She answered an ad, one calling for a mail order bride.
The trades, in the sixties, replied by postal mail sent.
He strolls onto the set as both of their arrivals coincide.
She was to be a Russian counterpart to this Italian gent.
She'd plied her trade, for grade, at Oberlin, in Norwalk,
That liberal arts college in Ohio, on the honor system;
A bilingual brunette, who could walk the walk, talk the talk;
Ideal counterpart for this "next Valentino," an unknown gem.
Their play opened in Duluth, Minnesota, ran for but a day.
The troupe packed and was bused to the next scheduled venue.
This afforded the actors time to practice lines along the way.
They left town so fast, no one had a chance to read a review.
The plot, one of intrigue, taking place during the cold war,
A time of uncertainty across political and social terrain;
The leading man recited his line, "My name is Rappaport."
Zarya presented her credentials to be his new ball and chain.
Plot called for him to be wed, in order to receive inheritance;
This was all for show, to collect, just an elaborate ruse.
The mail order scheme was a risk, but well worth the chance;
A desperate girl might respond, one having little to lose.
Those in the know, kept to themselves, Rappaport's secret.
Zarya, made head of household, played and dressed the part.
So happy to escape Federation, she'd be forever in his debt,
He envisioned a time they might explore matters of the heart.
By the time the curtain closed, after the second act of three,
The audience was made aware, Zarya came on wings of portent.
Who knew that espionage was her intent, not a desire to flee?
Crowd squirming, confirmed, never trust one with that accent.
Patrons witnessed, as his secrets became Zarya's to reveal.
Rappaport was oblivious to her scheming ways and her intent.
As the final act closed, Rappaport's impending demise was real,
Proof positive, theater goers' time and money was well spent.
As was custom, actors lined the lobby to meet each patron.
Rappaport was deluged with "well done" and even "great show."
Zarya received minimal accolades, as she was revered by none.
Eventually, when time for pass and review, she would not go.
The play, from every angle, in the Northeast, was a success.
Plans were made to take it south of the Mason Dixon Line.
Why they chose such an ambitious move was anyone's guess,
Their current tour, making bank, showed no signs of decline.
After a two weeks hiatus, a vacation well earned and overdo,
The troupe found themselves on stage, in action, in Tennessee,
Two weeks booked, nights and matinees; after that, who knew?
They took Music City by storm, their names blazoned Marquee.
No one in the cast saw it coming, when word came down to all,
The performance about to commence, would be the final fling.
As to why the production was short on funds, was anyone's call.
That everyone would be paid in full, helped to ease the sting.
Emotions in the lobby, running high, after final curtain call.
A man petitioned Rappaport, asking if he would discuss a deal.
They would talk later, if Rappaport could bring the Russian Doll.
That is what the man called her. To him, Zarya was all too real.
The following day, Christine and Rodney signed up for service;
No reason to delay, so for them it was sooner rather than later.
From all indications, the acting business here was hit or miss.
The man with a plan, touted, "Both of you were born to cater."
To appear in stage character, was stipulated in their deal,
He would keep his Rappaport regal air and Zarya, her accent;
With the money promised, neither felt put out, to make it real.
Their employer sold it well, that every night would be an event.
Nashville is chock full of singers and writers who entertain.
For our party host and hostess, the success door opened wide.
Rodney's unscripted performances came off lethargic and plain;
While Christine's stock was rising, his was in steep decline.
Rodney was called into the office, offered a chance to redeem;
He and the girl would make a killing, just for one petty theft.
An audio tape was the object of desire; the want of that stream
was essential to a future success. Rodney took the bait and left.
It seems, a Nashville tradition, is to try for an answer song.
Ever since Kitty followed Hank as a honky tonk angel with heart,
First one gets if right, the other caught up, seemingly wrong.
A successful answer song can be a career milestone, or a start.
Rodney pitched the idea to Christine. "We are better than this,"
Was her stern reply. "Just this one time, Baby, I'm on my way,"
was Rodney's response. Their decision, ultimately, was his.
She said, "Just this once, I'm done, and you're on your way."
The event, a major record release party, held the next night;
Christine's task, to sneak into the mansion's basement studio,
Procure a demo tape with new album songs, and exit stage right,
Before the artist got wise. Spying the drawer, wouldn't you know,
A stiff wind blew through an open window, then a power surge
Brought the lights down. She found herself alone in the dark.
She froze in silence, sure she heard breathing. On the verge
Of panic, Christine's inherent fear, that she was now the mark.
One door opens, as another drawer is closed, heard in stereo,
Christine was busted. Gazing around the room, following a beam,
A man holding a flashlight said, "Where did your partner go?"
She wanted to ask the same, but instead, just listened to him.
He locked the door, just as the lights came back on, to view
his intruder, telling her these walls were lined to hold sound.
