The man stood smiling, nodding, murmuring thanks.

Thank you.

More hands reached out to deliver congratulatory slaps on the back.

Thank you so much.

He felt like a bobble-head as faces -both friendly and unrecognizable – swam in and out of his vision.  The after party’s din rose, signaling the arrival of another cast member.  A hand thrust a glass of water into his.  He took a grateful sip, cooling his parched throat.

Oh thank you.

A voice called into his ear – the red haired bloke holding up his smartphone – “So you want to hear what the critics said?”

The man blinked.  What, press reviews already? His stomach clinched at their mention.  He wasn’t ready.  No, he was but – no he wasn’t.  From all the kudos around him, things had clearly gone well, but still.  He opened his mouth to answer when another face swam into view. Who was he?

Thank you.

The bloke chuckled, launching into the many preliminary tweets. Ah yes, Twitter – no more waiting for morning after print reviews.  Above the noise, the man head “astounding,” “masterful presence,” “great performance.” His eyes grew round.  They liked him, they really liked him!  He didn’t think his face muscles could smile or his head nod any harder.  It was all good.  He’d done it!  He’d worked years to reach this night.  He’d really arrived.  He allowed himself a moment to savor it all.

But now that the verdict was in, he felt – past tired.  He must have hobnobbed with everybody in the ball room and back stage at the theatre.  Oh damn. Frowning, he rubbed his forehead.  Well, everybody but his fans who’d been waiting at the stage door.  He’d tried to get to them but the autograph hounds had pushed forward, blocking most of them.  He’d had so little time. Damn it.  He hoped they understood and forgave him.

Another hand at his shoulder.

Thank you so much.

He took a deep breath as exhaustion from the four hour play washed over him. He ached.  The faces seemed to press closer, the din grow louder.  He felt light headed and oddly unreal.  Air.   He needed some air.


He leaned against the hotel’s facade, breathing in the cool night air, the claustrophobic feeling receding.  Despite the throng of press and people inside, the Strand was peaceful and almost empty.  One or two cabs whizzed by.  Nobody stood around except for him and the doorman who’d glanced his way a few times.   The man nodded at him and looked away.  He would stay out here for a few minutes then head back in before they came looking for him.  Right now, he would just enjoy the solitude.

“Excuse me, sir.”  The doorman appeared at his side.  “Don’t mean to bother but I think those are for you.”

Long stemmed red roses lay carefully placed to the side of the steps.  The man walked over and picked one up.  What was this?  Tied around the stem was a piece of paper stating “JustGiving: £10, much love.”  He retrieved another. “JustGiving: £15, with love.”  And another – “JustGiving: £5, all our love.”  His confusion cleared.  Of course, these were from the fans!  Each rose must represent a donation to his charities.  Stooping, he quickly retrieved every one.  As his arms filled with flowers, the exhaustion fell away.  He stood, a giant smile on his face.

A perfect bouquet.

Thank you,  he whispered.


Congratulations to Richard Armitage and the cast and crew of The Crucible.



Miiiidniiiiight… Not a sound from the pavement…

The Man strode away, hands in pockets as the music on his iPhone barely drowned out the klunk of his boots.  Behind him, the theatre Stage Door light clicked off, plunging the lane into half darkness.

Has the moon lost her meeeeemory?  she is smiling alone…

He sighed, pulling out the earbuds.  Of all the songs to pop up on his playlist, this would be it.

He’d felt at once exhilarated and exhausted after almost four hours on stage.  Hobnobbing and taking selfies with well wishers left him a bit antsy too, still pent up with adrenaline.  He’d decided to head back to the rented flat, walk it off, while listening to something relaxing.

With each step, the melody from Cats drained him, leaving him oddly morose.  He sighed again.  There was no help for it.   He clicked off the player and walked on.

A couple breezed past him, racing down a flight of stairs.  He glanced up in surprise, taking in the Southwark Tube station, realizing they were racing past him to catch the last train of the evening.  He looked around in slight confusion. Where could he go? He didn’t want to go home just yet.  After a few moments of thought, he turned onto Blackfriars Road and headed towards the Thames.  Yes, contemplating the water might help him sort things.

He had a problem -actually, two problems.

His cast mate distracted him and not in a good way.  Unknown to her, she grasped and groped his legs and thighs on stage in the most ticklish spots.  He always fought hard not to laugh.  Imagine him breaking into giggles while struggling to be stoic and imposing at the same time.  Breaking down like a silly novice. He’d never live it down.  Even his PR people wouldn’t be able to spin that.

But that wasn’t his worst problem.

He might have laughed at the irony had the situation not been so serious.  Like the character in the song, he remembered a different life too, a life filled with agile young dancers, of which he’d been a part.  But he’s left that behind, gone into drama, and not performed a pirouette in 20 years.

He’d forgotten how to dance.

Not that he needed to actually dance in the play but a lot of the actions required full body balletic movements, something he feared he’d lost.  He’d spent three years walking like he had gonads of stone during his long project and now, he wasn’t sure he could shake that.  Watching his young 23 year old cast mate dance circles around him in their scenes had been a revelation and a wake up call.  She was so spry, bouncing off chairs, slinking under his to grab his legs – she couldn’t be more graceful.  And the rest of the cast spoke volumes with each movement and gesture.  No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t seem to hit that old balletic stride.  He felt rusty, oafish, clunky in comparison.

A jolt at his shoulder. He muttered a reflexive “excuse me” before noting that he’d reached the river at Blackfriars Bridge.   He took the stairs down to the bankside and continued walking east until St. Paul’s majestic dome came into view. Walking over to the railing, he gazed at the London nighttime skyline of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Millennium Bridge, and city skyscrapers in the distance. The river sloshed in a calming rhythm but did little to settle his nerves.  He gazed up into the night sky, too bright from the city lights to reveal any stars.  He sighed.  His people said he was the “star” but he didn’t feel like one.  He couldn’t even keep up with the portrayal by a girl still in drama school.  He was sure she’d noticed his rusty style – gonads of stone.  Had the rest of the cast?

He thumped the railing in frustration.  Him – an ex-dancer!  It was just too outrageous.

He’d have to get himself together, unlearn the last three years.  Didn’t they know that he was Macavity?   He was a CAT in his former stage life!  Fingers raking his hair, he thought hard.  His teachers told him the best refresher was to go back to basics.  Then that’s what he would do then.  Oh, he’ll show them – he just needed to get the tights and leotard back on to get himself into that right frame of mind again.  He had to set himself FREE again.  Yes, that was it.  He’d go home and get the tights…the whiskers… yes, it was all coming back to him now. He’d practice up a storm.

Running back up the embankment steps, he hailed a cab, his face wreathed in a smile.

Macavity Cat, Macavity Cat, Macavity Cat come out tonight!!!



The man stared into the dark maw of his duffel bag willing it not to be true.

He scanned the small dressing room where he’d flung the bag’s contents: towel, shaving kit, gray t-shirt, jogging bottoms, dark jeans, new shirt still in the wrapper for the after party –

It wasn’t there.

His nerves ratcheted up another level.

Casting his mind back, he clearly recalled packing it that morning.   He’d gone to the gym – could it have fallen out there?  Surely he would have noticed, but things had been so rushed. Then he come straight to the theatre, to this room and stowed the bag.  Had he pulled it out at some time like a talisman and forgotten?  Closing his eyes, he remembered taking it from its resting place in the bottom of the drawer and carefully unfolding the tissue.  It still smelled spring fresh from the last washing and pressing along with a hint of cedar from the cachet he used to prevent moths getting to it.

It hadn’t started as a habit.  He’d happened to have it the first few times he landed a big role.  But after repeated incidents, he started seeing a pattern. and began wearing it as a humorous half baked superstition. He’d imagined cracking jokes at dinner parties and self-mockingly ascribing his success to it.  Still some niggling, primitive part of him whispered: what if it’s true?  So, he’d gone to lengths to preserve the precious item.  Until now.

Oh geez.

His heart pounded.

Calm down. Just calm down.

He’d been so focused on his private talisman, thinking all during rehearsal when he could hold it, feel it, soothe his jangled nerves.  If ever there was a time for it, now was it.  This was one of the biggest nights of his career.  After not gracing a stage in 11 years, he would do so again in one hour.  Sure, he’d done repertory theatre but  only in ensemble and never as a headliner and certainly not propped up by all the PR.  He was the main event, as they say, the one who could ensure the success of this production; the one whom critics would be watching, poison pens in hand.

Sweat beaded on his forehead.  Was it hot in here?

Here he stood, in the same place graced by such greats as Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud.  And now he here he was, audaciously wanting to begin the long climb to possibly taking a place by their sides.

Oh shit.

His stomach rolled.  Maybe it was true what they said about Olivier barfing before every performance.  He felt ill, the small space closing in on him.  Time was ticking away but he had to get some air.  He had to get out.


The man stood hands in pockets outside under the the stage door canopy breathing in the not so fresh evening air.  If the lose of his talisman portended bad luck, it was starting.  He looked up in to the light drizzle.  A few metres away huddled two young women in coats and nice frocks with their damp heads together talking and taking puffs from a fag.  He groaned, mouth watering for the taste of tobacco and smoke. Although he quit years ago, he could really use a fag now.  He ran fingers threw his short locks, shifting from foot to foot.  The rain didn’t help his mood. If anything, he felt more morose and antsy.  It crazy to think he could do this, that he could return to the stage after many years having been only an ensemble player and think he could pull off a headliner.  He should have started smaller – joined another ensemble as a secondary character and worked his way up.  Too late now.  Time to consider what to do when he bombed.


One of the women handed the fag to the other, waved and headed around towards the front of the theatre.  The other took a few more puffs then suddenly looked his way.  She broke into a smile.

Oh hell.  She recognized him and was probably a fan.  He really didn’t feel in the mood for this right now, but politeness drilled into him since childhood forced him to return the smile – if only he could.  His eyes begged “I’m sorry” and he dropped his head.

Her smile faltered as lines of concern replaced it.  She called softly to him.  Hey.

He looked up, expecting a nasty reply for his attitude. Instead, he met two compelling eyes and a radiant confident smile.  Hey, break a leg man, she said.  Giving him two emphatic thumbs up signs and a wink, she turned and walked away.

He blinked, watching her back until she turned the corner.  He thought of the caring and concern in her eyes and the faith transmitted by the two thumbs up.  She and her friend had come to see him, to watch him ply a craft he loved, to enjoy the theatre that he loved.  The place would be packed with well wishers rooting for him, waiting to be transported by him.  He looked up into the rain, letting the drops wash away the paralyzing self-doubt and panic.  He would do what he’d always done – his best.  It would have to be good enough.

He opened the stage door and went inside.


The stage assistant rapped on his door. Five minutes until curtain call.  She moved to adjust his costume and stumbled.  Oh, there’s something here by the door, she said and left.  He peered down and there it was.  Picking it up and holding it to the light, he grinned.  The talisman – an old pair of red Calvin Klein briefs, slightly faded and a little stretchy in the waist now, but well maintained.  He chuckled.  Imagine a pair of pants throwing him into such a tizzy.  A bit disturbing and crazy making actually.  But what should he do?  He had no spare pants; should he wear them?  They were still clean and not trod on, not that that really mattered – he’d resurrected worse from his bedroom floor.   After thinking a few minutes, he chucked the pants into the duffel bag.  A check in the mirror decided the issue.

Naaaaah.  He’d go commando and knock  ’em dead.


Hey, break a leg, Richard Armitage.


Deja Vu

Here is something short and sweet.  Still feeling rusty.  Enjoy!



The man sat furious but resolute.

He imagined himself implacable, immovable in the face of his plight.  Surely under the grime, coarse scarf and dark great coat, his foes will see the light of his resolve.   He flexed his shoulders, noting the coils of tension.

Ohhhh, it felt so good.

“Okay.  Ten minute break!”

The man blinked as the dark seventeenth century gaol disappeared, replaced by the glaring hot lights of the photographer’s studio.  Hands tugged at the coat.  Smiling sheepishly at the assistant, he stood.  As the garment fell from his arms, he realized how hot and heavy it was actually.  In his mind, it had been a cold brutal winter.  He’d even shivered.

He accepted the offered bottle of water and idly walked over to the refreshment table filled with the usual fare: bagels, doughnuts, containers of juice, coffee.  Ugh.  Too bad he couldn’t have any of it – needed to watch his weight and all that.   Oh, and chocolate doughnuts – his favorite – large, freshly baked, lots of delicious gooey chocolaty frosting.   The tip of his tongue poked out as he leaned over in concentration.

He stood up.  Wait a minute.  He didn’t have to obsess about his weight any more.  He snorted.  His “sex symbol” days were behind him.  He no longer had to ripple his abs in order to get attention at auditions.  In fact, his career had taken just the artistic turn he craved with serious meaty role and no skin in sight.  While filming the trilogy, he’d been more covered up than anything.  The next film left his shirts soaked to the skin but hardly sexy.  He performed a staging and managed to be the only one to keep all his clothes during a racy scene, to his delight.   The last project had him deliciously mangy with long stringy hair, shapeless ragged clothes, and unkempt scruff.  Now he would play a seventeenth century Puritan onstage.  Not a milieu for any nudity.  Come to think of it, he’d not gotten his kit off in years.  Just as well – he was getting to old for that kind of thing.  Not that he’d struggled to be an “artiste” as they say, but it worked out nicely.  No more bum shots.  No more gratuitous half nude scenes.  No more need for chiseled abs.   Bring on the pizza and beer.  His fans might be disappointed, but that was the way it would be now.

He picked up the chocolate doughnut.  His stomach rumbled at the warm yeasty aroma.  Ah, come here my sweet.

“Your shirt, sir?”

The man blinked at the assistant.  “What?”

“I need your shirt.”

Would this require a wardrobe change?  Who knew Puritans were so stylish?  Sadly relinquishing the doughnut and licking his fingers, he fumbled with the buttons and handed over the garment, awaiting the next change.  Instead she produced a bottle, poured a bit of viscous liquid into her hands, and looked up with a faint smile.

