Thursday, 9 September 2010

Dead Ringer - Friday Flash

Victor was a long-distance lorry driver. As a teenager, he’d failed his driving test three times before passing, but four years older and wiser, secured his HGV license at the first time of asking.

He delivered white goods in brown boxes up and down the length of Britain. From factory to high street shops and warehouses in industrial estates.

He often pondered his role in the process. For he always felt invisible. Even though the recipients were all too aware of his paperwork requirements, pink, yellow and blue copies requiring their endorsement, somehow he felt peripheral to everything. As extraneous as the brown cardboard box, or the foam packaging inside.

This may have had something to do with him not being permitted to unload the trailer. He just waited unseen and not even resented, in his cab reading the newspaper. Until the wraiths outside signalled they were done by slamming his tailgate shut. They weren’t allowed however to close his doors, so he always had to leap out and do the job himself. This wasn’t a contract stipulation, but a Trades Union demarcation. The porters had always melted away before his feet hit the ground.

But a chance comment overheard in a pub one Saturday night, provided the spark that could change all these feelings of inadequacy and invisibility. Someone unseen suggested that he bore a passing likeness to the lead singer of a stadium rock band. When Victor went home that night, he printed pictures from the internet and went and scrutinised himself against them in his floor-length mirror. Yes he could see the stranger’s point. He went back to the WorldWideWeb to read up on this world wide celebrity. It took him all night, such was the welter of coverage generated by this man.

When Victor surfaced early Sunday afternoon, his mind presented him with a scheme. Somewhere from the deep recesses of his memory, it had plucked the notion of look-alikes. He could use the resemblance to imitate this famous man and see what second-hand glamour rubbed off on himself like stardust. Then people might sit up and notice him all right.

He paid for a very expensive stylist to shape his hair exactly so. He shelled out for some stage clothes in keeping with the frontman’s flamboyant tastes. He even forked over cash to have several tattoos done for the full simulacrum. He passed out at the needles. He watched endless videos of the man moving, dancing and giving interviews, practising the same in front of his mirror. Until he’d got his man off pat. Stroke for stroke, intonation for intonation. Inhabiting his habits.

Next he looked up the band’s tour dates. After each day's last delivery, he’d disarticulate and drive to the town where they were due on stage. He’d change into the clothes and then proceed to wander up and down the lines of concert goers queuing to enter. Very quickly he was pulled into the ranks time and again, for his photo to be taken with the fans. They knew it was entirely improbable that their idol would be wondering up and down outside the venue two hours ahead of showtime, just to hobknob with his devotees. Far more likely to be sniffing cocaine from the midriff of a naked groupie in the back of a limo. But they were happy to maintain the part-fiction, after all they would see the real McCoy this very night. This guy was the warm up act.

But somehow word of the accuracy of his masquerade spread and soon people were approaching him to open fetes and or judge local talent contests. "Double Take TV" asked him to be present at the side of the red carpet along with other rock and roll lookalikes at a prestigious Awards show and to try and wedge himself in the camera frame when his doppelganger stopped to be interviewed. He had some business cards printed up. An agent contacted him, but he couldn't see the value of giving up a fifteen percent split of himself.

As the earnings built, he boosted his wardrobe to match that of his model. One slight wobble in his career arc was when he was invited to sing live. He realised he'd only taken his impersonation so far, now he needed to go the whole hog. He rehearsed at home. He accompanied CDs in his rig. Now when the unloaders were toiling away, music was booming from the cab and they turned resentful all right. Victor would sing along, emulating the singer's strangulated drawl, ignorant of their curses.

He formed a tribute band and they took off to the next level. Accomplished musicians in their own right, just ones spared the effort of having to compose their own songs. With live performing came the girls. His own groupies. Did he feel bad that they imagined him to be someone else while he was fucking them? Not especially.

The only aspect of his spitting image he didn't replicate, was the prodigious drug intake. But his counterpart's behaviour was becoming increasingly unpalatable as he repeatedly made the front pages of the newspapers with his frequent Court appearances. Victor began to fret, he was so nearly making enough money to be able to give up his road hauling.

He fashioned a voodoo poppet and pinned it in areas trying to restrain the excesses of his lodestar. He sealed its nose to stop the cocaine and festooned the arms with needles to prevent the use of larger ones full of heroin. He could of course touch neither mouth or throat and thereby take away the man's and his own livelihood. He also hovered over the crotch, but decided to let it be as he didn't want to jinx his own good fortune in that particular region.

The sympathetic magic seemed to work as well. The wild man of rock cooled his heels and checked into rehab. In his absence, bookings for Victor shot up. His visibility increased even as the singer's diminished, having dropped out of public sight. Victor was having a high old time of things, until one day a woman lunged out of the shadows and fatally drove a carving knife into his throat.

It was never established whether she knew him to be a lookalike or not. She might have been a celebrity stalker. Or one of the star's one night stand cast offs. She might conceivably even have been a lookalike herself, one of those female serial killers, who took her role just a bit too far. A bit like Victor really.

For his part after nine months, the original wild man of rock emerged from his refuge and became a gentleman farmer. Turning his back on his former lifestyle.

30 comments:

Linda said...

Sort of a grass is always greener tale. Lots of good stuff here, but for some reason I really like the flow of "He delivered white goods in brown boxes". Peace...

Marisa Birns said...

Quite the cautionary tale. Really smiled at Victor not desecrating the star's mouth, nose, and privates.

