“There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” (W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hollywood Darling pt. v

Back in LA, Ryan is hoping to settle back into his normal life of working, eating and sleeping with not much else in between. Sammy though, is always asking him to take her somewhere, the Hollywood sign, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, her favorite spot to hang out is
Rodeo Drive
. She loves to sit on a bench outside the stores and watch all the women in their fabulous clothes, carrying over-sized purses; Gucci, Dooney & Bourke and Coach. Every time they visit the posh shopping district, she tells Ryan that she is going to buy him something special when she finally makes it. After a few weeks of being her personal tour guide, he decides it’s time to get her some work.
                He starts by taking her to get her head shots done. Next is a vocal coach to soften (but not completely get rid of) her southern accent. He also signs her up for a six week acting workshop. The next few weeks consist of her coming home and reading lines to him every night, as he cooks for them. He has to admit to himself, he feels some pride in how she is doing. He thinks she is a natural. Ryan convinces her to try some commercials before jumping into the movies, naming many famous actresses that got their start in the same way. She pouts but relents. He accompanies her to a handful of auditions before she lands her first job- she is to play an accident victim for a local law firm. It’s a non- speaking role, but still a paying gig. All she has to do is wear a neck brace and look miserable. To celebrate, Ryan takes her to a boutique near Rodeo and buys her a dress, and has a limo driver he knows pick them up and take them to a swanky restaurant When they get back to Ryan’s place she tackles him on his sofa and they make love.
That ad is followed by a stint as a stressed airline passenger who ends up being won over by the friendly service of a small airline. Then she plays a crazed fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, who runs out onto the floor and dances a half- time routine with the Lakers Girls, bumping them out of her way one by one until she is the only one left dancing at center court. When the music stops she runs to the spot where the Lakers run back onto the court for the second half, slapping each one on the rear as they go by.
These commercials (especially the Lakers ad) lead to a large grocery chain, coincidentally a team sponsor, to contacting her to do a serial run of three spots for their stores. They think she is perfect for the role of a perky but smart-alecky checkout girl. The ads will play all throughout southern California, Arizona and Nevada, where the chain has stores. They are also planning on running them in markets where they are planning to expand, including San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and as far east as Dallas. Ooh… I have a cousin in Dallas. she says. I’ll tell him to watch for me.
The ads are a hit, so much so that the company wants her to do another series, this time they shoot six commercials. Ryan helps her negotiate a good contract that pays her very well. The chain even puts full sized cardboard cut outs of her likeness in their stores. Shoppers have taken to standing next her images in the grocery stores, striking funny or amorous poses and getting their picture taken. The store even has a link on their website dedicated to her fans where they can send their photos in and have them posted online. She gets stopped on the street constantly by people asking for her autograph and to take pictures with her. She laughs and hides her face every time she sees her ad on TV.
Ryan comes home one day to see an Armani suit bag draped over a chair and shopping bags from Rodeo strewn all over the living room. When Sammy hears the door she comes running from the bathroom, losing her towel. She leaps into his arms and kisses him deeply. I told you I was gonna buy you somethin’ nice, she says. She climbs down from his grasp and pulls the magnificent dark blue suit from the bag. I want you to wear this when you win your first Oscar, she tells him. Stunned, he says, I don’t know what to say.
 She takes his hand and leads him to the bedroom, where they stay until late that evening, prompted only by hunger. She sits at the kitchen table wearing his robe, one foot up on the chair, exposing her slender leg. Ryan meanwhile is searching the refrigerator for any sign of food. She tells him that she is thinking of moving out and getting her own place. He stands and turns to face her with (what he assumes) a hurt look on his face. She assures him it has nothing to do with him… it’s just that she wants to try things on her own for a while. He says he understands and tells her that he will help her any way he can. Not having any luck playing the hunter-gatherer he grabs her hand and throws her over his shoulder. She emits a whisper-scream and lightly pounds his back with both fists and kicks her legs. They disappear into the bedroom, not to emerge again until the next morning.
As exhausting as Sammy can be at times, Ryan knows he is going to miss having her around. Since she came to stay with him they have had a loose fling with occasional sex but mostly he will miss the companionship. They had become good friends over the last six months and he still feels responsible for her after taking her so far from her home. After she settles into her new apartment he gives her a list of agent names and numbers, telling her she should go with one of these. There are a dozen names, nine men and three women which were at the top. I have them listed in order of my level of trust, he tells her, adding they can help you more than I can now. She hugs him and thanks him for everything and she tells him, keep working on my story because that’s what I plan to do. OK, I will, he promises.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Hollywood Darling pt. iv

please go back and read pts i, ii and iii if you have not done so...

