It was 3 PM and the day's headaches that had been piling up were finally catching her. Maeby leafed through the stack of papers on her desk that detailed each meeting she had lined up for this week and she checked them against her PDA one more time, wondering if this was really happening. Maeby reached the end of her search and came to the conclusion that, yes, she was supposed to be in two places at once. According to the depressingly detailed schedule that popped up on the tiny screen of the device, the French indie studio she had been waiting to take a meeting with for over a month had been postponed by another screw-up trying to fix his life with a screenplay.
Maeby tapped the screen of her handheld impatiently, looking for any available hour to host the group. They’d been flown in all the way from Nice for a meeting to discuss distribution and remake rights, and Maeby wanted to fire somebody for not realizing that they would actually need time to meet. She sighed. It was nice to be recognized and everything, but when everyone just had to find that opportunity to talk with the Maeby Fünke, her schedule ended up so overbooked that there wasn't any time left for the meetings that mattered. She rolled her eyes and jabbed at the button to delete a struggling screenplay writer on his third rewrite and a couple of interns from the next floor down waiting to pitch an idea they had been honing since film school and slotted in the prized French filmmakers. Word on the street was that foreign films were the next big thing and she wanted to get Tantamount on that train before it left the station, for once. She was sure that the young French executives were more than a little overwhelmed by their success and would be easy enough to win over, and the irony was not lost on her.
She looked at her new schedule for a second, wondering about those lost liaisons. It was a cutthroat business, as she had quickly learned, and Maeby had become accustomed to not feeling regret for the people she inevitably overlooked, but for whatever reason she felt a twinge of pity tugging. She waved her hand and flagged down the new assistant who was passing in the hallway; he'd only been here a few weeks, but Maeby already liked him. His name was Parker (presumably he also had a first name) and he was never curious about anything. All of Maeby's best assistants were the ones who never thought to ask questions.
“Hey Parker, do you think you can find time next week to squeeze in that Dennison guy –“
“What, with the romance screenplay?”
"Yeah, him. And those interns from downstairs too, I guess.”
Parker shrugged his shoulders apprehensively and cocked his head as he thought, mentally flipping through his own schedule. "Yeeeah, maybe. Don’t count on it, but I’ll see what I can do.”
That was good enough. Maeby turned back to her desk and gathered up the notes on her French colleagues and started prepping herself to take the rights to their movies for a fraction of what the studio could make from them. She took a deep breath and ran over her pitch again as she spun around in her chair and headed out into the hallway, but before she’d made it to the next office, she heard footsteps clattering behind her and turned just as her assistant tapped breathlessly her on the shoulder.
- “Uh, Ms. Fünke? Security just paged me and they want to let you know that there’s a man claiming to be your uncle over in studio 10, and they're advising that you might want take an alternate route, just to be safe.They say they’ve got the guy detained, and he’s probably harmless. Just some nutcase wandering around looking for trouble, but you never know. Are you okay?”
Maeby had frozen and was staring at the space in front of his forehead. Her mind raced as she dared to hope that it was only some lunatic with a violent agenda, but she knew that she wasn’t that lucky. Of all days, she had to deal with her family on this one? She’d already had one close call with an uncle this month, and the last thing she needed today was another catboat fiasco to clean up, or a one-armed man in hysterics, or, god forbid, some horrifying combination of these. She briefly wondered if it was her uncle Michael, who seemed to the the only adult in her family who didn't always bring disaster in his wake (only occasionally), but today was a weekday and that meant Uncle Michael would be at work. Him and his stupid work ethics, she fumed.
“Did he have a hook hand?“
Maeby figured that she might as well know which uncle she was dealing with. The man blinked in confusion for a second, but he quickly relayed the question into his phone once he realized that his boss wasn’t joking.
“Er, no, he appears to have all limbs intact.” He listened into his phone again. “Suspect is… six foot two, Caucasian, dark hair, and was caught... attempting to ride a Segway? Uh, yeah, attempting to ride a Segway into our offices. That sound familiar to you?”
* * *
In the back of the small, beige security office, Gob got up from the plastic chair he was sitting in only to be pushed back down by the security guard standing over him. “Hey! You can’t treat me like that in front of my niece. I should take you out right here, and I would, but you know, Maeby. I mean, she’s just a little girl, she doesn’t need to see that kind of vio—“
“Uncle Gob! What are you doing here?”
