Categories > Original > Humor > Greetings from Thundersborough

The Colour of Regret

by Kadrin 0 reviews

Josh Rogan and Thompson Thompson reflect upon a summer's day. Once the moment's passed, it's passed, and no amount of quoting Shakespeare brings it back.

Category: Humor - Rating: PG - Genres: Humor - Published: 2005-05-06 - Updated: 2005-05-06 - 3121 words

"If /only/!" Josh raged, slamming his glass on the table.

They'd been sitting in the pub for about an hour now, under the wall that couldn't really be called a Wall of Fame and couldn't really be called a Wall of Shame - Thundersborough, a small town far from any of Australia's capital cities, celebrated whatever fame or notoriety its residents managed to attain, whether that was for great advancements in the field of milking equipment (Barry MacGregor) or inappropriate use of The Smiths' sixth album, Louder than Bombs (Stan Abercrombie). Josh often wondered exactly what one called a wall like that, in between muttering that it had been his copy of /Louder than Bombs/. Thompson called it the Black Sheep Wall, and told anyone who cared to listen that it was a scientific reference.

"If only you'd picked green, huh, Josh?" said Thompson at that moment, leaning against the Black Sheep Wall under the picture of Shelley Langs. Shelley's picture was the biggest on the Wall, and rightly so - she was young, beautiful, and had the vast Langs fortune at her feet. She wasn't quite a billionaire, but rumour said that she had hired two people to sit in a room, one watching her bank balance and the other a watch, to pinpoint the exact moment she became so. The young men of Thundersborough were running a pool.

Josh had been quiet up to that moment, drinking his Guinness with little to say .That exact moment, however, had been the perfect time to muse on the events of yesterday, and Josh and Thompson both knew it. There had been nothing exchanged between them, but Thompson had known Josh from the cradle and was quite good at picking his friend's moments. Josh was apparently trying to give the impression that there were no moments, giving a mordant half-chuckle and draining the rest of his stout, but Thompson knew better.

"Well, yeah. If you'd picked green, you'd be rich and famous, you'd have the eyes of Thundersborough upon you, you'd probably have a particularly comfortable life. But Josh, is that really what you want?" He pointed at Josh animatedly. "Remember who did get the draft meant for green? Paul Napier. He used to be the barman at this very pub, so I keep in contact with him via a series of secret messages hidden under rocks in important places. And Josh, his last message to me was 'If /only /I'd picked black!'"

Josh remained visibly unconvinced.

"Well, OK, Josh Rogan." His parents had probably thought it had been funny. Thompson, though his name left a little to be desired, thought that naming a child 'Josh Rogan' was like kicking a puppy. With steel-capped boots. "Let's investigate Gloomy Sunday, then. We'll talk about what you did and what you could have done, and afterwards, we'll find out what ending each path would have got you, and we'll find out which one you'd want, which will be this one. Right?"

Josh stared at Thompson, a look of almost scorn on his face... but since Rogan always looked like that, Thompson was not worried, and began his recitation.


"Hey, Thompson!"

"What? Where?" Thompson said, his eyes flapping open like hastily yanked window blinds and his body moving in a desperate attempt not to flip his hammock over and fall onto the lawn below. It was Sunday. Thompson believed firmly that Sunday was a day in which doing /absolutely nothing /was not only allowable, but laudable. It was his religion, the first and only tenet of the entire Thompsonite cult. Thou Shalt Be Really Lazy Upon The Sabbath. He was a fanatic upon the subject, trying to convert everyone around him and using the word 'verily' as often as he could. Josh believed another tenet: Thou Shalt Not Take Thompson Seriously, No Matter How Verily He Might Sound.

"I got on /Acting By Colour/."

