birthdays and parties, though storage, it appeared, was its recent fate. It smelled of old beer and a lifetime of bodily secretion, the musk that rose from the floor told of a history of neglect. It reminded him of one of the one’s he played early in his career and hoped he’d never have to return. He knew too well those quaint old spaces, their antiquated wall paper, a mottle of mould and corrosion peeling from rancid wood, their carpets, matted like hard plastic underfoot and stank from years of tread and their ceilings freckled with flowers of black fungus on their soft rotten panels, as liable to collapse as the creaking chair they’d given him to sit on, which as well, had worn frangible with age, and ready to give way. Rooms like that once seemed so fertile and clean and held a milieu of excitement and allure, indulging his nostrils with the scent of fervour, but lately it seemed, their scent had grown stale, and started rot like their weeping foundations, dampened by years of decay and suffocating in stagnation.
Sandy languished in silence, before an almost empty crowd – he could tell by the sound. He heard the seldom shuffle of feet through the thin walls, and though he didn’t know how many there would be, he assumed only a few – a nowhere place like that, on a desolate Tuesday evening, rarely drew a crowd. Yet he waited in hope. He bounced one knee in anxious tremor, he was not nervous or scared – you see – but eager, excited and keen. He bit the nails on one hand and cradled a balloon of brandy in the other (a naked double – his regular tipple), but the drink was not what drove him there that night – that habit came later – what he desired and craved, and made him bounce with anticipation, was no compound that could be poured nor substance that could be sold, but a drug that’s buzz must be worked for, that’s high must be earned. He came for the spotlight – the rush of performance was his habit – laughter, was his true indulgent, only an audience could administer it and only the stage could evoke his nirvana. He’d been addicted since his first taste. He followed that creeping desire for the bellows, chuckles and roars – that stalking need of applause, impossible to ignore. And when he wasn’t bathed in that brilliant beam, there’d come a nagging flicker inside the brain and blinding headaches to follow. Though lately, that lure of the sweet glow had dwindled, like a fading libido, ebbed and flickered to mere candlelight in his mind – perhaps he was getting older and his needs had mellowed, he considered. But like a smoker’s last cigarette, that yearning never ends, and dragged him to that place, that night, back again, once more for another fix.
A man at the back – the MC for the night – flicked a switch on the wall, which shone a bold ray upon the stage and Sandy instinctively rose from the chair. He hoisted his weight with an exhausted groan – every night it got harder to stand, and he wondered if it was his age or last night’s brandy which made it so tough. They say comedy doesn’t age well, and neither did Sandy. He was an old man and should have been retired. He should have been settling into a quiet twilight routine, instead, he staggered from his makeshift cave, into the crowd’s view, an almost unrecognisable portrait to an audience with the picture of a younger man in mind. He was weary