It’s an Actor’s Life for Me

Let me introduce myself, I Sir, am an actor. You may not have seen much of my work since I graduated from the academy, but I assure you that I have been constantly active. In between times I’ve taken many an odd job to make ends meet. I’ve been a bank teller, I’ve waited table in numerous cafés, and even, at my most desperate, taken on the distasteful job of working on a dustcart. For a while I worked in an emporium, but I’ve never worked in something as vulgar as a common shop, I have my pride. One of my most memorable occupations was the time I was employed as a steward on the cross-channel ferry but, unfortunately, that came to an end with the introduction of the channel tunnel.

I’m often asked what genre I prefer to which, I reply, the one that pays the bills! I do have a preference for the stage. I enjoy appearing in Shakespeare. I’m not fussed. Comedy, tragedy, romance, it’s all the same to me. You can’t beat the Bard. My television work is varied. I’ve played a detective in a long running crime series but also enjoyed a number of guest star appearances in a cult science fiction series.

As I said earlier, I’m an actor. I live for my craft. When forced to take on a job outside of my profession I treat it as a part. I’m not just some mundane employee, I am playing the part of an employee, whatever that may be. It’s a form of method acting of which I’m very proud. I’m never just an ordinary person in a dead-end job. I’m always polishing my acting skills and performing the part to the best of my ability.

Do you want fries with that?

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Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 139 with reference to the prompt: Actor; Café; Memoir

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This piece won the competition as the Judge’s pick.

Of the 16 excellent stories, this one resonated with me the most. I loved it. It was well-crafted and funny, and identifies with some of the jobs actors really do while “resting” and how they try to get through each day. Here in faraway Singapore, several of us will be residing in these or similar jobs when the curtain falls on ‘MacBeth: The Comedy’ (if we could afford a curtain).

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A Messy Romance

It was a romantic, if lonely, setting for a first date. Other than the fiddler, the two of them were alone in the vast space. The violinist, staying out of earshot, serenaded them with a medley of tunes; light and merry, the music went unheard by the two lovers intent upon each other. To say they were besotted was putting it mildly. A table had been set in one of the smaller alcoves surrounding the dance floor and it was there that they dined in silence. Waiters flitted in and out of the room, attending to their needs, bringing new courses and taking away the finished plates.

As they dined, they gazed intently into each other’s eyes. This, as you can imagine, had undesirable consequences. You try eating a lavish four course meal whilst staring into the eyes of your loved one. It wouldn’t be long before you both started to become distracted as you witnessed the resulting mess. That perfect little black dress becomes a little less perfect as it becomes decorated by each proceeding course. That sharp, stylish suit degenerates into something that perhaps a homeless person might wear.

Oddly enough, neither party seems to be aware of the deteriorating state of their clothing. One of the waiters coughs quietly to attract the lovers’ attention and deposits a tray of hot towels on the table, hinting that they might want to clean themselves up. They seem to wake, as if from a trance, and make a half-hearted effort at cleaning each other up. Matters are improved but they still look a mess. They exchange a grin, rise from the table, and take a quick turn around the floor before exiting, oblivious to anything but themselves.

Just going to prove, as we all know, that love is blind.

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Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 138 with reference to the prompt: Fiddler; Ballroom; Romance.

The Write Stuff

It was a dark and stormy night. Nope, that’s no good, no good at all. At writing school, they always tell you: never open a book with weather. See 10 Rules for Good Writing by Elmore Leonard. Given that I’m sitting in a shack in the middle of a thunderstorm it’s hard to ignore the thunder and the rain. It’s tipping it down and the sound of the rain rattling against the roof is drowning out my typewriter as I pound away at the keys.

Anybody who thinks writers live a romantic existence has no idea of what they’re talking about. It’s hard work. I’ve been stuck here by my agent, in the middle of nowhere, desperately trying to complete three-hundred words before the deadline is up. My publisher has become impatient with my tardiness and no longer smiles when I try to quote Douglas Adams at him: “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” I always thought it quite endearing.

My punishment has been to be deprived of human contact and other distractions. So here I am, out in the boondocks, isolated, with nothing other than a typewriter and a few reams of paper for company. My agent has offered me all the wonders of civilisation if only I’d knuckle down and finish the story. I’ve been even promised a bonus if I beat the deadline.

I’m nearly there, if only this thunderstorm would shut up and leave me to concentrate. Uh-oh, my mind’s wandering. I realise that instead of wrapping up the story I’m re-editing it. My job’s to get the story down on paper. I never was any good at writing against the clock and as for making it exactly three-hundred words… There, done it.

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Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 137 with reference to the prompt: Writer; Thunderstorm; Romance

Aflame in the Highlands

Ever since she’d inherited the estate in the Scottish Highlands, she’d been nothing but trouble. An Irish-American incomer, she just didn’t understand our ways and, I dare say, didn’t try to. She had a fearsome temper and if you crossed her you’d get more than a mouthful in return. There was one thing that you could say about her though, she really did love her newly acquired countryside. Most mornings, at first light, she’d be up and about and would walk the estate for miles. The sight of her, with her bright red hair streaming free in the wind, was enough to stir the heart. Her hair colour was unusual in how it really was fiery and not just a dull reddish shade. Many were the occasions that summer when it was mistaken for flame. The locals became used to the sight of her and forgot all about the warnings heralded by the old sayings.

