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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Dreamscapes

Fountain kerb
Chris Castle

"I’m dying." He said, looking up to the young doctor. She was beautiful. Her eyes were wide with pity.
"We can help you." she said, each word polished with conviction and meaning. He looked at her for a moment, two. He opened his mouth.
"Cut!" the cameras rolled out of the action. The actress pulled up from her mark, unhooked wires, and mikes. She nodded politely to him, and then broke away, met with her helpers. He leaned forward, moved out what aches he could.

"Lunch for one hour." Came a voice from overhead.
Reluctantly he edged out of the bed, his trousers and socks still on, carefully pulled away the gown. He reached for his cane and left the set, the workers descending on the bed, the floor space.
He sat outside eating his sandwich, taking slug from his flask. It was a rarity; a sunny day in January. The cool mist lingered, his breath still frosted before him, but all in all, it was fresh. ‘A day breaker’ as his late brother would say.
"Hey!" he looked up. The make-up assistant bounded over to him, pulled up alongside him on the fountain kerb.
"Hey. Haven’t you got people of you’re own age to hang out with? Your only going to get colder sitting with an old man." Another of his brothers. Must be close by today.
"Pph. They’re all in the canteen jostling for ass kissing space. Either that or been being in that bar over the street. Everyone’s too cool to be seen by the fountain." She shook off her lemon face and smiled back up. She pulled out a candy bar, peeled it.

The sound was a clear echo in the empty street. "I’m cool. Too cool for school. "He replied, raising an eyebrow. "That all you’re going to eat? Have half of this." He shook off her no-no’s, put it in her hand. "I don’t want to put on weight in front of the camera. Being cool and all."
"I bet." She laughed and he smiled along with her. He knew all this didn’t make any sense but everyone he knew was gone and he didn’t care anymore.
"You’re last day today?" she said. She looked down to her sandwich, looked back up.
"Yeah. Bit part dies then its back to the stars I guess. But it’s okay. I think I’ve overshadowed the young bucks for long enough. The guys been throwing me the evil eye last day or so." He dusted the crumbs off his hands, poured a coffee for her.
Tapped left to tell her what side to drink form.
"That’s ‘cause he’s an asshole. He grabbed my ass the other day and didn't even look back. Pig."
"Want me to kick his ass? If I have a heart attack doing it, he’ll be up for manslaughter. "
He sat back against the cool concrete; let the coffee move through him. He looked over, saw her with a thousand yard stare in her eyes. He sighed. A seventy year old man and a twenty five year old girl. He wasn’t deluded or dumb, or famous enough to be a fool for the grace of cash.
"What?" he said. She looked up. She was more beautiful than the actress because it wasn’t everything to her.
"Can I ask you something?" she said. Her face tightened, eyes were burning.
"Yes you can go to the prom. Just be back by twelve and make sure he buys you a corsage." He said, no longer having to play the part of an old man.
"What’s a corsage? Kidding." She pointed a finger, he pointed one back.
"When did you first fall in love?" she said, and immediately looked down to her mug.
"Jesus." He said, waving down her already forming apologies. "I guess. I guess I fell in love with my first real girlfriend, because I didn’t know any better. Didn’t know what it was supposed to feel like. Then…I think it was when I was with my girl and I bought her some flowers and some were real and some were plastic. She was so happy the white rose was still perfect and I guess I just wanted to keep her happy, to maintain her smile." He looked over to her and she nodded like it meant something. He shook his head.
"It’s not the answer to some damn test. People think it comes in grand gestures and actions, but that’s for the cameras. Most people, most of the time, its just about making someone happy. You can manufacture actions, statements, but holding out her coat, opening the door, that’s mostly what, saw me through. That and the fact I was cool, of course."

They smiled. They finished their drinks. They broke the crusts and rose before the birds descended. The bell rang and they walked inside to the dressing room. He sat in the barbers chair and she pulled the sheet around him.
"Remember what the first thing was you said to me?" she said, looking at him in the mirror.
"Jesus! It was only a week ago! I’m not that old." He held her eye in the mirror." I said ‘I don’t need much make up for looking like a dying man.’"
"And I said?"
"Don’t you want to die looking good?" You knew how vain I was obviously." The runner jutted his head round the door, called five minutes.
"These suckers don’t even know all we’ve done is talk while you’ve held a brush, do they?" he said, smiling.
"Not a clue." She replied, pulling away the sheet, the tools all laying untouched on the table before them.

"I won’t let you die." The doctor said, drawing in close, staring at him, checking for signs, for vitals.
What a crock of shit, he thought. He tried to focus; he needed the cash for his garden, after all. He blinked deeply, which the director encouraged. ‘Like that, like that’. He thought of Elsie. He thought of his brother, who had been with him all day. Who had pushed the phrases to make the girl listen. Son of a bitch. Winning people over from the other side, just an Ouija board with teeth instead of letters. He nearly laughed.

He opened his eyes. He repeated in his head what he knew. Everyone was gone. He was alone. His eyes flickered away from the actress, her emoting and her ten grand prop glasses. He looked away and saw the girl, snuck in by the stage door, sneaking a peek, just like he used to when he started out.
"I’m alone. I don’t want to be an old man alone. That’s all. Okay about dying. Just don’t want it to be by myself. Always had people around…’til now." The actress took his hand, pulled him back to his eye line. But it was okay. His lids drooped a little, (‘good, good’) so she became a blur, and through the blur, became the girl.
"Thank you." He whispered and choked a little."Thank you for being here." He said, fading, until there was quiet, then silence and the whip snap of the clap board.

Leanne copped a half day, walked out into the sun. They’d cut her a little slack after blondie grabbed another girls ass and a single protest became a borderline lawsuit.

She walked the long path she nearly knew. She took the spiral steps two at a time, listening for creaks and splinters, the rattle of the iron railings. She didn’t know what she wanted. She didn’t know what she was going to do next. Her weekend was empty, even as the crew broke into semi-circular groups, the mobiles biting into the air, people calling out names of places she didn’t know or couldn’t find. She took the last flight, opening her eyes as wide as she could, trying to get the sunlight to dry the tears before they fell. She vaulted the last steps and turned the corner.The flower basket sat on the porch. There were reds and green decorations, buried in- between. She walked slowly up to the basket, hearing the familiar creek two steps form the door. She leant down, took the card from the crook of the handle.
‘Some are real, some are plastic. Keep watering them all.’ The writing was in small capitals, black ink. No other details. She took the basket by the crook and lifted it, pushing the key in the door. The room was bathed in the sun right then and she walked to the far window and began to clear a space.
© Chris Castle August 2009

Amy and the Waitress
Chris Castle
Hmm. Thinking about lilies and funerals at seven am.
Not a good sign. But then she’d been whoo-hooed already so maybe it was the day for it.

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