The Disenchanted
by Budd Schulberg


4

Halliday followed the winding path through the tropical landscaping, through, he thought wryly to himself, the Garden of Allah. This outlandish name for an apartment-hotel was a stale joke at which he still smiled from force of habit. Thirteen years ago, when he had stayed here on his first trip to Hollywood, architecture had seemed to be an extension of the studio back-lot with private homes disguised as Norman castles or Oriental mosques, with gas stations built to resemble medieval towers, and movie houses that took the form of Egyptian temples and Chinese pagodas. In that lavish heyday of the parvenu, when everything was built to look like something it wasn’t, a bungalow court with accommodations indistinguishable from a hundred other bungalow courts came to be called the Garden of Allah.

In the moonlight the row of two-room bungalows looked remarkably like mausoleums. It was uncanny, Halliday thought, how many talented men of his generation had chosen these stucco tombs. Were they unconsciously laying their talents to rest? Bob Benchley, Sam Hoffenstein, Scott Fitzgerald—they and many more had all lain here. Some of the bodies, he thought bitterly, had not yet been removed. As he approached his bungalow he could hear the infectious early-morning laughter of Mr. Benchley, sitting up with his friends Johnny Walker, Johnny McClain and Charley Butterworth.

Benchley’s laughter mounted up and up, a great roar of mirth from within the sealed tomb, sent up by an indefatigable spirit which could still laugh at those who had buried him alive.

For a moment Manley was almost tempted to join the laughter. He had known Bob for—it was going on twenty years. But with his present program of austerity he was no longer a fit companion for Uncle Bob. To drop in on Bob and refuse a drink was to put to sea with a Gloucester fisherman and then inform him that you had scruples against dropping a line over the side. You would be no longer in his world. There had been a time when the festive sounds of early morning, the laughter and the tinkling music of ice stirring in a sparkling highball, had been a standing invitation he could never resist. But he had had too many good nights with Bob to impose himself on his old friend now.

The realization that he and Bob and Dotty Parker and Eddie Mayer and Sammy Hoffenstein and perhaps half a dozen others of the old gang had all been brought into the Hollywood fold suddenly oppressed him. There had been so many luncheons and cocktails and all-night sessions when Hollywood had been only a term of derision, when they had vied with each other in witty denunciations of this Capital of the Philistines. No one with any self-respect, he remembered saying, would ever go to Hollywood, except possibly to pursue Billie Dove.

And fifteen years later here they were, all lured to the Garden of Allah, all on weekly pay rolls or, worse yet, trying to get on. Were they men of inadequate wills who had acquired the authors’ cancer—expensive tastes? Or could they, like Manley himself, persuade themselves that this was merely a stop-over on the way back to positive work?

Manley was glad to reach the door of his bungalow. Perhaps he could leave those questions outside, slam the door on them as he had done so many times before. They would rattle the door and scratch on the window-pane (squeech squeech on glass scratch scratch on nerve-ends) but he would not let them in. He would hide away for a few hours in that dark closet of oblivion. Nembutal would see to that (if one doesn’t work I’ll try two and if two won’t knock me out … ).

“Hello, dear …”

Ann had been stretched out on the couch reading, Manley noticed, that new book for the layman by Einstein and somebody else on the evolution of physics. She read almost no contemporary fiction. One of her hobbies, of all things, for a companion of his, was mathematics. When she talked about films it was nearly always in terms of photographic composition and the way emotion is aroused through a creative linking together of separate shots. Even her politics, left of center, avoided the usual abstractions. She didn’t want to talk; she wanted to get things done, things she could see and feel. Manley interpreted this pragmatism as part of Ann’s rebellion against her Hollywood background. Her father, Sam Loeb, had been one of those fabulous soldiers-of-fortune who could sell you the Brooklyn Bridge and then when you came back to complain about being stung, sell you the Bear Mountain Bridge. As a child (so he worked it out) she must have been smothered in hyperbole—run-of-the-mill films sold as the greatest ever made, mediocre talents passing themselves off as geniuses. Hers must have been a world of brag and bombast and heady exaggeration. Probably that was what had attracted her to cutting. She could take the film in her own hands, cut it with scissors and splice the loose ends together again. Sometimes you got a good idea and you put it together to see if it would work. But it had to work. You had to be able to see that it worked with your own eyes.

