it's time. Alex neatly folds his newspaper, has a chunk of bacon which looks like ham, wipes the sweat off his newly-minted mustache, kisses his family and rides into town. he can do this in his sleep of course but it's been awhile this way.
at the studio, he's greeted with his first confirmation, Kenyatta.
Kenyatta: what is sexy 'stache for 200, Alex?
Alex: thanks, babe. i wasn't sure. the wife said it made me look younger but i feel silly.
Kenyatta: that's what youth is: silliness. have you met my prospect? he's got it in the bag, i trust him. i know this because i know him because i know he's my friend.
Alex: let me check my cards, i'm nothing without my cards. Atalan, heard about him in the newspaper, came back the inglorious hero after missing a few crucial free throws.
Atalan: talking behind my back. good. it's when they stop talking about you that you have to worry. actually it's when they stop talking altogether that you're done. it became untenable after the whole Manny-the-god-we-put-our-eternal-trust-in-gets-incinerated thing. i tried to move on to the second stage, which is always the desert stage, but by then every country had picked a side and were digging in the sand, not drawing a line in the sand to show where the free throws were to be shot. everybody's problems had been subsumed into this new conflict of god vs. truth. i wanted to help with food and supplies and homes but when i saw leaders' eyes gleam with renewed brightness and life, i knew it was all over for the poor. there is no force subtler and more brutal than when a government gets its grubby hands on a moral crusade. the gunboats line up for a black-and-white war and subtler things like the complicated layers of the tax code and the exact contours of what it means to be middle class are thrown out the gunboat window.
Kenyatta: chin up, man, there is still one force that's greater: me scorned. no i'm serious. always remember that. when your chin hangs low, always remember that.
Atalan: i came back an hero to a confusing welcome. some were ironically happy to see me, happy to see that i hadn't defeated Codrus, they were already buried in the Stones. others were mad at me cos they hated my face. i remember sitting at that open window at IHOP tucking into my Summer Stack of banana-nut pancakes and just thinking that all i was good for was nutting. the nuts were rancid and the bananas were not quite ripe, one shade of green bad. it's never like the commericals. maybe i needed to get that armsleeve tattoo that guy has in those commercials. no, that wasn't it, he chowed down his rubbery pancakes cos he was with his family.
Alex: there are plenty of fish out there.
Atalan: nah, that dating app sucks. but i'm here, my mind is clear, i'm used to the jeers, i could use a beer.
Yayray: you stealin' my act, foo'! HOLLA!!!!!
Kenyatta: boy, you never fail to amaze me. you live up to expectations. i haven't seen you in so long and you the same stupid kid.
Yayray: now what stories you herd, ma?
Kenyatta: you ain't about that life, son. i heard you got into drugs and were GONE.
the red light above the door lights.
Yayray: that's my signal. INSANE IN THE MEMBRANE!!! i got one at least, ha.
Kenyatta: huh, what a waste. you'll have no problem defeating this gang member, Ata. you can find meaning alone, you are a cog in a big machine, we all are, but you know deep inside your imagination that this is the good machine, the one that threshes out the weeds so all can partake of our ancient heritage, our ancient grains. we are about equality for all, not collecting all the seeds into one locked silo.
out in the epansive grandeur of the studio, the lights are bright. too hot.
Yayray (clicking his signal): how does this work? it seems so easy on tv.
Alex: it is, my son, that determines how smart you are. it's really the guts of this game, for if you don't time it just right, you'll get locked out and another will steal your glory.
Yayray: ain't noone a bigger trigger-finger than me. i survived the Wild Wild West Coast, talkin' bout hogging my glory, i honed my skillz on my police runs, i'm Speedy Fucking Gonzalez, i know what time it is, time to step up or shut up, step UP, don't hate participate, ain't that right, patna?
