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Authors: John Kaye

Stars Screaming

BOOK: Stars Screaming
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S  T  A  R  S       S  C  R  E  A  M  I  N  G

S  T  A  R  S

S  C  R  E  A  M  I  N  G

J  O  H  N   K  A  Y  E

GROVE PRESS

New York

Copyright © 1997 by John Kaye

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. Scanning, uploading, and electronic distribution of this book or the facilitation of such without the permission of the publisher is prohibited. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated. Any member of educational institutions wishing to photocopy part or all of the work for classroom use, or anthology, should send inquiries to Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 154 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10011 or
[email protected]
.

Published simultaneously in Canada

Printed in the United States of America

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Kaye, John.

Stars screaming / John Kaye.

p. cm.

ISBN: 978-0-87113-742-5 (pbk.)

eISBN: 978-0-8021-9205-9

PS3561.A8857S73     1997

813’.54—dc21
97-9368

Designed by Laura Hammond Hough

Cover design by Charles Rue Woods

Atlantic Monthly Press

an imprint of Grove/Atlantic, Inc.

154 West 14th Street

New York, NY 10011

Distributed by Publishers Group West

www.groveatlantic.com

For my son, Jesse

and for H., who tried so hard

S  T  A  R  S       S  C  R  E  A  M  I  N  G

PART ONE

THE CAST

Welcome to Hollywood

1942

“Pretty legs,” a sailor on leave says to his buddy, while they watch Grace Elliot stroll by the racks in front of Nate’s News. “Reminds me of this gal I knew back in Davenport. Julie Lagerson. Looked as cool as a cucumber, but if you pushed the right button she got hotter than a five-alarm fire.”

Overhearing their conversation, Nathan Burk says, “She’s wearing a ring, boys, so I wouldn’t get any ideas.”

“Yeah?” the sailor says innocently. “Ideas about what?”

Then his buddy says, “Her husband’s probably overseas. How do you know she ain’t lookin’ for it like all the rest?”

“That’s right,” the sailor says, and Grace Elliot spins around slowly and fixes the two of them with a hard stare.

“Looking for what?” she asks them.

Before they can respond, a peach-colored Packard convertible pulls around the corner and parks in front of the
newsstand. Behind the wheel is a handsome young man with deep dark eyes and long, black, slick hair.

“Be right there, Mr. Fonda,” Nathan Burk shouts, and he races over a copy of the
Omaha World-Herald.
After the driver pays for the newspaper and the enormous automobile speeds away, Grace Elliot asks, “Was that Henry Fonda?”

“Yes, it was. He comes by every day.”

“I can’t believe it,” she says with a sigh. “I saw him in
The Grapes of Wrath
right before I left home.”

“Me too,” the sailor says.

“So did I,” says his buddy, excited that they all have something in common. “I saw it with my dad the day before I enlisted. We’re farmers just like the Joads.”

“He should get an Oscar for that one,” says a mournful-looking old woman with bloodshot eyes who is standing nearby. She’s wearing hospital slippers and a ratty gray coat that’s stained with food. “If he don’t, they should investigate the whole deal.”

“I agree,” Grace says, nodding.

“Me too,” says the sailor.

“So do—”

“Nobody asked you two,” the old woman snaps, and she sends a gob of spit next to their feet. “Now get the hell away from this gal before I kick you both in the family jewels.” The old woman feints with her foot and the two sailors jump backward. “A woman alone on this boulevard is like raw meat hanging from a tree in the jungle.”

“They’re just lonely,” Grace Elliot says, and she pulls the latest issue of
Modern Screen
off the rack in front of her. On the cover is a picture of Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart dining at Romanoff’s. “I can handle guys like that.”

“Yeah? Didn’t look like it to me,” the old woman says, while she watches Grace Elliot flip through the magazine. “You thinkin’ of becoming an actress?”

“Maybe. If I’m lucky.”

“You got any talent?”

“I hope so,” she says, exchanging the copy of
Modern Screen
for a copy of
Photoplay.
"I won a beauty contest back home.”

“Big deal,” the old woman says, and Grace Elliot hears her fart. “Every two-bit twat in Hollywood is Miss This or Queen of That.”

Moving away, Grace Elliot says, “I’ve got a contract, too.”

“For what?” The old woman hoots. “A hundred and fifty a week to be atmosphere until you can cozy up to some fat-cat producer. Then what? You give him a little action, and he lets you say a line or two in a scene that ends up in the shitter. Listen to me, honey,” the old woman growls, as she follows Grace up the block. “Do yourself a favor and go back home.”

Grace Elliot shakes her head.

“I’ve been there and back, sweetheart! Listen to me! All they want is a couple of squirts between your legs, that’s all! Take my advice and pack your bags and get back on whatever train—”

“No!” Grace Elliot suddenly screams into the old woman’s face. “I’m never going home! Ever!”

A nerve pulsates in the old woman’s forehead as she slowly backs up the street. When she reaches the corner, she lifts one of her feeble hands and points to the sky. “Let us pray to God for this woman,” she says after a long silence, and then, looking around furtively to make sure no one is watching, she turns and disappears into a crowd of tourists crossing Hollywood Boulevard.

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