"Kids, don't try this at home," said the pretty announcer on the televison screen.
"Today, we're going to demonstrate how to pull a magician out of a rabbit," every word a sunshine smile.
Her eyes darted back and forth, the telepromter had been suddenly edited.
That bloody PA, I can't believe Johnson got me to agree to this, I. Will. Have. His. Nuts, was the thought that raced through her head faster than her conscience could follow.
The 'live television audience' watched with snickers as she blushed so fiercely it was visible under all the stage makeup she was wearing.
The phone lines, all 12 of them, started blinking. Irate busybodies and mocking single men and the poor customer service reps didn't know which was worse, the ones calling them names or the ones slurring words like 'cutie' and asking for the host's number.
If it hadn't been happening to her, she wouldn't have believed it, since the gaffe she had mechanically run through her lines, cheeks blooming, perma-smile fastened to her face as though with copper rivets.
The laughter, the cruel mocking laughter she imagined echoing through every household in television land, she would never live it down. She imagined taking the call and becoming a nun and doing terribly important missionary work in Angola like her parents had always wanted, she imagined how proud she'd make them, tending to the sick, comforting the dying, doing something with her life that was significant.
Instead of this brainless blather filling the space between ads for carbonated sugar water and kitchen gadgets that never worked.
As she read through to her last line, a sense of overwhelming determination overcame her, this dark moment would be the beginning of everything. Today a disgrace but tomorrow a saint.
"And we'll be back after a short break," she said.
When the 'on air' of the cameras flicked off, When she was no longer live on television, she knew she couldn't do it. No escape.
She let out a barking laugh, almost a sob, tore off her microphone and balled up on the linoleum floor of the studio howling with impotent grief and frustration.