Saturday, September 8, 2012

Saturday Sneak Peek #6

Here's the next unedited excerpt from Ain't Too Proud to Beg. Today we continue with Devon's visit to the hospital to see his best friend.

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Before I returned to the waiting room, I paid a visit to the hospital security chief to talk to him about possible visits from the paparazzi. He listened, but appeared to not take my warning very seriously when he said he didn’t think anything would happen. I had to remember that this was Telluride not Hollywood and reminded him if they paid for shots of Whitney in her casket, they would do anything. I ended our slightly antagonistic chat by information him that for the time being, V wouldn’t have any visitors other than myself, my wife, Craig Weinstein and possibly his manager.

Once I returned to the waiting room, I debated with myself on whether or not I should try to talk to Vaughn. The news my buddy had just received would’ve been devastating to anyone. It meant his career could very well be over. If I were in his shoes what would I want? Probably to be left alone, just like Vaughn had asked. Powerlessness to help him was possibly the worst emotion I’d ever felt, other than when I’d witnessed my former girlfriend’s suicide. I leaned forward and covered my face with my hands.

“Excuse me, Mr. Burke, are you all right?” When I opened my eyes, a woman dressed in hospital attire was standing in front of me. “Is there anything I can get you?”

The other people seated in the room were all staring at me. Being easily recognizable was a simultaneous blessing and curse. People somehow expected you to respond differently to the vicissitudes of life, especially if you were known from portraying heroic characters. They could never accept Dwayne Johnson whining because he was tired. Or Denzel Washington cursing someone out that didn’t meet his expectations. The public expected a hero image at all times, so I called on my training and summoned a smile. “My buddy needed some time alone. I’ll be going back in when he feels up to having company.”

“That’s understandable. He’s had a traumatic accident. He needs time to process.” She stepped closer, leaned down and whispered. “We have a private waiting room at the other end of the floor. You might be more comfortable there.”

The others seated around me watched as I met her speculative gaze. “I would, thank you. There are some phone calls I need to make.”

We exited the room, and she flashed a beaming smile toward her associates when we passed the nurse’s station. I kept my gaze focused straight ahead until the gawking staff was behind us.

“Mr. Breland is in excellent hands. Dr. Liu is one of the best orthopedic surgeons in the country.”

“That’s good to hear. He seems to think Vaughn will make a full recovery.”

“Here we are.” She opened the door to the empty private room. After she left, I called Shontae with an update. In the middle of the call, Craig Weinsten entered the room.


“Baby, I’ll call you back. Craig is here.”

We shook hands. “How’s he doing?” Craig asked.

“Physically, okay. Mentally, not so good. He’s looking at seven weeks in traction before he can even start physical therapy. He wants to come back to LA, but…” I shook my head. “You’ll see. Come on. His room is at the end of the hall.”

***

Devon poked his head in the door. “V, Craig is here to see you. Are you up to it, man?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said, thinking I had probably blown my chance at the opportunity of a lifetime. The invitation to invest in an upstart movie studio with several other Hollywood stars had been hand delivered with the understanding that complete secrecy was expected.

Craig followed Devon into the room

“Guess I missed the meeting.” I tried to smile, but my face felt like it had shrunken two sizes and the effort sent a shooting pain across my cheek.

The thin, bespectacled man removed his trademark baseball cap and smiled. “Yeah, but you’re still considered a potential investor. When you’re feeling better, I’ll bring you up to speed on what went took place.”

“Thanks.”

“The doctor said the EMS guys found my address in the car and called me right after the accident happened,” Craig said while his gaze ran back and forth from my face to my elevated leg. “I came to the hospital right away, but since you were in surgery, there wasn’t any reason for me to stay. I called me Devon at home as soon as I heard.”

“Listen, Dev. Can you…” My words came slower than my mind conceived them. “Find out about AJ.”

 
The answer was clear by the expression of disbelief Craig shared with Devon. “EMS had to extricate you from the vehicle. I’m sorry, Vaughn.”

Devon didn’t answer right away and simply shook his head. “V, from what I heard, there wasn’t anything left to salvage. She was totaled. Don’t worry about it. You were insured. Weren’t you?”

“Of course, but … she was unique. I loved her, man.”

“I know, but you’re not talking about a woman here. Your ride can be replaced. I’ll check into it, but don’t worry about that now. You have more important things to think about. In the meantime, have you had a chance to think about what you’re going to do next?”

My gaze rested on Craig’s face and then Devon’s. “The first thing I need to do is get back to LA. No offense, Craig. But this isn’t exactly the kind of place a black man wants get stranded.”

“Now, what in the world do you mean?” Craig asked feigning an innocent expression.

