Tuesdays with Maury
The novel that inspired the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" Series
Chapter 1: Through the Eyes of a Child
When I was a younger man, fascinated with journalism hard-hitting and bold, I had but one hero. A man with the passion for greatness; a commitment to journalistic integrity that I'd never before seen. His striking charisma and on-screen presence captivated my spirit. That man was Maury Povich.
Though our family was poor, and my sister deaf, my father still managed to raise enough money for me to attend a workshop, my hero, Maury was conducting. It was a dream come true for my young self; I couldn't sleep the night before, anticipating the next day in which I'd be able to gaze the visage of a living legend. I laid out my clothing, collected a few articles I'd written, and curled up tightly under the covers, giddy with excitement.
When that next day -- a Tuesday -- finally came around, I sprung from my bed, nearly hitting my head on the ceiling fan. I put on the clothes, forgot the articles, and boarded the courtesy shuttle bound for the Marriott downtown. It was finally time. When we arrived, I skipped every exhibition and went straight into the main hall, where I waited several hours. I didn't mind the wait; this was where Maury would be speaking.
Day became evening, and Maury took the stage. My heart skipped a beat when I saw him. He was tall, well-postured; everything a reporter should be. When he spoke, I felt as if he were talking directly to me alone: "Never give the people what they want" he said boldly "as a journalist, you must give the people what they NEED." Those words I would take with me forever.
After his speech, I hopped the guard rails and sneaked past the burly security men; I was going to meet Maury no matter what. I poked around backstage before finding a door with a star hanging from it (crookedly). Written on the paper star was MAURY POVICH, in bold blue ink. "Wow...I've never met a hero before," I thought to myself. I knocked on the door.
"WHO THE HELL IS IT?!" screamed the voice on the other side.
"Um.. your complimentary foot massage, Mr. Povich!"
"Well, it's about freakin' time."
The door swung open and there he was, grand and magical. He looked down at my awestruck face.
"Who the hell are-- wait a minute, you're no licensed massage therapist! You're just some kid!"
The door closed. I was elated just knowing that forever more, I could say that I'd really spoken to the king of journalists. Little did I know what the future had in store for us.
Chapter 2: Dog and Pony Show
Twenty years went by after my first encounter with Maury. I'd lost some of my interest in journalism while working in a local pizza shop. My sister had become a national spelling bee champion, the first person to win such a competition using sign language. To be truthful, I'd almost forgotten about my hero Maury, until one fateful Tuesday afternoon.
It was my day off from the pizza shop. I'd woken up early for no real reason (don't you hate when that happens?) and decided to watch some midday television. I blindly flipped through the soap operas and infomercials, paying little attention to the screen. Suddenly, I landed on a channel and heard a familiar voice.
"Martin... You are NOT the father!" the voice cried out.
"Could it really be?" I thought to myself. "Is that...IT IS! It's Maury!!" I turned the volume up and moved closer to the television. There was my hero Maury, sitting on stage with two men and a woman. One man was cheering loudly as the woman sobbed uncontrollably. Maury got up to comfort her. He looked worn: the once perfect stature and graceful poise I'd seen in Maury had faded considerably, devolving into a state of frailty. He looked confused and aloof. I had no idea what was going on; where was the news desk? Where was the hard-hitting investigative reporting?! Who the hell was Martin and why was Maury telling him the results of a paternity test!?!?
As I contemplated this conundrum, some words came upon the screen announcing free tickets to The Maury Show. I picked up the phone, dialed the number, and ordered a single ticket for myself. I then ordered the earliest possible plane ticket to New York City. Right then and there, I made a promise that I'd find out just what the hell was going on with the man I once admired.
Chapter 3: When Things are Amiss
I took my seat and became part of the studio audience. The topic of today's show: GUESS IF I WAS BORN A WOMAN!. The theme music played, and Maury appeared on stage amidst the thunderous applause of the crowd. My heart skipped a beat just as it did when I was a young man. As he took his seat, a parade of transsexuals lined the stage. Maury did his best to seem enthusiastic, and to the rest of the audience, I'm sure he pulled it off. But to me, a follower ney, a friend of Maury's, I could tell something wasn't right.
The show moved along; the crowd, cheering with glee as the true genders of the women on stage were revealed. The theme music blared once again, and Maury disappeared backstage. Naturally, I snuck through the studio corridors and made my way to his dressing room.
"WHO THE HELL IS IT?!" The recognizable voice called from the other side of the door. I was surprised by this, as I hadn't even knocked yet. Still, I smiled.
"Complimentary foot massage, Mr. Povich!"
The door swung open. I gazed with wonder, just as I had when I was a boy. Only now, his arthritis made it so that I was looking down upon him.
"It's about freakin-- no wait, wait a minute! Not YOU again!"
I was truly taken aback; he remembered me! I smiled wide.
Though the words were meant as a compliment, his face became visibly saddened.
Chapter 4: Rome is Burning
Maury sat down on the metal folding chair that faced his dressing room mirror. The room was in a state of disarray: empty bottles of mineral water collected in the corner trash can, while books and papers were scattered haphazardly across the floor. He sunk his face into his hands.
"Those were good times back then, boy," he whispered, voice trembling.
"What happened Maury?! You used to be the world's greatest journalist! Why are you doing a talk show about t-girls?!"
