Chapter 1: PLAYERS

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 454


A Novelette

Based on a True Story

Nicholas Cochran 

Chapter One


“And for crissakes keep him warm; above all else, keep him warm. This guy’s a human heat-seeking missile and if he ever drops below his comfort level, watch out. Oh, he’ll tell you straight out, Zach. Oh no, he’s not shy. Oh, he may look like it; those cute little sidelong glances he uses to watch you while he’s testing you; but the son-of-a-bitch is right there—all the time—thinking; watching; waiting to pounce on you if you haven’t done exactly what he asked you to—wait, not asked—told you to do. So look sharp!” Russ MacDonald jiggled his high-backed swivel chair. This action made a soft scraping sound and tilted his glasses to the left.

A chilling rain smacked the awning over the balcony of MacDonald’s corner office. October winds tossed branches, rubbing leaves along the soggy bricks of the Toronto Canadian Broadcasting Corporation building. Rush hour honking rose and fell in patterns determined by a blustery wind.

“And of course, he needs constant attention; hot water bottles; bowls of hot water for his fingers; dry gloves; warm gloves; warmed hats. Jesus, Zach; I just wish he could play his bleeding piano in a vat full of hot water and be done with it.”

A cold draft sped through the balcony doors, up the pant legs of Zachary Kell. Zachary was twenty-two, tall, blond, and lean. Whether sitting or standing, he radiated an athletic exuberance. Kell shifted in his chair in front of MacDonald’s desk, attempting to shake off the creeping dread MacDonald wanted him to handle  CBC’s ‘Enfant Terrible’, pianist Garth Grant.


Around the lemon-colored bungalow in the Kingsway, the October elements shrieked. A vicious wind slammed the shutters and awnings of 225 Billings Street. In the living room, which he used for everything but food and hygiene, unshaven Garth Grant dragged two scarves behind his chubby sweater-swathed five and three quarter feet.  He stomped over and through sheet music, a Burberry, two hats, mismatched socks, a single rubber, several newspapers, and some cats.

Hells bells, Burt, how could you do this to me?” Grant leaned between the Steinway and over the back of one of his two junk-laden chesterfields. He reached across a glass table to grasp his Diet Pepsi, “you know how I hate live performances.”

The heat was becoming unbearable. Burt Stafford loosened his tie. Stifling in his dark brown pants and Harris Tweed jacket with leather elbow patches, Burt was hearing yet again Garth Grant’s cri de coeur: that no one understood or appreciated his behavior.

“Well, there’s only one, Garth, just one; the other two are in the studio. It’s not even a week; only five days—total. Friday night and you’re done.” His voice was smooth, reassuring. Being tall, and retaining his black hair at forty-five, managed to keep Burt clearly visible in the musician-representation community. The fact he had talent was a plus. Yet, more than anything else, Bert possessed an unmatched genius, an innate ability, to understand and appreciate the essence of the world’s foremost interpreter of Beethoven, Garth Grant. He knew what his client was thinking at any given time.

“Oh great; even more CBC types crawling all over the place; and me.” Garth grabbed his Pepsi, slumped, sipped, and smoldered.

Burt looked at his client. Garth was thirty-one years old, well beyond the slimness of his fading youth. A tire of fat girdled his waist. His upper body was falling. Yet, in spite of these flaws, Garth retained a boyish essence that some women found attractive. Minus the omnipresent sweaters and scarves, dressed in a fine suit or tux, he appeared quite handsome. His eyes were uneven and too close together. His pasty complexion made him appear slothful. (Which he was not; no one worked harder at maintaining his edge than Garth Grant.) When dressed to the nines, he could positively glow.

“Last time, I had to fire two . . . oh, you know . . . whatever you call them; P. A.s; Assistant Directors; studio bosses—God they were ___”


“Three—awful. Why do they have to be so rude?”


 MacDonald had to stand. He and his thinning sandy hair looked grimly green under the cheap florescent CBC lighting. He began to walk.

“And God knows he can be . . . difficult; very, very bloody difficult and ___”

“About what?”

