Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Blogging a Novel: Part Two

OK, here's chapter one of Lique. I usually like to write longer chapters, but I really want to get something posted and get the momentum going. Remember, you can search the "Lique" post tag to see all previous installments, which at this point consists only of the Epilogue.

CHAPTER ONE

“You know what I love about Planet of the Apes? I mean, besides the ending, duh.”
This threw off the reporter from Intrusion magazine, who hadn’t really expected this tangent. “I don’t know, the apes?”
“The apes! Hell to the yeah, right? They really make you think. Like, they’re not really that different from us. They wear clothes and ride horses and everything. And how weird is it for an ape to ride a horse? That’s like a lobster milking a cow.” Barry Lique chuckled to himself at the visual. “Claws and teats – that’s a bad combination.”
Fitzpatrick Darabont cleared his throat and attempted to get the interview back on track. “Indeed. I hate to change the subject, but I have to ask: what exactly are you doing with that… box?”
“Oh, yeah. This is my pressure box – I spend two hours every day in the pressure box. For training.” The pressure box was aptly named – it was a glass box, approximately a foot on each side, that simulated pressure equal to three times Earth’s gravity. Every day, Barry stuck his hands into the box and practiced the basic gestures of Rock-Paper-Scissors. “See, when I work in here, my hands adjust to higher pressure. That makes my tendons more powerful, so I can spring into action like a cheetah. It’s like how Buzz Aldrin was really good at basketball when he came back from the moon.”
Darabont chose not to contest that fact about one of America’s space heroes. “That’s amazing.”
“Yeah, after a session in here, my fingers are like coiled… coils. Really powerful. One time, right after I got out of the box, I flipped a coin. You know, deciding what to have for lunch. Flipped that quarter right up into the ceiling – drove it in about a half inch.” He nodded over his right shoulder, and Darabont could see that there was indeed a quarter embedded in the ceiling. He let out a low, appreciative whistle.
“Now, I’ve seen a lot of people coming though here, and it looks like they’re installing cameras throughout the house. Is that for security? Are you worried about your safety?”
“Those guys? Oh, no. They’re getting everything set up for the show.”
“The show?”
“Sorry – I’m doing a reality show with E!. Or ESPN. Definitely somebody who starts with an E. They’re going to follow me around and film me. Like the Kardashians, I guess. Should be pretty cool.”
“That strikes me as an interesting idea. We’ve never really seen a show that follows an athlete at the peak of his powers. Can’t wait to see it.” Fitzpatrick Darabont could no longer tell when he was being sincere. He was fairly certain it was either “always” or “never”, though. “Aren’t you concerned about your loss of privacy, though? Of exposing your hidden depths to the viewing public?”
“Ah, you know, I don’t have anything that I’m ashamed of. Open book, right here.” There was a short buzzing noise. “Oh, that’s it for the pressure box. Hold on to your glasses – sometimes there’s kind of a vacuum when it opens.”
Darabont dutifully held his glasses to his nose with one finger as Barry stepped on a pedal to open the box. Sure enough, Darabont felt a pull, and if he hadn’t been gripping his pen so tightly, it would have flown across the table. Barry raised his hands over his head.
“Have to do this for a minute or two. If I try to hold anything too soon, I’ll probably damage it with my grip. Crushed a remote control once.” Barry’s butler approached and rubbed down his hands with a wet towel. “This is my butler, Alfred.”
“Your butler’s name is Alfred? What are the odds?”
“Well, that’s not his real name. But who’s the best butler ever? Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred. And I don’t want a second rate butler – I found this guy who looked exactly like Alfred, and we changed his name. Awesome, right? Funny thing is, he’s not even a butler by trade!”
“I’m a CPA, actually.”
“Alfred, we talked about this…”
Chastened, Alfred answered again, this time with a British accent. “I’m a CPA, actually. Guv’nor.”
“You know, Barry, I’ve interviewed a lot of celebrities, and I think Alfred is the first actual butler I’ve ever seen.”
“Yeah, I guess I always thought that all rich people had butlers.” Barry lowered his hands and flexed tentatively. “But I guess it’s just me and what’s-his-name. Diddypuff. But they’re so handy! If people knew how great butlers were, they’d be way more popular. Maybe my show will help with that. Get little kids into the field of butlering.”
Alfred sighed heavily. “Indeed.”
“Well, Barry, it has been an absolute pleasure. Unfortunately, I need to leave if I’m going to make my flight. If it’s all right, I might need to call you later with some follow-up questions.”
“No problem, man. Sorry I can’t shake your hand, but my tendons are still really tight.”
“Oh, I understand. Good luck with the show.”

