Disaster Productions, p.1Brian Bakos
by Brian Bakos
cover art: Othoniel Ortiz
Copyright 2013 Brian Bakos / revised 08-2016
Table of Contents
One: The Disasters Begin
Two: Taking Stock
Three: The Next Phase
Four: Thunderous Conclusion
Brian’s Other Books
One: The Disasters Begin
1: Director of the World
I am suddenly surrounded by high school kids.
“Hey, move it, dude!” somebody yells.
“You’re in the way,” someone else says.
I begin rolling on my bike – not pedaling, just running my feet along the concrete in the middle of the crowd, trying to keep up with the flow. Somebody gives my rear tire a hard push.
“Giddy up, cowboy!” he cries.
A bunch of other kids laugh. I want to jump off and start swinging, but what chance would I have against so many? Besides, I can’t even tell who the comedian is among the blur of faces.
I can’t escape the press all around me. There are bodies everywhere on the sidewalk and along the grass – walking, running, yelling, shoving. A claustrophobic panic reaches for me, like I feel sometimes in jammed elevators. I force myself to remain calm.
There are boys ranging from jocks in varsity shirts to regular types like me, dressed every which way. Girls too, all of them incredibly grown up. The girls walk together, or with boy friends, while other guys trail behind admiring them.
Everyone seems so big!
Nobody pays me the slightest attention now that I’m not blocking the sidewalk anymore. I feel about as important as that used paper cup tumbling along the pavement. Somebody steps on it and mashes it flat.
We had only a half day at South Middle School, and I thought the high school would be out early, too. So, I came to check out my new educational home. I was sitting on my bike trying to peer through the green-tinted windows of the media center when classes abruptly let out, sending this wave of students rushing over me.
The crowd halts by the traffic light. An orange hand hold us back while kids drive out of the parking lot calling to their friends or yelling insults at other kids they don’t like much. I am finally able to detach myself from the mob and roll across the street.
“Look out, dipstick!” somebody shouts from the window of a turning car.
Pedestrian traffic on the other side of the street is much lighter, and my claustrophobia retreats. I stop on the grassy median in front of a house and take in the entire high school. It is long, enormous – even if you don’t include the attached Center for the Arts. It is a place you can submerge into nothingness and never be missed.
I’ll be going there in a few months when the twin rivers of freshmen flow in from South and North middle schools.
That is way too soon! My friends are all fourteen already, some well past. My 14th birthday isn’t until October. If it was only two days later, I’d still be going to middle school in the fall.
Then I’d be a whole year smarter, bigger, and stronger when I got to this gigantic place. As it is, all the best girls will think I’m a twerp. I’ll be the last one to drive, the last one at everything. I’ll be Mr. Nobody.
There has to be a way to keep myself from getting swallowed up.
Then my imagination does a huge shift. I now seem to be looking at everything from an elevated distance, like a movie director sitting on top a camera crane. That mass of people moving along the sidewalk is just an army of extras in my production. I’m ‘Matt the Man’ in a world where I don’t have to care about being ignored or rejected – a place where people come seeking my approval.
I am the Director of the World ...
“Hey, get off the grass!” somebody yells at me from the house.
I look toward the guy at the front door; he doesn’t seem very friendly. Too bad he doesn’t recognize who I am, he could have had bragging rights in his little social circle.
“I saw Matt Alpin back when he was still a nobody,” he could have said.
But he missed his opportunity. I head for home.
2: Retreat to the Empire
I must be wearing my dark and thoughtful expression when I get home because Mom doesn’t bother trying to start a conversation.
I retreat to my ‘basement empire’ with its ancient TV set and little refrigerator filled with soft drinks and beer. The beer is off limits, of course, and Dad keeps an accurate bottle count. On a day like this, all bright and sunny early June, my upstairs bedroom seems too exposed to the world’s uncertainties. I need a quiet, dim place to sprawl out in a lawn chair and think about my future.
The big One Four birthday is coming this autumn, and I’m not famous yet! I am nowhere near becoming ‘Matt the Man.’
Soon I’ll be just another faceless high school kid shuffling along in the crowd, looking ahead at all the girls who don’t even know I exist. It won’t be long before I rush through the teen years, get married somehow and have kids of my own.
At my funeral, my kids will say: “Yeah, Dad was all right, but he never amounted to much.”
Okay, I know this is a morbid way to be thinking, but I can’t help it. The idea of being a terminal nobody is driving me nuts!
Duals picks up on my mood the instant he sees me. I’m into my second Bomb Cola when I hear Mom open the side door for him.
“Matt’s downstairs,” she says. “See if you can get him out, will you, Stephan?”
“Sure, Mrs. Alpin,” Duals says.
Then he clatters down the stairs on the great mission to cheer me up.
“You look depressed, Matt,” he says. “Did your dream girl shoot you down?”
“I’m trying to think up a Big Idea,” I say. “Something that will get me a lot of attention in the world.”
“Hmm,” Duals strokes his chin. “Sorry, I can’t help you there.”
“How about a Bomb Cola, then?” I say.
“No thanks, Matt, I never touch the stuff.”
