Hmm...this was supposed to be up yesterday, but in all honestly, I forgot about it until I got to work, by which point it was too late. My apologies for that. Anyway, without further ado, let's get back to the story.
I was slowly adjusting to my role as Friendly Tony. I had taken to wearing sweater vests and eating bologna sandwiches, and had gotten a job as a file clerk in a small law office.
“That’s funny,” my boss, Jeff, had said during the interview, “You don’t look Mexican.” It seemed like an odd thing for a lawyer to say, but I kept my mouth shut and was hired.
I rented out a room in an elderly couple’s house, and spent my free time writing a sprawling historical fiction epic and participating in the occasional paid clinical study. It was a quiet existence, but I felt that was for the best as I adapted to my new persona. Some days, if I kept myself busy enough, I could forget entirely about Joey Marsilio. Every once in a while, during my weaker moments, I would check up on the old me, but by all accounts he was doing well, and I managed to stay clear of him. I was bothered by nightmares nearly every night; they were not terrifying, but rather strange and morbid, and would often cause me to wake filled with melancholy.
“You know, Friendly Tony,” Jeff said to me one day as I sifted through a stack of documents, “you’re an awfully quiet guy. I mean, I’ve known chancres that were more talkative than you. Not that that’s the worst thing in the world…the broad before you had diarrhea of the mouth. Drove me nucking futs.”
“Nucking futs, huh?” I said, my eyes never rising from the stack of papers.
“Yep. Absolutely bananas,” he said, mopping his brow. “Hell of an ass though.”
“Hmm,” I said.
“God damn,” Jeff said. “You really don’t look Mexican at all.”
“Yeah. I get that a lot,” I mumbled. It was true, though. I did get it a lot. Mainly from Jeff.
“So what made you want to work here?” said Jeff later that day. He was leaning back excessively in his chair and I kept glancing at him because I didn’t want to miss it if he fell over.
“Necessity,” I said.
He laughed. “Ain’t it the truth,” he said with a sigh. “What’d you do before this? Didn’t you say you used to be on TV or something?”
“Yeah, cable access. I was on a sketch comedy show for a few years. You’ve probably never heard of it, though. It was called Steel & Marsilio.”
“Which one were you?” said Jeff. “Steel or Marsilio?”
“Huh? Oh,” I said. “I was Marsilio.”
“Why were you Marsilio?” said Jeff. “Is that your middle name or something?”
“Well, I bet that was fun,” said Jeff. “More fun than this, at any rate.”
“I guess,” I said. “Why? Don’t you like your job?”
“Oh, hell, I love my job,” said Jeff. “I was just trying to be sympathetic.”
When I got home that evening, I said hello to my elderly housemates and made myself a bologna sandwich with extra mustard. I grabbed a frigid bottle of root beer and headed to my room. I was intending to get some writing in, but I was spurred by a sense of nostalgia stirred up by my conversation earlier to turn on the television and see what was on public access. As the screen faded in, I saw a portly man with a Santa Claus beard discussing the finer points of Appalachian cuisine. As I brought up the channel guide to see what the program schedule for the evening was, I almost choked on a wad of bologna. There it was, at 10 PM, the television equivalent of the Flying Dutchman…Steel & Marsilio. I looked at my watch. 8:27. I nervously glanced around the room like I was awaiting an assassin. An hour and a half.
The time passed by slowly, like retarded molasses. I tried to keep myself busy, but there was no distraction that could eclipse my eagerness to watch Steel & Marsilio. What would it be like? How much had the reality shift changed it? Why had I decided to drink so much root beer? In desperation, I put on a Herb Alpert album and tried to relax, but at that point such efforts were like trying to calm a rabid jackal with a puppet show.
The fated hour arrived, and the Steel & Marsilio opening sequence began. It was no episode I remembered, and as the credits popped up among images of lighthouses and bowls of apples, an awful song played in the background. The credits identified it as “On the Dream-Like Wings of a Fantastic Promise,” an original song written and performed for the show by Michael Buble. Wrinkling my nose, I waited impatiently through the interminable opening sequence. When it finally faded out, I held my breath and leaned forward.
There they were. The former Friendly Tony (as Joey Marsilio) and my old comedy partner, Garrett Steel, were walking along a beach and discussing the WNBA. I choked up a bit as I waited for their dialogue to begin. Garrett had a few witty bon mots, and then the former Friendly Tony stopped and said, “What? I thought the W stood for ‘Wonderful!’” There was a pause, as if he were expecting laughter to ensue. “Next thing you’ll tell me is that the P in PGA doesn’t stand for ‘Pleasant!’”
Garrett looked pained. I couldn’t tell if he was acting. “It doesn’t, Joey.”
“My word,” said the former Friendly Tony. “What an NBA-barassment!”
“What the fuck?” I roared, rising from my seat and hurling my root beer bottle against the wall. “This is bullshit!”
“Everything OK up there?” called Ethel, one of my housemates.
I rushed downstairs and grabbed her by the shoulders. “No! Nothing is OK!” I said, shaking her like a fragile maraca. “That asshole isn’t funny! He’s not funny at all! He’s ruining my show!”
“Now calm down,” said Barnaby, Ethel’s husband. “What’re you going on about?”
“I’ll kill that piece of shit!” I shrieked, shoving Ethel into her husband’s reed-like arms. “You can steal my home, you can take my life away from me, but you CANNOT ruin my show!”
“But I wasn’t trying to-” said Ethel.
“Friendly Tony,” I said, my right hand clenched in a fist as my left hand ripped off my sweater vest, “you’re going down, you son of a bitch!”
I bounded out the front door, leaving behind a bewildered old couple and a torn sweater vest, screaming, “Vengeance will be mine!”
See you on Monday (for real) for part 11! Wow, already?