Merrick Kirk admired himself in the mirror once again. His hair dresser had done a fantastic job and his unusually wavy hair was neatly combed back with copious amounts of hair gel. His agent had insisted that he retain the goatee that had become synonymous with his last on-screen character, Robert Lance. “I look dashing!” he thought as he smoothened out his beard. “Now, where was Marcus with that William Westmancott suit?” he wondered as he started prancing up and down the dressing room. This was his day, and he wouldn’t let anyone, much less Marcus spoil it for him. Glancing at the watch again, Merrick sunk down into the sofa next to the dressing table. Marcus was late and he was going to pay for it. Marcus Driskoll rushed up the famous Rodeo Drive, clutching the ridiculously expensive suit in one hand and a boxed pair of Berluti handmade shoes in the other. As he waited for the pedestrian crossing to turn green, he looked at his watch. He was meant to have been back 40 minutes ago. He knew that although the fault lay with the shoe-maker, Merrick would put the blame onto Marcus, without so much as batting an eyelid. “If he cared so much about time, he should have sent me with the car and the driver. Instead I get to run around like a headless chicken and have less than 30 minutes to get everything sorted. Well he can wait. " thought Marcus as he crossed the road. He could now feel the sweat beads start to run down the nape of his neck and he was sure that there were dark patches under the armpits of the navy blue shirt that he wore under his suit. “I miss the old Merrick” he thought as he covered the last few miles to the iconic hotel that Merrick was staying at - The Beverely Wilshire.
Merrick and Marcus had been best friends since their elementary school days. Hence it came as no surprise to either of their parents, when they’d both announced that they wanted to go to the same college in New York. Merrick’s parents, as always, had no objection. They had given him a free rein and were happy as long as he kept out of trouble. And with his father’s real estate business booming, money was not an issue. The same wasn’t true of the Driskolls. Though not poor, the Driskolls weren’t that well off either. Mr Driskoll had his own garage where as Mrs. Driskoll was a teacher at Blue Hill Primary. Despite the fact that they would have to tighten their purse strings a bit, they still let Marcus join the same college as Merrick.
College life was a breeze for both the youngsters. And then Merrick had been offered his break as the second lead in George Calib movie, alongside the talented Alexander Richard. The role had come by as a pleasant surprise for Merrick, who had been the regular lead at all the shows that were being enacted by the local Drama and Arts club. But it had been Marcus who’d pushed Merrick to give the role a shot. He’d even prepped his lines with him and drove Merrick all the way to Los Angeles for the audition. So once Merrick was offered the role, he demanded that Marcus be taken on board as his own Personal Manager. The movie had been a huge hit and success had arrived overnight for Merrick. He soon replaced the likes of Alexander Richards and became one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood. And Marcus too had enjoyed in the shadow of his friend’s success - the parties, the stylish apartments, the first-class travel, the girls and of course the money.
But this almost instant-stardom had brought about drastic changes in Merrick and Marcus was still struggling to cope with his new attitude. Merrick had become extremely conceited and had no respect for other people or their time. It seemed like success had gone to his head. Everytime Marcus had tried to broach this topic, Merrick had gone on the defensive and just pushed him away. “People like me, in spite of all this. They pay money to watch my movies and they throng the streets whenever they hear rumours that I’ll be visiting. Why should I bother being so humble? They love me the way I am” he’d said. And to add insult to injury, Merrick had even accused Marcus of having “being-sidelined" syndrome. His exact words were “You are just nitpicking because you are successful because of me. You’re just jealous because people notice me and not you. If it wasn’t for me, you’d probably be back home running your Dad’s garage. We’re friends, but remember who pays your bills too!” . For the sake of their friendship, Marcus knew that he should have just quit his job then. However the Golden Globe Awards were just around the corner and Merrick’s last role as a tough NYPD cop had acquired rave reviews and the rumour mill was working overtime with almost everyone saying that he was in with a chance of winning the prestigious award, which was a pre-cursor to the inimitable Academy Awards. Marcus knew that if he quit at this point, Merrick would be in real trouble as there was no one else who better knew his schedule and requirements than him. So he’d played along and decided to announce his decision to leave once the ceremony was done.
