Continuing our series of short stories set in, or influenced by, London. This week, Tom Mitchell offers another extract from the diary of a washed-up actor, who you may remember from an earlier story.
The Further Adventures Of Kay Richardson, Actor (Part 1)
The route into Blackheath Village from Lee High Road takes you (me) up an attractive, albeit knee-achingly steep, tree-lined road and, if the sun is shining and you’re particularly lucky, you might momentarily forget that you’re in South London. And, one morning, walking this walk, I marked young parents with prams and OAPs with handbags and I greeted them all, regardless of age or colour or gender (although all were white women as this was Blackheath).
And, you know what, I hadn’t even entered the village’s ‘Hello Matey’ newsagent* before I found myself approached by a young woman. Autograph hunter, I thought, and I smiled a self-deprecating smile. We were mid-pavement.
She was short (up to my shoulder), pretty (nose especially) and wide in the appropriate areas (boobies). She wore strange, outlandish clothes: red baseball cap, a red (& plastic) blazer – both inscribed with a most troubling phrase – CHURCH AID.
‘Have you ever thought about starving children?’ she asked with rising inflexion.
Her alien ray gun eyes stunned me like some terrible alien ray gun.
‘You what?’ I asked.
‘Do you ever think about starving children?’ she repeated, even furnishing the question with a smile.
‘Yes’, I said. ‘Constantly.’
She nodded, waited for five seconds, and then continued as if my response hadn’t been witty/LOL-worthy.
‘During the time we’ve been speaking, 540 children have died in Ghana’, she said. ‘For just a few pounds a month, you could help prevent these unnecessary deaths.’
And then she asked my name. And so I told her my name.
I also communicated my doubts as to her statistics and I told her that I didn’t know where Ghana was anyway and it sounded rubbish wherever it was anyway and the kids were better off moving somewhere else anyway.
She assured me that her numbers were correct. She told me that Ghana was in West Africa and wasn’t rubbish. She asked if I wanted to set up a direct debit mandate. Two pounds a month would be fine, she said. Think of it as a pint of beer, she said.
‘Honey’, I spoke loudly, fearing that my words would be lost over the hum of Blackheath traffic (we were also close to Blackheath Station, so I was aware that at any moment a train could pass under the railway bridge that lies village-central. That, of course, would create an awful cacophony of pistons and screeching and the like and make communication entirely unworkable. It’s impossible to fall in love on a railway bridge.) ‘Honey, I don’t know what kind of cheap-ass bars you visit, but, regardless, I simply can’t spare any amount of money. I’m an unemployed actor. I should be approaching people on the street and asking them for money’ (not a bad idea?).
The stiffness of the woman’s face melted somewhat. The smile, once a dodgy three-bar fire, now seemed open and loggy. She spoke:
‘I’m an actor too. Where did you train?’
I waited for a woman with 72 shopping bags to push past us. Railings separate road from pavement in Blackheath, so it’s always fairly congested – carrier-bagged women notwithstanding. I mumbled something about New York and quickly asked where she’d trained before my lies could be unpicked.
‘Lamda’, she said.
God damn, I’d heard of this place.
And so I fell upon a plan. Decision making, such as this, was proactive. I wouldn’t get my career back on the road by sitting in the flat and eating cheese/watching pornography all day. The show-business train is driven by contacts, Reader. I couldn’t turn down such an opportunity as this fair woman presented. I could pick her mind and such like and so forth.
‘I’ll sign up for fifty pounds a calendar month’, I said, ‘if you’ll have a drink with me’.
She laughed so hard that red hat almost fell from blonde locks. I looked about, not wanting to ‘cause a scene’. Mothers with prams of frowning babes frowned from across the road.
‘I’m serious. I’ll even buy the booze.’
‘I thought you were out of work.’
‘Rich parents’, I shrugged.
I filled out her direct debit mandate, fully confident that I would cancel it as soon as I’d had a drink with/gammed/pumped (for information) her.
