Bright, warm sunshine flooded down through rustling leaves and onto the garden below, the inhabitants enjoying the hot weather that summer afforded them in the Mount Greenwood suburb of Chicago.
The barbecue smell hung in the air and the sound of sizzling steaks mixed with the upbeat melodies of the Beach Boys that were playing through the small speaker parked on a wooden table, next to empty beer bottles and coke cans. High-pitched laughs screeched through the late summer sky and water splashed everywhere as a family ran around with water pistols, enjoying their afternoon in the sunshine.
The strange man on his laptop, taking shade under the leaves of the ash tree that grew at the bottom of the garden, looked over at the family with an annoyed look on his face. He was grateful to them for all the hospitality that had been afforded to him, yet at times they got on his nerves and this was one of those instances.
“Prithee, I ask of you, dear family, can you maketh somewhat less of a din? I do trieth to write but alas I cannot concentrate with thy infernal noise!”
“Ah, take a break Will! Here, have a beer,” said the head of the O’Connor family as he gently threw a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon at the writer under the tree.
“Ken, my sire, I want none of your grog! I desire only to writeth!”
“What are you working on at the moment William?” asked Rachel as she sat down at the table and beckoned to her two children to do the same.
Rachel was enjoying the last few days of her time off before going back to work at Belushi High School, and had rediscovered a lust for life that she hadn’t felt for a long time. It was a strange experience, having Shakespeare living with them, albeit temporarily, but it was a duty that the family felt indebted to Professor Schreiber to undertake, seeing as how it was their fault that the most famous writer of all time found himself in the 21st Century.
“I write on Antony and Cleopatra, my dear lady, and this internet is proving quite a tool for me to do my research! Just a few taps on this magic, small machine, and it brings up more information than I could ever hopeth to obtain from a library!”
“I’ve heard of her Will!” said Richard as he took a sip from a lukewarm can. “Didn’t she used to bathe in donkey milk or something?”
“Indeed she did my young friend, or so I understandeth. It was thoughteth that it aided complexion and so the lady Cleopatra did bath in milk from an ass.”
Richard held the can in front of his face, his cheeks pouched like a hamster as his young, adolescent brain processed what Shakespeare had just said. He looked at his father, Ken, who had the same look on his face and the same, swollen cheeks, albeit with beer and not coke, and as the eyes of the father and son met, the floodgates opened.
The two male O’Connors laughed loudly and the liquid contents of their mouths were spat out in unison over Rachel and Debbie, who let out disgusted shrieks at the unwanted shower.
“Prithee tell me, what thou so comical findeth?” Shakespeare asked as he glanced over at the table from his position under the tree, not understanding why Ken and Richard had inadvertently given the other two an unexpected and sticky downpour.
The Sweet Swan of Avon received no answer from the father and son who were guffawing uncontrollably while Rachel and Debbie stood up quickly, knocking the table as they rose and spilling remnants of the empty bottles and cans. Rachel grabbed napkins and began to dab at her face and shoulders as the laughter continued over the sound of Brian Wilson’s singing.
Shakespeare continued to watch the family, not understanding what had caused such a reaction, and in his frustration of not receiving an answer he attempted to block out the ongoing laughter and carried on tapping away on the keyboard of the laptop that Rachel had lent to him.
It had taken him a few days to get used to typing instead of writing with a quill and ink, but Shakespeare was enjoying the advancements in technology that his trip to the future had brought him, and when he had discovered the internet, he was hooked. He had never dreamed of so much information in one place.
Or so much flesh!
The Bard carried on his writing as the laughter slowly faded and the sizzling of the meat on the barbecue was replaced by the chomping noises of the family.
“Here Will, want a burger?” Ken asked as he sat at the table with ketchup running down his chin and onto a napkin that was tucked into his collar.
“I am OK my friend,” Shakespeare replied, looking over at the father of the family. “I wish not to disturb the rhythms and natures that I feel at present.”
“OK, your loss!” replied Ken through a mouthful of food as he pretended to understand what the writer had said.
Rachel looked over at Ken as he ate, and despite looking like a messy child with food round his mouth, she couldn’t help but smile as she thought of the adventure they’d had, and how much it had improved their relationship. The love and passion that the two of them had felt in their younger days had been rekindled by their journey to 1605, and Rachel herself felt like a new person.
As dusk came down over Chicago and the fairy lights that Debbie had put up in the garden came on, the O’Connor family were sitting at the table, their stomachs full and their hearts happy.
They had never before had such a closeness as they had now and all four of them were thankful of it, and the presence of William Shakespeare in their family unit was something that each of them appreciated.
The Bard helped Richard and Debbie with their homework, while the mutual inspiration and joy that Shakespeare and Rachel gave each other was beneficial for both of them, and Ken… well Ken was just happy that he wasn’t getting moaned at and didn’t have to worry about much else.
“Haveth you a space for me to sit?” asked Shakespeare as stood up, stretched his back and walked over to the table.
“Here, come sit next to me Will,” Ken said as he tossed empty cans and bottles into a nearby trash bag and made room for Shakespeare and his laptop. “Sorry about laughing earlier Will. We weren’t laughing at you, my man, it was just…”
Ken couldn’t think of the words to finish his sentence and Rachel jumped in to help out.
“It’s just that…” Rachel hesitated, thinking of the right words to use. “It’s just that some words have different meanings now than what you are used to. Ruder meanings. But take no notice. What have you written today, can you tell us?”
Shakespeare looked into Rachel’s eyes and felt somewhat reassured.
“Of course my dark lady. Alas I was not as productive as I had hopeth, but I shall read what I have written.”
Ken took a sip of beer while Richard and Debbie threw chips into their mouths and washed them down with flat root beer and the audience of four prepared themselves for a private recital from Shakespeare himself.
“It is by the start of the play, and Alexas speaks,” he explained.
“OK,” said Rachel as silence descended.
“Lo, now, if it lay in their hands to make me a cuckold, they would make themselves whores, but they’ld do’t!”
Richard and Ken looked at each, glassy eyed and hamster cheeked.
Debbie lifted a napkin up to shield herself.
Rachel put her head in her hands and sighed.