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The Machineries of Joy

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“I wish it would rain,” he said. “That’s one thing about California I can’t forgive. It never really lets go and cries. Right now, what wouldn’t I give for a little something from that sky? A bolt of lightning, even.”

He stood silent, and Terwilliger slowed in his packing. Mr. Glass sagged down into a chair and doodled on a pad with a pencil, talking sadly, half aloud, to himself.

“Six reels of film shot, pretty good reels, half the film done, three hundred thousand dollars down the drain, hail and farewell. Out the window all the jobs. Who feeds the starving mouths of boys and girls? Who will face the stockholders? Who chucks the Bank of America under the chin? Anyone for Russian roulette?”

He turned to watch Terwilliger snap the locks on a briefcase.

“What hath God wrought?”

Terwilliger, looking down at his hands, turning them over to examine their texture, said, “I didn’t know I was doing it, I swear. It came out in my fingers. It was all subconscious. My fingers do everything for me. They did this.”

“Better the fingers had come in my office and taken me direct by the throat,” said Glass. “I was never one for slow motion. The Keystone Kops, at triple speed, was my idea of living, or dying. To think a rubber monster has stepped on us all. We are now so much tomato mush, ripe for canning!”

“Don’t make me feel any guiltier than I feel,” said Terwilliger.

“What do you want, I should take you dancing?”

“It’s just,” cried Terwilliger. “He kept at me. Do this. Do that. Do it the other way. Turn it inside out, upside down, he said. I swallowed my bile. I was angry all the time. Without knowing, I must’ve changed the face. But right up till five minutes ago, when Mr. Clarence yelled, I didn’t see it. I’ll take all the blame.”

“No,” sighed Mr. Glass, “we should all have seen. Maybe we did and couldn’t admit. Maybe we did and laughed all night in our sleep, when we couldn’t hear. So where are we now? Mr. Clarence, he’s got investments he can’t throw out. You got your career from this day forward, for better or worse, you can’t throw out. Mr. Clarence right now is aching to be convinced it was all some horrible dream. Part of his ache, ninety-nine per cent, is in his wallet. If you could put one per cent of your time in the next hour convincing him of what I’m going to tell you next, tomorrow morning there will be no orphan children staring out of the want ads in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter. If you would go tell him—”

“Tell me what?”

Joe Clarence, returned, stood in the door, his cheeks still inflamed.

“What he just told me.” Mr. Glass turned calmly. “A touching story.”

“I’m listening!” said Clarence.

“Mr. Clarence.” The old lawyer weighed his words carefully. “This film you just saw is Mr. Terwilliger’s solemn and silent tribute to you.”

“It’s what?” shouted Clarence.

Both men, Clarence and Terwilliger, dropped their jaws.

The old lawyer gazed only at the wall and in a shy voice said, “Shall I go on?”

The animator closed his jaw. “If you want to.”

“This film—” the lawyer arose and pointed in a single motion toward the projection room—“was done from a feeling of honor and friendship for you, Joe Clarence. Behind your desk, an unsung hero of the motion picture industry, unknown, unseen, you sweat out your lonely little life while who gets the glory? The stars. How often does a man in Atawanda Springs, Idaho, tell his wife, ‘Say, I was thinking the other night about Joe Clarence—a great producer, that man’? How often? Should I tell? Never! So Terwilliger brooded. How could he present the real Clarence to the world? The dinosaur is there; boom! it hits him! This is it! he thought, the very thing to strike terror to the world, here’s a lonely, proud, wonderful, awful symbol of independence, power, strength, shrewd animal cunning, the true democrat, the individual brought to its peak, all thunder and big lightning. Dinosaur: Joe Clarence. Joe Clarence: Dinosaur. Man embodied in Tyrant Lizard!”

Mr. Glass sat down, panting quietly.

Terwilliger said nothing.

Clarence moved at last, walked across the room, circled Glass slowly, then came to stand in front of Terwilliger, his face pale. His eyes were uneasy, shifting up along Terwilliger’s tall skeleton frame.

“You said that?” he asked faintly.

Terwilliger swallowed.

“To me he said it. He’s shy,” said Mr. Glass. “You ever hear him say much, ever talk back, swear? anything? He likes people, he can’t say. But, immortalize them? That he can do!”

“Immortalize?” said Clarence.

“What else?” said the old man. “Like a statue, only moving. Years from now people will say, ‘Remember that film, The Monster from the Pleistocene?’ And people will say, ‘Sure! why?’ ‘Because,’ the others say, ‘it was the one monster, the one brute, in all Hollywood history had real guts, real personality. And why is this? Because one genius had enough imagination to base the creature on a real-life, hard-hitting, fast-thinking businessman of A-one caliber.’ You’re one with history, Mr. Clarence. Film libraries will carry you in good supply. Cinema societies will ask for you. How lucky can you get? Nothing like this will ever happen to Immanuel Glass, a lawyer. Every day for the next two hundred, five hundred years, you’ll be starring somewhere in the world!”

“Every day?” asked Clarence softly. “For the next—”

“Eight hundred, even; why not?”

“I never thought of that.”

“Think of it!”

Clarence walked over to the window and looked out at the Hollywood Hills, and nodded at last.

“My God, Terwilliger,” he said. “You really like me that much?”

“It’s hard to put in words,” said Terwilliger, with difficulty.

“So do we finish the mighty spectacle?” asked Glass. “Starring the tyrant terror striding the earth and making all quake before him, none other than Mr. Joseph J. Clarence?”

“Yeah. Sure.” Clarence wandered off, stunned, to the door, where he said, “You know? I always wanted to be an actor!”

Then he went quietly out into the hall and shut the door.

Terwilliger and Glass collided at the desk, both clawing at a drawer.

“Age before beauty,” said the lawyer, and quickly pulled forth a bottle of whiskey.

At midnight on the night of the first preview of Monster from the Stone Age, Mr. Glass came back to the studio, where everyone was gathering for a celebration, and found Terwilliger seated alone in his office, his dinosaur on his lap.

“You weren’t there?” asked Mr. Glass.

“I couldn’t face it. Was there a riot?”

“A riot? The preview cards are all superdandy extra plus! A lovelier monster nobody saw before! So now we’re talking sequels! Joe Clarence as the Tyrant Lizard in Return of the Stone Age Monster, Joe Clarence and/or Tyrannosaurus Rex in, maybe, Beast from the Old Country—”

The phone rang. Terwilliger got it.

“Terwilliger, this is Clarence! Be there in five minutes! We’ve done it! Your animal! Great! Is he mine now? I mean, to hell with the contract, as a favor, can I have him for the mantel?”

“Mr. Clarence, the monster’s yours.”

“Better than an Oscar! So long!”

Terwilliger stared at the dead phone.
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