Something’s Fishy With This Play – Part II

I stared at this giant, greenish-orange fake plaster catfish standing in front of me, wearing my best friend’s costume for the play. First I was confused. Then I remembered Stephanie’s dream, and my confusion changed to shock and fear. My thoughts were interrupted by Mr. Mills announcing that dress rehearsal was about to begin, so everyone should get ready. I walked away to wait in the green room until I was needed onstage, still wondering what happened to my best friend.
Dress rehearsal went perfectly.
The fish knew all its lines and did the songs and blocking perfectly. The only thing that was off (besides the fact that Monica was being played by a massive fake plaster catfish instead of Stephanie) was that the fish’s voice was completely monotone. It sounded like a male Siri, but with even less emotion or human quality. And nobody seemed to notice. Mr. Mills even congratulated the thing after its performance. I had to go straight home after dress rehearsal because our first production was the next morning, so I called my mom to come pick me up. It was 8:00 PM and we were both tired, so the ride home was silent. I was able to go to sleep that night, but not without thinking about that fish thing.
I woke up the next morning with a clear memory of the night before. I knew I had to do something to get Stephanie back. The issue was that I just didn’t know how. I didn’t know where she was. I didn’t know if she was even in trouble. I knew Mom would try to talk to me about dress rehearsal if I showed up to breakfast, so I quickly showered, got dressed, shouldered my backpack, grabbed a banana, and rushed out to the bus stop before my mom could catch me. I was 10 minutes early for the bus, which meant I had some time to wait. I thought I would be bored and cold for the next 10 minutes, but it turns out I would just be cold. As I sat down, Stephanie came swaggering up to me.
“Stephanie?!” I called to her.
“Oh, hey Valerie,” she responded. She sounded drunk.
“It’s Valentina. What happened to you?”
“What? Nothing! I’m perfectly fine.”
“Obviously you’re not perfectly fine if you look and sound drunk and you forgot your best friend’s name.”
“You just need to calm down. Look, the bus is here. Just leave me alone for the day and I’m sure you’ll forget about me not being okay, or whatever you think is wrong with me.” I chose not to argue.
The bus got to school at 7:43, leaving me just enough time to rush down to the theatre room and talk to Mr. Mills about last night’s dress rehearsal. Lucky for me, he was on the stage, finishing a conversation with two of the actors.
“Um, Mr. Mills, do you have a moment to talk with me?” I asked as I approached the stage.
“Oh, hi Valentina. Sure, I can talk.”
“Um, I’m not sure how to say this. W-what did you think about Stephanie’s performance last night?”
“I thought she was wonderful. She got all her lines right, she sung all the songs perfectly, and she even fixed all the bits she wasn’t getting right in rehearsal.”
“You didn’t think there was anything…wrong? With her in general?”
“No. She seemed perfectly normal.” I suddenly snapped and yelled, “You didn’t notice she was replaced by a giant fake plaster fish?!” Mr. Mills looked incredibly shocked for a moment.
“Valentina, what are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about that fact that it was not my best friend on stage at dress rehearsal last night. It was a giant fake plaster fish, but nobody else seems to notice it. I know I’m not seeing things or going crazy because she told me that this was going to happen but I didn’t listen.”
“Valentina, just calm down. I’m sure Stephanie is perfectly fine. Why don’t you head to class and I’ll see you after school for notes before opening night. Okay?” I hated that I wasn’t being listened to, but nevertheless, I agreed and left without saying a word.
This felt like possibly the longest school day I’ve ever sat through. All I could think about was the play and what was wrong with Stephanie and if she was going to play Monica tonight. In her dream, she went to school the day after the fish still replaced her for opening night. I worried and worried and worried until the last bell of the day finally rang. The theatre were supposed to meet in the theatre room before we left for notes. We all arrived and Mr. Mills began to talk. None of the notes involved me, so I zoned out for most of the notes
“Before we leave, I’d like to congratulate Stephanie again on her performance at the dress rehearsal last night. That was fabulous and I hope you do just as well for opening night tonight. Let’s all give a round of applause for Stephanie,” Mr. Mills concluded.
“Oh? Thank you,” Stephanie called from somewhere in the crowd. Her voice still sounded drunk.
“Okay, everyone go home and get prepare for tonight. Be here no later than 6:30. Break a leg tonight, everyone.” We all filed out the door. I tried to catch up with Stephanie so I could talk to her, but she was gone before I could find her.
I went home later feeling a tad panicked. Stephanie didn’t look capable of playing Monica. She didn’t even look like she could speak or move properly. And if her dream is true, the fish is going to play her part tonight. I worried until my mom told me to get ready to leave for opening night.
We were giving Stephanie a ride to the school tonight. On the way to her house, I prayed we would be picking up a perfectly fine Stephanie instead of a woozy, confused one. Or even worse, the fish.
My hopes were too high.
“Hello, Stephanie,” my mom said cheerfully as the fish got into the front seat of the car.
“Hello,” it responded in the most lifeless, monotone voice I’ve ever heard. I couldn’t stand it.
“I’m sorry I took a while getting out. I was stuck in World Two,” it said to my mom. She said back, “Oh, you mean World War Two? You were studying?” She tuned out after that sentence.
Suddenly, the fish turned to the backseat to face me and said, “No. World two.”

To Be Continued