Scooter visited the record store to see his old buddies and to brag about his new gig. He’d moved on from selling CDs to working as a production assistant on HBO’s Tales From the Crypt.
“Where is everybody?” he asked.
“Gone,” I said.
“Goddamn, Jeff fucked this place up,” Scooter said.
“Nah, he isn’t that bad. How’s the show?”
“Good, man, good. I do all sorts of shit. You remember Roy on Emergency? I was his driver last week.”
“That’s awesome,” I said.
“So when are you getting out of this place?”
“Soon as I find something else.”
“I’ll hook you up,” he said.
He did, too. By the end of the week I had an interview for a post-production assistant job. This marked my first job opportunity that didn’t start with an application. I had no idea how to write a resume for any job, much less a flunky position on a television show. I typed up a list of my meager film credits and hoped for the best.
Two men interviewed me, Steve and John. My mouth moved on autopilot. I muttered something about loving anthology television, The Twilight Zone in particular, and being fascinated by editing, which I had never even considered prior to that day. I don’t do well in job interviews. Some people possess remarkable skills for selling themselves, but I don’t. Finding work has always been a challenge for me.
I leaned on Robert Downey, Jr.’s advice to me regarding auditions: They aren’t really about acting, but whether the crew wants to hang out with you for eight weeks. I tried to be likeable.
“If you get the job, can you start Monday?” Steve asked.
“Is there anything else we need to know?”
“I have front row Rolling Stones tickets for next week. Is that going to be a problem?”
“Front row? I’m sure we can work something out,” John said.
“Can I ask how much this pays?”
“$400 a week,” Steve said. That was almost double what I made at Music Plus. “Is that okay?”
“Yeah, that’s fine,” I said, “I hope I hear from you.” We shook hands and that was that.
All the way home I bargained with a God I didn’t believe in. Just get me this gig and I’ll totally believe in you, dude. When I walked into my apartment the first thing I saw was the blinking answering machine light: I got the gig. My faith in an almighty remained unchanged.
“Sure, come on back to my office,” he said. Someone must have moved the office: The walk from the front counter took 17 hours. “What’s up?”
“Have you seen that show Tales From the Crypt?”
“Was that the one with the killer Santa Claus?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I’ve never seen it. Anyway, I got a job working on it.”
“Okay. How much time do you need off?”
“A year,” I said.
Jeff’s face reddened. He stared at me. “Are you quitting on me, James?”
“Goddamn it,” he said. He stood up and threw his stapler. “When?”
“I start Monday.”
“Goddamn it. No notice? Really fucking nice, James.”
“I’m sorry, man. That’s when they want me to start.”
“Just get out of my office, James. Go pretend to work.”
I put on my black Music Plus vest and went to the sales floor. Everything looked brighter: the bins full of albums and CDs in colorful long boxes; the cassette wall with its short ribbons of color like a patchwork quilt; the rows and rows of videocassettes. Since age 16 I earned my wages from a succession of record stores. Music retail was all I knew. Monday there would be no name tag or vest, no counter to stand behind or stock room to hide in. I’d be moving among directors, producers, and movie stars, and I had no idea what I was even expected to do.
Just prior to closing, Jeff called me back to his office. “I just wanted to say I overreacted earlier. You’re a really good employee and I think you’d make a really great store manager, but I get it. If I had a chance to work on a cool TV show I’d probably take it, too. But if it doesn’t work out or whatever you always have a job here.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he muttered.
That night when I handed him my store key, I felt nauseous. It was a five buck an hour job, but it was what I knew. Change is a scary bastard.