Make My Day by Steve Goodlad

Of course, he wanted to be an actor. He had a sneer like Clint Eastwood and could hold a cheroot in the corner of his mouth so that it stuck out at right angles to his nose. He didn’t own a poncho or know what one was, but he tucked his jeans inside his boots and fixed tweezers into the soles like makeshift spurs.

She wore a serious blue two-button jacket over latticed topped white blouse and blue long- panelled skirt. She wore her hair pulled back tight that made her look alert and indicated a disarming, sociable nature. She was apt to sniff unconsciously from time to time as though she had permanent hay-fever.

“Come in and take a seat. I like the sheriff’s badge by the way.”

He was back at the Job Centre for his latest review. Twelve weeks on Job Seekers Allowance and not one bite. Work had a mad glint in its eye. Real work that is, not the sort he was looking for. His hand slid over the silver star at his breast seeking reassurance against a hint of sarcasm.

He’d practised his draw in the mirror. “Did you like my CV?”

She’d read the first one hundred and two characters and then switched off. “Well, the grammatical issues and spelling mistakes suggest you are not as detail oriented as you claim to be. Of course, it would be better with a wealth of knowledge, qualifications, training and experience history, none of which you possess, but ignoring that a moment, it was well laid out and shall we say; brief?”

“I mentioned the newspaper round I did whilst at school.”

“You lasted six days.”

“Well, it was morning and evening.”

“Look. I arrive here in the morning and I leave in the evening. I work all day, five days a week, forty-six weeks a year. It’s called a job.”

“I thought: ‘Available for an immediate start, ‘was a good addition.” Having ignored her riposte, he waited for the faint praise.

“It spoke volumes. Where was the rest?”

“I spilt coffee on the space key.”

“Volumes.” She repeated, then sniffed.

“I wonder sometimes if we shouldn’t change a thing about you and maybe something magical will happen?” She smiled. “Look. The honeymoon is over,” said the woman

suddenly serious. You are getting offered some interviews. You just have to attend them when they are offered, and on the rare occasion the job is offered you are expected to give them a try.”

He could tell he was a disappointment to her. She looked like she’d been here years, seen it all before but he bet she’d never met one like him. Focused on his future, single minded, naturally talented even if a little raw and totally untrained. To date he’d been safely corralled from opportunity, his chrysalis denied. Dreams unmet due to her lack of imagination. He just knew it.

“I think you should be a little more responsible.”

“All my previous bosses have said I was responsible.”

“I believe one of those was for the broken dishwasher, am I right? The flooded stockroom? The blocked drain? The power shortage? The great penguin escapes? The freezer doors left open? The dropped piano? The oil slick in the fast-food restaurant? The crashed van?”

“The last one wasn’t my fault.”

“It is customary to give way at roundabouts.”

The sixty-hour week picking and packing in a warehouse was not the stage he was looking for in his previous attempt at work. It was asking too much. He hadn’t lasted the first morning. She told him what he already knew. He’d long since stopped giving her excuses.

“I want to be an actor. I have the talent and it needs rewarding.” He repeated himself once more to the despairing woman.

She looked up from her computer screen. “Your timing is amazing.” A look of mock surprise. “We have a role here for a cowboy in a movie alongside Kate Winslett. The pay is astronomical, the hours are short. You get all the sex scenes and you get to shoot the bad guy before the end.”

“You’re kidding” he enthused.

“Well, you started it.” She told him.

She called him; her lifelong project. She said she wouldn’t rest until work had acquired him. “Look, acting, is just showing off. It’s the perfect cover for people like you who can’t or won’t do anything else. But it’s not the real world.”

“I know” he said. “That’s the point.”

You never told me what happened at that job in the shoe shop?”

“They relocated and didn’t tell me where to.”

“What would you like to do with your life? Apart from acting.”

“I’d like to travel.”

“To work?”

“Here’s a nice outdoor job. It will suit someone of your stature.” She didn’t sound convincing.

Seasonal fruit picking in pleasant weather was fun for a while, but his fellow workers didn’t speak his language for some reason and seemed to laugh behind his back. He dressed differently from them. They wore shorts and he wore leather chaps over his jeans. Well, let them get sunstroke he thought. His wide-brimmed hat and neckerchief protected him. One called him Rawhide to sniggers from the others. He didn’t go back the next day.

She related some of the feedback from the orchard owner, omitting the expletives. “You do stir up the negative adjectives.” She added at the end.

“Do I? Thankyou.”

He really needed a job. At this rate he thought he’d have to move back in with his parents, so using his own initiative, he read a copy of The Stage at the library and turned up for a role as an extra for a battlefield scene in a muddy field just off the bypass. He was to be a corpse. But he just couldn’t lie still and he kept trying to join in the action. He was one of Kelly’s Hero’s not a dead minion.

“Cut” the director shouted. As the smoke cleared, he could be seen lobbing a plastic grenade into a trench and making a machine-gun noise like a child in a playground with a wooden gun. He kept reappearing like a Whac-A-Mole from the trenches as the near apoplectic director bellowed through his megaphone. He thought it a little odd when he was attacked by a man in a high vis jacket and wondered whose side he was supposed to be on.

“You’re a liability” the director told him.

“He said I was a liability” he proudly told the woman at his next review.

“And I believe him” she replied. “Whoa. Unexpected item in the bagging area.” She was looking at her screen at the new jobs that had come in that morning. “I have just the role for you.”

He waited for the usual warehouse work and imagined what ailments he would require to avoid it. “It’s less front line, more a secondary role but just as important in the acting world. Without this key role, she said, actors would never make it to the screen”.

He sat up, unusually more alert as she reinforced his importance by overstating the crucial strategic positioning of his skills to this particularly difficult and complex area of the actor’s

world and the unilateral decision by everyone in the Job Centre to appoint him that task as though he was the only one who would fully comprehend its intricacies.

He remained in the wings waiting for the last call to an audition to find him as if he could still go on stage and make a start in life. He changed his outfit several times and saw himself in action. It felt like drawing a gun again and again. The supervisor agreed to “give him a go.”

“Five minutes Mr G and then you’re on.” The voice of the stage manager.

As the credits rolled and the lights came up, he stepped down the aisle. He plugged in the vacuum cleaner and set about clearing the popcorn and discarded wrappers from beneath the seats. There was a sniper in the stalls, but as she shielded behind the ice-cream tray, he fired with the brush head and imagined the bad guy toppling from the balcony. He kicked the stop button and blew into the end of the cleaner as though into a smoking pistol. “Make my day.” He uttered.

He had a sneer like Clint Eastwood and he could hold a cheroot in his mouth at right angles to his nose.

Selected: March Short Story Contest

Published in Issue #28

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