By Phil Kurthausen
Dave took a last, lingering look in the mirror.
Not bad he thought, not too shabby at all. This was the first time he had ever worn a dinner suit. He had asked the man in the rental shop to show him how to tie a bow tie. Dave could have asked Mother, but he didn’t want to do that. No one helped get him to this moment and he didn’t want anybody else sharing his glory, no, not even Mother.
Something was missing though. He looked the part but it needed something else, something individual. Dave’s limited wardrobe did not throw up any immediate possibilities.
Dave pulled out drawers and emptied the contents onto his bed. Suddenly there it was, and as soon as Dave saw it he knew it was perfect. It felt like it had been waiting for him. A blood red, Paisley patterned handkerchief. It had been given to him by Mother when he was six years old. She said it belonged to Dave’s Father but Dave had no way of knowing whether this was true.
Dave picked up the handkerchief and folded it carefully into a triangle before inserting it into the lapel pocket of his jacket. Now he was ready for the red carpet.
A car horn sounded from outside.
Dave made his way down the stairs. He stopped in the hallway. From behind the closed living room door he could hear the television. Mother would be watching her favourite soap. For a second, Dave thought about walking in and telling her where he was going, she might be proud. He made a movement towards the door and then thought better of it. He walked out of the house.
Dave asked to be dropped off around the corner from the theatre. He wanted to have a quick stroll and savour the moment. He had put on an overcoat so nobody would spot his dinner jacket and realise he was a ‘Celeb’.
The streets were busy. People were walking up to the theatre. Many had notebooks or magazines they wanted signing by one of the stars attending. The event was being televised. Dave wondered if after it was shown on TV, and people had seen him, would he be asked to give his autograph?
Dave thought he would have to adopt a ‘star’ smile if this happened. An open and welcoming smile. He saw a young couple coming the other way. He decided to try out his new smile.
The girl caught his eye and Dave felt the new smile crawl up his face.
She smiled back. Dave couldn’t remember the last time a girl had smiled at him. Not if you didn’t count Mother and to tell the truth he couldn’t remember when she had last smiled at him.
The girl’s smile filled Dave with a confidence he didn’t know he possessed. As much as he was looking forward to the ‘People’s Awards’ and his overdue recognition, a lingering doubt remained that he would just choke in front of all those people. That when he saw the eyes of the crowds on him, his knees would buckle, his mouth go dry and people would start to laugh. Now though, the girl’s smile had made him strong.
Dave turned a corner and there was the theatre. A swollen crowd surrounded the red carpet. In front of the crowd were the Paparazzi. Dave made a mental note to start referring to ordinary people as ‘civilians’. Dave thought ‘ordinary’ was just about the worst thing anybody could be.
He stood at the back of the crowd. No-one noticed him. All eyes were on the celebrities who were being disgorged from limousines at regular intervals. They were beautiful, shiny people. They belonged under the arc lights, with their bright skin, dazzling smiles, happy, fulfilled lives. The crowd ‘ooooed and ahhedd’ at expensive frocks and went into dizzying fits of hysteria when a celebrity approached and graciously exchanged a few words with the ‘civilians’. Night was turned into preternatural day by the strobe effect of a hundred flashes.
There came a gap in the procession of limousines. Dave took a deep breath. This was his moment. He took off his overcoat, put it over his arm, and walked around the crowd to the roadside gap where the limousines had been dropping off their precious cargo.
Dave straightened his back and walked onto the red carpet. The crowd fell silent. He took a couple of tentative steps along the red carpet.
The flash photography died to an occasional flicker.
Dave heard the voices begin to grumble. ‘Who is he?’ ‘I don’t recognise him from the telly!’
He stood there, an ordinary person. Someone threw a half empty drinks carton it bounced off Dave’s suit. Dave looked down, the cola had left a brown stain on his paisley handkerchief.
A limousine pulled up at the kerbside and the passenger door opened. The most famous soap star in the country stepped out of the car. Normally, seen on TV as a dowdy pub landlady, here, she was dressed like a magnificent sun princess. She moved slowly, clad in a tight golden dress. Dave turned and was transfixed by her shining glory. There were gasps from the mob and then the photographic strobe lighting exploded all around her.
She smiled and waved. And then she noticed Dave, stood still in the middle of the red carpet. A momentary look of confusion crossed her face. She smiled at Dave.
Her smile broke Dave’s trance. He reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew the gun. He pointed the gun at the sun princess and pulled the trigger.
Dave was on the floor, pinned down by men in dinner jackets. Blood pooled near his head. He couldn’t move. A camera was shoved in his face, the flash burning his eyes.
The last thing Dave saw before he blacked out, was a hand, thrust out from the mob. It held an autograph book.