Hi. I’m tired and this was difficult and I’m tired. Enjoy.
He’d ended up there again. It was as if his fingers were tapping out a predetermined pattern; an obedient player piano. This tended to happen on Friday nights, though one night was pretty much the same as any other. It wasn’t as if Friday night held any sort of magic. There was no regular job to go to, no morning obligation to wrench him from his stale sheets.
If he’d stopped to think about it, Robert would have deduced why it was that Friday night was a trigger. But he’d never taken a moment to explore the ramifications, introspection not being high on his abbreviated list of admirable qualities. Instead, his fingers clumsily drummed a familiar sequence and he was again treated to a vision of himself 30 years earlier.
He took a long, shuddering swallow of his vodka and pressed play. His young—oh God, so young—face grinned smugly from the screen. His snub features exuded the precociousness and confidence that only someone who had been offered no criticism during his formative years could produce. The expression inspired equal parts infuriation and envy.
The younger Robert—Bobby—was currently explaining to his on-screen mother (Barbara, he remembered; she was a bitch) that of course, he would take care of the classroom tarantula, Harry. That, of course, the terrarium was safe and escape-proof. And of course Pickles the cat would not be allowed near it. Spoiler alert: later in the episode, the tarantula escapes and evidence emerges that leads the family to believe Pickles had itself a spidery meal. He hadn’t seen this one on YouTube yet. It looked like it was just posted the week before.
“A New Day for Don” lasted three seasons, from 1979-1982 every Friday night. Little Bobby Bailey starred as mischievous Donald “Don” Dabner, a cherubic troublemaker who always seemed to land on his feet, much to the chagrin of all of the adult characters around him. As far as sitcoms went it was no better or worse than any other, but it was his “woah-ohhhhhh-MAMA!” catchphrase that made him a cultural icon.
He scrolled past the sequences in which he was absent, and stopped right before Harry’s disappearance was discovered. He delivered his signature line out loud along with the video and basked in the explosion from the studio audience. He remembered hearing it in person, all those years ago. Although at the time he had known the audience had been prompted—all of those tourists from Kansas or Missouri, sunburned from the beaches and sporting Mickey Mouse t-shirts—he knew the applause was for him and him alone. There was nobody who could deliver that line as well as he did, with the dimple punctuating his left cheek and his nose scrunching skyward. And that’s why his parents had demanded more money.
He tipped the bottle into his sweaty glass and clicked the comment box.
“That little dude was a fuckin genious,” he typed and hit “enter.” He scrolled down to see the other comments.
“OMG i had such a crush on Bobby,” said Tasey1969.
“I loved this show,” said GrammCrakkah.
“the DIMPLE omg 2 cute!!!!” said TakeMeHome2Nightxxx
“cats dont even eat tarantulas this show wasn’t very rilastic,” said SuperDuperChrist35811.
Robert frowned at the screen. “Well, they do if they can catch them,” he said out loud. He knew should stop scrolling. He knew he shouldn’t read any more.
“Whatever happened to that little boy? Did he die?” said ChipNorris.
“Nah, just his career,” said BenJovvi.
He scrolled faster.
“Probably at home in a bottle of whiskey.”
“Vodka,” he said. “Get it right.”
He snuffed out the rest of his vodka in a single gulp and dropped the glass to the floor. The bottle was empty anyway.
“But what have you done, BenJovvi?” he said, pointing a stubby finger at the screen. “Have you been on a TV show? Have supermodels hit on you in bars at age 12? Gone to parties with Jack Nicholson and Angelica Houston? No. No, you haven’t. But I have,” he thumped his palm on his chest. “I. Have.”
His words became thick and lazy as the deluge of alcohol he’d poured down this throat began to take effect in earnest.
“And I bet you’ve seen all of the episodes and had a ‘woah mama’ t-shirt or a lunchbox or something. Because I was funny. I made you laugh. I did,” he said, double-checking the bottle. “I did I did I did. And for that, I think a little respect would be nice.”
He maneuvered away from YouTube and over to PornHub.
He clicked, stuffed his hand down his sweatpants, and sighed.