Chapter 3: WORLDS COLLIDE

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

Reads: 30

NUMBER ONE
 
A Novelette
 
Nicholas Cochran 
 
Chapter Three

 

CBC’s ace cameramen, Davey Gronn and George Samuels, were Zach’s first targets. He knew he would find them working the most important show in the largest and most state-of-the-art studio. They always did. Although Zach worked in the smallest studio, on his first day on the job, he made a point of looking around all the studios and finding the busiest, including Studio One, where he introduced himself to George and Davy, to learn what was going on. Both guys warmed quickly to Zach’s enthusiasm, as well as his fast reads.

During their breaks, both men schooled Zach on how everything ‘worked’.  Zach’s ability to get to know someone in fewer than three minutes was both a gift and a talent. The guests on the evening interview show, 7:02, where Zach worked as an A.D.—Assistant Director—were captivated by Zach. After twenty minutes—or less—most of them thought he was going be their interviewer when things went live. His manner was so open,  Zsa Zsa Gabor took no offense; she thought the ‘dear boy’ absolutely charming. Here, as well,  Zachary’s travels around the world after college, including enlightening times spent with his father—a film and TV director in England—removed any awkwardness from his approach to people, which other men of his age, with less experience, could have found defeating.

When Davey and George finally stopped laughing, Zach was ready to confront MacDonald and flatly refuse to accept the Grant operation. Only their need for a smoke interrupted their cascading fits of laughter. Happily, Zach soon understood that this was their ‘initiation’ routine, practiced on all the new A.D.s—and that if they never laughed at your troubles, you were sincerely in more trouble than you could handle. Their mirth, interrupted by drags on their smokes or exclamations of “Oh shit, not him” or “Oh, you are really hosed, young  Zachary”, lasted much longer than the usual initiation. This disturbed Zach. Fortunately, they were another sign that the two guys not only liked him but also sincerely admired his courage; especially considering Zach’s late arrival on the CBC scene. The advice began to flow. He received several cautions. The number of suggestions and plans of attack increased—and Zach started smoking again.

*

From the moment he opened the dressing room door in Studio Four, Monday morning, Zach knew the temperature was far too cool. Grant was a hothouse plant; a musical fern; a bobbing and weaving, humming tropical attachment to a Steinway. Beethoven dripped like celestial humidity from his wooly half-gloved fingers. He was an angelic-sounds producer with a volcanic center, molten and fluid—and magical. Heat was the essential ingredient; the mysterious starter dough; the sine qua non, necessary to create the mysterious mix of juices and synapses that oozed and bubbled before they produced the final flashes of brain and body to give the world the rare transcendent renditions of the man, Beethoven.

Zachary moved quickly. He opened the door to Grant’s dressing room with his right hand while he turned the thermostat to the limit with his left. In a second, he was in the adjoining room where he racked that thermostat to the limit.  Next, he set the thermostat in the room on the other side of Grant’s dressing room to the max. To finish his plan, Zach found the main thermostat for the hall connecting all the top-set thermostat rooms, and moved it to the limit. Five minutes later, the entire ‘maxed-thermostat area’ hissed and clanked as the warmth filled the restricted ‘area of Grant’ with overpowering waves of sweat-teasing heat.

Less than seven minutes following Zach’s final max-twist, Garth Grant came through the door, along the corridor of the ‘max-stat area’, and approached Zachary. Zach stood with relaxed anticipation outside the gateway to Grant’s steaming-jungle home for the next four days. Although not a hunchback, and only thirty-one years old, Grant gravitated forward to a degree that was well beyond his years. Moreover, with all the shirts, sweaters, and scarves on, he appeared, at times, to be in the process of tumbling—and continuing to tumble, like the weed, until he hit the equivalent of a barbed wire fence. 

Zachary was younger by six years, taller by half a foot, and slim. Compared to Grant, he was skinny. Some considered Zach handsome, a subject—or fact— he never thought about. He was like that. He took life as it jumped on him. When he wrestled it to a draw, he let it go. No hard feelings. Some thought he possessed no feelings at all; others experienced the opposite.

“Hello, Mr. Grant, I’m Zachary Kell; I’m here from the Public Affairs Department. I’m an A.D.—Assisstant Director. I’ll be your Studio Director. I’m here to make sure that you are comfortable, that you’re satisfied with your accommodations,  and, of course, that you’re comfortable with the temperature; the heat,” pausing, “I’m also here to take care of any requests you may have, or any requirements; and, “pausing again for emphasis, “to make sure there are no drafts of any kind; anywhere; and that you are absolutely warm at all times.”

He thought of several opening lines. Most of them were more than sufficient to get him fired. Luckily, a fleeting vision of W.B. McInnerny, his old Headmaster, was enough to lead him away from the rude and sarcastic, to an approach calculated to engage Grant, to allow Grant to make the first move. This was the plan Valerie stressed in their discussion of ideas for the Grant Task confronting him. Zach also agreed with Valerie that he should try to work with Grant right from the start, that working with a living legend—goofy though he may be—could turn out to be more than educational, perhaps life expanding. Then, of course, the guy might be the total jerk MacDonald judged him to be.

By nature, Zach was more curious than combative. He was the kind of guy who was always pushed forward: to fight or negotiate. His first and present assignment in the Public Affairs Department was the evening show “7:02”.Each day involved meeting, preparing, and relaxing guests from every country and corner of modern life. Lunches, coffee—occasionally drinks—with the famous and flamboyant, turned out to be a benefit for him and the guests. For any number of these reasons, it was not all that odd to assign Zachary to the Garth Grant production, attending to Grant while Grant practiced and prepared for the first of three concerts to be telecast by the CBC, with the last one on Friday, being a live performance from Massey Hall.

“Hi, I’m Garth Grant.” Sporting a smirk, he reluctantly offered his hand. Zach took and shook it like a flounder. Whether this token greeting was only a result of Grant being polite, but not wanting to injure his hand or fingers, was unclear to Zachary. Yet again, being one who initially thought the best of people, he went with polite.

“Nice to meet you Mr. Grant. I have got all the thermostats cranked up to the max, so at least we can get things to their absolute hottest, and that way, if it becomes uncomfortable, I can then start cooling things down rather than trying to reach some indefinite temperature by slowly moving the thermostats up.” He waited for a reply.

“That’s very clever,” Grant said slowly, with more than a suggestion of pleasant surprise in his tone, “I see . . . I’ll just see how it is, and then if it’s too hot, well, we’ll just fine-tune them back down. Thank you  Zachary; may I call you Zach?” Garth Grant asked this question with a tone garbed in sincerity, a tone Zach took as genuine. In that instant, Zach sensed warmth somewhere inside himself, telling him the ‘assignment from hell’ might not be quite as excruciating as expected. Even so, it was early days, and any emotions approaching possible friendship were still absent.

Maybe he could begin to like this oddball. Yet, was he really that odd? He didn’t look all that dippy. Sure, he wore a couple of sweaters, a scarf, as well as wool gloves with half the finger cut out, while the temperature was barreling north of eighty-five. Then again, Zach’s buddy, Al Arnold, wore everything he owned on a stationary bike in a sauna set at two hundred and fifteen degrees in preparation for his run from Bad Water in Death Valley, one hundred and forty-four miles, to the top of Mount Whitney. And Al was just fine; in fact, a great guy. Unusual, but great. A champion; the best. So, maybe, who knows?  Zach pushed open the door to Grant’s dressing room to leave. “Yeah, sure . . .Zach’s fine.”

End of Chapter Three


Submitted: February 27, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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