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The End is Not as Good as the Beginning

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The End is Not as Good as the Beginning ~ A Short Story
by Allen Kopp

“It’s a beautiful day,” Harmon Bracegirdle said as he approached Chaz Spurlock. He put his arm over Chaz’s shoulders and pulled him closer. “Thank you so much for meeting me here today!”

“Not at all,” Chaz said. “I’m free this afternoon.”

“I love the park, don’t you?” Harmon said.

“Indeed, I do!” Chaz said.

“I asked you here today, not so we could take in the scenery, but to have a little talk, just the two of us. A little private talk. There are so many interruptions at the studio, people coming in and out all the time.”

“I understand how it is, Mr. Bracegirdle, sir!”

“Please, Chaz! Call me Harmon!”

“All right, sir! Harmon!

They walked a little way and sat down on a bench at the edge of a scenic pond, home to a flock of geese and ducks.

“They’re so beautiful!” Harmon said. “Nature is so beautiful!”

“I quite agree, sir,” Chaz said.

“Whenever you begin to feel dehumanized by what you do for a living, just come here and forget your troubles and in a little while you’ll begin to feel inner peace.”

“Inner peace, sir. Yes, sir!”

“But I digress. I didn’t come here to discuss nature.”

“I didn’t think you did, sir.”

“The picture business is a cruel business,” Harmon said, looking over his shoulder up the hill to his car, where his two associates and his driver were waiting. “It’s 1935 and there have been so many changes.”

“Don’t I know it, sir!”

“First sound and then color, and God only knows what’ll be next.”

“You roll with the punches, sir. It’s all you can do.”

“It isn’t easy being head of the largest picture studio in the country.”

“I don’t imagine for a second that it is, sir.”

“I’m responsible for hundreds of jobs. My decisions affect hundreds of workers and their families. If I don’t make the right decisions, a lot of people will suffer.”

“I wouldn’t want that much responsibility on my shoulders, sir.”

“The studio isn’t as profitable as it once was. Competition is fierce!

“Terrible, sir! I’m sure it’s just terrible!”

“You were one of our most bankable stars for five or six years, Chaz, but your last three pictures have lost money.”

“Not my fault, sir! Those pictures just weren’t right for me.”

“I know. Each person has his own version of where things went wrong.”

“The studio is picking the wrong properties for me.”

“Do you think you could do better choosing your own scripts?”

“I’m sure I could, sir!”

“Well, that isn’t the way our system works. When you’re a contract player in a large studio, those decisions, whether right or wrong, are made for you.”

“I have high hopes, though, for my next picture.”

“The one based on the Russian novel?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Literary adaptations haven’t done well for us in the past, I’m afraid.”

“We have a couple of top-notch directors interested in the project and I’m pretty sure we can get Lola Lola to play the female lead.”

“Lola Lola won’t be available to appear in that picture.”

“I just spoke to her yesterday. She said…”

“She has commitments abroad.”

“Oh? She didn’t mention…”

“In fact, we won’t be making that picture at all, Chaz. I’m sorry.”

“Why not?”

“We just received word this morning that another studio has started production on that same story, using a different title.”

“Oh.”

“I know you’re disappointed, Chaz, but that’s the way things are in the picture business. As I said. Cruel.”

“There’ll be something else come along. What about that Western that everybody’s talking about?”

“I don’t think so.”

“I know I can be on top again with my next picture if I’m given the chance. I know I can!”

Harmon put his hand on Chaz’s leg and squeezed his inner thigh. “I’m afraid you’ve come to the end of your run, buddy. I’m sorry.”

“What are you saying? I’ve been with the studio twelve years! I have two years left on my contract!”

“We’re going to buy out your contract. Our lawyers are working on it now.”

“What if I say no?”

“The decision has already been made. I wanted to give you the news myself before you heard it from somebody else.”

“This is so unfair! My pictures have made a lot of money for the studio.”

“You’ve had three flops in a row. Last year alone, Intemperate Stranger and Rascal at Arms were our biggest box office flops. You’re only as good as your last picture.”

“I hope you’ll reconsider.”

“I’m afraid not. The die has already been cast.”

“Just one more picture. One more chance.”

“You have the very best wishes of all of us at the studio.”

“I’m just stunned. I don’t know what to say.”

Harmon gestured to his two associates up the hill, who were at that moment standing beside the front fender of the car smoking cigarettes. They came down in a wide arc so Chaz wouldn’t see them from where he was sitting.

“It’s going to be all right, buddy,” Harmon Bracegirdle said. “Just drink in the splendor of nature arrayed before you.”

“I think you’re making a big mistake,” Chaz said.

“That’s the nature of my job, kiddo. I have to make these hurtful decisions.”

Like children playing a game, the larger of the two men went up behind Chaz so as not to be detected. He waited for a signal from the other man, indicating that no one was watching, and when he received the signal he crept up behind Chaz, took a gun from inside his coat and shot him in the back of the head. One shot and Chaz lurched forward, dead before he hit the ground.

“Get his wallet and his wrist watch,” Harmon Bracegirdle said, standing up quickly. “That’ll satisfy the press.”

The news spread all over the world: Movie Star Shot Dead in Park. Robbery Suspected Motive.”

The funeral was well attended. Leading the pack of motion picture luminaries was studio head Harmon Bracegirdle, in dark glasses and tailor-made suit. On his arm was the great star Lola Lola, looking stunning as she wept behind her lace handkerchief. The picture of her placing one lily on the casket made all the pictures the next day.

Copyright © 2016 by Allen Kopp

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