Bewildering Stories

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Slam the Door Softly

by R D Larson

The session on the murder scene went well. Kyle offered up some important forensic bits to bring reality to the teen male protagonist. He also thought the girl character should be more hysterical rather than giddy with excitement, since she was basically a non-believer in vampires. When the director gave him a thumbs-up, Kyle felt euphoric. He was IN. One of the main scriptwriters on a major movie. They had the funding to pay him. No more little 20-minute Indies, thank God.

Ian walked up to him. “Hey, you bloody genius, let me buy you a pint.”

“Don’t want to, but thanks.” Kyle’s eyes flickered to Ian’s face. Once they’d been lovers but now Kyle was married. “Mattie’s waiting for me.”

“I bet not. Call her, see if she’s even home yet. You deserve a pint; good work in there,” Ian said inclining head his toward the door they’d both come out. Ian was middle-aged but looked like he was thirty. His face glowed from tanning booths. His capped-teeth smile glowed an unreal white. His hair lightened just a bit stood in crisp short spikes.

He grinned at Ian. Kyle wavered for a minute. He owed Ian setting up the interview with the producer and the director. Of course, he had gotten it on his own credits, but still... Ally Newsome brushed past them. She must have thought that Kyle’s grin was for her. Ally was tall, a good six feet and taller than either of them. She stopped.

“Hey, Kyle, Ian. It’s going good, huh? Now if we can just get that kid actor,” she clasped a hand on each of their shoulders. “Oh, what the hell, I’m going to relax. Want a gin and tonic?”

Kyle didn’t really want to go. Sometimes drinking with Ally could last for hours. She was a streaking rocket. Never slept and never ate. A simple drink led to an all-night drinking bout as she, as the head writer, neurotically discussed the script with them, making suggestions and changes, complaining and worrying over details. Still, she was a brilliant writer and devoted to the current project. Ian shrugged.

“Sure, Ally, why not? But I got to get home to my bride. It’s our third month anniversary,” Kyle said, bobbing his head shyly.

“Too cute. That was some wedding,” Ally started for the elevator, feeling her pockets for a cigar, one of the affectations she used as prop for her position. Finally, finding a stub of one, she stuck it between her lips. ”Damn, I had a hangover for two days. Potent champagne, it was.”

“Yeah, her folks went all out. Best of everything.” Kyle followed Ally and Ian into the elevator.

They mingled with other David Genoa employees all going down the strip to the Bumpstone’s Pub with Ally greeting people she knew while Ian nodded and Kyle slugged along behind, his ear to his cell.

“She’s not home yet,” he muttered but Ian’s acute hearing picked it up and he shrugged sympathetically.

In the bar, Kyle slouched in his chair. His thrill with his work and excitement with being part of the writing crew ebbed away. Again, he put the phone to his ear. No answer. The bitch.

“Okay, let’s get relaxed,” Ally settled into her chair. The Pub was smoke free and she laughed out loud as she stuck the cigar stub back in her mouth. “No smokes but they can’t kick me out for trying. Okay, gin and tonic, hon.“

The waitress giggled. Kyle and Ian ordered imported beers and the three of them leaned back talking all at once about the bad-ass teen actor up for the part.

“Not just attitude but money with attitude,” Ian said.

Ally nodded, “Yeah but I don’t care what it takes I hope the producer can bring him on board. He’s got a name that makes news.”

“How does he get away with being such a shit?”

“Big name talent. He made 40 mil on that Disney mystery two years ago. First big kid’s mystery in years,” Ally picked up the gin and tonic as soon as it arrived. She sipped while Kyle watched her eyes go vacant, probably thinking about the 40 million that an actor could make and what the writers made.

Ally finished her drink in a hurry and said, “I’m going home to bed. I have to get some kind of sleep tonight. First night this week.”

Ian said, “I can’t believe it, Ally. What’s wrong, Babe, you getting old?”

“No, but I’ve been writing until 3 or 4 every night. Finally caught up with me.”

Kyle told her bye as she waved a talking duckbill at them, her hand opening and closing as she turned to walk away.

