Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Story 199: Faux Celebrity Hook-Up

Celebrity A was relaxing on her deck chair for the first time in almost a year, catching up on a backlog of book reviews that she had been meaning to read, when her phone rang.  She could not figure out why the name that appeared would be calling – did she owe him money?
“Hi?”  She answered, cringing.
“Hey, how’s it going?”  Celebrity B certainly sounded chipper.
“Quietly, thanks.”  Remembering that she had not seen in him years and so he probably would not be extorting her now, she began splitting her attention back to flipping through book reviews.  “How’ve you been?”
“Not bad, same old, you know.”
“Mm-hmm.”  Flip, flip.
“Listen, reason why I’m calling: you seeing anybody right now?”
She almost dropped the magazine.  “What?!”
“Sorry, I didn’t word that right: are you dating or planning to date anybody now or in the near future?”
“What, no, why, what, who, why – ?”
“Great, that’s perfect – would you be interested in fake hooking up?  With me, I mean.”
“What, where – ?”
“It’d be purely for the publicity; I wouldn’t expect anything, you know, real.  Unless you’d want – ”
“I cannot believe we’re having this conversation; you barely spoke a word to me on the set and that was two years ago!”  She now regretted having exchanged numbers for “possible future projects.”
“Three, actually.”
“Wow, has it been that long already?”
“Yeah, I remember because it was right before I broke my arm.”
“Oh right – how’s that healed, by the way?”
“Not too bad, but now I know whenever it’s gonna rain.”
“Heh, my mom was like that.”
“Soooo… whaddya think?”
“What, about the fake hook-up?”  She had resumed skimming the reviews – where was that one everyone was talking about, Girl Stuck in a Predicament or something like that?  “What for?  What’s in it for you?  What’s in it for me?”
“Well, funny story – ” she knew it wouldn’t be – “my career’s in a bit of a slump right now; did you hear about my last movie?”
“Which one was that?”
Idiots and Devils.”
“Oooh, yeah, I heard that was pretty stupid.  Sorry.”
“Yeah, my agent told me I shouldn’t do it, but I don’t like turning things down now that they’re actually being offered to me, and now after one bad movie suddenly I’m box office poison!”
“That stinks, but I’m sure you’ll get over it with your next one.”
“Yeahhhh, the next one is Garbage.”
“I’m sure it’s not that bad.”
“No, that’s literally the title.”
“Wait, is that the one with the horrible – ”
“Yes!  You see my problem here?  The movie’s already bombed and it’s still in post!”
“That’s too bad.  How about doing an outdoor Shakespeare festival or something, that’s usually good damage control.”
“That isn’t scheduled until the fall!  I need help now!”
“Oh.  And you think announcing that you’re dating me will somehow earn back a few ticket buyers’ good will?”
“Couldn’t hurt.”
“I’m so flattered.”
“Sorry, that came out all wrong.  I just figured, pretty much everybody likes you, and if they see someone they believe has good taste choose someone like me, then the someone like me – who is me – must still be all right, and let’s go see his movie, hm?  And buy from his clothing line.”
“That’s all, I swear – there’s a launch party coming up next week and it would be a huge boost if you were my date to that.”
“Again, what’s in it for meeee?”
“…Free ticket to the party?”
“Wait!  I’m sure you have some event coming up; wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to talk to who isn’t press?”
“I do; I already invited my sister.”
“Aw, that’s nice.  Ooh, how about we take a yacht to the Caribbean?  I’ll lie around the deck with my top off while you snack on caviar, and that’ll take care of everything!”
“And who’s paying for this yacht?”
“I actually was hoping we could split it 40/60 – I’m waiting for some returns on international sales, so I should be able to pay you back next quarter.”
“You know, you seem like a nice guy, but for some reason I can’t put my finger on, I’m just not feeling any chemistry between our characters, and I’m unfortunately certain that our audience will agree.”
“Don’t say that, we’d get along great!  Plus you’re one of the few people I know who’s shorter than I am, so we’d look perfect together!”
“Listen – ”
“A charity fundraiser?  An opera gala?  A club opening?  Zip lining through Central Park?  I’ll do anything, please!”
“Wow, things must be really bad.  So how many people did you call before me?”
“Five, but you’re the one I saved for last because I like you the best!”
“That doesn’t make any sense if one of the others had said ‘yes.’”
“Oh, right.  So what do you say?”
“Opera gala, no PDA, and we break up in a month.”
“Could you make that four months?  If it happens right after my next flop I’ll look like a total loser.”
“Three months.  And you are completely responsible for the paparazzi staying away from my house.”
“No promises, but once we break up they’ll lose interest if they never really bothered you before.  You don’t know what this means to me – I owe you big time!”
“You certainly do: I also want you plugging all of my projects for the rest of your life.”
“Oh good; I was afraid you were about to ask for money.”


