ack's liver had finally caught up with him. Something like egg
yolk seeped across the whites of his eyes. His skin carried the dull
sheen of banana peels.
Five stories below, women lay by the pool, their eyes
covered with circles of cucumber. They seemed to stare up at
Jack with blank cartoon astonishment. I will never smell those
women, Jack thought. Bile squirted into his mouth.
Someone pounded on the door. Jack toppled onto the stiff
"Goddammit, Jack!" his agent, Sid, yelled from the hallway. "It
was just one lousy flop. Jimmie Dean wants you to direct his next
picture--honest to God!"
"Go away, Sid," Jack said in a low voice. Pain rang under
his skin like a bell. He pulled a brown vial from the bedstand. "My
body's fried, my career's fried--I'm on my death bed, here. Show some
"Marilyn's involved--Monroe, babe! Open the goddamn door!"
There were no pills inside the container, Jack found,
startled--just scraps of film. He tipped the bottle in order to
slide a thin piece of celluloid onto his palm. He could barely
detect the curve of Liz Taylor's shoulder there, a scene from his last
Jack placed the film on his tongue like a communion wafer.
It was bitter, but somehow it tasted right. While Sid continued
to shout, Jack closed his eyes. The light of a projector clicked on
inside his skull. The reel of his life slowly started to unspool.
First published: October 31, 1998