Six months since she moved to Hollywood to pursue her dreams, and all April had to show for it was a commercial for a regional fast food chain, a non-speaking role as bar patron #3 in a sitcom nobody watched, and a corporate training video on avoiding phishing emails.
She got a call one night from Taylor, a friend from her acting classes.
“Hey, I know this is short notice” Taylor said sheepishly “but I just got a gig tomorrow for the pilot of this game show they’re shooting, and they’re looking for more people… 20-25 years old and conventionally attractive I think was the exact phrasing… so I thought of you! Would you be interested?”
“Hmm, yeah, I’m interested, what’s the game show?” April asked
“Uhh… well it was described to me as The Price is Right meets Fear Factor.”
“Interesting… does this gig pay?”
“Uhh…” Taylor responded “Well, so, it pays $200… but I’ll be honest, they are giving me another $100 for anyone I can recruit to be on the show so I can split that with you if 200 isn’t enough… oh and plus any prize money you win!”
“Stop, you had me at ‘it pays'” April responded without hesitation.
“Great! I’ll send your contact info to the producer I was talking to and he’ll fill you in on the details of where to go.”
April arrived at the studio in Van Nuys the following morning at 9 AM sharp. She had been up since 5 making sure her shoulder-length, strawberry blonde hair looked absolutely flawless. This was a rare chance to be seen. She was directed to the waiting area, where she found Taylor, as well as some of the other students from her acting class. Nobody was exactly sure what the show was, but there were about 30 people in the room, all young and attractive and about a 2 to 1 ratio between women and men.
After everyone had waited for about an hour, tall, middle-aged man with a neatly-trimmed beard entered the room holding a clipboard. Taylor tapped April on the shoulder. “That’s Dean, he’s the producer you talked to”.
“Excuse me, could I have everyone’s attention please!” Dean shouted out. The room fell silent.
“Thank you for coming, and thank you for your patience” He announced to the young actors and actresses in the room. “Today we will be filming the pilot episode of a game show called ‘Everyone Has a Price'”. Since this is our pilot, we’ve hired you all to play the contestants. Normally we would pick random people from the audience, but this needs to be perfect, so that’s why we’re planting actors in the audience for this one episode. Each of you will get called for one challenge. Before we begin, we’ll need you to form an orderly, single file line to fill out the waivers, and after that, you can go to your assigned seat.”
April glanced over the waiver quickly and signed it so as not to hold up the line. She still had no idea what the rules were but she assumed she would find out. She found her seat in the third row and waited as the rest of the contestants and other audience members found theirs. There was a small tablet on her seat with an app open to a waiting screen with the show’s logo.
Once everyone had been seated, the director wasted no time starting the show. The curtained opened to a colorful stage, and a man in a suit with a haircut befitting a politician or TV anchorman ascended the steps as the spotlight followed him and music played.
“Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to ‘Everyone has a price’. I’m your host Jimmy Goodman. Now for those of you who don’t know the rules… which is everyone since this is the first episode, let me explain. There will be three rounds of challenges, each one more difficult than the last. Ten contestants will be called up to the podiums behind me for each round. Once I describe the challenge, each contestant will secretly name a price. The four lowest bidders will be called to complete the challenge, and if they do, they will win the amount of money they bid. If they back out, the next lowest bidder will have a chance to take their place, and so forth. So, without further adieu, lets begin! If you tablet is flashing red, please come up to the stage!”
April’s tablet remained on the waiting screen while ten other contestants, were given the signal to go up. They lined up at the side of the stage and took the podiums as their names were called out.
“Welcome to round 1” Jimmy announced into the mic. “The challenge this round will be very simple. Eat a single tortilla chip. Seems easy, right? Well there’s one little thing. That tortilla chip will have a drop of this stuff on it” he held up a small bottle in position for the camera. “This is Crazy Bobby’s Nuclear Fission sauce. Recently certified as the hottest sauce on the planet. Are you willing to try it? Well… everyone has a price!”
