“All set?” Roy asked rubbing his hands and hopping from one foot to another.
“Yes, how’s my make-up?” Said Ollie.
“Guys, so, after my part as Nixon, Sam will come to replace me. I’ll go and get started on with the cookies, yeah?”, asked Julian. She looked nervous, like everyone else.
“Come replace me as soon as your part is done. I’ll have about a minute to get on stage”, urged Sam.
“Yep, I’ll be quick. I have some extra dough ready in the fridge but I guess we won’t need much for this show, what d’you reckon?” asked Julian.
“Mills, how are you?” Roy turned to the little girl and tapped her shoulder in a “relax, dude” kind of way.
They were about to go on stage any minute.
This was their first performance. They were lucky to get an arrangement with the tiny dusty theatre Smallwood had. Captain Mills and his band of brothers, said the sad little black and white poster outside the theatre. A fe people bought tickets. The play was on.
But then again, it was Smallwood.
Who on earth knew anything about Smallwood.
Maybe that was encouraging in a way because no one could recognise them. And, even if the play failed, they were just going to finish it and go their way.
“There aren’t many people, guys. Some old folks…they look drowsy and bored…we gotta shake things, ‘Jo'”, Max turned to Cassidy, the most handsome of the whole team, whom, everyone unanimously decided, was to play Jo Collins, the Playboy playmate who had personally visited troops in Vietnam back in the ’60s.
“Yeah, get your stuffing right darling, cheer up”, Sam fixed Cassidy’s bra that was stuffed with toilet paper. His bushy hair was combed straight and his fringe was going into his eyes. The resemblance, however, was severe. Cassidy was dressed in his own combat pants and a tight T-shirt with the Playboy sign on the chest. The T-shirt was so tight and small (it was Julian’s who had bought it off a flea market in New York a while ago) that his hairy belly was popping out. The make-up was despicable. Milly had her hands on it and the red lips and fake moll – that didn’t really have anything to do with Jo Collins – could be seen from a U2 reconnaissance plane.
The curtains were off and Roy, who played real-life Milly, went on the stage.
Hippity-hopping and humming, “lala…lalallalaaa…”, he was on his way to the store to buy a loaf of bread.
The reenactment of how in actual fact Milly and the band of brothers met, went smoothly but the audience didn’t engage as much. That, thankfully, Roy was thinking, was only the first 10 minutes of the show and people had no idea what was coming next.
“Mr. President, you have visitors”, Ollie who was dressed up as a glamorous secretary said to Julian who was playing President Nixon.
“Castro couldn’t even go to the bathroom unless the Soviets put a nickel in the toilet”, the ‘President’ said.
“Who are these people? Let them in. I’m busy. Have a golf game to play”.
“Good morning, Mr. President!”, Cassidy entered with a snazzy walk and, fixing his Jo Collins’s hair, he went closer to ‘Nixon’.
“Oh hello, Mrs. Collins”.
“I see you recognise me, that’s such an honour, Sir!”, meowed Cassidy in the girliest of voices he could produce.
“And who are the fellas with you, Mrs. Collins, or is it Ms.?” the ‘President’ asked, as he kept staring at Cassidy’s bumpy chest.
“It’s Mrs. but maybe not for too long”, Cassidy giggled loudly and leaned onto Julian-the-President’s shoulders which were heavily padded to make her look manly.
“Mr. President, this is Lieutenant Mills and her, I mean, his band of brothers. They just came back from ‘nam, Sir, and they have come to request for something or to give you something?! I didn’t quite get it very much. But they were in Vietnam. And you know, Sir, Vietnam is not in Europe, nah-ha”, ‘Jo Collins’ pointed at little Milly who was wearing a combat uniform with chicken bones attached on the shoulders of her jacket as rank insignia. She wore Roy’s uniform cap which kept falling in front of her eyes and covered her whole face.
Roy, the tallest of them all, played the real little Milly. He had remained dressed in his real uniform. But his pants were rolled up and he had put stripy colourful socks (Julian’s) and had a black curly wig on his head. His bouncy step all over the stage resembled a little girl’s. It was the voice that he produced that threw the audience into a total outburst.
“‘Good morning, Mr. President, sir“, he said in the most falsetto of voices a man could do. He was supposed to play a 5-year-old after all. He had to give the voice.
