Chapter 5: Ed of the Opera
Nazz and Double D held out the last note of their duet, hands clasped together. There was a second of quiet, then the audience burst into applause. Nazz was delighted that her singing had been a success. She wrapped her arms around Double D's neck and gave him a peck on the cheek. Double D could barely hear her whisper to him, "We were rad, huh?"
Even though Eddy was backstage, he had a front row seat to see Nazz's spontaneous display of happiness. Nazz thinks he's just fan-freakin'-tastic. Let's see what she'll think of him without that rug. All Eddy could think about was his anger. Looking at Ed, who was fussing with the sticky gum and putting on some last finishing touches before giving it to Sarah, Eddy feigned concern. "Hey Ed, look! A wig is attacking Double D's head! Who could save him?"
Ed thrust the gum aside. Sarah needed to be appeased, but as far as Ed was concerned, Double D's life was on the line. "I'm coming to save the day!" With that, Ed charged onto the stage.
The crowd's applause turned into tittering and laughter as Ed slipped but continued to run. Sarah leaped from her spot in the choir, trying to shove Ed away. "Get off the stage, stupid!" Sarah screeched.
"The stampede of the bovines is an act of glory and prosperity!" Rolf explained calmly, in the face of all the chaos. He pointed at Ed, who snorted and thundered like a raging bull. "Except to he who is trampled, such as my ill-fated uncle Serik."
Ed jostled past Nazz. "Whoooa..." she gasped, teetering on the edge of the stage, then dropping on top of the pianist.
"Please," begged Double D, as the audience became agitated. "Please, activate your neuronal synapses and stop!" Double D raced to the edge of the stage to escape from Ed's trail of destruction and to see what had become of Nazz.
Ed lunged at Double D, snatched the wig in his teeth and crashed into the backdrop, sending a dangling cord into motion. Disoriented, Double D staggered dizzily into the shadows offstage, his hands flailing for something, anything, to steady himself. The swinging cord was the nearest thing, and just happened to be the cord to which the mistletoe chandelier was attached. Double D's weight pulled the cord, which caused the fixture to crash first into the ceiling, then crack apart and smash in the centre of the stage. The Warblin' Cobblers scattered screaming on the darkened stage. The curtain dropped down, trapping Jimmy and several other youngsters who were running blindly about.
Still tucked away in his own little corner, Eddy was pleased. He couldn't have choreographed a better ending to the night. Ed was the perfect secret weapon.
From the other side of the stage, Eddy could hear atriumphant voice: "I defeated the wig! Am I a hero?"
"Sure are, gruesome," said Eddy. He then turned to find Nazz. Now it's my turn to be a hero and let her cry on my shoulder because her big night was ruined by Ed's empty skull and Double D's bad hair life. The auditorium was rapidly emptying because no one could get away from the disaster fast enough. Eddy slid off the stage and in the dim light he could see Nazz getting up beside the piano. The room was dark, but thought he could use the "mood lighting" in his favour.
Nazz heaved a big sigh and stood motionless. "That's too bad about your song there. Ed is such an animal." Eddy laughed, but the laughter faded away awkwardly when Nazz did not respond to him. "Hey, don't look so sad, baby." Eddy put a hand on her shoulder. She looked at him, dazed. "Why not put those lips to better use?" He leaned in close and waited for her to make contact.
Which she did, but with the smack of her hand across his face. "My big night was ruined, no thanks to you!" She stormed off, furious that after all her hard work practicing, to all her friends she was just an easy cheerleader.
Eddy rubbed his cheek. Geez, I was goin' for second base, not TMJ. But he could see that she was right. He had ruined her big night, and he had ruined Double D's, too. And for what? A slap in the face.
Ed had been unceremoniously dragged home with his family, while desperately and honestly trying to plead his case, but was sentenced to certain imprisonment in the basement. This left only Eddy in the auditorium, and only Double D backstage. Double D sat in front of the mirror, staring hopelessly at his reflection. His confidence had been shattered along with the chandelier; the only confidence he had was that his secret had been exposed to the entire school. He had fuzzy memories of his family moving to Peach Creek for his parents' new jobs. He had been anticipating a new start, among peers whom he determined would never see what he had been doing to himself for much of his life, and that he would no longer feel the weight of prying eyes or be confronted with children's curious questions.
He slid a hand into the smooth, dark strands. Closing his fist, he pulled, and between his fingers were tufts of hair. Looking up into the mirror again, the sight of his patchy hair became hazy as his eyes blurred with tears. "Repugnant, repulsive, revolting!" he screamed, and slammed his hands down on the counter. This hurt his hands, which he curled up against his chest. He wished that he had abdicated his commitment so that he did not have to share the stage with the lovely Nazz, while he saw himself as riddled with imperfections, and his impulsive rituals to resolve them only compounded them. "When he looks at me hereafter, all he will see is this abomination." For every time that Eddy had seen his bare head, Double D's hopes dissipated.
He could still remember seeing Eddy's one time response to the secret: Eddy had covered his face, joking, "My eyes! They're burning!" Double D's feelings for Eddy were hard enough to deal with at the best of times. They were made more difficult when Eddy found a sensitive spot and used it for his own enjoyment. Double D could remember Eddy developing a few unsightly blemishes over the years, but no pimple was big enough to lead Double D to make fun of someone he so strongly cared for.
A creak caused Double D to sit bolt upright and instinctively grab whatever was nearby to cover his head. This happened to be adecorative stocking hung on the wall. "Double D?" said an uncertain voice.
Double D quickly dried his eyes and looked at the reflection of the open door in the mirror. Without turning around, he said dryly,"Hello, Eddy."