The contestants went into deep thought as the podiums lit up one-by-one when they had entered their price. Once everyone had made their choices, four of the podiums lit up green as the screens on the front of the podiums displayed the bids. The low bids were $200, $200, $250 and $400. Each of the winners was able to eat the chip, and after much heaving and sweating, the director yelled “cut” and a team of production assistants rushed the stage to give them a glass of milk.
That wasn’t too bad, April thought to herself, though he did say the challenges got harder.
The next round started and once again, April’s tablet did not light up, but Taylor’s did. Once everyone had taken their podiums, Jimmy took to the mic again.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to round 2. Now, starting this round, there will be an additional twist added. The audience will take a vote before the challenge begins. So for those of you in the audience, pull out your tablets and you have 60 seconds to decide.”
April looked at her tablet. The app now displayed the question “Which contestant do you think has the cutest butt.” Without thinking much, she selected #6, which was Taylor.
The timer ran out, and the director gave Jimmy the cue. “Alright folks, looks like the votes are in, now lets see what our next challenge is!” He was handed a box by an assistant and pulled out a paintball gun. “for the next round, four of you will be taking 10 shots to the behind from a distance of 10 feet from this bad boy. I don’t know about you all, but I’d never let anyone do that to me, however… everyone has a price!”
Once again, the contestants pondered their prices until all the podiums had lit up to indicate that the selections had been finalized. The prices displayed and four podiums turned green, including Taylor’s, who had bid $800. The winning bidders were escorted behind the stage.
“Now you might be wondering what that vote was for.” Jimmy spoke into the mic “Well we figured if you think some of these contestants have such nice rear ends, you’d probably like to see more of them, so the more votes each contestant got, the less they’ll be wearing to protect them from the incoming paintballs.”
April suddenly regretted voting for Taylor. If she was asked, she’d say she voted for one of the guys.
One of the men emerged first from backstage wearing jeans. He lined up at the side of the stage, donned a pair of safety goggles and held his hands to the back of his head while an assistant fired 10 shots at his butt in rapid succession. Next was an Asian girl who had changed into basketball shorts. The shooter fired a little slower this time, and she cried out in pain, but took all ten shots. The next contestant came forth. It was another man, still no Taylor. He was wearing spandex bike shorts, and took the shots without flinching, though his grimace betrayed the fact that he was holding back pain. Finally, Taylor emerged wearing nothing below the waist except a very skimpy black bikini bottom.
“And the winner of the vote, Taylor A!” Jimmy announced as she strutted into position. “Now I want you to all call out the shots this time.”
The shooter went slower on Taylor, pausing for the audience to yell out the count each time. Taylor took it like a champ, refusing to break her smile as the last paintball smacked into her callipygian backside, leaving a nasty welt. April felt terrible for her friend, but also weirdly jealous. She imagined herself in that position and found herself aroused by the thought of being publicly humiliated like that.
April shuddered to think of what challenge might be worse than that, but whatever it was, she knew she would be up next. Sure enough, when the next round began, her tablet lit up red. She noticed that for the final round, all ten of the contestants selected were women.
Once they had taken their podiums, Jimmy addressed the crowd again. “Alright folks, we are once again going to take a vote. You have 60 seconds.”
April had no idea what they were voting on, but noticed people looking at her carefully.
“And that’s time!” Jimmy announced. “Now lets find out what the contestants are bidding on!”
As he said that, some of the assistants wheeled out four barbers chairs onto the stage.
“Well, since we had you vote on who has the nicest hair, you probably guessed that the winning bidders this round are going to receive a liiiiitle haircut. we’ve got a few styles in mind. The first is a mullet with a poodle perm straight out of 1986. The second is a pixie dyed platinum blonde. Very stylish, very short. The third is a mushroom bowl cut dyed pink that’ll make people nervous about what pronouns they’re supposed to call you… and the fourth…” He paused dramatically for a drumroll “The fourth winner will have her entire head shaved smooth as a cue ball.”
There were gasps from the audience. He continued “The haircut each winner gets will be based on the amount of votes she got for best hair. That means that the winning bidder who had the nicest hair will be going home with none of it. Bid wisely. I know you girls are probably pretty attached to your hair but…”
He held the microphone to the audience and they shouted out in unison “EVERYONE HAS A PRICE!”
