People in Hell Just Want to Spin the Big Wheel

Drew Carey adjusts his glasses. Before him is an audience full of people who want to come on down. They tape three grueling shows a day: that’s over thirty spins at the Big Wheel. It’s so much smiling Drew’s jaw aches when he goes home at night. This is the last show of the day, the one that makes him take stock of his battered soul. When Bob Barker told him he’d give Drew everything he wanted – fame, money, and women – he didn’t know that meant hosting The Price Is Right. Bob Barker the trickster, the god of pet breeding, is no longer enslaved to this miserable game show, not with Drew Carey there to take his place.

Damn you, Bob Barker.

The announcer begins calling names. Contestants dance and strut down the aisles as they make their way towards Drew. One more hug from a round-belly, flat-butt, middle-aged woman wearing a homemade “Barker’s Beauty” sweatshirt and he’ll gouge his eyes out with the mic. Contestants’ Row is full of the worst kind of monsters: people. He looks down at their bright, hopeful faces and shudders. They all want Drew Carey to make their dreams come true.

The first item up to bid on is an Oral-B Pro electric toothbrush. The last contestant’s nametag says “Carol.” She is lost behind the podium she’s so small. She leans forward and stands on her tiptoes, not bothering to adjust the mic when she bids. “One dollar.”

“Actual retail price,” Drew says. “$125 – Carol, come on up.” Drew waves her over and then he sees it: her arms end at her elbows in pink and puckered stumps like melted candle stems. He can’t look away. What’s she going to do with an electric toothbrush?

Drew manages to direct Carol over to Plinko, the game where you drop chips down a peg-filled game board hoping to land in the big money slot for $10,000. Drew doesn’t know the instructions for any of the games. He has to ask the producer, “How do you play this one again?” Bob Barker knew all the games. If Hole in One (or Two) came up, he’d feign embarrassment as the crowd egged him on, knowing all the while he’d demonstrate that “inspirational putt.” They loved Barker.

Lunch turns in Drew’s stomach. The producer explains the game to him, and all Drew can think about is her missing hands. His dress shirt begins to soak through with perspiration. That’s when he remembers the wires: earlier, he shot a promo commercial using thin wires to rig the game so the chip always landed in the $10,000 slot. The wires are still there.

Drew doesn’t say anything. He pretends not to notice.

After winning three times at the pricing game, Carol gathers her chips, pinning them to her chest with her stubs and goes up the stairs. Drew has spent most of his life in this awkward position, not knowing whether he should offer to help her or not.

“Up the stairs you go,” Drew finally says. The audience cheers.

With her stump, Carol carefully pinches the chip to the board and releases. It bounces unnoticed off the wire and makes its way down to the $10,000 slot. She begins celebrating. She is waving what’s left of her arms. Her enthusiasm is uncontrollable. Drew smiles. He remembers something his mother told him after he asked for a Cleveland Indian’s baseball cap for his 7th birthday: “And people in hell just want a glass of ice water.” But she’s wrong: People in hell just want to spin the Big Wheel. That’s all any of us really want, a chance to win.

Carol drops another chip and lands in the $10,000 slot. Her smile is so big Drew wants to climb inside and live there. She releases the last chip.

As the chip makes its way down the Plinko board landing in the $10,000 slot again, a producer stops the game. The cameras stop filming. Lights come up.

Carol is confused. The crowd goes quiet. Drew stands off to the side and says nothing. They’ll have to reshoot. He’ll be forced to fake his enthusiasm again, and Carol will have to start over with nothing.

Where did I go wrong? Drew Carey wonders while watching the sad expression on Carol’s face as she learns she can’t keep the money. How did I go from The Drew Carey Show to The Price Is Right? And then he remembers Bob Barker: that smile, that promise. “I’ll make all your dreams come true, Drew.” The silver tongued Bob Barker. What Drew wouldn’t do to go back and turn Barker down.

Carol looks like she’s been run over by the Big Wheel. Watching her there, Drew thinks about her arms and all that she has lost.

The producer says they’re ready to re-tape the game. Drew takes his place next to Carol. He stares down at the studio floor. He puts the mic behind his back and leans over to Carol and says, “I wish I could replace your missing limbs.”

But this is a lie.

 

by Mike Salibury

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