If Thompson had not been so devout, he would have sat up in shock. Acting By Colour was the only television show shot in Thundersborough, and by now, its only reason to exist. The current mayor had realised that Thundersborough had no mines, not much good farming land, no natural resources of any kind and a terrible position as regarded all major roads in the area, and summed up that Thundersborough would need to export in order to succeed as a town... and since the only thing to be found in Thundersborough was its population, it would damn well export that. Hence he had set up /Acting By Colour/, in which randomly selected Thundersboroughians from a pool of interested participants improvised and acted a scene based around a colour of their choosing. The winner was paid, had his profile sent to a great deal of major acting agents, and was given a pointedly one-way train ticket to the capital city of his choice. Thundersborough thus produced a disproportionate number of thespians, all of whom were sending money back to their old home. It was rumoured that both Heath Ledger and Pia Miranda had won /Acting By Colour/, and were lying about their residency (and their accents) in order to improve their standing with Hollywood.
"Good job, Rogan," said Thompson. "When do we shoot?"

"Today. They tell you on the day, remember? They say it heightens the impromptuism, if that's a word. Who said anything about /we/, anyway?"

"I did. You're going to take me backstage with you. I've always wanted to be backstage on /Acting By Colour/. It's my dream. I'll shout at the tech crew and eat bagels."

Josh rolled his eyes. "Fine. You can come. I'm leaving now, though - there's a reception beforehand, with lunch or something."

"Would this theoretical lunch involve bagels?"

"It's not impossible."

"Then I'm going there, too."


Josh and Thompson arrived at the door, Josh flashing his Acting By Colour invitation, and Thompson adding "I'm with him." The doorman, nonetheless, asked for their names.

"Josh Rogan," said Josh Rogan.

"Thompson Thompson," added Thompson Thompson.

The doorman paused, and looked at them. He raised the guest list slowly, and looked down to read the list of names on the left hand side. "Well," he muttered, "you're both on the list, but I've got to say that those are the most bizarre pseudonyms I've ever heard in a long career of hearing pseudonyms."

"Thanks!" said Thompson. Josh scowled.

"You see," Thompson had reasoned, "if doormen believe we have to use pseudonyms, they think we're important. And so people are going to be looking at us, and thinking, 'Damn, those two must be important', and... hey, bagels!"

Rogan was not mollified, but Thompson had already moved on, and was attempting to work out exactly how many bagels he could cram into his mouth at one time. (He was visibly unsatisfied with the answer 'rather less than one'.) Rogan considered joining Thompson's feeding frenzy, but at that moment, the director of Acting By Colour turned up in a cloud of enthusiastic greetings, clasped him by a hand and one shoulder, and propelled him around the party to meet Thundersborough's bigwigs. Thompson found this utterly hilarious, barely managing to refrain from bagel-spraying laughter as Josh put his limited social skills to very, very hard work on "an aspiring young artist named Johann Karamazov, destined for big things, let me tell you, very big things", "Barry MacGregor, you should hear what he's been telling me about his latest milking machine, it's fascinating", and "Shelley Langs", at which Thompson quickly swallowed the remaining chunks of his bagel and stalked, sharklike, towards the meeting.

"I've heard great things about your audition, Mr. Rogan," Langs said in a voice like the music of the spheres. "I only wish I could have been there to see it. Mr. Talliman has been telling me that you gave a new life to Hamlet's character, and I've always adored Hamlet." She extended a perfect hand to Josh, who didn't seem to know whether he should shake it or kiss it. In the end, he shook it a bare few centimetres from his mouth. Karamazov found this intensely amusing, but Thompson had moved on to thinking about other things.

"Hamlet's been my favourite play since school," Rogan muttered, entirely unclear as to where to put his eyes and settling for talking over her right shoulder.

Thompson could see in Josh's face that the young man had been carried away by Langs' beauty - his left eyebrow moved a degree, and by Rogan's terms, that was a change in expression to be recorded for centuries to come. He'd expected that.

"My favourite was always /Twelfth Night/..." Langs replied.

"Which has many fine qualities and is an excellent play often overlooked by the students of Shakespeare," Josh broke in at a dead rush.

Langs smiled. "But Hamlet has so much more to it. Such a deep, abiding sense of loss... and of love, too, of course. After your performance, maybe we could meet up to discuss it? Possibly over lunch, or dinner?"