“Mr. President“, Milly began talking, forcing her own husky voice to sound as mannish as possible, which couldn’t even get as close to a 10-year-old. “I’m lieutenant Mills and we came to ask for Mickey’s medal, sir”, she said and arranged her cap. Her feet were turned towards the inside, she stood there in the middle of the stage like a 5-year-old would stay, tilting from side to side and pulling the right bottom end of her jacket. She had a lollypop sticking out of her pocket, a giant one at that, so that even the last row in the audience could see it. As soon as she asked about the medals she turned towards the audience and winked at them, to which, the audience roared with laughter.
“What medals, fellas? Mickey? Mickey as in Mouse? Ms. Collins!” Nixon turned to “Ms. Collins” who was fighting a wedgie at that point and threw the audience into another laughing spasm.
“Mickey – M-A-I-K-I, Sir, If I may, Sir”, pronounced Milly and took out her lolly pop.
“He’s our brother-in-arms who was very brave in Vietnam, Sir. You know, even when it rained real bad, he’d go out while us – here – we’d stay in and we’d have tea and be scared. But Mickey, Sir, no, he’d go right out there in the cold and he’d shoot a few Vietnamese and come back all brave, and, aam, and wet, Sir.”, Milly continued as she was munching on her lollypop.
“We hated the rain, Sir, awful lot of rain in ‘nam, you have no idea. Absolutely insane weather“, Max said as he was waving his fake hand which was about 10 inches longer than his real one.
“Well, fellas, I don’t give away the medals, although it sounds like a bad story to me and this Mickie guy seems to have been quite the hero then, I guess.” Nixon said and pulled Milly’s hand to try her lollypop. As soon as he “yum“-ed, the audience bursted out laughing again.
“Guys, I’m in a bit of a shituation here”, he meant ‘situation’ but was sucking on Milly’s lollypop at the same time.
“What with the Watergate and all, I’m kinda going to call it a day, so, you’d better see who’s next – they might give you the medals, or whatever it is you…”, Nixon couldn’t finish his sentence.
“But don’t you see, Sir, that’s the point”, Milly interrupted him, again in the hoarse of voices she could produce, with her mouth already severely red and blue from the lollypop.
“You can use this opportunity and praise our Mickey, Sir, and, you know”, she stopped.
“And, Sir, leave ya post honourably, Sir, Mister President”, fake Jo added, as she leaned and pressed her toilet-paper breasts on the president’s shoulder.
“Oh Jo”, sighed the president. “Would you like a lollypop? Aaah, I mean, yeah, that sounds like a plan. That makes sense, yeah. I’ll leave with my head up, proud that I’ve done something right. That’s an opportunity.”
And so, fake Nixon, who, by that time was performed by Sam (because Julian,as agreed, had to go and sell the giant cookie medals), organised a triumphant parade in honour of Mickey.
The band of brothers with Milly ahead – as lieutenant Mills – received a medal of honour in the name of their fallen friend.
The audience was ecstatic. They whistled and bravoed, and encored. They buzzed and replayed and discussed some of the scenes as they were leaving the theatre.
Meanwhile, Sam joined Julian who was already frying in the van and trying to satisfy the hungry people that were coming out of the theatre. The caravan-turned-kiosk-for-cookie-medals was smoking from all the work and the actual cooking.
Julian and Sam ended up giving some of the drinks and even some of the cookies for free. A couple of Smallwood fellas suddenly appeared with four big crates full of alcohol. The sound technicians of the theatre put rock-and-roll music and the street in front of the building suddenly exploded from noise, people, cookies, alcohol. It felt like the whole town suddenly gathered to see what the commotion was and joined the rising party.
“Excuse me, Sir, Sir?” A woman in her 30s or 50s, who cares, tried to out-yell the noise and speak to Roy.
“Hi, yes?” Roy turned as he realised that she was talking to him.
“I’m a co-manager from the Ambassador theatre, New York, can we talk somewhere quiet?” The lady nearly screamed.
“Yeah, yeah. It’s really loud here. Cookie?”
“The foyer’s better. Mills, come sweetheart, come with me. You don’t mind her joining, right? She’s kind of the manager-boss of our team”, Roy said and reached out for Milly’s hand as she made her way through the crowd leaving Max and Cassidy who were chatting to a few Smallwood folks.
“No, of course not.”
