A REEDSY PROMPT
A DRAMATIC SHOCK REACTION
by John Yeo
That night, the action backstage was even more dramatic than the story unfolding onstage. Harry Houston, the leading man of this highly successful production was in a terrible rage. Harry stood himself up to his full 6 foot 6 inches height and shouted aggressively and belligerently at the diminutive figure of Peter Whelks, the stage manager.
‘Look here Whelks, I’d like you to get rid of that so-called makeup artist at once. She is awful, I’ve broken out in a rash all over my face and my neck.’
Harry Houston’s veins were protruding through his leathery skin as an effect of his incredible rage. Peter likened his performance to a cross between Godzilla and a fire-breathing dragon.
‘Sure thing Mr. Houston, there will be an instant investigation and if she’s responsible she will be dismissed instantly.’
‘Of course, she’s responsible man! She’s the only person who gets paid an enormous salary to apply the muck here that masquerades as makeup. I want her fired immediately.’
Harry then proceeded to cover the offending itchy spots with swathes of calamine lotion from the first aid kit, which had the effect of turning his face and neck bright pink.
At that point, Mrs. Imelda Spinks, a competent professional, who represented the theatre company as head of the makeup department responsible for the facial appearances of the whole cast, bustled into the dressing room. A short-haired lady with streaks of grey showing through her dyed blonde hair, she had piercing blue eyes reflecting an expression that announced she would brook no nonsense from anyone.
‘Oh my God! Mr. Houston what have you been doing? You’re on stage soon, you have ruined my carefully applied makeup, what’s that stuff all over you? Here let me help you wipe it off.’
‘Stay away from me you old dragon! It’s all your fault, by smearing your dreadful muck all over my face you have managed to bring me out in incredibly itchy spots.’ Shouted the leading man in a threatening aggressive manner.
‘Now hold on a minute, Mr. Houston, we have to establish the facts before you are able to accuse anyone.’ Interceded Peter Whelks, nervously stepping away from both of them.
‘Don’t you dare speak to me in that tone of voice, you rude ignorant excuse for a gentleman. I’ll slap your face hard for you and you’ll need more than camomile lotion. How come nobody else in the company is showing any signs of these spots?’
‘Shut up you idiotic clown! Of course, it’s the gunge you call stage makeup that you’ve been spreading all over my face for the last two weeks now.’ Shouted Harry Houston.
‘Look here Harry, You are out of order here. I must insist you apologise to Mrs. Spinks at once please.’ Peter Whelks broke in again.
With a sudden crack, the tall 6-foot figure of Harry Houston staggered back under the force of a sharp slap from the diminutive Mrs. Spinks.
To everyone’s surprise, Harry Houston suddenly attempted to speak but his tongue seemed to be thick and swollen. He collapsed and rapidly passed out as he hit the floor. It took seconds for Peter Whelks to react
‘Call an ambulance quickly!’ he shouted, ‘ He’s not moving at all, I think he is unconscious.’
Derek, a stagehand, who had been standing by, enjoying this unplanned spectacle instantly pulled out his mobile phone and dialed 999. Twelve minutes later a Paramedic arrived on a motorcycle followed by an emergency ambulance. Three professionals were soon hard at work, desperately trying to bring Harry Houston around.
Mrs. Spinks meanwhile had turned a deathly shade of white and Derek, the stagehand quickly bought up a chair for her. Peter Whelks ordered him to fetch a glass of water for her from the kitchen adjoining the stage. Then turning to Mrs. Spinks he said, ‘Don’t worry, my dear, there is a lot more happening here than meets the eye.’
Mrs. Spinks, her lips trembling and her hands visibly shaking with shock, sat still, transfixed into silence.
‘Has anyone telephoned Belinda Houston and let her know what’s happening here?’ enquired Peter Whelks.
At that precise moment, a tall immaculately dressed lady arrived. Belinda Houston had appeared, right on cue.
‘What’s going on? I hear Harry has collapsed and is receiving medical attention.’
‘Yes,’ replied Peter. ‘He is in that ambulance there undergoing treatment, the young paramedic standing over there will give you the details.’
Belinda approached the young lady paramedic and said,
‘I’m Mrs. Houston, What’s happened to my husband? I hear he has suddenly collapsed.’
‘Yes Mrs. Houston, I’m Ruby Dawson, a senior paramedic. We have brought him around, he seems to have been undergoing a shock reaction to an, as yet, unidentified substance. Can you tell us if he’s allergic to anything obvious? He has a nasty rash on his face and his neck.’
‘Oh! Of course, he has a strong allergy to peanuts, the slightest trace of a peanut is enough to provoke a reaction. He knows better than to go near peanuts.’ replied Mrs. Houston.
‘That’s it! Exactly what we thought, he has had an anaphylactic shock episode. I’m sorry to say he’ll have to spend the night in hospital under observation. Would you like to accompany your husband in the ambulance?’
‘No thanks, I think I will follow in my car after I’ve collected a few things from home.’
After the ambulance had left the theatre, Peter Whelks called Imelda Spinks and Derek, the stagehand into his office and announced that the show would go on with the understudy in the leading role. He stated quite emphatically that in the interests of confidentiality they were forbidden to discuss the events of the day. He assured Imelda that the management would act with every sympathy for her predicament as the treatment meted out to her by Harry Houston had been unacceptable.
Several days later a huge bouquet arrived for Imelda from Harry Houston with a note of apology attached.
Copyright © Written by John Yeo ~ All rights reserved