“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio.”
I scowled at Claude Preston, the man who thought he was God’s gift to theatre.
I’d known Claude since high school. He’d always been the type of person who had to be the best at everything. Claude seemed to make it his life’s work to outdo me in every way.
When we graduated, Claude went his way and I went mine and never the twain shall meet, as they say….
Until twenty years later when Claude Preston III returned to his Alabama country roots, returning home to the small town we both grew up in.
Two decades had done little to dispel the tension between us. As soon as I clapped eyes on his disgustingly handsome face, I felt anger that I thought had long since been buried.
His natural facial expression was one of smugness. Claude had the kind of face that I could gladly punch. All day, every day.
I’d always been interested in the dramatic arts and I’d joined the local theatre group many years ago, working my way up from inexperienced understudy to leading man.
Until Claude Preston came home.
I’m sure the man did it just to spite me. Not once in all our years at school had Claude shown any kind of interest in acting. In fact, he’d often mocked me for taking part in the school productions, calling me a cissy for wanting to do something so ‘feminine’.
I had no doubt that, given half a chance, Claude would happily plot my timely demise and run away with my dear wife, Gertie.
Was it jealousy that caused Claude to covet everything that I had?
The man was better at everything than I was, yet I had one thing that he didn’t: my beloved Gertie.
I could see it in his eyes as we traded lines during our last dress rehearsal before our production was due to open. Time was running out for our company to be ready for opening night, we needed to be sure that all our costumes and props were in good working order.
My scenes with Claude finished, I watched the rest of the rehearsal from the side of the stage, keeping my eye on the props box to my left.
I watched the fencing scene with anticipation, willing Claude’s opposite number to gain the upper hand in the battle. Back and forth they went; thrust, thrust, parry.
Another thrust. Then another. And then…..a decidedly wet sound, followed by a groan.
Claude fell to his knees, clutching his chest, wailing in agony.
The fencing swords were props, not the real thing. Claude should have been fine, regardless of whether the sword made contact with his body.
My eyes fell on the black bag by my side, hiding the prop swords that I swapped for the genuine thing.
I felt no guilt for my deed.
The ghost who visited my dreams made me do it.
Written in response to Thain in Vain’s Week 37 prompt: Infinite Jest