Bury My Heart at Bended Knee

Of all the minor mysteries in this wondrous world, the most inexplicable on the date of August 1st, 2016 was, without question, how the production team of The Bachelorette managed to wrangle three hours of television out of the complete nonevent that was JoJo giving the final rose to Jordan Rodgers. When all was said and done, ABC could have just as easily filled that airtime with the revelations that water is wet, fire is hot, and rocks are hard.

If there was one remarkable moment of the last hundred and eighty minutes of JoJo’s season (apart from Chris Harrison aptly describing the proposal scenes as “painful” and Paradise as “a train wreck”), it’s that Jordan Rodgers finally managed to humanize himself. In between creepily narcissistic preening sessions and rocking the ever-living hell out of that blue suit (what do you want from me? Hot is hot and Jordan was bringin’ it), he reminded the audience that even though this particular experience of finding love comes courtesy of the reality-industrial complex, it’s still a two way street; something that even JoJo had lost sight of.

When pressed for an explanation as to why he didn’t ask her father’s permission to marry her, Jordan did bring up the elephant in the kayak of, you know, her potentially getting proposed to by some other guy he’s been hanging out with for the past several weeks. Look, this bookie’s never popped the question before; and call me old-fashioned, but when I am about to get down on one knee I’ll only be asking the blessing of that special Gal Friday’s father if I’m certain I’m the only odds-maker in her life. The one person who was truly bothered by Jordan’s inaction was JoJo herself, and that’s her prerogative. But Papa Fletcher didn’t make a big deal about it because he’s smart enough to see that the choices on this show – like all the decisions in his daughter’s life – are about JoJo and no one else. She wanted adherence to an antiquated (albeit charming) tradition while her method of finding a fiancé was neither of those things.

But if we’re going to trade in clichés and platitudes, allow this bookmaker to add one more to the ledger: the heart wants what the heart wants. I don’t think any amount of not asking permission was going to keep JoJo from ending up with Jordan, no matter what the ambiguity of the edit suggested. From the first rose to the last, JoJo’s desires were clear. So were Chris Harrison’s.

While he interviewed the happy couple for their first public appearance I sat backstage in his dressing room, raiding the minibar and blowing smoke all over his nice things while waiting to face the music. My eyes lingered over the on-air light, still lit up like a pinball machine. Amid the sound of thundering applause it was switched off for the final time that evening; Chris Harrison was through the door forty-five seconds later, greeting me with that patented charm of his: “You look like hell, Jackson.”

“No one’s mistaking me for the next Bachelor, that’s for sure,” I said, my voice coming out like gravel. Three straight day of running around town on nothing but nicotine, booze, and fumes’ll do that to a guy.

“So where do we stand?” Chris asked, pulling out his phone. I didn’t need spoilers to know whose digits he was pulling up.

“On our feet,” I replied, fishing one of the tiny bottles of booze out of my pocket and tossing it to him. He caught it but made no move to suck blood from a stone.

“Give it to me in numbers.”

I slumped into a chair and lit another cigarette before finishing off the previous one. “As of the last commercial before the rose ceremony: two million, four thousand, and eight hundred dollars.”

“Shit,” he said under his breath. He uncapped the nip I’d given him and knocked it back. “Shit,” he said louder, his chest rising and falling.

“Did you not hear me?” I asked, flicking my spent cigarette into a potted plant and switching to my fresh one. “Am I speaking Greek? We cleared two fucking mil.”

“Shit!” he screamed at the top of his lungs, flinging the bottle at the wall. The plastic vessel bounced to the ground harmlessly. “I’m out five hundred grand because of you!”

“You’re gonna have to explain that one to me, pal.” I fished another bottle out of my pocket but kept it to myself.

“I bet Kimmel five hundred thousand dollars you wouldn’t be able to hit the two million mark.”

My eyes narrowed. “Let me get this straight: you put up money, against me, with Jimmy the Geek?”

He nodded solemnly.

“You at least get good odds?”

“Even,” he said with a sigh.

I snorted. Then I smirked. Then I dropped any pretense of a poker-face I was trying to maintain and let it roll into a full-on laugh.

“Something funny to you?” he asked.

“I gave Kimmel five-to-one odds that I would clear two-million dollars.” I could barely get the words out I was crowing so hard.

“Son of a bitch,” he almost whispered. “What did he put up?”

“Four hundred G’s,” I said, punctuating each word with a step in his direction. “And you know what I did with that money? I made loans. All my clients that were down on their luck? I fronted them ten grand apiece to bet how they wanted. If they lost, I cut them a deal on the interest: fifteen percent. If they won, twenty-five percent. Most of them took the smart money and bet on Jordan. Just because they were broke didn’t mean they were idiots. So sure, I only made eighty-seven and a half cents on the dollar off my wager with The Geek, but you know what that left me with when I paid off the remaining bets on Jordan at three-to-eight?”

