The down-and-out actor finds himself wanting the wrong woman. 2,032 words. Part One. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
As late afternoon approached, Rubi was beside himself knowing that another night in the airport would be torture. Kate hadn’t returned his last phone call but he knew he had a date with Kristen the day after tomorrow so if he could just survive till then. His first offensive move at the airport was to call his brother and see if Carlo would change his mind about providing funds or shelter. If anatomy was destiny, it was clear why the younger brother was an aging playboy actor and the older a good-for-nothing loafer living in Turks And Caicos.
Carlo was hypersensitive to perceived slights and was rude to the many people he thought treated him like he was a no-talent who basked in the shadow of the famous Rubi. Most people ignored Carlo but even those who gave him a fair shot determined he was indeed a worthless replica of the original. And even though they didn’t look that much alike, Carlo pretended he was Rubi to inebriated women who were seeing double. The older bro’s only steady job was when he’d worked as Rubi’s stand-in back when Rubi was so busy he was turning down acting jobs.
But when Rubi finally got Carlo on the phone, Carlo pleaded poverty and then tried to hit up Rubi for a loan.
With less than $25 to his name, Rubi planted himself near the American Airlines Admirals Club and acted like a man about to embark on an unfamiliar journey. He hoped to be lucky enough to spot an acquaintance he could solicit for funds, even if he had to descend to some lost wallet excuse. Athletes, rappers and other actors came in and out of the club, but Rubi was a stranger to them and to this place. So he settled in for the night right outside the club’s entrance.
The actor knows he’s down but plots to ensure he’s not yet out. 2,271 words. Part One. Part Three tomorrow. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
At ten after 8 pm, Rubi strode into the sexy gourmet Chinese restaurant that was lit with pools of colored light. The music was just loud and contemporary enough to make him feel out of sorts. Miami didn’t have many decent Asian restaurants but this one, with its dark wood ambiance and pan-China cuisine, was a notable exception.
The actor went to the bar, then the bathroom. A man of his age could hardly go an hour without finding urinary relief. Rubi looked into the mirror as he peed. Sometimes he still saw himself as bold and beautiful. This was one of those times when his caved cheeks, sagging throat and receding hairline flashed warning signs. Even if he got lucky with one of the Ks would his receptors that measured pleasure still function? Was he was losing his looks, his mind and, worse, his senses? Would the maid show? Rubi was vulnerable and he didn’t like it.
When he scanned the restaurant for the third time he still didn’t see her. That was because when Porfiria left the ladies room and walked past him she didn’t look like the housekeeper he’d seen two days in a row. This Porfiria had had her hair done. This Porfiria wore red lipstick. This Porfiria was in heels. This Porfiria snapped her fingers when she made eye contact with Rubi.
Rubi joined Porfiria at an out-of-the-way table he would not have tolerated if he was with either of the Ks, but with Porfiria it was better that they were discreet. He sat down, then reached over and lifted her hand to examine her wedding ring.
“How much do I want or how much did my ring cost?”
Rubi smiled, still surprised that Porfiria had a personality.
An aging actor down on his luck is hoping to become a kept man. 2,798 words. Part Two tomorrow. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
It came down to the two Ks. Either one would do and Rubi had little preference at this point.
There was Kristen. A soft-spoken, senior partner in the entertainment law firm her deceased husband had founded. The same firm who used to represent Rubi back when he needed dealmakers. Her hair was long and reddish blond.
And then there was Kate. Her hair was short, stylish and black. This trust fund baby was on the board of every museum in Miami. She had swagger, not to mention a five bedroom condo on the 44th floor of Zaha Hadid’s new downtown tower, a palatial home in the Gables, a four bedroom condo at the Ocean Reef Club on Key Largo, and a cabin on a mountainside in North Carolina decorated impeccably in mid-century modern.
Kristen’s big advantage was that she was absent from her penthouse ten hours a day. Her eye-opening terrace overlooked the Port of Miami with its humongous floating buffet boats that moved with the precision of a clock as they docked on Fridays and set sail on Sundays. Rubi could imagine having her place all to himself until she returned from work when they would enjoy a cocktail hour that stretched well past 8 pm. The perfect capper on a day he spent doing nothing but walking Kristen’s annoying little dog before primping for the night. And although Kate was the more attractive of the two, Kristen even though she had just turned 59 was more creative in bed than her slightly younger competition.