This Thompson had not expected... this parting of dewy lips, this gleam in bright eyes. Langs was proving as receptive to Rogan's scruffy handsomeness as Josh was to Shelley's classical beauty. And while Thompson was, of course, exceptionally glad to see the revelation of Love's great dream, he was not at all happy to see the revelation of Love's great dream. Rogan had been in three romantic relationships in as many years, each one leaving him still more bitter and cynical than the last. "If everyone in the world suddenly contracted Exploding Head Syndrome," he had confessed to Thompson after his last date with Marianne Apostate, "it would not worry me. 'Cept you, of course."

"That would be wonderful," Josh replied, managing to keep almost all of his absolute screaming primal terror out of his voice.

With that, Langs was led away by the director to meet "a man who deals in aquariums, he tells me he's got a great new in-road into desert cultures - just selling the aquariums, not the fish!"

Rogan stood like a man who'd been hit on the head with a blackjack, a few moments before falling over. He stared after Langs' retreating back, even unconsciously reaching out a hand a few inches after her before dropping it back to his side.

"Josh?" Thompson said, coming up to him and looking worried. "Look, I don't want to break into your moment with the lovely young Ms. Langs, but after your last date, you told me that if you were even considering another romantic attachment that I was to get a pistol and shoot you in the head three times, and I don't want to get a pistol and shoot you in the head three times, OK?"

"Uh-huh, Thompson," Josh replied. "Pistol. Three times. You get that done whenever you want to."

"Do you know what you are talking about or are you not actually asking me to shoot you in the head?"

"What head? I'm going to go check out the buffet."

Rogan set out bagel-wards, leaving Thompson staring in his wake almost as he himself had stared after Langs. After a moment, Thompson raised both his hands, turning both into talking heads.

"What have you allowed to happen to Rogan? His blood crieth to me from out of the ground!" said the right hand, taking the role of an angry god.

"Am I Rogan's keeper?" replied the left, taking the role of a defiant Thompson.

"Yes, you /damn well are/!" replied the angry god. "/Verily/!" That said, it set about the left hand, striking with all four fingers at the wrist, the back of the hand, and the other hand's fingers, until such time as two Security officers came up and grabbed one of Thompson's arms each, effectively breaking up the battle.

"Sir," said one, "if you don't stop disturbing the other guests, we're going to have to ask you to leave."

Thompson stared at the security guard endearingly. "Can I take a bagel?"


Nothing much happened for the next hour.

For the first half hour, they were led to a rather stylish car and driven to the set of /Acting By Colour/, in which time Josh stared out of the window and occasionally sighed heavily, and Thompson ate the bagel he'd taken from the reception and got crumbs all over the upholstery, causing the driver to join Rogan's heavy sighs. It was amidst such a cloud of sighing that they reached the site, a fair way into the desert from Thundersborough proper. The town itself was too small to support the show, what with all the trailers and various stages they needed.

For the next half hour, Rogan was led around the sites he'd be acting on, shown the stages, shown the dressing rooms (though not his own, yet), and introduced to his fellow contestants. He was too distracted even to spit deep seas of vitriol at them, which was Rogan's usual habit. Thompson, meanwhile, prowled around the set, procured a bagel, and found a member of the tech crew to shout at with the bagel in his hand. The effect was rather ruined by the fact that Thompson paused every so often in his stream of shouting to hug the techie and ebulliently announce; "I've always wanted to do this!" eventually causing the techie to explain that he needed to fix some lights and move off at full speed. No lights needed to be fixed.

A fully made-up Rogan met a bagel-carrying Thompson outside Rogan's dressing room at the end of the hour.

"How was your tour?" asked Thompson.

"Entirely unworthy of the deep emotions within my heart," replied Josh, wearing his usual blank-faced scowl. "How was your stalker-esque prowl?"

"More wonderful than I could have possibly imagined. Shall we?"

Rogan pushed the door to his dressing room open, and strode in to throw himself into his chair in front of the mirror, the action coming dangerously close to ruining the delicate hairstyle his makeup artists had decided was perfect for him. Thompson was about to follow him into the room when something caught his attention and he stood, shocked, nearly as paralysed as Rogan had been when he first saw Langs.
"Thompson?" Rogan asked.

"Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed in a supercharged Ford Explorer!" Thompson cried. "There's a tuxedo of every colour imaginable in here!"

Josh turned to follow his gaze, seeing a clothes rack that did, indeed, feature tuxedoes in every colour of the rainbow. "Well, yes, Thompson," he said. "It's Acting By Colour/. I wouldn't have been surprised if my /room had been colour-coded."

"That means you can wear a cyan one!"

Josh stared at Thompson for a few seconds. "/Cyan/?"

"You've got to wear cyan, man! How is cyan going to be the colour of your scene if your /tuxedo /isn't cyan?"

"I thought we agreed I was doing green? Which, by the way, will be in a /black /tuxedo?"

"Oh, green's /passe/. Do cyan. Besides, in a cyan tuxedo you'd look like a pimp from the Seventies!"

Josh had taken a black tuxedo from the rack. "Would you leave my dressing room? I need to get changed."

"A pimp from the Seventies, Josh! Think about it!"

Three minutes later, Thompson was a good hundred metres from the dressing room, muttering under his breath about how certain people just didn't know good advice when they heard it. Then again, it was possible that Rogan was just ignoring anything Thompson said, a viewpoint Thompson could sympathise with. If he was Rogan, he'd ignore him too.

One of the director's gofers hurried up to Thompson, a letter in his hand.

"You're not the one I stole this bagel from, are you?" Thompson asked, gesturing with the bagel.

The gofer gave him a strange look, and then ignored everything he'd said. "I've got a message for Mr. Rogan. Could you deliver it for me?"

Thompson nodded, and took the letter. The gofer subsequently ran off, shouting that for the love of /God /those lights did /not /go there don't you know we're on in /ten minutes/? Thompson looked with some amusement at the man's consternation for some time, before flipping the letter over in his hands a few times and noticing that a) the letter was scented with some subtle perfume, and b) the flap had the signature "Shelley Langs". Thompson had never thought a signature could be flirtatious until that moment.

With a blatant disregard for his friend's privacy, he ripped it open, and scanned the missive inside.

Then he swore loudly enough to draw the gofer's attention again, and ran off towards the dressing rooms, hoping against hope that he was not too late.


"To which you said..." Thompson continued, drawing towards a conclusion beneath the Black Sheep Wall.

"To which I said, 'go away, Thompson, I'm just about to go on stage'. Read me the letter again."

Thompson read. "If this fall into thy hands, revolve. In my stars I am above thee, but be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some acheive greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em. Remember who commended thy tuxedo, and wished to see thee ever in green, I say, remember. Go to, thou art made, if thou desirest to be so, if not, let me see thee a contestant on 'Acting By Colours' still. She that would alter services with thee, Shelley Langs." For a moment, Thompson studied his friend's composure, and then finished with the post script: "P.S. Hot action in the sack awaits you."

With a groan, Josh let his head hit the table. "If /only/..."

"You know, Rogan, you're /lucky /Paul Napier looks near-exactly like you, and you're /lucky /he has a fondness for green tuxedos. His secret rock-concealed messages are relaying to me an endless stream of boredom and near-desperation. After all... it was /you /who won, wasn't it?"

Josh raised his head. "I suppose there is that."

"That cyan skit blew them away."

"It was lucky for me that no one else picked cyan."

"I don't know. I think you would have won even if every other contestant had picked cyan. Your characterisation as the Seventies pimp was exceptional."

"Thanks." Josh finished his beer.

"So," asked Thompson, "where do you think you'll go?"

Josh snorted. "Sydney. Where else?"

"Well, there's Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth..."

"The first's for bankers, the second's a hole in the ground, and the third's full of very, very strange people. Whereas Sydney actually has an arts scene. I expect there'll even be a production of /Hamlet /I can join."

"Sydney it is, then. That reminds me..."


"Do you still want me to shoot you three times in the head?"

"Do shut up, Thompson."
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