“The Theater Bug” by Jameson Currier from The Haunted Heart and Other Tales, Chelsea Station Editions 2014. Originally published by Lethe Press, 2009.
Because of the title and all the talking the author does in his introduction about wanting to craft ghost stories tinged with a modern gay sensibility, you get the strong impression that these are going to be ghost stories. In actuality they’re stories about being human, about trying to find your way through the pitfalls and obstacles of life.
Not that I’m complaining, mind you.
This story shares a setting and has characters similar to those in Felice Picano’s Late in the Season, so I was chuffed when that exact phrase appeared in the text. A group of men who own shares in a summer house are having dinner. One of them has invited a guest, an English actor of slight renown. He’s described as “old”, which he’s not, really, and also as “hammy”, which may be the case, but truth be told, dinner parties—and life itself—are dull without his like.
He tells a story to entertain the others, and though it involves a troupe of actors it’s not the usual fare of shenanigans in the wings. It’s somewhat grisly but not what I would call a ghost story. It’s a story from his childhood, and it explains how he came to be as he is now – bitten by the theater bug.
The interesting thing is that it isn’t his story; we’re in the head of another guest, one who’s trying to figure out his own life and heart. This story, this dinner party, turns out to be the genesis of his “life in the theatre” tale.