An Opera Populaire Picnic

A Comedy by
Catherine van der Goes

Christine sat across from her husband, Erik, in their new kitchen in his lair. The smell of burnt toast and bacon lightly drifted around, along with the smell of delicious scrambled eggs and smoked kippers.

Christine and Erik had now been married for two months and were blissfully happy. They were still ‘newlyweds’ and enjoying their newly wedded state. Christine was not the world’s best cook, but she was learning, and Erik didn’t mind a little burnt toast now and then – he was just delirious with joy to be married to Christine, the most beautiful woman in the world to him.

“You are smiling, Erik.” said Christine, a glass of orange juice halfway to her mouth. “What are you thinking about?”

“You.” replied Erik. “I can’t get over how beautiful you are and that you are now my wife. I’m so happy Christine.”

Christine blushed prettily. She felt the same way about Erik. She was lucky to have him as her husband. “Thank you darling. Right now though we had better hurry. Madame Giry is insisting that I be on time for rehearsals, married or not. I have to be at the Opera Populaire by 9:30 a.m. and it is 8:45 now! Help me please, Erik, to clear the dishes. We can wash them tonight when we get home.” Christine quickly sipped on her orange juice and gently put down the glass.

“I wish you didn’t have to go to rehearsals, Christine,” said Erik, “but I did promise you when we got married that you could continue with your ballet and singing until we started a family. So, I will clear up the dishes while you take a shower and get dressed. Hurry now, my dear.” And Erik leaned over the table and gave his wife a quick kiss on her mouth. As she came around the table to get ready, Erik put his arms around her and held her close.

“There wouldn’t be time for a quick ‘wiggle’, would there?” he whispered seductively into her ear, then licking it gently and nibbling on it as well.

“Erik, you know that one ‘wiggle’ leads to another ‘wiggle’ and before you know it, it is noon and then we have to take a shower. I’m sorry, my love, but not today. I really have to be on time for Madame Giry. She told us yesterday that there would be an important announcement today.”

“Oh,” replied Erik as he let his wife go.

Christine walked past her husband and went into the bedroom where she disrobed and jumped into the shower in their new bathroom that Erik had recently built next to their bedroom.

When she was through she got dressed and grabbed her purse. Erik was patiently waiting for her by the boat and they pushed off and were on their way.

“I’ll be watching over you, my ‘Angel of Music’ while you rehearse,” said Erik as they glided along the now familiar route to the Opera Populaire.

“Thank you, my ‘snuggle bunny’,“ replied Christine.

Erik shuddered with embarrassment. “I hope no one at the Opera Populaire knows you call me your ‘snuggle bunny’ Christine! It’s not very dignified.” He said in stern tones.

“No one but you, me, and our bed!” giggled Christine.

Erik shook his head while he guided the boat, but he also smiled indulgently at his wife. For the rest of the trip they were silent or hummed snatches of songs they both liked.

When they arrived at the steps leading up to the Opera Populaire, Erik helped Christine out of the boat and they went up the stairs. At the top they kissed and then went their separate ways.

Christine went off toward the main stage where rehearsals were held. When she reached it, she looked at the clock on the wall and noted that it was only 9:20 a.m. Good, she was on time.

As she got to the stage proper she could see a great many opera singers and ballerinas standing around, and Madame Giry was there with them. So were Monsieur Firmin, Monsieur Andre and Monsieur Reyer. But then she saw someone she had not seen for a good many months – Madame Dubois! What in the world was she doing here? This did not look good. The last time she had been at the Opera Populaire, it had been a disaster! (Prequel)

And Raoul was here too! Why was he here, of all places? She hoped Erik would not see his old enemy – that could lead to some major problems!

Just then Madame Giry came over and gave Christine a gentle hug. “Dear, there you are! How are you feeling? How is that handsome husband of your doing?” she asked in a caring voice.

“Everything is wonderful Madame Giry. What, though, is Madame Dubois doing here? I thought she had resigned as a co-owner of the Opera Populaire quite some time ago.”

Madame Giry crossed her arms under her breasts and sighed. “I thought so too, but I guess it is a case where the bad penny turns up again. That is why we are all here today. She has an announcement to make. And Raoul is here also – this does not bode well.”

Monsieur Firmin clapped his hands loudly to get everyone’s attention.

“Silence, please, everyone! Thank you. I am happy to say that we have a brief announcement from Madame Dubois, whom some of you may remember, before we begin rehearsals this morning. Madame Dubois.”

There was a low muttering and a few giggles as Madame Dubois stepped forward and smiled at everyone.

“It is good to be back at the Opera Populaire once more, even though it is only for a brief visit. I was speaking with your new managers the other day when I ran into them at a coffee house not far from here. I had an idea and I wanted to run it by them before I suggested it here, at the Opera Populaire. When they heard it, they suggested that I come here today and tell all of you about it! So, here it is –“

“Summer is now upon us and this is an excellent time for a picnic. My suggestion is that the Opera Populaire should have its first company picnic two weeks from now! Each person can come and if you wish to you can invite your husbands, wives and children also.

“I suggested to Monsieur Firmin that we have one large picnic hamper of food, such as cheeses, breads, wines, fruit, iced tea, cold chicken, etc. for people who cannot bring their own food. I’m sure that some of you will bring your own hampers of food as well.

“We are going to have it at a lovely park just a few miles from here, where there is a large lake and nice grass to sit on. Please remember to bring a blanket, though, to put your food on so the ants won’t get at it. What do you all think of the idea?”

“We think it is a splendid idea!” said Monsieur Firmin, and Monsieur Andre nodded his head in agreement. “It will be a time when we can all relax and enjoy ourselves and get to know each other better. It will take place from 12 noon until 4 p.m., thus giving everyone a chance to come and enjoy themselves.”

“My parents and I will also be there,” spoke up Raoul. “They are looking forward to meeting this fine Opera Company.”

