Cleaned myself: oh yeah baby
Monkey see, monkey do: not quite
Believe in God? repressed
I arrive at the TV studios, all the incriminating evidence still in hand, neither intercepted nor apprehended thus far, and I am directed to a registration point where my temperature is taken, then sent on again, this time in the direction of a portacabin where we’re to change into our showtime clothes and wait for someone from wardrobe to come and find us.
Shortly afterwards a mannish boy seeks me out, holds me by the shoulders using the tips of his middle fingers and says, ‘OK, grey and brown. It’ll do. Go with Kylie now please.’
Kylie appeared from behind him and asked me to follow her into the little office at the end of the portacabin, and to sit down onto one of those moulded plastic orange chairs that you used to see everywhere.
‘Smile,’ she said, then gasped, ‘what have you done to your nice teeth?’ I shook my head.
‘I was just going to give them a whiten up round the edges, but I’m frightened those bad bits’ll break off.’
I am smiling, not talking, so I can’t tell her about my YouTube life hack, but I think I think she knows that it’s self-inflicted (it was a mistake to have become too devoted a disciple of the Smileyboyboy98 way, but I’d say the real damage was done that time I put an old toothbrush into the old man’s automatic screwdriver). ‘Look,’ she says, ‘I’m going to put TV teeth in for you today, but you’ve got to go to a dentist if you win any money – or even if you don’t,’ she said, then laughed her head off.
She does something to my hair, which takes ages, but seems very superficial, then I’m told that I’m good to go. Then the mannish boy returns and shouts out, ‘everyone who’s had wardrobe, please go to the Green Room,’ by which he meant the next portacabin along. And so, like a fast-tracked graduate trainee about to start the real job, all the attention was suddenly switched off, and we were ignored for the next four hours.
Nobody seemed to do anything, bar sit around, but as this unsolicited prick approached me to ‘chat’, I picked up my gaze from the floor for the first time, to see that the Green Room looked like it had been ransacked by monkeys. ‘You look like a classic seat one,’ he said.
I was supposed to ask him how he intuited such things, but I didn’t. He was one of those professional quiz-show types, who thinks he has an inside take on how it all really works. But he doesn’t realise that I’m in the process of achieving detachment from my mind so I said, ‘and you look like a Number Two to me.’
He smiled, ‘get you another coffee?’ I shook my head, ‘or a pastry?’
‘I don’t eat,’ I said, and he replied, ‘haven’t I seen you …’ and he made this to and fro gesture with his finger. I said, ‘that doesn’t count, it was boredom eating, and they’re all made from cardboard anyway.’
He laughed more heartily than Kylie had previously, and then said, ‘you’re definitely our seat one.’
Then, probably because I’d been rude to someone trying to be friendly, and partly because I’d eaten tons of cheap cakes having only consumed the elixir for the last week or so, I realised, for the first time in many months, that I was about to cack my pants and I didn’t know where the toilets designated for non-citizens were located.
What can I say? I did not find them in time. It was very dy by dx, but you know, just on the other side of the arc. With basic facilities and time at your disposal, you can see to your clothes OK, but it’s the back of the legs where the real problem resides. Still, I’d been here before, and as long as you’re methodical, you get through it in the end.
Besides, I needed time alone, away from preying and prying; and time spent cleaning, washing and changing, was time not spent reflecting. It also gave me another chance to think about being touched by Kylie, she had a bit of the Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s about her, and you know, after Big Tooth and her tomboy, procedure-driven approach to eroticism, I’d enjoyed the experience of some real feminine interaction for once.
But, given that I had just invited in catastrophe by being rude about the quisling, why double it up with monkey business? It always ruined bets, so why wouldn’t it a quiz-show? And poo-ing your pants and masturbation always made such unhappy bedfellows. Still, I dragged out my turn in the latrines as long as I could, knowing somehow that we wouldn’t be called, then eventually returned to the Green-cabin where a production assistant was waiting for me with the quisling and the original mannish boy.
The boy said, ‘mmh, brown and blue is it? … o…… k ……there’s no time to do anything about it now.’ And the quisling goes, ‘we’ve all signed one of these on our team,’ and presented me with a document. He offered no more explanation, but the production assistant intervened and said, ‘it’s an agreement to say that whatever happens to the four of you out there, whether you’re eliminated or win, that you’ll share the money four ways.’
I looked at them both uncomprehendingly. ‘It kinda motivates you more to play as a team,’ he added.
I shook my head.
‘So, I believe you’ve volunteered for seat one. Thanks,’ he said.
And, as usual, my mind was happy for uninvited third parties to walk all over us, and said nothing.
The quisling nodded encouragingly and smiled towards me. Then the boy said, ‘ooh, what’s in your bag, it might be worth having another little rummage …’
These are tests; besides the laundry, there was a swag bag of criminal paraphernalia too, so I said, ‘I don’t know what this ghoul has told you, but I choose to do the exact opposite.’
‘But I thought we’d agreed …’ the quisling began, and I just shouted ‘back off you cove,’ as loud as I could. Then, so he knew, I said ‘that includes you too,’ to my mind.
The mannish boy did not react well, but the production assistant asserted and said that he’d put me in seat four and my harasser in seat one at the other end so that we’d have as little interaction with each other as possible, ‘you go with Marcus now,’ he said to him, and turning to me he said, ‘I’ll come back in two minutes and if you’ve calmed down, and apologised to Marcus, you can go on, but if not, you’re going home.’
I smiled at him with my TV teeth and explained that I was talking to my mind, not Marcus, who I valued, and loved already. Then I went to rearrange my laundry in the far corner so that I could leave it all together safely unnoticed until I returned.
Many thanks to Avel Chuklanov for the image.