Duals is not a Big Idea guy. He’s what you’d call a left brainer – smart, real good at detail work, very organized. I’m much more of a right brain type – creative, always dreaming up stuff that I haven’t a clue how to make real. Like the ‘Director of the World’ scenario I came up with earlier today. Where’d I get that loony idea?
It wasn’t the first time for that particular fantasy, though. When I get to feeling invalidated and pushed to the sidelines, I often escape into this imaginary little world where it’s actually me who is calling the shots.
But maybe Duals and me working together could be a whole brain. Like we did in sixth grade with that volcano science project. We got a blue ribbon on that one. Maybe my dreams really can come true. If I can just get the right partner, come up with the right Big Idea ...
Duals waves a hand in front of my face.
“Earth calling Matt,” he says.
I drop back down to the basement reality.
“Why don’t you pull up a chair, Duals?” I say.
“Sure, thanks, Matt.”
He selects a fold-up from the corner batch.
“So, how did you spend our afternoon off?” he asks.
“I stopped by the high school,” I say. “Thought I’d scope it out.”
“How’d it go?”
“Oh, man,” I say, “we’re gonna get swallowed up in that place!”
Duals unfolds the lawn chair and sits down next to me.
“Not necessarily,” he says, “it’s just a question of finding your niche.”
“Niche?” I say. “You mean like those little compartments in mausoleums where they put crem
“You’re in a grim mood today, Matt.”
That’s true enough. I’ve been down here an hour trying to sort things out and getting absolutely nowhere.
The feeling of power I experienced while imagining myself as a movie director still haunts me. It seems to be the key I’m looking for, but how on earth does it work?
And just what could I record with a camera, anyway – kids walking along the sidewalk, people standing in line for soft-serve? Maybe I could film the guys unloading the produce truck at the grocery store.
Duals starts to wave his hand in front of my face again, I get the jump on him.
“So, what have you been up to?” I ask.
“I went to the mall with Dylan. Big mistake!” Duals says.
“What happened this time?”
“We met some very interesting girls, and things seemed to be going well,” Duals says. “Then Dylan starts with his usual show-off talk, trying to be cool. You know how he is.”
“Yeah,” I say.
“Next thing you know, he trips on the steps by the fountain and lands on his face.”
I practically choke on my drink. A squirt of gagged-up cola burns my nose.
“The girls must have been really impressed,” I say.
“They didn’t stick around long enough to tell us,” Duals says. “That guy is a total disaster.”
Then I had it.
“Oh, man!” I practically shout.
I jerk back in my lawn chair and smack my forehead with an open palm.
“Go easy with the Bomb Cola,” Duals says. “You can’t handle the caffeine-sugar hit.”
“No, it’s not that,” I say.
I walk to the wash tub and toss my unfinished can into it.
“I’ve finally got the Big Idea.”
“That’s nice,” Duals says. “So ... what is it?”
I raise my hands dramatically, spelling out my future in bright lights.
“The Disaster Dylan Show!” I announce.
Duals looks confounded. “Huh?”
“Look,” I say, “we all know Dylan is a screw-up. Bad things always happen around him. Sometimes he causes them, sometimes they just happen. He’s jinxed.”
“So, what’s your point?” Duals asks.
“The point is, people will love that stuff.”
“They’ll love Dylan?”
“If we package him right,” I say. “It’s just a matter of following him with a video camera and recording his various disasters. We post the video on the Internet – it goes viral, people demand more. Next thing you know we’ve got a reality TV show.”
Duals has this astonished look on his face, like he’s just seen the tooth fairy come fluttering up from the floor drain.
“That’s quite an idea,” he says, “you really think it’ll fly?”
My hopes are soaring, the world is falling into place at last. An impossible energy is surging through me, and it isn’t just the cola.
“Think of all the stuff on TV.” I’m talking real fast, almost stumbling over the words. “None of those people on the reality shows would have gotten anywhere if somebody with a Big Idea hadn’t shoved them out there.”
“That’s true,” Duals says. “Those shows give a push to all kinds of losers.”
I smack a fist into my palm. “Man, if we’d just caught him wiping out on the stairs today!”
Duals is on his feet now, stroking his chin in that deep concentration way of his. I know he’s with the program now.
“There’s only one problem,” he says. “Where do we get a video camera?”
My high-flying balloon loses some gas.
“Oh, yeah, a camera ...”
Then I have another inspiration.
“I’ll ask my Grandpa. I’m supposed to visit him Saturday. He’s leaving on one of his trips soon.”
“You think he’ll go for it?” Duals asks.
“I don’t see why not.”
I’m way beyond recognizing obstacles.
“Saturday, huh?” Duals says. “That’ll give me a few days to research cameras and stuff.”
“You’re in, then?”
Duals hesitates a moment, then smacks me a high five.
“Great!” I say. “Meet me here Saturday morning around 10:30.”
“Okay,” Duals says.
He moves off to the stairs.
“Guess I’ll be taking off now,” he says.
“See you Saturday,” I say.
Duals pauses. He must be recalling Mom’s request.
“Want to go outdoors for a while, Matt?” he says. “Take a bike ride, maybe?”
