Category Archives: Moguls

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The Small Gesture
Part One

by Ian Randall Wilson

A studio credits czar rules his kingdom unless or until confronted. 1,711 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Sometimes the smallest gestures had the biggest consequences, didn’t they? The pebble to the windshield A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EBthat eventually cracked the whole thing. The chance meeting at a premiere that neither was supposed to attend. Say if one morning thirty years ago, a development executive at Fox hadn’t argued with his boyfriend before coming into work, Jeffrey Baummann might had sold the script that set him on the path of a successful writer. Or twenty years ago to the liquor store a minute earlier, and Jeffrey would have bought the lottery ticket that won a hundred mil and not the someone who did right in front of hm. Ten years ago if not for a missed red light, Jeffrey might have met a different woman who could have been his wife. That morning, expending not even a calorie, he crossed out a name on a draft of end title credits for one of the studio’s films.

With the flick of a pen, a black line moved a half-inch right and one less dolly grip went into the roll.

Jeffrey was the studio’s credits czar, a nickname from an old boss to make him feel better when she declined his raise. Afterwards, the late head of publicity at that same studio said at a big meeting, "Oh Jeffrey, you’re the poor bastard who has that job." It certainly got a laugh.

This was what he did: prepared the main and end titles for the studio’s films which meant he looked at lists and lists of names, deciding whose would go in. He eliminated many of them with a small gesture. There was no attempt to find the private echo, this one resonating, that one not. He had a template. He filled it in.

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Meyer Remembered Meltzer
Part Two

by Howard Jay Klein

The ex-WWII Army officer with the mogul relative isn’t sure showbiz excites him. 2,201 words. Part One. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


December 1945 – On the set of MGM’s Up Goes Maisie shoot

Dave pushed the studio mail cart around the perimeter of the darkened sound stage until the sudden A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EBburst of brilliant light from a working set flooded his eyes. It was a scene set in a business school classroom, one of the opening shots in a Maisie series film; rows of cute extras taking their places at typing tables. Watching them from her chair, awaiting her call, was the film’s star, Ann Sothern. Every Maisie movie was a cash register for the studio and she was its cashier. She sat legs crossed in ankle-strap shoes, in a tight dress, waiting for the director’s signal to take her place for the shot. Dave had seen so many famous faces since he’d began at MGM the month before that Ann Sothern, though lusciously sexy, was by now to him just another recipient of studio mail. Up close, even the thick mask of makeup couldn’t distort her perky blonde beauty. Her smile broke out her dimples and her eyes radiated that glow he’d come to see as only emanating from actors with the elusive star quality that created box office.

Dave Meltzer had strict instructions to hand-deliver a letter only to her, not to any maid or assistant. It was a fat envelope plastered with registered mail stickers from a law firm. At her dressing table, she studied the pages, following the text with her pen. “What do you want to do after the mailroom?” she asked Dave, picking up the phone.

“Not sure. I’ve only been here a few weeks.”

“Nothing got you gaga to write screenplays, direct, produce, or at least hump some of these gorgeous girlies around here?”

“I push my cart around hallways, between offices and over sound stages. I stack mail, hand it to the people and go on my way.”

“You need to start shmoozing, kid. Talk to the people you deliver to. Make friends. Kiss a few asses. Learn the landscape.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Dave said. “Thanks.”

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Mayer Remembered Meltzer
Part One

by Howard Jay Klein

A WWII U.S. Army officer contacts his macher relative in the movie biz. 2,999 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


April 1945 – Trier, Germany

A G.I., spent by battle fatigue, trudged away from his platoon during a bivouac at the edge of a forest and A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EBtried catnapping under a leafless tree. He looked up at its naked branches still cobwebbed into the overcast skies. A red-winged blackbird sang on the branch above him, a harbinger of a Spring that seemed late in the morning chill. But the song was a sleeping pill and the soldier folded his arms, took off his helmet and nodded off.