I managed a small smile. “You know what I mean. At least if I get back to LA, I can take care of business while I recuperate,”

Devon barked a deep laugh. “V, I don’t think you’re going to be taking care of any business any time soon.”

“Not that kind of business. I’m talking about work.”

Craig spoke gently, “I hate to say this, but it doesn’t look like you’ll be doing much of that either. I took the liberty of contacting your studio and let them know what happened.  I knew you didn’t want them to think you’d gone AWOL on them. They’re sending someone out here in a few days. I also spoke with your doctor this morning. According to him, you have nearly two months in this rig,” he waved toward the equipment stabilizing my leg. “Then there’ll be close to a year of physical therapy. Do you have anyone that can help with your care?”

None that would be willing to help me without getting a regular paycheck. “Not really. Why?”

Craig moved closer to the bed. “Because I want you to consider staying at my house. There’s more than enough space, and you could be moved there without much trouble.”

I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. It took me a long moment to respond. “Stay at your house? Didn’t I hear that Sabrina Fairchild lives with you now?”

“Yes, she and her daughter, Harlowe, and my sister.” Craig chuckled. “I’m in a house full of women. A little additional testosterone around that place wouldn’t hurt, and it would give the chef something to do when Bri isn’t there. I forgot you’ve never seen the house. You could be there for months without ever running into them, unless you wanted to.” I didn’t respond, so Craig continued. “I asked Dr. Liu about transferring you back to Cali, and he didn’t think it was wise. He said it could be dangerous and quite expensive. Since I feel kind of responsible for you being in this condition to begin with, I’d like to help.”

“What happened wasn’t your fault, man.”

“I had no idea you were driving here, and it didn’t occur to me to warn you and the others, especially since the Weather Service had predicted snow. I’m used to living up here and driving on mountain roads, but it was irresponsible of me not to remind everyone that this is four-wheel drive country. Even the ones that flew still had to rent cars at the airport and drive to my house.” Craig laughed again. “But I didn’t tell you to drive up here in that land jet, though.”

“V’s right,” Devon added, knowing Craig’s generous nature. “There’s no reason for you to feel liable for the accident. We all know how this fool drives.”

Craig Weinstein had a reputation for being one of the most generous people in Hollywood. He’d been known to use his private jet to carry emergency supplies to victims of national disasters and had even loaned it to a star’s family to fly his body home after his untimely death. His name was associated with major charities in this US and abroad. He and I had met several years ago on the set of Craig’s directorial debut, which also happened to be my first movie. Anxious to please, I’d gone out of his way to be a director’s dream actor. We hit it off and been friends ever since.

“Give it serious thought, Vaughn. It wouldn’t be an imposition. If you arrange for a private nurse, I can even hook you up with the physical therapist that worked with my brother when he had the run-in with that tree up on Coxcomb. TC was amazing. That jerk broke bones he didn’t even know he had, but with TC’s help, he doesn’t even have a limp.”

“I appreciate that, but I don’t know–”

“The choice is yours, of course. Still, it makes more sense for your health and your budget to stay here for a while. I’ll let you mull it over for a few days.” He stood and clasped my hand.

“I’d better get back to the house. I have a conference call scheduled.”

“I’ll walk you to the elevator,” Devon volunteered then the two of them left the room.

Tired from our short conversation, I closed his eyes and considered Craig’s generous offer, but I couldn’t see myself living in someone else’s house for months. I needed my own space. Besides, there was a kid in the house, and I’d never shared my space with any children. They were noisy, messy and generally annoying.

Not long after Devon returned, the door opened and another doctor entered. He introduced himself as the head of plastic surgery. “Mr. Breland, I want to talk to you about your facial lacerations, but I see you have a visitor.”

“You can say whatever you need to in front of him. I eyed him warily. “Go ahead.”

“All right. In view of your profession, I know your appearance is important to you,” the doctor said slowly, as if he were weighing his words. “I’m not going to hedge here. Your face sustained severe damage from the impact of the steering wheel and from the windshield. Your cheekbone is shattered, and surgery is imperative, possibly a series of surgeries, but I am confident your face can be restored to its prior condition.”

 
The horror of what I heard left me speechless. I was no fool. My acting skills weren’t what had gotten me to where I was in Hollywood. My looks were my meal ticket, and I knew it. Without them, I’d have no work and no female companionship – the only two things that made my life worth living. The news about my legs had almost taken me under, but this was more than I could stand. I squeezed my eyes shut. “I…need to…be alone.”

Devon left the room again followed by the doctor.

What am I going to do now? My career might be over. These surgeries will cost me a fortune, even with the insurance.  I turned my face into the pillow and must have eventually succumbed to the effects of the latest infusion of morphine.
 

1 comment:

Sharon Cunningham Cooper said...

Looking forward to reading more!! Come on November!