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6 Days to Air

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“Marnie?”

Three loud knocks and a voice at the door stir me from a particularly fascinating dream involving Chris Hemsworth. I open my eyes slowly, hoping the loud banging will subside. For a moment it stops and I’m about to chalk it all up to my dream, when three more loud raps come at the door. I groan from beneath the covers. It had taken hours to fall asleep with all the anxiety churning in my gut.

“Marnie, come on we’re gonna be late” comes the muffled voice from outside my front door.

I throw off my blanket and glance at my phone on the nightstand to check the time. My eyes go wide as I realize I should’ve been up an hour ago! I fly out of bed and throw on a random outfit from my closet. The knocks at the door come again and don’t stop this time. I pull a t-shirt over my head and throw on my jeans, rushing to the door.

“I’m coming, hold on!” I yell in response to the unrelenting knocking.

 When I open the door, Kate McKinnon is standing in front of me mid-knock, holding a drink carrier with two coffee cups in it.

“Marnie, you know Lorne isn’t one for the whole “fashionably late” thing, right?” she says with a smile tugging at her lips.

I smile and roll my eyes, turning back into my small studio apartment. Kate follows me in and sets our coffee down on my kitchen counter.

“I know, I know, I’m sorry.” I reply. ”I think I slept through my alarm or something. Give me two seconds to brush my teeth and I’ll be ready.”

“Rough night?”

“Sleepless night more like”. I walk into my small bathroom and turn the faucet on the sink.

“Uh huh, anything fun?”

“Not unless you consider soul rendering anxiety ‘fun’.”

I catch a glance of myself in the mirror and wince slightly. I look as run down as I feel, with bags under my eyes and my shoulder length auburn hair sticking up every which way. I force myself to look away, vanity be damned, and quickly brush my teeth and hair, put my boots on, and head out the door with Kate.

“So today’s the day, huh?” she smirks as I lock the door behind me.

I grab a coffee cup from the carrier and take a huge gulp.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“I think you know exactly what I’m talking about.”

I try to ignore her, but Kate is nothing if not persistent.

“Are you nervous?” She prods.

“No.”

I pause not sounding nearly as confident as I want to.

“He’s just another host, another celebrity being paraded in. As long as I keep telling myself that I’ll be fine.”  I try to say the words with assurance but I’m not terribly convincing, even to myself.

“Just think, you’ll get a whole 6 days together” Kate waggles her eyebrows and nudges my shoulder. “Not to mention late nights in the office writing sketches together…just the two of you…” she trails off.

I sigh heavily, ignoring the fact that I’ve played out this exact fantasy far too many times in my head.

“You haven’t told anyone else, have you?”

“No. But everyone saw you go white as a sheet when the host lineup was posted. We’ve all seen that look before. It’s the same one Kyle had when he saw Halsey was hosting. I think there may be some bets going around on who yours is”.

“What? Why does anyone care? I’m not the newest cast member anymore. Shouldn’t the hazing be over with by now?”

Kate shrugs. “It’s pretty entertaining. I mean I’m not even in on the bets and I think it’s both cute and funny.”

 I let out another long sigh as we walk briskly down the New York City street. “Of all the Hollywood crushes I could have, why him? We did an episode where Benedict Cumberbatch shoved his crotch in my face and it didn’t affect me, but the prospect of doing a few sketches with Bill Hader makes me feel like a high school girl with a crush? What is wrong with me?”

“Well, you have good taste.”

“Hm, unattainable taste more like with that pesky marriage thing in the way” I reply sarcastically. “Besides, there’s no way he’d like me. He’s so…handsome and…god, just adorable. I don’t know, there’s just no way he’d like someone as average as me.”

“You do have a strong argument there”. Kate laughs as I elbow her playfully in her side. “But seriously, Marnie, you need to stop putting yourself down like this. Any man, or woman for that matter, would be lucky to hit that”.

“Kate!” I mock being offended.

