I will once again flag this as NSFW (Not Suitable For Work). Sam is a very creative writer – Simon
Charles tells Gary about Emma and Gary tells Charles about his needs. After all, it’s a long flight
“I guess lawyers are hurting for clients,” Charles said to Gary.
“Why do you say that?” Gary said.
“Hiring investigators to eavesdrop on conversations, so they might hear something that gives them a shot at gaining a new client.”
“Excuse me, sir,” the investigator sitting behind them said. “I have terrific hearing- -20/20, as they say. I hear everything despite not wanting, too. I hear it all and would like to comment on what one of you just said.”
“You just did, didn’t you?” Gary asked him.
“Not really,” the investigator said.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Charles said. “Gives me more time not talking about what I have to talk to you about, anyway.”
“It’s a long flight, Charles,” Gary pointed out.
“Be our guest,” Charles said as he gestured to the man behind him to fire away.
“My comment is this. The art of practicing law is dead. It might be done in the early years of law school. Law, today, is too damn expensive to put scant resources into investigators like me, forensic accountants, and computer experts looking for all the deleted items that are not deleted, expert witnesses, and aggressive law clerks right out of law school to help find the truth and then present a solid case in court. The big corporations and the governments have all the time and money to beat the shit out of the crusading attorney who is trying to fight for justice for his clients. If you don’t believe me, just watch your local lawyers advertising on television. Lawyers are looking for dog bites, not a sure winner like you have,” the investigator said wearily.
“That’s hard to fathom,” Gary said.
“I thought lawyers did nothing but make money in our sue crazed society,” Charles added.
“Yesterday, the answer was yes. Today, it is all about chasing dog bites, DUI’s, divorces, and deeds. That’s why I was interested in your case, would have fed me and the others in the office for a while.”
“The four d’s,” Gary said before he thanked the man for his insight.
Charles laughed because he knew that the four d’s that Gary referred to were (1) do it, (2) deny it, (3) deflect it, and (4) demonize it.
They both ordered another drink and started fantasizing about meeting with Sir Stephen Spielberg and all the pampering that would go with it.
“Is it me, or does this glass of wine taste better because I am flying first class?” Charles asked his agent.
“Wait till the appetizers arrive,” Gary said.
Charles smiled and pondered should I tell Gary everything about Emma and what I really expect to happen in Hollywood? He decided to start with the Hollywood part, but was interrupted by the stewardess setting a tray of really good looking noshes down in front of him.
It wasn’t that Charles Craig Curtis or Gary Harte had never been pampered by good food or drink before. They just didn’t get to do it on a plane, flying first class, and heading for Hollywood with potential paparazzi lying in wait for when Charles and Gary kissed the ring of one of the greatest filmmaker in history.
To both men, this actually made the pampering, the food, and the drinks taste a zillion times better than it really was.
Charles didn’t fly that much to begin with. The added experience of flying first class and being treated like royalty, thrown in with what he believed awaited him in Hollywood, made it all, well… delicious!
Gary’s taste for success was mostly all geared for and took place in the publishing world of New York City. As the publishing world staggered from the body blows of
electronic reading devices and slower sales –- perks were cut, and then cut some more. Only the big time selling authors and their agents were getting anything, and even then, it was nowhere at the levels that the perks used to be at. Gary had told Charles that this was the first time since the financial meltdown of 2008 that he had flown first class for or with a client.
“Seems like a long time ago,” Gary said as he took a sip of his drink.
“What? When I was a nobody?” Charles said very sarcastically. “This Gouda cheese is fabulous.”
“Last time I flew first class with a client to get the red carpet treatment,” responded Gary.
“What’s going to happen out there? Better yet, what do you want to happen?” Charles as he took a sip of his wine after eating a slice of Gouda.
Gary winked at Charles and gobbled down a handful of assorted grapes, followed by a large piece of Gouda, some olives, pickles and another piece of Gouda.
“Hungry?” Charles pointed out.
“No. Happy!” Gary exclaimed. “Getting laid would be a great dessert,” he added.
Charles, thinking about Demi, thought this is a sign from God or I am just plain fucking lucky today, with exception to the goons in TSA. He patted his brown bag inside his sports coat and wanted to start talking about what lay ahead in Hollywood. He asked Gary for guidance.
“First off, if anything I predict doesn’t happen, don’t get mad at me. I have learned one thing when it comes to the big shots and their big events.”
“They disappoint way more than you like to believe?” guessed Charles.
“A lot more than you think. Know why?” Gary asked.
Charles shook his head.
“Because they can!”
“Then, let’s turn the tables,” joked Charles.
“Going back to adult fiction?” Gary asked sarcastically,
“That is bad when in the presence of royalty?” Charles asked him.
“Hollywood is worse than any modern day royal family for sure. Probably tied with the tyrants of yesteryear,” Gary said with a sigh.
“Oh boy,” groaned Charles. “I better buy more brown paper bags.”
