PART I: BEFORE // Chapter Four: How He Grew Up: 3

The next morning found Gil luxuriously snoozing in his bed until nearly noon, presented with the unprecedented opportunity of four days during which he neither had to work or look for work. He was somewhat at a loss as to how to occupy himself. He puttered around his small apartment, occasionally picking up a book and reading for ten or fifteen minutes before putting it down and turning on the radio for a similarly short period of time. He was restless, but outside the rain was continuing to fall as had been forecast and he decided to stay home in spite of his boredom. By Saturday, not knowing what else to do, he had started making notes for something that he hoped might turn into some sort of screenplay. It was vague and unfocused in his mind but he found that at least it killed some time.

Saturday night for some reason he had trouble sleeping. After tossing and turning for several hours he finally kicked off the covers, sat up, turned on the small lamp on his nightstand, and looked at his alarm clock. It was nearly 2:30 and he wondered what in the world could be keeping him from sleep. One part of his mind told him that it must be his unaccustomed lack of activity, but another part of his mind knew better. He found his thoughts straying back to that late afternoon, over a week ago now, when he had been with Natalie. This had been happening to him with embarrassing frequency ever since his film had wrapped a few days earlier. He was beginning to realize just how much an impression she had made on him, both figuratively and literally. He recalled once again the feeling of her small hands and thin arms clasped around his waist, and her soft cheek pressed against his chest. If he hadn’t been so shocked, he reflected, he might even have enjoyed the experience, might even have responded… But here his mind and his imagination both drew blanks. Beyond the vague idea of somehow returning her embrace, he found he had no idea of how he should have proceeded.

By late Sunday afternoon he was nervously pacing the floor of his small apartment, his door open a crack and his ears cocked, waiting for the hall telephone to ring. He remembered that DeVille had told him that he would call by Sunday evening if Gil’s services were needed to continue filming. But as the hours passed and the telephone remained silent he began to relax. By 11:00 he decided that DeVille would not call, was satisfied with the footage they had already shot, and since he realized he was starving, that it was safe for him to go out for something substantial to eat.

By Monday morning, as the rain seemed to be over for the time being, Gil was in a good mood as he rode the Sunset bus toward DeVille’s office. Upon arriving he entered and found once again an unoccupied waiting room, save for the faithful Miss Schoonover who as usual was busily typing something or other on her Selectric.

As Gil entered she looked up and gave him a warm smile. “Mr. Hall, how nice to see you again.” Then she gave him a pretty little frown. “I was hoping to see you at Mr. DeVille’s party, but I guess you must have been too busy.”

Gil blushed a little and stammered, “No, no, I was there, but, ah, I had to leave early, ah, business appointment, you know.”

“I see,” she said, brightening a little. “I guess I must have missed you. I didn’t get there myself until nearly six.” She leaned across the desk toward him and lowered her voice confidentially. “Boy! You missed some really wild goings on, let me tell you. Why, those half-naked Indians or whatever they were really put on quite a show.”
“I can imagine,” said Gil, attempting to repress a shudder as he once again recalled his disturbing dream.

  “But don’t let me keep you,” Miss Schoonover said, turning back to her typewriter all business once more. “Mr. DeVille is expecting you. You can go right in.”

Thanking her, Gil moved toward DeVille’s office door. He was hesitant though as he tried to shake off his memory of the dream. As he cautiously opened the office door, he half expected to see naked bodies on the couch, but was relieved to see only DeVille sitting behind his desk, now wearing a pastel polyester leisure suit, the ever-present cigar stub clenched in one corner of his mouth.

“Come on in, kid,” he said, waving his hand toward one of the chairs, “and take a load off.” He got up from behind his desk, went over to where Gil was standing and began to pump his hand vigorously. “Swell job, kid, swell. Couldn’t have done it better myself. In fact,” he continued, as Gil was finally able to extricate his hand from the man’s grip and take the indicated seat, “ya did so good that I’m gonna give you a bonus.” Returning to his desk he picked up his telephone’s receiver and stabbed at one of the buttons. “Schoonover!” he rasped. “Bring in Mr. Hall’s file.” Then he replaced the receiver, sat down in his chair again, relit his cigar with his gold Zippo and contentedly filled the air with a few clouds of smoke. Then turning to Gil with another wave of his hand, this time towards his liquor cabinet, he said, “Drink, kid?”

It was only 10:30 in the morning but Gil, being rather emboldened by DeVille’s effusive praise, allowed as he might be persuaded to take a small scotch.

DeVille nodded his head in agreement, took down two highball glasses and a nearly full cut-glass decanter and removing its stopper, splashed a large quantity of liquid into each glass. He then got up once more, went over to Gil, handed him one of the glasses and, holding the other one upraised in a toast said, “Here’s to the success of On Hollywood’s Doorstep: The Shame of the Barrio.”

