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September 9, 2003
It was an Off-Off Broadway run. I was the sound person, suddenly -- one of those abrupt enlargements of vocation familiar to every rector of a small church. The regular guy had gotten a paying gig for the evening and really needed the money.

"Aw, you'll be fine," he said heartily, handing me the script. "Just follow the cues and the numbers. Sit here for a while and go through them, get the feel of it." He pointed to the old board. It was a real antique: pre-computer, the kind with sliders. The sound board and I were about the same age. "Break a leg."

There were coyote cries. There was a mournful country-ish blues song whose name I can't remember - that was for the longer scene changes. And there were crickets -- the sound of crickets in the night. The play was "True West." The crickets are important in "True West."

I didn't do too badly. Got through a few scene changes. Dropped the coyotes in right on cue. The crickets were easy -- crickets chirp all night long, so they needed to just keep running, with the occasional cricket crescendo when the actors were silent. But the cricket sounds we had didn't run the length of the play -- we only had about 10 minutes of cricket sounds. You had to slide the sound way down and then start the tape again and bring it back up, and you had to do that underneath some dialogue and action, so nobody would hear the slight break when you stopped and started.

The actor playing Lee was good. Lee is a dangerous guy, almost psychotic. Compelling, his monologues -- Lee is a blend of primitive bravado and woundedness, funny as all getout and terrifying at the same time. He was wonderful to watch.

I must have gotten too absorbed in his performance. Before I knew it, he was heading toward his most important line about the crickets -- "Between you, the crickets and the coyotes, a thought doesn't have much of a chance" -- and I was almost out of cricket sounds. Desperately I watched the counter head toward zero, while Lee paced around the set and talked. I couldn't stop now -- the audience would hear the break. I just had to hope I'd have enough crickets to get past the line.

But no. As if on cue -- right on Lee's line -- I came to the end of my crickets. Damn. The attention of the audience was riveted on nothing but them. And they all heard them cut off abruptly. There was an agonizing pause while I made the rewind, and then the crickets started up again. The audience's willing suspension of disbelief faltered a bit, and then the show went on.

It was embarrassing. I apologized to the actors afterward. It was okay. It wasn't the end of the world.

I lie in bed and listen to the crickets now. Real ones, the kind you never have to rewind. I thought of Lee, of the play. Of how good he was. I wondered how he's doing. I thought of my mistake with the sound. Of all my mistakes. I've made some a lot more serious than the one with the crickets.

And none of them have been the end of the world. Even the real sins, the ones I wish with all my heart I had not done, the ones I would give anything to undo -- life has gone on afterward. There has been time and means to clean up after them as best I could. Life goes on after everything, until the time comes for life to end. And we are all more than our errors.
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