Goodbye Mississippi
Ryan wakes the next morning slumped over the desk. He wipes the drool from his mouth, seeing an entry in his notebook in someone else’s hand. It says “the next day she hoped he would come see her at the diner.” He smiles as he stands to stretch and rubs his lower back. After a quick shower he throws on some clothes and heads out the door. He stops and listens at Jackie’s door, thinking about waking him then decides against it.
On his walk to Hawley’s, he sees Buck in his overalls on the phone, trying to untangle himself from the cord. When Buck sees him he smiles and waves him over. He stands there a moment and Buck covers the phone and says, got a guy here says he can get the part to me tomorrow. Great, Ryan says. Jackie will be glad to hear it. Buck turns back to the phone and waves Ryan off, while he conducts his business. Ryan crosses the street to the diner, with a rumbling in his stomach, which he quickly discounts as being hunger.
As he walks into the diner he says good morning, to the room as he had seen everybody else do upon entering. Some people nod a greeting and a few say mornin’” back to him. Miss Betty sees him and shouts, hey Hollywood. She nods to the back of the diner where Sammy stands taking someone’s order, pretending not to notice him. He waves to Miss Betty and takes a seat. Sammy makes her way to his table, coffee pot in hand. She pours him a cup and says, I’ll be right back. Ryan pulls out his notebook and a pen and continues from where he left off last night.
A short time later she returns and jumps into the booth next to him. She puts her head on his shoulder. “Dear diary, last night was swell.” She swoons, mockingly. Ha, ha, he says. What does a guy have to do to get some food around here? Well, last night’s performance will get you the special, she retorts. He sputters on his coffee in response to this. I’ll take it, he says after recovering.
When she returns with his food, he is writing again. What’s that you’re working on? She asks him, as she sets down two plates. He looks over his breakfast wide eyed. On one plate, four thick pancakes stacked high and drowning in syrup. On the other a mound of scrambled eggs and three fat sausages like before. There is no way I am going to be able to finish this, he says. I’m still trying to digest yesterday’s breakfast. I’ll help you she says, scooting in beside him again, pulling another fork from her apron pocket.
So… she says glancing at his notebook. Oh, just a little story about a girl I know. Wow, was I that good? She asks, chidingly. I was wondering, he starts and stops. Yeah? She says. Well, what do you think about going to Hollywood with me? He shoves a forkful of egg in his mouth, nervously. After some seemingly rehearsed struggle, she agrees. He drops his fork and sits back in the booth. Am I that easy to read? She laughs and says no while she shakes her head yes. He can only laugh along with her.
Well, by all means, get back to work, she says grabbing a sausage and walking away. Ryan is left to contemplate what just happened. Oh man, JC is gonna kill me, he thinks to himself. She returns often to fill his cup and check his progress on her story. When he has enough coffee to burst his bladder, he gets up and reaches in his pocket for some money. Don’t worry about it, she says. Just come back at four to pick me up. She grabs his hand and kisses his cheek. I gotta finish my shift and figure out how to tell Miss Betty I won’t be back, She continues, she’s not gonna take it too well. Ryan feels a little guilty, hearing this. Uh, bathroom? he asks sheepishly. She points and says see you at four. OK, is all he can muster in response.
Ryan heads back to the motel to face Jackie. When he arrives he sees his door is partially open. Jackie is on the phone, pacing back and forth across the room. He sees Ryan and waves him in. Yeah, yeah, we found a great location. It’s perfect he is saying. Bobby, he whispers to Ryan. No, we should be back in a couple of days. Buck says the car will be ready tomorrow. Ryan leans over and tells Jackie. He gives Ryan an enthusiastic thumb up. Alright, Bobby, yeah see you soon. Jackie finishes. Well kid, looks like we’re back on track, he says. Not wanting to spoil his unusually good mood, Ryan decides to withhold his news for now.
Go get your notes, we got some work to do. Ryan, glad for the distraction of work, goes to his room and digs up his notes for the movie. He returns to find that Bobby Ray’s wife is in the room. She sets a carafe and two mugs on the desk. Thanks Tammy, Jackie says. Sure darlin’ she says trailing a finger across his shoulder. Well, I’ll let you boys get to work. Jackie gives her a playful swat on the ass as she turns to go. She giggles like a young girl and giddy-ups out the door.
Ryan stares at him for a few seconds before the older man says, c’mon let’s get to work. Ryan asks Jackie if he has seen her husband Bobby Ray. No, but I’m sure he’s a nice guy, he answers unworriedly. JC, the guy is huge (to emphasize this fact he spreads his arms as wide as he is able), like Incredible Hulk huge, you’d better be careful, he warns. Yeah well, we’ll be gone tomorrow right? Jackie asks, a little concern seeping into his voice. Yeah, Ryan confirms. The two men set to work, comparing notes and discussing the scene that Jackie daydreamed  in the tow truck. They work for three hours, draining the coffee pot before Jackie decides he’s done and needs a break. Ryan packs up and goes back to his room thinking of a nap. He has to figure out what to do with Sammy once they get to LA.
