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by belwebb 

Posted: 21 January 2004
Word Count: 1575
Summary: Satirical inside look at a drama school from behind the desk of the receptionist, Jessica, who has her own drama to perform.

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Chapter One
Welcome to L’S.O.D.

“Welcome to L’S.O.D., I’m Anthony” a deep voice boomed, almost echoing through the small yet overly modern foyer.
“Over here, dearie.” The voice added. I looked to my right and tucked away in the corner was a tiny reception area. Anthony sat behind the half white, half frosted glass panelled counter. His head and shoulders were framed like the many bronze busts looking down from high ledges - Shakespeare, Sheridan and Shaw’s steely gazes observing, protecting, laughing.
“Hi.” I replied, as I scanned and processed the fifty-something face of the deep voice, whose countenance looked quite out of place behind the small reception desk. He pressed a button on the wall by his shoulder and pointed to the door that divided them and us, an 'us' to which I now belonged. As I joined him behind the reception desk I felt almost transported to childhood; hiding in the tiny cubby-hole, not wanting to take up any more room than was absolutely necessary. And yet somehow feeling that the small unassuming space put me at an advantage.
“Where should I put my bag?” I asked, struggling to turn around for lack of space.
“Yes, well, as you can see it’s quite cramped behind here, but I s’pose, my dear, you can put it back there. Somewhere.” He said, pronouncing each word perfectly, like he had spent a long time cultivating a Laurence Olivier pronunciation of vowels and consonants. He chivalrously pushed his body against the desk whilst I squeezed past him. I placed my bag at the far end, by a window, which overlooked the old grey London street. The building’s façade had looked so grand and there I was. Inside. I had wanted to be for so long, and now I had to squeeze past an almost old man just to let go of baggage.
“There’s a chair there, bring it over here would you then you can have this seat to take over the controls.” He said before picking up the switchboard headset to a barely audible intermittent beep, then he boomed.
“L’S.O.D. good afternoon?” Meanwhile I looked for the chair he had mentioned but could see none. I wondered, as my eyes persistently went over the strip of narrow cheap brown carpet, how on earth I couldn’t see a chair in such a small space, reasoning there must be one somewhere if he’d mentioned it. I scratched my head until he turned round.
“It’s there” he said, pointing to the wall. I thought I could detect a sense of mischief in his eyes and wondered whether he was winding me up, some sort of new employee initiation like an instruction to go to the canteen to ask for a chocolate teapot, only here it was to get the chair from behind the narrow cramped reception desk.
“Where?” I asked, figuring it was a joke and immediately let out a sharp and unplanned peal of laughter, drops of spittle escaping my mouth. He responded with furrowed brows as he kept his long bony finger in the direction of the wall.
“Oh!” I said as I noticed it, a brown metallic fold up chair leant against the wall, that was, well, folded. He then took the chair from me as I stared at it for a second, trying to work out how a second chair could fit unfolded alongside the tall swivel main chair. As I watched him unfold it and place it width ways by the desk, I asked myself why he couldn’t have just got it ready before I arrived. My stomach though, by now was thankfully silent, the nervous butterflies had stopped their frenzy of flight around my gut as I had, earlier in the week and every moment since, anticipated my first day working at L’S.O.D. - God knows I had waited long enough for it.
“OK, you sit there and I’ll show you how to answer the telephone.” He said as he sat in the rickety brown metallic chair, which I thought would surely collapse.
“Ooh hello, someone new then?” an absurdly softly spoken voice peeped from the other side of the desk, accompanied by a pale freckled face, and a blonde head of hair littered with pink and yellow flower slides.
“Fleur, dahling. How are you?” Anthony asked, crossing his long legs, his worn and rather smelly camel ankle boots almost touching my chair.
“Oh, you know, ok, I’m going home this weekend, well, up there.” She said, giving a wan smile.
“Oh the Highlands, och aye, a bit of fresh air in yer lungs will do ye the world o’good.” Anthony replied in the strangest Scottish accent I had ever heard.
“This, Fleur, is Jessica, she’s our new receptionist, aren’t you Jessica.”
“Yes, that’s me.” I replied, reciprocating Fleur’s smile, but counting to myself, wondering when I could drop the smiley act and get on with some work.
“I’m a flower.” The gentle voice exclaimed. I looked at her for a second before the penny dropped, hitting the bottom of my mind with a thud.
