He shouted in anger to anyone for help as he drowned in the bright white. With another flick of a switch by the MC, the spotlight went off and the house lights came on, cloaking the comedian in shadow, tracing dark lines across his face, accenting his age. He may have only suffered for moment, but amid the solitude of the stage, facing that hot glow, it felt an eternity to the old man. He slightly raised his sunglasses, and rubbed each straining thin lid with a clenched knuckle, careful to not show the audience his eyes. He saw in only green static and grumbled inaudible groans, he blinked hard till his vision returned and when it did he could see the room in all its tragic clarity.
I dunno if that’s any better – how many of ya are there?
(With a pointed finger, Dougie counts the audience, one by one.)
Nine? – bloody hell, I’ve seen a better turn out at a miscarriage…
He knew it was a grim gathering, but seeing it before him, conspicuous in light, he was unprepared for its dismal sight. It was a room of many tables and few people. Nine, he’d counted exact, ten, if he included the MC. His audience sat in spaced isolation, their seclusion from one another accentuated the room’s vacancy. There was a half pissed table of three, all elderly and grey – they’d come for nostalgia, no doubt – and sat on one side’s wall, giggling amongst each other and paid him little heed. There were two tables of two, one against the opposite wall, a middle aged couple, married and maybe to each other, spoke in whispered lust and were more interested in their rendezvous than in his show, and another couple – a man and his wife – who clapped the loudest upon his introduction, and made most noise, sat at the front, at the old comedian’s feet, the only eager ones in view. And There were two lonely ones: a man, about his own age – and possibly a lifelong fan – sat somewhere in the middle, girt by the ocean of empty chairs, and watched with solemn anticipation, the last lonely one, seated far down the back, a man, somewhat younger than the rest, wore a loud red t-shirt and nursed a pot of tea. But it was the gaps between the guests that Dougie noted most of all. They were wide and gaping, and more prominent than the crowd – he was liable to drown in such a sparse sea.
He knew he deserved more than that measly group, that sad handful was unfitting a celebrity of his stature and their barren applause we he entered, more befitting a loner’s birthday or unpopular sport final, than his arrival. A gathering like that would be a shameful assembly for a funeral of an unclaimed corpse, and utterly unworthy of a legend like him. Dougie was a veteran of the stage and certainly, he’d had bad turnouts before – most of which he’d been able to excuse away – though he’d never played an empty room. He’d noticed the trend at many of his recent shows – his audience was in gradual decline. And with every small crowd, he was reminded of his age – there were no young veterans, and legends had to die first – and he wondered how long it would be till it was only him, there alone on that wooden plank.