Velma’s Diced Life: A Memoir

“No one is going to read that.”

The smile faded from Velma’s face. She was so proud of her work that the thought of anyone being negative about it hadn’t even occurred to her. This wasn’t fiction—this was her life! This was a tell-all memoir about her fame.

Gloria realized she struck a nerve. “I’m sorry for being so blunt, Velma. But I really don’t know who would even be interested in something like that.”

“I was famous!” Velma defended. “People enjoy learning about celebrities!”

“You weren’t famous!” Gloria realized she suddenly backpedaled from her apology, but her friend was deluded. “You were in an infomercial for two seconds! And probably not even a full two seconds!”

Velma jumped to her feet. “My testimonial was instrumental in the viral success of the Dice-Woah! Do you honestly believe that sales would be as astronomical without my riveting and talented first-hand review? I mean, honestly, Gloria! Tell me right now you think I’m a sham!”

“I never said you were a sham.”

“Tell me what you really think!”

Gloria started to speak, but decided against it. She did not mean to betray the trust of her closest friend, but using words like “astronomical” and “talented” were a little conceited and overblown. She wanted to be supportive, but she also wanted her friend to be realistic. But Velma wasn’t satisfied with her friend’s sudden withdrawal.

“Tell me your opinion, Gloria! Why are you jealous of me if my testimonial was indeed not pivotal?”

“Oh, I am far from jealous of you.” Now it was Velma who struck a nerve. “You think your testimonial was the driving factor for the success of the Dice-Woah? Far from it, sister. I could have said the same thing you did, and the result would have been the same.”

Velma gasped. “I knew you were jealous!”

Gloria rolled her eyes. “I’m not jealous. I’ll take it a step further. They could have removed the testimonials from the entire commercial and there would be no difference in sales today.”

Velma was stunned. Her friend was fast becoming an enemy. She knew a life of fame and fortune would change her relationships with those around her, but Gloria? This was the ultimate betrayal. “I never thought I’d lose my closest friend over my fame, but I guess you never really see this sort of thing coming anyway.”

“I’m not rejecting you or your friendship, Velma. I’m rejecting this lunacy you call a tell-all memoir. The Dice-Woah hasn’t even been relevant in twenty years! And do you really want to associate yourself with a product that was heavily recalled after that lead paint fiasco?”

Velma wasn’t listening. She began digging through her entertainment center to find the VHS marked “My Portfolio.” This was meant to be a portfolio of her work she would send to talent agencies, though she never sent it to anyone. She did play it several times over the past twenty years to friends and family, however, who quickly grew tired of her pomposity, especially because the portfolio contained only one entry: the entirety of the original Dice-Woah infomercial.

Velma located the VHS and hastily jammed it into her player. She whirled around to her former friend who was staring in stunned silence. “Watch this performance and tell me with a straight face that I am not crucial to the advertisement.”

Gloria didn’t know what to say. She had seen the infomercial dozens of times. Seeing it again was unnecessary.

The television blinked blue before giving way to thick lines of static. The words “DICE-WOAH BY TELESELL. COPYRIGHT 2007” flashed quickly into view. Then the ad began.

A frenetic messy-haired man in his early thirties walked into a makeshift kitchen. His every movement was jittery, as if he hadn’t had coffee for a week after drinking it exclusively for the past thirty years. His voice was a stark contrast—confident and clear. “Hey, guys! It’s Jerry Jelbow here for the Dice-Woah. You use this thing and you don’t say ‘Woah!’ then you’re probably just an idiot.” This was a very controversial line to use, but Telesell demanded the ad air with Jerry’s unique pitching flair. This was probably the real reason the ad achieved brief viral success, though the same couldn’t be said for the product itself.

Jerry continued. “Look, dicing food is tough. You ask the pros? They still struggle with it. Forget about trying to impress your friends by shaking a knife at breakneck speed through a ripe tomato. You’re going to lose a finger and you’re going to lose respect.” He threw the knife behind him and it embedded in the wall. In a later interview, this was revealed to be an impromptu move by Jerry. Telesell’s legal team were very unhappy with it, but they aired the knife throw anyway.

“Bust out your Dice-Woah, fellas. Look—the tomato goes into the chamber. Pop the lid on. Pull this lever, you got your slice. Pull this lever, you got your dice. A one-two punch, and the tomato never saw it coming. Look, here’s the best part. Pull right here to get the false bottom, and you’ve got fresh-diced tomato in a container, never looked better. No mess, no stress, go about your day.”

Gloria started mouthing the words as they came out of the TV. She’d seen this ad way too many times.

“I know what you’re thinking. Jerry, those are some big ol’ chonkers! I want a real fine dice. Don’t be naïve, guys. Surely you’re not that dumb. Look what I’ve got in store for you. Squeeze right here to get those blades close together. Now, let me get an onion. Pop it in, and look how easy. Here’s the slice. There’s the dice. Pull out the bottom, and WOAH! You can’t get finer than that by conventional methods, my friends. I dare you to even try!”

