True Pulp

A good friend of mine, Mickey Spillane Jr., sent me a pitch for a novel, perhaps a screenplay. I told him it was too improbable, that stuff like this couldn't happen outside of trash fiction. But he claims it's all true. Says he heard it from some guy called Starr, who's apparently an aspiring pulp writer. It does sound kind of familiar, like I've read it somewhere already. What do you think?

Okay, have you guys heard this one? If you haven't, you're about to. This'll kill you, I guarantee it.

So there's this guy, and he's in his 50s or something. He comes from someplace in Arkansas or somewhere, one of those places where everybody's name is Vern, and if you divorce your wife, she might still be your sister. That kind of a place.

But it's a little bit different for him. He knows he doesn't belong there. He knows he's different. He knows he's meant for classier places. It's obvious, because his name's not even Vern. It's Bill, short for William. He's not going to pump gas, that's for damn sure.

And he doesn't. When he's a teenager, he travels to the bright lights and big city to meet his hero, John. Bill's in awe of John. He gets his picture taken with him and vows to be just like him. Once he's tasted the good life, you can't keep Bill down on the farm. He gets out of Arkansas when he's still a young razorback. He gets himself to college and law school, pulls a fast one to duck the draft, and next thing you know he's wearing a suit, and sitting at a desk, and going to meetings and making speeches and all that. And he's not exactly doing it for free, if you know what I mean.

Along the way he gets with this broad. She'd been to law school. Not bad to look at, but with something underneath that look, something hungry. You know the type of broad--when she says hello and kisses you she looks like a boxer touching gloves before the fight? Well, that's the type she was.

Anyway, they get together and do what nature intended. He marries her and they have this kid, a girl.

So Bill just does better and better. He's an ambitious boy, and the old lady isn't what you'd call an underachiever herself. Both of them know the right words to say to the right people, whether they mean them or not. Before Bill's even 50, he's applied for this job as the top guy at a firm in Washington, D.C. No kidding. It looks like he's going to get the job.

Then this bimbo who used to be a TV weather girl or something appears. And she's telling everybody that she used to know Bill, and I'm talking about in the Biblical sense. And this is after he was hitched to the old lady. Now, you don't need me to tell you that this isn't good, right? The folks who're thinking about giving Bill the job don't much like it. But Bill denies it, and then apologizes to his old lady in front of everybody. And she forgives him in front of everybody. He never says what he's apologizing for since he wasn't doing it with the weather girl, and the old lady never says what she's forgiving him for. But it's all kind of nice, and he gets the job.

He's not so good at the job, if you want to know the truth, but it doesn't matter because lots of people think he's swell. They like his old lady, too. She likes to get involved and help him out with things. There are other bimbos coming out of the woodwork to say they've gotten their jollies with Bill--or he with them--but he denies that and he seems real sincere about it, so it's all okay. There's some talk about crooked business deals and stuff, and an investigator starts looking into it. But nobody manages to prove anything, so what's the problem?

So, things're just peachy. He's a long way from Arkansas, that's for sure.
Then this girl comes to work for his firm. She's a trainee or something. Twenty-one years old or so. Not much older than his kid, but, hell, she's not his kid, is she? Not as far as he knows. This ain't Arkansas.

Her name's Monica. When it's all over, none of us will be able to figure what he sees in her. (Not that he's Cary Grant, either, now that I think about it.) She's got dark hair and a pretty enough face, but she's not what you'd call an athletic girl. Not unless you think sumo wrestlers are athletes. Still, she's an improvement on the old lady. And, man, what a mouth! Wide, with those big red lips--the kind of mouth that makes you think about. . . . Well, that's what Bill thought about for sure.

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Barry Graham