* * *

As he scanned the overnight ratings, Phil Stump tried to remember the last time he’d had a solid bowel movement. Three, four years, probably. Had Phil known at the time what a momentous occasion he was experiencing, he would have marked it somehow. Perhaps with a handful of confetti. But Phil couldn’t have anticipated the stress that would soon come to define his life.
“Seventeenth in 18 to 34? You’re shitting me, right? Is there even a seventeenth place?” He used to worry about his mental state when he talked to himself like this, but the eternal question of whether or not he’d gone insane continued to slide down his list of priorities. On this particular morning, his sanity was approximately one thousand times less important than the viewing public’s steadily decreasing disinterest in whether the surviving Fat Boys would be able to find themselves some nice girls with whom to settle down. Last season, Crushin’ was a major hit, pulling network numbers for the season finale. This year, he was consistently losing to not one, but two, Spanish language stations. As the executive producer, Phil spent most of his waking hours worrying about this.
Of course, this worry overlapped with his worries over the eleven other shows that House of Stump Productions oversaw. While celebrity reality (or “celebreality”, a term Phil Stump claims to have invented) was a notoriously low-cost way to fill programming space, it was an increasingly crowded market. Unlike scripted TV, there was no chance of getting time to build an audience. One-season wonders littered the landscape, and every time a show flamed out, Phil Stump had to scramble for another concept. If he didn’t step in to fill that slot, somebody else would. It was absolutely brutal out there, with so many fly-by-night production companies fighting to line up the most watchable celebrities at all levels.
His MTV reality competition show, The Next Girl I Kissed, in which young women competed for the chance to kiss Katy Perry failed after only two episodes. “Get this, they actually replaced it with videos. On MTV!” Phil was heard to say after the speedy cancellation. He’d managed to get some traction with the VH1 hit Shannon Doherty: Party Planner, but his star had quit at the end of the first season, tired of spending every episode planning a stranger’s special event. The second season had consisted entirely of re-edited unused footage, but people were starting to notice. At this point, his only solid success was The Same Name Challenge, in which two teams of same-named celebrities competed in bizarre challenges. The second season finale, which pitted Bills Pullman, Paxton, Bradley, and Nye managed to eat a collective seventeen more pounds of squid than Team Tom (Green, Watson, Clancy, and Daschle) brought in monster ratings, but the researchers were starting to run out of first names. There was talk of switching the format to famous people with the same last name, but Phil worried that would lead to casting people who were actually related, which he felt threw off the gimmick.
It was a stressful existence, but Phil saw one bright spot on the horizon. Barry Lique was at the top of his game – usually he had to catch people on the way down, banking on the viewing public’s sense of irony. Barry, though, was on the rise and Phil had somehow managed to contract him. It was the first bidding war for one of his projects in years, and Phil Stump felt a rare glimmer of hope. Hell, if that Olympic talk continued, he would be right there in the middle of it, catching lightning in a bottle. Whenever he thought about Lique It (title tentative), Phil Stump allowed himself to smile. It felt good. Weird, but good.
Phil Stump had no way of knowing how short-lived this feeling would be. Even with his innate pessimism, he would have overestimated if asked.