Velma shot a look at her friend. Her testimonial was coming up and she wanted to make sure Gloria gave it her full undivided attention.

“Ever see something like this in stores? You’re going to pay an arm and a leg for it, and it doesn’t even work as well. But we’re so flipping crazy, we’re throwing the Dice-Woah your way for only twenty-nine ninety-five. You’re not going to find it cheaper, better, or dicier out there, my friends, I’m telling you right now.”

Without warning, the ad cut to the testimonial section. Members of the general population who were patient or crazy enough to stand through a live presentation at some fair or convention were given time with the product and a chance to get their face in the commercial. Other products might have tried to get the craziest performances from these people as a sort of marketing ploy, but this is where the Dice-Woah differed. Dice-Woah’s testimonials were infamously dry.

An elderly mustachioed man appeared on the screen. “I’ve never seen anything like this. It’ll definitely be the next thing I talk about at my book club.” His voice dealt a very monotone, unexcited delivery.

After a screen wipe, a young mother with three children appeared on the screen. “As a single mother,” she explained, “I’ve desperately needed something that can make my time in the kitchen just a couple seconds shorter. And this will definitely do that.” This testimonial was fun to re-watch, only because the youngest child could be seen picking her nose, but the clip still made it to air through several editorial reviews.

After a final screen wipe, Velma’s face filled the screen. Both Velmas—the one on the television and the one in the living room—beamed with pride. “All I can say is… Dice-WOAH!”

And that was it. The screen went back to Jerry Jelbow, who carried the sales pitch home with his general frenetic aplomb. Velma shot her friend a look, talking over Jerry. “I mentioned the product by name! Those other two jokers couldn’t even be bothered to do that!”

Gloria stared at Velma. This sounded like some sort of joke, but she could tell her friend was dead serious. “Velma—”

“Don’t ‘Velma’ me. That sounded very much like you were about to talk down to me.”

“I was about to talk down to you! You barely have a part in the commercial! You can’t possibly think that because you said the words ‘Dice-Woah,’ you had any more impact on sales numbers! Furthermore, that line was it! You can’t write a tell-all memoir about nothing! No one is interested, you self-absorbed, entitled, pompous ass!”

Velma stared at her friend. This was a betrayal of the highest order, and she never would have guessed Gloria would be the one to deliver it.

The weight of her own words hit Gloria hard. Sure, Velma may have had delusions of grandeur. She may have wished so hard for a better life that she already believed she had one. But whatever was going on in her head, she didn’t deserve that outburst. “Velma, I’m—”

Velma quickly held up her hand. “I get it. You don’t need to say anything else.”

“But I—”

“No. That’s okay.” She left a moment of guilt-increasing silence hang in the air before continuing. “Elmer isn’t coming back this weekend like I thought. Something was spelled out in his contract that basically means another six months over there.”

Gloria felt the loneliness of her friend. “Oh, Velma, I’m so sorry.”

Velma shook her head. “These things happen. But either way, it’s getting to be that time for me to go to work.”

Gloria nodded slowly. Whatever damage she had done would not be resolved today. “Okay. Well, maybe I’ll come by tomorrow with some steaks. Tony did so well on that client that he got a huge bonus. Figured we’d splurge on something.” She realized immediately after saying this the insensitivity of her timing, but the words were already out there.

“Yeah. Maybe.”

***

Velma drove to the Littner Plastics Consolidated factory at the north end of town, where she’d worked ever since Elmer was deployed. She always told people she’d forgotten how long it had been since she’d seen her husband, but she knew. And she also knew the army was lying to her with these constant redeployments. No one stays in the military into their sixties.

Velma stood at her post next to the etcher, reflecting on the conversation with her friend. Was she really so self-interested? She’d spent over a year writing her tell-all memoir. Was that entire time wasted?

A horrifying screech interrupted her thoughts. She whirled around. The machine responsible for this noise was also responsible for taking plastic and chopping it into smaller pieces to begin recycling it into newer products. Her years of experience told her the problem immediately; it was jammed. No one was standing by the control panel for the machine, which meant she was the closest person who could stop it. She ran across the concrete aisleway to the controls and slapped the oversized red button. The machine stopped its screeching and ground to a halt. Anyone on that side of the aisle would have to stop their work until the jam could be cleared.

Curious, Velma peered through the chain-link fence where the jam-inducing plastics were contained. It looked like a massive number of the same thing. This happened sometimes when companies discontinued a product line. They’d ship them off to Littner to recycle their old unwanted or unsold merchandise and get a nice discount on newly-made plastics.

“Get away from the fence, please!” the safety officer shouted to her, as he ran down the nearby stairs to inspect the issue.

She began to comply, but looked back at the fence one more time. There was something so familiar about the plastics. As she continued to stare, she was finally able to make out the words she had personally etched on that same product about twenty years ago.

“Dice-Woah.”

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