The Iron Writer Challenge #40
2013 Iron Writer Winter Solstice Challenge #4
Amy Eye, Carolynne Keenan, Jordan Bell, Liz Winn
Twister (the game)
A hot air balloon
“Listen, you need to amp up your image.” The publicist looked at Israel with determination. “My new campaign will have you on the cover of every magazine within a week!”
“I don’t want to be plastered all over the world making a fool of myself. I’m Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, not Kurt Cobain.” The soft-spoken musician turned his head away meekly, his eyes taking in his tiny ukulele.
“And how do you think Kurt got big? Not by sitting around and waiting for fame to chase him. He MADE it happen. I’m not saying I want you to play naked Twister or try Sumo wrestling in fishnet stockings. Let’s just start you off easy. A new look. Maybe a haircut and some new digs.”
Israel fingered the tips of his long, dark hair tentatively. “You want to give me a makeover? I don’t think there is much to do with someone like me. I don’t really look like a runway model.” He chuckled and stomped his sandaled feet on the floor. His eyes glittered and he wiped away a tear. “On second thought, maybe we could try the fishnet stockings. That could be a good look for me, don’t you think?” At this, he threw his head back with a hearty guffaw.
His publicist leaned forward, clasping his hands together over the large desk. “Israel, please, just hear me out. I can’t make you take your image seriously, but if you want to make it in this business, you have to keep up with the movers and shakers. We can take Hawaiian music mainstream.”
Israel’s shoulders still trembled with mirth, but he straightened up in his chair and leaned forward in a mock pose of his publicist in an attempt to stem the gaiety. “Okay, I’m all ears. So, besides turning me into Hawaiian Barbie, what else did you have in mind?”
The publicist, seemingly pleased, reclined in his chair and tapped his fingers against the warm leather of the arms. “Reality show.”
“You heard me. It’s the new big thing. MTV has a hit with The Real World. We could do something like that!”
A face-palm from across the desk sounded in the publicist’s ears. It was his turn to ask the question. “What?”
“I think we can just stop all of this now. I love what I do. I love the fans I have. They respect me for what I’m doing. And besides…”
A soft knock cut Israel’s speech short.
“Come in.” The publicist waved his hand in the air.
“I’m sorry for interrupting, but, babe”—the beautiful Hawaiian woman stepped fully into the room—“if we don’t leave now, we’ll miss our sunset hot air balloon ride. You promised we could go.” She snuggled up next to Israel, an adoring plea etched on her face.
Israel stood and turned to his publicist. “And besides,” he continued, “I’m loving the local cuisine.” He winked at the beautiful brunette at his side and they strode out the door.
You said you wouldn’t do this again, I think, sliding the fishnet stockings off my right leg slowly. The stockings crumple into a pile at the foot of the bed, next to my cardigan and jean skirt. I watch my strip poker player’s reaction.
He’s impressed. Of course he is. He’s not the one he wants to end this.
Frank is my lover, but not my friend. I watch my single poker companion deal the next round. I sigh quietly: the game has grown tiresome. Should’ve gone with Twister. But then I think about extremities bending and stretching to reach the game’s colored dots, out-of-shape bodies sweaty with each turn, bumping and sliding awkwardly –
Nope. Strip poker is better. Not as gross, and at least I stand a chance of winning.
Frank loses the next hand; he’s now down to his boxers. His work jeans and T-shirt lay in a mess on his side of the bed. Frank’s not a heavy man but as he sits there sheepishly he starts to resemble Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. Switch out the boxers for briefs, tan his skin and add a couple 50 pounds: suddenly Frank resembles a singing sumo-wrestler and I’m the fool who thought she could change him.
He is quite messy, I think, slightly disgusted at the pile of clothes, and at myself. How many times have I tried to end our five-year relationship?
The first time was three years ago, the year Frank first inherited his father’s hot air balloon company. A trust fund baby, Frank never had a real job, just mooched off his mom and stepdad. When his dad died suddenly, Frank inherited the company and had to grow up. Or let the business fold.
He opted for the latter, of course. Before the company went bankrupt, he’d taken me on several trips around the countryside. Seeing our town from among the clouds gave me a new perspective on our relationship and I always caved.
Maybe Frank knew that. Maybe he knew he had to start treating me right or else he’d lose me.
He probably sensed that I had the urge to leave again, so he suggested strip poker earlier tonight.
If I hadn’t had those five martinis and I really thought about playing strip poker with this man who isn’t my friend, I would’ve remembered all the reasons why I wanted to leave.
Or else I would have remembered the good times with this man who is my lover and why I always stayed.
I tilt my head, contemplating if I should end this or not.
