03-31-2012, 05:50 PM
One o'clock rolled around. As he made his way to the production office, Criss racked his brains trying to come up with a mind-blowing demonstration for the new episode, but at the same time keeping his promise to his family and Father Stefan. The mindshaft stunt had consumed him for the past week: he had spent hours planning, designing, redesigning, and laying out the escape plan. Now that it had been scrapped, he was at a loss to think of something else. What could he do in its place that would be a total mindfreak yet at the same time not cause him to go against his word?
He could not comprehend the lack of inspiration he felt. He had always had a fertile imagination and a creative nature when it came to planning demonstrations. Anything at all could trigger an idea: the light of the Luxor had beckoned him to levitate in its glare; the Pinoche jail challenged him to escape Houdini-style; racing his black Lambo inspired him to make it vanish in a cloud of CO2; even something simple as an oil drum sparked his creativity. Now, as he entered the production office for the meeting, his creativity seemed to have dried up, his inspiration vanished. He simply could not think of anything worth doing.
Criss flopped miserably onto a sofa in the waiting area of the production office. This sucks! he said to himself. I had a great idea for a demonstration, planned it all out and everything, and my own family turns against me for it! Now, I don't know what to do! I gotta do something--I'm under contract with A&E to produce another episode. But I'm all out of ideas!
He sighed in frustration and leaned back on the sofa. "Now I know how a writer feels when he suffers writer's block," he said to himself.
"Who you talking to?" he heard a familiar voice say.
Criss looked up and saw his brother, JD, standing over him. "Oh, hey, JD," he said, straightening up. "I... well, I was kinda talking to myself there for a minute."
"Well, you know what they say," JD said lightly, "better to talk to oneself than converse with an idiot."
Criss chuckled a little. "What does that make you?"
JD ignored the insult and sat down beside his brother. "You still upset over this morning?" he asked.
Criss shook his head. "No, not really," he replied. "I mean, I understand why you did it. But did you really have to drag in Father Stefan? And Sandra, for that matter?"
"Yes, Christopher, we did," JD told him sternly. "We've been watching you time and time again nearly killing yourself with these demonstrations, worrying ourselves sick over whether you'd been killed or not, and there comes a time when we have to stand up and say 'enough is enough'!" He laid a hand on Criss' shoulder. "I don't wanna bury you, Christopher," he said sadly. "I want you to outlive me, and Costa, and Mom. You bought a lot of joy into our family when you were born, so don't give us any more grief, okay?"
"Hey, I said I promised I wouldn't do it," Criss protested.
"Like you promised Mom you wouldn't do any more dangerous stunts after the Florida implosion?"
The last thing Criss wanted to do was get into a fruitless arguement with his eldest brother that might turn into a shouting match in the mood he was in. "Look," he repeated, "I cancelled the mineshaft demo, okay? It's completely scrapped. What I want to know is what am I going to do now? I don't have any ideas--care to help?"
"Sorry, Bro," JD said, "but you're the creative brains in this outfit. I'm no good at that kind of thing."
Criss slumped lower. "Look, we got plenty of time before we have to start shooting," JD told him. "Give it a rest for a day or so. Something will come to you. Just nothing life-threatening, okay? Promise?"
A reluctant nod of the head. JD leaned closer. "Promise?" he pressed.
"I promise, I promise," Criss said irritably. "I already said I wouldn't."
"What you say and what you do are often two different things," JD admonished. "Remember, I'm holding you to it. We all are." He patted Criss on the shoulder. "Now, come on," he said, "we got a meeting."
Criss rose and followed him into the meeting room, still glum over his lack of creativity. "You'll think of something, Criss," JD assured him. "You can do a lot of great demonstrations without trying to kill yourself, you'll see."
"Yeah, but I don't want to repeat myself, that's all."
"So, we'll toss some ideas around and see if anything sticks."
"Well, start tossing," Criss retorted, "because I'm all out of ideas."
George walked into the atrium feeling good about himself. His morning training session at Linehan's Gym had jump-started his mind and body, preparing him for the day and whatever his famous cousin had in mind for the new MindFreak episode. At least he didn't have to worry about some death-defying feat this time: Criss had given his solemn word before Father Stefan and the family he would not do any more risky demonstrations yesterday morning at the intervention, or at least the one he had planned. And George was going to hold him to it whether he liked it or not.
