Saturday, April 30, 2011

Personal Jinx

"2 plus 2 always makes a 5" - Radiohead

In year 8 I was isolated away in the 8-2 Maths Class. I sat up the front by myself because I had no friends in that gathering of social awkwardness and thought myself much too cool to make any. On the plus side it gave me a chance to focus on the mathematics at hand and as I strolled into class late one afternoon the teacher looked up and said congratulations. The class, too, looked at me with some sense of awe. Apparently I had scored 99% on the recent test and, along with Nina Cheung, I had achieved the highest mark. The ego boost that this gave me was, needless to say, quite exhilarating. I scoured through the test and found my dropped mark - I wrote ‘cm’ on the wrong line of an equation – and from that point on I set out to score a 100% mark.

Despite my efforts, within two years my maths test average had fallen from around 96% to about 90%. Was maths harder or me dumber, lazier? Unable to accept fault I found another connection. It was for a test in year 9 or 10. I thought I aced it; I had it this time. I told all around me that it was easy and I was pretty confident of the mark. It came back. The class averaged 95% and I got 89%! I was more than a little shattered. Not only for the shitty mark, not only for my confidence heading in but more for the fact that I talked myself up to all and sundry and then fell flat on my face. I learned from that day that the secret to success was not hard work and self belief, but the ability to keep your mouth shut until you have achieved your goal so you don’t jinx yourself before the fact.

Walter Wallace - Chapter 25

Angela Beckford was walking as if in a dream. She knew what she had to do: Organise a few biscuits and coffee and take them to The Wentworthville. No rush though, Mr Tank was content to wait just a mom-

“Commercial in 15 seconds. Is guest C prepped for return?”

Angela was snapped to life. “On it,” she said rapidly, trying not to convey the panic that she was severely behind schedule. She rushed to the green room and-

“Commercial. Report on Guest C.”

-hurried Guest C out. The man was a neo-modern psychotherapist (which meant he flunked his PHD and created his own qualification) and was quite upset and flustered at being treated in such a manner.

“Miss if you simply relaxed and took your time you would be able to communicate your intention with much more effect.” He stated with the condescension of a distinguished scholar.

“30 seconds til we’re back. We are introducing Guest C off the bat. Is he prepped?”

“I appreciate your advice,” Angela said rapidly through her exhale, inhaling under her breath Try working in Televsion, you faux hippy douche bag.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Huh?” she looked at him as she ushered (pushed) him to the stage left entrance. “I was just-”

“We’re back from commercial in 5...4- Nic, where the fuck is Guest C?!”

“Prepped and ready.”

“Nick, is it? Just try and emulate me. Innnn, one, two, three, four, five.” He illustrated the flow of breath with his hands, “Hold. And-”

“Shut up!” she hissed. “OK.” She tucked her hair behind her ears, shaking a little. “You look great. Remember not to look directly at the camera. Speak with a strong but not too loud voice, OK? You’ll be fine!”

“Send Guest C, Nic!”

“Please, Nic just re-” she spun him on his heel and pushed him forcefully out onto the stage with the soul of her boot.

“Nick, what the fuck was that about?”

“MY NAME’S NOT NICK!” she said in the loudest whisper possible. This made her remember Sam Tank and she took off her headset and walkie talkie and stuffed them into the hands of a floating intern. “Take this!”

“But.” He stared at her like a fish that just had the hook ripped out of its mouth by the fisherman. “Help me.”

“You’re Nick for ten minutes.” She stormed off towards the kitchen.

Walter Wallace - Chapter 24

Brian Smithwaite stood in the shadows of the audience bleachers at a Channel 8 studios. He was content and smiling accordingly. He had recently got off the phone with Big Boss. It was his nickname for Boss Citadel which, when said with sincerity and placed directly after an insult received, would infuriate and disarm the big guy and ultimately place him under Brian’s persuasion. Boss had just informed him that Sammy Tank was coming down to the studios to sort out the contract negotiations which Brian had, as Boss put it so elegantly, “fucked up the fucking cunt!”

“Well I assure you that everything is fine, contract or no contract. The precious Walter Wallace is broken and willing to eat poison out of my hand - in fact that is what he is doing right this minute. But if you wish to send the mouth and his third wheel muscle then by all means go ahead – you are the big boss after all.”

Boss took some short, tantrum like huffs and puffs. He could never handle layered insults and backhanded compliments so even though he had essentially won the argument he now felt as though he had lost by a large margin. “Look,” he said, trying to regain some ground after a few more grunts, “just don’t fuck it up like last time.”