As they clinked glasses and Gil took a tentative sip the door opened and Miss Schoonover came in and presented DeVille with a thin manila folder. Then in a neutral voice she said, “Will there be anything else, Mr. DeVille?”

“No, nothing right now,” DeVille replied, taking the folder from her and checking its contents. “You just go on back and do whatever you were doing. Me and Hall here are just fine.”

Miss Schoonover nodded her head, turned, and quickly threw a wink at Gil that DeVille seemed not to notice. “Hope to see you again, Mr. Hall,” she said pleasantly, and then was out the door again shutting it behind her.

As Gil forced himself to withdraw his attention from the departing Miss Schoonover, he realized that DeVille was saying something to him that he hadn’t quite caught. “Um, what was that, Mr. DeVille?” he murmured rather distractedly.

“I was just sayin’,” DeVille said, tapping him on the shoulder to regain his attention, “I got your check right here. All you gotta do is sign for it and it’s all yours.” He held out a typed form and a gold ballpoint pen to Gil, who took it and began to sign in the indicated place. “Hold your horses, kid,” said DeVille quickly, halting Gil in the act of signing, “dontcha even wanna look at your check?”

Gil realized that might be the intelligent thing to do, and took the proffered check from DeVille. He gasped and quickly took a large swallow of his scotch, which had sat neglected on an end table for several moments. Returning the glass to the table once more he quickly scribbled his name across the dotted line and handed the paper back to DeVille before DeVille could change his mind. What had produced Gil’s reaction was the writing on the check. As expected, it was made out to Gilbert Hallenbeck, but the figures read “$12,500.00”, which the words written below confirmed. It had been duly and assumedly legally signed with a scrawl that Gil took to represent the name Oscar DeVille.

As Gil quickly folded and pocketed the precious financial document, DeVille looked at him and chuckled. “Well, Hall,” he said with a big grin, “from the look on your face I’d say that meets with your approval.” He then replaced the document that Gil had signed into the manila folder and tossed it casually onto his nearly empty desk.

Gil took still another drink from his glass before realizing that it was not even eleven in the morning and he had already consumed better than four ounces of straight scotch. And he had just been made $12,500 richer. No wonder, he thought dazedly, I’m beginning to feel quite giddy.

“Well, kid,” DeVille was saying, “don’t just sit there, say something.” Gil realized that some sort of grateful response was expected from him. He stood up a little shakily, extended a somewhat unsteady hand in the general direction of DeVille and said stupidly, “Uh, thanks Mr DeVille, uh, it’s been a real pleasure.”

Instead of taking the proffered hand, DeVille clapped Gil on the shoulder, nearly knocking him to the floor in the process. “That’s what I like to hear!” he boomed. “Been great workin’ with ya, too. Ya keep a good schedule, ya do good work, call me anytime ya need a reference. Ya got my number. Don’t be a stranger.”

He had Gil by the arm now and was leading him to the door. “Sorry to cut this short,” he said, “but I’m having lunch with Nicholson in about a half hour. Ya know your way out, right?”

Gil staggered out the door, nodding speechlessly as DeVille, apparently satisfied, shut the office door again. As he weaved his way past the reception desk the liquor in him blurted out, “Nice to see you again, Miss Schoonover!” He stumbled slightly over her name but she smiled at him brightly and didn’t seem to notice.

“I’m glad,” she said warmly. “Hope to see you again real soon, Mr. Hall.” Quickly she thrust a card into his hand which he noticed had what appeared to be a phone number written on the blank side. Automatically he pocketed the card as she said, “Call me if you need anything, won’t you, Mr. Hall?”

He stammered that he would while he blindly groped for the outer doorknob. Finally he located it and stepped out into the hall, looking around desperately for an elevator.

By the time he had found one and reached the lobby, he knew he was not going to make it home under his own power, so he did something that would have been unthinkable to him only a few months earlier—he went to one of the pay phones behind the reception desk and called for a taxi. As this was a fairly prestigious address, his cab was waiting at the curb for him within five minutes. He staggered out to the street and with some difficulty managed to fold himself into the back seat of the car.

“Celebratin’ a little early, ain’t we, mac?” the cabdriver, who looked like a B-movie thug, observed. “Christmas ain’t for three weeks yet.”

Drawing himself upright with as much dignity and clarity of speech as he could muster, Gil replied that he had just closed a very important business deal and had had a few drinks to celebrate.

“Sure mister,” the cabdriver shrugged. “Ain’t none of my business.” He put the cab into gear and headed towards Sunset. “Where’re ya headed?”

Gil gave him the address, and within half an hour he was entering his apartment, several dollars poorer but safe at home.

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