Edward Owen – Author

Ray Bradbury Challenge #31 The Last Laugh

I’ve been listening to the Comedy channel for the last couple of weeks on I Heart Radio and of course my twisted little brain had to go down a dark path …

open mic

 

 The Last Laugh

 

“Shit Henry, you killed out there. I think that chick in the red dress wet herself.”

Henry Collins grinned at the compliment. They had come up through the ranks of the open mic circuit together making his remark all the sweeter.

Henry slapped his friend on the back, “Are you high or did Mona blow you while I was on stage?”

Tim laughed. “Dude, if she had, I wouldn’t be standing here talking to you. I wouldn’t be standing at all. Hey, some hottie in a white dress is looking for you.”

“Did you see where she went?”

“Maybe over to Howie’s office. I’ll catch you later dude.”

Tim ambled down the hallway toward the exit. Henry headed toward the office and nearly collided with the woman as he turned the corner.

“Henry! Just the man I’m looking for,” she said, grasping Henry’s hand and shaking it.

“I’m sorry, have we met?” said Henry.

“I’m Nairi Sarkisian. I want to represent you and put your career on the fast track… unless you’d rather keep schleppnig around these feeble open mics.”

“I don’t need an agent sending me to a bunch of shit-hole gigs just so you can make a buck at my expense. Have a good evening.” Henry turned his back on the woman and headed toward the exit.

“You’re good, Henry. I can have you on HBO in six months. That’s a promise. And I never make promises I can’t keep.”

Henry stopped with his hand on the door and turned around.

“Talk is cheap. I’ll tell you what. Get me a date with the blonde in the red dress and I’ll think about it.

“Do you want to take her to dinner or bed? If we’re going to work together, we have to be honest with each other.” Nairi regarded Henry, her stare burning into his eyes.

“You get her to spend the night with me, no strings attached, and I’ll give you six months.”

“Consider it done. She’ll meet you at your room after the show.”

“Yeah, sure she will. It’s been fun.”

Henry pushed through the door and headed back to the stage. He forgot about Nairi as he climbed the stairs to the stage and introduced the next act.

*****

As Henry stripped off his clothes a soft knock sounded at the door. Beer in hand, he strode across the room and peered into the peephole. It was filled with a mane of blonde hair and a red dress split with a generous amount of cleavage. Henry opened the door and the girl smiled.

“I’m Julie,” she said. “Your friend said you were looking for some company.”

She glanced down at his boxers. “You didn’t start without me, did you?”

Julie slid past Henry into the room, rubbing her body against him. Taking his hand, she pushed the door closed and led him toward the bed.

*****

The crowd was on their feet; the applause filled every corner of the theater. Henry’s head was spinning as the curtain came down on the stage. A wiry woman with big teeth bustled over to him.

“Henry, oh my God! You were absolutely phenomenal,” she said. “You’re the best comedian I’ve ever worked with on HBO or anywhere.”

It had been five months and a half months since he had met Nairi in L.A. and his life had become a blur. And she hadn’t booked him on a single shit gig, not once.

“Thanks, Tawney, but I have to give Nairi most of the credit,” said Henry.

“Talking about me behind my back,” Nairi said as she sidled up to Henry.

“Speak of the Devil and she appears,” said Henry with a crooked smile. “I need a drink and I’m buying.”

“Shall we?” Nairi pulled Henry to the exit. “I know a great place down this way. We can walk.”

“I can’t say thank you enough,” said Henry. “I owe you everything.”

“Yes you do. And now I believe I’ll collect.”

The city bus was rolling down the street at fifty miles an hour when Nairi shoved Henry in its path. His body was thrown thirty feet into oncoming traffic. Four vehicles struck his body before it came to rest in the street. Paramedics pronounced Henry Collins dead at the scene thirty minutes later.

*****

“Holy shit!” said Henry as he swung his legs off the bed. “I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck.”

“You were,” said Nairi. “A bus, two trucks and an SUV. You were dead before you hit the ground.”

Henry stared at his manager in disbelief. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“Funny you should mention Hell … Oh, you go on in three minutes.”

“Go on where? This doesn’t make any sense.”

“Right there.” Nairi waved her hand at a large curtain at the end of the room. “Today should be especially fun. The crowd is a bunch of angry Bolivian farmers who don’t speak English. Keep your eyes open. They brought vegetables.”

“Where the hell am I?”

Nairi slid the back of her hand down Henry’s cheek.

“You didn’t think all that success came without a price, did you? Silly man. The day Julie walked into your room you were bound to my contract. We can go over the details later. You’re up.”

Henry was propelled across the room as the curtains opened. He squinted in the glare of the lights. A sea of lined and tan faces scowled at him from beneath straw hats.

“Nice of you folks to make it …” Henry stammered. His words were cut off by a tomato hitting him in the chest.

“Usted no es divertido!” (You are not funny) a man shouted from the front row.

By the time he got off stage he reeked of rotten vegetables.

“They were laughing at the end, Henry. You almost won them over.”

“They were pelting me with tomatoes. Of course they were laughing.”

“Maybe you’ll have better luck tomorrow with the French stable cleaners.”

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