Raymond Littlefield ignores the temperature of his scalding hot coffee and casually incinerates the tip of his tongue. After staying up all night for his upcoming deadline, there’s little time to spare before his Production Coordinator, Luanne, arrives with her trusty hard drive. Raymond knows that he is unimportant. He has no fame, celebrity status, or national news stories. He has no mansions or yachts or trophies. But Raymond has his work. And his work brings him as close as he can get to stardom, which is all he’s ever wanted. This year’s work is his best yet. As video editor of the In Memoriam section of the Academy Awards, 2016 provided him with an abundance of magnificent, tear-jerking material. Because for Raymond, each celebrity death is another brush stroke in this year’s nostalgic masterpiece.
Despite the awards show being two months away, his contract stipulates that his final cut be done before the New Year. Any 2017 celebrity deaths will be logged and marked for the following year’s video in Raymond’s “Calendar of Death.” The laminated Star Wars calendar boasts numerous pictures of Princess Leia, whom Raymond holds in the highest regard. Any time a famous person dies, Raymond logs it into the date, along with any ideas for clips or quotes to use for that person’s section. It’s never too early to be prepared.
Raymond believes that this process is far from tasteless. His In Memoriam sections morph these actors’ best moments into their final curtain call. It becomes a historic funeral pyre for the world to witness. And he’s almost done.
Raymond’s talented fingertips soar across his keyboard, tweaking the saturation of one clip and adjusting the font size in another. It’s these final touches that make all the difference. He zooms in on David Bowie’s elegant visage, knowing that this picture will create a tremendous emotional gasp from the audience, and wants to make sure that it’s in complete focus. Raymond’s name depends on it. When this magnum opus unveils at the end of February, he knows that there won’t be a dry eye in the house. Perhaps they’ll even give him a standing ovation.
Raymond never intended for the 2016 reel to be so magnificent. The beginning of the year started out normal enough. But as the months passed, more and more notable celebrities began to kick the bucket. And Raymond started to root for their deaths.
Another box to fill in his calendar. Another famous name to glorify his own. Another glimpse at Princess Leia.
Raymond double checks his audio track, “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day, to make sure the volume is at peak emotional level. Every editor knows how irresistible that song is during sentimental slideshows. He originally tried out the Jurassic Park theme song and then a couple of tracks from Hamilton, but neither seemed to fit the mood. This isn’t the Teen Choice Awards, for heaven’s sake!
Might as well stick to the classics.
Only ten minutes left before Luanne barges in. Everyone at the Academy is so damn timely.
His mouse hovers over ‘Export.’
With an unceremonious click of a button, Raymond’s crowning achievement is complete.
His heart rate slows as he watches the video render, imagining the hair-raising response his work will receive. He salivates at the sight of Alan Rickman and Alan Thicke. He grunts with satisfaction at his sections for Gary Shandling and Abe Vigoda. He toasts the sudden deaths of Alexis Arquette and Florence Henderson. But his smile widens most of all at the unknown gaffers, sound recordists, and colorists who devoted their lives to their craft and now receive this honorary acknowledgement at the end of their journeys. Perhaps one day, when Raymond himself passes on, he too will be included on the list of famous and notable industry deaths. It’s the least they could do.
Heavy boots stampede up the wooden steps that lead to Raymond’s editing bay, breaking his personal moment of triumph. He stubs out his cigarette and hides his erection. The door bursts open.
“A little early, Luanne. Should be finished rendering in just a minute.” Luanne bows her head and covers her face in messy coils of auburn hair.
“I hate to do this to ya, Raymond, but your day isn’t over yet. We lost another one yesterday.”, she says.
“You’re kidding me. This late in the year?”
Luanne doesn’t answer.
“Well at least tell me that it’s someone we can breeze right over. There isn’t much room left to improvise but I can add in another picture real quick. This is my best work yet!”
Luanne exhales and hands over a copy of today’s newspaper. On the cover, a splashy photo of a familiar face peers out underneath a range of dates. Her eyes gaze over to his “Calendar of Death” and the photo of Princess Leia.
“No. It’s Carrie Fisher,” she says with a moan. “Better start collecting clips fast. The boss still wants this done by end of day and Ms. Fisher will need a decent chunk of the In Memoriam timeline. She was the real deal, you know. Sorry to screw up your masterpiece.”
Luanne begins to shut the door, then has a second thought. “Oh,” Luanne whispers, “Debbie Reynolds too. Such a shame!”, and slams the door.
Raymond involuntarily exhales the first sob he’s ever felt from a celebrity death. With a heavy sigh, he yanks down the “Calendar of Death,” tosses it in the trash and begins to dismantle the timeline of his crowning achievement.
Written by Brooks Morrison with artwork by NODU (Matt Jones)
Inspired by: Various articles highlighting the deaths of notable celebrities in the final days of 2016.