A story for a contest. I did not win.

I fully acknowledge this is not very good. I like the story, but not the writing. At the time I hadn’t done any prose writing for a few years. This was for a Mcsweeney’s contest to finish story ideas left behind by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

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based on premise: “There was once a moving-picture magnate who was shipwrecked on a desert island with nothing but two dozen cans of film..”


There was once a moving-picture magnate who was shipwrecked on a desert island with nothing but two dozen cans of film.

“Not even fucking film anymore,” he told himself as the South Pacific surf pounded him under again and again.

“All fucking digital now,” he complained to no-one as he found a safe landing place on the rocky shore of the island, using a technique he had once seen on a television survival show hosted by a man named “Grizzly.”

And then later (he remembered as somehow he pulled himself up onto the jagged rocks), Continue reading “A story for a contest. I did not win.”

Entourage:2039, Chapter 25: Turtle Attacks!! (part one)

Is this all weird, confusing and a little scary for you? Start at chapter one.

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It’s 4 a.m. In a Santa Monica penthouse suite, Ari Gold sleeps. There are four armed guards outside the door, an entire hotel full of his men, his private army camped on the surrounding streets and doing God-knows-what in the bar and down on the dark beach. There’s even a detachment on the roof with big guns and shoulder-mounted missiles, to guard against an aerial assault. But that’s not going to happen- Ari’s army owns the air. His drones go over every hour on the hour, ready to rain death on anyone who dares to cross him or, on a slow day, pretty much anyone at all.

There are eight empty little liquor bottles by the bed and on the floor. Pills too, horse pills. This whole pharmacopeia is enough to bludgeon Ari into unconsciousness, if not peace. And so he sleeps, lost in the past and his dream of Vince, twisted in 800-hundred-dollar black satin sheets.


But while Ari sleeps, Turtle is wide awake- completely wired, actually. No drugs involved. Turtle is on a natural high, because he loves this shit. Turtle is on the 101 freeway, southbound in what used to be the number four lane, approaching the Alvarado Street exit.

He’s not in a car, of course. If you see a car on the 101 these days, it’s a burnt-out rusted hulk, Continue readingEntourage:2039, Chapter 25: Turtle Attacks!! (part one)”

Entourage:2039, Chapter 24: Happenings at an audition for a three-line role, occurring twenty years previous.

The young actor is on Riverside Drive when the traffic starts to get bad. He brakes, goes ten more feet, brakes again, slams the wheel, curses. What is he doing out here in the east Valley, anyway? The audition isn’t anywhere an audition should be- somewhere off on the godforsaken edge of Griffith Park. But what the hell, it’s three lines in a feature, and they all started somewhere, right?

When he finally finds the place there’s nothing there. It looks like an abandoned lot- the young actor can’t believe it. He stands there feeling stupid until someone says his name and a millisecond after he gets out “Yeah” he’s being blindfolded and put in a car. “Just relax, we’ll be going underground,” they tell him.

The Actor does his best not to freak out. “What would Vincent Chase do?” he actually thinks to himself, without irony, and what he comes up with is that Vince would play it cool. The Young Actor has never met Vince of course, although he saw him across a club once, getting bottle service Continue readingEntourage:2039, Chapter 24: Happenings at an audition for a three-line role, occurring twenty years previous.”

Entourage:2039 Chapter 23: Vincent and Ari in the Spirit World (part four)

Is this all weird, confusing and a little scary for you? Start at chapter one.

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Vince and the girl visit the production’s barn and quietly retrieve the “Unicorn” – the flawless white horse presented to Vince in the film, now without its horn, of course. They lead the horse along the path to the small stand of forest being used for the shoot, and then, to Ari’s growing amazement, they take off their shoes and walk barefoot into the trees. A little way in, they come to a clearing, where moonlight is shining down on the blue grass. Ari hangs back among the trees, like the multiple-personalities serial killer in eight of the scripts currently piled on his desk. Vince and the girl stand in the moonlight and- they just talk to each other. Ari can’t believe this shit. They’re just talking. Now the girl is holding Vince’s hand, and rubbing her other hand on the back of his neck, and she whispers something in his hear. And… is he?? Is Vincent Chase crying??

