Written by Ken Kroes – Copyright 2016
Ted awoke abruptly. He scrambled to turn on the lamp beside his bed, knocking an empty scotch glass to the floor in the process. These damn sleeping pills aren’t doing anything, he thought as he let the protection of the light sooth his frayed nerves. The nightmare that he just experienced was similar to others he had recently with only a few details that he could remember but a strong sense that something was wrong, very wrong.
The door to his bedroom opened. “Everything alright sir?” the tall security guard asked. “I heard a scream.”
“Yes, I’m fine. Just that damn dream again,” Ted replied. The guard nodded knowingly, turned and left the room, closing the door quietly behind him.
Ted looked at the clock and saw that it was only three in the morning. He got up, retrieved the fallen glass and headed to the adjoining washroom. I’ve got to get more sleep he thought, though was afraid of what he would encounter if he did. Dousing his face with cold water he opened the medicine cabinet and got a small handful of pills. He then half filled his glass with scotch and immediately downed it along with the pills before heading back to bed.
It only seemed like moments later when a swooshing sound and bright light woke him up.
“Good Morning sleepy head,” said Ellen, his promotor, as she opened the blinds. “I let you sleep as late as I could but we’ve got a busy day ahead of us and need to get going! Hey, I saw the half empty bottle of sleeping pills by the sink in the bathroom. Is that the new one that I brought yesterday? You’ve got to be careful with those.”
Ted blinked, still a bit fuzzy from the abrupt awakening and the lingering affects of the sleeping pills. “Can’t a man have some level of privacy in his own home?”
“You can have a private life when you retire,” Ellen replied. “Today we have that television commercial to shoot for the new diet drink you’re endorsing.”
“I am?” Ted groaned while checking to see if there was anything left in his scotch glass. Disappointed that there was none, he got up to refill it, not bothering to cover up as he headed to the bedroom bar.
“Ted!” Ellen exclaimed while quickly turning around to avoid seeing him. “Your popularity is so high right now. I can’t believe the huge fees we’re getting for these endorsements. Which reminds me, did you pick a charity to contribute to from the list I gave you?”
Ted shook his head slightly, trying to clear the fog in his mind. “I looked it over and didn’t see anything spectacular. All of them look like I’d be putting money into a black hole. I want to contribute to something that I know will make a difference.”
“I’ll get you another list with small local charities where you can see where the money goes. Once you find one you like we’ll donate like a quarter million to it, that’ll bring in all kinds of publicity.”
“This is so twisted,” Ted said as he nursed his drink and headed to the bathroom, not bothering to close the door. “People pay stupid high prices to see me at a show, I take their money and donate it to a charity and that makes me even more popular. It only makes sense if you don’t think about it too hard.”
Ellen laughed. “That’s the way the business works. Now, I’m going to leave you to get ready. The car will be leaving in thirty minutes so no diddling around!”
God my life has changed, Ted thought as he looked in the bathroom mirror. Just three years ago he lived a simple life in a small town and now was arguably the highest paid singer on the planet. With looks like a young Rock Hudson, unbelievable dance moves and a voice that made women nearly faint, he regularly sold out concerts and was constantly in the media spotlight. With all of the success came money, lots of money. He was finally able to live like his idols with multiple mansions, sports cars and other toys. Quite the change from the simple three-bedroom house that he grew up in.
Ted knew that he had to clear his head so took a long shower with the water as cold as he could handle. Shivering uncontrollably when he got out, he covered himself with a warm towel from a heated rack. He turned the sink tap on to get a glass of water when the sound of running water triggered a flashback of the nightmare. He was in the kitchen from the home he grew up in, the water in the kitchen sink was running and his mom stood in front of it, preparing some food. The warm towel that he wore could not stop him shivering as he recalled seeing her crying while she worked. He did not know why, but knew that he was the cause of her grief.
They arrived at the studio on time only to find complete pandemonium as the staff were scrambling to round up scores of Labrador puppies.
“What in the heck is going on?” Ted asked a frantic camera man who was trying to reach a puppy that was behind some equipment.
“Sorry Mr. Dance. Some marketing genius thought it would be a good idea to include fifty puppies in this commercial. We had them penned up, but somehow they escaped. It’s going to take a while before we’re ready.”
Ted took the opportunity to have a drink from the flask that he carried and then made a call to his mom who had been trying to get in touch with him for the last few days. His little brother picked up, “She’s not home right now,” he said. “Her and dad are at the store. What are you up to?”
“Sipping on a scotch while I wait for things to get ready for the filming of a commercial that I’m going to be in,” Ted replied. “It’s a national campaign so you should see it on the web and television in the next few weeks.”
“Cool! Schools nearly over and I can’t wait to come out there and be with you for a while.”
Ted grimaced as he remembered the promise he made to his little brother that when finished high school he could come and live with him in Los Angles for a few months. “Yeah, it’ll be great. Hey, I’ve got to run. Tell mom that I called.”
Once the puppies were rounded up, the shooting of the commercial went surprisingly smooth. After seeing some of the rough takes, Ellen had to admit that the combination of her superstar playing with a bunch of puppies and then sipping on his diet drink was a perfect match for the female demographic the it was targeted at.
“We’re going to make a killing for that hour of work,” Ellen said afterwards. “You get an up front check for a half a million plus a percentage of sales.”
