Thursday, May 28, 2015

Story 84: Living With My Better Me

(A seated, slightly unkempt woman is being interviewed on camera)
            Host: (Off-screen) So, tell us a little about yourself.
           Martine: Well, uh, my name is Martine, and I, uh – sorry, I never know what to say on these things –
            Host: It’s OK; take your time.
           Martine: (Struggles against her nervous laughter) OK, um, I’m 29, single – but looking!  I’m in retail right now, but I’ve also worked in telemarketing, diners, zoos, and summer camps; that last one was in high school and made me realize that I hate children, heh heh.  Anyway, I’m pretty good with people; just haven’t found quite what I’m looking for yet.  Always looking!
            Host: Mm-hmm.  And who is this?
         (The camera pans over to a woman seated next to Martine – she is dressed impeccably, is glaring at Martine, and appears to be her identical twin.  The camera pans back to Martine)
          Martine: (Laughs nervously again) Oh, she’s the adult I should have grown up to be, but, didn’t.  Yeah.
            Martine Alternate: I hate you so much.
           Host: (To Martine Alternate) So, Martine actually should have become you when she grew up, and not the sniveling mess sitting before me?
            Martine: Hey.
          Martine Alternate: I don’t know what happened here.  My life was perfectly on track to be awesome – all levels of school, career, several mature love affairs, travel around the world, spouse, two to three kids, maybe a dog if there was time.  I like to blame this debacle on puberty.
            Host: Really?
         Martine Alternate: Hormones have caused more damage on this Earth than all the natural disasters that have ever occurred combined.
            Host: Martine… Prime, I guess we should call you, how do you feel about all of this?
            Martine Prime: (Crying) It’s true!  It’s all ashamedly true!
            Martine Alternate: (Drinks wine out of a bottle) Pull yourself together, woman.  I never would have cried.  (Martine Prime wails louder)
            (Host appears on a city street)
        Host: We followed the Martines for several days to witness this phenomenon further.  Apparently, no one else can see Martine Alternate, so we were in for a unique experience.
            (Someone cuts Martine Prime in line at a movie theater box office)
           Martine Alternate: What a punk!  You’re just going to let him get away with that?!  Why aren’t you all up in his face?!  He’s disrespecting you, and you’re just enabling him to do it to somebody else!
            Martine Prime: (In a quiet voice) I don’t want any trouble.
           Martine Alternate:  Trouble?  Trouble?!  I’ll give him trouble!  Oh, that’s right, I forgot you turned into the Cowardly Lion!  
            Host: Indeed, this is just one of the dozens of examples of Martine’s conflicting psyches.
            (Back in the interview room)
Martine Prime: You don’t know how hard it is to hear her constantly telling me what a failure I am.  In everything.
Martine Alternate: You don’t know how hard it is to watch you fail in everything!  Maybe if you actually listened to me, you wouldn’t be such a depressed crybaby!
Martine Prime: Yes’m.
Martine Alternate: Now you’re not even trying.
Host: There you have it, ladies and gentlemen: a would-be strong, well-rounded adult forced to forever haunt her weaker, pathetic, actual self.  A lesson to us all: be true to your ideal, and don’t sleepwalk your way through life.  Thank you for watching tonight’s special presentation, Living With My Better Me.  Good night, and better living.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Story 83: Bookseller Beleaguered

(This is from a sketch I wrote a few years ago, based upon personal experience and observation)

