Three Kings Pt.1

HE’D ALWAYS ENJOYED ACTING and dancing. But Patrick was born and raised in Buffalo, NY. Not exactly a hotplate of entertainment… he thought to himself… more like a cold-bowl of everything.

Time and again, he joked beratingly with his co-workers about his hometown. Patrick stood in Amanda’s cubicle, speaking with her and another co-worker, Steven.

“There’s no one famous from Buffalo,” he said.
“Yeah, there is,” said Amanda.
“Who?”
“Um…” Her eyes rolled-high in thought. “There’s a singer from there…”
“Rick James?” said Steven.

Amanda shook her head. “Who’s Rick James?”
“You never heard of Rick James?” said Patrick.
“No. He’s not the guy I’m thinking of.” Her eyes widened.
“Brian McKnight!”

“Is he from Buffalo?”
“Yes. And he’s famous.”

Patrick smiled. “All right, I’ll give you that. But Brian Mcknight’s not super famous. He’s got ‘C’ level fame at best. Possibly ‘D’ level; definitely not a household name.”

Amanda looked at Steven while she spoke.
“You know Brian McKnight, right?”

“No.”

“See!” Patrick pointed at Steven. “I rest my case.” He spoke to Amanda. “Most folks don’t know famous people from Buffalo. But they know infamous people.”

“Like who?”

Patrick looked at Steven. “You know Rick James; you mentioned him. He’s one of the infamous people. You know OJ Simpson?”
Steven nodded. “The Juice!”
“That’s right!”
Amanda furrowed her brow.

“What about William McKinley?” said Steven.
Patrick opened his eyes in shock while nodding.
“Wow. I didn’t think you’d know him?”
“He’s not from Buffalo though, is he?”
“No. I’m not sure where he’s from, but I know President William McKinley inhaled his final breaths in Buffalo. That’s where he was assassinated.”

Steven smiled. “My third-grade history teacher, Mr. Goodwin told our class about that.” Patrick’s gaze ping-ponged between Amanda and Steven while he spoke. “That’s my point; Buffalo is more infamous than it is famous.”

“Okay,” Amanda shrugged her shoulders. “That’s one example. What else you got?”

“Rick James.” He gazed at Amanda. Then waved his hands erratically while speaking. “Rick was a famous musician in the late seventies and early eighties. This guy had talent. You ever hear the song, ‘Super Freak?’”

“I don’t think so.”

“You’ve heard that song,” said Steven. He motioned towards Amanda’s PC monitor which sat on her desk.

“Look it up. Type, ‘super freak Rick James.’”

Amanda launched a web browser, then typed the string of words into Google search. Afterward, a page of results loaded. Steven pointed at her screen. “Right there! Play this.” Upon clicking the link, the trio watched thirty-seconds of the upbeat synth-funk music video, Super Freak.

Steven spoke over Amanda’s shoulder.

“If you’ve gone to a wedding reception anywhere in the United States, then you know this song!” Amanda smiled. “Yeah, I know this song. It’s a good song. What’s infamous about it?”

Patrick spoke excitedly. “Nothing. And I agree; it’s an awesome song. Every time I hear it, I dance.” He shook his shoulders, and two stepped while speaking. “Rick James had a string of hits like this. There was, ‘Bustin Out,’ ‘You And I,’ and ‘Give It To Me Baby.’ He had others, too.

“Mary Jane!” said Steven.

Patrick pointed at him. “Yes! How could I forget Mary Jane! That might be the best song!”

Amanda scowled. “The names of these songs mean nothing to me.”

“Don’t worry about it. Rick James was super famous and made a lot of money. By the mid-eighties, he was on top of the world. But Rick had a dark side. He was a guy’s-gone-wild dude. Snorted blow with Eddie Murphy’s crew back in the day. Rick even produced a song for Eddie. I forgot the name of it, but it was horrible. And it still made good money. Anyway, sometime in the early nineties, Rick and his girlfriend went on this crazy, drug-fueled party-streak, doing all sorts of weird shit. After a while, I guess they got lonely? So they hooked up with another lady from ‘God only knows where,’ and brought her home to party. Then did sex stuff with her; no one knows what the heck they did. After six days of nonstop drugs, the woman left their place. Then she went to the police and told them how Rick James and his girlfriend kidnapped her, forced her to perform sex acts, made her take drugs, then burned her with crack pipes and stuff. I have no clue if what she said is true. It probably is, but how could anyone know? After that, Rick got arrested and convicted. That’s how he became infamous.”

