It’s great being back in Tuscaloosa. The trivia scene here is far more exciting than in Huntsville, and it seems to mean more when the team I’m on places third. Especially in a place I actually go to and eat at.
Trivia also takes a while. Something I forgot. So… Here’s the (probably not) long awaited finale to that story that I’m going to fix some day. Here’s part 7, which will lead you to part 6, which should lead you to part 5, which should lead you to all the other parts.
And we’ll definitely have stuff to talk about tomorrow. Even if it seems like I’m ripping off of Warren Buffett (I’m not, I swear).
I paid the cab driver after I exited the vehicle. As he drove off, I walked up the driveway to Jake’s house. I paused in the middle and looked at the dark night sky, searching for help in the stars. I sighed, knowing that I could find no solace in them. I walked up the steps onto his porch, took a deep breath, and knocked on the door. The white door slowly opened. Jake, looking haggard, appeared in the frame, looking at me.
Before he could say anything, I brought the case of beer I was carrying in front of my face. “Want to share?”
He grinned, grabbing my arm. “Come on in, you big dope.”
I grinned back, and walked inside the house. Jake shut and locked the door behind me. I walked into the den and set the beer on the table in the middle of the room. I then sat on the couch it was set in front of, next to the television. I glanced at the TV and saw a freeze frame picture from our movie where Austin started to run to the church. Jake had probably smuggled the film from the studio and got someone to make a VHS of it. He did that sort of thing all the time in college. I sucked in some breath. This was going to be harder than I thought.
Jake sat down in his leather La-Z-Boy, facing the TV. As he reached for a can of beer, I decided to study his appearance. Jake and I were extremely similar in many respects. Many people asked over the years if we were brothers, and we laughed every time we were asked. We were both about six feet tall, he was an inch taller than I was. I was slightly broader than he was, but nothing impressive. We both had dirty blond hair, though mine bordered on being brown. Our eyes were different colors. His were green, proof of his Irish heritage I liked to believe, where mine were a dark blue. We attended the same college, took most of the same classes, played soccer together, and we even liked the same women. Jake’s personality, however, was completely different from mine. Jake was flashy, flirty, and headstrong. Once he had an idea about something, nothing could get him off that path. Me, I was quieter than he was. I stayed to myself almost all the time before I became friends with him. Women liked me a little better in the romantic sense because I had both of my feet on the ground. Jake was charming, but I was mysteriously appealing. We had been friends since a few weeks into freshman year at college, and now, at age twenty five, we were still good buddies. It was this strong friendship that allowed me to talk to Jake about my troubles for all those years, such as how I was going to pass my chemistry final, how I was going to pop the question to Tabitha, things like that. Now I had to play Dr. Phil as our positions were reversed.
As I reached for a beer, Jake decided to start us off. “So. I know you didn’t come just to share the beer, Trent.” He sipped from his can.
I nodded, popping mine open. “You’re right, Jake. I came to express my astonishment and deep founded concern.” He raised an eyebrow. “Jake?” I asked him, hurt in my voice. “Why did you leave me alone in that parking lot?”
He burst out laughing. I grinned. As long as he knew that I wasn’t here to be the bad guy, everything would be fine. I drank some of my beer. “Seriously, Jake. Want to tell me what got you so upset?”
Jake glanced at me, and then looked intently at his can of beer. Sighing, he set it on the table. He looked straight at me. “Trent. The movie wasn’t supposed to go that way. It was supposed to be an utter failure. I had figured that people liked the fantasy world they lived in so much that any glimpse of the real world would disgust them. I wanted, more so than becoming a martyr, to teach them that the real world could be a gruesomely ugly thing. Now, I know there are times when the good guys do win. However, it can’t happen all the time. There are too many videos that encourage that type of thought.”
I sipped at my drink. “I don’t understand this anger though, Jake. Why can you not be pleasantly surprised or something? I mean, we made good money. Why can’t you be happy?”
Jake smiled, almost sadly. “Trent, you of all people should know why. Or do you not read what you write?”
I suppose the perplexed look on my face clued him in to my confusion. Sighing, he grabbed the remote for his VCR and rewound the tape a little before playing it. I heard Austin speak as he ran, narrating his thoughts to the audience.
“I knew then that I could never fit into society. I have been too far out of it for far too long. I thought that people could never change… that Kevin would always be a heartless bully and Uncle George would always be a heartless drunkard. But these people swayed like an abandoned swing in the wind. I was hopeless to figure out the driving force of the ebb and flow of human thought. If I could not please other people, then how could I please myself? If I could not please myself, then what was the purpose behind my life? I thought of all-”
Jake paused the video. I turned to face him, slowly, shocked. I opened my mouth to say something, but Jake cut me off, laughing. “No, no, Trent. I’m not suicidal. Not when it comes to my life. However, everything Austin said there are basically my feelings on the matter. I thought that I had finally figured people out, that I finally knew what drove their madness. But I was wrong. So, I’m going to stop being a producer.”
Suddenly forgetting the goals that Jake’s father set before me, I blurted out my immediate reaction. “But why, Jake? You just made a killer movie! It had more sales on the first week than a lot of blockbuster hits! I mean, you’re just gonna quit right when you figure out-”
Jake raised his hand to cut me off. “Trent. I’m quitting my job because, with my job, I have to please the public. But my idea of what the public wants is too adamant. I’m hardheaded and don’t like changing my opinions, Trent. You know that.” He smiled, and I nodded knowingly. “With a public that keeps changing, a guy that doesn’t change can’t please them. Remember “Gone With the Wind”? That was the first movie with a curse word in it. The nation was appalled, the public outraged. And now look at movies. You can find hardly any movies without cussing, sex, or blood and gore. The public opinion changes, but I don’t change with it.” He shrugged. “I’m just not cut out for it. My dad tried to tell me, but I wouldn’t listen.”
I drained the last of the beer from my can. “So what are you going to do now?”
Jake shrugged again. “I’ll probably go to graduate school or something. Maybe I’ll be a middle school teacher.”
I grinned wide. “So, since you can’t corrupt people when they’re old enough to watch the movies, you’ll corrupt them while they’re young and impressionable?”
He laughed. “Something like that.” We both stood up.
I grabbed a couple of cans from the box. “For the road.” I grinned.
Jake only smiled. Then, he clasped me on the shoulders, forcing me to look at him. “Trent. Promise me you’ll stay in the business? Hollywood needs someone like you, someone with insight. I think that, as long as you find the right inspiration, you can do good.” He started to chuckle after I nodded. “You know what the worst part about making this movie was? I became both the movie I wanted and the movie I hated. I was the good guy that succeeded, but my plan was to fail, so, ultimately, I was the story I was looking for. Maybe you can do a script about us.” He winked.
I smiled. “Perhaps. Sounds like a nice story, don’t you think?” We grinned at each other. I opened the door and walked onto Jake’s porch.
Before Jake shut the door, he said, “Keep in touch, okay, bud? I’ll try and drop by your house whenever I can. You know, just so you remember that you can’t get rid of someone like me no matter how hard you try.” He smiled.
I smiled. “Always, friend.” I turned away from the door, hearing it shut and lock behind me. I walked back onto the driveway and called a cab. I sat down on the concrete, again looking at the stars. I smiled. Maybe I could find refuge in them after all.
As I stared at them, I pondered. A movie about the stars? Nah… too science fiction.
The cab arrived, and I got in. Soon, the street was silent.