I was in the mood for something different this week, so I went to my favourite place for flash fiction prompts: Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. I chose a random letter and clicked on a random page, and here’s what I got:
“Monkey’s Money: I will pay you in monkey’s money (“en monnaie de singe”) – in goods, in personal work, in mumbling and grimace. The French had a law that when a monkey passed the Petit Pont, of Paris, if it was for sale it was to pay four deniers (two-thirds of a penny) for toll; but if it belonged to a showman and was not for sale, it should suffice if the monkey went through his tricks.”
* * *
George blew out a long sigh. Here we go again.
He shuffled into the crowded holding area, trying to ignore the jostling bodies around him. Hunkering into the relative privacy of a corner, he eyed the antics of the others. A few familiar faces, but mostly new talent. Or lack thereof.
From the opposite corner, Bruno gave him a pointed glance and curled his lip to expose gleaming bone-white incisors.
George ignored the challenge. Yeah, asshole, whatever. So your teeth are better than mine, so what? You’re still in the monkey pen with the rest of us. He eyed the steady stream of passersby outside with undisguised envy. What he’d give to be one of the privileged few who were granted the dignity of actual money!
How many times had he made this demeaning passage, performing over and over for indifferent audiences?
It had seemed so exciting in the beginning. He had thrown his heart and soul into it; had thrilled to the slightest sign of approval; waited with pounding pulse to see if he would be one of the chosen ones; dreamed of the day he would strut past the pen and into the coveted status of ‘moneymaker’.
But now his clever tricks seemed so mundane. In each performance he struggled to imbue them with new life; to wring fresh nuance from the same stale material.
He sighed and squeezed his eyes shut. God, this place reeks. Too many desperate bodies clambering over each other for attention.
The shrieking and chattering intensified and his eyes popped open. Lula again. Christ, look at her shoving her ass in everybody’s face. She’ll screw anything that moves.
And now every other female in the place was taking exception…
Oh, God, not again! George shrank into his corner, trying to make himself a smaller target. Always, dammit. Every damn time some idiot starts flinging poop. And then everybody joins in.
Ignoring the commotion, the bored man with the list caught George’s eye and jerked a thumb toward the stage.
My turn at last! George straightened, willing energy into his body. Summoning every ounce of talent, he threw himself into his performance.
Maybe this time they’ll realize how good I am. Maybe this time, somewhere in that small audience, jaws will drop in awe and delight and someone will rush forward offering precious money.
Maybe this time…
It’s over. Already.
Damn, if they’d only allowed me a few more minutes. A few more seconds, even. I was just getting into it.
But there’s still hope. The knock-‘em-dead scenario was really only a fantasy. It usually takes a while before they make the final selection…
Exhausted, George shambled out. His cell phone rang, and he picked up the call as he slid behind the wheel of his car. “Hi, honey. Yeah, it was the usual circus backstage, but my audition went okay. Now I just have to wait for their decision.”
* * *