In The Cell

pink

 

 

 

It was 2:00 a.m. and Marsha was just about to go home when her phone buzzed. There was a woman named Susan, just two blocks away, who was requesting an Uber. Marsha decided to do one more trip.  She arrived in front of a small brownstone to find a tall man of mixed race standing outside of the building. He walked towards the car and attempted to open the back door and knocked on it when he realized it was locked. She rolled down the window slightly.

“Hi, I don’t think this is your Uber, sir. I’m here for a woman.”

“Is her name Susan?”

“Yes.”

“That’s actually my girlfriend, I got a new phone and I don’t have Uber set up, so she just let me use hers.”

Marsha hesitantly unlocked the door. It seemed like a plausible story. It was very unlikely that a random stranger would be able to guess the name of the customer.

The man climbed into the backseat and confirmed that he was going to North Hollywood. Although it was late and she was tired she was grateful for the long trip and the large fare it promised.

They pulled out onto the street and drove in silence until they got to the freeway.

“I’m Marsha,” she said after a moment

“Okay,” he said with an uncomfortable glance out the window.

“Do you mind if I listen to some music.”

“No that’s fine.”

“Do you have a preference?”

“Anything is okay,” He said rather irritably.

She turned on a classic rock station and studied her charge in the rear-view mirror. He was very tall, nice looking and about thirty five. He was wearing a designer shirt and a nice pair of trousers that looked as though they were part of a suit.

She assumed the ride was some sort of a walk of shame situation. She smiled a bit to herself. Had the man met this Susan in a bar in Long Beach or had they met somewhere in Los Angeles and retired to her apartment? Maybe they knew each other and it was some kind of friends with benefits situation. Maybe they met on Tinder and it was just some random hook up. Maybe he was married and she was actually driving him back to his wife.

Marsha regarded her own flabby face in the mirror. She wondered if he was just in a bad mood or if she was simply not worthy of his attention.

She glanced back at the passenger and saw him reach into his pocket and pull out an iPhone. He began texting with someone. She noticed that the phone was pink. She had never seen a man with a pink cell phone before. He wasn’t gay. He said he had a girlfriend. He also said it was a brand-new phone. His gruff masculine demeaner made her wonder why he would have chosen pink.

“Are ya warm enough back there,” she asked.

“I’m fine,” he said abruptly.

The man had a deep look of concern on his face as he texted. He seemed to be involved in a very serious conversation. His hands were even shaking a bit. She wondered if the woman he was with had just woken in the middle of the night to find him gone. Maybe it was his wife? She felt rather cozy watching the drama unfold.

It was then that she noticed the red stain on his shirt.  Her stomach knotted. It was a fairly small stain, but it really looked like blood. Then she noticed another stain on his sleeve. She told herself that it might be just sauce, or perhaps it came from a cut.

What if he’d murdered the woman he was with? What if he had killed her and used her phone to call the Uber? Maybe he killed her and hid the body and then used her phone to get an Uber. It would be the perfect get away. When people noticed that she was missing it would looks as though Susan had run off on her own volition in the middle of the night.

She looked in mirror again to see that he had gone on Facebook and was posting something. She had to hand it to him; he was clever. Maybe he was posting something to Susan’s page of her saying that she needed a change or a break or something.

It occurred to Marsha that she had Susan’s phone number. All she had to do was call the number and if the pink phone rang she would know that her suspicions were correct. Then she remembered that if her suspicions were correct, he would also have her number. She decided she would drop him off and then call the police.

She turned the car onto the exit ramp and began to drive to the address.

“We’re almost there,” she chirped nervously.

“Okay,” he said.

The man reached into his breast pocket and Marsha’s hands gripped the wheel. What if it was a gun? What if he had seen her looking at him in the rear view, figured out that she was suspicious and decided to kill her?

Her heart raced as she drove down the street. She sped up and reached for her phone to dial 911. She felt a sharp thunk and water began splashing all around the car. She realized she had hit a fire hydrant.

“What the fuck,” The passenger screamed.

