The alarm went off at eight-o-clock at night. He got out of bed and scratched his stomach. The coffee brewed as he let the hot water of the shower wake him up.
He’d have to be out the door by nine so he could arrive at the club by nine-thirty — his set was at ten.
He walked into the crowded restaurant and caught a glimpse of the man currently on stage — he was bombing.
“The crowd is stiff tonight, Carl,” said the bartender, mixing a drink. “Hope you had a good nap.” He laughed.
Carl placed money on the counter in anticipation of the whiskey sour.
“Thanks,” he said, raising the glass to his lips.
“Got any new material or am I going to have to listen to the same routine as last Wednesday?” asked the bartender.
“I’ve got some new stories. Grabbed some groceries on Monday.” Carl smirked as the bartender rolled his eyes.
“I should’ve stayed in law school.”
The bartender left to tend to someone at the other end of the counter. Carl finished his drink and went to the bathroom.
He rinsed his face and looked at himself in the mirror. He was thirty-seven, working a full time job, spending any evening he could going out and chasing the dream.
It wasn’t long until he could hear the muffled voice of the announcer through the door.
“This next guy…”
Carl splashed water over his face once more. Dried off with a paper-towel. Walked out of he bathroom and stood idly by the stage.
“Carl Waner,” said the announcer.
The crowd didn’t budge. Nobody clapped. Carl coughed once the mic was close enough to his face.
“Nice to see you all tonight. Glad you could make it out. I went to buy groceries the other day,” the crowed gave him a lifeless gaze, “and the woman in front of me had those bags you bring yourself, you know the ones I’m talking about? Well she didn’t have enough to carry all of her groceries, but insisted on everything being crammed in there. Now I’m a patient man, I was in the middle of that blank stare into the abyss that men do. We just stare into the abyss and don’t think of anything. This lady kept looking back at me as if I was supposed to be helping this guy cram her groceries into the bag for her. Why would I do a thing like that? There I was, staring into the abyss, probably fighting a dragon in some distant corner of my brain, and here’s this lady wondering why I’m not interested in a part-time job.”
The crowd was silent.
“She uh, had the rest of her items just placed into the cart. She didn’t ask me to follow her to the car to help her unload though, so, that was nice of her.”
Carl looked up and noticed the bartender shaking his head.
“Well, my name’s Carl Waner, thanks for listening.”
He walked off stage and to the bar.
“Rick’s not going to like this,” said the bartender, “you still had five minutes left up there.”
“What was I supposed to do? The crowd was eating me alive.”
“You were supposed to be funny,” replied the bartender. “Not a single one of those people heckled you. If you’d gone on a little longer then maybe, but who are you to say? Sure, your story was a dead end. Maybe make up some sort of interaction the next time you tell it.”
“But that’s not how it went,” replied Carl.
“You’re up there to entertain. I’ve seen a lot of good comedians come into this place. I can guarantee you they haven’t done half the shit they say they have. My good friend Lincoln Carlson has a great bit about sky diving, but I know he’s scared to death of heights. Here,” he placed a glass on the counter. “This one is on the house. Take some time to explore that abyss of yours. Maybe there’s something there.”