We have a show tonight. It will be an almost-full house. According to Ira, only thirteen tickets had not been sold. He went out earlier, trying to sell them to stragglers, hungry for a good night, but people rarely buy tickets off strange men for shows they had never heard of before.
If he doesn’t sell them now, he’ll attempt to sell them later, on the door. We rarely sell tickets like that, but sometimes we do manage to squeeze an odd ticket out, onto a middle-aged woman with a young child that she assumed she could bring along without its own ticket.
One ticket per head.
A young child has a head.
Fine, if you’re bringing in a chunk of meat with no head. You don’t have to buy a ticket for that.
But for a child, you do.
Dead pig? Buy a ticket.
Beheaded dead pig?
Come on in, come on in.
Ira has come back. As predicted, he went out with thirteen tickets, and came back with thirteen. Still, could be worse.
He could have come back with fourteen.
Ira’s other jobs are the lights. And music. Ema directs the light and music, but she doesn’t actually make it happen.
That’s just what a director is.
Tells us to do stuff.
Doesn’t actually do anything.
We’re the stage.
Our performance tonight will be the best one yet. That’s how we all think. Practice makes perfect, yes?
The Speaker’s topic tonight: abortion.
Quite controversial, in some ways.
Parents or to-be parents will, no doubt, become furious.
Before we’ve even started the circus.
Hopefully the mothers will let the Speaker get to the crux of the matter before they swarm the stage, milk-filled, oversized breasts bouncing in anger.
No matter what they call me, I’m certainly not a pornographer. Apparently I make things ‘creepy’.
He won’t read them.
Apparently I made them ‘creepy’.
Said the wrong thing.
Did the wrong thing.
Made too much noise.
He told me to leave.
I left. Still rambling about flesh.
He can talk.
He has a fetish, after all.
Who has a fetish? And sex? And magazines?
What is the reason?
Ira’s outside, ushering in our anxious audience.
I arrive on the wings. Late.
Audience settles, curious to find out what this night will entail.
I pull on a velvet suit jacket and Ema adds a puff or two of powder to my face.
Ira comes in, securing the big wooden door of our venue behind him.
The lights dim.
Two spotlights give out glaring light from their open maws, and it shines down on me.
-I am the Screamer and I will be your host for this evening.
They seem relatively happy. Or, I think they do. I can’t see. Their bobbing heads are much too dark, and the spotlights are much too bright. I stare straight ahead into the abyss that some call the ‘middle distance’.
-It was an almost full house tonight. Minus thirteen. Thirteen people who could have been here are missing out on what you are about to see. There is a reason we only hold the show for one night.
I have to pause here.
I felt a scream rising.
-I guess you could call us controversial.
-But that is what we are. No doubt we are opinionated. We share with you tonight SPEECH you will never hear again… We asked you to supply your own HOT-BLOODED ATTITUDE. Please, attempt to SUPRESS… it…
I see their faces.
They look confused.
I tried to hold in my screams.
I take a minute – exactly a minute – before I speak again.
-Please. Are you waiting for a good night? I trust the topic of tonight’s speech wasn’t DISCLOSED TO YOU on arrival? No. Tonight’s speech is important. Open your ears. Shut your mouths. Those with young children, stop tending to them for an hour. You, in particular, need to hear this.
-Those with fag on their breath, alcohol staining their tongues, you need to take a minute. Get a grip on REALITY because who in their right mind would ever chose fags and alcohol over the SPEAKER, unless they were somehow deranged…
I pause, having realized I have gone completely off topic.
Across the stage.
-You must listen. If not to me, to the Speaker. He has your answers. He has your questions. Sir, with the beer there, please put down your plastic cup and pay attention. You don’t look particularly involved.
I look around at him. He stares up at me.
-What are you drinking? Give it to me to sniff.
I tip it out on stage.
I drink in the scent of the beer through my nostrils.
I ignore him, stepping right in the puddle of beer. Then I walk back across stage.
Beer footprints following.
-Please, sir. You have a good taste in beer.