After an all too brief catnap, the first soldiers in C Company arrived. The G.I. roused, looked up and saw Lt. Dave Meltzer grinning down at him. “We’re moving east in hour, a mop-up operation. Meanwhile, relax.”

The officer and the G.I. smoked in silence a while, heads tilted toward the brooding sky. “I’m already back home in my head, sir” Quinn said, tapping his temple with a sigh.

“Patience buddy. It’s a matter of a week or two.” Lt. Meltzer rubbed his stubbled chin and asked, “And home is…?”

“Chicago. You?”

“New York — only for a month, tops. Then I’m off. My old man is pushing me to go to Hollywood and look up a family connection. Maybe back-door myself into a movie job.”

“A big-shot?”

Lt. Meltzer nodded. “So I’m told. Mr. Louis B. Mayer. My old man’s family came from the same town in Russia as Mayer. His grandmother and Mayer’s maternal grandmother may have been sisters. Could be a familial delusion.”

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A Collector's Tale - final

A Collector’s Tale

by Barbara Guggenheim

This new mogul may be expert in Big Media business but now he’s being schooled by the art world. 2,819 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Luck was with Pincus “Pinky” Peterman that day. Here he was, CEO and the largest shareholder of one of the 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3biggest entertainment conglomerates in the world, including a film studio, television network, and a lot of new Silicon Valley ventures he didn’t totally understand. And now he’d acquired a prized online news service. Immediately some CNBC analysts said once again he’d purchased at too high a price. At first Pinky was hurt and depressed. After 24 hours, he snapped out it. He may have overpaid for what he’d bought so far, but he’d also learned a lot. An education, he realized, always comes at a price. Besides, he was the newest Big Media mogul and about to enjoy it.

Tonight, he found himself at a posh dinner party seated next to the most exquisite leggy blonde he’d ever seen. Not bad for a 48-year-old guy from Merrick on Long Island, he thought to himself, enjoying the view as his dinner partner shifted in her seat and allowed her skirt to ride up a little further so he could see what pleasure lay beneath.

Then the impossible happened. Somewhere between the appetizer and the main course, this vision named Natasha Rostova ran her fingers lightly down his thigh. Could he dare to imagine what would happen later? Peterman knew he was short, paunchy, and balding and that this was happening because his hostess had told Natasha that he was powerful and worth billions of dollars. But he didn’t care. His heart — and other parts — were pounding in rhythmic overdrive.

As Natasha lifted her manicured fingers from his thigh, she handed him a card which announced that she was the director of the Michael Simeon Gallery. As it happened, Pinky’s decorator had just started his huge new Holmby Hills home, and there were lots of bare walls crying out for art. After all, he was a mogul now and needed all the high-end accoutriments.

He suggested that Natasha check out his needs — all of them — by having dinner with him at the house the following evening.

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Cocktail Of Fear

Cocktail Of Fear

by Nat Segaloff

HOLLYWOOD BLACKLIST SERIES – On November 24-25, 1947, forty-eight studio moguls surrendered to HUAC’s Red-baiting. 2,492 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


As a hotel employee of some 20 years, Nino was used to keeping the secrets of guests. But this 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3was the first time they ever made him swear to it on a copy of the Old Testament. The request came as he was setting up his bar in the third floor function room of New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria. Nino knew this wasn’t a drinking crowd; if anything, they were a complaining crowd. Because whenever the Hollywood moguls stayed at the swank hotel, they bitched that business was always bad no matter how much money they were making. He recognized some of the guests from their previous visits as one powerful executive after another entered, many greeting each other in Yiddish.

A spread in Life magazine had come out that morning entitled “The Movie Hearings.” Written by Sidney Olson, the article purported to reveal how Reds were trying to take over the movies, and why the House Un-American Activities Committee had summoned a galaxy of star witnesses to expose the supposed conspiracy. Many during the October 10-20 hearings had testified willingly — but others had noisily defied the commiittee, triggering the gavel of HUAC Chairman J. Parnell Thomas. Ten writers, directors, and producers who had refused to discuss their beliefs and associations were called The Hollywood Ten. Now the suite was filling with film studio brass who not only had been friendly witnesses but also shared the HUAC Chairman’s impatience with the First Amendment.

