Wrong Place - 1992-20██
“What do you mean it’s on two tapes?”
“What do you mean, ‘what do I mean’?” Alfonzo Redic flipped through his sleeve of Commodore 64 tapes “It’s a long fuckin’ game, it could be on fuckin’ thirty tapes.”
“All these fucking tapes, how’re you supposed to find it?” Alfonzo’s friend Phil poked, gently kicking another sleeve of tapes next to his foot.
“Don’t-” The pair jumped as a knock came at the door. “Fucking c’mon. Again?”
“Where’s the tape?”
“Man, shut the fuck up. How come it’s always when you come over that I get noise complaints?”
Change this to reflect the rodney king riots
Cops been busy dealing with riots
Thought it would be a break from the constant complaints
Alf was used to being kicked around by some trumped-up mall-cop looking shithead with a flashlight instead of a gun. In all likelihood, America’s finest was here to tell him that his neighbours had called, and that his music was too loud, and that it smelled like weed. He would raise his eyebrows like he had any power, say something that sounded more like a threat than a warning, and go jack off to the thought of beating Alf to death.
What he would not do- and in fact did not do, was be an eight-year-old, and not an apartment cop. Which was odd, because Alf could have sworn that the cop thing was more likely. Her hair was matted at the ends from where she had been chewing on it, hand still raised as the cheap MDF door swung open. She transitioned effortlessly into a handshake, her paw absolutely dwarfed by Alf’s. He was probably a little too careful, but it had been long enough since he interacted with an eight-year-old that accidentally pulling her arm off was not out of the question.
“My name is █████, but my friends call me El.” She started, completely unprompted, her voice incredibly casual. “I like your music.”
Alf had seen this kid before: her mother worked at the community centre. The kid sat with her, usually kicking her little sneakers against the inside of the front desk. Phil stood to look over Alf, dumbstruck for a moment, staring down at this stranger’s kid.
“That your new girlfriend, Alf?.” Phil had no idea how to keep his mouth shut.
Alfonzo spun, snapping through gritted teeth: “Man, shut the fuck up. That’s a kid. Get your act together.”
“Man, my act?” Phil clicked his teeth, apparently amused by the situation. “You’re the one inviting kids over.”
“Phil, get off this. Swear to God.”
“Hey, and don’t cuss either, ‘cus it’s literally a kid.”
“That’s okay,” El spoke up, her thin voice cutting through the two baritones. “I know ‘fuck’.”
“Okay, well, you shouldn't. Don't you tell your mom we said cuss words in front of you, alright?” Alf stood up straight, finally getting a handle on the situation as the enthusiastic child in his foyer finished up with her handshake.
“Okay.” El smiled. “What's your name?”
“I’m Alf, like the alien. You like Biggie?”
“Oh! Yeah... he’s my favourite.” The little rabbit bluffed. At the turn of the decade, you didn’t have to be a child not to know about The Notorious B.I.G.. “I heard him through the floor and I thought it would be cool if I came and listened to some. There was one like- uh-” El tried to beat box it out. Alf laughed.
“You mean like:” He tried to match her beat: a scratched warbling slap bass that was hard to reproduce with a normal person’s mouth.
“Yeah.” Even that pathetic attempt got her chin moving. “Can I listen to that one?”
“Sounds like you already heard it.” Alf teased.
“Yeah but like, I only heard it through the floor.”
“Oh…” Alf nodded. “For sure then. C’mon.”
Alf brought El back into the apartment, helping her up onto the cleanest section of the couch as Phil balked.
“Phil, put the fuckin’ weed away.”
“Shit, like you meant an actual child.”
“Man, what did I fucking say?”
“I dunno dude, who the fuck brings a kid into this kind of situation?”
“He ain’t never heard Biggie before.”
“Nobody heard of Biggie. The kid’s like 18. Just ‘cus he’s got a mix tape out doesn’t make him like - a person people should’a heard of.” Phil ribbed.