He falls into a light sleep and starts to dream about Sammie
-him coming home from work to find Sammy cooking dinner (a pot roast, his favorite) a young boy runs to greet him, hugging his legs. Sammy, untying her apron and hanging it on a dining room chair, kisses his cheek and asks him how his day was. Fine dear, he says. How was yours? –
Before she can answer he is awakened by moaning and panting noises coming from Jackie’s room. Oh Christ, we’re going to die here, he mutters to himself. Remembering his dream, he shakes his head and wonders where his Ward and June Cleaver fantasy came from. Not wanting to be around if Bobby Ray comes looking for his wife, Ryan pulls himself out of bed and gets away from the motel as quickly as possible.
Having some time to kill yet before meeting Sammy, he walks over to Buck’s. The mechanic is still tinkering with the old pickup truck from yesterday. Hey Buck, he calls. Hollywood, what’re you up to? He asks. Just wasting some time, he answers. Hey guess what. Buck says. That part’s coming in this afternoon. I’ll start on your car soon as it gets here, should be ready first thing tomorrow morn, the mechanic tells him. Good, Ryan says more to himself than Buck. Well gotta work on this truck, he says as he scoots underneath the front end. Mind if I hang here a bit? Ryan asks. Suit ‘ ya self Hollywood.
The two men exchange small talk. With Ryan occasionally handing Buck a tool, more often than not the wrong one. Buck peppers him with more questions about LA and the people he knows. Ryan tells how the people he meets outside of LA are much more interesting. Yeah, but I’d give almost anything just to spend one day there, Buck says. Ryan suppresses a laugh, imagining the mechanic in his overalls and oil stains walking down
Rodeo Drive
in a very Beverly Hillbillies moment. Looking at his watch, Ryan says, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Looks pretty but it’s one of the ugliest places I’ve ever seen, he goes on. The two men are quiet for a spell. In the silence he remembers Jackie’s words about Hollywood being where dreams go to die. I gotta go, Buck, he says. Alright, Hollywood, see ya tomorrow ‘bout nine? Yeah, OK.
He walks into the diner and nods nervously at the few people that are there. When he sees Miss Betty, he can tell that she has been crying. Her eyes are red and bloodshot and she is holding a wad of tissue or napkins in her hand. He walks up to her and she says, you had better take care of my little girl, Hollywood. I will, he promises. She leads him to the counter, saying, she’ll be out in a minute. Coffee? No thanks. I’ll just take some water please…ma’am. She smiles at him, pouring his water, and then walks away, her face buried in a hand towel that recently hung in the waist of her apron. Sammy appears from the kitchen carrying her bubblegum colored dress and bleached white apron. She lays them across the counter. She has a canvas, army style duffel bag slung across her back. Let’s go, she says, handing Ryan a back pack. He takes the smaller bag and her still outstretched hand and they walk out of the diner together.
They walk in silence towards the motel. Ryan finally asks her if she is OK. Instead of answering his question, she starts talking about LA and what a big star she is going to be, only half joking. When they get to the motel, they head up the stairs and find Jackie on the balcony smoking a cigarette. Noticing the bags, he shakes his head in disbelief. Ryan returns his gesture with a shrug and nothing more need be said, except introductions. Sammy, JC. JC, Sammy, was all he could find to say. How you doing sweetheart? Jackie asks, not really looking at her. Nice to meet you, she says as Ryan hurries her into his room, leaving Jackie alone on the balcony.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hollywood Darling pt. iii

In His Own Words
Later that night, Ryan steps out onto the balcony that overlooks an empty pool and sees Jackie leaning on the rail, smoking a cigarette. Can’t sleep? Ryan asks him. Nope, Jackie breathes through the tendrils of smoke wrapping around his head. Who’s your friend, he asks, only half interested. Just some local girl, he assures him. They turn their attention back to the pool. Surprisingly, Jackie breaks the silence. He tells Ryan, there comes a time in a man’s life when he needs to tell his story in his own words. If Ryan was willing to listen, he has something to say. Ryan reaches for Jackie’s cigarettes lying on the railing. He lights one up, takes a long drag and blows it out, then says, Ok, go ahead. Jackie lights another before he begins.
                This town ain’t no good for you kid, he starts. What Delta? Ryan asks. No, smart ass… Hollywood. It’s where dreams go to die. Nice, can I use that JC? He asks his boss. Sure kid, whatever, now shut up and listen, Jackie tells him. You’re catching me on the rebound. I really used to be something, you know? At least I thought I was. In Hollywood you’re usually less than you think you are. Jackie is looking down at his hand rolling the lit cigarette between his thumb and forefinger as he talks only occasionally putting it to his mouth and sucking it down.
