I’m so excited to share an excerpt from my soon-to-be published short novella, The Picture of Cool. So let’s get to it…
During a commercial break, Charlie popped into the green room for a refill on his coffee and caught one of the show’s upcoming guests, mid-pace. The press-kit photo, in his opinion, didn’t do the man justice, but the well-cut suit did. They looked about the same age—early thirties—and stood almost exactly the same height, a whisper under six feet, although this guy was broader across the shoulders. And he had that twitchy vibe Charlie had seen so many times before. An underling in the mayor’s office probably didn’t score too many live interviews on national daytime television, but according to the network’s grapevine, he was being groomed for bigger things. Charlie smiled at him. “Adam Goldberg, right?”
“Charlie Trager. You okay there? Can I get you anything? Water? Something to eat? A fistful of Valium?” This got a bit of a laugh, but Adam still had a death grip on the cardboard cup. “Maybe you should lay off the caffeine.”
“I’m good.” Adam put the cup down and ran the fingers of his left hand through his hair, mussing the previously perfect coif of short dark waves. “Jeez. I probably shouldn’t have done that.”
“Angela will fix it before you go on camera.”
“Good.” He huffed out a breath. “I’m sorry. Just kind of new to this. I don’t look too nervous, do I?”
He did. It was kind of cute. “You’ll do great.” Charlie checked his watch. This break included a prerecorded promo, which gave him three more minutes until they needed him back on set to run the next segment. “So tell me about this program the mayor is doing.”
Goldberg started talking about the administration’s plan to help at-risk kids. Charlie prepped his usual nod-and-smile routine of putting the waiting guests at ease. What he didn’t expect was to feel moved by what the man was saying, especially as Adam’s confidence grew, reminding Charlie of a young Jimmy Stewart. He looked a bit like Stewart, too, with that earnest, intelligent charm. Then it hit him. “This program, it’s your baby, isn’t it?”
He looked crestfallen. “It’s that obvious?”
Charlie waved a hand. “I’ll never tell.”
“Should I downplay it, maybe?”
“And lose that Mr. Smith Goes to Washington appeal? Hell no.” Charlie resisted an urge to straighten Adam’s tie. “Viewers are gonna love you…um, I mean it.” He stifled a yawn. “Sorry. I need to start taking up sleeping as a hobby.”
“I hear you. Three, four hours tops and I’m wide awake. My wife thinks I’m part bat, but my kids worry. If my daughter happens to wake up in the middle of the night, she’ll fix me a cup of warm milk and tell me to go back to bed. Eleven going on thirty, I swear. Anyway,” Adam shrugged, “I get a lot of work done when the house is quiet. Your makeup person shook her head at me when she saw the bags under my eyes and told me I need a vacation.”
Either he was exaggerating or Angela had done an especially good job, because Charlie couldn’t see anything wrong with Adam Goldberg’s face. He smirked as if dismissing the woman’s concerns. “She tells me that all the time. That the baby blues need some R and R.”
Charlie’s cell phone went off and he grabbed it. “Yeah, hon, on my way.” He ended the call and turned to Adam. “Gotta run,” he said. “Apparently, they can’t survive without me.”
The man’s brown eyes, which had grown wistful as he talked about his daughter, looked suddenly like those of a lost puppy. It was so sweet and pathetic that Charlie wanted to take him home and make him soup. “Okay,” he said, giving Adam a gentle smile. “You’re on after the action hero plugs his new movie. Not the smoothest of segues, but something tells me our viewers will be sticking around. One of the PAs will fetch you in about ten and mic you up.”
Adam nodded back, his expression firming a bit, his gaze holding Charlie’s. “Thanks. I really appreciate the opportunity.”
Charlie stood transfixed for a moment. It could have been sleep deprivation or the caffeine overload, but he swore he felt something then: a familiar ache. Why were the good ones either married or straight? Or, in this case, both?
“Just doing my job.” Charlie started to leave but stopped and set down his coffee. “I’m sorry, I hope you don’t mind, but this is bugging the hell out of me.”
He reached out to straighten Adam Goldberg’s tie, taking great pains to touch nothing but the silky fabric. Adam’s chin dropped, seemingly to watch Charlie’s hands, and when he raised it again, his eyes leveled with Charlie’s. Only for a second. Which was just long enough.
Love it, Laurie. I swear you keep getting better.
Thank you, Yvonne! That’s my goal! 😀