“Here’s better, finally. Ok, I think you guys were amazing there. The crowd loved you. Do you have any other upcoming engagements at the moment? I’m sorry, I’m actually Eleanor Machelen and I co-run the Ambassador theatre on Broadway. We often travel, me in the vicinity, can’t get too far, now that we’re busy with the current production going on. We travel and scout for interesting performers or even the odd ‘home-made’ scripts, just like what yours seems like. Are you a family?”
“yeah, we are”, Milly and Roy said in one voice, referring, of course, to Eleanor’s last question.
“Interesting”, Milly said and looked at Roy.
“Ah, I was thinking, how about you guys come over to our theatre. I’ll take care of accommodation and travel expenses and we’ll discuss this opportunity for trying your play on our stage?” Eleanor looked towards Roy.
“That sounds good, ma’am. Ms. Machelen. Mills, what do you think? We gotta talk to the others”, Roy turned to Milly who was struggling to keep her excitement at bay.
And so, Milly’s band of brothers and their little play went all the way to Broadway. Julian’s giant cookies – out of all things odd – turned out quite the seller, so the whole Ambassador theatre engaged in the production of cookies for every show and that was pretty much every night for about a month. A permanent contract was signed eventually that allowed for another cast to perform permanently throughout the year. This brought an undreamed of income for the whole lot, Julian and Milly, Roy, Max, Cassidy, Sam, and Ollie. They could finally work on their dreams. But there was so much more that beget from their little silly, one may add, play.
The New York press blew the biggest trumpets after reviewing the play at Ambassador Theatre. All the leading newspapers gave it the thumbs up and praised the amateur actors – Milly and her soldiers.
Teams from ABC to CNN went to see what all the noise around this play was about. Several interviews followed. Milly felt like a real star. Then the phone calls began and the invitations from theatres across the country started pouring in. The whole of America was talking about the little girl and her five soldiers, and of course, of the giant cookie medals.
They even got a call from someone Baldwin in Seattle, who said, he wanted to buy off the patent for the cookie medals for his Starbucks (or Startstruck?) coffee chain. Of course, Julian and Roy decided they could still offer the giant medal cookies, as long as their coffee chains promoted the show.
Everyone in America spoke about the play.
Radio and TV constantly followed and broadcasted on the play and its wonderful cast.
Stories appeared that Milly and the five soldiers were brothers and a sister. Some of them said they met during an audition. Others speculated that Roy was Milly’s real father but he wasn’t married to Julian. Tabloids rushed to make up stories of all sorts. They even went to Milly’s school and find out more about who she was.
One day, the news about the ‘amazingly funny’ play reached all the way to the US headquarters at Bien Hoa, where the C Company of the 3rd battalion, 504rd Infantry Regiment – all mates of Roy and Sam and Max and Cassidy and Ollie – was stationed.
The soldiers heard about the play, and about their friends trying to honour Mickey and they got so overwhelmed that they decided to stop the shooting for three days in a row.
The news about the play spread like wildfire.
Even European media dedicated prime-time coverage to the play and to the cast.
A few European journalists from TV stations and newspapers traveled to the US specifically to see the play and take special interviews with the turned-stars.
The news finally reached President Nixon. The real one.
And then the call came.
“Guys”, Roy went in the kitchen of their rented house where everyone was preparing lunch.
“Eleanor just called. President Nixon wants to meet us, people!”.
Milly ran and jumped in Roy’s arms.
They couldn’t believe it.
It was happening.
“We’re going to the White House! Jules, Samie – set up the van. Mickey, you got it buddy”, Roy looked up towards the ceiling, ‘talking’ to his dead friend.
They finally made it.
An official ceremony was held to honour private Michael J. Donovan and Tran Thi Duy, the young Vietnamese girl, both of whom fought for a cause and died saving friends.
After the ceremony, Roy, Milly and the others were invited to an official dinner at the White House.
“I know that you have lost your dad in Vietnam”, President Nixon addressed Milly. Everyone became quiet and looked at the little girl.
“My sincere condolences. We’ve lost great many men in the war.”
“Yes, sir.” Milly answered shortly. But then she turned to him and added,
“I actually haven’t lost him, Sir.”
“As a matter of fact, I still have…all five of them.” The little girl turned to Roy and glanced at the other soldiers with whom she had shared so much for such a little time.
She smiled at them, like only a 5-year-old girl can smile, when she sees her father.