He had been working for his cousin Christopher ever since he hit the big time in Las Vegas, setting up props for demonstrations, managing the crew, and wherever his talents were required. It paid well, so well he sent money home to his mother back in New York and still had enough to support himself, but the stress level could go as high as Code Red. No matter how thoroughly he checked the safety system on every demonstration planned, or how meticulously he examined the equipment, there was always the nagging fear that the latest stunt Criss Angel did would end in tragedy lingering in the back of George's mind. So far he'd been lucky, but like Father Stefan said, one day Criss would push the envelope too far and end up in an early grave. It wasn't easy working for Criss, but he had to admit it was fun at times.
George approached the hotel deli for a quick snack. The pastries lining the glass cabinet under the counter looked tempting, but he passed them up. He was in strict training, he reminded himself, and the last thing he needed was an overload of sugar and fat. He chose a large apple from the wire basket on the counter and munched on it as he headed for the production office. Fresh fruit and whole grains kept him down to his "fighting weight" as Linehan called it, but he didn't want to lose too many pounds or else he'd be declassed from middle- to lightweight.
Criss and the crew, including his other cousins, Costa and JD, were waiting for him when he entered the viewing room. "Sorry I'm late," George said, dropping the apple core into the nearest wastebasket. "Just got back from the gym."
"No prob," Criss said. "We're just getting started."
George sat down on the sofa in front of the large screen television. Today they would be reviewing the finished Sports episode, fresh from the editing studio. George had been looking forward to this for the past two days; he especially anticipated the scenes from Linehan's Gym where he took on Criss in the ring. This is going to be good, he thought.
It was. In fact, it was better than George had expected. The pace and timing were perfect, but they paled in significance compared to the gym scenes. He laughed at Criss' discomfort upon entering the reeking gym ("You heard of Brut?" [coughs] "This is brutal!") (1), and his heroic but futile effort to take on George in the ring. The crew congratulated George on his easy victory while Criss sulked, humiliated to the core.
George grabbed Criss by the shoulder and hugged him in rough, manly affection. "Ah, c'mon, Criss!" he cajoled, "lighten up!"
Criss withdrew from his cousin's grip. "I'm still gonna get you in a rematch," he said. "Swear to God, I will."
"Geez, Criss, you are the sorest loser I know!" George said, rolling his eyes. "Get over it already, willya? You can't win at everything!"
"I know I can't win at everything," Criss admitted. "I just hate losing."
George sighed. There was no use arguing with Criss sometimes. He was too competitive--a virtue for a boxer, but not for life in general. He always had to be first, number one, the king of the mountain, ever since he was a kid. Time and again he had to be reminded that there had to be some give and take when dealing with everyday situations. Life was not all black and white, winners versus losers; there were times when it was better to compromise than compete, to work together for a common goal than try to one-up everyone else. So what if he lost a practice match in the boxing ring? Life goes on! Build a bridge and get over it!
The tape ran to the closing credits. Manny, the editor, shut off the machine and turned to the crew. "So, are we good?" he asked. "Criss? You wanna add anything, edit anything out?"
"Nah, it's good," Criss mumbled. "I can't think of anything."
"Okay," Manny said, "it's good to go."
The tape was ejected out of the player and boxed for shipment to A&E. "Okay, now for the next episode," Banachek announced. "Criss? Got any ideas?"
Criss sadly shook his head. "No," he murmured. "Ever since you guys sprung that intervention on me yesterday, I've been drawing blanks."
Manny, the editor, rose to his feet. "Well, if you don't have any ideas," he said eagerly, "I do."
Everyone looked at Manny, surprised and puzzled. Since when did a videotape editor have an idea for an episode? they wondered. But, since there were no other suggestions, they agreed to hear him out. "Okay, Manny," Criss said, "what've you got?"
Manny smiled smugly. "You may or may not know it," he began, "but I've been doing a little project on the side. I've been collecting outtakes, bloopers, and other rejects from the cutting room floor, so to speak, and compiling them into one hour-long blooper reel. Of course, I have to edit out all the four-letter words and stuff like that. I call it Criss Angel: MindFlop!"
