Mulholland Books Popcorn Fiction Popcorn Fiction - The Pitch by Jim Shankman
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A screenwriter drops off a script to an old producer in this fresh story from author Jim Shankman.

The Pitch

As I walk through the door, I have this disconnect. I slip a gear and I cannot for the life of me remember where I am. I could be walking through the doorway to hell. My hand is on the doorknob so it's too late, I am already pushing the door open. Who is on the other side? I have no clue. Then I see Gabe's olivedrab face and I remember where I am. Maybe if I hadn't started laughing, oh what is the point, you can't go second guessing every moment of your life. You would need two lifetimes to do that, one to live and one to second guess it with. And who has two lives to live? I haven't even got one.

Up until that moment, I was feeling nice and buzzy, nicely insulated. I almost had a, dare I say it, a sense of the benign mind of God. Yeah I dare, I say it, His hand on the wheel of the world guiding it along, how it all just puttered along contentedly, a bit toastier than room temperature in the dry heat of midday. When the world slows to a comfortable crawl like that my mind feels like it has extra time, and I can patiently nurture my every blooming thought and still negotiate the intricacies of the external world. I have time to run between the raindrops, to dodge the ticks of time as I riff away on every little meaningless thing that crosses my path. Well not exactly run. Creep carefully. Because everything hurts these days. My head, my gut, my spine, where tumors bloom like mushrooms on a rotten log, my heart.

Ok yes I'm stoned. So would you be if you were in my Tevas scraping your way down Sunset Boulevard looking for an address and thinking how certain numbers have odd connotations you are hardly aware of but they truly affect your perceptions of things. Like I am looking for 999 Sunset and I am vaguely aware that 999 is really $9.99 and why don't they just say ten bucks? I find that very annoying. It's insulting to my intelligence to think that I don't know that $9.99 is really $10.00. Like I might shell out $9.99 (a bargain) whereas I might not shell out $10.00 (too steep) for some inconsequential trifle in my consumer life. Stop wasting my time Mad Ave. And deep down inside I am probably thinking, Gabe, you tightwad sonofabitch, what do I have to do to make a buck off of you? No I probably am. This is how we think.

As I enter the polished marble foyer of the building I head for the elevator and I think about all those people who are going to get stuck in elevators when the big one hits and how they are going to be stuck in those elevators for maybe ever and what would that be like to have to share your coffin with a total stranger? Oh god why do my thoughts always run to the morbid, I guess it's just a talent of mine, one of my is-it-a-strength? or is-it-a-weakness? qualities. I can never tell. It has certainly made me a lot of money in this town. I'll say that. I guess it's also been the basis of a lot of my discretionary spending too: my shrink, Esalin, Yogi Satchitananda, all those trips to India.

And there I am at the door and I go blank as a check. I mean you could write any amount on me and cash me and I would pay the bearer in legal tender. And then I see Gabe flashing his brilliant teeth behind that creepy tan. I have just a second to see the look on his face before he hides it away. It's typical of what I get these days, an unconscious plagiarism of the look on mine: creased, sincere, a painful wince.

But before I can get all righteous about it, I trip on the rug. My right knee collapses out from under me and I go down like a halfback reaching for the goalline, only it isn't a football sprawled out in front of me on the carpet, it's my script, and I go, "Touchdown, Notre Dame," as Gabe jumps up out of his mahogany and naugahide seat, thrusts his hands down on the table and leans forward with his big bald bowling ball head and I think of Lenin in that famous inspirational photograph and I start to laugh. I just wish I hadn't started laughing. I could deal with the rest of it, if I hadn't started laughing.

Because I can't stop. I am just feeling too good, bad boy playing hooky good. (I know, it doesn't make any sense. What have I got to feel good about?) I roll onto my back and laugh from the gut. My rickety body shakes with laughter, and I should explain that when I really get going I have this donkey laugh, this braying inhalation of a laugh that used to get me punched by friends at the movie theatre back in the days when I went to the movie theatre with friends not colleagues, for fun not profit. So the donkey laugh comes bucking out of me and I try to stifle it on the green and gold carpet of Gabe's office as I look up at the acoustic tiles in the drop ceiling and admire the apparently random pattern of the dimples in the tiles but I know they're not random, how could they be, they were put there by some dimple making machinery at the tile plant, in fact they were engineered specifically for the occasion, some kind of mathematical trade-off between the cost of a dimple and its efficiency in blunting soundwaves and I realize I have smoked too much dope, I am one toke over the line sweet jesus and I have got a meeting with Gabe Weiner of Paramount and I am already flat on my back. I am laughing so hard it hurts. That has never happened to me before. None of this has. It's an all new episode in the story of my life, and it smells like a season-ender.

