleskine is down to its last pages, which means the next couple of days are going to be all about logging those notes that need to get typed into scripts or other idea folders.  This one got started on June 13, and I would have filled it up a lot sooner but for the fact that all the Lagers notes got put into a separate play notebook which is now three-quarters full itself.   

In the AM I write a sonnet about death, and then head down to the Drama Guild to see Love Drunk, six short plays by three writers, one of whom is Arika Larson, another Great Plainswright.  Her two pieces are presented first, and for someone who says she doesn’t write ten-minute plays, they’re damn good.  They’re based on photographs, like all the other plays, and it’s fascinating to see who does what with each photo.  None of the plays are what I would expect (a good thing) and while a couple of them aren’t quite plays (a potentially bad thing) they still work as scenes from which those photos could have been taken (a very interesting thing). 

From Arika I hear about the Sam French finals.  She was there.  I kind of knew already, because I didn’t see anything in either Gwen’s feed or Bella’s feed about the results, but she confirmed that neither one of them were chosen in the final six.  I haven’t seen or read Bella’s play, but from what I know of her writing, there’s a good chance she got gypped.  In Gwen’s case, I know she got gypped.  I didn’t have to see the rest of the field to know that there was no way in hell six plays were better than the script she wrote and the play those actors performed.  No way.  I can’t imagine how she’s feeling.  Me, it just reminds me of the answer I want to give and never do whenever someone asks me what kind of plays I write, because it sounds like the bitter fuck-you response of a theatrical misanthrope—which doesn’t make it any less true.  “What kind of plays do I write?  I write the kind of plays that are not mediocre enough to get published or produced.”  

In the evening, I go to the Sidewalk Café, which is now the lone occupant of its block on Avenue A, for the final night of Boog City, a poetry, music and theatre festival.  My friend Ronnie is in a bizarre oratorio called Ishtar Redux, and there’s spoken word and music and a comforting air of downtown camaraderie.  I talk a little with Cannonball Statman, one of the musicians; I have three Guinnesses at happy hour prices, which equals the cost of one Guinness at Mercury Lounge prices; I get this idea for two scenes/moments in the Shaxpere book, which would be homages to the Henry V pre-battle scene where Henry goes among his men in disguise—in one scene, Shaxpere disguises himself to go among the actors of his plays and hear what they really think of him, and he gets really pissed when they make fun of him; and in the other scene he does the same thing to a bunch of his fellow writers, and gets really pissed when they prefer Marlowe over him, even though Marlowe has been dead since Shakespeare was 29.   

And I think of the fact that Elvis actually got produced.  So does that make it mediocre?  I don’t think so.  And I think of sending an e-mail to Ivette at Nylon Fusion to thank her for choosing it, which means "Thank you for getting it."  And I recall that Nylon Fusion was the tenth ten-minute play festival I sent it to, so nine other theatre companies didn’t get it at all.  Which makes me realize that, when a play is finally produced, the writer gets to point to that production and tell all the theatres that rejected the play: “See?  SEE?”  But before that play gets produced, and whenever that play gets rejected, the writer points to himself and cries: “What is WRONG with me?”
And I think, y’know?  It’s nice to not have to say that at the moment, for however long this moment lasts.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Byron The Magician

“I am teaching myself to become a magician,” Byron announced. 

“Indeed,” replied Shelley.  “And how are you Doing that?”   

“Observe!” Byron declared. 

He produced a white rat, and three brightly colored strings of green, red, and blue. 

“This is my rat; I call him Keats.  I have educated Keats so that the ingestion of each string triggers a previously-trained habit,” Byron explained.  “For instance—the dancing habit!” he cried, and fed Keats the green string, whereupon the rat immediately began to do an Irish jig.   

When Byron pulled the green string out, he cried: “The somersault habit!” and fed Keats the red string, at which point the rat began to do forwards and backwards somersaults across the floor.   

“And the sitting habit!” Byron said, pulling the red string out and feeding Keats the blue string.  The rat gobbled up the string and immediately sat on its haunches and lowered its head into its forepaws like a miniature human lost in thought. 

“That is all quite Remarkable in its own Way,” Shelley admitted, “but these so-called Habits of yours are not Magic.  What this tiny Creature is doing is simply the end Result of Discipline and Practice.  That does not make you a Magician.” 

“Of course I’m a magician,” Byron declared, grabbing the end of the blue thread sticking out of Keats’ mouth.  “Watch me pull a habit out of my rat.”

Copyright 2015 Matthew J Wells

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Happy Birthday, Dawn!

                           for Dawn S Kamerling

Dawn is not just your name—it’s what you are:
A sunrise that can beam the blues away.
Whatever you take on, you raise the bar.
Nine is the cloud you reach for every day. 

Supergirl is a weakling next to you. 

Knowing you is a gift that never ends.
All of the heart you put in what you do
Makes you a mighty river to your friends.
Everything that you are, from tame to wild,
Reflects the lavish soul behind your eyes:
Lover, explorer, woman, mother, child—
Infinite in your talent to surprise.
Now and forever youthful in Time’s gazing—
Girl, you are so your favorite word: amazing.


Copyright 2015 Matthew J Wells

Monday, August 3, 2015

Byron and Shelley and the Czechoslovakian Seduction

While dedicated to poetry as an avocation, Shelley was not above performing the occasional clandestine service for the British government, and often enlisted the equally impecunious Byron as an agent provocateur.   

During one of these missions, Shelley was tasked with obtaining information about Czechoslovakia’s defenses, and ordered Byron to use his considerable charms to obtain that information by seducing Queen Caroline Augusta of that country.   

Byron supplied daily coded reports of his progress via carrier pigeon for two weeks, but after promising that the defense plans would be delivered via the next day’s message, he vanished from Prague and the reports broke off.   

Shelley spent the next three days in an agony of speculation, and finally risked delivering a message to a pre-arranged safe house through a local double agent.   

The message read: “Byron—please report Status.  Worried that Mission to Seduce Queen has been Compromised.”   

The next day a carrier pigeon brought Byron’s scribbled reply: “Trust me—the male is in the Czech.”


Copyright 2015 Matthew J Wells