The Singer
by Tom Slemen

A few years ago, a 37-year-old woman named Laura, decided to take her mother Margy out on her 60th birthday. She took her mum to an atmospheric bistro on Smithdown Road. This restaurant was chosen because Laura's father had proposed to her mum there in 1970, and what's more, Margy loved Frank Sinatra, and an 'amazing Sinatra tribute singer' was billed for the night at the restaurant. Laura and her mother sat at the table nearest to the performance space, when a slim man appeared in the spotlight. He wore a trilby, a finely cut suit, and had a relaxed debonair manner about him. He didn't introduce himself, and Laura could see that this man was certainly not David Knopov, a legendary Sinatra soundalike and lookalike, as she had seen David several times in Jalons restaurant. This singer didn't talk directly to the diners, but looked towards the left wall of the establishment, and he bowed his head slightly, so the shadow cast from his trilby rim covered the upper half of his face. Laura thought there was something strange about the man eerie almost. The performer began his act with a perfect rendition of Strangers In the Night, and sounded exactly like Sinatra almost as if he was miming to a recording. At one point the mysterious crooner said: 'Only silence and music can express the inexpressible. I'm getting philosophical here, I better sing.' And he launched into Come Fly With Me, again in a perfect Sinatra voice. People clapped, smiled and shook their heads in amazement, and yet all the time, Laura thought it was strange how the entertainer's face remained shadowy. 'Where's the band?' Margy asked her daughter. 'It's all CD's and MP3s now mum,' Laura said. The singer then astonished and unnerved Laura by singing an old Sinatra song Laura. Laura felt as if the unnamed performer was singing to her alone, and her mother sensed her daughter's uneasiness and gripped her hand. 'Are you okay love?' Margy asked. Laura flashed a false smile. 'Yeah mum.'
Then Laura caught a glimpse of the singer's face when a car turned in the road outside and swept its headlights into the restaurant. It was him. 'Oh my God,' murmured Laura. The singer was the man who had haunted her dreams over the years. Laura whispered in her mum's ear. 'He has the same face as that man I have been having nightmares about since I was fifteen,' she said softly. Margy and Laura gazed at the singer anxiously, and he began to sing a song called There Are Such Things. 'Let's go,' Margy said, and rose from the table with her daughter. They paid the bill, and just before they got to the door, the singer halted in mid-song and said, 'Hey Laura, why are you leaving?'
It later transpired that the man who was due to sing at the restaurant that night had been too ill to turn up, and a 'Mr Smith' had offered his services instead. No one had ever heard of him but his audition was spectacular and he was soon hired. Not long afterwards, Laura had a dream in which she was back in the Smithdown Road restaurant, and the live music was provided by Mr Smith. Laura awoke from the dream with a palpitating heart. The uncanny dreams starring Mr Smith continued for months then stopped, but Laura still fears they'll return.

Copyright Tom Slemen 2010. All rights reserved