Encrusted with sweat, Ellie looked down to the vinyl floor and breathed, one, two, three.
Behind the plywood doors sat a meagre crowd, the best the promoters and her friend-turned-agent could rope together off the street. Free comedy and a place to shelter from the rain, that was what they were preaching outside, but as a late comer and his dog squeezed past, the comedic newcomer started to wonder what calibre of audience member had been emitted access to the pub’s basement.
‘Word of advice,’ grumbled a deep voice from behind. The suddenness and proximity to Ellie’s ear made her jump. ‘Don’t go there with the dog. Thought I could pull that off at a Newport gig, turns out it was a Guide Dog. Didn’t sit to well with the crowd if you know what I mean.’
The scruffy man took a long drag of his vape as if to add depth and mystery to his tale, but all Ellie could smell was cigarette smoke infused with strawberries. Neither made her swoon with admiration. She glimpsed the white box sticking out of his faded evening jacket, the same jacket she’d seen in the window of Primark five years ago. One of the buttons was missing, probably from a failed exploit about three years ago to get the cheap fabric over the large belly. Instead it fell to the checked shirt to contain the bloated stomach, a task which it evidently was struggling to do effectively. Ellie looked up at the man’s bearded face, topped with a flat cap, to meet his small-eyed gaze. He winked at her while finishing the dregs of the clouded pint glass.
With a tinge of illness at the thought, Ellie turned back to face the chipped door. Over her shoulder the large thumps of beefy feet and crackled growls to the landlord reassured her that the headline act wouldn’t bother her again until the interval at least. Like the yellowing teeth and bony fingers of those who normally attend these gigs, Ellie tried to not think how the ghastly male in the tight fitting shirt could be the pitched as the main event of the evening.
‘Is that what I should be aspiring to?’ She thought, ‘is that what is to become of me if I’m a success, or if I am a failure? What if I can’t move past the title of “warm up”?’
Just then, a young teenager with a lengthy mop of hair broke the dimness of the setting with one word.
‘Oh, hi.’ Ellie replies, shuffling to one side as the landlord’s son pushed the double doors open with his back. In one hand was his phone, the other planted firmly in his jean pocket. Disinterest and sleep deprivation hung heavy over his eyes. As he walked into the room a few shouts came from the locals, people who would rather listen to him talk for an hour than watch her exhaust herself for ten minutes. A few words were mumbled as limply (through the door slit Ellie could see him tapping on his phone) and then she was introduced.
‘…so clap your hands for tonight’s warm up.’
One, two, three. And away she went.
(Written in response to the WordPress Prompt of the day ‘Encrusted‘ – and within 20 minutes. Not too shabby, huh?)