There are maybe two, three thousand people in the crowd, and god knows how many more on TV, watching Mike walk onto the stage. His boxy suit and blue tie fit snugly against his torso, complimenting his sharp pale features and cerulean eyes. Behind him, four nervous-looking girls sit together on the leather couch. 

Mike adjusts the stand, tapping the top of the mic. “Test one, two, ahem—is this thing on?” A bout of obligatory laughter emanates from the audience.

“I’d like to welcome everyone back to American Evenings with me, Mike Terrance!” Applause fills the studio, as expected for a prime-time television show. 

He waits for the noise to die down. “I don’t know how many of y’all live by Santa Monica, but the other day I was walking down Main Street when I passed this new thrift store. Did y’all know there was a thrift store? On Main Street?”

A hesitant smirk appears on a few faces. “What’s next, a soup kitchen in the hills?” he continues. “But let’s not get too hung up about that. After all, today is Wednesday, which means we have our weekly Mic for You!”

Mic for You was an event that Mike liked to host every Wednesday. He would choose four fans who had written in that week to come on and talk about themselves and how much they loved the show, as narcissistic as that sounds.

“Well then, go ahead, introduce yourselves!” Mike passes the mic to the first girl, who brushes aside her platinum blonde hair. Her serpent-green eyes shining with excitement,“Oh! Well i’m very excited , i’veneverbeenonnationaltelevision.mymomisprobablywatchingrightnow, heymom, how’sitgoing,haha!butanyways,my name’sElizabeth,butyoucan just call me Lizzy.”

Georgia pries the mic away from Lizzy, “I’m Georgia, Lizzy and I are friends!” She leans over the gap to pass the mic to Noor.

“I’m Noor.”

“Xiao.”

Xiao rises from the couch to hand the mic back to Mike, feeling the heat of thousands of eyes staring at her. Mike continues, “Oh well that’s great to hear. Why don’t you all tell us a little about your journey with this show? Go on, give us a story.” Again he slides the mic over to Lizzy. 

“Actually, I didn’t even thinkaboutthisquestionhonestly,idon’tevenknow.itjustwassosudden,my friend, Amanda,actuallyshowedmethisatfirst,andiwaslikewhat, and yeah, i guess that’s how it all started,” she drones, drawing disinterested faces.

“Oh well for me, Lizzy and I just watch it all the time!” Georgia shortly summarizes, reaching over to Noor. 

“This show really helped me through some of my hardes-,” Noor started before Mike cut her off. 

“Hey, let’s turn up the volume on this mic, I can’t hear some of them,” he calls, gesturing toward the back, holding an okay sign moments later. Noor reaches expectantly for the mic, wisps of frustration lining her umbre face. Xiao’s eyes fixate on the mic in Mike’s hand, stunned with confusion, her carefully scripted response languishing in her head.  

The night continues to pass. By now, the fingerprints of Lizzy and Georgia have coated the mic with a film of palm prints and oils. Xiao and Noor sit to the side, awaiting their turn, anxiously anticipating compensation for their complacent patience. The meticulously prepared answers they wrote into their journals the night before remained unspoken. As question after question is posed, their chances to speak slip from their fingers. The mic is passed from Lizzy to Georgia to Noor to Xiao, then from Lizzy to Georgia to Noor, to finally, only Lizzy and Georgia. Noor and Xiao glance at each other, both feeling locked into competition with each other, though neither of them had much to begin with. 

With each passing question, Noor and Xiao whisper their answers under their breath, hoping that at least someone in the front row will hear what they have to say. But they both know full well that the only hearing them over the blare of the mic, is the person right next to them.

Then Mike begins to recite his conclusion for the night, asking them one final question. “Alright now, we are running out of time, so let’s hit you guys with a last one. How’d you feel about tonight?” 

To no one’s surprise, Lizzy grabs the mic. Her meaningless words fall out of her mouth, inflicting an uncharacteristic look of disinterest on Mike’s face, one that he had been desperately trying to conceal. She passes the mic to Georgia, who reiterates what little Lizzy had already said. To Noor’s surprise, Georgia reaches over to pass the mic to her, an action Noor had desperately yearned to see throughout the night. Noor begins to rehearse her lines; beside her, Xiao straightens her jacket, doing the same.

Clearing her throat, Noor begins, “I would like to start by saying that it was an honour being here tonight. But—”

From the corner, the piercing beat from a snare drum picks up, as the show’s energetic jingle begins playing from the studio’s speakers.

All at once, droves of audience members begin their round of ovation, the thunderous applause silencing Noor for the second time, and extinguishing whatever hope for the spotlight she and Xiao had that evening.

“Ladies and gentlemen, a big thank you all of these lovely youngsters,” Mike booms, and he begins the well-worn spiel that he had recited on the show hundreds of times before.

“That’s it for American Evening, we’ll see you back here tomorrow at 7PM Eastern, 4PM Pacific, right here on Channel 30. Good night, folks!”


Photo Credit: Storyblocks