[house lights dim as the host enters stage right. general applause crashes through the studio, dry waves of excitement. the host pauses, most graciously, and raises his right hand, fingers curved slightly, as if he has a point he would like to make. the applause calms to a gentle stream, then trickles out as the host steps forward, directly under the center-stage spotlight, smiles, and begins to speak.]
host: hello! hello! so great to have you here tonight!
audience: [cheers, a few hoots and hollers]
host: [smiling] ok, settle down now, settle down.
[he holds up both hands, palms out, as if fending off an over-excited golden retriever]
host: we’ve got a great show tonight!
host: we have, waiting in the wings . . .
[as all great storytellers do, the host pauses dramatically. the buzz from the crowd falls to an absolute hush. he turns slightly to his right, narrowing himself, and ducks his head just enough to shift from host to co-conspirator]
. . . an individual surely to shock and awe our feature guest.
audience: [rising as one in delirium and excitement, exploding into applause]
host: tonight, on ‘let’s make joel feel old,’
michael murr is here!
audience: [collectively gasps – a crackling of dramatic tension created when a crowd of near strangers realizes greatness is among them.]
host: [relishing the moment] let’s go ahead and invite michael out here. c’mon michael! [music plays, and the host steps stage left, towards his desk, as michael murr enters the stage area.]
[michael is dressed in bluejeans, a muted t-shirt, and a green jacket with stripes on the shoulders. he carries a styrofoam food container most likely holding a hotdog. as the camera pans left, it is revealed that joel has been seated in one of the two chairs next to the host’s desk during the introduction. joel has his laptop open, resting on his knees, and has effectively distanced himself from humanity by wearing headphones in public. he seems wholly oblivious to the entire spectacle before him. most likely, he is google-image-searching pictures of cute jack russell terriers dressed as detectives.]
host: [shaking michael’s hand, forcing michael to shift the assumed hotdog container to his left hand to meet the handshake] michael! so great to see you! please, please, have a seat.
michael: [seats himself between joel and the host.]
joel: [continues staring at jack russells, absently mouthing the word ‘mojo’ as he shovels his way through a packet of gummy fruit snacks]
michael: [to the host] thank you for having me! i never expected to run into joel here.
joel: [still stares at his computer screen, still oblivious]
host: so, michael, fill us in. where are we currently?
michael: we’re in the talley student center on ncsu’s campus. i just bought a hotdog that joel will soon ask me about – once he realizes i’m here – before i open the container, indicating how keen he is on noticing details.
host: ‘keen’ . . . is that a word you often use, michael?
michael: i’m not really sure – you see, joel is writing this on his laptop about an hour after i leave, and he hasn’t seen me in what he’s guessing is around twelve years, so he’s most likely projecting some aspects of vernacular upon me in order to have more fun with his writing.
host: [knowingly] i see, i see. now, michael, can you give us a glance at your background with joel?
audience: [leans in silently, faces wearing the not-quite blank expression of solemnity seen on those about to learn the heaviest of secrets]
michael: i’ll do my best. i met joel when his family moved to the north hills neighborhood, in raleigh, in 1995. joel isn’t sure, but thinks i was around seven when they moved in.
host: and you lived near joel and his family?
michael: yes – i lived across the street, at the corner of his family’s yard.
joel: [still oblivious, he laughs at a joke he wishes he’d told a few hours ago. his right leg crosses his left at the ankle, his right foot swinging excitedly, a sure sign that he needs to pee but is too lazy to get up]
host: so, michael, what was your relationship with joel like?
michael: oh, we’d play sports together with the other kids in the neighborhood. matt, one of joel’s good friends in high school, lived next to me, and tucker and his brother lived down the street. we’d play street hockey and throw the football.
host: so, when joel actively knew you, you were in elementary school and he was in high school?
michael: [dressing his hot dog, already piled high with chili, with a ketchup packet he seemingly pulled from thin air] oh, yeah, he probably saw me as some goofy little kid and didn’t think much else of me.
host: so, did he dislike you?
michael: no, no – he just . . . we weren’t peers. i was too young to even really be considered a friend – i was just a kid that lived near him.
host: well, michael, what are you up to these days?
michael: i’m an adjective adjective engineer.
host: . . . ‘adjective adjective?’
michael: yeah, joel had to ask for clarification, and then he forgot exactly what type of engineer i said, but he did remember that there were two qualifiers in front of ‘engineer.’
host: [nods] i see. and where are you in your academic career?
michael: i graduate with my masters in may.
host: so, michael, you’re not just older than joel remembers you, but at least around 24 years old and earning a masters degree in a program joel could hardly pronounce?
michael: [dabbing a napkin at the corner of his mouth] yes. i think so.
host: and, i guess we realize that joel’s math is off somewhere, if you were seven, he hasn’t known you for twelve years, and you’re around 24?
michael: yeah. i’m pretty sure he’s terrible at anything related to numbers. he might also not account for knowing me around four years, which might bump me up to eleven-ish when he went to college. that would put me around twenty-three if his math is anywhere close to correct.
host: [laughs politely, leans over to shake michael’s hand, clearly ending the interview] thank you, michael. it’s been great catching up.
joel: [turns and sees michael. joel’s eyes narrow as he processes who the f*** this guy is. recognition dawns on his face as he realizes michael is michael half-a-second before michael has to tell him].
host: well, we need to hit a commercial before continuing tonight’s episode of ‘let’s make joel feel old.’ when we return, musical guest ‘4 non blondes’ will be performing!’
audience: [wild applause. confetti everywhere]