Category Archives: Book Excerpt

Bathing & The Single Girl
Part One

by Christine Elise McCarthy

The life of an actress isn’t all glamour and  money. Often it’s about humiliation. 2,029 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


So one morning later in the month, I was again facing the relentless onslaught of overdue bills. 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3And once again, I faced an unpayable mortgage. I managed to stretch a few paltry residuals and my unemployment benefits to cover my cell bill, utilities and the minimum payments on my credit card balances. It struck me that “balance” was an interesting word to call mounting debt. What would they call it once it came tumbling down all around me? Bankruptcy, I guessed. Foreclosure.

My chest began its now-too-familiar objection to thoughts of financial matters and squeezed in on itself while my heart sped to a dangerous pace. I tried some exercises to prevent the stroke that I was certain was coming, but I couldn’t even get air to fill my lungs let alone the deep breaths I’d been taught in yoga classes. I was becoming light-headed.

Then the phone rang. It was my agent, Kim.

“Hi, Ruby, good news! I have an audition for you. It’s a new show. Something about cops with ESP versus vampire teens. It’s actually called Sexy Dicks With ESP Vs. Gangster Vampire Teens.”

“You have to be kidding me.”

“It’s a Mentalist/Sopranos/Twilight hybrid with amazing buzz. You’re lucky I was able to get you in.”

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The Writer’s Cut
Part One

by Eric Idle

Book excerpt from the Monty Python legend: a wisecracking, ambitious and horny film/TV comedian goes to a pitch meeting. 4,096 words. Part Two. Part Three. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Los Angeles – January 2003

My name is Stanley Hay and I’m a professional writer. I write movies, I write sitcoms, and I write gags 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3for TV shows. You may have heard some of them. “I believe in the separation of Church and Planet.” That was mine. Caused quite a stir. I don’t mean to cause trouble. It just seems to be what I do best. I make a pretty decent living writing and rewriting, but I have always wanted to write a novel, and this year, in January 2003, I decided it was time.

It didn’t quite turn out the way I’d planned.

Steve Martin says that the problem with fiction is you’ll be happily reading a book, and all of a sudden it turns into a novel. You should hear the way he says that. “It goes all novelly.” He’s a hoot, Steve. He cracks me up. It’s the way he says things. “Alllll novelly.” But it’s true isn’t it? That is the problem with novels. They are so palpably fiction. Maybe we’re a bit sick of plots with stories and characters, the usual bull. Oh she’s going to end up in bed with him. He’s going to do it with her. They’re all going to run away and join the navy … After all we’ve been reading books for centuries and watching movies and TV for years, and we’ve sat through hundreds and thousands of tales by the time we’re adults, so we know all about plot twists, and sudden reversals of fortune, and peripeteia and all that Aristotelian shit they cram into you at college. But real life doesn’t have a plot, does it? It just kinda rambles on.

So that’s what I set out to write. A reality novel. A novel about a Hollywood writer who is writing a novel about a Hollywood writer writing a novel about Hollywood.

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Manhunt
Part Five

by Dale Kutzera

Cop turned screenwriter Nick Chapel finds another body and puts his own in danger. 3,036 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Part Four. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


I’m riding shotgun in the LAPD department issue Ford Taurus going south on the 405 and trying not to imagine the sources of the stains, tears and burned holes in the fabric around me. The seats are wide and the suspension spongy. My slacks and blazer will have to be laundered and even that may not erase the smell of fried food and cigarettes. I crack the window, but it’s not big enough to air out this kind of stink.

For the longest time Ayers says nothing, focusing on the intricate sequence of lane changes required when traveling through West L.A. and Culver City. He’s a meticulous driver, head on a swivel, checking his mirrors. Perhaps he was in the military, or played ball in college. I sense team sports in his background, but the lanky frame that impressed high school recruiters has gone soft.

“So you and Brandt were a team,” the police detective finally says. “I hear you didn’t suck. A real hard charger.”

“I liked putting the cuffs on bad guys.”

“Hard chargers burn out. That what happen to you?”

I smile at the jab, then explain, “I got a job on a TV show and it stuck. Now I’m a screenwriter.”

“I need you to just remember one thing: you’re not a cop anymore. So who is this mook we’re trying to find?”