(Scene takes place at the front cash register in a bookstore.  The bookseller at the register goes through the motions with dead eyes.  There is a line of at least 10 people that continuously grows)
Bookseller: (Speaking unenthusiastically as the current customer at the counter takes her bag and leaves) Thank you for shopping at a bookstore, e-books will never fill the void in your soul, next.
Customer 1: (Carrying a small paperback) Just this.
Bookseller: All right.  (He scans it) $8.55.
Customer 1: I only have a 20.  (He hands over the bill and digs in his pockets as the Bookseller enter the amount and the drawer opens) Oh, wait!  I have 13 pennies!
Bookseller: Now I don’t like to depend on a machine to figure out basic change, but to jump in with $20.13 for an $8.55 bill would give even an Honors student pause. (He takes out a calculator)
Customer 1: (Hopping up and down and waving the bill and coins under the Bookseller’s face) Come on, man, I gotta go!
Bookseller: Here! (He exasperatedly throws some change and the book at Customer 1 and yells after him running away) By the way, there’s a camera in the parking lot that’ll see which car you get into, so if my drawer’s short tonight I’m coming after you!  (Customer 2 has walked up to the counter) Wasn’t quite ready yet.  (He closes the register drawer)
Customer 2: Hi, I'm just getting this candy bar.
Bookseller: (He scans it) And the book?
Customer 2: (She drops a textbook onto the counter) Actually, can I leave this with you?
Bookseller: (He sees that Customer 2 is carrying a notebook and that the textbook has a cracked spine and worn pages.  He picks up the textbook and leafs through it) You took notes from this, didn’t you.
Customer 2: Um, yeah.
Bookseller: (He throws the book over his shoulder onto a growing pile behind him) You exploited this book.  It’s no good to anyone now.
Customer 2: (She leaves money on the counter and grabs the candy) Freak.
Bookseller: Go home, book rapist! (Customer 2 runs out of the store as the Bookseller puts the money into the register drawer)
Customer 3: (Arrives at the register with a magazine and speaks in a low voice) Yeah, can I have the latest, um, you know, mumble mumble?
Bookseller: Shyeah, OK.  (He reaches under the counter, scans a sealed magazine, picks up the magazine Customer 3 had brought to the counter, and holds it up with the cover facing out to show that it features marijuana.  He addresses his supervisor who has appeared suddenly at the end of the counter) Holy cow, we sell this?  It’s not even legal in this state yet!  (Customer 3 hangs his head in shame)
Supervisor: Dude, we have a whole section on how to grow it.
Bookseller: (Takes the money Customer 3 gives him and bags the magazines) Really?  That’s like selling pamphlets on how to make your own moonshine during Prohibition!
Supervisor: I know, it’s crazy.
Bookseller: (To Supervisor as Customer 3 slinks away) Listen, could you hop on my drawer for a few minutes?  I gotta go to the restroom really bad.
Supervisor: (Sees the growing line and freezes) Dude.  I can’t ring on your numbers; I’d need a manager to switch the drawer over.  (Her eyes dart to the side) I hear the phone ringing.  (Runs away)
Bookseller: Dead to me.
Customer 4: (Gives the Bookseller a mass market paperback and a piece of paper) I forgot my discount card, so here’s the phone number it’s listed under.
Bookseller: (Enters the number into the register) Oh, I see that this is for an educator discount card.  (He holds up the book) And I see that this is a romance novel.  Do you teach sex ed. to perverts?
Customer 4: You –
Bookseller: Buuuut we’re not supposed to question discounts during hard times such as these.  (He hits a key to enter the discount) $3.83.  (He takes the exact change and gives her the book in a bag) Have a fun prep period, wink.  (Customer 4 leaves in a huff.  Customer 5 walks up to the counter as the door alarm sounds) Excuse me.  (The Bookseller instantly appears at the door in front of a previously unseen customer, who is holding a bag) Hello!  Could you pass the bag through the checkpoint, please?
Shoplifter: You can’t search my bag!
Bookseller: I’m not asking to search your bag, I’m asking you to pass it through the checkpoint again to see if the event can be duplicated.  (The Shoplifter waves the bag between the poles and the alarm sounds again)  Now I’m going to search your bag.  (The Bookseller snatches the bag and pulls out a book) May I see your receipt to verify that one of our capable employees had somehow rung this up incompetently?
Shoplifter: Uh, I think I threw it out.
Bookseller: No worries!  We can have all the garbage cans searched throughout the entire building until that wayward receipt is located!
Shoplifter: Uh, actually, I don’t think it was today.  I mean, I don’t think it was rung up yet.  Yeah.
Bookseller: Well, let me rectify the situation for you right now!  (Everyone on the line moans)
Shoplifter: Uh – (Runs out of the store)
Bookseller: Please come again, white male, 5’11”, blond hair, age 21-35!  With a slight limp.  (The Bookseller returns to the register, files the book and bag into a bin, and applies sanitizer to his hands.  To Customer 5) Now, may I help you?
Customer 5: Yes, I’d like to return this.  (He hands him a book and receipt)
Bookseller: (Reads the receipt) This says February 12.  How long ago was that?
Customer 5: About three months.
Bookseller: Uh huh.  (He turns over the receipt and points to it) And what does this say?
Customer 5: “Items must be returned within 30 days - ”
Bookseller: Uh huh.  I’m sure that, since you had purchased a book, that reading is one of your strengths, no?
Customer 5: I want to speak with your manager.
Bookseller: Let me save you the trouble and tell you the same thing you would hear in about a minute: this isn’t a library!
Customer 5: (Snatches the items and heads for the door) You made a big mistake, pal – I’m calling your corporate office!
Bookseller: By all means!  They’ll send you a $5 gift card and a coupon for one free “Kiss My Ass”!
Customer 10: (Standing halfway through the line) Hey, man!  Could you call somebody to help you ring, this is taking forever!
Bookseller: With all the turmoil and strife in this world, if the only thing you have to complain about at this moment is a long line, then your life is a very blessed one indeed!
Manager: (Appears next to the Bookseller) Go take your break.
Bookseller: What good are breaks when your soul is dead?!
Manager: Just disappear for 15 minutes, please!
Bookseller: (Leaves the register) No one appreciates conscientiousness anymore.  (He walks to a sitting area where four customers are reading – the table and chairs are covered with and surrounded by books, magazines, and drinks.  The Bookseller’s eyes widen at the scene as the readers stare at him.  He speaks in a quiet voice) You will remove this disaster from my sight within the next five seconds, or else you will clean this entire store after closing.
Reader: This was here when we got here.
Bookseller: DON’T lie to me.  (They stare at him some more) Four!  (They scramble to clean the mess) And the battle rages on forevermore.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Story 82: Interactive Film Experience