Och, you’ll have heard the old adage: red sky at night, shepherd’s delight; red sky at morning, shepherds take warning. Or as they interpret it around these parts, in their more pragmatic way: red sky at dawn, the heather’s on fire. It was a disastrous day when she didn’t go walking and the red glow in the West was taken for her fiery hair and not the moorland fire it was. There were recriminations; was it her fault, or the fault of the crofters, that so much land was affected before the blaze was finally brought under control? It was a sad day when she decided to cover up her hair. From the day following the fire the mistress was seen to walk the estate with her hair bundled up, hidden beneath a headscarf, never again allowed to flow free in all its glory.

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Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 136 with reference to the prompt: Fiery Redhead; Highland Estate; Tragedy.

In Search of the Epsom Derby

‘Have you ever heard the words, “Epsom Derby” used as a euphemism?’ asked the lexicographer.

‘I’m sorry,’ replied the renowned expert, ‘it’s not a phrase that I’m familiar with. Off the top of my head, I can only think of the famous horse race that takes place on the Epsom Downs on the first Saturday of June each year.’

‘Perhaps I should explain why I’m interested. I’m a lexicographer, a word detective if you like, and I’m researching a volume on little-known euphemisms, and I recently came across the phrase, “Epsom Derby” used in relation to certain intimate bodily functions. I think I know the etymology of the phrase, I believe it has something to do with Epsom salts, but I was looking for confirmation from an expert in the field of toilet humour before going into print. It would be such a shame to have to omit it from the proposed volume as I think it has a certain lyrical quality.’

‘I think I can guess at a possible meaning. I’ll ask my fellow scatologists whether they have ever heard the phrase but I wouldn’t hold out too much hope if I were you.’

‘Thank you, that’s all that I can ask. In the meantime I’ll mark the entry for, ”Epsom Derby” as being a temporary one that is awaiting verification.’

‘Can you tell me the name of this proposed volume so that I can look out for it when it’s published?’

‘Certainly, it’s called the Oxbridge Dictionary of Lesser-known Euphemisms. I’m sure that you’ll find it of interest, especially given the number of other euphemisms it contains pertaining to bodily functions.’

Epsom Derby (provisional entry): an allusion to the race to the facilities when the purgative effect of a strong dose of Epsom salts takes hold.

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Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 135 with reference to the prompt: Detective; Epsom Derby; Mystery.

To Lands Unknown

It had been a long hard slog but they’d finally reached their goal. It had been a long journey. They had marched the entire length of Britannia then on into the wilds of Caledonia on their secret mission to extend the bounds of the empire. In the far north of the country they’d built ships, strong ships, to challenge the mighty western ocean. On information received from the local peoples, they’d sailed north. Arriving at the island known by the natives as Iceland, or Snelandia, they had claimed it for the empire. It was a barren place, fit for the gods, with its volcanos and hot springs offset by snowy wastes. Their journey was not yet finished though; tales were told of lands far to the West and it was these that they’d set out to find. After replenishing their supplies of food and water, they set off once more, on a westward course, in search of the fabled lands said to lie in that direction.

After weeks afloat, they landed on an unknown coastline. The inhabitants of this new land were strange of visage, unlike anything that had been seen before. They were a friendly people, dressed in furs, that went by the strange name of Mi’kmaq. These natives readily agreed to trade meat for trinkets.

The land was fertile, yielding grapes as the rumours had foretold, and holding the promise of wine before long to replenish their exhausted supplies. There was no rest for their company. Tools were shouldered and they set about building a fort. Once the fort was finished the centurion declared a day of rest and celebration. This new land, named Terra Nova, was dedicated to Rome and the Emperor Hadrian. The eagle of the Ninth Legion Hispana had arrived and was here to stay.

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Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 134 with reference to the prompt: Explorer; Newfoundland; Alternate History.

Hitchhiking Across the USA

I’ll never forget my trip to the US back in the eighties. I was young, carefree and, I admit, naive. For me it opened up a whole new world of experiences and, incidentally, introduced me to the novel experience of hitchhiking. At first, while I still had plenty of money, I travelled mainly by Greyhound bus. A fantastic way of seeing a new country for the first time. I travelled with a permanent soundtrack ringing in my ears, a soundtrack largely based on a well-known song that went something along the lines of, ‘…all gone to look for America…’ For weeks I lived that song, I saw the countryside and met many a character. I soon learnt that Americans can be some of the friendliest people on Earth. Unfortunately, my travels by bus drew to an end as I realised I was burning through my limited cash. I still wanted to travel, so following the example of those I’d seen by the side of the road, I started hitching.

Hitchhiking was an interesting way of learning about human nature, a way of learning to rely on the kindness of strangers, if you like. I was fortunate enough to confirm my view on the friendliness of Americans and survived to tell the tale. I have to admit that there were some slightly scary times. I’ll never forget the time when I was travelling around Florida when I jokingly asked the driver who’d stopped and picked me up, ‘How do you know I’m not a serial killer?’ My blood ran cold when he replied something to the effect of, ‘I don’t worry about it. The odds of there being two serial killers in the same car are just too slim to be worth considering.’ Before he turned to me and grinned.

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Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 133 with reference to the prompt: Hitchhiker; Florida; Memoir.