I feel that tiny stabbing thing in my throat and I think, Oh not now not here. Please god. I am on my hands and knees when I start laughing again. Now there are tears in my eyes. It's very embarrassing. I don't know whether to apologize or just go with it, little laughing buddha, emaciated, pot-bellied, wispy white haired buddha boy sitting crosslegged on the carpet going ohhhhhhhhhmmmmm. I finally come to rest and I get back on my feet, but I'm like an old motor. I backfire a few more laughs before I finally shut it down. Reminds me of my old man's Studebaker. That was one shitty piece of crap car, I have got to focus here. Focus. Ohhhhhhmmmm. Ok. Giggle. I'm much better now. "Sorry, Gabe." Giggle.

"Well you sure know how to make an entrance."

Here I go again. "Please don't make me laugh." The laughter bubbles up like methane from a pool of primordial mud, blub blub blub, I hope he doesn't light a cigarette, we could all go up kaboom.

Focus.

"Are you ok, Willy?" Gabe doesn't come around the desk. He keeps it between us. He's tethered to the chair. I remember this about him.

"Yeah yeah, I'm fine," I say. "I really am." And I really am. I'm fine. Look I'm laughing. "I think I can use that somewhere. Lemme make a note." This will save face.

I sit. I fish my notebook out of my satchel. That bit goes very easily. And a pencil and I open the book. I have the pen poised and I can't remember why. For the life of me. I look up at Gabe, I swear he's got one eyebrow up like Cary Grant used to do. He's looking at me from a million miles a way, like he thinks I can't see him, but I can see him. I can read him just fine. He's humoring me, the cocksucking bastard. Don't humor me, Gabe. Don't you dare do that. I stare at the page for a few seconds. I put the pencil point down on the paper. Big smile and I slam it shut.

"Where was I?" I say as we sit ourselves down on opposite sides of his spartan desk.

"You're fine."

That rings a bell. "Yeah, I am. And how are you, Gabe, old man? You're looking very fit." Very prosperous.

"I'm good, Willy."

We talk pleasantries for a few more moments. Wife, The kids. How old they are, how they're better than ever, when was the last time I saw them, who the hell knows, ha ha ha and cut.

And all this time he is looking at me like he's behind a oneway mirror. What is going on? I know he knows. He knows I know he knows. He must. Everybody does. So what gives? There's only one thing to do. I put the script down on the table like I got five aces.

"Willy Shotz," he says. "The great, the inimitable Willy Shotz, to what do I owe this great honor?"

"I got a script here I think you're gonna like, it's gonna knock your socks off."

"I'm flattered, Willy. Honestly sincerely flattered, straight, no bullshit, you know me on this score. I don't play that game with a man of your caliber. I get a call, it's Willy Shotz, he's got a script he wants to pitch…."

"No Gabe…."

No wait I mean he's got a script and who am I to say…."

"Not pitch, I would never barge in here take up your valuable time…"

"My time is your time, Willy."

"I would never do that, never…."

"I would listen to this man pitch the telephone book…"

"No seriously I wouldn't pitch…."

"The yellow pages…."

"Just read it, Gabe."

"Business to business."

"That's all I ask."

"Of course I will. You know I will."

"That's all I ask. I wouldn't try to pitch…."

"But even if you did."

"You'll take a look, that's all I ask.."

"Of course I will, you know I will."

"That's good, that's good."

He picks it up and holds it in his hands. He doesn't even have to count the pages, he can feel how long this story is, how many minutes, 97, 108, god forbid its over 120. I know it's long, of course it's long, it's not a shooting script, not yet, it's just a blueprint for a movie, a set of plans for building a beautiful story machine, the intricate irrelevant machinery of pop. I have no illusions. But I need this one to get made, so I have come to Gabe.

"Just fill me in, Willy. Just point me in the right direction here so I know where I'm going when I pick it up. Which I will I promise you, you know I will."

"Of course of course."

There is a long moment where I watch a passenger jet floating up across the Bay and I think I should be on that plane floating up, floating away.

"Take your time, Willy. No rush."

Wait. What? What did he say? I have forgotten the question.

"Hey, Willy I am not trying to put you on the spot. If you don't want to…."

"I'm sorry, wait. What did you say?"

"I'm not trying to put you on the spot."

