Jack Scribe
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BAKED BEANS - 1. Short Story

            

     

BAKED BEANS

    Los Angeles, land of endless promise. And endless failure. Of the instant hierarchy, the spray-on tan, the copped feel. L.A., where anything can happen at any time to some poor schmuck or lucky bastard. Where anything can happen to you.

    L.A. is a city of memorable faces. Even the unattractive character actors have that certain something, that exemplification of type. The others, too, lodge in the mind. The near misses. All lacking that extra it. L.A. will devour them. It will crush them into inconsequentiality, grind them to paste and smear them through the city’s forgotten alleys.

    New meat arrives by the busload. They pour out of LAX and off the freeways, chattel for the abattoir, groomed for the altar.

    Gregg Hurwitz

    The Crime Writer & Trust No One

    ______________________________

     

    “I’m telling you, Brock, there’s no interest in having any further discussions. Zip. Nada. Basically, they don’t feel you’re right for the part.”

    The infamous they

    A late Friday afternoon, career-sniping bull’s-eye – another piece of movie stardom crumbling away – and Brock Burnett was the target. Jason, a talent agent at Interscape Creative Management’s Beverly Hills office, had just delivered the latest salvo over a telephone landline’s last bastion of power – the office speakerphone.

    “Pick up.” Brock was momentarily shocked but no longer surprised; he was now used to the taste of defeat. Like being invited out for dinner and ending up at Taco Bell a few minutes after it’d closed.

    He held his cell phone for a moment and caught a glimpse of his famous body in the mirrored wall. The Hollywood pretty boy – an iconic sex symbol who’d been the envy of young men around the world who turned women to mush…or used to. The child actor who’d seamlessly transitioned through his teen years with one successful film after another. The teen athlete who’d quarterbacked his high school football team to championships. The young adult who was at the clubs every night with Lindsey, Brittany and whoever else was into partying into the wee hours. Tough, when call-time to be on the set was six in the morning and he frequently didn’t show until after nine.

    That was then. Now, after a series of box office duds, the luster of his star was tarnished and he was on his way to becoming an asterisk in the history of faded celebrities. The stardust had turned to sand. Not only was there an absence of scripts, he didn’t even rank getting whisked into the hottest clubs via the VIP line or having his drinks comp’d. Or getting into clubs he’d trashed before seeking AA help and a well-publicized trip to the Betty Ford for rehab. The days of traveling and partying with his posse were history.

    With the help of supermarket tabloids, Brock had achieved an unwanted legend status…the only positive aspect was that Charlie Sheehan had supplanted him as the biggest out-of-control celebrity in town. And while Brock had mended himself, the public wasn’t ready to forgive him.  

    Brock looked closer at his six-foot image in the mirror. Subtle smile lines at the corners of his brilliant green eyes now modified his still-boyish looks; the result was a rakish image of a man who’d experienced life to its fullest and barely survived. His head of shaggy brown hair was arranged in an acceptable state of messiness, matching the color of the furry trail that began around his ‘innie’ button and disappeared under his khaki shorts. Genetics had also dealt him a good hand in the body department for close-ups – his smooth, hairless chest and ripple of abs were constantly revealed in his films. The fans demanded it…or used to.

    But beneath this façade, Brock was emotionally awash with a rising tide of self-doubt. At thirty-four, he wondered if he was becoming another Hollywood has-been. One of those what-ever-happened-to guys.

    “Whaduya mean, ‘I’m not right for the part’? This was supposed to be a no-brainer.” Brock spoke louder than his usual baritone mellowness that’d caused millions of tweens to swoon several years earlier.  He wanted Jason to hear his pain without sounding whiny and needy. “I only read five lousy lines at the callback and everyone seemed pleased. They said so. And that was on top of the crummy audition tape you made me do.”

    The part was a third-lead character role in a HBO mini-series. Not much face time, but good exposure to his dwindling fan base and the industry suits – especially the film’s primary producer, Mark Wahlberg, who was now one of the biggest suits in Hollywood.

    “Chill, bro…it was the director’s decision, not mine. Don’t shoot the messenger.”

    “Bang, bang. Chillin’s not acceptable.” Brock was not up to playing the indignant client but he had no choice but to respond. “I want a project.”

