Maureen Banks was standing in front of the raised stage, her back to the three or four rows of excited
parents. The children jostled each other
for space on the stage, each wanting to outshine the rest.
counted to ten in her head. She was
already starting to become irritated by the titters and giggles of the parents
behind her. Yes, she was well aware that
the yellow brick road she had been up all night painting was starting to peel
away from the floor and, yes, she too could see the wet patch on the Scarecrow’s
trousers. (The ‘accident’ had happened
two minutes before curtain-up and Maureen did not have a back-up pair of
straw-stuffed trousers.) Maureen felt
like turning round and berating the parents.
What did they expect? This wasn’t
a bloody West End show. But she wouldn’t
make a show of herself. She would face
the front and direct her class professionally.
head, she opened her eyes and smiled to the children, who were mostly ready and
waiting for their cue to sing. Maureen
nodded to Mrs Fisher at the piano, who started to tap out ‘Follow the yellow
brick road…’ The tune was recognisable
but the notes were not quite in the
right order. Maureen could see even from
where she was standing that Mrs Fisher had been drinking the night before. It was not unexpected though. Mrs Fisher had threatened it after some
last-minute cuts to the production which had caused her undue stress. It was true that most of the first half had
been axed after ‘Health and Safety’ had classified it a risk level bordering on
amber. (Maureen failed to see how the
desk-top fan, which had been used to simulate the Kansas cyclone, posed a
danger to the children’s lives, but the paperwork would be so cumbersome if
something were to go awry that she duly complied.)
hearts out, they proudly projected toothy grins to their parents. Dorothy, about whom Maureen often worried
(she was in the middle of a family break-up), craned her neck to try to spot
her parent(s); the expression on her face after a minute’s searching indicated
to Maureen that neither parent had showed.
from seven to one after six munchkins had been taken ill after a dubious batch
of break-time milk) ushered Dorothy along the Yellow Peeling Road to where the
Scarecrow was standing. “Hands out of
pockets,” Maureen hissed. The Scarecrow
obediently whipped his hands out and his trousers, unsupported, dropped to the
floor. The rest of the cast pointed hysterically
at his white Y-fronts, out of which peeped clumps of paper straw like unkempt
been snoozing on the front row, jerked awake and emitted a huge guffaw upon
seeing the focus of the audience’s giggles at the start. You see, from the front Maureen looked
impeccably dressed. But had she
swivelled her hips and looked at her behind in the mirror beforehand, she would
have seen the rather large tag hanging there, boasting layer upon layer of
pricing discounts, the uppermost of which alerted the assembled parents that
her mauve pleated skirt had been a snip at only £4.99.
Voted one of the Top 3 Best Short Stories in The Best Indie Books of 2012 Awards.
Selected as a RECOMMENDED READ on the Goodreads UK Amazon Kindle Forum.