The “applause” sign flashed, the audience cheered, and the show’s dueling banjos theme song blasted while the emcee’s voice thundered throughout the sound stage. “National healthcare, immigration, gay marriage, gun control, abortion, welfare, taxation, and more. One thing’s certain: our country’s divided. Everything’s black or white, and everyone’s seeing red!”
The in-studio audience jumped to its feet and cheered louder.
“Welcome to this week’s episode of the most important game show in the United States, a competition designed to make important decisions our country’s pig-headed leaders couldn’t. Where liberals and conservatives face off in a contest that ultimately decides government policy for the next twelve months. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to plaayyy…”
Drumroll, cymbal crashing, crowd cheering, feet stomping…the overhead prompters flashed the catch phrase, and everyone—waving fists above heads—chanted with the announcer, “I’m Right! You’re Wrong!”
“Here’s your host, Draaaaaake Annnnnzoooooo!”
The crowd clapped, hooped, and hollered as the former 90s nighttime soap star and heartthrob, Drake Anzo, emerged from stage left and jogged to his position center stage.
“I love you Drake!” A middle-aged woman screamed while another slingshot a pair of panties at the game show host.
Barely dodging the slightly soiled XXL pink thong headed straight for his face, Drake yelled, “Cut! You stupid idiots! CUT!”
Sage, Drake’s personal assistant, trotted to him. “Water?” She offered a bottle of his favorite sparkling beverage, fortified with electrolytes mined from a special spring in France, known for its mythical healing powers.
Drake slapped the bottle from Sage’s hand, causing it to sail through the air before smacking cameraman #1 upside the head. Cameraman #2 snorted and said, “Cleanup on aisle five.” Cameraman #1 gave him the finger. An intern dropped to his knees and soaked up the water via the Moisture Magnet Miracle Drying Towel manufactured by Sahara Industries, a show sponsor.
“Get her outta here!” Drake pointed to the thong-slinging woman. “For crissakes, did anyone prep the audience?”
“I did,” the television audience coordinator squeaked behind coke-bottle glasses.
Drake spun on his heel, pointed a well-manicured finger in her face, and bellowed, “You’re fired!” He stomped off the set, Sage’s feet clip-clopping in tow.
“For crying out loud.” The show’s director rubbed his temples as a tension headache throbbed.
Two hours later.
“Roll!” the director announced, and the entire opening shebang started for the umpteenth time.
Drake Anzo stood between the two opposing team captains, their right hands beside buzzers on the podium. Reading from an index card, Drake said, “One hundred people surveyed, top five answers on the screen. Name a color—”
Buzz! “Red!” The Mason family matriarch yelled.
Bong! An emaciated bleached blonde gal with triple-D breast implants poured into a sequined ball gown, hit the gong to indicate the wrong answer. Drake winked at the gal and she blew him a kiss. “Thanks, Trixie.”
Drake turned to the snaggle-toothed contestant dressed in a revealing blue tube top. “Krystal, you may’ve jumped the gun.”
She shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “Sorry, Drake. I’m just so nervous. I’m sweating like a whore in church.” The audience laughed. Krystal raised her arm and used the opposite hand to fan her hairy armpit.
Drake winced. “Lemme finish the question. Name a color that’s also the name of a fruit.”
The Dixon family patriarch dressed in a business suit accessorized with a red silk ascot, hit his buzzer. “Orange,” he said.
Drake turned to the screen and yelled, “Orange!” Orange appeared, accompanied by a cheerful little sound effect.
“Excellent, Richard. Are you going to play or pass?”
Richard turned to his family whose members jumped up and down, and screamed, “We’ll play! We’ll play!”
Richard cleared his throat and said to Drake, “We’ll play.”
Drake followed Richard stage right where the Dixon family stood behind a long counter. “So, Richard, tell me about your family.”
Richard cleared his throat and said, “I’m an attorney, a church deacon, and have one of the lowest golf handicaps at Thurston Meadows Country Club.”
“Well, aren’t you something,” Drake said.
“I certainly like to thing so. I work hard, Drake. Extremely hard.”
“Introduce your family, Richard. Who’s the pretty lady standing beside you?” Drake winked at the petite middle-aged woman.
“My wife, Elizabeth, organizes our county’s debutante balls and teaches Sunday school.” Elizabeth smiled shyly and fingered her pearl necklace. “Our lovely daughter, Scarlett, works with the Civil War Reenactment Commission to ensure historical accuracy, a vital job in today’s society where the bleeding-heart liberals want to rewrite history and—”
“I’ve got to move this along, Richard. Finish introducing your family members.”
Richard looked down his nose at Drake, and continued. “Then we have, Melanie, finishing up her senior year in college, and James, an officer in the U.S. Air Force.”
“Impressive family, Dick.”
“Actually, I go by Richard.”
“You look like a Dick.” The audience laughed at Drake’s joke. “I’m just pulling your leg, Richard.” Drake looked at the camera and mouthed, “No I’m not.”
