A Midsummer Nightmare (Flash Fiction)

This story was based on an Instagram prompt (a mask and the sentence “I have dreamt of stars.”). This is based on the rumors that Shakespeare stole some of his plays. This particular story is entirely fiction 😉

John stormed into the kitchen, slamming a fist full of papers down in front of his wife. Mary glanced up from peeling potatoes but didn’t say anything. John needed no cue, he began shouting. “He’s done it!”

Mary calmly continued preparing supper. John shouted a lot. Not at her, mind you. She was the only person to listen to him shout, and so by default, he shouted around her a lot.

“He’s gone and stolen my play!” John bellowed, his voice echoing around the bare-walled kitchen.

“What?” Mary stopped and looked up at her red-faced husband. “Who has stolen your play?”

“Who do you think!? William Shakespeare!” John scowled at her.

“William… the William Shakespeare?”

John grabbed a fistful of papers from the table and shook them. “I was at The Swan, thinking to myself that I’d see what the great fuss was about. Then Shakespeare himself comes on stage and says he has a new play. I think to myself, well that’ll be a nice treat.”

He continued, “Then my play comes on stage. I’m sure it was my play! I came home immediately after and looked. Sure enough, it’s my play!”

He threw the handful of pages down again, letting them scatter across the potato peelings. “It was identical. He even had the donkey mask that I had sketched out on the back page. The only thing that he changed was the name of the play.”

Mary picked up a page of the manuscript. “‘I Have Dreamt of Stars.’” She read. Looking up at John she said, “This title is a bit weak, love.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter now, does it, Mary!?” John shouted. Mary winced.

“Listen,” John snatched up a page. “It’s identical!”

Mary nodded in sympathy as her husband read. Truth be told, she had no idea which play he was reading her. They all began to bleed together after a while. It wasn’t that John couldn’t be successful, it was… well, it was his temper that made him hard to work with.

“Why don’t you report him, love?” She interrupted.

“And why would they believe me? If anything, they’ll say that I stole his play and renamed it.” John growled.

“Well, isn’t it better that someone gets to hear your wonderful words, then?” Mary reached out to soothe her husband, but he stood stiff as a board.

“Mary, I will receive none of the credit.”

“At least your words are out in the world now.” Mary tried again.John began to relax, but he still resembled a thunder cloud.

Finally, he shuffled away from her, heading for their bedroom. He called over his shoulder, “I’m going to nap. Was there any post today?”

“No, love. Not today.” Mary tucked the note under her skirt that she’d received moments before. She’d have to burn it later. The words floated before her eyes as she began peeling again.

Dear Mary, thank you for the wonderful play that you’ve passed on. It’ll shine on my stage. Best, W.S.

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