He leaped out of the car and ran down the street. When the cops arrived, Marsha attempted to explain what happened. She was handed a ticket and some information about rehab.

Marsha was fired from Uber. She spent the next week on her cell phone looking for a job.

 

The Optimist

InterrogationRoom

 From Craigslist 

Acting Coach – One on One (Silverlake) 

Working producer and acting coach seeking new clients.
Reasonable rates.

Gretchen sat in the small room gulping down the water that she received  after much begging. Detective Puzzleman sat across from her staring at her like she was a bug under a glass.

“Isn’t there supposed to be a good cop,” she asked.

“That’s only in the movies. Besides, the only really bad guy in here is you.”

“I already told the other guy what happened.”

“Tell me, but don’t leave out the truth this time.”

“It was the truth,” she screamed, fighting back tears.

Puzzleman sat down and crossed his arms. Gretchen blew her nose and began to tell her story once again.

“I came to Los Angeles three years ago to pursue my dream of becoming an actress.”

Detective Puzzleman fought a smile. The woman was thirty-five if she was a day. Stringy brown hair framed a chubby pale face. He tried to imagine in what she thought she might be cast.

“I had been so busy working that I couldn’t go on many auditions,” she said looking down at the floor. I’d taken a couple of audition workshops, but the casting directors never noticed me.

I was forever looking at the Craigslist talent section. One day, I came across Tim’s ad.”

“What was the ad for?”

“For the umpteenth trillionth time it was for an acting coach.”

“What made you think an acting coach would work if everything else hadn’t?”

“It was a very convincing ad. It said that we would have three one hour sessions together and then he would put together a reel just for me. It said he’d worked as a casting director for 20 years.”

“I would have thought he was a scammer.”

“I did at first. But, I looked him up on IMDB. There was a Tim Harger who is a casting director. There was no picture of him, but everything there was consistent with what he said. He told me that he was in-between agencies and it just seemed like he knew what he was talking about.”

“What were the acting lessons like?”

“They were amazing. He  found the perfect parts for me. An ex stripper in a gritty story about a murder in the 1940’s, a married woman in love with her boss and then there was the scene he wrote just for me about a young lawyer defending an innocent man.”

Detective Puzzleman made a weird snorting noise.

“Continue please,” he said.

“So anyway, I felt a lot more confident when we started to make my reel. We filmed  the scene he wrote just for me. Then he said he wanted me to do a scene with another actor. He said the scene was set in a coffee shop. He said that there was no way we could really afford to have a shoot in a coffee shop as it would have cost thousands of dollars, so we were going to do it ghetto style,” she said making air quotes.”

“Ya, mean just go in there and shoot it without telling them that you are shooting it?”

“Right, so his sister Jill, my scene partner comes over to his house and we rehearsed the scene…”

“So he didn’t have a studio space or anything?”

“Well, no, I mean he was just using his house, right then.”

“Where was this house located?”

“Downtown.”

“He had a house in downtown Los Angeles?”

“Well, his apartment.”

“I see. Did he have a dedicated room for this?”

“Well, I mean he lived in just one room.”

“He was in a studio?”

“Yeah.”

“And you believed he was a successful casting director? Was it a toney building, at least?”

“Well, I mean it was the Rossyln.”

“Oh, the lofts?”

“No.”

“The Hotel Rossyln?”

“Yeah.”

He just stared at her for a long moment. She looked down at the floor.

“Anyway, I didn’t mean to interrupt your story. Please go ahead.”

“Well, We rehearsed this scene from a play in which this troubled woman is thinking about killing her husband. She caught him cheating with her best friend and she can’t forgive him. My character has most of the dialog. Jill only had two lines. She asks me why I want to do it and how I want to do it.”

“What play was it from?”

“It was called Man Slaughter.”

“Who wrote the play?”

“Dorothy Parker.”

The Detective Googled the play on his phone to see that it did not exist. Gretchen rolled her eyes.

“What exactly were your lines?”

“You want me to do the scene for you? “

“I got some time.”

“Okay, well do you want to just call action or what?”

