By Anthony Brophy

(A Dublin pub)

The jacks smelled of piss. Obviously. But lethally so. It smelled like it had been freshly painted with piss. If Rosie didn't pull her knickers up fast and get out of the cubicle she'd pass out, face-plant the freshly mopped with piss floor. 'Goldy' was there when she got back to the table. Tight cunt. She reckoned the fat bastard waited outside the bar and watched her from the door 'til he saw her head to the jacks, then ran in and ordered his pints. Yeah, pints! Before she'd even sat down, or acknowledged his arrival, he was blabbing.

'Why does he just want to meet the two of us? …not the others?' he said, sinking half the first pint in one go.

'Evening 'Goldy'. How are you?'

He looked confused. She dispensed with the pleasantries.

'I dunno,'' she said '...Cos he knows we've both worked with Max Bacon I suppose….'

'I haven't!' smiled 'Goldy' guiltily 'I lied.'

'….What?'

'Never even met the fucker…I mean I've seen him!'

'Seen him?' she asked.

'Yeah…on telly…In….ehh…whatsit?....Coronation Street?'

'EastEnders'.

'Thank you. Knew it was something shit…Christ have you seen it lately? S'like a piss-take of itself.'

'Still better than Mrs Brown’s Boys.'

'True. That is seriously retarded.'

'Yes it is.'

'Goldy' sank the rest of the pint in a second swallow, eager to continue-

'Six times I've auditioned for it now!' he spat, holding up five angry fingers.

But she got the point. He wasn't finished yet though.

'Now they've raped and pillaged every amateur dramatic society in the land, they're casting it with cunts on 'Jobs-Bridge' schemes and unclaimed individuals languishing long-term in mental health wards.'

'Unlikely' smiled Rosie 'People with actual mental issues might bring some drama to proceedings!.. Wouldn't want that.'

Rosie watched 'Goldy' laugh and swing his fat arse out from behind the table and head jacks-ward. His ill-judged low-rider jeans revealing way more of him than she was comfortable with. The bar was filling up now. Nine-ish. Friday night crowd. She was looking forward to seeing Dominic again, all things considered. It had been four years. Coulda' been four months.

'Who you playin' then?' said 'Goldy', back at the wobbly table already, and severely testing all three legs of the stool he had planted his arse on.

'Fuck that was fast.' thought Rosie. He pissed it out as quickly as he took it in.

'Rosencrantz.' she said, watching for his reaction.

'..Oh!....Yeah?...Good for you…Great'

He dunked his nose in the creamy top of the second pint.

'What?... You look shocked!' she said.

He swallowed, making a sound like a small whale breaking wind underwater.

'No, no… I ehh….didn't know he…or…she… could be…umm...'

'What?' she snapped 'Bigger than a size four?'

'NOOO!' boomed 'Goldy', trying hard to look offended 'I was gonna' say… played by a woman!'

She was self-conscious about her weight. She'd always been up and down, but the past four years were all up. She thought she'd put it to the back of her mind. Maybe not.

'Oh…right,' she said, feeling herself actually begin to blush 'but the part of Guildenstern's always played by a fat retarded actor isn't it? …So at least they've stayed traditional there!'

'Goldy' snorted and broke wind at the same time. He looked so comfortable with the event that she assumed that maybe that was how 'Goldy's arse worked. In physiological union with his nose.

'Ouch! Touché Turtle,' he said, grabbing the pint again. 'How did you know I was gonna be playing Guil'- he started.

'Cos I've always been lucky!'

He chuckled and sank the rest of his second pint in one disgusting gulp. He surfaced with a fully-grown Guinness ronnie, turning him from merely fat looking to stupid and fat looking. There was something about him Rosie couldn't help liking though.

'But what part do you really wanna play?' he said, spitting Guinness into her air space.

She swigged a mouthful of her non-alcoholic beer. She'd quit drinking years ago but still couldn't sit in a bar with a coffee or coke without feeling like a wanker.

'…What d'ya mean?' she asked 'I love the idea of playing Rozencr-'

'OHH FUCK OFF WILLYA?!!' shouted 'Goldy'

She laughed out loud, despite herself, and as she heard herself she realised how long it had been since she'd had a proper 'Stop or I'm gonna piss myself' laugh.

'….OK.OK….I'd love to play Ophelia.'

She'd almost whispered it, like a child uttering something naughty in the company of adults. 'Goldy' cracked a shit-eating grin.

'Good girl!' he winked, '...I wanna play 'The Dane'!'

He said the words 'The Dane' in the worst Olivier falsetto she'd ever heard.

'Course you do!' she said, trying to keep a straight face unsuccessfully.

