THE PRAYING LARK | By: Charles Moulton | | Category: Short Story - Lost Love Bookmark and Share


This short story was written in 2010. Basically, it is a tale about the spiritual paths that two people travel in the course of a relationship. How unwelcome a guest the unexpected event ever is. This is something we are reminded of in this tale.

The title of the story refers to the opening lines of the film "The Sound of Music" and is a dedication to the inner sparkle that signifies true love and the fact that real love never ever really dies.
It is the tender gift of a true soul. It is the one attribute we already have within us, but also what the soul needs to feel within the tender kiss of another human spirit.
The memory of true love is never ever really forgotten, no matter how long the lovers are apart.


When my father first saw the premiere of the film The Sound of Music in New York City at its' release date May 2, 1965 he was, in his own description, flabbergasted.
He was so impressed that he named his daughter after the oldest, and prettiest, daughter in the movie: a girl named Liesl played by a former model and dancer named Charmian Carr. I thought her performances were quite fine in the movie, but my resemblance to the actress was not as extraordinary as my father always said. I turned out to look like nothing like her. People say I am pretty and I suppose so, but as she is brown haired and brown eyed I am blond and blue eyed.
No matter. My dad did the tour of the filming locations in Salzburg shortly before I was born on September 8, 1969 and then kept singing the songs from the show to me all through my childhood.

One thing he told me stuck in my mind forever, especially the years after he died. The thing that made him love the movie most was a necklace. Well, not really, but it was a lyric that Julie Andrew sang in the first song in the film: To sing through the night like a lark who is learning to pray. This lyric made him buy a beautiful necklace for me as a baby girl: a silver medallion with the picture of a lark flying away, spreading its' wings, its' beak open and it eyes beaming. It was a small thing and exquisitely fabricated. For my father this was The Praying Lark necklace.
It was invaluable to me.

The fate of this necklace is what this story is about.
I wore it as a baby girl all the time. Through Kindergarten onto school I wore it. We got a bigger chain for it when I was seven and twelve and eighteen, to fit my height. I graduated from Montpelier High School in Vermont with it around my neck.
I had always been interested in buildings. Drawing elaborate schematics of large complexes as a child, I soon knew what it was that I wanted to become: an architect. The necklace helped me here, too.

My parents had enough money, so they sent me to what they felt was a good college: Northwestern University. I decided to work toward a bachelor's, or maybe even a master's degree, in architecture and minor in drama. My necklace was around my neck at all times.
It was in the drama courses that I met my future boyfriend: Robert Young. He noticed my beautiful necklace and we spoke at length about my father's love for the musical The Sound of Music and he told me about his great admiration for the rock 'n roll legend Buddy Holly and Robert's favorite song 'Everyday'.
The song was very simple, but what occurred to me was that it was especially well written with simple, and almost bar non, percussion with a very sweet celesta accompaniment.
It became our song.


I had always wanted to become an actor.
Ever since I saw Star Wars in the cinema I wanted to become an actor and be just as famous as Luke Skywalker.
I met Charmian when we studied drama together at the Northwestern University in 1988 and she supported me in my dream.
We were both fresh out of high school and acted that way.

Be that as it may, I was flabbergasted by her. That word was also used by her father to describe his feelings for the film The Sound of Music. I saw the film and think I liked it as well, but only because I saw the world through the pink sunglasses of being desperate in love with a gorgeous lady. Charmian gob smacked me.

We couldn't keep our hands off each other. I think we spent equivalent periods studying and making love.
What I found so marvelous was the conversation.
Most of the time, we talked about music and movies. She was extremely well educated and I think it was due to her parents being lawyers and art fans and simply marvelously cultural people.

The years of studying drama and linguistics during the daytime and studying Charmian at night was unbelievable. I was rehearsing half the time and trying to cope with a swollen crotch the other half.
Charmian was marvelous. She was a ball of flames.
My parents had never been great fans of me becoming an actor. They were very conservative bookkeepers from Glen Ellyn, Illinois and wanted me to become a banker.
When a future architect named Charmian met them and told them that I was a fantastic they changed their minds. Not only did she look like a mixture between Michelle Pfeiffer and Sharon Stone, she also had the brains of a rocket scientist.
Too good to be true?
For the time being, maybe.