Richard cleared his throat and said, “We’re all employed, educated, and productive members of society, unlike some people.” He shot a nasty look at the family on the left side of the stage.
“What the f—BLEEP!” came a voice from the Mason side of the stage.
Offstage, the director took a gulp straight from the Extra Strength Pepto-Bismol bottle. His assistant dabbed the perspiration from his forehead.
“Mm-kay,” Drake said. “What are you playing for today?”
“National healthcare abolition. If the country’s deadbeats quit getting high and drunk, and instead worked jobs, then they’d be healthier and have their own employer-provided health insurance.”
“But what if they don’t or can’t?” Drake asked.
Richard raised an eyebrow. “Natural selection, Drake. Natural selection.”
“You’d be surprised how fast someone can obtain employment if provided the proper motivation. It’s time we put an end to deadbeats sucking on the taxpayer’s teat!”
“But what if there aren’t enough jobs to go around?” Drake asked.
“There would be if we shipped all the illegal aliens back to where they belong.”
The audience on the right side of the theater cheered, the other half booed.
“Well, that’s a issue we’ll debate on another episode.”
“Good.” Richard said. Drake rolled his eyes. The show’s director dry-swallowed a Xanax.
Drake shuffled to the next family member, Elizabeth. “One hundred people surveyed, top five answers on the board. Name a color that’s also the name of a fruit.”
“Well…um…let’s see…the Thurston Meadows Country Club always has the most divine selection of in-season fruits, and there’s one in particular that I find absolutely phenomenal—”
Bong! Trixie hit the gong. Elizabeth took too long to answer the question and earned a strike.
A Mason family member looked at the audience and yelled, “It’s probably some exotic fruit nobody’s heard of, grown in a jungle, picked by child laborers, and flown halfway across the world in gas-guzzling jets.”
“Why, I never!” Elizabeth clutched her pearls.
Drake moved to the next Dixon family member, Scarlett. She gazed at the host with beautiful blue eyes, prompting a pleasant sensation in his nether region. While he took a moment to compose himself, Scarlett said, “Apricot.”
He turned to the screen, yelled, “Apricot,” and the word lit up the screen. Dixon family members jumped up and down and clapped.
“Excellent,” Drake said. He moved to the next contestant. “Now Miss Melanie, name a color that’s also a fruit.
James answered “strawberry” and received the family’s second strike.
It was up to Richard to provide a correct answer or the Mason family would get a shot. “Peach.” Peach was correct. The family jumped up and down and clapped. The right side of the audience cheered.
Drake approached Elizabeth once again. “One more correct answer and your family will win this round. Name a color that’s also the name of a fruit.”
“Well now, let’s see…in preparation for every debutante ball, I insist the head chef, Milton Le Blanc…Ever heard of him?…No?…He won a Michelin Star, for goodness’ sake. Well, anyway, I make certain Chef Le Blanc understands I will not tolerate anything but colorful, low calorie fruits that are gentle on the girls’ digestive systems, and—”
Bong! Trixie hit the gong. Once again, Elizabeth took too long to answer the question and earned a strike for the Dixon family.
The Mason family fist-pumped each other and dispersed from their huddle.
Drake jogged to the left side of the stage. “Okay, you have a chance to win this round.” He approached team captain and family matriarch, Krystal.
“We’re gonna say Kiwi,” she said, mouth-breathing a millimeter from the microphone.
Mason family members nodded, clapped, and yelled, “Good answer! Good answer!”
Drake pointed to the screen. “Survey says…” Ding! “Olive,” he announced.
Face red with rage, Krystal yelled, “What the hell, ya mean ‘olive’? Olive isn’t a fruit!”
“Ever hear of olive drab?” James Dixon said from across the stage. “Guess not, since it would never occur to you greasy deadbeats to actually serve your country. Just let others do the hard work.” Dixon family members nodded in agreement.
“Why don’t you shut the f—BLEEP up!” bellowed Krystal.
Drake loosened his collar a tad, and said, “Okay, simmer down, folks.”
The show’s emcee announced, “Actually, ladies and gentlemen, according to Wikipedia, the olive is a fruit similar to a cherry or plum.”
“Of course it is,” Elizabeth Dixon said. She turned to her husband. “Richard, remember the delightful olives we ate whilst in Istanbul?”
“Indeed. They were divine, simply divine.” Richard nodded.
“Will you shut up?” Krystal yelled. “Why isn’t the answer something normal, like plum? Plum makes more damn sense than olive. Olive! You’ve got to be kidding me. Who’d they survey? A bunch of olive-eating douchbags from the Thurston Meadows Country Club?”
Nerves shot to hell, Drake ran backstage to take a bong hit during the commercial break.
The audience cheered as Doobie Mason and Scarlett Dixon stood at the buzzer podium.
Drake read from the television prompter. “One hundred men surveyed, top three answers on the board. Name something you’d rather do than visit your in-laws.”
Doobie beat Scarlett to the buzzer. “Anything.” The entire audience laughed.