    “I’m doing the best I can. You didn’t want the gig on Dancing with the Stars.”

    “Puleeze, I wasn’t going to make a fool of myself prancing around in sequins on national TV.”

    “And there was that shot at getting Celebrity Apprentice,” Jason shot back.

    “Having a schmuck like Donald Trump fire me ain’t any better.”

    Silence, then an audible sigh by Jason.

    A sinking feeling started churning in Brock’s stomach and he began pacing in his compact living room that was decorated with framed movie posters from happier times. His career was on the rocks after several years of being on top; it was time to admit that the situation had gone beyond being just a temporary setback. His last two movies were stinkers and his taste for adult beverages hadn’t helped. Although he now had his drinking mostly under control – thanks to his meetings with other ‘Friends of Bill’ – the out-of-control-party-boy reputation was following him like a dog in heat; he realized that he’d been tagged as damaged goods.

    “How about me talking to Ari? Maybe it’s time to take a meeting with the man and figure out how to get back in the groove.” Ari Silverman had originally handled Brock, twenty years earlier, and was now the president of the powerful Interscape agency. “I earned a lot of bread for him.”

    “And I know he appreciates it,” Jason replied. “But that was then, and this is…”

    “…You’re saying?”

    “I’m your guy at the agency and it’s been…quite honestly…a bitch to package you with all your baggage, real or perceived. I can’t even get product endorsements in Japan…and that’s usually a no-brainer.”

    Brock was stunned by the simplicity of the answer and he knew it’d do no good to go into one of his famous snits. That didn’t work anymore.

    “So, even if I’m off booze and controlled substances, I just slide into oblivion? I was king of the hill in this town…for Christ’s sake. I’ve been a good boy since I got sober.” It was all he could do to hold back a sniveling sob. “Jeez, Jason, it’s a bitch not to be working. I don’t want a charity fuck…but there must be something you can do…I mean, even at my worst I never pulled any Lohan or Sheen shit.”

    “Truth time, babe. It’s hard to market you with your rep, clean or otherwise. I dunno…maybe we could package you in some sort of dinner theater…Ohio, maybe…just to keep your name alive.”

    “That’s all I need…a week at shit hole in Dayton or Youngstown. Two drinks, a buffet and the chance to see the famous Brock Burnett act in some tired play scaled down to a no-intermission, fifty-five minutes. Man, that totally sucks.”

    “Just an idea…but I think I’ve tapped myself dry for you. Totally.”

    “Then, I’m outta your hair. Tell Ari it’s been fun…but I’m going elsewhere…even if it means bagging groceries.”

    “Whoa…don’t walk off the plank, Brock. There’s no safety net and…”

    “…Thanks for reminding me. You can take this as my official resignation from the agency. Send my release this afternoon. You know the drill.” Brock abruptly turned off his cell phone. Nothing like burning bridges. Add Ari and Jason to a long list.

    He looked out the kitchen window of his small apartment above the detached three-car garage and studied the manicured grounds surrounding him. Brock still had a few real friendships that hadn’t turned toxic and he rented from an actress friend who was riding high on a long-running TV series. The rent was reasonable and he had a Brentwood address to keep up appearances. I can’t be washed up…can I? Done? Finito? Brock figured that he had enough savings to squeak by for another year, at the most. Then what?

    He stooped down to fish out a bottle of water from the kitchen cabinet. In the corner was a forgotten 1.75 liter bottle of Jack Daniels that was a quarter full. A thin layer of dust attested to Brock’s fortitude in staving off temptation for the past several months. He’d been a good boy. ‘Yeah, and guess what being good got me.’ He looked at his watch and noticed that the small hand was on the ‘5’. ‘It won’t hurt to take a taste for old times sake. What the hell, it’s not like I’ve got work to do.’

    A taste became a few, which became more.

     

    The early morning starlit sky was transitioning – that moment when darkness gives way to an eerie blue-ish gray. Coyotes that lived around the nearby Wilshire Country Club were singing, and a great desert owl perched in a nearby eucalyptus tree was making final hooting calls before the sun interrupted such nocturnal play.

