Tyler Hollinger works at the talent agency, and he interacts with A-Listers. Sometimes the A-Listers drop by in the late afternoon when the regular folks have abandoned the roads to work their jobs. The A-Listers are unaccustomed to ARRIVE BY 9 LEAVE AT 6. Tyler Hollinger keeps his timesheet discreetly placed in a drawer behind stacks of expense reports, as if he’s a salaried employee. As if he’s like the A-Listers, unbound by earthly clocks and hourly wages. He keeps the mini-fridge loaded with Diet Coke for the A-Listers, in case the A-Listers deem fit to ask for one, despite the fact Tyler Hollinger pays for his soda himself.
But the A-Listers don’t drink soda in the late afternoons. The A-Listers favor Pellegrino and Vitamin Water, Evian, and occasionally, fresh apple juice. The A-Listers are presumptuous. The A-Listers are demanding. The A-Listers are A-Listers.
Tyler Hollinger can see the A-Listers approaching from his cubicle, where he slaves over shifting appointment calendars and phonesheet records. The A-Listers pull up in Bentleys blue and glittering, giant wheels shining like polished chrome does. They’re wide and tall, these vehicles the A-Listers own, and untarnished. No one’s ever spilled a milkshake on the seats of cars owned by the A-Listers. Empty McDonald’s bags and taco wraps are nowhere to be seen – along with Mountain Dew bottles and crumpled tissues – on the floormats of the A-Listers. If they are, they were placed there by the A-Listers.
He tucks in his shirt when he observes the A-Listers approach, and puts out mineral water and pretzels. He organizes his desk and straightens chairs, awaiting the A-Listers. And when the A-Listers emerge from the elevator, he rises from his chair, palm offered in honorific handshake. But the grips of the A-Listers are weak, bereft of interest, without care. Tyler Hollinger shakes the hands of the A-Listers as if he’d milk the success from their palms. The fingers of the A-Listers are slender and pale, like unripened bananas. Tyler Hollinger offers chairs to the A-Listers. He offers Diet Coke. The A-Listers pass on both with one smooth motion of their slender pale hands. The A-Listers often wear expensive jewelry on their wrists. Most of the A-Listers wear gold watches. Some of the A-Listers wear diamonds dangling from their earlobes. A number of the A-Listers, particularly the older A-Listers, have been surgically augmented. The A-Listers can afford a little plastic upkeep. With their A-Lister clothes removed, most of the A-Listers are all saggy beneath their necks.
The A-Listers live too lavishly. The A-Listers are spoiled. The A-Listers are catered to by the less fortunate, who want to be A-Listers. To Tyler Hollinger, who isn’t an A-Lister, the A-Listers are role models to aspire to, beacons of success that must be worked towards. The A-Listers, for example, are always off traveling.
Tyler Hollinger adjusts the climate control panel next to his cubicle, as the A-Listers are getting hot. He offers Diet Coke again. The A-Listers decline. The A-Listers have only a few minutes to offer. They must leave their schedules in the earnest hands of Tyler Hollinger and leave for whatever wealth building opportunity they have next. Just once Tyler Hollinger would like to go on a trip like the A-Listers do, and experience the things they do, and sleep with the women the A-Listers sleep with. He often ponders about the sex lives of A-Listers. He imagines how the A-Listers meet women. Do the A-Listers post ads on websites? Do the A-Listers peruse the parties thrown by other A-Listers, on the off chance of discovering young and naive starlets? Or do the A-Listers pay people to coordinate their sex lives? Just how do A-Listers flirt in a lounge with only strangers about? Do the A-Listers say, “Do you know who I am?” and leave it at that? Or do the A-Listers slide masterfully into a discussion with talk of movies and fame? Are the A-Listers insane? Do the A-Listers have weird sexual proclivities? Can the A-Listers ever be romantic? Do the A-Listers have sex every day? Watch funny TV shows? Eat drive-thru? Purchase their own alcohol? Clean their own dishes? Are the A-Listers so alien to everyone else?
He doesn’t think so. He knows they’re only A-Listers. And if someday, miraculously, he could be an A-Lister, as well, he realizes he’d be exactly the same as them. He realizes he’d be invited to their gala premieres. Driven to their house parties. Summoned from the cavernous interior of his own massive vacuous sweet mansion to lie on the sofas of other A-Listers and relive funny stories, of which he has a great number in easy supply. He realizes the A-Listers aren’t unlike him. They’re not another species, another strain, another model. They don’t breathe different air.
Tyler Hollinger has many script copies. He distributes them amongst the A-Listers, as a man would a tray of food. He has all the resources of his agency at his disposal, like the A-Listers, and he can coordinate plans through the sleek black headset that rests on his desk. He can ship the A-Listers to any distant or local location on the planet with mastered taps of his fingertips. He can book suites, views, passports, American Express cards, restaurant reservations, arrange scuba-diving licenses, hire trainers, bodyguards, photographers, escorts, translators, drivers, landscapers, reserve towncars, book plane tickets, confirm traffic conditions, pay bills, check social media trends, locate a pizza delivery options, confirm, cancel, accept, or deny. With his headset, with the sign off of the A-Listers, he is as the A-Listers. He’s their tool, their asset, their surrogate. He’s all an A-Lister desires him to be.
