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on the ferry.
I d be better off with one of those anorexic killers who
live on coffee and hardball contract negotiations and bitter
gossip, but I ve stuck with Zak because, frankly, I get enough
rejection in this business without taking it from my agent. I
wouldn t go so far as to describe us as close, but we get a kick
out of each other, and we ve continued to stick it out when
there were smarter options on both sides. There are mar-
riages based on less. It d be a good thing to get this job, if for
no other reason than to justify his faith.
I run the lines until they stop echoing back in my ears,
then head back into the office and return the key. Brad Wha-
len and Kyle are gone. I scout a chair next to a husky blond
fellow who s carrying on an animated but soundless conver-
sation with himself. His eyebrows raise then furrow, his lips
move, then his features twist into an exaggerated expression
of disdain. It s like watching a silent movie.
My name is called and I startle. I pull myself to my feet,
take a deep breath, begin smiling inside my head. I don
the persona of Hal: confident, earnest. I get ready to do my
stuff.
Bippety bip bippety bop, I m in the door, all smiles and
bonhomie. The wax museum is lined up behind a long table:
the director, the playwright, the casting director, the assist-
ant to the director, each one sporting the glazed facsimile
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dan in the gray flannel rat suit
of a smile. I do the lightning round of introductions, shake
hands up and down the table like a seasoned politician, go
to the empty stool in front of the table, and ask the reader
her name, which I promptly forget. Then the scene. It flies,
they re awake, and they re asking to see something else, the
scene with the reporter. I slide into gear again, and then it
happens: I step through the looking glass. On the other side,
there is a reporter asking me questions about a young woman
Hal knew in Grand Rapids. Katherine Sellers. Kathy. She
was wearing a white nightgown that held the shadows of her
thighs, and her shoulders were like small birds. Just that once,
late at night, while Janice and the children slept upstairs.
When she moved underneath me, I heard wings rustling. It
might have been a dream. A brilliant light shines directly in
my eyes and faces swim feverishly at the edges of my vision.
I smile into the light, willing myself to speak slowly into the
proffered microphone.  Miss Sellers lived with our family
briefly while she was attending college. She helped my wife,
Janice, with the boys after Kirk was born. Miss Sellers at-
tended our church and was a fine young Christian woman.
I don t know why she would fabricate this kind of . . . I feel
like I m going to puke. Some cold and predatory corner of
my brain, though, is measuring the auditioners, gauging the
heat of their attention. They have stepped across with me.
When the scene is over, there is a fraction of a minute
before the tension snaps and we re back in the room. The
playwright, Arthur Haines, grins confidentially to me.
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debra dean
 That was great, Dan, as though we ve known each other
for years. The director nods his agreement and seems to be
looking me over again, envisioning me in the role. There s
a brief whispered exchange, then the casting director says,
 Good reading, Dan. Thanks. I m out the door. Ten min-
utes, tops. That s all it takes to change the direction your life
is heading in.
It has stopped raining, but the air is still steamy and trop-
ical with the smells of overripe garbage and fruit. Sun glints
off water coursing down the flooded street. Like Gene Kelly,
I want to stamp through the gutters, dance into those pud-
dles, to hell with my already soggy loafers. Instead, I wait
expectantly at the curb, careful not to get splashed, bouncing
on my twinkle toes and waiting for the sea of traffic to part
just long enough for me to dart across. I m giddy, ready for
my luck to change.
As it turns out, I didn t have to wait long. Good news was
already blinking on my answering machine by the time I
walked in the door this afternoon. Beep: Tribeca Rep wants
to see me again in the morning. And in a when-it-rains-
it-pours mode, another beep: I ve been put on first refusal
for the Dobbins Copier commercial. Beep, beep, beep, beep,
beep.
It s premature to start counting my chickens. I know that
from experience. A callback is a long way from an offer. And
even a first refusal doesn t necessarily mean they ll use you.
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dan in the gray flannel rat suit
They re covering their asses. These days, there may be two
or three other actors on the back burner with you.
Still, I can t stop my brain from racing on ahead with-
out me, whizzing down the arterials, turning out at every
promising side street. Part of me may be standing here at my
post behind the bar, but the rest is far away, lofted into a fu-
ture from which I can see this restaurant the speckled pink
walls, the framed and autographed photo of Sinatra over the
cash register, the same tapes looping over and over, and even
myself, the bartender zesting lemons like a zombie all of it
tinted with nostalgia.
At nine o clock, there are three customers on the other
side of the bar, a pair of nurses and, of course, Marv. Marv is
the professional hazard of this job, the regular who monopo-
lizes the TV and takes all his phone calls at the bar, dispenses
unwanted advice, and generally makes himself at home. I m
his  old buddy, a dubious status accorded to anyone pouring
out the CC and soda, and carrying with it the burden of hear-
ing whatever thoughts are currently circulating through his
sodden brain. Right now, he s holding forth on some theory
he s heard concerning bats, the depletion of the bat popula-
tion. It seems to have something to do with architecture and
Vatican II; I ve been tuning in only just often enough to nod
in the right places, so I may have lost a critical thread. On
the floor, it is similarly quiet, only a few couples becalmed
on a sea of white tables. The ceiling fans tick lethargically,
pushing dust motes through the warm air. The waiters shift
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debra dean
from one foot to the other, scoping out their tables on the sly
and then slipping out to the kitchen for a smoke. A typical
Monday night, the dead shift in the week. I m only half here,
but that s more than enough.
 They slept under the eaves and in the bell tower. All
those doodads served a purpose, is what he s saying, you
know? Yes, we must still be on bats. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]