This is me in Creative Writing 101, baby…

OK…meme article definitely coming tomorrow. In the meantime….

…Well, actually I’m not entirely sure why I’m posting this little fanfic scene I wrote a few years ago. I was browsing among the friendslists, and everybody was chattering happily about their fandoms and their fics and I don’t know what all, and I suppose I felt a wee bit left out.

Besides (she said, speaking sternly to her inner twelve-year-old) I’m thinking of charging bravely back into the fiction arena generally, and have just completed a review of all my older projects as the traditional first step. It’s not going to rock anyone’s world, this little piece, but does provide a decent idea of my creative voice.

What it is, is a takeoff on a scene in That Thing You Do!, Tom Hanks’ slight-but-charming 1996 film about a buncha guys from small-town PA who form a band, record a hit song and become one-hit Wonders, all in the summer of 1964. Charming, mainly, because of Tom Everett Scott, who played Guy Patterson, the drummer who steps in when founding member Chad breaks an arm jumping parking meters (“Uh, guys? Chad fell down…”)
It’s Guy’s dawning realisation of his own good sense – and sense of humour – that launches the adventure, sustains it as far as it can go, and ultimately becomes the only thing to survive the wreck. (Also, because this is Hollywood, it earns him Liv Tyler, fresh from the arms of temperamental lead singer Jimmy.)

It’s among my favourites not only because it’s well-made and funny but because of  the aforementioned  Scott, the kid whose uncanny resemblance to a young Hanks provided a lot of the buzz around the film at the time. Put simply, in this film he’s pretty much my ideal, uh, guy, both outside and in. In fact, his resemblance to the heroes of my own imagined tales is such that it took the first hour of my first viewing to shake the vague feeling that we were old friends.

So…this scene. There’s a point in the movie at which the newly-hot Wonders are whisked aboard a plane to LA by their manager, Mr. White (Hanks) who informs them enroute that they’ll be starring in a ‘major motion picture’ and then appearing on the ‘Hollywood Showcase’, a Sullivan stand-in. After which he sends Lenny (Steve Zahn, which tells you all you need to know) and ‘the bass player’ (a sweetly dopey Ethan Embry) off to visit the cockpit or something, and announces “Got any more questions, keep ’em to yourselves, I’m tired and I want to sleep.”

My imagination picked things up from there. As it happened, it got a little ambitious re: time and space and how much of either would actualy be available on a 747…but what the heck. It’s cute, and I think it’s kinda funny, and if you like, it’s below the cut.

…Within a few minutes a delicate but very audible snore revealed Mr. White as a man of his word.

So Guy settled back…got comfortable…and tried to keep his mind from racing too far ahead…All the way to Hollywood – the Hollywood Television Showcase ! Dad’d be impressed at last, anyway, he never missed that show…

Quite suddenly he realized that he hadn’t actually heard from his dad since he’d called to quit the store. His mom had written regularly, though; mostly to reassure ‘Guy, sweetie’ that he shouldn’t worry, because Chad had been hired on as his replacement. Not only that, but “he and Darlene work so well together!”

Darlene’s big brother grinned through closed eyes. Knowing Mom he couldn’t be sure whether to take that last bit literally or not. More fun not, he decided; besides, Darlene was a decent kid, she deserved some good times too. And Chad – he had to admit, he felt sort of bad about Chad. When he really stopped to think about it, anyway…which, if you wanted to get right down to it, hadn’t actually been ‘til right this moment. Still, it was kind of nice to know the guy wasn’t brooding in his room with a bottle or anything.

Chad. And Guy’s family. And Lenny’s family…his grandma…and Faye’s…and Jimmy’s mom…and definitely the crowd from Vallapilaso’s and hey, why stop there, the whole damn population of Erie! In forty-eight hours – less than that – they’d all be gathered ‘round their living rooms, TV trays at the ready, the familiar Television Showcase theme blaring.

Except this night there they’d be, and there he’d be: Guy William ‘Shades’ Patterson, vacuum cleaner-cord-mangler, America’s Newest Teen Dream. Fresh off the set of his debut in – what motion picture? Major, did that mean major stars? Maybe even- His eyes flipped open and fixed on the opposite seat.

