Figure XIX

July 20, 2006

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Through streets bordered by London Planes, the morning radio show burbles onward like an electronic stream. Occasionally, the harvestman seated in the back will speak, comment on the traffic, mention the unbearable heat within his costume, but mostly they are quiet, buoyed along by the cheery-voiced weather report and songs from the speakers.
The creature driving – what was it? A grasshopper? A praying mantis? Ernest doesn’t like to ask – is also the convenor of the event, the lead player of the troupe, as he had referred to himself at the audition. Now peeping from the mouth of the enormous insect’s head, he seems even more serious than he had done then.

“You have to imagine that you are a worm, Ernest. Can you do that for me?”

Ernest had nodded. They were standing in an empty room above a kebab shop in Islington, empty apart from the costumes that hung in the corners like discarded skins. This was the audition.

“Are you sure that the pond-skater suit couldn’t be adjusted?” he had asked hopefully.

“The thing is, we need a nematode worm. Can you do that for me Ernest? Can you show me your best worm?”

Now?

“Yes, if you would.”

Ernest had shuffled half-heartedly from one foot to the other. He hoped this might be taken for a wriggle.

“Excellent!”

“Really?”

“Oh yes, excellent… I really see your inner worm.”

“Hell.” Ernest had murmured under his breath.

“You’ve been the best we’ve had all day.”

Ernest was disconcerted by this man’s persistence in referring to himself as ‘we’. He looked nervously at the giant insect faces and hoped that these were not the others in that imagined group.

Now above the line of cars in front, the top of the museum draws its head. Ernest feels his stomach turn over deep within the worm.

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