The Athlete

William Farrant

All Cameras standby. Sound Crew, ready? Steve, run the opening sequence of triumphant classical music set against a backdrop of snow capped mountains intertwined with historical looking footage of the Greek God Mercury running around an Athenian track. And five, four, three, two, one, bring in Camera One of our hosts, Steve… and action.

Good morning everyone, I’m Bob Pachorelli and this is Marie Vander Staadt and welcome to the Program. Today we will see the Athlete compete against a Typical Day. It should be an intense competition, Marie.
Yes, Bob, the Athlete has a tough series of events ahead of him. Some he excels at and others will test all of his mental faculties. It looks like the action is about to begin, so let’s head to the first event of the day, Waking Up.

Steve, bring in Camera two, and… now.

It looks like the Athlete is waking up, Marie. He’s rubbing his eyes. He doesn’t look quite with it. Is he up before 9:30? Yes, he is, it’s 9:07! This is amazing! It’s Monday and he’s up before 9:30! What could his next move be, Marie?
It looks like he’s rolled over and turned on his laptop. He’s checking his email. It looks empty, Bob.
And he’s out of bed now and he’s gone down the hallway. Rounding the corner, to the chair, sitting. If he keeps this up it would be an extraordinary beginning to the day, Marie.
Yes, Bob, it’s a really promising start. He’s shuffled some papers, picked up a pen, and now… he’s put it down… and… oh, no, what is he doing? He’s left the desk and he’s going back down the hallway!
Maybe he’s going to put his pants on, Marie!
No, no, he’s crawled back into bed, Bob, he’s turned off the lights and… he’s sleeping! He’s gone back to sleep! This could have terrible implications for the next event, Doing Something Constructive During the Morning Hours!
This is a dreadful start to the competition, Marie, but let’s not cast judgment here, because as we know from the advanced scouting reports, he’s never being very good at distance events.

All Cameras zoom out. Steve, cut to footage of past successes.

Well, Bob, because the Athlete did not complete Waking Up and chose to go back to sleep instead, he’s missed the second event, Doing Something Constructive During the Morning Hours and it has been subsequently cancelled with no possibility of a re-schedule.
It’s really a shame, Marie. He’s down two-nothing on the day and will need to win the remaining events to have any chance of victory.
He’s really up against it now, Bob.

Steve, take us to commercial.

And… we’re back. And ready for the next event, Marie. He needs a good showing here for Making Lunch.
He sure does, Bob.

Steve, bring up Camera Four of the Athlete staring at the open fridge.

The Athlete is at the cutting board now. The meat is out. It looks like Corned Beef today.
Indeed, it is Corned Beef, Marie. And the Athlete has his knife out. He’s got the bread on the board. He’s swiping the mayo. And just look at those smooth strokes!
It’s all in the wrist, Bob. He’s unwrapping the Corned Beef now and he’s putting it on the bread, one slice at a time. Such precision!
I’ve just been informed, Marie, that the Athlete has run out of cheese. But it doesn’t seem to be affecting him. He’s adapting well, the sandwich is coming together, and now the bread is placed on top and… the sandwich is complete. And, I don’t believe it; he’s added a handful of Sour Cream and Onion Chips on the side. What a touch!
This is unprecedented, Bob! We never saw this one coming! To the finale now, Bob, and there he goes, off to the table. And he’s sitting down, he’s seated, and now we’re waiting for the result and… yes, he’s won, Bob. He’s made his lunch in a great time! The Sour Cream and Onion Chips have impressed the judges with their added degree of difficulty and that has put him over the top and he has won Making Lunch.
This is tremendous, Marie. The Athlete has bounced back from his sluggish start in Waking Up, and from the cancellation of Doing Something Constructive During the Morning Hours. This sets him up nicely for the afternoon events now. He’s put himself in a good position here; he’s heading in the right direction.

Sound Crew, fade in the optimistic choral ensemble.

The crowd is growing, Marie. It’s getting packed in the apartment now. And here comes the Athlete for the next event, Reading. He looks poised and focused. Let’s see what he can do.
He knows the pressure is on, Bob. He can’t afford any slip-ups for the rest of the day. You can really sense that the crowd is behind him.

Camera Two, zoom in to the couch. Camera Three, zoom out for an overview of the crowded apartment.

The Athlete has picked up a book, Bob. He’s on the couch… and… he’s reading. He’s flipping pages. A good pace here.
Yes, Marie, he’s jumped into this event full steam ahead. My only concern is that he burns himself out. He needs to realize there are several pages to come.
Right, Bob. It looks like he’s slowed a little. No, wait, he’s just re-reading a paragraph. He’s reading normally again now, he may lose a little time from the re-read, but it’s a long book. I don’t think it will affect his final score.

Camera One, pan to the crowd. Find a child with a painted face and zoom in.