Ari tries to turn away – he’s seen enough – but before he can he sees the girl take out some kind of horrible New Mexico turquoise-and-crystal necklace, and he sees Vincent bow his head so she can place it around his neck.

The next morning, Ari is ready to go: he’s seen more than enough. He shakes hands with Vince, and leans in to a half-hug, yelling in his ear to be heard over the prop wash of the waiting helicopter.

“You’re fine. Everything’s going to be OK.” Ari tells Vince, even though the commitment plan is now fully formed in his head- even though he already made a few phone calls to exclusive private facilities when he awake at four thirty a.m. that morning. As turns and walks towards the helicopter, Ari feels good: He is never more true to himself than when he is lying to someone.

And as Vince watches his friend recede into the sky, he feels good too, because he is never more true to himself then when he is telling someone what he wants to hear, when he is being what the world wants him to be.

And just like that, it’s over. Ari sits bolt upright in the California King of the black hotel suite with the black windows in the heart of the black Santa Monica night, with his black heart beating two hundred times a minute in his chest- but fuck that, because he’s still alive he’s still here he’s still Ari Gold who does what needs to be done and runs straight into the guns of the enemy and takes it in the gut, like a soldier.

And Vincent is back: falling into the ocean, and then he’s in the black water and it’s in his lungs and he can’t breathe but he’s not afraid and he sits straight up in the bedroom of the derelict house floating on the dead sea of the night desert, and the girl Mary is there, and she’s been watching him, and everything is new.

Entourage:2039 Chapter 22: Vincent and Ari in the Spirit World (part three)

Right then was when Ari had first started to toy with the idea- when Vince had walked off the set for the sixth time in one day, and before they had even called lunch. Having your star client committed to a mental institution is a fairly radical move, but Ari had felt it was the only choice he had, at the time.

At the time. That was the key phrase- because the time had been over twenty years ago now- and yet here he was again. Rushing across the set to get to the director before the assholes from the studio did, having just helicoptered in from Telluride after being alerted, mid Double-Black-Diamond, to Vince’s fourth meltdown of the morning. It was then that the idea first started to germinate way back in the depth of his lizard brain, the part that always knew what had to be done, whether Ari’s conscious self liked it or not. That was the part that had gotten him through law school, and then out of the primordial ooze of the mailroom to take his fully evolved place at the very top of the agency food chain- and it was the part that would later pull off a series of military victories so sudden and unexpected that what was left of a metropolis of over ten million people would wake up one fine firey morning to find itself kneeling at his feet.

But all that was still in the future. He was an agent, and Vincent Chase was both his star client and his best friend. So the really weird part is this: he can feel the idea forming in the back of his head, feel his frontal lobe shout it down as ridiculous- but he already knows what decision he’ll end up making, exactly how it all plays out, down to the smallest detail.

Forty minutes later Ari exits Vince’s trailer, that part of his job done. He’d given Vince the basic guilt trip (responsibility, contracts, loyal fans, reputation in the industry, &etc), followed by the pep talk (most talented person on the set, one of the best of his generation, believed in unconditionally by his friend and mentor, Ari Gold). It was all pretty standard by this point. Next, the real work started.

Ari worked his way around the set, talking to a few Grips, P.A.s, and Boys (Best and otherwise). A few bribes later he had what he wanted: it all pointed to a certain young girl somewhere near the bottom of the makeup supply chain.

So Ari stakes out Vince’s trailer, and he waits. And sure enough, come 11 o’clock, there she is. She’s short, a little stocky even, big tits but other than that not much to look at. She knocks and goes in. Ari figures it’ll all be over in – he does a few mental calculations involving Vince’s current mental state, his estimate of the girl’s weight, and the orientation of the foldout couch in the trailer – sixteen minutes, give or take. He knows exactly how Vince operates: Ari wouldn’t even feel right calling himself an agent if he couldn’t set his watch by the inevitable position change- from Reverse Cowgirl to Doggy, due in about six-and-a-half minutes from now.