Maeby cut him off before he could make any more allusions to his ‘little girl’ niece, mentally running through the options she had while forcing her face into a horrible grin. Unfortunately, she had probably already blown pretending he was a mental patient on the loose and having him escorted from the premises, and she realized too late that it had likely been her best shot. She also found that she couldn’t think of a single better option, and the feeling of dread and overpowering annoyance that she had come to associate with spending time with family started to creep over her.
“You mean this man is really your uncle?” The security guard seemed skeptical at best. He scratched his head and looked at Maeby. “He seems like a pretty shifty character to me.”
“Ha, good one.” She tapped his shoulder with a fist, harder than she normally would and with clenched teeth. “Well, I guess we’d better get going, lots of fun family stuff to take care of. C’mon, Uncle Gob.“
“Geez, slow down, Maeby, what’s the rush? Do you have a meeting you're missing or something?”
“Uncle Gob, what are you doing here? How did you find me? Are you going to tell anyone? What are you doing here?”
Gob appeared to be overwhelmed by her questions and a look of confusion crossed his face. Maeby almost felt bad for her uncle, he seemed so cowed by the inquisition, but there was no way she could risk him revealing her secret. She needed to know right away what she had to do to keep him quiet. Luckily, it seemed like she might get a break.
"Wait, what? I have no idea what you're talking about, Maeby, I- "
"Look, I just want to know what you're doing here, Uncle Gob."
“Oh! Oh, I was just looking for a car, maybe you’ve seen it. It’s red, sporty, I followed it here from the model home this morning and lost the trail when I got inside the studio. Their parking situation here is not the best, I got lost trying to find the lot. Have you seen any cars like that around here?”
Maeby thought back a few days, recalling parking her company car behind the next hill over, close enough to the house to walk to (for convenience), remembering a stack of studio bulletins left in the backseat because there were too many printed (to "do something" with them, since her office was messy enough), recollecting a discussion between her uncle and her mom about somebody holding out on the others by keeping a great car all to themselves. It had seemed like such a safe plan - how could it have gone wrong? She had ignored that particular conversation, but recalled the blame eventually being placed squarely on Gob’s imagination. No one else had seen a bright red sports car parked nearby, much less assumed that their family members were using it in secret; none of them had any idea. Maeby took a deep breath and tried to regroup.
“So… you followed me in the car this morning. .... Hang on, you were out before eight AM?”
“Followed you? No, I was following whoever was driving that car. Sort of followed. And it wasn’t exactly morning anymore, maybe noon. I just found these flyers on the road and looked up the address.” He saw Maeby checking the time, and interjected again: “It takes a while, you know, with only two wheels. I was in the parking lot looking for the car when they found me, but I saw your name on the wall! I don't know why, but it was pretty lucky. Do you know where they took my scooter, by the way?”
It was difficult to know for sure at this point, but Maeby thought she might have had a lucky break. As long as Gob had no idea what was going on, it should be easy enough to get rid of him. The Maeby Fünke didn't get to where she was today without mastering the art of misdirection, and if her uncle was the most susceptible person on earth to her , that was even better.
“Sorry, Uncle Gob, I have no idea where your Segway is. But I’ll ask the security guard if you like, when we finish this… um, school sanctioned field trip." Own it, Fünke. "It's to learn about… career paths. Of security guards. On movie lots. It’s very informative.” Maeby could see that her uncle was starting to lose his grasp on the conversation and continued to press her advantage. “So I’d better get back to the group to take some more notes now, so, I’ll just see you later, say hi to everyone for me. And I’ll see what I can do about that scooter.”
Maeby decided that with Gob, a direct approach might be best and so she put her hands on her uncle's back and began 'guiding'him to the studio's nearest exit. But he resisted, determined to finish his fact-finding mission. “Woah, hang on there Maeby. Yeah, sure, school-thingy, but what about that car? Who’s been holding out on us? It’s probably Michael, always driving around in the stair car. It’s the perfect cover-up. It's Michael, right?"