A collective “Oh!” went around the stage. Carlotta looked suitably impressed and preened – she had a crush on Raoul and made a mental note to dress her very best for the picnic. She knew he was completely available, as Christine had recently gotten married to some man named Erik (whoever that was – no one had ever seen the man.) and so Carlotta could pursue Raoul at her leisure.

Raoul, though, looked at Christine with longing and a sly look of determination. He still had ‘issues’ with her marrying Erik.

Suddenly a loud, firm voice spoke out from the upper part of the Opera House.

“I think a ‘picnic’ is a bad idea and should be dropped!” it said.

“I further command,” the voice continued “that Madame Dubois mind her own business from now on and leave us alone!”

“It’s the Phantom of the Opera!” cried out Meg Giry.

Madame Dubois was not intimidated though by the voice and she clasped her hands in joy and exclaimed – “The Opera Ghost is communicating with us! Isn’t that wonderful!? We must let him know that he, too, is invited to our picnic! I will make sure he gets a personal invitation to it!”

Several people looked quite shocked and alarmed at this announcement.

Up in the rafters Erik put his head in his hands and shook it. What would it take to finally get rid of this interfering old bat?

Madame Giry could tell that Erik was angry and she thought it might be wise to remove Madame Dubois from possible harm. Walking over to her, she gently, but firmly, guided her away from the spot she had been in, talking softly to her all the time.

Just a few seconds after Madame Dubois had left her spot on the stage, a huge one hundred pound sand bag fell down heavily right where she had been standing!

“It’s the Phantom of the Opera again!” cried out someone.

People shrieked and ran, others started to moan and cry, and Christine looked around in worry. Why had Erik done that? She didn’t want people hounding her husband all over again!

“The man that is doing this up there should be arrested and put in jail!” cried out Raoul. “He is a menace to us all! He is dangerous and mentally unstable! He could have killed Madame Dubois with that sand bag! I say we get the police here right now and hunt him down!”

Several people murmured in agreement, but Christine boldly walked up to Raoul, and flashing her wedding and engagement rings in his face, hissed at him – “These things do happen, Raoul, and if you are not careful, they may happen to you! Keep your hands at the level of your eyes!” and she walked away.

Raoul walked after her, grabbed her slender arm and spun her around to face him. He spoke softly, but fiercely, so the others could not hear him.

“Your ‘marriage’ to Erik –aka- ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ is a sham Christine! You never really got married! There was no pastor or priest conducting the ceremony. You were not married in a church. You don’t have a marriage license. It’s all smoke and

mirrors, an illusion. Something the Phantom is very good at, eh, Christine? Being a magician himself! He escaped out of jail once,

but I intend to put him back behind bars for good next time!” and he roughly let her go.

Madame Giry had witnessed the confrontation, and even though she could not hear the words, she went over to Christine and Raoul to smooth over rough waters, as the saying goes.

“Madame Daae” said Monsieur Reyer, “What is going on? We need to be rehearsing! Please do not argue with our Patron! We don’t need to lose our funding for the Opera!”`

“I’m sorry Monsieur Reyer. Our discussion is over,” said Christine.

“Are you all right Christine?” asked Madame Giry. “You look quite upset.”

“It’s all right Madame Giry. Raoul and I just had a slight ‘disagreement’.” And she glared after Raoul’s retreating figure.

“Be careful chere. Raoul is still jealous that you married Erik rather than him! It was quite a blow to his ego,” replied Madame Giry.

“I know it was,” said Christine. “Yes, I will have to be careful.”

With that, Madame Giry clapped her hands loudly to get everyone’s attention once more and said to the stage in general, “Time to get back to rehearsals! Please contact me, though, about whether you would like to go to the picnic or not in two weeks. We need to know how many people are coming and how much food to bring. Now places everyone and we shall begin.”“I think it is a good idea to have a picnic, Erik.” Christine said to her husband as they glided along the lake toward home that evening after rehearsals. “Fresh air, sunshine, lovely food, a blanket on the ground, and we can snuggle up together and feed each other pieces of cheese and bread and sip on wine! You’ll love it Erik! Please say ‘yes’!”

Erik was silent for a few moments, then he spoke. “What was happening between you and Raoul this morning? What was he saying to you, Christine?”

“We had a slight disagreement, that was all.”

“Please define ‘slight disagreement’ Christine.”

Christine lifted her chin in defiance. “He said that our marriage wasn’t legal, that it was a sham and also that he was going to make sure you went back to prison! Why did you have to drop that sand bag on Madame Dubois? Erik, the last thing we need is to get people angry at you again!”

Erik looked troubled. “I should have killed him when I had a chance!” he said with fury, under his breath, but Christine heard him.

“No, Erik! I took care of it. He will leave us alone now. Let’s just forget it and concentrate on more enjoyable things for now,” she gently said.

When they got to the dock several minutes later, Erik helped her out, but he had a thoughtful look on his face.

“I think, after all, Christine, that it would be a wonderful idea if we went to that picnic in two weeks time. The fresh air and sunshine will do us both a world of good! Why don’t you start planning for it dear? I have some other things to do right now.” And he wandered off toward his mock set-up of the Opera Populaire stage and the various actors and singers on it.

“You aren’t thinking of doing anything hurtful toward Raoul, are you, Erik?” pleaded Christine as she followed after him.

“No darling, I’m not. Just go ahead and get dinner ready and I’ll join you in a minute.”

Christine hugged her husband fiercely and whispered in his ear. “I love you, Erik! Don’t ever forget it!”

Erik hugged her back just a fiercely and kissed her hungrily. “I won’t forget it. Now scoot, before I forget myself and give you a ‘wiggle’ right here and now! If that happened we would never get dinner on the table!” and he smiled at his wife lovingly.

Christine scooted in a more cheerful frame of mind and went to attend to the dirty dishes from that morning, and then she would start to get their supper ready.

