Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Big shot

He has one bare foot, pants leg torn halfway up, the foot swollen, elephantine, an open ulceration on the top. It looks like the photos in the brochure for wound cleaner, showing what happens when you don't use their product. Long, matted beard.

He holds one hand to his ear.

"Twenty-five K? Add a zero to that. Add a zero to that, dipshit. I gotta warehouse full of uniforms. Add a zero to that! Now we're talking. The dickwipe down in receiving doesn't know shit. Add a zero to that."

Homeless in the financial district too long, it's seeped into his hallucinations.

The F Market is standing room only. The man sitting in the front seat leans in, asks about my necklace. I tell him it's a typewriter. His face still holds a question. I'm a writer, I say.

"Oh yeah? You any good?"

Yes, I say. I lift my chin, just a bit.

He adjusts his baseball cap. "Win any Oscars?"

No. I think about saying more, telling him that's not what I write, but he nods up at me.

"Ever hear of Mark Andrus? As Good As It Gets? Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, huh? I've worked with all of 'em. Yeah? You know As Good As It Gets?"

He starts ticking off the names of people he's worked with, a long list. One name is familiar: Bellisario.

I've met him, I say.

"Great guy, really a nice guy. That's what you gotta do, just go down there and talk to him. He'll get you a shot. Ghostwriting, that's what I did. 'Course you don't make nothing. I mean nothing, just crap pay. Y'know when Stephen King sold the screenplay for The Shining, he got a check, he was all excited. Took it to the bank and handed it over, paid off his trailer and asked for the rest in cash. The teller looked at him like he was crazy. Stephen King thought it was a check for $7,000, the most he'd ever made at once, but he was missing a zero. It was $70,000, and he was asking for the rest in cash! The teller just about had a heart attack."

The man monologues, going into folksy old grouch mode. The train is slowly emptying out. It's just me and Mr. Hollywood, a bit fat and gray-haired, and a skinny man a few seats away. I wonder if the skinny man is bothered by Hollywood's rambling as it amps up, volume and speed, he's dropping names for all he's worth, talking about how he does it, plot devices, you gotta have a dog and a suspicious clerk, all the stock characters, but it starts to get surreal, the dog putting on a mailman's hat and undergoing an existential crisis, suspicious clerk lost in the woods and taking off his clothes piece by piece.

Now he's doing an impression of Jack Nicholson, he's back on As Good As It Gets, and Jack takes him to the bank to draw his pitiful check, but (and here he's talking out of the side of his mouth, Nicholson-style, and it's not a bad impression) then he writes another check for Hollywood, telling him he's earned it, he's nobody's bitch.

I'm noticing a theme. Banks and unexpected riches. I'm almost at my stop, and Hollywood pauses for breath. I shoulder my bag, and the skinny man speaks up for the first time.

"You really should follow up on that Bellisario connection," he says, "He's a good guy."

I don't have time to take it in, slamming my mouth shut, I hop off the train as the doors close, nearly catching my heel.


Anonymous said...

Your second answer anchors it. Despite all of his noise.

Chemical Billy said...

Thanks ever so, Jason...