The show was wrapped up at around 3pm. It was due to air at 7:30pm that night – the execs had decided to refrain from live telecasts in light of the William Unston episode. Tony was already in his office. The recording couldn’t have finished soon enough. He was pacing back and forth; his hands shaking uncontrollably and giving off a steady rattling sound. He didn’t want to think anymore and popped the lid off the bottle and poured out a handful of pills. This gave off a softer rattle as he stared at the small white objects.
“Fuck!” he said, gritting his teeth and poured them back into the bottle, a couple spilling onto the ground as his shaking hands failed to synchronise. He slammed the closed bottle on his table and continued to pace, running his hands over his hair plugged head. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck! Fuck! FUUUCK!!”
It had taken all his will and control to refrain from saying that on set. Sure it wasn’t live and they could edit and censor it, but he was a pro if nothing else and the game wasn’t over no matter what that fucking worm said.
“Tony you wouldn’t mind having a little chat, would you?” Brian Smithwaite had entered Tony’s office 5 minutes before the show was ready to shoot. “May I?” he gestured to the seat.
Tony didn’t respond. He remained rigid, facing his mirror, watching the man politely take a seat. He didn’t trust Smithwaite; nobody did. He was trying to find a hint of what was going to happen, but he didn’t need to look too hard: Brian produced one of his trademark slimy grins and Tony knew it was bad news.
“How can I help you?” he said tentatively, hoping to take some initiative but immediately feeling as though he had displayed only weakness.
“There’s no reason to be alarmed, Tony,” Smithwaite said, pouncing. “We just need to...discuss certain matters relating to Mr Walter Wallace.” He spoke as though it wasn’t rehearsed; as though the idea was forming in his head at that very moment. The words seemed to ooze out of his mouth as he continued, “Considering audiences these days, and the demographics that we want to truly be reaching with our coverage...we have decided to make this your last segment with Walter.”
“Fuck!” Tony said aloud, pacing his office. He couldn’t shake the image of Smithwaite from his head. That piece of shit, scum thinks he can just blackball Tony Holdsworth. He punched the wall, pain shooting up his arm, and then kicked a chair across the room in retaliation connecting primarily with his shin. He opened the cupboard to his liquor cabinet and pulled out half a bottle of gin. He poured and drank two quick shots into a glass and slammed his glass on the bench. He stared at the bottle in his hand a moment, as though he were in the eye of his storm and then poured a third.
“Tough habit to kick, isn’t it?” Smithwaite said, taking a bottle of gin from the liquor cupboard. “Helpful though, when the times are tougher.”
“Why?” Tony said heavily.
“Why drink? Surely you know better than the rest of us: To wash down the pills of course.” It was way too far but Tony didn’t often lose his cool. “Oh. Sorry, why are you being taken off the Wallace schedule?” Smithwaite was basking in the toxic atmosphere, “Well like I said the demographics come into play and-”
“-Cut the bullshit, Brian!”
“-and your inability to handle the Unston debacle and”-
“-That was unprecedented. A live fucking suicide!”
“-and the big boys upstairs don’t like you anymore, Tony. You’re too old. You’re past your prime.” Tony snapped and had Smithwaite up against the wall in an instant. “Uh uh uhh. Don’t want to give me cause to fire you completely, do you?” Smithwaite said through a restricted voice. “We feel you deserve a proper send off once the Walter hype dies. Plus we could use some big event television. Of course a simple smear campaign could easily take you out of the picture without all the fanfare.”
Tony downed his fourth gin and though he was not quite drunk, he had lost any inhibitions about taking the medication. He popped the lid off and tipped it so that three little white pills dropped into his palm. He noticed his hand wasn’t shaking this time. He threw them against the back of his throat and urged them down with another drink. The bottle was nearly empty and he drained the remains into his mouth before hurling the bottle at the spot where Brian Smithwaite had been standing.
“Very quick to resort to violence nowadays, aren’t you, Tony?” Smithwaite said, straightening out his jacket, a tone of victory was being poorly hidden by his voice and demeanour. “It’s not all bad, though. We have already decided who will be replacing you.” Tony stiffened up. “Mr Manny Holdsworth is going to be the new face of Channel 8 studios. You must be so proud,” Brian went on sarcastically, “-I mean sure you did advise us not to hire him- and you once said he is too much like his cunt of a mother to be as great as his father. Such kind words for a man’s 30th birthday speech - but still very proud, no?”
A rushed looking girl with a head set opened the door and looked in. She appeared taken aback by the almost visible hatred that had engulfed through room like a sauna. “One minute, Mr Holdsworth.”
“Yes, Tony, let’s get this show on the road.” Smithwaite taunted before slithering out of the room.
Tony sat slouched in the corner of his office with a freshly opened bottle of gin nesting in his lap. He had made it through the show because he had to prove to himself and Smithwaite and the world that he still could- but that was all he had left. He had given his life to this business and his reward was to be shafted by some slimy fucking worm. He had spent enough time with Walter Wallace to know something in the world existed that he had never experienced but he couldn’t help but believe that his world, the real world, was that of Brian Unston. He reached up sloppily and felt around until he found the bottle of pills. He fumbled it and they spilled onto the floor around him and he proceeded to indulge in the lowest act of his life. He scooped up as many as he could find, shoving them, with the dirt and dust still intact, into his mouth. He couldn’t swallow them all and crunched some with his teeth before tipping the bottle up and washing the remains down. He couldn’t remember after that moment, his consciousness disappeared and he collapsed in a heap.
Notes to the Text