One of the things that had made their arrangement possible was Ann’s rational, almost inhuman control of emotions. Manley had reached a point where his own emotions—or was it his nerves —had worn so thin that he had little patience with anyone else’s. Ann rose to meet him and he kissed her perfunctorily. He had forgotten he had asked her to stay tonight. But now he remembered having thought he would need the company to break the loneliness he had expected to carry away with him from his first big studio conference. But the surprising qualities of that young man had served the purpose quite adequately. In his mood of self-pity (which he had called “being realistic”) he had been gloomily positive of meeting studio people who would not even recognize his name. But now, after this evening of unexpected adulation, he felt tired, wretchedly tired, too tired even for Ann.

“You poor guy. I was beginning to worry. You must be exhausted.”

“I’ve gone into the lion’s den and come back alive.” He smiled for her. He was exhausted. This was exactly what Dr. Rubin (why had he always felt more secure in the hands of Jewish physicians?) had told him not to do. He sank down in his favorite chair (he noticed with a faint sense of self-ridicule that he was reaching the age when he had favorite chairs, favorite corners, etc.), loosening his bow tie and removing his coat. Ann hung it up with a rapid, automatic gesture. Nothing had surprised her more than her discovery that she liked to wait on him. None of the studio wolves who found her such a cool one, who had even mistaken her aloofness for some variant of abnormality, would have believed her capable of so much feminine solicitude.

Ann had worried about herself sometimes; maybe there was emotional inadequacy in a woman who reaches the age of twenty-seven without having once gone down the chute called “falling in love.” At twenty-seven she had been—only a trifle unhappily—resigned to the life of a bachelor girl. Maybe it had been only a barrier in her mind against her stereotype of the Hollywood male. She wasn’t sure. All she knew was that her first talk with Manley Halliday, a chance meeting on the beach at Topanga, had seemed to change her chemistry. All the inadequacies and blocks she had once even considered passing on to an analyst removed themselves as suddenly and mysteriously as juvenile warts. She was surprised, really shocked at the way she had gone out to Manley. Almost from that first day, she had been ready to follow him, to share his anxieties, to marry him if he should ever ask her but not to withhold herself from him if he should not.

“I’ll make you some hot Ovaltine,” she said. “It will help you sleep.”

Manley glanced wearily at the morning headlines—Mussolini Hails Victory in Spain—FDR Ok’s Planes For France—GOP Asks New WPA Cut—New Violence in Palestine. It was the kind of news that would provoke a violent reaction from young Stearns, but it left him with a terrible sense of resignation. Another war was coming. How calmly they floated toward the falls. He turned to the movie column with relief. There was his name! How could they have managed it so fast? “Our enterprising Victor Milgrim, who has brought so many famous writers to Hollywood from Somerset Maugham to William Faulkner, now does himself proud once more. He’s just signed the illustrious Manley Halliday, author of one of the most famous bestsellers of the 1920’s, High Noon at Midnight, which won the Pulitzer Prize. Manley, who once gave one of those parties we oldtimers still remember, hasn’t come back to see us in y’ars ’n’ y’ars. Welcome back, Manley, and happy screen credits!”

Manley dropped the paper with a faint groan.

“Here you are, dear.” The Ovaltine was in his hands. “How did it go tonight?”

“Oh, all right.”

Ann’s fingers rubbed the back of his neck. He closed his eyes. It felt good. He was very tired.

“Did you read the script?”

He nodded without opening his eyes.

“Bad?”

“Bad.”

Her fingers traced the fine line of his nose up to the base of his forehead, easing the throbbing nerves. “I hope I didn’t get you into something you’ll be unhappy about.”

Something in him stirred resentfully, not against Ann, though he knew it sounded that way. “Oh, what’s being unhappy got to do with it? I’m unhappy about a lot of things. I’m unhappy about not having enough money to go on with my book. I’m unhappy about having to borrow money from you for Douglas’ tuition. I’ve been unhappy for months about not being able to get a job. So now I really shouldn’t complain about being unhappy for ten weeks—at two thousand a week. Incidentally, I want to pay you back out of this first check.”

“Oh, for God’s sake will you stop worrying about that?”

But he did worry about it. In all his years of borrowing— Lord, the friendships it had undermined—he had never taken money from a woman before. He was old-fashioned enough to feel this placed him in an equivocal position. Not that it meant anything to Ann. Money wasn’t any sort of symbol to her. But the combination of taking her money (the increasingly insulting tone of Douglas’ letters had driven him to desperate lengths) and staying home while Ann hurried off to her factory job identified her much too explicitly as the breadwinner. Despite Manley’s reputation as one of the least restrained flambeaux of his age, he had a deep streak of bourgeois conventionality that was offended by the inverted economics of their relationship.

