Well Mr. Eichler, Mrs. Lewis, I suppose I could say that's the last of my promised story. After all, this pseudo-memoir was only supposed to help explain the genesis of Jane and my comic series. But—and maybe it's just the writerly discipline that's been beaten into me—I don't think I can just leave it off there. One of you poor bastards is going to be editing this, I presume (I got the feeling from our meet-and-greet that your publishing company is small enough to preclude an army of editors), so feel free to cut this part out if you think it's extraneous. Or if the lawsuit against me actually goes through, but then again, by their powers combined you might just get an interesting sequel out of the whole thing. Just don't expect me to write it—I hate sequels and the idea that my life is interesting enough to get a second memoir out of it makes me nauseous. John Grisham is looking for work, I'm sure he'd write it for you.
But that's something we can talk about later. For now, I'll test your patience with one last little life event. Just as a sort of bookends to keep things orderly, to explain why I am where I am.
Imagine, if you will, a New York studio exactly two Monday's later, peopled by one less female writer with a chip on her shoulder. Such a miracle was off-set by the fact that all other writers on the program carried a chip on their shoulder, because that quiet woman with the constant scowl had decided to get all uppity and start voicing her opinions on various matters. The laws of New York were not on their side (no more public stoning's, we're a civilized culture now), and I had it on good authority that the mob wouldn't touch me. That meant that the other writers and producers and underpaid court jesters under David's watchful boot-heel had only two options: quit and move to the Baltic States, or ignore the leper with the sharp tongue. Oh, the horror, the horror. What had life come to?
On that Monday two weeks later, I was delaying my lunch break by busily scribbling down notes onto a script that I knew nobody except me would ever see. Up next, I'd likely waltz into one of the EP's offices, open the door so it slammed loudly against their wall, and then just smile as they try to come up with what they thought was a new excuse to not talk to me. A terrific arrangement—I could write my scripts completely in Latin if I wanted to, and not a soul around cared enough too actually check. And with a minimum WGA paycheck every two weeks to boot—yes, life was good. So why did I make it sound like I was living in a war-zone still the last time we met? Well, let me explain…
I remember leaning against a stack of crates in one of the more shadowy parts of the studio, just diligently adding lyrics from The Internationale in the script's margins, when I heard the studio door open up for a very expensive pair of shoes. Their echo was loud and demanded attention, as the area I was in had been completely deserted for the entire length I had been there (an actor passed by and asked me if his accent was a poor-man's JFK or a middle-class man's Mayor Quimby, but he bolted when I untethered myself from the shadows and revealed my identity to him—just in time to miss my Lee Harvey Oswald joke, unfortunately). I knew it was David without needing to look.
"Ah, Daria!" he said, still sounding like a slimy Phil Hartman, though I detected a bit more excitement in his voice than normal. That almost got me to care. "So sorry about this, but I have to pull you away from the grindstone for just a sec."
"Just when I was getting to the good part," I said, plopping the script down next to me. He eyed it and then eyed me.
"Oh, so it's a good script then?" he said, clapping his hands together. "A good piece of work?"
"No," I said. "I was talking about grinding my nose off." I stared at him, thought about what I was going to say, and like most people I had interacted with those last two weeks, I decided, screw it—I can afford to have some fun. I said, "But I guess this conversation will make up for it," and watched David start like I had just threatened his mother. I hadn't had many opportunities to test my newly-found old attitude on David yet—test number one was a success, I would say.
Eventually David discovered the art of communication and said, "Right, right—um, good one Daria! Ah, with humour like that in your scripts—"
"You wouldn't get invited to all your fancy fundraisers, I get it." I smirked like a shark. "I'd never jeopardize your lifestyle by actually trying—that would be beyond cruel of me."
A beautiful sound followed that comment—the sound of silence. Mr. David Wollgreen being at a loss for words almost made up for the pungent aftershave that I'm sure had eroded the nostrils of many, many assistants. Figuring that nothing was coming out his mouth for a while—and deciding that an early lunch might be a nice idea after all—I spoke up again to hurry the conversation along.
"Is there something you need, David?" I said. "I'll fetch coffee, but it'll cost you extra."
"Um," he said, "…no, no that's not—there's nothing I need, Daria." His usual ability to hide any and all emotions he was truly feeling slipped away just then, and I saw in his eyes that he had something sinister planned. "No, I actually wanted to let you know that I found a new writer finally. Remember when I phoned you a couple of weeks ago?"
"Not in the slightest," I said, though my attention was—for the moment—somewhere other than my lunch.
"Ah," he said, "right, well, all the same, I found one, and I wanted you to meet the new blood." I saw again in his eyes that he had intended for this to be a dramatic moment and was thoroughly disappointed that it hadn't played out that way. I suppose I could have taken a slightly petty sort of satisfaction from stymying his schemes, but at that point I was more curious as to why he thought this would be dramatic in the slightest.
Then he said, "He says he knows you from somewhere," and I understood almost immediately what was going on. After surviving a weekend that only Thomas Ligotti could have concocted, it was the only possible conclusion I could expect. No, I was not surprised in the slightest when I turned around and saw Fred Michaels glaring daggers at me.