They’re not impressed with me.
-Sir, shut up, you’re ruining the SHOW FOR everyone else. The Speaker will come out and YOU will ruin his whole LINE UP and life. Refrain from speaking. I point at him. Stare.
He shuts his face.
-No refunds! I remind them quickly. -Please welcome the MORAL HATE CIRCUS’ Speaker to the stage!
I skip across to the other side of the stage, through the beer puddle.
The Screamer, exeunt.
The Speaker. Speaks.
I can hear him from my little area.
We don’t have dressing rooms. Are you kidding?
I have a camping chair.
Only the very best here at the Moral Hate Circus.
I am curled up on it. Suit jacket on the ground. With a cup of water.
Ema always makes sure that I, in particular, am hydrated.
Doesn’t want me to hurt my throat. I like her that way.
Cares for my selling point rather than me.
What a lovely gal.
I am not allowed to speak whilst I am backstage.
In case I scream and disturb the Speaker. It has happened before.
Didn’t end well.
Someone called the police. We had to go outside in the rain, explain to them that I, as the Screamer, screamed accidentally.
They did not buy it, so I changed my expression.
Told them Ema and Ira were tickling me and I begged them to stop. Screamed for them to stop.
Apparently, that is more plausible.
My camping chair.
I am sitting.
I pay no attention to the Speaker’s words. I have heard them at the rehearsal.
I don’t need to hear them again, really.
I don’t abort.
My water’s gone.
I get up, to find Ema. I cannot speak.
Have to get around by miming a megaphone, asking where she is.
The A’Lonz say they saw her earlier, going out to one of the tents.
I mime a thank you.
It is basically a bow.
They frown. But I walk off. Outside.
There are the tents.
Ema’s tent. It’s big and heavy and gets really hot in summer.
I go in, looking.
She isn’t there.
I go around the rest of the tents.
Then I call for her. I am growing anxious.
Where is Ema?
Maybe if I look for Ira?
He’ll be dilling around with the lights.
A person, female by her chest, silhouetted against the half-light of evening.
But then I see it isn’t Ema. Oh, no. Ema’s not got red hair.
Immediately, I begin to perspire.
Why, I am not sure.
She looks lost. Keeps turning in tight circles.
Long red hair twirling after her like a child. Or a lover.
I must offer her help.
I abandon the plastic cup on the grass.
She’s taller than me. By a couple of inches.
Was not ready for that.
I stand behind her, wondering. What do I do next?
Announce my presence?
I am the Screamer. That should not be too difficult.
Before I can, she turns.
-Oh, she says. -Hi.
-Sorry. I was—
-Huh? She is confused.
-Sorry. For interrupting you.
There is a beat.
-I don’t mean to trouble you, she says, -but where are the bathrooms? Do you know?
-No. I mean yes.
-I mean, I know there is a lack. Of bathrooms.
She looks horrified. –No bathrooms?
-Then where do I… you know?
-Some nice moss. In the woods. Just there. I wave my hand in a vague direction.
-In the woods?
-Yes. I make sure I am talking in very short sentences. So I don’t scream in her face. –The woods.
She makes a face. It might be disgust. I am not sure.
-Or…? She looks hopeful. –Or what?
-There’s a portaloo.
-Oh, excellent. Where?
I look around. I spy it over by the A’Lonz’s tent.
A dark, upturned cuboid.
-There. You see.
-Uh, okay. Can I use it? Or is it, like, the… the company’s?
-Yes. And yes.
She looks confused. –It’s the company’s?
-Yes. We have never been CALLED a company beFORE. I have scared her. –Sorry. Can’t control it.
She looks positively terrified.
-You’ll be the first. To use it. The portaloo. We never have.
-What’ve you done when you need to… you know?
I blink at her slowly, -Some nice moss in those woods.
Disgust etches itself onto her porcelain face.
I thought she might recognise a joke. No? No?
Moves past me.
I call after her, -Have you seen a woman called Ema?
-Uh no, sorry.
Or, square zero.
I haven’t even got a cup anymore.