“Hey, kid. Wake up. We’re here.”
Oliver Scott stirred from his nap, which was more of a sleep, because he didn’t really planned to sleep, but it happened. He looked at the person who woke him. The man was portly, balding, had a two o’clock shadow and was dressed in a cheap three-piece suit. Oliver wished he was woken by an angel or, realistically, a
’s Secret model. Victoria
“Oh,” Oliver grumbled. “Thanks.”
The man nodded and stood up from his seat. He, Oliver and a bunch of other people were on a charter bus. Oliver blinked a bit as his fellow passengers began to depart. The young man slowly stood up, left his seat and got into the bus’s aisle. He then opened the overhead compartment case that was above his head. He drew out a duffle bag.
“I’ve been coming here twenty years ago,” the portly man was next to him, “This town’s pretty tough. You can handle it?”
The man shrugged and went to the bus’s service door with the other disembarking passengers. Oliver adorned the duffle bag and got off the bus. The mixed smell of gasoline, tire rubber and human defecation filled his nostrils as he stood in the line of passengers, who were waiting to receive the luggage from the charter’s bus’s trunk. They were in the parking garage of the Port Authority Bus Terminal in
. Bus engines roared. Horns blared. New York City
When he left the garage and entered the building, Oliver melded with the sea of visitors. When he left the building, Oliver melded with the sea of humanity as he looked at the New York Times Building. He didn’t look at the one of the newest symbols of New Times Square for long. Despite what the city’s PR mouthpiece and the Sept. 11 attacks (Oliver thought “9/11” was a bad catchphrase.); Oliver had a half-fearful/half-fascination view of the City That Never Sleeps.
It started when he watched “Taxi Driver” when he was a sophomore in college. Oliver felt it was like an unofficial sequel to “Catcher In the Rye” by J.D. Salinger, felt sorry for Robert DeNiro’s Travis Bickle, an alienated Vietnam vet who wants to connect with people, but can’t due to the corruption of the 1970s Big Apple.
Oliver turned around. A man, heavy build and clean shaven, came up to him. He wore a black, three-piece suit and a chauffer’s hat.
“Yes?” Oliver was surprised.
“My name’s Hardwicke. Come with me, please?”
The chauffer turned around and went to a parked limousine. Oliver followed him, passing the statue of the late actor Jackie Gleason, dressed as his infamous TV role, the irascible bus driver Ralph Kramden. Leaning next to Ralph was a young man, longhaired and scruffy. He was around Oliver’s, holding a sign made of cardboard. The message read: NEED $$$ FOR WEED.
Hardwicke opened one of the car’s rear doors, “I’ll handle your luggage.”
Oliver gave him his bags, went in the limo and closed the door behind him. While the chauffer loaded Oliver’s bags in the trunk, an unkempt, homeless man came up to the limo. He knocked on the limo’s rear door window, startling the college graduate.
“Hey, man! I wanna free ride too!” he was also drunk, “C’mon! Let me in! Let me--”
Hardwicke came to the vagrant, pulled out a $20 bill and shoved it in his face. The vagrant stepped back a bit, grasping onto the bill as if it was his last. The chauffer got inside the car, getting behind the wheel.
“Sorry about that, Mr. Scott,” he said, “We’ll be on own way.”
He started up the car.
When the limo stopped in front of a townhouse on the
Upper East Side, Oliver was surprised. It looked like it was built around the Revolutionary War. Hardwicke opened his door, and Oliver stepped out of the limo, “He lives here?”
“Amos McQuarrie bought it two decades ago,” the chauffer noted, “but he didn’t want the sale to be known to the general public.”
He closed the door. The chauffer then went to the limo’s trunk, opened it, drew out Oliver’s luggage and gave them to the young man.
“Good luck,” Hardwicke tipped his hat and went back into the car. It purred and went down a street, leaving Oliver alone and stunned. He then looked at the house and sighed. Oliver went up the front steps and rang the doorbell. A few seconds went by. The young man was about to ring the doorbell again, but the door opened.
“May I help you,” the butler had an English accent. He was also thin, graying, neat and serious.
“I’m Oliver Scott. I’m here for the assistant job,” Oliver said.
The butler quickly looked him over. Then, “Please come in,”
Oliver did. The butler closed the door and led the young man in. The foyer area was lined with oak wood, giving a sense of warmth and prestige. The butler went up a flight of stairs; Oliver followed. The two then arrived at and walked down a hallway, lined with framed, black and white photographs of celebrities, all autographed.
Oliver was impressed, “He knows a lot of people.”
“But he doesn’t have a lot of friends.” the butler said.
They also passed a locked door. A small plaque was on it, reading
. Oliver wanted to know what was its’ significance, but the butler stopped at a pair of closed, wooden doors. Oliver stopped as well. The sound of typewriter keys clacking came from behind the doors. The butler then knocked. The clacking stopped. LYDIA
“Didn’t I tell you I didn’t want to be fucking disturbed when I’m working, Edwin?!” a raspy voice noted.
Oliver was taken aback. Maybe this was a mistake, he thought.
“My apologies, sir,” Edwin said, “but your new assistant is here. Mr. Oliver Scott.”
A few seconds went by. Then, “What are you waiting for, man? Bring him in.”