'Three times I auditioned for this prick! THREE!'

This time he managed to hold up the correct number of digits.

'He even had me improvising!' he continued. 'As Hamlet!..It's Shakespeare for Christ's sake, not Mike fuckin' Leigh…What kinda' knob asks actors to improvise Shakespeare?'

A sudden image of 'Goldy', sweating furiously while trying to improvise in iambic pentameter came to her. She almost choked on the mouthful of fake-beer she was swallowing.

'…Then the prick offers me Guildenstern!'

She swallowed, put the glass back down on the table and looked sheepishly at

'Goldy'.

'….What?' he said, suspiciously.

'He just rang me from London. A straight offer!' she said.

' …You're just being a cunt now!'

Again, she laughed, this time even throwing in a little drum roll on the table with her knuckles. She was enjoying herself now.

'Sorry 'Goldy'. We worked together …four years ago. Before I moved to Dublin'.

A summer in Cornwall. Glorious. Playing one of Chekov's three sisters. When she remembered those times she smelled strawberries, sunshine and Dominic on her skin. When the play finished he had to leave immediately for a gig in Germany. She didn't want a scene, didn't want to appear needy. Time moved on, but part of her hadn't.

'Oh yeah?' smirked 'Goldy', 'A panto was it?'

'Chekov actually'.

'The dude from Star Trek?'

'….What?.....No. Anton Chekov.'

'Goldy's' expression could not be blanker.

'Russian playwright' she continued '…Short story writer… The Seagull?'

'…Was that not a kids’ book?'

Rosie stared at him, waiting for the 'gotcha'….it wasn't coming.

'Let's move on', she suggested.                 

'Gladly', agreed 'Goldy'. 'Was he in that as well then? The 'Bacon' prick? That where you met him?'

She drained her glass and suddenly craved some of those awful scampi-flavoured snacks that only pubs seemed to sell anymore.

'Nahh….I worked with him before that…a regional tour'

'What's he really like?'

'Just that. A prick!'

'I knew it,' said 'Goldy', a little too triumphantly. 'You can see it on the screen can't ya?..When someone's a bell-end? Camera doesn't lie!'

'You were watching Coronation Street!'

'No, no,' protested 'Goldy' 'I caught a few episodes of that other shite he was in…whatsit?…ehh…Midsomer Murders?!'

'Miss Marple!'

'Thank you! ..Knew it was some pensioners’piss'.

'Yep, he's a prize tool' said Rosie. …'I could tell you some stories.'

'Goldy' jolted upright like she'd just cattle-prodded his testicles, almost up-ending the table as he did.

'Could?..Are you new? Story me up lady!'

She was suddenly aware of how much louder they were speaking. The place was a lot noisier now, filling up quickly. Dominic was late, but that was nothing new.

'Ok' she grinned 'You want the Ralph Fiennes story or the-'

'Hold that thought' said 'Goldy' with a an almost spasm-like movement of his lower body 'I got one in the chamber!'

'…What?'

'Goldy' was already pulling at the waist band of his jeans with his thumbs, clearly in an effort to relieve the building pressure down there.

'I'm doing a drive-by on the way to the jacks' he said, voice an octave or three higher  ….'What's your pleasure?'

'WHAT??' she said, a little alarmed.

'Scoop-age!' he clarified.

'…OH!...Yeah, go on then!'

'Good girl!' he said, swiping the glass up 'What's that gay-ness in your glass called?'

'Alcohol-free Erdinger… thanks'

'Jesus wept!'

Remembering to avert her gaze this time as 'Goldy' leg-overed the table, Rosie ducked her head under it to her handbag to check her phone for messages or missed calls. She always put it on silent when she was with people. Couldn't stand fuckers taking six calls when they were meant to be with you, or insisting on showing you some "hilarious" YouTube moment involving a cat and shaving cream. Nothing made her want to fuck someone's phone out a window more.

'Hello again Rosie'

She jumped instinctively, smacking the top of her head noisily on the underside of the table, and sending a nice hot poker of pain and embarrassment to her already flushed cheeks. She breathed out slowly and went top-side. And there he was. Dominic. Looking better than he did four years ago. Fucker. He'd actually lost weight, tanned and greyed sexily at the temples. Any confidence or balance left her body in an instant, along with the nice giggle-buzz she was on from shooting the shit with 'Goldy', and her hand shot up to scooch back the hair behind her ears, as it always did when she was feeling nervous. Christ, she hated doing that. He wore a camel coloured linen suit and around his neck hung a stunning jade green scarf. Slung over his shoulder, the battered Gucci leather bag he was never without. He looked like George Clooney re-cast as Lawrence of Arabia. She couldn't take her eyes off him. Which was a shame, 'cos if she had, she may've clocked 'Goldy' heading their way, single-handedly hefting a tray laden with pints, while using his other hand to aim his phone at himself, in what looked like an effort to take a selfie.