He’s still going, Marie. He hasn’t put the book down yet. The big question is: can he finish the book before Tea? It’s going to be close.
He’s a trooper, Bob. We know his weakness is the distance events but he seems buoyed by winning Making Lunch and it looks like he’s really sticking in there. The pages keep flipping. He hasn’t put the book down once. His eyes are focused. He’s fought off the urge to take a nap several times. He just keeps going.

Camera Two, zoom out. And… cut to the short documentary about the Athlete’s sister who has polio, Steve.

And… bring us back, Steve. Give us the image of the face-painted child from Camera One, and then take us to Camera Two, nice, nice…

And he’s done it! He’s finished the book before Tea, Marie! He’s clocked in at just over two hours! This just might be a record! We’ll have to get the guys in the truck to verify this. But nevertheless, he’s come away a winner here!
He’s battled hard, Bob. If he can put a run together for the evening events he still might end up as the Champion. The score now stands: The Athlete Conducting His Life in a Positive Light, two, and The Athlete Showing a Lack of Discipline and Drive, two.

Well, Marie, that’s two events in a row for the Athlete. He’s looking very strong right now, really relaxed.
Yes, Bob, he’s in fine form. But this next event is a big one for him. It requires a lot of concentration. Let’s see if he can find the courage to win Leaving the House to Run Errands.

Camera Three, Camera Four, cue for the street scenes. Steve, prepare the graphic of the route the Athlete will take, and ready…

Well, Marie, it’s about five pm local time and the Athlete is preparing to leave the house. His coat is on. His keys are in his hand.
It looks like there is a delay here, Bob… he’s retying his shoes.
It’s important to make sure the equipment is in working order, Marie.
Right, Bob, this is a distance event. Let’s show our viewers the graphic of the course.

And… bring up the Leaving the House to Run Errands graphic, Steve.

He’s going to start by walking to the Grocery Store to pick up a Pork Chop; then he’s going to return a Movie and, at the same time, he’s going to rent another Movie; once he leaves the Video Store, he’s going to the Beer Store, where he will buy one bottle of Beer, then return home, thus completing the event.
And he’s off, Marie! The door is locked and he’s heading down the street. He’s at a good clip here. There’s a slight wind, but there are no pedestrians in sight.
He’s in the Grocery Store now… and he’s stuck behind a trio of elderly people… but he finds an escape near the Produce Department and it’s clear sailing now. That was close, Bob!
Another near disaster, Marie! There is a man the Athlete knows filling out a losing lottery ticket for the second chance draw. What’s he going to do about this? Oh, he’s done well, Marie, he’s lowered his head and gone down a different aisle. And it looks like he’s picked up Toothpaste. This wasn’t in the cards, Marie. I can’t fathom why he’d pick up Toothpaste!

Steve, give us a still-shot of the Known Man and a tube of Toothpaste.

This is unexpected, Bob, but perhaps sensing a potential lengthy conversation with the Known Man he’s compensated by going down another aisle and picking up the Toothpaste. He hasn’t lost any time, and the Toothpaste aisle takes him straight to the Deli.
Good analysis, Marie. And you’re right: he’s lost no time. He has his pork chop now…
…At the cash register, Bob. He’s keeping it tight. He’s having no conversation with the cashier, just “Hello” and “Thank you,” quick and easy. This is great stuff from the Athlete.

Steve, I want a slow motion replay of the Athlete smiling at the Cashier as he turns to leave.

Leaving the Grocery Store, approaching the Video Store… he’s dropped the Movie on the counter and has gone straight for Tootsie. He seems to know what he’s looking for, Marie. This is a great piece of advanced planning on his part.
And what a stroke of luck, Bob! The Overly Chatty Video Store Clerk is talking to the Owner of the Video Store. It looks like another quick transaction!
And he’s out, Marie; he’s on his way to the Beer Store. He’s left the Video Store with just the one quick comment to the Overly Chatty Video Store Clerk: “And that’s why I wear the scarf.”

Bring up the sequence of images showing the Athlete as a child playing in the snow wearing a scarf, Steve.

The Beer Store is empty, Bob, another stroke of luck. He’s going straight to the back where the Tall Single Beers are; he’s picked up a Lowenbrau. He’s doing a price check here, Bob. This is wonderful.
Oh, no! What’s he doing, Marie? He’s put the Lowenbrau back! He’s looked up; he’s grabbed a Taller, More Expensive Beer. It’s nearly twice the price!
Let me show you on the telestrator. You can see it here, right here. Out of the corner of his eye he sees the Taller, More Expensive Beer. Freeze it, Bob. You can see him rationalizing, making a split second decision. There was no going back from that point. Could the fancy labeling have thrown him off? We might never know, Bob.
You’re right, Marie.
The Athlete makes yet another quick transaction at the cashier, Bob. He’s well under his targeted time, and adjusting for wind and pedestrians, there is no reason he shouldn’t come in under an hour.

Camera Three, get a front profile of the stretch walk. Camera Four, go with the back profile. Steve, alternate between the two to create the illusion of speed and urgency.

