Everything went downhill after I murdered Vic Tornado, and then it all got worse when he came back to life.
I’m reminded of it every time I see that dunce’s name, like right now, fluttering on a banner across the street. They’re opening the Hilldale Mall today, with an old-fashioned ribbon cutting ceremony. “With Special Guest: Vic Tornado!” the banner reads. I bet the audience didn’t know that. I bet they came here expecting to see a spectacle, and they got hoodwinked at the last moment, saddled with the likes of Vic. I can’t help but sigh. The boredom some of us inflict on our audiences gives me gas.
“What do you suppose is going on there?” asks Mr. Parker, the old man who runs the Grenscott Garden Centre. He adjusts his cap against the morning sun and chews… something. He’s always chewing, like an old farmer with a piece of straw.
I love the garden centre as it’s ideally suited for all my yard work needs – indeed, just today did I pick up a spanking new shovel, a bag of soil, some do-it-yourself fertilizer, and a lovely little Forsythia named Debbie. I actually ran into Vic here earlier too, as he was browsing, and wouldn’t you know it? The sneak was eyeing up the Forsythia I had picked out. He’s always trying to steal everything I want. Well, this time the good guy won and she’s mine. Anyway. Parker runs a tight ship, but I swear the old man has a few screws loose.
“It’s the mall opening, Parker. They’ve been advertising it all month. It’s the biggest social event in all of the third week of June. And,” I wave my hand in the general direction of the banner and roll my eyes, “Vic Tornado is the… guest of honour.”
Parker squints across the unbusy street and scratches his chin. “Oh,” he says. Then, “Who?”
I admit, I feel a jolt of anger – how can any functioning adult be as disconnected from the pulse of the city like Parker? – but then it hits me. Oh. Who? Verbatim, the lines spoken by Danielle Draven, in season three, episode sixteen, after she got amnesia and was confronted by her betrothed – played by, of course, Vic Tornado. It would have been heart wrenching if that buffoon didn’t slapstick it up with his stupid expressions.
I smile wide and clap Parker on the shoulder. Bravo, Parker, well done. A cutting rejoinder. “Nobody important, surely,” I say, winking at him. This is why I like the Grenscott Garden Centre. It’s not because the prices are fair, or the quality is good, it’s because I know I can always count on my fans. They know the writers did me dirty.
Season seven was a boondoggle from the start. Every spicy new idea the writers came up with turned into more ratings diarrhea, and so what do those coked up monkeys do? They just keep throwing Hail Maries in every direction, not even checking if anyone was on the field to receive them. Like the whole Alaska arc which they just dropped after the ship capsized, or Trent’s ambitions to be a vintner on the Tuscan coast – clearly forgetting this was already done in season four! – and that whole debacle with the pirates. Pirates, in a land bound hotel. That’s some real dog logic there. Some real sloppy writing.
And of course, the worst offence of all, throwing my character under the bus. I had no motivation for gunning down Vic, but it didn’t matter how much I screamed at the mouth-breathers, they still wrote this idiotic plot line for the season finale. Oh, sure, we got a response – a torrent of hate mail! My fans knew this was the height of stupidity and they came to my defense in droves. I actually had hope the writers would fix it over the break, but I guess I was naïve, still blinded by the radiance of being an international movie star. Still foolishly trusting in the competence of nature’s bottom feeder, the writer.
The opener of season eight was the worst bomb that has ever been dropped, anywhere. Ever. Inexplicably, Vic comes back to life – he was dead! he was in a fucking casket! and they re-wrote it as a coma! – and then I get arrested, and that’s it. I’m off the god damned show. No wonder the whole thing died after that, only lasting another nine seasons.
“Is it one of your, uh, events, Mr. Chapeau?” Parker asks.
Is what one of my events? Oh, the mall opening. Hmm. Maybe it should be. After all, I doubt the good audience can count on that hack, Vic.
“Naturally,” I say. “You don’t mind if I leave my van parked here?”