    Brock shifted in his leather car seat and cautiously opened one eye. Where the hell am I? His head was throbbing from the unsuccessful bout with Black Jack and his cramped body struggled to stretch. Man, it’s been a while since I woke up in my car. At least I had enough sense to put the top up. In the back of his mind, he could see the empty bottle sitting on the kitchen counter and recalled hitting a few bars in West Hollywood, and finally being cut off by a less-than-friendly bartender.

    While moving his hand over to unlatch his seat belt, Brock almost knocked over a half-full paper cup. At least my reflexes are working.He picked up the cup, vaguely remembering buying coffee at the 7-Eleven on Wilshire and Highland sometime after midnight. He cringed. I could’ve been pulled over for a DWI.

    Lotta good the caffeine did…but at least I didn’t get in a wreck and wipe out my wheels. ‘Wheels’ was a ten-year old Mercedes CLK 430 convertible – one of his last assets from the gravy days as an in-demand actor. He looked down and saw he was still in his khaki cargo shorts from yesterday, but had put on a favorite Polo shirt and was wearing his trusty Sperry Topsiders. Whatever faults he had, always dressing his preppy-best was not one of them.

    The other eyelid popped open and he focused on the house to his right. Fuck, my home. Make that former home. Where he’d spent almost two years with his wife and baby son. Let’s see…the little dude is almost seven…whew…long time ago since I was here…inside. His re-married ‘ex’ and son now lived in Westwood, and Brock was usually good about being ‘dad’ every other weekend. He momentarily saw the shadows of his son fleeting across the front lawn before the pixilated image disappeared with a poof into the approaching dawn.

    Another image unfolded as his eyes shifted to the high stucco wall that hid the pool area. One afternoon, when his wife and son were over in the Valley to visit her parents, Brock had decided to call Aaron for old times sake. Aside from being a high school pal and former teammate – Aaron was the reserve quarterback to Brock’s starting QB position at Santa Monica High School – the two guys had moved their friendship into a not-so-innocent fuckbuddy status and maintained that randy relationship right up to graduation. They’d kept in touch through Aaron’s college years and were groomsmen at each other’s weddings. But, aside from an occasional phone call, the fornifriend days were behind them. Until that afternoon six years earlier.

    Aaron had arrived and, after an initial period of uneasiness, the two guys fell comfortably into each other’s arms on a poolside chaise lounge. For the next hour, Brock and Aaron revisited their mutual sexual interest, finishing off the afternoon with some old-fashioned skinny-dipping and horseplay. Later, after a few burgers and beers, the two guys bumped knuckles, hugged and silently went their separate ways.

    To the left of the stucco wall, the familiar Spanish revival structure sprawled before him with its perfectly sculpted landscaping. The backdrop sky changed to a tinted orange-ish pink as daybreak pushed away the grayish solitude and revealed the manicured carpet of grass, glistening from the morning dew. Brock watched a red-tailed hawk glide low over the estate and disappear past the golf course trees. He reached into the glove compartment and found his morning pacifier – a bottle of aspirin. He tapped three tablets into his hand, tossed them into his dry mouth and used the cold coffee for a chaser. Yuck, leftover hazelnut. I suppose I better hi-tail it to a meeting today and repent for falling off the wagon.

    The tint of celestial pink gave way to the onrushing sun. Another day in Los Angeles had begun.

    This wasn’t the first time he’d ended up on Hudson Place – one of the premier neighborhoods in fashionable Hancock Park – after an evening of heavy drinking. But his last visit had been about a year earlier. The perks of fame and fortune had slowly slipped away over the previous four years and this stucco and tile mansion was the most prominent symbol of Brock’s material demise. That his career continued to fall down a seemingly bottomless pit played hell with his personal and professional confidence.Why do I keep punishing myself by coming back here? Things are just things.But he knew very well why he returned to the house. It was a reminder that all things were possible in this wacky town. He wasn’t ready to roll his famous body over and accept defeat…even if he’d blown the previous day’s casting call.