The day for the picnic dawned bright and clear.

Christine had packed a hamper with a lot of delicious food for herself and Erik, and enough for others, if the need arose. She had also arranged for a two-horse carriage to take them to the picnic.

Eric had elected to wear his Don Juan costume to the picnic. The black mask with it was less conspicuous than his normal white mask and it made him look so romantic, Christine thought. She got weak in the knees when she saw him in it.

Erik, on the other hand, was looking with tenderness at his wife as she climbed into the waiting carriage. She looked so lovely in her pale blue dress and a matching hat that he wanted to eat her, not the picnic food! Oh, well, perhaps later, and he smiled.

“What are you smirking about, my husband?” asked Christine gently.

“Later, my love, later,” said Erik as he climbed into the carriage after Christine and snuggled close to her.

The driver had picked up their heavily laden picnic basket and now put it into the carriage with them. When he saw Erik’s mask and outfit he gave a start of surprise, but he did not scream or run away, Christine was glad to note. The costume was working! People would simply think Erik was going to a costume party or he was very eccentric. They would never think this was the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ or someone dangerous – as they would have, had he been in his normal white mask.

As for Erik, this was the first time he had ever been out in public since living in the Opera House for twenty-five years, and it was somewhat frightening to him. But he had a mission to accomplish at this picnic, so for his wife’s sake he was going.

“There you are, governor,” said the driver somewhat nervously, as he put the hamper beside Erik. Then he quickly jumped into his driver’s seat up front and snapped the reins over the horses’ rumps and they were off.

That man inside his coach was totally weird, thought the driver. What was France coming to when people dressed in costumes in the daytime? Was this man some kind of ‘fruitcake’? Oh, well, they had paid him very handsomely for his time, so it was none of his business. And from then on he concentrated on his driving.

When they arrived at the picnic grounds an hour later, Erik and Christine could see that the picnic had begun and that there were many people there.

Erik directed the driver to let them off away from the main group and near some bushes, so they could have, hopefully, some privacy. The driver helped them out of the carriage and handed the picnic hamper to Erik and then left, being told to please return around four o’clock for them.

Their hopes of some privacy were shattered, though, as Carlotta had seen them come in and she was she very anxious to meet Christine’s new husband. At last, she would meet the illusive ‘Erik”!

“Christine!” Carlotta called out in her shrill opera voice.

“Oh dear God!” shuddered Erik. “Please spare me having to talk to that woman!” he hissed at Christine. “I can’t talk to any of these people. They may recognize my voice! Tell them all I have a cold or something and can’t speak.”

“Yes, darling. I will do my best,” replied Christine, and she pasted a smile on her face for Carlotta.

“Christine!” trilled Carlotta again as she ran up to them. “How are you?” and she air-kissed each of Christine’s cheeks. “And we finally get to meet that famous husband of yours, Erik!” She smiled charmingly at Erik, but quickly backed up and gasped as she saw his mask and costume. Stuttering, she recovered from the shock and spoke to him in a faltering voice. “H- hello Erik. It’s n-nice to finally get to meet you.”

Erik did not want to see this simpering idiot, much less talk to her, so he merely nodded his head at her and took refuge by munching down on a ham and cheese sandwich he had found in the hamper. He figured if he had his mouth full of food, he would have a logical excuse for not speaking to Carlotta, a woman he had no liking or respect for, either as a singer and as a person!

Christine, on the other hand, had to pretend that Erik had never seen Carlotta before, so she said to Erik, “Erik, I would like you to meet Carlotta, our leading Soprano at the Opera Populaire. She has been with us now for five seasons and she is a very good singer.”

Erik nearly choked on his sandwich when Christine said these things about Carlotta and he gave his wife a narrow-eyed look behind his mask. Christine smiled at her husband and squeezed his hand for encouragement.

Carlotta was pleased though with Christine’s introduction of her, and she preened. “I am planning to sing a solo later on today at the picnic. Perhaps you have heard of the song, ‘Think of Me’ from the Opera Hannibal?” and she smiled at Erik.

Erik’s eyes widened in horror at this news and he wanted to strangle the conceited woman, but with great effort he restrained himself and plastered a sickly smile on his face.

“Erik has a bad cold today and can’t talk, Carlotta. I’m sorry if he seems rude, he really isn’t,” Christine said.

“Why is he dressed up in a mask and that get-up?” asked Carlotta rudely. “Is this a costume picnic or something? Why didn’t anyone tell me? I could have worn something from ‘El Muto’ for it!”

“Hmmm…,” hemmed and hawed Christine, at a loss for words.

“And aren’t we looking a little ‘plump’ around the middle, my dear.” cooed Carlotta, continuing on. “Are you pregnant already?” and she playfully patted Christine’s flat stomach..

Christine flinched at Carlotta’s touch. Erik nearly gagged and his eyes popped out of his head. Was his darling Christine pregnant? The very thought stirred protective urges into play.

“Well, I have to go now and get a light lunch before I sing my solo. Hope to see you both there for it.” And with that Carlotta waved her hand and went off in the direction of her picnic spot.

Erik looked murderous, but Christine smiled and waved good-by to Carlotta.

“Pregnant? Did I hear that someone here is pregnant?” said Madame Giry as she came over to Christine and Erik. “How wonderful! And you must be the lucky father!” She looked at Erik with a smile on her face, then she did a double-take. What in the world was he doing in that Don Juan costume? But she continued on after getting over the initial shock. “Congratulations! You must be so proud! How far along are you Christine?”

Just as Christine was about to reply, Monsieur Andre and Monsieur Firmin came up and started to chat with her also.

“We heard you are pregnant my dear!” said Monsieur Andre. “Congratulations. When is the blessed event to be?”

“Do you think it will be a boy or a girl? Have you started knitting little booties yet? Have you started picking out names for the baby? That’s always fun!” said Monsieur Firmin cheerfully, and turning to Erik, he started to speak, and then completely stopped.

