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 Profiler





Irwin Mushpot entered the dank basement office with some trepidation. He seen answered the ad for a romantic profile writer online. He’d always wanted to be a professional writer, he sent things into publishers, but he never heard anything back, not even a form letter. When he’d filled out the writing test this time, he’d gotten a response almost immediately. A Mr. Albert E. Ayne had sent him an e mail back requesting that he meet him at his office on NE. 82 St.

An elderly secretary greeted him and lead him to a very small room which contained a desk and two chairs.

“Mr. Ayne will be with you in just a moment, the secretary said a bit to sternly for Irwin’s tastes.

After a moment Irwin saw the door swing open, but he did not see anyone come in. He heard tiny footsteps and looked down he saw what appeared to be a half man half possum making its way across the floor. It climbed up a small rope ladder that was attached to the other side of the desk. It sat across from Irwin and smiled.

Hello, you must be Irwin, I’m Al,” the creature said in a strange buzzy voice.

“It’s a pleasure,” Irwin said extending a hand trying to act normal.

“So, as you can see I have a physical challenge. As a result of this I’ve had great struggles in my life. I had to educate myself I had to start my own business,” It said extending its left hand (the human hand around the office.) “I’ve been very successful, considering everything and now, I want a girlfriend. I enjoyed your writing sample and well, I’d like you to be my Cyrano.”

“Thank you,” Irwin said, a bit flattered in the face of the shock.

“So, what questions do you have for me to get started on the profile?”

“Um. Let’s see,” Irwin said fumbling with his notebook. Millions of questions raced through his head, but none seemed appropriate.

“What are you looking for physically?”

“Well, I’d like her to be petite, I don’t really care about hair color or style, but she should have nice skin absolutely no yellowish hue.”

Irwin wondered if that was supposed to be a racial comment.

“No dry itchy or flaky skin. She should have a flat stomach no bloat.”


“When you say petite, what, like um height and weight did you have in mind?,” Irwin asked wondering if Al wanted someone his own size.

Al’s cell phone burst out with I Think Were Alone know, by Debbie Gibson.

“Hello,” he said. Yes, I’m working on it yes. I realize that…..yes…Ok I definitely will do that…Of course I know what it’s like to be hungry…I have a way to get many…many of them. Yes…I’m working on it ….yes he is.”

Al hung up. He seemed agitated.

“Sorry, where were we?”

“We were discussing an ideal height and weight.”

“Ah, yes. Oh you know between 4’9 to 5’3 no more than 125 pounds.”

“Any preference for race or age?”

“Human not over 40. She should be a non-drinker, that’s very important! I would prefer an only child who is herself childless and when we go on our date she should not have eaten for 12 hours. She should have no digestive problems. I mean I don’t like those anorexics.” He said bouncing around.

“Do you want me to use a picture of you sir,” Irwin asked delicately.

“Abby will e mail you something to use.”

AL turned and looked out the window suddenly he leaped up and jumped on the curtain he began pulling it shut with his paws, his hand and his teeth.

“Um, do you need any help,” Irwin asked.

“No,” screamed in a shrill voice. He finally got the curtain closed.

“Well, is there anything else you want me to ….”

“No, no”, you had better get started. Go out the back way.”

As Irwin was leaving he noticed the shadow of a large circular vehicle in the parking lot.

He walked out the back door and walked around to the front to get in his car. He drove around the building, but the vehicle was gone from the parking lot. He looked up at the sky and saw a strange object with a familiar arm hanging out of the window.