AMERICAN IDYLL

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
When you become a superstar, did your home town make you what you are?

Submitted: August 08, 2017

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Submitted: August 08, 2017

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The television studio designed as an auditorium went dark as I waited in the wings. Standing solitary on my mark my hands shook, my left leg twitched, the hair on my arm stood on end and yet my heart sank. Suddenly the giant screens burst into life, a swirling graphic of red, silver and gold transformed into giant letters as the announcer’s voice boomed out my name over the dramatic, pumped-up to the max, chorus from O Fortuna. The audience were deliriously cheering, screaming and clapping as the displays changed into an idealised version of me: stylised, excessively made up, photographed in flattering lighting and modified in expensive post editing effects. To be completely honest, I thought I looked great up there, like I belonged. Like I was a goddamn super star.

The screens changed as the pre-recorded segment began:

‘This week we are going back with the contestants to their hometowns,’ the narrator announced, ‘first up is twenty-two year old, Jon Drummond from Orangeville, in Baltimore.’

The image changed to one of huge crowds with the camera whizzing past them. All  the children and adults were screaming and waving their arms, looking like some crazed, socialist cult. I saw signs, held aloft with my name and face on them. Some crude hand drawn pieces, sometimes spelt correctly, with pictures of me cut from a magazine, stuck roughly to the signs at oblique angles. Then I saw me emerging from a silver, stretch Humvee, looking ridiculous and cool in pop star clothes: hipster tight jeans, a natty graphite grey waistcoat over a striped collarless shirt, sleeves rolled up to the elbows, a tatty, blood red scarf that wouldn’t look out of place in a group of female foreign exchange students walking along Abbot Kinney Boulevard in summer, and a sequin-covered trilby on my head to top off the look. The screaming from the crowd intensified and they swarmed, touching me, kissing me; a million arms around my shoulder and the flash of a thousand camera phones as the whole world tried to capture a picture of us together. Maybe it was because I was the local boy made good or just for their friends to ‘Like’. I saw a glimpse of myself standing in the midst of mayhem, my eyes wide, drained of character underneath the fake tan and my shining, cosmetically whitened teeth bared in more of a snarl than a smile.

The setting changed to me knocking on my own front door to ‘surprise’ my mum and Carl, my step-dad. They welcomed me with their arms wide open and hugged me like I had been lost for years at sea. They led me, and the camera crew, into the front room, describing how they felt about seeing me on television and how they thought I would do in the contest:

‘He’ll win for sure,’ Carl said, with exuberant passion, ‘he’s the complete package, the voice, the looks and the sex appeal... for the girlies.’

The audience, back in the studio, screamed at this in approval. I felt my cheeks start to burn. Thankfully, it was dark in the wings so I didn’t think anyone noticed.

The video on the screens changed to familiar, individual faces of people I knew: Mr Jackson, my drama teacher, his hair a lot greyer and thinner than it was when I at school six years ago, and Mrs Spencer, the head teacher, with a wide smile on her face, gushing my praises; Linda, my boss at the supermarket where I worked, embarrassing herself trying look like her idol Kim Kardashian with faux fur and fake jewellery; Granny Pam from the café next door wearing a new, clean blue apron; Hannah, my co-worker and part-time girlfriend, who constantly nagged me to enter the competition after hearing me sing Milk and Alcohol by Dr Feelgood, while mopping up a massive milk spillage. The jugs of milk had been opened and poured down 3 aisles of the supermarket by the local gang in retaliation to Linda blocking the youngest of the gang from buying cigarettes. I don’t know why they thought a nine-year-old shouldn’t be denied the right to smoke; and Kevin and Michael from school, still as tough looking as they did back then, now with tribal, gang tattoos and too-tight shirts to display their muscles. Each person said something flattering about me, how they always knew I’d make it; how I was going to go all the way; make Orangeville proud.

The studio screens started showing clips of my auditions and previous rounds, building up, a crescendo of intensity, each clip shorter than the last, slightly louder and then a sudden stop, the music ceased, the screens turned black. The producer gave me a microphone and the announcer’s voice boomed ‘Orangeville’s finest, Joooooonnnnnnn Druuuuuuuuumonddddddd!!!!.’ The studio erupted in screams and light as I strode to my mark on the stage floor; I slipped the microphone in to the stand as the accompanying music started.

‘In this dirty old part of the city,’ I began with a strength in my voice that had been missing when I had sung in previous rounds, ‘where the sun refused to shine, people tell me there ain't no use in tryin'’. I closed my eyes and envisaged Hannah in my mind as I sung and my voice cracked when I reached the final chorus and I sang, feeling every word deep within, ‘We gotta get out of this place, 'cause girl, there's a better life for me and you.’


The music faded and an ear-piercing howl of noise struck me as the audience started clapping and screaming. I opened my eyes to see the audience and judges standing in unison applauding me. After a lot of gesticulating from Simon it eventually died down and the judges made their comments: Simon said it gave him goosebumps, the crowd applauded; Sharon said it made her nipples go hard, the crowd bayed with laughter; Paula said she was speechless and Nicki said I had made the song my own, but I was expecting that as he’d said it to me for the past four weeks. Ryan then asked me what it was like to go back to my hometown, I hesitated as I thought of the people I’d seen.

How amazed I was to see my step-dad Carl at home instead of at Sammy’s Bar or in the local bookmakers, how much had the producers paid him to be there I wondered? How different my mum looked with a professional make-up artist able to hide her usual black eye. How surprised I was to see Mr Jackson singing my praises after the pervert had felt me up in detention every week, with Mrs Spencer being all buddy-buddy and smiles with him after she had repeatedly refused my complaints of abuse and put me in detention over and over again for lying. Seeing Linda, my boss, who had done nothing but complain about me constantly throughout the six years I had worked in that shitty store, always on my back, getting me to work extra shifts threatening to fire me if I refused. There aren’t many jobs in Orangeville for someone with no qualifications so I’d had to take the abuse that went with the job. Granny Pam who had got her grown-up son and his mates to beat the shit out of me when I told everyone I had seen her spit in the tea of a black customer. And Kevin and Michael who had made my life hell at school after I had caught them making out together, slapping me around, telling everyone I was gay; that I had sucked off the school’s caretaker for a dollar so everyone at school treated me like I had AIDS and had the caretaker winking at me at every opportunity. How isolated, lonely and depressed this had made me feel so I couldn’t even lift myself up to work at my exams, to get the grades I knew I needed to leave that shitty little town and shitty little life. I thought about saying that all, getting it all out, a catharsis of emotion and hate, to the nation and the town that failed me. However I realised that was the Orangeville in me, trying to keep me there, trying to keep me down, tricking me into following my step-dad's path of self-loathing and violence. I often wondered what my mum had seen in him to move us out to fucking Orangeville after my dad died. It is like Orangeville has a life-devouring soul, thriving in misery, revelling in hate.

I then pictured Hannah and me hand-in-hand along Venice Beach at dusk, walking past the sellers with their expensive tourist tat and hundreds of wannbes hoping to ‘make it’. Then back at my pop star mansion; all windows, pillars and driveway. And now, standing in front of the adoring crowds in the studio and millions of fans at home.

I straightened my shoulders, looked Ryan dead in the eye and said ‘I won’t lie to you Ryan, the welcome I received in Orangeville blew me away, makes me so proud to come from there. I want to say ‘thank you’ to all my friends, family and everyone who came out to support me for their kind words and support. Vote for me Baltimore!’ I finished with a flourish and felt the Orangeville presence around my soul release its grasp for the first time.


© Copyright 2017 Thom Goddard. All rights reserved.

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