The man inserts and extracts the long blade. Faces in the audience open with horror, with lust, for the danger of it. Sue hands round the tea mugs, twists in her chair so the TV is at a sharp angle. Let them press their talent on her sideways.  If she can be persuaded from here then maybe they’ve got something.

But, in all honesty, is that really something?  Sue has swallowed a good deal and, she thinks with a certain grim pride, kept most of it down. Not like this bloke – popping it in and then whipping it out again.  Sue has stomached it.  Most of it.

So Sue imagines her swallowing act.  A glass table runs the length of the stage.  Sue, in a silver spangled tailcoat and fishnets, spreads her arms to show the range.  She invites a blonde girl from the audience to inspect the genuine nature of her pains – then guides her, pale-skinned and clammy, back to her seat.

A drum roll and Sue lifts the first hurt – the razor tipped moment of his leaving.  The audience gasps as she gulps it down and then spits, dainty, a spray of pink onto the stage.  The next is a day, dipped in ground glass, of waiting to be called into the office to be told she was no longer needed.  That goes down with a slow graze.  The night of the diagnosis is so long – black with blood and desperation and slippery at the handle.  But she holds it steady as it buckles at daybreak, deep in her throat.

The twirl of Sue, with her pains going down so smooth, so competent, brings the audience to their feet.  Whistles, cheers and tear-streaked faces.

Sue drains the last mouthful of tea.  She shifts in her chair.  The point of a blade, like the tip of a silver tooth, is visible just below her collar bone.


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