Jenna sat next to her grandfather at the Academy Awards in a dress designed by someone whose name proved too difficult to pronounce. Mateo, of course, wore nothing but the best, though he wore it in hues long outdated and cuts antiquated.
Mateo Sandoval found himself nominated for the eleventh time. He first earned a nomination in 1946 for playing a tormented Confederate Civil War medic trapped by an abolitionist woman who kept him chained to her woodstove, vowing he would not be released until the war ended. Mateo acted superbly in the film, but he did not win that year—the award went to Frederic March. Nor two years later when Olivier took it. Nor seven years after that when they gave it to William Holden. The decades passed with him nominated time after time, but he never triumphed.
This year his nomination arrived by playing an atheist who, after living to see his wife, children, and grandchildren all die under tragic circumstances, took Christ into his heart only so that when he died and went to Heaven he could personally kill God. The role proved demanding, but he pulled it off magnificently. Many felt this year would be his.
Jenna always prioritized her grandfather’s best interests. Her job that night wasn’t much different than their daily lives together. Because Mateo refused to wear hearing aids, she often clarified things for him. After much discussion, they decided when he won for Best Actor, she simply had to lean in and let him know as such. Though they spoke of him perhaps losing, neither could accept that possibility.
Thus, when Julian Howard’s name reverberated through the speakers, none appeared more shocked than Jenna as she threw her hands up and thrust back into her seat. She bumped Mateo, which prompted him to arise. He mirrored the winner’s movement as they both approached the stage from opposite ends.
Mr. Howard, a man of thirty-three, wore a perplexed expression upon his face as Mateo took the statue from the presenter and stood directly before the microphone. The applause quickly died down, and it appeared as though Mateo believed it did so out of reverence. Jenna suspected it rather the result of universal embarrassment.
However, her own heart swelled, for at long last her grandfather held the award he deserved.
Mr. Howard, sensing the awkwardness, simply took his place alongside the presenters and watched as his idol accepted an Oscar that, while not awarded, certainly had been earned.
“I’d like to thank the Academy,” Mateo said, “for finally coming to its senses.” He laughed and did not look troubled when no one else joined. “You have no idea how much I’ve always wanted to say that.”
The orchestra music played, softly yet inauspiciously, and Mateo bellowed, “I’ve waited over five decades for this award; there is no way in Holy Hell you’re going to play this best actor off stage!”
He next shook the Oscar high over his head and beamed from ear to ear. The crowd could not help but put their hands together in support of the sheer vitality displayed by their favorite luminary.
The orchestra music wisely placated.
“Thank you,” Mateo offered with an open-handed gesture to the composer. “As I was saying, I’ve been in this game for many, many years. I’ve worked with the best and the worst. I’ve lived a good life, and now I can die happily. I know that sounds silly to some of you, but when an artist pours his heart—his very soul—into his work and that effort is never commended by the greatest awards show in the world … well, that can prove burdensome.
“Some would give up. Hell, I’ve known a lot that did. Not me, though. I knew one way or the other, by God, I was going to get up on this stage, even if in the twilight of my career—my very life—and finally hold this award. And look, here I am.”
A roar of applause erupted, led by Jenna.
“I’ve got to be honest with you, this film wasn’t my favorite. The director’s an egomaniacal prick; my costars rigid and unnatural; and frankly, I thought the script self-serving and pompous. However, I knew it had the stuff of controversy, Oscar’s favorite skirt, so I plunged in headfirst like any horny boy would!”
Here he chuckled a little. A few accompanied him, but most were losing faith again.
“Despite its utter tastelessness, I knew Hollywood would lap it up with the usual fervor it displays for gourmet shit, and so I made a point to give it my all. You could say that for me, it was Oscar or bust.
“Well, thank God … it’s not bust,” Mateo sighed. “It’s Oscar. Finally, it’s Oscar.”
Mateo’s eyes glistened and he paused while holding his fist up to his mouth. He looked away from his audience for the briefest of moments, and then, with a renewed flourish of intensity, said, “I want to thank you all for watching my movies. Chasing this castrated little boy is what’s kept me alive these last few decades. Hell, the Academy did me a favor. They added years to my life!”
Jenna noted that some of the crowd laughed and nearly all smiled. He had his Oscar, just as everyone wanted, and so the world turned a little more gracefully.
“If I die tomorrow, or the day after that,” Mateo said with the award clutched to his chest, “don’t mourn for me. I am satisfied.”
This time, when the music floated up, he said, “Now I truly am a man out of time. Thank you—thank you for this moment.”
He then grinned at Jenna. She offered an impish wink in return.
The crowed rose and offered a standing ovation, Mateo’s last.
Copyright © 2017 by Scott William Foley
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental to the story
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