“You got it, big guy.” It was all he could do not to go into a mock radio announcer voice and he hung up the phone before Boss could reply or hear Brian laughing to himself. Perhaps he had gone too far, but Boss had gone too far as well. The studios were Brian’s stomping grounds. He ran this joint with a team of headless suits and the puppet Tony Holdsworth. But the brains behind it all was he, Brian Smithwaite. Up to now it had been fine that he received little recognition for his efforts in corrupting the news, deregulating the advertising standards and practice, filling his pockets with IOU slips from executives at the other networks, but the Walter Wallace fiasco was his moment to shine.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Walter Wallace - Chapter 23

Ricky Talk didn’t speak very much. Words were confusing. They made him want to be smart but only ever feel dumb. He liked some words, like food and sleep and red because they were easy to say and remember. Most words, though, only existed to hurt him. Right now there were lots of words being said and he didn’t know half of them and the other half made no sense even if he did know them. People could say words without thinking, like Boss always did. Right now he was yelling and screaming about the funny looking, happy man on TV. Ricky was happy it wasn’t words made for him because that was scary when Boss yelled at him and all he could do was look scared until Boss would hit him and say ‘Go Away’ in French. Ricky didn’t know why Boss liked French so much but he always spoke it. At that moment he said, “Why the fuck...fucking wallet...sign the fucking track.” It made no sense to Ricky and having so much French didn’t help.

But worse than people who say words without thinking was people who say words with thinking. At least when Boss spoke Ricky could understand his motions: Angry or not Angry. But when Sam spoke he didn’t use any motions. That was worse than French. At least Ricky knew one French word. Sam replied to Boss but Ricky couldn’t understand anything. He heard ‘water wallet’ – which didn’t sound like a very good wallet (maybe that was why Boss was angry) – but that was it. And Boss just said “Fuck!” and stormed around angry.

Walter Wallace - Chapter 22

Phil lay sprawled on his mattress. It was fairly hot outside, even for early morning (12:30pm is still morning for Phil), and so he had cast aside the bed sheets and was in the final stage of waking up. He trudged over to his door, picking up a pair of shorts on the way and hopped into them lethargically. As he opened the door he was met with a wave of fresh air, wincing his eyes a little at the bright light reflecting off the walls and tiles. He walked to the bathroom in a daze, took a long needed leak and then made for the kitchen. His mother had left a note for him in perfect bubbly cursive.

“Hi Flip, just left for work and didn’t want to wake you. Just want to say I love you no matter what. Every day is a new day to shine your light.”

Just below that note was an aggressive scrawl:

“Phil. Get a job.”

There was a series of newspaper clippings attached with part time and full time opportunities. Flip, as he preferred to be called for reasons highlighted by the two letters, rolled his eyes. He snatched the clippings off the fridge and whipped out his phone. He dialled the first number.

“Hi,” he began in perfect ‘uninterested slacker’ tones, “My name’s Phil, I’m calling about the uhh...” he took his time, exhaling heavily, “the uhh...job you guys got?” Finishing a statement in a question, he had learned, was the perfect sign of someone who can’t make decisions and should never be hired by an employer. The person at the other end replied politely. Flip cut her off, “So, I mean I haven’t really read the ad but what’s involved?” The girl started talking again. Flip cleared his throat aggressively and managed to hock up some phlegm, making no efforts to disguise the act of spitting it into the sink. “So you want me to come in for an interview, or something? I’ve never had a job so I don’t really know what to do?” The girl remained diplomatic but all signs pointed to no. “Alright I guess, I’ll from yous soon.”

Flip hung up and checked the call time: Nearly three minutes; good enough to keep his dad happy. He prepared some cereal and spoke to the next receptionist in between taking large spoonfuls of oats and bran. The third one he just called and left the hand set on the table – “Just got the machine, dad. You think they would show some professionalism?”

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Walter Wallace - Chapter 21

Walter was escorted home in the same van that picked him up outside of his work earlier that day. The drive was quiet. He hadn’t said much since the incident at the studio except that he would like to go home right away. There had been no argument from any of the executives; they were all quite supportive and insistent upon making him comfortable in any way. Brian Smithwaite was the most supportive but his eyes were still grinning that condescending grin. It was the first time Walter truly felt adverse to someone’s smile.

When he arrived home he waded through the mob of press at the entrance to his building. It had not thinned out though they seemed to have lost their bite a little and parted obligingly as Walter pushed forward. The questions they asked were a blur but he didn’t have to think too hard to guess what they were quizzing him about. He had been reliving the conversation for the last hour; trying to imagin what he could have to help the man instead of provoke him; instead of somehow giving him his blessing to take his life. Why would he want to do that? Why would anyone want to do that?

Once he entered the stud, Walter closed his curtain (that is he hung his bed sheet over the naked curtain rod). He didn’t much want a repeat of this morning’s invasion and the sight of the adjacent buildings wall wasn’t quite as inspiring as it used to be. He sat in thought with the conversation swirling around his head. He wished he had a blank crossword to help take his mind off the topic but the ones he had stored away were all thrice completed and fresh in his memory. He cooked some pasta and sauce in a rushed manner and noticed that it tasted as though it were bereft of its usual flavour. He ate it begrudgingly, using it as an outlet for the frustration that was building in his head. What if I had just said something different? He went to bed feeling no urge to sleep and for the second night in a row he lay awake in his bed long into the early morning hours.

He awoke at 6am feeling worse than when he had gone to bed and wondering if he had even slept. He sat and ate some cereal lethargically before putting on his work clothes. He left the house and the press were ready for his early bird antics this time. The little respect they had shown the night before had clearly dissipated and they seemed to be making up for lost time.