Madonna Needs A Kidney!?
by Timothy O'Leary
Jenny Dillwater had sucked her Marlboro Light to the filter, flicked it across the parking lot, and was about to return to work, when she saw Madonna saunter out of the Cottage Dialysis Clinic and slide into the tiny car. On break from her cashier’s job at Lucky’s Mini-Mart, Jenny was so shocked to see the pop star that she dropped her vanilla latte onto her cream-colored Sketchers, staining them baby-vomit-brown. “Ma-Don-Na,” she cried in a Homer Simpson moan as she sprinted towards the auto, ripping the Samsung Galaxy with a cracked screen from her rear pocket, and snapping two quick photos before Madonna crawled in. Not a deep thinker, Jenny didn’t stop to consider the obvious questions. Why would one of the world’s biggest icons be visiting a dialysis clinic in Goleta, California? What are the odds Madonna would be chauffeured in a rusting Toyota Tercel with a “Support the NRA” sticker peeling off the back bumper?
She just assumed karma had finally come calling, and her dream to get near her idol had come true. She posted the blurry photos to Facebook and Instagram, then tweeted and emailed them to her subset of the webernet, with the caption “Madonna Needs a Kidney?!”
Within thirty minutes the question and exclamation marks had been dropped, and people around the world were shocked to learn the famous singer was unwell. TMZ was the first major news agency to file a report. The snarky millennials, sipping Kombucha as they hovered like turkey buzzards around their cubicles, not only accepted the rumor as fact, but added to the fiction by inferring Madonna was on her deathbed. “Makes sense. I heard that since Guy Ritchie dropped her she’s been spaced-out and downing a quart of Absolut Cranberry every day,” a hawk-faced girl pontificated.
The concept of an ailing Madonna both horrified and invigorated her aging fans. Within hours, sites around the world were flooded with sympathy messages and organ offers. “Madonna, I love you, and you’re welcome to both my kidneys. You already have my heart,” wrote firstname.lastname@example.org. Similar offers poured in from people the press christened “Madonnaiacs.” In New York, Los Angeles, and London, thousands of fans—many dressed in Madonna-inspired outfits highlighting different periods of her career—stood in vigil near her opulent residences, praying for her recovery.
This was all particularly surprising to two people.
Darcy Geller, proprietor of The Material Girl Hair Salon in Solvang, California, was shocked to see photos of herself plastered across the Yahoo! homepage. Wearing Madonna-like fashions was part of her brand, but it had been many years since someone had mistaken the fifty-nine-year-old grandmother for the real thing, especially since she’d packed-on thirty pounds, courtesy of diabetes and kidney disease. Initially she was determined to set the record straight, but as the narrative gained momentum she feared coming forward would end in ridicule. In the rational recesses of her mind she realized an overweight woman approaching Social Security age shouldn’t go to work dressed as a nasty nun, or with her breasts encased in a metal cone-shaped bra.
In Tuscany, the real Madonna was enjoying a long weekend at Sting’s villa when her assistant interrupted a two-hour hot Bikram session to give her the news. Initially she was enraged. The idea that her perfect body—carefully nourished with the finest organic ingredients, kept ridiculously fit by daily workout marathons, and oiled and rubbed like fine Kobe beef—could be malfunctioning, was ridiculous. The woman in the photo was clearly an impersonator, clad in low-rent Madonna-circa 1991 garb that disguised a Hyundai-sized ass. She was about to unload on her manager when he interrupted.
“Hold on,” Milt Stewart shouted with excitement. “This is a good thing. You’re selling like crazy. Downloads are through the roof. Your last album shot from one-thirty to number two. The press is un-fucking-believable. Running you non-stop. XM Radio is doing a Madonna marathon. The LA Gay Men’s Chorus has a tribute show planned for Saturday night. We’ve had at least a thousand people offer kidneys. Lady Gaga’s manager even called to say she’d be happy to give you one of hers,” Milt laughed. “It’s like when Elvis died, only better, because you’re alive, and you get to spend all the money.”
Little Louise Ciccone from Bay City, Michigan had not morphed into the top selling female artist of all time by ignoring opportunity. “OK,” she said excitedly, as the Madonna marketing machine whirled in her head. “I just don’t want to be the old chick with failing organs. Why don’t you leak a story that I was actually donating one of my kidneys to a needy kid? Make her a child prodigy, or an immigrant. Madonna saves the day.”
“I love it.” Milt clapped his hands. “I’ll have Cynthia in London leak the story through BuzzFeed, maybe even back channel it through one of the Kardashians. They’ll tweet anything. We’ll be number one by tomorrow.”
“Just make sure it can’t be traced,” Madonna said. “When the press asks, say we have no idea what they’re talking about, and I’m recuperating abroad. When they ask what I’m recuperating from just say we have no comment. Let them fill in the blanks.”
“Got it,” Milt shouted.
Giggling with delight, Madonna did a happy hop as she joined Sting and his wife for Mimosas on the veranda.
“Dahhling….” Sting purred, “You seem especially spry for someone on her deathbed. I was sad to read of your imminent demise.” He held up an iPad with her image topping a story.
Madonna smiled and clinked his glass. “Actually, Gordon, I’ve heard your new album, and you might want to consider donating your pancreas to a needy African child. Cheers.”
Timothy O'Leary's short stories have been published in dozens of magazines and anthologies, and his collection, Dick Cheney Shot Me in the Face, and Other Tales of Men in Pain (Unsolicited Press), was released last year. He's been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, won the 2015 Aestas Short Story Award, was a finalist for the Mississippi Review Prize, The Mark Twain Award, and The Lascaux Prize. He graduated from the University of Montana, and received his MFA from Pacific University. More information can be found at timothyolearylit.com