The Great Stupendo

by Russ

Opening night at the Flamborough Town Social Club had not gone well.

The Great Stupendo, or Norris as his mother called him, mused over the severed head of his willing volunteer as it sat on the dressing table. Most of the blood had spilled out on the stage, but there was still a little of the rusty fluid leaking onto the surface. He’d expected the woman’s face to be holding a surprised expression, but what he saw was a weary sort of judgement, as if she knew he’d forgotten to do the safety checks, again.

He thought back to when the guillotine had dropped and he saw the suddenly sundered bonce begin to roll. Fortunately, he had the wit to let off a flash and temporarily blind his audience while he took out the naked bulb which had been serving as his stage lighting. In the darkness, he managed to roll the apparatus, and the undocked noggin, offstage before anyone could see the blunder.

‘Just like Vegas…’ he sighed to himself, as he waited.

Outside, his glamorous assistant, or Nora as her mother called her, had announced a sudden interval and was now in the process of barricading the exits from the outside. There was a delay at the final door while she herded the smokers back inside, injecting some urgency with whispers of discounted Babycham at the bar and only a few bottles left.

A rhythmic knock at the fire door let Norris know it was done.

He swept the last of his paraphernalia into a trunk and clicked down the lid before tracing a finger wistfully along the stage-name stencilled across its top. Leaning back against the dressing table, Norris lit a cigarette and took a final look at the blade and box which had caused the unfortunate termination of his act, and his volunteer. Leaving it behind, he unlocked the wheels of his trunk and rolled it from the dressing room to the fire door, where he used the trunk’s front face to push the release and swing open the door.

Nora stood outside, hands on her hips and a lambasting on her lips. She opened her mouth to begin, but Norris put a hand up to stop her.

‘Spare me the histrionics,’ he spoke firmly. ‘Just take the case.’

Nora held her tongue and complied, leaving Norris free to begin pulling cardboard boxes from the pile by the cellar and distribute them around the corridor as liberally as he could. Satisfied, he twisted the tops from a couple of bottles of sambuca and set about soaking his freshly laid kindling with the sticky liquid.

With the bottles emptied and the stench of anise thick in the air, Norris stepped outside to join Nora. There he turned, sighed once more, and flicked his half-smoked cigarette back inside. Nora pushed the door closed and wedged it shut with an off-cut of wood she’d found propped beside the bins.

‘Where to now?’ Norris asked as the pair walked calmly towards the old Ford Cortina Estate which served as their touring vehicle, and oftentimes home.

‘There’s a hotel in Morecambe we’ve never played before,’ answered Nora, before wincing slightly as something exploded behind them and the first rally of screams rose into the night.