Private: Alexander Redding
Making your way in this world today seems to take everything you’ve got. Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
I’ll suffice it to say, it was the type of night I needed to be in the comforts of a place where nobody asks your name. The type of establishment that hasn’t let you smoke inside for well past a decade now, but still had a haze in the air at all times. Each corner of the room, a hush of conversation under whatever the would-be DJs would buy on the retro jukebox positioned up by the bar. I take a swallow from the Heineken I’ve been nursing, looking over the anxious eyes peering back to the dealer. Finally I take up the deck, and having flipped the flop, turned the turn, I guess this is the river. Always gets a, ‘damn.’
“Fold,” from my right, folding his arms.
“Call,” neither sounds, nor looks confident, sweating more than the draft pull at his side.
Just one more, as this tall drink of water, whom a stiff breeze could present problems, is checking between his chips and comically-tight held hand. Whatever the calculus, the chips are taken in two hands, “All in.”
Exciting, but not worrying. I take no time to push enough frontward, “I’m going to have to call there, bucko.”
This is poker, and not a Mexican standoff, so the third politely tosses aside the cards he didn’t care enough to raise for the last two rounds, and we have a duel betwixt yours truly and the baby-fluff beard.
“Two-pair,” he beams, no more betting to be done.
“I’ll be; aces and eights?”
“Dead man’s hand,” must have read it in a book, looking nothing like Wild Bill’s type. It’s enough that the eager youngster mistook my mirth for failure, and is brazenly reaching for the pot.
I barely notice the front swing open and the two dames bringing in the winter with them. “Not so fast. I think these ladies,” pocket queens of hearts, diamonds, and clubs the river, “would mean that pot is mine,” I must have laughed at him looking so pathetic.
In the midst of re-examining all the life choices that lead to wagering his last dimes, and not even in some atmospheric Las Vegas glitz and glam, I guess one more mistake couldn’t hurt. “Cheater,” he levels in my direction.
“Excuse me?” I try to excuse the injury before I get to think about returning something more than hurt feelings.
“He, he,” the stammer continued, “he must have cheated. There’s no way he beat me. He cheated.”
“Oh, and you’re just counting cards, is that it?” I am not sure he’s getting the malice in my eyes.
He couldn’t have, he’s up and standing now, whaling this nonsense.
A few shuffle toward the loon, begging, “Jackson, just let it go.” They have a better sense for the type of establishment they find themselves, “You shouldn’t be here.” And the misty eyed look only adds to the pleas.
I honestly couldn’t recount the bullshit he spun about how more money was inevitably the solution to whatever situation he judged worse than tempting me to unseemly acts betraying my cherub-like demeanor. Whatever it was, I forgot in the shock display of testicular fortitude neither he, nor I, heretofore believed possible, shoving me a step and a half back.
I didn’t really need it, but kudos to whoever put on the Elton John: Saturday night was alright for a fight.
The fracas kicked off with some other knocking against my back. Seems I wasn’t the only one in this place looking for a little avenging. The powderkeg had been lit, so I got to christening the upstart with my four-fifths empty bottle.
As I stand over, ready for the next, the dollface turns her pleas to me. Between the,”Mister, just let him go,” and the “please,” that wasn’t magic enough to have me see anything but Red, it was enough to slow my thinking, caught unawares by the trench previously posted up at the bar lumbering in my direction.
I was busy choosing some choice words to get across the importance of my fragile self-confidence, and not letting blows to my ego slide, when I feel a hand grab firm my shoulder.
Now, just how did I end up in the alleyway? And when did the bar go open concept?
Questions to revisit later. The only thought now concerned how terribly underdressed I was for this nondescript New England mid-February evening air, despite the streaks of warm blood running down my forearms. Not like the goliath exiting the backdoor. He had his trenchcoat, he was smart enough to have his hands gloved, in… bandages!?
Quebec City, Quebec
February 19, 2022 @9:34PM
“Alex, that was beautiful.” Beautiful, my snow covered ass, but, if the director says it was…Still there’s usually something to add. “I think we’ll call it a night here, people. Great job, all!” wasn’t the usual.
“Got it on the second take?” I bob my head above the assistant come to wipe the faux-crimson from my arms.
Poking eyes up from behind the mess of camera banks and video screens, the thinning head beneath the classic ballcap assures that, “I thought the first one was perfect. This was just about giving them options. The money people are always funny about the idea of getting it in one.”
I have to think about Fatty Arbuckle daring to ask Buster Keaton to break his neck one more time, because the first shot just, hmm, didn’t feel right. Not that this held a candle.
‘Wrapped with Care,’ coming this holiday season 2022! Only on the Hallmark Channel.
Yeah, the last commitment I had to filming was something I wouldn’t even admit to underoath of any wrestlers’ court. You know the ones, in the same vein as those Princess fantasies distilled by the Disney sweatshops, only now life has beaten your expectations down. Instead of sovereign-to-be, the leads were all struggling owner/operators of niche businesses, be it butcher, baker or candlestick maker.
“You know I’d believed they were funny when they settled on a mummy. What, did we run through all the spies, mobsters and vampires?”