“She stuck me with her drink again,” Ian said and then pressed his lips together. Kyle giggled. Ian flung his head back, his blue eyes now narrowing at Kyle. He looked at the younger man. Then he curled his lip; he made like a gangster. “Okay, spill your guts, sweetie.”

“Mattie’s driving me nuts,” Kyle said. He ran his thumb around the top of his beer glass. “She’s just won’t shut up. On and on about how I don’t care about my image. I‘m a guy, what’s to care about?”

Ian wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Kyle sat there, his head lowered. Then Ian said, “Did it start when she went to work for Governor? Or when I handed you this job?”

“Not really. I don’t know. She knows she’s pretty,” Kyle finally said. “I think it happened when I got hired to work on the adaptation.” Kyle paused and then added with a shrug, “Ian, I know you gave me the opportunity. But I’m contributing.”

Kyle picked up his glass and drained it.

“I know that, but you can’t go getting depressed again. You have to finish this the play. You signed the contract. Worse, David will fire your ass. He doesn’t have a thought for another bloke’s problems. And you won’t find another job anywhere. You’ve quit too many times.”

“I love Mattie even when she kicks me. I thought she’d be happy as image gatekeeper for the governor. It’s a glam job.” Kyle looked at Ian. “But, Ian, I think she wants to be me.”

“Oh, crap, is she pushing in on your writing?”

“Yes, but, well, it’s my fault for letting her read the script every night.”

“Why do you DO that?” Ian smacked his forehead. “You did that with me, too. Are you so needy that you can’t keep one fucking word to yourself? What the hell is it with you?”

“Keeps me honest, I get to see how it sounds so I don’t fall on my face in the coven the next morning.”

Kyle gave Ian a thin smile. He thought it was funny that the group was adapting a short vampire novel by a teen-age Goth who had hit the New York Times bestseller list with his irreverent send-up of teenage rebellion with the occult exchange of blood and witchcraft.

“We’re hoping to make a buck or two, here. I can’t take a chance with this now. So move out on her.” Ian told him, as he shoved back in his chair in the busy bar.

“She’s my wife, Ian.”

“What the hell. Are you going to let her get in the way of your work? Your screenplay?” Ian said, as he scrutinized Kyle.

“She’s my wife. I can’t just...” At the look of utter revulsion on Ian’s face, Kyle stuttered on, “Yeah, well, okay, Ian. I’ll think about it. But Mattie’s the only girl... Look what she‘s been through with me.”

“Oh, yeah, abortion, car crashes, and rehab. Sure, did you ever think she’s at fault?”

“But I love her, Ian, I do.” Kyle muttered with his head down, the gold hair falling forward and hiding him from the outside world.

He was talking to the empty chair because Ian had stood and stalked toward the door. Kyle, feeling like a total ass, struggled to his feet and wandered after him.

As Kyle neared the door, he stumbled, thinking he should not have said anything to Ian about Mattie. No matter what. He’s so into being second head writer. Nothing about Mattie. Not a word. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Ian had never liked Mattie. Kyle knew he should have kept his mouth shut.

Unexpectedly his brain made an odd noise. The sound was a sort of a little dull bang. He listened, rigid, trying to figure out if his brain exploded or imploded. Out or in. He put his hands to his head for a few seconds until he realized how it must look.

A blur stepped around him; a man paused, looking curiously at him. A nasty chill hit him as the guy went through the automatic door. Kyle rushed out the door after the man.

The wind whipped at him as he rounded the corner toward the parking garage. It tore at him, shredding his last feather of courage. He ran to his little sports car, inserting himself as though he were a nestling returning to its birthplace. The egg-shaped fiberglass enclosed him as he shook. Not looking and not caring, Kyle quit pretending. He let himself loose.

Sleep sunk him below his anxiety. Unlocked doors barred none. The hum of cars went unheeded. Kyle’s face lay against the window, his pale gold hair, matted against the glass. His eyelids were a deep purple and the small sacs that hung under his eyes were a puffy bluish gray. The handsome tailored shirt that Mattie insisted on was rumpled and sweaty. Kyle’s slightly open mouth ignored silver drool that dripped off the sharp chin. A dream pulled him away into another zone sending him small cries and twitches.