    With a wrinkle of feigned disgust, he took another sip of the stale brew and looked at himself in the rearview mirror. Whoa, I better get to my real digs and mend. Between the puffiness of his eyelids and the red bloodshot pupils, Brock knew he was a mess. Maybe I’ll book a massage after my workout. It was abs day at the gym, and the idea of a good rubdown and a steam bath afterwards soothed his emotions. He looked at the clock on the dash and focused. 6:15. Time to boogie before someone calls the cops about some lurking stalker. That’s all I’d need.

    Brock fired up his gas-slurping 4.3L V-8 and eased away from the curb.

    While traveling west on Wilshire Boulevard, Brock sighted the same 7-Eleven he’d visited hours earlier. ‘Might as well get a fresh cup and get my head really screwed on. Maybe a bottle of water, too.’

    Except for an old beater Nissan backing out, the parking lot was vacant. The windows were heavily tinted and Brock could only make out the form of someone sitting in the driver’s seat. His defensive antenna went up and the idea of running into some sort of gangbanger this early in the morning momentarily popped up. Eh…no biggie. The dude’s probably just a worker-bee on his way to a job. Probably got a Danish and a cuppa Joe. He put on his celebrity disguise of a LA Dodgers baseball cap and sunglasses and stepped outside, locked the car door as a precaution, and briskly walked to the store’s entrance.

    A fast scan revealed the clerk at the counter reading a newspaper and a guy, dressed in running gear and wearing a sweatband above his forehead, back by the cold beverages section. As he approached the bottled water section in the corner of the back-wall refrigerators, the dude turned slightly and Brock registered surprise with a gasp. Friggin’ Aaron. What a coincidence. In a nano-second, Brock drank in his old friend’s image. Time had been kind and Aaron’s honed muscles showed through the clinging tank top. The large armholes confirmed Aaron still worked on his six-pack abs and his jogging shorts molded tightly over a firm butt. Memories of showering after a team scrimmage flashed through Brock’s mind.

    “Hey, Aaron…buddy.” Brock smiled as his friend turned and flipped on a broad smile.

    “Super stud, himself. Kee-rist, this is a surprise.” Aaron grinned, opened his arms and added, “If you’re not afraid of a little sweat, git over here.”

    “Never was a problem.” Brock pocketed his sunglasses and flipped around his cap.

    He moved closer, carefully pushed Aaron into a corner and eased naturally into a firm embrace. Aaron’s warm body felt wonderful. They held on just long enough for Brock to inhale Aaron’s muskiness. Standing close, it didn’t take much guesswork to determine that Aaron was either running commando or just wearing a flimsy jock. Brock pulled away, put his hands on Aaron’s solid biceps and admired his old friend’s features. The brilliant blue eyes, the square jaw with a fashionable stubble, and a nose that had been broken and re-set a few times.

    “Same old Brock. Except for a little wear and tear from a recent party, you’re looking good. Still live around here?”

    “Naw,” Brock replied with a shaking head, “And the partying is over. I was in the neighborhood and drove by the old house for a bit of nostalgia. I’m in Brentwood now…by myself. How about you?”

    “Joined the ‘by myself’ category a few years ago. I have a one-bedroom apartment near the museum.”

    “You shoulda called.” Brock released his grip on Aaron’s arms and smiled. Called for old times sake.

    “Thought about it, but you seemed to be going through a lot of shit and I didn’t want to get in the way.” Aaron shrugged and sighed. “Sorry about all the publicity you’ve gotten…I probably should have called. If you have time, what say we grab a cup of coffee at Starbuck’s and shoot the shit? All I’ve got going this morning are Saturday errands and laundry.”

    “That would be super. I’ve got all the time in the world today.”

    Suddenly, a buzzer noise and a banging of the front door interrupted Brock’s anticipation of a reunion with Aaron.Brock caught an alarming sight through a gap between the corner wall and a food display: entering the store was a guy with a handgun, dressed in a hooded sweatshirt, ski mask and jeans.

    Oh, fuck. He immediately put his finger to his mouth and pulled Aaron down to a crouching position behind the shelving. “We might be in a hold-up…but the guy didn’t see us,” Brock whispered. “Let’s cool it until we know what’s what.” He looked for the convex security mirror and was confident they were safe.

    Aaron clenched his teeth and nodded.