The man in the black mask and black pants and vest staring at him with glittering green eyes seemed strangely familiar and frightening to him, but the feeling swiftly passed and he plunged

on. “And you must be Erik, Christine’s husband. It is nice to finally meet you. Are you excited about the baby?”

Christine tried to interrupt and correct the misunderstanding about Carlotta’s remark, but Monsieur Andres was speaking again to his partner.

“Monsieur Firmin, I didn’t know this was a costume picnic! Look at the way Christine’s husband is dressed up! Madame Dubois should have told us! We could have worn our zebra costume. I could have been the front part with the large zebra head, and you could have been the back end with the tail! You know how we always love wearing that costume at costume parties! Wouldn’t that have been fun? We could have galloped all around the picnic grounds scaring people! Ha, ha! We will have to have a costume picnic next year – what a splendid idea if I say so myself!”

“Well, we have to be off now, our wives are waiting for us at our picnic spot.” said Monsieur Firmin. “Bye-bye.” And they departed in a cheerful mood. Madame Giry also had to leave, so she said good-by to them both and went on her way.

As Monsieurs Andre and Firmin were leaving they could see that the Vicompte and his parents were approaching so they waved to them and stopped to chat with Raoul and his parents for a minute. Christine could not hear their words, but she could see Monsieur Andre pointing to her and showing by hand motions that she was “pregnant”! Oh, Lord! To his horror, Erik saw Raoul and his parents now coming toward them, as they had finished talking with Monsieur Firmin and Monsieur Andre, and it seems they had been told about Christine’s pregnancy (if it was true).

When they reached Christine and Erik, Raoul immediately spoke to Christine. “Christine, did I hear correctly? You’re pregnant by him?” and Raoul pointed at Erik. And before Erik could respond or do anything, Christine was whisked away by Raoul and Erik himself was suddenly surrounded by several excited and clamoring people, Raoul’s parents among them, wanting to know about the ‘baby’ and his odd costume, cutting him off from Christine as she was pulled away by Raoul.

“What is it Raoul?” said Christine to him in an impatient voice when they finally stopped. “I have to get back to Erik! He’s got a cold and can’t speak today. People will wonder.”

“Let them wonder!” replied Raoul fiercely. “I’m more concerned about you. As I said to you earlier, you are living in sin! Your ‘marriage’ to Erik is a joke, it’s not legal, and if you are pregnant by him, that child you are carrying is illegitimate! Do you really want that disgrace, Christine? Why don’t you leave Erik? I would be glad to marry you so the baby would have a legitimate father, and I have never stopped loving you Christine! I would care for the child as if it were my own.”

Christine stood still in shock and also in fury. So this was what it was all about! Raoul wanted to take her away from Erik! He was insane with jealousy!

“How dare you suggest such a thing, Raoul! I would never leave Erik – I love him with all my heart and soul!! I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last man on earth! Go away and leave us alone! And for the record, I am not pregnant! Carlotta was just being mean and spiteful.”

“But remember, dear Christine,” Raoul whispered to her, “I can have your ‘husband’ arrested at any time for past crimes he has committed against the French government – murder, theft, assault, escaping from prison, etc., etc.,etc. Need I go on? And I do intend to have him arrested!” Then perhaps I can win you back to me thought Raoul to himself.

He’s gone around the bend, thought Christine. It was worse than she had feared.

Suddenly Raoul felt the steel blade of a knife at his back, and just as swiftly a Punjab lasso was whipped silently around his neck and jerked tightly. An ice-cold voice was at his ear.

“Don’t even think of threatening myself or my wife, Monsieur Vicompte! The only reason you are alive right now is because we are in a public place and I don’t want any witnesses when I kill you! Leave us alone or you will not survive this day! Now go!” and the lasso was gone as suddenly as it had been there and the knife was no longer at his back.

Raoul turned around and faced Erik boldly “I thought you had a ‘cold’ and could not speak, Erik! And as for your threat, I still have a sword with your name on it – don’t forget it! We shall meet again!” and with that he strode away.“Hello, hello!” came the cheerful voice of Monsieur Reyer as he approached them. “Do I hear that congratulations are in order for out new mama? When is the baby due, Christine? You know I will so miss you as one of our soloist at the Opera Populaire!” and he beamed at Christine.

“That’s it, I’ve had it!” fumed Christine. Standing away from her husband and Monsieur Reyer, she shouted out, “O.K. everyone, listen up!” and for good measure, she put her fingers in her mouth and gave a shrill, piercing whistle. “I AM NOT, repeat, NOT PREGNANT!!!” she yelled at the top of her lungs for all to hear.

Everyone stopped what they were doing and stared at her in amazement, and then someone called out, “You go girl!!”

“Better luck next time!” a woman called out.

“You don’t have to be barefoot and pregnant!” called out another woman.

“You’re lucky! No poopie diapers to have to change!” said another voice.

“What a shame you are not pregnant. Children are such a blessing!” came a gentle woman’s voice from the group.

“Oh, yea? Well then, I will give you some of mine! That will break you of the habit of getting pregnant!!” called back another.

“The woman’s place is NOT in the home! She should be out and independent!” cried out a female voice.

“Congratulations!” cried out another woman from the crowd.

“Women should be allowed to VOTE!” said someone else loudly.

“Down with DRINK!! It is an evil and should be abolished!” yelled out a woman from close by, and the sound of shattering glass followed this pronouncement.

“That was a bottle of fifty year old champagne you just destroyed, woman!” yelled out a man’s voice in anguish.

“Good !” the woman replied. “Then you won’t be able to come home drunk any more!”

A young child’s voice piped up amongst all of the clamor. “I have to wee wee mommy!”

Monsieur Reyer spoke up at this point. “I am so sorry that I have caused you so much trouble, Christine. I apologize. I will go now and leave you and Erik alone.” And with that he beat a hasty retreat.