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Manhunt
Part Four

by Dale Kutzera

Former LAPD detective turned screenwriter Nick Chapel follows a lead in the serial murder case. 2,096 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Part Five tomorrow. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


There is a reason I specialize in rewriting crime stories. It’s not just the compelling nature of murder, and the ease of breaking a second act that is propelled by the search for a criminal. It’s the simple motivation that drives the hero to his or her goal. No boring exposition is needed to explain why a police officer or private investigator endures trials and hardships to solve the crime and catch the villain. It’s simply what they do, and who they are. It defines them.

It’s the detective who doesn’t pursue the killer that requires explanation. He knows the criminal is out there somewhere. The same sun beats down on him. He wears sunglasses to cut the glare, just like I am, and maybe even a hat to protect his sensitive scalp. The same hot wind blowing in from the desert burns his lungs. I drive east, sketching out the backstory of a man I’ve never met.

He works in show business, or used to, but the reality never matched his dreams. That made him angry, enough to kill, but he’s no wild man ranting on Hollywood Boulevard about what might have been. He’s quiet and thoughtful. Intelligent. He has a plan and a place to do his work that must be private, where no one would notice his comings and goings, or the bodies he carries.

Driving through Beverly Hills, I wonder if he is shopping at this very moment. Maybe he is sipping a cappuccino at one of the coffee shops on Robertson, or eating lunch at the Beverly Center. But then he is probably more accustomed to brown-bagged lunches and black coffee from a thermos than hipster meetings at The Ivy. I settle into his shoes, and feel the weight of the implements he uses to cut his victims apart. I should be angry with my ex-partner, LAPD Homicide Det. Jim Brandt for introducing me to this character, but only feel an odd gratitude. Finding Sid Shulman is the least I can do.

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Manhunt
Part Three

by Dale Kutzera

Screenwriter Nick Chapel is back on the LAPD beat looking for a serial killer. 1,894 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Four tomorrow. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


LAPD Homicide Det. Jim Brandt spreads the files on the table. “Fair warning: these are pretty disturbing.”

“Worse than eyeballs?”

“Worse than eyeballs. The Starlet Stalker takes different body parts every time. We’re keeping the specifics out of the press. They know disfigurement is part of the MO, but not the details of what he’s taking. The first victim, Mandy Monroe, played the oldest daughter on the sitcom Daddy’s Home. She was found five weeks ago in a dumpster in back of a Pizza Hut on Pico Boulevard with her breasts cut off.”

Brandt slides the file across the desk to me. I brace myself, then open it, revealing photos of Monroe’s savaged torso. She lies naked in a tangle of garbage, her face frozen in a beatific gaze, a purse and its contents scattered around her crudely slashed torso. Where her breasts should be, eye-shaped holes reveal red musculature and white ribs. For a moment, it’s difficult to process the discrepancy between her external beauty and internal meat. I close the file.

“I flagged the case, but pegged it as a one-off,” Brandt says. “Figured some angry boyfriend or crazy fan, but I was wrong. The second victim, Victoria Foster, was in the teen comedy Senior Year. She got a lot of press from her nude scene. Her body was found in a half-pipe in a Venice skateboard park. Again the breasts.”

“Your guy likes the publicity,” I begin. “This town is full of hot young women, but he goes after the ‘it’ girls, the ones with heat on their careers. He makes no effort to hide the bodies. He wants you to find them. Leaves their purses to help you identify them. And he keeps killing even after you put him on national television. Talk about your ego strokes. This gives him something he’s missing in life, a feeling of importance, that his existence has meaning. I’m sure your profiler has told you he’s probably single, a loner, maybe the victim of abuse.”

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Manhunt
Part Two

by Dale Kutzera

LAPD detective turned screenwriter Nick Chapel is consulted on a serial murder case. 2,272 words. Part One. Part Three tomorrow. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


The elevator doors open at the lobby revealing Russell, the day man on the front desk.

“Mr. Chapel, are you okay?” he asks. “I caught the whole thing on the security cameras. Should I call the cops?”

“I’m fine, Russell. No need for the police, but don’t open the garage for them. Maybe they’ll miss their deadline.”

Finally, I let out a long sigh. I am home and safe behind metal gates, doors with biometric key card locks, and Russell with his security monitors and taser. With each passing floor, I feel cleaner and safer, high above the dirt, poverty, illegal-immigrant desperation, multi-cultural conflict, gangbanging violence, and star-struck disillusionment of the city below.