This family was going to be the death of her. Maeby was at her wits end, and decided to take a gamble. It was probably a terrible idea, since she'd tried lying extensively and so far that had returned a pretty good success rate, but she was under a lot of pressure now, and if Gob was just going to ignore her cover story it might be time to try a different tack.
“Oh, hey, Uncle Gob?" She laughed apologetically and waved a hand, "Ha! You know what, you might be thinking about my car. I've got a red convertible, it just slipped my mind there for a second. Pretty funny, right. It's nothing to worry about."
“Wait, since when do you have a car, Maeby? I didn’t even think you had your license yet, and your parents don’t buy you anything. A car? I don't think so!”
Maeby paused again and scrambled for yet another line to feed a trusting relative. That had not been a good gamble. But still, she felt resigned. Since the one lesson that Maeby had ever learned from her uncle was that she was without a doubt an unrepentant liar, she felt there was a certain appropriateness to Gob being the person she lied to most blatantly. Maeby felt that this could be a very special part of their relationship.
“Okay, Uncle Gob, the truth? Um. Well, see, the truth is that I was given a com… fortable car. For my birthday. By my boyfriend. Who’s name is… um, Steve. Yeah. Steve. We love each other very much?“
“Boyfriend? You? Really?”
“Yeah, really. He’s a great guy, you’d like him. He’s about twenty, and like I said, he gave me a car.” Maeby smiled knowingly and jerked her head towards the parking lot, as Gob recoiled slightly.
“Ugh, do you mean you’re with this guy just because he’s rich? Maeby, that’s disgusting! What would your mother think?”
Maeby briefly thought about the answer to that and decided that, if it had been true and had her mother known, if anything she would be proud. She’d be willing to bet that Lindsay was more disappointed that it had never happened for real. “Hey, don’t worry about it Uncle Gob, it’s no big deal. And I mean, you go out with younger girls all the time... “
Gob wasn't placated. “That’s different, Maeby. I mean, you’re a relative, and it’s just gross. I think maybe it’s time someone sat down and had a nice long talk with you.”
“You mean like… you?” Maeby was skeptical about that, to say the least.
“What? No, of course not me! Your mother. Or somebody, I don’t know. Not your mother, she’d probably think it was great. Come on, I’d be a better parent than her.”
“So, you? Or did you have another idea? Maybe a quick solution?” Maeby had slipped her hand into her purse during the interim and was trying to type with one hand and pretend that she was paying attention to her uncle at the same time, all while keeping up with a string of panicky emails from an assistant who had no back-up plan for when his boss just couldn’t make it. “I’m sure you can think of something.”
“Well no niece of mine is going to go around whoring it up for some guy, no matter how rich or hot he is. Maybe your Gangy would have something to say about this.”
Maeby’s eyes flicked up in surprise; she had no doubt that Gangy could think up a lot to say about a situation like this, and it would probably take a lot longer than an hour to let Maeby know exactly what she had to say about the subject. She was suddenly very much worried about the outcome of the conversation, and decided that she would have to tread very carefully from this point out.
“Uh, actually Uncle Gob, I think I'm cured! I'll just stop seeing Steve, I guess. Our families want to keep us apart. Can't keep it up."
"You're just saying that, Maeby, you're probably still madly in love. No, you need someone to talk to."
"Hey, do you know what? I think the school counselor came along on the field trip, too. How about I just go talk to him?"
“You mean you’d talk to your counselor before your own family? Who are you, Maeby? Just because you're fourteen now, you think you can just abandon your family?"
“No! You know what, I won’t talk to anyone. Let's just not even think about it anymore, I'm doing fine! Steve is great. So you'll just be going home now, I guess. And I'm fifteen now, Uncle Gob."
“What? Well, okay." Gob was confused, but he might as well seem in charge in front of his niece. And there was just one thing left that he wondered about. "Okay. So… why was your name on the wall directory, again?”
“Ha! You know what, Gob? You are so right. We should definitely go see Gangy. I mean, it's not that far, and I’ll be back before lunchtime’s over. When we all go back to school. To compare notes.”
