Morning Cup of Drew

(Cue returning animation, fade in on Drew seated at his desk, pretending to notice the camera.)

                “Hey there! Almost didn’t notice you folks come back. I too was enthralled by those messages from our sponsor: vodka. Yes, whether pickling vegetables or my own liver, there’s no substitute for good old-fashioned vodka. Available basically everywhere that’s cool.”

(Cut to new angle, as Drew adjusts his seat to look down the camera.)

                “As I mentioned before the break, we’ve got a real killer guest today. Folks, please give me a huge Morning Cup of Drew hand for today’s first guest: the embodiment of desperation!”

(Applause sounds as a man appears from behind the curtain, looking around with clear fear in his eyes as he takes in the faded, yet still presentable, set)

                “What the shit? Where am I? I was just-”

                “Spoilers, my dear Desperation, spoilers. We’ll get to that. In the meantime, why don’t you have a seat?”

(Desperation looks warily at the three empty chairs, finally walking over to the one in the middle.)

                “Who are you? Where is this place? I wasn’t here two seconds ago.”

(Drew does not reply. His eyes are trained only on the empty seat directly next to the desk. Desperation waits.)

(Silence continues.)

(Desperation rises, reaching over and touching Drew’s still, unmoving form. No reaction. At last, he shifts over, sinking into the chair at Drew’ side.)

                “Fantastic! It’s my pleasure to welcome you to our show, and let me apologize in advance for the raucous audience.”

(Tittering laughter fills the air as Drew motions to the empty, charred stands.)

                “Where… am I dead? Is this Hell?”

(Drew Laughs)

                “Someone’s hell, I’m sure, but since you weren’t, or maybe aren’t, an aspiring comedian I doubt it’s yours. Now, are you ready to play our Morning Cup of Drew signature Wednesday game? Five. Seconds. Back!”

(Thunderous applause and cheering rises from the empty stands.)

                “That’s right folks, you know it, you love it. Today, Desperation is going to be playing for the chance to take back the last five seconds of his life prior to coming here. Not the best prize for everyone, but if you’re on this show, I’ve got a hunch it’s one you’d… die for.”

(Drew laughs, infecting the audience, who soon crack up as well. Desperation is ashen faced, hands shaking.)

                “I was… my motorcycle…” (Tears drop from Desperation’s face. The audience lets loose a heartfelt “Awwww”)

                “Have heart, my dear fellow. All is not lost yet. For most, perhaps, but you had the fortune, good or ill, to need your five seconds on a Wednesday and to end up here, one of the few places you can get them. We only play this game once a week, Desperation. Are you interested, or should I move on to the next guest?”

(The spotlight comes up, teasing on the entrance where Desperation walked out from. Understanding sets in.)

                 “No! I’ll play. I want to play.”

                “Outstanding! Hear that audience, we’ve got a… live one.”

(More laughter from the audience, wilder and madder than before.)

(Drew produces a stack of note-cards from within the desk, pawing through them)

                “Let’s see… name a person you helped, too boring… name a way you changed the world, too broad… tell me the meaning of existence, too blah… here we go! Desperation, there are thousands of restaurants out there claiming to have the best pizza in the world. For your five seconds, I want you to tell me which shop had the actual world’s greatest pizza. Give me some ideas for my next vacation, right audience?”

(The audience is howling now, even more as Drew pats his stomach.)

(Desperation’s expression lives up to his name)

                “I can’t… how am I supposed to know that?”

                “Beats me. But you do know it, Desperation. Not many rules out here in the Planes of Chaos, but that’s one of them. All games must be winnable.”

(Drew nods solemnly, backed up by reverent silence from the audience.)

(Desperation grows frantic, pulling his knees to his chest.)

                “Okay… think. You can do this. World’s greatest pizza, and I apparently know the answer. So, it can’t be the actual best pizza in the world, there’s no way I’d know that. It has to be a matter of preference. Wait, that’s crazy. More than preference. Some reason it would stand out. The world’s greatest pizza, to me.”

(Desperation’s face lights up, shining with newfound hope.)

               “The night I proposed, after we got caught in the rain, we had a slice at the little shop where we took shelter. The place was a Ginenso’s, I think. The one on 4th and… shit, did you need a full address?”

                “No no, we’re perfectly aware of the location you’re talking about. That’s your choice then? Locked in, for sure?”

(The audience is hideously quiet, eager and waiting.)

(Desperation looks once more to the empty stands, then at the rest of the set. He takes note that there are no doors or windows, save only for the one through which guests enter.)

                “Yeah. That’s my answer.”

                “Very well then, drumroll please!”

(From the guest entrance, a giant cinnamon-roll the shape of a drum bounces in, leading to more audience laughter. Drew does not laugh. Drew only waits, smiling, until the prop and the chuckles both suddenly vanish.)

                “And the verdict is… (Drew pulls a card out from the rear of the stack, giving it a careful glance.) “Oooooh, I’m so sorry, Desperation. Looks like the actual answer is Sunny’s Sauce Shack in Ramshackle, Florida. You stopped there once as a kid on a road trip, so you did in fact eat the world’s greatest pizza, evidently you just didn’t have the palette to appreciate it. Audience, let’s give him a warm round of applause for trying!”

(Thunderous, deafening applause fills the room, growing louder and louder until Desperation covers his ears. Without warning, it stops. Desperation slowly lifts his head, looking into Drew’s waiting eyes.)

                “I lost?”

                “You lost.”

                “So… now what?”

(Drew smiles. The sound of an audience leaning forward can be heard.)

                “Now you can either step back through that curtain and see what comes next, or you can take the consolation prize.”

(A flicker of hope sparks in Desperation’s eyes once more)

                “Consolation prize?”

(Drew’s long arm sweeps out, gesturing to the audience)

                “Plenty of empty chairs. Don’t worry, you’ll fit in right away. Or you can roll the dice on what lies behind door number one and only.”

(Desperation rises from his chair. Walking cautiously, he makes his way to the door he entered through. Dark swabs of fabric hang down, obscuring the other side. To move them is to put his hand in, and Desperation knows in his bones that journey doesn’t halt, once it has begun. Running a single hand along the fabric, Desperation turns, making his way over to the empty audience. He climbs several rows, then takes a spot in the center.)

(Cut to Drew, taking a big sip from his mug)

                “Well, wasn’t that a great game of Five Seconds Back, everyone?”

(There are once more no people in the audience. The audience cheers loudly. Perhaps one voice louder than before.)

                “Glad to hear it! Sit right there, we’ll be playing a round of Blessing or Burden after these messages. For our new folks, that’s where we give mortals random magical abilities to see how they use them. You don’t want to miss it, so stay right there for more Morning Cup of Drew!”

(Fade to commercial)