'Watch your balls!..Comin' through.'

Dominic turned suddenly, his bag swinging wide, and caught 'Goldy' and his drink-laden tray off balance. The entire contents niagra-ed themselves spectacularly onto Dominic's back, and somewhere in the air you could hear ancient Italian craftsmen weep as three grand worth of bespoke tailoring met half a barrel of Irish stout. Dominic froze, somewhere between shock and awe, while 'Goldy' watched about twenty-five euro worth of booze vanish into the filthy carpet. Rosie waited, along with every other gaping jaw in the vicinity for the reaction of the handsome arrival in the once-beautiful suit.

'….JESUS CHRIST! YOU FUCKING MORON!!', Bawled Dominic, finally turning to face his attacker.

'Goldy' was still staring forlornly at the floor, but that got his attention.

'Eh, eh. Take it handy fuck-head!!' he said….I said watch your balls, didn't I??'

Dominic had swivelled around the full 180 degrees and the two men saw each other properly for the first time. As Rosie watched Goldie's expression move from Steven Seagal to Stan Laurel in the space of about three seconds, she thought she'd have to clamp down hard on a beer-mat not to piss herself laughing.

'..Dominic!??!...I'm soooo sorry man!!...FUCK!..I'm a clumsy bastard! ….Here. ..here… let me help you-'

'Goldy' attempted to buttle Dominic out of his jacket, but he just glared at him silently, until 'Goldy' stopped, unhanded him immediately, and sat down like a stunned rabbit. Rosie stood up and gently peeled the drenched linen jacket from Dominic's back, and pointed him towards the gents.

'Go and clean yourself up. We'll get you a drink. Glenfiddich?'

Dominic scowled yes, and headed for the jacks, his aubergine hush puppies squelching nicely as he walked. Rosie looked to 'Goldy' to say something reassuring, but he was still semi-catatonic, rocking slightly back and forth on his stool and gazing into the middle distance with a Vietnam stare. She left him to it and continued to the bar to get the drinks. When the drinks came, she unconsciously reached into the inside  pocket of Dominic's dripping jacket, which she was still holding, slipped out his slim calf-skin wallet, flipped it open and….stopped. What was she doing? Buying him a drink with his own money? She stole a glance back to 'Goldy' at the table who now looked like he was now praying, or maybe expecting a call from his agent at any second  telling him he was fired (from a job he hadn't even begun).

She looked back to the wallet in her hand, felt its worn smoothness between her fingers and wondered sadly of all the places it had been with its owner; the theatres, museums, operas, green rooms and backstage areas that she may never get to see or fall in love with. She flipped it open. Smiling from inside were two beautiful boys, aged around six or seven, dark-haired and as deliciously edible as any children she'd ever seen. From behind the passport-sized photo of the boys she could make out part of another passport picture, peeking out at the side, and trestles of dark, curled hair were all that were visible, and before she'd even allowed her conscience to voice its unwanted opinion, she gently inserted her fingernails between the two phots and pinched the hidden one out. A woman. Although even by the standards of a fading wallet photo, Rosie instantly knew that describing this woman as merely a 'woman' was a bit like describing a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow as  a 'motor'. This bitch was gorgeous. Sublime olive skin, deep sea-green eyes, and black wavy hair identical in colour and tone to the two beautiful boys who were clearly hers….and Dominics?

'Hello??..Eighteen euros please…when you're ready!?'

She wasn't hurt. Shit, how could she be, it was four years ago, but the feeling that was making her heart trip quicker by the second felt so much more raw than pain.

'Hellooooo??!'

She looked up into the hassled eyes of the teenager working behind the bar. He looked too young to get a drink in here, let alone serve one.

'Shit. Sorry'

She slipped a hundred euro note from the bill-section of the wallet and handed it to the young fella.

'Keep the change,' she said, wrapping her fingers around the chilled pint glasses.

'….You takin' the piss?' said the kid, holding the ton-note up to the light.

'No,' smiled Rosie '…..not any more'. 

'Goldy' seemed to have re-joined the planet and he looked up at her, still somewhat dazed, as she handed him his pint.

'…Did I actually call him a "fuck-head"?' he said, sipping quietly.                      

'How badly do you wanna' play the 'Dane' 'Goldy'?'

'…What?'

'Answer the question. He'll be back soon!'