Edwin opened the doors, and he and Oliver went in a room, lined with bookshelves, all occupied with books. The place looked like it was a part of the New York Public Library or the infamous Sanctum Sanctorum of Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme. The two turned right, going towards a desk. Behind the desk sat a man, fifty going on sixty, but didn’t want to admit it. Lanky, wrinkled and thin, the man had a stare that could cut through steel. His hair, salt and peppered, was styled in a ponytail. On the desk with some typed papers, some unmarked papers and a typewriter, a black-painted Remington, which was probably old as the man himself.
“Oliver Scott, Amos McQuarrie,” the butler noted.
Oliver offered a handshake to the man.
“Are you familiar with my books?” Amos asked.
Oliver awkward retracted his right hand, “I--I read “Anger of Men” and “The Night Hawks when I was in high school.”
“The critics hated those, as usual. Both were best-sellers, but that wasn’t good enough got the spineless, bed-wetting bastards,” Amos opened one of his desk’s drawers. He pulled out a bottle of rum and two drinking glasses.
“Sir, have a care,” Edwin was concerned.
“I’ve been interrupted, halted from my work, Edwin. So, have a fucking care for me, the man who pays you by being creative,” Amos opened the bottle and poured some rum into one of the glasses, “Want some fire in your belly, boy?”
“I--I don’t drink, sir,” Oliver admitted.
Amos looked at the young man as if he defecated on a group of nuns, “What the hell are you doing here?”
“Don’t you want to be a writer?”
“Well, I’m already a writer. I wrote some entertainment reviews for my college newspaper. Two of my short stories were printed in the literary magazine and I wrote some slogans for--”
“Then why the hell don’t you drink? Are you some kind of a pansy?”
“You don’t have to be rude about it.”
“The fuck I don’t,” Amos took another drink, “Dodson, that prick of an agent. I should have fired his ass months,” He gave Oliver a mean look, “You’re still here?”
“I need the job, sir,” Oliver got worried, “I have nowhere else to go.”
“Not my problem.”
Edwin didn’t like this, “Sir, I implore you--”
“Don’t be inane with that tone. You know the drill.”
Edwin looked at the young man, who looked like he was going straight to the guillotine.
Edwin opened the door, and Curtis Dodson came in. He was younger than Amos, looking conservative and friendly.
“My humble apologizes, Mr. Dodson,” Edwin closed the door behind the agent.
“I know the drill, Edwin,” he took out his coat and gave it to the butler, who hung it up on a nearby coat rack. The two went into the living room, where Oliver sat one of the two couches, “Are you all right, Oliver? How was your trip?”
“I don’t know if it was worth it.”
“It is,” Dodson turned to the butler, “He’s upstairs, right?”
“He’s not working here,” Amos folded his arms as he stood against his work desk.
“Amos, you haven’t given him a chance,” Dodson noted.
“Why should I? The boy told me he doesn’t drink. You didn’t tell me he doesn’t drink, and you’re my agent!”
“Don’t yell at me. I get enough of that from Janet.”
“How is the ex-wife nowadays?”
“She’s fine, but don’t change the subject. We’re talking about an above average college graduate, who’s written four published short stories on the Internet, plus a thesis on Hemingway, and you say ‘Pass”?”
“He should have learned the important thing about Ernie. He drank.”
“And that’s a good thing?”
“Ernie was brilliant when he was drunk.”
“So is Oliver, without the drunkenness. I bet you haven’t read his work.”
Amos said nothing.
“I’ve working on my masterpiece.”
“For six-going on-seven years already. On and off. You’re damn lucky I’m your cousin. Else, I would have dropped you like a hot potato.”
“Likewise, and I’m better at similes, Amos headed behind his desk and sat in his chair, “Now tell me how much of an asshole I am. Go ahead. I’m ready for my beating.”
“You’ve already done the work, Amos,” Dodson quipped.
Amos chuckled, “Now, that’s cute. That’s really cute.”
“Be serious. You need an assistant, because you’re not getting any younger--”
Amos started typing, yet there was no paper in the typewriter.
“Fine. See how far you get without an agent,” Dodson headed to the two doors.
Amos stopped typing, “Yes, I will be fine.”
Dodson stopped, “No, you won’t. Amos, the truth is you’re a dinosaur. Not a lot of people like hard-boiled detectives or sword-swinging barbarians. The publishing industry flooded with vampire heartthrobs, geeky wizards and flesh-hungry zombies.”
“You can’t make me write any of that bullshit, Curtis.”
“And you shouldn’t write that, but I warn you, Amos: If I leave you, you’re done. Finished. Bad enough you’ve burned half the industry and the critics.”
“Most of them--”
“--don’t like you to begin with, but you should get along with people.”
“If I wanted to get along with people, I’d taken a shitty nine-to-five job. Instead, I like this, and I don’t give a damn what the critics think, especially that shit-twit, Paul Swanson. ‘King of the Crap Heap’ he says. I’ll make eat those words.”
“I thought you kicking him in the nuts was enough.”
“It’s not. We still have Jim Wells as out attorney.”
“He’s a good man.”
“What about you?”
“What about me?”
“Are you going to keep Oliver?”
Oliver woke up in a bed and in a room he never expected to be in, never in his wildest dreams. He had to pinch himself before going to bed, and it, the bed, was king sized. The pillows full and plump and the sheets were thin and cotton. The room was part Victorian, part-modern. A yawn left the young man’s mouth. He stretched his limbs, left the bed and went into another room.
It was a private bathroom, lined with black marble. Oliver looked at himself in the room’s large mirror. His hair was unkempt, but he didn’t have a care. The boy was fit and comfortable. Two grand a month and free boarding were nothing to complain about.