"No, I know."

"So, what's it all about?"

Oh man. Oh wow. Good question. What's it all about? I can't believe he's asking me this because this is the question that has been on my mind for many many months. "Hey, Gabe," I say with almost brotherly affection, "You took the words right out of my mouth."

"I did?"

"'What's it all about?' Oh man oh man. I have been asking myself till I'm blue in the face."

"The script?" He's looking at me like I got pie on my face.

"What about the script?"

"What's it all about?"

"Oh the script!" Ah fuck. Now I have fucked up. I have missed the point. I have lost the thread of the conversation. This happens all the time when I am high. It's kind of an occupational hazard of the mortally wounded, but still. Ah fuck. I have shit all over my face. "I'm sorry. Sorry," I say as gracefully as possible. "I thought you meant 'What's it all about?" like Alfie."

Now he is lost. I have lost him, left him behind. "Alfie, you know." So I sing it.

What's it all about, Alfie?

Is it just for the moment we live?

As I sing those words "for the moment we live," I feel it again, that sharp piercing jab in my throat. It has caught me by surprise again. Ok, ok. I'm ok. I take a deep breath like it's a mock deep breath, but no it's a real deep breath. I can feel it flutter, but I don't think he can hear it. I shouldn't have sung it. I heard it in the car the other day on the radio and I had to pull over and weep. I wept so hard I accidentally banged my head on the steering column. Which kind of broke the spell and I was able to get back on San Vicente and head over to Cedars Sinai for a dose of the hard stuff.

"Oh, of course. Michael Caine," he says nodding. "Great flick. Vivien Merchant," he offers.

"Shelly Winters," I offer back.

"Yeah. Yeah." He perks up. He smiles. He shifts around on his ass. "Where were we?"

"I have no idea," I say before I can even think to stop myself. He laughs. He thinks I'm kidding.

"Willy, you are a very funny man. A very funny man. Of course I'll read it. I look forward to it enormously. I will put down everything else."

"Read what?" I ask. I am thoroughly mystified by the thread of the conversation.

"Your script! Your script!" He is laughing heartily now. Thank god. I know where I am again. "Just give me a hint! Please before I croak." He stops. He goes bright red. He can't help it. Another long silence as we both stare at the shine on the wood that covers his desktop. And just like that I don't feel so good.

"Gabe, sorry, where's the men's room?"

"The girl will show you." He waves vaguely in the air.

I get up much too fast and the world goes ass over elbow. I sink back down. "Oh boy," I mutter not quite under my breath. I try again, but there is no strength in my arms. I can't even push myself up. A prickly panic crawls all over my skin. I start to sweat. My forehead feels wet already, and my temples. I must be going pasty white right before his eyes. It's my blood pressure. It seems to have a mind of it's own. I get these precipitous drops. Oh christ. I feel nauseous. I need to smoke a joint. It's ludicrous. If I could get to the men's room I could probably sneak one sitting one the john. But I can't get to the men's room to save my life. I might have to ask Gabe for help. I cannot do that. But fuck I can't get up. This is ridiculous. I can feel that stabbing thing in my throat. I will not start crying. I am feeling overwhelmed, but I will not give in to this.

"You know what?" I say. "Never mind. Where were we?

"Why are you here? Why am I here?"

"Exactly," I say getting very intense. "Why is anybody here? Heidegger. The world is a miracle. Why is it here? It didn't have to be. Right?" It occurs to me that I may have veered off in another wrong direction.

"Well that may be, Willy. But given that it is, why are we sitting here in this office right now having this conversation. You could have sent me the script. You know that. I would read anything you give me."

Oh god I hope this is going to stop. I feel like I'm going to drift away into the late Los Angeles afternoon. I need to put my head between my knees , but that would look a little eccentric. I am staring at Gabe, but inwardly I am waiting for the world to come to a rest.

"What, you don't believe me?" he asks.

"Yeah I do." I say it quickly so he won't hear the tightness in my voice.

"Willy, maybe this wasn't such a good idea," he says.

Good idea? Is he kidding? Is he serious? How could it possibly be a good idea? Guess what, Gabe old man. I don't have any good ideas. I only have bad ideas, hopeless ideas, desperate lost and lonely ideas, ridiculous, ludicrous ideas and braindamaged beatnik ideas. I am fresh out of good ones.

"Yeah I mean, maybe, I don't know, I guess I just really wanted to stop by and see you."

"Yeah."

"I wanted to give it to you in person. Because it means something."