A plus in the Kate column was that she could speak four languages when she and Rubi travelled or made love. Who cared if she occasionally objectified the actor as a living work of art? Truth be told, Rubi liked thinking of himself as a possession, a man who could please a woman in a variety of ways, and by any means necessary.
The most difficult task Rubi faced was not confusing the details of his two paramours. His increasingly unreliable memory made him prone to mixing up the names of the significant people in the Ks’ lives, especially their investment bankers, lawyers, ex-husbands, children and grandchildren. Still, one or the other would have to do. Unfortunately, the choice between the two Ks was not Rubi’s to make but it did have to be made soon. He was an ex-soap opera star who’d recently turned 70 and was in desperate need of a woman willing to make him a kept man.
Out-of-work Hollywood types travel to the middle of nowhere to make an adventure show. 2,332 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Mann.
We were desperate. Art. Bruce. Lance. Tony. Scott. The whole lot of us. Desperate for another break. Desperate to make another month’s rent, another phone bill, another car payment. Desperate to make something happen. Tired of waiting tables, waiting in open houses, waiting to get slaughtered at the next cattle call. We’d all had a break or two already – a national commercial, a recurring role on HBO or FX or AMC, a juicy part in a fourquel splatter-fest. Just enough to keep our hopes up, keep us out of real jobs and real money. Only the breaks hadn’t led to bigger breaks. We needed that big roller to take us over the top. And this was our wave machine.
“Can you believe this shit?” said Art, an aspiring film editor scraping by on local commercials and backyard bare-knuckle brawl videos. Believe it or not, they pay people to edit those things. He got four hundred bucks and an eight ball for the last gig, which launched the career of a 380 pound overalls-clad cyclops named Opie Mohammed.
I couldn’t believe the tab as I looked at it, dollar signs burning my eyes. Even out in the middle of nowhere like we were, in some Northern California town where the redwoods met the Pacific, it was possible to run up a four figure bar tab. Before I could react, another round had arrived — bottles of Budweiser and whiskey backs, although you could have them in any order you liked. I could already feel the hangover and I knew a couple of the others were half blind. Somebody had to pay for this. The credit cards were maxed. We didn’t have the budget for this bill. I hailed the waitress and ordered another round of whiskey.
As soon as I said it I got hit in the eye with the flash. “How come every time I order a whiskey, you take my picture?” I asked.
Scott slipped the phone back in his pocket. “Because in Argentina they say ‘whiskey’ instead of ‘cheese’. Picked it up on a shoot in Patagonia.”
TV FICTION PACKAGE: A soap opera actor’s father visits at the worst time possible. 3,788 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.
As he slathered lotion on his face and scrubbed to remove the morning’s heavy makeup, he couldn’t help imagining what his father might say about a grown man who worried over his appearance. Van blotted with tissues and and began to brush his hair, stiff with spray. He thrust his jaw forward and studied his reflection. He wondered about his weak chin and if that was the reason he was stuck in this network daytime soap opera with no offers for anything better.
"You there, Van?" A soft tap accompanied the meek voice. It was the new production assistant on As God Is My Witness. "I thought maybe you’d already left to pick up your father. I brought the scripts for next week."
"I was just getting ready to leave," Van said, thumbing the pages. "What betrayals does Alexandra foist on our eternally-dim Dr. Blair Blanton next week?"
"I’d never treat a man the way she does," the assistant replied, averting her eyes, blushing, then turning to make a quick exit.
Van scanned until he found Dr. Blanton’s dialogue, and began to read aloud: "Of course I’m not accusing you, Alexandra. But a colleague mentioned to me at the hospital that he ran into you at Capriccio having dinner with Tony Agnello, when you told me you were playing mahjong with the girls at the club. And you’ve been so outspoken about how arrogant you thought Tony was, always bragging about his airplane and his polo ponies and beach house. You never mentioned any benefit for the homeless that the two of you were co-chairing — "
Van dropped the material on his dressing table with a scowl. No one except for his sister and a few seldom-seen cousins back in Indiana, and the nation’s unemployed, was impressed with the soap or his role. His father thought Van was wasting his life.