Mornings & Meetings
The rays of the morning sun lit up Jason Preston’s messy bedroom, giving light to the piles of dirty clothes on the floor and mountains of junk mail that had accumulated over the previous week.
Jason’s eyes slowly opened and just then the clock radio on his nightstand went off. As usual, he had beaten the clock. He then reached over and slammed on the snooze button. He winced in pain as he lifted his arm, but the nagging ache didn’t surprise him. It had been like that for months. It was one of the lingering souvenirs he had received from a serial killer known as the Road Rager who had attacked him the previous year.
Jason also had a lovely six-inch scar running down his shoulder, from where the killer’s axe had landed with the intent to kill, and a nagging limp due to moderate nerve damage in his spinal cord.
Jason slowly turned onto his back, trying not to make any sound. A little squeal of pain had become an involuntary reaction that he had been trying to control as best he could. He just lied there in bed, staring at the white ceiling. He began running through his mental to do list and remembered, with great relief, that he didn’t have to go back to his old job.
The money his friend Elliot Leskowitz had left Jason after his tragic death, also at the hands of the Road Rager, was more than enough to support him and keep the bills under control, despite the fact that the money was meant to finance the production of Jason’s movie. Jason wasn’t too pleased to realize that after all the loans and cards had been paid back, most of the money was gone. He had not realized it had gotten so bad.
Jason remained still in his contentment until he finally remembered that he actually had things to do. He had to meet with some of the actors he had been able to convince to work for free. They weren’t real actors, but rather drama students active in the theater department at CSUN. They weren’t very good, but their enthusiasm and willingness to work pro bono more than made up for any lack of talent.
Jason’s morning meditation was suddenly intruded upon when his phone rang. He looked back over at the clock to see that it wasn’t even 7:30 yet.
“Who?” Jason mumbled to himself as he carefully reached over for the phone. “Hello?” He asked with some trepidation.
“Good morning, baby.” A thick, full voice purred over the line.
“Matt.” Jason said, suddenly feeling a lot more energy in his brain.
“Sorry for calling so early, but I just wanted to say good morning.”
“What’s the occasion? There’ve been lots of mornings when you didn’t say good morning to me.”
“I don’t know. Maybe it’s because this is the first morning that you didn’t wake up over here.”
“I thought we talked about this. It’s not that I didn’t want to stay, it’s just I have things I need to get done and when we’re together, I get too distracted. I really have to pull it together here.”
“I know, I know. I’m sorry. I guess I’ve just been getting used to having you here lately.”
“Well, I’ll make it up to you later, okay?”
“Yes. It is a promise.”
“So what’s on tap for today?”
“I have a lunch meeting with Justin and Tanya.”
“No. Justin and Tanya are two of the actors I’ve managed to secure for the movie. They’re the leads in fact. I just need to go over the script with them and figure out how it’s all going to work.”
“And after that?”
“I promised Ken I’d go shopping with him later. He’s still kind of in mourning since Greg left him.”
“Ah, yes. Gay therapy.”
“I’ve been trying to get him back in the dating thing, but he’s so guarded.”
“Just give him time.”
“I suppose. Oh. I better get up now.”
“Yeah, I better get to work, too. I’ve got a lot of cases backing up.” Matt said, equally remorseful.
“Okay. Then hang up.”
“No. You hang up.”
“No. It’s your turn to hang up first.”
“It’s not my turn. Look, just hang up okay?”
“Oh god. Are we being cutesy?”
“Disgustingly. Yes. I’ll hang up. I love you.”
“I love you too.” Jason said just before he heard the click of Matt’s phone hanging up. Jason put the receiver back down in the cradle and with a deep breath pulled the covers off and started his day.
After putting himself together, Jason stepped out the door and took a deep, full breath. It was a beautiful day in the valley. The sky seemed especially blue and clear with only a few faint, wispy clouds floating above. The air was crisp, yet warm and comfortable. An energy came over Jason. A feeling of potential and promise took hold of him. For the first time in his life, he could see the endless frontier of his future and he was no longer afraid. He was ready to meet it head on.
Jason then made his way down to the garage and saw that his car was parked behind Ben’s in their tandem parking space so he was clear to go. Just as he was about to put his key in the door, a voice rang out behind him sounding excited and giddy. It was Ben.
“Did you see!?” Ben asked sounding very much unlike himself. Jason spun around to face him. He was wearing a white tank top; ultra short shorts and carrying a small basket of freshly cleaned laundry.
“What?” Ben raised one of his eyebrows and indicated across from them. Jason looked over and the only remarkable thing he saw was only one car on the other side of the garage was clean and shining. It was also the newest car there. It looked to be a dark blue Jaguar. It still had the temporary registration taped in the rear windshield.