“Well.” Alf gave El a friendly nudge as he sat down next to her. “Me and El both like him.”
He grunted as he bent down under the coffee table, fiddling with the controls of a cassette player and starting the tape from the beginning, all but forgetting about the blinking “LOAD TAPE 2” at the bottom of his computer’s screen.
The three of them went through Alf’s entire collection that night, Phil doing his best to focus on Super Space Invaders. Any high at all was too high to be anything but thoroughly uncomfortable the whole time.
Alf had a few staples: a completely un-worn copy Licensed to Ill, a copy of Straight Outta Compton that had started to flutter in places, a few clearly pirated Public Enemy singles, but mostly his collection was made up of other people’s demo tapes. Some autographed, some vandalized with red marker by some angry studio exec, all very lovingly kept.
El sat still for most of it, asking questions as they popped into her head, making conversation as best she could with a man three times her age. It was easy to tell what she liked: she would stop abruptly in the middle of a sentence, a slow smile dawned on her face, and she rocked back and forth to the beat. Every time it happened Alf made a quick note of which tape and what the number on the counter.
Alf’s collection grew thin as late night stretched into early morning, and before he knew it, Phil was asleep, and they were down to a dusty old box labelled ‘weird shit from qbec’. It was halfway through an annoying French chorus that another knock came at the door.
“Hi, I’m so sorry to knock this early but-” El’s mom started as soon as the latch clicked. “I just woke up, and I can’t find my son and-” She froze as she spotted El over Alf’s shoulder.
“█████ Elijah Sloth-Bunny Jr.!” The older rabbit roared, charging through Alf and towering over her daughter. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing walking out in the middle of the night? There are riots in the streets! What the fuck is wrong with you?”
El looked up at her mother, a blank confusion on her face. “Alf and me were talking about music.” El’s mom glared down at her before turning her ire on Alf, burrowing him into the drywall as he gave an awkward smile.
“It’s all cool, he’s safe with us. We’ve really just been talking about music.”
“Did you know about hip-hop, mama?” El asked, knocking her mother out of rage and into confusion.
“Wh- Yes I know about hip-hop █████. C’mon, we’re going.”
El gave a weak “Okay” as her mother dragged her out by the wrist. “I’ll see you later Alf.”
“See you around silly rabbit.”
June 27, 1998
The newly installed phone on El’s beside table rattled in her grip as she struggled to catch her breath. She could hear her uncle Alf’s phone in the apartment below, felt her breath catch in her throat as the creak of his floor groaned up through their shared wall.
“Alf, it’s El.”
The old dog let out a long sigh.
“El, it’s fuckin’ four in the morning. What the fuck do you want?”
“You know the like, queer thing that happened today? Or, yesterday...”
“Yeah, the fag march. What about it?”
“So like…” El started, running through all the ways to come out in her mind like a Rolodex. “What’s a transgender?”
Alf let that one sit for a moment, mulling it over. Another creak from the rapidly aging apartment building startled both of them out of silence.
“Man, I don’t fuckin’ know. It’s 4 A.M.” Alf repeated.
“Didn’t you date one of them once?”
“Nah El I just- That’s not- that’s nothing. Why couldn’t this wait?”
“Do you still have her number?”
“El why the fuck- What is going on?”
“I think I might be one.” The words fell out of her mouth like vomit as nausea took over her body. Her heart kicked at the walls of the chest as the background hiss of the call r█se to a roar. Time stretched on as-
“Real shit?” Alf asked.
“Yes, dude.” El replied, suddenly comfortable in the silence, having overwritten the last thing sh█ said.
“So like,” Alf started cautio█sly. “You got a ██w name or something?”
“Yeah... I’m thinking █lea█or.”
“█lright. Tight. Go the f██k to sleep Eleanor.” Alf h███ up, s███ing one last volley of c█████ t█ro██h the ceiling as h█ b██████d back in█o bed.
