He gritted his nicotine-stained teeth and stared into the computer screen which illuminated his sweaty face. Pressing his finger to his temple, he shouted into the empty room.
“Come on, Barnaby Willickers, send me the next telepathic message!”
Rick had completed all of the secret missions. He went nine days without food. He ate his own dirty toilet paper and garbage off of the ground. He ran naked through the streets of downtown Cleveland, hopping on one foot and shouting gibberish until the police arrested him on a 5150. Why hadn’t Barnaby contacted him yet? If he was going to be the successor to Barnaby’s television program, he would need to keep the lines of communication open. It wasn’t usual for a normal man to be chosen for something as important as all of this, but Rick knew that there was something special about himself. He sensed it. He knew it.
Two thousand pages of valuable material deleted, Rick thought to himself. But it was for the good of my family! If the C.I.A had seen that the celebrity aliens and I conspired to log their mind control experiments, then Barnaby would never give me the writing job!
Suddenly, Rick had an idea. He had an awful idea. He had a wonderfully awful, horrible idea. He raced outside to his parents’ garage and grabbed a hammer off of the shelf. Its weight felt right in his hands, and it continued to feel satisfying as he brought it down, smashing his laptop, sending plastic shards and glass flying all willy-nilly.
“I’m doing it! I’m beating the game!” Rick shouted with delight.
He grabbed the shattered remains of his MacBook Pro and dashed to the kitchen sink and dumped them. Then, he opened the faucet to let loose a stream of tap water which sent sparks flying and steam hissing throughout the room.
“Game, set, match, Barnaby,” he said to himself. “You’ll have no choice but to give me that writing job now.”
With a swift motion, he grabbed his car keys off of the counter in front of him and then raced outside and lept into his father’s Mini Cooper, racing haphazardly down the suburban streets.
Barnaby Willickers sat behind his cherry oak desk, sipping a glass of Chardonnay. He motioned to his assistant Marissa, an attractive, twenty-something New York University graduate whose secret abortion he’d paid for just three months prior.
“Marissa, schedule me an appointment for a massage at 5 p.m. on Sunday,” Barnaby said, giving her a wink and a pinch on the cheek before walking out of his penthouse suite office and down the hallway into his private elevator. His chauffeur was waiting downstairs to take him to his private box at the Metropolitan Opera, a monthly occasion he’d promised his wife after she confronted him three months earlier about the Planned Parenthood bill on their insurance.
Derek McWinters fumed. The lousy writers still hadn’t given him the script for this week’s show. He slammed the cue cards down on the table in front of him. He’d taken 20 years of this crap. Thinking back, he remembered the first day he arrived in Manhattan and he knew now that the hope and joy he felt that day had long since disappeared.
Now it’s all ‘Derek, you misspelled Peter’s last name. Rewrite scenes two through ten. What’s that? You had an idea for a sketch? I’d let Barnaby know but he’s awful busy. Maybe next time buddy,’ he thought.
Rick’s eyes darted back and forth around the lobby, scanning the crowd at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport for possible celebrity sightings and murmured under his breath.
“Any moment now I’ll see one of the stars of Barnaby’s show. Yes, of course! They have professional makeup artists and must be wearing elaborate disguises. That homeless man by the curb outside was Kristen Nari and the Asian lady behind the Delta ticketing booth is Peter Frell. The ole’ switcheroo! An obvious yet clever trick. Clever, but not clever enough!”
Despite the other airport patrons and their increasing uneasiness about the unstable man, Rick threw back his head and let out a maniacal chuckle, staring at the supposedly disguised Peter Frell-Asian lady hybrid.
You won’t fool me with a bait and switch like that, but I won’t blow your cover. There’s nothing Barnaby hates more than breaking the fourth wall.
He walked up to the ticket booth housing the now clearly frightened Asian woman. Rick winked and then said “One ticket for LaGuardia, please.”
It was eight o’clock and Barnaby had arrived at the opera earlier than his wife. He walked up to his private box and motioned to the attendant for a drink menu, who upon seeing who the patron was this evening, smiled warmly. The attendant quickly stepped aside, presenting a bottle of champagne and said “This is Dom Perignon, sir, the finest bottle we carry here. We would like to present it to you as a token of appreciation for your continued patronage.”
Barnaby took the bottle and turned it over in his hands, carefully inspecting it with satisfaction. He smiled firmly at the attendant.
“What’s your name, kid?”
“It’s Rick, sir.”
The corners of Barnaby’s mouth dragged downward into a sour grimace. He held the bottle out by the neck, rejecting the attendant’s offer. A manager who happened to be walking by saw this and rushed forward, taking the bottle and falling over Barnaby with apologies. With a sneer on his face, Barnaby asked the manager to remove the attendant, who left choking back tears. As Barnaby watched him walk away defeated, he sneered. Rick. I’ve never liked that name.
