GREEN 1.1 Be My Guest
Stan is so exhausted. It has been a most unpleasant day. He has written
thirty-five hundred words on spec for Flatliner, reviewing the new CDs by
Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney. Left to his own devices, he would never have
subjected his ears to such unmitigated crap, but a paycheck is a paycheck.
The bad thing about a gig such as this was that it entailed writing far too
many words for Stan to get by on vitriol alone; he actually had to attempt
to listen to the music before setting out to review it. Not only listen to
it, but actually try to fit the music into some sort of a meaningful
Yes, it has been a hard job and a long and disagreeable day, and it seemed to Stan like he had been getting more and more jobs of this nature lately. The logic was as obvious to him as it was odious: Want to write about the latest artifact from some decrepit old rock star who can’t seem to summon up the dignity to leave the stage? Here’s an angle; why don’t you hire some decrepit old rock critic that has been around just about as long as the aging troubadour in question? Stan Keaton would seem to be the perfect man to fit that bill. Hell, Stan had been around since back in the days when Rolling Stone was published on newsprint.
Larry King is off kilter tonight, way off the chart of the official Journalism Reasonable Standards Guide. It’s not just the fact that his questions are nebulous, his laugh unusually hollow, and his expression fraught with disinterest. There's an additional tone in the mix, a ghost voice in the background. Stan stares at Larry’s trademark suspenders, following their path from the dips in Larry’s shrunken shoulder blades, coasting handsomely on down to the trailing headlines at the bottom of the screen. The suspenders are Chinese red with a black piped outline, emblazoned with simple yet elegant Aztec symbols, which are embroidered with golden thread inside of a gold-framed column. Larry's tie plays nicely off the suspenders, with a similar pattern in contrasting colors. His shirt, however, is simply hopeless - it's one of those white collared pastel bodied numbers that the less hip talk show hosts were wearing back in the days when Mike Douglas first donned a Nehru jacket.
Stan is bleary eyed and nodding. His sight line descends from Larry’s face to the grain of the carpet and there it remains for several moments, resting. Stan lets his eyes go out of focus as Larry breaks for commercials. Ford, Red Lobster, Greta Van Susteren, an anti-smoking PA, Allegra.
There has been a noticeable shift of volume from the speakers. Stan jerks
awake, and for a moment, he feels almost frantic, his eyes darting from one
darkened corner of the room to the next, his ears straining for any sound
beyond the television's drone. Why the panic, Stan? An odd dream? He hears
Susan laughing upstairs and slowly begins to regain his composure.
Stan himself is certainly not afraid of Larry King. That would be moronic, and yet the intellectual part of Stan’s brain is feeling awfully small and isolated tonight. Stan really does seem to hear a repeated whisper, mixed in with the static, every time the camera pans away from Larry.
“Be my guest. Be MY guest.”
words, of course, are heard only in Stan’s imagination. That cannot be
emphasized strongly enough. He is very tired and he is high. Such a long,
long day. There may or may not be a sound that he is hearing, but if there
is, it exists only as a random frequency mixed within the static. Or if
that’s not the case, the sound is at too low of a volume to make sense of it
A mechanical voice. “Please hold. Three, two, one.”
“Woodbridge, Virginia, you’re on the air with the fabulous Barbara Olson”. Aww Jeez, it's Larry.
“Uh, hello Barbara. I understand that you make a guest appearance on the upcoming Prince album. What was he like to work with?”
Stan doesn’t know where the hell that question came from, and he definitely
does not want to wait and hear Barbara's response. The phone is returned to
the hook and the television snapped off in a matter of seconds.
In the morning, Stan awakes slowly and recalls that he had unspooled a strange dream during the night. Something with Larry King in it. It reminds him of some article he recently read, something about Larry…
Susan had left the house sometime during the night and covered Stan up with a fuzzy blue afghan. He is still wedged in his chair and CNN is on without the sound, but the sun is streaming through the window, and the smell of coffee drifts in from the kitchen. The details of the dream are a mist receding away from him. Something about Larry…
Everything has a sharp clear edge this morning. Stan feels hungry and ambitious. He finds himself in a surprisingly good mood for so early in the day.
In the kitchen, the radio is softly playing bluegrass.
The future is dead ahead.