HAIR OF THE DOG • by K.C. Ball

I can say it now; the gags have been removed.

I can admit that I unleashed a monster upon America; a bumbling, mumbling television superstar that children love and parents loathe.

Hear me; I created Richard, the One-Eyed Hound.

I was three weeks away from completing work for my master’s degree in performance arts. All that was left was presentation of my thesis production; the stage was reserved, the actors, stage crew, scene designer, everyone was ready.

There was one problem.

My work was to be a satire, a scathing examination of everything I believed to be wrong with children’s television programming, but I had nothing on paper beyond fits and false starts and reams of crumpled 20-pound white covered with dribble. Finally, Andrea, my roommate, tired of hearing me whimper.

“All work and no play, Susie,” she said. “Let’s go have a few drinks.”

That was Andrea’s solution to all of life’s miseries. A few drinks. Even so, that Friday I decided she was right. A few drinks became a few too many, and I woke up Saturday afternoon with the parent of all hangovers. But I wasn’t alone. The first draft of a stage play lay stacked upon the floor at the center of my room; above it, hanging from the light fixture, was Richard.

Unless you’ve been in a coma, you’ve seen him; seven feet tall and bright yellow, with big feet and a round head and a silly pirate’s eye patch. I read the script I couldn’t remember writing. It wasn’t like anything I would have done sober; instead, it was perfect and so was the costume.

Rehearsals started, sets got built, invitations sent and, on opening night, Hair of the Dog played to a sell-out crowd; I didn’t realize, at the time, how prophetic that phrase would be. A week later, now entitled to add M.S. to my name, I got a call from the manager of the university’s public television affiliate. His wife had dragged him to see my play; he thought it was brilliant, that’s the word he used, and he had told people he knew about it.

Three months later, I sold Richard to one of the television networks — you know which one — for more money than I ever imagined I would see in a lifetime. And, after all their promises, the bastards took my baby and corrupted him; bent him into everything I was railing against in my play.

Since then, I have fought one legal battle after another. The producers of Richard didn’t see the need to let anyone know how their new hero had started life, and so my name wasn’t listed anywhere in the show credits; neither was the title of my play. The contract I signed, when they handed me all that money, had a gag order that prohibited me from revealing my connection to the character. I have spent most of the money I was paid on lawyers to win back the right to claim the Hound as my creation.

It was worth it, even though the network attorneys say that Richard is so entrenched in the American subconscious that there isn’t a thing I can say or do now that will change the way people see him.

Maybe so, but I’m sitting in a green room, waiting to appear on the morning talk show of an opposing network, and in just a few minutes I’ll go on camera and tell millions of people that Richard, the One-Eyed Hound, was gifted, in a fit of drunken humor, with my nickname for a long-gone boyfriend’s most precious piece of anatomy.

K.C. Ball is a retired newspaper reporter and media relations coordinator. She lives in Seattle, a stone’s throw from Puget Sound, with the love of her life and two demanding cats. She writes because if she doesn’t she’ll just burst.

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