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  • Colin Burnett

Sebastian The Great

Updated: Jul 6



There’s nae denyin it. Ah felt less like a foreigner in Benidorm last year. Than ah do in this very room. A night ae networkin as a writer at yin ae these fancy theatres in the centre ae Edinburgh. Aye, ah goat invited through makin the shoart list fur a playwriting competition.


Maist ae the folk in here emit that unmistakeable smell ae private education. They reek ae it. And they drip affluence fae their pours. Yae see, ah’m yin ae they Nomads fae the workin class, ken? Ah strayed awey fae the pact. Cos ah’m someboady who doesnae believe the middle classes own a patent fur a wee hing cawed ‘imagination’. In other words, ah’m the great, big, dirty pink elephant in the room.


Ah’ve soon cloacked a couple ae other writers, who, like massel, huv strayed awey fae the flock. Ah spoated thum by the wey they took their complimentary gless ae bubbly fae yin ae the waiters. Like me, they looked as if they hud jist been passed the rotten corpse ae a deed bairn. Everboady else appears tae be caught up in the moment as they mingle and chat awey tae each other. Between exaggerated moothfulls ae smoked salmon sandwiches. Ah’m riddled wae anxiety. Sae unsure ae massel that yae wid hink ah’m aboot go oot and hae an uncomfortable chat wae Letterman. Jesus, here comes a boay who appears tae huv jist crawled oaff the pages ae The Great Gatsby. Ah wish he wisnae heidin in ma direction likes, but he is.


In a last ditch attempt tae deflect his attention. Ah’ve began admirin the laminated flair beneath me but tae ma utter dismay. This fails tae huv the desired effect.


‘’Hello’’ he says. ‘’This is your first event, isnt’ it?’’


Ah gee him a wee nervous smile. ‘’Aye, this is ma first yin. How did yae, ken?’’


‘’Who’s, Ken?’’ he asks, aw dead pan, and serious. Ah jist stare through him. Judging him fur the complete muppet he is.


‘’Where are my manners’’ he says. Clearly a wee bit rattled ‘’My name is Rupert’’


‘’Ah’m, Callum’’ ah tell him. Before takin another sip ae ma watered doon pint.


‘’So, Callum’’ he says ‘’How long have you been writing?’’


‘’The past five year’’ ah say ‘’What aboot yursel, likes?’’


‘’Oh, fifteen years or, so.’’ He says ‘’Writings been good to me, you know?’’


Naw, naw ah dinnae fuck ken. Ah want tae say. How the fuck hus writing been gid tae you, ya smug, intolerable cunt? But ah dinnae say that. Insteed, ah jist go


‘’Sorry tae ask. But what exactly dae yae mean ‘writing’s been gid’ tae you?''


‘’Well’’ he explains ‘’I’ve made quite a good living from my work’’


‘’A livin?’’ ah gasp. ‘’Yae mean you actually git peyed tae write?’’


‘’Of course, I do. Why else would I bother to write?’’


Ma boady feels numb wae shock. Ah mean, yae hear rumours, ken? Hearsay, that someboady kent a writer who shagged an author who goat peyed tae write. But this is the first time ah’ve actually came face tae face wae an actual professional.


‘’Ah’ve been paid only the yince’’ ah tell him ‘’and that particular commission wis jist enough tae keep me in beans and toast fur a week’’


This sends him intae a fit ae laughter. ‘’Oh, Callum’’ he tells me ‘’you’re a funny guy’’.


And ah might huv taken that comment as a compliment if it what ah said wis meant as a joke. But it wisnae. It wis nuttin short ae the truth.


‘’You see him over there?’’ he says, as he nudges me, aw excitedly.


‘’That’s the playwright, Melvin Andrews. Creative Scotland has just handed him twenty thousand pounds to write a play about why his last one was so bad’’


‘’But ’If his last yin wis sae bad. Why are they commissionin him again?’’


‘’He’s one of the chaps’’ he tells me reassuringly. ‘’ You don’t question the credentials of one of the chaps. Better to just write a cheque’’


Wae that, he then excuses himself. Before he continues tae circulate the room. Leavin me aw dazed and confused. By what wis his soul destroyin revelation. Fuck me. It coast me twinty quid and the promise ae a gid kidney if she ever needs it. Jist tae git ma sister Anne tae sit and watch a five minute video ae a monologue ah hud written fae the comfort ae her ain haime. If ah’m honest ah cannae really hud it against her. Cos, lits be real. We kent as many astronauts as we did writers when we wur growin up. Jist as ah stoap yin ae the waiters and knoack back another gless ae bubbly. In what is a strategic attempt tae dull ma senses and ma surrounding. Ah kin hear this oot ae breath voice full ae a sweetness and rainbow drops comin fae behind me


‘’I haven’t missed Sebastian Wolfston’s talk, have I?’’


As ah turn tae face the direction ae whoever said it. Ah instantly find massel practically nose tae nose wae this smartly dressed woman in her mid-forties. And she reminds me ae Dawn French before she discovered the benefits ae Weight Watchers.


‘’Nah’’ ah tell her. ‘’Ah hink he’s due oan stage soon any minute, though’’


‘’Oh, jolly good’’ she gushes


Before she heids oaff tae the lavish buffett at the other side ae the hall. Where, of course, ah kin only imagine she’ll commit food genocide. It husnae escaped me either that the room hus began tae fill up wae maire ae Edinburgh’s high society. Ma guess is this is largely due tae the fact that Sebastian is aboot tae take tae the stage. And now there’s a boay fae the theatre who looks as if he’s readyin himself tae make an announcement.


‘’Ladies, and Gentleman’’ He says ‘’Can you please take your seat. The esteemed Sebastian Wolfston is due on shortly. Thank you’’


Withoot even a hint ae warnin, aw the seats seem tae huv been snapped up. But ah’m quick enough oan ma feet tae nab yin. Which is located right in the centre row. Handy timing, likes. Cos as soon as ah hud ah planted ma erse oan the seat. Oot comes a pretentious lookin cunt oantae the stage. Grinnin fae ear tae ear, so he is. Wae his big Colgate smile and a yellow scarf draped roond his neck like some Eton educated twat. He opens up jist the wey ah imagined he wid. By tellin us aw aboot his coontless accolades and selt oot venues. And as ah take a quick glance aroond the hall. It’s visibly clear tae me that each person here is salivatin wae every self - indulgent word which spews oot his annoyin mooth.


‘’I know a lot of you are just starting out on your writing career’’ he says ‘’ But just remember one important thing. Your first commission is likely to be no more than five thousand ponds. But don’t’ worry. Eventually you still start to make real money’’.


Jesus fuckin Christ. It really is bams like him who make me yearn fur the days when the upper classes lived in fear ae the common man. Does this toff realise he’s addressin someboady who’s last hoose search wis spent oan the campin section at the Argos website. And as a result, in ma heid ah’m screamin ‘’Ah wid gee yae a vital organ fur five grand, dafty! ma nephew made maire money workin a paper roond last summer, than ah did wae ma writing!’’.


Though, of course. Ah dinnae scream anyhing. Ah jist sit there smilin and applaud back at him. Along wae the rest ae these dancing seals.

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