“You’re making us look bad out there,” said Norman, “you can’t just leave me swinging in the wind when our cue comes up.” He stared across the table at Ted, both men still wearing their costumes.
Ted shoveled another chunk of egg and bacon into his mouth and looked back at him with an affected bemusement. “Norm, I dunno wat yer talkin abou-”
“Don’t talk at me with that mouthful of breakfast, you sound like a complete idiot” said Norman. “And stop calling me Norm; I’m not that fat lush from Cheers.”
Ted swallowed his food and the fake confusion became genuine: “What’s Cheers?” he replied.
Norman’s face wilted, and he cradled it in his black and white gloved hands as he mumbled through his fingers “Never mind. Just forget I ever said a single word.”
“Done” said Ted with a wry smile.
Norman slowly ran his fingers through his prematurely grey hair and then stared at Ted for a moment, judging his demeanor. “I’m serious, Ted. If you keep forgetting your blocking, management is gonna bring the hammer down on our balls. Nobody’s gonna think twice about replacing two asshole Stormtroopers.”
Ted’s amusement shriveled a bit at this last remark. He’d been working at the Jedi Training Academy in Disney World for about a year now and, though he’d started off as a lowly Stormtrooper, had accrued so many commendations in such a short time that the head supervisor saw fit to promote him; he would now be performing as Darth Vader.
Darth-freaking-Vader, he told himself, as well as anyone else who would listen. Surely this was the very definition of climbing up the ladder, adopting the mantle of the iconic Sith Lord himself. Ted had practiced his Vader walk in the mirror on the morning of his big debut, stalking across the floor of his bedroom with the drapes closed and the AC blasting. That was about a week ago, before the incident that landed him back down where he started, at the level of “henchman stooge” to hear Ted tell it.
“I’m not just some asshole Stormtrooper like you, I’m D-”
“Don’t even start” said Norman, “Darth Vader doesn’t wear what you’re wearing right now. You were given a chance with the black, god knows why, and you proved you weren’t ready for the responsibility. Still aren’t.” By the squeezed fury on Ted’s face he knew he’d found a gap in his defenses. “How did you manage to make that kid piss his pants anyway? Darth Vader’s not even a speaking role, the voice is pre-recorded for Christ’s sake.”
“I DIDN’T…” started Ted, before sighing. “…I didn’t make him pee his pants, I… the stupid kid’s face was covered in juice! A stiff breeze would’ve done the job; it had nothing to do with me.” In truth, the pudgy boy in the crowd had been consuming juice boxes from his mother’s cooler bag at near lightspeed before he was picked to join the other children and, just like the rest of them, given a hooded brown Jedi training robe and a toy lightsaber. After their brief training the younglings watched in silence as two Imperial Stormtroopers, one of them Norman, scurried onstage and took position at either side of a great blast door, their iconic white and black armor a sign of what was surely to come.
The door behind them slid open with an evil hiss revealing Darth Ted, bathed in a red glow and wreathed in smoke. As he stepped out onto the stage and the automated recording of the “real” Darth Vader’s respirator hissed through the loudspeakers, Ted felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. The suit fit like a glove, as did the gloves in fact, and the inside of the helmet was cool and refreshing, as though his head were suspended in a miniature snow globe. Through the eyepieces, he peered down at the little warriors before him and pointed menacingly at the group as he walked towards them. The pudgy boy at the front of the pack stood rigidly still with his arms at his side, licking his juice-stained lips.
Ted stopped in front of the little boy and loomed over him, matching his breathing with the pre-recorded rasps from the loudspeaker. The James Earl Jones sound-alike’s bassy voice buzzed through the air, beckoning for the children to join him and his Emperor. “If you only knew the power of the Dark Side” growled the voice, just as Ted cast his hand out toward the pudgy boy and slowly clenched it into a fist. The boy’s hands instinctively sprung up from his sides and covered his throat, fearing the Sith master’s terrible Force powers
Ted grinned inside his helmet at the boy’s willingness to play along, and he saw a bit of himself in this young padawan learner. That is, until he saw the small dark spot which appeared on the front of the boy’s khaki shorts, a spot which widened quickly until the whole of the front panel changed color. The little girl on his right side looked down when she felt a splash on her sandals and shouted “EWW,” a sentiment which spread through the rest of the kids onstage and in turn through the crowd of onlookers. The pudgy boy burst into tears, his face turning beet red as Ted towered over him, his fist still clenched tightly. Ted maintained that he was trying to save the integrity of the performance, but his supervisor found him at fault anyway, having displayed a level of malice “not in keeping with the spirit of the show.”
Norman stiffened, placing his hands palm-down on the table in front of him. “Look, I don’t really give a shit about any of that. What I do give a shit about is you half-assing your current job while I’m up there with you.” Ted’s brow crinkled, and he began to explain that going from a high profile position back down to a comedy sidekick was not an easy transition to make, but again Norman cut him off. “You keep saying this, but I’m having trouble seeing the disconnect here. You played a Stormtrooper for a year or so, you transitioned from a guy in a mask with no lines to a guy in a mask with… let me think… NO lines. It ain’t exactly rocket science, kid.”
“Don’t call me kid,” said Ted, “I’m twenty years old.”
Norman rolled his eyes. “Ooo, TWENTY. How the higher-ups saw fit to promote a kid like you before the more experienced players is beyond me.”
Ted’s face shot up to look at Norman. “A-HA!” he said, and pounded the table with his fist. “That’s what this is, you’re jealous of me. You wanted to be the Sith Lord, but you just couldn’t hack it. It all comes out in the wash, doesn’t it Norm?”
Norman scowled back at Ted, and replied “No, ass–dick, I couldn’t give two shits about what costume I’m wearing. I’m in it for the money, and for whatever reason the pricks at payroll decided that working Vader ought to pay more than any other role.”
Ted’s brief moment of triumph was rapidly deflating like a punctured bouncy-castle, and the smile began to melt off his face. “No it doesn’t, I would’ve noticed…”
“Oh, you would’ve noticed? You’re so caught up in filling Vader’s codpiece, I’m surprised you even noticed the piss-puddle at your feet. Not to mention, you had the job for all of one week. It’s a wonder you didn’t get demoted down to Ewok duty.” Norman leaned back in his seat with his fingers interlaced, awaiting the next response from Ted, who glared at him through pressed eyelids.
“They don’t even have Ewoks in this show, genius. Anyway, how could someone tall enough to be Darth Vader play a furry little midget-bear?”
Norman clenched his eyes shut and rubbed his temples in a clockwise swirling motion. “All that, and the only word you heard was Ewok. Do you even GET what the issue is here? You’re not Darth-freaking-Vader; you’re not even Storm-freaking-trooper at this point. You’re Ted, Ted-freaking-douchebag, and I’m sick of it to be perfectly honest.
Norman shot up from his seat and began to walk away, before Ted said “Oh what, are you gonna quit now?”
He stopped in his tracks and spun back to face Ted, a look of disbelief on his face. “Quit? Are you retarded? I’m gonna get my shifts switched so I don’t get dragged down by your post-pubescent delusions. Enjoy it while it lasts, kid.” With that he stormed off, leaving Ted alone in the break room with his white helmet and his cold eggs.