I could tell you every single detail about the history of this cable channel. I knew the date and time of its first broadcast, and of the content it inflicted upon the world. That date was a long time ago, which, in television years, was a very, very long, long time ago, and the content was educational in nature, twenty-four hours a day. About halfway between that date and now, the executives in charge noted that learning didn't turn much of a profit. And so they set their meager budget to the task of scouring the continent for a half-dozen egos and ids the size of ten ids, transplanted them to a mansion in Long Island, surrounded them with cameras, microphones, liquor, and hot tubs, and set them loose on each other. And, despite the fact that an incalculable number of formerly educational cable channels had walked this path long before this formerly educational cable channel, the result was still gold.
Along with this disappointing story, I also could tell you the names, ages, and hometowns of every single one of these egos and ids. If said ego and id was female, I could tell you her measurements, and whether or not they were fake. And finally, I could tell you the highlights of their hookups, breakups, and fisticuffs.
Yet my soul has remained intact for one reason alone: I have never watched a single minute of this program. Knowing these things was my job, and I was damned good at it.
The champion ego and id of this particular house was Aubrey Hitchens—32DD, with a twenty-six-inch waist and what has been described by many as a "smokin' booty." Currently, this particular booty was strolling down 116th and Amsterdam, across the street from where I stood, my photographer by my side.
"I can handle this," she said.
"What's your plan," I asked, rolling my eyes. "Go up to her, compliment her shoes, trade ab-crunching techniques, and ask if you can take a picture and let me follow up with a few questions?"
"Well, her shoes are really tacky, but I like her purse," she replied without the slightest trace of irony in her voice--or even her soul, really. It's one of the reasons she got under my skin. The other reasons strained the top buttons of her blouse.
"That's not going to work."
"Have you ever tried it?"
"I don't like her purse," I replied.
"Fine, Mr. Bossy Pants," she said. "What's your plan?"
Bossy Pants. That was new. At least she called me Mister. "Just follow my lead," I told her.
"Why would I want to do that?"
I smirked. "You've been my sidekick--"
"--for how long?"
"Four months," she replied.
"And what's my ratio of pulling to not pulling things like this off?"
"After you, Mr. Bossy Pants," she admitted.
I jogged down the street as fast as my charcoal-lined lungs would take me. "Miss Hitchens!" I wheezed. "Can I get you to answer a few questions?"
"You have to talk to my publicist," Aubrey Hitchens snapped without slowing down or looking in my direction.
"Did that," I replied. "She told me there was a fee."
"Then pay the fee."
"Can't afford it."
"Then you don't get an interview," she concluded.
"Can I quote you on that?"
She stopped walking. "Do what?"
"I mean," I told her, "my editor demands a story about you for the weekend edition. He gets what he demands."
"He scares me," Gretchen agreed. "Like when he ordered me to get a candid of you in case we need to fill a hole in tomorrow's paper." Without warning, she squeezed off two shots from her hip. They were probably going to be amazing shots I had to admit. For someone like her, she really was an excellent photographer.
I continued, "I had hoped to talk to you, but I'll just have to write a column speculating as to why a self-proclaimed farm girl from Omaha, Nebraska, would be so vain as to charge that much money for her attention." I removed a notebook from my pocket for effect, not because I had anything to write down. Also for effect, I frowned and turned to Gretchen. "Are there even farms in Omaha?"
"How am I supposed to know that?" she replied.
"Because you're from Nebraska."
Her eyes widened in confused shock. "No, I'm not."
"Yeah, you are."
"No," she reiterated, "I'm not."
"There's no point in denying it," I told her. "We already know the truth."
"I'm not from Nebraska!"
"You shouldn't be so embarrassed," I said. "Nebraska's a fine state."
"I'm from Baltimore!"
"You went to college in Baltimore," I clarified. "You went to high school in Nebraska."
"I went to high school in Connecticut."
"And before that you lived in Nebraska."
"No, I didn't!"
This didn't make any sense. Based on my rudimentary understanding of evolution, the kind of boisterousness, naivety, and delicious curves of someone like Gretchen West could only have developed from the hardworking, honest, God-fearing, German-Nordic genetic stock of the American Heartland. "At least tell me your parents are from Nebraska."
"What the hell is going on?" yelled Aubrey Hitchens.
"Isn't it obvious?" Gretchen replied. "We're blackmailing you."
"And if she can get that," I added, "then it should be obvious."
"You do this," Aubrey Hitchens warned, "you're burning every single bridge between me and your paper."
"We can't afford the tolls anyway," Gretchen told her.
Startled, I blinked and said, "That's... that's really fucking clever."
Her kissable cheeks blushed.
"Who did you steal that from?" I asked.
Those same cheeks flushed with anger.
I returned my attention to Aubrey Hitchens. "What do you say?" I asked. "Tomorrow afternoon?"