Nothing to do but wait for it, thinks Ari, but he’s wrong, because just then the door opens and out comes Vince, along with the girl, fully clothed and apparently unmolested. They walk back towards the sets, and Ari follows discreetly behind. He can hardly believe what he sees next:

[continued next week]

Entourage:2039 Chapter 21: Vincent and Ari in the Spirit World (part two)

Between the sky and the deep black water, Vincent Chase has a dream.

Which is confusing, because he was already dreaming, somewhere east of the city, tucked into bed in some never-lived-in ghost of a suburb that is slowly but surely being retaken by the desert. But still, Vince has a dream as he falls, and this is what happens:

In his dream, Vince is in his thirties, not in his prime anymore- his looks are starting to go a little bit, especially on mornings after he drinks. But still, he feels good. When the dream starts, Vince is walking through a forest. The first thing he notices are the gnomes- little men in green pointy hats, surrounding him, walking with him through the forest. It’s a little alarming, but Vince keeps his cool. There are beams of sunlight slicing down through the huge trees, warm on his face, but not too warm- and the whole thing is actually kind of nice.

Now another party of gnomes approaches and they’re bringing some kind of big animal- a horse, Vince sees as they come closer, huge and as white as something in a dream, which this is. Which it has to be, because now Vince is almost blinded by a flare of the sun off the huge beast’s horn- it’s not a horse, it’s a Unicorn! and the gnome leading it bows and curtsys before Vince.

“Your steed, your majesty,” he says, and Vince knows the great Unicorn is his and he can ride it. And the gnomes boost him up onto the back of the beast and Vince feels the power beneath him and he feels he should say something, that everyone is waiting for some kind of speech, but it doesn’t matter he just wants to ride he’s never felt so free in his life and then the director calls “Cut!”

Of course it’s a movie. Of course they were waiting for him to say his line while he just sat there on the horse with the prop horn glued to its forehead. It all comes back now- the fragile levee of Vincent Chase’s mind is instantly overwhelmed by memories, and guilt, and shame, and the voices in his head are joined now by those of three assistant directors yelling at him, shaming him, psyching him up, all in a proxy for the director who is too remote and fearsome to be spoken to directly, like the father Vince never really knew.

“I have to go to my trailer,” Vince manages to stammer out, even though he has no idea where his trailer is- he only knows he’s going to go insane if he stays on this set one more second with the six hundred eyes probing him, judging him. Because he is completely sure, as sure as he has even been of anything in his life, that everyone on the set, down to the lowest P.A., can see directly into his soul. And he knows what they’ll find there: What he himself knew was there all along, in a hundred stoned-sleepless 3ams in Hollywood mansions and foreign hotel suites, which is nothing at all.

Entourage:2039 Chapter 20: Vincent and Ari in the Spirit World (part one)

The party is a quiet one. It should have been a great night- Ari’s army had made their way from Chavez Ravine to the coast with no casualties at all, unless you counted a little indigestion and light vomiting. They’d plundered and looted a swath as wide as a football field across the remains of the city, and now here they were at the end of a hard day’s work, in Santa Monica, ensconced in the safehouse of the late beachfront luxury hotel, Shutters.

The boss had made a perfunctory toast – thanking everyone for their hard work – but no one was really buying it. He wasn’t smiling, and everyone knew what it meant when the boss didn’t smile at all, which was the same thing it meant when the boss smiled too much- which was that heads were going to roll, and soon.

Mr. Gold disappeared immediately afterward, bound for a sound- and light-proof suite on a floor so secure that 99 percent of the guests at the party would be shot dead before they were allowed to set foot on it. So the party isn’t very good, because everyone is just standing around looking at everyone else, trying to figure out who’s going to be dead before seven tomorrow morning. Some people are trying- there was a run down to the beach, and a few people even went in the water, laughing off the risk of certain, fast, extremely painful death that comes when you feel a forty-foot tentacle tightening around your ankle.

No one sees one of Things in the water on this night; no one sees anything much unusual- least of all the spirit, or avatar, or whatever of Vincent Chase floating in the dark outside the big hotel windows and looking in at Ari Gold holding a glass of fine red wine. Not only do they not see Vince, they don’t see Ari either because Ari has retired a good three hours earlier. Ari is 16 floors up, mired in combination of a meditative state, sleep, and a stupor induced by three of the industrial-grade Sequonel tranquilizers he carries at all times, in a little zippered compartment on the inside of his left boot.

