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

Friday, April 6, 2012

Hollywood Darling pt. vi

Ryan and Lucy
Ryan was the only child born to a simple Midwestern couple who married and had a child late in life. His mother, Lucy was thirty- six and his father, Arthur was forty- two. When Ryan was nine his father died, after suffering a heart attack and stroke, leaving Lucy to raise their son alone. Unprepared for her husband’s death, she had to take on a second job, cleaning offices. Lucy would arrive home late in the evenings to fix a quick dinner and sit with her son to discuss their days. Ryan would read his stories to her as he rubbed her tired feet and she would tell him how proud she was. Often, they would sit and talk until they both fell asleep on the couch.
After high school graduation, Ryan attended the local university so he could stay close to his mother. Lucy used the money from her cleaning job to help him pay for college but the bills kept piling up on her. Ryan, not wanting to be a burden to her any longer told her he was taking a break from college. His plan was to work for a while and save up some of his own money to pay for school, if and when he decided to go back. Leaving school, Ryan took on an assortment of odd jobs… landscaping, bartending at a night club, golf caddy, often working two or three at a time. All the while he kept writing, mostly short stories. One day Lucy found one of his pieces and after reading it, truly realized her son’s talent. She always enjoyed his stories but she thought maybe it was just a mother’s love. She used to be in a book club with a few of the ladies from her church and got the idea of taking it to them. She asked them to read it without telling them it was written by her son, who they all knew. She wanted their unbiased opinions about it and knew they would all say they loved it if they knew it was Ryan’s. When she got back nothing but glowing reviews from the old book clubbers, she made up her mind to help him, though she didn’t know how just yet.
One day she was in her favorite bookstore and saw a poster advertising a short story contest for local writers. She was so excited, she nearly ran out of the store still carrying some books she forgot to pay for, after grabbing one of the flyers for the contest. Remembering at the final second, she placed the books she had in her hands on a table by the door, before hurrying home. She had already made a copy of the story just in case something like this came up. On the way home she read the flyer to see what she had to do. When she arrived home she took out the copy of his story and read it again, just to be sure. She then walked to the convenience store down the street to get a manuscript envelope and went back to the bookstore to drop off her entry with the ten dollar fee. The winner would earn $10,000 and get their story published in the city’s namesake magazine.
Three months later she received notice that Ryan’s story won the grand prize. Lucy could barely contain her excitement while standing in line at the bank, she was there to withdraw the money from an emergency fund she had. Her nerves were so bad that the guard asked her if she needed to sit down and offered her some water. She told him why she was there and about Ryan’s story. He stood with her as she moved through the line exchanging small talk about their kids and in his case, grandkids.
When Ryan got home that night, she had supper waiting for him. He asked why she wasn’t at work, if there was something wrong. No, she said, I just took the night off. I have something to tell you. OK, he said. Not now, she told him. Go wash up and come sit, we’ll talk over dinner. She told him about finding his story and showing it to some people and finally, the contest. He was a little upset at first, explaining that he didn’t think he was done with that piece, he thought he had some more tweaking to do. That’s when she started crying. He apologized and told her that he was not mad at her for doing what she did. I wouldn’t care she said, because you won. He sat staring at her in disbelief. Lucy got up and gave her son a hug and went to the bureau. She pulled out some papers and turned back to him still crying. In her hands she held a train ticket to New York and a bank envelope with some money inside. You’re going to New York? He asked her. No, you are, I figure that’s where good young writers go to hone their craft. Initially he refused his mother’s gift, but realizing it would break her heart if he did not pursue his own dreams, he gave in. When do I leave? He asked. He was off to live the writer’s life in New York.
He got a small apartment and a job as a mailroom clerk for a major insurance company, knowing that $10,000 wouldn’t go very far. Ryan loved New York. It was the perfect place for a fiction writer. Happiness and heartbreak in heavy doses lay around every corner. He loved being an anonymous cog in the inner workings of the city and immediately delved into his real work. He didn’t have many friends in the city, not in the normal sense anyway. There was Stan the newspaper guy, who always made sure to get his hometown paper as well as saving a Times for him. There was Sally, the girl who lived in the apartment below him and oddly enough, always seemed to be getting her mail at the same time as Ryan. There was Stavo, from his favorite diner who always had a smile and a coffee waiting for him and sometimes a daughter he was trying to marry off to any decent suitor, in hopes of discouraging her no good bum of a boyfriend from coming around. At work, his only friend was a kid named Billy from some small town in Indiana. Finding some common ground, being Midwest kids in the big city, they often took their lunch together and once in a while went out for drinks after work. These were just a few of the characters that colored his time in New York.
After a three year love affair with the city he was published and received a decent amount of money for his effort. It was a collection of short stories and essays about being a newcomer to New York. Many of his cohorts from the city found their way into his work. To celebrate, he took Billy out for a grand dinner. When he got back to his apartment that night, Sally was there, climbing out of a cab. Noticing Ryan she started to blush. He held the door open for her and she said thank you, meekly. Not wanting the night to end just yet, he asked her to his place for a nightcap. Surprisingly, she said yes. Neither said much in the elevator besides normal small talk of the weather and how their nights went, both of them coming from dinner.
Once inside, Ryan opened a bottle of wine and as it was consumed, they started talking more. He found out that she was a graduate film student at NYU and worked at the school in its archives department. She told him that she always imagined he was a writer, her only clue that he looked the part. Unsure of what that meant exactly, or how to respond, he leaned in for a kiss and she obliged. For two creative souls alone in the big city, one thing had to lead to another. The next morning after Sally returned to her apartment, Ryan called Lucy and they talked on the phone for a while before she asked, what’s next for you? I don’t know, maybe I’ll try to conquer Hollywood, he said. Go for it, she told him. Your father would be as proud of you as I am. She ended by telling him to keep chasing his dreams.
Two months later he was saying goodbye to Sally and Billy and regretfully telling Stavo that he was not taking his daughter (beautiful as she was) to LA with him. He also informed Stan that he was not going to need to get his hometown paper any longer. Everyone wished him well, even Sally who seemed most upset to see him go, even though nothing else happened after the one night they shared. So he packed up and moved to LA.  Another small apartment in a big city, but LA was different. Everything seemed plasticized including the people, almost like they were laminated to preserve a state of perfection as perceived in some 1950’s lifestyle magazine. He attempted to write a story about the gradual lamination of the world but had a hard time with the characters. How do you recreate a fake of a fake, he asked himself. Frustrated at being unable to write, he went in search of a job, thinking that might help to get him unstuck.
He wanted to work at a studio in some capacity but no one seemed to be hiring. One guy, feeling sorry for him gave him Jackie’s number. The guy told Ryan that he may be looking for some help so he gave him a call. They met for coffee two days later and Ryan had a job after half an hour. Jackie was just beginning the process of shooting a movie and needed an assistant. He liked Ryan right away, mostly because he was new to LA and untarnished by its crudity yet. So began his Hollywood career.

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