A serialized story by, George Kaplan
What’s my name? You don’t need to know that, just call me, let’s see… David. It’s not exactly “Call me Ishmael” but it’ll do.
A few years ago I changed jobs, after spending close to a decade as an actor, mostly on-stage with a few screen roles here and there. One day it came to me that I wasn’t really enjoying it any more, that I still wanted to be in the industry but not in front of an audience or a camera. I’d helped a few of my friends get jobs because I had a talent for advice even if that advice didn’t really seem to pay off for me. My agent, the redoubtable and no-bullshit Martha Windust, had taken note of my disquiet and suggested to me in her deceptively gentle way that, perhaps, just perhaps, I should step behind-the-scenes and work my way into being an advocate for actors. That is, come over to her side of the fence and become – horror of horrors – an agent! I resisted at first, made excuses, said I didn’t have the education, the necessary knowledge, the background. Martha waved these objections away as irrelevancies, as if they were midges bothering her on a warm day; she told me that she could get me an “in” at an agency, that I would start as an assistant and learn on the job. Now, I can’t tell you the name of the agency, and I’m purposely eliding and distorting details of the work because they don’t matter but I’ll just say that Martha was as good as her word, I got hired on at a management agency as an assistant. I was basically assisting people whose job was to assist actors and other entertainment types, a neat conundrum assisting assistants, even if those assistants were high-powered.
Still, those “assistants” above me were powerful, they made a lot of money, and were absolutely not to be messed with. I originally worked for a guy named Bernie Birnbaum, a man with quite possibly the thickest and most impressive head of hair I have ever seen (seriously, you’d need titanium shears to cut it) and a vocabulary that was composed of at least 75% curse words yet was also possessed of a sweet nature and a fierce devotion to his clients. Bernie regarded me warily at first but after a couple of royal fuck-ups that alternately pissed off and amused one of his favorite clients I soon got into the groove of the work and took some of the extraneous weight off his shoulders and, who knows, maybe his magnificent thatch as well. Soon enough we were friends, and soon after that he recommended me to assist the Triumvirate.
The Triumvirate were the agency’s crack team, they dealt with the most complicated deals and the most important clients (translation: usually the most needy, mercurial, and annoying pains-in-the-ass), depending on the situation they would work separately or together and they were very, very good at their jobs. I’d met one of them, a tall, lean, good-looking ex-athlete named Carey Brackett through Bernie; Carey was a surprisingly nice man with an ascetic mien that served to wrong-foot you when you were introduced to his exceedingly filthy sense of humor. Brackett could be intense in negotiation and you had to behave in a certain way around him but if you did so then he was a pleasure to work both with – and for. Knowing Brackett took the edge off what would have otherwise been a daunting change, and it helped that Bernie was there to introduce me to the others. The second of whom was Clayton Fernell; Fernell was a bald, kind of baggy-looking guy with a precise business brain, a formidable temper when riled, and an unrivaled ability to mollify difficult clients and business associates.
Unlike the forty-something Brackett, Fernell at sixty-four didn’t give too much attention to his appearance yet this seemed to be part of his charm. From our first meeting I liked him and could see it would be a pleasure working for him; a feeling that proved fully justified. But… I’m delaying… There was, of course, a third person in the triumvirate and she’s part of the reason I’m telling this story. Well, two of the reasons, really. What’s that? You don’t know what I mean? Oh, you’ll find out, trust me, things are about to get weird… Now, where was I? Oh, yes, the last member of the triumvirate. As you caught that “she” you know she was a woman. Her name was – and is – Grace Mark. And from the first moment I saw her I knew I was in trouble.
Some people that you meet have an immediate, startling effect on you. Not very many but I’m sure you’ve experienced this, too. The starting effects vary, it may be that you just know that you will be friends with a person, there’s just something there, an “I don’t know what it is” about them and it’s just meant to be; or, at the other extreme, there are those you encounter who, just as immediately, you know you will dislike, and who will likely loathe you in return. Perhaps, there’s a rational explanation, perhaps not, in the end that doesn’t matter, what matters is the weird accuracy of the sensation. Of that inexplicable yet true prophecy. Even if that sentence sounds, at first blush, like New Agey nonsense.
The first time I saw Grace Mark I didn’t get the feeling that we would be bosom buddies nor that we were destined to hate each other; no, the feeling I got was something closer to deja vu or a species of pleasant but overwhelming vertigo. I have to be honest, this strange, woozy feeling was accompanied with other simpler, more earthbound sensations; I don’t want you to think that this explains it all, or that I was summoning up some eccentric eldritch fantasy around mundane feelings and desires, but nor do I want to deny the very straightforward, very embarrassing sensations that Grace Mark caused me from the first moment I laid eyes upon her, as the cliché goes.