He shrugs and grunts. Yes, to the untrained eye that might look disinterested, but I know Parker’s a deeply anxious man, prone to being easily overwhelmed by fame. Often my mere presence renders him speechless, and he’ll listen patiently to all my acting stories. He’s a model fan.
I cross the street and catch the last of Mayor Thompson’s blurry mumbling from atop the stage. I doubt anyone can understand him through that third rate mic, but at least there’s a certain reassuring warmth to his bass voice.
“And now,” he says, “the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the ribbon cutting by our special guest, the homegrown hometown superstar of our little burg, Mr. Vic Tornado!”
The audience claps perfunctorily. I also offer an ironic slap of the palms. It’s important for us to encourage our remedial thespians, because you never know who your understudy’s understudy will be.
Naturally, Vic is nowhere to be seen. Mayor Thompson clears his throat. “Vic Tornado!” he says again, and there’s a second round of applause. He looks left and right, as do the other dignitaries gathered on stage.
I make an exaggerated surprised face, looking around just like the rest of the audience. Where oh where could Vic be? my face says. A reporter glances in my direction and I make a dramatic shrug.
Oh, he’s around here, I have no doubt. But these poor people don’t know Vic like us insiders do. The guy’s a prima donna, notoriously late to everything. This is why we had that whole stupid shark plot in season six, episode three. Vic just decided to disappear for a week. And ‘I was in a car accident’ is about as sloppy an excuse as the writers would have come up with. Which they did, later in the season in episode fourteen.
“Um,” says the mayor, after the applause dies down again. “Vic Tornado?” Now everybody’s looking around, and nobody’s clapping.
Oh, heavy is the burden I must bear. As celebrities, our first duty is always to the audience, and that means we must never disappoint them. We must always strive to entertain, even when we are being sabotaged by our fellows, or the writers, or the producers, or the critics, or the censors, or whoever else. And so, I am forced to pick up Vic’s slack. Once again.
But I’m not bitter about it. My therapist says – and I don’t have a therapist because I need one, but because my fans expect me to have one, because it’s fashionable – that I should bury my rivalries in the past where they belong. My rivalries become the soil that my new victories sprout from, watered by the tears I shed from all the rude people who have tried to tear me down over the years. I thought that sounded dumb, but then I got her meaning. So I took up gardening, and I grow stronger for it, flowering anew each spring like my lovely Forsythias, and burying one more bad memory.
The show must go on.
I continue my golf clap as I mount the stairs to the stage, and – oh! I just felt a shiver run down my spine. That’s the feeling of hundreds of eyes focusing on me, that glorious shot of adrenaline that fills my veins with life.
The mayor eyes me with a slack jaw and furrowed brow, he's so stunned. He just doesn’t believe his good fortune. He was expecting some C list has been, and he got an international super star. I bet his office didn’t even ask me to attend this because they were afraid I’d be way too busy for a mere small town mall opening. Which I am.
I take my place by his side, nudge him away from the mic.
“Hello everybody!” I say. Ah, see? When you clearly enunciate, even this trash mic can carry your voice to the heavens. “Looks like Vic’s nowhere to be seen, so just like in season two, episode twelve, it falls to Matthew Chapeau to save the day!” I smile brightly, and offer an angelic chuckle.
Curiously, nobody laughs at my joke, but then it occurs to me. Of course, they too are completely stunned, flabbergasted. They thought this was going to be some boring run of the mill mall opening, and suddenly before their very eyes it turned into a red carpet gala.
The reporters squint up at me and whisper among each other, no doubt negotiating who gets to break this story, who gets the exclusive interview. Ah, but there I’m going to have to disappoint you, fair reporters. I have to get back to my gardening.
I give them all a show. There’s notes on the podium but I toss them and improvise. They’re all transfixed as I walk up and down the stage, praising the mall and adding some delightful references to the show. When I grab the oversized scissors from the mall’s CEO, they all gasp, for they know the time is at hand. Then they gasp again when I cut the ribbon. I depart the stage with a wave, and leave them awestruck. They are so overwhelmed they don’t even make a sound.