The doors slide open, and we are greeted by a reproduction Louis XIV side table topped with a vibrant bouquet of bird-of-paradise. There are only two condos on this level and Lee Chang stands outside the open door to my unit, no doubt having watched the entire affair on the security system inside. He’s not much older than my college roommate’s daughter, Megan Davies, but already a veteran of the industry. Three months as my assistant will do that to a person. Gone is the boy band haircut and saggy skateboard jeans he wore to his interview, replaced by dressy-casual attire from the vintage stores on Melrose. Right now he is bringing me up to speed with his usual efficiency.

“Housekeeping has the guest room all set up for Megan. Mel called about a deal at Paramount. Mrs. Henderson from next door is threatening to take you before the tenants’ board because of all the paparazzi outside. And you’re all over the news. The landline’s been ringing off the hook. Channel 4, Channel 7, the L.A. Times, Entertainment Tonight. I’m letting the machine pick up. What the hell happened?”

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Keep Santa Monica Clean
Part Two

by Pasha Adam

Dante flexes his power as both a screenwriter and a blogger. 2,950 words. Part One. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


Creeping over the Century City skyscrapers, the sun’s harsh rays bathe my 1966 Ford Mustang as I take the 10 from Santa Monica towards Robertson. Ray-Bans I’ve owned since my first week in L..A shield my eyes from the glare and the breeze rushes over the windshield, tousling my already unkempt hair. If this cinematic moment was captured on 35 mm film, it would appear liberating, a sun-drenched endorsement of SoCal living. Nothing could be further from the truth. Under the crushing weight of the CO2 hovering above the L.A. Basin, this drive couldn’t be more claustrophobic and suffocating. As I light up a cigarette, combining the air pollution with tobacco and nicotine may seem like overkill, but I am nothing if not the author of my own story.

I turn west on Wilshire and, in the space of ten minutes, I reach the STA offices. I ride the elevator to the eighth floor and take a seat across the desk from my agent, Dave Chaikin.

“I love this fucking script, Dante!” he yells, slamming a closed fist on the desk between each word, a poor man’s Ari Gold in a rich man’s Armani Collezioni suit. Once upon a time, Dave was a fledgling literary agent in search of the screenplay that would make him a major player. Dave would have me believe the moment he read Galaxy Hoppers, my 120-page tome, it was love at first sight. He created enough buzz that there was a bidding war and then sold it to Global Studio Media.

Now, I stare at my latest screenplay on his desk, the one I’ve affectionately named Skylar And The Ninja Ghosts, as Dave asks, “I have to know, after all this fucking time, what compelled you to finally put pen to paper again?”

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Keep Santa Monica Clean
Part One

by Pasha Adam

A mid-career screenwriter has more fun at his secret avocation. 2,169 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Orson Welles said that, depending where you choose to conclude it, any story can have a happy ending.

My story began the night I met Grace Chase in Cabana in Santa Monica, California.

The sun was living out its final moments, painting the sky gold, and a Pacific breeze flowed through the open-air bar. Hours removed from my first screenplay sale, I spied a beautiful blonde through a haze of tobacco. The strings of “At Last” by Etta James swelled into a crescendo of anticipation as our eyes met and she flirtatiously exhaled a stream of cigarette smoke, compelling me to navigate the swarm of guys that divided us.

“Grace,” she opened.

“Dante.”

If my Hollywood story had faded to black at that moment, as the smoke cleared and I gazed into Grace’s eyes, it would have had a happy ending.

Alas, shit happens, as it is wont to do, and four years, three weeks, and two days later, a naked brunette is lying in my bed, screaming, “Choke me! Choke the fucking life out of me!”

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Cain And Abel
Part Three

by Daniel Weizmann

The Nash Bros either thrive or merely survive their appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! 2,119 words. Part One. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Fans and cheerleaders: Do you ever marvel at how they share our world? Incredible to think that while most of us live our humdrum lives, they are out there — the superstars — mythical, rolling, unhinged. And why do they do it? They do it so we don’t have to.

Marky and Sean met on the lot and rode to Kimmel’s in a Lincoln stretch. Marky felt cooler than he had all day. Plus, he acted kinder. He asked Sean, “Hey, man, you gonna do that patriot missile gag with Kimmel, the thing with the somersault?”