He went to the shower booth, drew some cold water, took off his shorts—the only article of clothing he had on—and got into the booth. He didn’t need a bath because he slept pretty well, but Oliver wanted to take some advantage of his new situation. The young man hummed as he soaped himself.
“Don’t take too long, tadpole.”
Oliver stopped, stunned, looking around with his eyes, “Wha--What--Mr. McQuarrie?!”
“Give the boy a cigar.”
Oliver covered his genitals.
“I can only hear you, tadpole. Just hurry your ass up and get ready for breakfast.”
Clothed in a T-shirt and pajama pants, Oliver stormed into the kitchen. Amos was at the table, reading the New York Times. Edwin poured some orange juice into a glass and gave it to his employer. The butler then left the room.
“Good morning,” Amos looked up from the paper, “The orange juice’s pretty good. It could use some rum, though.”
“You have a lot of nerve,” Oliver noted.
“Oh, please. You’re still alive. Sit down.”
Oliver did. A plate, filled with some bacon, pancakes and hash brown, was in front of him. So was a glass of milk and orange juice.
“I just wanted to make sure you’re not a goof-off.”
“Where is it?”
“The electronic bug you have in my room.”
“That’s none of your damn fucking business. If you want to leave, fine by me. Enjoy being destitute and homeless and broke in the greatest city in the world.”
Oliver shot Amos a dirty look, but he started to ear. Amos grinned.
There must have nearly five hundred pages in the pile Amos gave to Oliver as the young man sat at a small desk, a few yards from Amos’s own. Some of the papers were stained with alcohol.
“Are you writing a novel or the Holy Bible?” Oliver asked.
“I thought I hired an assistant, not a comedian,” Amos went back to his desk.
“Maybe you should have,”
:”No chance, tadpole, I’m stuck with you, and vice versa.”
Amos sat and opened one of his desk’s drawers. He took out the same bottle of rum, opened and drank a good swill from it.
“Hey, take it easy,” Oliver was worried.
“Hey, you do your work, and I’ll do mine,” Amos took another swill and exhaled a belch that sounded like a strangled lion’s roar. Oliver sighed. He took the first paper off the pile and looked at it. Then he took a red pen and made some corrections on the paper, marking it with proofreading symbols.
“Thought I might be endangering my work status, you should get a computer.”
“Don’t like them. Don’t trust them. Get to work, tadpole,” Amos started to type. Oliver continued working. A moment of silence came between the two. Then. . .”Why don’t you buy one?”
Oliver stopped, “I only have $350 on me.”
“You got any friends around you can borrow money from?”
Oliver sighed, “I don’t have any friends.”
Amos stopped for a beat, then resumed, “I’m going to need some ribbons for the typewriter soon. You’re going to Doc’s Stationery Supplies on the Lower East Side. You know how to ride the subway?”
The F train Oliver was on was swift, yet it made local stops. He wanted to take a cab, but his funds were limited. So Amos gave him a Metrocard and told him to ride in the first train. Crime may be down, but there are some fucking reprobates out there, Oliver remembered what Amos said. The writer also gave him sixty bucks for the ribbons.
Oliver looked around him. The train was half-clean, half-dirty. There were some candy wrappers and empty Styrofoam cups. His other fellow travelers: a heavy set man with an elaborate snake tattoo on his right arm; an lanky old man, who could have Amos’s brother and whose beard and mustache were white as a cloud; a thirty-something plump mother, doting over
her toddler daughter. They were normal, everyday people.
Oliver was more focused on the couple that was sitting in front of him, yet he did his best not to stare. They were around his age, maybe younger, and they had love in their eyes as they looked at each other. Oliver hated it. He was anything but a lady killer. The girls from his school days ignored, mocked, feared or despised him for being smart and quiet. He had no luck from boys, and he’s not homosexual. Carnal knowledge was forbidden.
The two exchange warm, soft kisses, and all Oliver could do was watch with sad, green, hungry eyes.
Doc’s Stationery Store was one of those hole-in-the-wall places that shouldn’t exist nowadays, thanks to the booming of big box department stores. However, some people referred old fashioned, mom ‘n pop stores for quaintness and human familiarity.
When he entered the establishment, which was part-time machine, part-museum and part mausoleum, the exotic scene of incense and some ink come into Oliver’s nostrils, giving a jolt to his nervous system. The walls were painted jaundice yellow. So was its elaborate, intricate ceiling that gave off a Greek-like aura, despite the appearance of the ceiling lights that came from either the 1960s or 1970s. A huge, broken, faded chessboard was the floor. The aisles were cheap, metal, tan-painted shelves, occupied by pens, pencils and papers. There were staplers, erasers, brads, rules, notebooks, notepads, drawing pads. There was also glue, chalk, markers, correction fluids, compasses, protractors, envelopes. Old, antique typewriters were present, and there. Customers, old and new, browsed.
Oliver went to the counter, located near the back of the store. A balding, lanky man was behind the counter, next to the cash register. He looked at the latest issue of the Village Voice, going through the adult services section.
“Hello,” Oliver said, “You Doc?”
“I’m not the Queen Elizabeth II,” the man looked up annoyed.
“I’m here to pick up typewriter ribbons for Amos McQuarrie.”
Doc’s eyes lit up like Times Square, “Why didn’t you say so?” He knelt down for a while and came up, holding six small boxes, “$28.00.”
Oliver took out two Andrew Jackson from his pocket and gave it to Doc.
“How’s Amos, that crazy son of a bitch?”