    “Okay, Abdul, listen up. I want what’s in the drawer…and the safe,” barked the intruder loudly.

    “Mister, I don’t have a combination to the safe and my shift just started. Not much in the till.” The clerk’s voice trembled in a high register…like he was speaking from the back of his larynx.

    “Bullshit…you get busy filling a sack and I’ll decide what’s not much. A dead Aye-rab makes no dif to me.”

    The sound of the cash register drawer opening punctuated activity.

    “Hurry…I ain’t got all day.”

    The rustle of dollar bills and clinking of change competed with the sprightly strings plucking away at a generic music score coming from the ceiling-mounted speakers. Outside, with the guttural staccato of tricked-out mufflers, a couple of motorcycles sped by.

    “I don’t like the sound of this,” Aaron whispered. “You gotta plan A?”

    “Um…we got a few talents from our days playing ball that might come in handy. See that stack of baked bean cans? What if we grabbed a few and threw some lethal bullet passes…aimed at the bad guy’s head? If we’re accurate…with those cans, going at seventy miles-per-hour…we can do serious damage. Maybe save our asses and the clerk.”

    “I still got my arm from weekend scrimmages,” Aaron replied. “Let’s do it.”

    Brock scrunched over to the food display and handed Aaron one can at a time until their arsenal was sufficient. 

    At the front the clerk was beginning to cry. “That’s all I have…don’t hurt me.”

    “You don’t know the meaning of hurt if you don’t come through with more moo-lah.” The masked man raised his gun. “You better figure out how to open the safe…now.”

    “I’ll try,” the clerk whimpered. “It’s a floor safe.”

    Brock saw the clerk lowering himself behind the counter. The robber seemed to be more interested in watching the clerk and didn’t follow his body with the gun.

    “This is our best chance…the clerk seems to be safe for the moment. You ready?”

    “The three-count,’ Aaron whispered back. “Three…two…one…go.”

    Simultaneously, the two former football quarterbacks rose and threw bullet passes that would have made Brett Favre proud. One can hit the bad guy on the temporal lobe between the right eye and the ear; the other slammed into his nose. The guy yelped and dropped his gun while Brock and Aaron reloaded. The second volley clipped his Adam’s apple and hit the left eye, respectively.

    The gunman slowly sunk from view.

    Brock and Aaron, each holding another can, ran up to the front door area, ready to fire a final round. But a further assault was unnecessary; the masked man was crumpled on the floor, face down, amongst a scattered display of motor oil. Blood, mostly being absorbed by the ski mask, dripped from the left eyehole opening. The four projectiles filled with baked beans that lay nearby, none marred during the guys’ improvised attack on the intruder.

    “You kick the gun aside and check this asshole’s pulse; I’ll make sure the clerk’s okay.” Brock glanced at the robber and felt sure they’d have no trouble from him.

    “Got it, chief.”

    The clerk was huddled in a fetal ball and shaking. Brock reached down and lightly shook the clerk’s shoulder.

    “You good?” Brock asked.

    A nod.

    “Can you call 9-1-1 for the cops and an ambulance?”

    The clerk looked up with some amazement and nodded as he reached for his cell phone. “I can do that…Mr. Burnett.” He slowly stood up and punched in the numbers.

    Brock nodded and felt a small charge of pride that the clerk had recognized him. He noticed a baseball bat under the counter and grabbed it.

    “This guy has a pulse…but he’s out like a light,” Aaron said. “I’d feel better if we secured him.”

    “Good thinking. I’ll see if I can find something to tie his feet together…for openers.” Brock recalled a film from his ‘salad days’ and a scene that was similar. He turned to the clerk and asked, “You got some electrical tape?”

    The clerk, rapidly talking on the phone, nodded and pulled out a roll of gray, heavy-duty tape from a drawer, and handed it to Brock.

    “Cool.” He stepped away and handed Aaron the bat. “Here’s a little insurance in case this badass decides to get randy. But don’t go for the head…that could be nasty. Messing up the guy’s forearm is best…”

    “…Listen to you, Mr. SWAT, all professional-like,” Aaron said with a chuckle. “Sounds like dialogue from one of your movies.”

    “As a matter of fact, I think you’re right.”

