September 6

1642 — English Parliament bans theatrical performances

 

A small gathering of beggars approached the front gate of the containment facility.  You were the first line of defense, which meant it was your job to send them away.

“We have no spare food to offer.”  You stared above their heads as you spoke, trying not to register the sorry state of their clothing, the sad desperation in their faces.  “We are not interested in trade.   Seek comfort elsewhere.”

The beggar in front removed a floppy soot-speckled hat from his head and bowed.  “No worries, ma’am.  It’s not our intention to impose, but to entertain.”  He straightened and gestured at his companions, waving the hat in an exaggerated flourish.  “We’re a small band of travelling performers, and we wish to put on a show.”

A grimace of distaste surely flashes into your expression before you have time to control it.  Actors.  During difficult times, the theatre was often little more than a publically sanctioned encouragement of frivolity and immorality.  Now that so many governments had fallen after The Great Illness, it was only a matter of time before “entertainers” tried to infect surviving communities with their subversive ideas.

“Definitely not interested.”  You cross your arm firm over your chest, reinforcing that the gates will stay closed.

Unfortunately, Marbury arrived early to relieve you at the guard post.  He engaged with the would-be visitors, and seemed particularly taken with a lanky bell-capped dancer at the back of the troupe.  She clasped her hands to mime prayer, looked to the heavens (which hadn’t been kind of late), then looked pleadingly to Marbury and to you.

Meanwhile, a small child who looked like he’d just climbed out of a chimney scurried around in the dirt, crab walking and then rolling like a tumbleweed or an over-eager puppy.  When he finally slowed and stood, he held up four large rocks he’d gathered during his gymnastics, and began juggling.

“The kid’s pretty good,” Marbury said.  “Let them through.”

 

[…continued tomorrow…]