Summary: Not For the Faint of Heart: A Halloween Parody (or is that travesty?)
Category: The Big Valley
Rated: MA (WARNING: “I don’t know that I’d call this adult humor, it’s more like sophomoric and in questionable taste. I think it’s funny, but we all know what that means.”)
Word Count: 2600
With special thanks to Jana, Star, and Kellie for the genesis of certain ideas.
Audra was the last member of the Barkley family to enter the dining room that morning. She greeted her brothers and her mother, then sat at her place at the table and began serving herself food from the platters in the middle.
“I wanted to talk to you all about Halloween,” she began. Nick interrupted before she could speak further.
“If it’s about your annual party, you can save it. I won’t be here. I’ve already made other plans,” he grinned as he thought of those plans. Heath and Jarrod grinned at each other, wondering with which of his many love interests Nick planned to spend the holiday.
“But . . . ” began Audra.
“I’m glad that you broached the subject, Audra,” added Jarrod. “As with brother Nick, I too have made other plans for that evening. I’m very sorry, but I’m sure that your party will be quite a success without my presence.”
“No, that’s not . . . ” began Audra again when Heath spoke up.
“Sorry, sis. Can’t make it. Got other plans.”
Audra sighed in exasperation. “I wasn’t going to . . . “
This time, Victoria interrupted her. “Now, dear, I’m very sorry, but I also have made other plans. You don’t really need my help with your party, and since this is the most popular Halloween party in the valley, I’m sure that you won’t miss either me or your brothers.”
“But that’s what I’m trying to tell you all!” Audra exclaimed. “I’m not holding a Halloween party this year.”
“What?!” shouted Nick. “Not holding a Halloween party? But you always hold a Halloween party. It won’t be Halloween without your party!”
“Now, Nick,” admonished Jarrod, “It certainly is Audra’s prerogative not to host a holiday party if she chooses.”
“Yes, Nick,” added Victoria. “Audra has every right not to hold a party. Although I am curious as to why she would break with tradition after all these years.” She waited in anticipation of Audra’s reply.
Audra smiled slyly. “Well, just like the rest of you, I’ve made other plans this year.”
Nick leaned back in his chair. “OH! And just what is the name of this ‘other plan’? Anyone we know?”
Audra just smiled secretly.
“He must be pretty special if Audra will cancel one of her parties for him,” Heath teased gently.
“Indeed,” agreed Jarrod. “This is almost unprecedented in the annals of Stockton social life. Although it’s only fair, considering that Nick has made similar plans. And so has Heath, or I miss my guess.”
Heath just grinned and shook his head.
“And what about you, big brother? What are these ‘other plans’ of yours?” demanded Nick.
“I take the Fifth, dear brother, I take the Fifth,” replied Jarrod.
“Well, I’m not saying anything more, either” answered Audra. “I don’t have to tell you where I’m going any more than you have to tell me.”
They all laughed and turned their attention to the food. Although no one mentioned Halloween again during the meal, each member of the family smiled in secret delight at the thought of the pleasures and excitement the upcoming holiday promised.
October thirty-first dawned clear and cold. The four legitimate members of the Barkley family were unusually quiet at breakfast. Consequently, there was very little conversation at the table, since the bastard was no more talkative than usual.
Jarrod was the first to finish. “If you will excuse me, Mother, I have some business to see to in San Francisco this morning. I’ll be staying in the city for lunch and dinner. In fact, don’t expect me home until sometime later tomorrow. Tonight is Halloween, after all.” He kissed his mother, picked up his hat and left.
“Yeah, guess I’ll get a move on, too,” said Nick. “Gotta finish up some work on the ranch, and then I’m off for my little Halloween adventure.” He grinned again in anticipation. “Don’t expect to see me anytime soon, either.” He shoved his hat on his head and stomped off.
Heath was the next to leave. “Gotta go. See you tomorrow.” He placed his hat carefully on his head, adjusted the angle in the hall mirror to give himself that nonchalant, rakish air, and ambled away.
“Aren’t you leaving, too, dear?” Victoria asked Audra.
“Oh, not right away, Mother. I won’t be leaving until after lunch. But I do have some preparations to make, so if you’ll excuse me.” She rose and glided out of the room.