“Oh, God, what have I started?” groaned Christine holding her head in her hands. She felt a headache coming on.

Erik laughed gently. “A revolution? Seriously, though, Christine, you’re not pregnant?”

“I’m sorry Erik. No, I am NOT pregnant! Carlotta was just being facetious and insinuating by her remark to me earlier that I simply looked fat, and she was probably hoping I was pregnant so that she could go back to being the only star of the Opera at Opera Populaire. Mean cow!” she spat out.

“Come, let’s walk over to our picnic spot and sit down on the blanket I have put on the grass and enjoy our lunch together. I think there is still some food in the hamper,” said Erik soothingly.

Christine looked at Erik as they walked back to their picnic spot by the bushes. “Just how much food is left Erik? How much have you eaten?”

“Well, I had to keep my mouth full of food so I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone, so – hmm, quite a bit?” and he smiled here a little.

Christine dropped down on the blanket and opened the hamper. There was only one sandwich and an apple left and some grapes and the bottle of wine. Well, it was enough for a light lunch.

A soft female voice behind her said, “Well, well – that was quite an announcement you made Christine. Now I will not have to worry about what color booties to make for the ‘baby’!” and she laughed. Christine looked up at the sound of the voice and saw Madame Giry standing there, and this time she had her lovely daughter, Meg with her.

“Oh, Madame Giry!” Christine cried out, and stood up to give the older woman a hug. And then she turned to Meg and gave her one also.

“Meg, I would like you to meet my husband, Erik.” And she turned with pride to show off her handsome husband – who was busily munching down on the last sandwich in the hamper.Christine smiled and shrugged her shoulders. “ ‘Feed a cold and starve a fever’ is what they say!” she quoted. “I will have to apologize for Erik. He is very sick with a bad cold today, so he can’t talk, but I’m sure he is pleased to meet you, Meg.”

Meg was startled by Eik’s black mask and the costume he was wearing, but she still held out her hand to Erik and gravely shook hands with him.

Erik bowed his head at Meg and smiled gently. He did the same with Madame Giry.

“I would offer you both some food, but it seems my husband has a bottomless stomach today. It must be his cold.” said Christine.

“That’s alright!” laughed Madame Giry. “We have had a huge lunch! We just came over to say ‘hello’ and to see how you are.”

Meg spoke up. “Tell me, Monsieur Erik, what do you do for a living and do you like music? Can you sing or play an instrument?”

Before Erik forgot himself and replied, Christine jumped in to answer Meg’s questions. “First of all, my husband is an architect. He builds homes for people. He built our home and just recently finished our new bathroom. As to your second question, I am sorry to say that my husband is completely tone deaf and could not carry a tune if his life depended on it!”

Erik started to cough very hard and he looked incredulous. What was Christine playing at? What the….?

“The only reason I asked,” continued Meg, “is because you look almost exactly like the man who sang in ‘Don Juan Triumphant’ that was at the Opera Populaire only two months ago.”

“Well, then, it could not have been Christine’s husband, could it, mon chere,” replied Madame Giry, “if he cannot even sing. And Christine ought to know!” and she gently stroked her daughter’s hair.

“I have a hard enough time getting him to go shopping with me, much less getting him to see a play or hear an Opera,” continued Christine blithely. “He prefers to read a good book at home or read the newspaper.”

“Oh,” replied Meg. Looking around she saw someone who was a friend of hers down by the lake. “Mother, I see one of my friends, Carol, over by the lake. May I please go and talk with her?” she asked her mother politely.

“Yes, Meg, you may. But remember, we will be leaving in about an hour. Go have fun.”

Meg got up and said good-by to Erik and hugged Christine before she left. “I think your husband is very handsome, Christine.” she whispered in her ear and then giggled before she walked off towards her friends.

After she was gone, Christine gave a sigh of relief. “That was close, Erik. Thanks for going along with the pretense.”

“A pleasure, my dear.” and he laughed.“Yu-hu – there you are!” called out a high voice. “I finally caught up with you two.”

Erik was aghast to see Madame Dubois coming toward them, her straw hat with flowers on it askew, her yellow dress dazzling in the sunlight.

“Well, it is about time I met your husband, Christine dear,” she simpered. “How do you…” and she suddenly stopped and stammered when she saw Erik’s mask and the fiery green eyes behind it. He looked kind of angry, she noted.

“Erik is not well today Madame Dubois. He has a bad head cold and can’t speak. I’m sure you understand.”

“Y-yes, yes, of course I do,” she murmured. “Actually, I’ve come to tell you, as I have the others, about another new idea of mine.”

Erik started visibly at this news. Dear God, now what? he thought.

“I think it would be a wonderful idea if we had guided tours of the Opera House and especially of Box Five – the ‘Opera Ghost’s’ special box! We would put a sign on the door saying – ‘Reserved for the Opera Ghost’. That would be sure to bring in the crowds and some extra money! We would of course, include all the little escapades that the ‘Ghost’ has perpetrated over the last several years and embellish on them, so that people would be suitably frightened, but thrilled at the same time. Places that are ‘haunted’ always attract a crowd! We would of course give these tours during the daytime hours. What do you two think of my idea? Most of the people I talked to, especially Monsieur Firmin and Monsieur Andre, were very enthusiastic about it!”

Erik was beyond speech he was so furious. How dare this woman…! And why were his managers, Monsieur’s Firmin and Andre, sticking their noses where they didn’t belong? He had told them to stay in their office, not try to direct the Opera Company!!

Where was that pesky Punjab lasso of his? If there was ever a reason to use it on this interfering woman, this was it!

Madame Giry looked at Erik and could tell he was extremely angry, and she quickly spoke up.

“I think it should be thought about some more, Madame Dubois. Perhaps a few jumble sales or bake sales would also be a good idea. I don’t think it would be a good idea to upset the ‘Opera Ghost’, do you?”