“I’m not worrying about it, Ann. But I do intend to pay it back immediately.”

She saw the look on his face, the strain, portent of storm clouds gathering in his mind. Much as a trained nurse would, she wondered how he could be made more comfortable.

By diversion, perhaps: “I had kind of an interesting problem tonight. We decided to end the second sequence with Tommy Mitchell staring after the girl. The audience knows what he’s thinking, so it can run long, ten feet maybe. We need a good long pause there before coming in on the fast action of sequence three. But the director hadn’t protected himself with enough footage on Tommy. So I tried a little sleight-of-hand. We cut from the medium shot in which Carole walks out on Tommy to a closeup of Tommy from an earlier scene. Reverse printing it he’s looking off camera left, which works out fine with our action. And I don’t think the audience will ever know it’s the same shot they’ve seen before …”

Usually Manley welcomed Ann’s discussion of film technique. His sense of craftsmanship was excited by this new form. His mind was speculative, imaginative, sensitized, maybe that was why he was attracted to the medium. He had the poet’s admiration for the surveyor. Only in Ann’s profession—and this is what interested him—the poet had to be a surveyor as well. But tonight she wasn’t getting through to him. He was turning his head to the wall in some tortured corner of his own.

“Love on Ice,” he interrupted bitterly. “May the Lord have mercy on my soul.”

“Bad as all that?”

“I didn’t have the heart to tell the kid who wrote it—he seems like a nice lad by the way—but it’s about on a par with these College Humor serials—the bad ones. Not even the Katherine Brush ones. The Dorothy Dow ones.”

“College Humor and I just seemed to pass each other without meeting,” Ann said. “All I remember are those two-line jokes they used to reprint in the Chaparral.”

“Oh, yes, we were very funny.”

“Manley, you’re getting those deep circles under your eyes again. You ought to come to bed.”

Come to bed. Is that what she had been waiting for? He looked at her carefully. She was a good-looking woman. Her body was strong and firm, not fashioned along the sleek, narrow-hipped lines currently in favor; there was too much European peasant stock behind her for that. And she had a good, strong face, a striking face, almost beautiful when you got to know it well.  But, thank goodness, it wasn’t one of those Hollywood pretty-pretties; strength was the main attraction for him now. And she had that, not only had it but gave of it generously. Sometimes he wished he could give more of himself in return, or rather, that there was more of him left to give. But it was all so much effort now. He wondered if she knew how much of an effort even their occasional nights together had become. All his emotions, he was convinced, had to be strictly rationed if he were to survive. “I’m not an invalid. I know when to go to bed.” Stung for a moment, she quickly remembered her resolve not to let his flurries of irritability offend her. “Of course you do, Manley. There’s a little more Ovaltine left.” “Tonight I think I’d like a drink.”

Ann frowned. “Manley, that’s the one thing—you know what Dr. Rubin says.”

Ovaltine and nembutal and Dr. Rubin and insulin and ten hours’ sleep and a mistress who was becoming each day more of a mother and a nurse. It maddened him. A random invitation from long ago suddenly returned to torment him: “Please try to come. You know what everybody says here, the party hasn’t really started until the Manley Hallidays arrive.” “I said I’d like to have a drink.”

“Darling …” She was a little frightened now, “you’ve been so sensible. And if you could keep it up for seven months, it seems a shame to …”

“And maybe after this one drink I’ll go on being sensible for another seven months. For God’s sake, Ann, don’t treat me like a dipsomaniac. Take off that white attendant’s uniform.

All I said was I feel like a drink. It’s been an unnerving day. One small drink isn’t going to kill me.”

“Manley, I wish you wouldn’t.”

Her face was coming up to his, in that instinctive way women have of offering themselves as an end to argument. But he turned his head impatiently. He wasn’t up to Ann tonight. The nerves in his face threatened to twitch in the weak place where it always started, at the left-hand corner of his mouth. The weakness exasperated him. Decline and Fall of Manley Halliday … the silly phrase beat in his brain. Self-pity, self-pity, he fought back. You have nothing to fear but (ah, the President’s useful sedative) your debts, nothing to fear but the possibility that you’ve lost your touch, nothing to fear but Victor Milgrim and (he couldn’t help groaning every time his mind phrased the title) Love on Ice, nothing to fear but the love-hate he felt for Jere, nothing to fear but himself.