Victoria sat at the table, savoring the rare silence and solitude. She began to smile and her eyes sparkled as she thought about the evening to come. Soon, she too rose and went up to her room to prepare for the night’s revelries.
Later that evening, after dusk, Victoria took down a hat box from the top shelf of her closet. She pulled out an elaborate black wig, which she pulled over her own white hair. She sat at her dressing table and proceeded to apply full face and eye make-up, including bright red lipstick. She hummed the song, “Baby face, you got the cutest little baby face,” to herself as she worked.
From the back of her closet, she unearthed a black and red satin and lace bustier dress with a knee length skirt over several layers of stiff petticoats. After she had donned the dress, she added black leather high-heeled boots, and a black and red feather boa and a matching feather headdress. Gaudy earrings, necklace, and bracelets completed the ensemble.
She admired herself in the mirror for several minutes. “Now, that’s what I call a ball of fire!” She wrapped herself in a floor length cape, then stole away down the back steps. Audra had left earlier, calling good-bye to her mother through the closed bedroom door.
Victoria settled into the waiting buggy and drove off to San Francisco. On the way, she reflected on how seldom she was able to actually get away from the Barkley Ranch and from being Mrs. Thomas Barkley. It was the rare occasion when she could spend time with her kind of people in her kind of place. Ever since Audra had started holding those damned Halloween parties of hers, she had been trapped in Stockton on one of the few nights of the year when she could count on finding the right kind of crowd in her favorite hangout.
She drove straight to the waterfront in San Francisco, and stopped in front of a darkened building.There were stairs going down into an underground room. Loud, raucous noise could be heard whenever the door was opened to admit a new customer. A steady stream of women in every type of dress was going into the club, some alone, others in pairs or small groups. Victoria handed the reins to the valet parking attendant, and walked down the stairs herself.
She was greeted with a burst of light and sound as she entered. The room itself was dark and smoke filled, but the stage was well-lighted. She made her way to a table near the front and ordered a gin and tonic from the waiter. He was wearing tight black pants, but no shirt, only white cuffs and a bow tie around his neck. She admired his physique as he walked away from the table.
Women in the audience were shouting and whistling at the act on the stage. She turned to watch. The man on stage was dancing to the music of the band in the corner. He wore heavy boots, a red plaid cap, a red plaid G-string, and carried a double sided axe. He swung the axe and whirled it around his head, while moving his hips in time to the music. She sighed to herself. The choreography stank, but that wasn’t why she came here. She applauded as loudly as the rest when he had finished. He did not leave the stage, but stood along the back wall of the stage, moving in time to the music during the other acts.
Next was a fisherman, wearing blue and green patterned Speedo bikini trunks, wading boots, a fisherman’s hat with lures stuck all over it, a creel slung over his shoulder, and a large, deep sea fishing pole which fit into a harness around his hips. He spent most of his time playing with the fishing pole in time to the music, in very creative ways. Victoria admired his skill and dexterity, but wished that he were a little livlier. He joined the lumberjack at the back when he had finished his solo.
The next act was announced as “The Masked Defender.” The masked man was wearing polished leather dress boots, a yellow thong with thin blue horizontal stripes and a black judge’s robe, and carried a big gavel. He made extremely interesting motions with the robe and gavel, as he crossed the stage. Victoria knitted her brows as she watched him. There was something very familiar about this man, but she couldn’t quite place what it was. If only the mask had not covered his head and face. Whoever he was, he needed to loosen up a little if he were planning on making a living at this. His choreography was elegant, but a little stiff and formal. As with the other two, he stood at the back of the stage when his act was finished.
The next man was also wearing a full face mask. His name was “Whipping Boy.” He was dressed in a black leather Merry Widow and matching bikini, wore black fishnet stockings, black leather gloves and black stiletto boots. He carried a whip which he twirled over his head and cracked loudly as he stomped about. He whirled around the stage, then offered the whip to the lumberjack. The lumberjack shook his head. The fisherman also refused to take the whip. The dancer slid down on his knees, seemingly begging to be “Hurt so Good.” The Masked Defender reached down to take the whip, but the fisherman nudged him with his elbow and shook his head. The Masked Defender shrugged his shoulders and shook his head sorrowfully. The Whipping Boy then appealed to the audience, but no one would accede to his request. He joined the others along the wall, but stood stock still with his arms folded.
