FREE FICTION: “Even When You Try” by Bruce McAllister

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Even When You Try
Bruce McAllister

She insisted from the first time we met — which was after work, at a diner on Melrose, looking at each other down the counter and speaking at last — that she was the reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe, and in the end I did believe her. At first, I didn’t know what she meant. I hadn’t looked at her eyes enough. I hadn’t yet discovered the mole she kept covered with make-
up. She was an exhibitionist, sure, and beautiful, and could do things to you with her voice the way MM could (or so they say), but I didn’t really know what it meant for someone to live every day like that, being someone else, someone who’d died, who’d killed herself. I didn’t know she’d beg me to take her to plays and at intermission look for erudite men who (like Arthur
Miller, the first husband) might be playwrights. She’d say, “Let’s go talk to that guy — the one with the wool jacket.” Because she was so pretty, the guy would’ve already noticed her and didn’t mind our approaching him, didn’t mind talking to us, or to her. I didn’t know it would mean that even when we were just walking down Santa Monica Boulevard she’d be looking for guys with faces like that baseball player, Joe DiMaggio. It was sad how desperate she was, as if looking for her first love, or only love, or a father she’d lost.  She’d wear dresses the wind could move easily, and she’d stand over grates in the street (LA does have a few) waiting for her dress to be blown up by the wind and paparazzi to appear suddenly and take pictures, but it never happened. She just stood there waiting. She hung pictures of Robert Kennedy and John Kennedy — both of them — in our bedroom on Helena Court, and looked at them sometimes; but when she did, it made her cry, though she wasn’t sure why, she said.  She hadn’t known Bobby all that well, she said.  When she was unhappy, the sex was great, as if she could forget herself just a little, but I also know she wanted, in the middle of it, to call me by a name other than mine. She never did.  She didn’t want to be that cruel even if the entire thing — being a famous person instead of just a girl from the old housing tracts of Torrance — was a living hell for her, even if I didn’t matter really who I was because I wasn’t any of the guys she actually wanted and needed, any of the guys who could have kept her from killing herself and didn’t. I just wasn’t, so when the time came, I helped her with it. It was the least I could do.

Bruce McAllister is an award-winning West-Coast-based writing coach, writer in a wide range of genres, consultant in the fields of publishing and Hollywood, workshop leader and an “agent finder” for both new and established writers. As a writing coach, he specializes in all kinds of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and screenplays.

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