When my food stopped disappearing from the refrigerator, I began to suspect that Dan had found another place to live. But I couldn’t get too excited, since it had happened before. At least four times that I knew of, and possibly more I hadn’t noticed, because they’d only lasted a night or two. Plus, there was still a lot of junk in his room.
Not wanting to jinx the situation, I hadn’t yet tried to contact him. Maybe he’d forgotten where he was staying rent free, and calling would only remind him; I wasn’t sure. What mattered now was I was experiencing the giddy sensation of being a youngish bachelor in West Los Angeles with an apartment all to himself.
Then, I got that call, and the sensation became less giddy. I answered the same way I always answered, at work: “International Marketing, this is Chris.”
“Chris, my friend! How you doing?”
“Dan?” I asked, trying to get my bearings. It was dirty pool, calling me at work. “What—um, what can I do for you?”
“We need some things,” he said, as if I’d already been fully informed of the backstory. “Can I get a couple of Zombie Knight press kits, and, oh, let’s say eight CarBots 4 posters, and—”
“Hold on. Why would I send you our studio promotional materials? That’s for members of HIP—”
“I know that,” he interrupted, rudely. “I’m at Marcella’s, and she needs this stuff to write authoritatively about the films. You know how it works. Can I also get some Paranoid Mike hats? Let’s say five.”
“Marcella Ginty? Writer for the Sao Paolo Ledger? Are you working for her now?” It was difficult to imagine Dan working as an assistant to Marcella, although, in fairness to her, it was difficult to imagine Dan working at any job.
“Working for her?” he laughed. “You’re lucky we’re old friends, otherwise I’d choose to take offense at that. She and I are dating.”
I swiveled in my chair, away from Philip’s office door, and blocked the receiver with my hand. I was about to stammer, and I didn’t want the head of the department to hear me. “You—You’re ‘dating’ her? She’s—She’s got to be in—in her eighties!”
“She’s a vital and exciting eighty-three,” Dan sniffed. “And she’s keeping me on my toes!”
I did some math in my head. A lot of my job unfortunately involves credits and debits, so it came easily, if appallingly. “She’s fifty-four years older than you! You—Your mother isn’t even fifty-four!”
“Chris,” he said, with mock altruism. “You’re stammering. Calm down. It’s okay. And while you’re calming down, could you see if you’ve got any Galaxy Battle posters in that storage closet? You know how much I love that movie. Oh! And how about some Galaxy Battle action figures? Especially any female supporting characters, like Corporal Lalaho. Hardly anyone bought those back in the day, and now they’re selling for obscene amounts on eBay …”
“First of all,” I growled, “that was a Millennial Studios film. Second, it was released in 1978, so even if it had been a Mountaincrest Studios release, we don’t keep promotional items that long! Space is at a premium on the lot! Third and most important, this studio isn’t your personal toy chest!”
At this point, a conversation I’d had a few days before with Jennifer Mora, my counterpart at DreamTime Studios, took on a new context. Jennifer had called to ask if I had any idea what was wrong with Marcella, whom she claimed was acting even more strangely than usual at their Something Smells international press screening—even going so far as to get into an argument with the president of HIP, the equally ancient Andre Medina. Tension among HIPsters was legendary, but they rarely aired their dirty laundry.
Jennifer had mentioned that Marcella had replaced her previous “boy toy” with a more obnoxious model, who’d spent most of the screening in the theater lobby, swiping finger sandwiches from the buffet and stuffing them in his jacket pockets. Of course that was Dan—how many times had he done the same thing at the Mountaincrest screenings I’d gotten him into? The only thing was, I seemed to remember Jennifer saying that the new paramour was named “Richard.” Maybe he was using an alias; it wouldn’t be the first time.
I really enjoyed this issue. The reason I bought it is that it included an article by Ricky Sprague. Now and then I stick his name in Amazon to see if there is anything new. I love his stories because they are usually so outrageous I would never think of them myself. This story has a great ending. Thanks Ricky.