Marvin laughed with the two other cast members playing gamblers. They'd just finished running through their scene in Act 1 of Guys and Dolls and were standing in the aisle in front of the stage, where the Hot Box number was being rehearsed. Marvin couldn't remember when he'd enjoyed himself more learning how to do something new. Each of his five sisters had done some acting when they were younger, but he'd never invested the time or interest in such activities. His sisters were somewhat frivolous creatures so of course he'd stayed away.
This was fun, though. He was 72 years old and he'd been cast as Angie the Ox in the play being put on at the Arizona resort where he lived in the winter with his wife. It was actually Ellie's idea. He had to admit every now and then she came up with a good idea, though many of her suggestions weren't of much use. The rehearsals were Monday and Thursday afternoons and some Sundays. He'd been reluctant to commit that much time to one activity, but he was glad he had. The gamblers were a humorous bunch, and all about his age or a little older. They ribbed each other about their lines, their costumes - his own was an orange shirt, a yellow tie, a blue suit jacket and a derby with a wide orange band - and generally shot the breeze as men do. Marvin was something of a loner ordinarily. Until this play.
This morning he hadn't been sure he'd make it to rehearsal. He'd had a couple of little dizzy spells that he'd actually admitted to Ellie. It had been over a year since he'd had any, and he well remembered the sensation. Ellie said she'd postpone her errands just in case even though she thought he probably just wasn't drinking enough water in this dry climate. The dizziness passed, though, and he'd looked forward to this afternoon's run through.
The director called for quiet and Marvin sat down to review his script. He only had three lines but he wanted to be absolutely sure he would nail them. Then he felt a wave of dizziness, stronger than the ones this morning. And then the defibrillator did its job. After 13 months of nothing. He hadn't expected to be shocked after all this time. And though it wasn't as bad as he'd anticipated - more like a large man punching him in the chest than like a horse kicking him - Marvin dropped to his knees, shaking.
Of course, right away he was the center of attention, as half a dozen cast members gathered around him. Someone suggested calling 9-1-1, but that was because no one knew he had a defibrillator implanted in his chest. It was last year that 9-1-1 was called, when he had a cardiac arrest on the pickleball court. Same sensation of dizziness, but that time he had blacked out - and apparently died for a brief time - until Ellie did CPR on him and another fellow shocked him with an AED. At the hospital he'd had all the tests run. No blockage of the arteries, a healthy heart. Just low potassium and dehydration. He spent three nights in the hospital while they watched him, then changed up his blood pressure meds, and then finally put in the pacemaker/defibrillator just in case. No one seemed to know exactly what happened except that it was some kind of electrical issue. They told him to take it easy for six weeks or so, which he did, and once he and Ellie had gone home in the spring he pretty much got back to the business of his life.
So here he was again, reminded. He asked someone to find Ellie. She came fairly quickly and he assured her he was fine. She said they should go to the ER as they'd been instructed a year ago. Marvin hated to leave the rehearsal but he knew she was right. He hoped he'd be back at the next rehearsal. It would be such a shame to miss out.
And now, the rest of the story.
After two nights at the hospital to get checked out and have his meds adjusted, Marvin (Art) came home and resumed his normal life. After two more weeks of rehearsals, Guys and Dolls played to full houses at our winter Arizona home. I attended the second performance, on Friday night, with my sister Alyx (who flew in from Seattle) and Art's daughter and son-in-law, Melissa and Scott (who drove from San Diego). It was a lively, heartfelt performance, delightful to watch.
Art as Angie the Ox
Alyx and I crafted a bouquet of orange silk flowers from Michael's, and Melissa presented them to her dad at the end of the show.
We'll be getting back to our normal lives now - maybe walking together or riding our bikes. What a fabulous memory we'll have of Angie the Ox!