What a laugh

It is October 1951. Pip, aged five, is with his mother, Gwen, and his father, Arthur, in the New Theatre at a charity variety show. They are sitting in the front stalls next to the aisle. His parents are smartly dressed and Pip, in short trousers, blue shirt and short sleeved jumper, sits on his mother’s folded up overcoat so that he can see the stage where an aged male comedian is in the middle of his act. 

The comedian is dressed in a bright blue suit, white shirt, blue silk tie with a blue fedora hat tipped back on his head and completed by black patent leather shoes. He basks, grinning in the audience’s tumultuous applause at his every joke a gold tooth gleaming in the spotlight. 

A stagehand brings on a wooden chair and sets it centre stage where it’s illuminated by a spotlight. The comedian adjusts the height of the microphone stand and asks, shall we have a go with the kiddies? Come on, lovelies up you come. He sets his hat on the floor beside the chair and sits.

Before Pip knows it, he’s in the aisle and a lovely lady in a big dress has him by the hand. Gwen, kneeling in the aisle, hurriedly straightens his jumper and irons smooth his short trousers with her hands before the lovely lady drags the reluctant Pip away.

The audience laugh and applaud as Pip is hurried on stage to where the comedian sits waiting on the chair. The lovely lady sits Pip on the comedian’s knee. 

Pip stares at the old man whose make-up is white and glistening. His head is bony and angular. The skin is loose, somehow transparent, and pitted. Sweat from man’s forehead trickles down onto Pip’s upturned face. The comedian’s mascara runs, his red lipstick glows and pomade holds back his badly dyed black hair back from his forehead. His hand rests on Pip’s naked thigh.

The audience laugh and applaud as the comedian holds the microphone to Pip’s mouth and asks his name. Pip’s infantile stammering, pi … ii … pi, pi, perpip, fills the theatre. Come on sonny, I’m not a bloody ventriloquist, the comedian says. Tears roll down Pip’s cheeks as the audience oooh, aaah, laugh and applaud.

The comedian puts the microphone to one side, and with a big smile, whispers in Pip’s ear. You’re a little shit, that’s what you are, a little snivelling fucking shit! Don’t you worry, sonny, I’ll be back tonight to haunt you in your dreams. 

The comedian puts the microphone back to his mouth and commands, give the little lad some applause. Pip hurriedly scrambles off the man’s lap and in his terror stands on the comedian’s hat before he is led away by the lovely lady as the audience laugh and applaud. 

Gwen weeps – it’s not been the treat she imagined.

Pip sees the look of disdain on his father’s face. I failed, Pip thinks – his humiliation complete.


I hope you enjoyed this story.  Remember, I publish a new story every Sunday. 
Please feel free to pass them on to others you know who may be interested.
You can read previous stories from “Behind the Plague Door” here >>>More

© Phil Cosker 2021
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.

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