Revival

Chapter One

“Anyone seen my collar?”
Danny frowned at the silent room.
“Bastards.”
John’s chin nestled neatly into his wattles as he squinted at the wig he was turning about in his lap.
“I haven’t.” He managed, somehow, through the tiered mass of flesh.
Horst, sewing a pair of lederhosen, grunted negative through teeth holding a thread tight.

Danny glimpsed himself in the old burlesque mirror. The white greasepaint left behind in the crevices around his eyes gave him a ghostly aspect. The paunch in his jumper–he only now realized he’d fallen asleep in costume–was alarming. On the dresser in this image’s foreground there cluttered make-up and brushes, scraps of wardrobe, notes, a half-eaten Soybar, a massive black dildo, a pair of masks, old show programs, unidentifiable things, yellow prescription bottles, something half consumed by fire; all piled there like temple offerings to his living portrait in the mirror. He sighed.

“I’m taking a walk.” He pulled a moth-eaten raccoon coat out from under a pile.

His cigarette was lit before the trailer door closed behind him.

“Danny Boy!” A cowboy in chaps practicing with a lasso hailed him from across the muddy lane separating the rows of trailers.

“Morning, Tex.” He waved. “Taking a walk.”

The cowboy smiled and nodded. Danny started out as if he had a destination. Residue of the lifting pre-dawn mist clung to the corners of everything. He passed a surfer in a bathrobe loading beach scene props onto a cart. Most of the performers hadn’t stirred from their trailers. A stray cat skittered past ahead of him. He liked when the camp was still mostly asleep, when he could imagine they were anybody, anywhere.

The main tent occupied a slight hollow where the fog pooled like liquid, lapping at its edges. The pennants on its peaks hung damply limp. Its slanting support ropes vanished into the mist on the ground where he could see one or two figures moving about. Looking down from the slight rise, it looked smaller than when he first saw it years before.

“There’s a system.” The man had said. “We open with a short stand-up routine. Standard white-joke genre, lots of self-deprecation–do you know what that means?”

Danny nodded, lying.

“A little sexual inferiority here, a little intellectual inferiority there. It sets the tone.” He spoke as if Danny understood. Danny’s stomach growled. He had been promised a meal.

“Then there’s a skit. We have five basic skits; one is the historical skit, involving a famous figure from Old America. He’s a bumbling conniver, saved from some ill-fated and corrupt scheme by his dependent slaves or servants. It usually features his cuckolding by one or more of them. Sometimes he is hauled off by the Indigenous.”

Danny was barely paying attention now. He wanted to sit; his sore feet felt like putty melting into flattening blobs on a hot sidewalk.

“We finish with a song and dance. Don’t worry, you don’t have to know how to dance. If you’re called on to dance it’s to dance badly, because that’s the idea.  It’s actually not good if you’ve got any training. You don’t know how to dance, do you?”

“No.” Said Danny; “I think”, he continued the sentence in his head.

“Good.” He looked Danny up and down. “You’ll have to learn some basic pratfalls, nothing serious. Have you done any stunts?”

“No.” Danny said apologetically.

Yeah, well, that’s okay. Normally I wouldn’t take on someone with no experience at all but,” he nodded at Danny’s red hair “a genuine ginger is a real rarity nowadays. Do you know you guys are like two percent of the under-30 population? A dying breed.” He nodded approvingly; his tone was complimentary. “So what do you say?”

Danny’s stomach contracted painfully. Over the man’s shoulder he could just make out the lines of smoke rising from the homeless camp in a stand of sickly cedars nearby. He remembered a pact he’d made two hungry years before, on a hungover first day of 2028; with a twinge he determined to forget it.

“Yes.”

Chapter Two

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