The empty room

There was no-one standing behind the microphone, which was how he liked it, and had arranged it.

The stage was silent. And empty.

As was the room, apart from the small, squat man, standing by the bar.

He’d been there for a few minutes short of an hour, and as it was a Thursday, he knew that he’d soon – a sly glance at the clock hanging on the wall – move across the room to his table.

That all the tables were his never really occurred to him in any way that mattered. He considered the table approximately ten feet from the stage, just to the left of it, ‘his’ table.

He avoided looking at the clock again until the precise moment when he thought the hour was up; then he looked, and with no discernible change in his expression, he grunted, lifted his barely touched drink, and moved across the room.

Seating himself, he looked around the room slowly, carefully, and finally at the stage.

On any other evening, this room had people sitting in the chairs, giggling, tittering and laughing at the conveyor belt of comedians who walked on stage, spent a few minutes trying out their material, then wandering off again, some to applause, some to the sound of their own footsteps.

Apart from Thursdays.

Thursdays were his night.

Thursdays were the night he took over the downstairs club, and was the only patron.

And at this time, a few minutes after he sat in the chair, he allowed himself to remember the humiliation he had undergone the three times he’d tried to join that rare breed of people who, by virtue of hard work, talent, and applied ability, could… make… people… laugh.

He looked at the clock again, and then he laughed out loud, and perhaps surprisingly, it was a likeable laugh. It filled the room, reaching every part of it.

He laughed for precisely six minutes, the length of his last appearance behind a microphone.

And then he ceased the laughter.

And he left the room.

He wouldn’t cry later, although he once had.

He ignored the smirks, both imagined and real, on the faces of those he passed as he left the club.

No one laughed at him then, and no one laughed at him now.

But he knew everyone did.

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