“We’re not supposed to be here,” warned Barney Balaban, the President of Paramount Pictures. “When you get the heads of all the movie companies in one room, it’s called restraint of trade.”

“Who’s restraining trade?” asked Harry Cohn, the President and Production Director of Columbia Pictures. “We’re just talking business.”

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Grant & Lilli & The HUAC

Careers At Risk

by Robert W. Welkos

HOLLYWOOD BLACKLIST SERIES – A superstar couple with a secret grapples with HUAC’s purge of Communists inside the movie industry. 4,474 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


October 1947

“How’s this? Take my right side, fellas. That’s always my best side.”

8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3Grant Strickland and his actress wife Lili Reynolds stood on the U.S. Capitol steps posing before a crescent of jostling still photographers as dozens of fans waved and reporters shouted questions.

“Grant, are there any Communists in the movie industry?” asked one newsman over the din. Strickland and Reynolds hooked arms and leaned toward each other for the press photographers.

“I’m not into ‘isms,’” the actor replied with a chuckle, “—unless it’s capital-ism!”

“And what about you, Lili? How do you feel about your husband appearing before the House Un-American Activities Committee today?” another reporter called out. “Are you nervous?”

The former chorus girl who became one of Hollywood’s biggest draws as the sassy dame-next-door type whom men adore glanced up at her husband and then back at the questioner. “I’m here to support Grant — and also our industry.”

Given the seriousness of the HUAC hearings, though, she ignored shouts to dip her chin and show off her steely sultriness.

“Grant, what do you think of these hearings?” asked another reporter standing at the back of the horde.

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A Song For Silas Raymond - Final

Only Scoundrels

by Nat Segaloff

HOLLYWOOD BLACKLIST SERIES – Decades after the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee held hearings, a son confronts his father’s accuser. 4,692 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


We were halfway through Silas Raymond’s funeral when I realized that the fellow mourner I had been 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3struggling to recognize was the man who had blacklisted my father. Two days later, I saw him again at Musso & Frank’s. He sat alone in a booth, watching the door as if he expected J. Edgar Hoover to burst in and arrest him. Then I thought, no, they won’t arrest him, they’ll arrest the people he named to Silas Raymond’s Motion Picture Industry Council.

Silas Raymond was the most notorious Red-baiter of the witchhunt era. Even though he didn’t sit on the House Un-American Activities Committee, he walked in goose-step with them. He said he could spot a Red within five minutes, and he decimated Hollywood’s creative community with a campaign of intimidation, guilt by association, and outright lies. That’s why I went to his funeral back in 1995; I wanted to make sure the son of a bitch was dead.

They planted him at the stroke of noon (though the stroke of midnight would have been more fitting) at Forest Lawn, and I remembered thinking that the low turnout for such a one-time heavyweight wasn’t because he was forgotten. It was because he’d outlived all of his friends and most of his enemies. I was one of the latter.

I behaved myself during the services, even though I wanted to put a stake in his heart right there in one of Forest Lawn’s smaller chapels. I needed to see who would show up to honor him. Among his handful of mourners were, appropriately, his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

And Marcus Gottfried.

That was the name I finally connected with the face. A former film director, he was now in his low eighties, twenty years older than my father was when he died. We swapped glances during the services and then went our separate ways. Maybe he was wondering who I was, too.

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Studio Story even lighter and bolder

Studio Story

by Bertram Fields

A successful film studio is run with an iron fist. But is that the best strategy for its future? 2,711 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


The old man was packing his things in a cardboard box – doing it himself.  I just watched. 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3

Jake Simon was going – really going.  Hard to believe.  After 15 years, 15 years, of one man rule by an angry, unpredictable son of a bitch.  You could certainly say that.  And you’d be right.  But, of course, it was more than that.  Much more.  Anyway, it was over now – over and done in half an hour.