Amanda frowned, “That’s a horrible story.”

Steven spoke sarcastically. “It’s also why I never pick up anyone in a bar, and tie them up in my house. Then do weird-sex stuff to them. Rick James taught us a valuable lesson.”

“That’s one way to look at it.” said Patrick.

He gazed at Amanda. “Now you know about Rick James. Do you know who OJ Simpson is?”

“Never heard of him.”

“Oh, my God. How old are you?” said Steven.
Patrick interrupted. “Never ask a lady her age. Didn’t your mom teach you anything?” Amanda spoke snidely. “Thank you for protecting my ladyhood, Sir Lancelot.” She looked at Steven.
“I’m twenty-four.”
Patrick shook his body as if a fierce chill ran through him.
“No wonder you don’t know OJ Simpson.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing. Stay with me; we’re talkin’ about OJ.”
“The Juice!” said Steven. Patrick nodded. “He’s not from Buffalo. But he became famous in Buffalo.”

“Where’s he from?”

Patrick gazed down to his right. “San Francisco, I think.” He looked at Amanda. “OJ Simpson was the first running back in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a single season. He played for the Buffalo Bills in the 1970’s, amazing player. After retiring from football, he was a sports announcer, co-starred in movies, and did tons of commercials. He did well.”

“I feel like there’s a but coming,” said Amanda.

“That’s because you’re smart. The but is; there’s a chance he murdered his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her toy-boy-friend, some tool named Ron.” Steven raised his lip. “OJ did it.”

“He was found not guilty by a jury of his peers!” said Patrick. “But I think he had something to do with it. It’s a good thing he was rich when he got accused. If the Juice was a regular person like you or me; he would’ve been convicted.”

“That’s true.”

“Anyway, that’s why Buffalo is infamous.”
“What about the Goo Goo Dolls? Aren’t they from Buffalo?” said Steven.
Patrick scrunched his face. “The Goo Goo Dolls are sellouts! They’re infamous too.”
“Who are the Goo Goo Dolls?” said Amanda.

“They’re the reason I left Buffalo.”

Audition

YEARS EARLIER, HE LIVED in Phoenix Arizona. At the time, Patrick joined a talent agency and sought acting gigs. Afterward, he attended multiple auditions, some within a single days notice. Upon attending five of them, he got zero offers. Then he attended his first movie audition. To his surprise, Patrick acquired the part. It wasn’t a glorious role, but it was a speaking one with three lines of dialogue in a movie called, ‘Three Kings.’ He received a portion of the script in the mail and practiced his lines. A few weeks later, he boarded a plane to El Centro California to film the scene.

Upon landing, he entered the baggage claim area of the Imperial County Airport and approached its only conveyor belt. In front of the luggage area stood a stocky man, wearing an unkempt limousine driver’s outfit. Black jacket. Tie. White shirt, black slacks, and shoes. The man held a placard with Patrick’s name scribbled on it. Patrick approached him and sported a puzzled expression while he spoke.

“That’s me; I’m Patrick Waller.”

The driver assisted him with his bags, then escorted Patrick to a black Lincoln Crown Victoria. Afterward, he drove South to another town named, ‘Calexico.’ He navigated to the entrance of a Best Western hotel, then instructed Patrick to check in with the film’s representative. Upon entering, Patrick was directed to a small conference room. Inside, sat a man wearing bright yellow horn-rimmed glasses. They rested above his matching yellow shirt and red pants, positioned below brown hair, spiked with blonde highlights. The lenses perched in front of leathery, sun-dried skin and bloodshot eyes as he glanced at Patrick and spoke.

“Who might you be?” His voice echoed across the small meeting room.

Patrick responded nervously. “Um, Patrick Waller.”

“Waller, Waller, Waller.” The man trailed his finger down a sheet of names, attached to a clipboard resting on the table in front of him.

There you are! I found you.”

Patrick smiled in response as the man continued. “Welcome to Calexico! It’s an awesome town, isn’t it?” His voice dripped in sarcasm. “This town is a shit-hole. I can’t believe I’m here. I should be in L.A. Can I have your license?” Upon receiving Patrick’s identification, he wrote something on the clipboard, then returned the card.

“Okay! You need a welcome kit. Lottsa swag!”

Several large cardboard boxes lay behind him, resting on a table, beside two young women. The ladies retrieved items from the boxes and stuffed them into clear plastic bags. Afterward, they stacked the bags on two tables positioned in front of them.

