"The Show Must Go On" by Rob Imes

"The Show Must Go On"
by Rob Imes

(written in 1989; first published in TUNE IN #2, September 1992)

Little girl flapper with Louise Brooks hairdo asks silent picture leading man for a new-fashioned night of romance. TenTen’s standing by the Movie and Go with his new electric leather watching some muggers murder an old lady in an alley for some copper pocket tokens. Blood stains the grimy sidewalk and TenTen goes for the instaphone. ‘Large pizza or small?’ the voice asks. ‘Small,’ he replies, trusting the signal was seen.

The flapper ends up getting what she wanted as TenTen sweats over some sauce and cheese. Bad neighborhood, he’s thinking as ghouls strip-search the corpse for goodies, real bad neighborhood. Inside, the clock blips ONE above balding KickBack, comatose in the corner clutching his cold brew like a favorite body part. TenTen notes the hour and returns to the big display screen where leading man is telling flappergirl that he wishes he had more time.

‘What do you mean?’ she goes, her eyes uncaring, dreamy, far away.

‘The war,’ he says.

She ends up saying something typical before we’re now in a living room where a gray-haired woman who must be somebody’s mother is dusting when there’s a knock at the front door and a disinterested TenTen looks up the busy street, grabbing another greasy piece of charred pizza.

‘Oh, it’s you!’ she says. Up the street, a crowd gathers as some nut aims to end it all from a thirty-story window. Across from the Movie and Go, a vicious-looking zaphead pounds the instaphone with bone-white fists screaming ‘I want my pizza’ as an electronic voice calmly repeats dialing instructions. It’s a dirty job, TenTen thinks with a grimace.

‘Yes, I just got home the other night. Is Molly around?’

‘She’s in the kitchen, Brad. Go right on in.’

The crowd’s chanting jump as the zaphead demolishes the phone before an officer of the law can quit chanting long enough to give him a fine for vandalism. A teethy grin wearing a crash helmet screams words like ‘blood-art’ and ‘sidewalk-satire’ into an exploding microphone while tokens fly from drooling customers into his cracked money jar. TenTen flings the empty pizza box onto the crumbling black street and strolls inside the Movie and Go, reaching into his cool leather for the feature that costs extra.

KickBack stirs awake, glancing down at his cold brew and then at the kid coming at him. TenTen drills a perfect red cent into KickBack’s pudgy forehead with his buzzing fungun and takes off, departing with only a stolen videotape as his single momento. KickBack’s so much cold meat just waiting for some luckout ghoul.

‘Brad! When did you get home? Oh, give me a kiss!’ Molly says in an iris.

Outside, TenTen gives his companion on the window ledge the finger and NineNine gropes back to safety amidst roars of disappointment all ‘round. TenTen grins and starts booking toward the meeting place while on the Movie and Go display screen Molly reprimands the cook for sleeping on the job. The balding cook apologizes to Brad and Molly, shaken by his disturbing dream. ‘Sorry,’ he says, ‘I act lately like I’ve a hole in my head.’

Up the grim street, TenTen gingerly caresses the black box with pride, unable to quell the anticipation in his breast, wondering where the director will want to hold tomorrow’s shoot.

Copyright © 1992 by Rob Imes.