TOPANGA (Chapter 5)

Don Bajema Issue: Section:

5. Billy

Abner the good Samaritan Sissy told me about never left the neighborhood and knew everybody, kind of rotated between shacks and houses and his front room window where he typed out pages, balled them up and threw them on the floor. He kept a routine, kind of like his footing in the world. Guys like Abner probably need to have habits or they go nuts off in the world in their heads. I was usually up early in the morning when I'd hear the lids of his trash container bounce off the back of his fence and the tops of the cans and then the percussive little slam of the container lid and his footsteps lingering around the lane and then making their way back to his front door.
So, about the third night or so I sent out Gloria with our trash at the first sign of Abner out there. About the second night she was out there talking to him and by the next couple came back in the front door saying,
"He wants me to come over for breakfast."
"When?"
"Now."
"Tell him it's cheaper for him if he comes over here."
"Billy, the man's next door."
"I know where he is, Gloria, but its an out call so quote him."
Gloria, being a little older courts the regulars, the other girls don't care as much.
"Billy, I'm hungry."
"So, tell him after you eat."
She shuffled off to put on some shoes, she was in her nightgown and the morning chill had her looking mighty appealing.
I looked over at Sissy.
"You were telling me about this girl you met over there."
"Debbie."
"Watson."
"Very good. Debbie Watson is dying to get into the movies, she's doing favors for Richard Hemmings helping him learn his lines for this play. They spend a lot of time alone together."
"Abner's play."
"Right. And he's promising to get her in the cast."
"Of course."
"..and he says that there's a producer who Junior knows who wants to meet her."
"What kind of producer would Junior know?"
"Any kind I guess, they all get high."
"Who wants to meet a high school kid who's doing favors for a movie star?"
Sissy looked out the nearest window, something she's done since she was a little girl when she thinks things over.
The screen door banged shut behind Gloria.
Twenty minutes later Abner followed her into the room looking a little sheepish. Down the hallway they went, Gloria handing
me the money, which I refused with a smile as they passed,
"On the house."
Abner looked more sheepish as Gloria handed him back his money. He stuttered there not wanting to take advantage.
Gloria laughed and said,
"It's okay. On the house, com'on," she made it plain, for money or not he was going to get the goods.
Abner hardly leaves the place now. He's found things to do for the girls, does wash sometimes, sweeps around the place, straightens up and sits with me on the porch.
And I find myself talking about theater of all things.
"Richard thinks because he's in the production that the play's being optioned as a movie."
"Either way its a good thing for you, right?"
He didn't answer.
"Isn't it?"
"Well, yes and no. Yes the money. No the movie."
"Make a good movie seems to me. Missing girls. Bounty hunter over his head with an actress."
"Body guard."
"Right."
"But...the price you pay to see your work turn into a movie is hardly worth a few thousand dollars."
"Won't they want you to write it?"
"Probably..but that won't be the movie. The director will be the movie and by definition they'll fuck it up."
"Huh?"
"The director will make it his movie, first fuck up, and the producers will make him make it commercial, second tier of fuck ups. It'll be sex, gun fights, betrayal, and a happy ending."
"Okay...I..."
"So it will suck. And my name will be on it."
"On the check too."
He got up at the same time he always gets up, stretched his hands over his head, clomped down the old worn stairs,
"Well...another day another stab at the third act. Thanks, Billy."
"Abner I should start paying you for breakfast and all...the girls are a helluva lot healthier these days, more productive. How about..I.."
"It works out."
Between seventeen and twenty minutes I'd hear the keyboard clattering from his window.
A carload of musicians we'd been expecting showed up and climbed out of an Impala parked on my front lawn, eager to spend some money.
One of them walked down the lane to Junior's.
He came back about half an hour later with Sissy by his side.

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