I was about to lose it. All those weeks of being nicey nicey to Mr. Walker and all he did was push me around. What kind of
director was he anyway? A real director would have seen my potential, my poise.
"At least your character has a name," Jackie whispered to me.
Mr. Walker shuffled some papers together and looked at us. "Okay, all you hyenas." He was making sweeping motions, gathering
us up like so much chaff. "Over to the elephant graveyard. Ladies, please ..."
"I'm a meerkat," I said. "M-e-e-r- ..."
He scowled at me. It was a mean look -- meaner than any he'd shown me before. With his papers rolled in his hairy fist, I
expected him to shuffle over to me, club me with the papers and drag me off by my hair.
Jackie pulled me. "Joy, c'mon. Just play along," she whispered. "He's probably just trying something out. See, you're not
the only one." Other non-hyenas were joining us among the fake elephant bones. "Wow, he's re-interpreting the scene ... on
the fly." Her mouth was open so wide I feared she would catch a fly. "Follow my lead. Just be an extra."
"An extra with a name," I grumbled to myself as Mr. Walker barked orders.
So I played along. And as I did my mind wandered. (Not a hard thing to do when you're just an extra hyena). I thought back
to last night. Daddy was looking over my shoulder at my script.
"So what's your name in this one? Tee-moon?"
He was putting too much emphasis in the wrong places. "No, Timon."
He grunted and sat down beside me with the sports section. That pretty much summed up his opinion of community theatre.
"It's a good play. We can't mess this one up. It's our chance to get some good press for a change." I decided not to say
anything bad about Mr. Director Wanna-be. Daddy'd only wag his finger at me. Sunday school teacher, that he was.
"So you're the meerkat?"
My turn to grunt. I was being played like a fiddle. "Oh, is that in the sports section?"
He lowered his paper to his lap. "I have one or two grandbabies, you know. How do you spell meerkat? M-e-r-e ...
"But, it sounds the same." Retired grade-school English teachers never die. They just go home to torment their grown
children that refuse to move out on their own.
"What are you talking about, Daddy?"
"Sounds like mere. Like 'mere' mortal. Or 'mere' joy." He smiled and pointed at me. "Meerkat. Mere Joy."
I fought the urge to roll my eyes. I could feel the lesson coming. Couldn't he wait till Sunday morning?
"Nothing more than joy. Nothing less than joy. Nothing but joy. Just being satisfied."
I sighed and sat there, waiting for him to preach on. Wag his finger at his confused-no-husband-no-college daughter, but he
just fluffed his paper and went on reading.
Satisfied. The word had rung in my head all night and it was coming back to me strong now, even above the din of yelping
hyenas. Even above my own yelps and cackles.
Why was I so hard to satisfy? I had a job. Jackie had been out of work for six months. I had a father who loved me,
provided just about everything I needed. Including a lecture every now and then. And I had a good part in this crazy play.
A part with a name. I should be satisfied.
"Okay," Mr. Walker yelled. "That's good. Take a breather." He paused to write on one of his papers. "Uh, Joy, could I
have a few words with you, please?"
"Yes, Mr. Walker?"
"Thanks for filling in just now. Just trying something out. I was wondering if you might consider changing parts."
Oh great. I'm about to be demoted.
"Could you ... uh ... could you be my assistant at the Arts Council?"
My jaw went slack.
"I know I've been riding you pretty hard, but it's been sort of a test. Being my assistant would mean giving up Timon but
... The pay is decent. Benefits. Vacation."
My jaw went slacker.
"No, I can't do it." Did I really say that? "But I'd like to recommend my friend, Jackie."
Of course, Jackie was overjoyed when I gave her the news. In the end, Mr. Walker got what he wanted, Jackie got what she
needed, and so did I.