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Let’s take a break from the poetry and have a story, shall we? Welcome to Sucky Story Sunday, where my goal is to prove Ray Bradbury wrong and write 52 bad stories.

THE NEWLYWED GAME, host, Bob Eubanks, & the newlywed contestants, 1984-1989.

Say it Out Loud

Bob Bolyn wasn’t one to judge a book by its cover. But in the airport book shop, he was mesmerized by the cover of Say It Out Loud. A tall man, blue suit immaculately tailored, took up most of the cover. His right hand held a mic, his left held a sequined ass of a faceless woman. The best kind of woman. Even though Bob had only stopped in the shop for some breath mints, he bought the book. Maybe it would inspire him to go ahead and write his memoir. Everyone said he needed to write a book, that a life as big and bright as his should be out there for others to learn from and be inspired by. He would laugh, say how flattered he was, that he was too busy living his life to write about it. He slapped the messenger bag he carried his laptop in. This week, on vacation, maybe he would get around to writing it. Anything he would write would have to be better than this novel he was shelling out 12.95 for. 

He had the first-class row to himself for a change. Not many people head for Hawaii in the spring, but since he was on hiatus, Bob booked himself a week at the Waikiki Omni. A fresh, organic tan would be a boost. 

He pulled the book out of his bag and decided to go ahead and read a few pages until the plane wifi started functioning and he could check Twitter. He needed to see what was going on in the world in real-time and work on his reactions. His agent suggested it, to build a presence on social media. It would lead to the next step, the big time. No, not television. He wanted the White House. Serving as the Trump press secretary – that was his goal.  Spicer, Sanders, and the blondes didn’t present an image of strong leadership. They looked like beaten sycophants and Barbie dolls. Not new Barbie dolls, but ones with matted hair, like his sister’s dolls growing up. Bob could see himself standing at the podium, smiling and charming the press into submission. They were the enemy, but they didn’t need to be treated like it.

Bob sighed and then opened the book, skipping past the front matter, table of contents, and the prologue. The first chapter focused on the main character, a game show host, heading to the set for taping. Bob knew what taping days were like –  doing seven or eight shows back to back with the same audience.

The game show host, Rich Donaldson, had just come out of the restroom, and smiled as one of the young production assistants jogged up to him. They can’t stay away. The production assistant though was all business. She lifted the back of his suit coat and tucked her fingers around the waistband of his slacks. As he turned around, she held up a stream of toilet paper. “Didn’t think you wanted to take a tail out there,” the PA said, grinning. She then wadded up the paper and tossed it to the trash can, a beautiful arc swooshing like a professional three-pointer. 

Bob shut the book and took a deep breath. Did that happen to other game show hosts too? He looked at the cover. The author was not anyone he had ever heard of, Paulo Rivera. It was such a specific thing, the toilet paper, the neat toss to the wastebasket. Almost if someone had been on the set with him that day. 

Eh, coincidence. Bob picked the book back up as the flight attendant came to place a square cocktail napkin on the tray table. “Mr. Bolyn, what can I get you to drink?”

“Mimosa.” He didn’t even glance up. Ever since they started calling themselves flight attendants, stewards and stewardesses had gotten rather uppity. They were bartenders with some safety training, and they needed to remember that. 

The drink materialized on the tray table. Bob took a sip and sighed as the flight attendant sashayed down the aisle. The guy wasn’t even a good bartender. Probably a woke liberal, more worried about everyone else than doing his job well. Good thing Bob had this book to distract him. 

The next chapter started with a funeral notice, and Rich had no idea who the deceased was. This was better, Bob didn’t get funeral notices. He had people to handle that. Probably got tons of them every week, those old bitties who watched his shows felt he was part of his life. Of course, they would want him at their funerals. Rich had a discussion with someone, maybe his co-host or assistant. Bob didn’t really keep up with characters when he read. But this woman was telling Rich he had to go to the funeral. The dead man was his college friend. But Rich had no friends in college. The name was not familiar at all. And Rich did a quick google search of his college teammates. The big university football teams were always available.

Bob shut the book a moment. The main character played football too. At a Division I school.  Only he was a safety and not a tight end. Bob turned to the back to see the author’s bio. He still didn’t recognize the name, but he saw nothing in the bio to think he was some guy that Bob pissed off. Still, the book was strange. But, maybe game show host for a regional hit was a regular gig for guys who didn’t make the NFL. It sure beats selling cars, which is what his old quarterback was doing, in between stints at rehab for his opioid issues. 

Ah, the wifi was working. Bob checked his Twitter feed, liked a few tweets from the Republican leadership, and blocked a couple of trolls. He checked his DM”s to see if there were any hot females from Hawaii messaging him. Satisfied that he had put out a few more signals that he was open to a change of employment, he put his phone back on airplane mode and picked up the book again. It wasn’t interesting anymore, but he needed to make sure it wasn’t someone writing about him. 

***

Liza was walking down the hall on the way to her dressing room when the crash startled her. 

“It’s slander, it’s lible!” Bob Bolyn, host of the new hit game show, “Draw Your Own Conclusions.” was screaming at someone.

Liza couldn’t help herself. She stood near his door and listened. She didn’t hear a response, so he must be on the phone.

“No, I didn’t do everything in the book, but if one think is true, they will think it’s all true. Get this book off the shelves!”

Liza took a deep breath. She didn’t have to ask what book he was talking about. “Say It Out Loud” had just been released over the weekend. 