I'm assuming you're using the word "fatally" not to mean leading to death, since Victor ended up with the sheep. :)

Carrie said...

Brilliant tale here. A cosmic WHOOPS! HA. Loved it Marc.

Icy Sedgwick said...

It's amazing how he goes from despising anonymity to actively seeking it, but I suppose a brush with the dark side of fame will do that to you! Interesting use of voodoo, too!

mazzz in Leeds said...

"Inhabiting his habits" - marvellous.
Loved the voodoo!
Is there any significance to the change in font size in the last two pararaphs?

Sulci Collective said...

yes, that cut and paste from Word to blogger is cr*p

Anonymous said...

Boring, humiliating jobs can make people drastic. Loved it when he refrained from hexing the star's wotsits! This sentence is scrumptious (oops, its lunchtime)- 'He delivered white goods in brown boxes up and down the length of Britain.'
Odd coincidence, his bills/receipts - pink, yellow, blue - the 3 girls in my flash wearing pink, yellow & blue wigs! Dead chuffed about that. Pen.

Deanna Schrayer said...

So happy to see you got "doppleganger" in there Marc! And I too loved "inhabiting his habits". Great, great stuff!

ThomG said...

I certainly wasn't expecting the ending, but it fits so well .Loved the pacing in this.

Melissa said...

white goods in brown boxes. i, too, loved that. love this tale about the search for significance and identity. i just read the talented mr. ripley and when you first started to describe victor's imitation i couldn't help but think of tom ripley. they're very different...but both are taking someone else's identity and trying to make it their own in order to feel *seen*. love that the rock star being imitated decides to forgo the public light at the end (hence becoming "unseen"-at least by the public). like this font for your flash pieces, btw.

Crystal said...

Oh poor Victor. Loved the kindness within the voodoo especially.

CathrynLouis said...

Only goes to show - you're better off being yourself. Poor Victor.

alisonwells said...

This kind of character - for me he's the 'white van man' is an enduring part of my imagination and I love what you've done here, his raising himself out of ennui, his becoming something but again, something or nothing or something out of nothing/hype. He tries to control the rock star's life to make a difference to his own and then the tables are turned. (although I might have preferred if he took over the life rather than have his taken).Really good read.

dijeratic said...

Marc - you've got a hell of a story here, but I've got to be honest: you explain the whole story and show us almost nothing. Every paragraph you 'tell' the story, but I don't feel like I'm living in it. I 'want' to live in it, because you've got a great idea, but I don't want it all spelled out for me, either.

This is literally a "He did this, he did that, then this happened and then this happened." You have flashes of all your brilliance, but I don't sense your heart in this one.

You spoil us with so many amazing things, I want more like it. This one threw me.

Sulci Collective said...

I actually wanted to really delve into the whole invisibility & living as other thing, but the flash word limit did for me. I might revisit it at leisure & make it a longer piece, I don't know.

I do think I tend to tell far more than show, because my 1st person narrators engage the reader in direct conversation in their tone.

I rarely do 3rd person, only in flash I guess.

Dan holloway said...

fascinating. You love the celebrity/surface/otherness-underneath thing as a topic. This reminds me in a way of Marcella's famoud for nothing piece. It's also, of course, got its big real life precedent with that cabbie who got dragged onto BBC breakfast a year or so back because they thought he was their guest.

Do lorries have tailgates? When I worked in flooring our delivery wagons had taillifts.

Laurita said...

The rise and fall of an almost star. Intriguing concept, and written with your usual panache.

PJ said...

Love this, Marc - definitely a 'grass is always greener' story, as Linda mentioned. Sounded like he had a pretty sweet gig before getting into the doppelganger business. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you, that was extremely valuable and interesting...I will be back again to read more on this topic.

Janet Lingel Aldrich said...

Kind of sad ... he didn't have the most amazing life before, but it was a decent, quiet one. Funny how we're never content with who we are. Even the "real" rock star got tired of his life. A very interesting story!

Tony Noland said...

Terrific twist on the doppleganger. Poor guy should have stuck to driving the truck.

Gracie said...

Good one. Never a good idea to hitch yourself to someone else's star. Poor guy.

Enjoyed this one!

Eric J. Krause said...

Wow, quite a twist there at the end. I didn't see it coming. I guess the voodoo magic killed the rock star in the rock star. Excellent story!

Mari said...

I could see this story with more length in first person. It'd be quite an interesting novella/novel.

At first I thought Victor would try to kill the real singer and try to take his place, then I thought the celeb would die on his own, and the voodoo brought me back to the fist idea. When the singer when to rehab I thought he'd be forgotten and Victor would take his place, willingly or not. I say all this because I agree that the story has a lot of potential. I'd love to see it developed. :)

Ah, just fyi, I'm suffering with blogger too. Grrr!

ganymeder said...

I really loved the color theme you had in the beginning. And the stalker loneliness aspect was really well done.

G.P. Ching said...

I thought at first you were going for a Prince and the Pauper type of story with this. But, the voodoo doll surprised me as did the murder. Loved the originality of this and how it reads like a newspaper story.

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placebythefire said...

I really liked this story, even though it was a sad ending for a man who just wanted to be noticed.

Kath said...

I like how he goes from simply wanting to be visible to almost completely becoming the person he first mimics and later pretends to be. It's so interesting to see how far the transformation goes before a 'fan' brings it to an end. Nice touch too when the original star gives it all up for a quieter life at the end. Why do we humans always crave what we don't have?