“Action,” he said with a mean smile.

“Up could you que me too. I mean after you say action could you say, ‘How ya been doin’?’

“Action, How ya, been doin?”

“Last night I was layin’ in bed and I was thinkin’ about her.. just her, not him. I started thinking about all the times I confided in her….ya know like when I told her about intimate details of our relationship and stuff. Did she go right back to him and tell him what I said?”

Gretchen played with an imaginary napkin. She seemed to be attempting to cry.

Detective Puzzleman pushed the Twitter app on his phone.

“So, I realized that as long as she was alive I was always gonna… just..I was always gonna be haunted by memories of that…that I was never gonna sleep again. I think I’ve had like twenty hours of sleep in the last six weeks. I can’t eat. I drink and it just it makes me so sick. So I got so crazy that last night I went out and I bought a gun, a shotgun, like for hunting.

This is where my scene partner said would say, ‘are you kidding’ and then I would go on.

I’m not saying I’ll use it or anything. I’m just saying I have it; ya know. “

“So you rehearsed it and then went to a coffee shop to film it?

“Yeah we did.”

“The wait staff wasn’t suspicious when they saw you guys filming?”

“No, we used IPhones, not cameras. People film themselves doing everything now a days.”

“I would think it would be a bit different if someone was filming you.”

“Jill and I filmed each other. First from her side and then from mine.”

“You used your own phones?”

“no, his.”

“I see. How long were you there?”

“About an hour and a half.”

“Did he ever give you the actual reel?”

“No, he didn’t.”

“What happened when you asked him for it.”

“He just kept stalling. After a while he stopped answering the phone.”

“Three weeks after this conversation was tape recorded Samantha Hodgens was found murdered at the Alexandra. You were seen on camera going into the Alexandra.”

“I went to meet Jill.”

“What a coincidence.”

“It was a set up.”

“By who.”

“Tim and Jill.”

“Why would they do that?”

“He wanted to kill his ex girl friend and rob her.”

“Oh come on Gretchen, admit it. You were friends with Jill, you started going out with her brother. He told you about his crazy ex-girlfriend who lived at the Alexandria and had a stash of cash and jewelry. You caught him cheating with her, so you decided to help yourself to the goods and eliminate the competition in the process. Fortunately, his sister knew how nuts you were and tape recorded a conversation she had with you at lunch where you basically confessed to your motive.”

“No, I met him on Craigslist, he did the coaching and introduced me to his sister. We made the reel and then I didn’t hear from him for a while. I ran into his sister outside of my building one day and she told me that if I met her at her room at the Alexandria, we could go to Tim’s apartment and get the reel. “

“Then where is the video you made?”

“They must have erased the video. She must have been tape recording me with the recording app on her cell phone. “

“We found a sawed off shot gun in a locker at the Greyhound bus station, along with a pair of diamond earing belonging to one miss Samantha Hodgens.  We found the locker key in your bag How did it get there?”

“I have no idea.”

Detective Puzzleman got up and told her that he would be right back. Gretchen bust out into tears.  She tried to tell herself that everything would be okay.  She wondered if she would go to jail.  She had a vision of herself rotting away. She imagined being raped and beaten and locked in solitary confinement.

She cried until she couldn’t anymore. She wondered when the detective would return. She imagined that he was preparing for her arrest. She wondered if her parents would get her a lawyer; maybe they would get a good one. Maybe she would have to go to jail for a while and then she would be exonerated. She imagined going on “The View” and being interviewed by Oprah.   Maybe someone would see her and see something in her that would bring her opportunity. She began to brighten as she heard footsteps in the hallway.

Life Coaching Available

office

From Craigslist:

I am a professional life coach that is here to help you achieve the best type of living for your life. If you want to achieve your goals, but always seem to be just out of reach , give me a call and set up an appointment

Byron Foghorn awoke to the sound of his neighbor playing Led Zeppelin and doing some sort of exercise.

He looked at the alarm clock it was 10:00 a.m. His head throbbed as he looked at the empty bottle of cheap vodka that he had polished off the night before. The taste of the potato based poison rested heavily on his tongue.

