The following is a short crime story set in the cutting room. “Smotherage” is the bonus story included with the novella Fast Bang Booze written by ACE Member Lawrence Maddox. The publisher is Shotgun Honey.
By Lawrence Maddox
PRODUCTION DAY 3/8
“When do we go home? Sleep? This is the hardest damn TV pilot I’ve ever edited, Rudy.” Uncle Bill sat in front of his computer ignoring his tuna sandwich, working through his lunch break. He’d pulled an all-nighter and looked zombie-gray.
I poked at an antipasto salad, pissed that the PA screwed up my lunch order again. “Maybe we won’t get eight hours of dailies everyday, Uncle Bill.”
“If I wanna watch each take twice, that’s sixteen hours,” Uncle Bill said. “Sixteen hours Rudy! I’m not even counting time to edit all the dailies into a half hour of televised brilliance that the network might not even pick up for the fall season.”
“Chill out, Uncle Bill. We got this.”
“It’s not coverage,” he said. “It’s smotherage.”
I walked to my room next door. I’d been Uncle Bill’s assistant for three years, but I’d never seen him freaking out like this. Still, I knew he’d sooner croak than quit this gig. Seemed like on every new show he had to prove he wasn’t too old to cut TV. He’s sixty-two and takes pills for his pills, maybe he’d lost a step. I had his back all the way, though. Always bailing me out during my bat-shit crazy youth, taking me under his wing, Uncle Bill became the dad I never had. I’d get him through this, no matter what it took.
PRODUCTION DAY 4/8
I looked inside the bag that Warren the smirking PA handed me. “I ordered a BLT. What’s this?” I said.
“Eggplant. I got a tuna sandwich but it’s for Bob.”
“His name’s Bill.”
“The old dude, whatever,” Warren said, checking his cell phone.
“Everyday you mess up my order,” I said, “I’m gonna start taking it personal, bro.”
“That the USC Film School gesture for ‘Go screw yourself?’” I stepped towards him.
Warren shrugged again and walked out.
PRODUCTION DAY 5/8
“Warren would have to be repeatedly late with the morning’s dailies for me to fire him,” Matt the Associate Producer said. “His aunt is one of the executive producers, you know.”
The dailies he delivered that morning were a soul crunching ten hours worth.
Late that night, Uncle Bill screamed. I heard it through the walls in my room. I opened his door. His head was on his desk, buried in his arms. A scene ran silently on his monitor. I quietly closed his door.
PRODUCTION DAY 8/8
Another scorching hot morning in Studio City, and the day production wrapped. My Taurus caught a flat pulling into the parking lot. I was getting the spare out of my trunk when a 5 Series BMW zipped into an assigned parking space near the front door. Warren got out, holding the Pelican case that contained the next-to-last dailies. Warren was smiling, chatting on his cell. I knew Uncle Bill was sweating balls waiting for today’s dailies. I looked in my trunk. I looked back at Warren, still standing next to his douchbag Beamer while Uncle Bill waited upstairs. I looked back at my trunk, thinking.
DAY AFTER PRODUCTION
The Editor’s Cut was due today.
I would’ve worked all night, but I’d left to run an errand. When I got back to work, it was 7:40AM. The sun was already blistering the parking lot below my third story edit room window.
Inside my room, I could hear Uncle Bill cutting a scene. Another all-nighter. I heard a knock on Uncle Bill’s door, some muffled voices, the door close. Moments later, Uncle Bill rushed into my room. There were tears in his eyes. He gave me a bear hug.
“Warren didn’t show up with the dailies, Rudy,” Uncle Bill said. “They’re trying to track him down, but until they find him and our dailies, we’ll get another day at least to turn over our cut.” He squeezed me tight. “The smotherage. It’s over, Rudy. It’s over.”
I looked out my window. I could see my Taurus parked in the lot, the sun reflecting brightly off the cobalt blue of my trunk. My car really absorbed the heat.
For Warren, the smotherage had just begun.
I couldn’t wait for lunch.