WRITER'S BLOCK

WRITER’S BLOCK © 2011 by Ellen Hecht, All Rights Reserved

“Of all the gin joints in the world, she had to walk into mine.” Marshall frowned. With six, quick, zigzag pencil strokes, he impatiently scratched out the sentence he’d just written. He rubbed his cheek with his knuckles where his three-day-old stubble itched. He began again.
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“Call me Ishmael,” he scribbled.
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“Some years ago, never mind how long precisely . . . " He swore and scratched that out too. He tore the page from the pad, wadded it up and threw it without looking. The wad bounced off the rim of an over-full waste basket, falling to the floor, joining it’s peers.
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At the back of the house, the room Marshall called his study was very still. With unsteady hands, he pulled out the top drawer of his desk and rolled up his sleeves. There was a razor blade in the pencil trough. He eyed it for a long time before he took it out and meticulously sharpened the tip of his pencil.
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“Moby Dick, Mow Bee Duck,” he said aloud in an angry, singsong voice as whittled pencil shavings flew all over. “Moby Puke, Moby Yuck.” Nothing. Nada. Zippo.
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“There isn’t one original idea left on this freaking planet.” He looked at the broken computer monitor and addressed the screen.
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“What the hell are you lookin’ at?” he accused it sarcastically. Its dead eye stared back. He turned from the blank screen to scan his desk for inspiration. The space where his printer had been now held a delicately balanced pyramid of empty Michelob cans. He’d found, with practice, that they were a bigger challenge to stack if you squashed them in the middle.
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The phone rang. He let his answering machine pick it up. His old golfing buddy’s girlfriend, the brunette, had made the recording. Although Marshall had a handful of women read for it, in the end, the brunette won out. She was the only one who was willing to do it for nothing. He’d told her it was show business.
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“Hello. You have reached the office of Marshall Epstein. He is sorry he couldn’t take your call, but he is in a very important meeting negotiating a very, very big deal. Please leave your number and he will have his secretary call your secretary. Beep, click, dial tone.” Wrong number.
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“I’m dry,” Marshall thought. I’m dry as a bone; dry as a dinosaur bone. Jeez. I’m dry as a freaking Jurassic Park dinosaur bone. Damn it! Even my metaphors are from a movie that’s already been made."
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The rubber at the top of the pad he’d been writing on looked like it needed picking. He picked. For days the only writing he’d done was balancing his checkbook, but he’d done it five or six times. It came out the same every time. Twenty-two, thirteen; twenty-two dollars and thirteen cents.
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He had already called everyone who owed him. The wife had another garage sale. He’d sold the printer. They’d taken out a second mortgage. The whole nine yards. Wait a minute. The whole nine yards. Football fields. Cheerleaders. YES! He felt giddy!
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“Chimp Cheerleaders,” he scribbled on the yellow pad and underlined it twice. "That’ll grab ‘em. Its fresh! He reached for the phone. I’ll call Bernie.
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“Bernie, listen to this; the Dallas Cowboys’ cheerleaders, right? Turns out their practice field was built over a long-abandoned nuclear waste disposal site. They slowly mutate into chimpanzees. Advantage: they become incredible gymnasts. Too bad they lose their side contract with Playboy, but they become a colossal hit when they get a gig with Circus Vargas. Waddya think?
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“What do you mean, ‘it stinks’? It’s a lot like Mutant Stewardesses and you loved Mutant Stewardesses. You hated Mutant Stewardesses? But this is different. It’s different. It’s completely different from Mutant Stewardesses,” Marshall whined.
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“You’ll see, I’ll come and pitch it in person. We’ll go over to Metro and take Geronzik to lunch. We’ll pitch it to him. Come on. Wait! Bernie? Bernie? Shit.”
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A vein on Marshall’s forehead began to throb. He hung up the phone. Something original. Something fresh. Another pencil. A sharper tip. He began to feel the moisture collect in his armpits and in the folds under his double chin.
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“Ninja Sorority Girls,” he wrote and underlined twice.
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“College campus is terrorized by revenge-seeking, black jumpsuit-wearing sorority sisters.” He continued to write with renewed energy. It’s fresh. It’s new. “This is it,” he thought. “Bernie will love this!”
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“Bernie will hate this. I need something good and I need it now. I need to make a deal with the devil for a great idea. No. I’ll make a deal with God. I’ll go to church. I’ll pray. Dear Jesus, I need an idea from heaven."
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Muffled crunching indicated someone walking up the gravel driveway outside the sliding glass doors of Marshall’s study. The dogs didn’t bark. But Marshall could see it was definitely someone, and that someone was carrying something.
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A tall boy with tired eyes tapped on the glass. Marshall looked at him. Except that his eyes looked too old for his face, he looked just like any of the neighborhood kids. Marshall slid the door open.
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“Yes?”
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“I brought the Chinese food you ordered,” the kid said.
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“I didn’t order Chinese food,” Marshall told him.
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“Pizza.”
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Marshall looked puzzled.

