It’s Day 22 of this April’s Challenge, and my prompt comes once more from the lovely Esther Newton. Esther has suggested some brilliant prompts in the past which have helped me write guest posts for her, something which I hope to do again very soon. The suggested word is “VACUOUS”. This is a great word which had me stumped for ages! I was beginning to worry about whether or not I’d have something to write at all, but this afternoon something clicked and I hashed out my thoughts during my lunch break. Thank you, Esther, for such a creative and brain-busting prompt!
Here is what I was able to come up with. I hope you enjoy it. 7
P.S. Just in case you are interested, you can find stories aided by Esther’s prompts here, here and here. Shamless plug, sorry!
By Adam Dixon
“I can’t do this anymore, John,” the sleek, blond woman said, her voice quivering as she knelt beside the young man seated in a wheelchair. She took his hand with both of hers and began to sob. The man had his head lowered, looking defeated. He slowly raised his head to look at her, and his face was oddly blank.
“Sandra…” he began. “I don’t-“
“NO NO NO!” A shrill voice bellowed from the audience. Startled, the couple glanced in the direction of the outburst. A short, bald man wearing a pink shirt and enormous glasses was striding towards them, his expression the picture of exasperation. He stopped in front of them, his arms folded and clutching a sheaf of papers tightly. As he tapped his foot on the wooden floor of the stage, the sharp thuds echoed around the empty theatre space. He looked wired, and he stank of coffee.
“Mr Smith,” he started, running his hand along his cheek and sighing. “How many times must I tell you that this is perhaps the single most important moment in your character’s life? Sandra’s inability to take care of him after his illness sends him spiralling into loneliness and despair, which then leads to his malevolent actions later on.” He began leafing through the pages in his grip, pulling an expression of mock concentration. After a moment he shook his head and declared with frustration:
“Now, I don’t believe that it says in this script that John should be an expressionless, emotionless block of wood, although I could be mistaken! Why can’t you put a bit of feeling into this scene, for God’s sake!”
“I’m sorry, mate,” the man Smith replied, irritated. “I’ve already told you that I’m not a very good actor.”
“That much has been made abundantly clear!” The man in pink responded, almost hysterically. He turned to the woman, who was adjusting her blond wig and looking uncomfortable.
“Jackie, could you please try to bring something useful out of Keanu Reeves, here? Just for me?” The man pleaded. Jackie shrugged her shoulders.
“Dunno what you think I can do, Max,” she said sounding annoyed herself. “He’s pretty wooden. I don’t think he’s acted much in his life.”
“I haven’t, that’s what I’m saying!” Smith argued, rising from the wheelchair. “I don’t know what you thought I could bring to this production when my brother is the real actor!”
“Yes, Jerome would have performed exceptionally,” Max nodded, looking sad. “It’s a terrible shame that his accident occurred so close to opening night.”
“Look, I know I’ve only been asked to fill in because I look like him, but surely this is a bit much?” Smith said, waving his arms in exasperation. “I can’t act for shit! Surely you have another guy who can play this part well enough?”
“I have several “guys” who could do it, of course,” Max said, speaking slowly and carefully as if to a complete moron. “But I need Jerome Smith! If not him personally then I need his likeness. I’ve never come across anyone so suited for the part purely based on looks! I consider it a miracle that the boy can act as well!”
“Yeah, halle-fucking-lujah,” Smith grumbled. “But Jerome is in hospital, so you’re stuck with me. I dunno why you’re giving me such a hard time, I’m doing this as a favour to Jerome and by extension a favour to you, so don’t push it!”
“Alright, alright!” Max held up his hands in resignation. “I will endeavour to hold back a bit with my criticisms, but there are many! I suppose we’ll just have to see how you do with a bit of practice! Now, Jackie, from the top, if you please?” He stormed off-stage and slumped back into his folding chair. Jackie cleared her throat and knelt down beside the chair, motioning impatiently for Smith to sit. Smith muttered darkly to himself as he complied.
“Dunno why the grumpy sod is taking it all so seriously,” he mumbled. “It’s only an amateur production, for fuck’s sake!”
“I can’t do this anymore, John,” Jackie said, back in character. She gazed up at him with actual tears in her eyes. Fuck me, she’s good! Smith thought, impressed. He raised his head slowly and looked into her eyes.
“Sandra…” he said, trying hard to convey emotion. “I don’t know how you can leave me like this…after all I’ve done for us…”
Max covered his face with his hands and groaned. The boy was utter shite; he’d never seen anyone with such a vacuous expression! He may as well have been carved from a tree!
“We’re doomed!” he whispered sadly, not bothering to watch the rest of the performance. He knew it was going to be a car-crash, anyway.