Joe's Opera  
A child is born to 2 loving parents. He's the apple of their eye and he knows it. They name him Joey. One day his baby-sitter, Annabelle, takes him to the playground, and as they are playing basketball, he spies a strange youth lurking by the fence. "Who is that man, Annabelle?" Joe asks. "His name is Lurk-stay away from him-he'll make you hurt..." is her cryptic reply. "OK!" sez Joe; but from that moment on, his life will never be the same.

Joe returns home, and asks his mom about Lurk. She doesn't want to talk about it. He begins to have troubled dreams haunted by Lurk, in the form of a massive peacock. And one night, in what seems to be a sleep-walking episode, Joe is found by the lake, almost drowned. But he has a very different version of the night's events....

Joe is turning into a problem-child, blowing up small animals, attacking school girls and attracting the attention of the local police, (and their wives...) He is sent to a shrink, but this 'doctor' is more interested in doing horizontal research on Joe's mom. Joey finally decides that his sanity is up to him, and on  his way to a rock concert with Annabelle,  he begins to fall in love. With her! But as they reach the concert, Lurk appears, it's his band--he's the singer---Joe is transfixed. The encore of Lurk's set turns into a plea for Joe to come with him and rob the local bank, to "Prove that he's a man." Joe is won over by Lurk's vulnerability and fire. But at the bank, Lurk hands him a water pistol; Joe squirts the bank teller. The squirt gun was filled with acid; he has burnt out her eyes.  Horrified, and realizing the control Lurk has over him, Joe lets himself get caught, as Lurk slips away.

In jail, at the bottom of a throbbing pile of convicted meat, Joe learns to be a model citizen. Eventually, his time done, he gets out, marries Annabelle who has been waiting for him devotedly, and, much to the joy of his parents, starts living the straight and narrow life.  They have a daughter, Rosabelle, and this little Scorpio Lady makes everything right. For many years. But as she turns 16, she meets.....a stranger.....and brings him home to meet her folx. Sure enough, it is Lurk, unchanged by the years. As Joe tries to warn the love of his life about the dangers of mad passion, his old weakness starts to return.  And as Lurk turns to Joe, with all the force of youth and nostalgia on his side, Joey must make the choice of his life one final time.

"Stay Away from the Painful One" is the theme that runs through Joe's Opera. At first it's a nursery rhyme. Then a desperate plea. At last, it's just the infinitely sad song of a life that may be wasted. 

©1974 Tommy Mandel
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