“For God’s sake, Ann, will you stop pestering me? Stop smothering me!”

Ann subsided obediently. “All right, dear. Call me in the afternoon if you want me to have dinner with you.”

After she was gone he went over to the cabinet where the liquor was locked. But he didn’t bother to open it. Ann and Dr. Rubin were right. It would be foolish to risk a drink after seven months. Now that he was alone, he wasn’t even sure he had wanted that drink. Had it been merely a device, a diversion to draw her away from his incapabilities? But what a needless scene! After all, he could be frank with Ann. He had never known a woman so ruthful. She was the harem, summoned when he desired, rejected when he wished to be alone. Only it had seemed easier to provoke this stupid little quarrel tonight. Was it because his talk with the young man had shaken the dust off his memory of Jere? Damn Jere! The last time he had been with Ann, at the very moment when he should have devoted all his strength and feeling and mind to her, his thoughts had suddenly strayed back to Jere. Home to Jere. Oh, Jere, you were lovely. Jesus, it was lovely with you, Jere … After the breakup there had been a period when he had looked for other Jeres, settled for lesser Jeres, but that had been worse. Jere had been the experience. Trying to use others who were almost as attractive or almost as quick or almost as much fun was as bad as no Jere at all.

That’s where Ann had helped. He would hardly have expected to find a woman who had so little in common with Jere. Ann was intelligent, Jere intuitive; Ann was self-disciplined, Jere impulsive; Ann was essentially independent but accepted her place; Jere was hopelessly dependent on him but resented it; Ann was dependable; Jere was the most irresponsible human being he had ever known.

For these antipodal characteristics he had loved Jere and had learned to appreciate Ann. They were not in competition. And Ann was sensible enough not to try to tip the balance in her favor. Sometimes—when he was sure he had emotion to spare —he worried about Ann. Marvelously convenient for him, their relationship was mined with danger for her. She had driven up a narrow dead-end street and some day if she wanted to get out on a main thoroughfare she might find it impossible to turn around and difficult even to back out. But she was almost thirty years old and she knew her own mind. He accepted her love as a patient receives a necessary injection from his private nurse. His conscience was clear. He had made it a rule never, even in release, to speak the three mysterious words proscribed by the conventions of romance. Instead he had always said, “I’m fond of you, Ann,” or “I feel close to you.” And from the beginning Ann had been wise enough to understand just how much of Manley’s emotions she commanded. Characteristically, she had even reduced it to a mathematical proportion, summed up in the half-joke, “I’m as bad as your agent, willing to settle for ten percent.” With a sudden warmth for her that often came to him when he was alone, he went to the phone. She should be home by now. She only lived a few blocks down the Sunset Strip.

“Hello, Annie?” That was what he always called her when he felt this way.

“What timing! I was just opening the door.” “Our timing is all right once in a while.”

“I’m glad you’re feeling better.”

“Annie, sometimes I wonder how you can put up so long with a crotchety old man.”

“Listen, do you plan to stay up all night? You’ll be a wreck in the morning.”

I’m a wreck now, he thought. You can pound out the dents and get the motors running again, but they’re never the same after a smashup. “All right, mother. But I just wanted to let you know —that little outburst I had—I’m not fit company for anyone these days. Not even myself.”

“Manley,” she said, “will you please get some sleep and stop all this nonsense?”

“What’s so special about sleep? It never knitted up my raveled sleave of care. Recognize that, Annie? That’s by Odets out of Shakespeare.”

He was coming out of it.

“Well, anyway I’m going to bed,” Ann insisted. “I’ve got to be back in the cutting room in less than five hours.” “See you tomorrow evening then.”

“Tomorrow evening is less than twelve hours away, dear. Even if you have trouble falling asleep, don’t take over two pills.” “Miss Loeb—” he tried to wing it in with his old flippancy— “what would I do without you?”

Something that was either a yawn or a sigh whispered across the wires. “Sometimes I really wonder.”

He did too, but he laughed it off. After that, Ann cut the conversation short. Her manner was always dry and efficient on the phone. For her it was just an instrument for confirming appointments and setting times to meet.

Manley was a long time in the bathroom, where the medicine chest was full of pills and variously colored liquids for real and imagined ills. With a repugnance he had never been able to overcome, he punctured the skin for the insulin. Then he took the two nembutals (Ann’s warning having succeeded in heading off a third) and stretched out on the bed to read until sleep should overcome him.