“Boss says the next set will be shirtless.”  She broke into a full grin.  “I’ll oil you up a bit and add some smudges to match the face.”

He knew it was useless as soon as the words left his mouth. “But what does this have to do with-”

The photographer breezed by.  “Ah yes marvelous.  This part will focus on the characters vulnerability and defenselessness.  Take your place in two minutes.”

The man stood morose and not so resolute as hands rubbed him down – was she humming?  He doubted vulnerability and defenselessness would first cross fans’ minds.  His frowned.  He was pretty sure he had no half nude scenes on stage.  Didn’t he?  He glanced down at his abs.





The man couldn’t decide.

He’d ducked into the specialty shop during his break in the photoshoot looking for a few Halloween items. The sight of jack o’ lanterns, ghoulish costumes, and ghosts made from sheets with cutout eyes had arrested his attention when he’d spotted it earlier. Unfortunately, it had also attracted half of London apparently, considering the crush of last minute shoppers that evening. He perused the dimly lit shelves searching for the perfect “something” for his young relative, but what would he like? The narrow aisles offered not much room, and he dodged and shifted as the people brushed past with a rushed “pardon” and “excuse me,” barely heard above the Creature Feature tunes playing in the background. Sometimes contact between strangers couldn’t be avoided like today, but it lasted just a second and was gone. He thought nothing more about it.

He was torn between two plastic tombstones, one saying “RIP Shawty” and the other “See You Soon,” when he noticed something different. It started as a faint brushing of fabric against fabric, then an increasing softness pressing into the middle of his back, accompanied by a whiff of floral perfume. Instead of stopping immediately, it continued, pressing more completely downwards, a ridge of buttons along his spine, past a belt in the small of his back, and along the curve of his arse. He would have sworn that he could feel every indentation and contour of her coat and body, as if he’d not been wearing two tee shirts and a bulky knit sweater. Mmm, nice, he thought for a second. Despite secretly enjoying their proximity, he’d have moved then, lest she think that he was taking advantage. He was a gentleman and clearly, the milling throng had forced her against him.

But just as he became aware of the delicious pressure of her body, a hand rose, lightly brushing his leg. Slender splayed fingers gently grasped his right hip. Again, instead of moving immediately, the fingers lingered. The hand shifted slightly, so that the thumb moved from the jutting bone to the soft area nearer his loins. At once, he felt electrified, as if his jeans and pants had melted away and the finger touched the soft sensitive skin beneath. He gasped at the sensation. A frisson of pleasure shot through him as her finger gently circled the area clockwise, once, twice, three times. Then he heard a husky “pardon” and the hand and pressure at his back disappeared.

He turned, open mouthed, as he watched her back, hair and coat floating behind her, retreating through the door and out into the street. Good grief, he thought. First it’s fans stroking his beard; now he was getting turned on by strange women frottering him in specialty shops among the plastic tombstones. What has gotten into him? What on earth would his mum say? At that thought, he chuckled. What would she say, indeed. Turning back towards the shelf, he finally noticed the teen a few feet away staring at him. She arched a brow in what apparently was part surprise, part amusement, as her eyes drifted significantly down and up again, before she engrossed herself suddenly in the fine print on a tombstone.

He looked down and covered himself quickly with the plastic prop.

Oh shit.


I totally blame Guylty after her post here. She’s out of control, I’ll tell ya.


The man was in happy denial today.

The leaves dappled him with sunshine as he jogged through the woody section of the park. It was another unusually warm day in London but the trees afforded him some shade. He acknowledged two joggers running in tandem as they passed and casually eyed a street vendor selling one of those delicious hot dogs from a cart.  He considered getting one but continued on.  No, no more gorging;  none of that, he thought.

A thrill of joy shot through him as endorphins kicked in.  Okay, so today marked another milestone into middle age, considered approaching old age by industry standards when even top stars found themselves detoured from romantic leads to secondary character roles, pushed out by up and coming youngbloods.  He felt quite conscious of each passing year just as his career was really taking off.  He dwelled in an in-between world at the moment – almost too old for lead parts but not yet old enough for others in his youth obsessed business.  Sure, he had a few more crow’s feet and deepening lines around the mouth, but he didn’t feel old.  He felt great, blessed with good health, a thriving career, fabulous friends, a loving family. What more could he want? Well, maybe a special somebody, but that would come. It may be a cliche, but his future was bright. No, there was no need to dwell on this particular day. He would continue to treat it the same since turning 40 – just like any other.  Friends had offered to take him out that night, but he’d declined.  He had to prepare the script for audio work tomorrow.  Accompanying rolling nausea and a pounding headache were the last things he needed in the booth.  His friends seemed to understand, although the red-haired bloke had texted they would be at the Club later if he wanted to join them.  When asked which club, the bloke replied laconically that he would know.  He shook his head.  How?

Rounding a sharp curve in the path, he could just see the park’s exit in the distance. It wasn’t too far. He would reach it in a minute flat.

Grinning, he picked up the pace.

“…9, 10, 11, 12…”

Finding himself counting steps, he wondered what his personal best would be. He’d sprinted this many times but it had been awhile, before his long project had started at least. Had it really been over two and half years? He’d tried to stay in shape during filming but the long hours made it difficult for him enjoy long runs.

“…24, 25, 26…”

His feet pounded the path as he concentrated on breathing evenly and rhythmically. Joggers glanced at him curiously as he passed them on the right, a striking, tall, fit figure in black Lycra and trainers. He dodged as a stray runner darted in front of him. He grimaced. That lost him a second or two. He breathed deeper, arms and legs pumping. He had to move faster.

“… 34, 35, 36…”

Willing his long legs to stretch farther, he picked up the pace. His cheeks billowed as he strained to suck in oxygen. Instead of the burst of speed, he realized to his horror that the rhythmic breathing had given way to outright panting. Surely he could do this? He was almost there.

“…38, 39, 40…”

Arms and legs no longer in sync, he lumbered off the path into the grass.

“…41, …..42.”

Gasping for air, pace faltering, he stopped finally and grabbed his knees. The bubble of joy popped. He’d always been able to sprint the distance in 60 seconds. Today, he could only manage 42 – to match his 42nd birthday. He groaned and wheezed. How fitting.


The man stomped down the pavement towards home.  How had his aerobic capacity slipped like that?  He sighed deeply, willing himself out of the funk.  There was no need to get his knickers in a twist.  Clearly, he’d lost running fitness with all the emphasis on strength training for the films. He needed simply to concentrate more on this part of his regimen. After all, he wasn’t getting any younger.  He would start a new running program tomorrow.  Today he needed get home, put a dent in the housekeeping, run some errands and start marking the script.  Right.

Rounding the neighborhood corner shop, he popped in for a nice cold bottle of Evian for his dry throat.  The shop girl, a slight brunette in intricate braids, cutoffs and a tight tank top, straightened up from stacking boxes behind the small counter and beamed at him.  He suspected she knew who he was no doubt, but she’d never let on.

“Morning!  Looks like another hot one today, yeah?”