We graduated from college simultaneously in 1994.
The day of our graduation I gave him my necklace with the lark, something I had worn since I was two. He wears it to this day.
To celebrate our happiness we bought the 1952 Revival Cast recording of Gershwin's Of Thee I Sing and danced in the bedroom until we dropped onto the bed, drunk with 1994 Long Island Sweet Scarlet Red. Then we made love to the soothing sounds of Michael Feinstein. As he received a degree in drama with a minor in linguistics, I had the official right to call myself an architect by profession. We stayed in Chicago for a while and kept on teaching and doing odd jobs, waiting tables, going to the art institute, feeling sorry for the cubs and living on Chicago-stuffed pizza and fudge.

I started out looking like Cindy Crawford in 1988. In 1995 I had become Anna Nicole Smith. Robert, whom everyone called Buddy by now due to his idol, loved it. It always made him want to 'do it doggy-style' to put it bluntly. It gave the whole thing a wobbly fascination. I was very happy to be so lusted after by my man, but the way he sometimes looked at me before sex was like becoming a steak.
In the beginning of the harsh winter storm of February 1996, I received word from New York City's top architectural firm William Rawn that they wanted me as an associate.

It was hard to arrange a move to the Big Apple while 2500 workers worked 12 hours to clean up thirty inches of snow, but in the beginning of March that year we had moved into a modern and elegant Manhattan flat. Robert, I still called him that, managed to get some Off-Broadway gigs like Floyd Collins and I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, so we felt like royalty. Soon, Robert said, Hollywood would call and I would design a new home for us in Beverly Hills and we would become, as he put it, "filthy, stinking rich". I responded that we already were filthy, so half of the fun was won. He agreed with me there and so we kept working even harder to achieve our most precious goals.

Everything changed in 1997.
I had work up to my ears and I could've supported both of us with my huge salary. Robert had auditions all the time, on Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway, for repertory companies. Even high school plays were not off limits to my hunky hubbie. When he didn't audition, he worked on a monologue or taught English or waited tables part time.
No acting or singing job emerged. Nothing. Even his old pals from the Off-Broadway circuit were telling him he wasn't "the type".
Robert started drinking as a result of this misfortune and because if this we saw almost nothing of each other. My company gave me so much work that Robert claimed there was another chick with big boobs living in his apartment and he didn't know who she was.
He meant me.


I felt like I was in an express train that was speeding up and there was no way in stopping it. To celebrate our graduation in 1994, Charmian and I had seen the film Speed before going to the most famous pizzeria in town: Giordano's.
Three years later I felt like Keanu Reeves, only now there was no way out of the bus. There was no Sandra Bullock there to help me, she was working 24 hours a day and she hated my guts.

Still, Charmian trusted me a little bit. All of her trust in me hadn't gone to smithereens. I had always been an honest guy. We had been a couple now for almost a decade and not once had I abused her or lied to her. I had access to her accounts, in fact we had a mutual account at the Bank of America.
When she was away, I went to the 40th and 59th Streets, with Midtown East edging out the West Side at 25-26 and spent her money on hookers and booze.

She had no reason to doubt me, I had always been a very hardworking guy, so I had all the free rides I needed. She rarely checked her accounts and after about three months I had embezzled about three thousand dollars and was constantly drunk. That is not a joke. I was even drunk when I was asleep. I even dreamt about being drunk.
The problem was that I scared away absolutely everyone.
No one wanted to work with me.
Not even the hookers liked me.
The big crash came when Charmian found out what I was doing.


I hate to say it, but Robert, the sweetest and most tender fellow I knew, had become an asshole. I know I was working a great deal, but I figured that it would eventually cool down and I could take some time off. After all, Robert could live well on my expense.
What I didn't know was that not working was big problem for him. He had always worked. Always. His parents had made him sell tickets, deliver mail, take out the trash, do the kitchen and work on the farm. His labor ethics were harsh. He had worked hard all of his life.