Uncle A██ was actual█y pr██t█ s██████, or, well, ██ █████ a█ ███████ ██ ███ █ou██ ██████ █████ █████████████████████ █████d█████████████ ██████████ █e█ ██████████████c████████████████████████a████
“Eleanor. C’mon. Wake up, we’re leaving.” The blurry image of her panicked mother came into focus as Eleanor blinked the sleep from her eyes. She watched, dazed as she pulled a spare backpack from the top shelf of her closet.
“Wh- What?” Her mom dropped the backpack on her bed, stuffing it with a recent pile of either done or not-done laundry by the fistful.
“We’re going on vacation.” Her mother said, not making eye contact.
“What? No, I have like- class to go to.”
“It’s fine, I already called the school. It’s fine, okay?” A familiar annoyance rose in her mother’s voice as she rolled out of bed.
“What about- me and Uncle A were supposed to-”
“What do you mean, we’ve been-”
“Eleanor. He’s busy.” She snapped. An awful an█iety rose in the rabbit’s chest with the panicked confusion.
“Mom, can you please just tell me what the fuck is █████ ██?” ███████ █ █ █████ ███ █ ████████████ ████████ █ ███████████ ██████████ ████ █ ██████████ █. █████████████
“So, Eleanor.” the neatly disguised voice of a god began with all the politeness of a talk-show host. “Can you tell us why you want to work for Warner Brothers?”
“Well, I’ve ██████████████████████████████ █ ███████████████████ ██████████ ██████████████████████████.
This isn’t working like this.
“Next stop, Olive and Warner Bros 1.”
[The bus's brakes squeal as it stops.]
[Its doors hiss open.]
[Eleanor's shoes thump down onto the curb.]
[She takes a deep breath, then begins to jog.]
[She struggles to breathe as she arrives at the security checkpoint.]
[A voice inside the security booth says.]
“I know I'm late. It was the bus. Buzz me in.”
[Clipboards clatter in and out of a plastic organizer.]
[Eleanor gives a long sigh.]
“Who's… Ellie! Where are you? You have my clipboard again.”
[Ellie holds her breath as they trade clipboards.]
[Eleanor clicks her tongue, annoyed.]
“I don't- Eleanor, Ellie. They're different names. Look-”
[Paper rustles as Eleanor shows Ellie her clipboard.]
“You're up in the booth today. You shouldn't even be here.”
“You shouldn't have headphones on.”
[Ellie struggles to get a foothold in the conversation.]
“First of all, I have one headphone on. Second, you tell your supervisor and I'm sure she'll let me know.”
“I don't wanna be a prick. Just next time: Eleanor, Ellie, okay?”
“Okay. Good job yesterday by the way- I saw that cover. That was quick work.”
[The music in Eleanor's ear dims with a pop as she drops her right headphone.]
“Okay. Big smile. Pretty bunny.”
[She psyches herself up before entering a door labelled “Green 1”.]
[Inside, a quiet conversation between a mother and father stops abruptly.]
[Their child holds his breath.]
“Hi everyone! My name is Eleanor, I'm gonna be looking after you until Ellen gets a second, okay?”
[The silence is broken by the son’s cough.]
“And you must be our special guest. Are you a big fan of Ms. DeGeneres?”
[The father clears his throat.]
“We just came to make an appeal.”
[The mother's breath hitches in her throat.]
[It becomes clear that everyone in this family is holding back some emotion.]
“Some water would be nice.”
“For sure. I'll be right back.”
[Eleanor goes to leave, then stops as she checks her clipboard.]
[She has long since learned to hide her feelings at work.]
“I might be just one second. Gotta make sure my team is doing what they should.”
[Eleanor's music comes back to its full volume.]
[A team of two men strain to hoist a wooden crate into the air.]
“What are you guys doing?”
“Hoisting the thing.”
“What? Why? These go by the door. Who told you to do that?”
“Did she tell you why?”
[She ties rope around an anchor.]
