Bad Actors

Jessica Bonder

         There are some of you, and you know who you are, who will never set foot inside a robot whorehouse. There are some of you, and I won’t name names, who have decided that places like At Your Leisure, no, they’re just not for you. You judge us, we, the fine clients of AYL, at a distance, as you might a fast food hamburger or an invasive plant species - oh the immorality! You’d shield your mini-mes’ eyes right quick - save the children! - if they weren’t already safeguarded by SPF 500 virtual reality sunglasses, because little Timmy can’t go five minutes seconds without super ultra retina protection or livin’ la vida loca in Cuddlybearburg. Thank goddess for Teddys! - the adorable simulated inhabitants of Cuddlybearburg - who keep Timmy company / entertained at all times. Ideal for long (10 minute) road trips! scheduled Mommy-Daddy love-love time (ha, like that ever happens)! or Mommy-Mommy love-love time! or Daddy-Daddy love-love time, etc.! Cuddlybearburg, betterer than homo sapien grandparents - because those require meals and eventually expire - it’s like, it’s there whenever / wherever your lil’ GMO needs it. Like a book, picture or coloring. Only less work-y. Imagination, fuck that noise.

         How you doing back there, Timmerz? gets no response, because Timmerz, he’s tumbling down a hill with Grislet, or, riding a bike with Happra, or, baking cookies with Charmex, all this, from the premium-leathered backseat of your bulletproof everything SUV, your drive-around car, safer than the Popemobile. Back when there was a such a thing as a Pope or religion or God. You know, capital P Patriarchy. How precious, little Timmerz, sealed off from the literal world! The color of his eyes, you can’t remember it. Last seen: the day he was born. Hazel?

           Is he still breathing?

          Put a mirror under his nose.

          I can’t. He’s got his ScentWorld face mask on.

         Aww. Want to smell those fresh-baked chocolate chippers, doncha Timmerz!

        He can’t hear you.

        I know that, Bunny. Don’t look now - we’re passing AYL.

It’s a goddamn shame, really it is, the backlash against the normalization of robot whorehouses. Our nation, of thee we karaoke, just saw the election of its first female robot president, prior to which was our first male robot president, prior to which was our first transgender robot president, prior to which was our first black president, prior to which was four football teams worth of white dudes. Progress, we were making it, motherfuckers!

        The Mainstream Media declared: we were officially post-golemist!

        The Mainstream Media: has it driven down Pill Hill lately?

Because if it had bothered to get off its coastal duff and try real journalism, it would have seen you, doing your best Andrea Bocelli - blinders on - as you barrel down Pill Hill, the street where I live, past the uber gauche AYL McMansion, only because you have no other choice, because Pill Hill has a drive-through Starfux, the only one in a half-mile radius of Whole Paycheck, your final destination, your Certified Organic Heaven. And no matter how nicely / many times you ask Allyson - the voice of Dashboard Intelligence - for an alternate route, anything please anything other than Pill Hill! she auto-defaults to the Dreaded Unavoidable: Continue a quarter mile to Pill Hill. Make a right onto Pill Hill. Proceed past robot whorehouse. After a half mile, destination will be on your left. Starfux Coffee, 118 Pill Hill. Lazy cunt. For this “service” we pay $49.99 / mo.? Raw deal.

         You may not like it but.

         Unlike Love, Pill Hill is a one-way street.

          Just pretend you don’t see it, and really, it’s like it’s not even there!

         That’s why I married you for money, Rodney. You’re all about solutions!

          Pops, he used to say, if you owned a liquor store or robot whorehouse, you’d never go out of business. A place to call home, a warm something in your belly, you’d have these things, always. Oh Pops! if only he had lived to see the day.

         Because times are bad, really bad, and even At Your Leisure is not immune to the economic downturn. Plus the whole robot whoredom backlash, it’s certainly not helping AYL’s bottom line. Which is why, in addition to now selling coffee mugs, t-shirts and limited-edition strap-on dildo baseball caps, and charging for off-the-street parking, which used to be free, soon to be followed by the air you breathe, no doubt, Randy Ramirez, the proprietor and GM of AYL, has had to turn to more creative means of flipping red to black. Lucky him: one of his clients knew somebody, who knew a UPS guy, who knew a janitor, who knew a higher-up at one of those cable networks, the ones that make those silly reality shows? that nobody (everybody) watches? So Randy made a pitch: how about a show documenting the daily goings-on of QTPi, AYL’s most popular robot whore? And Jeff Greenstein, head of devo at TIT, The InfoTainment Channel, he was two thumbs up a butt about it. I smell a hit!