Being dependent on me and not having work was a serious blow to his manhood. He became an alcoholic and a womanizer and started abusing me verbally. He had no control over his senses.
My reaction when I found out about his womanizing is something I think I have blocked out. I only know that I screamed at him to cut off his cock before I did.
I told him Lorena Bobbitt had been right.

He told me that I was a control freak and that my tits were now the size of mountains. We threw things at each other. He said that I was a stupid bitch for not using my influence to give him a job. I told him that I had introduced him eleven times to my boss and he had fucked it up every time.
I had wanted to marry him.
After that day, the possibility of marriage was an illusion.
I tried to get him back on his feet. I sent him to rehab, I sent him to sexual abstinence courses, I even told him I would take a prolonged vacation from the company. Nothing helped.

He practically drove me away.
In the Indian summer of 1997, after repeated tries to help him, I gave up. William Rawn had offered me a position as a top architect in L.A. and I took it. I made sure that Robert had enough money and I even gave him a job as a clerk in our firm.
I made sure he could live in a decent, high quality flat from the money he earned. I told him that he could go fuck himself, but that I would always be there for him financially.
We broke up on my birthday.
When I saw him again nine years later he had been living on the streets for three years.


Once Charmian left me, I couldn't cope at all.
I was confused, although I really tried to maintain my discipline.
I worked on monologues and took singing lessons, but often when I auditioned I got polite laughter. Old friends of mine would stare at me as if had cancer.
The job that Charmian had given me was boring but good and I managed to hold on to it for a bit.
I called Charmian every day. The last time I spoke to her before the millennium she said she was seeing someone else and that I should stop calling her forever.

She changed her phone number and after that there was no way I could reach her. I tried her office, but they always told me that she was now working in San Francisco. Both of my parents died that year in a car accident and that meant that I had virtually no one at all that cared about me.
I kept on drinking and calling escort girls until I lost my job in 2001. After that I was on welfare for two years until I lost everything.


Robert didn't know, but I had cried myself to sleep for years after we broke up. I had lost my soulmate.
The lark never disappeared from my mind. Robert still wore it when we parted and I have no idea how I could have forgotten to take it with me. It was my good luck charm and now it was gone.
I was desperate to get over Robert, so I quickly dated all the guys I knew. I lost weight and after sleeping around more than I should've, I met my future husband Sam, a selfish snob.

We married in 1999 and had our honeymoon in Paris exactly when Y2K hit the fan, our baby daughter was born in 2000 and we divorced in 2005. It was an ugly divorce and I had probably been a bitch, but I got the custody of Tiffany Amber Jensen, my baby girl.
I hated myself and I hoped Robert was doing well.
He had betrayed me unlike anyone had betrayed me before.
I wanted to have nothing to do with him, but I still loved him.
I was very confused.
Sam remarried three months after our divorce.
I couldn't stand it anymore.
I had to find Robert at all costs.

I asked to be relocated back to New York and the company managed to fulfill my wish. I must've been a boring colleague back in 2005. I spent all my time brooding and searching New York for Robert. I did lots of fun things with Tiffany, but kept on searching for Robert. The more I searched, the more desperate I became.
He had disappeared completely.
No one knew where he was.
He had been gone since 2003.


Losing Charmian was one thing.
I had no pride, no woman, no self control, no success.
Being bad at my job was another entirely. Everyone knew I was an alcoholic and they let me keep my job as a salesclerk in some remote part of the firm as a service to someone far away by now.
When I lost my job in 2001, it was because I had apparently touched a young woman's behind.
I was leading her into an elevator and wanted to help her find the way, but this is America, remember? We invented pornography, but we are not clean enough to admit it.

Soon I was on welfare. My flat was way too expensive for me.
I moved to Brooklyn.
Then, as my money run out, I moved to Queens.
My last flat was in the Bronx.
After that I got thrown out of my flat onto a pile of shit, literally.

The only thing I had left were the clothes on my back, a cassette tape of Buddy Holly's song Everyday, an ancient tape recorder and a picture of Charmian. I became one of the 25 000 people in New York City that were homeless. I begged, rummaged garbage and often slept in Sylvia's Place, a shelter that provided dry room for poor people.
I stank, seldom washed, drank whiskey and had my home under a bridge in Manhattan.