“I have to agree with that description.”
Doc chuckled, “Good old Amos. He used to come here a lot before he became a big
shot,” He rang up the cash register and gave Oliver twelve dollars, “When my old man ran the shop, he and Amos were good friends.”
“We--We’re talking about Amos, right?”
“He didn’t tell you?”
“Tell me what?”
Amos finished off and dumped the bottle of rum into the wastebasket, next to his desk, as Oliver came in the room, carrying the ribbons in a plastic bag.
“What took you so long?” Oliver was annoyed, “I told you to buy some ribbons, not climb a goddamn mountain.”
“There was a train delay,” Oliver gave the bag to his employer, “Doc said this is the last batch. It’ll take two-to-three months for him to order more.”
“Shit,” Amos stroked his chin, “I need another drink. Get one at Murray’s on Second Ave and 55th.”
“You already had one, and what about the work?”
“Are you arguing with your boss? The work will keep and, don’t be such a fucking hen.”
Oliver groaned under his breath.
When Oliver returned with a bagged bottle, he found Amos slumped over his typewriter, snoring.
“Edwin!” the young man yelled.
Oliver turned on the shower’s spigots as Edwin did his best to keep an inebriated Amos on his feet. The butler and the young man them removed the author’s shirts and escorted into the shower stall. The water was warm, and Amos felt it as it his face and torso. He started to jerk about like a wild animal.
“Take it easy!” Oliver said.
Amos sent a quick right punch against the right side of Oliver’s chin. The boy sailed to the floor.
Oliver didn’t know which was bad enough: the punch or the ice pack he was pressing against his face’s right side. He gave Amos, who was drying off, sitting a few feet from him and drinking a cup of coffee, an “I hate your fucking guts” look as they were in the kitchen.
“Don’t get angry at me, if you can’t take a punch, tadpole,” Amos sipped his coffee.
Oliver said nothing. He just had that look.
“Do you want a lollipop with that ice pack? Say the word, Edwin will get it. You can pick your favorite flavor.”
Still nothing. Just the look.
“I’m surprised someone you age likes silent movies.”
The same old story.
“Will you please say something before I kick--”
“You’re a genuine asshole.”
“You expect me to work with when you’re drunk?” Oliver shook his head, “You’re a genuine asshole.”
“I concur,” Edwin entered the room, holding some mail.
“You keep your English hole shut, Edwin,” Amos warned.
“With all due respect, Master Amos, you should take your own advice. If you wish to sack me for my insubordination, by all means, sack away,” Edwin laid the mail on the kitchen table and left the room.
Amos frowned. He then looked at Oliver, who has a little grin on his face, ‘Don’t get cute, tadpole.”
Oliver’s grin went away.
Amos went through the envelopes. Most of them were from insurance companies. There were two from non-profit organizations. One particular envelope was different; its edges were embroidered. Amos gently opened it and drew out a thick, folded card, “I didn’t expect to get this. Good old Curtis.”
“What is it?” Oliver asked.
“An party invitation from the Genre Writers of America Guild,” Amos handed the card to Oliver, who looked at its’ message: “MR. AMOS MCQUARRIE: WE, THE GENRE WRITERS OF AMERICA GUILD, HUMBLY INVITE YOU AND A COMPANION OF YOUR CHOOSING TO THE FORIETTH ANNIVERSARY AT THE WALDORF ASTORIA HOTEL”
“It’s two Saturdays from today,” Oliver noted, “I thought you didn’t like these things.”
“I don’t,” Amos said, “but I didn’t expect to get invited.”
“I bet I know why.”
“Spoken like a true wussy, who probably hasn’t gotten laid in his life.”
Oliver gave Amos a “fuck-you” look.
“Sure, you get mad at me, but don’t get mad at a fact I was quick, very quick, to point out that you probably never had any snatch, which will be definitely be at this upcoming soiree. Am I right or am I wrong?”
A jazz band played a lively, smooth tune. It oozed through the hall, where many scribes (professional and novice), agents and editors and their non-literary companions conversed among each other. A white banner, reading HAPPY 40TH ANNIVERSARY, GENRE WRITERS OF AMERICA GUILD, hung against the tope frame of a stage. Bow-tie wearing waiters snaked through writers, offering glasses of wine and hors d’oevres on trays.
Amos, Dodson and Oliver, all dressed in causal business suits, came to and stopped at the hall’s entrance. Dodson gave the invitations to a man, who stood behind a podium near the entrance. Oliver nervously tugged at his tie.
“Will you stop that?” Amos barked, “This is a party, not an execution.”
“Sorry. I haven’t been in a suit since the tenth grade,” Oliver noted.
“Well, grow the fuck up and don’t embarrass me.”
“You should talk,” Dodson quipped.
“Don’t you start.”
“I haven’t finished yet. Two drinks, Amos. Just two.”
“Yes, Mom. I’ll also wash my hands after I take a shit.”
Dodson sneered at Amos as the three entered the hall, blending with the crowd. Amos went by a waiter, who was carrying a tray of wine glasses. The author quickly plucked one up and drank, surprising the waiter.
“Don’t go too far, boy,” Amos said, “I’m gonna need you later.”
The waiter stared incredulously as Amos went on his way. Dodson saw the whole thing and shook his head. He was about to follow his cousin, but a woman around his age stopped him.
Except for his boss and Dodson, Oliver didn’t know anyone here. Sure, he recognized a mystery novelist here, a sci-fi scribe there, but he didn’t want to make the impression that he was a sweaty, overactive “fanboy”, and he knew the type when he worked as a clerk as his local comic book store.