                I had a pretty good run in the eighties, three best director Oscars, two consecutively. Man, I thought I had it all. Like they say, the more you have, the more you have to lose. 1988- that was when it started. I met this beautiful, young actress, Cristina Monreal. She could have been one of the greats. She worked on the last film I ever finished, my last best director winner. She just missed winning best actress that year. We had a thing, I thought it was more than that but… anyway, we had this wrap party when we finished filming at Victor De Cristo’s mansion or villa or whatever the hell. That must be Bobby’s dad, huh? Ryan interrupts. Yeah, he took over from his pops when Vic kicked the bucket, Jackie says. So I introduced Cristina to Vic at this wrap party and he offered to show her around his palace. I had already taken the tour and was looking for something to drink so they went off arm in arm without me. I guess she saw her opportunity to move up a station or two. Less than an hour later I saw her leaving the party with Victor. I was already a functioning alcoholic, but I made the seamless transition to non-functioning, starting that night. The coke didn’t help much either, that shit was everywhere in those days.
He lit another cigarette before continuing, offering the pack to Ryan, who reluctantly takes one. I was a total mess by the time the awards rolled around. When they called my name as winner I had to be nudged awake to go and accept. I tripped going up the stairs and the only thing people could understand of my speech was when I thanked that “whore of an actress.” I was rushed off stage and ushered out of the building into a cab. That “whore” was now Victor’s wife. Vic and I were pretty close once. We used to go pheasant hunting together; I helped him build his studios. His studio was nearly bankrupt before I started making movies for him. Anger rises in his voice and he is taking more puffs of his cigarette now. Ryan sees he was more hurt by Victor than Cristina. Well they didn’t last long anyway. Cristina must have realized she wasn’t going to get much from Vic. The way I heard it, she left him while they were on vacation in Mexico. There were some whispers that he killed her or had her killed. He knew she was sleeping around. Hell, everyone knew. Whatever the story, he came back alone and she was never seen or heard from again.
At that time I was shooting another film for De Cristo studios, one I would never finish, until now. Ryan chokes on half exhaled smoke at this bit of news. This script is that old? He coughs. A great script is timeless, Jackie says. Remember that, kid. Ryan shakes his head in acknowledgement. Someone, I assume Victor, he never said, and I never asked got me into some fancy rehab place in New Mexico. I spent nearly a year there and got myself straightened out. When I walked out of the door, Victor was there, waiting with a limo. He offered me a job as a special consultant for his studios, helping his stable of new, young, hot shot directors make movies. I lived in his house, I drove his cars and he gave me executive producer credit on every movie I worked on. Up until he died, that is.
After that everything changed again. The rights to his estate were contested by Cristina’s sister, who claimed that she was still alive and would be coming back to take over the studio and the home she was entitled to. Bobby, who came out of a previous marriage, fought back but it took a while before a judge told Cristina’s sister that if she did not show up in his courtroom at the next hearing date, everything would go to Bobby. In the meantime, no work was being done at the studios and I had to find work wherever I could. I helped friends- what few I had left, on their movies and they tossed me some scratch. I even got a real job for a spell, working as a paralegal for some Hollywood agent, that didn’t end well.
Finally after about two years of legal wrangling, Bobby took over De Cristo studios. He cleaned house and started all over, hiring new execs and secretaries, everything. He was going through some boxes one day and found this script. Bobby was always a good kid, he used to hang around with us all the time, asking questions and trying to give us advice for relating to the new generation. He remembered being there when Vic and I were first discussing the movie and he got caught up in how excited we were about it. So when he found it, he got in touch with me and offered me the opportunity to finish what I started. That Bobby, he was always a good kid, he repeated.
What he doesn’t know and I hope he doesn’t find out (he glances at Ryan) is that I’m done after this, I’m walking away. I tucked away some of that money Vic was paying me. I’m moving to New Mexico and buying some land. Maybe start a horse ranch, get a few cows and maybe some sheep, live out my cowboy fantasy. As for you kid, you gotta get outta here, go back to New York, be a writer, it’s better for your health. After you help me with this, of course, (he looks at Ryan again.) Yeah, sure JC, I hear ya. The men each smoke another cigarette in silence before Jackie says goodnight kid, flinging his butt over the railing and into the pool and ducking back into his room. Ryan steps back inside to see Sammy occupying nearly every inch of his bed. He sits at the small desk, flips on the lamp and starts writing in a notebook.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hollywood Darling pt ii

(if you did not read pt i, please go back and do so before continuing)

The next morning Ryan wakes about eight. After shaving and showering, he goes to Jackie’s room. He knocks for several minutes before giving up and decides to go in search of food. When he walks past the front desk, he notices an older version of the girl who checked them in the day before. Well, mornin’ stranger, she hollers, startling him a little. Good morning, he replies. So, what brings you fellas ‘round these parts? She wants to know. Uh, movie, Ryan says, adding quickly, anywhere I can get some food? Sure, you can go to Hawley’s, just ‘cross the street from Buck’s. Your friend gonna join ya? She asks. No, too busy, I guess. You know, I did some acting in high school, she calls after him as he half runs out the door, pretending not to hear her.