Willy," he says, "I am deeply touched." He can see from my lack of reaction that he's not coming across. "What, you don't believe me?" he asks.

"Yeah I do." I am wide-eyed.

"You think I'm full of shit?"

"No, no way, Gabe." I got my poker face on.

"You think I'm Mr. Insincere here, right?"

"No, Gabe. I never said that." he can see that my protests do not match his challenges.

"Look, I know how it is," he says regrouping. "You come out here to LA as a kid and you're a normal human being with normal reactions and a normal personality and you live out here for thirty some odd years and it changes you, you can't help it, the honey-baby-sweetie-pie thing. I go home to Chicago and people laugh at me, they think they can see right through me, I'm putting on an act, I'm so disgustingly insincere, but it's not an act. This is how we behave. This how it's done here. The insincerity is really sincerity. So please hear me, Willy. Please cut through the bullshit, the sham artist phony-baloney and hear me. I am deeply touched. I am."

Boy he's good. He is really good. Now I have no idea what he really thinks, which is just what he wants. Then I realize, that's good! That means he's interested. He's hiding his hand because he wants to play cards. Ok. Good.

And don't think it hasn't occurred to me to take advantage of this macabre situation. "One last favor, Gabe. That's all I ask." "Sure, anything Willy, just name it." I would never do that. Yes I would. But I don't have to. This script is good.

"So tell me a little bit about it," he says as he leans back in his chair. He's happy. He has cleared the air. He's a courageous son of a bitch, isn't he.

"Ok." I pick up the script like it will speak to me. Like it will give me inspiration. I am just a medium. The script will speak for itself. Through me. "I know. Ok, here's how we start. Screen is black. Pre-credits. A voice-over narration in the black, like a Woody Allen kind of thing. So immediately everybody thinks, Ah ha! It's funny but it's serious. It's toney. Prestige and all. And the voice over says the following. And I read the voice over narration on page one.

One day God gathered all of his children
together and told them that they would no
longer live forever, that their lives would
end in death. It was at that moment that
God's children first realized they were alive.

Cut to: Jack Guinness, our hero, parachuting out of an airplane.

Cut to: Jack bungee jumping off a bridge in some vast rainforest.

Cut to: Jack running out a back door with his clothing clutched to his chest as some naked chick with a heartshaped ass stares down from the second story window and a car pulls into the driveway."

"Wait wait, Willy." He is waving his arms a bit vaguely as if to demonstrate his confusion. "Whoa. What? What is this voice-over? Say that again."

So I repeat it. Gabe is still, the long soft fingers of both hands tapping his forehead taut and tanned, crisp and dry as burnt paper. He closes his hands prayerlike over his nose and mouth and sighs.

"Willy, no disrespect. This is not an action flick. Am I right?"

"No, Gabe. Not as such."

"This is a comedy. An intellectual comedy. An arthouse comedy. Am I right?"

"Ok. Fair enough." Arthouse comedy. Jesus he knows how to hurt a guy.

"So this is about a guy who has suddenly learned how to live because he just found out he is dying."

"Yeah, Gabe. Essentially that is the gist of it."

He starts to talk again. I can see his face moving, his teeth baring, his lips articulating, but I cannot hear him. I mean I hear sounds but that's all they are. They carry no meaning. I get one of those awful adrenaline rushes. Am I having a stroke? I put my hand to my face to see if I still have motor control. I do. He seems to have stopped talking. He's staring at me. I am in a diving bell of solitude. Oh my god, am I speaking? Am I trying to say something? I truly hope not. I have no idea what it might be. And then the world comes rushing back. I hear myself groaning hoarsely, obscenely. I hear his voice. He's shouting, "Willy! Willy! What is it?" The pain in my neck behind my ear is intense. I know what this is. I've had this before, but not so bad. It's going to stop. I know it is. Or else I'm going to die. Gabe comes out from behind his desk. I have never seen this before, actually out from behind his desk and leans over me with one hand on the back of the chair. He looks from me to the door and back again several times as if he expects reinforcements or fears an ambush.

"Sorry, sorry." I say it over and over again as the pain subsides. My hands are up in the air in surrender as I sit slightly twisted from the attack. "It's nothing. Really. Just a reaction."

"A what?"

