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Acts of Revenge - Acts of Revenge

By Kim Coleman,2014-08-13 13:17
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Acts of Revenge - Acts of Revenge ...

    --- Acts of Revenge ---

     It was after I’d sold the screenplay that it really all began. Who was the first to strike? I’m going to leave it up to you to decide. But before you do, sir, let me backtrack, to set the stage, so to speak....

     We met back East, Sherry and me, not long after I

    graduated from a podunk state college where I did nothing whatsoever to distinguish myself in any way. It was a typical upstate New York summer, lots of humidity, buckets of rain, too many dead hours to count. I was treading water as assistant manager of a second-rate men’s clothing store -- for the time being,

    until I got my bearings and figured out what to do with my freshly minted degree -- and Sherry was in the loans division of a bank. In other words, I was lost, and maybe she was too. We bumped into each other for the first time in the park early that July when each of us was on our lunch break. Being wiry and brunette she wasn’t exactly my physical type, but we happened to be sitting on the same bench and we couldn’t help but strike up a conversation.

    Actually it was me who talked first. I made a remark about the book she was reading -- I was a fan of Zola, too. If she could find her way into someone that good, I figured, she had to be worth knowing. We hit it off, pretty much from that moment. But I also sensed before long that there was something a little off in Sherry -- sensed, deep in the recesses of my brain, where I wouldn’t ever fully admit it to myself, that she might do something to me one day. But maybe I was wrong. How can you ever really know something like that for sure? You can say you had a hunch, but five times out of ten the hunch is nonsense.

     After that first day we had an unspoken standing date, same time, same place, Monday through Friday. Even then I was obsessed with the movies. Every other night the two of us would hit a multiplex or an art house, and if we didn’t, I was sitting at home in front of a DVD. I was miserable at the clothing store. Sherry was miserable at the bank. I confided to her what I

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    sometimes dreamed: that I got out of this nowhere town and became somebody. Anybody would do. Where did I want to go? There’s only one place I ever wanted to go, Sherry, and that’s California. The idea appealed to her, too.

     There was nothing holding us back East. We each came from the kind of fractured, dysfunctional family where we wouldn’t be missed by anyone if we moved to Tasmania. So piece by piece we laid out our plans under the elm trees, packed up everything we owned, and shoved off in the frigid dawn the following New Year’s Day in my second-hand Honda, driving

    straight across the country, shedding clothes like our pasts, with a few deviations for a bit of sightseeing. The Grand Canyon was worth it, both of us agreed on that. So was Vegas. Within days of reaching Los Angeles we had jobs. On the weekends we hit every corny tourist trap from San Luis Obispo all the way down to Oceanside. We did Knotts’ Berry Farm, Disneyland, the Hearst Castle, and damned near everything in between. Sometimes we just sat in the sun and couldn’t believe we were there.

     At first I decided to give acting a shot. There I was, in the Land of the Miracle, the City of the One-in-a-Million Chance, so why not? I auditioned for anything and everything, for anybody and everybody who would agree to see me. I’d done some theater in school, thought I had at least as much charisma as some big Hollywood stars. After a couple years’ worth of humiliation, when all I’d managed to come up with was a handful of days as an extra, I’d had enough. But my dreams weren’t dead. The other thing I’d always wanted to be was a writer.

     Sherry and I lived all over the place in those early years -- Eagle Rock, Glendale, Venice. Every night I’d sit at the electric Smith-Corona (this of course was in the days before I could afford a computer) and bang away at the scripts and stories that were one day going to make me rich, if not famous. I wanted it badly. I prayed for it. It would come; it was only a matter of time. On the weekends Sherry would read what I’d written and then give me her

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    comments and suggestions. She was my editor, if not my flat-out collaborator.

     All the while of course I went on working odd jobs. Movie house usher, phone book deliveryman, proofreader at an ad agency. As for Sherry, she took on the heavier, grind-it-out positions, as everything from greeter in a seafood restaurant, which she wasn’t cut out for, to telemarketer, to toy salesperson on the Universal lot (she wasn’t exactly made for those, either), to paper pusher for the

    U.S. arm of a giant international telephone company located near the airport. That was the one that stuck.

     Lucky for me she didn’t mind doing the lion’s share of the lucre-earning stuff. We were thousands of miles from home, we were on our own, we had each other. We could do whatever we wanted to do, in whatever arrangement we chose to do it in -- nobody cared. She’d become part of my dream, too.

     By now of course I’d learned a lot more about this woman I was living with. Sherry was dutiful if not overly imaginative, steadfast and loyal if not exciting. She was certainly attractive, but somewhat dour, even depressive at times, the kind of person who wouldn’t have a friend in the world if I didn’t prod her. Sometimes I was amazed that she’d taken the great leap west with me, until

    finally I figured out that it wasn’t the adventure she wanted, it was me. If it weren’t for me, she’d still be back East marking time in that bank. But curiously, and despite her inhibitions, she was good in bed -- and I mean very good. And I knew I could count on her to follow me to the ends of the earth.

     She was a hit at her new job, which kept her tucked away in a cubicle analyzing financial trends, and that allowed us to eventually land in Santa Monica, which was where we always wanted to be since it’s smack on the ocean. Sherry and I had a thing for the sea. We snagged a third-floor apartment with a small terrace and a view of the Ferris Wheel on the pier and the spectacular sunsets. We loved that place, down to the cracks in the walls left by some earthquake. By this time it never occurred to us to think of going anywhere else. We were staying forever.