                Ryan, seeing the bottom half of Buck’s greasy overalls sticking out of the gaping maw of a beat up old pickup truck, starts to cross the street, getting half way across before hearing Buck call, hey, Hollywood. Ryan turns to see the mechanic with fresh oil smears on either side of his toothy grin. Where’s ya friend? He asks. Still holed up in his room, he answers before saying, hey I was going to get something to eat, care to join me? Sure, let me wash up right quick, he says. Ryan watches him as he drapes an oily rag he had strung through a loop in his overalls over the bed of the pickup and washes his hands with some gritty green goop, completely ignoring the stains on his cheeks and forehead.
                Before they are all the way through the door, Buck bellows, morn ev’one. Voices call back from every direction, it seems as if the whole town might be here. An older woman behind the counter calls out, hey ya Buck, how goes it? Who’s ya friend?  Mornin’ Miss Betty, he says removing his ball cap, this here’s Hollywood. Ryan actually, Ryan corrects him. Nice to meet ya Hollywood, I’m Miss Betty. I run this place, husband’s Hawley, he’s dead now, going on three years she says rather matter of factly. Sorry to hear that, he offers. Don’t be, son of a bitch did it to himself, smoked three packs a day for forty-five years. I’m surprised he didn’t go sooner, stubborn old goat, she added. Ryan is glad Buck starts to move on.
                Ryan stands behind Buck as he lingers at a table where a huge mass of a man sits sipping coffee. The man is wearing a suit seemingly two sizes too small for his immense frame which hints at former athletic glories. The man looks up slowly at Buck and Ryan. Mornin’ Bobby Ray, Buck manages. Bobby Ray simply says, Buck. The mechanic quickly introduces Ryan using his real name. The large man takes a long, slow drink of his coffee before asking in a slow southern way. What brings you to our sleepy little hamlet? Just as Ryan opens his mouth to reply, Buck jumps in, explaining the previous day’s events. Bobby Ray cuts him off with a cold stare. After a moment of awkward silence, Buck reaches into his pocket and pulls out some money. Here’s that fifty I owe ya, he says pushing the wadded up bills towards Bobby Ray. Without counting or un-wadding the bills, he shoves them all into his jacket pocket.
Instantly, a wide smile reaches across his face and he says, why don’t ya’ll sit down. Buck squeezes into the booth that is almost completely occupied by Bobby Ray, who doesn’t seem to mind at all. Ryan takes the booth opposite them. So what’s your business? Bobby Ray asked. This time Buck knows to let the man answer for himself. He tells Bobby Ray about the movie and what he and his partner are doing there and how they came to meet Buck, who had been a great help to them. Yeah, Buck’s alright, he says ruffling Buck’s hair. Buck seems to relish the attention. Ryan later learns from Sammy’s own history of Delta, that Bobby Ray gave Buck the money to open up his repair shop.
                As the men continue talking, Ryan notices an attractive young woman flitting around the diner, dumping coffee into every cup in the room regardless of the level of liquid inside. She appears to command the attention of everyone around her, just as she was his. Buck and Bobby Ray are deep in a conversation he barely hears. The light pink dress she wears is fronted with a crisp white half- apron with pockets for her order pad and pencil, though she kept the pencil tucked into her pinned up hair. Her hair a tawny brown is pinned neatly except for one thick strand that hangs down caressing her slender cream colored nape. At each table she leans over it slightly and reaches one leg back touching her toes to the ground while she fills the cups. This gives him ample time to study the anatomy of her long, lean, spray-tanned legs, contrasted by her dress, starting mid thigh.
She is laughing and joking and trading friendly barbs with the customers, all the while stealing glances at Ryan, who can’t keep his eyes off of her. He started watching her in hopes that she would come by to fill his cup but he quickly became a spectator to her little game carried out across the diner. Somewhere in his consciousness though he can tell she is as intrigued by his presence as he is unnerved by hers. Every time she looks his way, he smiles awkwardly and she replies by smiling and tilting her head down while cupping her hand to her creased lips lightly shaded to match her dress.  Ryan notices that Miss Betty has on the same uniform but it’s hard to imagine she ever wore it like this girl he and every other guy in the diner was ogling. Maybe when she and Hawley first opened the diner but years of slinging hash and talking trash had taken all that away from her. Ryan can’t bear thinking that this lovely creature will ever go through that same metamorphosis.
