The girl sits very still in the corner and wraps her coat around knees. The way she tucks her ankles up against her bottom. The way her fingers flutter through the space around her. Each thing he hopes never to forget.
The body language alone should have told him. Someone who turns their back, sits hunched and flaps their hands and fingers means ‘go away, I’m stressed’. He was supposed to be the sensitive type but hunger, the rent being overdue and the need to be paid must have wiped that side of his personality, temporarily at least. He persisted: stood in front of her, lowering his face so it was in line with hers and tilting his head to one side. Maybe it would change her mood. There’s something about a nine year old’s piercing scream that writes into the memory, permanently.
“Er, should I go then?”
Her mother nodded.
Someone must have switched the music off. The rest of them stood around while he made his silent exit. He didn’t think he’d ever slinked quite so fulsomely before but this was another first. His ears were burning. Maybe he would be able to call on that memory in future.
He was grateful for the chill wind outside as he clicked his car open and climbed in, bottom first so he could change his shoes.
“Please, please,” he thought, “Please, start. I don’t want to break down here.”
The car coughed and started. He would go home before he went back to the agency. But he took a few moments to rest his head on the steering wheel.
“Three years at bloody RADA,” he thought. “And it’s come to this: frightening little girls at birthday parties. How was I supposed to know she was afraid of clowns? And what delights have I got to look forward to tonight? A bloody ‘moggy-ogram’, dressed up like an extra from ‘Cats’ so a lot of drunks can do ‘hilarious’ things with my tail.
He thought he was made for drama. The time at RADA only confirmed that it was the profession for him but it was so hard to get a break. Casting directors would always pick known names so they could to divert criticism in case a play bombed. So here he was, living on scraps and trying over and over again to get a part, any part.
He couldn’t possibly swallow any more pride, he thought. Well, he drew the line at ‘Chippendales’ because he liked to think that the more mature ladies were looking for beefier guys. Actually, he was mostly skin and bone and he didn’t want to be an object of derision. He could stand it in costume though, just.
His phone pinged. He’d better go straight to the agency and see what they wanted.
Sandra behind the desk waved a piece of paper at him.
“Thought you might want to do this, if you need the money.”
He did need the money but…
“Oh no. I’m not doing this!”
“Children’s Party, 24 Tavistock Crescent, Mrs Muffet, Children’s entertainer wanted, Dressed as giant spider”
*Coulrophobia – extreme or irrational fear of clowns