“At some point, and I want to be politically correct here, a hit man or woman has to retire if he or she is lucky enough to reach a ripe old age. At a time like this it is important to have a hobby…”
Dennis tapped the mike, then squinted as he tried to assess the audience’s mood. He usually had a smile and a light laugh by now. But tonight there was nothing but silence, so he went off script.
“Am I keeping you up, or is it that you didn’t like checking your gun at the door?”
He heard a laugh, one laugh.
“Who was that? I think it might have been the gentleman over there with the bulge in his vest pocket.”
His brother stood up with a very large bulge in his sport coat vest pocket.
“You must be Vinny?”
His brother was a fall back ploy in cases when Dennis’ opening was going flat, although it was doubtful that anyone in the audience knew Vinny’s true identity unless they caught the act at some other club when the laughs weren’t happening. So, Vinny played a great hit man and the laughs became roars on this night just as had been the case whenever Vinny stood up.
After the show the brothers sat in a dark corner of the lounge eating hamburgers and drinking scotch.
“Hey, I think we should put me in at the top of every show,” stated Vinny.
“Bro, you like the limelight don’t you?” asked Dennis.
“It helps. But keep your powder dry. I ‘ve got big plans for us.” Dennis studied his younger brother’s reaction. It was accepting, but in a resentful way, he thought.
Later that night Vinny was behind the wheel of a late model sedan with Dennis in the passenger seat, eyes closed, but he was very much alert. He was ten years up on his little brother and reluctant to concede that Vinny got most of the laughs. When Dennis started out with lounge comedy, his brother was a goof-off in high school with no ambition beyond the next pool game and, he was by Dennis’ own admission, a great pool player. But that was 25 years ago. Now Dennis was having trouble remembering his lines. He needed Vinny more than ever, but to concede that he’d be admitting his career as a headliner was ending, if it hadn’t ended already.
“You want to drive, Bro?”
“Do I look like it,” responded Dennis, eyes still closed.
“Can I put on the radio?”
“Sure, kid, only nothing loud.”
Vinny didn’t see the tears sliding out of the corners of his brother’s eyes.
Maybe l let him jump in at the top. He’s a good kid and really good at playing a dumb tough guy. I’ll give him the news at the next motel.
Soft jazz from the car radio put Dennis to a dream sleep where he had a heart attack about a mile from The Comfort Zone Motel. He didn’t die, but his speech was slightly slurred. The car jolted to a halt on the gravel parking lot.
“I can talk,” yelled Dennis.
“Hey, goofy, what’s up?” asked Vinny.
“Okay, let’s start the gig with you at the top—you’re ready.”
Six months later Dennis and Vinny were a warm up act a major Vegas hotel.
(Fast Fiction every Sunday here and at http://twivelist.wordpress.com where there are over 200 quick reads.)