The man smiled. Her perkiness was irrepressible.  He placed the bottle on the counter and reached into his pocket for the fiver. The water was ridiculously expensive but his throat felt like sandpaper.

“That’s on sale today.  Only 42p.”

He startled. That was unheard of.  “Seriously?”

The brunette dimpled and cocked her head almost coquettishly. “Seriously.”

Eying her wedding band, he smiled, palmed the change, scooped up the bottle and headed out.  42p indeed.


Chugging the water and thinking about the dreaded house cleaning,  he spotted a flea market just opening in a side street from the main road.  He wasn’t aware of any set schedule; it seemed to appear and disappear during the summers.  Not as big as Covenant Garden’s or Notting Hill’s, the market still possessed a fair selection of goods.  He passed a few fruit and vegetable stands before stopping at booth containing retro apparel.  A few loud ’70’s lime green and salmon pink polyester men’s shirts hung from a rope stretched over the top of the booth. Scanning the tables and the overhanging shirts, he lifted the bottle to his lips for one more swallow. His hand stopped suddenly; his mouth fell open.  As a youth, he’d attempted to rebel against his staid conservative parents by buying a pair of tight orange trousers.  That had been as far as the rebellion got because he’d never had the guts to wear the trousers. Years later, he couldn’t remember what happened to that garment. Now, before his eyes, a pair of beautifully preserved orange leather trousers hung on the back wall of the booth.  He grinned widely.

The seller observed the man’s starry eyed smile and matched it with one of his own.  “Ahhhh!  You like it, yeah?  Vintage ’80’s. Impeccably kept.  It’s never been worn!  See, the tag is still on it.”

Handing the item to the man, the seller pointed to the yellowed paper attached to its plastic tie. The small type said: ₤95.

The man examined the trousers carefully.  No, rips, tears, puckers, still supple, not sign of wear – he had to have them.

“How much?”


The man smirked.  42 again.  “30.”

The seller shook his head.  “42.””

His smile drooped.  What kind of market seller didn’t haggle?  This man couldn’t know him and not his age surely.  “35.”

The seller crossed his arms in satisfaction.  “Perfect very expensive leather trousers.  Half off, innit? 42.”

The man sighed.  The seller knew simply he’d had him from the start.  Pulling out his wallet, the man counted out the notes.  42 indeed.


The man stood with hands firmly planted on hips.  The last glance around the sitting room observed the same things as the first four – dust and clutter, but mostly dust.  He looked at the dust motes in the air highlighted by the beam of sunlight through the windows. With no housekeeper, if he didn’t clean it didn’t get done.  Unfortunately, the more frequent and longer absences grew more dust bunnies.  Not really keen to start cleaning, he felt the call of his laptop.  It rested on the desk, the only are he kept  clean and clear consistently.   Seated, he felt suddenly hesitant to log on.  He’d not checked his alias “Alia” in a few weeks.  What would he find?  The day had been constant reminders of his birthday.  Suddenly, he noticed the number 42 turning up everywhere:  items on sale costing something-42p  at the grocery;  a shop assistant stating they’d had 42 iPads in stock the day before but had sold out;  attempting to tip the courier who’d delivered a package and finding only 42p in his pocket.  He wasn’t superstitious but this was enough to give him pause.  For a day spent intending to forget his birthday, this was downright depressing.

Resolute, he logged on and surfed to his alter ego’s blog.  Her last post concerned the pros and cons of his playing a super hero role recently vacated.  Personally he felt indifferent, so naturally Alia was unfavorable.  He chuckled, having enjoyed playing the devil’s advocate in the fan-wide debate.  Scrolling down, he noted the number of replies received and sighed.  He snapped shut the lid.


Good grief.


The man sat on the sofa watching his newest toy, a big wide screen HD telly.  The package delivered early yielded a DVD of The Wanderer’s Map to the Universe, the iconic sci-fi comedy which he’d never seen, as well as an unsigned cryptic note saying: “this might help you out.” He surmised that the red-haired bloke had taken pity and sent a clue about the club, in an effort to tantalize him.  He still resolved not to go but a puzzle was too intriguing, so he’d popped in the disc and settled back amidst the dust and clutter.  Delightedly, he realized it starred one of his new pals from the last project.  Not a bad way to procrastinate over house cleaning.

“…we want to know the answer to life, the universe, and everything!  You must tell us.”

He arched a brow and leaned forward. This should be good.

“…The answer to life, the universe and everything is – 42.”

He slumped back.  What?  42!  That number – again? He continued watching the film but felt pretty sure that the ultimate question had nothing to do with the club’s name.  But could it be – 42?

Returning to the laptop, he fired up Google, searching for the newest trendy night clubs. A few seconds later, he found what he needed: Club 42.

He threw up his hands and thought.  Smiling, he finally pulled out his iPhone and texted the red-haired bloke. “Very funny.  I give up, ” he typed.  “See you at Club 42.”

The reply arrived almost instantly.  The man could practically hear him laughing. “9 sharp.”

He’d wear his new orange leather trousers.


Happy Birthday, Richard Armitage.  You’re only as old as you feel.  Have a great time.


The man fought the annoying self-consciousness while the photographer reset up his gear quickly. As the assistant pointed the lights at the huge shiny steel door, the man presumed that was his mark. He strode across the black marble floor and stood. Giving his arms a slight shake, he tried to relax. He thought he ought to appreciate the richness of the dark blue suit and crisp black shirt. They screamed expensive and felt it too. But mostly he felt like a dressed up doll in a stiff frock, scared to put a crease in anything, and very self-conscious.

His agent had setup this personal photo shoot, stating his new image overhaul required the expertise of a renowned photographer. The man knew nothing about photography but if the amount of high tech gear and number of assistants signified the best, then this man was one of them. Assistants turned the klieg and box lights in his direction. The man squinted. He never enjoyed taking pictures at any time. It was alright for PR productions; he could inhabit a character and forget the cameras. But for these personal photo shoots, it was an endurance test. He simply wasn’t a person to put himself forward in personal photos. Some of the past photographers had simply pointed a lens and expected him to do something. He never understood what they wanted him to reveal in a glance. He was just – him. They would call out directions: “smile,” “turn your head this way,” “smoulder,” and he would go through the motions not knowing if he gave them what they wanted or if the whole thing resulted in a disaster. They’d never said it was a disaster naturally, but a cursory glance at his flat doll figure in the stills told him the story. No, he wasn’t a fan of these photo shoots. How long was it anyway?

He shifted awkwardly, feeling suddenly the weight of his arms and hands. His hands- he never knew what to so with his hands. The hot lights beat down. A droplet slid between his shoulder blades. Oh please don’t let him sweat these posh duds, thought the man. Give some direction, anything to take my mind off this thing. He caught the eye of the photographer who cocked his head and picked up a digital camera with a long tether to a laptop.

The photographer stood and regarded him. “That’s a good spot. Stay there.”

The man nodded, happy for any direction.

The photographer continued to regard him, a quizzical crease in his brow. “Look, let’s try something different. Think about a scenario: you’re at a friend’s party standing with a group of people. A woman you’ve seen but never met is across the room. Your nemesis approaches her. Show me how you feel.”

