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The von Trapp Family Strangler

Though frequently shining like a new sun
this afternoon she is covered with river mud.
She has dressed her charges in re-purposed curtains
to the Captain’s chagrin
and now the children have pratfallen extravagantly

out of the little boat
all the frantically waving, camera-conscious child actors
lurching, and in one case leaping, into the brown water.

Now the Captain is dressing the governess down.
The group tumble into the silt
has exposed her child-minding technique as
dangerous and uncomely.
Time to proffer the pink slip.

There comes whispering from the near distance
as if a switch is thrown,
an almost visible wafting of voices,
cottony and evanescent. The Captain’s attentions wander.
“The children…”

The bewildered man follows the sound
to a small elaborately draped room.
Max sees him enter and doesn’t change his posture.
The Baroness looks over, a little alarmed.
The Captain leans against the doorjamb
and the cinematographer shoots him,
suddenly and jarringly,
through gauze.

There are the children, recently
of the comical river mishap
standing sedately
with their little jaws open,
gossamer flying out of their unblemished yaps.
They are lip-synching a frankly
prerecorded miasma of loveliness,
an abrading innocence.

They were last seen running
anxiously into the house but here they are,
the sudden picture of quiescence and seduction.
Plummer’s expression softens and his eyes glitter with moisture.
The Strangler enters and lays his expert mitt delicately
across my trachea. He is a bald brute in lederhosen
and one of those peaked tyrolean caps with a feather.

He enters wearily, tired of squeezing my neck,
applies at first a gentle pressure.
It grows more insistent as the singing continues.

From the doorway the Captain’s scarred jaw works
in a loving half-grin,
his blue eyes clouding with something beyond love
because it is here commingled with surprise.
And so the effect is actually a kind of awe.
He gazes at his children for the first time in many years.
My strangulation proceeds apace.

The gap-toothed Bavarian brute takes a good hold
and really begins to ring my neck.
His feather vibrates with the effort.
Captain von Trapp, without warning,
rouses from the jamb,
strolls unbidden into the room, suddenly chorusing his children,
their stupefied expressions
tell a story of previous benign neglect,
paternal distraction. That epoch is gone.

He  joins them incongruously in song.
They gaze at him and at each other with wonder.
The singing concludes as motes
of darkness signal my aerobic emergency.
The big-boned alpine bully in his ridiculous suspenders and shorts

has me firmly by the neck,
for now he is squeezing without expression,
very businesslike.
My throat torques, tormented musculature wrenching.

It could be the sternohyroid or the omohyroid,
the glottal cramp of a restrained, feral sob.

The von Trapps regard each other now in a silence
broken by odd staccato bursts of laughter.
Curt laughs in a non-actorly fashion,
perhaps tickled by the scene’s conceit, or just embarrassed.
They all laugh.
The scene plays out awkwardly.There are pauses and dead air.
What are we seeing?

Kids, we’re rolling.
Chris Plummer takes them all in with what looks
like a seldom-rehearsed and beatific grin.
When the Captain tousles Curt’s hair,
the Strangler nearly squeezes out of me
a little gasping squeak.
This Heidi-adoring cough-drop promoter
would have me cry out in full,
but I won’t.

The family is reunited.
Just like that. The miracle of song,
of all art.
Maria sees all and bows her head in pleased obeisance,
surreptitiously exits the room.
Plummer follows.
She’s trudging up the impossibly sweeping staircase,
she’ll pack her things.
The Captain calls out to her,
runs to her.
I…ask you to stay.

The oaf prevails,
his gap-toothed grimace
ferocious with the effort
decorative tyrolean feather bobbing;
the doom-saying needle of an emotional seismograph.
my abortive gasp
becomes a merciless tracheal cramp,
then the ragged sob escapes,
a sort of gulping yell.
It is the Captain’s decision
not to cashier Maria after all.
She has brought music back into the house.

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