Already on the defensive, Eddy began, "Now, before you say anything, the..."
"The show was decimated by Ed's exuberance? You both attended only to make a mockery of the choir? Was showing your support too much to ask?"
"Look, I'm sorry things got outta hand."
Double D looked at himself in the mirror. His eyes were puffy and the stocking on his head looked ridiculous. He ripped off the stocking and tossed it aside. "There! Is this what you wanted everyone to see? Is my disfigurement a joke to you? Why not charge admission; I'm sure you would receive a healthy sum."
"Nobody saw anything," said Eddy sharply. "I dropped the curtain so the people watching wouldn't see you. I just wanted to get you away from Nazz."
"Nazz? Was Nazz privy to your scheme as well?" Double D was left wondering whom, if anyone, he could count on.
Surprised by Double D's response, Eddy asked, "So, this isn't about Nazz?"
Even though Double D's head was uncovered, he felt steadily more comfortable with Eddy seeing him. "No. Why would it be?"
"I just thought, uh, you were comin' onto her."
"Of course not," said Double D, matter-of-factly."Our relationship was strictly professional."
"Oh." Eddy stuffed his hands in his pockets and looked around. "Guess I screwed up, huh?"
"Yes, but I forgive you and empathize with your dilemma," said Double D, getting up to leave with Eddy. "I am all too familiar with jealousy's ability to cause one to behave irrationally," said Double D. Wearing Eddy's monstrosity of a hairstyle in order to please him came immediately to mind. The two left the school and headed for the cul-de-sac.
"Jealous? Why should I be jealous?" puffed Eddy."I got it goin' on."
"You certainly do," said Double D. His words were tinged with sarcasm, but at their core, they were serious.
On Christmas Eve, the boys sat in Ed's basement room drinking hot chocolate while Ed flipped through channels on TV. Even though they had to sneak in without Sarah catching on, it was easier than trying to free Ed. Eddy took another gulp from his mug, coming up with a marshmallow moustache."Yeah guys, why wait in line when you can get someone else to do it for ya? I'm gonna use my wax double while I wait to get my driver's license."
Playfully, Double D nudged Eddy's shoulder."Unfortunately, you won't be able to use the wax duplicate to hasten the two years until your 16th birthday!"
Eddy nodded, not looking forward to being patient for another two years. "Well, I gotta fix up the car anyway. We kinda dinged it when we tried to drive it out the door. I'm gonna give it a whole new paint job and get a spoiler and some underglow ground effects."
"Ooh, ooh! Christmas specials!" Ed cheered, pointing at the TV and dribbling hot chocolate down his tee shirt. "Should we watch I Saw Mummy Kidnap Santa Claus or Apocalypsmas?"
"I never thought I would see crudely designed B movies with a Christmas motif," said Double D, watching blankly as Santa Claus tied up at the mercy of a woman wrapped in toilet paper. "Oh my!" Little was left to the imagination, and Double D covered his eyes while Ed and Eddy stared, open-mouthed. When the movie went to a commercial, Ed and Eddy emerged from their trance.
"Yeah guys, why wait in line when you can get someone else to do it for ya?" said Eddy, who had forgotten where he had left the conversation.
"Retrograde amnesia aside, I am actually optimistic about the outcome. After all, the chemical properties of the wax cause it to freeze to the sidewalk in these glacial conditions."
Grateful for Double D's hard work in spite of the previous night's disaster, Eddy thought long and hard about the right thing to say. He put together something simple, but nonetheless difficult to verbalize."Hey, uh, sorry you got kicked outta the choir."
Double D shrugged. "As it stands, I am editor of the Peach Creek Tattler, president of the Happy Cluckers Club, nurse's aide, and amember of the Knitting Club. I have plenty of extracurricular activities to occupy my time." He paused, then added, "But you can make it up to me! I believe that we are overdue for a meeting of the Knitting Club. As you are the only other member, I would like you to be in charge of the 'Socks for Jocks' membership drive."
"You're pushin' your luck, Sockhead," said Eddy, who playfully pushed Double D into the couch. Double D laughed and tossed acushion at Eddy. "Oh, you're askin' for it!" Eddy laughed, and pounced on Double D, straddling him.
Ed, still happily munching popcorn, was busy enjoying the holiday commercials almost as much as his movie. With his mouth full, Ed announced, "Let's sing a song!" and looked at his friends
Eddy and Double D paused awkwardly, and Eddy jolted back to the other side of the couch. "Naw, I'm sick of Christmas songs."
Trying to be diplomatic, Double D said, "Please, Ed, even I am weary of..."
"Arrrgh, the very scary things, and the terror that they bring!" Ed sang, raising his arms and being the best monster he could be. "Fear the hairy werewolf wild, and the bones thrown in a pile. Awful all the demons writhe, join the banshees in the sky! With the gory..."
On the floor above, the door that led to where Ed's basement stairs used to be creaked open. Sarah's voice could be heard, asking sweetly,"Ed, would you like to meet Santa?"
"Yes please!" shouted Ed, popcorn kernels flying out of his mouth.
"Well," continued Sarah, "I'LL SEND YOU TO THE NORTH POLE IF YOU DON'T SHUT UP!" and she slammed the door shut.
Ed smiled. "Sarah's really got the Christmas spirit."
"Albeit a commercial, materialistic one," added Double D.
"There'll be a little extra Christmas cheer for us tonight," Eddy reminded his pals. "Let's go, Double D. It's almost time to get our Christmas charity." Double D followed, and all three boys eagerly awaited the evening, with visions of jawbreakers dancing in their heads.