The man blinked. A scenario – yes, he could do scenarios.

As he visualized, the lights and cameras and gear faded away. He heard music, laughter and bustle of conversation around him. He smiled at a sad joke before catching sight of her. She was here, across the room. She looked ravishing in a dark frock, matching her swept back hair. Her hesitant glances around the room told him that she didn’t know many people here. Her eyes alighted on him and flittered away. Maybe he should go introduce himself. Her eyes flickered back. No, wait he shouldn’t seem too over-eager, like a wolf pouncing on the first lamb in the door. He should be casual like, yeah. Sliding his left hand into the pocket of his trousers and crossing one foot over the other, he casually leaned back against the wall. Her eyes moved back and watched him. He lifted his chin and smiled charmingly. Shall I come over?

Suddenly a real wolf loomed at her elbow. The man knew the actor. He was a douchebag and unprofessional to boot. The woman smiled up at the actor and kissed his cheek. Oh, she knew him! The actor seemed a bit touchy feely, lightly caressing her arm, her elbow. The man felt conflicted, torn between staying put or trying to claim the ravishing woman and getting rid of the tosser pawing her. He glowered. He smouldered.

“Fabulous,” whispered the photographer.


[Thanks to Guylty for the inspiration here.]



The man knew it was wrong the moment he saw the three women, but he couldn’t help it.  He’d spotted them as he left the studio, tired from a long day on the set.  From the sudden intense whispering and shy smiles his way, he knew they were fans.  Ordinarily, he felt pleased and a little gratified to meet fans, making small talk, scrawling autographs and posing for pictures.  But this promised something more – naughty. A thrill of anticipation rushed through him as he approached.

He scanned their faces, judging who could be The One.  The slight blonde, standing behind the two older women, didn’t seem a likely prospect.  She smiled and eyed him in a polite detached manner, lacking the “fan” aura.   She likely accompanied her friends to the studio just to observe.  The youngest of the trio looked ready to burst with excitement, shoulders scrunched in tension, hands clasped in front of her tightly, and the widest smile he’d ever seen.  He would have been able to see her shining eyes but she could barely look him in the eye. No, she wasn’t “it.”

As he turned to the oldest of the trio, his heart sped up.  The tall brunette stood nearly eye to eye with him. She regarded him in a more subdued fashion with a crooked uncertain grin and cocked head.  The eyes gave her away: they darted from his and away. Ordinarily, he’d think she was stealing sneaky glimpses of his mouth, but he knew that wasn’t it.  It was the BEARD.

He reached up reflexively to touch it.  This was the beard’s second stretch for his character.  After four weeks, it had grown in but hadn’t reached it’s full potential.  Commentators on Alia’s blog called it “the baby beard.”  He smirked.  When the itchiness of the growth subsided, he quite liked the surprising silkiness of it.  He also liked another thing: the fans touching it.  That discovery occurred when a fan had asked to touch it on a dare.  He’d posed in amusement for the photo but had been secretly shocked by one thing; the frisson of tension he’d felt the second her fingers stroked his face.  It was as if another part of himself had leaned forward figuratively to luxuriate in her touch.  It had felt so – sensual.  He hadn’t regarded himself as a particular tactile person in this touchy-feely business, so he’d been caught out by the fleeting intense surge of pleasure.  Friends did not produce the same effect; the touch of a fan seemed somehow thrilling and – forbidden, yes, deliciously forbidden.

His hand’s motion quickly drew her eyes.  Her top lip sucked at the bottom.   Surely news of the earlier fan had gotten out; she wanted to touch his beard too.  Her eyes darted back to his questioningly.  His smile widened as that naughty part of him tempted her by leaning forward.  She took the bait.

“Would you like to?” He leaned tantalizingly close, marveling how he could invade her personal space like this.  Who was he and what was he doing?

“May I?”  She didn’t seem to mind.

Her hand seemed to move in slow motion as it rose from her side. The anticipation stretched as she came closer and closer and then – just the barest, lightest touch. His eyes fluttered closed as her fingers left a trail of subtle sensation across his cheek and along the jawline.  He slowly exhaled breath he’d not realized he’d been holding and he shuddered lightly.  Delicious.  Simply delicious. The hand fell away suddenly.  His eyes opened.  Good grief, had she noticed?  She smiled, thanked him, and glanced in amazement at her friends.  No, she’d probably remembered she’d been stroking the beard of a stranger.  She’d been too enthralled in her own experience do notice his.   He collected himself and posed for the group photo, pretty sure that his eyes possessed a bit more twinkle.  He sent them off with a nod and smile.

He turned away, heading for his bike. Tonight, he would relive the moment over and over.  Maybe Alia would write a post about it – beard stroking by strangers as pleasure.  He reached the bike and stopped in his tracks.  Good grief. What was fandom doing to him?

He had a fetish.



Fanstravaganza 4: The Experiment


The Man had a nice buzz going.

He sat before his laptop sipping the third glass of pinot noir, something he was now in the habit of doing whenever dealing with his fandom.  It seemed to smooth over the annoying aspects of some admirers, leaving him feeling calm and serene.  He felt comfortable with social media now and had committed no gaffes since The Fiasco on Twitter.  He’d updated Facebook sporadically and approved the launch of his own official website. He’d even commandeered a laptop and tweeted for his colleagues during a Twitter Q&A session.  His PR people were chuffed. Even the Red-Haired Bloke congratulated him for establishing a solid social media presence so quickly.

He smiled.  Nobody knew about his most satisfying presence as Alia.  He’d created her as a semi-regular blogger and respected member of the community.  Her steady outpouring of short stories had garnered a respectable number of subscribers.  Now that she was solidly established, he felt the urge to expand his horizons.  The stories were nice, but he worried that his readers might become bored.  Alia needed a bit more verve – more edge.  Newer, younger fans liked racy and naughty.  So he decided to step outside his comfort zone as a writer and treat them to something totally different.  It wold be a great experiment.  He could do this.

Taking a deep breath, he leaned forward and began to type.


The Man’s foot tapped impatiently as he waited for the laptop to boot.  He’d waited all day, not peeking at any of Alia’s email or her blog.  Part excited and nervous, he’d prolonged the suspense for as long as he could stand it.  Hopefully, his story had been well received. He’d worked so hard on it and felt so delightfully naughty in the process.

He clicked through to Alia’s blog, spotting the story’s title, “The Honey Pots and the Hungry Bandit,” and scrolled down to the comments.  Oh, loads of comments!  He read eagerly.


He beamed.  Yes!

“My favorite line was ‘He struck deep into her, bringing forth a gentle moan with his meaty, galloping, Machiavellian beast into her womanly undiscovered country.’  Clearly this satire is a stinging indictment on the patriarchal perspective on female exploitation. Bravo!”

The Man’s smile tilted.  Satire? Okaaay.  I’ll take it.

“Oh Alia, this is the funniest porn I’ve ever read.  ‘Her breasts slapped him in the face like two giant pendulums as he stormed her glistening pearly gates again and again and again.’ LOL!”

He frowned and sniffed. Porn?  Wasn’t this erotica? His research said to be descriptive but not clinical…

“Alia, this parody is priceless!  My fave was ‘She guided his throbbing, marauding arrow into her unspoiled forest.’”