The party actually looks pretty good to Vince, floating outside the window. No one seems to be having much fun, sure, and it’s a total sausage fest. But Vince’s standards are not what they once were. He sees these professional mercenaries- sipping wine and cocktails, and talking quietly in pairs and small groups about who pillaged what and the things and people they shot- and he experiences an overpowering urge to be with them, just for ten minutes, cracking jokes and holding court again, having three or four drinks and then, when his new friends have been brought effortlessly into his orbit, heading out to look for some weed, or some girls – anything – just keep the night going and see what happens.

The urge is so strong, there are so many memories coming back now all at once that Vince wants to cry, or scream that it’s all a mistake, it has to be a mistake it wasn’t supposed to turn out like this- but there’s no time because he’s flying now, away from the hotel and the lights of the restaurant perched on the end of this ruined city: The last light in the world- and it shrinks smaller and smaller behind him until it’s a tiny yellow-white dot swallowed by the endless night, and Vince feels himself being torn away from everything that he ever loved, or wanted in his life, and now there is no light at all and nothing below him but the bottomless black ocean, and now he is falling.

Entourage:2039, Chapter 19: Night Flight

Vince and Mary stand in the living of the abandoned, unfinished house. Vince is dazed and confused, dead on his feet.

“We need to get you into bed,” Mary tells him, and no argument is forthcoming from Vince. She takes him up the stairs into the master bedroom- somehow there is furniture here after all- and she puts him into the big canopy bed. Vince experiences neither shame or arousal as Mary strips off his clothes- only a distant, fuzzy gratitude and a longing for sleep.

“I’ll be back,” she whispers, and then she kisses him on the forehead and turns out the light.

Down in the kitchen, Mary fires up the portable gasoline generator she’s brought in, and she has the water boiling in five minutes flat. She uses two teabags, a little sugar, and a few special ingredients all her own.

Mary’s voice calls Vince back out of a deep sleep. She sits on the bedside and she gives him the tea. “Careful, it’s hot.” Vince sits up, leaning back on a big pillow, and he takes the first experimental sip. It’s good.

Before Vince has even finished the tea, he starts to feel himself floating upward, like the ghost of a dead husband he played once in a television movie. He sees the stars through the open roof and they seem to be falling on him, but no- Vince is rising, flying and he’s not afraid now- it’s amazing actually:

He flies out of the house and looks down on the entire abandoned subdivision, the roads and cul-de-sacs from above like runes carved onto the desert by a people now as ancient and inscrutable as any in the Social Studies classes Vince missed anyway because he was making out in the janitor’s closet. Vince flies higher now, far above the desert and west, back towards the ruined city. Through the permanent layer of pollution and soot Vince can somehow see it all: the studio lots, the hills where he once lived, the streets and clubs of Hollywood where he had been a Boy-King- there are almost tears in his eyes now but there’s no time because he keeps flying west, over the luxury fortresses of his former agents and lawyers.

The coast is coming up fast now, Malibu off to the north-west and directly below, the Palisades and Santa Monica, lit by the last red ray of the huge sun as it sinks into the western ocean. Vince circles lower now- he’s not really in control of his flight, but he has no fear either- wherever he’s being taken, he’s pretty sure it will be OK and if it’s not, well… Vince is willing to take his chances at this point.

He makes slow circles over the Santa Monica pier, skirting the blackened hulk of the Ferris wheel, and then lower, below the roofline of the luxury hotels he flies south towards Pico, over the Beachfront Walk where the deathracers speed by, day and night, and then Vince is over Shutters and floodlights beam into the sky around him because, unbelievably, there is a party going on at One Pico.

Somehow Vince knows to fly lower now, and he descends with perfect control until his feet are only eight inches off the path- behind him a three-wheeled death race bike rams its two-foot-long spiked blades through the inadequate armor plating of a hapless opponent and metal screams and blood flies through the air but Vince takes no notice at all – because he is looking the other way, into the big floor-to-ceiling glass windows of the restaurant, and not six feet away, staring out at the waves and holding a glass of red wine, is his former agent and friend, the Warlord Ari Gold.

