And all of a sudden, Teddy was on a talk show. He didn’t recognize the host or the set, and he had no idea what he was supposed to talk about. This sort of thing didn’t happen to him often, so he was a bit startled and unprepared. He was sitting in an uncomfortable chair that seemed to have been carved out of a single block of foam rubber, and then covered in rough grey tweed. His legs were crossed, and he watched his feet in their wing-tip shoes. Everything was quiet. He looked up at the host, a non-descript white man, perhaps a bit beyond middle age, the age where people say, “Oh, still a young man.” The host was looking at him with an expectant expression on his face. Teddy realized it must be his turn to talk.
“I’m sorry?” Though he wasn’t really sorry, but it was better than to scream, “I have no idea where I am!” So he asked, quite politely, “I’m sorry,” as if to say could you repeat the question. As soon as he had said it, he knew it meant he would very soon have to answer a question, and the chances were very good that he would have no idea how to go about it.
The host glanced quickly down at his clipboard. He was sitting in a similar chair, though he seemed to be more comfortable in his. A small square table of about mid-calf height separated the two of them, with two grey coffee cups on it. The two chairs, the table, and a hideously fake leafy plant of some kind, which lurked behind the chairs, were on a raised platform covered with a grey carpet. The whole thing stood on a broad stage in front of an enormous audience who faded away into darkness. Teddy could only see 2 or 3 rows of faces, all looking directly back at him. He smiled weakly and reached for his coffee cup.
“We were talking about your latest film project,” said the host, a bit baffled. “After the underground success of “Three Heads are Better Than Two,” there are a lot of people who wonder if you can sustain the porno-horror genre with any integrity.”
Teddy thought about it. Had he seen “Three Heads Are Better Than Two?” Had he even ever heard of it? He could only imagine what “porno-horror” was. Evidently all of these people thought he was somehow involved in all of it. He tried to look thoughtful while his mind raced.
“Well,” he began, having no idea what he was going to say next, but aware that he had to say something. “Integrity is a tricky thing. One man’s integrity is another man’s slap-dash. I take things one at a time, and if a pattern develops, so much the better.”
There. He did it. And not bad either. He remembered briefly a comedian he had seen years ago who gave lengthy, though completely nonsensical, answers to audience questions. Somehow, that memory gave him a boost of confidence. He looked into his coffee cup, and saw what appeared to be coffee. He took a sip, and nearly spewed it back out all over the set when he discovered it was scotch, or bourbon, or one of those brown liquors. It was all he could do to get the cup back to the table and regain some amount of composure.
“So you won’t tell us if Penelope ever gets her virginity back, or if Harold gets reborn to continue his rampage through the suburbs?” The host now wore a particularly annoying little smirk, as if they were all involved in some intimate joke together. Teddy wondered what the hell he was talking about. Best to just bluff through it, though the scream was always just below the surface.
“No, I can’t give any secrets away. You’ll have to buy a ticket,” said Teddy, trying on the same smirk. Thought he knew he had never been very good at smirking.
“Sounds like you’re getting excited by all the money, eh?” smirked back the host. Teddy spread his hands in a gesture or resignation. He was sinking fast, and he felt a tremendous need to get up and move. To his great relief, the host turned to the audience and said, “Well, we’ll be right back with pop culture’s latest sell out after a round of insulting commercial messages.”
Someone yelled “CLEAR!” and Teddy stood up. “I have to go to the bathroom,” he said, and turned to walk off the stage. He brushed past several people with headphones and clipboards, and headed off into the shadows. He pushed through a curtain and hurried down a hall toward a heavy steel door with an exit sign over it. His head was pounding, and he could hear the blood rushing through him. He pushed hard against the push-bar on the door, and stumbled into dazzling sunlight.
He took two steps, and let the door slam shut behind him. There was no handle on the outside, not that he would have even tried it if there had been. He was in an alley, looking out into a busy city street. It was a bright sunny day, warm, though a cool breeze blew gently into his face. He had no idea where he was, and that hadn’t happened to him in some time. With a shrug, he wandered out of the alley and joined the busy procession moving down the broad avenue.