"It's not... I.. oh Christ!" Maury began to weep, tears streaming down his face. "I never wanted any of this to happen! I wanted a talk show that discussed the REAL issues! Like Oprah, only worth watching! It was the NETWORK! THEY MADE ME THIS WAY!!" He began bawling. I went to comfort him, much like he had done when I first saw him again on the TV last week.
"There, there Maury... I still believe in you! Isn't there anything you could do?"
Maury pulled away and began to regain his composure. He cracked another bottle of mineral water.
"It's too late for me, boy. I'm under legally-binding contract to the network. There's nothing I can do." He gulped from the bottle swiftly, consuming nearly half in one swig.
"Nothing?" I questioned.
"Like, not anything?"
"Um, yeah.. that would be what 'nothing' means.."
I looked at him in his chair, wrinkle-faced and disconnected. He'd lost the spark; the flame which burned deep within him. The love of presenting the facts. I turned to leave.
"You know Maury.. a wise man once told me that you're not supposed to give the people what they want. You're supposed to give them what they NEED."
I exited the room.
As I made my way down the hall, I heard someone call out to me.
"God damn it, wait, boy!" the voice cried. I smiled once more; it was Maury.
Chapter 5: The Bondening
Maury and I would meet every Tuesday for almost three months. He'd tell me stories of his time as a sportscaster and photojournalist, and all the wild stories that come with such positions. He'd give me advice and guidance, molding me into an anchor-worthy reporter and a better human being. But as we met, I watched Maury continue to slip into old age and disassociation. The years of obese infants, out-of-control teenagers and supremely fucked up parents took their toll on the man. And as was his commitment to excellence in correspondence, so too were his mind and body greatly affected (respectively). The Tuesday of an episode entitled PEOPLE WITH REALLY, HORRIDLY BAD DISFIGUREMENTS!, Maury revealed to me that he was losing the will to wipe himself after using the bathroom.
I knew I couldn't allow my jedi master fade into oneness with the force. I thought hard about ways to invigorate Maury, but all I could come up with was Robert Heinlein novels and gay sex, neither of which did I particularly care for. I was making myself sick with worry during the other 6 days that I wasn't with Maury, frantic over his condition (and how I was affording to live in New York City with neither job nor car, nor clothing or home). Finally, after much soul searching, an idea struck just before the filming of MY GIRLFRIEND'S CHILD IS OUT OF CONTROL!
"Maury, I GOT IT!" I exclaimed outside his dressing room door.
"Got what? The crabs?"
"Hah, yes, but no that's not what I was talking about... I know how to help you enjoy your work again! I know how to help you get well!!"
Maury opened the door slowly. He peered at me silently through his dark eyes.
"All you have to do is say something intelligent!! That's it, Maury!! That's all you have to do!!"
He thought for a moment, slightly tilting his head. After a hearty gulp of his beloved mineral water, he smiled.
"God damn it, boy, you just might be right."
Chapter 6: Empire Falls
We rewrote that day's script about thirty minutes from the live broadcast. Maury penned a particularly touching exposé on the affliction of indentured Asian immigrants in New York's Chinatown. It looked like the foundation of a monumental journalistic broadcast. We put the finishing touches on our revised script and Maury took the stage.
What we'd obviously forgotten while revising the episode was the fact that no one on the crew was aware of our changes, and that the guests for MY GIRLFRIEND'S CHILD IS OUT OF CONTROL! were still backstage expecting their 15 minutes of verbally-censored fame. As Maury began his introductory monologue, I could see the troubled teenagers getting restless in the green room. Unaware, Maury triumphantly segued into his top story.
"Lin Xiuchu works for mere pennies a day, some days not even able to afford food for her four children. The-- HEY!!"
Something caught Maury's attention. From the corner of his eye, he saw the rapidly advancing body of an enraged 14-year-old white girl. She struck before he could react, knocking him to the stage floor. "I WANT TO BE FAMOUS!! I WANT TO BE FUCKIN' FAMOUS YOU ASSHOLE!" she shrieked while shaking him violently by the shoulders. Maury laid back and took the punishment; the broadcast was ruined, and he knew it. His attempt to reenter the arena of serious journalism was a failure.
I ran to him as security pulled the young girl off of his chest. He felt limp in my arms. "MAURY! DON'T DO THIS TO ME!" I cried as a few tears began to stream from down my face. "You can't leave me! You've only just begun imparting your life-affirming journalistic wisdom upon me!"
He raised his head slightly and looked me directly in the eyes. "Never let go, boy... Never, let go... Oh and publish my lessons in a book, for the benefit of all mankind."
Maury was gone: forever lost in a perpetual state of apathy. The show was canceled, and an era was ended.
Epilogue: Out of Wreckage
The day I write these words marks the 80th Tuesday since Maury's drift away from his compassion for living. I haven't spoken to him since his departure. And now, as the anchor of a major network news broadcast (ironically the program which filled the timeslot of The Maury Show), I felt it was the right time to publish this novel, detailing the wonderful wisdom and brilliance of my friend, my rock, my Maury. May his words move and inspire you, guide and keep you, just as they have done for me in my own life.
May you all know how wonderful it is to be the lead anchor on a prime-time news syndication, and what it means to be truly free.
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