I give her another playful pat on the shoulder as we continue walking. I gaze at her for a moment with a smile on my face. Kate has been my best friend since we met last season, which was my first and her fifth. We’d hit it off immediately with our similar senses of humor and shared love of astrophysics We’d also spent many a late night in offices working on characters together. I can’t help but admire her. Comedy comes so natural to her.

 I’ll never admit it out loud, but there’s also a hint of jealousy mixed in with the admiration. Kate exploded onto the scene in 2012. She was just like Fred Armisen, Andy Samburg, Jason Sudeikus, Kristin Wiig, and all the other greats who made a huge mark on the ensemble in their first seasons. So much so that you never really thought of them as being new, they just seemed to always have been there somehow, fitting into the show like a puzzle piece that had been missing.

I hadn’t been that lucky at first. I had to work incredibly hard to figure out how I’d be useful to the show and get the writers to actually write me into sketches. It’s not that I was unliked, more that I just wasn’t usually thought of for parts. I was so nervous my first couple episodes I tended to be background noise, in a way. The only thing I had going for me was my ability to not break during sketches. No matter how funny or how absurd the bit was, I never broke. It was always a point of pride in the various improve groups I had been in. Thankfully that was enough to get me noticed more after a few episodes.

Kate had my back from day one. She was always coming to me with ideas and recommending me for sketches. I like to think she saw some kind of potential in me. Hopefully she still does. I think about how lucky I am to now be able to call her my friend.

We walk the rest of the way in silence; Kate presumably still waking up going by her occasional yawns and me quietly trying to push down the panic building in my chest.

We arrive at 8H and head to our prospective offices. Mine is shared with Cecily. We spend a few hours brainstorming with a few of the other cast members, gearing up for the pitch meeting later in the day. I try and ignore my anxiety. If I let it get to me I won’t think of any good sketches and the last thing I want to do is bomb in front of my biggest Hollywood crush.

 When the pitch meeting finally rolls around I collect my thoughts and head to Lorne’s office with Cecily and Kate. We’re too late to grab an actual seat, but early enough to score spots on the windowsill. Bill is already in the room sitting in a chair next to Lorne’s desk, deep in conversation with the man himself.

I take a slow, deep breath.

It’s okay, just act casual I tell myself. It’s no big deal, just a guy you’ve had a crush on for literal years sitting 2 feet away from you.

The writers and other cast members meander into the room and find a place to sit, or rather stand. The stragglers have to lean up against the wall and a couple in the doorway. There are about 30 people packed into Lorne’s mid-sized office. I’ve asked before why we don’t do this in the conference room where we do the table reads. I always get the same answer; it’s just how things are done. Lorne likes his traditions.

The boss looks up from his conversation with Bill and begins to speak.

“All right, is everyone here?”

The group goes quiet and hums a murmur of approval.

“Okay, everybody welcome back Bill Hader.” He says gesturing towards Bill with a small smile.

The room bursts into applause and Bill looks down laughing shyly. Episodes are always special when a former cast member comes back to host. There are a small number of people in the room, including myself, who have never worked with Bill before but his reputation precedes him and there are enough people in the room who have worked with him before for this to be less like a celebrity coming to host the show and more like an old friend visiting you at work.

I make a conscious effort to refrain from clapping too enthusiastically.

“All right Colin, let’s start with you” says Lorne. And with that, the pitch meeting begins. I frantically run through ideas in my mind for pitches as the others speak. Most of the cast doesn’t take the pitch meeting too seriously. It’s just a form of making introductions, in some strange, roundabout way. But a part of me wants to impress Bill, or at least get him to laugh that adorable laugh of his.

I am so in for it this week I think to myself, nerves building as my time to shine draws near.

When it’s finally my turn, I manage to slog through the wet cement of my mind to at least form cohesive sentences. Bill looks at me expectantly. I start to say something, then pause for a moment.

Holy shit, his eyes are beautiful.

Kate tries not to look at me as she gives me a nudge with her elbow. I realize my mouth is hanging open like a damn fish and everyone is waiting for me to say something. I snap myself out of my daze and throw out the idea that had come to me earlier in the day.