I remember the day I got here.  How could I forget?  I’d never been to a studio before – any studio.  I’d just published my second novel to mild critical acclaim; and I suppose, to Jake, I was exotic, and I was “hot” – at least hot enough to hire as co-head of feature development.

Why do I remember that particular day?  That’s easy.  I was replacing a guy named Sid Blumberg, who was being demoted.  Sid had gone to Jake and complained that I was an overrated, Ivy League hack.  Not nice of him; but, hey, I get it, that’s the business.

Anyway, Jake calls me into his office with Sid still there.  Sid stands there looking uncomfortable while Jake repeats what he just said about me.  Kind of embarrassing.  Then, Jake turns to Sid and says, “I’ve hired this man because he has rare talent – talent we badly need.  Unlike you, this man’s an artist.”  Then, suddenly, he points at my feet and shouts, “Kiss his shoe!”

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Richard Nixon Made Me Do It

by James Hayward

An artist, his dealer and a studio mogul begin the most shocking of negotiations. 2,606 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


“No! No! It can’t be done. The Post Office changed the rules and they can’t be sent through the mail any longer.” Why did I pick up the fucking phone? “Going through the U.S. Mail was an essential part of each artwork.”

Sue comes stumbling down the hall, half asleep and half naked. I’m staring at her pussy when I realize she is mouthing, “Who is it?” The bull shit on the phone continues.

“I don’t give a fuck how rich the S.O.B. is. I’m not in the movie business and never heard of the dude.” Doug, my art dealer, has some studio mogul on the hook and is determined to land him. I continue trying to explain why this simply can’t happen. “The Post Office changed the rules ages ago. It can’t be done. Final! End of conversation!”

I return the phone to its cradle with a crash. Can’t do that with a cell phone. I grab my shirt from the hook and feel around for rolled joints in the pocket. One left. Perfect.

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Gone With The Gelt
Part Two

by Howard Jay Klein

David O. Selznick’s new assistant learns more than the movie biz. 2,711 words. Part One. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Three days later the Super Chief hissed into Pasadena, its crimson war bonnet and yellow locomotive gleaming in the sparkling Southern California morning sun. The chauffeur was waiting and hefted our bags into the trunk of the Cadillac Fleetwood limousine. The trip had been three days of valuable reconnaissance about my new boss. I’d learned that David O. Selznick was a frenetic and obsessive memo dictator, a chain smoker, a heavy drinker, a cheap-feels copper on lady friends he’d trapped in the train passageways, and, mostly, a terrible gambler.

The driver eased the car out of the train station lot and drove onto Colorado Street headed south to Beverly Hills. Selznick slapped my knee.

“Buzz, you haven’t set a foot down at the studio yet but you are, dear boy, a true gem of a hire. Now I’ve leased an apartment in the Beverly Hills flats for you. We’ll drop you there now. Relax today and come into the office tomorrow to organize yourself with Lydia Schiller, my secretary. Then clear Friday night. You and I have a date in Tijuana.”

“What’s in Tijuana?”

“You’ll see. Just wear your suspenders.”

My next few days were a frenzied blur of running errands for Selznick to his tailor, to his bookie, to his lady friends, to his doctor to pick up and wait for prescriptions to be filled between snatches of time reading Gone With The Wind.

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Gone With The Gelt
Part One

by Howard Jay Klein

It’s 1936 and a smart college student is this movie mogul’s newest assistant. 2,079 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


I stood up as story editor Kate Brown arrived in the conference room. She smiled. She had a polished debutante look about her with alert eyes that seemed to hide a lively intellect. “So, Buzz, I’m assuming that Professor Hawley briefed you,” she said earnestly, glancing down at a letter. “He writes here that you did your senior thesis on Middlemarch and played first base on the Columbia baseball team. Impressive juxtaposition of talents.”