'….Well...hand on heart….Biff in 'Salesman' is my bucket-list role but Hammy- Hamlet's definitely up there….Why?'

'Would you settle for Laertes?'

'….I once played a piece of cheese at the RDS Food show…what do you think?'

'Done. Leave now and it's yours.'

'….Whaaaa?' said 'Goldy'.

She took the pint out of his hand and threw his denim jacket at him.

'Something happened didn't it-'

'One condition 'Goldy', Ok?'

'Of course…wha?' he said, struggling into his jacket.

'You wait outside for one hour-'

'Outside?...it's raining for fucks-'

'One hour 'Goldy'! You watch that door. If he comes out in one hour..  you trail him, yeah?  I'll be out right behind him. But if he doesn't come out….'

'What?' said 'Goldy' throwing a nervy look to the jacks.

'I'll see you….and your tights….first day of rehearsals'

'….I am SO confused.'            

'GO!!'

'Goldy' wobbled to his feet, hitched his low-riders up nice n' high around his forty-plus waist, and exited the saloon. This was her show now. She picked up what was left of  'Goldy's' pint and necked it in about ten seconds flat. Why was she nervous? Yes, okay, she was about to do something that, four years ago, maybe even four weeks ago, would've been unthinkable, but what did she really have to lose now anyway? She wasn't exactly setting the world on fire was she? And these days she felt like she was ageing five years a day, plus a daily diet of 'rags to bitches' stories of girls half her age, with none of her experience, getting West End leads and movie deals was beginning to make her vomit into her granola. It was 'shit or get off the pot' time. Be bold now and really stand to gain something or get out of this poxy business forever. She knew she was floundering. Hanging out in Dublin and going up for commercials or shitty day-player roles on Irish films that no-one would ever see.

Finally she saw him. He was pristine. What, did he have a team awaiting him in the toilet who groomed him back to perfection? He smiled at her. Sat down to his expensive scotch, which he swished around the glass, before sniffing it, like he'd distilled the fucking thing himself.

'Slaaaawn - Cha!' he said in a pathetic brogue.

'Cheers Dom!'

She took a long swallow of her beer and watched him as he looked around the pub, like he was missing something but couldn't quite put his finger on what.

'Oh!' he said suddenly '..What happened to …ummm…?'

'Goldy?'

'…Who?'

'Sorry. Gary. Everyone here calls him 'Goldy'.'

'Goldy'…right, yes, where is he?'

'How'd you forget his name Dominic? He says you auditioned him three times!'

'…I auditioned a lot of people Rosie. Not everyone gets the V.I.P treatment like you y'know?' he said, smiling.

'…Yeah. I'm blessed by the gods aren't I Dom?'

He sat back just a little on his stool.

'Why are you calling me Dom?'

She just stared at him, playing eye-chicken, until he looked away.

'…So how in heavens have you been?' he said, 'you look wonderful!'

'...Dublin obviously suits you!?'

He raised his glass to his lips again.

'Who’s playing Ophelia?'

The question came out before she'd even realised it. It caught him mid - swallow. He brought the glass away from his lips a little sooner than he should have, and several drops of scotch rained down on the front of his white linen shirt.  He was fast becoming a living, breathing distillery. She just stared at him, pretending not to notice.

'Sorry?..Ummm…Ophelia?'

'Yeah. Ophelia.'

'Well…strictly 'entre-nous' my love… Still not cast would you believe?'

He was clearly awaiting some excited reaction but she just eye-chickened him again.

'…Well, I say not cast,' he dribbled on 'what I obviously mean is it's out on offer, to our 'first-choice', with another actress on hold… y'know the way it works Rosie'.

She didn't. Her work pattern went more like; Audition- Rejection- Audition- Rejection. And no nice personal "We thought she was amazing but she's frankly too beautiful and talented for such a small shitty role" type rejection. Just a long slow painful wait for a call that never comes.

'Who are the lucky ladies?', she asked.

'Ahhh. Sorry darling. I can't say just yet, even if I wanted to…would be totally un-professional.'

'….Would it?...How's that?'

'What?'

'Why would that be un-professional?'

He began to roll up the sleeves of his blue linen shirt, then play with the metal strap of his expensive looking wristwatch, while studying her more closely.

'…Are you alright sweetheart?...you seem…a little-'

'What?'

'Well, to be honest…...Pissed off?...or..I dunno'...emmm..'

'Lied to?'

'What?'

'LIED TO'.

'….Oh no??' he said, a little too theatrically '...Don't tell me your agent screwed up and said I'd offered you the role of Ophelia? Please don't tell me that-'

'No. My agent's rather honourable actually. As they come. Probably why every other fucker in this town hates her!'