         Actually, what you’re smelling is Homemade Goodness, the Juice Boost™ Flavor-O-The-Day here at At Your Leisure, since it’s early Wednesday morn’ and the r-whores are up and running. Yes sir, that’s the enticing aroma of our proprietary lube sputtering, hot and fresh, out of every silicone orifice in the joint. Go ahead, stick your finger in and have a taste!

         **Jeff sticks his finger in, has a taste.**

         Yum. Just like homemade.

         Now let’s go meet our star, QTPi - I’ve got her booted up for you!

         Can I get a cup of coffee first? Soy milk? Terrible jet lag.

         Sure. Hey K8 - you’re not busy. Can you get Mr. Greenstein a coffee, soy milk?

         Bleep bloop, yes Randy.

         **Jeff unplugs finger, K8 snaps upright**

        **K8 struts: lobby -> staff room -> kitchenette**

        **selects Kenyan blend pod, initiates brew**

        K8, the only AYL staff member who knows how to operate the damn Keurig.

        As so oft happens with technology and reality shows, the novelty of a concept, it wears off quickly. You’re seen one, maybe two episodes of On the QT, and honestly, things start to get boring. I mean, sure, maybe it’s interesting if you’re home sick with the flu / high as a kite / drunk off your ass. Otherwise, there are only so many times QTPi can turn a trick before your Everyday American Audience Member starts yawning, channel-surfing, what else is on, how about that angry chef cooking competition. Ho hum twiddle our thumbs. QTPi sucking off again? QTPi getting d-p’ed again? [QTPi: Available at a group rate! See Manager for details.] QTPi clocking in on time, clocking out on time, recharging during regular breaks, disinfecting her station per company protocol, just another day being responsible QTPi, ten-time Employee-of-the-Month? Can you say Snooze Fest 3000?

          Where’s the zany QTPi hijinx? the crazy QTPi antics?

          Nope. Nothing like that here.

           Just a robot whore doing her job.

          Like the rest of us borings.

          Jeff Greenstein, he started to panic.

         Where’s our show? Shit.

          Under the gun, he.

          Advertisers (HoldTite denture cream, Sincerio’s cereal, etc.) threatened to walk.

          Quick! Call in the consultants! Get a read on the Everyday American!

          Well whaddya know.

          Who the Everyday American deemed eyeball-worthy, who tested well when Everyday American Experts were brought in to analyze why On The QT was tanking in Everyday American Ratings (EAR, the industry standard), was, believe it or not, Randy. Randy, who was constantly fighting with clients at the front desk, arguing over expiration dates on coupons, or sneaking out on his lunch break to spy on Ham-Wallets-4-U, AYL’s direct competitor across town, getting caught by Lady Jay Jay and diving into a rose bush, ouch! and womp womp, or playing practical jokes on me, his next-door neighbor, a stay-at-home not-bio-dad named Marlin, whose sorta-family could really use the extra cash rn, who held his nose and signed the release papers because $1500 / week could really help us out with grocery / energy / therapy bills, sure, TIT can use my name likeness image voice DNA soul however it wants to, now until Infinity, until you your children and your children’s children die, and then all the children after that, until the robots take over and finally reclaim Planet Earth, unless we dumb humans destroy it first, an Action Item which we are fast-tracking to completion, yes indeedy do, that’s who the Everyday American wants to see more of, Randy.

          On the QT was overhauled, chop chop.

          A crack team of writers, hired to craft Randy-isms.

          [#nawnsayinnawnsayin already trending big league on the Tweetface, yo.]

          And to script sensational confrontations between Randy and AYL regs (paid actors).

          [Oh no! It’s Lloyd! that I-Was-Raped-by-a-Robot-Whore Dad, causing trouble      

           again!]

