Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre

Spoiler

Noun

  1. A person or thing that ruins something for everyone else (origin – Spoil, to diminish or impair the quality of)
  2. Chris. Fucking. Harrison.

On mornings like this, where I wake up with bloodshot eyes, the smell of cigarettes still on my breath, and a five o’clock shadow that got into town ten hours early so it could hang out with its pal hangover, I’m left searching for reminders of why I got into this game in the first place. It sure as hell can’t be the money; otherwise I wouldn’t still be punching a clock in this racket after all these years. My only explanation is that I’m addicted to the uncertainty, a junkie for the drop of the other shoe. It doesn’t matter what numbers you’ve crunched or what odds you’ve given, the roses still have to be accepted and suitcases collected – and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it.

Especially when the other shoe turns out to be a goddamn nuclear bomb.

The last six months hasn’t just been the season of the underdog, it’s been the season of the left for dead. Most news agencies had Trump in the cold hard ground well before election night, but that stump-fingered tube of fake-tanner come to life is sitting in the Oval Office and still trying to figure out what even one leg of the nuclear triad might be. The Patriots were playing so stiff it looked like rigor mortis was setting in when they were down twenty-five points with seventeen minutes left to play, but now those R-dropping goons will be parading the Vince Lombardi Trophy around for another twelve months (though thankfully some of them have the sense and self-respect to skip the obligatory trip the White House). And now, with hometowns fast approaching and just four three ladies left on The Bachelor, we have to reckon with the fact that Corinne is one of them.

Much like the aforementioned events, this is both completely shocking and yet wholly unsurprising if you’re willing to dig just beneath the surface. If we’ve learned anything about Nick this year it’s that he doesn’t do complicated, which is fairly problematic for a show whose one selling point is drama. As soon as he experiences any form of turbulence with any of the women he’s ready to bail and pull the ripcord instead of ascending to smoother skies. So it was no shock that Kristina – who ate lipstick as a young child in order to stave off hunger, fled home in favor of an orphanage in order to survive, left Russia for the U.S. at twelve for the opportunity of a life with possibilities, and still struggles with complex feelings of abandoning/abandonment as a result – was not going to be one of the last women standing. Nick’s from a large family in Wisconsin. They could talk about that and the weather. That’s about as much as he deep it was going to get.

When you consider these factors it should also be no surprise that the last remaining Danielle – a neonatal nurse who was previously engaged to a man with substance abuse problems whom she had the misfortune of discovering after he OD’ed and died – was also sent on her way. It’s probably for the best, though; I shudder at the thought of Nick trying to deepen their connection along the lines of, “That sounds very difficult. You know, I was almost engaged…twice in fact. So I understand that loss.” My God; I need a drink just imaging that.

But that’s not why I’m reaching for the bottle when the sun’s just barely up. No, that honor is coming courtesy of Jimmy the Geek, whose good graces I thought I was finally in.

It was business as usual after the show; I was halfway through a pack of smokes, crossing Kristina and Danielle M. off the boards and updating the odds for the next Bachelorette. I was partaking in some bubbles, because why the hell not? With one front-runner gone, I had the rare gift of counting early money wagered on a front-runner as safe. What’s more, people were calling in early to try and recoup their losses by betting on Danielle as the next big thing. Hell, I’d finally started to forget that Chris Harrison had screwed me out of several hundred thousand dollars before the season began. I was even contemplating sending the bastard a fruit basket (they make a lovely gift).

Then, after an hour of my phone going off like a one-arm bandit hitting the jackpot, the apartment went dead silent except for the scrape of chalk against slate. I shrugged and killed the last of the bubbly, making my way over to the liquor cabinet for a real drink. Whisky splashed into the bottom of a tumbler and my phone let loose a single, lonely rattle against the wooden table. I sauntered over, drink in hand, and read the message: “You better check out Kimmel. Sharpish.”

I grabbed the remote and turned on Jimmy Kimmel Live! I put a fresh cigarette in my mouth and attempted to light it with the butt of my old one, but what I saw caused both of them to fall to the floor.

“A major announcement as promised – we are going to reveal the identity of our next Bachelorette and to help us, please bring in Chris Harrison. Chris?”

You know how I know the times are changing? I didn’t swear. I didn’t scream. I didn’t break a goddamn thing in the apartment – even that stupid sconce I’ve wanted to get rid of for years. I casually walked over to the bar, tripled up my drink, and assumed the position.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome our next Bachelorette: Rachel Lindsay!”

And then I watched as Jimmy the Geek – Jimmy fucking Kimmel – literally handed her the keys to the goddamn show. As far as the next Bachelorette was concerned, all bets were off – also literally. I looked at the board and realized that, given the last three women standing, I didn’t know a single thing anymore. I picked up the phone and my thumb moved as if on autopilot.

“Clint,” that double-crossing sack of shit said when he picked up.

“Harrison,” I said back. We waited in silence for what felt like an actual minute before I said, “Was it worth it?”

“That depends,” he said casually. “About how much money do you think you would have moved on the Bachelorette board between now and the end of the show?”

“Two hundred grand.”

“And you lost how much when Nick Viall was named the Bachelor?”

“Four hundred G’s.”

“And how much did you screw me out of last season when you hit your numbers?”

“You mean the numbers you bet against me hitting?” I hissed back. “Half a mil.”

Chris Harrison chuckled on other end of the line. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he actually took the smarminess down a notch. “Sticking it to you for six hundred thousand…was pretty wonderful,” he said.

“I thought you said you were in this to make some goddamn money,” I replied.

“Oh, I am,” he answered back. “But I didn’t mean I planned on making money this season. Come on, Jackson. Nick was our fourth choice as Bachelor two rotations ago. America’s had three opportunities to hate him. You really think we planned on this season being a success?”

“So why’d you do it?” I asked.

“We’re tanking,” Chris said.

“So you’re an NBA team.”

“Exactly. We throw in the towel this year, lower fans’ expectations, and then come back with a blue chip star next year. And boy, Rachel is a doozie.”

“I know, Harrison. I’ve got eyeballs.”

“That’s good to hear,” he said back. “Maybe next time around you can manage to keep them on the prize.” Then he hung up.

I turned my phone off and placed it next to my glass, which I filled back up to the brim. I let out a deep sigh and sank into the sofa before taking a healthy drink. The thing about tanking is that if you don’t have a plan in advance, you’re doomed to repeat the same mistakes over again. Chris Harrison wasn’t about to be outmaneuvered to the tune of four-hundred grand twice, and Jimmy the Geek wasn’t about to spend a second consecutive reality gambling season watching from the sidelines. The bastards had to have a plan. I just needed to make sure I’ve got a better one.

So that’s how I spent my night: planning. That and lowering the odds on Vanessa as far as a self-respecting bookie can. I’ll be going into battle next season, that’s for damn sure, and I need enough in the war chest to drop a few bombs of my own.

And for that to happen, I’ll need my damn head to stop pounding.

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