The old comic couldn’t hide his disdain and he shook a damning head at the few, and paced the platform back and forth, and held the room in silence as he went. He scowled each of their faces, as if blaming those who were there for the vacant seats by their sides. That dismal turnout was the worst he’d ever had – he knew, but he’d never dare say. It might as well have been empty and he might as well have not come. Sandy Field considered walking off, but Dougie wouldn’t let him. He was professional – he’d remind himself – he’d played for crowds of thousands, and appeared in the homes of millions. Dougie Style gave a loud groan and returned to the centre stage. He brought the microphone to his mouth, and released a rallying sigh. But his loud exhale made the mic whistle and sting, the sharp ping bounced like a subsonic pinball off the wall and off the floor and caused the nine in attendance to reel in distress.
And I see the mic’s buggered too – can we do something about this?
He saw the shake of a head, from the MC at the back – the man’s talents obviously not lending beyond shaky announcements and the flicking of switches to that of microphone repair or sound engineering. In the old days, he’d be there early in the afternoon for sound check and rehearsal. There would’ve been a guy who handled the lighting and one who did the sound – both he’d know by name. They would’ve adjusted things to his specific dictation, ensuring it met his standards.
No? – we can’t? That’s just fucken great.
The audience had been quiet silent he first took the stage. The quiet grew evermore icy as the old comedian fiddled with his set. He’d become accustomed to these bitter receptions since he started touring alone. No one joined his tours no more, and he always fronted a frosty crowd. He remembered when he had someone to herald him onstage, some budding young comic, with their own delusions of stardom in their gaze, ravenous to impress, warming the room with their fervour, so he wouldn’t have to face the unthawed gaze he faced that night.
He tapped the end of the mic and blew on its dome, and again it hissed and squealed its awful wail. Sandy considered walking from the stage once more, calling it quits for the night, heading to the bar in the next room and lapping brandy till he fell – but again, Dougie Style didn’t allow it. He was a professional. He’d been doing this for forty years, he recited his mantra. But a creeping thought, that had reared troubling head lately, replied, maybe that’s too long.
He rubbed his age ravaged face, and adjusted his dark glasses, he looked to his feet harnessed by trademark thongs, his toes poking out from under trouser cuffs, and he ground each into the old rubber.