April’s heart beat fast as she tried to come up with a number. There was no way she wanted to part with her hair, so she first thought to name some absurd number like a million dollars that would definitely lose. Without her perfect hair, how would she find acting gigs, or a boyfriend for that matter. Then again, she had flawless hair and wasn’t getting acting gigs or a boyfriend, so what was so important about it? Maybe, she thought, bid an amount that could maybe win, but would be enough to buy a nice wig with plenty of cash left over. She typed in 5000 and hit enter. Then she tried to take it back and bid $10,000, but there was no button to edit her bid, so it was locked in.
April’s heart pounded in her chest as she waited for the other contestants to make their decisions. Finally, the moment of truth. The bids were revealed and April looked at the screen in front of her podium. It was red. She glanced around at the winning bids in green. $500, $3,000, $4,000 and $4,999. Her hair had been saved by one dollar. She knew the logical thing to feel was relief. It occurred to her that with the amount of effort she put into her hair this morning, surely she won the vote. One dollar saved her from being shaved completely bald and having that degradation seen over and over again on screens around the world. So why did this feel like a let down?
The winning bidders were called forward one-by-one to sit in one of the chairs while the losers were told to stand still. The girl who only bid $500, had a brown chin length bob and proudly strutted towards the chairs, unperturbed by the fact that she had massively underbid. The second girl seemed shocked, nervously clutching her blonde ponytail. The third girl, a redhead with long, cascading locks seemed unpleasantly surprised to be chosen, but sat in the barber chair anyway. The final girl, who had underbid April by a dollar, was a Latina with her long, black hair in twin braids. She clapped and shouted “Lets do this!”, hyping up the audience as she got in the chair.
“Alright, looks like we have our winners for our final challenge. But one thing first. We don’t want anyone backing out once they find out what haircut they’re getting, so before we figure out who gets what, we’re going to tie your wrists to the chair so you don’t go anywhere. Now’s the last chance to back out!”
The redhead stood up. “Nope, nope, nope. I’m not doing this. Sorry.”
“Ohhh kay then… fair enough” the host retorted “In that case we’ll go with the next lowest bid and it looks like… oh wow, with just one dollar more than the last bid, it’s April T. April, come take your seat if you dare!”
April froze. Her pulse quickened and she began to sweat, but that wasn’t the only reason she felt damp. Her brain told her to run away, to say no thank you, to let someone else win, but her body sat down in the chair and held her wrists in position to be tied down.
When all four finalists had confirmed that they wished to proceed, they were tied to the chairs and capes were placed over them. April waited for the announcement of who was getting what haircut, but instead, Jimmy just instructed the barbers to begin without telling the contestants anything.
A pair of strong, male hands pulled tightly on April’s hair and tied it into two ponytails, then began severing them with scissors. He didn’t go straight to using clippers, so this must be the pixie, she thought. After he finished cutting off the first ponytail, she glanced to her left. The blonde had her hair tied into three ponytails, one on each side and one on the back, which her barber was taking his time to carefully remove, and two chairs over, that barber was attacking the brunette’s bob with a pair of clippers. That girl must be getting the total head shave, April concluded. She realized it means more people voted for the brunette than for her. That pissed April off, even though she was getting 10 times as much money to lose less hair. The barber instructed April to look forward as he carefully cut off the other ponytail. When he finished, April looked to her right. The barber to her right had unraveled the Latina’s braids and placed a bowl over her head. She looked to her left. The barber had cut off the blonde’s left and right ponytails, but left the back one intact and was now combing it. The other barber had buzzed the sides of the brunette’s head, but left the hair on top, and was leaning her head back to wash her hair. That meant she must have been getting the pixie, and the blonde must be getting the mullet… which meant.