                After refilling every cup on the other side of the diner, twice, she makes her way to their table. How ya’ll doin’ today? She asks. Hey Sammy, Buck gushes. Bobby Ray smiles and ruffles Buck’s hair again. This time Buck tries to hand comb his hair back into place. Who’s yer friend? She asks Buck, just like Miss Betty, Ryan thinks. This here’s Hollywood, he replies just as before. It’s Ryan, Ryan corrects again, nice to meet you. Hollywood, huh, why they call you that? She wanted to know. Well, they don’t, Buck does, he offers. I guess because I work there. You an actor or something? she prodded, doubtfully.  Assistant director, actually, he says, a title that Jackie has yet to bestow on him officially.
                She fills Buck and Ryan’s cups and refills Bobby Ray’s, then motions for Ryan to scoot over so she can sit with them. Buck’s smile widens at this and Bobby Ray takes another swipe at his head. Buck is ready though and avoids his pawing with a deft bob and weave. Sammy turns to Ryan after shooting a disgusted look at Buck. Assistant director, huh, not good enough to be the director? she asks. The other two get a good laugh at this. After a stunned moment, Ryan laughs as well and explains that he just recently moved to LA from New York and is just getting started in Hollywood. Well ya’ll gonna order? She asks indifferently. Ryan can see that her curiosity is piqued but she is trying to play it cool. Just bring three of my usual, would ya darlin’? Bobby Ray tells her. Alrighty, I’ll see you in two shakes, she says as she walks away, glancing back at Ryan.
Sammy returns a short time later with three plates running up her right arm and a coffee pot in her left hand. She sets down the plates, each of  which contain a heaping mound of scrambled eggs, three fat sausages and four triangular pieces of oversized white toast all slathered in a thick white gravy. As Ryan surveys the enormous breakfast, Sammy tops off their cups and scampers away.
The three men sit eating and making small talk for at least an hour. Ryan never gets more than two sips out of his steaming hot coffee before Sammy tops it off, each time giving him a long stare as if studying his features for some future test. Ryan, not sure if it would be an insult not to, was trying to finish his meal, with great difficulty. When Bobby Ray finishes, he takes out the wad of crumpled bills Buck had given him earlier. He straightens out a twenty on the side of the table before placing it under his plate, which was wiped clean as if food had never touched its surface. Buck, seeing this, scrambles out of the booth to make way for Bobby Ray’s shifting mass, thanking him for breakfast. Yeah, thanks Bobby Ray, Ryan says through a mouthful of eggs. You boys have a good day now, OK? He says as he turns and walks away, saying the same to everyone else in the diner. The chorus responds in like.
After his brother- in- law’s curtain call, Buck says he should get going too. Ryan asks if he can give Jackie any good news. You can tell ‘em the car ain’t no broker than it was yesterday, he chimes. Alright, thanks, Ryan says half laughing. See ya ‘round, Hollywood.
                As Buck turns to go, Sammy makes a bee-line for Ryan and his surprisingly half empty coffee cup. See ya, Sammy, Buck oozes with an aw shucks grin. Bye, Buck, she shoots back, obviously annoyed. The brief interruption is enough to allow Ryan to drain his cup. More coffee, Hollywood? Only if you join me, he says. She takes a quick glance around the diner before launching herself into the seat across from him. She immediately puts her feet up on the booth next to him. He looks down to see her thick soled, all white shoes and her dark stockings. He isn’t sure exactly why but at that moment he thinks about calling his mother. It has been a while since they had a good talk. They bothering you, Hollywood? She asks. No, no it’s ok, he assures her. Is this your only job? Hell, Hollywood, most folks ‘round here don’t even have one, she says. Sorry, I didn’t mean… he trails off. When do you get off? He asks. Why Hollywood, you got plans for me? I just thought we could hang out, he offers. Give me a minute she says, jumping out of the booth. He watches her disappear behind the counter, hurriedly. She comes back, grabs his hand and says let’s go. Where are we going? He asks while being pulled out of the diner. Anywhere but here, she answers. He takes a look back and sees Miss Betty leaning on the end of the long Formica counter with a knowing smile, waving at him. He shrugs his one free shoulder and waves back.
                Still holding his hand, she leads him toward the road that leads to Gramp’s Catfish Farm. Are we going fishing? He asked jokingly. No, they only let you do that on Sundays after church, she informs him. The guys at Gramp’s let me feed the fish sometimes.
When they arrive, Ryan notices several large concrete encased ponds. Around one of these stands a group of men guiding a large net being lowered into the water by a small crane. The net makes its haul then swings over to a drop-off bin where another group of men stand waiting. The second group of men deftly grabs the net, guides it into the bin and unhooks a side to release the fresh catch into the bin. They quickly sort through the catfish, extracting the larger ones, still wriggling with life and toss them into another bin, which when filled is wheeled into the processing plant. The bin containing the small fries is wheeled back to the pond and unceremoniously dumped back in.