Mr. White shifted in that seat, snuffled a bit and resettled. His protégé’s glance unconsciously lengthened into a fascinated stare. Guy had been doing a pretty good job of convincing himself that he’d just been imagining the resemblance between the two of them. Now, though – with the older man’s face relaxed like that, under the dim cabin lights – all at once it was completely undeniable. Also deeply, deeply weird. Like he was some sort of…visitation, or something. The Ghost of Career Future…

Guy banged his eyes shut on that. Then watched in dismay as the ‘ghost’ segued effortlessly into his daydreams: ‘Where Are They Now’? We catch up with ‘Shades’ Patterson, twenty years later-

His eyes popped open again.

OK, screw this. He bounded up out of his seat and strode down the aisle. He’d almost made it back to Faye, too, before it occurred to him that Jimmy might not be all that thrilled to have a third wheel come lumbering over.

Then it occurred to him that it hadn’t occurred to him.

Or to Jimmy, apparently. Because as it happened he found Faye very much alone, curled up in the exact same position Guy had left her in an hour ago. Or almost – he knelt to pull the blanket up a little further, tucked it close up under her chin – was her breathing raggedy? He put a cautious hand to her cheek…still warm….then dropped it, abruptly.

Where the hell was Jimmy, anyway? Off finding somebody new to impress, now that Diane Dane was out of the picture? Or maybe Diane had decided she couldn’t live without him, after all, and had stowed away on the plane. Now that he thought about it, Guy remembered seeing a couple of very blonde heads in the back row…

The sudden bustle of voices down the corridor sent him scrambling to his feet. But to his intense – if shortlived – relief it was the other two Wonders who bounced through the curtain, loudly reliving their visit to the cockpit. In a matter of seconds, Guy had learned way more than he needed to about ‘cool’ pilots, ‘really wicked’ control panels, and the possibility of Lenny’s having snagged one of the stewardesses’ phone numbers “…or you think she’s just yankin’ my chain, Skitch?”

“…And look,” TB put in, shoving something pointy under Guy’s nose, “they give you these really neat little plastic wings…”

“OK – great – look, LATER, alright?” Guy finally hissed, jerking his head towards the sniffling Faye.

They shut up. And stared. TB even managed to look contrite. “Is she gonna be OK for California?”

“Oh, sure,” Lenny smirked. “Hey, what with all this personal attention-”

“That’s the point,” Guy cut in quickly. “Have you guys seen Jimmy anywhere?”

Synchronized head shakes. “But I think he was gonna go sit in back for awhile,” TB added. “He said he was looking for inspiration…” He trailed off, not entirely sure how to interpret the glances his bandmates were exchanging. “Uh…you think maybe I should go look for him?”

“Yeah, do that,” they murmured. TB gratefully sped off. After a second, Guy turned back toward the seat.

And found Lenny still smirking at him.

“What?” he demanded, forgetting to whisper.

His buddy’s grin widened. “You gonna stand on guard there ‘til Jimmy gets back?”

“No…”

Guy was appalled at how indecisively it came out. “No, of course not.” He punctuated it with a step backwards. “I just thought…”

An elaborate sigh cut him off. “That’s the trouble with you, Skitch, you think too much. C’mon.“

They trailed back to where Mr.White was still placidly snoring.

Lenny took a moment to admire the scene. “You’d almost think he was human,” he whispered cheerily as they settled into their seats. “Maybe a…say, vacuum-cleaner salesman, in a previous life. Just passing through Erie…” He looked up, wide-eyed in mock revelation. “Stopped off at, oh, could it be…Patterson’s Appliances?”

“Riiiight,” was all the response he got. “Fun’s over if he wakes up.”

That produced a silence long enough for them both to get comfortable. Guy quickly closed his eyes; he didn’t want to give Lenny any more cause for – whatever it was he thought he had cause for. And staring at Mr.White all night was most definitely out of the question.

All he really wanted to do was sit quiet and think about…uh…not thinking about anything. Yeah, that was it. Nothing at all…

“Skitch? You still awake?”

No.”

“How long have we known each other? I mean, really?”

Now it was Guy’s turn to sigh. Loudly. “Long enough to realize I hate being called ‘Skitch’?”