“It’s really worth that much to them?” Ted asked.
“Of course!” Ellen replied. “Your fans idolize you. If you say something is good, it must be.”
Ted cell phone rang. Thinking it was his mom, he picked it up without looking at who the caller was.
He politely listened for about thirty seconds and then hung up.
“Who was that?” Ellen asked.
“Some guy named Richard who was trying to talk me into being a spokesman for some foundation, the Pleasant Belief Foundation. He didn’t even give me a chance to say a word. Said he’s going to send some information to me and be back in touch soon.”
“I’ve heard about that group. They have really off the wall beliefs. I’d stay away from them; we need mainstream exposure.” Ellen said as they exited the studio.
Ellen and Ted spent the rest of the afternoon doing a bit of shopping, having dinner and then stopping by a few clubs. It all seemed casual but was actually a carefully choreographed schedule by Ellen to make sure that Ted was seen and photographed at the all of the right places.
It was very late when Ted finally returned to his mansion and made it to his bedroom. His mind was a bit cloudy from a few of the pills someone had given him in a club. Out of habit, he grabbed some more sleeping pills and swallowed them with a scotch chaser then collapsed on his bed.
It seemed like no time before the nightmare started. He found himself back in his parent’s house, this time in the living room. His dad was in his normal lounge chair holding a picture, his hand was trembling. Attempts to talk to him were futile as he did not even seem to realize Ted was in the room. Suddenly Ted found himself in a room filled with people that he knew. There was a clear path in front of him that led to an open casket.
Nobody acknowledged that he was even in the room as he moved towards the casket. As he approached the casket the lid came slamming down, making a loud clapping sound.
“Your lucky to be alive,” the doctor said clapping his hands one more time to ensure that Ted was conscious. “That was quite the overdose.”
Ted slowly looked around to make sense of where he was. It looked like a hospital room and then he saw Ellen. “How long have I been out? Does anyone know that I’m here?” he asked.
“Only about a day and no, not even your parents know about what happened. This private hospital deals with celebrities all of the time and knows how to keep secrets.”
Ted was relieved. “Good. I don’t want anyone to know, especially my parents.”
“I’m worried about you Ted,” Ellen said. “You can have the world and you seem bent on destroying yourself. I’m going to get the names of a few good rehabs. That’ll fix you up.”
Ted shrugged, “Maybe.”
They briefly discussed his upcoming gigs and that Ellen would come up with an excuse for cancelling them. After Ellen left, Ted started to doze off as he thought about his dream. The door opened and a middle-aged bald man entered casually dressed in jeans and a t-shirt.
“Who are you?”
“We spoke yesterday. My name is Richard, from the Pleasant Belief Foundation.”
“How did you know I was here? Get out!”
“I had a trace put on your electronic currency transactions. When this hospital came up, I knew something was up and just happened to be in Los Angles on other business. I won’t take more than two minutes of your time and then will leave. I have a feeling that those two minutes will both change and save your life.”
“Fine, two minutes and that’s it. I’m really not in the mood.”
“Ted, I have a lot of money. Actually I am the richest person in the world. Yet I’ve learned that all of that money cannot help save this planet or our society from much darker times in the near future. What needs to happen is a drastic reduction of consumption and feeling of entitlement that many people have. I think you are part of the answer to that.”
“Yes, you have hundreds of millions of fans. They idolize you and if you tell them that you’re reducing your consumption and sense of entitlement, and follow through with it, they will follow. I want you to be a spokesperson for my foundation. Think about it like the biggest endorsement deal of your life time. Doing this will make a difference, give you purpose and wont cost you a dime. You’ll actually save money since you won’t be spending near as much.”
“My manager said I should stay away from you. That your foundation isn’t mainstream.”
“We’re not. We promote actionable things that people can do that will make a difference. Things that the government and corporations really don’t want. Anyhow, think about it,” Richard said then left a few small books on the cabinet beside the bed and turned to leave the room. “I’ll be in touch.”
With nothing better to do and afraid to go back to sleep, Ted started to read the first book and it only took a few hours to realize that this was exactly what he was looking for. With a renewed sense of purpose, he realized that he feeling much better and decided to call his mom but the line was busy. I’ll call her in the morning Ted thought as he fell asleep and for the first time in many nights, there were no disturbing dreams to greet him.
Ted was awoken the next morning with a call from his father.
“I have bad news son,” his dad said, his voice trembling. “Your brother died in a car accident last night.”
“What!” Ted said in shock.
“The police said that it looks like he had been drinking. On the floor of the car they found a partially empty bottle of scotch.”
Who thinks of you as a role model and who are yours? Perhaps a more important question is which role models to your children look up to?
Role models drive behavior and we be must conscious of the specific qualities and traits our idols have that we admire. For example, we may admire someone for their business savvy and try to mimic it, but this does not necessarily mean we should also follow their parenting techniques. If you are a role model to someone, what overall impression are you leaving?
If you want to read more about the Pleasant Belief Foundation and their crazy ideas to improve our relationship with each other and the planet, please check out the Percipience book series; 2022 (permafree), 2222, 2232 and Time Lost.
I am an anagram nut! There are three in this short story. Can you find and solve them? If you want hints or just wish to contact me, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.