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July 15, 2024

Azure Glade

By Dan Mulhollen

"It is very simple, Mr. Hamm," Mrs. Muldoon stated.

Harriet Muldoon had been a nuisance for Mr. Hamm every since he opened the Azure Glade. Her group, Parents For Decency, had picketers at the entrance every night for the past three years. Usually this was little more than a couple grandmothers carrying signs. But their taunts of "Think about your children," or "What if this was your daughter?" did not help business one bit.

"Yes?" Harlan Hamm, mediocre, if prolific, poet, and self-proclaimed visionary, asked. The Azure Glade had been his lifelong dream. An avaunt-garde cabaret whose floor shows presented excerpts of classic plays with a strong element of eroticism.

"Fire that Persephone woman," Mrs. Muldoon sniffed, her double chin quivering with every word. "What she represents constitutes a clear threat to public morality."

Persephone was his star. A mysterious woman with hair tinted the same light blue as in the club's name. She was a fine actress who could play any Shakespearean role, male or female. She was also fearless, wearing the revealing costumes Hamm designed, occasionally appearing onstage nude.

She was also a crowd favorite. Receiving praise, gifts, and more than a few marriage proposals. Newborns were named after her, books were dedicated to her, and more than a few women now had azure hair.

"Isn't there anything else I could do?" Mr. Hamm asked, half pleading.

"As I said," Mrs. Muldoon repeated, "it's very simple. Fire that woman and we will leave you alone. Otherwise, you can only expect our pickets to increase. Our resources are considerable, as you should well know by now."

She left abruptly and rigidly. Mr. Hamm shook his head, his unruly, thinning hair waving slightly. "Gladys," he called out to his secretary, "Get Persephone."

Moments later the tall, blue-haired actress walked into the office wearing a short, white satin article most would wear as a top. For Persephone it was all but for the silver sandals on her feet.

"You wanted to see me?" she asked, in a voice more fitting a dutiful employee than a star attraction.

Mrs. Muldoon was just here. She demanded that I fire you."

"Are you?" Persephone asked, unperturbed.

"I don't want to." Mr. Hamm replied, beads of sweat forming on his forehead. "But she said if I don't she'll have more protesters out there every night."

"I see."

"No you don't," Mr. Hamm said, anguished. "This place is my dream. The most advanced lighting and stage effects in the region. Lavish costumes based on illustrations by Henry Fuseli and William Blake. Good theater, gourmet food, top-shelf liquors."

"And when viewing a performance, all people like Muldoon can see are my bits," Persephone said, wryly.

"Eroticism as art is something beyond their comprehension. I knew there would be some controversy, but not such mindless emotion."

"Art is beyond their comprehension," Persephone said, angrily. "Most people are idiots. The mistake you liberals make is you try to find the good in everyone."

"What would you do?"

Persephone laughed. "I'd rather you keep me," she said. "Not that I need the employment. I have a small fortune from previous adventures. But I truly appreciate what you're trying to do here." She walked towards the door. "Either way will be fine with me." She stopped. "No it won't be, but I'll understand.

Mr. Hamm stood up and, as was his custom, began his tour of the cabaret. He walked through the main room where waiters were setting the linens down. The kitchen where the preparatory chopping and cooking was being done. He passed bartenders filling decanters and musicians rehearsing their parts.

Then he passed the dressing rooms. He saw Persephone, now changed into the tunic and strategically-padded tights to play Romeo. She was rehearsing with the short, blonde Juliet. Their love scene was an audience favorite.

As evening approached, Mr. Hamm looked out the doorway. There were at least a dozen protesters. Again it was mostly women in their sixties. But now there were a few men, some of whom stepped in front of people wanting to come inside. After a moment, these people, clearly intimidated, walked away.

Mr. Hamm felt as if an icicle was just run through his body. In panic, he rushed to the workshop and made a quick sign. He had a workman post it over the sign saying "Featuring Persephone." Then he watched as the protesters disperse.

Persephone saw the sign and said nothing as she gathered her belongings. As she passed Mr. Hamm's office she looked inside; a cold, disgusted expression on her fact that Hamm would never forget.

Mrs. Muldoon was in Mr. Hamm's office the next afternoon. "I see I've had a positive influence," she said, clearly pleased with herself.

"Attendance was half what it had been," Mr. Hamm said, bitterly. "Why me?"

"It is nothing personal," Mrs. Muldoon said, chuckling. "Now if you could only do something about those shameful costumes."

Mr. Hamm looked up at her, realizing this harpy would never be satisfied.

The Azure Glade closed six weeks later. Mrs. Muldoon shrugged off her promise with "We are fighting for the safety of our children." The protests increased while attendance had dropped from over one hundred to less than a dozen.

Persephone disappeared. Most felt she was either the daughter of some lesser nobleman or else the errant wife of a plutocrat. Now that her wild oats had been well-sown, she returned to a life more familiar to her.

Harriet Muldoon addressed Parents For Decency two weeks after the Amber Glade's closing. "I do not feel it inappropriate," she said, merrily, "for us to gloat about our victory over the forces of immodesty."

The two dozen members of the group applauded and cheered.

"But we still have work to do," Mrs. Muldoon warned. "With our resources we need to chose our battles carefully. I've become aware of a poetry newsletter, The Lancers Quarterly, that is spewing trash upon our youth. We need to deal with this new crisis."

Article © Dan Mulhollen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2010-03-22
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