“The pizza you ordered,” the kid amended.
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“Didn’t order pizza.” What was the kid up to, Marshall wondered. Maybe he was casing the house. Marshall looked over the kid’s head. He didn’t see anyone else.
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“Mister? The boy lifted up the package and gestured. I brought you the sub sandwich you ordered.” Marshall’s stomach began to growl.
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“I didn’t order anything,” he insisted.
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The boy stood where he was, outside the door.
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“Okay.” Marshall frowned. “Put it on the desk."
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He had six bucks in his jacket pocket and turned to get it.
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When Marshall turned back to ask how much he owed the kid, the package was on the desk, the sliding glass doors were closed and the boy was gone.
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Marshall frowned again. But the smell of food took his attention and he dismissed the thought of the boy. He hitched his chair up to the desk. His stomach growled again. The package was wrapped in paper. Marshall undid the wrapper, spreading it out flat with both hands. It was fried chicken. What was going on?
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The fried chicken was in a plastic bag. The paper he had unwrapped was spread out underneath. Marshall noted printing on it, typed and double-spaced. As he read, he moved the bag of chicken aside.
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It was a screenplay set during the Civil War; the original copy, discolored, but from age, not from the chicken. “Oh my God, its ‘Gone With the Wind.’ Holy Moly, its a freaking musical. What a riot!”
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There were handwritten notes on the back of the cover sheet instructing the casting department to get Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers to play Rhett and Scarlet. The note was initialed in blue ink and the signature signed with a flourish. “Louis B. Meyer.”
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Marshall began to laugh. And then his stomach growled. The chicken. What he was looking at was so astounding, he’d forgotten he was hungry. The smell of fried chicken rose to his nostrils as he undid the plastic bag. He gingerly stuck in his forefinger and thumb and extracted a chicken leg. Gnawing, he turned the pages of the script and began to laugh again, starting with a low chuckle and growing to a giant guffaw. The guffaw became entwined with a cough as his windpipe contracted around a piece of chicken lodged there. His cough turned into a strangled choke. The natural ruddiness of his face became a strange blue-purple, as he waved the chicken bone in the air. His eyes suddenly watered. Losing his balance, Marshall tipped over, hit his head on the edge of the desk and crashed to the floor. The pyramid of empty Michelobs avalanched, pelting him one by one, as he lay motionless, tangled in his toppled chair.
. . .
Sheila, Marshall’s wife, had always been a shrewd woman. After all, it was she who had insisted they not cancel Marshall’s life insurance. That prudent decision not only paid for the funeral but also allowed her to keep the house.
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After doing a little research, she located a collector who offered her quite a bit of money for the Louis B. Meyer signature. He also suggested they show the script to his cousin, Larry Lebowitz who, it turned out, wrote for Paramount.
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It wasn’t long before negotiations were completed, and the studio was in pre-production for “Gone With The Wind, a Musical Satire.” Sheila received a very nice little sum for the rights and she and Larry Lebowitz were married in a quiet ceremony in Malibu the following Spring.
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The End

WRITER'S BLOCK

waddleudo

Joined November 2010

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Artist's Description

Marshall is a screenwriter whose career has seen better days. Now he defines the terms “has-been” and “washed up.” What would he give for one more hit?

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