That’s when I notice the fresh tattoo. A name not my own is scrawled in light blue ink and peeks out from the top of his boxer shorts.
And this time I stay for the fight.
I looked the schematic over and sighed. “I don’t think this is going to work,” I said.
“Sure it will. Have some faith,” said the production designer. “It has to. This is going to be the biggest show this century.”
“Yeah, but is it safe?” I asked him. “If people get hurt, we all loose.”
The designer was silent. Then he said, “No risk, no reward. The cast reviewed the plans last week, everyone signed off.” He looked at me with a measure of irritation that told me he had heard my argument before. Legal probably had a field day with him.
I am in charge of the show. It’s my job to ensure Kae Rae was a success. I have to consider safety, but also know she can’t just get up on stage and sing. She needs skilled dancers, stage gimmicks, hell —maybe even a wardrobe malfunction. Not that seeing Kae showing some skin would be new to anyone. Some modesty might help keep the TMZ crowd off her ass though, so to speak.
A few days later, the stage was built and ready for evaluation. Before a big show everything has to be rigorously tested and rehearsed to ensure there won’t be any foul ups during the live event. When you are playing for ninety-thousand fans everything is on the line. The slightest kink can be a showstopper. The sound, lighting, and effects directors were present and sat in an elevated booth two-hundred feet from the stage. I was watching the sound and light guys making sure the multicolored lights that would turn the stage into a massive Twister mat were syncing with the backing track for Ms. Rae’s nasty little booty shaker of the same name. Watching all those dancers in fishnet stockings and vinyl dance in perfect choreography among the lights was mesmeric. We still needed to run through the final act.
The effects director turned to me, “Do we have executive approval to test the finale sequence?”
“Yes,” I said and held my breath.
The pre-show testing went fine. A week later and finally opening night was here. Tonight we either lost big or became filthy rich.
Kae Rae worked through the set list, each performance going off without a hitch, when the sound director signaled to start the finale.
The stage was black, a crunked out sample of Bruddah Iz’s “Over the Rainbow” medley faded up. The lights steadily grew brighter, on stage was a multi-colored hot air ballon. Its blower blazed to life, lifting Kae Rae 50 feet above the stage. The remixed Hawaiian ukulele tune faded into a fill until the bass dropped, transforming into Kae’s newest auto-tune laden hit “Lift Me Lover”. Kae began her signature twerking. Somewhere, my old friend Iz was rolling in his grave.
I knew I hit the jackpot with this girl. I didn’t like her music. It was vulgar. But these days it’s not really about the music anymore, is it?
I was in the other hot-air balloon when I saw him. He was morbidly obese, and was delicately strumming a ukelele. I thought: Why on earth would a sumo wrestler be playing a ukelele? He smiled, and then he opened his mouth and began to sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
Oh, that’s who he was. He wasn’t a sumo wrestler at all. He was Israel…somebody. I could never pronounce his last name. It was at least twelve letters long and included an apostrophe somewhere. He was a deceased Hawaiian musician, renowned for his ukelele rendition of Dorothy’s dirge.
We were miles up, the sky a sink of pale lavender. As his voice rose, brightly colored dots drifted from the earth floor. How strange, and how alien! Brightly colored dots! They rippled and echoed like jelly fish, and I even though I knew it was a dream, I thought, what a lovely, lovely dream it is!
The two balloons drifted closer. The sumo-singer was humming, strumming, and as we drifted even closer, I saw that he was wearing—fish-net stockings…
I looked up at him. He stared at me, continuously humming, that curious half-smile fixed on his lips. And then, he winked at me.
I awoke in a terrified sweat. I sat up, trying to remember what it was I had been doing before going to bed, what on earth had I been doing to inspire such a horrible vision of fat and flubber?!
And then I heard the same, ethereal voice as I had in my dream…oh, my radio was still on. I looked towards the floor, and saw my DVD copy of The Wizard of Oz, and the Twister box, the mat bundled and ill-packed in its crumbly cardboard house. Babysitting. I sighed. I better clean up my room today, or my mother would have a fit. Just the other day, she had compared my room to a homeless person’s dwelling. All that, because I had left my housecoat on the floor. Well, that and some job applications. And my two advanced degrees, one a B.A. in Creative Writing, the other a Master’s in Library Science. And a packet of information my insurance company had sent me, letting me know that due to the new Affordable Care Act, my rate would be inching up from $106 per month to $285 per month. And some books. Half my personal library to be precise, but if I could only find a job and my own place, surely I would have room for all of them.
Yes. Surely, decades from now, I would have a place of my own…but come to think of it, that still didn’t explain the fish-net stockings…