1. Poppy Adams
“I’m not a demon, but I play one on TV.”
I’m the first to admit, Slug Brook Academy is hella boring, and that, in turn, is making me boring—a feat I seriously thought impossible. Nothing ever happens here. Even dust fails to collect. Rust resists eating. Autumn leaves on the school ground’s oak trees hang limply from branchy stubs, but never fall to their demise.
Every morning starts the same way. The school’s church bell clanks, interrupting my nightmares—my only escape from the numbing boredom of my present situation, no matter how horrific. I’m woken up by DONGGG DINGGG, DONGGG DINGGG, on repeat: six chimes, echoing from snow-capped mountains bordering the narrow, glaciated valley in which Slug Brook Academy hides. A headache accompanies my forever-lingering, 24/7 grumpy mood. The bells cause a sharp ringing in my ears.
Tinnitus not yet subsided, I throw on my white robe adorned with Slug Brook Academy’s crest and take my shower caddy to the dormitory washroom. It’s lit with fluorescent bulbs which emit a low hum. Four pale pink bathroom stalls stand across from four showers with flimsy curtains.
Girls Boarding School: where you are empowered to learn women are just as disgusting as men.
There’s nothing grosser than seeing someone’s soapy brown hair left behind on the shower drain, like pus-covered spiders. Oh wait, there is something grosser: and that’s smelling and hearing a classmate’s morning dump while you exfoliate.
Why didn’t my management team spring for a school with private bathrooms at bare minimum? This is punishment, I’m sure of it. But for what? For earning them millions? For funding their mid-life crises—commission from my hard-work wasted on yachts and new lovers.
They want my ego checked. It’s revenge for asserting I wanted more serious roles, for turning down a part with a character description of: A sexy teenager, WILLOW (17), outrageously lustful in her school girl uniform, blankly stares at the math equation on the chalkboard as though it is an Egyptian hieroglyphic. Give me a break.
Each day, I dress in my Slug Brook Academy uniform. You know the drill: knee-high socks, plaid skirt, wool sweater. I don’t feel “outrageously lustful.” I’m uncomfortable from the itchy fabric, and I’m constantly pulling my skirt down and socks up. The proportions are all wrong, and my waistline is invisible. Mine is a body for couture, not cotton.
The rest of the day passes at a snail’s pace. There’s breakfast, classes, lunch, more classes, dinner, then a variety of “stimulating” extra-curriculars in the evening. Crocheting. Croquet. Cribbage. Activities normally designed for retirement homes. Nothing I would find mildly interesting. I lose track of time.
There’re no boys. No parties or premieres. Hell, there’s even a no-electronics policy. No internet. No smart phones. No television.
But, I get why you read on. I’m Poppy Adams. A hotel maid once sold my leftover soap on eBay for $10,000. A paparazzi slime bag snapped his neck, climbing a tree to take a photo of my empty bedroom just to expose the world to the color of my sheets. On Reddit, POPPYLUVAH69 posted a photo of a life-size figurine constructed in my image, apparently sculpted entirely from gum I left under tables and in trash cans.
The world’s obsessed.
And, since I’ve disappeared from the public eye, the thirst is utterly insatiable.
I bet there are rumors. That I’m in rehab for pill addiction. That I’m in the hospital for “exhaustion”. That I’m knocked up and hiding in a nunnery for the next nine months.
But, you’re different. You’re smart. You like to think for yourself. So, I ask of you: has any source corroborated the flashy clickbait headlines with a smidgen of evidence? Doubt it. Where are the leaked medical records? Where are the grainy long-lens paparazzi photos of my baby bump? Where’s my rehab roommate spilling tea in an exclusive interview about my recovery? They don’t exist, because the rumors aren’t true.
And, that’s what makes you thirsty. Where is Poppy Adams? What is she up to? Why has she disappeared?
One minute, I’m the Persephone, the Demon Cheerleader Princess Warrior on Demon Chronicles from Hell High; the next, my show’s put-on hiatus. The official excuse is Pig Flu. After what happened to Southern Air Flight 1304—you know, the freak airplane crash that killed the smoking hot lead actor from that zombie TV show filmed in Alabama? The network refused to take any more risks. Oh my god, I couldn’t sleep for a week after watching those Instagram stories the passengers posted before the crash! The stewardess’s bleeding eyes! Her rabid convulsions! The salvia foaming from her mouth as she and lunged at the little girl’s throat…It wasn’t just that Pig Flu fried your brain, it made you vicious like a rabies-infected raccoon.
But the threat was contained, at least according to FEMA. The United States of America was free: free of Pig Flu! We could drink our $15 smoothies on our way to our $40 barre classes, and shrug passively as we scrolled by news stories about the pandemic’s toll in Africa.