Victoria had been puzzling over where she had seen this man, too. As with the Masked Defender, he seemed extremely familiar, but she just couldn’t place him. He definitely needed a new choreographer, though. There was a lot more to this than just being big and loud. She sighed heavily as she remembered past excursions. Where had all the real men gone?
The lights were lowered as the Phantom Schoolboy came dancing out next, accompanied by “School’s Out for Summer”. He was very hard to make out in the dim lights. His G-string was decorated with what might have been the University of California, Berkeley logo. Victoria wasn’t sure if she had seen him before or not; sometimes he looked familiar and she almost recognized him, but then the memory would be gone. Before it was over, his routine was forgotten. He stood in the shadows at one side of the back wall.
The “Captivating Cowboy” pranced out on the stage to the strains of “Achy, Breaky Heart.” He was also masked and was wearing tooled tan cowboy boots, a cowboy hat, a tan leather gun belt with a very large gun, the obligatory thong, with little pictures of cowboys on it, and twirling a lariat. He was an even golden tan all over his body. Victoria sat up in interest. This was her kind of man. Athletic, muscular, graceful. Finally, someone who knew what exotic dancing was all about, knew how to use his body to give women what they had paid for. He spun the lasso low, and jumped in and out of the circle it made. He performed various other tricks with the lariat, spinning it rapidly. At the end of his routine, he turned around to walk to the back of the stage.
As soon as Victoria caught sight of his firm, tight rear-end, she jumped up.
“Heath Barkley, you get down here this instant!” She shouted.
The dancer stumbled, then turned to face her. The Masked Defender, Whipping Boy and the Phantom all shouted, “Heath?” He turned, and asked, “Jarrod? Nick? Eugene?” They all turned back to Victoria, “Mother?” then hurried off stage together, crouching as they ran.
Jarrod and Nick. Of course! Those boys really had grown. Oh, yes. And the other one.
At the same time, a woman at another table shouted, “Mother! What are you doing here?”
Victoria turned and stared at the redheaded woman in the French maid’s costume. “Audra Barkley! Why didn’t you tell me you were coming here? We could have come together and saved on the parking.”
She turned back to the stage and shouted, “You boys get back out here right now.”
The men returned sheepishly to the stage. They had removed their masks and were wrapped in robes.
She stood with her hands on her hips. “How long has this been going on?”
Jarrod answered first. “About a year, I guess. You remember Barbary Red? Well, she thought I showed promise….”
“Since Heath got here,” Nick said petulantly. “It’s just that everybody is always whipping Heath, and nobody will every whip me, no matter how much I beg. So, I thought I might get lucky here.” He shook his head and pouted. “But no one will do it here, either.”
“This is my first time, honest, Mother,” said Eugene. “It’s a study for my sociology class. I’m doing some participant-observation research.”
Heath blushed and kicked the floor. “Well, after I left Strawberry, . . .”
Victoria held up a hand. “Save it. Save it. I’ve heard it all before. Is there anything you didn’t do after you left Strawberry?”
Heath shrugged and shook his head.
She looked them over. “I hope you’re all happy. You’ve just ruined what may be my last chance at a good time. I came here for a little beefcake, a little eye-candy, some recreation and entertainment, and end up paying to watch my own sons, and Heath, prance around the stage.”
She pursed her lips and shook her head. “And you weren’t even any good at it. Well, except for Heath. But that’s to be expected, being what he is.”
Audra interrupted her mother. “There’s one thing I don’t understand. I thought all the men who worked in these places were gay.”
The four men looked at the floor and shuffled their feet. Victoria looked at her daughter in disgust.
“Haven’t you ever wondered why your brothers have never married?” She turned back to the men. “Although I’m not sure about Eugene. He’s never seemed to be quite one way or the other. But, you are right in regard to Heath. Not Heath. I know for a fact that Heath is not gay.”
Heath blushed and shuffled his feet some more, then looked up at Victoria from under his eyebrows.
“Well, I am an actor, Mother.”