Sean was humbler. “I don’t want to hog up all the space.”

“No, bro. It’s a good bit. Do your thing.”

And then it happened so fast. They were whisked through the Green Room and pancaked, and led out on the air. The band played a brass version of the pair’s biggest hit to date, “Girl You’re The 1 (For Me, For Me)”. Kimmel’s audience ran a little older but they still went ape-shit when the Nash Bros crossed the stage. Jimmy did a little mock shock at the amplitude of the girly screams. The familiar tingle of stage energy dueled with Marky’s waning inner heat. Then there was a third Marky, a phantom in the wings: watching, sober, attentive. But every smile was in place, as Kimmel stood up to fist-five them with both hands as the horns blasted big ending punches.

The crowd would not stop screaming.

“Will you calm down?” Kimmel finally admonished, setting off another wave.

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Cain And Abel
Part Two

by Daniel Weizmann

One of two brothers hosting a hit TV show can’t accept that they no longer have equal roles. 2,679 words. Part One. Part Three. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Fan Club members: It is you that keep the dream alive. And that is why you must know that there was no formal ritual between the brothers. They rehearsed at noon five days a week, talked on the phone four to thirty times a day, met their press agent every other Thursday, and socially were almost inseparable. Even the many girls they took out, they did so in pairs, occasionally shooting each other a deeply knowing look mid-date to signal the switching of seats and intentions. Sean rented his own place in the Los Feliz Hills to be nearer the Burbank studio and liked to sleep late. Marky bought athree-bedroom oceanfront condo in Manhattan Beach, which was a good investment and, besides, what was the point in being a pop star if you weren’t going to live on the beach?

After dinner at Mom’s, Sean headed home to get some beauty rest before the big television interview. Marky, on the other hand, hopped in the Benz and was heading for his beach pad, intending to catch some Zs as well, when he remembered that it was Sunday, and that meant poker night at the shared apartment of Tom and Shanahan, his old high school pals. Marky was already in the old neighborhood, so he skipped the freeway onramp and maneuvered into the parking lot of the Hawthorne Arms, ready for action. He walked the dank stairwell to Tom and Shanahan’s second floor pad, and held his pop-star-ness in check. He lapsed into a joke fantasy, rare but recurring, that he was not and had never been in showbiz. Sean’s bro — the tax accountant. Or Sean’s bro — the sportswriter. If only he had been too fat, early balding like their Old Man.

“Dude!” Shanahan called out. “Total surprise.”

“Yo!” Tom said, his back to them, pulling a twelve-ouncer of Olde English Malt Liquor out of the fridge. “Do I hear Marky?”

“The man arriveth!”

Marky shrugged, then sat in the breakfast nook with the five neighborhood buffoons in Old Navy duds and hand-me-downs, some sporting baseball caps on their $20 haircuts. The homies looked happy but tired. Marky feigned a “long, hard day,” too.

“What’s up, superstar?” Tom said, high-fiving.

“Dude,” Kev said, cracking a beer, “aren’t you on Kimmel tomorrow night?”

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Cain And Abel
Part One

by Daniel Weizmann

Two brothers have a hit TV comedy-variety show – and a less successful relationship. 2,271 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Dear Fan Club Members: They say these things don’t happen overnight. But they kinda do. The fun began at three in the afternoon in Hanger One right on the Fox Lot when 21-year-old heartthrob Marky Nash sat on the edge of the newly reconstructed stage thumbing tweets to the base on his iPhone to tell us that Season Two is coming. After a breakneck rehearsal sched, he was psyched to get back to where he belonged: the spotlight. Behind Marky sat his blond baby bro, 19-year-old Sean Nash with his feet up looking all sanguine ‘n’ shit. That’s when the Producer and the Other Producer — whose names we can never remember! — huddled with the Bros. One Producer was older, tall, skinny, full of jagged grey competence in white sneakers. The Other Producer was husky in a Dodger’s cap and Cal State t-shirt, looking like a disgruntled dirtbiker.

It was lecture time as the stage crew slid gels into the footlights and wheeled the giant behemoth TV cams into place.

“This,” the Producer said, “is our moment.”

“And you boys have what it takes to answer the bell,” the Other Producer added.