                After watching the men repeat the process in an adjoining pool, Sammy asks one of the guys if she can feed the fish. Sure, Sammy, they could use some fattening up, we got some runts in these two here, the man replies, nodding his head towards the two ponds they just extracted the fish from. Who’s ya friend, he asks her. Oh, this here’s Hollywood. Hollywood this here’s Hank, he’s the day-foreman here at Gramp’s, she says. Nice to meet you Hank, the name’s Ryan actually. Same here, Hollywood, he shoots back, as he plops down a sack of feed and walks away.
Sammy grabs the scoop from the bag and fills it with the grain, motioning for Ryan to follow her down the dividing walkway between the two ponds. As she scatters the feed over the water, the whole pond comes to life. Fish are scrambling and slithering over each other; a few are even jumping out of the water and catching their meal before it even touched the surface. Ryan hears a splash behind him. Thinking someone fell into the other pool, he whirls around, nearly losing his balance and falling in himself, he sees that the fish there were jumping and skimming the surface as well. I guess they know its feeding time, he says, regaining his footing. They ain’t no dummies, she says as she shakes the pellets over the second pond. Come and get it she hollers to the fish. Ryan watches amusedly as they continue their acrobatic display. After another scoopful is scattered over the pond, she replaces the scoop and yells, thanks, Hank. Hank, who is now inside the plant, gives a wave without looking up. Then as if he forgot Ryan is with her, he looks and shouts, see ya ‘round Hollywood. Ryan thinks about shouting back its Ryan, then considering it pointless, he simply waves.
                They leave the “farm” and walk further down the same road. Sammy reaches out for his hand and Ryan silently obliges. They walk leisurely and silently as she gently swings their hands back and forth. Ahead, on the left are two dilapidated structures standing maybe a hundred feet apart. Passing these dusty buildings, Ryan figures this must be Delta’s once booming manufacturing district. On the right is an old abandoned gas station/convenience store meant to look like an old general store. He tries to imagine the hardships the people of Delta must have endured when the factories shut down. Sammy, sensing the chills running through him, drops his hand and starts sprinting down the lane, imploring Ryan to follow. Around a slight bend she stops short at the first cluster of homes. All of which are in various states of disrepair.
                When he catches up with her, she tells him to wait here. Though it was a short distance, he was out of breath and leaning on a fence post holding his side. O… K… he says between puffs, trying to regain his composure.
She laughs, disappearing inside the house belonging to the post he was leaning on. She emerges minutes later in faded blue jeans and a plain white tee shirt. Her hair no longer pinned up, frames her high cheek- boned face. Her lips now bare and face without makeup seems even more beautiful than minutes ago. Ready? She asks playfully as she brushes past him. Ready for what? He wants to know. To have some fun silly, she answers. At least she didn’t call me Hollywood, he thinks. You’ll see,” she says as she starts walking down the same way they were headed before. Small clusters of homes keep popping up on the right as if out of nowhere. It reminded him of the Indian village back home that was on display at the museum. He asks her why they were arranged in such a way. My momma says its cause families used to put their money together to buy land and they built their homes together and farmed the land together since no one could afford the big farms no more. She grabs his hand again and he lets her, again.
                He hears the whine of small engines before he sees the dirt course where kids are riding ATV’s and motocross dirt bikes. They’re flying over squares of murky water hidden behind mounds of dirt built into the track and weaving in and out of obstacles. Others are standing nearby, behind tires cut in half and placed rounded end up marking the boundaries. They’re shouting encouragement (he assumes) and raising bottles of beer or their hats in the air. Well, she says to him. Well what? Wanna give it a try, Hollywood? Uh, no, no I do not. Scared? No, well maybe a little, he admits. I’ve never ridden one before. She pulls him to the side of the track and waves to a couple of riders whizzing by and points to a dirt bike and a four wheeled ATV. I’ll let you have the four-wheeler, she tells him.
                Ryan gets a crash course on the ATV which consists of this is stop and this is go from the kid, maybe all of twelve years old who just got off the machine. Ready? Sammy asks. I guess so. He relents. She revs the bike and takes off, spraying dirt back towards him. He can hear her laughter over the roar of engines. He gently turns the throttle and is surprised by the power, nearly falling backwards off the seat. More laughter heard from the sidelines, as Sammy comes zooming past him, looking back, imploringly. Finally he starts moving, slowly as if easing out into traffic from a parked position. Once again Sammy goes zipping by, this time he watches as she guides the bike over a jump. In midair she lets go of the bike with both hands momentarily, straightening the front tire out just before hitting the ground. He shakes his head and continues, at a beginner’s pace, guiding his vehicle around the first jump he encounters. Watching Sammy, he noticed there was a patch of dirt next to each jump that would divert him around the obstacle.  She comes behind him slowing to his pace, and shouts Come on, Hollywood, give it some gas.