The man snapped his fingers. “Let’s go, girls! I need a swag bag for Waller!” He waved the back of his hand at Patrick, encouraging him to move to the left.

Patrick followed his cue as a woman approached the opposite side of the neighboring table. She pushed one of the packages towards him while speaking in a monotonous tone.

“Here’s yer swag bag.”
“Thanks.” He slid the bag closer to his body while the lady glanced towards the other man. “Did he already check yer ID?”

“Yes.”

Good. So you need a badge to get on set. Hold on.” She turned around and reached into a plastic bin, then thumbed through a stack of laminated cards. Afterward, she faced Patrick and handed him one of the cards; it was attached to a blue lanyard. “Here. Wear this when they pick you up to go on set. Keep it with you. Also, you need to show it to the hotel receptionist; they’ll give you a room key. The rest of the info is in yer swag bag. Make sure you keep yer cell phone charged and turned on so they can reach you. If you miss a call yer screwed, okay?”

“Okay.”

He walked to the hotel receptionist who assigned him a room and handed him a key card. Upon arrival in the room, Patrick examined the contents of the swag bag. Inside, he found an itinerary of film scenes scheduled for the next two weeks. He searched for his scene and found it labeled as, Map Search #1. He knew today was Tuesday, and noticed the scene lay targeted across Thursday and Friday. Another sheet of paper instructed him to be on-call both days, ready to be chauffeured to the set. Patrick thought… what the heck am I supposed to do till then?

The following morning, he wandered around the exterior of the hotel. The area lay vacant, dusty, and dry. Mammoth-size cactus guarded its perimeter, standing like towering Vaqueros. Across the street, more of them stood beside a rundown auto repair shop and liquor store. He walked a half-mile down the road as sweat dripped from his forehead, then glanced further ahead and thought… everything looks the same. The distant asphalt radiated from heat, glistening as if coated by a layer of cellophane. But the road was bone-dry… looks like it hasn’t rained in a thousand years. Plus, there’s nothing here.

He turned around and headed back to the hotel before entering his room. Then turned on the television and took a nap.

Two hours later, he awoke.

Dining

BEFORE DEPARTING PHOENIX, Patrick had been informed a fixed, seventy-five-dollar-a-day per diem would be allocated for his four-night stay. Via his phone, he verified the money was deposited in his account, then went downstairs and asked the hotel concierge about local dining options. The attendant recommended D-Chano’s, located a mile down the road. Patrick hiked the distance and approached its exterior.

The restaurant sat alone in a sandy lot, situated behind four dust-covered pickup trucks. Its beige facade camouflaged seamlessly into the dirt-laden environment. Upon entry, a carnival rhythm of Tejano bass pulsated the dimly lit inner space. It pounded beneath the distorted sounds of Spanish lyrics, an accordion, and guitars. Slap-echoing between all surfaces in the room. Patrick glanced to his right, towards a large window beside the main entrance and thought… if it weren’t for sunlight coming through the glass, this place would look like a nightclub in the middle of the day.

A long bar hugged the right wall of the room. It paralleled twelve empty tables blanketed with shiny clear-plastic table covers. They glimmered red, green, and white. Beyond the tables, a small stage perimetered the back wall. It sat between two towers of stacked speakers, beneath a small array of low hanging stage lights slung from the ceiling.

At the bar, Patrick was approached by a young woman behind it, seemingly in her twenties. She wore black leggings that hugged her curved lower form. They situated below a red tank top that stopped mid waist, drawing attention towards her pierced belly button. Her red lips pursed beneath brown eyes and thick eyelashes. They peeled slowly apart as she spoke.

“Hola.”
“Hi.”
“What can I get you?”
“Uh…”

Patrick glanced at the walls and ceiling. They were covered with Tecate beer logos, Tecate neon signs, flags, soccer, and boxing posters. “Gimme a Tecate and a menu, please.”

“Draft?”
“Yes.”
“Large or small?”
“Large, please.”

She handed him a menu and poured his drink. Then Patrick glanced around the bar. Five male patrons sat together at the opposite end, near the stage. They sported large dusty cowboy hats, perched above dirty faces and well-worn, long sleeve plaid shirts. All appeared to be regulars. Two of the men yelled something in Spanish towards the bartender. She giggled, then blushed while the men laughed aloud.