“Actually,” Davy let’s his tone slip. Apparently doing an Advent Calendar’s worth of these made-for-television classics every year left the script writers trolling through the deepest depths of the creative wells. Just don’t be surprised when you only get pond scum.
Hey, how loudly could I complain if it meant they even gave me forty-five seconds onscreen and a speaking role?
“A prince from five-thousand years ago, an over-her-head, early thirties-something plumbing heiress, meeting under snowy skies and becoming Amazing Life Partners,” not even he could keep a sarcastic tone out of his rote recall of the log line.
Amazing Life Partners, yeesh.
‘And so the oracle foretold that exhuming some graves would bring with it the evils of ancients. And it came to pass, as PRIME did it’s best impersonation of a tap dancing Lazarus, Pandora’s dowry chest once again opened and shook for all its worth. Along with Hope fell that final, complete evil.’
“Shit, it’s cold,” could he feel that spectre haunting the land? “Remind me again why we booked this for mid-February in Quebec of all places?”
“Even with all the effects today, nothing beats the practical,” his words. “Nothing translates to that screen better than real,” mine.
“Yeah, yeah,” he let his own words defeat him. “Just, get out of this snow storm, would you?”
Should I remind him, as a Canadian, it’s been ingrained in my very soul since infancy to never complain about the cold, even if the weather was our favourite topic of conversation? I could tell him about the morning’s laps in the St. Lawrence, but I’m not trying to play a game of who’s harder than who’s. No, I’ll save the dick measuring contests for the other vocation, where subtly is a four letter word.
I tip the not-there cap, and set off to that sweet scent wafting, dancing through the snow flakes and coming from the Polish Hall in old Quebec City that’s been co-opted for food services. I could slaughter a schnitzel about now.
“Hey, Red!” shoots up a hand, and instantly I’m back in highschool, being called over to the cool kids’ table, unable to say ‘no,’ even if I’d rather be in the library studying “The Art of War.”
I return a nod and drag along the plate of breaded pork. “Sunita,” with a short smile, hooking a chair with a foot and falling into it with grace, “how is La Belle Province treating you?”
“Idyllic, really,” she says, eyes fixed on the windows. “You,” she laughs a little as her gaze breaks, wiping, I guess, the few flakes stubborn enough to stay on my brow ridge, “I never get how you do that so willingly.”
It gets me smiling, “It’s all about knowing the way things break down,” the psychology of the inanimate and the ego-fueled alike. “That, and the glass isn’t actively trying to fight back.”
Good natured disbelief as she dips back into the salad on the table in front of her.
“Oh, and if I didn’t get the chance to say it already: congrats, you know, getting the lead.” Ms. Prasad had been in a few of these things now, once as a rival, once as a bestest for the lead, and that’s only on the ones I’ve been incharge of the safety when things inevitably call for the slapstick.
“Thank you, thank you,” with all the sincerity that tells me I must be the fiftieth on set to relay the propers today. “A little bittersweet, though, isn’t it?”
A thousand yard stare, as for the life of me I couldn’t think of the bitter.
That’s where Patch May breaks in, this film’s antagonist, the seat over, his cabbage rolls but a memory on his lips already, “Our dear Jughead is bound for that great funny farm in the southwest.”
“Oh,” it hits me from a thousand miles away.
“PRIME, right?” Sunita, having given up on salad, is stealing a small piece of my schnitzel.
“You guys, uhm.. watch?” I’ll never assume the physical telling of the oldest story, good versus assholes, such as our circus, reached the eyes of the wider public.
“Me? Heavens no,” Patch, may you never change, “but my kid loves the thing.” Okay, I’m pretty sure that child is four from the photos he’s gone around showing. Maybe adopt better parental habits.
“Yeah, Vegas, but I haven’t heard word one for nigh on two months now.” And don’t much expect any call coming ‘til at least April at this point.
“Yeah, Red here lost to this masked relic from back in the days when NuMetal was still a thing,” comes a stray bullet from the table next.
“Thanks, Robby,” I always do so appreciate having my nose dragged through the muck of defeat.
“And weren’t you on the shows, anyways?” the 2nd crew’s head of photography must have been mistaken.
“Well, you so succinctly described my first match, and I haven’t had one since. I guess I might have made air last night on that motivational call to Ted; you see, he was jumped in the middle of it by this hulking lunatic, before Ted went on to make him humble,” I play it to the casual audience. “Oh, are you talking about that reporter from the second show? Handsome devil, but I don’t have the foggiest who that was.”
It gets a chuckle from Rob, or was that something else?
“I think you’ll want to check your phone, then.”
At this point the hive brain has been locked on airplane for the fourteen hours of shooting. I make a show of looking to everyone, the edicate for politely ignoring everyone a few minutes while you fiddle with your phone, but their expectant faces tell me to go on. The modest Samsung shakes for a half minute when I connect.
“Well?” Sunita grinned like the cat that ate the canary, expecting me to not notice my plate now sat directly in front of her, mid-chew.
