The Former Child Star is Going to South Africa for a Safari

by Ellie Shorey

 

The former child star is going to South Africa for a safari. Her equally famous sister is staying in Beverly Hills. She does not even appear on the reality show with her sister—the first twin, that is—because she has yet to accept the downfall of her career. The first sister is less conscious of her dignity and wants to maintain a name in the spotlight, even if it is given to her by a cable network devoted to stalking and devouring the lives of famous people. Why am I watching this woman, who inflects her voice like a child still (reminiscent of her old show’s catch-phrase, Go home, Roger!)? Poor, downtrodden neighbor boy. Here, in the present, she and her crew pile into an open-air jeep with a guide wearing a large sun hat. Look! Zebras!!! Look! Antelopes?? They’re Cephalophini, the guide remarks to a specter, probably a backseat producer suffering from the heat. They reach a pen. Three or four men wearing polos and baseball caps greet the vehicle. A pair of elephants wait in the background. The group is going on a ride around the pen, monitored by the men whose pockets overflow with oranges to coax the elephants along. Behind the group, tall grasses and a few hills. Lots of dust. Lots of dirt. I switch off the television and go outside. On the street, neighbors are pulling trash cans and plastic bins filled with beer bottles to the curb. Tomorrow is trash and recycling day. Tomorrow is unremarkable. I have already moved past tomorrow. I have moved to a place with mountains and red dirt. There are roving groups of zebras and coyotes where I am now. I lock the front door behind me and let the camera crew follow me down the drive. I don’t turn to speak, even though my producer is right behind me, breathing questions instead of air. They will have to wait for my answers. They will have to be patient for me, because I require time to come to the real revelations. I turn at the street, smile into the principle camera, operated by my favorite crew member, Sam. How do I look, Sam? I ask him, and he nods and pushes his chin forward. He urges me to continue without breaking the spell I’ve cast over the lens. Ah, to be famous. This is my own trek into the unfamiliar. Even though we are technically filming my pilot, I have mapped out the course of my first season in my head. There is a team of producers from a fancy Hollywood agency working on this project with me, but I don’t trust them. They are unhappy in the Midwest, alternating their nights between the Hilton off route 6 and various bars within walking distance of a McDonalds. Their descent into my life is much like a safari, and I am the gazelle, the elephant. I do not respond to the oranges they occasionally slip from their pockets. Maybe the whiskey, but I am only human, after all. But my first season (as I predict it) will follow like this: new job in a tall office building down town, all the innuendo-filled, sexual frustration-temptation-elation interactions between my boss and I, a brief dating segment (insert dinners, walks along the lakeshore, picking the debris of dead fish and condom wrappers from our bare feet). The season’s climax will be a choice between accepting my boss/boyfriend’s job (I am more qualified, the board of directors will praise me in talking head interviews) or choosing newfound Love. But here, now, I am getting miked on my front porch while the neighbors pretend to drag trash bags to the curb. They have all signed non-disclosure agreements; they are not allowed to phone the paparazzi. Only I can set up an impromptu photo shoot. Look at these boring people, huffing down their driveways, unable to carry bags of raked leaves without sweat welling under their arms, down the backs of their shirts. Look at their unremarkable faces. Look at how many people move through the day without two seconds of consideration for others. I will be a relatable character. I might get a second season, celebrity endorsements for weight loss pills, a new fiancé from an unpronounceable country. I will be their messiah of good taste, the savior of the downtrodden middle class. But first, I must film this pilot. I turn back to look at my producer, smoking at the end of my drive. She gestures that I should come over to her first after the last makeup application. I let a young, beautiful girl dust powder across my cheekbones. I let her line my eyes with black kohl. Finished, I survey my landscape. I enter the fledgling kingdom I have been chosen to sustain. The producer waits still, more impatient. I will have to give her an interview; I have to be ready for the endless string of questions.