This morning--as is my wont--I staggered downstairs about 6:15 to do a couple of my early-morning chores: unload the dishwasher, get my backpack ready to haul over to the coffee shop, clean off the dining room table (our family surface on which to place things we don't know what to do with).
And as I entered the dining room (on the way to the kitchen), I heard an odd, inhuman voice say, very precisely, There's no more faith in thee than in a stewed prune.
Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part One. Falstaff is barking at the Hostess of the inn.
That rational part of me that recognized the line quickly fled (coward!), replaced by the part of me animated by my brain stem (that reptilian part), the part that hissed: What in the hell was that?
I looked around the room. Saw no ghost of Shakespeare. Saw no Falstaff going through our refrigerator.
The rational part of me crept a little ways back, uttered a line Macbeth hurls at Banquo's ghost: Avaunt! and quit my sight! let the earth hide thee!
And then I remembered ...
Let's back up ...
Last night (Saturday) Joyce and I drove down to the Hanna Theater in Cleveland to see a production of The Fantasticks, the final show of our four-show package with the Great Lakes Theater Festival (formerly the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival). The Festival, sans Shakespeare's name, still mounts two Bard shows a year (this year it was Lear and Love's Labour's Lost), and in their gift shop at the Hanna are some Shakespeare-themed gifts: T-shirts, refrigerator magnets, coffee mugs, and the like.
Last night I found a sort of bobble-head doll to mount on my car's dashboard. Cute. And we also found a couple of wee gifts for the grandsons (7 and 11), and one of those gifts, as I eventually realized this weird morning, was the cause of my near-alarm, the source of the weird voice.
In the gift shop we'd found a small wallet, which employs the same technology as those talking greeting cards: You open them; they speak. The wallet, however, when opened, delivers various lines from various Shakespeare plays. Well, not just lines. Insults.
Let's go forward ...
This morning--my reptile self eyeballing the dining room--I saw that the wallet was lying on the table, and my bumping the table with my backpack had activated it. And the words of the long-dead Bard floated across the room, judging me, condemning me, cursing me.
Realizing what had happened, I went about my chores, feeling as dumb as ... well, as dumb as a stewed prune. And I hurried upstairs to share with Joyce this patent truth about myself.