Oh, yes. I bought batteries for my recorder. Every night I listened to the song Everyday and kissed Charmian and my lark medallion good night.
She never answered me. Neither did the necklace.
I knew she probably missed the necklace, where ever she was.
I don't think she missed me.
By the time nobody knew that my name was Robert Young anymore because everyone called me Buddy, the picture of my ex-girlfriend was yellow with age and bleak from the sun.
I had lost a tooth and had forgotten that I had been an actor in an earlier life. People avoided me. I knew what that was like.
I would've avoided me, too.


I was getting desperate.
What could've happened to Robert?
Had he moved abroad?
Was he in another city?
I contacted the authorities in my search for Robert Young and realized that he had lost his job in 2001 and apparently moved two times before running out of money in 2003.
I began to understand that he probably was right here in New York City, that he had never left and that I was probably responsible for this bullshit.

In 2006, I was heading the same way as Robert.
I was doing my job, but just about.
Most of the time I took poor Tiffany early out of Kindergarten or school in order to look for someone I had heard looked like Robert.
I had marched into the Bronx in my fur coat so many times and asked for someone wearing a medallion with a lark that I thought of changing my name into Evita Peron or marrying an Argentinean dictator. I had become obsessed.

I had gotten mugged five times in 2006 and even gave money once to someone just to save time.
My colleagues thought I was nuts.
I did, too.
Finally, on a cold winter's day in November 2006, I gave up.
I was a single, rich mother living on Fifth Avenue and I did something my colleagues seldom do: Tiffany and I rented Bambi and ordered two pan pizzas and two cold large Ben and Jerry's.
Get drunk and fat, eat the rich, stuff the poor and bugger the world. I want to forget the pain.
Robert, I miss you.
The lark? Did I miss the lark? I had forgotten about the lark.
I got drunk that night and decided to go shopping on Broadway and maybe catch a Disney flick with Tiffany
I tried to forget Robert.
That is when fate kicked in.


I don't know what made me go to Broadway that day.
Usually, an organization originally created for the gay homeless people called Sylvia's Place was okay for a rest. Hell's Kitchen, the subways or the parks were good places to find some cash. I would search the fast food joint garbage cans for a half eaten burger and chase away some mouse and fight a bug for some lunch.
I had gotten some money that day.
Normally, I would be able to beg myself to a half decent meal.
There were days when no one would give me anything.
That day I had twenty dollars in my pocket.

So, I had no reason to walk all the way down to Broadway.
I didn't care about anything. I just wanted to eat.
I was in a daze. Some burger chef had thrown me out and refused to give me anything.
I had finally managed to buy myself a meal in a fast food joint and I was pretty full and happy for once. I had bought a beer and was walking down the avenues until I found myself in front of theaters where I had auditioned. Winter Garden presents Mamma Mia!, Minskoff presents The Lion King.
I laughed at the horse crap they called the industry.

There was a small shop on Broadway that sold jewelry and I don't know why I stopped there. I took a look at the gold and silver in the window and sneered. What good was that shit?
A woman stopped next to me. I just realized that she smelled fantastic. I felt like grabbing her stupid fur coat and pouring my beer all over it. It was cold, so instead I just huddled up inside my coat and pulled my gloves tight around my knuckles.
Normally, a woman standing in front of a window next to me would've walked away and not come back. This chick even had a little girl with her. I didn't know who these people were. I just know that the girl must've been six or seven.
I didn't look at them at all. I just saw them from the corner of my eye. Her fur coat, her pink nail polish and her long, black boots resembled someone I had once known.
The little girl, who must've been her daughter, whined and asked her mommy if they could leave.

Then, as if on a given signal, we both turned toward each other. I thought I would head back the other way away from this bullshit and she wanted to go the opposite way away from Times Square.
Suddenly, we were facing each other and the little girl was looking up at me as if I was a bug. What was more astounding was that the woman was looking at me as if I was Jesus.
She took a long look at my necklace. I had almost forgotten that it was there. She made a whimpering sound and a tear rolled down her cheek. She bit her lip and the upper lip, that made her look like Michelle Pfeiffer, trembled.
"Robert," she said. "Robert!"
I realized that the woman I was looking at was the woman I loved and kissed good night every evening on a yellowed picture from 1993. I gasped.
"Charmian," I answered. "Charmian."


