Pat Gak wakes up and finds 8k new notifications on his Instagram app. He sleeps with a sound machine and it must have drowned out the thousands of dings that rung through the night. He only has 127 followers. He uses the account to promote “Gak’s Farm,” his puppet show at the Safari Resort and Hotel off I-4 in Orlando. Something happened overnight. Pat is confused.
Gak’s Farm has been reviews 865 times on Yelp. Never once has it received a 5-star review, not even as a goof. There are 30 4-star reviews, 116 3-star reviews, 283 2-star reviews and 436 1-star reviews. It is known as the worst puppet show in Orlando. It has its own thread on Reddit. Members of the thread take pilgrimages from all over the United States to the Safari Resort and Hotel off I-4 to see Gak’s Farm and then discuss their experiences on the site. “Gak’s Farm induces vomiting” has 1270 comments. The first page of the vomit thread features a picture of a kid who puked all over the Gak’s Farm stage. But all the attention on Yelp and Reddit can’t compare to what has happened to Gak’s Farm and its lowly puppeteer this morning.
The Safari Resort and Hotel off I-4 in Orlando is one of these places that caters to people trying to do Disney on the cheap. They offer a free shuttle to the theme park twice a day. In between the morning and evening shuttles at 4 o’clock, they offer a happy hour for adults and free entertainment for kids. Adults get a free beverage of their choice in the Amazon Lounge and the kids are treated to Gak’s Farm, the worst puppet show in Orlando.
Yesterday, unbeknownst to Pat or anyone, a Redditer filmed a segment of Gak’s Farm where Grover the Sheep is trying to teach the kids phonetics.
“Baaaaa starts with Beeeeee,” Grover says to the kids. Most of Gak’s act is ripped off from Sesame Street bits. The video cuts from Grover the Sheep to a little girl who puts her head in her hands in disgust while a little boy next to her is shaking his head like it’s on fire. “Mamillion,” which is the name of the Redditer’s YouTube account, uploaded the video and it has gone viral. All the viral accounts on Instagram and Twitter feature the clip.
Gak’s phone rings.
“Gak, it’s Todd. Let’s put the show on hold for a few days while we figure out how to handle all this, okay?” Todd manages the Safari Resort and Hotel off I-4.
“I just woke up. I barely know what’s going on. So, I’m fired?”
“No, no, you’ve done nothing wrong. The Amazon Lounge isn’t equipped to service an internet sensation, that’s all. We have a duty to our guests first and we must respect their privacy. Besides, I don’t think we have enough mozzarella sticks to serve 900k views. Haha.”
“Okay, Todd, with the jokes. When will you want me back?”
“Let’s see how long this takes to blow over. I’m sure in a few days. Hey, this might be fun.”
Pat hangs the phone up without saying bye and gets out of the bed and into the shower. He stares at the little black dots of mold in the corner of his shower as the water runs down his back.
“A little colony of millions of mold spores existing in a world connected to ours like we are connected to Jupiter. They live until we decide to scrape them away with Ajax.” Pat thought. He wonders if Gak’s viral video has made it to mold world yet.
Agnes Buglehorn is Gak’s neighbor. They share a duplex that Gak owns. Her rent covers most of the mortgage and Pat rigged it so she gets the electric bill for the entire house. Agnes is at the door when Pat comes down the stairs after getting dressed.
“I seen yuns on the news.” Agnes is talking through the screen. She opened the front door without knocking. Pat forgot to lock it.
“The news?” Pat said.
“Yeah. Al Rokers was laughing at you.” The Today Show had shown Gak’s video.
“Holy shit, Agnes.” Pat is talking through the screen door, never opening it.
“Well, I guess yous famous. I’ll see yuns.” Agnes goes back to her side of the house. She leaves Gak’s front door open.
“See ya, Agnes.” Pat rolls his eyes as she turns around to leave. He goes to his computer to look up the Today Show segment. Al Roker intros the clip and then all the other hosts laugh at the kids reaction.
“He’s not even doing a puppet voice,” Al says. Pat never could. All of Gak’s characters use the same gruff voice when they speak.
