Tonight's Performance

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

An old memory fades. Tonight’s performance will be the last. The show is starting.

Artificial light floods the stage through mammoth windows; not as bright as it used to be. All the pretty colors on the set have peeled away, leaving only hues of black, white and grey. All the sounds are muffled and dull. Dead air crackles.

Faceless, dust-covered automatons begin their rigid plodding, striding, shuffling back and forth across the cavernous stage. A man in a dusty suit sits on a bench in the shadows, stage left. A briefcase, his prop, is tucked safely between his shoes. He is anxious. He waits for his cue.

There it is. A dusty old woman shuffles in from stage right to center stage. The man gets up with his briefcase and walks over to meet her. The old woman waves her hand as usual and the man tips his hat as usual.

Then as they recite their usual lines, each of them rolls a nervous glance over into the blackness where the house lights never shine; where they can feel the eyes of their producer watching them. They hear faint coughing in the blackness. 

They used to do this over and over; sometimes a dozen shows a night. How long has it been since they did this scene, now? Months? Years? Neither one of them knows exactly, but by the dust on their clothes they know it has been quite a while. And by the coughing in the blackness they know tonight's performance will be the last.

The scene is always more or less the same. Occasionally they tweak their lines, or the man waits on stage right while the old woman enters from stage left, or one of them wears a different costume. But these little changes are unimportant. The only thing that cannot change is the ending; the snapshot moment. It has been so long that the man nearly forgets and turns to exit prematurely.

“Wait!” hisses the old woman. “I’m supposed to give you something.”

“Oh yes.” says the man, sweating. “I almost forgot.”

The old woman reaches into her purse and pulls out a blurry shape.

“What is it?” asks the man.

“I can’t remember. But I’m supposed to give it to you.”

The man nods.

“Very well, then.”

The man opens his briefcase and gently places the blurry shape inside. Then he and the old woman go their separate ways. The show is ending. Automatons retreat, artificial light dims and dead air crackles. The house lights come up. All the seats are empty and the coughing has stopped. Tonight’s performance was the last.


Submitted: May 07, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Cardigan Broadmoor. All rights reserved.

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