Break A Leg

This was a fun little scene to construct and might one day become part of something larger, but for now you can enjoy it as my Flash Fiction Friday offering.

“I’m here for the audition,” Brent said, his eyes darting up and down the other men already seated in the cheap plastic chairs up and down the hallway. The receptionist, older and all business, spared him only a cursory look before holding a clip board aloft, with a ball point pen attached with a bit of twine and tape.

“You’re a smoker right?” The receptionist asked, without looking up from the paperwork she was still working with her free hand. Brent accepted the clipboard and let his eyes run down the boxes and questions that filled the form.

“umm… Oh yeah, big time smoker,” Brent said. The receptionist eyed him from the corner of her eye.

“You’ll have to leave your cigarettes with me then,” she said, pulling a drawer open on her desk, then holding out her hand palm up. Brent plopped the lighter and half empty pack of cigarettes into her hand. “You’ll get them back after,” she said, dropping them into the drawer and slamming it shut. Brent turned and made a bee line for an open seat. The form was all the standard information, information that he’d already turned in once only in a slightly different order and with even more cramped spaces to fill in the answers. Why anyone would need to know his pre-high school educational experience was beyond Brent, but still he complied and did his best to fit the name of the school into the one inch space allotted. Halfway through the form his pen ran dry. He tried scribbling in the margins, but the pen refused to release even the slightest coloration, only working deeper and deeper groove into the paper. He looked over at the receptionist, still busily filling forms with one hand and tapping out a marathon with her feet beneath the desk. Brent decided it would be better to ask someone else. He stood, a loud squawking noise announcing his movement as his pants rub across the plastic chair. Suddenly all eyes were on him, including the burning red glare from the receptionist. He tried to communicate apology without making another sound and all the eyes returned to their previous tasks. Brent spotted a man who seemed to be already done with his form and worked his way down to him.

“I’m sorry to bother you, but my pen has run out,” Brent said pointing to the other man’s clipboard, resting at his side.

“What a shame, guess that’s one less in the running,” the man said, offering a brief smile and then turning his head. Brent felt his cheeks flush and his shoulders sag. His eyes went back to scanning for another pen. Another man offered him a half smile and waived him over. Brent sunk into the empty seat next to him. The other man offered him a pen.

“Don’t worry about him, he hasn’t got a chance. Way I hear it, the casting director has a thing for blondes,” the man flashed a toothy grin. Brent, brunette, blew out a sigh as the other man grinned stupidly and looked off into space. Brent turned back to his paperwork and began to write, only to realize that the ink was of a different color entirely.

“Very professional looking Brent,” he mumbled to himself. Nearly two hours passed in the hard plastic chairs before anyone was called into the room at the end of the hall. As Brent looked around he could read the anxiety in the room, and his own built with each arhythmic tap from the man seated next to him. Finally, there was loud click as the lock at the end of the hall was opened.

“Brent, Brent Cock?” the woman asked, poking her head out from the double doors at the end of the hall. Brent’s cheeks went bright red.

“It’s Cook. Brent Cook,” he said stepping towards her with his head low to avoid eye contact with the other men in the hall. He heard a snicker behind him just before the door swung closed.

“Alright Mr. Cook, if you can step right this way and have a seat, we’ll just be a moment longer.” She motioned to a lone chair under a spotlight in the center of the room. The remainder of the room was dark and Brent could only make out the vague shapes of a few other people on the far side. It reminded him more of an interrogation scene than any audition he’d ever attended. He reached out and caught the woman by the arm before she disappeared.

“Um, I haven’t been given any lines yet to read?”

“Oh I’m sorry sweetie, here you go,” she said, handing him a single sheet of blue paper. Brent nodded thanks and rushed to his appointed seat. He tried to smile, but wasn’t sure where he needed to look, so instead looked down at the paper in his hands. It wasn’t a language he recognized. Sweat immediately beaded across his forehead, almost like the last little bits of hope he held out for getting this job were leaking from his skin.

“Whenever you’re ready.” Came a voice from the shadows. Brent tried to spot the silhouette, then looked back to the paper in his hands, then back to the dark room in front of him.

“I’m…I’m terribly sorry, but I wasn’t told this was a foreign language part. I’m not even sure what this is.” Brent held the blue paper up, and ran his forearm across his forehead to mop at the sweat. There was a familiar click and then a small circle of light as cigarette was lit only feet from him. The smell wafted into his nostrils and Brent could feel saliva fill his mouth. He’d never wanted a cigarette more than at this very moment. “I’m sorry, but uh, might I?” Brent said, his fingers already reaching out.

“Sure.” A cigarette and lighter dropped into his lap. It was even his brand. Brent picked it up without hesitation, popping it between his lips and striking at the lighter feverishly. The smoke swirled into his mouth and burned down his throat, filling his lungs in just an instant. Brent let it linger for a moment as he sunk into the folder chair and then blew it back out through his nostrils.

“Cut!!! That was perfect!” Another voice announced from the shadows. Brent startled and nearly dropped the cigarette.

“What?”

“Congrats, kid, that was a perfect take,” said a woman as the lights went up. The grim receptionist from outside was now walking toward him with a big grin on her face.

“I don’t understand? A perfect take for what?”

“The relief you felt, that was the perfect drag. It was amazing. People are going to be reliving that one for years.”

“Is this, I mean I thought this was an audition for a part? My agent sent me down here to do a reading?” Brent said standing, his brow still arched in confusion.

“Its a Sense-E bit, kid, and you nailed it. Sorry we put you through the ringer, but you gotta admit, it really added to the tension.”

“A Sense-E?”

“It’s the future kid! Sensations recorded and forever relivable. Why smoke and tear up your own lungs? Sense-E! Why try to woo the girl that will never put out? Sense-E! It’s gonna be big, you can count on it, and you’re in on the ground floor,” she said, throwing an arm over his shoulder. “Now if you’ll just come with me, we just have a little more paper work for you.”

 

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