She lifted her eyes off the paper and sized me up, watching me twitch in my tweed suit, a clearly idiotic choice for a 93-degree New York City summer day.

“Mind if I remove my coat?” I asked, feeling the drip of sweat beads zig-zagging down my neck. Were I a contortionist, I’d surely be kicking myself in the ass at this point. It’s the only suit I now own. I did have a new $15 blue serge number I wore for my college graduation which, to my everlasting misfortune, shrunk in a sudden thunderstorm to a size more adaptable to a Bar Mitzvah boy than my 6’2” frame. So it was either the tweed or dungarees and a Columbia t-shirt.

“Sure,” Kate said. Then she stood up, clicked on the big fan and aimed it to sweep my tweed pants.

“Blessings on you, “ I said, feeling the waves of cool relief. “So this is an assistant job to a movie executive?”

“Mr. David O. Selznick, yes. Didn’t the professor mention that?”

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Hollywood Lazarus
Part Three

by Jeffrey Peter Bates

The showbiz murder attempts mount as famed P.I. McNulty tries to prevent more. 1,570 words. Part One. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Mandeville Moving Pictures was six weeks into a ten-week shoot on A Whisper In The Dark when the stalker finally made his move on Jade San Vincente, Hollywood’s newest and brightest young star who also happened to be the lead actress in Mitch and Billie Mandeville’s newest movie.

“Quiet, please!” the assistant director called out. “This is picture!”

Everybody was gathered at the far end of the Malibu Pier to film a crucial scene where Jade must wordlessly decide if her character will honor her dementia-stricken mother’s pleas to help her die. As Jade took her place at the rail, her assistant held up a parasol to shade the actress from the bright Malibu sun. After a few quiet words with Jade, the director nodded to the A.D. who then ordered the camera operator to “roll camera!”

All eyes were on Jade as a range of emotions flitted across her face. It was a touching moment and Jade was capturing her character’s anguish beautifully. Then, from the corner of his eye, private detective McNulty caught a flash of movement. Someone on a ten-speed bicycle was hurtling down the pier toward them!

The bike knifed through several crew members, knocking them down, and raced straight for Jade. McNulty saw the rider was holding a plastic drink container in one hand. Moving reflexively, The P.I. grabbed the parasol and stepped in front of Jade just as the rider squeezed out a long stream of hydrochloride acid from the container.

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Hollywood Lazarus
Part Two

by Jeffrey Peter Bates

The plot thickens and then doubles as McNulty investigates. 1,922 words. Part One. Part Three tomorrow. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Coffee bar manager Billie Franklin was startled by the sudden arrival of four men. She recognized Vanguard Studio’s Chief of Security and two of his uniformed security guards. She didn’t know who the other man was but suspected he was the private detective McNulty hired to investigate Mitch Mandeville’s hit and run. And from the looks on their faces, they weren’t there to order chai lattes.

“What’s going on?” Billie asked, clearly puzzled.

The security chief explained that they were searching the premises.

“Do you have a warrant?” she demanded.

“Don’t need one,” McNulty informed her. “The studio lot is private property and its security personnel is authorized to conduct any search they deem necessary.”

During questioning, Billie freely admitted that she and Mitch had been having an affair when she learned of his engagement to his Director of Development Tessa Gower. “He didn’t even tell me to my face,” Billie sobbed. “I had to hear about it on Access Hollywood!”

After turning the coffee bar upside down, the security chief informed McNulty that nothing was found tying Billie to Tessa’s drugging.

“My gut tells me something’s here,” McNulty insisted. “Have you looked in the coffee urns?” They hadn’t. “Empty ‘em.”

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Hollywood Lazarus
Part One

by Jeffrey Peter Bates

Tinseltown’s renown P.I. is back solving movie mayhem and murder. 2,268 words. Part Two tomorrow. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


“Didja hear?” Micki Finch asked. “Mitch Mandeville died this morning.” She waited a beat, then added: “They say it’s permanent this time.”

“Third time’s the charm,” McNulty said sardonically. “They say how?”

