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You're That Guy

They say fame is fleeting and your 15 minutes is never enough. 

Down here in the Gutter, that's just enough time for us to fuck your shit up.

You're That Guy by Danny Gardner



The teeth on the floor reminded him of the outstanding dental bill from when he had his fronts fixed, just before he went on TV. They resembled Chicklets, like those tucked inside some casting associate's shit-eating-grin, after they'd say something like, "I'm sorry, but could you be more black?"

He imagined they were the choppers of the hack who took three acting roles from him in as many months. "If he doesn't call by noon, the part is yours," his agent would say, and then the asshole would ring at 11:58, out of spite. If just one of those jobs had gone to him, he’d have stayed in Los Angeles, and avoided being duct taped to a chair in a Chicago sub-basement by Russians over a deal for burned cell phones.

***

He should have never taken his uncle up on his offer.

"How about I help you make some money," said Chuck. "I know you and the wife are having problems."

The problem was the wife, who never believed in him. She'd instigate arguments just before he left for auditions, so he would be late, or fucked in the head when he got there. She loved her husband less than her father, who offered to hire him at the post office, since "ya little comedy thang ain't hittin' on shit and you need a job." When he insisted she not attend his stand-up sets any longer—after she heckled him—she responded by having the locks changed.

The phone deal was just another bad gig, taken out of desperation, same as when he hosted the stripper show in Detroit. He explained away the baby oil and glitter and thought the wife took it alright, until the hour before his big break at the Improv, when she scratched him across his face, ripped his shirt, and then called 911 and said he hit her.  He wondered if the Russians could hurt him more than his arrest that night, or more than his wife. That gig would have made his career.

Now he was going to die.

***

"Keep it simple," said Chuck. "Just grab the phones, bring them outside, and you're done."

The front was a neighborhood candy and tobacco shop, where they dealt in rarities imported from Mother Russia. Down below, in the basement, was where they kept the goods, but you had to know someone, and they had to know you. If you didn't know, you didn't ask, unless you wanted a trip to the sub-basement. Uncle Chuck neglected to inform him of the rules.

He walked in, and nervously announced what he had come for. The Russians seemed disinterested, until a son or nephew—just someone young—emerged from the bathroom doorway.

"Holy shit!" said the kid. "You're that guy!"

No one ever knew his name. He was forever, "that guy," or "homie," or "dawg".

"Guy?"

"Yeah. From cable. I saw you do comedy. You're funny, dawg."

The Russian kid recited his entire set, asked if he knew Bernie and Tracy and Dave and Chris, wanted an autograph, and even had his episode on VHS. He put it on a TV in the shop.

Uncle Chuck had told the Russians that someone named Johnny would pick up the package.



They all watched the television as Martin Lawrence introduced him.

"I thought your name was supposed to be Johnny."

***

On the table were a drill, a wired car battery, and a pair of carpenter's pliers. Out of habit, he thought of a bit on how tools are really scary outside their normal environment. He then forgot it, once they took off his shoes and socks. He tried to explain the phones were for his uncle, and that he really wasn't supposed to be there, but his week-long gig in Vegas fell through because he was better than "black folks do this, white folks do this." They sponged his feet and hooked the battery wire around his two big toes. He may have given information to save himself, but his uncle kept him in the dark. "Maximum deniability," Chuck said, and he wondered whether his aunt, Chuck's wife, knew what that term meant.

Once the Russians got frustrated, they grabbed the pliers and opened his mouth. They snatched out one molar, then another, and in the agony, he thought of Dustin Hoffman's performance in 'Marathon Man.' "Try acting, dear boy," he murmured. They were going for the fronts—not knowing they were falsies—when the basement door flew open. It was Uncle Chuck, along with the rest of the FBI.
"I said keep it simple," said Chuck.

"I met a fan," he said, just before he passed out.

***

Months later, his agent called him at his friend's place, where he was staying after his wife and father-in-law kicked him out. He needed a job, and really needed an attorney. Turns out he was the second choice for co-lead in "Homeboys in Outer Space." Two black comedians, hurtling through the cosmos, on a quest to destroy their careers. He hung up the phone and waited for the messenger to arrive with the script.

At page two, he wondered what would have happened had his uncle gotten there a little later.

At page ten, he wished the Russians had killed him.

Danny Gardner impressed audiences with his performance on the 3rd season of HBO's Def Comedy Jam (All-Stars Vol. 12). He has enjoyed a career as an actor, director and screenwriter. He is a recent Pushcart Prize nominee for his creative non-fiction piece Forever. In an Instant., published by Literary Orphans Journal (http://goo.gl/nM1Rz3). His first novel, A Negro and an Ofay, will be published in November by Double Life Press.