I make my way back across the street to my van, and eventually some music plays from the mall’s parking lot. No doubt, they have a lot to celebrate today. And their disappointment in Vic is forgotten.
I wasn’t expecting such a busy day, to be honest. All I wanted to do was pop into the garden centre, pick up a new plant for my yard, and then spend the afternoon in the warm sun planting it. I didn’t expect to run into that boor, and even less so did I expect to have to cover for him. Again. Oh well. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t fun. I am, after all, a servant of my fans.
I get in my van and start the half-hour drive out to my little rural home. It’s perhaps not as luxurious a place as fans would expect for me, but I simply love the privacy that living in the countryside affords. When I flip on the radio, I hear they’re already talking about me.
“–one-time actor, Matthew Chapeau. He caused a massive disruption this afternoon, when he stumbled–”
I grin broadly and turn it off. It’s no good to spend too much time listening to people talk about you, as it can go to your head. And besides, I heard the key part. I caused a disruption! Yes, I certainly did. I disrupted their boring mundanity, and injected a bit of class and pizazz. No doubt they’ll be talking about me all week. And not about Vic and his tardiness.
I can't believe the gall that the bastard has. He actually claimed he had reserved the last Forsythia this morning, when he knew perfectly well they are my favourite plants – as everyone knows, from my interviews. He’s just so greedy.
I pull onto my tree lined property and drive around my home to the expansive garden. Okay, I’ll admit, every tree, every shrub, every plot of flowers – each of them are a rough, painful memory. What the therapist said turned out to be pretty wise, because there’s been no shortage of people trying to pull me down throughout my life. Most people don’t know how hard it is to be famous, how that breeds jealousy in the hearts of your lessers, and how they stop at nothing trying to sabotage you.
I dig a hole for my latest plant with my new shovel. Maybe, just maybe, I have some lingering negative thoughts about Vic. Maybe I permit him to ruin my day occasionally. I lost my lucrative TV job in that season seven debacle, and it was really all his fault. I bet he talked the writers into it because he was threatened by my charisma. Ah well.
It’s time to let go of all that and to heal.
I unload my new bags of soil, and the new plant. It’s so supple and tender… I don’t think Debbie’s a good name for it after all. Maybe Melissa. Melissa the Forsythia.
Then I drag my do-it-yourself fertilizer out of the van and into the hole. Christ, is it heavy. I’d love to hire an assistant, but gardening really is rather private work.
And when he hits the bottom of the hole is when he wakes up with a grunt.
Hmm. I’m a little surprised he survived a shovel to the head, but I guess he’s got a thick skull. “Hello, Vic,” I say, looming over him.
He coughs, blinks a couple times, moves a shaking hand to his swollen, bloody face.
“What…” he mumbles. “Who…” My goodness, this is pathetic. The worst concussion acting I’ve ever seen.
“It’s me, Vic. Matthew Chapeau.”
He blinks up at me a couple times. “Who? The guy from the garden centre?”
I tense. How his sneering voice always cuts me right to my soul, I’ll never know.
“Matthew Chapeau, you asshole! I’m the man who’s eclipsed your entire career!”
He frowns at me, and then understanding seems to dawn on him. “Oh my god,” he whispers. “I know you. You’re from that stupid soap opera from thirty years ago, aren’t you? What was it, what was it… oh! That unnamed extra, right? Man with Hat.”
Something comes over me. Next thing I know I'm screaming and bringing the shovel down again and again, and after it's over I feel just terrible. The old shovel-to-the-face! What a cliché thing to do, it's like something the writers would have come up with. And here, I stepped right into it. I'm just glad my fans didn't have to see it.
And to top it off, I think I’ve dented my shovel and I’ll probably need another new one. Oh well, it is do-it-yourself fertilizer. I fill in the soil and plant Melissa, while humming the show’s theme song.
Everything went downhill after I murdered Vic and he came back, but there’s no sloppy writers to bring him back this time. This time the show got the ending it truly deserved.