This is Awkward
Stay tuned for the writing challenge related to this post … in case you're wondering, this is fiction.
Bernard Fish was broke.
It certainly wasn't his choice to be broke, and nothing that he had done had contributed to his being broke, but nevertheless, he was broke.
By training and trade, he was an accountant. He had graduated near the top of his class, from one of the top business schools in the country. Early in his career, he had been hailed as one of the bright new stars in accounting, sure to revolutionize the practices in whatever firm he landed in.
But he didn't want to be an accountant – he wanted to be an actor. He knew this dream was totally unrealistic, but he wanted to be close to the film industry anyway, so upon graduation he passed up far more lucrative job offers and instead chose to take a position in the Hollywood accounting firm of Cheatham and Spike.
Fish's work for Cheatham and Spike was dull and unrewarding. He was little more than an office assistant. He wasn't permitted to use the high-powered accounting skills that he had. He was stifled, and he was punished for coming up with more efficient or more cost-effective ways of doing things.
So Fish found a second home in Hollywood's film industry. He began signing on as an extra in whatever films he could. He recognized that being a movie extra would never pay the bills, but he came to regard the occupation as an enjoyable hobby that also happened to bring in some extra income. He got a charge from participating in the production of movies, and he even got himself a name change, of sorts – while his parents had called him "Ber-NARD," with the accent on the second syllable, Fish chose for his movie name to be "BER-nard," with the accent on the first syllable, because the British pronunciation made his name sound much more sophisticated.
Fish got a great deal of enjoyment from his movie-extra hobby, and he also learned a lot. He found that he had a special affinity with the makeup people – he was awed that they could alter a person's appearance to great extremes, and when he asked, they shared their secrets. They even gave him pointers about specific products to use, and specific techniques to produce a particular effect. With his sharp mind, he was able to understand quickly, and the makeup people were impressed with his understanding.
Then all hell broke loose. Cheatham and Spike was convicted of gross malfeasance that had led to some big banks and, more important, some big movie stars, losing everything they owned. Fish hadn't had anything to do with that, as the company's principals hadn't even trusted him to brew coffee for them. But when the company went down, so did Fish.
No matter what he did, Fish couldn't get a job. His name was intertwined with Cheatham and Spike. He couldn't even get a job as a carhop at a drive-in restaurant, because the restaurant franchisee wouldn't trust him to get back to the kitchen with the customers' change. He applied for the maximum degradation, being a contestant on some reality shows. He figured that having to wrestle nude in a vat of caramel pudding while eating maggots was preferable to going on public assistance – he had his pride.
But after several months of such feelers, he still had no promise of work.
He decided to start robbing banks.
He had seen the television coverage, and he knew that the vast majority of bank robbers do get caught, and that when they get caught, they're subject to Federal laws rather than state or local laws. But he knew he was much smarter than the run-of-the-mill bank robber. He had his innate intelligence, his accounting acumen, and his Hollywood knowledge, especially the makeup skills. One robbery, he would be an elderly guy with thinning hair and a sagging gut; the next, he could be tan and fit. He could be a high-yellow African American one day, and a recently-arrived Latin American the next.
Fish had pulled off his third robbery, and he was feeling confident. For this robbery, he had become a lower-middle-class white guy with a gimme cap advertising a brand of farm equipment. He pulled into the parking lot of his apartment complex, and as soon as he got out of his car, he was accosted by a girl – she seemed barely out of her teens, with red hair that appeared plastic-coated and a smile that consisted of nothing but very large, very white teeth.
"Congratulations, Mr. Fish!" the girl exclaimed. "You have been selected as a contestant on A Day in the Life, the new reality show that follows people around in their day-to-day lives. We've been filming you for three days now – that was the final audition. You've made the cut. We're now going to be filming everything you do for the next six months."
All Fish could think was, "This is awkward."