He picked up the letter from Jim and read it again, hoping that the words had changed.

Dear Byron:

Although I love you and have enjoyed our years together, I must tell you that I can’t see you anymore. I have decided to run for Senate and I cannot run the risk of indulging in our “game” any longer, it would be too risky.

I am putting my fate in the hands of GOD. I have enclosed a token of my appreciation which should help sustain you for the next several months. I will give you a job recommendation if you need one.

Yours,

Jim

Byron put the letter down and went to the bathroom where he threw up. He took a shower, brushed his teeth and looked in the mirror.

“I am middle aged,” he said.

He sat down at his computer and went to Craigslist. He placed yet another ad for his life coaching services. He decided he would go over to the office and take a few selfies sitting behind the desk. He chose a nice shirt and a sweeter vest.

He climbed into the tasteful grey sedan and sat there for a moment. The 720 bus rolled by and he remembered riding it during those early days in Los Angeles.  He wondered if he could go back to it. Three months; he had three months to make a whole new life for himself.

He drove straight down Santa Monica Boulevard until he came to a parking garage with a good rate. He walked over to the virtual office and got into the elevator. He felt a little scared as the elevator struggled to get to the third floor.

He arrived safely and began setting up his camera to take a selfie that would not look like a selfie. He took several shots of himself and sat at the desk for a moment wondering what to do.

He knew that one of the men who shared the office with was a publicist, he wondered if he could work out something for a discounted rate. He wondered if there might be a business card in the desk. He began looking through the desk drawers. He found a ruler, a bag of pens and all three door signs. All of a sudden he felt a sharp bite on his finger. He withdrew his hand to find a tiny man wearing a white shirt and black pants attached to his finger.

He shook his hand and screamed the tiny waiter fell to the floor.

“Hey what’s going on out there,” a tiny voice from inside the desk asked.

“Hey Sam are you okay,” another tiny voice asked.

Byron’s knees went weak and he collapsed. When he opened his eyes there were three tiny waiters standing on his chest.

“He’s alive,” one of them said.

“Get off my chest please. “

The waiters complied and Byron sat up.

“Who are you?”

“We might ask you the same question, this is supposed to be a psychotherapist office.”

“It’s a virtual office that I share with two other guys. I’m a like coach. Who or better yet what are you? “We’re repressed memories. We were living in this woman’s head, but we got vacuumed out we were gonna make a break for it, but we didn’t really think it through the stairs are too high for us and we can’t reach the elevator button. “

“I see,” Byron said, assuming he was dreaming.

“My name is Sam, this is Artie and Fred. Look, we are very hungry. Could you go buy us a sandwich?”

Byron went to a local deli where he purchased two pastrami sandwiches and two cokes.  He decided that this strange episode he was having might be a sign that he should get some help. He wondered what the psychotherapist who shared his office charged. He stopped by the liquor store for a bottle of scotch.

He returned to the office and watched as the waiters devoured the sandwich. Afterwards the four men sat drinking scotch out of the soda bottle caps and talking.

“So what kind of oppressed memories are you guys? Why was she oppressing you? “

The waiters all looked at each other and chuckled.

“Well, this chick was kinda fat and homely, or at least she was when she was 16. She came into our restaurant and we were all daring each other to ask her out. She heard and her parents heard, we’ve been in her head ever since,” Sam said.

“What are you going to do now,” Byron asked.

“I’ figure I’m small enough to live anywhere I want.” Fred said. I’m going to Beverly Hills.”

“Well, I always wanted to be an actor, “Sam said. “But I doubt there are many roles for someone my size.

“That’s a defeatist attitude, Sam” Byron said.

“It’s a realistic attitude.” Artie said.

“Not really,” Byron said. “What you have to do is identify your advantage in this situation.”

Byron looked at the men and realized he had their attention; an Idea began to form in his head.

Group Therapy Available

office

From Craigslist: Group therapy available for anxiety, sex addiction and anorexia.

