Half-minute Hero"What does it mean? Tell me you bastard! What does it mean?"
Stephan shifted in his seat as the memory of the fear hit him, as it pulsed through him he almost thought for a moment that he would shit himself again. What was it? The price of the suit or the embarrassment of a sudden sprint to the Gents that saved him? Or Lucy's hand resting gently on top of his on the arm rest. He managed to not even flinch and kept his eyes firmly fixed on the screen as he saw himself in an even more expensive suit lifted up by the lapels and slammed hard and high against the wall of an office, very like his own office, but bigger of course, and through the window, a stylish city nightscape, not the fourth floor of a multi-storey.
They'd found a big, big guy to do the lifting and throwing, though still not big enough he thought. Mind you, would anybody ever look that big to him again? The likeness of his screen self was unnerving, his squarer-jawed, bluer-eyed, pectorally-enlarged twin. He hoped he never met him at a party - it would be too depressing. And the bluer eyes, still defiant and the squarer jaw still firm even as his shoulders blades met with the masonry. None of the tears and whimpering, the unspeakable stinking, shit and bloodstained suit. No. Don't dwell on it. In this moment of uniquely mixed emotions, Stephan was amazed to find that his hand had made the journey, first to Lucy's knee, then to the hem of her skirt and then the further short distance to the top of her stockings. She brushed it away, but gently, with a little murmur in his ear of "later". Jesus! He giggled to himself, they'd been right. He'd lost a few bets, but that was alright, everything was alright, everything was bloody marvellous.
He hadn't put the close-up in the script but here it was. Wrong somehow though. What was it? Yes - the eyes. Too manic, too frantic, a film-director's psycho's eyes. Nothing like the still, unblinking reality. That was what it was that had turned his guts to water, not the noise, not the strength, not the violence. As the lights came up and the applause rippled around him, Stephan found himself in the grip of a thought. That's probably what heroes of old were like, dangerous unblinking bastards who wouldn't take no for an answer. Unfaltering in their quest for truth. How many time had the security guard hit him? But ah, there was the drinks table, the bonus check, the crowd of smiling quizzical admirers. Lucy, her hand on his thigh. The award.
"Tell me what happened again"
"He did a serious of ads with no real point - you know, just random, surreal, mysterious, arty stuff - for some beer"
"And some nut got hung up on them, thought they were sending him messages, he gets into the ad-guy's office and beats him black and blue. And when the ad-guy gets out of the hospital, he makes an ad out of his experience, and the story gets round and the beer sales go through the roof."