Atalan: i never knew you, did i? you were just there. i never took the time to talk to you. this is my fate. i thought i was a lone wolf but i'm a teacup chihuahua. i don't know who i am anymore without my structures in place. i have no one but myself right here right now in this moment tryin' to do something. i must thank my stars for the blessing of this moment to scar. most people don't have something to do. deep breath, Ata, you can do this, use Shia, i've never encouraged myself like this before. remember: there is no knowledge, only memorization. there is no wisdom, only memories. do not give in to the easy dark side, do not become a junkie, though i have every right to.
Alex: i'm nervous, too, guys, this isn't any old game, this is for the fate of humanity going forward. okay, in the category of Potent Potables, i mean Serve On: "he was was the surprise semifinalist at this year's Wimbledon. for the men."
Yayraj: what is..........what the what? WHAT?! he got it? i came in first, i always come first, ask any of my bitches. this is bullshit. FUCK THIS SYSTEM. you can't keep rigging the truth, folk will find out. the truth always outs eventually. now how imma be a balla back in the hood if they see me not lit up first?
Alex: sorry, my son, but Atalan fired first. he beat you by a fraction. don't be too fractious, it's just a game. it's just the practice round.
Atalan: who is McEnroe? he is literally the only tennis player i know. i don't watch tennis.
Yayraj: Gasquet, man, even my coz knew dat.
Alex: next category, The Real Star Wars...
Kenyatta (in the stands): ...there's something about that boy's eyes. he's giving a tell but i can't tell. worry not, Ata, you have depression, which is normal. what Yayray has is something
CRAZIER, CLICK HERE, RIGHT HERE AT THIS LINK.
Alex: i mean correct. let's go to the video for proof.
in the blue box a video plays of Gasquet's semifinal match. it quickly cuts to his press conference:
Gasquet: i am so happy happy to be on top, i never thought i'd reach this pinnacle again, my whole life was ruined by one cocaine kiss, otherwise known as Le Kiss, i shall never kiss again. you realize the fate of us tennis players is determined solely by a challenge to a line call? if the ball hits the line, play continues, the match continues, the money continues, and the more beautiful woman you get to kiss. if the ball is out by a millimeter of an inch, you lose the match and your sponsors and your shoes and you become the poor.
Wolf: BREAKING NEWS. la la la la, heh, singing the theme song. Anderson, are you out there in the field? Anderson is our field general, the rest of us just follow orders. he's our field master, he's a master of fields. Anderson, what the fuck is going on?
Wolf: deal? the deal's done?
Wolf: stop frolicking in the fields, Anderson! looks like we're having some technical difficulties. and some just difficulties. i'm too old for this shit. sorry, folks, i haven't been the same since i shaved my beard. men need to have a good head of hair on their head to be taken seriously, it's not just a woman thing. time for my unannounced vacation. bye. dock my pay, i don't care anymore, play more Anthony travel repeats, he's always on vacation, too.
Wolf drives back to his house where his daughter is per usual buried in her phone. she's a big Hillary fan.
Wolf: honey i wish you'd get off that phone and engage more. there are people to help, i report on them everyday. i want to make news not comment on it. i want to digest it not dissect it. there's a whole big bright blue-and-green-and-smog world outside ready to be explored. if you don't believe me watch Anthony travel. there's got to be more to life than this.
Wolf: we're all borked. any news on Hillary?
daughter: she's made it to the second round of auditions but i still cannot believe he cheated on her. how could he do this to her? how can anyone cheat on Hillary? all these dumb hockey jocks think they're entitled or something. she's trying to care for their kid alone on an actress's salary and he's out galavanting chugging various strange liquids with the Stanley Cup...
she starts to sway and hit all the paper lanterns taped to her ceiling she and her dad worked so diligently on in kindergarten as a father/daughter project.
Wolf takes the phone from her daughter who doesn't seem to mind, she is off in her own world of words as he is in his. there are too many worlds now, not enough words.
he slides to unlock and scrolls through some instagram motivational quotes and hunky buff guys in shorts. he lands on a big black-and-white one:
quote: GET OFF YOUR PHONE