Medger Simpson parked the ratty Geo Storm several blocks away from his virtual office on Wilshire Blvd. The young psychotherapist wondered what Dr. Peterman, who he had not seen in five years, could possibly want to talk to him about.

Dr. Peterman was a psychologist who had worked in the mental hospital where Medger had done his college internship. The doctor specialize in multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia. Medger had facilitated a group therapy for families of patients with multiple personalities.

In all the time they worked together Medger had never gotten the impression that Dr. Peterman was partial to him in any way. Peterman had given Medger reasonably positive reviews. But, the doctor had always seemed cold and authoritative toward him. He was certain that he had been forgotten the second he walked out the door.

Medger climbed the stairs to his third floor office. He wondered why anyone would take the elevator when the stairs were faster and safer. When he reached the office he noticed with some irritation that the publicist he shared the office with had left some goofy looking guy’s headshots all over the desk. Medger put the headshots in a corner and placed his sign on the door. Soon after which he heard the elevator cranking to pick up his visitor.

Dr. Peterman entered the office the office wearing sweats and tennis shoes. The two men shook hands and asked after each other’s health. Dr. Peterman shut the door and sat down.

“So what can I do for you,” asked Medger.

Dr. Peterman leaned toward Medger in a conspiratorial fashion.

“Medger for the last six months I have been conducting an experiment on a young woman with schizophrenia. She had all the classic symptoms of it; voices in the head, delusions of grandeur and the paranoia that goes with it…

”Uh huh,” Medger said wondering where this was going.

Well, One day she came in for her usual appointment and I examined her. I was looking in her ears when I saw a tiny woman running down her ear canal. At first I thought I might be seeing things. I continued the examination and said nothing. But the next week I examined her and I saw a small boy riding a bicycle back and forth.

Medger sat back in his chair.

“DR. Peterson….um, are you having… do you think…are you in therapy right now,” Medgar said wondering if the doctors wasn’t experiencing a psychotic break.

“Don’t patronize me, Medger! I’m perfectly sane. I do, however know how crazy I sound. You’re the first person I’ve told about this.”

“Thank you, I’m flattered.”

“Medger, I have devised a device to extract these creatures. If I can take them out and study them. I may well be able to cure schizophrenia. If nothing else I could certainly cure hers.”

“Sir, what you are talking about is very dangerous. Not to mention illegal…..”

“I know it is. I can’t do it in the hospital. That’s why I’m coming to you.”

“What could I do?”

“Well, Medger, I was wanting to have you assist me and use your office for the extraction.”

“Dr. Peterman…..I don’t know. Isn’t there someone, well I mean you must have many trust worthy colleagues.”

“Yes, but I can’t go to any of them I am too closely affiliated with them. You and I barely know one another, no one would ever suspect.”

“I’m afraid I’m going to have to say no. You can’t just go around experimenting on people.

“Look, I’ve talked to the patient about it and she wants it done. She is very high functioning. She says she would rather be dead than keep taking meds all her life. I will give you fifty thousand dollars in cash and do anything I can to ensure that I will refer the most famous people I know to you for their psychotherapy.”

Medgar told the doctor that he would think about it and the two men parted. As he walked back to his car he wondered if he would end up losing his psychotherapist license over this. He drove back to the valley with his stomach in knots.

A week later he found himself at his office pacing the floor as he waited for the doctor to arrive. As he waited he imagined one of the men he shared the office walking in on him. It was impossible of course the door would be locked and their card keys wouldn’t work, but he worried just the same.

A few minutes later Dr. Peterman entered the small office with his patient Shelia in tow. She was a short, pale, slightly plump blond woman in her mid-forties. She looked nervous when she entered the office and there were sweat stains on the armpits of her Winnie the Pooh Tee shirt.

Medgar closed the door and the doctor sat Shelia down in a chair. The valium he had given her was beginning to set in. The doctor pulled out a contraption that looked like a giant twisty straw and inserted into Sheila’s ear and poured water into it. Nothing happened for about fifteen minutes. Then Medgar was astonished to see a tiny woman in a house dress swirling out through the straw. She landed on the carpet gasping for air. She was followed by the boy on the bike, a man in a tweed jacket with patches on the elbow, three waiters, a tiny Jesus, a teenager who resembled Sheila and a tiny version of David Strathan.