“Don’t worry about it,” said Gary Harte. “They shit on writers, but they ignore a writer’s agent. You will have it better, because those that have children probably really liked your book because their kids liked it. Just smile a lot, nod in approval no matter what they tell you, and if you get a chance to be your charming and humble self — do it! Don’t talk politics or religion. Tell them they look great, you loved them in their last role, and you can’t wait to see the movie version of your novel.”
“In other words, be my humble self.”
“Couldn’t have written or said it better. And remember not to close your eyes when the picture ceremony starts. Can you imagine how bad you will look with your eyes closed around all the celebrities who will be all smiles and open eyed when the cameras start firing away?” Gary the every cautious agent pointed out.
“Other than brown paper bags — best advice I’ve heard,” Charles said. “By the way, what is with you whining about being horny?”
“Let me have another drink. I talk better about sex or lack of it when I’m drinking,” Gary pointed out.
Gary spent the better part of an hour explaining to Charles that ever since Charles found tiny town, Gary’s sex life had been less than tiny.
“Miniscule is more like it,” Charles said sarcastically.
“Let’s be honest… nonexistent,” Gary said. “I’m hoping to satisfy my libido in Hollywood. ‘Cause if I can’t do it with this set-up I have with you, I’d better start looking at becoming asexual.”
“Funny, I always thought New York City book agents were gay, not that it matters to me,” Charles said.
“Most are. But I have always prided myself on being the exception to the rule,” Gary said with a smile. “Besides, worse comes to worse, I’ll take your crumbs.”
Charles felt a panic attack coming on.
Gary saw the look coming across Charles’ face and before Charles could reach into his jacket to get the brown paper bag, Gary did it for him. He handed the bag to Charles, who quickly regained his composure.
“Thanks,” said Charles.
“Too much invested in you, not to help. What caused that? Can’t be the flight. Can’t be the food. Can’t be what awaits us. But you do need to level with me, Charles.”
He’s right. Time to tell him about Emma, Charles thought as he nodded his head. “But first, one more drink.”
“Good idea,” agreed Gary.
Later that night, when Charles spoke to Emma for an hour and half about the train trip, his panic attack, Alice and the brown paper bag, the fiasco known as TSA, and the comfort of first class, he realized that once he ordered that last drink, he had talked non-stop to Gary about Emma, and what he wanted his future to be.
“So what is it?” she teased.
“To marry you and live happily ever after,” he said as honestly, sincerely and humbly as he had ever spoken.
The answer is yes, Emma wrote in her diary, but I want him to tell me in person. So he stew a little. It will be good for our relationship. After all, I am a first rate psychiatrist.
Months s and weeks ago, that ‘letting Charles stew’ thought would have been all Charles Craig Curtis needed to go find a another woman. Now, after he had spent hours talking to Gary about Emma, it was Gary’s turn while in the limo to the hotel and into the hotel’s bar, to inform Charles about what was ailing him.
Ever since Charles was lucky enough to be picked as a client and found by Gary Harte, he thought he knew his agent very well.
Or so he assumed.
Over the years, he had supposed that Gary was never bored, always informed, greatly cultured and never without anything to do, because Gary lived in New York City. Charles didn’t like New York City, but he knew it was the city that didn’t sleep, as they say, so no one could possibly be alone.
Charles Craig Curtis also thought that his agent knew everyone and everything. Thus, Charles thought Gary always had someone to play with when it came to play time, and, of course, working for a successful literary agency, always meant there’d be someone to work with when it came time to work. He further thought that Gary had been handed a true literary blessing-in-disguise by getting to read a lot of unpublished manuscripts and deciding which ones went up the ladder and which ones went into the slush pile.
“He is ‘the best’ at determining raw talent from unsolicited material,” Charles told Emma.
“Because he picked you,” she pointed out.
“But, of course,” Charles said with a wink.
He thought that Gary had the luxury of reading the many manuscripts of would-be-novels from his office, the balcony of his apartment, or even head over to Central Park and spread out a blanket, or even journey to Long Beach and read on the sand.
“That thought used to make me jealous of you,” Charles said to Gary.
“I thought you hated New York City?” Gary pointed out.
“I do. I was jealous of the solitude that I thought you could find in a city of millions,” Charles said.
“Can I get that on tape, because no one would believe me if I quoted that,” Gary said sarcastically.
Charles always thought that the conversations between Gary and his co-workers about the manuscripts and the personalities behind the writing must be fascinating.
“Especially the bad ones,” Gary said. “I still remember when I showed my co-workers your first piece.”
“You do, why?” Charles asked.
“Because it was a fucking hit! Nothing is better when you strike the mother lode, my friend,” Gary said with a wink.
Charles imagined the big-time night life that Gary got to enjoy.
“The fun you must have with clients,” Charles pointed out.
“It was fun when I found you. But times have changed, Charles Craig Curtis,” Gary Harte told his favorite client.