“Oh, well, excuse me, Shaaaades…”

Lenny…”

“…Hey, ‘Ringo’s’ already taken, alright?” A beat. “And so’s Prince Charming.”

For the second time in an hour, Guy’s eyes flew open.

His friend wasn’t laughing. He wasn’t – even on very close inspection – smiling at all. In fact, it looked a lot like he might, actually, have meant what he’d said.

“Okaaayyyyy…”, Guy said warily, “what’s your point?”

Lenny shrugged. “Hey, I’m worried about you, Skitch, that’s all.”

Oh, for the love of- Guy flopped back into his seat.Great. I’m really flattered. So how about letting me get some sleep?”

“C’mon, I’m being serious here, OK? This is me, Leonard Haise, being serious. Pay attention, ‘cause it may never happen again.” He leaned forward and tapped Guy on the knee. “Look. In case you hadn’t noticed, Shades, there happen to be a whole lot of real live girls out there in our audiences. You do remember…?“ He traced twin curves through the air, eyebrows waggling. His audience chuckled in spite of himself.

“Right. Good,” Lenny nodded briskly, “that’s a relief. Now, you also gotta realize…and I know this is gonna come as a shock…but these girls, y’know, they aren’t all screaming just for me.”

“Yeah,” Guy snorted, “that I noticed.”

“Uh-huh.” Lenny still refused to be distracted. “The point is, Skitch, we – you – are standing on the brink of what could very well be the greatest summer any Erie boy ever had. And how are you spending it?”

“I’m sure you’re gonna tell me…”

“You’re spending it trailing around after the one girl who’s already taken. Now-“ as Guy started upright – “now just listen a second. I’m not sayin’ you and Faye wouldn’t be good together. It’s just that-“

“Aw, shut up!” To his intense annoyance, Guy felt his face growing hot. Quickly he clambered the rest of the way out of his seat, muttering, “Why the hell I am even listening to any of this stupid-“

“Skitch…”

Guy whirled back on him. “You’ve got a dirty mind, Haise, you know that?” He paused as Mr. White stirred again, then continued in a fierce whisper. “OK – so maybe I do look after Faye a bit. Maybe I even pay her some attention. I mean, big lousy deal. We drag her all the way across the country-“

“Ah –“ Lenny put up a hand. “Jimmy dragged her. Remember?”

“Then maybe he should start acting like it,” sullenly.

His buddy shook his head. “Newsflash, Skitch: Faye’s been hanging off James Mattingly the whoopty-skip Second for two whole years. You think he just now came down with a bad case of jerk?”

Guy opened his mouth…realized several of the passengers were staring at him…and dropped back into his seat, chewing hard on his lower lip.

Lenny’s attention was at least benevolent. “Face it, pal,” he said with another gusty headshake, “some girls just like their men – what was it the magazine said?”

“Brooding,” Guy mumbled automatically.

“Yeah, that’s it, brooding.” Looking as if he was starting to enjoy this being-serious thing again, Leonard Haise settled back. “Great setup. What it really means is, blow the ladies off all day long, and they can’t complain ‘cause they might interrupt the next hit song. Or – or the formula for world peace, or something.

“I don’t get it myself…” He trailed off, and Guy almost smiled again, at his wistful expression…until Lenny’s next words wiped both away:

”But anyway, I do know you don’t have it either, Skitch. Mysterious you ain’t. I’m just tellin’ you.”

Guy stared back at him for a long second…the only other option being to look aside at Mr. White…and then leaned back.

“Yeah, OK, you told me.” And if I’m really lucky, he thought miserably, this is all an airline-food-induced nightmare.

“Hi!”

Both boys jumped – having forgotten all about TB, who now stood at Lenny’s shoulder and commenced chattering in what he probably figured for a soft voice.

“Guy…? Lenny? Gee, Lenny, I dunno how Guy can sleep like that. I don’t think I’m gonna be able to, that’s for sure!” Vague muttering noises. “Yeah, I know, but…What? Oh, right, I found Jimmy OK. He says he might as well stay where he is – if Faye’s asleep on his seat anyway, he doesn’t want to wake her up…

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