Once again Wallie the Imp and I have made a desperate plunge. We have attempted, not for the first time, to complete a “story” in two hundred words, give or take ten, for last week’s “Flash! Friday” prompt. The requisite location is theatre and the photo prompt is a nineteenth-century daguerrotype. And of course, my Imp of the Perverse was immediately set to write something (anything) relating to Edgar Allan Poe’s own affection for and relation to, theatre. His mother, Elizabeth Poe, was an actress of remarkable ability (his father’s talent is occasionally disputed), and it is little wonder that in his own early years he expressed an interest in his parents’ profession.
Acting was of course considered one of the lowest of low professions, and there is little doubt that even as the adopted child of wealthy John and Frances Allan, Edgar Poe suffered some discrimination for his poor birth. Nonetheless Frances Allen was particularly fond of the boy and loved him like the child she herself could not have. Whether or not it is true, I like to imagine that she encouraged Poe in his early forays into the world of art and imagination, quite as energetically as Mr. Allan discouraged them.
“Is Papa angry?”
Mrs. Allan reached for her powder.
“You know they all wear it,” she said.
“What will Papa say?”
She lifted his chin.
Something wasn’t right.
Mrs. Allan’s look of intense concentration, her finger resting on her lower lip, startled the boy from his shyness. Her absorption worked in his own grey eye a steady, quieting influence.
“I know,” said Mrs. Allan. “I know what it is.”
She tied the lace with deft fingers. The fabric was old, wrinkled and faded. But it had been her father’s favorite. Small for his age and almost too thin, the elegance of a generation past looked charmingly peculiar added to her adopted son’s otherwise plain ensemble, knotted at his throat.
“Are you ready?” asked Mrs. Allan with a quiet smile.
The boy hesitated.
“You don’t—you don’t mind?”
“Oh Eddie.” She kissed him softly. “Mind? How could I? Elizabeth Poe was a brilliant actress, and you share her blood—but you are my son, my Eddie. Give them your best. That’s all I ask. You will, won’t you? We could use a little more imagination in this house. Perhaps it’s best if we begin on stage. Now. There. Let’s show them what Edgar Allan is made of.”