          And everywhere Randy goes, a camera crew follows him.

          [To catch Randy doing random (totes not random) Randy things, oh that kooky

           Randy!]

          Like to our front porch, where the doorbell bing bongs, and I’m all hmmm.

          Gee whiz golly gosh oh my stars and garters.

          Wonder who it could be???

           I check my fly - good thing - zip it, shake out my jitters, get in line of the shot.

          A blue X taped to the spot, just inside the doorframe, where my feet go.

          [The cute intern, Mavis, put it there, said: nice rug, me: sweet tat.]

          Facial exercises.

[        Relax masseter, massage temporalis, head like a balloon, neck a string, weightless]

          Vocal warm-up.

          [ma meh me mo mooo]

          Reaction shots, I’ve been doing these for weeks.

          It’s a challenge, just to keep things fresh.

          Not sure, tbh, how much longer I can take it.

          **opens door**

          Gasp! and Oh! and Be still my heart!

          Here he is, the one and only breakout star of On the QT, Randy Ramirez!

          [Please, so as not to fuck up the sound, please hold your applause to the end. And please, please refrain from that high-pitched woooo screech thing, Randy hates it, says it disrupts his flow / chakras. Make note of the fire exits to your left and right, turn off your cell phones, thanks for coming out and enjoy the show!]

          Randy, who’s always smiling, you almost feel sorry for the guy. Randy, our nation’s first household name robot whore pimp, who fucked my almost-wife and got her pregnant with The Kid but I’m not going down that road at this hour / sober, it’s like he’s living in some kinda Fantasy Land. Randy, who’s presenting on our stoop, “dead” dog in his arms, film crew behind him, boom overhead, he acts like he’s won Something Big, crowned The Winner, “bloody” German Shepherd his victor’s bouquet of red roses. Camacho got hit by a car! Randy wails, as he cries pretty for the camera, sniffles pity to win Everyday American Audience points, hits his mark, legit mugs, for the tight AF tight-shot on his meme-ready sad face. He can see it now: #sadrandy blowing up like social media napalm, the shit dreams are made of, the tits. #sadrandy + #nawnsayinnawnsayin = clickbait paydirt

          Q: If Macho is “dead,” which I am paid to pseudo-believe [as the butt of this joke] -

          Could Randy at least make an effort?

          Stop beaming like an idiot / tool / clown?

          Cease with the wink-winking to the viewers at home?

          It’s insulting.

          Shit actor, gets his own shit show.

          Some of us went to school for Drama.

          Some of us take the Craft seriously.

         “Camacho’s Death”, episode 19, set to air December 18th - just in time for X-mas! - I got the breakdown early this morning. It fell through the mail slot, landed on Mommynoi’s bamboo shoe mat. The Producer’s red-inked note, in the upper right corner, was still wet, last word haste-smeared, missing an e: Need bigger reaction next time. Or els.

          Or els? Or els what?

          I’m under contract for two more episodes, jerkface. Two more episodes, losertown, and I can join SAG-AFTRA. I love it - HAHAHA, really I do - when non-actors tell trained-actors how to, you know, ACT.

          Scene: A slow day at the robot whorehouse, Randy decides to play a practical joke on his good buddy Marlin by pretending his dog, Camacho, got hit by a car. Hilarity ensues, as the audience sees Marlin’s distress-shot while knowing Camacho is alive, the “blood” being ketchup [Heinz product placement]. Interstitials: ChowChow dog bones / Gone4Güd stain remover

          Good buddy Marlin?

          Best frenemy, is more like it.

          And hello, Harvard grad wordsmiths, ambiguous pronoun usage, i.e. his dog?

          Makes it sound like Macho could be mine. And he ain’t.

          [Pet “ownership” = slavery = no thanks]

          Sigh / WGAF / not my circus, not my monkeys

          Just shut up. Do your job. Take the money and run.