The situation was so unbelievable that I was expecting Spielberg to shout "Cut!" and then add, cynically: "This is too corny even for me!" But there was no director, no Best Boy or Worst Boy, there was no Gaffer and no technician laying out cables.
Here he was, the man that I had spent over a year searching for.
I couldn't recognize him at first, but I did recognize him once I saw the necklace. It hung there just like it had ever since I gave it to him back in 1994, twelve years ago. Memories came flooding back. I first thought it was a copy of the same necklace, but then remembered that my dad had custom made it by engraving my initials on the front under the lark: C.M. for Charmian Malone.

I saw that and then realized that it was the very same necklace I had lost.
I then thought about how the fuck this bum could've gotten a hold of the lark. He had probably killed poor Robert and then taken it along with his money. It was as if I had looked for Robert and never believed that I would ever find him.
The guardian angels always listen to prayers, even if you don't believe in them.
Tiffany was pulling my hand all along and telling me to come with her, but eventually she stopped pulling my fingers when she saw me look deep into this man's eyes. His eyes looked like Robert's. His mouth looked like Robert's.
Robert had always worn a clean shave, unless it was needed for him to grow a beard for some role.

This man had an untidy beard and a tooth was missing. He stank of alcohol, garbage and sweat.
We must've been a very strange sight standing there meters away from the Minskoff Theater in the heart of Times Square. Me, the elegant architect in pink nails and a fake fur and stiletto boots and him, the toothless bum.
It was so strange, because just as I recognized who he was someone played the 1952 revival recording of Gershwin's Of Thee I Sing, a recording we had liked and other people hated.
We started exchanging looks and remarks, as if we slowly felt our way back to where we had once been, and once we realized what had happened to us it was like traveling back in time and meeting ourselves. I told him about my daughter and about Sam and how miserable I had been. Tears were in my eyes for a full half hour and finally Robert said that Tiffany should sit down somewhere and have a bite to eat. Still, Tiffany had refused to shake Robert's hand.

I thought it was sweet of him to think of Tiffany when he had hit bottom like he had. We went to Sbarro's on 49th and Broadway.
We got many dirty looks when we ordered four slices of Pizza Sausage and even someone who shouted at me if I thought I was Mother Teresa.
I gave Tiffany a small copy of Alice in Wonderland and let her draw some pictures in her Winnie the Pooh coloring book. She had a pizza as she intently listened to Robert tell us about his horrible fate. He told us how he had lost his job and lost then everything. He told us about losing his tooth in a fight with a gangster down in China Town, he told us about garbage cans and police officers and sleeping under bridges. He told me that he had kissed my picture good night every evening before going to sleep under the bridge.
After eating six slices of pizza and drinking four cokes, he told me that he had been miserable ever since I left him.

I wanted to admit that I had married Samuel Jensen only to forget about Robert. I couldn't do that in front of Tiffany. I did however say that when I understood that I the best thing to come out of the marriage was Tiffany, that had made me go back to New York City to look for someone I knew could be a better father than Sam.
It was obvious that we couldn't leave each other again.
We had to get back together at all costs, but he had to promise me to shape up.


Meeting Charmian again was like seeing God and having him tell me that I could get a second chance if I played my cards right.
Tiffany didn't particularly like me, but I would not have expected that. I was just happy to see Charmian again.
I must've looked like a pig.
Charmian cried and cried and I cried and Tiffany thought we were nuts. Maybe she was just sad that her mom was in tears.
She understood what was happening pretty soon and then she cried and laughed, too.
I ate more that evening than I had in three years.
We told each other everything and she excused herself for being such a bitch, but I said that I had been a bad boy, too.