The young man spotted two empty chairs against a wall. He passed some people, sat in one of the chairs, put his chin in his hands and looked the same as he did when he was in the eighth grade when none of the girls wanted to be with him at the spring dance. The same old story.
Oliver noticed a small hallway where a buffet was located, accessible via a small flight of stairs. Some guests were picking up food. One of them was out of place, since the room was filled was people who looked like college professors. Holding a tray of food, the young woman looked like and probably was a fashion runway model; she was tall, had smoky blue eyes, light brown hair, and cherub-like cheeks. A black, embroidered dress and a pair of black, teardrop-open toe, platform heels were her clothes. She was about to down the stairs, but hesitated. Oliver left his chair, crossed the room and went to the young woman. He lent out his right hand.
The young woman lit up with an embarrassed yet grateful smile, “Oh, thank you,” She took Oliver’s hand and was guided down the stairs and to the two chairs.
“Thank you, again,” the woman sat in one chair, “Sorry, if I troubled you.”
Oliver sat in the other, “It’s--It’s okay.”
The young woman started to eat. Then, “Aren’t you going to eat?”
“Uh . . . no. I’m not really lonely--I mean hungry. Hungry. I’m not hungry.”
The young woman chuckled, “What’s your name?”
The two politely shook hands.
“You’re young for a writer,” Maureen noted.
“Oh, I’m an unpublished one. I work as Amos McQuarrie’s assistant.”
“Amos. . . Amos McQuarrie? Didn’t he write “Doctor Mayhem” and “I Live To Kill?”
“That’s right. You’ve read his work.”
“When my uncle isn’t around.”
“Who’s your uncle?”
“Dean Meeker, as I live, breathe and get wet,” Amos went to a man who had the body of a barrel and the face of a bulldog. Dean’s hair was dark brown, yet his temples were graying, “I didn’t know you would have the stone to invite this hoedown.”
Dean wanted to punch Amos, but they were his fellow scribes around, “It’s . . . nice to see you again, Amos.”
“Oh, don’t do that. Don’t cradle my stones and tell me it’s good for me,” Amos took another glass of wine from a passing waiter, a different one from before, and put the drinks. Dean frowned.
“I didn’t think I would meet someone like you,” Oliver admitted.
“Really? Ohio has fashion models,” Maureen noted.
“Well, not quite as pretty as you . . . I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be so honest.”
“It’s okay. You’re the first guy who meant it without trying to get into my panties.”
“Don’t call me Dino,” Dean meant it, “It’s bad enough I invited you here.”
“I’m still a member, and I pay my union dues,” Amos said.
“That you do, but you’re still a menace.”
“Excuse me?” Amos was getting a little steamed.
Oliver said nothing as Maureen finished her food.
“You’re quiet,” Maureen said.
“I--I was just waiting for you to finish eating,” Oliver said.
“You’re also weird.”
“Oh . . . I better go,” Oliver got up from his seat, but Maureen held onto his right arm.
“Don’t go. Please.”
Oliver slowly sat down. Another girl would have told him to get lost and never come back. Maureen put her plate, now empty, on the floor, “Are you afraid of me?”
“Because girls--women don’t like me.”
“I’m--I’m too smart . . . too real…”
“You must get along with your mom.”
Oliver shook his head, “She wanted me to be a teacher, but I hated school.”
Maureen noticed Oliver’s frown. She then leaned over and gently kissed him on his right cheek, surprising the young man.
“Why did you--”
“Because no girl wanted too . . . and you’re nice to me.”
Oliver grinned sheepishly. Then, a woman screamed in the distance. The jazz music band stopped playing. Oliver and Maureen left their seats as some of the party guests began to flood towards a certain part of the hall.
In that certain party, Amos and Dean scuffled with each other. Both men weren’t in great shape; it was pulling, pushing and some growled cursing. Some waiters went to the two men and pulled them away from each other, despite them flailing their arms, as Oliver and Maureen came into the scene. Maureen clasped her hands to her mouth. Oliver was stunned.
“Son of a bitch!” Dean roared, “You dirty son of a bitch!”
“Why don’t you look in a mirror, you hack!” Amos countered.
The crowd gasped. Dodson turned white.
“Get him out of here!” Dean ordered, “Get him out! Right now!”
The waiters that held Amos abided, dragging him out of the hall. Dodson followed.
“This isn’t over, you shit! You hear me?! This isn’t over!” Amos roared.
Dean fixed his tie as Maureen came to him, “You all right, Uncle?”
“Ruffled, but alive, my dear,” he replied, “I shouldn’t have invited that…barbarian of a writer here,” Dean then noticed Oliver near his niece, “Who are you, young man?”
Oliver turned white with fear. If Dean learned that he came with Amos. . .
“Oliver Scott, struggling writer,” Maureen said, “He’s an assistant at Ford. Sorry about this being short notice, but I invited him because he wanted to get to know the business.”
Oliver slightly looked at Maureen, a goddess, a savior…
“Good idea,” Dean shook hands with the young man, “Nice to meet you, young man. Hope that little ruckus didn’t turn you off.”
“N--No, sir. I’ve been in some scuffles back in high school.”
“Bullied, eh? Happens to the best of us. Tell me, Mr. Scott: what’s your favorite novel?”
“I have too many to pick, sir.”
“Pick one. Any one will do.”
“Well, I like ‘Fahrenheit 451’ by Ray Bradbury.”
