Family Fortunes- Phil O’Kelly

‘And who do we have now, let me see… Kaylah, from Tallaght right here in Dublin! Come on down,

Kaylah.’

Camera pans back and forth across the audience whilst spotlights flash on and off. The shot

eventually settles on a young girl, fifteen years old, with black bangs, thick black eyebrows which

have been plucked where they meet in the middle, and hoop earrings dangling from her lobes.

Kaylah appears shocked, confused by the attention, but manages to stand up under the glare

regardless.

‘Come on down, Kaylah! We won’t bite!’

Canned laughter.

Kaylah makes her way down the stairs, being tracked by the lights as she goes whilst a synthesized

theme tune blares and more spots flash on the periphery of the shot.

‘Good girl, Kaylah’ says the compère, picked up over his mic as he leans in to give the flinching

teenager a kiss on the cheek. ‘Good girl, have a seat.’

‘Put your hands together for Kaylah, ladies and gentlemen, a star in the making!’

Kaylah, to the sound of canned applause, makes her way to the nearest of three high stools placed in

a row across centre stage.

‘Okay, okay, thank you, thank you folks. Next up…’

Drumroll kicks in again, camera pans, spotlights flash.

‘Let me see, let me see, next up we have… Susan Kelly from Ballintober, Roscommon!’

Camera veers wildly, eventually settling on a woman in her late thirties with short brown hair, high

cheekbones and dark bags under her eyes. She appears on the verge of tears, but whether with joy

or from fatigue, is not clear.

‘Congratulations, congratulations, congratulations Susan!’

The compère, a political looking mother fucker with a bland suit, bright tie and fake smile, runs up

the aisle to take Susan by the elbow and escort her to the stage.

Canned cheering.

The compère, let’s call him Henry, leads Susan to her seat.

A few welcoming words are picked up on Henry’s mic. ‘You sit there, Sue, good woman yourself. You

don’t mind if I call you Sue now, do you?’ Susan looks blankly at the host as she takes her seat. ‘Good

woman yourself.’

‘Right, whilst our first two contestants get to know each other let’s bring down our third and final

contender. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, will you please make some noise for…’

Drumroll, panning spots, flashings lights.

‘…Tina Fitzgerald!’

Camera zooms in on a twenty-nine year old woman curled up on her seat, pallid, shivering, a bead of

sweat trickling down her neck, eyes olive-tinged and vacuous. She shows no cognition of the

attention upon her.

Henry bounds up the steps, taking them three at a time, bends down beside Tina and puts her arm

over his shoulder. He supports her down to the stage.

Canned applause and cheering.

‘Here we go, ladies and gentlemen, our three lucky finalists picked at random from tonight’s

audience, all aiming to win tonight’s star prize.’

‘Sue, let’s start with you. Tell us a little bit about yourself. You’re a mother of three, is that right?’

Shot switches to Susan, who closes her eyes and keeps them closed as the camera waits, the

audience silent. Eventually, after a prolonged and deliberate inhale, Susan responds.

‘I love my family with all my heart. All I want, all I’m trying to do is what’s best for them. That’s all,

nothing malicious, I just want to look after them and love them as best I can.’

Canned cheering.

‘That’s right, Sue, good girl, well done. I think we can all see how much this would mean to you, can’t

we folks?’

A brief burst of canned applause.

‘As I’m sure it does to the rest of our contestants,’ he continues. ‘But I’d be worried it’ll take more

than just that for the folks at home. Can you tell us a little bit more about you, Sue, maybe a little

about how you ended up here? We want to make the best impression, don’t forget. This is your big

chance. We want to see you shine.’

‘How did I end up here?’ asks Susan, a clenched fist shaking in her lap. ‘What business is it of yours?

Of any of yours? Why should I have to justify myself to you? Do you know how conceited you sound?

Can you fathom the sheer depths of conceit that are spilling from your vindictive little mouth right

now?’

Susan’s mic cuts off, camera switches to Henry.

‘Thank you Sue, good girl. Obviously a little overwhelmed right now, we’ll come back to you again

before we open up the phones. How about you, Tina?’ he asks, glancing at his cue card. ‘From the

People’s Republic of Cork, no less, but we won’t hold that against you!’ Canned laughter. ‘Why don’t

you tell the good people at home a little bit about yourself? You know what they want, put your best

foot forward, make your case loud and proud and you could be in with a chance of winning tonight’s

star prize.’

Camera switches to Tina, who has slumped off her stool and is lying prone on the ground, panting.

Camera switches momentarily back to the compère. ‘Take it away, Tina, good girl, over to you.’

Camera 2 close up of Tina’s face. She is coated in a light film of oily sweat, her eyes are closed but

we can see the eyeballs rolling about beneath the lids, and one corner of her mouth twitches

arrhythmically. Canned cheering. More canned cheering. Camera stays on her until she vomits a dark

purple fluid upon the carpeted stage floor. Camera switches back to Henry.

‘There you have it, ladies and gentlemen, couldn’t have put it better myself, a compelling case if ever

I’ve seen one. We’re going to take a quick break now folks but we’ve plenty more to come in the

second half of the show so don’t go away. We’ll be right back.’

Canned cheering. Camera sweeps back and forth across the audience, spotlights flash.

Cuts to an ad for Ryanair. Followed by an ad for Boots pharmacy. Followed by an ad for the Festival

of Families in Croke Park in August.

Camera returns to compère who is running down the aisle after having had a chat with some

unidentified red-haired woman in the audience.

‘Welcome welcome welcome back! We’ve heard from Tina, Sue has wowed us all with her

performance so that just leaves one more lucky lady to hear from. A round warm of applause for

little Kaylah, everybody.’

Canned cheering, camera switches to the young girl, who slips down from her stool and stands,

hands down by her side, staring at the floor.

‘Good girl, Kaylah, or woman now I should say, isn’t that right? What do you want to tell the

audience and all the people at home?’

Kaylah looks up to search the audience for her parents but she can’t make out any of the faces for

the glare of spot.

‘Go on now, Kaylah, what do you want to say?’

‘I…’ camera slowly zooms in on her face as she searches for the words. ‘I won’t do it again. I swear. It

was the first time, honest. And I’ll pay back every penny, it won’t cost anybody nothing. I swear on

me life.’

‘Of course you do, Kaylah, you’re a good girl. Good woman, even, isn’t that right?’

Canned laughter.

‘If I win I won’t ever do it again, not without, you know. I’ll be more careful. I thought we were being

careful. All I want is for things to be back the way they were. I want to finish school. I want to be a

teacher.’

Canned laughter.

‘Not careful enough, eh Kaylah?’

More canned laughter, with added whoops.

Kaylah puts her hand up to block the light from her eyes and goes to say something, but unable to

see who she’s addressing, thinks better of it and sits down again without another word.

‘Well there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, we’ve heard from each of tonight’s contestants. Has

one of these ladies won your heart and with it your vote, or do none of them deserve your support?

It’s up to you, the people at home, to decide. The “choice” (canned laughter) is in your hands. Join

me after the break and we’ll find out the results.’

Canned cheering. Camera pans across the three contestants: Kaylah still staring at the floor, Susan

glowering at the compère, Tina now lying in a puddle of her own urine. Shot returns to Henry, who

nods to the camera and winks.

Ends.

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