He glanced impatiently at the first few pages of the script again. So this was all there was to it. If he had deceived Milgrim in telling him he saw enough possibilities in the story to take the job, it was not a dark lie. In return for two thousand dollars a week he would do his best, his best second-best. He would, as they liked to say out here, make with the talent. Yes, his talent was an old firehorse which may have seen its best days but was still in there ready to run its heart out when it heard the alarm. Here talent, nice talent, there’s a good talent, here’s a little sugar, two thousand bucks’ worth of sugar, now run to this little fire, and maybe poppa will let you run to one more big one, a whole block on fire, a city, a world…

Halliday caught himself just as he was about to sneak out over the fence that bounded this assignment. This was an old trick of his, escaping, but he was forty-three now (yes, yes, he knew he looked fifty-three) and he liked to think he was disciplined. At least he had learned it was time to start learning discipline. No good thinking about the big fire that his big talent was going to make a final run for before it died. First there was this little one of Victor Milgrim’s to worry about, this sparkler with its little false tongues of flame that sizzle but do not sear.

Strewn on the floor around the bed were a dozen books, current novels, mysteries from the lending library (which he hardly ever remembered to return) and some things he had been rereading, Shaw’s Prefaces and Euripides. He reached down for the first book that came to his hand. Evelyn Waugh’s latest, Scoop. In the first ten or fifteen pages, he always said, he could get the feel of any book and this one was a faint, fifth carbon of those triumphs of cynicism that had seemed so hilarious ten years earlier. The book cackled with a hollow, imitative laugh and the fact that the author was obviously only imitating himself made it all the more depressing. Brittle jokes about the Abyssinian war. Good God, what was Waugh after all but a Rudyard Kipling with a shrill sense of humor and an inverted class consciousness? Scoop slipped back onto the floor as he picked up Monday Night. Kay Boyle. She had been near the top of his list of young hopefuls ten years ago. But the first few pages of her new novel gave him the jitters. It was such nervous writing about such nervous people. The effect was brilliant but nerve-racking. His patience hardly survived the opening chapter. What had happened to these people? Or was it that nothing had happened to them and the times had changed? Or again, was it his own tastes that had changed ? Perhaps he should reread Vile Bodies and see if it still struck him as a limited masterpiece. Was there any tragedy greater than a writer’s outliving his gift, petering out like so many he had known ? Well, he supposed a good many of his old admirers thought this had happened to him. His novelettes in the women’s magazines. But he knew better. He’d show them better. He may have been a poor judge of his own life but he mustn’t fool himself about his own work. He didn’t think he was deceiving himself about Folly and Farewell. He was pretty sure that opening chapter was the most artful beginning he had ever made.

Monday Night was back on the floor now and he was dipping into Orestes. These ten weeks on the movie must simply be taken in stride, that’s all. He must plane down the rough surfaces and hammer in the nails like a good little carpenter. His was not to reason why, his was simply to earn twenty thousand dollars. (Now Euripides was on the floor.)

When the close text of Euripides had begun to slide out of focus, he had mistaken this for drowsiness. But the moment he plunged the room into darkness it seemed as if the lights had flashed on in his head. (He should have taken that third nembutal after all.) The lights were flashing numbers in his brain. Two thousand for ten weeks is twenty thousand minus the agent’s ten percent leaves eighteen thousand after paying back Ann it’s sixteen five as they say out here and payments on his back taxes brings it down to eleven thousand (still twenty-six thousand short of squaring himself with Uncle Sam) another eight hundred due Jere on back alimony and five hundred a month on the new settlement and the thousand he had borrowed on his insurance and the allowance for Douglas (so he didn’t see how he could get by on less than the other boys, did he?) damn it, he had lost track of what the balance was now, and by the first there’s three months due here at the Garden another six hundred that was one thing he had kept from Ann because she would have paid it and that would have been the topper the crusher as they say here—now let me try to get this straight
2000 and
1500 and
800 and
500 and
600 and
he tried to count back in his head, lost track, began again and then, feverishly awake he switched on the light and began to add the figures on a scrap of paper from the nightstand, $14,666 from $20,000 would leave him $5,334. How long could $5,334 last him? Not five months with the load he had to carry. Time enough to finish the book? Maybe, with a couple of slick stories thrown in, and maybe one more advance from Dorset House, though he mustn’t count on that any more. He was already into them for ten thousand. That’s what had kept him going the past two years. And he still owed them seventy-five hundred on that Aimee Semple MacPherson novel he had put aside after two chapters. (How could he have gotten so far off his track?) Debts kept buzzing inside his head. He had had ninety-seven thousand dollars once. 97,000 dollars. $97,000. He and Jere had thought of it as bottomless wealth, providing fast cars and good Scotch and villas at Florence and Neuilly and now ninety-seven thousand wouldn’t pay his debts, not if he actually set out to pay everybody back. By God, he’d square himself yet. Nobody would ever know how much he had hated to ask for that money. So much so that he could never feel completely friendly with his benefactors again. But the old debts would have to wait another year or two when (the dream promised) the new book would sweep the country like High Noon, only bigger with the book clubs now, $50,000, maybe even a movie offer, they were buying all kinds of things now. Ah, for another of those double successes. The Sunday book sections would offer up their front pages in a rush to get on the bandwagon, making up for their years of neglect by bringing out all the fancy literary adjectives definitive, searching, majestic, masterful to hail the return of a major novelist… A sudden, involuntary twitch made him realize he must have fallen asleep for a moment. The sheet of paper had slipped from his hands. Picking it up he noticed for the first time what he had been scribbling his figures on. A brief correspondence from the Garden of Allah management:

My dear Mr. Halliday,
We beg to remind you that we have not yet received your remittance for rental covering the months of November, December. No doubt this is a mere oversight on your part. But now that we again call it to your attention, would you be good enough to…

Was business the last refuge of courtesy, or of hypocrisy? He studied the letterhead: Garden of Allah. He remembered a friend of his—had it been Van Vechten?—had once written him from the Garden of Allah in the early Twenties and he thought Carl had been indulging his supercilious sense of humor. The Garden of Allah. There could be no such place. Well, there was no such place, really, but he was here. Was it possible, if there were no such place, that he was here?

He felt rotten. He felt as if he were sinking, sinking … But not into sleep. How obscene to be reported to have died in the Garden of Allah. How would you ever live a thing like that down? What was he thinking about, live it down? He was dead. Daid. I’ll be glad when you’re daid you rascal you. All right, try it with the lights out again. But there they go those damn lights in the head again. He was counting thousand-dollar bills jumping over the fence, getting away from him, twenty, eighteen, sixteen, fourteen. CHRIST LET ME SLEEP I’VE GOT TO GET SOME SLEEP. Headache, coming on fast. Lights on again. Bathroom. To hell with Ann, one more little yellow capsule and a couple of aspirins. Now back to bed. Slide down into sleep, to sleep the death of each day’s life, the balm for mind’s pain—no that wasn’t quite it. Did Shakespeare have debts? Did Shakespeare have troubles like this, did you, Bill? Can’t hear you, Bill, speak louder louder LOUDER. My God he’d been snoring then he was sleeping but it didn’t seem like sleeping the lights were all different colors now and they were flashing on and off and going around and around peg in a square hole idea for a story if he could write it down quickly enough but he couldn’t find the light only there was a soft blue light in the corner Jere must have put it there Jere and her lights those love lights pastels for the different moods of love. Who else but Jere would have thought of that? / feel pale green or / feel bright red tonight and there were her colored lights to match and afterwards reading Verlaine to him in that soft accent. Where was that pale blue light coming from ? And the distant laughter ? Oh that was Bob in his stucco tomb. But the light? Hardly blue any more diaphanous diaphanous dawn hadn’t he written that in a book once …

Suddenly he jerked to a half-sitting position. Dawn. That explained the blue light in the corner. Fumbling for his watch, he saw it was six thirty-five. He closed his eyes again as if to outwit himself with the deception that he really had not been awake. But it was too late. A minute of tossing and the light was on once more. Another book from the floor, this time Rex Stout. Whodunits were the opium of the people and the movies were the opium of the people. But Love on Ice wasn’t opium. There wasn’t enough fantasy there. It knocked you out like chloroform. Artists in chloroform. At two thousand a week you have to be good. You have to deliver the goods. He had to pack up his troubles in his old kit bag and—something shot by his window with a loud clanging. A fire. His fire-horse? Calling all talent, calling all talent, come to the aid of Manley Halliday at World-Wide Studio…

At seven o’clock nembutal and aspirin dull the sharp edge of anxiety, smother growing uncertainty and fear in the soft-pillow euphoria of oblivion …


Next chapter 5

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