As Marcus pressed the elevator button for the Presidential suite, he took note of his dishevelled appearance in the elevator mirror. His favourite Armani suit was now crinkled from having to carry too many things. His dark-tanned Tanino Crisci Lilian shoes now had streaks of white paint and dust from all the running about from the afternoon. Oh how he hated Merrick ! As he entered the presidential suite, he noticed that Merrick had fallen asleep on the sofa next to his dressing table. He hung Merrick’s suit in the cupboard and placed the box of shoes on the table. And then he proceeded to wake up Merrick.
“…You’re late! I knew I should have asked someone useful to go. You are trying to undermine me on purpose. You know that I hate being late and now because of you, I’m going to be. Did you at least get the right stuff?” yelled Merrick as Marcus woke him up from his nap. “Well, you can always make a fashionably late entrance” chided Marcus in response. Throwing up an obscene gesture with his hand, Merrick walked away to the washroom to freshen up. As he shut the door, he said “Marcus, at least make sure the car’s ready and downstairs in 30 minutes. Do something right!”
Marcus frowned and walked over to the french windows that looked out into Rodeo drive. The man had everything and yet he seemed to have lost his manners somewhere. Instead of thanking him for getting everything sorted at such short notice, he’d just had a go at him. “And once he's dressed up for the occasion, he’s going to get even more cocky. One day when he’s all dressed up wearing that smug attitude on his face, I wish I could throw a rotten tomato at him. That’ll bring him down to earth!” he mused as he rang the concierge desk to send for the car - A 2013 Rolls Royce Phantom. “The perks of being a celebrity” thought Marcus as he hung up.
As the elegant pearl white Rolls Royce Phantom drove up the hotel driveway, Merrick could hear the roars and cheers from the people gathered around the hotel. “That’s for me. They are cheering for me!” he thought. He could feel his pulse starting to race. He straightened his expensive white suit and prepared to exit the car. He needed to make this entrance. This was the beginning of even better things and he could not falter. “I’ll slowly get out of the car, look around, give a curt wave and a dry smile and then walk up the Red Carpet” he thought as the car came to a halt. He noticed that next to him, Marcus was fervently tapping his legs and wiping his palms on his suit trousers. “Marcus, get out and open the door for me. It’s time for me to get out!” said Merrick.
Marcus looked at him in shock. “But that’s not your Manager’s job. They have people for that!” he said. “ But I want you to open the door for me. So just get out and do what I ask you to do!” yelled Merrick. Teeming with anger, Marcus exited the car and walked around to the other side. And then he opened the door. Merrick exited the car in absolute celebrity fashion showing off his recently-whitened teeth, offering a curt wave of the hand as a way of acknowledgement and his gold-rimmed Ray Ban aviators reflecting the sparkling lights from the photographers. And then he started to walk - slowly and purposefully, making sure that all the attention was on him. Marcus followed him maintaining a suitable distance. “This was going to be a long walk” he thought. Suddenly there was a loud pop, followed by a strange hissing noise. Marcus felt a light mist on his face and held his right hand up in reflex to shield his face from any further spray. Though he couldn’t see it, he could hear some commotion just a few meters away from him. And then laughter. Confused, he took down his hand and looked ahead to ascertain what the issue was. And then he too laughed. Standing there in the middle of the red carpet, his $80,000 tailored white suit drenched with rust-coloured smelly water was the Golden Globe nominee for Best Actor in a Title Role, Merrick Kirk.
In case you’re wondering what happened, the Red Carpet was laid under the hotel’s patio, over which were the pipes operating the hotel’s old sprinkler system. Unfortunately for Merrick, one of the ancient sprinkler valves opened up right as he was walking down the Red Carpet unleashing a spray of rust-coloured water. The cause for the sprinkler malfunction was ascertained due to the presence of a high wattage light being placed near the sprinkler head.