Settling for Less (Writing for TV)
Settling For Less (Writing for TV)
Jon was already drunk when the phone rang. He stared at it, unbelieving.
It can’t be, he thought. No, no. This time it was going to be different. This time we had momentum. It can’t be.
No good news came this deep into the filmy meat of a warm afternoon.
“Jon, ya scoundrel!” The voice of his publicist drove a funnel into Jon’s heart. Poison flowed in.
“No, Wayne. No. How? We had everything, this time! Everything!”
Wayne’s tone dipped, his voice struggled to regain the false charm.
“Jon, just because I’m calling a week after the new book’s release, doesn’t mean bad news.”
There was a pause. Not the excited type that can barely hold back the good news behind it. This was a stagnant pause. A stinking, turgid, infectious pause, holding a cache of bad news in its loose, quivering bowels.
“To be honest, though, Jon, it ain’t great,” said Wayne. He could hear Jon’s sigh on the other side of the line.
“We had the critics, Wayne. The critics fucking liked it, for once! Even Kirkus, for god’s sake!”
“They never published the review, Jon. Snooki put out a new book and, aahh, you got bumped.”
“Well what happened to the New Yorker?! They swore, Wayne. They fucking swore to me on the navel of Shakespeare that they’d publish that rev—“
“They did publish it, Jon. In one of their sister companies; it’s a slightly smaller magazine . . . not quite the circulation we were hoping for—“
“The Times! We had the goddamned Times saying . . . aww nevermind. Fuck it. Just, fuck it all.”
Wayne could hear papers being flung from Jon’s desk.
“Now, don’t be that way, champ. Don’t get down. I’ve got a new direction for you. You’re going to love this.”
“Fucking say it.”
“You heard me, Jon. Television. You’re going to write for television.”
“This is exactly how murder-suicides start, Wayne.”
“Don’t judge, Mister High-and-Mighty. You need a new direction; television needs new blood. It’s a perfect match.”
“It’s just not me, Wayne. It’s not my style, not my image, not my audience. I just—“
“You don’t have an audience, Jon. You’ve got debts, and a drinking problem.”
“Forget the ‘suicide’ part of my previous statement.”
“Jon, trust me. You’ll thrive anywhere! You’re a Rembrandt of words! A Colossus of prose! Folks just got to find ya, and I’m telling you, this is the way.”
“Just ‘Wayne’, to you, Jon.”
“This show got a name?”
“Of course it has! And even better, a famous face to run it. It’s got a built-in audience, Jon! You’re going to love working with them.”
“God, I hope so.”
Jon hung up the phone and attacked his throat with half the glass of bourbon. His throat was able to fend off a few ounces, but most made it past the gates and set fire to the place.
He thought about television. He thought about the abhorrent concept of “working with other artists.” And as the night clamped itself over his office window, Jon felt his old resolve welling up again.
He would move on, again. He’d work for pennies, again. And this time he’d try his hand at TV.
“Maybe,” he said to himself, “maybe, I don’t know. Maybe it won’t be so bad.”