Friday, December 9, 2011
Why We Love Supporting Characters: Meet Mrs. Deffenbaugh
Novels typically contain our main characters--the hero and the villain. However, except for the rare instance, they can’t perform their play on a stage totally devoid of other actors. Just like the leading men and women in the Hollywood films, our supporting characters, though sometimes underappreciated, are really a vital requirement.
In Lost in the Bayou, one supporting actress who gets a minimal amount of screen time is Mrs. Deffenbaugh. But even though she didn’t have to memorize a lot of lines (for which she is terribly grateful), she delivers the ones she’s been given with star quality and in one take. Let’s examine her performance. In the following scene, Robin is nervously scurrying around in the kitchen, collecting the food and other necessities she and Andy are taking with them. Keep in mind that Robin’s in a hurry to get out of there before Conrad shows up, and she’s trying to explain to Mrs. Deffenbaugh what to tell Conrad when she sees him.
“I want you to listen carefully, Mrs. Deffenbaugh. Andy and I are going to play a game with Uncle Conrad today. It’s like hide and seek. We’re going to hide in the attic. But when you see him this morning, tell him we’re in the cellar. Okay?”
She gives me a sweet smile and snaps her short, pudgy fingers as she removes the last strip of bacon from the skillet and places it on the paper towels. “Got it! You’re hiding in the attic.”
“No!” I tell her as I slide the cellar key into the pocket of my jeans. “You tell him we’re in the cellar.” I roll up the paper towels and stuff the warm bacon into my satchel. “And I need to take this bacon for the picnic Andy and I are going to have later. Remember. You tell Uncle Conrad we’re in the cellar,” I repeat, pointing my finger toward the floor.
“Right. You’re hiding in the cellar.” She nods as she points toward the floor, too, and then turns her attention back to the stove. “Now, what was I doing?” she says.
“Bacon, Mrs. Deffenbaugh. You were getting ready to fry some more bacon,” I answer as I hurry to the refrigerator, grab a package of bacon, and hand it to her. “And I need to get some more food for the picnic Andy and I are having in the cellar later today.”
“Oh, yes. That’s right,” she replies as she looks down at the package of bacon I’ve just handed her.
Later, after Robin returns from the bayou, we join the two again in the kitchen.
“Where’s Warner?” I ask, quickly changing chairs so I have a clear view of the doorway instead of sitting with my back to it.
“He hasn’t come back yet, dear.”
Apparently, she’s already adjusted her hearing aid. That’s a good thing.
I hesitate before asking the next question, because I’m afraid of what her answer might be. But I have to know. Beau Diddly is in the stable, and Conrad could have ridden him back. A shiver runs through me when I ask, “What about Uncle Conrad?”
“He’s hiding in the cellar,” she whispers as she places a platter of bacon in front of me. My breath rushes in. Then she giggles as she returns to the stove, and I realize she must be teasing.
“He’s not hiding in the cellar, really. Is he?”
“Oh, no, dear. He’s hiding in the attic,” she answers, as she places a plate of warm biscuits in front of me on the table. She wipes her hands on her apron and giggles when I look up at her. “That was just a joke,” she says. “He’s not anywhere. Well, that’s wrong. He’s somewhere, of course, but I have no idea where he might be. I haven’t seen him since yesterday.”
Poor Mrs. Deffenbaugh. I love her, but she’s so clueless about what’s going on.
And there you have a brief glimpse into our dear Mrs. Deffenbaugh. She appears a bit muddled at times, but there’s a little more to her than meets the eye at first glance. But you’re going to have to read the book in order to get to know her better.
You can buy Cornell DeVille's book, Lost in the Bayou, here!