“No, but I’m still going to pursue it! Good-bye Christine and Erik. It was nice meeting you both!” and with that she toddled off to talk to others about her ‘idea’.

“No, Erik!” said Christine fiercely to her husband as he had his Punjab lasso out and a leer on his face and was making as if to follow Madame Dubois. “No, no, no!!”

“Christine is right, Erik.” joined in Madame Giry, putting a hand on his arm to restrain him. “Madame Dubois means well, she does not mean to harm you or the Opera House. I’ll see to it that she is kept busy with other projects and forgets this one. Please put away that lasso before someone sees it!

Christine went to Erik’s side and reached up into his thick, black hair and stroked it gently with her fingers and then rubbed the back of his neck until she could feel him relax. His eyes were glazed over with fury and it was a few moments until they too calmed down.

“Oh, no!” exclaimed Madame Giry.

“What is it?” asked Christine.

“Ants – all over the place! They are attracted to your hamper, Christine! And some of them are those big red ones that have a vicious sting when they bite! You had better get after them before they destroy what is left in your picnic basket!” warned Madame Giry.

Christine went over to the hamper, and true enough, a whole swarm of ants had descended on it and were all over the last of the food!

“Oh, no, and I haven’t even gotten to eat yet!” moaned Christine.

“Oh, you poor dear. Why don’t you come over to where Meg and I have our picnic hamper. We have plenty of food left! Sausages, cheese, bread, wine, sandwiches, fruit and even some ice cream left over. We would love to share with you. Your overstuffed husband, on the other hand,” and here she gave Erik a stern look, “can get rid of the ants and clean up the mess!” said Madame Giry firmly.

Erik looked puzzled and innocent. He was also looking at the ants with extreme interest and slowly a grin formed on his face.

“I’ll clean up darling.” said Erik. “You go and enjoy yourself over at Madame Giry’s picnic spot. I’m sorry I ate all of our picnic food. You enjoy all the food you can over there.” And he went back to studying the ants with great concentration.

“Erik,” said Christine.

“Hmm…” murmured Erik.

“What is hatching in that fertile little brain of yours? I don’t like the way you are studying those ants! Don’t you dare get into any mischief while I am gone. Got it?” said Christine sternly.

Erik sighed. “Yes, darling, I won’t .” But his fingers were crossed behind his back and he continued to study the ants with utmost fascination.

“Come along Christine,” said Madame Giry. “Erik will be alright. You need some food, you are looking peaked.”

“Coming, Madame Giry.” Christine gave her husband a stern look and Erik looked back at her with a wide-eyed innocence and a smile on his lips.

Christine gave him one last look and turned to go with Madame Giry. As they walked away, Christine turned to Madame Giry and asked her, “Madame Giry, do men ever grow up, or do they always remain little boys?”

Madame Giry smiled. “No, Christine, they never grow up! They are always little boys!” Laughing together they continued on their way.

After they had left, Erik quickly turned back to the hamper and set to work looking for an empty glass jar. When he had found one he liked, he unscrewed the top of it and then put on his black leather gloves – he wanted to avoid getting himself stung by the red ants crawling around.

“Come here little ants, come here.” He cooed. “I have a job for you to do – hee, hee, hee. Oh, there’s a nice large red one – my, don’t you have nice large mandibles to bite with!” and a wicked grin spread over his face and a gleam came to his green eyes.

As he cooed to the ants he set about gathering them up and putting them in the jar. Lots and lots of large red and black ants, agitated and angry at being disturbed and interrupted from eating the delicious picnic food.

After fifteen minutes he looked in the jar and was satisfied with what he had accomplished. Now to find some poison oak or ivy and he would be all set.

He went over behind the bushes and started looking around eagerly for the poison oak he thought he had spied earlier when setting up the picnic basket.

“Are you Zorro, mister?” came a small voice suddenly from the other side of the bushes.

Erik jumped in surprise and whirled around in shock. There stood a small boy of about seven or eight years old staring at him with intent interest.

For a moment Erik was completely speechless. Where had this child come from? He had to get rid of him. He could spoil everything!

“Go away little boy!” he hissed . “Go find your parents!”

The little boy simply stared at Erik and then spoke up again.

“Do you have to go pee pee mister? Is that why you are behind that bush? I had to use one of the bushes earlier and it wasn’t any fun. I’d rather use my outhouse at home. Do you have an outhouse at home?”

Erik’s jaw dropped in horror at these questions and for a moment he could not think of anything to say, and then suddenly an idea came to him.

“What is you name little boy?” he asked softly.

“Robert. What’s yours and why are you in that Zorro outfit? Aren’t you hot in it? It must be at least eighty-five degrees today, especially in the sun! If I had known this was a costume picnic, I would have worn my American cowboy outfit today.”

“None of that is important right now Robert. But I could use your help with something, if you would like to help me.”

“O.K., I guess I can help you. What do you need?”

“Good. I need you to help me find some poison oak that is somewhere around here. I’m not quite sure what to look for.”

“What do you want that for?” asked Robert, his blue eyes puzzled. “That’s nasty stuff! A cousin of mine got into it once by accident and she itched for a week! She was miserable!”

“Good, good,” said Erik softly to himself and smiled, but Robert had overheard Erik’s soft murmur and he looked confused.

“You know my cousin, mister? She’s horrible – she’s a girl! They are all horrible! I’m glad she itched for a week – I wish it had been longer! She was trying to kiss me – yuk!! She’s eight years old. I wish you would come over to my house while she is visiting some day, wearing that outfit, especially with the mask. That mask of yours might scare her away for good! “

Erik was momentarily confused by the direction the conversation had taken, but he quickly got back on track by saying more loudly “No, no Robert, I wasn’t talking about your cousin, I just need you to point the poison oak out to me. I’ll pick it up, I’m wearing gloves, see?”

