Meet Tommy, the budget stuntman

This is Tommy Morrison; he always sleeps with his white, hairy, flabby and naked bottom sticking up in the air. Mostly due to it being the most comfortable way to sleep, due to chronic arthritis in most of his joints. His breakfast of champions is, two oxycodone, a morphine based pain killer, an Irish coffee that’s two parts coffee to three parts Irish and two self-administered cortisone jabs, and if there is any of last night’s pizza left, for a bit of carbohydrate and protein and the tomato sauce, olives and peppers were three of his five a day. With two pints of Guinness at lunchtime his five a day are complete. The narcotic kick start to his day is due to his skeleton being two part bone and the rest NHS upgrades, ceramic hips times two, both squeak, two replacement knee caps, the old ones are still attached to the engine block of the Rover he had to roll in a low budget movie, but the technician had miscalculated the bang needed to roll the car, the scene was kept in the movie right up to the point they cut him free. This had also produced two compound fractures to his spine, the rest of the upgrades are a wonderful selection of pins, rods and metal plates to every section of his body. The scars had started to join up and looked very much like spaghetti junction or a really depressed self-harmer. Getting out of bed every morning was as much effort as a marathon, he mused one day.

It was the one thing about being a budget stuntman; he worked low budget movies, so everyone else was from the budget isle of the movie supermarket. Where wooden actors don’t cause much carnage, they are more than made up for by the budget stunt co-ordination team, using out of date pyrotechnics and cut price cut ‘n’ shut stunt vehicles. If you looked closely at the “medical” van, you would only find Elastoplast, sticky back butterfly stitches and a tube of Germolene, out of date. He even one day found a group of stunt workers playing football using the budget well past date dynamite boxes as a goal. He despaired, he would pull his hair out if he had any. He had chosen to shave it as there was so much metal in his skull, when it grew, it grew in patches.

Once a month he would get a call from his agent, telling him his next booking, a few days later he would receive a script and a breakdown of stunts required, although many more would be added before he pulled on his fire suit. He would give his opinion to a particular stunt, as only he had first-hand experience of the stresses the human body goes through. After the hip replacements he slowly noticed his agent would only send him in as an advisor, it suited him, less painful or risky, and paid a bit more.

The latest script had been written with the thinnest of story lines, which was not new, but with just one after another Hollywood blockbuster style stunts, the final of the picture was to jump across the grand canyon, in a souped-up nitro car, with the intention of blowing the roof, at which point the stuntman would release the seat harnesses and parachute to a boat on the Colorado river below, he didn’t even think that combined together, the stunt team, if brains were dynamite they would never ever produce enough of bang to rival a field mouse fart. He had no idea of the mathematical side, but every time he thought about it, his skin would begin to crawl, and the metallic taste of fear would fill his mouth, and wondered why, like the rest of the team, he couldn’t see the joy and expectation of the finale, the whole list of stunts had him feeling sick, but the finale just made him feel like someone had wrapped his head in cling film, he just couldn’t breathe.

Every day he would ride his Harley up to Mohave point and just survey the scene below, it was an awe inspiring sight, the pictures just can’t do it justice, he would ride along and stop with his camera at points, not for the film, just so he can prove he had been there, to himself, more than anyone else. It was that magnificent a sight to behold, that every day he felt it was a dream enhanced by morphine, cortisone and cheap Irish whiskey. He thought he might just have found the spot where he would like his ashes scattered, that idea appealed to him, and he made a note of it in his “will”.

It was more like a dog eared and dirty note book. His agent knew where he kept it, and would retrieve it at the appropriate time and sort Tommy’s affairs out. He put this in place when he was first on the job, once the novelty of the air ambulance had worn off. He had started to think hard about not coming home one day after a job, and was further reinforced as budgets were being slashed for what essentially was a C-Movie at best, straight to cable. Each job he would entrust his life to these knob jockeys, while he was not even sure if they were allowed to be out unattended, it was like a retarded chimps tea party at best. Twenty five out of a hundred C-Movie’s, by his best calculation, had a death of a stunt team member or extra, and 85% of times the actual footage is used for the final cut to save on costs. So, he ordered a note book, and recorded the details of note, if he ever died on a job. His whole life, written in a two pounds and ninety nine pence note book, he was not even sure whether the contents of this book, bank accounts and alike would even add up to more than the book cost, his agent would probably instruct someone to bury him “on location”.

The day was drawing ever closer, and Tommy’s worries were added to by the fact he was running out of stunt men, this movie was a cluster fuck, fubar and any other way you could say it, that it had appeared almost as if, someone, had introduced Ecstasy and Cocaine to the retarded chimps tea party. These young uneducated thrill seekers were risking others’ lives and limbs, for just the thrill of it. Three of the original ten stuntmen remained, one of whom had bruised his ribs a few days into filming, on the first and easiest stunt. Three stuntmen were in one form of plaster or another, one was literally screwed in to place on his hospital bed, one was in intensive care, and is yet to regain consciousness, one was whisked to hospital with his left leg wrapped in ice and in a cool box, finger crossed.

The seventh stuntman no longer on the set, not forty minutes ago, he looked Tommy in the eye with a thousand yard stare, and a bit of dribble hanging from his bottom lip, after a minute just looking at the long glob of spit and waiting for it to fall to the floor, he wondered how long could it defy the will of gravity, oh right, up until this dribbling buffoon bursts in to life…..
“You, fucking, fuck, fuck, fucker, fuck you, you fuck, fucking fuck……….”
The longer this rant went on the higher his pitch became, until the point this stuttering fool before him sounded rather more chicken like. Tommy wiped the drool from the bridge of his nose, as this man’s mental breakdown took him to storming of towards his trailer with just a high pitched…
“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuckiiiiinnnngggg”

The last time he was seen was driving off in a cloud of dust, but I guess you can’t escape fate, when the reapers got you in his sights. As he pulled on to the highway from the dusty access road, he lost the back end of his motorcycle and was turned to a red goo, by an oncoming big rig. Life was a strange animal sometimes; you would have thought we had spilled enough blood on this land for ten days. The real dilemma for Tommy was there were four stunts left, and only three stuntmen to do it, rookies Tommy had held back from more spectacular stunts, keeping them to bread and butter stuff, only now as the ferocity of the four final stunts made even Tommy’s bladder control questionable, he thought a trip to wall-mart maybe in order for some adult diapers.

At the rate he was getting through stuntmen, it was looking evermore likely he was ‘it’ for the final stunt. From then on every time he would stop at Mohave point to picture himself doing the stunt, he could not get that image focused in his mind, even with just two days to go. There were now three stunts left, after number one rookie broke an arm and a leg in his last stunt, he was down to two stuntmen. He sat there at sunset, popped a couple of pills, washed it down with Irish whiskey, stretched out along his bike with his feet on the handlebars and watched the sun set, and the stars fill the sky. He suddenly came to the conclusion, it was just about the best place to die if you could choose that location. All at once he lost all inhibitions and started to look forward, even hoping the younger lads do not make it, nothing to crippling, just enough to keep them away from that final stunt, at the sunset of his career as a bargain basement crash test dummy. This could define him, as a legend in his own coffee break.

The day of the big finale was here, the chimps were hyper hyper today. There was static electricity in the air, it was almost like Tommy was seeing the world for the first time. He had a full English, and double of everything, even joked with the crew about a hearty last meal. He lit a smoke, and told the crew he would meet them down there, jumped on his bike, and was gone. He arrived at Mohave point six hours before the jump, and rolled a fat one to smoke, as he gazed at the jump point. The jump should have been at midday, but last night he spoke to the crew about doing at sunset, and showing pictures on his camera of what they could expect. He had convinced them, what an ending to the movie, stunning. The entourage of the movie arrived, trucks full of cameras, the car, the explosives all being readied, and Tommy watched on.

As the sun started its red, orange and purple as the sun descended below the horizon, Tommy had been in the car for fifteen minutes, all the checks had been done, and the director waited for Tommy to say it’s a go. Tommy waited for as long as he possibly could, transfixed by this multi-coloured light show. The director’s walkie talkie crackled in to life and in a firm bold voice from across the air waves, Tommy said….
“go, go, go, it’s a go”

The director signalled to roll cameras, and Tommy hit the gas, the tyres squealed and smoked. Tommy could see his markers, and knew after ten seconds of air time he had to blow the roof, pop the clasp and remove the harness, once free, pull rip cord. Synch, he felt the earth fall away from him, he counted out the seconds, pressed the button for the explosive roof, and………

Nothing, not even a pop, then he realised the detonator he had been given was not wired up to the explosives. As the car started its decent in to USA Today’s eighth wonder of the world, Tommy just smiled and sat back and enjoyed the ride. When he said he wanted his ashes scattered here, this is not quite what he had in mind, but it was acceptable way to go he felt.

Tommy agent took the phone call in the early hours of the morning, and sent instructions that all of his personal effects were to made available for collection by his men within twenty four hours, as the time gap was not something he wanted to work out right now. A week later, he received Tommy’s personal effects, he popped the seat off Tommy motorbike, and there gaffer taped to the underside was the note book. There was not much to be sorted, his life savings were given to the stuntmen from his last picture, and the bike was given to his agent to sell or keep, his choice.

The movie went straight to cable, and they changed the end so they could use the footage of Tommy’s final stunt. They put a beautiful eulogy at the end of the film, but nobody ever made it all the way through, and it has been voted on many, many websites as the worst film ever made, and suddenly Tommy became a posthumous cult hero. They do say at sunset his ghost can be seen standing at Mohave point, chuckling to himself. And why the hell not.

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