Dean grinned, “Good. I like a man who likes the classics, but I have to go and prepare my speech. If you two would excuse me. . .” He gave a quick kiss on the cheek to his niece and left her and Oliver.
The young man sighed, “If he knew...thanks.”
“Well, you owe me something,” Maureen said.
The elevator car rose slowly with a mild hum.
“I should call Amos that I’m going to be coming home--”
“You should leave, if you’re going to be a wet blanket.”
Oliver didn’t say anything. He was lucky enough to have Maureen wrapped around his left arm, let alone have a box of condoms in a bag, which he held in his right hand.
The car stopped, its doors yawned open, revealing a short hallway that led to a spacious studio. Maureen led Oliver out of the car and into her apartment.
“It’s . . . nice,” Oliver said.
“You can describe it better than that,” Maureen unwrapped herself from him, “Sit you butt on the couch. I’ll get some brew.”
“I--I don’t drink.”
Maureen thought he was kidding, “How old are you?”
“And you don’t drink?”
Oliver nodded, embarrassed.
“You’re cute,” Maureen went to the kitchen area as Oliver sat on a black leather couch. Near his feet was a coffee table. A widescreen, plasma TV set was in front of him. Above the appliance hung a painting, depicting a white-colored smiley face with skull teeth on a black background.
“You bought that?” Oliver pointed at the painting.
“A birthday present from one of my model pals,” Maureen opened the fridge and drew off a milk carton. She also took out two drinking glasses from a cupboard, “How long have you been in New York City?”
“Do you like it?” Maureen poured milk in each of the glasses.
“Yeah. Where do you live?”
“The Upper East Side.”
Maureen was stunned, “I must be in the work line of work.”
“I live with Amos.”
“Oh. My apologizes,” Maureen put the milk carton back in the fridge. The model then carried the glasses to her guest and gave it to her guest, “It’s low fat.”
“Thanks,” Oliver drank it, but left half.
“How long have you been writing?” Maureen sat next to Oliver.
“Since high school. I wrote some short stories. By college, I wrote book and movie reviews for the newspaper.”
“You were a prodigy.”
“I felt like a goofball. When you write a novel—which was pretty awful, to begin with—people think you’re from Mars.”
“When did you have the time to write a novel?”
“Weekends. I had a lot of time alone to write a novel on the weekends,” Oliver smiled sadly.
“You have a pretty sitting next to you, and you’re not going to--”
Oliver finished the glass of milk on the coffee table. He then took Maureen’s right hand and laid a soft, gentle kiss on her right hand. Maureen gushed. She put her glass on the coffee table. Oliver then leaned close and gently kissed Maureen’s right cheek, then her left.
“You’re too cool,” she said.
“So…that means--” Oliver was a little embarrassed.
:”You know what that means,” Maureen then noticed the left side of Oliver’s face, touching a bump that was the size of a chocolate chip, “What’s this?
“It’s a birthmark. You don’t like it?”
Maureen leaned over and kissed Oliver on his lips. She then pulled away and brushed Oliver’s left leg against her right. The young man leaned down and slowly massaged Maureen’s leg, the one that was brushing against him. His hand went down to her foot, her shoe, and he inserted his index finger into the shoe’s teardrop hole. Maureen hummed.
He hoped it wasn’t a dream when he opened his eyes. Comfortable was the silk sheet that covered Oliver as he was in Maureen’s king-sized bed. Sunlight lit up the room, coming via the windows doors that led to the balcony outside. The view of the Manhattan skyline was beautiful, but not as beautiful as the woman hugging Oliver as she slept. This morning was probably better than the others he had.
Oliver didn’t want ruin the moment, the warm silence, but he softly rubbed the hair of Maureen’s head. The model stirred up from her slumber, blinking.
“Hello,” Oliver said.
“Hello,” Maureen kissed Oliver’s chest.
“It’s Sunday, right?”
“You’re not religious, are you?”
“You took care of that,” Oliver rubbed Maureen’s head again.
“What the hell did I do to you?” Maureen teased, “Maybe I should do it again.”
Oliver pushed Maureen up a bit. They looked at each other with love.
“Can I swim in your smoky, blue eyes again?” Oliver teased.
“You can get another condom. Then, you can swim,” Maureen kissed him.
She wore nothing but a New York Giants football jersey and light blue, puffy slippers as Maureen fixed up a pancake on the stove. After the cake was fully golden brown, the model lifted at from the pan, with a skillet, and dropped it on two others that lied on a plate, set on the counter next to the stove.
“Aren’t you going to have any?” Oliver was sitting at the kitchen table.
“You can afford to get fat,” Maureen turned off the stove, picked up the plate and delivered it Oliver.
“No, I can’t. I burn food as much as I eat.”
“Stop being a writer and eat,” Maureen picked a quart bottle and poured it over the pancake stack. With a knife and a fork, Oliver carved out a piece of pancake and ate, “Well?”
“You’re going to give me cavities,” Oliver mumbled as he finished eating his bite, “Can I be honest?”
“You don’t like it.”
Oliver shook his head, “I like you in heels.”
“Oh. You’re one of those.”
“What do you mean?”
“Guys who think women should look ‘hot’, 24/7, no matter how painful or exhausting we may feel about it.”
“No, I’m not. I--I just like you in high heels, like the ones you wore last night. That’s all.”
Maureen smirked. Then, the elevator car started to him.
“Oh, shit,” the model spat.