Drake pointed to the screen. “Anything!” Bong! Doobie struck out.
“Scarlett?” Drake turned to her. “Name something you’d rather do than visit your in-laws.”
“I don’t have in-laws.”
“Just answer the question as if you did.”
“Have lunch at the club?”
Drake yelled, “Have lunch at the club!” Bong! Scarlett earned a strike.
“Back to you, Doobie,” Drake said.
“Get drunk!” Doobie bellowed. Both sides of the audience cheered. For once in recent U.S. history, both sides agreed on that subject.
“Get drunk,” Drake said, facing the screen.
“Get drunk” lit up the screen. The Mason family jumped up and down and cheered.
“And the Mason family wins this round!” Drake and Doobie walked to the left side of the stage.
“So, Mama Krystal, introduce us to your family,” Drake said.
Krystal put her arm around Doobie. “This is my son, Doobie. He’s currently between jobs on account of his company closing the plant and moving all the jobs to Mexico where they pay those poor people something like one peso a day. That’s why so many of those poor things risk their lives to cross the border and why the immigration policy must—”
“Okay, moving right along,” Drake said. “Who’s the lovely lady beside him?”
“That’s my daughter, Charity. She’s a stay at home Mama on account a she’s got three kids, and not a damn one of the f—BLEEP—ing sperm donors wanted to marry her. The cost of childcare outweighs any salary she’d earn.”
“Ever hear of telecommuting?” Richard Dixon said from across the stage. “It’s where you work from home. Lots of people do it.”
Ignoring the barb, Charity concentrated on Drake and ran her pierced tongue along her lips in a seductive manner. “Hey, Drake.”
Krystal continued with the introductions. “Then beside Charity there’s Stone. He’s assistant manager at Burger Bonanza located right down Cedar Boulevard across from Teller Automotive. Nobody can make enough money getting paid minimum wage so he supplements his income by selling met—”
“MAMA!” Stone screamed. “Shut your f—BLEEP—ing mouth.”
“It’s the Republican’s fault, son. You aren’t doing anything The Man hasn’t forced you to do.”
Drake interrupted, “And saving the best for last, who’s this lovely lady?”
A morbidly obese woman, sitting on a motorized scooter and breathing with the assistance of supplemental oxygen, waved at the studio audience. “That’s my sister, Grace.” Grace smiled at Drake while Krystal said, “Grace is really smart.”
“What does she do?” Drake asked.
“Eat!” yelled an audience member from the right side.
“She’s on disability on account a her health issues.”
The audience on the right booed. Someone threw a half-eaten sandwich at the Mason family.
Through clenched teeth, Krystal explained, “Grace developed mesothelioma after growing up in a building full of asbestos and covered in lead paint.”
“So why’s she so fat?” James Dixon asked from across the stage.
“She’s in remission!” Krystal screamed.
“And collecting enough disability to eat herself into a three hundred pound financial drain on the taxpayers.”
“Why don’t you shut up?” Krystal growled.
“Truth hurts, doesn’t it?” James looked down his nose at her.
“CUT!” The director bellowed. An intern ran onstage, grabbed the sandwich, and cleaned mayonnaise smeared on the stage with the Moisture Magnet Miracle Drying Towel, available at a store near you!
A haggard-looking Drake Anzo mustered up the last of his energy. “With both families tied for the lead, we’ll do a Sudden Death Round.” Drake addressed Stone and Melanie. “One hundred people surveyed, top answer on the board. Name a four-legged animal.”
Melanie buzzed in a split second before Stone. “Mink.”
“What the…oh, never mind.” Drake rolled his eyes. “Do I see ‘mink’?” Gong!
Drake turned to Stone. “Dog,” he answered.
“Dog” lit up the screen.
Drake smiled. “The Mason family wins! The national healthcare system will continue for the next twelve months!”
Richard Dixon muttered, “I need a cocktail.” His wife looked faint and their son bit his fist.
The Mason family jumped around the stage, fist bumping each other. Grace whizzed in circles in her motorized scooter furnished to her free of charge, courtesy of Medicaid. “Woo-eee!” The left side of the audience roared in celebration. Their side won!
“Settle down, everyone, settle down. We still have the Bonus Round Coin Flip. Welfare yeah or neigh? Heads yeah, tails neigh.” Sage trotted on stage and presented to Drake the Official Bonus Round Coin placed atop a red, white, and blue velvet pillow.
Drake flipped the coin; it sailed high in the air, and landed on tails. The right side of the audience cheered and high-fived. “Welfare abolished!” Drake announced.
“Ah, hell,” Charity muttered.
Reporters from all the national news media tweeted the results.
Drake spoke over the show’s theme song, “Next week we’ll have the Corbett family versus the Roth family deciding another hotbed issue. Illegal aliens: ship them back or let them stay? Tune in tomorrow where issues our government couldn’t resolve in years get decided in a mere half hour program complete with commercial interruptions!”
Drake waved goodbye and the credits rolled.
Margi Morin Desmond