But sometimes he worries the A-Listers look down on him. Sometimes he worries the A-Listers believe that just maybe they’re slightly better than he is. The A-Listers are always heading to fancy dinners and film festivals. The A-Listers put their kids in their movies and buy houses for their cousins. He’s aware the A-Listers have pool tables and screening rooms. He considers how the A-Listers would react if he came calling at their house one evening in a storm. Would the A-Listers offer him shelter? Would they open the gates and bid him come inside for warmth? Or would they dispatch an armed guard on him? The A-Listers are fickle.
The A-Listers don’t consider budgets at furniture stores or seek out sales. The A-Listers are successful enough to pay people to handle this on their behalf, who, as an agent for the A-Lister, don’t feel at all required to consider budgets. No, the A-Listers have their belongings purchased for them by staff whose directions don’t include budget limitations.
Tyler Hollinger, living on a budget, is very aware that chicken breasts at five ninety-nine per pound are less expensive than cuts of salmon at eight ninety-nine per pound, and despite the fact he greatly prefers seafood to poultry, Tyler Hollinger must purchase chicken because he isn’t like the A-Listers. In that he’s not wealthy. He supposes the A-Listers consume only organic cutlets and fresh roughage. The A-Listers are unaware of the cost of a salmon filet. The A-Listers have no need for such information.
How wonderful Tyler Hollinger imagines this must be, to exist in a world so elevated above the day to day concerns of the species. The A-Listers, for example, never have to change garbage bags. The A-Listers never have to take the bus. The A-Listers have never broken down on the highway due to a cracked catalytic converter in their ’93 Volvo 240. Or put on gardening gloves, refueled the mower, and clipped the backyard. They’ve never coughed and wheezed in dirt on their A-Lister backs with bugs marching over their skin as they fix leaks in the crawlspace. The A-Listers have it good.
The A-Listers are speaking now. The A-Listers are going for a trip again. Turks & Caicos? Bali? The A-Listers have no understanding of money. They’ve never purchased a phone or a purse on credit. They owe nothing to Marshall’s. Their coddled son’s retainer was paid for in cash. The A-Listers have perfect credit which they don’t require. Also, the A-Listers have never unplugged stopped up toilets and witnessed for themselves the terrors found there.
It seems that the A-Listers are meeting other A-Listers in May at Cannes. From there they’ll sail to Monaco. The dolphins will frolic alongside them in the early mornings. The A-Listers will surely pose beside them with polished teeth. The A-Listers have never done anything malicious. The A-Listers will go to Malawi in Africa, where starved children fill the streets with their emaciated bodies. The A-Listers have never missed an opportunity for philanthropy. The A-Listers don’t rough it. The A-Listers have never been inside an RV.
Tyler Hollinger has fantasies about being an A-Lister. He buys Powerball tickets at AM/PM. He drives over there and buys two tickets, every draw. Any one of them could hit. This isn’t his only strategy. He also plays Megamillions and buys scratchers. But he doesn’t check the numbers on the lottery tickets. Not unless it’s announced someone has won in his area. He has this strange notion that the people who actually check their tickets or watch the balls be picked never win, but he has no evidence to support this. He has no reason to believe this theory. It isn’t rational for him to believe this. It’s a superstition that’s yet to be identified.
The A-Listers want their concerns to be addressed right away. They’ve organized their priorities. The A-Listers have tennis to play at four o’clock. Tyler Hollinger has begun to take lessons on Saturdays and purchased appropriate attire for tennis playing. He observes the coverage of the U.S. Open and scrutinizes their serves and backhands.
The A-Listers are saying something else now. The A-Listers want to know which credit card Tyler Hollinger needs. The A-Listers can retrieve their Mastercard, etc., whenever necessary. The A-Listers are identified and monitored in databases all over the planet. The net worth of the A-Listers can be confirmed in a heartbeat.
Tyler Hollinger has taken care of the necessary paperwork. He’s taken down all the relevant details. He’s been useful, pleasant, deferential, kind, accurate, friendly, obedient, charming, disarming, and happy. He’s interacted with the A-Listers as they’re used to. There’s no trace of resentment or jealousy. But deep down, in the recessed areas of his mind where his true feelings live, he despises the A-Listers. What he’d really want to do is take a shotgun to the A-Listers. Bring down the A-Listers. He’d enjoy seeing the monstrous estates of the A-Listers razed, their families running about shrieking. He’d enjoy seeing the A-Listers depressed, deflated, reduced to groveling. He’d enjoy seeing the A-Listers live on the street. He’d enjoy seeing the A-Listers on welfare, or under arrest. Jailed for smoking meth. Arrested for driving under the influence. He’d enjoy seeing the A-Listers be put through everything he endured that their wealth could cure.
But he’s aware this will never happen. He’s aware that the A-Listers can’t be broke, that everyone else will never be A-Listers. He’s ashamed of himself for being so gracious to the A-Listers. He knows the A-Listers don’t care. The A-Listers simply are used to it. The A-Listers have become inured to it. He doesn’t think the A-Listers are even aware of it.
He says none of this to the A-Listers. He wishes he could, but he can’t. The A-Listers might stop conducting business with his agency. Tyler Hollinger consumes the A-Listers. He laps at their blood, licking it, bit by bit to salve his dreams, a few minutes per serving, and never enough to quell his desire, quench his thirst.
The A-Listers are departing now. They’re easing onto their plush leather seats, pressing the ignition buttons all over the planet that start powerful engines growling like hungry beasts. Their yachts are berthed and polished with tri-layer wax. Their private planes are being refueled and taxied into their hangars. They’re filets are being basted with butter, their foie gras being laid amongst pickled pears.
Tyler Hollinger smiles at the A-Listers as they drive away from the curb. But the A-Listers don’t smile back.