Thursday, August 31, 2017

Story 201: I Want to Live Life Like That Puppet Does

            “You got a minute?  I need to vent,” Co-Worker 1 said to Co-Worker 2 as she stuck her head in the latter’s cubicle.
            “Uh, not really,” Co-Worker 2 said, half-turning away from her computer.  “I really have to finish this report now, since it’s due about two days ago.”
            “Know the feeling,” Co-Worker said as she dragged a chair in and slumped onto it.
            “OK, then I’ll just….” Co-Worker 2 turned back to her screen and started typing again.
            “Sure, I just need to complain.”
          “Oh brother, what now?”  Co-Worker 2 asked, not bothering to turn around.  “Did your favorite show morph into an alternate-reality version of itself this season and you have no one else to whine to about how disappointed you are in it?  Again?”
        “You would have made an excellent point, except it’s not my favorite show.”  Co-Worker 1 propped her feet up on the desk, where Co-Worker 2 could see her shoes were in dire need of resoling.  “No, I’m just mad about my attitude.”
            “So am I.”
            “I mean my attitude towards life.  I let everything bother me!”
            “Well, I’m sure you have a lot on your mind.”  Type-type-type.
           “I actually don’t, and that’s part of the problem,” Co-Worker 1 said as she noisily slurped her coffee.  “I’m surrounded by the small stuff, and the small stuff is driving me bonkers!”
          “You want some big stuff, then?  I got some dependent relatives I’m willing to off-load on you, heh-heh-heh – I don’t mean that.”
            Co-Worker 1 felt it was best to keep going.  “I just wish, I don’t know – I wish I could live my life the way that weird puppet does!”
         Co-Worker 2 actually turned to look at Co-Worker 1 again.  “The weird puppet that nobody knows what he is exactly?”
            “Yeah, that guy!  He’s the best.”
            “I don’t understand; he’s a piece of cloth.”
          “I’m not talking about that, of course he’s a piece of cloth – I’m talking about the way they write him!”  This got Co-Worker 1 to take her feet off the desk and sit like a human being.  “I mean, he endures mostly self-inflicted life-threatening ordeals, he occasionally gets kidnapped and tortured, and he LOVES it!”
            “Kidnapped and…?”
        Co-Worker 1 did not hear that as she warmed to her topic: “He’s always open to new experiences; he’s undaunted by failures; he just lives life with such a passion that I will never ever have!”
            “Isn’t he a Whosit?”
            “He’s not like the rest of us, but nobody cares.  And possibly because of that, he is completely non-judgemental!  He is the perfect being!”
            “He also is a being who was made up by puppeteers.”
          “You’re not listening; I know all that, I’m not some nut!”  Co-Worker 1 almost flung her coffee out of the cup in wild gesticulation, then reined in herself.    “I’m just saying I wish I could be that positive, that open-minded, that adventurous, that… happy.”
          “So just be all those things and leave me alone – my supervisor sent me an e-mail for me to see him now about my late report, so I’m probably going to be fired.”
         “See!  If you were that puppet, you’d be thrilled to find out what’s going to happen next!  I think he was actually fired once, and he totally rolled with it!”
        “Bye.”  Co-Worker 2 left the cubicle and walked towards what may be her doom, but more likely would only be a shame session.
         Co-Worker 1 stayed behind for a few moments, staring at her coffee and thinking how unfair life was: of all the things to wish for, she was depressed knowing how much she wanted just one ounce of the positivity that had been bestowed upon a flippin’ puppet.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Story 200: Neverending Encores

            On closing night, the cast members of the regional theater company were beyond thrilled when they heard “Encore!  Encore!” after taking their bows.  They had worked so hard on this show for weeks, and it always was bittersweet saying good-bye when it was all over.
            “All right!”  The dance captain corralled the cast as the director and stage manager signaled the lighting booth to reset, the orchestra to take it from the top of the finale, and the dry ice gal to fire up the machine again.
            Running on the euphoria, the cast members sang their hearts out and danced their feet off in an almost-exact duplicate of the number they had just performed.  Flushed with the exertion, they took their bows again in triumph as the cymbals deafeningly crashed in conclusion.
            “Encore!  Encore!”
           Starting to feel short of breath, the dance captain looked to the director, who signaled everyone to take their places and go through it again.
            The dance captain hissed to the director off-stage: “Most of us can do it, but the ones I stuck on the ends are about to pass out and we’re all choking on the dry ice!”
            “I’m sorry, but we need to keep the audience happy – they’re the ones who’ll keep buying the tickets!”  And that was that.
            Another run-through, and even the veteran dancers were winded as they bowed to the floor.
            “Encore!  Encore!”
            “You want another one?!”  The director maniacally asked the audience.
            The dance captain’s “Nooooooo!!!!!!” was drowned out by a voice in the audience shouting “YESSSS!!!!”
            Half the orchestra left in protest so there was minimal musical accompaniment that failed to conceal the wheezing, stumbling, and mumbled cursing as the cast members tripped their out-of-breath way through the finale for the fourth time.
            “Encore!  Encore!”
          “WHO SAID THAT?!”  The dance captain squinted into the darkness: the lone lighting operator at that point turned on the houselights to show that there was only one person sitting in the audience – everyone else had left or been waiting for the cast to come out to the lobby for quite some time.
            “Encore!”  The man in the audience cheered again.
            One of the supporting players in the back came forward: “Dad!  What are you doing?!”
            “I’m just so proud of you, son – I’ve never been to a play before, isn’t ‘Encore!’ what you’re supposed to say at these things?”
            The rest of the cast collapsed on stage as the director said, “I’m glad you enjoyed the show, sir.  We’re just going to head backstage now, if you want to wait in the lobby for your son.”
            “All right, but if you all leave then who’s going to encore?”

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.