This isn’t how I saw my life going. Three years of drama school and five years of hand to mouth bar tending and auditioning, all to wind up trapped in the rewarding world of children’s parties. I’m telling you, sheriffs in the Wild West had it easier – what did they have to deal with? Cattle rustlers? Drunks? Some off his face prospector carving up Miss Kitty a mite? Naw, I’m telling you pardner, ain’t got nothing on the wild west of kiddie parties.
And that’s before you even take into account Carl, my overbearing brother in law. He is untrained (as he keeps reminding me). He didn’t need three years of poncing about school to get him where he is now. He has a three-bed house whereas I have a one bed sit, if I’m lucky. Oh yeah, and he’s the boss. He is the boss of me, my idiot brother-in-law who is five years younger than I am.
It’s not all bad, I suppose. Luckily, he handles most of the parties by himself, he has the natural talent (he keeps telling me). They’re kids. They want balloon animals and clowns, not Chekov and Shakespeare and all those other losers. I answer the phone. I take the bookings, I fetch his lunch, oh yeah, and I’m his driver too. Which means – joy of joys – that I get to drive him across town through the early evening rush hour as he practices his latest “character” that he managed to come up with all by himself without wasting the best years of his life at drama school.
He must think I’m an idiot – the guy has clearly modelled himself on the sheriff from the Toy Story films, right down to the sayings he mutters – there’s a new sheriff in town!, or, Giddy-up partner!. He looks the part though, a fine Stetson on his head, tassels on his shirt right about at nipple level. A good patina of dust across his boots really lends a sense of realism to the outfit that I know will rile the audience into limb tearing excitement.
He gets out of the car, takes a step away and then pauses for one last run through. I manage to get his window down just in time to here him say the line, Howdy folks, I’m Sheriff Woody.
I have to bite my lower lip hard to stop myself bursting into cheers of laughter.
It’s nail biting, waiting there in the car for him to finish. I use the time to practice looking at myself in the rear-view mirror, and I’m pretty good, it has to be said. Finally, all those years of drama school are paying off, and I actually sound sincere when I say the line, oh….a hen party! I thought she said it was a Ben party. You know, party for Ben. Boy, is my face red…