“Richard!” I feel John Rival’s voice go into pleading overdrive. “There’s a lot of bad feedback coming in about your drinking. Sid (Sheinberg, the head of Universal Studios, with whom I’m now under contract) heard you’re doing booze and pills.” How the hell would Sid Sheinberg hear that? How would anybody? I don’t call around and announce this stuff. There’s a pause. “That can kill you.” He breathes into the mouthpiece. “I’m concerned for you.” More breathing. “Richard?”
For a moment, I wonder if he’s got the wrong number. Then I remember my professional (not to mention otherwise) identity crisis: that I’ve been switching my stage name back and forth, between my given one and my Casablanca-prompted one. I’m billed as “Richard” in The Shootist and a few other things.
“They want to test you for that pilot. Can you do a test?”
“John, right now, I couldn’t learn the names of the other agents in your office.”
“Goddam it, Richard! Richard?”
Maybe he’s always called me that, I can’t remember.
“I care about you.” Oh, bullshit. You care about money. “I’ll messenger you the script. You want it messengered to your home?”
“I don’t have a home, John, and messenger is not a verb.”
“Where shall I send it?”
“Just a second. I’ll switch you to the front desk. They’ll give you the address, if somebody hasn’t decapitated them.”
As if he’s just come up with the perfect, penetrating question, he says, “Rick? Is it simply that you’re lazy? Is that the problem?”
“No, John, I’m not lazy at all. I’m terrified, which can sometimes be confused with lazy.”
I hang up the phone and light a cigarette from the one I’m already smoking and wonder if I have a little dementia coming on, because I’m standing in the middle of Linda’s and my backyard on one of the highest pollen count days of the year, smoking a cigarette that I don’t know where I found. In my other hand is a bottle of Hendrick’s Gin, which is very expensive — too expensive to guzzle directly from the bottle, apparently what I’m planning to do. It’s the middle of the day.
The telephone rings. I drop the bottle.
What a waste.
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