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Prove Your Worth

“You’re going to get cancelled,” she whispers angrily offstage.

“But I’m hungry,” I whisper back using only the left side of my mouth, away from the camera.

I swirl the peanut butter and bring it to a dramatic peak. I stride around taking large bites out of my sandwich, trying to look sardonic. Hard because I’ve never been able to grasp what ‘sardonic’ means.

“Say something,” comes another command.

The peanut butter is sticking to the roof of my mouth and I can’t think of anything to say but “Good Grief.”

“Scene!” is shouted.

Clacking heels storm up to me. My agent’s short red hair is twirled around her head. Not a style. She’s been pulling at her hair in utter despondency. My ratings are dropping. The numbers are on the wall.

“Haven’t you ever done anything or known anyone or passed by anything INTERESTING in your WHOLE LIFE!” she shouts. Her hand flies back up to her hair.

I’m cringing under her attack. I woke up this morning to the cameras and knew it was my turn. Prove Your Worth is actually the name of the game. Problem is, worth is determined by what others find entertaining.

Celeste has already called me out of work. If I were a police man or ER worker then they could’ve followed me through my day but I’m not. I’m a postal clerk and Celeste says that having viewers literally die of boredom is bad for ratings.

“And Action!” I call Mommy and try to dredge up past inconsolable traumas but Mommy just apologizes for whatever and acknowledges my pain at never getting that …pony…I guess.

I stomp across the hall, bang on my neighbor’s door and demand he turns the music down. I get another apology and an invitation to come over for tea. Celeste is throwing back antacids like candy.

We all make our way down to the store. I’m going to yell at the store clerk because the spoiled cream curdles in my coffee. Her unsteady hand and shaky head stop me. We’re all so fragile.

Celeste is making clawing motions with her hands, telling me to rip into the clerk. I can’t. My uncle had Parkinson’s too.

“Scene!”

“You know there is only one way to bring the rating up, right?” ask Celeste.

“I know,” I say. My chest is tight and my stomach’s churning, but I knew it from first lights, camera, action.

“One, Two or Three?” Celeste says, faking compassion or some weird new social affliction.

I’ve watched the show a few times. One door has some sort of wild animal. One door has some sort of pool; acid, quicksand, whatever. The third door is a wildcard. It’s whatever new thing the staff can come up with.

I choose door number Two.

The door opens and out comes, Mommy, my neighbor and the store clerk. Wildcard?

Celeste makes more clawing motions with her hands and they descend …and rip into me.

This story was written by Maxine Kollar, a wife and a mother of three. She loves to write, bake and is constantly being judged by her cat. Her works have appeared in SpeckLit, Tell Us A Story and coming soon to Gravel Mag.
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