The International Writers Magazine: Life Fiction in Dreamscapes
McGee was number eighty-four. He went back out into the hallway where actors and actresses were sitting and standing. He walked the hallway and saw her.
“Hey!” he said.
She cautiously smiled.
“Oh? This isn’t the deli?”
“Dumb question," he thought as he laughed to pretend it wasn’t.
“Mind if I wait with you?”
“Tuna on rye.”
“That wasn’t funny,” he thought. He stood there waiting.
“What number are you?
“Oh, I’m sixty-three.”
“I liked your scene.”
“Everybody thought it was terrible.”
“Well, there were some problems with it, but I thought you had a good start.”
“You don’t have to say that, really.”
“No, I mean it. My name’s McGee by the way. McGee Patrick.
“She’s not funny,” he thought. He waited.
“My name is Mona. Mona Flanagan.”
“I’m not going to say it,” he thought.
“Hi Mona,” he said.
He saw her freckles.
“You joined the class about a month ago, didn’t you?”
“It’s something to study with Lee.”
“My boyfriend studies with him at The Studio.”
“Yeah, I auditioned but didn’t get in.”
“Is your boyfriend famous?”
He saw her blue eyes before he looked away.
“Of course,” he said
“You meet a lot of people at The Studio.”
“Her boyfriend is probably the janitor at The Studio,” he thought.
“I thought about auditioning at The Studio,” he said.
The actors stopped talking. The stage manager called out, “Numbers twenty to thirty line up at the door.”
There was movement as actors shuffled around and past each other.
“It’s really hard to get in. If you do, it guarantees your career.”
“She’s full of shit,” he thought.
“How long have you been in New York,” he asked.
She looked at him clueless.
“Do you mind if I ask where you’re from?”
“Outside Boston. Sudbury, it’s called. I graduated from Emerson.”
Her expression remained clueless.
“Do you know the play?”
“No. What’s the title?”
“Remorse at Dawn.”
“I got a mimeographed copy, here.”
She handed it to him. He read it. She said “hi” to someone. He looked up and saw it was a kid named Joel from the class. He ignored Joel and kept reading. After a time he said, “Here’s a scene you and I could read.”
“They’re on a study date, and he is trying to make out, and she wants to study. I think it could be funny if we did it right.”
“Let me see.”
“It starts here and goes for a couple of pages.”
“Boy, she’s a slow reader,” he thought.
“My boyfriend could play that.”
“Fuck your boyfriend,” he thought.
“Whadda say?” he asked.
“We should find a quiet spot to rehearse.”
“Whose turn are we going to do it on?”
“I’m going to get called probably an hour before you are.”
“Oh, so you don’t want to do it?”
“I didn’t say that. I’m only asking.”
“I would say we rehearse until your number is called, and if we’re ready, then we go in, if not, then we wait for my number.”
“You mean I have to stay for another hour or more?”
“What a pain in my ass,” he thought.
“Okay fine. Go in on your number then.”
“You don’t have to get snooty about it.”
“What are you talking about? Are you committed to your craft or not? Do you want to do your best work or just some half-assed thing that gets you nowhere? In case you haven’t figured it out yet, you’re going to have to make sacrifices for your art. I’m surprised your Actor’s Studio boyfriend hasn’t told you that. If you’re not committed then I haven’t got time for you.”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“Alright then. What’s your objective in this scene?”
“Holy shit,” he thought.
“We talk about it all the time in class.”
“Yeah…well, sometimes my mind wanders. That’s why my parents didn’t think it was a good idea for me to go into business.”
He shifted his weight and looked down the hall.
“Hey, that’s okay. Why don’t we each do our own audition?”
“Okay. I don’t really want to stay for an extra hour.”
Man, she was some chick. The audition was good, I thought, but I’ve learned about auditions – you give twenty of them, and you may get a callback on maybe, one or two. That’s the business, and you have to learn that once it’s over, you move on to the next. That is, of course, until you get big enough so directors call you. Hah! That will be the day for me. It’s been a couple of months now, and I don’t know what happened to her; she stopped coming to class; maybe she married her Actor’s Studio boyfriend or got discouraged and went back to, where was she from? Oh yeah Sowberry or someplace. I’m down to three shifts a week at the restaurant cause the maitre de doesn’t like me cause I don’t suck up to him the way the others do. But I met Sylvia and she and I had some good times together. She’s not in the business, but her roommate is a costume designer so she knows about the theatre and what it’s like. She says to me, “Don’t you get depressed by the rejection?” and I say “Like water off a duck’s back, my dear,” and she looks like she don’t believe me. Anyhow I could feel how we were about to sleep together, and she said she wanted to go to this play her roommate designed for, and I says, “Sure.” Turns out it was the play Mona and I auditioned for, and was I bullshit when she made her first entrance! As if that wasn’t bad enough, after the intermission, Sylvia starts talking about her headache, and so any idea about sex evaporates like smoke in the wind. Come to think on it, and I haven’t had a callback in some time. I laugh to myself when I think I’m losing my moJo – personally, professionally. But I know the business, wait it out till it comes round again.
Sure enough she’s sitting at the counter in the coffee shop.
“Hey,” he says.
“She’s looking at me like I’m speaking Chinese,” he thinks, “Oh, there she remembers.”
“Oh hi!” she says.
“May I join you?”
“She doesn’t want to, I can tell, but she says ‘yes,’ anyway,” he observes.
“I saw your show.”
“Boy does that make her uptight!” he thinks.
“I thought you were stronger in the second act than the first.”
“O yeah, it was the writing,” she says.
“That’s bullshit,” he thinks.