"I heard down the grapevine that the illustrious Mr. Michaels was looking for a spot of work," David said, apparently now aware of his disappointment and trying extra hard to cover it up. Why he was sounding like a Charles Dickens caricature I don't particularly know, but David never was much of an actor. Besides, my attention was, naturally, elsewhere.
"I see," I said, staring back at Fred. He too was grinning like a shark—albeit a shark with a kidney stone.
David saw this and apparently decided that his presence would only ruin whatever pain I might feel. He bowed his head slightly and said, "He spoke awfully highly of you, Daria, so I thought you two might want to work together. And who am I to hold you back from your work—you both look like you're itching to go!"
"Thanks boss," I said. Fred had yet to say anything.
"Well then," David said, "I suppose I'll take my leave." And with that, he was gone, leaving me and Fred alone. What I had told Jane in the car was the truth—if I saw Fred again, I would apologize. So, gathering my breath in an audible sigh, I looked Fred dead-centre in the eyes and said…nothing, because Fred held up an accusing finger and cut me off immediately.
"Listen here Daria," he said. "Forget whatever the hell you're thinking, alright? I'm here to work, I will be doing work, and nothing you do will stop me, got it?"
"I got it," I said, "though I'm pretty sure the only one trying to keep you from working is the person that hired you. When he interviewed you, did any questions about—"
"Shut up!" he said. "Doesn't matter, don't care. Just remember, we're working together, but that doesn't mean I forgot, understand? I—"
"Can chew bubble gum and walk at the same time," I said, the apology dead on arrival. "Right?"
He paused, then broke out into a fierce snarl. "Glad to see you haven't changed," he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Figure we'll work great together. Figure we'll work like a well-fucking-oiled machine."
"Look," I said. "I'm sorry that I jumped down your throat earlier. I took it way too far and I shouldn't have."
Fred wanted to say something, but I wasn't' done—not quite yet. I said, "I'm pretty sure I had a right to be mad though, considering how the conversation started and where you dragged it."
"Don't wimp out on me Daria," he said, jamming a finger back into my face. Déjà vu, my mortal enemy in this story. "You own up to what you said. Treat me with at least a little respect."
"Are you going to treat me with any?" I said, already figuring I knew what the answer was but asking all the same. "Because this sort of thing is a two-way street."
He paused again, stared me down, and just like I could clearly read David's eyes only minutes earlier, I guessed from the glare I was getting that Fred wanted me to apologize just so he could throw it to the ground and make himself look like the ever-righteous victim again, fully justified in hating me and spurning whatever attempt at reconciliation I might have offered.
I made an attempt anyways. "Alright, I don't think being at each other's throats is going to help anyone. Except maybe David and his sick and twisted fantasies. Is there some way we can try to put this behind us? Start over? I'm not in the business of making enemies."
As I suspected though, Fred wasn't interested. He snorted like an angry bull, looked as though he was going to spit on the floor near my feet, and said, "Be seeing you." And he did see me, every single work day of every single week. I had just gotten used to enjoying isolation, and now here was Fred, ready to hand me as long as he had work that was finished.
And you know what? Everything was fine. I mean that—things were fine; I was more than capable of leaving any disgruntled thoughts at the studio door. Sometimes, even, I managed to keep a smile on around Fred not just to spite him, but because there wasn't a whole lot he could do to bring my mood down. I'm sure you can guess why, but in case not, all I'll say is the comic so far has not only gone smoothly, but managed to be a big hit. Of course, you two already knew that—you said that's why you wanted to do a memoir of some description—but all the same it feels good just writing that down. My post-Midlife Crisis had been stress tested in as extreme a way anyone could possibly think of, and yet it came out none the worse for wear. What's not to feel good about, right?
Still, I suppose I should end this story by saying that I don't plan on sticking around that long, for Fred's sake more than anything. It's not healthy for him, and I'm half-expecting him to dress up in a sailors uniform and start calling himself "Ahab" before this season of Later Tonight is through. That and David—I wish I could say I won't hold a grudge, but part of me will be thoroughly satisfied when I hand in my backstage pass and explain—in gory detail—the exact comic-related reasons why I've decided to retire from late-night TV. What can I say? I'm only human.
How long will that take? I'm not sure—soon, possibly. Jane and Trent and I are making more money from our comic than we had any right to expect, and while the main reason we wanted to do it was for the art and the fun ("yelling at people in creative ways," as Jane had said), in this sick, sad world we live in, money is king and money is a ticket to freedom. The freedom to do something we love in the comfort of limited, special company, in this case. This pseudo-memoir will help too, I figure—assuming you guys are right and sad, pathetic people like me read paperback after paperback of sad, pathetic people being sad and pathetic.
But that means the only reason I agreed to this pseudo-memoir was for the money.
Hmm, I guess things have really changed after all.
April 2017-June 2017
Well, sweet Jesus, I actually finished a long-form story for once. Praise the Lawd!
Anyways, a big, huge thanks to all who read through this adventure and took the time to comment or throw a favorite my way. I greatly appreciate that, and I hope you enjoyed the story as much as I enjoyed writing it. You plus the copious amounts of caffeine I drank kept me going, so...yeah, thanks. Seems like an anticlimactic thank you, but then again, Daria wouldn't want me to get sentimental.
So, to quote a wise Gunslinger in order to finish this off: "Long days and pleasant nights." Thanks for sharing the fun with me.