Another week of Friday Flash Fiction and another excellent starter sentence provided by our host/moderator/all-round swell guy, Cormac Brown. Provided with the opening sentence of "What do you see when you close your eyes?", I had no real idea where to take this. I hope that it is somewhat close to okay.
Holly, Would Ya?
“What do you see when you close your eyes? Take that image and make it real.”
This was the first thing Oscar had been taught about the world of film-making. He had successfully made that transition from daydream to blockbuster; dozens of awards and many industry accolades had proven that. He had since hung up his writer’s cap and become the biggest talent agent in the business. Stars from far and wide would come to him for representation; television, theatre and film actors would approach Oscar and he could make career-altering decisions on the spot – if he accepted them, the sky was the limit; if they were rejected, the movie-world would immediately know and the star would flame out. Such was the sway Oscar held.
Oscar tapped his toe to the constant ticking of the old grandfather clock in the corner of his office. Not usually an impatient man, he was beginning to have some reservations about his next client’s ability to deliver. His agency had been dealing with this family for decades but this latest member of the dynasty was becoming a problem. She had been slow in generating new box-office successes and did not seem to care. A bad sign, was what Oscar thought. Something that had needed to be dealt with for some time - and that time had finally arrived.
His musings were interrupted by the buzz of the intercom.
“Mr. Nelson, Miss Wood is here to see you. Would you like me to show her in?”
“Thank you dear - that will be fine.”
Leaning back in his leather wing-back chair, Oscar propped his feet up onto the corner of his desk and clasped his hands behind his head.
The door to his office opened slowly. Emma, his receptionist, poked her head around the corner and introduced his client.
“Thank you, Emma. That will be all.”
The secretary withdrew from the room and pulled the door closed behind her. Oscar waved his guest to the chair in front of his huge desk.
“Please, take a seat, Ms. Wood. Can I get you something? A martini? Shaken not stirred – of course.”
She dropped into the proffered seat and placed her handbag on the floor, resting it against the leg of the chair.
“Mr. Nelson, I would prefer if you dropped the formality. Please, call me Holly.”
Oscar was amused by her brashness. “If you insist, Miss...sorry, Holly. And you can call me Oscar.”
Holly only nodded slightly, weighing up the offer and finally deciding against taking him up on it.
“Mr. Nelson, is there a problem?” Holly bowed her head slightly, feeling like a schoolgirl being singled out in class. She quietly hoped that she didn’t get the proverbial caning.
Oscar removed his feet from the desk, leaned forward and rested his elbows on the expensive ink blotter in front of him.
“Holly, if I may be upfront with you, I am having some issues with your productions of late and am worried about the direction your films are heading.”
“Seven Academy Awards, five Golden Globes, two BAFTA’s and one Emmy that sits in the front office...”
“That’s Emma...she’s my secretary...”
“What? No, not her - I meant the award that is sitting pride-of-place on the mantelpiece out there.” Holly jerked her thumb over her shoulder. “What, exactly, is the problem with the direction of my films?”
“Well, for one thing, the casting has been a little - how shall I put this? – Uninspired. It has been seven years since your last major award and I am beginning to get a little concerned.”
Holly raised her eyebrows questioningly, daring him to continue.
“Let me give you an example. Richard Thomas is a wonderful character actor and is very popular, but to put him in a film with Bobbi “Big Boobs” Bracken was a bit of a mistake, I’m afraid. That’s why it was a flop. You can’t just sign big-time actors for any old film and expect them to carry it.”
“It was big in the Czech Republic...”
“Yes, that’s true, but so are Skoda and who in the hell wants one of those parked in their living room?”
“Well, what about The Greatest Story Ever Narrated? That was a great film; big cast, multiple camera angles and big budget. What about that one?”
“It made nineteen thousand dollars...but that was only in candy sales. Who knew that Maltesers would have been so popular for throwing at the projectionist? But I guess that the paying public had to find something to do for three and a half hours. Peter Jackson you are not!”
Holly was starting to get a little agitated. “But I have a huge film in production now. One of the most famous directors in the world has been working on this for years...”
Oscar had known she was going to pull this certain rabbit from her hat. It was the same tired argument from their entire clientele. The next one is going to be it, the next big thing...
“That is true. You do have this film, currently in post-production - where it has been, incidentally, for the last three years. However,” he said, standing now, “I cannot afford to keep pumping money into a film that has so far taken more than a decade – in filming time alone; countless millions of sponsors’ dough and the biggest plot hook you have come up with is a bunch of little green fucking monsters running around for no apparent reason. What the fuck is that all about?”
“But the special effects are awesome...” Holly’s cheeks were beginning to blush from anger and frustration.
“Holly, let me put it to you like this: to recoup the money my company has spent on this film - and working on the current price of cinema tickets – every person in the world would have to watch this film...six fucking times.”
“But Mr. Nelson, you’re just not seeing the big picture...”
“Frankly, my dear Holly, we’re not seeing it at all, and probably never will. I hate to say this but I am going to have to let you go. No hard feelings and all that. Just business, you know how it is? No business like it – show business.”
Rising from her seat, Holly withdrew a shiny .44 Magnum from her handbag and pointed the business end at Oscar.
“It seems like we have a bit of a problem here, Mr. Nelson. I may not be Peter Whats-his-name, but I am closer to Harry Callahan, I believe.” Holly stared at Oscar for a moment, ready to pull the trigger.
“My dear girl, I think you may be over-reacting just a tad. Not to mention being slightly melodramatic. You just don’t seem to have the...”
Without warning, Oscar dropped and rolled, hitting the floor and grabbing the Buntline Special that Kevin Costner had presented to him after scoring him a fine deal. Peering around the corner of his desk, Oscar saw Holly pull back the hammer on her pistol. Ducking as low as he could, he covered his head and waited for the explosion.
Opening up a Magnum inside any office was bound to be bloody noisy, but inside Oscar’s office, it was cacophonous. His ears ringing, his eyes watering, Oscar jumped up levelled his gun at Holly.
“Would you mind standing still? I am having a hard time focussing on you.”
Holly rubbed her eyes with the heel of her hand. “Where the hell are you? When I can see better, I am gonna – how do they say it in those tacky gangster movies? – pop a cap in your ass?”
The office door flew open and Emma raced in.
“What in the blue hell is going on in here? Sounded like gunshots.” Emma gasped at the sight of Oscar’s desk. “And what the hell happened to your desk?”
“If it sounded like gunshots, Blondie, then there is a good chance it was.” Holly, still seemingly disoriented, swung around towards the sound of Emma’s voice. “You have one chance to get out of Dodge alive or I am gonna give you lead poisoning.”
Emma needed no further encouragement. As quick as she had entered, she had gone. Lucky for her, as it turned out as Holly let loose another hellish explosion of gunfire, taking a sizeable chunk from the doorframe where Emma had been standing.
“...and stay out!”
Oscar had used this distraction to come around the desk and stand immediately behind Holly. Edging up closer to her, he placed the barrel of the Buntline against her ear and whispered, ever so softly, “Bang!”
Oscar Nelson sat in his leather chair, feet up on what remained of his office furniture and re-read the contract annulment with Holly Wood. He laughed to himself – in nervous relief, if the truth be told – and wondered what exactly had happened. In the end, he supposed, all’s well that ends well. Reasonably well. Partially okay, even.
“And to think, that Buntline was only a replica...”
“Sorry, boss,” came the reply from Emma.
“Never mind, was just talking to myself. By the way, on your way out tonight, can you throw that Emmy in the trash compactor out back?”