George was watching junk TV when Sam came in.
“Building’s on fire,” said Sam.
“Yeah,” said George, watching the woman drop her baby out of the window.
Down fell baby, landing in the blue net down below. But you can tell that this is just a reconstruction, not the real thing. There was a cut from the woman releasing baby to baby bouncing on the blue net. You never actually got to see baby fall, and that was because the TV people were too cheap to go hire themselves a real stunt baby.
“This is the real thing, man,” said Sam.
“Yeah, it’s all real,” said George, as the TV cut to real video footage of a real house sliding into a sinkhole in Florida.
“No, man, I mean this building is on fire,” said Sam.
“Building?” said George. “What building?”
“What are you on?” said Sam.
And that was when the door banged open and Betty came in, hot and anxious, holding little Zoey in her arms. Zoey was in her nightdress, and was crying. A swirl of smoke entered with Betty.
“Smoke,” said George, surprised, as Betty banged the door shut.
“I told you,” said Sam.
“There’s a fire,” said Betty. “And the dog’s upstairs.”
“So he burns,” said Sam. “If George here is awake, let’s all get the hell out of here, okay?”
“Hey, not so fast,” said George. “We got our TV to think about.”
“The TV?” said Sam. “Plenty more where that came from!”
“No, no! Not the set, our appearance.”
“We could be stars, okay? But we got to do something. Like save the dog, okay?”
“Why?” said Sam.
“We just walk out the door, that doesn’t make a story.”
“But why TV?” said Sam. “Why you want to be on TV?”
“Hollywood,” said George. “Fame – okay?”
“Dream on!” said Sam.
“It’s worth a shot,” said Betty.
Hollywood. The magic word had converted her, filling her head instantly with dreams, her hands wet in the concrete, her fans cheering.
“Man, you guys are right out of it,” said Sam. “It’s only a dog.”
The TV was showing a close-up of something which was supposed to be the president.
“So maybe it wasn’t,” said George. “Maybe Zoey was up there and we had to fight our way upstairs through the smoke and everything to get to her.”
“Sounds good,” said Betty.
“Man, I got to be in court tomorrow,” said Sam.
“So what you going to tell the judge?” said George. “They got you on video, you know that. You can’t say you weren’t there. But your lawyer, he says – “
“He tells the judge,” said Betty, trying to take control of the story.
” – you were a hero,” said George, speaking louder as he drowned out Betty, as he rolled right over her, because, hey, this was his story. “You saved a little girl, you risk of your life, are you with me?”
George smashed into Sam with his shoulder. Taken by surprise, Sam fell. A brief scream, then a knock of impact.
“What you do that for?” said Betty, shocked.
“It was an accident,” said George. “Here, let me take Zoey, you’re going to drop her.”
And Betty gave him Zoey. George kicked Betty hard in the gut. Falling down to the smoke and flames. Zoey cried.
George tried to calm her as he took her into the bedroom where the dog, stoned as usual, was sleeping, unaware of the fire.
But she cried a lot, and it bugged him. He had to wait, and waiting was something he wasn’t good at. Nothing to do while he waited but watch the dog’s TV.
“You and me, we was asleep,” said George, muttering his rehearsal. “Betty too. And Sam. All in this one room. Zoey, she was downstairs – okay? Fire gets up. Betty and Sam. To the rescue. They don’t come back. You’re downstairs, Betty. Pretty fierce heat. I go down the stairs, I rescue you.”
Outside, sirens, bullhorns. They’re coming. Someone’s called in the fire. Have to make a move soon.
George threw open the door, revealing a blaze. The stairway in flames. And here was Zoey in his arms, clean and spotless. Nobody would ever buy into the story of her being downstairs. Not unless there were a couple of marks on her.
“Take a walk,” said George, rolling Zoey downstairs.
The plan was real simple. Let Zoey get a little burned, then run down and rescue her. But it went wrong. Zoey exploded, kind of – nightdress becoming bright, going up in a shriek of flame. George started down toward her, but the heat was too fierce. And he registered the fact that she was probably better off dead – 90% burns already, her chances of female beauty finished, she’d be a hospital freak if she ever got out of this alive.
So he went back into the bedroom and closed the door on her.
The dog was still sleeping.
“What kinds of lowlifes have a dog that’s stoned?” said George disgustedly.
And, coming to a decision, he opened the door again and dumped the dog into the fire.
Sole survivor, thought George, going to the roof. It wasn’t much of a story, but a hope of fame is better than nothing. The fire took the dog, took George, took Betty, took little Zoey – sob sob! – but hero George got out of there alive.
As George came out onto the roof, the helicopter overhead caught him in its searchlight, and he waved, and the cameras in the helicopter broadcast his story of escape to the waiting world, live on channel 10.