You see, Grace Mark (and you’ll forgive me if I use her full name, it’s habit) was beautiful; I don’t mean “good-looking” but Truly Beautiful, worthy of the capitalization. This wasn’t about a particular “type” I might have she was, though I hesitate to be so obvious, she was breathtaking to me. No description could do her justice and I don’t intend to sink into Harlequin Romance territory but quite apart from her appearance she had an aura, something that seemed to reach out and envelop me like spiritual perfume. So much for not sinking to the level of a bad romance novel, eh? Her skin was like porcelain, her eyes held you with a level yet somehow teasing gaze brown and depthless, she wore her brunette hair in an elegant, manageable bob both no-nonsense and impeccable. Oh, and before you think me just a hopeless romantic, she also compelled within me somewhat baser urges. Her mouth promised decadent delights and as with her eyes there was a sense of challenge about it. Grace Mark was knowing, comfortable in her own sensuality, and looked as if she knew exactly what you were thinking and feeling, and, what’s more, found it all deliciously amusing. So, I think you can understand when I say my mouth was alternately dry and watering when I was introduced to her.
“Grace,” said Bernie, moments after I had been ushered into Grace Mark’s seemingly gym-sized office, “this is David, your new assistant. Carey and Fernell said I should perform the introductions. Why you couldn’t all meet together, I don’t know. Didn’t want to intimidate him, eh?” Grace Mark smiled, she regarded me intently, the smile not leaving her lips but seeming more amused by something she seemed to sense in me. I had been curiously unsettled at the prospect of this meeting which wasn’t entirely like me but I hadn’t expected my palms to be perspiring as if water was seeking immediate egress, and I certainly hadn’t expected the shame of an uncomfortable erection straining against my newly-bought and tremblingly expensive pants; I needed badly to shift position and get my treacherous member into a more comfortable and less conspicuous position, yet I had a terrifying fantasy of Grace Mark noticing the smallest move, registering my arousal, turning that gaze and that almost disdainful smile upon me before denouncing me as a pervert and telling me to get the hell out! Even now I can’t be sure that she did not notice, but what she said, after an uncomfortable pause, was “In-TIM-id-AY-ted. Oh, I don’t think he’s intimidated by me, are you, David?” That’s how it started, with a question simple on the surface but teasing underneath, and with me feeling both sick and aroused by a witty and powerful woman, who seemed somehow familiar, though I didn’t know why, as the only thing I knew about her was her reputation. I was about to start working with a woman whose effect on me would prove to be highly unpredictable. And who would finally lead me to a bizarre revelation.
© George Kaplan for Vickie Lester and Beguiling Hollywood, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to George Kaplan for Vickie Lester and Beguiling Hollywood with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
You are, obviously, absolutely *heavenly* Ms Vickie! Alchemy is, of course, dedicated to you. What a privilege to see it posted at Beguiling Hollywood.
Great tags, too: “New agey nonsense” and “treacherous member” stand out! You transform lead into Gold indeed. 🙂
Infinite Hugs, George x
Mr. George, thanks for inviting us to attend your Hollywood party – and I must say, as someone who proofed your manuscript, it’s quite a *celebration*.
*I’m glad to hear it*, Ms Vickie! *winks* Bwahahahaha!
Seriously, you are incredibly Kind, says Mr George * (oops, stray asterisk… Pesky… :))
Oooh, I love it! And I feel like I just got spit out on the other side of a hurricane–yes, this is going to be one wild ride so “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night!”
I am hooked and will eat this dish served hot or cold, Ms. V.
Merci Mr. K!
Ah, Heather, Heather, Heather, How lovely of you to say that! And an All About Eve quotation too! How lucky I am. I hope that you enjoy the rest of the story, a wild ride in a tornado may well be in store…
Warm regards, Mr K 😉
I have been through TWO tornadoes, Mr. K. Bring it on…
oh, a web exclusive! that’s fabulous.
and what a thrilling beginning. #hooked
Hi Beautycalyptique! Thanks for your flattering words. I hope you are sufficiently tantalized…or at least that’s the idea, building anticipation between installments so that the impact is, hopefully, satisfying! 🙂
Mr. K? This is not a woman that gives out compliments like bon-bons, she means what she says! She drives a Harley! Impressive, non?
I enjoyed the first read and I’m most certainly anticipating to be back for more 😉
George!!! Amazing! What a fun start to a story. I love it. It has an old fashion playfulness to it. I had a smile on my face the whole time I was reading it, I even burst into laughter, here and there. (Starting with Ishmael and ending with tremblingly expensive pants!) lol! David feels like a dear friend, someone you can’t wait to hear from because he injects everything with humor.
Carry on, Georgius, carry on. 😉
Lisa, so pleased you like it and the laughter is great to hear about, I enjoyed writing those aspects you chortled at and the *rest* of the story too, in truth I LOVED writing it! Thank You!
Many Hugs, Georgius x 🙂
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