Alan slid the pay phone door shut while he waited for Wally to come on the line.
“Walter, how are you? Can we still meet this afternoon?”
“Hiya Alan. Sure, come on by.” Wally sounded slightly out of breath.
“Do you have any beer on hand?”
“No, you’d better stop and get some. I can’t keep beer in this Goddamn place for more than an hour.”
“Are you mobbed right now?”
“No, I’m doing a dirty puzzle. So, hurry up. It’s getting to the good parts.”
Wally hung up. The guy had no class.
Alan stopped off at a small delicatessen on 54th street and walked out with a six-pack of Michelob. The day was hot, clammy, and gray. Alan noted the shorter skirts on the girls crossing Park Avenue.
He had been told to check in with the guard before going up to his old offices to meet with Wally. He managed to catch Mr. Harris’ eye and nodded a greeting. The guard lifted his hand, acknowledging Alan as if it were a normal day. Alan didn’t feel betrayed as he had expected, nor resentful, nor suspicious. Strangely, he didn’t feel anything. A glass mirror on the wall invited him to look at himself. A light gray suit, white shirt, red tie. Not bad, he thought. It must have been the lighting, the suit looked new. His own face appeared surprisingly rested and composed, certainly not the way he felt. Had he slept well?
Was it his imagination or were the brass plates around the elevator buttons unpolished? The textured wallpaper peeling where it met the once glossy black floor? The elevator opened.
Two well-dressed men got out laughing.
“On the waterbed!” one exclaimed.
“And you fixed them up?” the other squeaked as they passed.
The elevator smelled heavily of aftershave.
In the northwest corner of the thirty-third floor, a young secretary in lime green with Lynn Redgrave hair smiled at Alan and gestured for him to go in.
The door to Wally’s place was ajar and Alan could hear music from inside. Jesus, what a way to work, he thought.
“Hello sport,” Wally grinned and got up to shake Alan’s hand. Despite the recent mess, he seemed to think they were old and good pals.
Wally had transformed Lou’s office into a living room: stainless steel drooping floor lamps; two oversized, overstuffed sofas facing each other; a glass-topped table with three different colored phones on it; copies of Motion Picture Daily and Variety. He had been sitting at a half moon style desk with a yellow phone on it.
The phone rang. Alan could hear the secretary through the open door.
“Mr. Hendricks, it’s Mel Fox, from Film Gems on two.”
Wally pressed the two button. Alan turned and sat.
“Let’s say Wednesday. Mickey’s? God, not that toilet!” Alan took a deep breath.
Alan took a deep breath. The King’s Pub, known as Mickey’s, was an utterly pompous and phony restaurant where guys in the agency and film businesses went for lunch. They loved the owner. Mickey Scarpatti, a big sweet Italian who probably carried a .38, was said to have once hurled an argumentative customer across the bar. Alan and other Dunaway people—Wally before he went over to Baker and Dodge—went to Mickey’s almost every day. It was so uncomplicated, no airs.
“So Alan. Here we are.”
“No, Wally you are here. I’m out.”
“You could have stayed. I told you it would be new. But Tom assured us both that you have a place if you want it. It’s the work that has to change, Alan. Jamesville is no different than the rest, they want impact, emotion.”
“Cut the crap, Wally. What I want to know is how you did it. How did you get to Bob Howe? He’s a meat and potatoes sort of guy. He doesn’t have an imagination. How did you get to him?”
Wally turned his designer office chair playfully from side to side.
“Well, I guess you could say I double crossed Baker.”
“They were pretty sure they had the business. I talked to an old friend…”
“Exactly. Baker and Dodge presented a campaign that had only about one less platitude than the Dunaway boards.”
“Thanks a lot.”
“It was good work, just reminded me of Mister Ed. Funny show, but Alan, they canceled Mister Ed over a year ago. But the thing is Charlie Whacker at Baker didn’t know that I had friends at Jamesville.”
“Remember Mike, the red-headed fellow at the presentation? He’s actually the son of old man Jamesville, and I went to college with him. Well, really I went to the student bar with him and we shared a girlfriend at one point, but he’s hip. And he’s VP. He wants creative animated advertising, believes that a new campaign will prove his value to his father and the company.
“So, I show Bob the boards I worked up that I know Mike likes and tell Bob that if he brings me back as creative supervisor, Dunaway has Jamesville.”
All the meetings and phone calls, the work, the dozens of boards the art directors had drawn and tossed—all at his bidding. The lost weekend, the call from Buffy…scenes swirled around in his head and for a minute Alan thought he heard voices.
One of the pastel colored phones on the table began to ring. Alan looked at the table: yellow, green, blue and pink. How would Wally know which one to pick up?
Something shoved him.
“Alan Wake up! That’s the next gal.”
Alan opened his eyes. Mel Fox leaned over him, his bronze neck setting off a thick gold chain.
“Alan, man! You dozed off. The last model is here for the older gal part. We need to get through so we can go to lunch. Everyone is starved. You okay?”
Alan shook his head. Hollywood. The casting session.
“But we already chose. Didn’t we? You said I’d like her. Claire Whitman. Just now.”
“No, Alan you must have been dreaming. It’s the next gal, Jill, I thought you’d like. And… here she is!” Mel was walking to the door.
“Christ.” Alan stood to shake her hand. Must be those beds at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
© Lisa Anderson 2016