“Bank trying to sell me RRSPs; Amazon asking me to review a purchase of,” I don’t say it aloud, but I’ll have to talk to Gracey about ordering stuff off of my account. “Ah, here we go. Wow, ten messages from Grady.” Ignoring Patch mouthing, ‘what’s a Grady?’ I cut through the expletives to the core of the matter, “Well, look at that, I do have a match, and it’s not even Easter yet. Wait a minute now.”
“You are terrible at this storytelling business,” Patch was hooked. “What is it?”
“An all expenses paid trip to the big show on the proviso that I can best four other fighters at the same time. Hmm,” I liked the odds.
Odds for the chaos that is, but I do swim so well through that smoke.
“We’ve got a Grumpy Bird Watcher, Little Miss Murder, the Preacher’s Son, and a Prissy Poision Peddler. Now ain’t that just some culture club?”
“So, it’s four people against you?” Sunita was more right than you probably think.
“He’s basically got no shot,” Robby must not have seen my earlier work. Lucky him.
“Well, you do so love that Daredevil guy,” Patch didn’t understand my happy place as a fight choreographer was that hallway scene.
“It’s going to be rough if you don’t make it to Culture Shock and your boy, Teddy Palmer is there, fighting for the big prize,” Rob was preaching to the choir.
Trying to play catch up, Sunita and Patch were going to their phones for help.
Before I could continue, I got the eleventh message, ”Well, it looks like we lost the Bird Watcher.” And in that moment of brief melancholy, inspiration hit. “Hey Roberto, you think I could borrow you and your camera for a little while? I have had an idea.”
“Yeah, just let me polish off these perogies.”
“Hey, Red, before you go,” Sunita really was a dollface.
“What is it?”
“Could you maybe get me Teddy’s number?”
Uploaded to the ACE Network: Monday February 21, 2022 @9:15 AM
…An Ampersand Production…
…An Urgent Public Service Announcement
My Name is Owen: The Dangers of Winlessness
OSV: Do you feel pangs of envy for your coworkers?
Five seconds from a Korean knock off of the Witch from Sleeping Beauty looking with twisted longing for that which Beauty had, through the Mirror plays as b-roll.
OSV: Have you felt the temptation to whine to any and every ear just how you should have won that match?
The backing imagery pivots. Star wipe transition to a stock group of people, stand in for peers, coworkers, shaking their heads.
OSV: Do you notice fewer and fewer fans around ringside during your entrances?
Scratchy cut to the recently departed Jimmy Bonafide and a specific, bitterly honest shoot video: “Curtain jerking is no joke.”
Tearing through the screen a la John Madden of yore, the once and former Willing Villain, Alexander Redding stands, smirk at the ready, striped oxford rolled at the cuffs. The shot sits from the belly button up.
Alexander Redding: If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you might be winless here in PRIME. Hello, I am Alexander Redding, and I too was once staring down that goose egg in the win column, but I am here with a helpful message that can help you avoid what is commonly referred to as Owen Syndrome.
The Peanut Gallery, brought to you by the good people of Planters, with a sultry feminine voice to ask, “Aren’t you still winless?”
Alexander Redding: I’ve only had one match, okay? Do you want this help, or would you rather be smart?
Alexander Redding: That’s what I thought.
Red straightens his collar, and softens his laser eye daggers, resuming a mockingly professional delivery.
Alexander Redding: Have you been noticing everybody laughing at your attempts at self deprecation a little too hard?
Turning away from a raucous and roaring crowd gathered around the center ring, the archetypal Clown takes a bow, but snatches off the wig as soon as he’s through the curtain, white makeup streaked through in blue tears
Alexander Redding (OSV): Do you suffer from blurry, spotted vision as result of constantly staring up at the lights?
80’s beach-goer, reflector held up under his chin to catch some rays. As the sun splits the overcast, the mid-forties caucasian sees his face instantly prune and raisin.
Alexander Redding: Are you supplementing your fraudulent life of fast cars and fast women/men/donkeys with crushing debt because you aren’t seeing winner’s bonuses?
Possibly a Merry Melody direct lift: Wallet opening and moths flying out.
Alexander Redding (OSV): Have you had thoughts of flaking, or worse…
A nightstand rocking to and fro, before hitting the ground, feet dangling, and you know ‘Brooks was here.’ But, please, if Mr. Frank Darabont’s people see this, it is fair usage under the act of 1976.
Alexander Redding: Please, do not ignore the signs. Owen Syndrome has cost this industry too many already. Get the help you so desperately need. Unless you’re one of Mister Solomon, or Missuses Ryan, or Nightshade; by all means, refer to this PSA after ReVival 4, but know I have no intentions of walking out of Vegas without my hand raised. So, I’m sorry to say, but that means I’m dumping each one of you on your heads, and punching my ticket to Culture Shock. I’ll be making the most of this second take, because it’s likely my final chance.
For everybody else:
The screen cuts to a shaky blue background.
Alexander Redding (OSV): Call the professionals today at 1-888-438-4663
The screen reads out the phone number on the bottom with the final 7 digits spelled out as 1-888-GET-GOOD
– The preceding has not been reviewed or endorsed by PRIME in any way. –