The Luna City Players are one of, if not the longest-established community theatrical groups in Karnes County, having roots in a small group of amateur performers known as “The Lunatics” who were famed for performing as a minstrel group in and around the local area in the late 1880s. The Lunatics also acted in farces and bawdy comedies, but around the turn of the last century turned to a more formal organization and more elevated materiel. In some years, they were able to mount three or four separate productions, with performances weekly, of classic and popular plays. With the popularity of motion pictures throughout the years since the 1920s, there was not so much demand for locally-sourced entertainments, yet the Luna City Players continued, with traditional theatrical presentations, and with short original presentations, tableaux, and skits to mark celebrations such as Founders’ Day, the 4th of July and at Christmas. In the last half dozen years, under the direction of Patricia Wyler Pryor, the Players have begun performing original material by a selection of local South Texas writers and playwrights.
The Players performance space and rehearsal facility is the historic Koenig Opera House on Town Square – an intimate 200-capacity hall, which once was Luna City’s movie theater, and remains the newest of the structures lining Town Square, dating as it does from 1922. Once merely a wide alley-way between The Cattleman Hotel and O’Byrne’s Fine Haberdashery (now housing the Ssts Margaret and Anthony Parish thrift shop) leading to a livery stable behind the Cattleman Hotel, the Opera House filled in that long, narrow space, adorning the façade on Town Square with colorful glazed tiles and a fabulously ornate marquee. The Koenig still hosts movie showings on a regular basis, showing mainly classic old black and white silent pictures, with live organ accompaniment. (Consult the Chamber of Commerce website for a current schedule.)
Dance with the Bunny Boiler in the Pale Moonlight
Some weeks after Romeo Gonzales arrived and set up his own campsite in the near-deserted Age of Aquarius, Richard pedaled up the road – deftly avoiding the ruts, bumps and puddles that nature and the passage of the occasional heavy vehicle had scoured into the clay-like soil with the skill of experience. It had rained lightly the night before, so puddles there were in plenty, and the fresh new grass had begun just raising tender new blades coyly between the old dead hay of the previous season.
On the whole, he had found Romeo Gonzales to be a congenial neighbor, given that it was hard to be anything else at half an acre space between their trailers and workplaces some blocks distant from each other. At least, Romeo showed no inclination to conspire together with malignantly-inclined micro-media operatives to ambush him at the door with lights, cameras and harassing commentary, unlike the egregious Penn. Who, in concordance with the injunction delivered through Jess, showed every inclination of making himself scarce whenever Richard was around. Richard was profoundly glad of that, not least because he treasured his afternoons of solitary contemplation of the pleasant but uninspiring landscape and his studies in Larousse.
And besides all that, Romeo was good at fixing things. He took it upon himself to shinny up and lubricate the old-fashioned windmill that drove the water-pump which supplied hot water to the old concrete block washhouse in the campground. Romeo adjusted the handbrakes and the chain of Richard’s bicycle, and when completely bored and bereft of things to do, popped up the hood of his pick-up truck and tinkered with the mysteries within. Still, Richard had looked out of the Airstream’s windows, very late at night, rubbing his eyes because he thought he could see some kind of ephemeral apparition – kind of like the Northern Lights, but rather more red-tinged than electric green, writhing and twisting in the air over Romeo’s Fifth-wheel. But as soon as he blinked, that vision was gone.
Now, that very pick-up coasted slowly across the campground, and Romeo leaned out of the drivers’ side window. “Hey, Rich – I’m heading out to Karnesville to swap out my propane bottles; you were saying that one of yours is empty and the other almost – you wanna come along?”
“Certainly – and thanks for the offer,” Richard answered with honest gratitude. “Run over to the Airstream – I’ll put them in.” He had been experimenting with various interesting recipes on the tiny propane-powered cooker in the Airstream, which had completely drained one tank – and to judge how the burner flame had been flickering of late – was close to emptying the other. The tanks were heavy – and the Walmart in Karnesville was a good ten or fifteen miles distant. In the space of a minute or two, his tanks were in the back of Romeo’s sturdy workman’s pick-up, and they were out on Route 123 – the back road between San Antonio and Aransas Pass, which gained in scenic qualities and relative lack of traffic in its soothing meandering across scenic portions of South Texas what it lacked in the boring celerity of the major highway.
But there was frequent traffic upon it; some miles along the way to Karnesville, the two of them witnessed evidence of that, in the form of a very late-model, velvet-black Mercedes sedan, off on the grassy verge on the other side of the road. The front left tire of the Mercedes was fatally, hopelessly flattened, and the driver stood uncertainly by it, very obviously boggled by this misfortune, although she held a cellphone in her hand.
“Oh, man,” Said Roman, in admiration. “What a gorgeous piece …”
“I don’t care!” Richard, recognizing the unfortunate driver, was horrified. He barely restrained his first impulse to dive under the passenger-side dashboard of Romeo’s truck – which being one of these huge garish American things, would have been big enough to hide at least two people, three of them if they were light of build. “Drive on – that’s the horrible Susannah! She’s a stalker, the bunny-boiler of Mills Farm! An executive of theirs! She has haunted me – chased after me! She came out to the trailer … for god’s sake, man – don’t stop! If you do, you’ll regret it, I tell you!”
