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by Jonathan Hill
Maureen Banks was standing in front of the raised stage, her back to the three or four rows of excited parents. The children jostled each other for space on the stage, each wanting to outshine the rest.
Maureen took a deep breath and counted to ten in her head. She was already starting to become irritated by the titters and giggles of the parents behind her. Yes, she was well aware that the yellow brick road she had been up all night painting was starting to peel away from the floor and, yes, she too could see the wet patch on the Scarecrow’s trousers. (The ‘accident’ had happened two minutes before curtain-up and Maureen did not have a back-up pair of straw-stuffed trousers.) Maureen felt like turning round and berating the parents. What did they expect? This wasn’t a bloody West End show. But she wouldn’t make a show of herself. She would face the front and direct her class professionally.
As she reached ‘ten’ in her head, she opened her eyes and smiled to the children, who were mostly ready and waiting for their cue to sing. Maureen nodded to Mrs Fisher at the piano, who started to tap out ‘Follow the yellow brick road...’ The tune was recognisable but the notes were not quite in the right order. Maureen could see even from where she was standing that Mrs Fisher had been drinking the night before. It was not unexpected though. Mrs Fisher had threatened it after some last-minute cuts to the production which had caused her undue stress. It was true that most of the first half had been axed after ‘Health and Safety’ had classified it a risk level bordering on amber. (Maureen failed to see how the desk-top fan, which had been used to simulate the Kansas cyclone, posed a danger to the children’s lives, but the paperwork would be so cumbersome if something were to go awry that she duly complied.)
As the children sang their hearts out, they proudly projected toothy grins to their parents. Dorothy, about whom Maureen often worried (she was in the middle of a family break-up), craned her neck to try to spot her parent(s); the expression on her face after a minute’s searching indicated to Maureen that neither parent had showed.
The munchkin (for they were down from seven to one after six munchkins had been taken ill after a dubious batch of break-time milk) ushered Dorothy along the Yellow Peeling Road to where the Scarecrow was standing. “Hands out of pockets,” Maureen hissed. The Scarecrow obediently whipped his hands out and his trousers, unsupported, dropped to the floor. The rest of the cast pointed hysterically at his white Y-fronts, out of which peeped clumps of paper straw like unkempt pubic hair.
“Quiet,” Maureen called. “You’re embarrassing yourselves!” Just at that moment a man who, until now, had been snoozing on the front row, jerked awake and emitted a huge guffaw upon seeing the focus of the audience’s giggles at the start. You see, from the front Maureen looked impeccably dressed. But had she swivelled her hips and looked at her behind in the mirror beforehand, she would have seen the rather large tag hanging there, boasting layer upon layer of pricing discounts, the uppermost of which alerted the assembled parents that her mauve pleated skirt had been a snip at only £4.99.
Maureen goes to Venice
A comic story of ~13,500 words.
If Maureen were real, I would advise you to avoid her like the plague. She somehow attracts disaster and farce in equal measure wherever she goes.
As she is fictional though, it should be safe enough for you to encounter her from behind your Kindle.
Maureen had a disastrous trip to a modern art exhibition in ECLECTIC: Ten Very Different Tales. Well, now she's back in her own feature-length adventure!
The book will give you plenty of laughs and a taste of Italy, so join hapless Maureen on her Venetian break and just be glad you're not there with her!
Voted one of the Top 3 Best Short Stories in The Best Indie Books of 2012 Awards.
Selected as a RECOMMENDED READ on the Goodreads UK Amazon Kindle Forum.