Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the eighty-seventh piece in this series. This week’s is a 589-worder by romantic suspense novelist Phyllis J Burton. This story will be podcasted in episode 29 (with three other stories) on Sunday 14th July.
‘I want everyone up on stage now, please.’ Lady Priscilla Prendagast’s haughty aristocratic voice boomed out over the heads of the assembled cast. Nobody moved. They were too busy talking to listen. ‘I said everyone up on stage, please,’ she repeated, stamping her feet in temper. ‘We’ll never get through this rehearsal if you all insist on talking all the time.’
The stage lights were all on. Priscilla couldn’t see anything in the auditorium. Her hazel eyes flashed angrily and she put her hand up to her forehead to shield them from the unforgiving lights. She was tall, slim and her long blond-to-greyish straight hair swung around her head wildly as her anger increased. The cast gradually began to move and her imperious gaze alighted on one of the few people in the society who was not in awe of her.
Jack Smithers walked slowly up the steps and on to the stage.
‘Lady Prendagast?’ he said, eyeing her up and down.
‘Yes, my man?’ She looked at him with disdain.
‘In my ’umble opinion, you won’t get them to do anything if you shout at ’em. Ask them gentle like.’ He gave a little chuckle and ambled towards the ladder which was propped up against a bank of stage lights. His clothes had all seen better days. His jacket had elbow patches made from different materials and the lining hung down at the back. His shoes were in definite need of repair. He’d been ‘Sparks’ at the theatre for 40 years and had seen producers come and go. He considered “’er Ladyship” to be one of the worst.
Jack coughed and spluttered as he climbed the ladder. It seemed that every time he climbed up now, it became more and more difficult. His chest felt tight and he stood on the top rung for a while to get his breath back.
‘Smithers, I say, Smithers. Please hurry up and move this ladder, the cast are coming on the stage in a minute. We can’t possibly have you cluttering everything up.’
‘Don’t you get all high and mighty with me, missus,’ he wheezed, ‘coz I just won’t stand for it, do you ’ear? If I don’t do these ’ere lights, there won’t be no performance tonight.’
‘Do hurry up then.’
‘I’m going as fast as I can.’
‘Well it’s not fast enough. In fact I’m not at all satisfied with your work, Smithers. You are too old for this job. I’ll be speaking to the management about you.’
Lady Priscilla Prendagast was wearing a twin-set with pearls and a tweed skirt. Jack Smithers stared at her and felt an overwhelming urge to tighten the beautiful necklace around her neck until she squealed. He clenched his gnarled old hands. He wasn’t a violent man, but he’d had enough. If I don’t go now he told himself, I won’t be responsible for my actions.
He climbed slowly down the ladder, walked over to his toolbox, and closed it with the finality of a pistol shot. ‘That’s it, your ladyship. See ’ow you get on without me. Bye,’ he said giving her a wave.
Priscilla Prendagast looked as if she was about to explode. ‘But you can’t leave now…what will we do. I…I…?’ For the first time in her life, she was lost for words.
Jack Smithers doffed his cap, picked up his toolbox and ambled slowly out of the hall. He felt triumphant. For once in her sheltered and privileged life, someone had stood up to Lady Prendagast and had won!
© Phyllis Burton
I asked Phyllis for the inspiration behind her story and she said…
I’ve written many short stories (plus two novels) over the years, which cover mostly love, but occasionally like my short story Twisted Pearls, show other aspects of my life. For many years I ‘trod the boards’ as an amateur, both as an actor, singer and director / producer, so I’ve met many different kinds of people in the ‘acting’ profession. I always applaud anyone who has the nerve to stand up in front of an audience, or the dedication to work backstage. Backstage crews rarely get the recognition they deserve.
Also being a producer requires nerves of steel – sitting in the back and watching the fruits of your labours can be quite terrifying!
One of the stories in my latest book – Fifteen Brushes With Love! – covers the world of entertainment too. It is called ‘The Green Room’ and anyone who has had anything to do with entertainment, will know that this room is the beating heart of any theatre. So in a way, Twisted Pearls was easy for me to write.
It was a great story. Thank you Phyllis.
Phyllis has written several short stories, one of which was read on the radio, three one-act plays, (one produced and directed by her).
She is a trained soprano and loves water-colour painting: she painted the cover of A PASSING STORM which was re-published on 1st February 2013, by Matador).
There is a romantic thread running throughout, covering such diverse subjects as love and its loss, books, letters, family sorrow, obsessions, inheritance, greed, dreams, nightmares, and attempted murder.
But above all, it is a story of people’s lives, their loves and how they eventually overcome adversity.
Phyllis can’t help feeling sorry for the central character Katie, who is a bit of a dreamer: she has to endure some truly traumatic episodes, but like all true heroines, she wins out in the end.
Her daughter runs a copy-editing business, so I suppose she can say that it’s in the blood!
Earlier on in May 2013, Phyllis published a book of short-stories entitled ‘FIFTEEN BRUSHES WITH LOVE!’ on Kindle.
This collection is designed to delight the mind and act as a reminder of when you first fell in love!
You can find out more about Phyllis and her writing from:
- Her website: www.phyllisburton.com
- Her blog: www.burtonblogs.wordpress.com
- Matador: http://www.troubador.co.uk/book_info.asp?bookid=2001 for A PASSING STORM (Print and ebook)
- http://www.troubador.co.uk/book_info.asp?bookid=1539 for PAPER DREAMS (Print and ebook)
- Kindle (Amazon.com): http://www.amazon.com/Fifteen-brushes-with-LOVE-ebook/dp/B00COTQX88 for FIFTEEN BRUSHES WITH LOVE! (ebook only)
- Kindle (Amazon.co.uk): http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fifteen-brushes-with-LOVE-ebook/dp/B00COTQX88 for FIFTEEN BRUSHES WITH LOVE! (ebook only)
If you’d like to submit your 1,000-word max. stories for consideration for Flash Fiction Friday take a look here, or up to 5,000 words for critique on my Online Short Story Writing Group (links below).
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