She kissed me on the cheek, happily explaining that my contribution would inflate her day’s wage. Wordless, I mumbled. She seized my hand (in a misjudged attempt to be eccentric, I fear – she could have just spoken the words) and wrote ‘IPMA Pall Mall 1930 Nick’ across its forgiving flesh.
‘Your name is Nick?’ I asked.
‘Short for Nicola.’
My eyes studied her features/body and were eventually satisfied of her gender.
And so I left Nick.
And so I bought The Stage.
And so I was greeted with ‘Hello Matey’.
And all seemed well in the world.
BUT LITTLE DID I KNOW, Reader, LITTLE DID I KNOW.
Five hours passed as I flicked through The Stage. There was many an advert for table dancers. Not many for serious actors, such as I am.
In bedroom, I placed over my body some of the sexiest clothes owned. I hadn’t been with a woman for over a month. Clearly this was a ridiculous situation, as I would even hear the upstairs neighbour occasionally ‘at it’. And he suffered a growth on the side of his face and wasn’t a nice person.
Head – nothing but some gel.
Neck – nothing.
Torso and arms – a black silk shirt.
Trousers – darkly denim Jeans from Oki-ni.
Feet – white, limited edition ‘polo’ Adidas trainers.
The mirror almost cracked, such was my reflection’s splendour. I pitied Nick for the inevitable helplessness she’d face in the face of this erotic vision. The night opened up in front of me like a giant oyster, or a clam at the very least.
To be continued…
*This is not the newsagent’s official name. This I call the shop as the proprietor always greets me with a stout ‘hello matey’. This is not unpleasant. I do not complain.
Copyright, Tom Mitchell, 2014. Image by Emily Webber in the Londonist Flickr pool.
We’re still looking for London short fiction stories. Please continue to send submissions to email@example.com. Entries must be no more than 1,000 words, and must be set in London, or strongly inspired by the city. Full details here.
Previously in this series
- Amelie: Narges Rashidi considers the interactions of three people on a District Line tube.
- Shelter Drawings: Stuart Snelson’s tale of a mysterious Circle Line artist.
- Tracks and Albums: Richard Lakin attracts the attentions of the British Transport Police.
- Seeing Red: Anthony Fitzgerald on the woes of a cab driver.
- Instant Karma on the 263 to North Finchley: one seat left on the bus. Next to you. Raving drunk gets on. By Ronnie Capaldi.
- Two Four Eight: Lance V Ramsay envisions an Orwellian dystopia in the lingo of future London.
- Old Nichol: Jill Fricker evokes the woes of the old East End.
- Clissar: Grazia Brunello dips into the future of north London, through a glass darkly.
- Harvest Festival: A spooky Halloween tale in the London suburbs by Helen Craig.
- Ordinary Days in London: Madelaine Hills on a Docklands disturbance.
- Bishopsgate: Oliver Zarandi visits the site of a bomb.
- The Perfect Gift: A Christmas fairytale in which London’s statues come to life, by Katherine Wheston.
- The City Inside: Tom Butler has some curious metropolitan anatomy.
- Jazz Code and the Tube: The ambivalence of dating, by Jenny Mackenzie.
- A Free Man: Melanie White’s flash fiction piece considers a recently single guy at a bachelor party.
- Clean Living London: Ursula Dewey rolls her sleeves up for some housework.
- Swipe Right: Does Tinder have the answers? By Heidi Scherz
- The Writer and the Dancer: Close encounter at a flat party by Vincent Wood.
- St Peter’s Gate, Knightsbridge: A nocturnal romance at closing time, by Theo Klay
- First: A romance begins inside a London gay club. By Lance Middleton.
- Compatibility: Stephen Lynch conjures the awkwardness of flat hunting.
- An Extract From the Diary of Kay Richardson, Actor: The surreal tribulations of a washed-up London thesp, by Tom Mitchell.
- You Were Not In When We Called: A Christmas tale from Megan Toogood.
- The Do: Alan Fisher gets party phobia.