“You are already stars,” the Producer said. “Don’t believe us? Google yourselves.”

“But Season Two is a major test,” the Other Producer said.

“For everybody,” his partner added. “Not just you guys.”

“And I don’t have to tell you we have competition,” the Other Producer said. At this, the two men paused, arms akimbo, Old Jew and Junior Jew, staring down the Nash Bros for dramatic effect.

“Meno?” Sean asked, sitting up.

The Producer said, “Meno Dalmucci’s variety dogshit debuts day after tomorrow in prime time opposite you guys.”

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American Asshole
Part Two

by Pasha Adam

The Hollywood wannabe must decide between his normal life or dream career. 3,036 words. Part One. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Tyler Price’s film premiere party was everything you’d expect a Hollywood party to be. Ostentatious, superficial, and wholly divorced from reality. It was also the first time I’ve truly felt like I belong, at home among the eclectic mix of narcissists, overachievers, and millionaires you can only find in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, it was as far removed from my actual home as you can get within the confines of middle class America.

Twelve hours after the party, Alana and I boarded our plane and traded our luxurious, all-expenses-paid Hollywood weekend for the dryer, browner, more barren pastures of Bumfuck, Arizona.

I wake up bleary-eyed, lying next to Alana in our bed. I barely slept last night, haunted by regrets and mourning a bountiful life that not only could have been, but should have been.

Quietly sliding out of bed, I stumble across the bedroom, a bubble world oasis crafted by me to escape the trappings of reality. Combining our shared love of acting and music, my passion for pop culture and Alana’s obsession with celebrities, our apartment doubles as a shrine to the entertainment industry. Careful not to step on a pile of my Nip/Tuck, Californication, and Entourage DVDs, I enter the living room and embark on a dedicated morning ritual that dates back to our first month in Arizona. Press-ups, sit-ups, protein shakes, flossing, omelets, moisturizing, multi-vitamins, Propecia, and hair styling are capped off with a healthy sixty seconds spent admiring and critiquing my appearance in a full-length mirror.

A crisp tailored black shirt, fitted jeans, Rolex, and polarized Oliver Peoples sunglasses complete my uniform. I take pride in the fact no one here dresses like me. I dress the way I wish the world was, to show the world what it can be.

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American Asshole
Part One

by Pasha Adam

A Hollywood wannabe in love is jealous of a famous, charming, successful actor. 2,262 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


My girlfriend’s hand tightens around mine in excitement, cutting off all circulation until my fingers are numb. “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my fucking God!” she squeals. “It’s him!”

From our pool bed in the Tropicana Pool Cafe of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Alana points frantically. I follow her line of vision until I see what she sees. Beyond the cocktail waiters and the Hollywood elite stands the man of the hour: MTV Movie Award winner Tyler Price.

When I was no more than eight years old, my mom asked me, “What do you want to be when you’re older?” As questions go it was relatively innocuous, yet has remained etched into my subconscious ever since.

“I don’t know,” I shrugged.

To this day I have no idea why she asked me that question or why it seemed so important to her. Maybe the years spent floundering in the lower middle class had taken their toll. Or maybe it was something Dad had said. I’m not sure. Either way, what followed was the most earnest and intense moment we’ve ever shared.

She tenderly stroked the side of my face, guiding my attention towards her caring eyes. What Mom was about to say was so important to her that she didn’t just want me to hear it, she wanted me to believe it.

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The Hollywood Dodo
Part Two

by Geoff Nicholson

The film buff father worries about his daughter becoming a Hollywood actress. 3,190 words. Part One. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


I realize that as a father I’m not the very best judge of these things, but come the next day I really did think Dorothy was looking absolutely gorgeous; bright-eyed, pert, quite the English rose. I was very proud of my daughter, and I felt full of confidence on her behalf. How could she not succeed as a Hollywood film actress?

In due course I dropped her off at the office of the agent, Bob Samuelson, located in a black glass building in West Hollywood. Neither of us had the slightest idea how long this meeting might take, but we agreed that we’d meet up in an hour’s time at a coffee shop we could see on the corner a block away. If the meeting went on longer than that I’d simply wait. Fathers are very good at waiting. I tried to give Dorothy a goodbye and good luck kiss but she held me at arm’s length, afraid I’d smear her make up.