    Brock winked and broadly walked around the lean, limp body, which he judged to be around six feet. About the same height as Aaron and me. He kneeled and first felt for a pulse above the ankle area. Steady. After scooting up the dude’s jeans cuffs and aligning the feet, came the tape. He started unrolling and wrapping the tape, under and over, and was satisfied that eight passes would do the trick. This asshole’s going nowhere.

    “That should hold him,” Brock said as he stood up.

    “You think we should take off his mask?”

    “Since the guy is breathing, let’s let the authorities do that when they show up. We shouldn’t touch anything we don’t have to.” Brock walked back to the counter and looked at the clerk, youngish, short with dark Middle Eastern features, wearing the usual student garb – tee-of-the-day, jeans and sneakers. “How are you holding up?”

    “I’m holding. Whew, talk about adding excitement to this crap job. I’m just trying to make extra money on weekends to save for college…and this happens. If you and the other guy hadn’t been here…I dunno if I’d be talking to anyone…let alone breathing. Thanks, Mr. Burnett. By the way…I’m a big fan.”

    “First, it’s Brock…and my friend’s name is Aaron. We’re…old school buddies who just happened to meet up.”

    “My name’s Sam,” the clerk replied.

    “Hang in there, Sam…the cavalry’s on the way.” Brock reached over and patted Sam on the shoulder. At least I’ve got one fan in the real world.

    From the outside, sounds of wailing sirens were getting louder. Moments later, vehicles came to a crunching halt and voices could be heard shouting commands.

    Aaron looked outside and smiled. “Two black and whites and EMS…L.A.’s finest are here. I guess the excitement’s over for you, Sam…and us.”

    “Enough for one day,” Sam replied. “Um…Brock, I know this sounds stupid under the circumstances, but is there any way I could get a signed picture from you?”

    “Absolutely. Just give me your name and address…I’ll take care of the rest.” Brock turned as the first uniformed officer cautiously entered the store with a revolver in hand. From research, he knew the cop was carrying a Glock 22. The name badge on the dark blue shirt said, KELLY.

    The officer carefully but quickly scanned the area as more officers entered behind him. He carefully squatted near the suspect’s head and found a pulse on the neck while others fanned out throughout the store. Into his lapel-mounted radio microphone, the LAPD officer announced, “All secure…only one suspect, who is down…unconscious. Pulse steady. Send in EMS.”

    Brock moved closer to Aaron and watched intently like it was a blocked out movie scene.

    “So this perp attempted a robbery?” the officer asked as he rose and stepped away. He glanced at Sam and Aaron for a moment, then his eyes moved on to Brock. He smiled and tapped his hat bill in a salute. “Mr. Burnett, you’ve played a cop a few times. Wanna give me the rundown as soon as EMS packages him?”

    “Sure enough, Officer…Kelly. I saw it all.” Brock grabbed Aaron’s shoulder and said, “Let’s stand over by the counter so we’re not in the way.” When they were close to Sam, still behind the counter, Brock asked, “You want a bottle of water or something?”

    “I could use something stronger, but water’d be fine. Maybe Fiji…might as well live high.” Sam grinned and added, “Get some for Aaron and you…it’s on the house.”

    “Best deal I’ve had today.” Brock nodded to Sam and patted Aaron on the back. “Be right back.”

    The next half-hour seemed much like a movie routine to Brock. Paramedics checked the suspect and gently pulled off the ski mask, revealing a scruffy white guy who appeared to be in his early twenties. He didn’t become conscious until after he’d been secured to the EMS gurney. While the groggy perp was being prepped for removal, Officer Kelly bagged the suspect’s handgun, took statements from the three men, using Brock’s account as the lead. They all watched the security video that confirmed the recent events.

    At one point, Kelly’s attention changed when he apparently received a message in his radio earpiece. He said. “Ten-four, I’ll take care of it.” Kelly turned to Brock. “That was Public Affairs…they’re aware you were foiled this robbery and probably saved Sam’s life. You and Aaron are considered heroes and I’m to ask if you have any problem appearing with one of our lieutenants at a press conference that’s being set up? The brass at headquarters thinks this is a win-win P.R. story for the department. Citizens come to the aid of a clerk in a robbery and successfully foil it…with no serious injuries. That one of those citizens is a movie star is a plus…at least that’s their thinking.”