“Did anything come of it?”
She looks at him and smiles.
“Nice smile,” he thinks.
“Well I guess I have to say it created more problems for me than solutions so I don’t know what to do.”
“What do you mean?”
She smiled again and he liked it.
“I don’t think I want to talk about it. My behavior is tawdry.”
“Tawdry? What the hell does that mean?”
She smiled and looked away from him.
“I’m disappointed in myself for how I’ve behaved.”
“Can we talk about something else?”
“Sure. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable. I do want to tell you I think you have talent. Like I say it showed more in the second act because I’m guessing you hadn’t made clear, playable choices for your first act so you drifted because of lack of definition. But in the second act you were there strong and compelling, and you impressed me with your talent.”
“I’m telling you what I saw.”
“Thank-you. I appreciate that.”
They were silent. She smiled and got serious: smiled and got serious, and he could see she was struggling with something. Finally she spoke,
“I may as well tell you – it can’t be any worse than what I’ve already done.”
She looked at him and he made a shrugging gesture.
“Yeah….well I got that show, and rehearsed and performed at night so I couldn’t work my shift at the delicatessen, and lost that gig, and Jonas offered for me to move in with him – and I didn’t really want to do that, but did it out of desperation. I had it worked out with an agent to come see the show one night, and don’t you know, her daughter choked on a piece of meat, and she didn’t make it, and that strategy blew up in my face. Things got pretty weird with Jonas, and it was somewhere in there I dropped the class. What could I do? I had no money. I felt like I was in bed with bad luck.”
“No MoJo,” he said.
“Forever,” she agreed. “I had a friend from high school who was here in the city with her husband, and Bless Her Heart, she took pity on me, and let me stay with her and her husband, and one night, I woke up with his hand down the front of my pajamas, and at first I was angry, and then, I don’t usually think this way, but I let him have sex with me, and then, I blackmailed him for money. What surprised me about myself was I thought I would feel shitty about it, but you know what? I didn’t; at least at first. I justified it to myself as a sacrifice I made for my art. Then it seemed like I was beginning to get – what did you call it, moho?”
“One night an agent who I didn’t know talked to me in the lobby after the show, and wanted to send me up for a tour of Oklahoma! I have the audition on Thursday.”
“Cool,” he said.
“Man, getting out of New York right now would be the best thing that could happen to me.”
“Sounds like it.”
“Yeah… I feel badly about Beth. I mean I shouldn’t treat her that way after she’s been so good to me.”
“Stay with me.”
“Stay with me.”
Her eyes were big.
“Here’s the commitment. We both agree our art comes before anything, and every action between us is for the good of the other or the other’s art if you want to look at it that way.”
“But I have no money or not enough.”
“So if you honor the commitment when you do get money you help with the rent or food – you see how it works?”
“Yeah, but what if I take advantage?”
“You have to decide what’s important to you. If you are really serious about being an actress, then, everything thing else is in service to that goal. I’m not trying to coerce you into something you don’t want to do; what I am doing is offering you an opportunity, if that is your choice, to pool resources to make it easier on both of us. It only works if we help each other out, and not take advantage. If one of us tries to exploit the other we are wasting our money and time, and are one step closer to going home a failure.”
Mona looked at him and looked at him.
“It’s about the art, not sex or money or fame or any of the rest of it. There was this dude I met several times at The White Horse Tavern and he was an actor – been one since he was a teenager, and he made a somewhat of a living from the theatre, and he did it his whole life, and he died one day, and that was it. But I remember him telling me he wouldn’t live any other way that he only felt really alive in front of an audience. His wife was a sculptress, and they lived in a loft on West 4th street, and they never had enough money, but they lived a good life anyway cause they did it the way they wanted. That’s what I’m talking about.”
“I don’t want to get married.”
“You’re missing the point.”
“No, I see what you’re saying. Let me think about it.”
“His name was Gene LeClair and he would take books out of the library instead of buying them or borrow records from his friends so he’d save money that way or take the train to Coney Island if he wanted to go to the beach. Every aspect of his life was in service to his being an actor – no exceptions, no compromises. That’s what I’m talking about.”
“I’m not sure how much fun that is.”
“Remember what he said that he only felt really alive in front of an audience – that’s when you have fun.”
“Like being a junkie…”
‘Hey, I’m not going to talk you into it. If you’re that skeptical then I suspect it’s not for you. I don’t mean to make you feel bad, but you’ve already compromised yourself, and I’m proposing a way for us to help each other so we don’t have to do that.”
“Let me think about it.”
McGee wrote his address on a napkin.
“Come see me with your answer.”
She smiled and McGee felt something he didn’t before.
Why do I think about her as much as I do? Her smile comes to me in the middle of the night, and I wonder where she is, and why should I care? If I worked at it, I could hook up with Sylvia, you know, catch her in between headaches. But I should be like Gene LeClair and put my career before everything. But I’m overly romanticizing Gene; he had a wife after all to satisfy his urges. So maybe I won’t be happy unless I have the same. Mona is fucked up and I should try and help her cause she’s going to mess up her life. I see chicks on Eighth Avenue that were innocent once. Who am I kidding? I want to sleep with Mona why can’t I just admit it? I should really think about that before I go any further. I don’t want to be just another creep taking advantage of her. I don’t know. I have different feelings. I ought to wait and see what is revealed to me. That’s it, that’s what I’m going to do.
He knew it was her when the buzzer rang and he buzzed her up. He opened the door and she was on the stairway and looked up at him.
“I got the tour!” she announced.
He was taken aback by how much pain he felt.
© Jack Coey December 2014
keenejack at hotmail.com
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