I found myself thinking about Marilyn Monroe, a woman who, in general, I don’t think about all that much, but now I was recalling the story of when she was discovered by Ben Lyon, head of casting at Twentieth Century Fox. He met her and liked what he saw, so he sent her out to do the rounds of studio xecutives and he gave her letters of introduction to each of them. In every office the same thing happened. Each executive welcomed her, looked her over, read the letter, then walked round his desk, opened his fly and put his cock in her mouth. The “letters of introduction” merely said that Marilyn gave a great blowjob.

Who knows if the story is literally true? I’m inclined to think not. If Marilyn was so willing to perform oral sex on all and sundry then why would there have been any need for the letter? And even if Ben Lyon needed to tip off the other men, wouldn’t he have just phoned them in advance rather than messing about with the written introduction?

Nevertheless, you’re bound to feel that the story is symbolically true. Or perhaps we just want it to be true. The moral, I suppose, is that even a goddess like Marilyn Monroe had to degrade herself before she got a break in the movies.

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The Hollywood Dodo
Part One

by Geoff Nicholson

A father accompanies his actress daughter to a first meeting with a Hollywood agent. 3,202 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


I was sitting with my twenty-one year old daughter Dorothy on a Boeing 777, London to Los Angeles, in October, the skies more than usually turbulent. We were traveling in business class since we were indeed going to L.A. on business of a sort, or at least my daughter was; and also because, given my size and shape and great bulk, I have some difficulty fitting into the narrow confines of a coach class seat. Shameful but true. And I was thumbing through the airline magazine to see what movies were going to be available on my “personal in-flight entertainment system,” and I was thinking of some of the many things I hate about the movies.

The thing I was hating most at that moment was the way that aeroplanes in movies are always so pleasant. They’re spacious and airy, so well lit, so quiet, the passengers have so much leg room, the aisles are so unnaturally wide, it’s so easy to get a drink. In the real world it is never like this. Even in the ruinously expensive business class none of this, in my admittedly limited experience, is ever the case.

I’m not a fool. I realize there’s a perfectly good reason why movie aeroplanes don’t much resemble real aeroplanes. Moviemakers want their movies to look good. They need lots of light. They need quiet so that the dialogue is audible. And I suppose the gangways have to be unnaturally wide so that the crew can wheel the camera up and down between the seats. But these rational, practical considerations weren’t making me hate movies any the less at that particular moment.

Now, I know you could say that the above was no reason to hate the movies. In fact you could say that it was actually much more of a reason to hate real life, and at that time I certainly thought I had every reason to hate my real life, but in the circumstances I decided it was preferable to hate the movies instead. It seemed to me they were in business to deceive and trick us, to make us believe the world was a more glamorous, colourful and desirable place than it really is. Does this seem like enough motivation for hating movies? Perhaps not.

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American Pride
Part Four

by David Ker Schermerhorn

The agent has a career-altering meltdown because of his wife at a client’s Halloween party. 3,095 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


It was now an hour later and Casey couldn’t find Lori anywhere. He’d called her cell phone a dozen times, but it had gone straight to voicemail.

Casey was standing by Cheyne’s massive swimming pool, now unrecognizable because it had been transformed into another Halloween set for the Dump Trump bash. It could have been a scene out of a big budget Hollywood movie. Dry ice gave off a smoky effect and magnified the scene of a sinking ship with a fake Donald Trump at the bow, his red baseball cap on and a megaphone in his hand. “We’ve got this in the bag!” he announced. Off to the side were Paul Ryan and Chris Christie figures wearing rat ears and jumping off the sides.

Casey cursed out Cheyne for being so blasphemous towards the one man who could turn this country around. Now the agent just wanted to find Lori and get the hell out. “Lori, you out here?” Casey called, trying to spot her through the thick dry ice smoke. He spotted a dwarf, dressed as a nuclear warhead, walk by with a tray of tequila shots and grabbed two, hoping they’d take the edge off. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this angry.

Casey seethed as he stormed across the patio and back into the house. He headed for the stairs with reluctance. He’d already checked every room downstairs and the entire second story, with no trace of his wife. Now he was going to the third floor to find her. There, he spotted his assistant who was dressed as Harry Potter. The kid had a big goofy smile.

“Have you seen my wife anywhere?”

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