09-04-2011, 10:18 PM
"Hey, AJ, it's me, Criss!"
"Oh, hey, Criss," The Amazing Johnathan grumbled in his cell phone. "Whaddya want?"
"Oh, nothing, just calling to say hello," Criss replied casually. "I read about you in the paper this morning."
"Quite a stunt you pulled there last night," Criss went on. "Dropping trou and showing everybody your best side. Bet that went over well. I just hope you didn't pass gas while you were at it--you would have cleared the whole club."
"(Bleep) you, Criss!" AJ spat. "Who are you to criticize?"
"I'm not criticizing!"
"Yeah? Well, you went bareassed on TV--twice!"
"Yeah, but they didn't show my ass," Criss pointed out. "The censors blurred me around the hips, remember? No one saw a thing."
"Not that there was any 'thing' worth seeing," AJ retorted.
Criss chose to ignore the insult. "So, what are you going to do now?" he asked. "Your shows at the Magic Club got cancelled. Any plans?"
"Don't worry about me," AJ told him. "I'll be just fine."
"I never worried about you, AJ," Criss said. "Listen, I gotta get back to work. Enjoy your time off."
"Go (bleep) yourself, Criss!"
Criss laughed and hung up, savoring the schadenfreud of his rival's embarrassing situation. Barely a heartbeat later, his phone rang. Criss looked at the Caller ID message on the tiny LED screen: Costa, it read. He flipped it open. "Hey, Cos, what's up?" he said.
"Hey, Criss, how are you?" Costa said.
"Good. So, what's up?"
"Well, I need to ask you a favor."
"Sure, no problem. Whaddya need?"
"Well, I am assembling a portfolio of my photographs," Costa began," and I need some pictures of you."
"No big deal," Criss shrugged. "I got a ton of them--help yourself."
"It's not that simple, Criss," Costa told him. "I need some fresh pictures of you."
"You wanna set up a photo shoot?" Criss thought about it. "Well, my schedule's pretty tight right now, but I got Monday evening off. How about then?"
"Monday evening'll be fine," Costa agreed. "Just come over to my place and we'll go from there."
"Sounds good. What kind of photos did you have in mind, anyway? Publicity, portrait?"
Costa plunged, bracing himself for the worst. "Nude."
There was silence on the other end. "Criss?" Costa called out. "You still there?"
"You wanna do nude pictures of me?" Criss spoke incredulously.
"Look, it's not like I'm going to publish them," Costa protested. "It's just for my personal portfolio of art photos. Hardly anyone's gonna see them."
"But why me?"
"Because I'm having a helluva time getting models to pose nude for me, no matter how much I offer to pay them. I'm lucky to get the models I got right now. Besides, let's face it, you got the body for it."
"Well, gee, I'm flattered," Criss replied sarcastically.
"Now don't get snotty about it," Costa warned him. "You've posed partially nude before, remember? And those two shows we talked about at the meeting? You're not going prudish on me, are you? I mean, I thought you were comfortable with your body. Why are you ashamed of it all of a sudden?"
"I'm not ashamed of my body!" Criss protested. "In fact, I'm very comfortable inside my own skin, thank you very much. And to prove it, I'll come over Monday evening and pose for those pictures, and I'll show you who's ashamed of his own body."
"Looking forward to it, little brother," Costa said cheerfully. "See you later."
"Later." Criss flipped off his phone. I'm not a prude! he told himself. I'm quite proud of my body! I had the (bleeps) to strip for the Fantasy episode, didn't I? Costa wants to take pictures of me in the buff? Fine! I'll give him his money's worth, and more!
As time wore on, however, Criss began to get the uneasy feeling that somehow he had been conned. Had Costa played on his pride to get him to consent to the photo shoot? No, he thought, Costa wouldn't stoop so low. It was his own sense of superiority that led him into this arrangement. Well, the damage was done; no point in backing out now. Besides, it was for a private portfolio, not a centerfold spread for Playgirl. Costa had assured him that hardly anyone would see them, and Criss knew that his brother's word was as good as gold, so he didn't have to worry about a Tommy Lee/Pamela Anderson-type scandal broadsiding his career. But who, he couldn't help but wonder, was "hardly anyone"?
George knocked on the dented metal door of Linehan's office. "Seamus?" he called out.
"Door's open." a gruff Irish brogue responded.
George entered the office. Linehan sat at his desk, going over the bills. "Hey, Seamus," he said, "can I talk to you for a minute?"
"A minute's all ye got," Linehan said bluntly. still poring over the bills.
"I came to ask a favor," George began.
"Not a brass penny!" Linehan snapped.
"I'm not asking for money," George said, "I'm asking for the use of your gym for my cousin's TV series."
Linehan looked up, curious. "Ye're what?"
"My cousin, Criss, wants to use your gym to tape an episode of his series, MindFreak," George explained. "We won't get in your way, and nothing's gonna get broken, I promise."
Linehan swiveled around in his spindly office chair. "And what's in it fer me, might I ask?" he demanded.
"We're offering to pay you for the trouble," George told him.
A spark of interest glinted in the old man's eye. "How much?"
George shrugged. "Oh, I dunno. Five grand?"
"Make it ten."
"Seven," George countered.
"Eight. And that's me final offer."
George considered it. "Okay, eight it is."
For the first time since he'd been training in Linehan's gym, George actually saw Seamus smile. "Let me clear it with Criss and I'll get back to you," he said.
"Good," Linehan said, "now git yer arse outta me office. I got work to do."
George closed the metal door quietly behind him. Geez! That old (bleeper) knows how to drive a hard bargain! Must've done some serious horse trading back in Ireland or something.