Hello everyone! As part of Short Story Saturday, I have posted another short story, this one entitled An Amusing Tale of Scriptwriting. It‘s quite a bit less sad than last week’s story but hopefully just as enjoyable. Original writing prompt taken from https://www.writersdigest.com/prompts/one-shot
The click of the pistol’s hammer woke me. A velvety voice lilts me out of my vision, “Give me a good catchphrase and I just may let you live.”
“Cut it out, Nora,” I say to the woman holding the firearm, pushing her right hand and the gun aside gently, “Didn’t your father ever tell you not to play with guns?”
She holds a cigarette in her left hand and lifts it to her rubescent lips. After taking a long drag, she says to me with a wry smile, “I just thought it might give you some motivation,” She taps the loose ash into a tray.
“How long was I asleep?”
“About twenty minutes or so, I suppose. I wasn’t exactly keeping track.”
“Where are Thomas and Robert?”
“Miller and Boyett? They are over there,” she says, pointing out the closed door’s glass window into the break room. “They are looking over a couple of old scripts we had lying around, trying to see if they can find any inspiration.” A rotund, bespectacled man and his companion, each with a script in hand, notice me staring at them. They give me an exhausted wave back before shrugging as if to indicate that their search thus far has been unsuccessful. Taking another drag of her cigarette, the woman continues, “Bickley went to the nearest convenience store to get us some coffee.”
“Maybe we can just go with what we got. The script is pretty solid. The character we’re introducing is really good, really funny. I think the new guy can pull it off pretty well. Maybe the character is so good we don’t need a catchphrase. Besides, it’s starting to get really late and we’re all very tired. Maybe it’s time to call it a night. I mean, look at me. I’m falling asleep right now.”
“No, that’s just the thing,” Nora says. “You’re correct. The character is good. Really good. Good enough to turn this show around. But we have to give him a line, something for the audience to remember. Something for the adults to talk about over the water cooler and something for the kids to say to each other on their bus ride to school. A good catchphrase is perhaps the most important part of our script.”
“Surely that’s an exaggeration.”
“Is it?” the woman begins to gesticulate wildly with her hands and arms. “What’s the first thing you think of when I say Diff’rent Strokes?”
“Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” I concede, pointing my right hand towards the woman, and lowering my head slightly in deference at the same time.
“And how about Lost in Space?”
“Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!” I say in a mechanical voice while mimicking robotic motions.
“And how about- Oh my God!” Nora’s rant suddenly stops and her gestures cease. Her eyes become wide with fright. The gun falls out of her right hand and onto the conference table. It fires with a deafening bang. Both of us nearly fall out of our chairs and we grab our seats almost out of instinct. An uneasy stillness overtakes the room as the two of us just stare forward, too scared to say anything.
Nora finally breaks the silence with an uncomfortable, embarrassed chuckle. “Did I do that?” the woman asks meekly.
“Wait a second.” I leap from my seat and grab the woman’s shoulders as I stare into her shocked and frightened eyes. “What did you say?”
The woman repeats what she said but does so in just above a whisper. “Did I do that?”
I release my grip and smile. “You are a genius.”
I call out to the men just outside the office, “Thomas, Robert!” The two men look up from their scripts and peer at me through the glass window. “Come in right now! I think we have come up with the perfect catchphrase!”
The two men rush through the door. “Okay, get this,” I say to the two men as they enter. “Steve Urkel’s catchphrase should be ‘Did I do that?’”
“I like it,” Thomas says, “I think he should say it every time he makes a mistake.”
“It’s simple,” Robert confirms, “Easily memorable. It could be really funny depending on the situation. Gentlemen, I think this is going to be the best episode of Family Matters yet. That’s brilliant, Michael. How did you come up with it?”
“I wish I could take all the credit, but really, Nora is the one we should thank,” I say as I point toward my female companion.
“Michael?” Thomas asks, “Who are you pointing to?”
“Yeah, and who’s Nora?” Robert asks.
“Don’t be silly. You guys know who Nora is and she’s right-” My head jerks back and my eyes widen when I finally notice that I’m pointing to an empty chair. The gun, the ashtray, and the cigarette have all disappeared.
Thomas sniffs the air. “I didn’t know you smoked, Michael.”
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