Lunch had been over for two hours by that point, but Maeby was banking on Gob having no clue about that, and she was already furiously punching the tiny keyboard of her PDA. She had entirely lost control of the situation by now and decided that the only thing left to do was damage control. She hit send to loose an email letting her assistant know that a family emergency had come up and she was taking an hour off. Making tough decisions was part of her job description, but that didn't mean Maeby had to like it; she knew she only had one shot with this French studio, but it wasn’t worth the risk of a certain someone spilling the beans about her age. And if there was anyone who could make sure her uncle’s attention was taken off of her, it was Gangy. Maeby didn’t want to know any more about their relationship than she already did, but whatever got Gob off her case.
"Let's go, then! Balboa Towers here we come."
* * *
Maeby tried to ignore her uncle fiddling with her car as they sped towards the apartment shared by Gangy and her Uncle Buster. She sort of remembered someone telling her that there had been an incident recently between Buster and Gob - not long after Gob had run into her on the set, actually - and there had been a trip to the hospital involved, but Gob seemed okay going to visit his brother, so Maeby figured it hadn't been anything serious. She slowed to pass a police car and then turned a corner and began speeding again, too preoccupied to enjoy the cruise up the wide, attractive roads. She noticed Gob enjoying the ride, though, and made another silent wish for this to be over with as soon as possible.
They pulled through security and into the parking garage and Maeby locked the car and headed into the elevator. "So, this shouldn't take more than twenty minutes or so, right?"
"Oh, I think you'll need a lot longer than that, Maeby."
Maeby was well aware of that, but she hoped that by planting the idea in his mind her uncle would be as eager to get out of here quickly as she was. "You know, Gangy's got a lot going on, and we don't want to bother her too much. Shouldn't take too long." She crossed her hands and swayed slightly as the elevator slid up to her grandmother's floor. "Really, Gangy's a busy woman."
"Oh, your Gangy always has time to see her kids, don't you worry about that."
Maeby wondered who Gob was trying to convince, and grimaced when he gave a fake laugh and patted her on the head. "Well, she's taking care of Buster now, right? I mean, that's gotta take up a lot of time."
"What? She's always taken care of Buster, why would that take any more time than usual?"
Gob shook his head and laughed and as they knocked on the door Maeby could see the scene play out in her head before it happened, and her vision wasn't far from the mark as her uncle Buster opened the door and Gob swore and catapulted backwards against the wall. Uncle Buster reacted by screaming and grabbing for his brother to calm him down, which Gob seemed to interpret as an attack, and Maeby had to admit that with the sharpened metal flying through the air it was an easy enough mistake to make. She slid quickly into the apartment as her grandmother came running up and her uncles yelled and tried to get away from each other.
"Gob! Buster! Stop it right now! If you're going to fight, do it inside!"
Lucille managed to grab Buster's arm and drag him upright from where Gob had pulled him down, Gob having himself under his brother by mistake. Gob clambered up and followed his mother into her apartment, where both men stood sullenly.
"What was that all about?" Maeby looked uncomfortably between her uncles, who were standing well apart from each other and looking around the room, seeming just as uncomfortable as Maeby.
"Oh, they had a little incident the other day. It was nothing, really. Buster was out of the hospital in no time."
"He attacked me with his hook, Mom. I had to have thirteen stitches put back there!"
Lucille waved a hand and walked toward the dining room. "Always making such a fuss over the tiniest things. Sorry about that, Maeby, now what did you want?"
"Oh! Right. Well, it seems that Maeby here has a boyfriend."
"Really?" Maeby frowned as her Gangy's eyebrow rose in surprise, and she wondered how her family would react if she ever told them somebody proposed to her.
"Yeah, exactly, but here's the problem. Maeby tells me that they're only doing it together because this guy's loaded, and she barely even knows him. They're even talking about moving together now."
That was not at all what Maeby had said, and she listened interestedly to what else her uncle would add to his embellished version as the room seemed to grow warm and even more uncomfortable, which Maeby didn't think she would have thought possible a moment ago.
"I'm just going to polish my hook for a while," Buster muttered, turning heel and walking back to his room as quickly as he could.
Meanwhile, Lucille ignored him. “So, you have a problem with Maeby doing exactly what those little whores you’re always going with do?” The disdain in his mother's voice was clear, and the disparaging question wasn’t really a question, but Gob didn’t pick up on either of those things.