Pat leaves for his other job. He’s a telemarketer for a Korean business man who sells start-up businesses to retirees. Today they are selling a fidget spinner business pack, which is just 200 hundred fidget spinners at a wholesale price. Gak makes his first call and gives his pitch. Right in the middle of Gak’s spiel, the lady on the other end interrupts him.
“You sound like that Gak guy.” Flustered, Pat denies that he’s him and ends the call. His boss lets him work as much or as little as he wants so Pat goes home for the day.
When he gets home, he googles “Pat Gak” and finds that he has a wikipedia page. Wikipedia says he started as a key grip on Sesame Street in 1989. He worked there for seven years, trying to learn the business and become a puppeteer like his hero, Jim Henson. He got fired in 1996 when Fran Brill accused him of groping her while he was fixing her microphone. Then it says he moved to Orlando in 1997 and got a job at Disney as an “It’s a Small World” ride operator. This is known as the worst job at Disney, but it’s the only one they would give him because of his Fran Brill past. Pat holds the record for lasting at the job the longest, twelve years. He was fired in 2009 for snapping on one of the Chinese robots that quit working. He kicked it and yelled a racial slur that an entire boat of exchange students from Cameroon witnessed. Then it says he decided to pursue his Jim Henson dream again, buying all the puppets he could afford on eBay. He learned puppeteering tricks from Youtube and wrote Gak’s Farm and he’s been in the Amazon Lounge for 8 years now making $150 a show. Pat was amazed by how much wiki got right.
At five o’clock, Agnes opened the front door again. Pat could see the yellow flowers on her blue muumuu through the screen.
“I seen yuns on the 4 o’clocks.” She meant the news.
“Agnes, come in the house and quit yelling at me through the screen door.” Agnes fumbles with the handle. She get’s it halfway open but loses her grip and it slams shut. She finally figures it out and comes in. She flops down on the only other seat in Gak’s living room, which is a recliner. Her fat legs go up in the air a bit and Pat gets a peek at her white bloomers that reach almost to her knees.
“Can I get you a drink? I’m going to have a beer.”
“I’d love a beer. I haven’t had my pill yet so it’s fine.” Pat gets up and goes into the kitchen to get them.
“Your phone’s dinging.” Agnes yells from the living room.
“Ignore it.” Pat says and slams the fridge door a little too hard. The dings come in waves. He tried turning off all his notifications but he couldn’t figure them all out. DMs still ding and emails still ding and so many have come today that he’s decided to ignore everything. He hands Agnes her beer and then sits in his recliner. Agnes opens her beer and it sprays her a little. Pat wishes he had shaken the can.
“You not doing the show today?” Agnes says. Pat rolls his eyes at her.
“No, Agnes, I decided to have a drink with you instead.”
“That’s fine, that’s fine.” Agnes drinks a sip of beer like it’s hot tea, slurping it.
“Hey, will you do me a favor?” Pat asks. Pat has an idea: get Agnes to make a statement on his Instagram about the video. Ask her to say whatever comes into her mind and maybe she’ll go viral and take the pressure off of Gak’s Farm and he can go back to work.
“Sures,” Agnes says and takes another obnoxious sip of beer.
“Will you make a statement about the video? Just say whatever.”
“You mean on the TV?”
“On the internet TV. Right here on my phone.”
“I guess. Should I change out of my muumuu?”
“You’re muumuu is fine. Very pretty. Now, you know what I want it to be about right? My video on the Today Show and the 4 o’clocks, okay?”
“Yeah, I seen those.”
“I know you did. Do you think you could talk about them? And say you wish they’d just leave your friend Pat Gak alone and go back to minding their own business so I can go back to work. Do you think you could say that?”
“Sure. Right now?”
“Wait, let me get the camera on you.” He gets the beer and the recliner and the muumuu and her fat legs all in the shot. “Okay, are you ready Agnes? Action!” Agnes looks at the phone and says nothing for a few seconds. Pat signals her to go ahead.