“Well crap—just about everything. I tell you, Zach, the guy wants everything to be just bloody perfect—not ‘very good’ or ‘really, really good”; oh no, but only absolutely bloody perfect.

 Zach squirmed. He began to wonder why MacDonald was about to tag him with what, to his young mind, was quickly filling the bill of a suicide mission.

“Like what?” Zach’s throat tightened. His baritone was easing toward tenor.

“Well, like the temperature of his dressing room for instance; like the temperature of the Studio for instance; like the temperature of all the bloody halls, the rooms, the passages—bloody everywhere.” MacDonald threw his arms and half his torso toward the dingy white ceiling.

“And for Christ’s sake—no drafts—Jesus Christ, Zach, no drafts,” pausing for redundant emphasis, “I mean not one single bloody draft. A goddamned draft can stop everything in its bleeding tracks: cameramen, props, make-up, sound guys, lighting—Jesus, the whole goddamned issue is just flat-assed stopped. Stopped.”

MacDonald paused to re-throw his hands. “I’ve seen it,” shuddering, “I’ve seen it Zach, and it’s a . . . ”MacDonald fumbled, sputtered, and shook his head. “And of course, there will be drafts no one else can feel—or find; phantom drafts. Jesus; after while, you think you’re living in a goddamned alternate universe. Can’t find the draft? It doesn’t matter a craps worth; oooh no; nothing moves until that bloody draft is found: or else,” sighing pensively, “So you find the bleeding thing. Now he wants his piano raised. Then he wants his special chair—oh yeah, the chair; Jesus, you’ll see Zach . . . now there’s a bloody chair.”

He turned slightly. He lowered his head, wearied by clinging memories. For a moment, the dismal flickering fluorescents cast a shimmering shadow of the overweight overseer upon the increasingly greying walls. “Then he’ll ask why the hell you ___”

“Won’t he get really pissed off if I keep bugging him about all this stuff?” Zach was desperate. He needed to escape from this office—and especially this assignment. Indisputably, he was the new kid. He barely knew his way around the Radio Building, let alone the other buildings. The sprawling Jarvis Street complex of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation housed large, small, and medium television broadcast studios, administration buildings, and video-taping facilities.

‘Man, I don’t even have an office.’ He didn’t mind that fact. Yet, somewhere in the midst of the fuzzy logic MacDonald was laying on him, had to be the root question: ‘Why me?’

MacDonald stopped briefly to hitch his pants over a ballooning paunch before silently resuming his walk. Plaques, photos, awards, commendations, and a large color photograph of his wife (who was also the most beautiful woman in Canada) Janice Donaldson broke his office walls of CBC grey. He stopped in front of her picture. With a barely audible murmur, as though whispering to her in an intimate moment, he said, “No  Zachary; believe me. As odd as it may sound, he will not bloody mind at all; in fact, he will be bloody delighted.


“I just can’t understand why it was so difficult for any of them to get the point.” Grant hammered the back of the couch with a furious fist.

“What point is that?” asked Burt in a tired tone.

“The point, Burt, as you well know, is that staying on top; staying number one requires a one hundred and ten percent effort on everybody’s part. Even those damn studio dictators.” He stood up to stretch, scratch, and readjust his falling trailing scarves. He swept brown hair across a retreating hairline and took another swallow of his drink.

“Aw, c’mon Garth; there not that bad.” Burt Stafford was Grant’s agent for twelve years; a dozen doses of surprises and triumphs, mixed with an equal number of embarrassments and disappointments. All that aside, there were profits. Garth Grant could sell out any venue in the world at any time. Despite this lucrative advantage, Burt was unable to convince Garth to play in public more than once or twice a year. “They have their job to do.”

End of Chapter One

Submitted: April 02, 2016

© Copyright 2021 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:

Facebook Comments

Boosted Content from Other Authors

Book / Humor

Short Story / Mystery and Crime

Poem / Religion and Spirituality

Short Story / Romance

Other Content by Nicholas Cochran

Short Story / Literary Fiction

Short Story / Literary Fiction

Book / Action and Adventure