And here’s the finish, the key is in the door, the clock stops and… it’s a record! It’s another record, Marie! Fifty-five minutes and eleven seconds. This is outstanding! He’s avoided meaningless conversations and pedestrians, and compensated for wind. The only blemishes on this near perfect performance being the purchase of Toothpaste and the Taller, More Expensive Beer!

He’s up three-two now, Bob. He needs a win in the last event, the Shower. A tie is not an option. It will null the day. It’s almost worse than a loss for the Athlete. At least in losing one can contemplate what went wrong, make adjustments. A tie will just reinforce the unfortunate repetitious and stagnate pattern in the Athlete’s game.

Steve, cue the camera in the local pub of the Athlete’s hometown. Sound Crew, start the beat of a kick drum in four-four time… in four, three, two, one…

Welcome back folks to the final event of the day, the Shower. There is definitely energy in the apartment tonight. Anticipation is high. And the crowd is on their feet. A win here would score the Athlete a four-two victory on the day. It’s all come down to this, one of the Athlete’s marquee events. And it looks like the officials are in place and everything is set to go.
I don’t see the Athlete, Bob. He’s nowhere to be seen with the event only moments away.

No dead air, Steve. Fill it with crowd shots.

Here he comes, Marie, through the front door! And it looks as if he’s gone for a bike ride. Yes, he’s bringing in the bike! What a great method of preparation for the Shower! I don’t believe it! What guile! He’s covered in sweat, Marie! His hair is a mess!
This is extraordinary, Bob! He’s down the hallway to the kitchen now. He drinks a glass of Chocolate Milk. And he’s in to the bedroom. The clothes are off, Bob. Nothing is stopping him here. He’s in full flight. He’s got the towel; he’s off to the bathroom!
He’s focused, Marie. He has that Steely Eyed Look of a Champion. He’s running the water now, and… the Shower starts… and… the Athlete is in the Shower, Marie … and he’s tilting his head back, his hair is wet, and now he applies the shampoo… he’s whipped up a strong lather, he’s rubbing vigorously and… the soap is out of his hair, and now he moves on to… to… to… my God, Marie, he’s picked up the toothbrush and the TOOTHPASTE! He’s brushing his teeth! What a play by the Athlete! We doubted the purchase of the Toothpaste at the Grocery Store but we’ve certainly underestimated the Athlete! We never saw this coming! Surely he can’t be caught now! And the toothbrush is away and he’s covered himself in bodywash and he’s scrubbing furiously with the loofah, and we’re on the homestretch now, Marie and… the Shower is off! And he’s out of the Shower now and he’s toweling down, first the hair, then the arms and legs, and now the shimmy down the back!

Camera Two, get water on the lens. Steve, bring up Camera Two.

He hangs up the towel and walks out into the apartment completely naked, he’s full of confidence, and he’s into the bedroom, and… the socks and the underwear are on, Bob, it’s coming together in rapid fashion and… and… now the shirt, the shirt is on, and here come the pants, when the belt is buckled it’s all over… and… and… and… he’s done, he’s completed the Shower by dressing himself and buckling his belt and this is just incredible, he’s won, he’s won, the crowd is going wild, the Athlete is pumping his fists, he might be crying, the noise in here is deafening, I can barely hear myself, this a day to remember, Bob, a day to tell our children about and our children’s children to tell their children about, and the Athlete is taking a lap, waving to the adoring fans, taking it all in, and now he pops the top of the Taller, More Expensive Beer and sprays it around in a circle, and the crowd is soaking it up, and he raises the Taller, More Expensive Beer to his mouth and this, Bob, is the true mark of a Champion who knows how to live his life!

Steve, show Camera Three of the crowd, capture his parents crying. Now, bring in Camera Two and the shot of the Athlete in the hallway hugging an unknown female. And now pan to the camera in the pub of the Athlete’s hometown and the frantic cheering of a former baseball coach and several locals all telling each other how they used to know the Athlete. Sound Crew, play that Queen song.

He deserves this, Marie, it’s been a long day, with the disastrous performance in Waking Up and the cancellation of Doing Something Constructive During the Morning Hours, but he’s come back with a strong showing in Making Lunch, showed grit and determination through Reading and Leaving the House to Run Errands, even with the surprising purchase of the Toothpaste, which at the time we thought odd and unnecessary, but he was ahead of us Marie, he had a game plan today and he brought the Toothpaste into the Shower and brushed his teeth there and he’s won it all, Marie, and I can tell, from the pandemonium in this apartment, that there are going be some wild celebrations tonight!

Steve, Sound Crew, bring up the black and white montage of former competitors celebrating to the frantic commentary of their victorious moments while a chorus of orphans sing “We are the World” slightly out of tune in the background.

All Cameras zoom out. Sound Crew, slowly fade out the orphans… keep fading, keep fading, slower, slower, and… Steve… roll credits.


words: William Farrant

portrait: Freyja Zazu