My balls were sticking to my inner thigh like a baby seal clinging to an Antarctic shore. Unfortunately, the camera was pointed right at me, so I couldn't do the leg-shake maneuver to get them loose. I saw the set of Hello, Good Morning! with Buster through two pea-sized holes drilled into my velvet helmet. Crayola had puked on the walls, the floor, the blocks, the rug, and even Buster. That was me, the rainbow-colored dog that came up on TV from dawn til noon. Outside of Busters Play Pen was the black, soulless collection of cameras and producers and directors sitting in fold-up chairs who occasionally yelled me through a microphone like I wasnt right in front of them. The sweat permeated in the depths of my fur suit because the air was recycled every time I exhaled. I re-realized how much I hated doing kid shows. Being on a childrens program was just like being in a porno; as soon you were recorded, no one could take your acting seriously anymore.
One more round of ABCs later and I threw off the stupid foam dog head with vengeance. It ricocheted off a camera and hit some poor intern in the face, but I didnt care. I had been recording episodes for six hours and I needed a breather. The cold air rushed to my head as I wheezed in.
Im getting too old for this job, I grunted to Jack. He shuffled out from behind a camera nearly twice as tall as he was Jack was Rex in Fellatiosaurus 3, 5 and 12, so he still had a porn star strut. His big, broad shoulders rolled with every step. He just got too jaded for the business because the sex didnt stay great for long, Jack told me once. It took all the networking powers he had to net this gig and he didnt realize how deep hed sink. Jack was just as trapped as I was and he knew it.
Were going to lunch, he barked. If theres anything worse than saying that shit, its watching you say that shit. I had to smile as I got out of my Buster costume. Finally, someone didnt say Please or Thank you.
Jack and I always ate at this diner named Big Daddys. It wasnt a diner so much as a bar where we also ordered sandwiches. Big Daddys certainly didnt look like it was the best place in town, no matter how much the dim lighting tried to hide. The tables were always greasy or wet and stale beer had seeped into the floors and the walls, but the food and booze always calmed us down. Not many people came to Big Daddys so the atmosphere stayed low key and relaxed. The best part was that the bartenders kids watched the show; most of our stuff was on the house.
How was Julias first day at school? Jack asked through a mouthful of beef. I stared at the bits of bread that were stuck in his short beard and I rubbed at my stubble. I would have to shave before recording my live action program because studies showed that facial hair scared kids.
Yesterday? It was great. Smartest kid in her damn class. She keeps saying how she wants to spend more time with me, though. I felt my guts churning and I had trouble swallowing my next bite. I just couldnt help it. I was in and out of recordings from 6AM to 7PM and I always had breakfast and dinner on the table, but she always packed her own lunches. The production company was preshooting several seasons in advance; just another part of my contract they were twisting and turning to get the most out of me as possible.
She should. Your daughters a great kid, but she cant do everything by herself. Those fuckers higher up just dont understand nothing. Jack knew about my schedule because his was exactly the same. Every minute I was in front of the camera was a minute he was behind it.
Here we go again. I sighed and took another shot of my Smirnoff. I never got drunk anymore but the burning down my throat helped me whenever he felt like going on a tirade.
Im serious. They think they can fuck around with us cause the fine print had shit that they made sure no one read! Jack slammed his meaty fist into the table and everything shook and clinked.
But we cant quit! You keep bitching about it, but theres nothing we can do to change it! Even in high school, I was the voice of reason.
Jack smiled from across the small, round table and got a look in his eye. It was dark, it was sneaky, and as soon as I saw it, I loved what it had to offer. Not anymore, Matt. He crossed his hairy arms over his barrel-sized chest. Little birdie told me a secret that could give us dirt on the suits.
My mouth went dry and I tapped my finger against the wooden table. I tried to thump out a song but I couldnt remember anything that could calm me down. You cant be serious. I shook my head. I started working at Sunshine Studios fresh out of university. That was nineteen years ago.
Hey, Im not stupid cause I didnt go to college. This is legit. His smile got even smugger as he dragged his sentences on. He was enjoying the suspense.
Say it then! I snapped at him, palms flat on the table and half-standing so I could glare at him closer.
Fine, fine. Jack leaned closer. The bartender was gone. The music was gone. The lights were gone. It was just the two of us trying to claw our way out of a shithole. The executives go to Studio 7 to get coke and whores every Saturday.
This is bullshit. It cant be true, I said as I sat back down, deflated. I shoved another shot into my mouth to cover my disappointment. Studio 7 had been abandoned for a while, but still. The execs could probably just take their whores back to their mansions or something.
I got it from a very trustworthy source.
So you want us to go take pictures or something? Its not happening because its not fucking true, I said.
Fine, pussy. You go back to work while I take video and blackmail my way to pension and immediate retirement. He snorted and leaned back, frowning.
This Saturday? I asked.
Yeah, Im going to catch whatever the fuck theyre doing on tape. Worst case scenario is that they dont show up or they secretly donate to charity or something.
I dont like this.
Think of your fucking daughter. You see her three hours a day. You really gonna do that until she hits college? She isnt gonna be in middle school forever.
I stopped for a second. If Jack and I could have something like that over their heads, then wed be set. I could move to Hawaii or something with Julie and we could spend the rest of our days at the beach. She liked the beach. I remember when she was five and she giggled and laughed and splashed around in the water. Julie was too mature for her age because of me. I never saw her smile like that anymore.
For the rest of lunch break, Jack and I were huddled close, whispering plans back and forth to finally get power for once.