“Head forward, please” the barber instructed April. She looked forward, and as soon as she heard the buzzing sound, she felt the bare metal of the clippers right at the center of her forehead as they mowed backwards. She only regretted one thing about this situation- the fact that her hands were tied to the chair and not down her pants. This man was a maestro with the clippers, and in what couldn’t have been more than 30 seconds, he reduced the ragged remnants of April’s prized hair to stubble only millimeters long. Then he quickly passed over her eyebrows.
“Wait, you’re shaving my eyebrows too?” She asked the barber, surprised.
“Entire head.” He replied laconically.
He was not lying. He instructed April to close her eyes as he spread a layer of hot lather over her entire scalp and face, and adeptly scraped it away with a straight razor. Each caress of the blade sent shivers down her spine. He rubbed his large hand over her scalp and she almost came right then and there.
“Ehh, I think it could use another pass.” he said with a shrug.
“Oh absolutely!” April responded without hesitation.
He started the process over again. As he scraped away the foam on her scalp a second time, April got a mouthful of shaving cream when she involuntarily bit her lip. When he finished, he wiped the last vestiges of white foam and loose stubble off with a hot towel. He began rubbing some wax onto her scalp. “Give you a nice shine” he said. April thanked him.
The rest of the day was a blur to April. She definitely remembered Dean saying something about using her in promotional material for the show, and she had a vague recollection of the numerous traffic laws she violated in her haste to get home, but all she had on her mind was getting home, taking off all her clothes, and going to town on herself with the removable showerhead.
Three months later.
April fidgeted with her short, matted hair. It was at an awkward stage where it wasn’t long enough to go out in public without her wig, but it was long enough to make the wig slightly uncomfortable. Her phone rang. It was Dean, the producer from the show. It must have been something important if he escalated straight to a call without texting first.
“Hey April, It’s Dean Richardson, from the Everyone Has a Price show, remember me?”
“Of course, Dean, how are you? It’s been while.”
“I’m doing great, thanks! I’m calling because I have some bad news and some good news. Bad news first: Everyone Has a Price didn’t get picked up. It’s dead in the water at this point. Finito. The good news is, I’ve been working on another project. You ever heard of the comic book Pirates of Lightspeed?”
“Uhh, no, what’s that?”
“It’s a sci-fi, takes place 10,000 years in the future, space pirates and lasers and whatnot. Anyway, there’s a character named Zaxara. She’s an alien from the planet Bezelborp. The way she is drawn in the comic books, she basically looks like a human woman, but with green skin and no hair. So whoever we cast for her has to be sexy, and she has to be bald, or else a bunch of nerds will get really mad at us on Twitter. Anyway, one thing I kept hearing from people who watched the pilot for Everyone is how much you pulled off the bald look. It’s pretty much the only positive thing anyone had to say about that disaster of a show, in fact. And I agree, you’ve got the perfect features. Would you be interested?”
“Oh definitely” April replied enthusiastically
“Sorry, what was that, there was some background noise” he responded
“Sorry about that, was just in the middle of cooking and was digging for a spatula. I said I would definitely be interested” April replied, briefly pausing from rummaging through her bathroom drawers so he could hear her reply.
“Great” He replied “Now I can’t guarantee you the part, but we can bring you in for an audition on Wednesday. Of course, we need to make sure you can actually act, but as long as you can, I think you’ll be perfect!”
“Wow, that’s amazing!” April replied as she found the item she was looking for.
“Awesome. Oh and about the hair, I’m sure you’ve been growing it back. You wouldn’t actually have to cut it again until the show starts filming, and that’s I you get the part. So no need to worry about that. You can have your hair however you want for the audition.”
“Oh, yeah, uhh… won’t worry then”. She said, tossing the last of her clothes aside and sitting down at her bathroom vanity, impatiently staring at the items in front of her.
Dean continued for what felt like an eternity filling her in on the time, place and parking instructions for the audition. As soon as she could, she politely ended the call.
“No need to worry about it. Ha!” she chuckled to herself as she took inventory of the items in front of her. Cordless clippers with no guard, disposable razors and shaving cream. “I’m getting that part” she said to herself as she placed the clippers to her scalp with her right hand and fingered her sopping nether regions with her left.