"It's a reaction to the medication. It's nothing. Nothing serious."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah yeah. Nothing serious. Just a reaction. Doctor told me to expect it. Nothing to worry about." Poor Gabe. He is all over the room. He is at the door looking for his secretary. He is on sitting on the edge of the desk. He is in my face. He is out of my face. He reaches for the phone. He opens a drawer. I'm thinking he has never had to deal with a serious illness up close. Just a shrewd guess. Poor guy. I am scaring him to death. This is not right. I must be out of my mind to think I could get away with this. What was I thinking, that I could just breeze in here and put on a performance, dying, laugh-in-the-face-of-death buddha boy? I ought to be ashamed of myself. Or did I want him to see me like this? Would I stoop to that? Or did I want to punish him a little? That doesn't sound like me, but then nothing sounds like me anymore. Nothing looks like me. Nothing acts like me.

"Jesus, Willy, you scared the shit out of me. Jesus. Willy really come on man, should I get you home? I'll call my driver, really, he'll be here in two shakes. We'll get you home in no time. It's the least I can do. What do you say?"

"Gabe look," I say. I can't look him in the eye. I'm looking at his shoes. They are made of strips of alligator and cork. They are stunning. They probably cost more than my entire wardrobe. "It's good. It's really good. I know it is. I been in this business way too long to bullshit a bullshit artist. You look at it. Read it. Don't let a kid read it. Don't waste his time. He won't get it, these snotnose jelloshot USC film kids, it's over their head. It's almost over my head, Gabe. I wrote this thing in a trance. I swear, it just spilled out of me. I just took down dictation. Swear to god. Read it."

"I will."

"It's good."

"I will."

"I have no illusions. I am not going to live to see it. I don't give a shit." He comes to a full stop on that one.. "I have been graced, is what happened. God has smiled on me. I spend a lifetime writing thrillers and faux noir and sci-fi with stylish violence and pithy one-liners, and now this? I get down on my hands and knees and thank god for this diagnosis."

Isn't it fascinating how you can be talking a blue streak and at the same time you can hear and attend to that tiny voice in your head like a counterpoint, like a descant threading through the melody? Sometimes things get so crazy it's like a Bach cantata or a Stockhausen cacophony. But right now it's like two black chicks singing back up and they are going,

You are so full of shit and fondue

It makes me sick to listen to you."

Another wave of nausea, this time it's a tidal wave clawing the sand out from under me and sucking me out to sea. This should not be happening. I have just smoked a fat fat joint, doctors orders. I got the paperwork. But now I am grimacing in spite of myself, trying to grip the armrests on the chair but my hands have no strength. I go completely still as the room starts to go in a slow swoopy circle.

"I'm sorry. Wait," I say. "Just gimme a second." I hold up a hand like a traffic cop. He sits on an edge and watches me.

"Willy," he says leaning in to me, "You are a very courageous guy. I appreciate this. What can I say? I will not let you down on this. I will go the extra mile."

"No Gabe listen. Ah shit." I stop again.

"Willy, you should not be here." He tries to sound gentle but insistent. "You're not well. This is not good."

"No listen to me. I don't want your sympathy. I want your honest opinion. Pretend it's not me. Read it like that, Gabe. That all I ask."

"How can you expect me to do that?"

"I don't know. I honestly don't. But I do."

Resentment sharpens his eyes and tightens his smile.

"I know what you want me to do," he says. "You want me to read it like you're dead. Like you're gone." He stops. It occurs to me that I should be angry. "So it's not about you, right? How can I do that? I can't do that. I'm still part human."

I don't really hear this last part because the forbidden word has been spoken. It feels like a hand has been lifted from my chest. I gasp for air as the sobs escape.

"No Willy. I'm sorry. Please. I shouldn't have said that. I'm sorry. Heat of the battle."

I squeeze down and try to subdue my heart. I do not want this. This is private. He has no right to see this. He's hovering around me, but he's afraid to get too close, I might go off like a bomb or an angry child, you just have to let them have their tantrums, wait till it all blows over. I've almost got it squeezed down to the size of a fist that I can clench.

"Gabe, I hope you know I didn't come here to do this." A tiny cry slips out between the knuckles. "This was not part of the plan. I still can't look him in the eye.

"We all make a mistake." He smiles and shrugs.

I am overwhelmed by a sudden deep and penetrating insight. It comes to me more quickly than words. It's more like a quick set of images on the screen behind my eyes with a few words booming out from behind the screen in Dolby Digital Sound. And this is what it is in sentences: we all lead two lives. When we're young we know we will live forever. When we grow old we know we will die. But there's a third life in between, an ugly muddled mess in which we aren't sure what we believe. In the anxiety of the middle third we commit the great crimes of our lives. I am bowled over by this. I reach for the notebook peeking out of the satchel and I start to scribble. I am almost mouthing the words out loud, pressing the pencil hard into the space between the lines because there is a someone talking who is trying to chase away the words before I can get them down on paper. Finally I shout, "Jesus Gabe Jesus. Let me get this down."