    “What do you think I should do, Officer Kelly?” Brock asked. He quickly calculated that this could be a nice shot-in-the-arm for his reputation but didn’t want to appear too anxious. Gotta keep cool.

    “I think a picture in my file with Brock Burnett and a shot at the evening news couldn’t hurt my career. And, if you don’t mind me saying…this is probably pretty good for you…the past being what it is.”

    “Point taken. Let’s do it…as long as Aaron is included.” Brock turned to Aaron and said, “You ready to be on TV?”

    “I don’t mind, ole pal, if you do the talking. The guys down at the bank will get a hoot seeing me playing Robin to your Batman…but I don’t wanna give them extra ammunition by saying something dumb.”

    Within minutes, a Public Affairs officer arrived, along with remote TV news vans from all the major stations and other media. After briefing Brock and Aaron, the officer went outside and attended to the podium set-up and camera positions. Brock excused himself and attended to his appearance; a bath of ice water for his face in the back restroom, a few dabs of moisturizer, and a fast tussle to arrange his hair. Jeez, I used to have staff to do these things. But that was then, and this is…man, this is a gift from God. I can’t screw this up…or screw up getting to know Aaron again.

    Stepping outside, Brock was impressed at the setup and that the network stations had sent recognizable news talent. Not an easy task early on a Saturday morning. He stood with Aaron, Sam and Officer Kelly, while the lieutenant delivered brief but exciting bullet points concerning the foiled robbery. The reporters chuckled at the part concerning Brock and Aaron firing the barrage of baked bean cans to disable the suspect. He mentioned that a copy of the security video would be released to the news agencies within the hour.

    As planned, the lieutenant then called Brock to the podium. After Brock gave his embellishments to the events – saying he’ll never look at a can of beans without being reminded of this morning – he took questions. Fortunately, the reporters didn’t dig too deeply into his checkered past and he was able to optimistically end the press conference by telling the assemblage that he had some interesting projects ‘in the pipeline’ and took time to say how pleased he was to run into his old friend. After the conference, he was approached by KNBC and KABC to be interviewed in their studios that afternoon for the evening’s newscasts.

     

    Brock lay on his bed and thought about the events that’d unfolded only three hours earlier. It wasn’t yet noon and he felt, and hoped, that his morning was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. He smiled when a foot started rubbing his. He looked over at the nude male specimen next to him and smiled. “Hi, Aaron, whazzup?”

    “With a little encouragement, you know ‘whazzup,’ dude.” Aaron turned on his side and placed his hand on Brock’s stomach. “Not often I get to hop in the sack with a living legend.”

    “I don’t know about ‘legend’ but I’m certainly living. Aaron…I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but do you think we could figure out how to develop this stroke of luck into a real friendship?”

    “Like Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis in Friends with Benefits?”

    “No…much more than that.” Brock paused and a grin crept over his face. “Does it sound too weird for me to…suggest that we…”

    “…Not at all. Something we probably shoulda done a long time ago.”

    Brock’s cell rang and he picked it up. The screen showed ‘Ari Silverman.’ “Babe, I better take this. Be right back.” He got out of bed and walked into the living room area. “Ari, we haven’t talked for a while.” Brock was going to add, since you handed me off to asshole Jason, but thought better of it.

    “For a guy who quit me yesterday, you’ve been a busy boy. What happened to you was better than any Law and Order script. Great P.R. that even Howard Bragman couldn’t concoct. Odds are that video of you in action will go viral on YouTube. But first…Brock, are you shitting me about quitting? Let’s get this out of the way ’cuz I won’t take no for an answer.”

    “Okay, Ari, truth time. I was probably a little rash talking with Jason yesterday…but my career is in the dumper and it didn’t seem like there was much of a reason to be with Interscape any longer. I swear to God, it’s embarrassing to be begging for gigs.”

    “Sweetheart, let’s put this behind us and focus on the future. Are you with me?”

    “Yeah, resigning was a dumb move,” Brock replied. Yeah…friggin’ dumb in the first degree.