The gathering crowd outside the boundaries, start whooping and hollering when he pulls back on the throttle and really starts moving around the course. Sammy stays behind him, shouting encouragement, trying to get him to take a jump. He avoids two more before he finally works up the nerve to try one. Revving his engine he puts his head down and heads toward a mound of hard packed dirt. Thinking about what the hell he is doing, he tells himself to stop thinking about it and just go for it.  Mid jump, he feels as if he is being suspended by some great hand. Like he is just one part of a toy being flown through the air by some giant child.  The jolt from landing is harder than he expects and he loses his grip on the handle bars and is thrown from the ATV. He lands hard on his backside and feeling a little dazed, he lays there, eyes closed. Sammy stops quickly, spraying dirt at him again. You ok Hollywood? He hears her ask. No answer. Hollywood? Yeah, I think so, he answers. Adding, well, that was fun. He opens his eyes. She laughs and extends her hand to help him stand up, he grabs it and notices that she is not the only one standing over him. Quite a few of the bystanders crowded around him as well. He wasn’t sure if they were concerned or wondering what they would tell the cops if some newbie died on their course. He gets up holding his back, and walks over to the sidelines with Sammy guiding him to a bale of hay to take a seat. A few people from the crowd came over to check on him, slapping him on the back. This here’s Hollywood everybody, she exclaimed. He had given up on telling the folks of Delta his real name. He simply waves and says, Hi, everybody.
Someone hands him a cold bottle of beer from a cooler resting between hay bales. Thanks, he says to the anonymous hand. Ryan spies the twelve year old checking the ATV for dents and scratches, before hopping back on and running the course. Sammy points with her head and says that’s my little brother Jake. I don’t think he’s too happy with me right now, he says. Oh, he’ll be alright, he beats that thing to hell anyways, she insists. She sits with him and they talk a little but mostly just watch the aeronauts on two or four wheels.
He loses time sitting here with her, he has no idea how long they had been at the track. As if reading his mind, Sammy puts down her nearly finished beer and grabs his hand, again saying, let’s go. She waves to everybody and he does the same. A few of them call back see ya ‘round, Hollywood. You be careful, she yells at Jake as he goes cruising by them, giving Ryan a long stare before saying, bye Sammy.
                They head back down the road towards her house. So… what now, he wonders aloud. Now we dance, she says with a dramatic flair. Uh… I don’t dance, he tells her. What do you do for fun in LA? She wants to know. Not dance, he says apprehensively. At the walkway leading to her house she asks him to wait again. She goes inside and emerges minutes later in a denim miniskirt and a clean white tee shirt. He is happy to see that she is still not wearing any makeup and still has her hair down. She takes his hand and leads him further back down the lane past the abandoned buildings and Gramp’s. Ryan sees the road leading back to the diner and motel and Buck’s and is all too happy to see that they are continuing to go straight.
                He can hear the country-blues music filling the air before he sees the small square, wooden building with a hand-painted sign that reads Hank’s Place. The music seems to quicken Sammy’s pace and she pulls Ryan along behind her. Once inside, Sammy gets them a table and a couple of beers. Ryan does a double take at the band when he notices Buck sitting behind the drums banging out the time. He is still wearing his oil slicked overalls and a toothy grin. Ryan waves and Buck gives a nod in his direction.
                The music reminds him of his father. He has vague memories of his father grabbing his mother and twirling her around the kitchen to some old Hank Williams tune on a random Saturday morning. Ryan would watch them dance, happily as he ate the banana pancakes or strawberry waffles his mother made for him. He doesn’t have many memories of his father other than those related to the hospital. Whenever he trips upon one he makes sure to take note of it. Misreading the smile that creeps across his face, Sammy grabs his hand and leads him to the dance floor. Before Ryan can object, she is swaying her hips and dancing wildly all around him. He struggles to keep up, but she doesn’t seem to notice, or care. After a couple of failed (in his mind) dances and a disastrous line dance, during which he knocks a lady down, they laugh their way back to their table, arm in arm. They down a couple more beers before Sammy says, let’s get out of here.
They walk a little ways before she turns them down a well worn path that suddenly appears, intersecting the road. Every ten feet or so there is a lantern nailed to a tree on alternating sides of the meandering trail. Ryan notices that the lanterns are placed so that just as the light was fading from one, the next would appear, keeping the tree- lined path bathed in ethereal phosphorescence. When they emerge from the pathway, she asks, what room? Confused, Ryan looks around and notices that they are standing outside the room-side entrance of the Delta Motel. Oh, he says, bashfully, umm… 201. She leads him silently up the outside stairs and onto the landing outside his room. She squeezes his hand as he fumbles with the key, before they fall into his room, laughing like lovers.