Entourage:2039, Chapter 18: Untitled

For a few hundred feet the car bounces over rough ground, and Vincent Chase is rudely shaken into complete consciousness. There’s one last bounce, a big one, and then: suddenly smooth sailing. Somehow they’re on a completely smooth blacktop.

They’re rolling slow, about ten miles per hour. On each side of the big convertible, Vince can see shapes, big shapes in neat rows, rising darker out of the dark. It’s like they’ve landed on another planet, and yet somehow so familiar.

Mary guides the car off the road to the right, slows down, stops. She turns to Vince:

“Get up. We’re here.”

Unquestioning, Vince gets out of the car. If anyone was flying above their heads (and maybe they are, on silent bat wings- there are a lot of strange things in this desert) – but anyway, if they were up there, this is what they would see:

Mary has driven them off of the main highway, across a wide grass embankment, down a street and into a far-suburban cul-de-sac – 16 houses spaced even around the perimeter of the circle. 16 identical houses, and as we pull back, twenty, thirty, forty cul-de-sacs just like this one, drawn onto the nothing of the desert like ancient runes remaining far past their time, now spelling out nothing for an audience of no one.

But that’s from up top. Vincent Chase is not privileged with such a God-like view of the events he is participating in- not yet, anyway. For now, he can barely even think, can barely even gets his legs moving enough to follow the girl into the house:
Up the front path- the lawn on either side still has grass somehow, but in this light it looks black to Vince, and then he looks up at the shadow of the house towering over him, blocking out the stars- he feels sick in a way he can’t describe, stumbles, falls to his knees.

“It’s OK.” Mary is whispering in Vince’s ear.

“What happened?”

“You fell. It’s OK. We’re almost home. Just a few more steps. I’ll make you a nice hot cup of tea. Come on.” She helps him to his feet and they make up the path. Mary pushes the door open.

Inside: This must have been someone’s dream house once. Three bedrooms, four baths, a deck out back, a kitchen with one of those islands in the middle with the pots and pans hanging down. All that and a spectacular view of the stars- right through the exposed rafters where the roof would have been, if anyone had ever lived here.

Entourage:2039, Chapter 17: What a long, strange trip it’s been

It was very dark, and Vincent Chase didn’t know whether he was awake or asleep. He was in a car, and it was moving fast, but that was all he could say for sure. In his dream (or what he thought must have been in his dream), he had been in the passenger seat of another car, somehow on I-95, his mother taking them to Florida, brother Johnny out cold in the back seat. They’d never had the money to take vacations, really, but that one time, somehow, his mom had pulled off. They drove through the night and once Vince had woken up and they were in another state one- he had never heard of before- and it felt like another world.

Time had always seemed like a flexible concept to Vincent Chase. His first year of stardom had seemed like a decade, with the parties and clubs every night, after the party a girl, maybe two, and the guys there in the morning when he woke up to start it all over again, The days just… flowed. And then, later, after the bad movies, and the bad women, and the bad business deals, when he had retreated into himself, and into his penthouse- he could have sworn ten years had passed the second the big heavy door clicked shut behind him. But now, with Mary, time seemed to have suddenly speeded up again, with her he was a frightened old man, and he was a child again, speeding southbound for the promised land. It was all very confusing.

“You awake, baby?” asked his mother, and Vince sped upward through the well of time, into the light, into consciousness, and he knew again that his mother was twenty years dead, and Johnny now too, and the person talking to him was the girl, Mary, in the driver’s seat. Whatever road they were on, there were no lights. Just the faint orange glow of the city, over the horizon in the rearview. Above the convertible, the dome of the stars offered their ancient benediction down to Vince, and the girl, and whatever else was still alive out here.

For a second Vincent Chase loses everything- he has no idea at all where he is, or even who he is: He is blessedly, blissfully, blank. And then it’s all back. The engine purrs as Mary downshifts and eases the big muscle car off the main road.

“Where are we?” asks Vince, and Mary, her voice as soothing and smooth as the one in Vince’s dream, replies, “Almost home.”