    “Good…cuz…ta-ta-tah…HBO called a few minutes ago and said they definitely want you for that mini-series. They are not only offering twice the money we were talking about last week…but they plan on fleshing out your character into the second lead. Could be Emmy material. Sound interesting?”

    Brock didn’t know whether to crap in his pants – although he was standing in the living room naked – or let out a war cry. “Fuck, Ari…interesting ain’t the half of it. Yes…yes…I think this could get me moving again.”

    “Okay, kid, we’ll forget about your conversation with Jason yesterday and focus on the future.”

    “Please tell Jason I’m sorry. Also, F.Y.I., I’m doing live interviews at NBC and ABC later this afternoon.”

    “I already know about that. Jason will pick you up at two and chauffeur you around today. I also know that Inside Hollywood and E! Tonight want interviews…like pronto. You and Jason can coordinate times and wardrobe. This could be great…let’s talk Monday.”

    And that was that. Brock had been given an opportunity to pick up the pieces of his career and his personal life, thanks to his old buddy and a few cans of baked beans.

    Legends don’t die…at least not this one. He smiled and padded back to Aaron.

     

            THE END

    This short story was originally written for the Gay Authors 2011 Fall Anthology

     

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Chapter Comments

Ah the joys of a fallen star who gets a second chance to make it all better. I liked the fact at least he knew he screwed up. Hopefully he will take his sobriety and this new chance at life and love to heart and get somewhere. Nice use of a legend.

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God that was funny. Who would have thought it, a bank robbery foiled by a couple of cans of baked beans. Classic.

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He he, what a load of old cheese lol ... but in a very good way! Very refreshing to have a laugh and a bit of reality thrown in for good measure, but not too much headbreaking stress. <edit: that's an appalling pun, I notice as I reread before posting ... but I'm leaving it :D >

 

I'd do him!

 

By the way, your writing style is something to be really admired. Clear, clean, informative, and pictorial without being painterly.

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You certainly can weave a great tale, Jack. I just devoured it. Your sense of humour is still primo! Thanks so much! thumbsup.gif

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On 09/22/2011 07:24 PM, Foster said:
Great fun. Good story.
Glad you enjoyed it. We'll revisit these guys in a novel very soon.

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On 09/20/2011 02:09 PM, Conner said:
You certainly can weave a great tale, Jack. I just devoured it. Your sense of humour is still primo! Thanks so much! thumbsup.gif
Hey Connor, always great to hear from you.

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On 09/20/2011 09:45 AM, Dannsar said:
He he, what a load of old cheese lol ... but in a very good way! Very refreshing to have a laugh and a bit of reality thrown in for good measure, but not too much headbreaking stress. <edit: that's an appalling pun, I notice as I reread before posting ... but I'm leaving it :D >

 

I'd do him!

 

By the way, your writing style is something to be really admired. Clear, clean, informative, and pictorial without being painterly.

No editing problems at all. BTW, one of my editors has asberger syndrome and is a very valued member of my team. Thanks for the support.

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On 09/20/2011 07:33 AM, Nephylim said:
God that was funny. Who would have thought it, a bank robbery foiled by a couple of cans of baked beans. Classic.
Always nice to have feedback and nice comments from a fellow author!

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On 09/19/2011 04:11 PM, comicfan said:
Ah the joys of a fallen star who gets a second chance to make it all better. I liked the fact at least he knew he screwed up. Hopefully he will take his sobriety and this new chance at life and love to heart and get somewhere. Nice use of a legend.
The characters will be a big part of my next novel. Yes, Brock had a 'come to Jesus' moment and slipping from sobriety will be not an issue. I'll find time this weekend to read your story.

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Great story, Jack, as always! May be a little late on a review but decided it was a good Saturday autumn morn to read the Fall Anthologies. Your writing is so clean and clear and provides such an easy enjoyable read. Love the take on Legend and loved the character depth portrayed in so few words. You've got my vote on best Fall Anthology!

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I really enjoyed this story. It was funny and entertaining. I enjoyed the beginning and the bad decisions as much as the heroic bean tossing.

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Nice. Maybe others might consider the world of crime fighting rather than appearing on Dancing with the stars.

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