I survived the first Flash Fiction Friday and wrote a 1,330 word story titled “A Call for Help.” You can read that at the bottom of last weak’s challenge post.
Here’s what the Storymatic cards offered up for this week:
Decided to draw only two cards this week: one character (yellow) and one event (orange). Certainly a lot more options available for these it would seem than with “historical re-creation goes awry.”
Come on back to the bottom of this post next Friday, September 12, to see what I do with these inspirations.
[h3]September 5 Story[/h3]
Turned out I had a lot to say with these cards. The story ended up over 2,000 words. Something to keep in mind as you read these Flash Fiction Friday stories–they are quick writes with only a couple of readings for editing before they’re posted. The point here is to generate a story to get the creativity flowing.
Cue the Fever by Jeff Adams
“How’d it go?” Jamie asked as Robert came into the restaurant through the kitchen entrance. He was pretty sure he knew the answer by just looking at his friend.
“Frustrating.” Robert headed to the employee locker room so he could change. Jamie looked at the order he was supposed to deliver, but decided it could wait another minute or two so he could follow Robert. “I don’t know why I bother with open calls like that,” Robert said, throwing his backpack into his locker. He stripped off his tight black t-shirt and tossed it in as well. “I didn’t even get in the door before they cut the line.”
Robert took a crisp, dark blue shirt out of the locker, put it on. He knew the boss was okay with him being late today, but he didn’t want to give up any more tips than necessary.
“I hate my agent. I begged her to put me up for this, but she said it was wrong for me, so I ended up in the open call. No good came from it.” He took a couple deep breaths in an effort to calm himself. He was an actor after all, he could pay the role of calm waiter even while he was pissed off actor.
“Man, I was hoping for better news,” Jamie said. “I gotta get this food out. We’ll talk more later.” Jamie squeezed Robert’s shoulder before he took off at a quick walk back to the kitchen.
“Thanks, man,” Robert called after Jamie. “See you out there.”
Robert went to the nearby sink and splashed cold water on his face and then looked closely at himself in the mirror. He touched up his hair, fussed a bit with the shirt collar and braced himself to get to work.
“One day, this will happen,” he said just above a whisper. He struck a pose out of the dance he’d planned for the audition, and smiled. Once he was in the dining room he caught up with Cassidy, who was covering his section.
It was one o’clock, so lunch was in full swing and Robert took over his tables. He’d happily split tips with Cass on these since she’d helped him out. It was a typical Wednesday lunch at Pail. The restaurant was ideally located on Sixth Avenue and 48th Street so that it got a mix of tourists, midtown businessmen and theatre district workers of all sorts. The restaurant’s take on healthy, or at least as healthy as possible, comfort food seemed to be a hit since it opened a year ago.
It was a good day. The sunny, crisp fall air had people in a good mood. Most were leaving above average tips, which was always appreciated.
As Robert keyed an order into the computer, Jamie got right up next to him and whispered in his ear. “Sara Donaldson is here, in line for a seat right now.”
“No way. You’re screwing with me.” Jamie shot Robert a look, making Robert regret what he’d said. “Sorry, you wouldn’t screw with me about that.”
“Want me to get her seated in your section? Maybe you could work a little magic on her?”
Robert silently nodded. Jamie smiled and practically skipped his way to the maitre d’ stand to make sure Sheri knew what to do before the director got to the front of the line.
Robert went about his business as usual. He hadn’t seen Ms. Donaldson at the addition this morning and he didn’t get to leave his resume and headshot, so she would have no idea who he was. He didn’t have to do anything. He could just let it go, or he could violate the restaurant’s policy on bothering patrons, especially celebrity ones. But, was she a celebrity? She’d directed two off Broadway shows that had some acclaim and was about to do her first on Broadway. Did that make her a celeb?
He was definitely blurring the lines the manager had intended with that rule, which was designed to keep anyone from being bothered by staff.
Less than a minute after she sat down with her lunch companion, a woman Robert didn’t recognize, he was at the table introducing himself and taking a drink order. The good mood vibe continued with these two. The auditions must have gone well, or Ms. Donaldson didn’t let herself get phased. They ordered a bottle of mineral water for the table. Ms. Donaldson also got a peach iced tea while her companion chose to stick to the water.
Robert’s mind raced as he put the drink order in and then delivered a meal to a different table. He could just talk to her and try to get an addition. Or, the more risky option, was to audition right here. It’d be tight, and not quite what he’d rehearsed, but he could make it work. He knew he might end up with nothing, including losing this job.
He cruised back by the bar to pick up the water, tea and empty glasses. His nerves kicked in, making his stomach feel like it was full of butterflies. He may be a performer, but this was going to be new for him. Sort of like a flash mob of one. Jamie caught his eye as he crossed the dining room with the drinks. Robert shot him a big grin.
Jamie mouthed “what?” in response, but Robert didn’t see it because he was already focused on the end goal.
“Here we are. Peach tea for you.” He put the tea down in front of Ms. Donaldson and then placed the empty classes and poured water from the decanter. “And mineral water for you both.” He put the tray under his arm and took out his pad and pen, ready to take their order. “What can I get for you today?”
“I’ll have a burger, medium rare, with bacon and avocado,” said Ms. Donaldson’s companion.
“And I’ll go with the bacon mac and cheese please, with extra bacon,” Ms. Donaldson said after one last consultation of the menu.
“Very good choices,” Robert said as he pocketed the pad and pen. “We’ll get that right out to you.”
His brain tried to issue last minute instructions to not proceed, it was too light.
“You give me fever,” Robert sang, initially soft enough that only the couple tables nearest could hear it. He used a smooth, silky voice, using one of the arrangements he liked where the song was slow and jazzy.
