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The only thing that belongs to me in this goddam rabbit hutch is that blue and red air mattress. I use it to sleep on because Heather took the real mattress. And the bed too. It’s uncomfortable as hell and it lets the air out. Sometimes I wake up in the night and I am hard against the floor, sandwiched between two inflated folds of mattress like some human hotdog.

Heather left me a month ago. Fifteen years erased with one flick of her long hair. The last thing I saw of her were a couple of tire marks on the street after she took off too quickly at the stoplight. Like streaks of shit in someone’s underpants. Apparently she was sick of being at the bottom of my list of priorities, coming second to my career.
“Your career” she laughed, leaning on her four by four. “I came second to a career that died when Studio 55 was still in fashion.”
I noticed she was already using the past tense, like she had left months ago. Last week I received a letter from her lawyer advising me of our impending divorce.

The windows are covered in dirt. I can’t be bothered to clean them. At least they filter out some of this bland LA light. There’s something too uniform about the light here. As if it were really studio lights rigged up to look like sunlight. It’s as if there’s someone up on a lighting rig somewhere with a dimmer switch. It’s a scary metaphor if you think about it (and now I’m on my own I have lots of time to think). There’s no weather here so maybe it’s added in post-production. Maybe the buildings are just plaster facades. And if LA is just a movie then we can’t all be main characters. Maybe I just have a walk on role. That scares me shitless.

A few days ago I was sitting on the one chair that I have in this horrible, stinking little apartment (Heather got the house, wouldn’t you know), eating some greasy instant ramen. I was flicking through a pile of Playboy’s from the 80’s when I found an old copy of Entertainment Weekly. Heather and I grinned out from the cover with idiotic haircuts and idiotic grins.
‘P.O.S.H couple tell us all about how love on screen blossomed into real life love– Pg. 47’. We both looked so sleek, our eyes so glossy and succulent. We looked as if we had been fed on royal jelly. Shit, we look as if we’re secreting the stuff.

Fifteen years ago, an old Hollywood queer told me that I had the “chiselled features of a sculptured hero.” I saw him again six months ago and reminded him of what he’d said. “Did I really?” he replied, raising an eyebrow and observing me. “You’re more of a Picasso now.” But even I can see it, a new starkness about the way I look. My skin has become like a washed out tracksuit, limp and grey.

Heather sent me a letter, calmly and rationally explaining her reasons for leaving. Of course I burnt it and then stuffed the ashes down the garbage disposal. I can still remember what she said though. One phrase in particular. ‘You used to make me feel like I was the only person in the room when you looked at me. Now I feel like my soul is being strobed for things to destroy, like a blacked out town in the war.’ She was always fond of exaggerated similes when she was feeling emotional.

This rented dive has its advantages. I don’t have a phone, so my mother can’t call me up from Florida and give me shit about how I am wasting my life. I haven’t told her about Heather leaving, or about the divorce. I tried make it work, but it seemed that every time we tried to talk we’d just end up getting into a fight. “You gotta get over it” she would tell me, during those moments that we were actually talking to each other. “Find something else to do and stop obsessing over the past”.

Heather and I met on the set of Port Out Starboard Home, a nautical soap that aired twice a day and had housewives captivated from 1984-1989. Heather played Lucia, the headstrong daughter of a minor Mafioso. Lucia (pronounced the Italian way ‘Loocheeyah’) at first hates, but then falls deeply in love with my character, Brad Hawkins. Of course our fictional families loathed each other, and so was an emotional occasion for all when Brad and Lucia finally got married on 21st October 1988. Heather and I got married the next week. She wore the same dress.

P.O.S.H jumped the shark when Brad is revealed to have had an extra-marital affair with Lucia’s father. ‘Jumping the shark’ means that ridiculous moment that you can pinpoint as the time when a show turns to total crap. In Happy Days, it’s the episode when the Fonz tries to jump a plastic shark on his motorbike, hence the name.

I’m trying to find a goddam glass for my whiskey, but there’s nothing in this shithole apart from what I brought with me and that wasn’t much since Heather took it all.

Heather gave up acting after Port Out Starboard Home. She said she was too old. She was thirty, but she didn’t want the indignity of having to play bit-part mothers and aunts, and then finally grandmothers. She gave up fame for money. She became a producer, and a successful one too. She made enough money to keep her in goddam Prada at least. I kept on with the business, but the jobs got smaller and smaller until finally this year I had no work at all, and we had to live on Heather’s (not inconsiderable) wages.

But things are looking up. I met a woman in 'Heaven Scent' on Sunset. She was about fifty-five and absurdly badly dressed. She was wearing a visor for Christ sakes. I was at the counter paying for CK One when she gasped,
“Oh my god, it’s you.”
The store clerk raised his eyebrow at me. I could tell his head was a storehouse of celebrities, and my face wasn’t computing.
“It is you, isn’t it?” she continued, compounding my embarrassment.
“It depends who you think I am,” I replied handing the arrogant little shit a $20 bill.
“It’s you, Bradley Hawkins from Port Out Starboard Home.”
“Michael Green” I corrected her.
“Of course, that’s your real name. And you’re married to Heather Elliot who played Lucia. My gosh.” She paused to mop her brow under the visor. “The episode where you two got married was just the most thrilling day of my life. And you’re really married. Who says life doesn’t imitate art?” She jabbed a pudgy elbow at my side. The clerk gave an audible snort.

I walked towards the exit.
“The P.O.S.H.G.A.L’s will be so excited when I tell them about this,” she trilled, tripping after me.
“Who are the P.O.S.H.G.A.L’s?” I found myself asking.
“Oh, that’s the Port Out Starboard Home fan club. Port Out Starboard Home Group of Adoring Ladies. P.O.S.H.G.A.L’s”
“There’s still a fan club?” I asked, incredulous.
“Oh yes, we’re about three thousand strong. There're still a lot of people out there who love P.O.S.H. We’re trying to organise a convention, but we can’t seem to get in contact with any of the actors, but now that I’ve met you… Oh, say that you’ll do it.”
We were out on the street. The sun glared straight into my eyes through my sunglasses. I squinted at her.
“Ok” I heard myself saying. “I’ll do it.”

So it’s not the celestial kind of fame I dreamed about when I was a kid and thought I was gonna be Valentino, but it’s what I’m good at. It seems that I have found my niche, and that niche is entertaining middle aged women from the mid-west. There are worse jobs, and it keeps me in Prada.





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Comments

The following comments are for "Jumping the Shark"
by Beth

Nice Job!
wonderful!!! A short story that doesn't depend on a cutsey twist at the end! I enjoyed this very much. Good work!

( Posted by: Susanb55 [Member] On: October 30, 2003 )





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