Susannah Fontaine-Williams is dozing in her hospital bed. At a few minutes after 1:00 PM she jolts awake. She’s forgotten about her show and it’s on live in an hour. She should be in the studio finalizing everything, having lunch with a guest, schmoozing the audience, doing all of the things she usually does. She hasn’t even thought to call the studio to let them know she can’t be there. She has never missed a show, a rehearsal, a walk thru, a rundown, a meeting. They will be worried.
Her phone is there on the table charging. She picks it up to check messages, but no one has called. She checks the date, the time, the day of the week and she is doing a show in an hour. And it’s not just any show – it’s a special panel discussion on climate change. It took months to coordinate her panel’s schedules. She has Al Gore. She has Warren Buffet. She has Warren Hollings-Norton. She has the Indigo Girls and she has Jerry Seinfeld. Wardrobe has promised her a power outfit and she expects that she’ll be taking the former vice president home with her, or as a consolation, Seinfeld.
She says, “Call Lorena.” The phone responds, “Calling Lorena.”
Her producer picks up right away. “Hey. What’s up?”
“What’s happening with the show? Sorry I haven’t called.”
“Susannah, are you serious?”
“Are we doing a rerun?”
Lorena laughs. “Oh, this is good.”
“What are you talking about?”
“This isn’t your best, but it’s not bad. I’m going to put you on speaker, OK?” She hears a choir of unsynchronized hellos.
“Look, I’m at the Downtown Hospital. There was an accident. I’m OK.”
“What happened?” Luke, an assistant asks.
“I can’t really say, but I think I was electrocuted. I don’t know how long I’ve been here, a day or two maybe. The guy they had handcuffed to the other bed is gone.”
“Sure, OK. I got to go. Hope you feel better,” he says amid the sounds of muffled laughter. “Oh, Gore is running late but he should be here any minute.” He hangs up on her.
She pushes the nurse’s call button. A moment later, Elvis the nurse walks in.
“You’re awake,” he says.
“Why is everyone always so surprised when I’m awake?”
“I’d like to check out. Can you start the paperwork?” She sits up on the edge of the bed.
He walks up, takes her pulse. “Sure. It may be a little while.”
She lets her hospital gown fall to the floor and trundles to the bathroom, brushes her teeth, tries to brush her tangled hair. They’ll have to stick a wig on me today.
She showers and washes her hair with the shampoo and conditioner that Alethia brought her when she relieved Mac. Sweet, brilliant Alethia thought to bring all the essentials. “I think I love you, Alethia,” she says, then starts singing You are the sunshine of my life.
She comes out of the shower, runs the brush through her hair which has finally flattened after multiple lathers, rinses, and repeats. Wrapped in a towel, she walks to the window and looks at the activity on the street below. She turns on the TV and sits on the edge of the bed. There she is, alone, on the white fluffy chair wearing a red dress, her hair done to perfection. The sound is off and while trying to raise the volume, she accidentally turns off the TV. I have never worn that dress and don’t I look just phenomenal in it.
It is now 3 minutes after the hour and she is on the screen again. She turns up the volume and hears the woman who looks like her say in her voice, “Joining me in the studio today, please welcome… climate change specialist, Dr. Warren Hollings-Norton, a scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.” There is applause. “Berkshire Hathaway chairman, Warren Buffet.” Applause. “Comedian Jerry Seinfeld.” Really loud applause. “The Indigo Girls!” They all stride in as they’re announced and sit at the large half-circle couch they’ve had made just for this episode.
“Oh, and I almost forgot, Vice President of the United States, Al Gore!” The former VP walks out, fidgeting with his tie and takes his seat in the middle, flanked by Hollings-Norton and the Indigo Girls. Susannah’s towel drops to the floor. She walks up to the tiny TV screen and touches it, sliding her finger to trace the path Susannah Fontaine-Williams, TV talk show host, takes across the screen. “God, I look fantastic. How can I look so good when I look this bad?”
Susannah on the screen is doing everything exactly as Susannah would. There is no doubt in the mind of this Susannah Fontaine-Williams that she is both women. Carry an extra-dimensional handbag around with you long enough…
“I have to get my bag back,” she says.
“OK,” says Elvis, who has reentered the room. “They’re still working on your paperwork.”
“Look at that,” she says, pointing to the TV. She gets up, oblivious to her nudity, and goes to the closet to fetch her clothes. “still haven’t missed a show.”
But Elvis has left the room.
3 thoughts on “Checking out”
love that last line
Renamed the nurse just as an excuse to use that line…
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