“I want to sue everyone involved!” Bob screamed. There was another loud crash, the wall-length mirror, maybe? “The publisher, the editor, and the fucking coward writer that is hiding behind Paulo Rivera.” Another crash. Was there anything left to break in there?

Liza wasn’t going to knock and find out. Instead, she hurried down the hall to the last dressing room, the one with a star cut out of an old whiteboard with her name written in purple dry-erase marker. Bob’s last co-host had lasted three shows. Lize was in her sixth month. When does the name on the door become permanent like Bob’s?

She slipped into the room and locked the door. Big sigh. She sat down in the makeup chair and watched herself pull out her phone, then turned the chair around, not wanting to see the panic in her face.

“Shit, Doug, he read the book! He’s furious!” Liza whispered as her editor answered. “He’s tearing up his dressing room, screaming at his lawyer.”

“Now, Liza, first off, he doesn’t know you wrote it, unless you told him.”

“No, no I haven’t”

“Good, and second of all, he can’t do anything.”

“He is yelling about suing us all!” 

“About what? If he sues, then he is saying it’s all true. He is admitting to sexual assault, some fault in the death of a college friend, and throwing the game show he works on so only white people win.” Doug snickered. “And he certainly isn’t going to admit to being teeny tiny between the legs.”

“That was a good suggestion,” Lize said.

“It’s not original. Anne Lamott says to use that trick whenever you write about an ex. That way they won’t sue, because what man admits to that?”

“If he finds out it’s me, I am ruined. Forever. Why did I do this?”

“Because you care about the truth. Because people shouldn’t win game shows, even third-rate regional game shows, because they have the right colored skin. And because your boyfriend would not be in prison if Bob Bolyn had any decency at all.”

Liza nodded. All of that was true. Was she just stooping to his level though? Doug would say no, just like he had the other thousand times she asked him. “Ok, I have to go to work now. Call if there are any changes, or if I need a lawyer.”

“Publisher has your back on this, don’t worry. But we’d love a sequel, if Bob survives this.”

If Bob survives this.

 One thing Liza knew – If Bob survived this, she wouldn’t. He would utterly destroy her, just like he did her boyfriend Curtis. Curtis, who was Bob’s college tutor, had only asked that since Bob was making good money now, he should share a bit. The Athletic Department only paid Curtis the minimum wage, but thanks to his tutoring, and test-taking skills, Bob graduated with an NFL contract,  a degree in management, and a 3.5 GPA. 

Bob had friends and the local sheriff was one of them. The sheriff had no problem setting Curtis up with a truckload of meth. Who would an Alabama jury believe – their elected white sheriff or the lazy black boy who was no doubt lying about being an electrical engineer? She started to wonder- would the sheriff’s office sue her as well?

Someone knocked on Liza’s dressing room door. Damn, was it show time already? It was early. She got up to unlock the door and paused. “Who is it?”

“Hey Liza, it’s Bob. I need to borrow your mirror a second, mine is, uh, out of commission.”

Hands shaking, she opened the door. Bob sauntered in and went right up to the mirror. He smoothed his hair, then grabbed her powder brush and dabbed at the red spots on his face. “Crazy day, huh? Mike wants us to try to get ten shows today. I told him, we just got off vacation, but if Liza needs another break, we can get a model to fill in for her, right?”

“I don’t need another vacation. Last week was good, for me.”

“That’s right, you went to see your boyfriend, right? He’s in…Dallas?”

She tried to remember, Had she ever told him about Curtis?

Too late. He picked up a framed photo of Curis that was on the vanity. He studied the photo, then tapped the frame against his other hand. “This fellow looks familiar, yanno?”

“I don’t think you two have ever met.” Liza tried to keep her voice low and steady. 

“I think he looks like a blackmailing drug dealer that went to prison for telling lies about me.” He nodded his head. “I think I just discovered who Paulo Riveria is.” He turned and rushed out of the room, pushing Liza against the door, and pulling his cell phone out of his pocket as he moved. 

Shit shit shit, Liza wondered if she could get a message to Curtis in time. He knew she was writing a book, but didn’t know she was writing about Bob and what happened right after the five-year reunion. She started to find her phone, when Maggie, the make-up artist came to the door. “Ready? They said they are ready for you on set. Something about taping some teasers.”

Liza froze. They had taped the teasers yesterday. But what could Bob do, he thought it was Curtis, maybe he was just trying to keep her from warning Curtis. She searched her contacts and found Curtis’ attorney, Patrick.

He answered on the first ring. “Liza! It’s true then?”

Liza started to say yes, then remembered what Patrick always told her: Answer only the question asked, and make sure you know what the question actually is.  “Is what true??

“The book! My wife and I just read it this weekend. If it’s true, we can demand a retrial! We just need to find the name of the writer. The real name. I tried calling the publisher, but they won’t budge.”

She could do it. She could tell Patrick. Then he could work on getting Curtis free. But she would lose, well her job for one. But with Bob’s friends in law enforcement, she was only a traffic stop away from being a memory. Was Curtis’ freedom worth it? Could Patrick keep her safe? An innocent man was in prison, she had no choice. 

After hanging up with Patrick and letting Doug know what she had done, she finally got to the set. Bob was pouring champagne. Did he already find out?

“Ah, there  you are Liza, thought you might miss the celebration.” Bob held out a small plastic cup of champagne. “The White House just offered me a job!”