         [run = pay down $6700 credit card debt]

         Randy, like a flasher with open trenchcoat, awaits my distress-shot (more like -money), the thing that soaks advertiser panties. A six second eyes-bugging-out-brow-scrunching me, a sell-out phoney not-really-a-dad, packaged and repackaged, in endlessly looping promos, that’s my job now, what I’ve become: a cartoon. Off-camera, Millennial Producer Travis, headset on, watches the monitor, shakes his head, last-call gestures at me with an air-twirling finger, get on with it, Mark! Travis and his overcompensating red pens still doesn’t know my name after six weeks it’s Marlin not Mark what a dickwad Travis. Intern Mavis, gawd she’s so cute, flips through a binder, checking script, also shakes her head - pissed at the ambig pronoun sitch? You said you were an English major, right? Niiice. Your nose ring, it’s adorable, no it really is, hey, would you like to grab coffee sometime, I feel like we have so much in common, you know, you and me, no pressure or anything but we could - excuse me, um, Mr. Howlander? But aren’t you, like, almost-married?

          Overhead, a crow.

          On our cupola, lands.

          Caw caw caw caw.

          Big Bill, the sound guy, he too, shakes his head.

          As if to indicate: Great. More editing work.

          None of us, save Randy, are happy with how things are going.

          And even him, Always Smiling Randy, behind his bling bling dentistry and conveyor belt starfuckery, his tacky plastic castle and collection of custom rides, his record-breaking clicks-views-likes tally flashing across the soles of his sneakers, his Smell of a Winner cologne preceding him, wherever he goes - available now at Tagmart! makes a great gift! - is he even, what - content? Fulfilled? He can’t even take care of his own Kid. What is this anyway, even, what we’re doing here, faking ourselves out, day after day, pretending we’re winning at Life (!), making Art (!), when we’re all just big pimpin’ bankrupt selfie whores - look at me look at me please please look at me! - pumping out non-stop content - Infotainment - so that strangers can, even, what - watch us like circus freaks? anesthetize themselves to the forever pain of the New New Normal? fakers watching fakers, all of us together now, in a big ole clusterfuck / circle jerk of Penultimate Fakery? Why do we do this to ourselves? Sell ourselves short? When did we all become such bad actors?

          Like the urge to piss or come, it rises in me, slow to build but then way past due. The need to obliterate. To throw nails across the freeway, over my shoulder, as I drive away for good. I want to fuck up the shot.

          Nice fake blood. ketchup?

          And into gloppy fur, I dip a middle finger.

          Like it’s a French fry, swirl it.

          Bring it to tongue.

          Lick it, smacking my lips, all tasty like.

          Go, Heinz?

          CUT CUT!

          I keep going, sunk-cost the whole goddamn enterprise.

          Raise my licked-clean bird, like a toast.

          To Mr. Randy Ramirez: you suck.

          I SAID CUT!

          For ruining my life.

          Endangering my almost-marriage.

          Burdening me with The Kid.

          Hooking me on r-poon.

          X-ing me into a spot from which I literally cannot move.

          Lest I cease to be seen, cease to exist.

          All this, when what I needed from you, really needed, was a friend.

          So fuck you, Randy.

          FUCK FUCKING YOU.

          And I shove past: Randy / Macho / Travis / Mavis / Big Bill / nameless crew /      

          Macho’s stunt double / dog trainer / craft services  

          Down the stairs -> walkway -> driveway

          I’ve got to get back to real life.

          Starting now.

          Starting with checking the mail.

          It’s been weeks.

          I’M CALLING YOUR AGENT MARK!

          **opens mailbox**

          Oh look, one of those SAV-A-TAD coupon booklets.

          Maybe there’s a good one in here.

          And what’s this, a certified letter from Georgia?

          Hope she’s doing okay.

          In her new facility.

          HELLO? HELLO?

          Is that my stomach growling?

          Gotta be almost lunchtime.

          I’m feelin’ fish tacos today.

         YOU’RE FIRED MARK!

         Hey now, a flyer for 50 cents off at that new food truck downtown.

         Madre’s.

         Well if this isn’t Fate.

         Fish tacos it is.

 

 About the Writer
Split Lip Magazine

Jessica Bonder is an American fiction writer and actor. She has previously published works in London-based STORGY Magazine. Her story "Not Today" won first place in STORGY’s 2015 Short Story Contest, judged by author Paul McVeigh. She holds a BA in English and Art History from the University of Pennsylvania. She lives in New Jersey.