“Dirty beatnik,” he muttered under his breath. Maurice Povich sat with his roommate on the balcony outside his dorm at the University of Pennsylvania. It was the night before graduation, and Al decided to light up a joint.
“You’re the bastard who always has a tie on the doorknob whenever I came back from class,” Al shot back, noticing Maury’s disgust.
Maury was silent, full of anxiety. He hated marijuana but right now the pungent smell and warm smoke was soothing. It was unseasonably cold for May. He looked out into the dark over West Philadelphia, wrapping his wool sweater tight around him, legs crossed. Unseasonably cold, and unexpectedly calm for a neighborhood where crime was rising fast.
“Phyllis is coming over soon,” Maury said quietly.
“Great. Now I’m definitely not leaving this room,” Al replied.
“No, I’m going to break things off with her.”
Now Al was the silent one. He nodded and rubbed Maury’s shoulder. Al was skinny and bespectacled with a button nose, wore funny hats. Maury was athletic with a big nose and perfectly combed hair. Al passed the joint, and Maury took a drag.
“What’s going on, Povich?”
Maury exhaled. “She still thinks I’m going to be a television journalist.”
“I still think you’re going to be a television journalist,” said Al.
“But you know I really want to be a sportswriter.”
“Just like daddy.”
“I’d get to go to baseball games every day.” Maury’s eyes were already red.
“Aw, Povich. You’re a Jew from the Ivy League. You and I both know you’re going to make a lot of money some day. That’s why you went into TV in the first place. People love you. They’re gonna want you in their homes,” Al explained. God, he could be hell sometimes, thought Maury, as he inhaled the joint once more. The whole city was so quiet. Al stood up and walked back inside. He put on a record—Miles, Kind of Blue.
“You majored in English because you’re going to do what you love, and write,” Maury called inside. “Why can’t I do the same? I’m going to be a sportswriter.”
“You don’t love starving as much as I do!” Al called back.
Maury ignored this and lay back for a while, listening to the music. Sure, it wouldn’t be easy. He could go back to DC, get a little apartment and a new typewriter. Go to baseball and football games during the day, listen to the radio, and then use his salary for some food and a little beer. At night he would smoke cigarettes and write until the sun came up. Money doesn’t matter so much.
He heard a knock. Maury shot up as Al opened the door.
“Maury! I have something for you!” Phyllis walked in. There was a massive box in the doorway behind her.
“What is it?” asked Maury, dazed. Through his foggy vision he could read the letters RCA emblazoned on the box.
“It’s a graduation present!” exclaimed Phyllis. Her blonde bob was disheveled and her cheeks were flushed after having lugged the box up two flights of stairs in high heels.
Maury looked closer. She had given him a television. He looked up at her smile, the red lipstick. His face was expressionless. Baseball, beer, cigarettes. Television, picket fence, money. All through school he thought about doing something new, something different. Wife, children, Bar Mitzvahs, Cadillac. Follow in daddy’s steps. Fame. He looked at Al. He thought of everything and nothing.
“Will you marry me?”
Phyllis looked into his red eyes. He must be ready to cry.
“Oh Maury! Of course I will!”
Al stood there, stunned. Phyllis rushed forward to embrace Maury. As he wrapped his arms around her, Maury closed his eyes and smiled. Miles played in the background.
* * *
Author’s Note: My creative writing professor assigned us a curious assignment: write a story from the point of view of Maury Povich. For those who don’t know, Maury hosts a television show famed for its paternity tests and trash entertainment. I didn’t want to write a story with an old man yelling, “You are the father!” and present the ridiculous results to a famous writer. Instead of writing about an old man and a show I do not watch, I decided to research his past. From what I found, I cobbled together this story.