This is not my scene… Patrick thought to himself… I’m ordering this food to go.

He requested a Carnitas Burrito from the menu, and upon receiving it, Patrick guzzled the remainder of his beer. On the way back to the hotel, he stopped at a liquor store and purchased a bottle of Rum, plus two liters of Coca-Cola.

Waiting

THE FOLLOWING DAY he anticipated the phone call that never came while watching ten hours of television. During the day, he dialed his parents and informed them of his schedule, then called a friend and did the same. Afterward, he found an Applebee’s Bar and Grill coupon in the hotel magazine, then trekked two miles for a ten-percent discount dinner.

It was a forgettable meal.

While returning to the hotel, the street was free of vehicles and the surrounding area lay dimly illuminated. The lack of lights permitted the night’s stars to shine unimpeded. He stopped walking, then gazed-up towards an immense jet-black canvas. It suspended above his position like an infinite panoramic display, dotted with bright-sparkling diamonds. They shimmered and shook peacefully.

Patrick tilted his head back and rested it atop his trapezoids. Then rotated his body full-circle slowly, watching the sea of stars, galaxies, and nebula spin tightly around his eyes. I’ve never seen the sky so bright… he thought to himself.

Sixty seconds later, he continued his late night stroll back to the hotel room before nite-capping with two glasses of Rum and Coke.

Phone Call

IT WAS 7:00 A.M. FRIDAY MORNING when his cell phone buzzed and he answered.
“Hi, this is Patrick.”
“Your scene is today. The shuttle will pick you up at 9:00 a.m. Be in the lobby by 8:45.”
“Okay.”
The caller hung up.

Patrick sat in the lobby at 8:45, rehearsing his three lines. He’d already voiced them aloud in his hotel room countless times. After each recital, he critiqued his voice, then adjusted his pitch, speed, and intonation before reciting them again. At 9:15, a white van arrived in front of the hotel doors. Patrick exited the lobby, then opened the vehicle’s side-door as the driver turned his head and spoke.

“Is it just you?”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Okay, get in.”

He climbed in and closed the door. Then sat in the first row of seats when a squelchy voice emanated from a walkie-talkie. It rested in a cup holder on the middle console.

“ETA?” The voice barked.

The driver retrieved the device and spoke into it while departing the parking lot.
“Be there in twenty.” He glanced over his shoulder.
“What’s your name?”
“Patrick Waller”
“I got Waller.”
“Okay,” said the voice.

The van cruised beyond the limits of the tiny town, then entered deserted land before speeding down a vacant road into nothingness. Its engine moaned. And tires hummed atop rough-arid pavement. Patrick sat silent for five minutes, then spoke nervously to the driver.

“We’re in the middle of nowhere, aren’t we?”
“Sure are!”
“How many times a day you drive back and forth?”
“There are three different hotels folks are staying. I drive to whichever one they tell me… six or seven times a day; something like that.”

“That’s a lot of driving.”
“It pays the bills.”
“Yeah.” Patrick sighed. “Do you drive for a lot of movies?”
“When I have time.”
“Who are some of the people you’ve driven?”

The driver’s head tilted up. He glanced at Patrick through the rear view mirror while speaking. “Why don’t you sit up here?” Then motioned to the passenger seat. Patrick got up, and squeezed beside the console before sitting.

“I’ve driven a lot of people. Michelle Pfeiffer. Susan Sarandon. Al Pacino. Danny Devito.”
“That’s cool. Is everyone nice, or are some people weird?”
The driver smirked. “Most of em’ are cool, you know? Everybody’s got a job they gotta do. Mine’s drivin, that’s what I do. There’s is acting, that’s what they do, right?”

“Sure. Who’s the nicest person you ever drove?”

“Ahh… George Clooney’s on this set. He’s a nice guy. This was the first time I ever drove him, you know? For this movie? He seems nice. Like real nice. He don’t seem fake or nuthin like that.”

“I didn’t know he’s in this movie! I have lines they’re filming today. I wonder if they’ll be with him?” The driver grinned broadly. “If you have lines, they might be with him or Nora Dunn. They’re both on set today.”

“Nora Dunn? She’s from Saturday Night Live, right?”
“That’s her. I bet your scene is with one of them.” Patrick’s stomach flipped. “I didn’t know either of them were in this film. Anyway, who’s the weirdest person you drove?”

“Ahhh… good question! I drove Forest Whitaker not long ago for some, ghost-something movie he was in. He’s a weird dude.”