“A hundred and twenty-five grand,” Chris responded.

I didn’t have time to congratulate him on his math skills before he took a swing at me. Luckily, Chris Harrison is as good at fighting as Robby is at wearing socks with a suit. I may have been on my last legs between the exhaustion and the booze, but I still managed to duck the punch and sidestep out of the way; it’s the kind of reflex you pick up after years of dealing with sore losers on the bad end of a bet. Harrison got his bearings and cocked his arm back for another shot before a knock at the door froze us both.

“Gentlemen,” Jimmy Kimmel said as he entered the room. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”

Nobody spoke. I looked at Chris Harrison and he looked at me. With just that little bit of dirt he had on me he was left holding all the cards, even if he did owe The Geek half a mil.

“Jimmy,” Chris said, straightening his tie and cuffs. “I was just on my way to see you about settling up when some new developments materialized. You might be interested to learn that Clint here hasn’t been shooting straight dice.”

“Oh?” The Geek asked, looking in my direction. My blood ran cold. Everyone knows a guy who knows a guy who’s been on the receiving end of one of Jimmy Kimmel’s world famous “closed door interviews,” but those guys never talk about it – mostly because their jaws are still wired shut.

“Yes!” Chris Harrison continued steamrolling, not missing a beat. “This guy – this fucking guy – you know what he did with the four hundred thousand you put up? He loaned it out to make his numbers.”

There was a brief silence before Jimmy said, “And?”

“He used your money to clear the two million!” Chris shouted.

“Yeah,” Kimmel said, drawing out the word. “Clint came to me offering five-to-one odds on – ‘oh, just throwing a number out there,’ as he said – four hundred thousand dollars that he wouldn’t be able to accumulate two million in bets. And this was the day after you bet against the same thing. Do you think I’m as dumb as you look, Harrison? Of course I knew what he was doing. And I’m up a hundred large because of it.”

“Ok, but just hear me out,” Chris said, putting up his hands. “What if instead of cash, I gave you some information?”

“Like the fact Clint slept with Sarah?” The Geek said, looking straight through me.

I swallowed hard. “You knew?” is all I could manage.

“She fucked Matt Damon for Christ’s sake,” Kimmel shot back. “There’re no depths to which she won’t stoop.”

“You’re a real flatterer, Geek,” I said.

“Jimmy,” he said, putting a finger in my face. “The people I do business with call me Jimmy. And they show me respect or they don’t get to conduct business at all. Is that clear?”

“Yes, Jimmy,” I said.

“Sure thing, Jimmy,” Chris Harrison chimed in.

Jimmy turned around slowly and said, “Mr. Kimmel. The people that owe me money call me Mr. Kimmel. I expect that five hundred thousand dollars before the next Bachelor is announced or you’re going to know what the flat end of a microphone stand tastes like. Is that clear?”

“Crystal.”

“Crystal, what?”

“Crystal clear…Mr. Kimmel.”

“That’s more like it,” Jimmy responded. He reached for the cigarette I was smoking, took a drag, then put it out on the dressing room carpet. “See you on the boards, Jackson,” he said over his shoulder as he left to be the next to sit down with Jordan and JoJo.

I lit another cigarette and watched Chris as he made his way over to the couch and flopped down on it. He laid back along the cushions and pressed his hands against his face. I watched him wallow for a minute before opting to take the high road – but only if I could be a dick about it.

“If you need a loan, I recently came into some cash.”

“Fuck you, Clint,” he mumbled through his palms. “I don’t need your money.”

“I wouldn’t have offered if I thought you did.”

He didn’t respond, just breathed deep and let out a heavy sigh.

“As far as I’m concerned you got what you had coming. You blackmailed me to bring me on board, then didn’t trust me to get the job done – all that on top of giving me a shit cast to work with. If you put a little effort into getting decent contestants for next season, you won’t have to worry about me hitting my numbers.”

He lowered his hands and looked up at me. “You’re coming back?”

“Yeah, why not,” I said, shaking my head that was sorely in need of being examined. “I’ve still got open bets on who the next Bach’ll be and I’m in The Geek’s good graces for once. When you’re on a heater like this you’ve got to let it ride, even if the smart money’s on cashing in your chips and walking away from the table.”

That injected some life into the big guy. He sat up on the couch and said, “That’s great news, Clint. Really great. We’ll do it right next season. You’ll love it. I’ve already got some big ideas I’m working on, and that was before you even mentioned the Brodeo.

“Come on, Harrison,” I said slapping him on the shoulder. “I’ll buy you a drink if you agree to cut the work talk for a night. You look like you could use one.”

“Thanks, Clint,” he said sincerely as he looked up at me.

“No sweat,” I said as I pulled on my coat. “Besides, I know a great place for mimosas.”

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