When the box attendant named Rick returned to his apartment that evening, he turned off all of the lights and took seven Aspirin, three more than he normally would, hoping it would end his life. This proved ineffective, so he attempted to use a Gillette Mach 3 razor to slit his wrists but was unable to get the blade out of the plastic cover, so he drank half of a bottle of Nyquil and fell asleep.
“Mr. McWinters, Barnaby would like to see you in his office,” Marissa said.
Derek complacently set down his cue cards. He had been expecting this for some time. Willickers was a bit of a sadist and enjoyed calling Derek into his office to review scripts and bounce ideas off of him, of course all the while knowing that poor McWinters would never see his sketch ideas in a live broadcast. He took the elevator upstairs and followed Marissa into the suite. Barnaby was rising up from the chair behind his cherry oak desk, smiling that smug grin he had.
“Derek, baby! Good to see you. Take a seat.”
Sitting down in the chair across from the desk, Derek maintained the calm and thoughtful mask that he wore to hide his seething, resentful hatred of the Executive Producer.
“I’ve got a great idea for a sketch, it’s a real whiz-banger. Ha! I like that word. Marissa, write that down. Whizbanger.”
Derek chortled. “Yes, whiz-banger, that’s brilliant.”
I’ve never heard anything more stupid, he thought.
“It’s all about this guy called Rick. He’s a big schmuck.”
Derek chuckled again. “Yes, Rick what a schmuck, brilliant.”
One day I’ll murder you.
“Everywhere Rick goes he messes things up. Nobody likes him.”
Derek slapped his hand on his knee and let out a loud guffaw. “You’ve done it again!”
If I had the gall I’d take that stapler off the desk and beat you with it about the face until you hemorrhage blood from your eyeballs.
“And Derek, I’d like you to write the sketch.”
McWinters choked on the plastic laughter rising up in his throat, his eyes opening wide. “Th-thank you, sir.”
Barnaby walked around his desk and extended his hand for Derek to shake, and McWinters took it with newfound gusto, tears welling up in his eyes. After all this time, his big break had finally come. Maybe now his daughter would start talking to him again. They hadn’t spoke since she was fourteen and his wife divorced him.
God, what does she look like now? I hope she’s as beautiful as her mother; he thought.
He felt the clap of the Executive Producer placing his hand on his shoulder, and looked into Barnaby’s eyes while he said with a broad toothy grin “Also, can you grab me a latte, steamed milk, two Splenda?”
The airplane bathroom looked smaller on crystal, and Rick wasn’t certain if this was normal or if he was especially high. He took one final hit of the glass pipe and inserted it back into his rectum, feeling a pleasantly painful singe. He still wasn’t certain how this part of the mission was applicable to his screenwriting career, but Barnaby Willickers was the most successful executive producer in television history. If he needed Rick to smoke meth on the toilet of a 747 then by God, he was going to do it.
There was a glow about Derek as he walked around the set that day, playing around with this ‘Rick’ character in his mind, concocting all sorts of devious plots and possibilities. When he saw Barnaby that afternoon, he read him his list of ideas.
“Peter could come out on stage wearing a garbage bag filled with dead fish. Then Kristen says ‘You smell better than you normally do, Rick,’ then Peter takes a big bite off one of the stinky, dead fish and looks at the camera like ‘Whuh-oh!’”
Howling with laughter, Barnaby leaned back in his chair and snapped at Marissa.
“Tell Patricia in corporate that from now on Derek is in charge of all of our ‘Rick’ skits.”
McWinters’ eyes welled up with tears once again.
The owner of the guns and ammo shop eyed the skinny, disheveled, dark haired young man who entered his shop with suspicion, but he was an avid National Rifle Association supporter and believed everyone had the right to bear arms. So when the man asked for a 9 mm and a box of hollow points he sold it to him. Before he did, he checked the customer’s photo ID and smiled.
“We’ve got the same first name.”
The show wrapped up for the night and Derek glowed in the wings, his eyes scanning the joyous crowd as local football star Jay Pranchanski thanked the audience. His cell phone rang and he saw that it was from his daughter.
It was yet another successful night and Barnaby was sipping on another glass of Chardonnay in the backseat of his car as his chauffeur drove down 5th Avenue. He glanced out the window and saw a thin, wild-eyed, dark-haired man screaming obscenities and waving a gun as police advanced on him. Barnaby laughed and said aloud “Now that guy, he’s got ‘Rick’ written all over his face.”
After hearing this, the chauffeur gave a weak smile and closed the center divider, letting his eyes drift off the road briefly to scan his own nametag on the dashboard, reading the letters “R-I-C-K.”