Looking about, she saw walls lined with gold records, strewn
next to awards and decrees, documenting success he had found.
What, or who possessed her next, an unanswerable question,
As she went into character, that of Zarya, the Russian Doll.
She spoke with her accent, as the the country legend quizzed on,
As to who sent her, though he knew the answer. He knew all.
"I got a tip. He talks too much when drinking. I understand
why he bears me ill will. Simple truth is, he has that right.
Years ago, I stole an answer song from him, just as we planned.
My accomplice, believe it or not, was his wife, on that night."
"She is gone now. For what it's worth, I want my conscious clear.
My solution to remedy this transgression is to give you the tape.
No strings attached, you just act like you stole. It is here."
She read the label, took it in hand, and made her mock escape.
Christine had no way of knowing, the man had already switched,
so the tape she held would be of no use, when she passed it on.
The singer had no way to know, his perfect plan was bewitched.
The sounds had already been swapped, by another, who was gone.
Her employer and his staff of writers worked through the night.
By noon the next day, the lyrics to a dozen songs were complete.
Chistine told him she could sing; turns out, the girl was right.
She had them all recorded in record time, which was quite a feat.
By the next day, radio stations were spinning the advance track.
This single would take the industry by storm, revive a career.
Before it could make top ten, an answer song played back to back;
Juke boxes and disc jockeys featured both, the rest of the year.
The height of a career is to play the awards show, on the screen.
Television cameras fucused on the legend, sitting on his stool,
While beside him, stood the next big thing, future country queen,
Following his act to a standing ovation. She took him to school.
The following week, a small group of fans rolled up in a tour bus.
The Legend's home was the second stop, according to the guide.
Tourists come, to see the stars, who live better than than us.
Studio door was ajar, inviting curious onlookers to step inside.
They found him in there, sitting at his desk, stone cold still.
An empty bottle of tequila, cap off; seems the worm had turned.
An enthusiastic camera bug snapped a shot, as they often will.
Guide said, "No more pictures! That one will have to be burned."
The Nashville police were called, in event there was foul play.
Coroner closed his eyes, said it appeared his heart played out.
The man with the camera, slipped out, making a clean get away,
Thinking about a week's worth of pictures, they'd take, no doubt.
Call for a shroud misconstrued; florist showed up with a bouquet.
When the news came across the radio, his street filled, a parade
of thrill seekers and sentimental sorts, who always make their way
to toss accolades toward a perfect stranger; a simple charade.
His funeral, celebrity laden, for the former star, casket closed;
A who's who list of stars attended, those who wrangled a pass.
It was a one sided mix of spotlight hounds and friends supposed.
"Amazing Grace" sung, as sunlight streamed through stained glass.
It might come as a surprise, but he had real friends left behind.
Several gathered for a remembrance affair, over on Music Row.
After a night of drinking, conscious clearing, only to find,
one burning question. What of the girl, and where did she go?
The girl in question, Christine, was now touring the midwest,
in a renovated Eagle bus, provided by an exec from her label.
Fleeing the confines of music city struggles, she thought it best
to take her road show north; no desire to be part of their stable.
She played state fairs and rodeos, always ending a tour in Ohio.
Christine and the Russian Dolls, two back up singers for stage.
"Russian Doll" on the inlays of her guitar, so all would know;
Christine, though forgotten in Nashville, was a heartland rage.
She and her bass player found themselves romantically inclined,
Up to and including real love, the lasting kind, not about lust.
At first break from the road, each signed a marriage license.
They stepped away from touring, seeing need for time to adjust.
With a baby on the way, Christine thought it best to retire.
As to where they would live, her choice, where to settle down.
Only one clear choice, she enthusiastically voiced her desire,
and with decision made, she was heading back to Norwalk Town.
This Saturday past, Christine was digging through artifacts;
A local charity had come calling, for an auction impending.
She discovered a box, filled with fan letters, loose stacks.
In the mix, mail unopened, a six cent stamp paid for sending.
She opened and read a personal message for her, in deep detail,
where this guy had taken a picture, then decided to conceal,
but a still voice came to him in the night, telling him to mail
the image to her, which he did, decades earlier, to reveal...
A picture of the country singer, sitting silent graveyard dead,
and just behind him, a familiar girl, striking yet subtle figure.
Christine recalled a picture on the wall, when her employer said
the image was of his former wife. This was her, she was sure.
Christine never knew of the double tape switch, so irony eludes.
She went through life thinking the iconic figure played fair.
Having no question at hand, resolve is a ghost. That concludes
this chapter in the life of the answer girl. We'll leave it there.
Michael Todd (2014)
Note: Many thanks to Christine Gabriel for her inspiration. Christine is a writer, currently in the process of writing "The Crimson Chronicles Series." The first book in the series has been released... Please visit Christine at her website... http://thecrimsonforest.com/