It was close to evening when we walked out of Sbarro's.
She ran into The Gap and got me some fresh clothes.
As I waited outside the store, I almost thought that she would disappear and I would never see her again. But she did appear a half an hour later, after I had almost been thrown away from the sidewalk by some guard.
I thought of a lyric from Porgy and Bess:
"Lonely boy, you have come out of the storm!"
Charmian had so many clothes with her that I thought she was going to open a flea market.
She told me that she would take me to her flat, but I said that her company car would forever smell of shit. She laughed and said she didn't care about the stupid car. She had found the love of her life again. So, I stepped into the car and a new part of my life began.
I was not homeless anymore.


I thought I was crazy.
Maybe Robert had turned into a raving maniac in his years on the streets, but somehow I knew that I was doing the right thing.
The doorman in my Fifth Avenue building thought I had gone bananas, but I didn't give a shit.
I told him that this man was my long time lover and we laughed at that all the way up to the top floor.
Tiffany was now laughing as well.
She had a new dad, after Samuel had turned into an egomaniac.
Somehow, she knew that this was a great thing. After all, she had heard so much about this man that I called the love of my life.
We spent the evening washing Robert, shaving him with my razors and foam from the shampoo I washed his hair with.

I did have to clean the car, though.
The old clothes went into the trash in a second and I think I spent ten minutes washing my hands after throwing away the bag. I told Robert that he need not go back to his shelter to fetch the picture of me, he had the real thing now. I sent him to the dentist to fix his teeth and it was a big job, believe you me. Five appointments later his teeth were fixed and I was thousands of dollars poorer.
I always told him that if he started drinking again, I would kick him out again. He promised he wouldn't drink or cheat on me again.
I believed him.


The hard part was getting me back into the infrastructure of society. No one wanted to hire me or have anything to do with me, but I was determined to make it.
I started singing again and practiced my acting skills.
Finally, I did get a job waiting tables at Charlie's Steak House.
I auditioned again and nothing came in, but it didn't matter. I sang at parties and had a part-time job as a singing telegram.
It was way better than where I had been.
God had given me a second chance.


When I told my parents about finding the lark again, he immediately flew to New York with mommy and invited us to the Ritz. I knew he didn't have that kind of money, but he was so happy that he cried and laughed at the same time.
I had not seen him do that since I was twelve.
Robert and I married on my birthday.
It seemed like a nice gesture that would celebrate our love, because we had broken up on my birthday ten years before.
We were creating new memories.
We had my parents stay in our penthouse and take care of Tiffany, drive her to school and what not while Robert and I flew to Hawaii for our three week honeymoon.
My father left New York City happy and died in his sleep in Vermont a week later. On the funeral, Robert sang two songs: Buddy Holly's 'Everyday' and Richard Rodgers' 'The Sound of Music'.


I finally have a great gig.
After working out like crazy and doing small shows for three years I finally have a Broadway gig. I am hired for the Ensemble of the musical Chicago. The fact that I am covering the role of Billy Flynn is a good thing and I think the press is rather interested in the fact that I was a bum for three years. It is a kind of Cinderella thing, I believe. It has taken a long time for me to shape up, but I believe that I have shaped up now.
Charmian and I put together this little booklet of our story and we will lay it in a drawer and have our grand kids read it.
Tiffany is coming home. Gotta go.


A footnote from me. Three good things.
Now, 2010, after three years of trying to have Robert's child, I am finally pregnant. I will be 41 when our baby is born, but I will take care of myself and all will be well.
Robert is still wearing my Praying Lark necklace and he probably always will. That little bird has been through a lot.
Second thing, somebody called Sy Roth called from San Marino. Robert wrote him because he thought that it might be a nice chance to have some contacts over there. Now the agent wants to see a performance of Robert's first cast Billy Flynn when he comes over to meet another client.

Third thing, some people from the press have expressed an interest in our story and want to turn it into a book. Maybe there is charity work in there, maybe something can be done.
The praying lark has been through a lot. I emphasize that again.
Our luck has changed ever since we are back together.
Sam doesn't call, but Tiffany has a new dad and soon a sibling.
May the lark and I and Robert and Tiffany never part again.
We should count ourselves lucky. There are still 25 000 homeless people in our city. May God help them.
Not everyone is as lucky as we were.
This story should prove to everyone that people are first and foremost human beings and souls, whether they are famous celebrities or homeless folks. It doesn't matter if you are famous, as long as you have someone who loves you.

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