“There's no time to bring it down now. We'll give them out at first break.”
[One of the men sighs, frustrated.]
“If you wanna question her go right ahead.”
“I'm on my way to her dressing room right now dude, and I'm sorry who's your supervisor?”
“I answer to a higher power than you.”
“Not on my set you don't.”
“She's not in her dressing room. She's in hair and makeup.”
[Eleanor stops as she hears the rope strains again.]
[She snaps her fingers.]
“I said leave that.”
“Go talk to her!”
[Eleanor stops at the door to hair and makeup.]
“Where’s the fucking- did someone take the gum bowl?”
[She takes her own pack of chewing gum from her pocket and pops two pieces before knocking]
“Hi, Ms. DeGeneres?”
“Hi! Ellen, right?”
“It's actually Eleanor, Eleanor Sloth-bunny.”
[Eleanor laughs nervously.]
[Ellen laughs genuinely.]
“Of course. How could I forget? I love that scent by the way!”
“Thank you, I always keep a pack on me.”
“I know! Y’know, that’s really considerate of you. Don't tell anyone else, but I think you're destined for great things after this show.”
“Thank you. I-”
“I don't think we run half this smoothly on days where you're not here.”
“The uh, mask box, for the selfie thing.”
“Right! Of course.”
“Evan said you told-”
“I have some special plans for it. I just want it to be out of the way. It'll come down before the show starts.”
“Alright. You let me know when.”
“You'll be the first to know! I hate to go over your head but no one could find you.”
“I was late. The-”
“Of course… Did you meet Devin yet? Lovely kid. Such a shame.”
“I did. I'm actually supposed to be getting them water.”
“Oh! I'm so sorry I didn't realize you were on an errand. You can go, so sorry to keep you.”
“Are you going to give them time?”
“It's not as easy as it looks. We have to find some to give first.”
“I hope you find some.”
“I'm sure we will.”
“Good! Hey, why don't you come see me after the show?”
“If I have time, of course.”
“I'm sure you will.”
“Well get going! I'm sure poor Devin and his parents are parched by now!”
“What did she say?”
“Leave it up.”
[Eleanor's walkie talkie drowns out her music.]
“Talent moving. We’re on in five.”
“Go get your make-a-wish kid seated.”
“Sorry, again, who's supervising who?”
“Hey folks! We're running a little behind so we'll have someone bring you those waters once you're already seated okay?”
“Cool, cool. We've got you right in the front row. If you look really close you might even be able to see me behind the scenes, running the show.”
[The son coughs.]
“Alright! Let's get moving!”
“Eleanor? Could I get you over here real quick?”
“Sure. Hold on.”
[The front of stage facade gives a hollow thump.]
[Eleanor strains, then hops to her feet.]
“Ellen just wanted to see you uh, over here.”
“Yeah, she was very specific about… right here. I'll go get her.”
[Eleanor waits a few moments before turning her music on on low.]
[She taps her toe, more out of impatience than rhythm.]
[Her walkie beeps.]
“I hate this.”
[Eleanor is momentarily distracted as she hears the rope strain above her head.]
[Eleanor's walkie beeps.]
[A distant voice asks:]
“Could I see that for a second?”
[Ellen speaks directly into the walkie.]
“Hi Eleanor! I'll be right over, okay?”
“What is she doing over there?”
[Eleanor is once again distracted as the rope strains above her head.]
[Her walkie beeps again, startling her.]
“Can we get the light test guys over here?”
“Is she… Okay yeah. Hi? What is she looking at?”
[Eleanor's walkie beeps.]
[Crackles and static.]
“I'm looking at you, Eleanor!”
[Eleanor does not laugh.]
[The rope strains.]
[The son coughs.]
[Her walkie beeps.]
“You shouldn't take your eyes off me, Eleanor.”
[Eleanor does not laugh.]
[The rope snaps.]
[Eleanor’s head is ██████████████████████████████████████████████