            Celebrity A was getting ready to head out to the set of her latest movie, adjusting the blackout shades on the windows and ignoring the group hovering outside, when Celebrity B called her.
            “What’s up, hon?” she answered.  She couldn’t wait for him to go back to his own little word: his once-endearing insecurity had become extremely irritating.
            “Hey, just wanted to run this by you first: I know we’re breaking up tomorrow, but I was thinking both our careers would get such a boost if we actually got married – ”
            “Another word out of you and I’m telling the stalkers outside that you are a big fat liar who made all this up.”
            Celebrity A went on to make movies championing human rights, and Celebrity B discovered that he had a better career doing Shakespeare plays than he did trying to be a movie star.  Sometimes it takes a very convoluted way to get where you need to be.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Story 198: Why Does the Moon Do That?!

She stood at the edge of the shore, staring at the full Moon in the daytime sky as the high tide smacked her feet.
“All right, what’s wrong,” her brother mildly grumbled, resenting the delay as he dragged his boogie board behind him.  “You’re usually in there before I am, and I don’t see any sharks today.”
“I just got to thinking – ” she started.
“Stop!”  He tried to cut her off at the philosophical pass.  “We’re in beach mode, and the only time you should be thinking is when you’re caught in a rip tide.  Or when you lost where our umbrella is, `cause then you’d be wandering forever, again.”
She still had not looked away from the Moon.  “I got to thinking about that,” she pointed at it.  “And the waves, and the tides.”
“Yeah?  So?”
“Well, we all just accept that the Moon’s gravity makes the tides high and low and all that.”
“Yeah?  So?”
“So if the Moon’s that powerful, why isn’t it affecting us the same way?”
“I mean, look at those massive waves!”
“Yes!  Look at those massive waves that you are making me miss!”
“And that water’s pretty dense and heavy, right?”
“Uh… I guess?”
“So how come we aren’t being pulled around like that?”
“Cause we’re not water?”
“But we’re lighter than the entire ocean, and it’s constantly being pushed around by a giant rock millions of miles away, so how come nothing else is getting pushed around?!”  She was very disturbed by this.  “Why not your board, why not that jellyfish, WHY NOT THAT BABY?!”
“Take it easy; you’re gonna start freaking people out,” he said as he subtly began to  disassociate himself from her.  “Look, I don’t remember physics class that much at all, but I’m sure there’s other stuff besides the Moon doing this, and it’s something in the water itself that lets the Moon act on it like this and leave the rest of us alone.  As should you.”
“Does it?”
“Does it what?”
“Leave us alone?”  She stared in horror at the faint satellite.  “Look at it up there, hovering like a ghost, pulling on us and trying to take us away from our planet – I bet our own blood is being drawn toward it as we speak.”
He now looked at the Moon as if really seeing it for the first time, feeling an uncomfortable sense of dread with the once-familiar object having such control over their lives.  He shook it off in the next moment.
“I’ve wasted too much time talking about this with you: either it’s going to fall out of its orbit one day and kill us all, or it’s going to keep on as it always has, but either way I’m not going to let you make me spend another thought on it.”  He did as he promised and jumped into the roiling sea for some serious shredding.
She continued to stare at the Moon and the waves, both of which now seemed ominous.  The walls of water mindlessly rearing up and crashing forward, ever forward, had become intensely creepy.  What if there were no more Moon up there? she thought.  Would these waves be as insistent as they are now?  If the Moon orbited closer and closer to Earth, would the ocean waves continue forever until they fell off the planet and landed on the Moon they so desperately reached for?  Would all things on Earth do the same, given the chance?
She really regretted watching that movie last night about planets colliding – her summer vacation was absolutely ruined.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Story 197: Misadventure on the Simplon-Orient Express

(Not exactly based on a true story – just based on the combination of seeing the trailer for the latest version of Murder on the Orient Express and a dream I recently had)

(Spoiler Alert: the solution to the mystery is included below)

