Applause and lights, the likes of which gave me the sense I’d made it. They were the distant faces I had craved for so long, alone, living in a house mortgaged to the hilt. Cocktail crowds worshiped me after the premier of my new film, a dastardly depiction of the dark recesses of the human mind. I was appalled, and they loved it.

Wine and sea creatures and tropical fruits were arranged on a frozen display table and I couldn’t eat anything. I had the biggest studios in my pocket and they lingered like lint. My 2,000-dollar suit, felt like the emperor’s new clothes; a fraud, and an evil one at that. It was never my intention to orchestrate a murder, but my desire for inspiration pushed my conscience past its previous limitations. I was it, in Hollywood now, a success, from the brink of failure, and while the crowds laughed and asked me questions, I was left with my thoughts, unable to tell them what really happened.

“Where do you get your ideas from?” a young starlet asked. I didn’t recognize her, so I assumed she was monster girl, one of the many women who fall prey to a giant squid or an amateur ax murderer in the movies.

“Beer; lots of beer,” I said. And she gave me a half smile, showing me her disappointment; the truth was, I didn’t know where my ideas came from. Six months ago it was the wild hope for something that had abandoned me, the creative juices, so I tried a beer, and then another, and then every substance, even the ones the most degenerate don’t consider, herbs, and celibacy, and fasting, and without imaginary characters, I was totally alone, without want for human companionship. People in my life were threatening to take my house, and my Hollywood associates wouldn’t work with me.

So, I got an old typewriter and started pounding out pages, but the nonsense erupting from my mind, depressed me further. I looked out my window at the new house across the way. It belonged to a producer, a young man, tall, handsome, and with enough testosterone to dominate any obstacle. I was fat now. My eyes were jaundiced, my toenails, covered in fungus, and my teeth, yellow from compulsive smoking. It was the nervous twitch; when you don’t have it, the world is yours. My neighbor wore suits, like a runway model, between enormous windows, in the second story penthouse. It was modern, and his girlfriend had class. She covered her curves with Dior, reminiscent of actresses of the 1950s. And they made love in every room, like goldfish or reptiles or insects in their see-through terrarium. I thought about becoming a sex columnist, but I gave that up because even sex couldn’t give me inspiration. So, in my utter loneliness and penniless state, I decided to cut the hedge between our properties. I couldn’t afford to pay Manuel, even if, that wasn’t my motive for doing hard physical labor.  I cut the hedge and it was immediately distorted. It was worse than when a child colors outside the lines, and maybe my subconscious mind interrupted me because I sawed through the power cord and into my leg. “Damn! I screamed, moaning in agony, like a useless hunk of flesh.

“Are you okay?” A voice asked me through the hedge row.

“My leg; I’ve cut my leg, badly.”

“Well, let me get some bandages and I’ll take care of you. She was wearing a pink dress and a pock-a-dotted halter top. I judged her to be about 23.

“You should be more careful; don’t you have a gardener to take care of the hedge?” She asked.

“Well, yes and no; I’m trying to write. Nothing else has worked and I need inspiration.”

“Why don’t you try some of my home-squeezed lemonade?” She offered it to me between her busty chest and I wondered how Jorge found these women. They were like Stepford wives.”

“Thanks,” I said. “What’s your name?”

“Cassandra, but everyone calls me Cassey. And yours?

“Muddfred, but everyone calls me Fred. Maybe it sounds less dirty.”

“Ha. That’s funny,” Cassey said.

“Have you done something with your hair? Most women want to be blondes, but you’re a brunette. Your hair was blonde yesterday, wasn’t it?”

“No, I’ve always had brown hair.”

I put my confusion out of my mind when I saw her typewriter. “Oh, you do a little writing.”

“Yes; Jorge says my script is just what he’s looking for. Perhaps, you can give me some of your writing, so I can give it to him.”

Appearing desperate was the last thing successful people in Hollywood wanted; it was a career killer; so, my instinct took over. “Oh, I have lots of prospects, but if you’d like a beta reader, I’d be happy to review your stuff. Her cheeks beamed; it was the blush of someone who hadn’t been deflowered by the Hollywood machine.

“Come over tomorrow, and we’ll take a look at your script.” She put the bandage on my leg and I hobbled back to my house, a much happier man. Jorge drove home in his green Lotus and the girl and him made love through their terrarium windows. Hours later and into the evening, a blonde-haired woman walked into his kitchen.

“Oh, I knew it; he’s having an affair.” This is better than a movie. Strange how inspiration starts, and I started writing, and after a couple of hours, I lost all direction and was stuck again.

The next day, Cassey knocked on my door.

“Would you like some tea?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said. She was smiling.

“What are you smiling about?”

“Jorge proposed yesterday.” She showed me the ring. Two new paragraphs got written in my mind.

“Did he tell you that he loves you?” I asked.

She paused.

“Wait; that’s none of my business,” I said.

“It’s strange that you mention it, because he didn’t tell me he loves me. He gave me this ring after he reviewed my story.

“Let’s have a look see.” I started reading and I knew this woman was the next Sylvia Plath, bringing poetry to cinema, something needed in Hollywood and scorned for a long time. “You’ve got something here,” I said.

“Do you think so?”

“I know so. Just be careful who you give this to.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well… never mind.” We talked a bit longer and the sweet young thing went home. What a sick world, I thought. Days past and I decided to cut the hedge. I wasn’t getting anywhere on my script and I looked forward to seeing Cassey again.

The blonde was tanning herself in a chair, while I cut the leaves. At least I was getting better. A man approached her, a tall man, with olive skin, Portuguese, and they started speaking the language I didn’t know, until they started doing the language of love I did know. It went on for hours, until I cut through the power cord again and sawed into my leg. “Damn!”

Moments later, she walked through the gate onto my side of the driveway. “Were you spying on me?” She asked.

“Well…uh…I hurt my leg.”

“Good,” she sneered.

“Can I get some bandages?”

“Bandages? You want bandages?” She asked sarcastically.

“I’m bleeding.”

“Okay. Wait right there.”

“Man, I know why Jorge traded up,” I said out loud. When the blonde returned, she threw me a towel.

“You’re not wearing a ring?” I said.

“My lover doesn’t know I’m married.”

“Do you know your husband is having an affair?”

She looked at me with a scornful eye. “If you are lying to me…?” But she knew I wasn’t lying. “That bastard.”

“Thanks for the bandages.”

“And thanks for letting me know.” I didn’t like how she said that; her words were murderous. And I immediately went into my dark room and started typing until I got stuck again.

I drank my emptiness away, staring into space, until the lights went on, where wife confronted husband with a butcher knife. Terror is never leaner, than when it is cut by stark reality; cornered, the handsome man didn’t have a chance, butchered to death, by his green-eyed monstrous wife with blonde hair.

The news barely talked about it, dispensing any doubt, that this only happens on rare occasions. The story was too horrible to be considered real, but a beautiful piece of cinematic entertainment, and I knew I had influenced the outcome of a murder. Perhaps that was fortuitous, as the brown-haired girl became a famous screenwriter and married an actor who resembled Gregory Peck with the swagger of Cary Grant. And I went on to direct. When we stop doing what we are meant to do, life stops, and I had to stop a life to start mine again; who knows where the ideas come from, they show up in the mind, like a moving picture, and then color gets splashed in between the lines, and sounds of horror echo in the dark recesses of our humanity while the crowd is entertained.

THE END

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