He sighed.  Okay, maybe I did let Alia get a bit carried away but don’t women like this kind of stuff? Wasn’t there some bodice ripper novel called Sweet Savage something?

“Hey, I haven’t laughed this hard since going back and reading an old copy of Sweet Savage Loving from the 1970’s.  Good job!”

Hmm, okay, they liked it 40 years ago.

“Alia, you know the book ‘50 Shades of Grey?’ You should have named this ’50 Shades of Purple Prose.’ Keep up the good work!”


He stared at the screen forlornly.  His porn story was a success, but his erotica career died. Maybe he should have researched more?  He glanced over at his copy of 50 Shades.  The novel was a runaway best seller after all.

Sighing, he picked up the book and began to read.



The man grinned foolishly.

He lie in his own bed, for once, staring at the ceiling.  The publicity tour for his long project had taken him around the world and back home finally, on its last leg.  He’s conquered his thing with the Red Carpet and schmoozed with so many media types, that he was surprised he wasn’t sprouting gibberish.  He felt beyond exhaustion but the moment his head hit the pillow, he was suddenly wide awake.  Oddly, he didn’t want to think about all the incredible experiences he’d just encountered, but something else.

No, he needed some much needed rest.  Tomorrow started early; he needed to finish the AM program circuit without bags hanging under his eyes.  He had no time to humor himself.  Turning unto his side, he burrowed into the pillow and willed himself to count sheep.  The sheep morphed to ponies that morphed to dwarves that changes to – his eyes snapped open.

Damnit.  He could practically hear the laptop calling him.  He calculated fuzzily that he hadn’t been online in over a week.  Was that too much time?  He flopped onto his back.  He had no way of knowing.  He’d have to check.


The man sat at the laptop, sipping a glass of wine, neither of which was a good idea.  He paused to reflect.  He’d always wanted a place to let it all hang out, to be as chatty or reticent as he wanted, to discuss his fears and desires, to be creative, to nurture that geeky, creative side of himself.  He’d always fancied himself something of a writer.  His character biographies he created for his roles no doubt signaled a frustrated novelist. He’d written other stories never mentioned to a soul, stories containing characters woven completely from his vivid imagination.  No ideal outlet existed to share his fiction, and the demands of his day job limited any full time pursuit.   Ironically, his own fandom was that sort of place.  He’d checked his Twitter hashtag and found fans discussing creative projects and events happening on the blogs, forums and tumblrs.  They piqued his curiosity.  He’d imagined that if he were a fan, he would join a community like this.  He’d imagined also what kind of fan he’d be here.

Smiling, he went immediately to a blog called, “And So It Goes” written by Alia.  Alia was a 40 something educated, literary woman who’d emerged in fandom a month ago.  She was intelligent, erudite, reserved,and still reticent in disclosing facts about herself.  She was also funny, a bit naughty and had the knack of getting facts straight about him and squelching rumors.  She’d recently revealed herself to be a talented writer with a vivid imagination, having posted a few of her short stories to good receptions.  He really liked Alia; she was exactly how he pictured himself.  Scrolling down to the comments section on her latest story, he observed that she had picked up quite a few new commentators.  Taking another swig of wine, he leaned eagerly forward to read.


The man smirked at the new signs as the large group of cheering fans held them aloft for him to read. Thank heavens they were talking to him now.  He pulled out the ever-ready Sharpie, and scrawled his signature.  He nodded and winked at a few for good measure , provoking bigger smiles if that were possible.  Sending the last off, he entered the building and ducked into an alcove.  Good, nobody could see.  He pulled out the iPhone and tapped open his Twitter account, but paused for a second to think.  Chuckling, he tapped open his secret Twitter account: @Alia.  “OMG, I just met The Man!,” Alia tweeted.  He thought and added, “he winked at me!”  Maybe she might blog about it later; he’d have to finesse that.  Or maybe something for Tumblr?

He grinned fiendishly.  This was all manner of wrong.  He was being terrible, awful – diabolical, practically.

But he was having such fun!


Social Media

The buzz pierced through the fog of his mind like a hatchet.

The Man lie prone on his stomach, face buried in the pillow.  The arm dangling over the side felt dead.  He peeled open an eye, but the light’s glare snapped it shut.  He flopped onto his back, sending a jolt of pain through his brain.  The buzzing continued.

He lifted his head gamely, trying to pinpoint the noise.  Hotel room …. floor… pants … trousers… oh, the phone.  Ignoring the banging headache and few unsuccessful attempts at snagging the trousers and rummaging through the pockets, he managed to silence the thing.  He lie back again and groaned over the hangover.  He’d had a few glasses of wine the previous night while – doing something or the other – something about fans.  Why did dealing with fandom seem to drive him to drink?

The phone dinged.  Running a tongue across parched lips, he lie waiting for the rest of his body to check in.  The phone dinged again.  He was popular this morning.  Another ding.  He fumbled, then raised it to blurry eyes.  The red-haired bloke had texted, “Wow!”  Wow?  He peered at the next texts.  “Hey, you really know how to make an entrance!” and, “I couldn’t have done that!”  His eyes opened wider as he scrolled through tens of messages from friends.  His PR person had left four messages.  His agent left a text, “WTF!!!  Did you really put that on Twitter?!”

The man frowned.  What in the world were they on about? His fingers flew across the screen as he opened the program and searched for his tweet.  He vaguely recollected that a few fans had been dubious about his identity, even on a verified account, when he debuted several days ago.  They had demanded he tweet a picture of himself; he agreed.  What was wrong?  He tapped open the link.

The man sat bolt upright, hangover completely forgotten.  Oh.  Shit.


The man glanced down at the bowl of soggy cereal he couldn’t eat.  Naturally the news had spread like wildfire through the cast and crew, but they all treated it as hilarious.  Some passed his table with a few joking words; others waved, winked or flashed an enthusiastic thumbs up sign on their way out to the studio.  He gulped some apple juice as his phone continued lighting up like a Christmas tree.  He switched it to silent.


The man stared into space, barely listening to the 3-way conference call with his agent and PR person.  The agent had stopped swearing and started listening raptly to the woman five minutes ago. When the agent began chuckling, the man blinked in confusion.  What, everything was okay?  The woman expounded on “changing social mores,” and “appealing to a younger generation.”  At the part about “getting maximum exposure out of the situation,”  the agent burst into laughter.  Exposure, indeed. Imagine the rags back home.  Classy,  just classy, he thought.  He groaned, head sinking down to his chest.

What would his mum say?


The newspaper clippings tumbled out of the large envelop onto the table.  He pawed through them: Guardian, Daily Mail, Sun, Times, they were all there.   The rags had tried to make a mini- scandal of it all, but his PR person had arrange a quiet chat for him with a reporter who relayed an amusing story about “smartphone mishaps” and “depth perception,”  which other papers picked up.  He snorted.  The reporter had left out the part about “doofus” and “pissed.”   For the most part, reaction had been favorable.  He found himself with a half million followers on Twitter in 10 days.  They didn’t care particularly what he tweeted, as long as he acknowledged them.  He picked up the infamous picture and looked with a new eye.  He had no clue how he’d managed to set a wide angle that he didn’t even know the phone had, but the pose looked rather lazy and sexy against the sheets, even if he had only intended to reveal a portrait angle. An inadvertent centerfold.  His agent reported that interest in him had not been adversely affected.   It was all a silly mistake to be put behind him.  He sighed in relief.