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     Then, one day, after years of trying and getting absolutely nowhere, it happened -- I sold a screenplay. By The Throat was

    one-third horror, one-third drama, another third comedy, and all cheese when you peered beneath the slick surface. After all those countless rejections I’d finally figured out what to give them. It wasn’t one of those million-dollar gigs that will get you a life-story profile in the Los Angeles Times, but I did bring down mid-five

    figures for the sixth draft, which, my grandiose fantasies notwithstanding, was more than I ever imagined I could actually earn as a writer. To boot, the check cleared. The Burbank-based production company, a relative newcomer with a smattering of decent credits, was even threatening to place the thing into immediate turnaround. Like a restless dog on a leash, I began to sniff everything in the air -- a legitimate credit (even if By The

    Throat went straight to DVD), an agent, a career.

     The first thing I nailed was the agent. His name was Rubinstein and he ran a stable that included at least a few clients, both actors and writers, with recognizable names. We shook hands on a deal that he would shop me all over Hollywood -- I wasn’t

    going to have to hawk myself anymore. Of course once the movie was in the can it would be easier, and it certainly looked like that was going to happen.

     Sherry and I celebrated at the hottest restaurant in town, a sushi joint across from the beach complete with miniature waterfall and Zen meditation garden. Neither of us could quite believe my turn of luck. It was as if we were asleep, moving through a pleasant dream.

     Across the teakwood table Sherry’s eyes were riveted on

    me. The flame from the ersatz torch on the tabletop had cast her face in a gloomy half-light. I knew her well enough by now to guess what she was probably thinking: I’ve supported you all along. Now it’s your turn to do something for me....

     “Do you think maybe should get mar-

     I didn’t let her finish. She’d hinted at marriage a few times over the years and I’d managed to dodge the hint, but since I’d sold

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    the script I could sense the pressure intensifying. Did she never believe I’d succeed in the first place? Was she afraid of being left behind now that it appeared I was going somewhere?

     What I cut her off with was “Thanks for sticking with it all these years.” Nothing more. I wasn’t about to marry anyone yet. Not now, not especially now. After all, it had taken me so painfully long to get to this point. It wasn’t that I didn’t love Sherry, but...didn’t I deserve the freedom my success would buy before being tied down forever? Hell, we’d probably get there one day --

    what was the hurry? Before Sherry had the opportunity to convey disappointment, or to castigate me silently with those frightened doe’s eyes of hers, I looked away, out the window, at the tourists snapping photos of each other against the palm trees across the street, and changed the subject....

     You might say the very first act of revenge was committed then and there. But who acted first? Like I said at the beginning, I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

     A few days later Goldenline Pictures set up a meeting between the director and me to go over the script of By the Throat

    before preproduction began. At this point it looked like the shoot would happen sometime in the spring, the first of three Goldenline productions planned for the year. Todd Andlein lived an hour up the coast in Ventura, and I set out for his place one pristine December morning before Sherry left for work. Our tete a tete went well, better than I could have anticipated. I was impressed with Andlein’s attention to detail, and that Goldenline thought enough of the screenplay to set me up with a pro who had two cable movies under his belt. We sat behind his rancher beneath the fat fruit hanging on his orange and lemon trees and talked over coffee about what I’d intended on every single page. Andlein seemed a decent enough sort; he requested only minor changes in what I’d laid down. We knocked off just before two since he had to tend to a business call from New York.

     I was flying high. It was happening for me, this time it was really happening. It wasn’t just a pile of rejections and a pathetic

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    pipedream anymore, like it is for most wannabes. I decided to take the coast highway back to Santa Monica just to savor the moment. It was one of those spectacular southern California days that always convinced me I was right to have made the move West, no matter what happened -- seventy-six balmy degrees and not a cloud in the sky, while back East the first major blizzard of the season was grinding life to a halt from Buffalo to the Catskills. Cruising through the boundless vegetable fields of Camarillo I rolled down the windows and pumped up the volume on Gilberto Gil. In the distance the wide cerulean Pacific shimmered like a field of diamonds. I was happy to be alive. I would have to have been a stone not to be.

     There was nothing to rush back home for. I took my time driving along the ocean, drinking in the paradisaical scenery, feeling the clean salty wind blow through my hair, taking a breather on the shoulder from time to time to let an impatient semi get by. At Zuma I pulled into Starbucks, grabbed a newspaper and a grande cappuccino, and sat at a table outside near the sandbox and sliding-board set up for the poor saps with kids.

     I was halfway through an article about a tennis match in Germany when I glanced up and saw her. Our eyes locked: she was blonde, beautiful, and she couldn’t have been more than twenty-

    four, twenty-five years old. There was a half-empty plastic bottle of spring water on the table in front of her. Her hair was pulled back and twisted into one of those heavy Nordic braids that for some reason I’ve always been a sucker for. She was wearing a Pepperdine University sweatshirt, royal blue Spandex shorts, immaculate white track shoes. At first I didn’t notice the super-thin

    gold ring embedded in her right nostril, but when I did, it told me something about her -- I didn’t know what at that point. The nose

    ring notwithstanding, she was the perfect Hollywood fantasy, the tan, long-legged goddess who exists as an archetypal symbol inside the psyche of every straight guy who ever sets foot in California. But those goddesses aren’t real. This one was.

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     She must have smelled the luck on me because she smiled.

    I smiled back.

    --- END OF EXTRACT ---

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