Torched

Julie paced the bamboo floors, wiggling her toes in her Toms between steps while Connie Chaplin stood in front of the television, her vodka tonic as much a part of her uniform as the linen pants and sandals.

“Connie, we really need to talk.”

“Relax, Jules, it’s nothing.”

Relax. Julie always needed to relax. After Chase stole an ambulance and smashed it into a news kiosk. Or when he never even bothered to show for up for first leg of his own fall tour. It was always relax. Now, by some maniacal twist of fate, they were in Brazil and he was absolutely wasted.

“Connie? He’s sloshed. At the Olympics. It’s the opening ceremony and he can hardly walk, much less run a leg of that track.”

“He’s not wasted, he’s probably just tired,” she said, waving her off. “Jet lag.”

At times Julie wondered if Connie actually believed the atrocious heaps of dung she slung at the wall in hopes of sticking. Was it a mother’s love, the vodka, or simply a crude sense of business savvy she possessed beyond her tightly botoxed forehead?

“Well, here we go,” Connie stood, went for a refill.

Connie and Julie were actually four blocks from the stadium. After Chase threw a hissy fit and gave the seats to the two silky-haired gatas he’d met at the club last night.

He just adores his fans, Connie said. Julie could only hope there wasn’t another sex tape on the horizon.

Now, she turned up the volume. The crowd erupted as the torch made its way into the stadium. Julie watched through a wince as the cameras zoomed in on Chase Chaplin and that cocky grin of his. She thought how he’d once been such an attractive boy, before the neck tattoos and weed. She rolled her eyes as he took out his phone.

Then hers buzzed.

It was in a pure state of horror that Julie watched her client, his phone nestled in the crook of his neck and shoulder, accept the torch and light a smoke with it.

“Jesus, Chase, what are you doing?”

“Pretty cool huh?” There was a few seconds delay between his actions on screen and the voice in her ear.

“Chase,” she said, but drew a blank.

“I’ve told you, it’s Chayzee now.”

“I don’t care if it’s Cheeze Wiz, you dunce. Put the smoke out and get off the phone!”

“How do I look?”

“Like a douchbag. You’re disrespecting an entire country.”

“No worries. Californians are laid back.”

Connie ran over, uncharacteristically spilling a drop of Vodka on the rug. “Let me speak to him.”

From the phone: “I don’t want to talk to her.”

“Chase. Please.” Julie pinched the bridge of her nose and tried to put some authority in her voice. Undergrad at Cornell, followed by those sunny, carefree days on the lawn at UVA. She’d passed the bar but somehow ended up here, watching a man-child self-destruct before a worldwide audience.

“Put the smoke out and carry the freaking torch, Chase. Just do that, please.”

“Man, it’s hot as balls out here. So look, I was thinking, you know that gig tonight, with that old man?”

“You mean Sir Paul McCartney?”

“Yeah, cancel it. Not sure it’s good for my image.”

Chase made a detour from the track, cameras following him over to a throng of screaming girls in the stands. Julie watched as the torch teetered loosely in his grip.

“Look you little twerp. Don’t you even think about backing out. You get off the phone and walk your ass to the next carrier. Someone who appreciates the honor.”

A rattle of ice cubes nearby. “Don’t talk to my son like that.”

All Julie had wanted was an unconventional career. Some adventure. Now she watched her idiot client take selfies with the screaming girls. The signature tongue wag. The empty smile. The sweat on his head. She’d done nothing but make excuses for him.

“Chase.”

A string of obscenities and crude gestures for the cameras. He spun back to the crowd and found a Brazilian flag, using it to wipe his face, still shouting into the phone.

“Jules, you still there?”

Words stalled at Julie’s lips, she could only sigh.

“You know, you’re kind of hot when you get all worked up. Oh and Jules, be a sweetie and make sure my suite is stocked. Two cases of Monster. Grey Goose. Three packs of Dentine, cinnamon kind. Some protection, you know what I’m saying? Hmm, let’s see, some grapes. Green ones, not purple….no seeds and…”

A close-up as he wiped down his arms with the flag then took to his armpits. The announcers went ballistic in patriotic uproar.

It was almost gratifying, Julie thought, just before the flag caught on fire. Watching Chase implode before the Greek Gods and the world at large. She was nearly serene as Connie shrieked. When the torch was wrenched free from his hands and Chase was hoisted away, dropped, kicked once in the ribs, then dragged to an access tunnel where he could finally receive a proper ass-whipping. All the while Connie screamed at her to do something. To work the phones. To save her little boy.

Julie walked out the door. Quit that day, just before the headlines splashed. She left Brazil with a first class smile on her face. A vodka tonic in one hand and a paperback in the other.

“Chayzee.” She said it out loud, laughing like she hadn’t laughed in years.

 

 

–Pete Fanning/2016

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