Monday, 5 September 2011

Talk Show Host

The elastic had gone. Her thinning joggers were suspended from her hips by the frayed drawstring. A greying vest hung limply from her shoulders, leaving her emaciated arms and pigeon chest uncovered. Beneath her flimsy wrapping, greying underwear housed her fried-egg breasts and sagging arse.

Her hair was scraped back from her head and secured with a pink scrunchie. The whites of her eyes were pale yellow, although it was difficult to tell, given how far back into her skull they were sunk. Her thin lips barely concealed two rows of Sugar Puff teeth. Her skin was like parchment. Two blue veins bulged at her temples.

He stared at her: simultaneously sympathetic and repulsed.

He thrust the microphone in her face, demanding a response to his vitriolic questioning. Her reactions dulled from years of drug abuse, she gazed, dead-eyed into the audience. He demanded an answer. She garbled, a regional accent and a mouth robbed of saliva conspiring to make her answer unintelligible.

The microphone was an affectation. All the participants were wired for sound. But this technological penis extension gave his overbearing machismo a physical outlet: his slight frame alone asserted no authority.

His aural assault increased in volume and vitriol. A solitary tear rolled down her sallow cheek, hung on her jaw and then plopped onto her razor collarbone. His work here was done.

He called on his next guest. Spiteful rhetoric poured from his poisoned tongue as he invited the baying mob to pass premature judgement. His manufactured hysteria infected the audience: they begin to boo even before he loomed into view.

Apologetically, he slipped from the shadows into the lights. Cowed by the crowd, he slithered into his seat. Dressed in his best: button-down shirt tucked into cheap denim. Kicking his white trainers together nervously, he bit his lip and hung his head, lank hair drooping over frightened eyes.

The host raised himself, brushing out the creases in his expensive suit. He loomed over his latest victim, eyebrows knotted. Spite poured forth: self-righteous indignation vomited from a lofty perch. The ‘guest’ shifted uncomfortably, attempting to justify himself. He didn’t stand a chance. Judge, jury and lie-detector test had decided: they'd moulded the narrative to the host’s purpose. Sentence was passed.

The lights faded, a jingle chimed from the PA. The host straightened up, smug satisfaction smeared across his face. The couple on stage had provided the perfect platform. His educated language had baffled them, his high-minded morality bamboozled them, his polygraph befuddled them: lambs to the slaughter.

But there was to be one more sacrificial lamb. I raised the gun. Jeremy was in my sights.

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