Robert shrugged his shoulders and cautiously joined Erik behind the bushes and began to help with finding poison oak.

”Here’s some!” called out Robert after about ten minutes of searching. “A whole lot of it. See the shiny green leaves? That’s it. Be careful now. If it gets on you, you will itch and burn like crazy for ages!”

Erik smiled in triumph. “Thank you, Robert, for being so helpful. You had better get back to your family now before they wonder where you are.”

Robert waved good-by to his new friend and turned to go. Just as he was leaving the bushes a female voice called out frantically, “Robert, Robert, where are you?” The voice came closer and then a woman in her early thirty’s or so appeared at the bushes.

“Robert, thank God I found you!” she said, seeing her son near the bushes where Erik was. “Where have you been, what have you been doing…?” Just then she also saw Erik behind the bushes and shrieked. “Who are you? What are you doing behind those bushes? Why are you dressed like that? What have you been doing with my son? You pervert!!” she cried out shrilly and before Erik knew what was happening a large, heavy purse landed on his head.

“Ow, lady!” he cried out. “I wasn’t doing anything…” but he did not get to continue as the purse landed once again, this time squarely on his shoulders, causing Erik quite a lot of pain.

“Pervert, pervert! I’m calling for the police!” the hysterical

woman continued to scream.

Several people heard the commotion and raced over to where the cries were coming from, among them Christine, Raoul and Madame Giry.

“What is going on here?” asked Raoul in an authoritative voice, when he finally reached the upset woman. “What is the matter, Madame?”

“Oh, Monsieur, this man,” and here she pointed to the furious and incensed Erik, who was rubbing his aching head, “was behind these bushes with my son! God knows what…” and she could not continue she was so shaken up. “I feel the vapors coming on!” and she moaned and swayed slightly.

“Calm down, Madame. I am Raoul, the Vicompte de Chagny and I will get to the bottom of this. This man you pointed out is not only a pervert, but also a murderer, a thief, a kidnapper and has been accused of assault as well. He recently escaped from jail and is wanted by the police. I will arrest him and take him to the police station.”

At this pronouncement about Erik’s criminal background by Raoul, the woman went very pale and grabbed Robert close to her.

“Erik!!” came Christine’s voice sharply as she stepped close to her husband. “Why were you skulking behind those bushes? Who is this woman and what is she accusing you of? Who is this little boy?”

“It seems,” replied Raoul, looking at Christine, “that your ‘husband’ is a pervert, among other things. He seems to like small boys,” and here he sneered at Erik.

Christine was completely thunderstruck with shock and rage at Raoul’s accusation. She and Raoul both knew it wasn’t true, but how many people would believe her? What had Erik done now? She had to help her husband out of this mess or he would be arrested and put in jail for many years!

“Raoul, you know that isn’t true! Stop making trouble for my husband!”

“Madame,” came the voice of Madame Giry as she walked up and spoke soothingly to the frightened woman holding on to Robert. “I happen to know this gentleman. His name is Erik and he is married to Christine Daae, the woman here,” and she nodded in Christine’s direction. “And I happen to know for a fact that he is not a pervert! I have known Erik for many years. I’m quite sure there is a logical explanation for what you think you saw. Why don’t you ask your son what happened? I’m quite sure he will be glad to tell you.”

The distraught woman saw the logic in Madam Giry’s argument, and stooping down she looked into her son’s eyes and asked, “What really happened Robert? Did that man over there,” and she nodded at Erik, “touch you in any way?”

“No ma’am, he didn’t, not at all! We were simply looking for poison oak together.”

“Poison Oak?” said Christine, looking at her husband. “Why were you looking for poison oak, Erik? I what to know!” she said through gritted teeth.

Erik looked innocent and said, “So that I wouldn’t step into it when I had to do my ‘business’ behind the bush. Nasty stuff. Don’t want to step into it or sit on it by accident.”

Christine and the others around all turned a bright pink with embarrassment at this explanation, but Christine didn’t believe it. Something was ‘up’ and she didn’t know what, but after Raoul’s latest accusation against Erik, Raoul deserved anything that happened to him!

“That’s it everyone. The excitement is all over. You can all leave now!” said Madame Giry in her strong French accent. And slowly everyone turned around and started to go back to their picnic spots. But the woman and her son Robert lingered to speak to Christine and Erik.

“I am sorry about the mistake Madame, Monsieur. You both understand about my anxiety for my child? Do you have any children?”

“No, not yet,” replied Christine. “ Erik and I have only been married two months. We are still newlyweds,” and she smiled shyly at Erik. Erik did not smile back. He was looking at Raoul with a grim expression.

After Robert and his mother had left, Raoul turned to Christine and said, “Your ‘husband’ should be put in a cage! He should be locked up! He is two eggs short of a dozen!! He is insane and a murderer as well as a molester! When are you going to wake up and see the truth, Christine?”

“I don’t care to hear any more of your accusations against Erik, Raoul! Please leave now!” said Christine quietly but firmly.

Erik spoke up. “I would like to have a private ‘chat’ with the Vicompte, Christine, if you don’t mind.”

“Yes, of course Erik.” she replied in relief. “Madame Giry and I are going back to her picnic spot. I’m still famished!” and with that both women left.

As soon as they were out of sight, and before Raoul could do anything, Erik swiftly grabbed him in a chokehold around his neck and slipped his Punjab lasso around it and pulled tightly.

Raoul struggled, but he was no match for Erik, who was taller and stronger and had more experienced in fighting and using the lasso.

“Now Monsieur,” hissed Erik into his ear, “let me show you to my ‘office’!” and he dragged the unwilling and fighting Raoul behind the bushes.

“I’m going to give you a lesson you soon won’t forget, you young puppy! Please hold still!” and with that he picked up the jar with the angry red and black ants in it, unscrewed the top, and proceeded to pour some of the angry insect down Raoul’s back by opening his shirt collar. Then he proceeded to pull open Raoul’s pants at the waistband and dumped the rest of the furious insects down his pants and even into his under drawers.