Criss cringed and laughed over the corny title. So did the rest of the crew. "Ohhhh, God!" he groaned, nearly choking on his own laughter. "I can't wait to see it!"
Manny rose from his seat. "I'll go get it," he said, walking out of the viewing room. "It's in the studio."
"Yeah, go get it," Criss told him, still laughing. "In the meantime, let's all take a break and relax."
Gerard leaned back in his chair and opened a bottle of water. "God," he said, "I'm almost afraid to see what Manny's got on that tape."
"Well, I don't think it'll be anything incriminating," Criss said. "Just some flubbed lines and pratfalls."
"Manny also said he had some deleted scenes as well," Banachek reminded him.
Criss shrugged. "I'm still not worried. I mean, hell, if you can't laugh at yourself--"
"From what I've seen while taping," JD spoke up, "you got plenty to laugh about."
"Think there will be scenes from the boxing match?" George wondered aloud.
"Probably," JD said. "We'll just have to wait and see."
"Hope so," George said. "Because I want everyone to see just how badly I kicked Criss' ass in the ring."
Criss' good humor faded. His competitive spirit rose to the high-water mark. "Oh, really," he sneered at George.
"Yeah, really" George sneered back.
Criss stood up and took a fighting stance. "C'mon, George," he challenged, holding up his fists. "Bring it on! I'm ready for you!"
George groaned. "Oh, for chrissakes!"
"No, really!" Criss goaded his cousin, tensing for the first swing. "C'mon, George! Bring it!"
George stood up and looked at his impetuous cousin in disgust. "You're an (bleep)hole," he said, "you know that? You are the biggest (bleep)hole in the world!"
"What'sa matter, George?" Criss taunted, feinting a few punches. "Afraid to take me on? Huh? You chicken, George?"
With a deep sigh, George obliged and went into fighting stance. Criss came out with his right, but instead of deflecting or striking back, George siezed Criss' arm and hoisted him over his shoulders.
"Hey!! Put me down!!" Criss cried out in shock and outrage.
George let his hot-headed cousin dangle over his shoulders for a while, to the amusement of the crew, then tossed his struggling burden onto the floor with a loud thump. Criss sat splay-legged on the floor, once again humiliated by his cousin. George stood over him triumphantly. The laughter of his crew burned in his ears. "Maybe we should put that in the blooper tape," someone said, laughing.
Criss got back on his feet and glared at his cousin. "You are so dead, George!" he said menacingly. "You are so (bleeping) dead!"
George responded to this idle threat with a dismissive wave of his hands and turned to leave. "I'm gonna get you for this, George!" Criss called out angrily after him. "This ain't over, you know!
As far as George was concerned, it was over. He left the office to go to the men's room, gloating over his latest victory over his more famous cousin. He might be Criss Angel to the rest of the world, but to him he was just Cousin Christopher from East Meadow, Long Island, no matter how much he blathered on about how great he was.
George entered the men's room in the service corridor and relieved himself of the three bottles of water he had consumed during morning practice. Old Man Linehan never did get that drinking fountain installed, despite the eight thousand dollars advance Criss had given him to tape the show in his gym (1), so George had to bring his own water to keep himself hydrated during workouts. At least the ventilation system got upgraded, so it didn't stink as bad as it used to. Thank Heaven for small favors, George thought.
His personal business finished, he headed back to the production office, eager to see Manny's blooper tape. He had a pretty good idea what scenes would be shown since he had witnessed many of them, but whatever was on it, George knew it would be funny as hell. The title was pretty corny, but it was still funny in a way. It would have to do for now; maybe they could come up with something better after viewing it.
Screams from the atrium distracted him. George ran out of the service corridor to see what was the matter. He looked around the atrium and saw people looking up in horror and pointing toward the ceiling. He looked around frantically. "What?" he demanded. "What's going on?"
The answer came in the form of a heavy weight crashing down on his shoulders, sending him sprawling onto the floor.
(1) Risque Business
Last edited by Veritas; 03-31-2012 at 05:53 PM.