Sometime in the darkness he woke cold and started the car with movements familiar to him. As the car heated, he grabbed a drink from his water bottle, swishing it before swallowing. Not really awake or wanting to wake up, Kyle switched off the car. The funny little pop broke in his head break again and he was sick. Nauseated. After throwing up out the door onto the garage floor, he plummeted into sleep again, gone off to another world, whipped into a time zone elsewhere.

Around eleven, the night guard tapped his nightstick on the car window. When Kyle struggled to come up through the dregs of sleep, he felt disoriented and wounded. He fumbled for his keys to open the window but couldn’t find them. The guard looked suspicious now. Kyle opened the car door.

“Hey, man, you can’t sleep here all night, against policy,” the guard said. He was well over six feet tall and straining his bulk against the crappy twill of his uniform shirt. Kyle wiped his nose and looked at him.

“My car,” Kyle said.

“So? You can’t crash here,” the guard said pushing forward in the open door. Kyle felt encroached by the man’s size and hostility. He wanted to get away.

“Okay,” muttered Kyle. He turned the car on, threw the headlight switch and blinking, and slowly drove through the empty garage. He drove on to the street as his eyes finally adjusted.

He thought fleetingly about the ER. He could go see if he’d had a stroke or something. No, there’d be a record. He didn’t want anyone to notice his slip. That’s what it was, really, that pop in his head was just a slip, like one brain wave slipping past another. Nothing to worry about.

Kyle remembered when he was a kid and just fooled around the neighborhood. No crime, no Big Brother to see if he’d gone to the ER. Just Mom to fix his cuts and scrapes.

He took out his cell phone and glanced at the missed messages number. Six. He knew the six calls were from Mattie. Mattie. She didn’t really love him. Nobody did. He gripped the phone tightly, until he drove over Tyler Bridge. He lobbed it out of the car and into the river.

He parked near a familiar Starbucks. He often went to this one. It wasn’t far from their condo.

He’d take it up with Mattie later. They didn’t need to be together all the time. She acted as if he had to come running to her. All the damn time. She should have answered her cell phone. Or called him back. Bitch. She’s a selfish bitch, he told himself.

Kyle ordered a light double caramel mocha latte. The kid that waited on him seemed familiar.

“Hey, aren’t you the guy with the red Viper? Almost new?”

“Yeah, but listen, it’s not the same as a new one. Someday, I’m getting a new one.” Kyle looked at the kid. Corn-fed from the mid-west come to Calli-For-Yah to be a movie star kid.

“Where are you from?”

“Texas.” The suntanned face had placidness and a kind of thoughtfulness. None of the superiority that Kyle had felt from both Ian and Mattie during the last year.

“So are you a Texas cowboy?” Kyle grinned, flirting just a bit.

“Shows don’t it? I thought there’d be more rodeos out here.” The kid laughed. “I guess Hollywood isn’t Holywood to me after all.”

Kyle looked around. There was an old man reading a newspaper by the door. People always want to sit by the door. Easier to run that way. “So how old are you, to be so fucking happy?”

“Older than I look. I was 22 in August.”

“No, you can’t be,” Kyle said, again letting his eyes meet the younger man’s brown ones. He made a small moue with his lips. He knew he looked like shit, sweaty and dirty, smelling of sick, but hell, when you’re shopping and you got the cash...

“Yep, I’m of age, as they say, you know, to cops and pimps.”

“You on the street?” Kyle’s hair prickled on his neck.

“No, I have a roommate. A commitment.”

Kyle looked at him. “What you trying with me?”

“Nothing. Honest nothing.”

“Fuck you, you’re a tease.” Kyle flipped a ten on the counter.

“Just want to drive my car and drink my booze. Just like my wife. One thing I don’t need another one of is A WIFE. You stupid shithead.”

After shouting at the Texas cowboy, Kyle stomped out the door. The coffee was hot in his hand. He slid into the car. As he sipped his coffee, the windows fogged up. He was back in his own lonely world.

“So what’s the use? What’s the fucking use? I’m getting what I can,” Kyle said out loud to himself as he shoved open the door of his little red nest.

Copyright © 2005 by R D Larson

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