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No Laughing Matter

fantasy by Oonah V. Joslin

“It’s tough working the Halls, especially stand-up.  Wears you out if you don’t pace yourself.”  I started in the circus, you know.”

Happy put the finishing touches to his eyebrows.

“Slap stick and fall down, but hey – that was a long time ago.”

He applied eye-liner for definition.  He didn’t mind sharing a dressing room with an up-and-coming.  He’d never topped the bill himself.

“I could tell you stories young man, would make your hair curl. I worked with some of the Greats, Jethro & Jethro, Mick MacAloon, the Bradey Sisters.  Those guys knew how to work an audience.  I remember –”

“Five minutes Mr. Willis,” a head ducked in the door and out again.

Happy looked around.  Youngster must have skipped out.  He’d been talking to himself.  Ah, well –  He checked his makeup in the mirror, tucked a carnation into his lapel and rose heavily to his feet.

He wore his trade-mark pork-pie hat and a checked jacket; was as broad as he was long.  The wide legged trousers accentuated the square look of him – long back, short legs – stocky of build.

The face was square too and the lipstick made his mouth look like a gap.  He went out into the familiar maze of backstage stairs and doors and followed the arrows to the wings.

The applause suggested a large audience but he could see no one.

The house lights were down.  He couldn’t see beyond his own dark space.  Ron Dalton, magician and psychic, bowed off and skipped lightly past Happy without so much as a ‘break a leg’.  Some name for a magic act!  All the camaraderie and imagination had gone out of theatre.

Happy’s voice filled the auditorium.  “Good evening.  I was going to say ladies and gentlemen,  but now I see you –”

He shaded his eyes and stared out into the dark. It was an opening that always worked.  Tonight it didn’t work quite so well.

“Ah, intellectuals,” he said.  He had a few ways in;  not a problem and soon all around him was a cacophony of aching belly-laughs and splitting sides.

“Why, only yesterday I gave £5 to a needy tramp,” the guy says.  “Okay,” say’s Saint Peter.  ‘Here’s your £5 back,  now go to Hell.”

Hahahahhaha!

“Two cannibals eating a missionary.  One stops and puts the leg he was about to chomp down. ‘Do you feel guilty about eating a missionary?’ says the other. ‘Nope, just forgot to say grace’.”

Hahahahhaha!

“Is this laughter canned or is it the audience?”

Hahahahhaha!

The laughter did seem less intense and now Happy was getting accustomed to the light levels he could see why.  Around half the audience had disappeared.  This was terrible.

“Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Man goes into a bar –”

“It was an iron bar, right?” shouted a voice.

“Did you pay to get in here?”

“Yes.”

“Well, if you know all the jokes you wasted your money!”

Hahaha.

Somebody else shouted, “Can’t you do better than that?”

“Did you pay to get in here, Sir?”

“No.”

“Remind me to charge next time.”

Booooooo!

Happy wasn’t.  Something was wrong here.  For the second time that evening he felt he was talking to himself.  He took a step towards the footlights and peered out.

There was no one there.

A sound like the roar of laughter from far off or distant applause rushed past his ears and he stumbled, lost his balance and felt himself fall forward into the gaping orchestra pit.

Strong arms grasped him and Happy found himself looking into the face of a young man – the young man with whom he’d shared the dressing room.

“I died out there tonight,” he said.  “It never happened to me before.  I used to make ‘em laugh.”

“It happens to everyone,” the youth said.  His face shone with compassion. “Show’s over, old timer. Show’s over.”

Copyright October 2010 by Oonah V. Joslin

Oonah V. Joslin lives in Great Britain. She is a three-time winner of the Micro Horror Contest and an honoree in the 2009 Binnacle Competition for First Love. Her stories are included in several anthologies including: Toe Tags and The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008 and2009. She blogs about writing at Oonahverse and is Managing Editor of the e-zine, Every Day Poets.

[Return to the October 2010 stories]

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4 Responses

  1. […] No Laughing Matter […]

  2. “Happy wasn’t” — and with good reason! A well-told tale indeed.

  3. Thank you for reading 🙂

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