“She came out to the Aquarius?” Romeo answered. “Damn, Rich, she’s way to classy for a regular lot lizard. I’ll run that risk, sure. And that Merc is one awesome bit of machinery.” He sighed, as the pick-up swept past the stranded Mercedes. “Sorry, man – you have issues with her. Your problem, not mine. I don’t leave ladies with car trouble by the roadside – just my personal standard.” He grinned sideways at Richard, who felt his heart sink right down to the level of his trainers. (Bought at Marisol Gonzalez’s thrift shop in Karnesville. He did wonder briefly if he could impose on Romeo to make a quick pit-stop there after trading in the gas bottles.)
“She’s a remora in human-guise,” Richard gabbled, frantic and horrified, as Romeo made an easy U-turn and drove back towards the stranded Mercedes and Susannah Wyatt – as always, slim and dressed to the nines in elegant and high-fashion vacation wear. “Just drive on! Call your uncle with the garage and the wrecker – anything! Once she latches onto your flesh, she doesn’t let go! A relentless succubus …”
“Sounds like my kind of woman!” Unmoved, Romeo did another U-turn and eased the pick-up off the road, backing up and parking just ahead of Susannah and her stranded Mercedes.
Richard slid down in the passenger seat, lower and lower, hissing between his teeth as Romeo turned off his engine, “I won’t be a part of this – I can’t be a part of this! For the love of God, don’t let her see me – don’t tell her I am here! The woman is a menace – you have no idea of what you are letting yourself in for …”
“No problem, bro,” Romeo answered, with total assurance. He unsnapped his seat belt, and opened the driver-side door. “I reckon maybe that I do … and I just won’t leave a woman stranded by the roadside with car trouble. That’s just not the Gonzales way.”
“You’ll live to regret it!” Richard made one final frantic and fruitless plea … to no avail. He slid farther down in the passenger seat, certain that he would not be seen, since Romeo’s truck sat so much higher than the Mercedes and had tinted windows in the back. But he could observe what transpired in the mirrors and hear Romeo’s and Susannah’s voices since the windows were open.
Romeo – swaggering just the tiniest bit like an old movie cowboy – doffed his hat and drawled, “Say there, little lady, you look like you’ve got a flat tire, there.”
Richard sank even farther down in the seat. “Oh, god – the bloody stereotype. Kill me now.” He couldn’t hear Susannah’s reply, but Romeo continued, “Don’t you fret, ma’am, I can change it for ya – just show me where your spare is. I got all the tools I need in the back of my truck. I’m Romeo Gonzales, by the way – of the Luna City Gonzaleses. You must be Miss Wyatt, from out at Mills Farm … I’ve heard so much about you.”
(to be continued in amusing fashion. Luna City 3.14159 will be released late this year, in both print and ebook versions.)
So – the Daughter Unit and I spend the greater part of Monday morning doing our bit for the San Antonio Indy Authors and our second bookfest, this coming Saturday. C.M. Bratton, our tireless organizer for this bookfest and last years’ managed to get us a bit of publicity on the KENS-5 mid-morning show, Great Day SA. What with one thing and another over the years, we’ve been to their studios over on Fredericksburg Road – the last time was for the first bookfest, so the Daughter Unit and I knew the drill. Meet with C. M. and the other authors in the visitor parking lot, draw our special T-shirts, sign in on the guestbook in the lobby, get a badge from the receptionist, be escorted in a group to the studio, and find places for ourselves on the bleachers. I don’t know what it is for Good Morning SA when there isn’t a fairly substantial group of people, but it appears that the guests generally serve as the in-studio audience, and rotate into position when their segment comes up.
All very structured, of course; a snippet of news, a weather and traffic report, and then on to the light and fluffy stuff. Oddly enough, I found this program very comforting after the last couple of weeks of news; a long hot summer of race riots, ISIS coming up with horrible new ways to execute people, Europe melting down over Brexit, rumblings of menace from China and Russia … really, I was beginning to dread turning on the computer of a morning and discovering some fresh hell in the headlines.
So – let’s see; what was a summer Monday on Great Day SA all about? Well, there was a franchise ice cream parlor owner, who demonstrated how to whip up instantly frozen ice cream by using liquid nitrogen. I really couldn’t see from where I was sitting in the bleachers – but it seems that it involves stirring in a dash of liquid nitrogen into the ice cream base. It was just hard to tell, with all the white clouds of vapor, dissolving all over the place. And then – a bit about how to keep dogs comfortable in the summer; the owner of a doggie day care and spa, which has a swimming pool for dogs, was interviewed, with one of her dogs on hand. He was a big brown cupcake of a pit named Moose, who was a bit restless but otherwise well-behaved. There is a special kind doggie ice cream, it appears; a specially formulated frozen whey, which is better for them than cream and sugar.
There were three performers and two puppets from the Magik Theater, and the theater manager, doing a song from their current production; La Cinderella. This is a musical adaptation of the Cinderella story, set in Spanish Colonial San Antonio. And then – a new hospital facility opening up; specializing in physical therapy and rehabilitation – which looks to be quite awesomely well-appointed. The pictures of the lobby looked like the lobby of a particularly luxurious hotel.
And then – our bit, at the end of the hour, with C. M. wrapping it all up and the rest of us holding up our books. Not a bad way to kill a morning, and if it brings out crowds to Say Si on Saturday, then all to the good!