Right.  Now time to get a different smartphone.


The man sat poised at the laptop, stone cold sober.  He knew his feelings could get seriously hurt, but he itched to know what his fans thought.  He’d heard not a peek out them in a month.  Considering the past problems, it was worrisome.   The red-haired bloke had joked he felt a little jealous because his own fans were still talking about it.  So, what were his fans saying? Hopefully, he’d received boffo reviews.  He found himself giggling.  Oh, this was ridiculous.   I’m too old for this silliness, he thought.  He glanced at the sheets containing line changes for tomorrow, then back at the screen.  Oh, hell.   He surfed to the forum, logged into the members-only section with his secret account, and read.

Oh for fuck’s sake!

He stared glumly at the announcement: “DO NOT OPEN THE JPEG.  Looking at his junk is disrespectful.”

They haven’t seen the picture?  What, am I supposed to tweet, please look at my junk?, he fumed.  He could imagine the red-haired bloke falling down laughing at the news.

Bloody fans suck.


Happy Birthday, Mister

The man stretched his neck and long arms, careful not to bump anything in the small trailer. With the day’s filming in the can, the crew had been heading home for the past half hour. He’d dawdled, unsure why. It wasn’t as if he expected a surprise gathering; he’d been careful not to tell a soul about his birthday today. As he’d grown older, birthdays seemed irrelevant in the larger scheme of things. Now that he’d moved solidly into middle-age, the downside of choosing a youth-oriented profession preyed occasionally on his mind, if he were honest. Many of his colleagues were younger. Had he reached this point in his career a little too late?

He shook his head, as if dispersing the thoughts. Adjusting to a new project, new faces, and a new impersonal hotel room, combined with an annual reminder of one’s own mortality would be enough to make anybody maudlin. Rubbing a sore neck, he eyed the small figurine on the kitchenette table, a replica of his character from the last project. A wave of homesickness hit as he fingered it. Yup, definitely getting maudlin.

Briskly packing the script into a backpack, he stepped out into the summer night and headed to the waiting car. Spotting him, the driver turned and nodded. The man found himself reflexively looking around for any loitering fans. A few friendly ones had sought him out around lunch time in the past week or so. After the problems back home, he felt reassured and gratified by the attention. Before the fans had appeared asking for him, none of the puzzled crew knew who his was. Seeing nobody around, he chuckled. Guess I could have used some ego stroking today, he thought.

As the car swung out of the studio grounds towards the hotel, he considered the evening ahead. A hot shower followed by a fancy dinner? A night out on the town? He smiled ruefully. Most likely it would be running in the hotel gym, dining by room service, returning some calls, studying lines, and finally, lights out. If he felt really crazy, he’d open one of the insanely expensive little bottles in the wine bar. Maybe not. After all, it was an regular night like any other.

Still, he found himself noting the empty pavement as he stepped onto the curb. He peered through the doors into the hotel lobby. None of the crew was about. Not a soul, actually. Things looked pretty dead. Maybe he should ask the driver for someplace to go. He turned back, but too late. Hands in his pockets, he watched the car recede into the darkness and sighed. Oh well. That’s that, then. Time to hit the gym.

A few cheers from across the road caught his attention. He looked over to see some men, a few children, but mostly women. A few held up signs. He moved closer to read them: “Another Rubbish Sign,” “Yet Another Rubbish Sign,” “Still Another Rubbish Sign.” The fans! During the week, they’d brought signs, each more ridiculous than the last. Was this a country thing? He grinned from ear to ear. Did he recognise some faces? A little boy he’d met earlier in the week waved a hand while clutching a small toy in the other. The man laughed and the crowd cheered louder.

Suddenly, everybody fell silent. Another sign appeared. It read simply: “Happy Birthday.” From behind it emerged a small brightly coloured plate on which sat a lone cupcake with a single candle. A hand holding a match reached out to light it.

Happy birthday, they shouted.

The man rushed to greet them.

Happy birthday, Richard Armitage. I hope you told somebody.

[Happy birthday, too Elsa!]

It Happened One Summer

In the plate glass window, the man watched the reflection of three girls, young women actually, arguing across the road.  His own image reflected there revealed a fit, bearded, middle-aged man, dressed in black from his sunglasses to his boots, sipping black coffee and munching brioche in front of a Pret A Manger.  From their furtive glances and head tilts, he knew they recognized him.  He really wasn’t into the whole celebrity thing and had half a mind to get up and continue on his way.  But his new PR people had warned he had better get used to it, especially once the film hit the theatres.  So here he sat, watching a curious drama unfolding.

The shortest girl spoke sharply and turned as if to cross the street towards him.  The tall, bossy one shot out a hand to stop her, while the middle looked on helplessly.  Bossy wagged a finger in clear admonishment. The man frowned.  A bit full of herself, wasn’t she?  Bossy appeared to be making points as she ticked off finger after finger. Shorty’s face drooped a bit further with each one.  The man’s brow furrowed as he pondered what the problem could be.  Maybe they didn’t want to intrude on him eating.  He stood, pushing the last bite into his mouth.  Placing a hand casually in his pocket and still sipping the coffee, he turned slightly towards the girls.

Shorty’s head dipped a bit as her shoulders sank in defeat.  The man didn’t like Bossy one bit.  Look over here, Shorty, he thought. He turned fully towards them and smiled in open invitation.  Shorty and Middle noticed and stood, rooted to the spot, while Bossy kept lording it over them. Oh hell.  He had to cross the road and pass them anyway. He would be extra sweet to Shorty just to show Bossy.  Tossing the cup in a bin, he caught the green light and crossed.  He could see Shorty and Middle tracking his every step.   He rehearsed what he might say as he strode closer.  Good morning, ladies? Nice to see the sun today, ladies? What the fuck is going on here, ladies?   But before he could get within hailing distance, Bossy whirled around and spotted him.  The three of them turned and fled into the park entrance. The man stopped at the entrance in disbelief, watching their retreating backs.  They ran away!  He knew he was tall, but he didn’t think he was scary.  He rubbed the back of his neck. Well, there was no telling what went on people’s minds.  He shook his head, chuckled and went on his way.