“Oh yes, ha ha. Lovely name, Fleur, suits you.” I replied, unsure what to say next, but making sure my smile was in place, lest I offend her by suddenly frowning, giving the game away to my thoughts of ‘what the hell is this!’
“Yes, you’re a flower, aren’t you petal, and also a shining example of what it is to be one of our L’S.O.D.S.” Anthony added.
“Oh kind Sir, a flower with petals, yes.” She replied in a tone reminiscent of a time when men rode horses and jousted, before reverting seamlessly back to her usual sickly tone. “Well, we have Seb now for the next hour or so.”
“Oh yes, Seb’s taking the Three Sisters isn’t he?” Tony guffawed.
“Yes, that’s right, I’m one of them.” She said, letting out a sharp little laugh.
“Main part eh? You’ll go far.” Anthony said in what I thought was an unnecessarily pandering manner.
“Not if that witch Clara has anything to do with it.” she said, her freckled nose wrinkling up in disgust.
“Ah yes, well, she and Seb have different, er, techniques, shall we say.” Anthony offered, merely in what I saw as an attempt to appear diplomatic, but relishing the remarks aimed at the very representation of change, or the new school of thought.
“Just because she’s got a TV reputation to keep up with now, well channel five anyway.”
“Oh well, I’m sure you’ll go far regardless.” Anthony boomed, getting up from his chair and taking Fleur’s pale hand and rubbing it as she smiled like a character steeped in melodramatic melancholy who was winning through sheer stoic virtue and self-sacrifice.
“Well, mustn’t be late for the one I hate.” She sang before leaving us and almost floating up the stairwell, past a bust of Oscar Wilde.
“She’s such a little darling that one.” Anthony said wistfully as he watched her depart up to her class.
“So I take it Clara’s an acting teacher too?” I asked, figuring I had nothing to lose by throwing myself into what seemed to be an open sea of gossip.
“Erm, well, you might as well know that most of the students confide in me, they have done for almost fifteen years now, you see that’s where I hold a, I suppose, more important role than their teachers, I’m neutral you see, pater figure for them. Clara Phillips, extension 445, has been here for about eighteen months now, well she and Seb Horsham, extension 369, who’s been here for nigh on twenty years, well, they’re from different schools of thought within the industry,” he said, emphasising the industry as if he were intimately acquainted with every nook and cranny of it, which at that point, I could hardly doubt outright.
“I see.” I said, figuring it was just a case of younger woman with new ways and older man feeling threatened, which was a theme I had taken to with great zeal in the final year of school whilst studying Victorian patriarchy and female novelists.
“Clara is a judge on ‘ACTING NOW!’, you know that programme on Channel Five which holds auditions to discover the next generation of acting talent. She’s got a particular way about her, very direct, sharp, no-nonsense, which I suppose is just fine if you’re a financial analyst, but what she doesn’t realise is that acting is a people based industry.” He explained, lowering his voice and glancing over the desk to make sure we were unheard.
“I see.” I replied, but not seeing at all, as I thought all industries were people based.
“She’s a big follower of psychoanalysis, of attaching meaning and reasons to every single gesture or action the students make whilst in her classes. It really puts them on edge and doesn’t get the most out of them.” He explained.
“There’s a beeping noise from the computer.” I said, analysing the screen in front of me, wondering how to answer the phone as a name flashed on a small console by the PC.
“Oh right then, that little beeping is an incoming call, so all you need to do is click your mouse over that blue arrow on the screen, underneath INCOMING CALL and speak into the headset” he said calmly, as in that instance I duly hung on to his every word and greeted my first L’SOD caller.

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Comments by other Members

bluesky3d at 15:01 on 21 January 2004  Report this post
Welcome to Writewords Belinda, I enjoyed this, especially the insights into her inner thoughts, while she was dealing with her new role.

I identified with her, and can imagine the receptionist and his attitude in having to share his space.

Technically, commas rather than a full stops speech might have been more conventional?

eg you say - “I see.” I said, figuring it was ...
“I see,” I said, figuring it was ... (is normal)

you say - “She’s such a little darling that one.” Anthony said wistfully

“She’s such a little darling that one,” Anthony said wistfully (is normal)

etc etc

Really lively writing... looking forward to reading more of her exploits, if you become a full member.

Andrew :o)

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