THE AUDITION JM Prescott Crys left an hour before the doors opened, plenty of time to get to the theatre

. She had carefully planned it all. 5$ for a new blouse from the thrift store - more money than she should spend. Hours on her hair and makeup to look like she just rolled out of bed looking perfect. Weeks of memorization and finally writing the words out on her palm in case she forgot. Years of being too scared to take the chance. It all came down to this moment - an hour away. It was sunny, with a few threatening clouds on the horizon. The weather had turned warm overnight and some neighbourhood kids were having a dirt fight from behind what was left of their snow forts. The bus was late. At first Crys worried she'd missed it, but then the guy with the backpack sauntered up to the sign and pulled out a paperback. She smiled at him then quickly looked away, feeling exposed. "This bus is really late," he said. Crys squeaked and felt her face flush. "Yeah," she managed to say. And risked a glance at him. his smile was friendly but his eyes were laughing at her. "Will they wait for you?" "Who?" she asked. "Who ever is waiting for you where you're going." He said. "Are you going to work? Do you have a cell? Can you call?" "No," she said. He chuckled. "No what?" "No they won't wait." He frowned. "Well that's no good. Where are you going?" Crys turned to look at him, cursing herself inside for getting drawn into this conversation. "Do you know the poetry group downtown - they meet every month." He shook his head.

"Well, they have this open mic this afternoon, but it's kind of like an audition, because they choose people to join their slam club that competes nationally." "So, you're a poet?" "Yeah," she said looking down, it always made her feel uncomfortable when she talked about her writing. He was quiet for a minute, as if he knew he was overwhelming her by all his questions. Then he said softly. "If you don't mind me saying, you don't seem like the type to recite your private thoughts before strangers.' She felt her face flush, "No," but the words came out of her mouth without her consent. "It's like when I'm writing, that's the only time I feel like it's okay to be me. But when I have to talk to people, I get all tongue tied and impervious." "Then why do this spoken word stuff? Why not just write?" "Well," she said biting her thumb nail and looking up the street for the bus to save her. "I want to be a writer, and it's so hard," tears burned the corners of her eyes. Don't cry, she told herself. "It's so hard to get published." "Do you send your work out - to publishers or magazines?" She nodded. "It's like it all about luck. It doesn't seem to matter how good my work is or where I send it - editors write back and say they like it but it doesn't work out. I've been at this for years and..." She couldn't say another word or she would cry. Crys wrapped her arms around herself and ran the frayed ribbon on her sleeve between her fingers. He nodded and the look in his eyes was so familiar as if he knew what it was like. As though he had read all those rejection letters. As if he'd been there holding her hand while she cried. As if he had held her in his arms all those nights she fell asleep telling herself she wasn't good enough. She couldn't look in those eyes anymore. And she looked up the street again. It's like he can see into my soul, she thought and she shivered. He coughed. "Could I read your poem?" Crys snapped around. "What?"

"You're reading a poem today, right? I'd like to read it." She felt the fake silk ribbon tickle her and sent a shiver up her spine. then she slowly offered him her hand. She was shaking so much that he had to hold her fingers in order to read the words. The poem crept over the heel of her hand and up her wrist. Some of the words in the heart of her palm were smudged. He read the poem carefully, perhaps several times while Crys watched. His fingers held her with a gentle pleasure that set her at ease, but still she shook. He touched her elbow to stable her hand. When he finally finished, he didn't let go. He sighed and closed his eyes, breathing slowly for what seemed like hours before he looked at Crys. His eyes were foggy. His voice cracked. "What's your name?" "Crystal Montgomery," she said before she had time to think about the dangers of giving her name to a strange man. "My name's Mike Noble, and I'm an editor at The Noble Word, we publish a quarterly and a few books a year. We're a small press but I'd really like to see more of your work." Crys stared at Mike Noble as if he'd suddenly grown wings and offered to take her flying. The roar of the bus came up the street. Crys jumped and turned. Mike let go of her arm. She felt as though she'd float away if he didn't grab hold of her again. The bus pulled to a stop in front of them and Mike pulled his wallet out of his backpack. Crys thought he was about to hand her a bus ticket but instead he handed her his card. "I'm serious," he said, "please email me some more of your work." "Thank you," she whispered, taking the the card from him. She saw her life pass before her eyes, book signings, readings - well she wouldn't think about that yet. Maybe selling enough books so she could quit her job at the restaurant. "On or off?' "Huh?" Cry asked the air, looking around, trying to find where the question came from.

Mike was gone, and a husky bus driver looked down on her annoyed that she was keeping him waiting. "Sorry," she said, digging in her pocket for correct change. The bus was crowded, but Mike had saved her a seat. Copyright JM Prescott 2010

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