“You mean now?” She says. Pat gives her a thumbs up.
“Hi, this is Agnes Buglehorn, Gak’s neighbor, and I’d say that I’d like to say that you should leave him alone so he can go back to work. He’s a fine man and a fine neighbor and he doesn’t deserve to be on the 4 o’clocks and the Today Show. He needs to be back to work and that’s enough, okay.” Agnes lifts her beer up and winks at the camera and takes a slurping sip.
“No need for a second take. That was perfect.” Pat uploads the video to Instagram and then turns his phone off. Either that will work or it won’t, but Gak’s had enough of the internet tonight.
“How’d I do?” Agnes looks at Pat and smiles.
“Just great, Agnes, you might be famous now. Thank you.”
“Oh boy.” Agnes finishes her beer and puts it down on the coffee table. “Thanks for the beer.” She has to rock a little bit to get up enough momentum to get out of the recliner.
“See ya, Pat”
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The next day, Pat wakes up to the whir of the sound machine. No dings or beeps or notifications. He takes a shower and gets dressed for a much better day. He goes downstairs for breakfast. He doesn’t even bother to turn his phone on or the TV. He wants to have some eggs and coffee like you had thirty years ago, without all this nonsense. The only thing missing is a newspaper, but he doesn’t subscribe to one anymore. He’ll just eat and look out the window in peace. He can hear Agnes banging around a bit, but that is normal. He dreads the day he doesn’t hear the thumping, goes over there and finds Agnes in her bloomers dead on the floor.
Todd calls his house phone and tells Pat that they’re going to wait until after the weekend to showcase Gak’s Farm again. Pat will be back at the Amazon Lounge in a week. Great news. Pat continues this 1990 feel and leaves his cell phone off and at home. He goes to his telemarketing job with nothing but a bag lunch and a smile.
When he gets home from work, he finds Agnes on the front porch on her cell phone. She waves and points at the phone when he gets out of his car.
“It’s the 4 o’clocks,” Agnes whispers to Pat as he walks up to the porch. Pat gives her a thumbs up and chuckles to himself. His plan must have worked. Pat goes into the house, closing the front door behind him so he can’t hear Agnes’s interview. He decides to ruin his good day and turn his phone on.
Gak’s phone almost explodes with dings after it starts up. He waits for the onslaught to stop before he opens anything. His phone almost crashes and settles down after a few minutes. He opens the first thing on top of the long list of notifications. It’s a meme with Agnes’s face winking and some crude words about what she just got done in her muumuu. They’re all about Agnes. He’s tagged in thousands of videos, memes and comments just like yesterday. He’s tagged in all of them because they have to tag somebody and Agnes has no social media. The front door opens and Agnes comes in, not bothering to talk through the screen door today.
“I was on the Today Show.”
“Wow, Agnes, that’s great. How did you look?”
“They called me on the phone. Al Rokers said he thought I was sweet. It was fun. Then something TMZ emailed and offered me $5,000 to do a video interview. I had no idea how to do that but they showed me. Then this guy called and wants to sell t-shirts and hats and muumuus with my face on it and I said fine. And another guy is going to pay me to go to this convention in Tampa next month and I said I’ve never been to Tampa and they’re going to pick me up. They said they tried you but you didn’t get back to them. I told them to leave you alone like you said.”
Pat was starring straight ahead. He thought about $5,000 and all the Gak’s Farm merchandise he could have sold. He never opened any emails. They must have sent the offer and he didn’t see it. $5,000. He could pay off his car and get some new puppets and…
“Dammit,” he said. Agnes flopped down in the recliner just like she did last night.
“This phone won’t quit,” she said, smiling and lifting her arms up. “How about a beer?”
Pat rolled his eyes and got up to get a beer. He handed her one and sat back down in his chair. Agnes opened her beer and it exploded everywhere. So much got on her face that she had to blow some away before she could get a breath. She kept blinking her eyes trying to get the beer out of them. Her bloomers were exposed again when she kicked back from the shock of the explosion.
Pat looked at her with a smile and said, “Sorry.”
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