Author: Jenny Abbott

The Bob Hope in the next act is slipping, and I can hear him breaking down a little more every night through the wall. These places off the turnpike aren’t exactly five-star gigs, but you take what you can get—a career in combat leaves you long on synaptic adjustments but short on the skills it takes to make it as an influencer. So, here I stay, practicing my act between curtain calls and listening to him try to distinguish between reality and The Bends.
I’ve seen it happen before, especially to performers that specialize in one persona. A lot of them see the single-character-life as a way to stay competitive in the business without ruining their health. Rather than having a whole-body procedure every few months, they can make good money by throwing themselves into that one part, spending years getting the walk, the talk, and the ocular implants just right. The problem, though, is that if you spend enough of your life sashaying around like Betty Grable, you might wake up one day confused about who’s staring back at you in the mirror.
I don’t know who “Bob” is under all the modifications, but I feel for the guy. From what I’ve heard through the wall, he did a couple tours in Tijuana and has flashbacks most nights. And if he got any black-market neural work done over there, then he’s probably unraveling in more ways than one.
Listening to him just comes as another reminder that performance art makes for a precarious career at best. Although, in my case, time’s not running down for my sanity so much as for my neuromuscular system. After three IEDs, four encounters with nerve agents, and as many rounds of prosthesis upgrades as the VA would pay for, I’m a few complications away from having more mobility issues than can be patched together with hardware. In which case, my options as a performer will get rather limited, because there aren’t too many wheelchair users on the list of most popular dead celebrities right now.
I’ve gotten a few offers over the years for freelance work, mostly the kind of gigs that involve impersonating people or creating recruitment media for regimes with deep pockets. Turning them down wasn’t much of a morale booster—I may be a woman with ethical standards, but I still have rent to pay.
And, of course, there’s always a market for stunt work and skin performers. I’m just not crazy about the idea of adding more occupationally inflicted injuries to my list. And, as far as live-streaming racy VR content for fame and followers… no thank you. I’m cut out for wielding plasma torches and rocket launchers, not taking off my clothes for likes.
My plan is to last another few months with this gig and then put some Army connections to good use. One of my old COs started a weapons-tech firm, and he told me there’s a job for me as a spokeswoman if I ever want it. With luck, I can earn some more money off of my character while she’s still popular, before hanging up the ball gown for good.
Well, there’s my cue—”Bob” just had his last encore and I can hear him headed backstage. Somehow, in and out of hallucinations, he still pulled off a great comedy act. I guess that’s what you get at the intersection of talent, plastic surgery, and an Instagram craze for Old Hollywood.
The things we do to make a living.