“Of course I have a problem with it! You're what, fourteen, Maeby?”
“Fifteen. Still fifteen, Uncle Gob.”
“Right. Fifteen. It's not right for a girl her age to be running around like that. "
"Oh please. I don't think you're being very fair to Maeby, Gob. After all, Maeby is a smart, capable young woman who can certainly take care of herself."
Maeby was taken aback. "Seriously? You really mean that, Gangy?"
Lucille didn't miss a beat. "Of course, dear. You'd have to be to survive high school with hair like that."
Maeby felt like she should have seen that coming.
"Well, I don't know about you, Mom, but I happen to think that it's disgusting for Maeby to be going out with strange men like this."
"I don't think you're being very fair, Gob. I think that Maeby is a smart, attractive girl who can certainly take care of herself."Maeby was taken aback. "Seriously? You really mean that, Gangy?"Lucille didn't miss a beat. "Of course. Maevy felt like she should have seen that coming.
Lucille rolled her eyes and waved a finger at Gob. "Are you sure you have a problem with Maeby, and aren't thinking about your own problem finding someone dumb enough to go out with you? "
Maeby inclined her head appreciatively at how fast her Gangy had managed to turn the conversation back around on her son, while Gob scoffed and retaliated in the only way he knew how.
"Yeah, right. Hey, what about Buster? He's the one who, who, attacks his own brother! That's what I would consider a problem."
"Oh yes, bring this back to Buster! You could have a little more compassion for your little brother, you know, especially since you're the one who got his arm bitten off in the first place. "
"Oh, come on! What was he doing in the ocean, anyway? Didn't he think there might be dangerous creatures in there he needs to watch out for?"
"No, he probably thought it was safer in there with no brother trying to get his limbs torn off!"
Gob and Lucille were now arguing without pretense, and this continued for some time until Maeby had been largely forgotten and was no longer even being discussed. After a while, Maeby sat at the end of the dinner table, staring blankly ahead of her and trying not to think about how much potential revenue was being lost at this moment. It was a true Hallmark moment, with her grandmother and uncle now yelling for no reason. Her PDA beeped quietly and she slid her hands under the table to respond without letting her imploding family in on the transaction.
> How does the reschedule look?
>Not good. They say they’ve been tricked. Trying to calm them down. Please help. Where r u.
>>where r u
>>>where r u
>stall for me.
>> I’ll be there
Maeby had had enough. With the last email sent, she resolved to make it back before Tantamount’s newest acquisition had time to even think about bailing out. She glanced around and tried to follow where the conversation had led, reluctantly piecing together that they were talking about her uncle's former job as a stripper; Uncle Buster had long since locked himself in his room by now so that problem was averted, and the only remaining issue was to disentangle her remaining uncle an Gangy from each other and get back to work. She was pretty certain that the subject of the conversation had long since drifted away from her transgressions and she was pretty safe. In fact, she realized, maybe it would be easier to just slip out unnoticed, leaving the two of them to finish their 'discussion' and make her getaway. To that end she slowly slunk out of her seat and around the table, already plotting the quickest route downstairs, but before she could reach the door she felt an overpowering urge to produce some kind of workable scene out of this imploding mess of character interaction and bad dialogue.
"Uncle Gob, Gangy? Don't you think that it's really no big deal? I mean, you guys are arguing over nothing." Gob and Lucille looked up in surprise at the girl they were ostensibly gathered to talk about, and Maeby looked up at them pleadingly. “This family needs to express their feelings a little better. Maybe you just need a little direction.”
Lucille looked extremely suspicious, and Gob apprehensive, both shining examples of that legendary Bluth family scorn, but Maeby was determined. At this point, she had no choice but to stick it out and see this thing through to the end.
"Gangy, you stand over here, and Uncle Gob, stand there. Now pretend that this is a movie script, and you're doing a scene. You know, a touchy-feely moment where everyone realizes how much they really care about each other. There's a heart-warming family scene, and you confess your true feelings of love and kinship.”
Gob looked up in horror and Lucille raised an eyebrow, a small action that had a surprising amount of danger packed in it. Maeby shrugged and reassessed her script. "... Okay, skip the emotional confessions. Fine. Just, you know, hug and make up."