“Can’t,” I say. “I have to stay here and keep thinking.”
Duals clatters up the stairs and out the door. I pop open another Bomb Cola. Things are going according to plan; I just don’t know what the plan is, yet ...
Documentation is important. Someday I’ll look back and smile at my humble beginning. I pick up a clean notebook and write with heavy ink on page one:
THE MATT MANIFESTO
Yeah, that has a good ring to it. I write a subheading underneath along with my basic mission statement:
The Big Mission
Come my fourteenth birthday, I will be somebody in this world. My name and my creativity will be appreciated by people everywhere.
I like the sound of that, too. I think of putting the actual date of my fourteenth birthday, but decide against it. Let people look it up for themselves. I continue writing.
Reasons for striving to become famous:
1 – Impress girls
I can’t think of a reason 2 just yet, but it will come to me, I’m sure of that.
3: Meeting with Grandpa
The ‘Beast’ is parked outside Grandpa’s garage, so I figure he’ll be driving to his next travel adventure. Duals and I pull up to the big vehicle on our bikes and peer through the dark, tinted windows. Inside is a jumble of luggage, water bottles, and road maps.
“I wonder where’s he’s going this time,” I say.
“Canada I’d guess,” Duals says, “or maybe even Alaska. Someplace cool.”
The great, black, four wheel drive SUV speaks of adventure – of driving impossible distances and leaving the familiar world behind, of making your mark in new and exciting places where the old restrictions don’t apply. Where nobody tells you to “giddy up” out of their way.
If only I could go, too!
“Central America is where I’m bound,” Grandpa calls to us from the back porch.
“Hi Grandpa,” I say. “Last I heard you were headed for Asia.”
“Oh, that.” Grandpa strides toward us. “The Chinese government isn’t allowing foreigners into Tibet these days, so I’ve postponed that trip.”
He shakes Duals’ hand vigorously. “You must be Stephan, right – a.k.a. ‘The Duals?’”
“Just ‘Duals,’” Duals says.
“I’ve heard a lot about you,” Grandpa says. “Come on in.”
Grandpa leads the way into the house, Duals in tow. I stop to look around a bit outside. This neighborhood is only two miles from mine, but it’s a lot less prosperous with little frame houses on narrow lots. The cars parked on the street are mostly old and dinged up. Grandpa doesn’t seem to care, though.
“This is just a place to hang my hat between adventures,” he says.
Grandpa’s place is on a double lot, giving the tacky little house a sizable back yard. On the other side is Mrs. Simpson’s house. She’s a widow and has her eye on Grandpa, although she must be at least fifteen years younger than him. She’s in the backyard now watering her flower garden.
“Hello Matthew,” she calls over.
“Hello, Mrs. Simpson,” I reply.
“How is your grandfather doing?”
“He’s getting ready to go on another trip,” I say. “Central Ame
Mrs. Simpson looks distinctly disappointed.
“Well, catch you later,” I say.
When I get inside the house, Grandpa is parked on the sofa. His laptop is open on the coffee table along with a beer mug and various publications on Central America.
“Food and drinks are in the refrigerator, Matt,” he says. “Help yourself.”
I join Duals in the kitchen and dig into an excellent deli tray – all my favorite stuff, plus two cans of Bomb Cola.
“Your grandpa looks really young,” Duals says. “Mine are all gray and wrinkled.”
“He’s older than he looks,” I say. “He claims it’s ‘virtuous living’ that keeps him fresh.”
Duals laughs. “So, do you think he’ll spring for the camera?”
“Oh ... that,” I say.
Funny, I haven’t even thought about the purpose of our visit. I had the Big Idea of getting the camera and just sort of figured that it would come to me somehow, like a Christmas present. I squirt mustard onto my turkey sandwich.
“I thing he’s good for it,” I say, trying to sound confident.
Actually, I’m not confident at all. My whole Big Idea is starting to sound a bit stupid to me. The Disaster Dylan Show – who’d want to see something like that? It’s too late to back out, though.
We return to the living room and sit down. Grandpa is tapping furiously on his laptop.
“Be right with you, boys,” he says. “Last minute arrangements, you know. One day I’m going to China, the next to Central America. It takes some repositioning.”
He pauses for a slug of beer.
“At least they both start with the same letter,” he observes.
Duals laughs, but I’m too accustomed to Grandpa’s jokes to do more than smile a little. Besides, I’m busy trying to think of a way to approach the camera deal.
I have to make a strong case. It’s not that Grandpa is stingy, far from it, but he always wants to see some result from anything he bankrolls.
I’ve got a whole closet full of unused science sets, building kits, etc. that he’s given me over the years. Also a motorized telescope that I never got around to setting up. I haven’t got the heart to tell him that I’m not the scientific or engineering type. He’s probably figured that out for himself by now.
Grandpa finishes tapping on his keyboard. He relaxes and flings an arm over the back of the sofa.
“So, what have you been up to, Matt?” he asks.
“Well, you see, Grandpa ... there’s this movie thing I’ve been considering – ”
Disaster Productions by Brian Bakos / Humor have rating 2.7 out of 5 / Based on16 votes