"What? What is it?"

"It's nothing, it's the movie, another idea, just let me get it down." Goddammit. There was more. There was something else. I can't bring it back. It's gone like an image in a dream, a close-up in color when it wakes you, but it fades to a long shot in black and white a soon as you turn your attention away for a moment. He looks over my shoulder. I hide the notebook in my lap face down.

"What does it say?" he wants to know. So I read it to him, and I look up and into his eyes.

"Willy, what is this shit you are selling me? You think I'm going to sit down in a movie theatre and eat popcorn and listen to this? I would barf up my coke. I mean I could inhale a popcorn kernel and die, but I do not wish to be reminded of that when I go to the movies. Ok look I'm sorry. I know this is tough for you to hear. I don't know what else to say to you."

"It's important, Gabe. It's important to me. Ok? Is that good enough for you?"

"I don't know. I don't know what we're doing here anymore."

"Me either." I am truly sorry I took this trip.

And then I pass right the fuck out. I must have, because I am struggling to open my eyes and Gabe's girl is holding a wet cloth to my forehead and she smells like Britney Spears looks.

"Look Willy," Gabe says when he sees me coming around, "let's get serious here. You are sick as a dog. What are you trying to do to me here?"

"No no, Gabe, look," I say, " I just gotta smoke a joint. I know it's crazy. But this goddamn nausea. This is all I got. Help me out here, and I will get out of your hair. No muss, no fuss. I promise."

He shoos the girl away and closes the door. Then he locks it. He looks at me like I have made him an accessory to some great crime. I extricate a joint from my pants pocket. It looks like a shriveled dick. Well, this is the way my mind runs these days. I can't help it. "I would offer you a hit, Gabe, but that would be breaking the law," I say as I take a hit and hold the joint out to him.

"I would never ask you to do that," he says as he puts it between his thin lips. We are silent for a moment as we consider the taste of days gone by.

"Remember the first time you got me high?" I ask in my squeaky dope voice.

"Yeah."

"Me too."

"What do you remember?" He's not trying to put me on the spot. He's just making conversation.

"American flag rolling papers," I say.

"Yeah."

"What do you remember?" I ask for no reason except to be polite.

"I remember how you said you only read Samuel Beckett and James Joyce. Nobody else mattered."

It sits there for a long moment. It is making me very sad. Incredibly sad. I had forgotten that completely. They were my heroes. This is maybe the most sorrowful moment of my recent illness. I can't believe he would bring that up at this precise time, just fling it in my face like that.

"And you became one of the all-time greats," he goes on, "and I was proud to be a part of your success. I mean the heist flick where the bad guy looks up and the Maserati falls on his head, I got a chill when I first read that stage direction. And the cop picture where the detective puts the gun in the bad guy's ear and pulls the trigger and tells the news guy, 'You have to get inside their heads.' They showed it on the Academy Awards. And the sci-fi flick where the girl goes down on the robot guy and his dick starts to smoke and she burns her tongue. And Rolling Stone puts it on the cover. My hat is off to you."

Another little epiphany goes pop in my head. (I used to live for those, a many years ago.)

"I'm going to get up and go now," I say. It's always an adventure getting up to go these days.

"No wait Willy wait. Where you going? Leave the script. Leave it with me. I'll consider it carefully."

"No," I say picking it off the desk. "I don't think that's such a good idea."

"Willy, look." He stands. He's at a loss. I wobble up. "Willy come on man. Lay it on me. You know I want to read it."

I trudge to the door. "Not a chance, Gabe."

"Willy, for crying out loud. Be reasonable."

I open the door. "Not in your wildest dreams."

"Willy don't be like this. Willy. I swear to god." I am out. The door is closing behind me. It sounds like he is rushing away. "If you take it to Ricky Zak I will never forgive you. Never. Willy! Hey Willy!"

I walk away thinking he can have it when I'm dead. I'll have it sent to him. Then he can read it the right way.

And it occurs to me that may be the best pitch I ever delivered in my long and soon to be lamented career.

About the Author

Jim Shankman is an actor, playwright and novelist, a native Chicagoan who emigrated to New York in search of religious freedom and economic opportunity. His website is jimshankman.com.