This Devilish Device

(Disclaimer: Not my characters. I was intrigued by something that people in the movie kept saying to Bertie, so I wrote a story about it. Special thanks to Haiza Tyri for her help.)

"It's ridiculous," Bertie complained. He was pacing up and down Logue's office, while the therapist himself watched placidly from an armchair. "Every time, someone says it. Every blessed time. 'Let the microphone do the work,'" he mimicked savagely. "As if it had to do all the talking."

"It does sound rather silly," Logue acknowledged.

Bertie dropped wearily onto the sofa and rubbed his eyes. "Ridiculous," he repeated. Logue's ban on smoking was getting past bearing, he thought. Just now, he would give his right arm for a cigarette. No, make that Logue's right arm. It was his blasted ban in the first place.

"Might as well slap a t . . . torture device down in front of a man and tell him to let it do all the w . . . work," he went on, morosely.

"A torture device?" Logue echoed, with raised eyebrows. "Isn't that a bit . . . melodramatic?"

Bertie shrugged helplessly. "What else is it? Just an instrument for spreading around my . . . my lack of a voice." He paused briefly as a memory struck him. "Even my f . . . father calls it 'this devilish device.'"

"But it's not an enemy," Logue said reasonably. "Your problem, Bertie, is that you've come to see the microphone as some sort of malevolent creature. No wonder it's giving you the willies. You've got to learn to relax around it."

He got up and went over to his recording apparatus, while Bertie regarded him warily. Retrieving the microphone that he had used to record Bertie's voice on his first visit to the office, he held it up.

"Remember when you read into this for me? You did just fine."

"Because you t . . . tricked me."

"No, I distracted you. Quite different. But the point is, the microphone has no power over you. It can't make you go to pieces; it can't make you do or be anything." He tapped it. "Just an inanimate object, that's all. Now, come over here."

He watched as Bertie approached. "No, not like that. You look like a nervous lion tamer on the first day of work. Just walk over here and stand by the thing. That's it." He picked up a small volume lying on the record cabinet. Bertie saw the words A Tale of Two Cities on the faded cover.

"There's a whacking great opening sentence in here we can work on," Logue explained, as he opened the book to the first page. "I'll switch this on, and you read. Let's see how far you get."

Bertie took the book and stood holding it, watching Logue fiddle with the microphone. With that memory of his father's words lingering in his mind, he saw himself sitting in front of a similar device on the king's desk, struggling to read his father's Christmas speech on command.

But it was remarkable how different this felt. The same dreaded instrument was in front of him; the difference (apart from the shabby surroundings) was the friend who now stood across from him, smiling encouragement.

A feeling of calm—a feeling he never knew in his father's presence—came over Bertie. With fresh determination, he lifted the book and took a deep breath.

"Oh, and Bertie?"

Bertie stopped and looked at him.

"Don't let that microphone do any of the work. You do it."

Bertie grinned, and began to read.