“I was thinking something about the Me Too movement but, like, the Canadian version so a big producer resigns for giving compliments”

The laughs from the room come instantly and I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. Bill seems to get a kick out of it as well.

“That’s actually great” he says laughing. I can’t help but smile in relief.

As soon as it began, the moment is over and it’s onto the next person. I thank whatever god of comedy is watching over me that this isn’t my first season. I don’t think I could handle trying to prove I’m funny to Lorne, the writers, the other cast members, and Bill.

Finally, the meeting concludes and I head to mine and Cecily’s office. I plop down on our small uncomfortable couch with a sigh and begin writing the Me Too sketch I pitched. Technically writing night isn’t until tomorrow but I always like starting my sketches early. It gives me more free time to talk with the writers and help work out my characters. With this kind of idea, the jokes tend to write themselves so it isn’t too difficult to focus. Cecily walks in and sits at her computer a few moments later. I look up at her and smile.

“Hey Cecily”

“Oh, hey Marnie! I wanted to talk to you, actually. You know that girls game night sketch I talked about earlier?”

I start to laugh just remembering the idea. “Yea that’s definitely going to kill if it can get past the censors. What about it?”

“Well, I was wondering if you wanted to play the wife?”

I stare at her for a second as I feel a blush creeping over my face. The sketch was about a group of girls having a weekly game night at one of their apartments and one of the girls brings her ancient husband, played by Bill of course, bald cap and all. During the game the old man’s Cialis kicks in and they have to “take care of business” so to speak. Whoever plays the wife would sit on Bill’s lap with a blanket over her to hide everything while she still attempts to play the game with her friends. The idea had Kate and me on the floor, and she was planning on writing it with James Anderson which practically guaranteed that it would have the audience tearing the roof off the place. Although, Lorne would probably have to consult the sensors to see if it would even be allowed.

Just the thought of being in the role makes me flush with embarrassment.

“What? Me? Why?”

“You’re the best at keeping a straight face. And the straighter this can be played the funnier it’ll be.”

My eyes widen and I must look like a deer in headlights. Cecily gives me a suspicious look as I flounder for an answer.

“Oh…well I, um…I don’t know. I mean Heidi’s pretty good at not breaking, too.” I make a face at my own thought. I try to picture Heidi perched on Bills lap in a wheelchair, blanket covering them as they try not to laugh. It seems wrong in some way. I find myself oddly jealous of imaginary Heidi. Honestly, I think I’d be jealous of any other woman but me in the role.

“It’s okay if you don’t want to do it, Marnie.” Cecily says light-heartedly breaking the silence. “It won’t hurt my feelings or anything. I can take the part if you don’t want it.”

“No!” I find myself nearly yelling before I can stop. “I mean…I want to it’s just that…I think it would be difficult to…keep my composure?” I trail off at the end of the sentence like it’s a question, hoping and also not hoping that Cecily catches my drift.

She gives me a puzzled look, her eyebrows furrowed.

“What?”

“I uh, don’t know how professional I could be? I might have some…ulterior motives…”

Cecily breaks into a huge grin, understanding crossing her face. “It’s him isn’t it? The one that made you look like you’d seen a ghost when the host schedule went up?”

I close my eyes and nod in shame.

“Damn it, I guess I owe Beck fifty bucks.”

I look at her in horror. “Oh my god you really had bets?”

“Yeah, my money was on Saoirse Ronan.”

I cover my face in embarrassment as Cecily pulls out her phone and starts typing. I peek out from behind my hands as her fingers fly over her phones keyboard, a broad smile still on her face.

“What are you doing?”

“I have to let the rest of the betting pool know who won.” she replies without looking up from her phone.  A few seconds later Leslie busts into the room.

“ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I can’t believe I owe that little dude fifty bucks.” She puts her hands on her hips and looks over at me with a sly grin. “I guess I can’t blame you though Marnie, he is pretty cute. You know, in that geeky white boy sorta way”.

“Oh my god” I groan collapsing back onto the couch, wishing it would swallow me whole.

