The story of a man held hostage in a small town by the worst possible mistake a comedian could ever make..
Benny finished his oatmeal and a few slices of apple cured bacon; it was unusually good for a Hampton Inn, so he went back for seconds. He wanted coffee but knew that it would trigger the urge for the cigarette and this was the cycle that he was trying to avoid, especially on his first day of quitting. What Benny could not avoid is the attempt to instigate conversation with beautiful women, so as the interviewee sat in the hotel lobby chair preparing her employment pitch he said “good luck”.
“Thanks” she said in a manner that hinted of frustration but genuine nevertheless. Benny wished he had washed his face and smelled a little more like cologne, he knew that she was well out of his wheel house but still engaged her further. “Are you applying for a sales position?” “How did you know?” she replied. “Well you’re too smart for the front desk and too cute to drive the shuttle van”, “Ha” she said walking over to the coffee.
The girl, not the coffee motivated Benny to start the cycle again, he stood next to her pumping decaf as she loaded her coffee with cream and sugar, he could smell that she was a smoker and saw a washed out club stamp on her hand . “Where are you from?” she asked him and he was pleasantly shocked that she would engage him but realized that it was merely small talk between 2 strangers. Benny was actually from a small town in Texas but told girls that he was from Vegas because chicks love to talk about Vegas. She told him a brief story about the last time she’d gone there and how fucked up she’d gotten, he listened and laughed to himself at how consistently effective this tactic was. Just as it was Benny’s turn to talk, a small woman walked up behind them and said, “Madeline Conner?”, and just like that she was off to the interview. “Nice talking to you”, “You too, and good luck again…Madeline”. He pointed to himself and said, “Benny”. She smiled briefly and was off to the next phase of her life as Benny blew breath in his hand just to make sure she hadn’t smelled anything foul.
SportsCenter was on the lobby flat screen and the ‘Not top 10’ segment was just beginning, this was a segment about failure, and although frustrated artists thrive on the misfortune of others Benny was in it for the sheer entertainment value. He checked his text messages around the number 5 entry into the countdown and noticed that the club owner had messaged him. The radio interview for the day had been cancelled. Although he was happy to have another few hours to lay around, he wondered if the cancellation was due to his lack of popularity, age or something else more depressing.
Laughters was the only comedy club in town and was once one of the top clubs in the country, but the recession had taken its toll on the club and they were down to 3 nights of the 5 that they filled consistently years before. On Wednesdays there was now karaoke and on Sunday a Baptist church held their services there. Scrappy Roth was the club owner and Benny had seen him through good and bad times. Scrappy had done well financially with the club in the 90’s but was struggling to keep the doors open. He was well into his 50’s and married to the hottest Mexican socialite in El Paso, however he still enjoyed sharing exaggerated tales with comics of how much pussy he’d gotten in the years before. Benny listened to these stories because he’d known Scrappy for years but routinely made up reasons for not staying after the shows because although Scrappy was a good story teller, a local bar usually called his name.
Benny was grossed out at how much Carl’s wife was eating, she still had on her pajamas. It was past 10am and they still had waffle batter leaking from the hotel’s iron. They had eaten the last slices of bacon and had filled cups they brought down from their room with orange juice and milk. Just as he was about to say something snippy to them, Madeline walked from behind the front desk in a huff. “Fuck these people”. She reached in her purse for a cigarette and had it lit by the time she stood just outside of the door. Benny’s cigarette was now a conduit to more conversation. He checked his breath again and walked outside.
“Got a light?” “Sure…” Madeline rifled through her purse for a small blue lighter similar to the one he had in his pocket and handed it to him. “Everything ok?” he asked cautiously. “I just don’t get it. I have a degree, I’m smart, I’m cute and I’m white…why can’t I find a job in this town?” Before Benny could answer she asked, “You wanna go grab a drink? I know a bar that opens at 11”. Just then Carl’s wife walked outside to smoke and the waffle syrup glistened as the morning sun met her lips.
“Sure!” Benny replied. “Let me just go upstairs and grab my wallet”. “Don’t worry about it, I’ll pay, and I’m sure they won’t ask YOU for ID”. She laughed as Carl’s fat wife looked on sucking cigarette smoke up into her nose. Benny briefly felt like he’d bitten off more than he could chew, but still he thumped his cigarette across the parking lot and followed Madeline to her car. Carl’s wife looked on in disgust. He looked at her and smirked to himself, “Enjoy the gravy muffins, Lard Ass”.
Billy D. Washington is a former Harris County Deputy Constable in Harris County, Texas (Houston) turned international touring headliner. He’s been seen on “Last Comic Standing” and “The Late Show With Craig Ferguson” and the movie “Arlington Road”. He is also an accomplished musician and playwright.