Always Leave Them Laughing… #carrotranch #flashfiction

Charli wants an audience this week with her prompt

March 23, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an audience. It can be broad or small, and gathered for any reason. How does your character react to an audience? Is the audience itself a character. Go where the prompt leads.

My father, as I have reported here, was the family poet. He was often extraordinarily shy about his skills in that department – ‘just doggerel, boy’ he’d say if I pressed him to let me read it. Yet, and yet he really did enjoy an audience. He loved making people laugh, with clever rhymes and inappropriate stanzas. He was a prude who subverted with smut, a shy extrovert, a man of wide compassion and stupid narrow prejudice. Human really and, in his way, through his poems, a story teller.  What he needed was to know his audience; if he was sure they would receive his offering in the spirit intended he was happy, willing to put himself on the stage and entertain.

Mum surprised us all when she joined the local Women’s Institute in the early 1970s when we moved to the New Forest and joined in their amateur dramatics.

She played many parts but it took her years to get dad involved – as script writer and latterly as a walk on character – because he wasn’t sure the ‘good ladies’ as he called them – with a typical mix of the patronising male and the terrified boy – would welcome his ‘humble offerings’.

Perhaps he had a point. Early on mum persuaded him to give a talk about his beloved butterflies and moths and how the New Forest was an extraordinary habitat for them. He waxed lyrical for the allotted half hour, describing where you might find this fritillary or that skipper. They broke for tea at which point he heard the chairwoman remark to mum ‘your husband does know a lot of the area’s hostelries, doesn’t he?’ Dad, it appeared, gave directions by reference to the local pubs rather than the villages or road names.

He was not that long retired when he offered to drive his close friends, Les and Sylvia to Heathrow – they were off to Canada. Mum came too, with the idea that, after the drop off they’d visit a National Trust property. But tragedy struck on the way as Les died in the passenger seat of a massive stroke.   I can’t comprehend how awful that must have been. When it came to the memorial service Sylvia asked dad to say something. She expressed the hope it would be a poem.

Dad was horrified. Not about the poem; he was confident he could write something suitable. No, his worry was reading it. He knew he’d break down and hated the idea he’d show that weakness. I remember getting cross with him. Why, I asked, would showing how much he cared for his best friend matter? What was most important? His stupid sensitivity or a true send off for Les?

He did it. He did break down. The church was packed and they loved it and him. He was pleased he did it; he knew it was the right thing to have done. And it changed him, in good ways. He knew he could show that well hidden soft side. It wasn’t that long after that he and mum celebrated their 60th and again he performed a stunning poem, a paean to his love.

It took him a while but he found a courage he didn’t know he had.

And so to the flash and Mary’s new hobby.

Self Belief is a Precious Commodity

‘You’re really good.’
Mary couldn’t hide her shock. The woman, Sally, was the class star. She had an exceptional eye for imagery – that was what the rather fearsome Brian had said after the first day. ‘Not really. I’m at sea mostly.’
Brian joined them. ‘Stay there then. It’s great.’
Mary wished the encouragement could come with a smile.
Mary looked at her painting. To her it seemed a mess. They were just being nice.
‘Here,’ Brian called the class to Mary’s easel. ‘See how Mary’s addressed the subject.’
Mary stared forward, face burning. She wasn’t ready for an audience.

And you can catch up with Mary’s story here 

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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32 Responses to Always Leave Them Laughing… #carrotranch #flashfiction

  1. Mick Canning says:

    A lovely mix of your fond memories and a great little piece of fiction, Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Erika Kind says:

    This poem is so poignant. Thank you for sharing the story about your father. I always love how you combine your takes with stories from your own life, Geoffle!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. barbtaub says:

    What a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing your father’s poem with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely memories and fitting story

    Liked by 1 person

  5. How well you know your dad – this is the kind of understanding of human nature that shines through in your stories. I was musing on this last night as I closed Salisbury Square and reflected on how well I understood the characters, even when their actions and lives horrified me……. it’s quite a talent. Your dad’s poem must have been wonderful to experience at the time – a lovely tribute to his friend and their friendship. And as for Mary – I can relate!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Norah says:

    Oh Geoff, I can’t imagine how terrible that trip to the airport must have been for your parents, but especially for Sylvia. I hope Les went quickly and didn’t suffer too much. Thanks for sharing your Dad’s tribute to his friend. It is truly beautiful. I’m pleased your Dad shared his writing genes with you. And that you are sharing your talents with us, and Mary. Maybe the audience will help prepare Mary for her audience.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Goodness, what an awful thing to happen to poor Les. But I’m so glad you shared this touching story about your dad, thank you Geoff. It just wasn’t done ‘back then’ was it, to show emotion in public… How courageous of your dad to read his poem – and such a delightful poem – and then how wonderful it must have been for him afterwards to know how much he was loved for it and then to see the change in him. And always enjoy reading about your mum…what a wonderful woman! Great flash as always…

    Liked by 2 people

  8. That was a beautiful tribute your father wrote for his friend. I can certainly relate to your father’s contrasting personality traits, and insecurities about his poems! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Annecdotist says:

    Oh, Mary, your talent is going to be the making of you!
    Geoff, I have to say that I got a shock when Les died on the way to the airport, still being in comic mode, but I do admire your capacity to mix humour and tragedy.
    And hurrah for your dad, so difficult for that generation to show their sensitivities and yet they’re often desperate for a safe space to do so. Beautifully articulated.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Charli Mills says:

    It seems your mom was ready to take the stage and your dad was content in the wings. What a shock it must have been to him to lose his friend like that, yet he mixed friendship and humor and competition within his poem. And I’m glad he did the difficult part and delivered it. As for Mary, you keep right at it, giving a new twist and staying with the prompt. I hope she spreads her wings eventually, all you’ve put her through!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Who Gives Audience? « Carrot Ranch Communications

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