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The Critic's Apocalypse
“Albert Peterson,” the secretary drawled in a New Jersey accent. “Albert Peterson.”
Albert sprang from his seat like a nervous squirrel and scurried to the desk where the bored secretary lurked behind her desk. She welcomed him to the Literary and Film Character’s Employment Office and queried whether he’d minded the wait. From her sullen-teenager stare over her moon-rimmed glasses as she chewed her gum like a cud, she didn’t appear to care whether he minded or not.
He opened his mouth and began to stutter a reply, but the secretary interrupted him, shoving a clipboard in his face. He took it immediately and awaited her orders. “Fill this out. We’ll put it into a filing system and, should your application be accepted, you will be cast and produced into some new literary genius that will hit the media like a train… or will be slaughtered by critics. At the bottom of the application is an optional preference box.”
Albert blinked, “Preference box?”
“You can request a genre. You know: mystery, action, romantic comedy, musical. Whatever you prefer.” She looked him up and down. “If you ask me, you look like you should be in a Disney film.”
Albert didn’t ask her. He wandered back into the waiting room and sat in a cushy chair between a unicorn and a black man shouting, “I have had it with these motherf***ing snakes on this motherf***ing plane!” After finishing his line, the black man looked at Albert and grinned, “I’ve been shoutin’ that line twelve different ways for some days now. I guess I’m gonna be cast soon since my writer’s finally decided.”
Albert smiled back. “Good luck.”
The man laughed. “With this writer, I think I’m gonna need it. See ya on Netflix!” He stood and wandered out the front door, disappearing as he shouted his line once more.
Albert returned to his clipboard.
Name: [He smiled confidently as he wrote in his name.]
Nickname, if any: [He thought a moment.] Weasley Little Rat, Al
Kind of being: [He glanced around and saw that the chair next to him had been occupied by a wrinkly little creature that kept muttering, “Phone home, phone home…” Immediately he wrote in “Human.”]
Age: A long way from 33.
Occupation: English teacher, songwriter, Conrad Birdie’s agent
Family members: The woman who bore me.
Talents, abilities, or powers: I leave that to Rosie.
Relationships: I try to please everyone. Mostly mama.
Fears: Losing Rosie, I mean disappointing mama, no wait… uhhh… N/A
Faults: Push over, wimp, disrespectful to the woman I love [Albert frowned. This was getting ridiculous. What was his writer thinking, giving him these unsavory characteristics?!]
Albert stood and marched up to the secretary, slamming the clipboard on the desk. The secretary hardly seemed perturbed. “Yes?”
“I demand to know why my character has so many flaws!!”
The secretary rolled her eyes. “You’ll have to take that up with the writer.”
“I should have a say in my personality!!”
The secretary glanced down at his application. “If I told you that you haven’t yet gotten to your good points, would you go and sit down? You’re disturbing the pigs.” She gestured to three pigs cowering in the corner of the room. When they saw him looking, they shrieked “WOLF” and scurried across the room as far as they could from him.
He frowned and sat back down.
Good points: [He smiled.] Loves Rosie dearly… [He frowned as he continued scribbling.] …but is too much of a coward to tell her how I feel until she’s walking out the door.
He jumped to his feet and threw the clipboard to the ground. “HOW IS THAT A GOOD POINT???”
A young man in renaissance dress bent down to pick up the clipboard and read the final entry. Tears cascaded down his cheeks and he shoved the clipboard back into Albert’s hands. “Thou dost not know the meaning of pain!!” He ran out the front door, sobbing.
Albert, confused, glanced around at the remaining occupants in the waiting room. “What’s his problem?”
A large hairy beast started speaking but in a growling language Albert couldn’t understand.
“I’m sorry, what did the walking carpet just say?”
“He said,” translated a drop dead gorgeous man, “that that was Romeo. And just so you know, Chewy doesn’t appreciate being insulted. He’s known to rip people’s arms off.”
Albert immediately started backpedalling. “I-I-I’m so s-s-s-sorry. I wasn’t think-k-k-king-”
“That’s right, Chief,” said a gruff man carrying a harpoon gun. “You ain’t thinkin’. Sharks’re gonna come and getcha!” He cackled.
A large green beast belched and nudged Albert’s arm with his elbow. “Better out than in I always say!”
Suddenly everyone was talking at once. Themes became tangled with plots. Lines began exploding, happily-ever-afters were crushed into dust, protagonists became antagonists, and-let’s face it-the world just about ended with all of the propaganda that polluted story lines.
Albert, who was suddenly becoming faint, turned to the secretary. She was shouting to bring order to the overloading characters, but the din covered her. Literature and films were having an apocalypse!!
Albert ran over to the secretary. “What’s going on?!”
“Plots and themes are becoming so overused, nothing’s new anymore!! It’s getting more and more difficult to create something new that the mass media will appreciate!! The critics are just killing us!!!”
“Damn you critics!!” shouted a guy on steroids wearing a toga. A young man carrying a gorgon’s snake covered head came galloping in on a winged horse and began to do battle with a man wearing a bat costume. Somewhere, a bird kept cawing, “Polly want a cracker!” over and over and over again… A man and woman came waltzing by but their dance was interrupted by the battle ensuing between the man on the winged horse and the batman. Then, just when things couldn’t have gotten any better, the ceiling suddenly clouded over, and lightning flashed and thunder cracked as paper began raining from the heavens.
Albert fell to the floor and covered his head with his arms. Is this really how it ends? Albert asked himself. The critics really are going to kill me!! The echo of thunder filled his ears and he cowered. On his knees, he raised his arms to the sky, “Oh Rosie, I only wish I’d told you that I loved you!!”
It took him a moment to realize that all was silent. Slowly, he cracked open his eyes. He was alone in the waiting room. The secretary was sitting calmly at the desk, reading over his application. He got to his feet and walked up to the desk.
“What now??” he cried, deeply overwrought.
The secretary glanced up at him. “We’re back in business. Twilight was a box office hit.” She shrugged and smiled sourly. “Go figure.” She then tapped his application with a pen. “You’ve been accepted. Once you’ve signed this, just go out the front doors. Have a nice day, Mr. Peterson!!”
He could tell she really didn’t mean it.