David paced around the hotel’s corridor wheezing into his headset’s microphone. Inside the main conference suite, his audience stirred. And in the dining room, plates and glasses clinked in preparation for the self-help seminar’s final lunch, after David’s talk on positive thinking. Roasted coffee and toasted waffles from breakfast that morning still lingered in the corridor.
“Come on, David. Think!” David violently tapped his forehead, squinting his eyes.
“Uh, sir?” Claire said behind him.
“Not now Claire,” David said, raising his hand.
He walked towards the lobby and scanned the room. Claire followed him and scanned with him.
Behind them, the morning’s Zen speaker, flush in the face, walked out of the main suite, cupping his phone, alerting David.
“Stephen!” David pivoted. He lifted his belt and walked towards him.
“Three minutes,” Claire said, following him.
“Not now Claire,” David said.
“Stephen!” David said. “Slow down. You haven’t seen my –”
Stephen pointed at his phone and dashed, biting his lower lip.
“Argh!” David pounded his fists against the wall like a child and then rested his grey head against it.
A minute passed. David thought as he heard Claire glancing at her schedule behind him, lifting the pages from her clipboard.
Finally, David spoke, looking down at his belly and expensive shoes.
“I can’t go on,” he said.
Claire cleared her throat. “But, uh, they’re here for a positive message,” she said.
Claire crouched to look at David. “You’re here to help them… help themselves.”
A door opened near them, filling the corridor with the audience’s murmurs and shuffling chairs.
“Ready?” Tim, the time management speaker, said.
“I’ve lost it,” David said, softly kicking the wall. “It was a new thing I was going to do, a prop, a thing, to show them how they can help themselves. You know, self-reliance.”
Claire placed her hand on his back. “It’s okay.”
Tim pointed at his watch. The audience was getting louder. “Come on,” he said, rushing back inside.
“Do you need a hand?” she asked David softly.
“A hand,” he mumbled to himself. David raised his head from the wall, turning to Claire.
“Maybe,” he said, biting his knuckle. “I can flip it. Forget the prop, say how we can always use a hand. Yeah…”
Claire smiled. “It’s time,” she said to him.
David adjusted his microphone, lifted his belt, fixed his hair, and strolled towards his entrance. Tim had already begun to introduce him to Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’. The audience clapped and stomped along. Outside the door, David rolled his neck and shoulders like a boxer, readying himself. Light from the suite filtered through the door’s cracks colouring his face blue, purple, orange, and green. He took a deep breath.
Claire leaned towards him. “So, what was the prop anyway?”
He brought his hands together, as if praying, closed his eyes, and exhaled for a few seconds.
“A back scratcher.”
He opened his eyes, pushed the door, and bolted onstage.
© 2020 B.E. Gutierrez
Brian is an American writer living in Thanet. He writes for fun and enjoys reading short stories.