Troy Moss is my best friend in the world. I call him Mossy. We’ve known each other since we were six years old, and have been through a lot together. Mossy is a good guy. He might be a little impulsive, and sometimes his temper gets the best of him, but he is loyal, generous and optimistic. Mossy always said that one day we’d do something amazing and change the world. We’ve certainly had some fun trying.
A few years ago, television talent shows became all the rage. No matter which channel you turned to at 8pm, you were guaranteed to see some hopeful contestant singing, dancing or juggling before a packed studio audience, and trying to impress a panel of “celebrity” judges. I never understood the appeal of it. That was, until Mossy excitedly informed me that a new T.V. talent show was offering a first prize of a million dollars! Auditions were just three weeks away, so we needed to get our act together quickly. With me being a decent marksman with my old air rifle, and Mossy’s natural flair for balancing things on his head, we decided to go with the old shooting-an-apple-off-someone’s-head-with-a-crossbow trick. The apple shot is a talent show staple, famously inspired by the legend of William Tell, a man who failed to bow in reverence to a hat. It’s a scenario most people can relate to, and I think that’s why the trick is so popular.
We bought a secondhand crossbow and three boxes of Pink Ladies and got practicing. While Mossy, true to form, was a maestro at balancing the fruit on his head, it turned out I was considerably less accurate with a crossbow than we had anticipated. During our first practice, in which I took the safety precaution of replacing the arrowheads with marshmallows, I succeeded in hitting the apple only twice out of ten shots. Six of the remaining shots struck Mossy in the face, and the other two flew over his head and into my neighbour’s backyard. Mossy and I decided that a million dollars was not worth the near certainty of his death should I fire an actual, razor-sharp arrow at him on stage. I was content to give up on the prize money but my friend was not so easily discouraged. He was certain there was a way we could make the trick work—he just had to figure out what it was.
Three days before our audition the answer finally presented itself. It came to Mossy while he was sitting in the bathtub—just like Archimedes! (Well, perhaps not just like him; I don’t think Archimedes’ bathtub was being towed behind his brother’s Ute through a cow paddock at the time of his famous brainwave.) The solution was simple: Mossy would balance the crossbow on his head and I would throw an apple at it. It was the reverse William Tell. We practiced for hours until we had it perfected.
On the night of our audition I had a few butterflies in my belly. We were introduced onto the stage and took our places. Mossy had the crossbow balancing upright and perfectly still upon his head; I couldn’t have asked for a better target. My arm was feeling strong and my eye was as keen as a sniper’s. As the audience held its breath, I let fire with a throw so fast it would have made any baseball talent scout in the crowd sign me up on the spot. The problem was, due to my nerves and the heat of standing under the television studio lights, my hands had become quite sweaty. The apple slipped from my grasp a fraction of a second earlier than intended, and took an unfortunate trajectory. That blushing little orb flew like a stray bullet, right into the nose of a fourteen-year-old girl seated in the front row of the audience. Her head rocked back as though Mike Tyson had caught her with a right cross, and she slumped in her chair. Though the apple, thankfully, did not break her nose, it did gift her two immediate and splendid black eyes. The girl was taken up to the side of the stage, behind the curtain, to receive medical attention.
I assumed that was the end of my foray into television. What I hadn’t realized was that as soon as the apple struck the teenage girl in the face, Mossy had faked a seizure. This bought us some sympathy from judges, and they let us have a do-over. I wasn’t going to mess this one up. I took my mark, wound up for the pitch and then fired off another rocket. This one flew straight and true, and hit its target. In hindsight, I don’t know why we had an arrow loaded in the crossbow; it wasn’t necessary for the trick. Maybe we just thought it would be cooler. Anyway, as the bow fell back off Mossy’s head the arrow discharged. In an uncanny piece of bad luck, it shot off to the side of the stage and hit the same girl whose face I had earlier hit with an apple. The arrowhead went clean through her leg, leaving the arrow lodged in her calf muscle. Another fake seizure from Mossy was not enough to save us this time, and we were asked to leave.
Mossy and I took a break from show business after that. Sure, it’s glamorous and it pays well, but the anxiety and rejection make you wonder if it’s all worth it.
© 2018 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED