He put the stand to one side – he didn’t need a mic, not for an audience that size. He sucked a jet of air through his nose, threw his fierce eyes back at the room and with another loud groan, and all the discomfort of an ice bath, he eased into his – as Dougie Style, Sandy Field was always brave.
Well, g’day everyone, the name’s Dougie Style and by the look of things here tonight, I’m at the end of my fucken career. So, how are ya all doing?
(Dougie allows a quick pause, too short for anyone to respond.)
Good? Great? – I don’t give a shit.
That was the way he always began, he’d always get his first laugh from that line, and he did so again that night, albeit – entirely from one place. A gallant bellyache came from the man and his wife at the front. The woman held an ample stomach as she cackled, while the man slapped, his right thigh with his right hand as he cried – an action that did not go unnoticed by the seasoned comedian – but no one else joined them. The noise of but two voices laughing in such a large room was an empty and miserable one. The sad solitary cries was not what he was used to and not what he deserved and served only to further dismay the already crestfallen comic – maybe it was better to hear nothing at all.
Very few comics depart from fame in a hail of applause – that rare reward is reserved for the greats, the ones who last and become part of the cultural self-portrait. Most comedians take themselves out, most give up and move on long before then, long before they suffer the indignity felt by those who stayed. Those who linger on, die deaths of slow pain, they depart in a thunder of silence, choking on the noxious fumes of failure, wasting away before empty rooms, quietly in the shadows amid whispers and no laughter, fated to that terrible inaudible sound, that invisible smothering cloud – the loudest death of all, the cruel execution of their kind. Sandy Field could see, behind the eyes of those scattered faces, that night might be his final committal. Maybe his time had come. Maybe it would be his last. Maybe his critics were right, and maybe his days were done. Maybe the reaper had finally came, to snatch him from the fame.
A look of weary determination crossed his eyes, if this was to be the end, he reckoned, he’d give one last great performance, and deliver his final epitaph, he’d go the way he came, in the city he started, in lonely back room bar, to crowd somewhat the same, those nine gathered mourners deserved the best conclusion he could muster.
It’s good to be back in the city, back in me home town…