A Bit of Humor at the Opera

It’s Friday, and I thought I’d share a little more fiction from my Phantom of the Opera novel.  This is a fun scene with the managers of the Paris Opera House, Andre and Firmin.  Context: this is a while after the usual story, but all you really need to know is that, with the Vicomte de Chagny fled in the night, the Opera has a new patroness who has thoroughly taken over.  Her nickname is Madame Laissez Faire–Lady Let It Be–because she doesn’t let anythng be.  She’s determined to wage war against the Phantom.  Meanwhile, Meg Giry and Erik (the Phantom) have become friends, though he’s still mourning Christine’s leaving, and is endlessly solemn.  But not above the occasional trick all the same.

One other note: this is mostly based on Webber, but I tried to work in at least one nod to every version of the Phantom I was familiar with.  This scene has my nod to Terry Pratchett’s brilliant parody, Maskerade.

*********************************

The first thing the managers did, as they did most mornings, was to go to their office, which for a rarity was empty of their patroness.  It was also empty of everything else.

André and Firmin stood in the open doorway and stared at the empty room.  There was no desk.  No cabinets.  No files or books.  Even the half-eaten sandwich Firmin had left behind the evening before had vanished.  There was, in fact, only one item in the entire room: a single scrap of paper lying on the bare floorboards (even the rug had gone) in the precise center of the room, held in place by a single nail driven into the ground.

Merde,” Andre muttered, as Firmin entered the room and yanked up the note from the floor.  He brought the note back to the doorway and they read it together.  It was very brief.

If you can invade my private domain, I see no reason why I can’t invade yours.

The Phantom

André groaned.  “He knows we were in the labyrinth.  I knew that was a bad idea.”

“What are we going to do?  This is bad, all our records and papers and…”  Firmin trailed off with a sudden thought.  “I left my favorite coat here last night.  He stole my favorite coat!”

“That red one?”

Firmin nodded vigorous assent.

André shrugged.  “Just as well.  It made you look like a turkey.”

“Hey!”

“Never mind, that’s not important right now.”  He frowned at the empty room.  “What are we going to do?”

Firmin had a very horrible thought.  “What is she going to do?”

“Madame Laissez Faire?”

“Who else?

André thought about that, and winced.  “Nothing good, that’s certain.”

“Maybe we can cover it before she gets here,” Firmin said hopefully.  “What time is she coming in today?”

“Nine o’clock, remember?  She had that meeting at six-thirty, and then she was coming here.”

“And right now it’s—”

“Eight forty-five.”

The two men looked at each other.

“There’s no hope,” Firmin said, voice mournful.

They both stared at the empty room.

“She might actually kill someone this time,” André said.

“Let’s get out of here so she can’t decide to kill us,” Firmin suggested.

André nodded.  “I think we’d better.  Do we leave the note?”

“I suppose.”

They dropped the Phantom’s note back where they’d found it, shut the door behind them, and fled.

“So we’ll just keep out of the way for a while,” André determined as they walked through the halls of the Opera.  “We’ll give her enough time to blow up, and then come back when she’s a little calmer.”

“Right,” Firmin agreed, then sighed.  “How did we get into this anyway?”

“I don’t know.”

“I mean, really, we’re two perfectly normal, respectable businessmen, and look what’s happened to us!  We’re the owners of a haunted opera house that we can’t even run because our patron takes control of everything.”

André frowned.  “It’s all his fault you know.  If the Phantom didn’t exist…”

“What a pleasant thought.”

The frown deepened.  “But he does exist, and he causes us trouble.  Him and his salary and his box seat and his irate letters…”

“And his ridiculous stunts.  Like emptying our office!”

“Like that.  Who does something like that?  Of all the things in the world he could do with his time, why does he have to pick that?  What is going through his head to make him decide that this is a good course of action?”

“What makes him decide to do any of the things he does?” Firmin countered.  “You’re trying to reason out the thought processes and motivations of a madman.  For all we know he does it because the yellow pixies tell him to!”

There was a sudden giggle behind them.  Both managers turned around hastily, abruptly reminded that a fair number of other people were in this corridor.  They quickly singled out the giggler.

“Something amuses you, Mademoiselle Giry?” Firmin said stiffly.

“No, monsieur,” Meg managed, fighting laughter.  “Nothing.”  She bobbed a quick curtsy and hurried on down the corridor.

The two managers continued walking.

*  *  *

            “Yellow pixies?”

“That’s what he said,” Meg confirmed.  This was too good a joke to keep until evening; she’d gone straight below the Opera with it.  “I don’t think he exactly meant it.”

“But he did say it.”  The way the corner of Erik’s mouth was twitching, Meg almost believed he was going to laugh.  “That’s completely absurd.”

“Of course it is; that’s why I had to tell you about it.”

He mastered the almost-laugh.  “Completely absurd,” he repeated, expression growing quite serious.  “I mean,” he went on, “everyone knows pixies are green.”

Meg stared at his solemn expression for a few heartbeats, then began laughing again.  Erik couldn’t maintain the expression much longer himself.  He only smiled, but it was a nice smile.

He waited until Meg nearly had control of her laughter again, then shrugged.  “Anyway, he’s just jealous because the pixies talk to me.”

It was a while before Meg stopped laughing after that.

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