He stared down the thick lens of the camera dead in front of him. He checked he was on his mark. He took a deep breath to ease his nerves. His heart jumped as the first lines popped up on the teleprompter. But he didn’t need those today. He felt like a kid again. Just like his first show – that camp variety hour from more than three decades ago – he had memorised his monologue. He wasn’t going to leave anything to chance. Tony Holdsworth was back and he was going to make it a bang.
As a pro, as the veteran, he had let his game slide. He had forgotten his roots and his fundamental philosophy of hard work. His ego had taken hold of him and made him complacent. It was his fault and he didn’t blame Brian Smithwaite for what happened to him. Smithwaite only fast tracked the inevitable (that didn’t let the slimeball off the hook, though).
Tony had gained the upper hand. He had the momentum now, and more importantly he had the backing. If he wanted he could make a simple back bencher power play and take over the network, but he wanted to shame Smithwaite the way he himself had been shamed. He wanted to beat him at his own game; take it all away from him. Tonight was the first step. In a week Channel 8 would be his.
“Welcome. Ladies and gentleman I assure you it is good to be back. Great, even, and I appreciate all your support in my hour of need.
“Perhaps some may claim that it did me no good – the good will, I mean. They might say that I was in a coma and none of the positivity held any consequence in my state of mind. That’s fair enough – I may have thought the same some time ago. But I’ve since learned differently and we’ll be hearing more about that soon. I’m simply grateful to have this second chance; to be here tonight to share with you something that many of us have been searching for so frantically over the last few months. But I am mainly just grateful for every one of you at home who tuned in.”
He felt in his element. He had warmed up to this. He had bore the burden of the anxiety attacks during the sickening wait, but now it was all action and the true thrill of the chase melted away all previous fears.
“I should first address the issue of my hospitalisation. This came at a time of great personal struggle. I have heard the rumours floating around that it was in direct relation to my son Manny taking over from me in the Walter Wallace specials – the nastier of those suggesting that he may have even had a hand in them. These are completely false, such claims. To accuse a son of doing something like this to his father...this reflects the nature in which our culture has turned in on itself, blindly attacking with such cunning malice. It is as destructive as the medications which I so carelessly took to ease my pain, allowing these pills to eat away from within.
“But my habits stemmed from more ingrained sadness and anger than a paternal paradox. I suffered from this common sickness by which we all have suffered – that longing to be great and admired and fulfilled on a regular basis; the desire to have more and more until it is the most; the jealousy that contaminates our minds at the sight of one another – I have been a slave too long to this mysterious nature and in seeking an answer I too was drawn to the Word of Walter Wallace.”
Tony continued to stare down the lens. He had no in-house audience to address here; he wanted it intimate – just he and the viewer talking one on one.
“Tonight, though, will be different to your usual Walter Wallace experience. I do not have him on the show and by the end you will be grateful for it. Tonight my special guest will be a doctor. A doctor with a rich history in all that I have spoken about. This man spent a great deal of his life a victim to the symptoms I have mentioned. He is a gifted man, who learned to live a life free of the shackles of the constant human condition. He studied the phenomenon with a thesis as brave and crazy and improbable as life itself.
“Life, to him, is one of freedom, a true happiness that is attainable and one that requires help from each and every one of you.”
Tony felt alone in the vast studio. The audience bleachers were bare, even the stage hands seemed to have left. The atmosphere was haunting, romantic even. He let it grow dense; as though it was fogging up the very lens of the camera as it fed into the living rooms around the world.
“Doctor Lucy Blues came into this world, up onto this stage with a grand vision. She had designed a machine to narrow us down into the one person who was deemed the happiest man alive. But to what level of testing was her machine held? What proof reading, if you will, was done on her findings? Well the science has been proofed and it does indeed hold true – Walter is the happiest of us all. But what is interesting is that the science was not born solely from the mind of Dr Blues. She had assistance. Lucy took assumptions and based her machine on the foundations of another remarkable doctor’s findings. And it is that doctor that I have here with me this evening.”
Tony let the moment live a moment longer.
“Tonight, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have the honour of talking with Dr Sam Tank.”