“How so?”

The driver lowered his tone. “He don’t wanna talk at all, man. I guess he one of them method actors or whatever you call it. Like he gets into the character so much, he don’t break out of it for nothin. I’m a fan, you know? Just wanted to say, ‘hi’ and shit. But he ignored me. Didn’t say nuthin.”

“I always thought he would be cool to meet.”

“Me too! Maybe he is, you know? If you meet him when he’s not doing a movie? I don’t know. I heard he was like that the whole movie though. Even after he got out my car. He wouldn’t talk to nobody. Only wanted to do his scenes and get the hell outta dodge, you know? And he was the star in the movie! Made the whole cast feel kinda edgy. Even when he wasn’t filming, he stayed in his trailer and never came out. Nobody could relax ‘cause he seemed uptight the whole damn time! It ain’t fun workin’ with people like that.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t enjoy that either. I understand the method actor mentality, I think. But how deep you gotta go into character to become the character? I’ve seen Forest Whitaker’s acting. He’s not the greatest actor. You’d think, -since he’s so into method acting- that he’d be an amazing actor. But he’s not!”

“I don’t think he that good either. Oh well, whaddya gonna do?”

“I heard Robert De Niro is into method acting; I don’t know if it’s true. But he’s an amazing actor; did you ever drive him?”

“No. But if I do and he wanna act moody or whatever; I don’t care. It’s Robert fuckin De Niro! He can do what he wants!”

The Set

THEY APPROACHED AN AREA dotted with large outdoor tents. Then the driver stopped the van and spoke while pointing towards the closest structure.

“Go there to check in.”
“Okay, thanks.” Patrick opened the door.
“What’s your name, again?”
“Patrick Waller.”
“I’ll remember you, if you become famous.”
“I doubt that’s gonna happen, but thanks. What’s your name?”
“Lucious.”

Patrick extended his hand. “Nice to meet you.”
Lucious shook it while speaking. “Likewise. Good luck.”

In the tent, Patrick was greeted by an attendant who ushered him to wardrobe. She spoke hurriedly as they walked.

“I’m taking you to Lita. She’s gonna hook you up with clothes. After that, we go to your trailer. You’ll change there. Then we go to hair and make-up, okay?”

“Sure.” As she spoke Patrick thought to himself… I can’t believe it! I get a trailer! This is cool!

In the wardrobe tent, Lita adorned him with an army Sergeant’s uniform, including a hat, and military boots. Afterward, the attendant guided him to a trailer.
“This is your trailer. Change here.”
Patrick looked up and read his name on the door, and smiled. “Thanks.”

Once inside, he changed his clothes, then exited to find the same lady waiting outside the door. “How do I look?” he said.

She glanced at him quickly, “Like a soldier.” Then guided him to another trailer. Inside, a man instructed Patrick to sit in a barber’s chair. As he sat, the man examined his hair from behind and spoke.

“Who cuts your hair?”
“I cut it myself.”
The man chuckled. “No wonder.”
“What? It doesn’t look good?”
“No, it don’t. But I’ll fix it.”

Ten minutes later Patrick departed the trailer, and the attendant walked him to another one. Inside, a woman guided him to sit, facing a wall of mirrors. She inspected his appearance and opened a toolbox of makeup supplies. Then dabbed Patrick’s face with sponges and brushes while she spoke.

“What’s your role?”
“I’m soldier number nine.”
“Oh! Soldier number nine! That sounds important.”
“I know, right?” Patrick smiled. “I don’t even have a real name. Just a number.”
“Welcome to the club, honey. We’re all numbers here.”

Upon completion, she lined paper towels around his neck, separating his skin from the fabric in his collar.

“This’ll stop your sweat from ruining my good work.”
Patrick admired his appearance in the mirror while he spoke.
“You’re a miracle worker. I look amazing.”
“Flattery will get you everywhere. Get outta here, Casanova. You’re all set.”
“Thanks.”

Next, the attendant guided him to a large open-air tent, surrounded by thick white ropes. “This is craft services. You can wait here. Stay near this area. I don’t know when they’ll start your scene. But you have to be ready all day, okay?”

“Sure.”
“When they’re ready, I’ll come get you.”
“Sounds good.”

She told the truth about not knowing when they’d film the scene. Patrick waited in craft services for three-and-a-half-hours. When the woman finally re-appeared, she spoke frantically.

“There you are! Let’s go! David’s waiting!”

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