The elevator door yawned open. Blond-haired and around Maureen’s height and age, a beautiful, young woman left the car. Wearing causal, yet fashionable clothes, she dragged two luggage bags, set on wheels, behind her. She turned to Oliver and Maureen.
“Who is this?” her accent was Eastern European.
“Hello, Natalia,” Maureen was caustic, “ ‘Hello, Maureen. Milan was famous!’”
“Don’t be clever,” Natalia pointed at Oliver, “Who is this?”
“Oliver Scott, writer’s assistant. Natalia Lenkov, fashion model and roommate.”
Oliver smiled at Natalia, who didn’t, “He looks like a stick.”
“Be nice, Natalia,” Maureen warned.
“I thought you wanted sex from Devon? He’s bigger than--”
“Natalia, if you don’t--”
“Okay, okay,” Natalia looked at Oliver, “Sorry. The airport security was being mean as usual. I’m going to bed,” She crossed the living room, dragging her luggage and entering a corridor.
“Sorry about that,” Maureen said, “Natalia can be a pain sometimes. Russian models…”
“I’ll live,” Oliver expertly sliced another piece of pancake, “Do you mind if I ask you--”
“Devon’s a male model. All beefcake. I’ve been a model since I was twelve. My mom’s Irish. My dad’s Polish.”
“You must have a cute mom.”
Maureen went to Oliver and poked him in the chest, “Are you proposing to me, Mr. Scott?”
“I’m just being nice…to someone who’s nice to me.”
“You are proposing to me.”
“Uh--N--No--”, Oliver blushed. He quickly ate his piece.
“You’re a liar. A lousy one.”
“Well…will I see you again?”
Maureen said nothing for a while. Then, “With my job, I’m not really a homebody . . . but I don’t want to forget you. If you want, if you get a big break, I’ll dress up for you in lingerie and heels and sit near your desk while you write.”
Oliver coughed a bit. He leaned to the side, careful not to spread germs to his girl, who smiled, but tried her best not to laugh.
Edwin opened the door to the townhouse. He found Oliver outside with a light in his eyes.
“Master Oliver, you look . . . more than well.”
“I do? . . . I mean, yes. I do,” the young man entered the house. Edwin closed the door as Oliver took off his jacket. The butler took the jacket and put it in a closet.
“Did you have a pleasant night, sir?”
“I did, Edwin.” Oliver rubbed his neck.
“You’re a gentleman, sir.”
“You’re a stud, my boy. A regular fucking stud,” Amos poured some brandy from a bottle into a glass, then another, on his desk. Oliver stood near him.
“It’s Sunday morning, Amos,” he said.
“So call the damn Holy Police. Don’t tell an Irishman he can’t drink,” Amos took one of the drinks and put it away, “It’s a mistake, like you being dry as a desert.”
“You don’t have to be an asshole when there’s no need.”
“There’s always a need. I want to fire in my soul. You should follow my lead.”
“And become lonely and miserable like you. No thank you.”
Amos quickly left his desk and looked at his assistant, face to face, “You got something to say, say it. Otherwise, fuck off and get back to--”
“Doc told me about Lydia.”
Amos stood silent. There was fury in his eyes, but he turned away and sat back at his desk. He took the second, filled glass and quickly put the drink away. Before he took a third, Oliver went over and snatched the bottle away from the writer.
“How fucking dare you! Get me that--”
“Not one drop,” Oliver meant it, “We’re going to talk.”
Amos sighed. He was quiet for a beat. Then, “Lydia Gersh…She was my girlfriend thirty years ago. She was a model, like the one you were with last night. Not as well known, but pretty. She was a little taller than me, had a pretty body, red hair and great, green eyes. She wrote some poetry as a hobby. He work wasn’t half bad. She was the love of my life. Thought she came from heaven sometimes I thought I didn’t she would ever like an egghead like me. I didn’t feel I deserve her, but she liked me anyway.”
Oliver put the bottle back on the desk, “What happened to her?”
“She--She was walking on Fifth Avenue and Forty-Eighth, shopping. Some...asshole drunk was speeding. He smashed into the Saks Fifth Avenue store. Two people got killed. Lydia got scarred by some flying glass. Lost an eye,” Amos rubbed his face with his hands, “A few weeks later, she overdosed on some sleeping pills. . .I did the best I could to love her, to care for her after the….You know, that prick Meeker tried to get her--”
“--but you had more charm,” Oliver figured.
“I was going to marry her, but now. . . ” Amos picked up the bottle of brandy, “. . . this is all I need.” He poured some more brandy into one of the glasses and put it away.
“Have you talked to a therapist about this?”
“Why should I? I put my anger and sadness on paper after I have a drink or two…or three. Don’t tell me you don’t do the same thing. Otherwise, why the fuck are you trying to get into this bullshit game to start with.”
Oliver said nothing for a beat.
“Okay! I--I used to get bullied in high school. I fought back, but I was still alone. So, I wrote a lot about my feelings and thoughts and ideas…but I’m not the one with a drinking problem. I’m no drinking myself to death!”
Amos was going for the bottle but Oliver took it away again. The writer sneered at his assistant.
“Really? I’d like a second opinion…or are you scared to know the truth about yourself?”
Amos frowned. Then the two heard slowly clapping. They turned to the doorway. Edwin stood there, clapping his hands slowly.
“You’re a mess,” Leslie Gatling was a lean, tall man, who looked like he could be a background actor instead of a doctor. He was serious as he sat at his desk, looking at Amos, who was sitting next to Oliver, in Gatling’s office, “I’m surprised you’ve lived this long, let alone actually bothered to come in for a check-up.”
