Copyright© 2012 Angharad
All Rights Reserved.
There is only one problem living in a village—it sucks. If you don’t believe me speak to Brad Cummings, a seventeen year old boy who puberty seemed to have passed by the same way that civilisation and progress had by-passed his village. Even the yuppies avoided it, the main road into it was more or less a dead end and if you spoke to Brad you’d believe it led to a dead end as well. The nearest town was five miles away, the pub was struggling to stay open and the village shop only did because it was a cooperative—manned by the inhabitants of the village as volunteers.
The bus came to within a mile of the place on the main road to the town, so you either had to walk, cycle or drive to go anywhere. In lots of ways, it was idyllic for children, as long as they developed an immunity to warble fly and swine vesicular disease, plus resistance to cow pox was an advantage because there was a lot of animal husbandry in the surrounding farms, the land being unsuitable for growing many crops other than maize and curly kale.
The newcomers all had posh 4x4s, the older residents ancient Ford escorts or Vauxhall astras and Brad had his bike, a mountain bike his dad had bought him when he was thirteen. He should have outgrown it by now but he hadn’t probably due to the bad case of mumps he had a few months before he got the bike when it caused him to have an epididymo-orchitis and seemed to destroy his gonads. He was therefore smaller than he should have been, practically hairless of body and limb and with very few muscles—having the softish limbs and body of a prepubescent boy or a girl. It was a constant irritation to him and a source of humiliation at school, so much so his mother who was a teacher before he was born, opted for home-schooling. His younger brother, Jack, was actually bigger and stronger and the proud possessor of zits, facial hair and some follicles sprouting on his chest. Brad kept his body hidden, usually under loose fitting jeans and hoodies feeling very self conscious of his scrawny build and the flabby pectorals which looked more like small breasts than his brother’s hard muscled chest and waist.
To Jack a six pack was his manly abdomen, to Brad it was a collection of chocolate biscuits in cellophane. Despite their differences the two boys got on well, the major difference being that Jack had loads of friends and Brad didn’t, especially girlfriends. Jack was good at sports and Brad was more artistic and certainly more intelligent.
So while Jack went off with the local rugby team and made even more friends, Brad became more introverted and it was only because his mother literally dragged him there, Brad joined the local am-dram group which met in the village hall and did a play in the summer, and a panto after Christmas.
Like most am-dram groups there was a surfeit of women so they grabbed the young man with enthusiasm when his mother presented him to them, and while he later enjoyed the opportunity to meet with such a nice bunch of people, at first he was so shy he practically hid in the loos most of the first meetings he went to.
Lacking in self esteem, he refused to audition for any of the parts and said he preferred to be a backstage helper, so helped paint scenery and fetch props. Later when they realised he could sew a little, they had him helping the costume lady, Maggie Thirkettle, who he liked because she reminded him of his gran.
He learned to assist the makeup lady, too. She’d been a small time actor before she became deaf so he learned a few tricks only known to the pros. Everyone there liked Brad probably because he still looked as if he was ten years old, they sympathised with him, but they loved him because he had a genuineness about him that few teens possessed and not that many adults did either. He’d help anyone and when he decided he’d like to do a degree in theatre studies, his parents—especially his mother—and the am-dram group thought he’d made the right choice.
He was doing A-level drama and double English, and found his efforts with the drama group were useable for his practical work and course work. An itinerant teacher would come and watch him work with the group and award him marks for that and his course work.
This Christmas, the village players of the Goatsby valley, were doing a pantomime of Dick Whittington. For the uninitiated panto is something people either love or hate—oh no they don’t—oh yes they do. It has its roots in theatre way back in the mists of time and perhaps even back to Saturnalia when everything went topsy turvy and men dressed as women, women dressed as men, slaves were treated as freemen and so on. In panto this silliness persists, the dame is always a man who hams it up, so it’s the worst sort of mother in law send up. The principal boy is always a girl playing a boy, the heroine is always a real girl but anything else goes. The plot is nonsense with usually loads of topical jokes thrown in and the rest is slapstick—look behind you—sort of stuff, which people love or loathe.
Until he got involved, Brad would have walked a mile to avoid it, but because they enjoyed themselves so much and had loads of fun, he really looked forward to it. He’d helped paint scenery, make props and costumes, style wigs and when they were rehearsing, he became the prompt. The visiting teacher did suggest he could have played Dick Whittington’s cat, but a seven year old girl from Greater Goatsby got that, much to Brad’s relief, beside he was nearly as big as Josephine Brewer, who was the eponymous lead. They knew this because he acted as a tailor’s dummy a couple of times when Maggie had to do alterations to the costume. He was also practically the same size as Sally Thirkettle, Maggie’s niece who was playing the female lead, because he did the same for her costume. No one except Maggie and the other lady, Thelma, who helped with the sewing knew about it so Brad’s reputation was safe.
The problem with safety is that it’s a relative term. Brad was safe as long as no one knew about his helping with the costumes by wearing them—hell, he was even the same shoe size as Josephine—so they really could do alterations. However, it all went wrong the week before the start of the panto’s run when Sally was taken ill and lost her voice and one of the girls had to double for her in the rehearsals. They were all relieved when she recovered two days before the first night.
Then disaster struck, Josephine, who worked in London two days a week, slipped as she got off the train at Goatsby station and dislocated her knee. She was carted off by ambulance instead of by taxi to the village hall.