"You want me to make out with my mother? Maeby, that’s disgusting!”
“Nope, just want you to talk, Uncle Gob. I do not want you to make out with Gangy. Please don’t make out with Gangy.”
Her uncle and grandmother continued to eye her like she had gone crazy; this was not getting the results that Maeby had hoped for. She took a deep breath and tried something else: “And it’s all pretend, because you’re actors! And you’re pretending for the sake of your niece! And the producer is very busy and has a lot of other things she has to do so please do it quickly, or else you have to work overtime."
Now she was entirely reaching, but she hoped desperately that someone would get the message and she could get the hell out without leaving her family locked in combat. Luckily, someone did. Lucille shrugged and turned to her son. “Sorry, Gob. We should really save this for when it matters. And you were trying to help Maeby, I suppose, so, I guess it can wait until the next time you mess something up.”
Is that alright, Maeby?” Lucille scowled slightly as Gob leaned to hug her tightly, squeezing his mother eagerly.
“Hey, I love you too, Mom!” Gob smiled brightly as Gangy looked uncomfortably at her granddaughter.
“That’s great, Gangy. Thanks.”
Maeby clapped enthusiastically at her handiwork and finally made it to the front door, which she opened with great flourish. "Well, now that's worked out. I guess I should be going back to school, now. Gotta get back to that old education."
"Oh, fine. Well, goodbye, Maeby. I'm sorry your uncle caused so much trouble. Really, such a tiny thing to make a big deal out of."
"It's not a tiny thing, Mom. It's a serious thing. Very serious." But Gob had much less fervor for his nieces cause by now.
"Oh, shush. Don't listen to him, Maeby, he has no idea what he's talking about. I'd like to see him manage to find somebody rich to shack up with for once, instead of the useless girls he keeps hanging around." Lucille looked pointedly at her son. "He couldn't."
"Ha ha. Ha." Maeby was not sure whether she was supposed to laugh or not, but this close to the end, she didn't care much either way. "Thanks, Gangy. I'll see you around."
Lucille shrugged and headed to the kitchen as Maeby waved her fingers and flashed a quick premiere-smile at her grandmother, and then Maeby and Gob disappeared down the hallway and into the elevator. They rode in silence, and when they exited through the garage Maeby found she felt strangely bad as she patted her uncle on the shoulder and turned to get back in her car. As awful as his idea of help was, it occurred to her that Gob had actually attempted to parent her. Maeby could honestly say that she hated people trying to parent her. Trying to control, instruct, or otherwise give her parent-ly advice inevitably ended up badly for the adult making the attempt, but sometimes, she found herself wishing that it would at least happen more often. She would of course ignore, dispute, and then rebel against any actual attempts to discipline or guide her, but it was nice knowing that somebody cared enough to think she needed help. He might be terrible, but Maeby thought that maybe it was worth making the time for family today.
“Thanks for helping me out there today, Uncle Gob. I don’t know what I was thinking going out with that guy. What's-his-name. Steve.”
“Don’t you worry Maeby, your uncle will always be here to make sure you don't shame the family." Gob slapped her on the shoulder and nodded knowingly, seeming slightly peppier than a moment ago.
"Yeah, thanks. Gotta make sure I keep the family name unblemished." Maeby slammed the car door closed and looked around. "Oh, hey, there's your scooter. Parker had it sent over in a taxi. ... Parker my classmate. " Maeby pointed towards the bike rack where the oddly-shaped vehicle had been clumsily attached with a bicycle lock. "So I guess I'll see you later then."
"Yeah, see you, Maeby."
Maeby pulled away and left the garage, slamming her foot into the gas pedal to make it back to the studio as soon as she could, hoping against hope that there was still a chance to get in with the Frenchies before the day was up. The orange glare of the sun told her that the little family emergency had taken up, all told, a lot longer than an hour. Still, and if her deal fell through she might feel a little differently, but Maeby felt less-than-bad about what had happened. A crisis averted, her uncle and grandmother successfully directed, and nobody was any wiser about the real story. Everything about her life was insane, and she still somehow managed to come out on top. They seriously needed to give her top producers’ billing on that Western they’d just finished.