'Oh …Okay…Rosie, look, I don't have to tell you Ophelia's wildly over-rated, any doe-eyed gym-bunny could play her, but you're going to be such a revelation as Rosiencrantz!…and I know we didn't get to chat to 'Goldy' properly, but…..where did he go by the way??'

'He forgot he had a weight-watchers meeting!'

'….Right…Ok…but as I was going to say...Already there tonight I could see an ease between you both, a.. camaraderie. I LOVED IT!'

'Oh goody Dom.'

'….Yeah. It's really exciting!'

She waited for him to bring the glass to his lips again.

'I want to play Ophelia'.

Bingo. Some more scotch splashed his shirt. Plus a little caught in his throat this time too, causing him to cough like a choking Jack Russell. A double whammy! He eventually recovered.

'….Oh darling,' he said, like he was talking to a distressed child. '…Rosie sweetheart!.... It's the eleventh hour my love ..and as I told you already… there's someone in the wings-'

'How old are your kids?'

'…What?'

'Your boys. They look around six or seven in the picture. But I don't know how old that is!'

He cleared his throat several times, before leaning in a little closer to the table.

'….What are you talking about?  What picture?'

'Do you want me to take your wallet out and show it to you?'

She may have only imagined, or was played a trick of the darkening bar light, but Dominic's sun-kissed glow seemed to pale just a shade or two, and his eyes narrowed. For one ridiculous moment she began to feel sorry for him, and imagined herself running out past him into the night, and not stopping until she was in the chipper. She bade that pathetic shit goodbye.

'………You've changed Rosie' he said, seriously '…..in a way I never would have expected'.

'Did I Dom?  Fascinating.'

'Stop calling me Dom!'

'What's your wife's name?'

'Stop this shit right now Rosie!...this isn't a movie-'

'No it's not. It's real…..what's her fucking name?'

'…..Her name is Sophia.'

'Beautiful. It suits her. I want to play Ophelia'.

'You can't!'

'I can'.

'Look, Rosie, it's not that simple sweetheart. It's also Max. OK? He's the money on this, not me, I'm just the director, we're 'ten a fucking penny' sweetheart you know that.. Max has got to veto whomever I cast. He's got that right'.

'I don't think he'll mind'.

'What?'…why do you-'

'We fucked each other!'

He was staring at her, unsure whether she was telling the truth or not.

'..Yeah. That's right. It's ok though, we weren't married to anyone else at the time. No kids or anything!'

He kept looking at her, and actually began to break into a smile.

'Hold on a minute now…Did?....Did he put you up to this?...Max?. Is this a wind up?.....Getting 'Goldy' to drench me first off….then this shit?...you fuckers!...I didn't think he was flying in 'til Friday…..'

He actually started to look around the pub. To see if Max, or someone else was there. He continued to chuckle, taking in every corner of the crowded bar, before eventually looking back at her. She'd never wanted to hit another human being so badly in her life.

'… I'll make you a deal Rosie, ok? You can play Dublin. Then you step out for the 'West-End' run. Hmmm? Then we bring in the name..mmm?..Maybe you could even understudy her then…go on for matinees…hmmm?..I can't say fairer than that'

'What's your wife's number?' she said, taking out her phone.

'WHAT??'

'What?...Is this a bad time? Kids asleep?'

'…This isn't how it works Rosie!'

'Yes it is. This is exactly how it works. It's just usually the other way around isn't it?'

He began to shake his head, slowly.

'…Listen to me. I know you Rosie..I do. You have every right to be angry. I was married when…But you don't want something in this way Rosie, you know you don't?'

'No. That was the Rosie you used to know. Like you said yourself, Dom, I've changed. I still smell as sweet but my thorns are just a little sharper that's all.'

'…You're a truly gifted actress Rosie but-

'I know. That's why I'm going to play Ophelia. I'm going to play her here, and on the West-End, and Broadway too. I'm going to win every award there is and you're going to direct me! Lucky ol' you.'

CURTAIN

---

 

Anthony Brophy is an actor and writer. Recent acting work includes; Tudors, Vikings, Trial of the Century and an Oscar winning short film The Shore. He can currently be seen on TV screens playing Liam Reid in Red Rock. Later this month he will begin filming The Professor and the Madman with Mel Gibson and Sean Penn. As a writer, his first two novels; Summer of Stan and The Vasectomy Kid Rides Again! were both shortlisted for the Irish Writers Centre's Novel Fair and as a playwright, his first play Chicane was shortlisted for the Stewart Parker award. He is currently working on his fourth novel, and he is absolutely delighted to have his short story Princess of Dagenham included in this issue of The Rose.