Director, producer and co-writer, Martin McGuinness called everyone together moments after he got the news of Josephine’s accident. “I’m sorry folks, Josie has had an accident and is lying injured and probably distraught, in Goatsby hospital.”
“What are we going to do? We can hardly do Dick Whittington without a Dick, can we?”
“I dunno,” said another, “Josie is dickless as far as I know.” The groans and laughs were a stress releaser.
“We don’t have an understudy, we’re going to have to cancel.” As Martin said this there were real groans.
“But it’s a sell-out, Mart, for the whole week.”
“I can’t help that, can I?” Martin shrugged, “We’ll have to give them their money back unless we can find a replacement principal boy, and how is she going to rehearse and learn her part when we go live tonight?”
Brad was almost in tears, he liked Josie, even though she was ten years older than him, but she encouraged him whenever he did anything and his confidence was growing a little in dealing with women. He was so enrapt in his slough of despond, he didn’t see Maggie call Martin over to her and speak quietly to him. Martin’s reaction was astonishment and he quickly called everyone back together.
“Right folks, the show might be saved, Maggie has just told me of someone who knows all the parts inside out including the moves, and who could probably fit the costume.”
Gasps were heard around the group, only Thelma knew who was being spoken about and she couldn’t see Brad agreeing to do it—never in a million years—he was a backstage not onstage person. He might know the part but he was scared of his own shadow.
“Who is it?” asked Sally and several others including Brad. Then Martin asked Brad to come into the small office near the front door.
“Who’s going to save the day, Mart?” asked a rather naïve Brad.
“If it was you, would you do it?” asked Martin of his young companion.
“Course I would, ’cept I can’t, can I—it’s a girl’s part.”
“No, it’s an actor’s part. A good actor should be able to play any part.”
“Yeah, but all our good actors have already got parts.”
“What we need is someone with courage and integrity. Who isn’t frightened of being laughed at, although in a pantomime does that actually matter—in fact might be an advantage.”
“Who’ve you got in mind—I can’t think of anyone.” Brad looked confused.
“Who do we know who is small enough to wear Josie’s costume and who also knows the script inside out?”
“I dunno, who is it?”
“You, Bradley, you are going to save the village panto.”
“What?” he shrieked like a strangulated parrot. “I can’t—I’ve never acted in my life.”
“Yes you have, you’ve stood in for various parts over the past two years.”
“That was just reading them, it wasn’t on the stage in front of loads of people.”
“You could save the day or do I have to go and tell everyone that all their hard work and effort has come to naught. Do you want to be the one on the door telling all the children that it’s been cancelled?”
“No of course not.”
“Well you’re going to have to unless you’re prepared to play the part of Dick.”
“I would if it was man’s part.”
A dick usually is, went through Martin’s mind but he said nothing. Instead he called Sally forth. He spoke to her quietly while Brad was sitting in the corner trembling. She nodded and went up to him.
“Brad, my whole family is coming here tonight to see me—unless you do this—we’ll have to cancel and some of them are going back to Australia next week. They came over for Christmas partly to see me do the panto.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t play a girl’s part.”
“It’s not really is it, it’s the principal boy part, so you’ll actually be playing the part of a boy—the only daft bit is the thigh slapping every time you make a decision—can’t say I know many boys who do that.”
“I don’t know many boys who wear tights and high heeled boots either.” Brad refused eye contact and talked to a chair.
“You get to kiss me, would that help?”
“Have you ever kissed a girl?” Sally asked and watched him blush like a heat lamp.
“Course I have.” He said lying, blushing and refusing to make eye contact.
“What? Like tell you who it was?”
“No, come and show me.”
“What like kiss you?”
“Yes,” she smiled at him and he sneaked a look.
“I can’t, it’s too embarrassing.”
“Okay, I’ll come and kiss you.” She rose from her seat and lifted his chin with her finger, looked him in the eye and placed her lips over his. He nearly fell off his seat. She continued the kiss sensually pushing her tongue into his soft mouth and he gave a little whimper. She kissed him again and he did whimper. “Is that nice?” she asked momentarily breaking the kiss.
“Hmm,” he said his eyes closed and a look of ecstasy on his face.
“Are you going to play Dick—I’d be ever so grateful,” she said while thinking, he kisses like a girl, it’s like kissing Josie.
“Hmm,” he said without thinking.
“C’mon then, one more then you’ll have to go and change.” She kissed him again and his stomach sailed over the moon somewhere and his heart rate went off the scale.
She stepped back and pulled him to his feet. “What?”
“You have to get changed, you did promise me you’d play Dick.”
“Did I? I didn’t, did I?”
“Yes you did, and if you remember you get to kiss me on stage—just think about that, Master Whittington.”
“Oh yeah, but you didn’t kiss Jose like that, did you?”
“No, an’ I won’t kiss you like that,” she watched his face fall, “until afterwards.”
“Oh,” he said and blushed.
She led him to the changing room where Maggie had rushed home to get one of her granddaughter’s bra and pants sets—given that he’d be in tights all night, it would have to be a thong or there’d be a VPL. Maggie got back just before Sally led him out to her like a lamb to the slaughter.
“Afterwards,” she winked at him and he walked into the changing room like a love struck spaniel, grinning.
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudo!
Click the Good Story! button above to leave the author a kudo:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.