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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 37 page 05


“This is how he operates,” says Brendan, not taking the phone. “He thrives on paranoia and crisis.”

“I know! He creates his own pathology in everybody else so they’re the idiot. So he’s destabilizing everyone so he can live inside his own retarded behavior.”

“And if he makes everyone as panicked and dysfunctional as he is, he wins.”

“Brendan—” Hannah speaks now in a defeated tone, as if something inside her has already broken. “I can’t tell you how exhausting it is. All the infighting. And the idea the network might think Peter Svboda is saving the series? It makes me insane.” She shivers. “He’s such a little weasel. Being in the same room with him makes me sick.” Picking up her cell phone, she inspects it a moment, then tosses it on the bed. “My battery’s dead. Where’s your phone?” She grabs his cell phone from the bedside table. She has almost finished dialing when Brendan gets off the bed to take his phone from her. “Cookie,” he says, “Everybody knows Peter Svboda’s an asshole. But calling him on Sunday morning—”

“I’ll call Becky.”

“You can do that. But what good’s it going to do?”

“I want her to know what I have to work with every day!”

“You don’t think she knows? She knows. And you don’t have to worry about guys like Peter Svboda. These guys self-destruct on their own.”

“Oh yeah?” She took the phone back from him. “How do I speed up the process?”

“Look, what’s the most important thing here? What do you want to happen? Because there’ll come a day when you aren’t working anymore with Peter Svboda.”

“When’s that day going to come? Brendan, you don’t understand. I drop out of law school. He drops out of law school. I want to be a writer, he wants to be a writer. I become a producer, he becomes a producer. This man has been haunting me for seven years! So what I want to happen” — she inhales deeply through her nose, yoga-style — “is that Paramount green-lights our feature, I win an Oscar, and Peter Svboda ends up bankrupt, teaching media arts in a community college in Idaho. That’s what I want to happen. Because, Brendan?” — still clutching the phone, she folds her arms — “I want to win.”

“You’ve won already. You’re sane. Look, you just have to treat these guys like a retarded person.”

“Why should I have to treat him like a retarded person? That’s what I can’t take. Why should I pretend someone’s okay if I think they’re fucked up? You have this illusion that being nice will make you successful but it’s not true. It’s no guarantee of anything because being nice in this business is a liability. Especially for a woman. And assholes like Peter Svboda are very successful. Because — I don’t know, Brendan — I think the asshole always lives. The asshole gets drunk. The asshole smashes his car into the minivan. The nice family dies. The asshole lives. That’s what I think.” She holds the cell phone over her head, defiant. “I’m calling him.” Before she can make another move, the phone begins ringing in her hand. Startled, she reads the call display. She composes her face into a smile, takes the call, and says, “Errol! Just waking up?”

Brendan studies her.

“I know, I know,” says Hannah. “I thought after the Jäger shots you were going to start table-dancing.” As she listens, she begins nodding, her face frozen in a professional smile. “The gala tonight? Um, let me see if I can find Brendan. One second.” Lifting the phone above her head, she looks to Brendan and mouths the words, “Are we going?”

Brendan shrugs.

Hannah brings the phone to her ear again. “Hey, doll. Can he call you back? Or can you call back in ten minutes?” She listens. “I’ll be sure to tell him. Bye!” Without looking up, and without risking any further distraction, she dials a new number. “Peter?” She stares at the tulip petal on the carpet, her mouth set in a fixed smirk. “You want to tell me what’s up with all the messages?” She listens, her eyes widening in disbelief. “Right. But it wasn’t ready, Peter. No, it wasn’t. Because it wasn’t a locked cut, that’s why. We discussed this on Friday. That was the director’s pass. I hadn’t signed off on it. Becky hadn’t signed off. You knew that. But then you sort of arbitrarily decide to call editors out of bed and God knows —” She is halted by a shrill eruption of conversation that is audible even to Brendan five feet away. “Okay, fine,” she says. “Amazing. How about I tell you something?” She kicks again at the tulip petal. “Sure, sure. What’s more important? There’s always something more important—” and now Hannah goes still, the color draining from her face. “No way,” she whispers, ending the call, and dropping to a sitting position on the bed.

After a moment, Brendan asks, “Are you okay?”

Hannah turns to the curtained windows with a peculiar half-smile. “We got dumped.”

“Who did?”

“Paramount’s passing. They’re putting my movie in turnaround. They develop my movie for six years and now they’re dumping it.”

“They put you in turnaround? Why?”