Tuesday | 8:19 am
Parrish Studios, Los Angeles, California
“Diarrhea. The one call you can’t ignore. The one call you can’t refuse.”
Brody stepped back from the mic, held the headphones tighter over his ears, and cleared his throat. He waited a few seconds, then returned to the microphone to repeat the same phrase. “It’s the one call you can’t —“
The voice spilled into the earphones and pierced directly into his brain as if emanating from inside himself. He had asked the engineer behind the glass to bring down the level of the monitoring output three times already. Still, it seemed either he had ignored him, or the director — a real class act himself Brody had butted heads with in the past— had just turned it back up, once again attempting to prove that he knew best.
It was the director’s voice that was speaking now. “Let’s try that again, from the top.”
Brody set his jaw. “I hope we can eventually move on to the second line of dialogue in this ad spot, Martin.”
He saw Martin waving a dismissive hand in his direction through the glass separating the vocal booth from the main tracking room in the studio. He stood over the engineer’s shoulder in order to speak into the talkback monitor’s microphone from only inches away — which, Brody knew, could easily pick up sound from anywhere in the room. Even from here, Brody could see that the engineer’s personal bubble had been breached.
“Yeah, whatever. Let’s take it from the top, just like I said. And stow your attitude. Ready?”
Brody gave a slight shake of his head and silently cursed the director. Regardless of his internal desire to crack a fist through the glass and strangle Martin with a microphone cable, Brody stepped back up and gave the next take his best. “It’s the only call you can’t refuse…” he said, emphasizing the word only and refuse, giving a half-breath’s worth of space between the two separate beats of the sentence.
It was hard to believe, but he had actually trained for this sort of thing. If only my third-grade drama teacher could see me now, he thought.
Had he given the second half of that word enough emphasis? Now that he was thinking of it, was it di-arrhea with the emphasis on the die? Or was it dia-rrhea, emphasis on the second syllable?
Brody stifled a chuckle when a memory bubbled up into his brain, listening to the man mispronounce the word diabetes on midday television. Should he go for something like that? Should he say diarrhea in a way that would eventually make him a name — or at least a meme — for later generations? Di-a-rrhea? Diary — pronouncing the first part like it was a schoolgirl’s journal and then putting an exaggerated grunt at the end? Maybe he could —
“Brody, are you in a trance? You still with us? I pay for studio time by the hour, you know.”
Brody flicked his eyebrows up and nodded at the glass. The ad company is paying for this, actually, he thought. However, he didn’t say anything.
“I want to run it again, top to bottom; this time, I want you to really pretend to be there.”
Brody almost laughed out loud. “You mean, you want me to pretend like I have diarrhea? Or that I am awkwardly narrating a voiceover while two women are enjoying a cup of tea in the park?”
Whatever brilliant marketing company had decided to hire this difficult director had also been brilliant enough to create the absolutely genius commercial for which Brody was now voicing. Two middle-aged women, both wearing clothes — the kind that were not quite casual, not quite formal — both smiling ridiculously exaggerated smiles that made them both seem like new members of a cult, sipping tea out of actual ceramic mugs while sitting together… sharing a blanket in a park. The mostly blurred background even had children giggling and chasing each other in it. One even had a streamer on a wand and was making S-shapes in the air like a colorguard in a marching band.
“Yeah, sure,” he said. He stepped back to the microphone for the fifteenth time that hour and was about to give the engineer a thumbs-up when he felt his phone vibrate. He tried to ignore it, but then he realized he had not put it on silent mode. The sound of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries echoed through the signal chain and back into his monitoring headphones, complete with the slight reverb the engineer had put on the mic. He looked through the glass and saw Martin glaring back at him. Martin’s mouth dropped open, no doubt preparing to launch into some empty threat of never working again in this town or something, but Brody slipped the headphones off his head and around his neck before Martin spoke, pulling the phone up to his face to read the text message. The director could yell all he wanted.
Brody knew who it was from — there was only one person in his contact list with a custom ringtone — and he was almost positive the text would be a waste of time, but there was always a flicker of hope. Always the optimistic belief that this one, after so many years, could be the big one.
He read the text from his agent. Need you to come right away. Opportunity on table. Won’t want to miss it.
Brody smiled. His agent was probably one of the worst in Hollywood. To the man’s credit, though, Brody had worked consistently in LA, though it was hardly a living and certainly nothing to brag about.
He had once wasted a night Googling himself, and ended up on a wannabe actors forum, reading about himself. He imagined what people thought when they saw him. Oh, you’re that guy from those poop commercials! Or, didn’t you get dumped on live television on that one reality show?
Every now and then someone was a bit more discerning and knew his actual name. You’re Brody Flanagan, from Bracket of Love, that March Madness dating show, right? Or, Whoa, dude — did you really eat that live tadpole? PETA must have come down hard on the network for that, right? Are those reality shows real or fake?
The tadpole had been fine, of course, but Brody had had to shove his finger halfway down his esophagus to generate enough retching to vomit it back up. He had been surprised to discover that the network had arranged a so-called ‘professional tadpole liaison,’ who had quickly come to his side, scooped up the tiny pseudo-frog, and plopped it into a Dixie cup full of water to wash the icky human juice off of it.
…at which point he had taken his break and vomited for real in the bathroom. As he did, he had briefly had the thought that Tiny Pseudo Frog would make a great band name. Probably for a novelty band, though. Or one that only plays kids’ parties. And If this next gig from his agent didn’t pan out, he might be forced to seriously consider it.
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