Melissa and Aidy rush into the room next.

“Marnie, I’m sorry but that is genuinely adorable.” Melissa says to my place on the couch.

“Beck is going to love you, you just made him a LOT of money” Aidy replies. “Oh, speak of the devil”.

Beck walks into the now-crowded room and finds me on the couch.

 “There she is” he says walking over and patting my back. He sounds like a father whose child just won a little league game. He perches on the arm of the couch. “You are my new best friend. And you” he motions around the room “have until next Saturday to fork over my winnings”. Everyone groans and Leslie fishes into her pockets and hands over a wad of bills to Beck. “I shoulda known she’d go for that nerdy type” she says in defeat.

Kenan walks past the doorway and then backtracks when he notices Beck inside.

“Man, I cannot believe this” he says pulling out his wallet handing Beck his cash. “I told my boy he was gonna be a sex symbol with that new show. The ladies just can’t resist a guy with a gun” He throws me a wink and gives me a pat on the shoulder, my face now fiery red.

“God, if this was that new it wouldn’t be a big deal but I’ve had a crush on him since…Jesus since I was in high school and saw him on the show”.

I think back to my high school days. My family would drag me to church on Sunday mornings, but I would still stay up late every Saturday night so I could watch SNL. Bill was also one of my favorites. He was just so likable.

“Oh John is gonna love this” says Beck, pulling out his own phone and typing furiously.

Mulaney?” I choke out. “Don’t tell me he was in on this too.”

“No, he wasn’t in on the bet but he had a hunch.”

At this point, I have to hold myself back from opening up the window and flinging myself through it onto the unsuspecting tourists below. I sit up on the couch and look around at everyone.

“Please tell me Bill doesn’t know about all this.”

“Marnie, of course not!” Cecily chimes in. “We wouldn’t stoop that low.”

I can tell she’s being honest and try to at least take condolences in the fact that my dignity has been somewhat preserved. I collapse back on the couch and everyone starts laughing to themselves. Suddenly the room goes quiet.

“Whoa, sorry don’t let me interrupt.”

I go completely still at the sound of Bill’s voice. I force myself to look at him as he leans into the doorway. He’s wearing typical Bill Hader attire; a plaid shirt that fits him exceptionally well as it hugs his broad shoulders, jeans, and tennis shoes. I’ve never understood how he can look so attractive in such a normal outfit. He looks like a guy you’d see at the grocery store and think to yourself how cute he is while looking for a ring on his finger. Impulsively, I do exactly that. My eyebrows rise a little bit when I notice how bare it is, no such ring to be found. Did something happen between him and his wife?

I shoo away the thought immediately. The universe would never be that kind to me. Not to mention I shouldn’t wish spousal troubles upon anyone.

I swallow hard and smile, trying to think of something witty to say to him. My mouth opens but words do not come out.

Kenan seems to sense the nervousness and pipes up in my place.

“Nah, man we cool. Just settlin’ a little bet.” He throws me a knowing glance then heads out the door with Bill.

I shut my eyes tightly and place my head in my hands as everyone starts laughing again.

“This is such a nightmare” I say in shame.

“Aw Marnie c’mon now, are you sure it’s not more of a fantasy?” Leslie’s laugh booms through the room. I lie down on the couch and bury my face in a pillow.

As the group begins to disperse, Che walks past the doorway, pauses, and then leans in.

“Real cute Marnie” he says with a knowing smile, and then continues on his way.

I’ve never felt so embarrassed in my life.

When Cecily and I are finally alone again, she walks over and sits next to me on the couch.

“You have to play the wife now. Live a little, Marnie!” She nudges me with her shoulder. “I didn’t let Aidy turn down being dry humped by Benedict Cumberbatch, and I’m not letting you turn down almost simulated sex with Bill Hader.”

We look at each other and both of us start laughing at the absurdity of the sentence.

“Alright” I finally concede. “You win, let’s do it.”

Cecily beams like a proud mother.

 This was certainly going to be an interesting table read.