            I have seen the movie Throw Stuff at the Screen 199 times – tonight marks my 200th viewing, and it will be extra special because it also is the movie’s 10th anniversary, which means so-called “mainstream” theaters finally will be screening it.  Time to introduce the uninitiated masses to what watching this film is all about.
            As with every great interactive movie, the plot is negligible: what really hooks the dedicated fans is the borderline acting, the awkward directing, the random editing, and the intrusive soundtrack.  Individually, each detail is an isolated abomination, an assault upon the senses from which there is no true recovery; together, they create a terrible magic that draws in the observer like a fly to a pitcher plant, and the destruction is bliss each and every time.
            My pal and I always make sure one of us brings the props, or else the viewing doesn’t count.  By props, I mean the stuff we throw at the movie screen at appropriate moments (hence the title).  The 200th viewing is my turn, and I fully restocked our supply: tissue packets, paper airplanes, and rubber erasers are just several of the items in our celluloid arsenal.
            It takes a while for the movie to get there, but at about 30 minutes in is when it’s our time to demonstrate our devotion.  Once it cuts to the blue sun in the orange sky, my friend and I throw our rubber balls, aiming for dead center and just missing them bouncing off the screen (better luck next time).  I notice that we’re alone in our participation at this viewing, but no worries: the crowd will warm up to the festivities if given enough motivation by us.  During my musings, I almost miss shouting “Don’t do it!” when the main character walks into a dark room, without a flashlight, where the killer is waiting, for the third time – good thing my friend reminds me with our predetermined signals (we’re each other’s backups in case of such distractions).  I can’t believe it when someone “Ssh”s us – don’t tell me they’re actually watching this for the story!
            After the fifth launch of our gear, we have to promise the usher that we’ll clean up afterwards and that we won’t hit anyone else in the back of the head (a rare occurrence, but unavoidable).  It boggles the mind how everyone is this unaware of the requirements for watching this movie.  You cannot sit through it unaided by projectiles and/or phrases to shout at it – the movie is unviewable otherwise.  Once it finally ends on an abrupt cut to a peanut and my friend and I start collecting our belongings to be used at the 201st viewing, I briefly wonder if the filmmakers are depressed that their passion project has become fodder for people such as us.  I then realize that I need to buy a new slingshot – I’ve had this one since my 23rd viewing, and it’s all worn out.