Next he gathered up the loose poison oak leaves in his gloved hands and proceeded to do the same with those, except he also put some in the front of Raoul’s pants as well this time.

After a few seconds Raoul started to jerk and jump in pain, cursing and swearing at Erik, as the red ants bit him painfully and as the poison oak started to make him itch in embarrassing places on his body. Erik took the lasso off Raoul’s neck and smiling, kicked him in the seat of his pants so hard that it sent him sprawling several feet away. “Insult me and my wife, will you?” he sneered as Raoul quickly left the area.

Once more Raoul started to jump and jerk in extreme pain from the hundreds of bites he was getting and also trying to scratch at the horrible itching on his body.

“Hmm,” murmured Erik as he watched Raoul’s actions. “That’s what I call an ‘Ants in the Pants Dance.’ I wonder if I could put those funny steps he is doing to music? Nah, it would never work. Too avant-garde!” and he started to laugh.

Raoul was frantic to get the ants off his body as well as the poison oak leaves, so when he spied a different group of bushes away from the group of picnickers and Erik, he rushed over to them and started to undress so he could shake off the leaves and ants in his pants and on himself.

In his haste he did not see the couple in the bushes making love, and inadvertently he stumbled into them while he was trying to undress.

“Ekk!” screamed the woman when she saw Raoul trying to frantically get out of his clothes. “Pervert! Get out of here! I will call for the police!”

The gentleman with her had jumped up and proceeded to hit Raoul with a right hook to his jaw that sent him sprawling for the second time that day. “Go find somewhere else to be perverted!” he shrieked.

Raoul picked himself up off the ground and beat a hasty retreat. Spying some other bushes further on, he ran to them and once again started to undress to relieve his stinging, itching body, but he did not realize that a family of skunks had taken up residence in that bush and he stumbled right into them as he was hopping around undressing. The next thing he knew, a horrible odor assailed his nostrils and covered his body!

He ran out of the bushes screaming, mostly naked, except for his underpants - still covered with the ants, poison oak leaves and smelling very strongly of skunk!

His screaming attracted quite a lot of attention and when people saw he was basically naked, they hastily covered up their children’s eyes and their own as well; but as he got closer to them the odor hit them as well and they turned away in haste.

Christine heard the yelling and screaming and turned to see what was going on. Her jaw dropped open in shock at the sight that greeted her – Raoul jumping and dancing around in a frenzied manner – naked! What in the world? And what was that horrible odor? Oh Lord, it was skunk spray!!

Madame Giry sitting next to her was starting to laugh and soon tears of laughter were rolling down her cheeks and she was shaking with laughter so hard she was doubled over.

“He will have to bathe for a week in tomato juice to get that skunk smell off of himself.” gasped Madam Giry when she could talk. “O Lord, this is so funny!” and she collapsed into peals of laughter again.

Christine had an idea who was behind most of this, but she could not help but laugh also. Raoul had deserved what he had gotten today! Conceited fop!!

Other people were watching the strange antics of Raoul and had started to laugh at him as he dashed toward the lake for some relief from his pain and embarrassment.

Carlotta had just started to sing her solo “Think of Me” from the Opera Hannibal, with quite a crowd around her, but she soon found herself ‘upstaged’ by Raoul’s actions, as he ran right by her, screaming in pain and jumping around. And the smell of skunk drove people away in haste.

“Oh,” she fumed in anger. “Every time I sing, something always happens! It’s as if the ‘Opera Ghost’ has followed me here! Well, I’m not staying to be humiliated! Bye bye everyone! Bring my doggy and my boxy,” and she sailed off the picnic grounds and over to her waiting carriage, her entourage in tow.

Soon, people were hastily packing up their picnic baskets and dashing to their waiting carriages to avoid the horrible skunk odor and the angry skunks themselves that were now running around the picnic grounds.

Christine helped Madame Giry gather up her picnic supplies and Meg came over to help her mother. “What is the matter with the Vicompte, Mother?’ asked Meg. “Why is he dancing around naked and what is that odor? Is he drunk?”

Madame Giry gathered her daughter into her arms and hugged her. She was still laughing. “Some day I will explain it to you, mon chere, but for right now it is time for us to leave and go home. It will be dinnertime by the time we get there. Good-by Christine. Say good-by to Erik for us! See you tomorrow for practice!” And with that she and Meg climbed into their carriage and were off.

Christine watched them go and then turned and walked over to where she and Erik had their picnic supplies.

“Erik!! I want to talk to you!!” she said firmly when she reached him as he was packing up their picnic things. “What in the world did you do to the Vicompte?”

Erik smiled and gathered Christine into his arms. “I simply made sure that he will think a long time before he bothers us again, my darling. The skunks, though, were just an accidental added bonus!” And he kissed to top of her head.

Christine hugged her husband back. “Oh, Erik, you are so incorrigible! What am I going to do with you?”

“I feel a ‘wiggle’ coming on.” replied Erik. “When we get home…” and with this he swept Christine into his arms and put her into the waiting carriage.

As they were trotting away from the picnic grounds, a police paddy wagon passed them going into the picnic grounds.

“Wow, that was close Erik!” remarked Christine. “I guess Raoul did call for the police to arrest you. Put your head down, dear!”

“No, Christine. That paddy wagon is for Raoul. I guess someone reported his strange behavior.”


“Turnabout is fair play, darling Christine. Turnabout is fair play!” and he laughed gently.

But the Vicompte was not laughing, and he swore under his breath as he saw Erik and Christine leaving and the police paddy wagon coming for him. “The game is not over yet, ‘Opera Ghost’! I will put you in jail, if it is the last thing I do, – and then I will win Christine back to me!”



Christine's story began in A Politically Correct Opera Populaire
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