So, you think it’s my fault. Why would the studio shut down production when we’re so safe and sound? You conclude your favorite show, with one chapter left until its ultimate conclusion, is on hold all because of me, the purportedly out of control child actor.
OK, I guess I could see why the rumors exist. Yeah sure, I got a D.U.I. a week after getting my driver’s license but I swear, I didn’t know I couldn’t mix my Ativan with my Dexedrine with champagne! And yes, I acknowledge I’m 17 years old, so therefore technically underage in the Sunshine State of California. But, listen, I shot my first commercial eight weeks out-of-the-womb. I’ve been working, literally, my whole life. I sit on set all day long, then I’m forced to attend glib industry events where I put on a fake smile while people talk about me like I’m a stock rather than a human being—
“We’re optimistic her weight loss will lead to gain in her likability index,” says a suited executive producer I’ve probably met, but can’t remember, because he’s fat with a receding hairline like all the other executive producers living out Hollywood fantasies funded by Saudi money.
“Our people think a date with our person would do wonders for her exposure,” says a generic publicist—
You can imagine why I may grab a champagne flute from the caterer. Sometimes two, or three, or…
OK, I’ll admit, I needed a rest. I was born a cash cow, a work horse. I was tired, cynical at seventeen! It’s just…
Well, I really wanted to finish out the last season of Demon Chronicles of Hell High School. Give the series a proper ending. After five seasons, Persephone was so close to defeating Zadkiel, the Angel of Freedom and Mercy, and a twelfth-grade math teacher at Hell High School. She deserved at least that.
Also, couldn’t I have taken a break somewhere… less drab?
An island vacay? A gelato apprenticeship in Milan? Or even, at least a co-ed Boarding School with private bathrooms?
But, Dad was insistent on Slug Brook Academy.
I’m sure you already know—my parent’s divorce wasn’t exactly private, after all—but in case you need a refresher, my dad is a super powerful attorney. He makes the network executives shake. If he says I need a bigger trailer, it’s done before he can finish his sentence. If he thinks I deserve a royalty cut on merchandise, the paperwork materializes seemingly out of thin air. My mom, on the other hand, is a full-time Momager, and only person on the face of this planet who is not afraid of my dad—
“You’re ruining her career!” My mom throws her crystal ashtray across my trailer. It nearly hits my dad’s bare scalp, though his experience dodging items thrown by Mom pays off. Instead, it shatters against the stainless-steel fridge.
Nothing good ever happens when my parents run into each other on set. I’m thankful we’re somewhat less exposed to the crew, in the privacy of my trailer, though my mom’s screams could travel through iron. Everyone will hear them fighting. I hate it when this happens. It’s like I’m the only professional in my family.
“Debra, this is non-negotiable. The show is going on hiatus. The network can’t risk the entire cast getting knocked out by the flu. ”
“Bullshit! I’m sick of hearing, flu this, flu that. It’s nothing but fear mongering by suits like you! Meant to scare us. Trick us into not making money.” My mom lights a cigarette and mindlessly blows smoke into my face. I’m one of the most famous actresses in the world. I can’t go anywhere without swarms of fan and paparazzi following. Yet, I’m completely invisible when my parents are fighting.
I peep up, “I can still work. There’re other projects. Kale’s shooting a sci-fi in Vancouver. They say Canada has a vaccine.”
“Poppy, you’re taking this as an opportunity to pursue a real education,” my dad insists, calmly but firmly. “On-set tutors won’t prepare you for college.”
My mother takes a drag of her cigarette, then realizes she has nowhere to ash it. She grinds her teeth and tensely replies, “I’m not preparing her for college. I’m preparing her for an Academy Award.”
“She needs a break from the public eye. We could use a scandal-free year. If that means sending her to a boarding school, so be it. End of subject. Don’t make me get a court order.”
The ashes fall in slow-motion from my mom’s cigarette onto her cheetah-print blouse, like the burnt snowflakes of a nuclear winter, as she realizes she’s lost the argument—
No one cared the decision meant the end of my life. The end of my world. Instead of playing Persephone, a bad ass Demon Cheerleader Princess Warrior, on a hit TV show, I’m now demoted to acting in a school play. Ugh. It’s Waiting for Godot, which honestly, is the most boring playbook I’ve read in my entire life. Nothing ever happens. Seriously. That’s the whole point.
If I had to give Waiting for Godot playwright, Samuel Beckett, advice, I’d say add some archangels! Or magic! Or, a love triangle! Readers love a love triangle.
Waiting for Godot is about two guys, Vladimir and Estragon, who stand around a tree, waiting for Godot, who—get this—never arrives. About half-way through this nonsense, a rich dude named Pozzo arrives walking around some other guy, Lucky, on a leash like he’s a dog. You almost think something is going to happen, but nope, it doesn’t! At the end, they are still waiting for Godot.
Go to: Chapter Two