“Check it. New money’s moving in.”
“Or someone got a new car.”
“I checked with Steve earlier. It’s a new tenant. He says the guy’s hot too!”
“All right,” Jason said trying to figure out how the information was important to him. Then a sudden shock of realization hit him. “He’s moving into Cynthia’s old place?”
“I think so, yeah. Oh, don’t tell me you’re still down about that! You were at the wedding. You knew full well she was moving out.”
“I know, I know. I guess it’s just as long as her place was just empty I thought maybe there was a chance she’d come back. Someone moving in pretty much shoots that fantasy dead.”
“Man. You have got to be the only gay guy I know who has any kind of fantasy involving a woman,” Ben said. “Well, if this guy is everything Steve said he was, you’ll have a whole new fantasy to play around with.” Ben shot Jason a quick wink as he turned and started towards the door leading out of the garage.
Jason arrived at The Garden for the first time for a meeting that he had arranged. The sun was bright and blazing over the small Hollywood bistro. The morning crowd seemed a bit more sedate than those who came for lunch.
He was sitting at one of the large tables near the wall in a seat that gave him an optimum view of everything happening on the patio. An obviously gay couple walked in and Jason took quick notice. The two men looked nearly identical. They had the same type of build and they were both extremely good looking with very similar facial structure. They were also both inhumanly tan, with oddly blonde hair and dressed in clothes that were so ugly they just had to be name brand.
When the well-muscled greeter came up to them with menus in hand, they looked him up and down as if he were the special of the day. He led them away to a table inside, so Jason was left with his imagination to finish out the scenario. Once they were seated, they probably offered the young naive waiter a cocktail and in his youthful ignorance he would accept the drink. They would undoubtedly put something in his Cosmo or Fuzzy Navel causing their young, unsuspecting prey to start taking his clothes off. He was hot and it was a gay establishment so no one would object to such an action and before long, they’d be double banging the lad on their table; One in the back and the other up front. They’d shoot their wads and leave their servant spent and used. They probably would even forget his name after their moment of passion, or so Jason thought. The reality that one partner staring at the waiter would incite an argument between the two and by the end of the meal, one of them would be wearing their Long Island Iced Tea would never have occurred to him.
Hours dragged on. Most of the people Jason saw arrive, were starting to leave. He kept checking his watch. It was almost noon and Justin and Tanya were supposed to have been there at nine. He had finished his roast chicken sandwich and was on his fifth glass of cola. The pressure in his bladder was beginning to nag at him but he had no idea where the restrooms were. The thought of searching around the place as if he were some little lost child did not appeal to him.
Jason was just about to give it up when he saw out of the corner of his eye Tanya running up from the street, although it could barely be called running. She was shuffling along on her three inch heels as she made it onto the patio. She composed herself. She spotted Jason right off as she walked through the front gate and hurried over to his table, sitting down smoothly in the chair across from him.
“I am so sorry.” She began. “I was up all night studying for an art history exam.”
“That’s okay,” Jason said, barely meaning it. “You have your copy of the script?”
“Uh, no. I was in such a hurry.” Tanya’s eyes seemed pleading through the dark sunglasses that covered the top portion of her head.
“I guess that’s okay. We can just talk about where your head was. You did read it, right?”
“Yes. I didn’t get all of it, but from what I can tell, it looks pretty good.”
“Thanks. Now, what are your thoughts on Taryn?”
“Your character! Taryn!”
“Oh! Right. Her. She was fun. I mean, she’s been around, but hell, who hasn’t, right?” Tanya asked with a slight laugh. She winced in slight pain. She put her hand to her head and squeezed. A picture was forming in Jason’s head.
“Why don’t you take off those glasses?”
“What? Oh. No. It’s too bright out here. I’m good.”
“It’s not that bad. Besides, your back’s to the sun. Just take them off for a second.”
Tanya began to speak but couldn’t come up with a good excuse. She surrendered and took them off. Jason nearly fell back off his seat. Her eyes were nearly glowing red.
“Okay, I can explain.”
“I thought you said you were studying last night.”
“I was, but after I was done I went out for some fun.”
“We’ve talked about this, Tanya. I need you focused on this.”
“It was just a little slip. It won’t happen again,” Jason snagged her arm and took a closer look at her upper arm. He could make out small little holes along the veins. “I can explain that too.”
“I can’t believe this! We’re shooting this thing in a couple of days Tanya!”
“I’m under a lot of pressure right now, okay? My parents cut off my Visa. My Mercedes is still in the shop and that rental they gave me doesn’t even have an MP3 player in it! And on top of all that, all my teachers this quarter are female, which means I’m going to actually have to study for my finals. Well, for at least two of them, anyway. I just needed something to level off.”
