WHEN IS A SIGN JUST A SIGN?

The cover of the program for TheatreWorks New Milford’s production of The Great American Trailer Park Musical.

The ticket. I attended the run’s final performance.

Several months ago, I wrote a short piece about the persistence of electronic media and how it helps us cope with loss (“Yes, Cynthia, There Is an Afterlife,” January 30, 2011: https://kristipetersenschoonover.com/2011/01/30/yes-cynthia-there-is-an-afterlife/). How a person who has passed away can remain with us, in a sense, because of the way in which we can preserve them on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, photos, and videos.

The crowd I run with is—no surprise—very creative. What comes with that is a certain heightened awareness—we have to reflect the world around us, whether in words or brushstrokes or dance steps or clay—and so we just, I think, tend to be observant.

This is where signs come in.

You know what kind of signs I’m talking about—the ones that confirm, portend, remind, or even forewarn. I have a—ahemnot nice ex whom I always know is going to turn up like the bad penny he is in one way or another, because it never fails, shortly before he does I see his name—not a common one—three times in odd places. Whenever unexpected money’s about to come my way, my right palm itches (it appears this old wives’ tale really is true). Because I do believe in an afterlife, I feel that the spirit of my late Dad is around me when I get three or more random references to Robert Frost (I’m talking about in the most unexpected places, like the line at the grocery store or a commercial on TV).

My late friend Cyn, who lived in Texarkana, Arkansas, passed away in December (as you already know). We had always joked around about my going to visit her. “Why in God’s name would you wanna come down here?” She’d say to me. “I mean, vacationing in Texarkana? What the hell is wrong with you?”

I’d explain that, besides the fact that she lived there, I’d had a fascination with that region and nearby Fouke due to 1972’s The Legend of Boggy Creek, which was set in that area and had terrified me as a child. She’d even bought a copy on DVD so we could watch it together when I visited, and she was saving it for that occasion. As far as I know, though, she never watched it. One of the things I regret was the fact that I never did make that road trip to Texarkana.

Earlier this summer, I went to see a musical up at TheatreWorks New Milford called The Great American Trailer Park Musical. For some reason, Cyn was on my mind, and I wasn’t sure why—it wasn’t the anniversary of her visit or her death or anything like that; thinking about her all of the sudden had just seemed sort of random.

Then, at the top of Act II, during a number called “Road Kill”—in which one of the characters sits on a motorcycle and to convey the feeling that he’s traveling across state lines actresses and stage hands sprint across the stage with road signs—I spotted this prop:

One of the road signs in the musical number “Road Kill” in TheatreWorks New Milford’s production of The Great American Trailer Park Musical.

Okay, yes, it’s misspelled—but that isn’t the point. The point was it was just so odd that they’d pick that tiny little town—where Cyn, about whom I’d just been thinking, lived—and make a sign out of it. Of course, I saw the show’s closing performance, so I asked if I could have the prop since I knew they were probably just going to toss it (I have had a long, long history in community theatre in this area in many capacities, so I know a lot of people).

My long-time friend Suzi Pettibone—theatre buddy going way back—and I drinking cocktails before the show.

Do I think Cyn was trying to tell me something from beyond? Who knows, but it sure was a comfort to think so. Meanwhile? I have a nice sign—that really is just a sign—on my wall.

Flamingo prop outside the theatre.

Me and the sign on my back porch. Notice the flamingo glass.


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About kristipetersenschoonover

A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in countless magazines and anthologies. She has received three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies, is a co-editor for Read Short Fiction, and co-hosts the Dark Discussions Podcast. Her work Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole is a collection of ghost stories set in Disney Parks; her horror novel, Bad Apple, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She’s also a member of the New England Horror Writers Association. More info: www.kristipetersenschoonover.com

Posted on November 11, 2011, in Deep Thoughts & Fun Stuff and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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