This week we have a Random Song Title Jamboree. Chuck Wendig set us the task to get a random song title from our music players and write a 1000 words story for it. It’s not that random, since I’d just searched for it to download, but you can still have ….
“Because we’re happy, happy, happy, happy…”
Mr Happy sidestepped off the stage, waving and smiling at the chanting crowd, soaking up the cheers and applause. Another satisfied audience. His grin stayed fixed on his face as he passed the stage hands, bustling around to set up the final act. The stage manager gave him the thumbs up while talking into her mike. Holding himself to a saunter, he escaped into his dressing room and locked the door.
God, I hate this.
He collapsed in the armchair, avoiding the springs on one side, and leant over the side to ferret in his soft holdall. Clutching his lifeline, he rested back in the chair, eyes closed against the flickering glare of the strip light. He counted to ten, but on five he unscrewed the top and raised the bottle to his lips. Three gulps scorched his throat before settling in his stomach to ease the pain.
Oh, God, how many more nights on this tour? Who could he touch for the cost of the next bottle? The stage crew all knew now, they had quickly spread the word. The SM might be okay; she knew it lubricated him onto and off stage. One bottle a week would be safe. Or… had he already had a bottle from her this week? What day was it?
He took another swig, coughed, set the cap back on and put the liquor back in his holdall. The band’s bass thumped through the walls, floor, ceiling and his brain; if he got out quickly he’d be free for the night.
He turned to his dressing table and slapped on the cold cream. Watching the person in the mirror as he smeared and wiped, he wondered who that person was, the one looking back at him.
Peter Richard Glasscock had left his name behind him as soon as he’d been legally able. What his father thinking when he named him? Hadn’t he suffered from his surname in his own life? He might have thought the Peter prevented his son being called Dick like his grandfather, but the delight of the kids in school had been almost more than the young Peter could bear when they realised that Rick Glasscock with the initial P was a schoolboy’s dream. Peter’s salvation had been humour, and his comedy routines had been honed through high school and college until he was one of the most popular entertainers on the circuit. Mr Happy was everyone’s friend, made everyone feel good, everyone found other people they could look down on, and thank the lord for not being ‘like that’. Even the poor and homeless knew him from his busking days, and knew they had a champion for their cause. Mr Happy’s Shelter offered a safe place to doss and food, the only rule to keep yourself to yourself.
The TV show had made him nationally famous. Even people who didn’t watch his shows had heard of Mr Happy. The tabloid splash when he was dating that model had ensured that, even if she had gone off with a rock star and claimed he owed her thousands of pounds. The judge found against her but he’d still had to pay costs. It had been hard to smile about losing that lovely home to pay the sharks. Lawyers, attorneys, call them what you like. It gave him new material that changed his audience, and his agent got the jokes vetted. He just had to watch the ad libs.
Knocking on the door roused him from his reverie. The band had stopped. Damn, he’d be last out again if he wasn’t careful. Miss the rounds at the pub and have to buy his own drinks. Worse, he might have to buy a full round for the others.
“Mr Happy! Are you okay?”
The SM had come to find him. He thought it might have been his agent; he had a house around here, thought he might visit the set tonight.
“Yeah,” he called, struggling to his feet, checking for the last smears of cream and finishing the wipe with a flourish. “Jus’ a mo’.”
His manoeuvre to the door resembled a boat tacking against the wind, but he grabbed the handle securely and turned the key. His weight assisted the door opening inwards, and he was glad the run of the dressing table stopped him colliding more heavily with anything behind him.
“It’s really late,” said the woman in the corridor. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, jus’ tired. Mus’ve fallen asleep.”
“Is all your stuff packed? The boys’ll clear it tonight.”
“Wha’? Yeah.” He waved at the dressing room, staggering slightly. He realised he still had his stage jacket on, so he struggled out of it and stuffed it in his holdall along with the bag of make-up and the tub of cold cream. The SM intercepted the cold cream and secured the lid before it disappeared into the depths. A chink of glass against glass met the thud of the plastic tub.
“How much have you had tonight?” she asked. Neutral. No illusions, no moralising, no lectures.
“Just a few sips.”
Big ones, she muttered under her breath, but checked around and put the holdall by the door ready for the crew to load for the next gig. “Come on, then.”
She helped him out along the corridor and out through the stage door, carrying his overnight bag. “You’re with Mrs Chumleigh, aren’t you?”
She didn’t wait for an answer, just walked him along the prom, the sea whispering onto the beach and drawing back with a gravel-load of pebbles. “Here you are, then. I’m next door.”
“No pub tonigh’?”
“Pubs are long closed, you’re lucky I came back for you. Thank Mrs C, she said you weren’t in yet.”
Mrs Chumleigh opened the door. Seaside landladies, dragons in disguise, he thought, and turned on his warmest smile.
“Mrs Chumleigh, you are an angel indeed,” he smiled, back in control. Her ferocious glare softened, and she helped him to his room. “So glad to stay at your establishment,” he confided. “You’re the best.”
“Always a pleasure to see you, Mr Happy.”
He relaxed as he got into the narrow bed at the top of the third flight of stairs. He might be an old soak, but he was a pro, and he was Mr Happy.
(c) J M Pett 2015
I thought you’d prefer reading Mrs Chumleigh than Mrs Cholmondeley, but they’re pronounced the same 🙂