“Yeah, I love you too, Leslie,” Amos grumbled.
“What’s the damage, doc?” Oliver asked.
“Do you have to be so blunt about my condition? I thought you gave a shit.”
“I do, but you need to know the hard truth.”
“I like it better when you were a virgin.”
Gatling purposely cleared his throat. Amos and Oliver paid attention, “You’re going to need a new liver, Amos, because the one you have can’t take any more abuse. Since Dodson and I are old frat chums, you’re going to be the third person on the transplant list. Until then, which is three months, you’re going to be sober,” He pointed to Oliver, “I hope you’ll keep him sober.”
Amos didn’t like the idea, “He’s not my father.”
“Just don’t act like a child,” Oliver countered, “Besides, I owe you for helping me.”
“Like I said before: I like it better when--”
Gatling cleared his throat again, “Would you like to deal with the paperwork?”
“Are you trying to help me or kill me?” Amos looked at his dinner as if it came from an elephant’s backside. It was actually fish, white rice and green beans. A glass of pomergrade juice was next to the dish. The writer, as he sat at the dining table, was flanked by Oliver, at the right, and Edwin, at the left.
“We’re not leaving you alone until you eat,” Oliver meant it.
“So, you might as well my culinary product,” Edwin added.
“I helped too.”
Amos looked at them both with disdain, but he took a slice of fish and chewed it with spite.
“The Girl from Ipanea”, musak version, plated via the p.a. system as Amos and Oliver sat in the hospital’s waiting room, whose walls were painted egg white. The only person with them was a woman, who was pretty obese. The pants she wore looked like they were going to burst from her body. She coughed quite a bit.
“If you’re going to die, don’t fall over,” Amos quipped.
The woman flipped the bird at Amos.
“I went through that shit when I turned fifty, sweetheart.”
The woman, embarrassed, got up and went to another chair in the room, away from Amos, who grinned and Oliver, who gave his employer a dirty look.
“You could be nice before you go in for your surgery.”
“No shit, Sherlock, but don’t give me any shit. Just because I’m a son of a bitch, doesn’t mean I’m going to Hell.”
“What do you want from me?”
“After the surgery, I want to stop drinking. Go to AA. Have a brighter look on life, which is too short.”
“That depends if I make it.”
“Why do you have to say that?”
“Because I’m being real. Like you said: life’s too short,” the writer frowned.
Oliver put his right hand on Amos’s right shoulder as Gatling came into the room, dressed in dark blue scrubs.
“We’re ready, Amos,” he said.
Amos looked at Oliver, “Don’t expect me to nice to you when this is over.”
“What about ‘if’?”
“You know your conjunctions, you crafty bastard,” Amos left the chair and he and Gatling left the room. Amos looked Oliver with a subtle grain.
Oliver dreamt nothing but darkness as he slept. A human hand woke him up. He looked up to find Dodson, holding a cup of steaming, warm coffee. Another cup, one with hot chocolate, was on a small table.
“Hey, Curtis,” Oliver blinked his eyes.
“Your chocolate’s on the table,” the agent noted. He then sat next to Oliver and some of his coffee, “What’s the story?”
“He’s still in surgery. It’s been--” He glanced at the room’s clock, stationed on one of the room’s walls, “--two hours.”
“You should go home. I can call you if anything--”
“I’m here for the same reason you are.”
Dodson smirked as Oliver took his chocolate and drank some of it, “He really loved Lydia, you know. The room she lived in his house is a shrine.”
“He already told me.”
“Oh. That’s good. He’s almost a human being again.”
Oliver chuckled a bit. He took another sip of chocolate as Gatling came into the room. Oliver and Dodson stood up and saw the doctor had a sad, tired look.
The afternoon was windy. Grey clouds blanketed the sky. There were just Oliver, Dodson, Edwin, a trio of caretakers and a priest, who read Psalms 18 as they stood before a closed, honey-colored wooden casket in Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn. Heart failure, Gatling said. Amos McQuarrie may have been a chronic alcoholic, but he died of heart of failure. Oliver knew better. Amos died of a broken heart that was beyond repair.
“I’m getting pretty good at this,” Oliver pounded on the typewriter’s keys while he sat at Amos’s desk. Near him was Maureen, sitting on one edge of the desk, dressed in a black teddy, black seamed stocking, and the same heels she wore when she first met Oliver.
“You look like you’re ready to be in a retirement home,” she quipped.
“Oh, stop,” Oliver kept on typing, “You’re lucky I’m letting you stay here, rent-free.”
“And I appreciate that, Ollie, but you should appreciate me.”
“I will in a minute. I have to finish this paragraph. Matt Mason’s in quite the shit.”
“You’re torturing me.”
Edwin came in, holding a tray. Four sandwiches—bacon, lettuce and cheese—and two glasses, filled lemonade were on the tray.
“Your lunch, Master Oliver, Ms. Struzik,” the butler rested the tray on a bare section of the desk.
“Thank you, Edwin,” Oliver kept on typing.
“Same here,” Maureen added.
Edwin slightly bowed and left the room.
Maureen left the desk, “Will you please stop and eat before I got nuts?”
Oliver did. Maureen sat on the writer’s lap.
“Do you like inheriting a writer’s fortune and home?” she asked.
“I like you sitting on my lap.”
Maureen smirked. She took hold of Oliver’s face and gently kissed him.