“I can’t deal with this. Where’s Justin? I thought you were coming together?”
“Justin isn’t going to be able to make it.”
“Well, we were partying together last night, and I guess he couldn’t really keep up with me.”
“Where is he? Jail?”
“Morgue.” Tanya said.
“Morgue? You mean he’s, he’s…?”
“Dead? Yeah. He kind of passed out after the Vodka bong and then it all went downhill from there. Trust me. You don’t want details, and if you do, you can get them from the police.”
“That’s kind of the real reason I’m late. I had to give a statement. Maybe we could get together tonight and go over the script?” Jason had his elbows up on the table propping up his head. His mood was growing heavy.
“Go.” Jason said in a low, tired moan.
“I said, go!”
“Fine. I’ll call you when you’re thinking more clearly.” She said as she got up and waddled back out.
Jason’s mind was a swirl of thought, which was soon broken by the sound of clapping; A slow, deliberate clapping. Jason looked around and further back, behind a potted palm, Jason saw Bill Kaslow sitting comfortably at a table that was clearly too small for his girth.
“Bravo!” He called out as he squeezed out of his chair and walked over to Jason’s table.
“The one and only. How are you, Jay?” Bill said happily as he took the seat across from Jason.
“I’ve been good. Where have you been?”
“Well, I was riding high on the porno thing for a while, but I got bored with it. Figured that would happen eventually, but not so quickly. At first it was great. Hot chicks left and right. The drugs, the parties. I think I got laid more in the past eight months than ever before in my life! But then everyone was starting to get obsessed with the art of it. Pretty soon it was the same grind with the whining bitches and over inflated egos. I started to miss Hollywood all over again and thought maybe I’d get back into the regular biz again. Speaking of which, I heard you came into some money. Finally making your own movie, eh?”
“How on Earth did you just hear about that?”
“Hey, contrary to popular belief, Hollywood is a very small place. Sometimes you can hear a fly fart from across town.”
“Lovely. It’s true. Elliot left me the money in his life insurance policy.”
“Mmm, terrible. Sorry for your loss, but do you need a director?”
“Look, I was watching you with that girl. I can tell right off you don’t know how to handle actors, and that’s fine. You’re a writer! Handling actors is the director’s job. I can help you.”
“I don’t know.”
“Think about it for a minute. You’ll still be in charge, but I’ll be handling the grunt work. You’ll be like the executive producer.”
“Well, to be totally honest, the thought of jumping off a bridge has been on my mind lately. I guess I really didn’t know what I was getting into. There’s just so much! The lights, cameras, and actors! It’s a mess!”
“Which is where I can pick up your slack. I’ve been dealing with all that longer than you’ve been alive. Let me take the burden.” Bill said in a soothing tone.
“So,” Jason said, thinking. “You’ll be working for me?”
“I wouldn’t put it like that.”
“But you would.”
“You, Bill Kaslow, would be working for me, Jason Preston.” Jason said sounding more impressed by the idea by the minute.
“Okay. I get it. I suppose in your shoes I’d feel the same way. Do we have a deal?”
“I don’t know.”
“Look, Jason. It’s me! Bill! We go back a long way. It’s not like I’m some stranger. You know me. You trust me.”
“Well, I know you.”
“Come on man. I admit, I can be a royal ass when I want to, but as far as my art, I’m all business.”
“That’s true. Fine. Be my director.” Bill’s face lit up like Jason never saw before. He jumped up from his chair and grabbed Jason’s hand in his meaty grip and began shaking it wildly.
“You won’t regret this!”
“Oh, I know that.” Jason said warningly. “There are some conditions to this. I don’t want any double crosses or quick switches! I don’t want to see my movie ending up at the Tom Katt Theater!”
“I swear! Nothing like that. The script you wrote is the one that will get made.”
“It better. I’ll be checking up on you. Don’t think I won’t be watching.”
“You’re welcome to. In fact, I think it would be great to have you on the set while we shoot. I can teach you some of the finer points of film production.”
“Well, we’ll see about that. Come by my place tonight and I can give you all my stuff. You can see how much I’ve gotten done so far and you can get your starting point.”
“Can’t wait. I’ll see you tonight then.” Bill said just as a waiter came gliding up towards the table.
“Is there anything else today?” The waiter asked. Just as Jason was about to ask for the check, Bill’s large mouth opened up and an order started pouring out. The waiter jotted down every word and looked over to Jason, who just waved him off. Jason looked over to Bill with an accusing look.
“What? When you worked for me, I paid for your lunch.” Bill said as he settled back in his seat with his familiar, self-satisfied smile.