The actors came rushing in for their call time. I was swept up in their exhilaration, and memories of my own time on the stage came swooping in around me. My girlfriend formed her own theatre company and I volunteered to help her with box office on her debut show. I dressed for the occasion, looking as professional and elegant as only the theatre can demand – stylish dress pants, a smart jacket over a chemise, silver heels, hair elegantly swept off my neck, topped with sparkly earrings dangling from my ears. I was glamorous. The only trouble was the old lady had gripped my hands with her hot swollen fingers and refused to let go.
I sat behind a white folding table with a metal box jammed with money and tickets. The first customer arrived.
“How many for this evening,” I smoothly asked.
I lifted the lid of the metal box, reached inside and fumbled with the thick paper of the tickets, not knowing if I had one or two in my feeble grip; as I pulled them out, one slipped from my grasp and scattered across the table. My hands shook as I awkwardly counted back change. My fingers refused to grip the bills; they slipped away from me and floated down to my feet; my poise diminished as I reached for some coins and sent them scattering across the table and jangling down to the floor. A quarter bounced off one customer and went flying across the small entrance hall. “I bet you didn’t think you’d have money thrown at you tonight, did you ?” I joked to absolute silence. I felt the heat of embarrassment flood my cheeks as I hastily handed tickets and money to waiting customers and scuttled them up the stairs to the theatre. I got down on my hands and knees on the cold floor beneath the table and proceeded to pick up the delinquent coins, but they refused to stay between my fingers. A few more scattered towards the door and the base of the stairs. I cursed the old lady, my swollen hands, and those slippery coins that refused to come back to the box. I knocked my head underneath the table, dislodging my carefully coiffed hair; it hung down around me like a wild horse’s mane. My pants were covered in dust. A couple walked in while I crawled around muttering to myself. I came face to face with a pair of posh male shoes and a pair of shimmering copper sling backs. I peeked out at them from beneath the folding table, gave my best smile to their perplexed faces, and said, “I’ll be right with you…”
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.