The Last Line (Beth McMullen : Obstinate Little Tart)

“Excuse me.”

I look up. I’m zero words into a five hundred word short story, so any interruption is perfectly welcome.

“Do you know you look like David Marr?”

I’m laughing now. At the woman waving her debit card. She was about to buy a coffee and has mistaken me. For David.

Not David my twin brother. But David Marr. The journalist and author.

“You’re the second person that’s said that to me,” I reply. “Although I can’t hold pen or quill or keyboard to him (or something).” Well that last was what I meant to say.

You see I was meant to be writing. At Writers Bloc, 107 Redfern Street, Redfern NSW.

5th September., 2019. And I’m telling Beth McMullen, she with the identikit eye that the first time I was accosted and accused of being David Marr I was in Canberra.

And I said he was happier than me. For he had left News Limited, for the Guardian, I think. And I was doing the gig from hell. Well one of them. Mercifully I leave that out as I don’t want to say much about me.

Beth starts telling me she’s doing a show.

“That’s me in the poster over there,” she says.”The Crying Girl,”

I don’t say anything. That’s her alright. But her show isn’t called the Crying Girl.

“What it’s about?” I ask. Always get other people talking about themselves, I remember. Then they won’t find anything about you. Yeah Nah.

“Tragedy and Comedy.” Dramedy perhaps I think. But like the sixth sentence, I only thought of that later.

I write my five hundred words. Quite an odd assortment of words as it turns out. One on a canine career change. The other on how to defuse a Hollywood bomb!

And I think why not?

The last time anything like this happened was in Brisbane. A random told me about the Laramie Project. “Sort of like an oral history?” I asked at the time. “Go and see for yourself.”

I did and was completely emotionally numbstruck. And probably was the only straight person there. But no one disowned me… And maybe something might happen. Thought dismissed, I say to myself. Nothing ever does.

$15.00, ticket, 8:30pm. And I’m back at 107 Redfern Street. Waiting to see Beth McMullen in Obstinate Little Tart. And that thought is still scratching at me. All the way in on the train.

A little after 9, we all file in. I chose a chair down the back. I want to stay unobtrusive.

Beth McMullen appears. With her backers : the three highlighters : pink, white and yellow.

She starts off almost unobtrusively. She describes how she was named Beth. And that is the start of her journey.

And for forty minutes, she proceeds to tell us of the bumps, bruises and her nearly broken heart. Usually preceded by a word or two written on the wall.

And she finally says it. “You obstinate little tart.” Hardly words from a loving parent. More like those who sees the child as a threat. But that’s my take at the time.

But it all becomes clear.

And I’m sitting there. Numbstruck again. Not homosexuality and hate crimes. But patriarchy and hard times. Yes call it poetic but it fits. Okay.

Let me put it this way. If you’re a man, and you see Obstinate Little Tart, it will make you uncomfortable. So they should be. As I said to someone afterwards.

But that wasn’t the post script.

I’m out. I’ve left. I’m about to go. I’m heading one way and I see Beth. Heading the other way. Towards me. This would be a great time to become unobtrusive.

But remember. I look like David Marr. There is no escape.

So we meet. And I compliment her. “Courage…vulnerability,” I think I said. I also added other words that I never use with strangers.

I continue, “The hardest part is not to pass on what happens to you to others…”

Beth nods. I haven’t said what I meant. Then it happens, unbidden, uncalled for and unforced.

“The curse stops with me.”

She is staring at me. I’m staring at her.

All I can thinks is, “Oh no. I’ve done it now. I’ve said the wrong thing.” Or perhaps I’ve happened on the perfect set of words.

“That was the last line,” Beth says.

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