Ed slowly scanned the darkened dressing room. The rustle of activity out in the hall had subsided. Normally after a show, there is a flurry of noise lasting well into the late night. Ed ought to know, many has been the time he's invited a "guest" to spend time in his dressing room and had waited until the studio emptied out before making his move.
There was that one time with that certain blonde "conservative" commentator who had a predilection for dating pornographers, when she thought they were all alone, so he took her back onto the set, and stripped her naked and took her. That tape was sold back to her for a handsome fee.
Christmas Eve. Right. People were rushing home, abandoning their tasks until two days from now.
"Fucking people. No commitment." And with that, Ed sucked his glass of scotch dry and stood up to pour himself another one. Swirling in his brain alongside the barley malt extract was the vision of his heritage in New York City: the Irish, his people, hated. Treated like subhumans, despite their achievements. Mocked and poked fun of. he thought back to his own childhood, to school, to classes, and remembered how Tommy Vitoro used to poke fun of his father's accent all the time, especially when they were playing tag. Tommy used to punch Ed hard and say "You're it, Mickey!" He always punched Ed. In fact, he always made Ed "it."
Ed steadily his hand on the dresser, and then unstoppered his decanter, and poured himself another scotch. Walking back towards his chair, he felt his foot...well, miss the ground, and he flopped forward, to be caught in the arms of...nothing. He felt someone there, but saw no one, and could not feel anything beyond a presence: no muscles, no sinew, no skin, no bones.
"Ed, you really didn't think that you'd get off easy now, did you? After all, wasn't it you who who claimed illegal immigrants were all criminals and should serve jail time? If you're such a stickler for the law, then know you're not going to be given special treatment."
With that, precipitating out of thin air, was a lanky man, wearing a very nice suit. Ed knew the face, but couldn't place the name.
"Paul O'Dwyer, Ed. We met many years ago when you were first starting out on channel 5. And I am your second visitor this evening, and let me tell you, I'm very ashamed for you." Paul took the glass from Ed's hand, and carefully placed it on the arm of his chair.
And the room dissolved yet again...
The tiny apartment was in a part of town that was drifting towards oblivion. As Paul and Ed peered through the window, John Hughes sat there in his undershirt and boxers, drooling as his head nodded towards his chest. Fiona had left him years ago when his drinking and his anger boiled over nightly to the point where, having no son around to beat, he'd cuff Fiona about the head. He hadn't heard from her since she'd mailed her American passport from England, torn into little bits. For that matter, neither had Ed.
A thin, dry Christmas tree, about three feet tall, stood on the dining table behind John's easy chair, shedding needles as it stood there. A crucifix hung on the wall with a half inch of dust like snow. Mail lay about the room, willy nilly. On the floor, across the room from the television, sat Ed's Christmas card, unopened.
A wind rose up and swirled, and in an instant, Ed's mother appeared into view, but this was not his father's apartment anymore. No, it was a small house on the southern coast of England. Fiona gathered up the wrapped boxes on the table, and scurried towards the door as fast as she could, into the living room, where an enormous gathering had assembled.
"Aunt Fiona! Aunt Fiona! Please!", the children cried, as Fiona handed out presents left and right, sipping an egg nog as she sat in the very comfortable chair. "And tomorrow, children, we will go skating! And to the movies! And then we shall walk along the cliffs, and shout wishes to the sea!"
Scanning the room, Ed noticed there was no crucifix to be seen, anywhere.
To Chapter Nine