"So, how's the book coming?"
We're in Alex's office, which is basically the entire eleventh floor of a building right near Hollywood and Vine. That sounds impressive, until you find out that the top five of the fifteen floors of the building are in a slender spire that's about 20 feet square, that the building is pretty run-down and only the first four floors have any real tenants, that his uncle owns it and rents it to him for peanuts, and that I bust like 4 petty drug dealers a week within 50 feet of the front door. Still, it has windows on all sides and the view is magnificent.
Alex's assistant only works mornings, so we've got the place to ourselves. He had chinese delivered before I got there, and I'm halfway through a mediocre plate of broccoli beef. He's eating some saucy glop, and he keeps stopping to wipe the stuff out of his goatee. He keeps talking with his mouth full. I have no idea how old he might be. I think he maybe dyes his hair.
I pretend to be startled by the question. "What?"
"The book," he repeats. "How's it coming?"
"Well, you know." I put my fork down and reach for my Coke. "I mean, I've got a lot written -- so many stories, you know. I'm just having trouble getting the thing to come together as something, you know, cohesive. I keep making outlines and writing opening chapters, but I just feel like I'm missing the hook, you know?"
"What hook? You're a superhero, writing a book on what it's like to be a superhero! What more hook do you need?"
I put down the soda and push my chair away from the table. We're in the corner of the room at a sort of makeshift conference area. I stand up and cross the room to look out over Hollywood. "I'm a superhero nobody knows. If it was a book from, like, Captain America or something, it'd be different." I lean my head against the window. "Shit, even if it was Quicksilver. I need to write something more compelling. I just wish I knew what."
Alex leans back in his chair. "What you need is just more exposure."
"I was on the news again yesterday."
He waves his hand dismissively. "Who watches the news? No, you're never gonna get any attention nabbing guys who steal fifty grand from a grocery store bank branch. The regular cops do that shit every day, six times a day, all over this city. You'll never get attention that way."
I close my eyes. Not unless they notice all the cash that's missing, I think. "What am I supposed to do, then?"
"Well, as I see it you need to do one of two things. You need some TV. Now, I can get you an interview on Good Day LA. I'm told Jillian Barbary has the hots for you." I shake my head -- we've talked about this before, and stooping that low is only gonna hurt me in the long run. "Or, I've been talking to the Leno people."
I look at him and raise my eyebrow. Then I realize he probably can't see that through the mask. "About what?"
Alex stands and walks toward me. "So, here's what I've been pitching. Jay starts his newspaper clippings bit, like normal. Only part-way through a guy stands up in the audience with a fake gun pointed at some lady's head and says, 'Gimme the bit or the broad gets it.' Jay hands over the pile of clippings while the audience boos the bad guy. Then you burst into the studio, snatch the gun, save the girl, and hand the clippings back to Jay. The audience goes wild, and, when Jay holds the next clipping up the camera, it says 'Providence Makes Comedy safe for America.'"
I look at him for a few seconds. "You want me to bring fake justice to a Tonight Show comedy bit? An unfunny bit?"
He drops his arms to his sides. "Well, it's the Tonight Show. Their stuff is more cute than funny, you know?"
"That's not the point, Alex. You know I can't do that stuff. If I'm going to go on TV, it's gotta be about my being a real superhero, not about me maybe getting my AFTRA card!"
He looks at me for a long moment. I feel very naked in front of him. I think for a second what it must be like to be a nineteen-year-old actress, fresh off the bus from Minnesota, standing here while he evaluates me. Judges me, my ability to make him rich. Or not. I really, really want to punch him. "Well," he says, "there's a second option."
"What do -- I thought Leno was my second option."
Alex waves his hand again. "No, no. TV was your first option. The second option, though, is more difficult."
I cross the room to cheap purple couch. The coffee table in front of it is covered in entertainment magazines: Premiere, Entertainment Weekly, People, Movieline, USWeekly, etc. All of them have someone else's name on the label. I sit on the couch and lean back into the scratchy cushions. "Tell me."
"I've been spending a lot of time online. You know, looking at heroes and whatnot. And I'm pretty certain I've figured out what you're missing. One word." He spreads his hands dramatically. "Supervillain."
I cover my face with my hands and groan. "Alex, we've ..."
"No no no, hear me out," he says.
"No," I say, standing. "No. Later. What's up with the literary agent?"
"Your friend. The one you told me about. Who might be interested in the book."
"Oh, yeah." He returns to his unfinished food on the conference table and takes a bite. "Yeah. She's, um, interested, but she wants to see what you've got first. Synopsis, outline, first three chapters."
"Okay. Should I get that stuff together and send it to her, or..."
"Just give it to me." He looks up from his glop. "You have that stuff done?"
I shift uncomfortably, trying to look casual, wishing, not for the first time, that the uniform had pockets -- some place to put my hands. "Not, you know, one hundred percent done, but close. Probably this week or early next week."
He nods and shoves more glop into his mouth.
"If I bring it to you next week," I say, "you will get it to her, right?"
He looks back at me, his face a mask of pure innocence. "That's what I said, didn't I?"
I sigh. "Okay. Next week then. Friday?"
"Fine. Good. Think about what I said, all right. We'll talk about it next week."
"Okay." I walk over to the elevator and push the "down button. It takes forever to come. Alex pretends that I've already left, and I pretend that I can't hear him slurping his food. The bell dings, I step in, and the doors close behind me.
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