“We’re still having fun, are we not?” Charles asked.
“Only because you got picked and someone else is picking up the tab,” Gary said.
“You mean that the publisher isn’t?” Charles asked astonished, because once he had ‘made it’, the publisher was always picking up the tab, and Gary a willing participant in all the festivities.
Charles was always under the assumption that Gary relished taking care of all his clients (especially him), loved his work, his play, his co-workers, and the bright lights of the big city, as they say. He also thought that his agent was a very sophisticated version of himself, and if he stayed alone, it was because that he Gary Harte — chose to be.
“Boy, are you ready to get picked off base,” Gary said.
“I just can’t imagine a literary agent being alone in New York City. I thought, at the very worst, all you did after you found and sold a successful manuscript was hop from one book signing to another book signing with a party thrown in here and there,” Charles said.
“It was like that pre — 2008,” Gary said.
“What happened in 2008, besides Obama?” Charles asked.
“The end of perks for but a few writers, their agents, and the publishing houses that carried them,” Gary said tartly. “Wall Street’s crash burnt our business, and you know that fire and paper is a bad combination.”
“But Wall Street is back, some book sales are phenomenal and e-readers are selling like hotcakes,” Charles said.
“Keyword some.” Gary said. “By the way, don’t ever mention e-readers to what’s left of the publishing world.”
“Why? Reading is reading.”
“Let me fill you in on our business from my side of the story,” Gary began. “There was a brief shining moment when I actually thought that something good would come out of the financial meltdown for the world of publishing.”
“You had a ‘Rodney King’ moment,” Charles asked.
Rodney King, was an African-American male, while on parole led a bunch of Los Angeles police officers on a high speed chase. When the cops finally caught Rodney,
they beat the tar out of him with their batons. The incident was caught on tape and the officers were put on trial. They were acquitted, and that set off race riots that lasted for days. During the high water mark of the riots, King appeared on live TV and asked everyone who was watching and listening “Can’t we all just get along?”
“I’m not driving over the speed limit in Southern California,” Gary said sarcastically “but you’re right about what I was thinking. I really fooled myself into thinking that due to the financial constraints forced upon us — our publishing world would circle the wagons to protect themselves from the oncoming assault from the corporate raiders, bean counters and politicians that ride shotgun for them,” Gary said.
“I understand the corporate raiders and their bean counters, but how do the politicians fit in?” a perplexed Charles asked.
“They ride shotgun and are the getaway drivers for the corporate raiders. The money people will buy the politicians and tell them to close publishing houses with weak sales to boost the industry, and of course, to shutter some brick and mortar places for the same reason,” Gary spat out.
“It’s no longer a government of the people; that’s for sure,” Charles said. I wonder if I should fix Paige and Gary up? he found himself thinking.
“Definitely. It’s a government of big money, for big money and by big money.”
“So, you did get one of the subliminal messages of my novel,” Charles beamed.
“But of course… I am your agent.”
“But it still doesn’t explain the loneliness of the New York City literary agent,” Charles said.
“Simple. As Wall Street ordered, the publishing world caved, and all the perks of the business went out the window and down the sewer. No more taking chances on experimental fiction. No more finding the Charles Craig Curtis’ of the world. No more fancy lunches and dinners to woo clients. No more advertising money for small market authors. No more booking signings. Increased workloads and smaller staffs to do all these things. And always be on the lookout for certain manuscripts,” Gary said with a groan.
“Can I guess what types?”
“After another drink,” Gary said.
“Books written by celebrities. Books on diets. Books about wizards, werewolves, vampires, and zombies. Books only by authors who have sold millions of previous copies, and last but not least….
“Now you have the answer to why I’m so horny. It’s because I’m bored with my work. I’m hoping to find someone hot and juicy who can recharge my batteries and keep me from thinking,” Gary said.
“Thinking?” Charles asked him.
“Charles Craig Curtis, you ought to be ashamed,” Gary said as he tripped the stewardess for the latest round of drinks.
Charles gave him the proverbially deer-stuck-in-the-headlight look.
“Seems to me I once heard a stud of a lover tell me that one of the reasons he loved sex so much, was that while he was fucking, he didn’t think about anything else,” Gary said.
“A wise foreign policy,” the gumshoe from behind them chimed in.
Both Charles and Gary broke out laughing and bought their fellow passenger a drink.
“Gary, have I got a date for you,” Charles said.
“Can’t be any worse than the hookers and dead end affairs with my co-workers,” Gary lamented.
Just when Charles was about to tell Gary about Demi, the captain’s voice came on and announced they would be landing in 20 minutes. They both downed their drinks and Charles told Gary they would continue the conversation in the hotel’s bar after checking in, making some calls and not being able to sleep because it was three hours earlier than they were used to.
“Oh yeah, we have an extra three hours,” Gary said like a little boy.
If you missed the earlier Chapters you can find them here.