The man walked in the mist, the collar of his jacket turned up against the unusual summer chill.  He’d been a bit glum since the last project ended.  He knew this was to be expected; he’d been gone a long time, the longest in his career.  The next project did not begin for a few weeks, so he felt caught in a limbo of sorts.  Reasoning that he simply needed to get re-acclimated, he had taken to walking around the city.  He kept his head down and avoided eye contact, hoping nobody would recognize him.  Since his return, practically nobody had, except for those girls near the park, the ones who ran away.  Down Under, nobody knew him, so he blended in easily.  Here, at least one or two fans approached him weekly for an autograph or picture.  But for the past month, nobody at all had come near him, not on the Tube, on the buses, in the parks, or even here, in Leicester Square.  He relished his new-found anonymity; it would disappear soon enough in a few months.  But if he were honest, a tiny, eg0-driven part him worried that he might have been forgotten. He smirked; ah, the insecurity of actors. As if to prove the point, he lifted his head, squared his shoulders and sought to make eye contact as he walked through the square. He’d darkened the hair again and shaved the beard. This should be easy.  He thought he’d caught a few glances, but their gazes slid from his and back to their own worlds.  A tired-looking woman approaching in a sodden-looking Burberry looked his way and did a double take, her eyes widening in recognition. An instant later, he chided himself.  Feel better now?  Remember, *you* started this.  He readied a charming smile.  She stared for a few seconds before suddenly averting her gaze and striding by quickly.

The man stopped in his tracks and glanced over his shoulder to make sure she hadn’t simply lost her nerve.  Nope, still walking.  Hearing a gasp, he glanced at two young women standing by a theatre door with bored-looking boy.  They stared and whispered, clearly recognizing him, but none approached.  He took a deep breath and walked on.   He felt glum again.


The man’s head throbbed.  On the agent’s desk in front of him sat a pile of scripts covered in post-it notes.  In his hand, he held a sheaf of paper detailing recommendations in close, cramped writing.  He had asked for the stack to be delivered to his house.  Then he had asked for his fan mail.  That’s when the headache started.  There was no mail.  Well, there were the usual requests from autograph seekers, but no long missives, no gifts, not even complaints – none of the stuff that had kept him connected to his fans for years.  He, the agent and the marketing strategist stared silently at the stylish sweater, mangled in the post, sent for his birthday as the fandom’s communal gift.  They thought his profile might require some upgrading. He was unable to follow the marketing strategist after that.


The man poked at the dry cake with his fork.  He glanced over at his lunch mate, an outgoing, gregarious, affable bloke with a high forehead and a wave of reddish blonde hair.  This guy was a hot property, touted as the Next Big Thing, who was beating him in entertainment polls.  They were eating in the most chic, but not appetizing, restaurant in the city, a place to be seen, according to his strategist.  Their lunch date was discreetly broadcast to arrange a casual meet and greet with photographers and fans. The bloke had already chatted up the staff and half the restaurant, all of whom seemed to adore him.  His date pushed aside his own dessert shrugged and smiled wryly.  Showtime, he sighed.


They rode in silence.  The photo and fan op had occurred without a hitch.  The man felt ridiculous relief as a handful of fans waited for him to approach.  He found himself trying to chat longer, but they seemed content to collect their autographs demurely and pictures and eager to leave quickly.  Meanwhile, the other bloke’s fans swarmed him; everybody chatted and laughed as if it were a small, impromptu party.  The man decided to wait in the car.   It had taken awhile for the thing to be over. The man thanked the bloke for taking him home.  The bloke waved away the thanks, saying any time.  As the man turned towards his house, the bloke rolled down his window.  Hey, I’m really sorry about your fandom, he said.


The man stared at the monitor, willing himself not to move again.  He’d gotten up ten times and gulped two glasses of wine.  His fans had all “defected?”   Well, yes, he had been away, engrossed in that long project he couldn’t talk about, but he’d sent a Christmas message, and a birthday message, and some other message, he was sure.  He jumped up, sloshing the glass of wine.  So those fickle bitches left me?  After all these years?  For the latest, youngest hot totty?  He wallowed in self-pity for a moment before chiding himself.     That’s the ebb and flow of things, fans come and go.  There was bound to be some attrition while I was away.  No matter what the bloke said, he still had people who liked his work.  Resolute, he sat, set the glass down none too gently, tapped at the keyboard.  He would visit his fan sites.  Years ago, he had sworn he wouldn’t, to avoid getting his feelings hurt and being swayed by opinion, but he had to know.  He had to see for himself.

Thirty minutes later, he sat back.  The three main fan sites still existed, all following his career and updating with the latest releases. He checked the membership rolls at the bottom.  Yes, they seemed troublesomely low, but they all didn’t defect, so there, red-haired bloke.  The participants in general forums chatted about his work, interviews and public appearances, all in glowing praise.  They chatted about themselves, a lot about themselves.  There was nothing remotely critical.  It was very pleasant and wonderful and well, uninteresting.  When did that happen?  He gulped more wine.  Clearly these sites would tell him nothing.  Time to google himself.

He typed in his name, leaned forward eagerly and scanned the page.  Blogs!  Yes, he’d heard about blogs and actually read a few theatre ones himself.  The bloggers were an independent, unpredictable lot.  They would tell him what he needed to know.  He eyed the top listed ones; his name appeared in the titles.  With another swallow of wine, he hesitated, then clicked.  404 page not found.  What?  He clicked the next link.  404 page not found.  The blog was gone?  He clicked a different blog link.  404 page not found.  He scrolled through several Google pages, clicking on blogs about him.  404 page not found.  He checked links on blogs not focused on him, but frequently mentioning him.  404 page not found.  He checked tumblr links.  404 page not found.

An hour later, he sat back.  All the blogs and tumblrs concerning him had disappeared.  Sometime over the summer, they had all vanished.  His fan forums were decimated.  What happened?  The only bit of information he found was a farewell post remaining on a defunct tumblr: I will not abide by The Rules. I will create a new account elsewhere.  If you know me, you’ll know where to look.  Rules?  What rules?  His fandom had no set rules. He returned to the main fan sites, searching for rules.  He found something on etiquette, but nothing to cause an exodus.   Finally his eye stopped on a section: members only.  Of course! Rummaging through the desk drawer, he found the secret name and password he had used to join the site years ago.  He’d chickened out and never used it, allowing that his fans should have privacy.  But he would use it now.

Entering the logon, he clicked.   There they were — The Rules — in large bold type.  Due to the defection of old fans and expected influx of new ones, in order to promote proper respect for our actor, a reorganization of this fandom is necessary. Compliance with the following rules is necessary for membership. He groaned as he scanned the lines: 2. Our actor is a busy man.  Approach him only at approved public events designated as publicity for his work. At these events, interact with him briefly, politely and respectfully, and leave as soon as possible.  But what if I have time to stay and chat?  the man thought. Don’t chase them away!  4. Our actor is a shy, private person.  He has stated in interviews that he does not care to give autographs in the street.  So if you see him out and about, leave him strictly alone.  He moaned.  That’s not what I meant!  Now they’re running away from me.   6.  Real Person Fiction in any form or access level is forbidden. Since it involves the person of our actor, character fiction in any form or access level is also forbidden. Such works are potentially distressing to our actor, his family, and friends, and thus disrespectful.  He pistoned back in his chair.  When in the hell did he say this? His eyes fell to the last line: 10. These rules are non-negotiable and will be strictly enforced.  Violators will be brought before a tribunal of their peers for the enforcement of appropriate penalties, up to and including exclusion from the fandom.

His mind reeled, confusion and wine overtaking him.  His head sank slowly to the desk.  What’s happened to my fandom? he thought.