(As the train is ready to depart from the Stamboul (Istanbul) station, The Count joins “Mrs. Hubbard” at her table in the dining car; both speak very low to each other)
“Mrs. Hubbard”: We shouldn’t be seen together, we’re all supposed to be strangers here – and don’t you dare use my real name.
The Count: I know, I know, but I wanted to ask the moment immediately before the train embarks on our fateful journey: is it too late to back out now?
“Mrs. Hubbard”: You want to kill this guy as much as anybody else here!
The Count: In theory yes, and he absolutely needs killing, but since I’m really here more for my wife’s sake than mine, this method of revenge hasn’t been sitting too well with me lately.  You think maybe instead we could use the first half of his M.O., and just blackmail him forever?
“Mrs. Hubbard”: Nothing less than his blood spilled by all of his living collateral victims will do, and don’t even think about – oh hell, what’s he doing here?
(The Count turns to where she is looking and sees Hercule Poirot, The World’s Greatest (Totally Not Fictional) Detective™, daintily taking a seat at a table in the back of the car and nodding at “Mrs. Hubbard” and The Count in extremely polite, missing-nothing acknowledgement of their staring at him)
The Count: (Turning back to “Mrs. Hubbard”) That’s it, we’ve been made, let’s call the whole thing off.
“Mrs. Hubbard”: (Hisses) Absolutely not!  I’ll come up with a convoluted backstory for us if we’re grilled later, but we won’t be, because we’ll be long gone soon after our guy is dead, and The World’s Greatest (Totally Not Fictional) Detective™ or not, M. Poirot could never in a million years figure out that it actually was all of us who did it!
The Count: I won’t take that bet.
(The train begins to leave the station)
“Mrs. Hubbard”: (Staring sharply out the window) Hang on – we’re missing someone.
The Count: You sure?  You missed this last guy until he got here.
“Mrs. Hubbard”: I saw him waddle aboard but didn’t know who he was until now.  No, there’s 13 of us and I only counted 12 in our group who came on.
The Count: Sure you’re not including our target in your original count?
“Mrs. Hubbard”: That would make 14 of us!
The Count: Oh.  Right.  So who’s missing?
“Mrs. Hubbard”: (Looks up for a few moments to review her mental list) It’s The Secretary/Governess.  Confound it: undone by the underpaid help! 
The Count: We still can go ahead and do it without her, right?  She’ll only miss out on the justice, is all.
“Mrs. Hubbard”: (Glares at him) It has to be all of us, or instead of being glorious, it’ll just be one big old mess!
The Count: Oh dear.
(Back at the Stamboul train station, The Secretary/Governess is speaking agitatedly with a Railway Employee)
The Secretary/Governess: You don’t understand, I got stuck in traffic, and I can’t get on just any old Orient Express, it has to be that Orient Express!
Railway Employee: Well, miss, you may have to settle for the Occidental Express then, yuk-yuk.  (Is choked by The Secretary/Governess)
The Secretary/Governess: How many stops before it hits the snowy middle of nowhere?!
Railway Employee: (Chokes out) Two!  Sofia and Belgrade!
The Secretary/Governess: When’s the next train to Sofia?!
Railway: Employee: Not until tomorrow!
The Secretary/Governess: (Releases him and runs away) Oh it’s all ruined, ruined!  (She pulls a man out of his car and drives it to Sofia)
(At Sofia, she screeches to a halt at the train station)
The Secretary/Governess: (To a Railway Employee who looks suspiciously like the one at the Stamboul train station) What time does the Orient Express arrive here?!
Railway Employee: In the past: 12 hours ago, to be precise.
The Secretary/Governess: Blast!  (Drives off)
Railway Employee: How vulgar.
(At Belgrade, she screeches to a halt at the train station)
The Secretary/Governess: (To a Railway Employee who looks suspiciously like the one at the Sofia train station) Did the Orient Express arrive yet?!
Railway Employee: Been and gone, reeking of evil and misguided justice.
The Secretary/Governess: You never saw me!  (She speeds off to the snowy middle of nowhere on bald tires)
(Once in the mountains, The Secretary/Governess commandeers a passing dog sled team and travels for a day until she crashes into the train itself, which is at a standstill under a mini-avalanche.  After picking herself out of the snow, she scrambles on board with her suitcase, sheds her furry winter wear, and runs through a passenger car until she finds an empty stateroom she can break into.  Sorting herself out, she makes her way to the dining car to subtly insert herself into the group of passengers as if she had always been there; she arrives to find everyone assembled in a meeting and now staring at her)
The Secretary/Governess: Good morning, all!  Sleep well?
(Everyone looks sick, except for the man standing at the other end of the car who is facing the rest)
Poirot: Ah, mademoiselles!  Thank you for joining us!  I was just explaining to the fine people here in minute detail how they all conspired to execute a kidnapper/murderer/destroyer of lives who had escaped the law, and it seems that you missed all the momentous activity that took place here last night!  It has been a very busy 24 hours, n’est-ce pas?  (He nods to the others, who guiltily nod back)
The Secretary/Governess: I see.  Well, since you all went ahead and did everything without me, I’ll be shoving off then.
“Mrs. Hubbard”: (Stands and points at her) You tardy laborer!  You messed up our beautiful symmetry!
Poirot: Compose yourself, madame, it was already “messed up” without la petite femme’s input.  You all thought you could fool me, The Great Poirot™, eh?
The Valet: We didn’t do it to fool you, we did it to kill him!
Poirot: Mais oui, but the games, the intrigue, the “pretending to be strangers when we actually all belong to the same murder club” – such paltry attempts to deceive Poirot’s Little Grey Cells™!
The Count: We did all that to pretty much deceive anybody else who was here and not in our group; just our luck it was you and not Inspector Lestrade.
Poirot: Exactement!
The Secretary/Governess: Sooooo... seeing as I technically didn’t, you know, kill anybody – can I go now?
Poirot: Ma chère, you have hit upon the denouement: since justice truly has been served, I, Hercule Poirot, The Greatest Detective of All Time and The Embodiment of Ultimate Justice™, have decided – to let you all go and use the story you made up that some stranger boarded the train and killed the victim, since of death he was most deserving.
“Mrs. Hubbard”: You are most wise and just, monsieur.  Especially since we outnumber you 13 to 1 if you’d tried to have us arrested.
Poirot: D’accord.