The Optimist


 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?”


“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?”


“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?”


“The Hotel Rossyln?”


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.


The Complaint (part 11)



Ellen watched TV for as long as she could stay awake. Aside from the news it was all reality television. She marveled at the variety of different plots they had thought up.

The first one was a show about the life of Ted Bundy in Hell. He managed to avoid his punishment of being in a device that would constantly shove a Samari sword up his ass, by agreeing to be on an endless dating show. The show entailed a stream of insane and hideous woman who had written to him in prison competing to be his bride. Bundy was forced to sleep with all of them including a four hundred transvestite covered in boils.

The next show was called Gia and Anna Nicole and it was about the life of the former bachelor star and the former stripper rooming together for the rest of eternity. They were cursed with IBS and most of the show took place in the bathroom, They weren’t allowed to wear any make-up or brush their hair and they were forced to read all the classics aloud, which was a problem, because neither of them seem to be able to read very well.

Another show featured Richard Nixon locked in an oval office where the pictures of angry Vietnamese people yelled at him, Ellen assumed the show was aimed at old people.

The news came on again and Ellen saw her mother crying while being interviewed.  She wondered why she hadn’t cried yet. She had after all died. No one had told her weather she would see her family again and yet she felt a strange sense of calm. She felt almost as though she had stepped out of a hot tub after a long soak –limp and in a bit of a daze.  Her futile crush on Kyle was the closet thin she had felt to emotions all day and even that didn’t evoke the kind of nervousness it would have when she was alive.

Feeling drowsy, she headed back to the bedroom. She groped her way through the dark and lay down on the far corner of the enormous bed. She could here Danni and Kyle whispering at the other end of the bed, then she felt an ominous tugging at the sheets. Somewhere in the middle of the night she fell asleep. They were all awakened by an alarm at 3:00 am and Kyle had to get dressed and go haunt an aspiring entertainment news blogger who wished to become the next Perez Hilton.

The alarm when off again at 7:00 AM. Ellen was happy to see a fresh set of clothes laid out on a chair for her. She showered ate her SpaghettiO’s and caught the boat to work.

“So, what did you think of the dorms,” Virgil asked as soon as she got in the boat.

“It was okay. I hope I don’t have to live there too long. I really didn’t like the soul mirror very much at all.”

“Well, you should get used to that, there’s one in every residence in Hell,” he told her. “Why what did you look like?”

“I don’t know, weird and old.”

“Having and old soul isn’t so bad.”

“I guess I didn’t look at it that way,” she smiled.

“What do you look like in that thing?”

“I think you’d be surprised.” He said.

They arrived at the office and Ellen arrived at her desk to find a fat green file folder on her desk, it was her first assignment.

The Reality Show in Tad’s Head part 5


It was then that Caroline began to experience a strange, intense double vision she saw her own memory in the distance and Tad’s memory, close up. Then, she hear a loud, unfamiliar voice say voice say,
Well, maybe, let’s go in for a look”.
“Did you say something?” She said to cameraman.
“No, still on break”
“Director did you say something”, she yelled to him.
“No, no love, you’re hearing Tad’s inner voice, or at least his memory of what he was thinking.”
“Oh my God, he’s coming over here”, she heard her own inter voice say.
“The butt’s a little too big, nice eye…pantyhose? Fuck it,’, Tad’s voice said ‘Caroline covered her ears, making her own memory of her internal voice ten times louder.
“Do I have spinach in my teeth? I think I have a little spinach in my teeth”, the voice screamed.”,
“She’s got spinach in here teeth,” Tad’s inner voice said.
“Um excuse me. Editor?” she called out.
“What’s going on?” He answered gruffly.
Um’ can we erase stuff from his memory?”
“You’ll find a red pen taped to the bottom of the dolly just mark off the image in the band you want erased.” She marked off the memory of her pantyhose and the spinach in her teeth.
Their thoughts drowned out their boring chit chat Tad couldn’t get his mind off the woman the red dress. He kept sneaking peeks at her as she worked her way around the room.
She remembered thinking that she had never seen such beautiful, kind eyes. She thought she knew him when she looked into them. Now, standing in his brain three years later she was appalled to see that he hadn’t listened to a single word she said.
She briefly marked off the scene’s she though were most incriminating and then had camera man role her to later on that night.
She felt horrified at Tad’s memory of their first sexual encounter.
“”God her tits are even smaller without the bra Is that a birth mark? Get some of that fake tanning stuff.
Everything she feared he was thinking was exactly what he was thinking. She had to even the score.

With the assistance of editor she inserted her thought bubbles over the action.
“God it’s small”. One bubble said.
“What am I an English saddle”, said another.
“Get a clue the screaming means I’m coming which means you can too, brains. Hurry, up Chelsea Lately is on in like five minutes”, a third proclaimed.
She grinned at editor as she typed them in he just rolled his eyes and did his job.
“Is that really what you were thinking”? He asked.
“Approximately”, she said.
It will entertain the audience anyway.
He shook his head and assisted director in pushing her several months into the future.

The Reality Show in Tad’s Head part. 3

Director got out a map and began to plan a route to the brain. They all gathered under the liver shielding themselves from falling tomato soup and bread.
“Let’s take the bile duct to the gallbladder and climb up the right lung”.
“Bile duct?” Caroline said.

“He’s right, it’s the fastest way to get there” Editor said regarding Caroline with a mean smile.
“Can’t we just travel up a blood stream?”
“It’s too dangerous; we’d be going straight upstream the whole time.”
“”not if we waited until he was lying down”, Caroline said hopefully.
“That will take too long, the drugs that shrank us, only last for two days.” Editor said.
“Maybe, he’ll take a nap”, She said hopefully.
“Get in the raft”, Director said.
Caroline closed her eyes and held her nose as they were splashed with the disgusting green bile. Suddenly there was a great title wave and they were all lifted into the air they came crashing down, Caroline screamed and got a mouth full of bile.
“What happened?”, she asked.
“Is, nothing; is belch”, cameraman said.
“Don’t , worry if you got some in your mouth, its actually good for you. It has taurine in it; just like most energy drinks”, Director said.
They arrived in Tad’s head just after midnight.
They all sat down and had their first production meeting.
I want him to see things as I remember them. I want a studio audience packed with people to tell him what he did was wrong.”
“What did he do, cheat on you” Editor asked with a knowing smile.
“I don’t know”, Caroline said. “He just got meaner and meaner and then he just left. I don’t think he feels any remorse.”
“Why didn’t you just ask him why he left, this must be coasting you a fortune”?
“Okay, Editor that’s enough.” Director said.
“I didn’t want to appear desperate”.
The four got to work cutting the memories from the small editing machine. Caroline felt embarrassed as they fast forwarded over the memories she had of herself singing in the shower and dancing in front of the bathroom mirror.
They got to the night where she met Tad at a New Year’s Eve Party.
Her heart dropped into her stomach when she saw him standing there looking at her like she was the only person in the room.
“Boy this part of the tape is a little choppy,” said director.
”That’s from being played over and over again,” chuckled editor.
Here’s what I’d like to do,” director said. “I’d like to take all the other party guests, Tad’s ex-girlfriends and any potential love interest he has and make then the audience”, that way all the opinions are completely stacked against him .”
“I don’t want to see his love interests,
“Caroline, he isn’t going to care if a bunch of random people and his ex-girlfriends don’t like him. He’s a wanker you have to look for something he does care about and show him that his actions will destroy his chances of getting it. The woman from Match in mind is sending us   some extras of course,; but, lets stack the cards against him.