“Died in his sleep at an assisted living facility.”

They were seated at a table at the Spring Street Smokehouse, a small funky joint on the edge of L.A.’s Chinatown. It was a semi-annual get-together the two friends enjoyed when they wanted to catch up over some authentic southern barbecue.

“He finally got it right,” McNulty said.

“Sure as hell had enough practice,” Micki giggled. “Is it true he died twice before this?”

“I wouldn’t say ‘die’ exactly. Murdered twice would be more accurate.”

Micki practically spit her Pinot Grigio across the table.

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The Roomers
Part Two

by Wayras Olivier

It’s easy, almost too easy, for executives to get fired at a film studio. 1,761 words. Part One. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


My name is Santa. You may be interested to hear that I really do not exist. I use the above alias because it is an honest and decent and reliable one that generally puts the average listener at ease. Everything I say through Daniel about the Roomers ⎯ although I do not take oaths ⎯ is true.

This is the one and only time you will ever hear from me directly. If that upsets you, either because you won’t hear from me again or because you have to hear from me at all, you have only Daniel to blame for that. He has already, on account of his narcissism and his inability to properly “pitch,” butchered two rumors.

So, first off, allow me to clarify who your moldy narrator is. Daniel, to begin with, is not by my side because he committed Le Suicide. That’s not how it works. The reason he sounds and speaks exactly as I do is because I have, in my possession, his guilt which is my pleasure to keep dank and alive. His pure vivid soul is breaking bread somewhere else. (We won’t go there.)

One of the great workaholics, and with an unrivaled combination of social anxiety disorders, Daniel treated not a single one of his afflictions with psychotherapy, drugs, sex or alcohol. So when the weekend numbers for his baby The Ring Of Fire came in, none of the above vices sufficed to console him. Looking back you, too, must have noticed that ROF’s nominal losses alone (without adjusting for inflation) made John Carter, 47 Ronin and Mars Needs Moms look like hits. So when the evening of Monday, March 24th, 1997 arrived, Daniel indeed went headfirst Sylvia Plath-style into his oven.

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The Roomers
Part One

by Wayras Olivier

Ambition. Jealousy. Just another day at the movie studio. 2,435 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


My name is Daniel Kennedy. I died, you may be interested to hear, on a Monday. Evening, not night, as so many of the rumors have stated. The film title Secrets & Lies was the last words I heard. A brash-looking Sonny Wortzik, who incidentally must have been on parole, had just finished running through the list of Best Picture nominations for 1997 when euphoria seized me and The English Patient won all the things that make life worth living: glory, prestige and recognition. (A quick side note: when you check out, you know for the first time who you are without the categories that define life: your age, your race, your gender and yes, your occupation.) And before you ask, the answer is no, I was not at the show. I was at home watching it on the boob. The momentary euphoria I just mentioned came from gasoline poisoning. So I here repeat my oath: anything that happened on March 24th, 1997, after the words Secrets & Lies were uttered, I myself cannot personally verify.

Prior to dying, I spread many false rumors about families and had been complicit by remaining silent whenever I, in return, heard rumors that I knew were false. My father was rare. He had an I.Q. only slightly above 50 and was put down when I was just a child. Believing that something other than natural selection (although I didn’t, of course, call it that back then) has the right to gas stupid people, I became increasingly afraid of the “steak.” Something I learned later, when correctly pronounced, is called the “state.”

My mother, who was a beautiful bird, told me that he wasn’t Darwined-out by the steak just because he was fat and dim, and promised to tell me when I turned sixteen why he went the way of the dodo, and how it involved the murders in “the Hills.” Or she may have said the murders in “the Stills.” I could never quite understand her. I never did find out what kind of monster he was, not because my mother had terrible diction but rather, right before she had the chance when my sweet sixteen arrived, she choked on her dentures and suffocated.

I was an only child; I never married, and had no children. So this is my one chance, when I tell you about the Roomers, to make things right.

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