And scene; porcine.
It was not the ending I planned. Starla wept next to the heaving, convulsing body. Her blood red eyes, drained of life watching the life drain.
Starla was 54/39 depending on if you asked her doctor or her director. A shining star and leading light of Richmond’s Starlight Players. Fresh from West End fame (chorus, Bernadette, June 1990-July 1990) she had gained notoriety for her eccentricities and occasional on stage breakdowns.
There was the season she stabbed one of the Assistant Stage Managers to prove there was an issue with the prop knife. Followed by the rhyming couplet season, which happened for no particular reason. Then there was the time she shaved her head for charity (it turned out to be a wig). And last season had seen the arrival of Damocles the Wessex Saddleback. Pristine, beautiful, diamond collared Damocles. Who snuffled and grunted through rehearsals, eating anything left around including the 80s mobile phone that had been hand made by the same unfortunate ASM from the ‘puncture incident’.
I had suffered through her tantrums, her insufferable excess, the fabricated tales of her wild past relayed endlessly, the scheming and fixing of peoples lives and loves, the glorification of downfalls, but Damocles, the swine, was a step too far.
My mother who made me call her Miss Starla and stepped over my only two lines. Who called Damocles her darling babe. Washed him daily. Oiled his back. Scrubbed his trotters and teeth. Whilst I fetched her coffee, picked up her prescriptions and dropped her off round the block so no knew she was a ‘mother’, she fed him fancy desserts, combed his tail and told the world of their love.
At first I tried small things, slipping bacon into his food bowl, turning the temperature up on his electric blanket. But he never batted an adorable eyelash. I paused a long time before I put the slug pellets in his food. Just a few to make him sick. Maybe he’d loose his shine after a bit of Porcine vomit.
It was production week and the storm was in full flow in Act 1 of The Tempest, the wind raged, thunder roared, lighting flashed. The cry of “A plague upon this howling! they are louder than the weather of our office” cried out, but the wind howling did not end on cue. In fact it got louder and louder. That was when Damocles frothing at the mouth, howling and squealing crashed into a bucket of fake blood and fell convulsing to the floor. Starla screaming bloody murder rushed to his side. I watched aghast at the horrifying scene unfolding in front of me. Fake blood soaked hands frantically searching for a wound, whilst poor poisoned, wild eyed Damocles writhed and howled.
I walked away unable to watch. I tried to stop myself from wondering if Mother had ever gotten that dirty for me before. And that was when I saw his food bowl. Untouched by hand nor snout. I realised at that moment that if he hadn’t eaten it, I hadn’t poisoned him, which means it was something else.
I turned back to the scenes of Carrie style horror flashing around me and it struck me. The lights. He was having an epileptic fit. I raced to the wall and pulled the plug, plunging the room into darkness. People were running panicking by this point, cries of another stabbing rang out. I watched in the dim glow of the emergency exit signs, as a blood drenched Sharon in her too revealing for her real age Miranda dress, soothed and calmed him.
“The jewel in my dower, I would not wish
Any companion in the world but you,
Nor can imagination form a shape
Besides yourself to like of.”
After a while he fell quiet. Just a gentle grunt and snuffle in her lap. I confess it was the only time she ever moved me to tears on stage.