He sang louder, as he moved away from the table and going into a modified version of the dance that he’d created. The choreography infused a little bit Fosse, a dash of Ailey and a helping of Tharp, plus a lot of his own contemporary style so that it wouldn’t be considered derivative.
Robert weaved between tables, his body moving lithely. Anytime he was facing Ms. Donaldson’s table, he locked eyes with her. She was watching, and she didn’t look pissed so that was good. He hoped the dance was reading right since the instrumental was only in his head.
The whole thing lasted about 30 seconds, long enough for him to get to the order entry console. He’d sang two choruses and a verse of the song and tried to pack in as many moves as he could in the space and time available. The dance ended with a simple bow, directed at Ms. Donaldson.
He was thankful that he had to turn his back on the restaurant to enter the order. There was applause and even some whoops of appreciation and he was glad for that. Without looking back, he went into the kitchen to recompose himself.
“Holy shit, dude,” Jamie said, coming into the kitchen right behind Robert. “That took some balls.”
“Tell me about it,” Robert said, now visible shaking, his nerves catching up with him.
“And it looked really cool,” Jamie said, as the kitchen crew added in a cacophony of approval.
The kitchen door burst open and Jessica Miller, owner and manager, came in. She was not happy.
“What the hell was that?” she asked, placing her hands on her hips. I came out of my office and caught the end of a song, and a bow and applause.”
“Sorry, Jessica,” Robert said as one of the cooks said an order was up for him. “I didn’t get into the audition today and now the director’s here. It was stupid, I know. And against policy. But I had to show her something.”
Robert braced for the worst, even hanging his head in shame.
“Get your food out there,” she said, sternly. “Come to my office after lunch is over.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said. They were informal at Pail, but in this case he wanted to give her managerial respect.
“Fuck,” Robert quietly said after she left.
He got the order on his tray and hustled out before any one spoke again. Luckily the order wasn’t Ms. Donaldson’s yet. Robert crossed the restaurant deliberately, acting as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
He delivered nachos, grilled cheese and soup to a table that was three away from Ms. Donaldson.
“That was awesome,” one of diners said as Robert doled our food. “I wish I’d been able to get my phone going before you were done.”
“Thank you,” he said, with a slight nod of his head. “I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
“You should be on So You Think You Can Dance,” said a younger girl, who looked to be in the tween age range.
“Thanks,” he said, with a bigger smile. “Unfortunately, I’m too old for that now.”
“Bummer,” she said. “I’d vote for that for sure.”
“Enjoy your meals. Please let me know if you need anything else.”
He looked around to see if any of his customers needed anything. What he saw was Ms. Robertson waving him over.
“Yes?” he asked, arriving at the table. “What can I get you?”
“That was good,” she said. “I take it you know who I am?”
“I don’t recall seeing you audition today.”
“No. I was in the open call and didn’t get in before the line was cut.”
“I see.” She reached into her bag and pulled out her business card holder. “May I borrow your pen?” Robert nodded and handed it over. She scribbled on the back of the card as she spoke. “Callbacks are day after tomorrow at nine. I’d like to see you at eight thirty. Show me all of that as you intended it and be ready to stay for the callback session too.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said, trying, and mostly failing, to control his excitement.
“And stop ma’am-ing me,” she said smiling. “We’re not that much separated in age. Sara will do fine.”
“Thank you, Sara. Thank you very much. Let me go get your lunch so it will be piping hot.”
Robert was on the verge of freaking out. He wanted to jump and scream for joy, but knew that composure was key. He headed back to the kitchen, saw two orders up for him, including Sara’s, and took them out to the tables.
He kept his mouth shut about everything until lunch was over. If he told anyone the news, he was going to explode. He had six off-Broadway shows and some regional work on his resume, but this could be his Broadway debut if he made it.
Once the restaurant calmed down, around two-thirty, he cornered Jamie in the kitchen. He held up the card with the Sara’s note that he’d show to get in early.
“You did it!” Jamie jumped into the air excitedly.
“That stunt worked?” Cass said, coming up to them. “Amazing.”
“It at least got me into callbacks. We’ll see what happens from there.” Robert pocketed the card. “I have to go see Jessica. Can you guys keep an eye on my tables until I come back? If I come back.”
He headed through the dining room to the alcove in the back of the restaurant. He took a deep breath and knocked on the office door.
“Come in,” Jessica said. Robert entered and found her sitting at her desk, facing her computer. “Robert, please, have a seat.”
At least she didn’t sound upset any more. He sat and waited to see what was going to happen.
“So, did she like it?”
“Um. Yeah.” He didn’t expect that to be the first thing Jessica said. “She asked me to come to callbacks.”
“Congratulations,” Jessica said, smiling. “All of us know how much you wanted to get in to this show. I have to officially give you a warning. I really should fire you for that so no one else gets any ideas.”
“I won’t do it again. No matter what, I promise.”
“Hopefully no one else will either. This isn’t the Stardust after all.” They both laughed at that. Robert had worked there for a while and enjoyed it. He couldn’t get back in there the last time he was between shows. “Besides, I have a suspicion you’ll be putting your notice in soon enough. And, if Playbill ever asks you where you like to eat, you’d better say here.”
“Absolutely! Thank you.”
“No get on back out there. And make sure you get coverage for your shift for the callbacks.”
“I will. Thank you again.”
He left her office before anything bad could spoil the moment. That was amazing the support he just got from Jessica, even though he’d worked there only a couple months. Robert was already planning how he’d modify the dance more so that Sara would see something even more spectacular when he showed up for his appointment.