As the tiny people fell to the ground Dr. Peterson instructed Medgar to put them in a small fish tank. After Shelia’s head was empty, the men secured the fish tank and put the fish tank in a large box that Medgar placed on a dolly. The doctor handed Medger his money and instructed him to meet him back at the office in two weeks. He suggested feeding the people plain oatmeal.

Medgar went to retrieve his car from the parking lot next door and the doctor and Shelia left. Nobody noticed the three tiny waiters cowering under the desk.

Sales and Marketing

 

craig

 

 

Kleinman sat across from Lucy Fisk his new boss at Fisk and Peterman as she greedily shoved Greek salad into her mouth while washing it down with giant gulps of the triple Sambuca that she’d ordered. Kleinman sipped daintily at his, as he was afraid to get drunk so early in the day.

“So, we’ve got this kid whose been working in our department. Some hipster from Dumbfuck, Goddamn Idaho. You know the type; He was the smartest kid in his high school class of twelve people. He thinks his an intellectual because he’s heard of Gertrude Stein even though he’s never read her, which to be fair is more than the other Dumbfuckians know. He started out as an intern and he banged Agnes so she went and hired him.”

“H’mmm, that’s too bad,” Kleinman said unsure of why she was telling him this.

“He messed up the Hacha Spice account, by fucking posting the fact that our “fan videos were paid for. Spacha Sauce got hold of It and it was all over Twitter. Agnes feels he should be given another chance, I say, bullshit fire him.”

“Wow, that is a really tough position to be in,” Kleinman commiserated trying to think of a way to change the subject.

“So I said okay, but if he screws up again he’s out and she said okay.”

“That seems fair.”

“I think it’s not fair at all, I mean he really fucked up. Kids today feel like they have to put their whole lives on the internet. I don’t get it, are they trying to get their identities stolen? Do they want to be blackmailed?”

“People are getting more tech savvy and less sophisticated,” Kleinman said feeling uncomfortable with the way the conversation threatened to become philosophical.

“Anyway, that’s where you come in. Ya see I have a little favor to ask. You better drink up, it’s a dozy.”

He gulped down his drink as she ordered two more.

“I want you to get him fired.”

“You want me to fire him,” Kleinman asked feeling quite dizzy.

“No, no I want you to get him fired.”

“How?”

“Up to you.”

“I’ll get fired as well.”

“No, I’ll protect you,” she assured him.

For a moment he just sat there in his drunkenness, wondering what to do.

“Look, he should never have gotten his job in the first place. He gave Agnes some nauseating smelly artist bullshit about how he wanted to learn from an older woman; when really he was just a horny kid who’d fuck a dirty sock. He never demonstrated any talent for the job and we almost lost our shirts because of him.

“Is this why you hired me,” he asked not wanting to know.

“Not entirely, but we may need to trim the fat in six months if you know what I’m saying.

The pair returned to the office quite drunk. They pretended to work for four hours and went home.

Kleinman saw the kid in the elevator. He attempted to strike up a conversation, but it didn’t work.

He went home and looked at the want ads on Craigslist, but no one wanted a forty year old copy writer. He watched TV and wondered how he could get the boy fired without it being obvious.

He went on Facebook and looked the kid up and found him quite easily. There were several pictures of the young man enjoying himself at various event. Going back in the kid’s history he noticed there were several pictures of him with an attractive young lady with dyed red hair and a nose ring and then there were not.  Kleinman chuckled at the fact that He’d listed a litany of famous novels as his favorite.

He started to friend the kid, but then he thought better of it. Something like that would be too obvious and may even be harassment.

He began to create a new profile a woman named Lolita, with pink streaked hair and a love of old movies.  He found a picture in one of his own more attractive Facebook friend’s archived photo albums. He created the profile, sent a friends request and waited for the games to begin.