I'd like to thank Rex Wheelman
By John Latta
Jack Knife parks the Chevy under a streetlight and watches the raindrops bounce on the polished hood and burst like crushed diamonds. “Nice, these new models,” says Jack. “Better than that piece of junk I had. I gotta learn to steal better stuff in the future. I look good in this. You know what would be neat, Stella – if we didn’t get blood on the seats this time.”
He pulls a Camel from the crumpled pack in his shirt pocket, but then thinks twice about lighting it. Their orders said under the streetlight, but a match might just might make his face too clear a target.
“Whatta ya doin’?” says Stella.
“What’s the matter, you can’t see? I’m getting on the floorboard to light my cigarette.”
“Why?” Stella asks. “You’ll get all dirty.”
“Never mind, never mind. Remember you’re paid to be pretty and shoot – not to think. Now just keep watching.”
“Here they come, here they come!” yells Stella, “and they’re gonna start shooting.” Jack scrambles to get back in his seat, cracking his head on the steering wheel and burning his ear with the match as he struggles to get the .38 out of his shoulder holster while Stella slithers into the backseat, grabs the machine gun and starts blasting into the darkness through the windows.
“Cut! Stop the rain! Let there be light! OK, people,” says the director. “Relax. Bring in the town. I want it set up for the next shot ASAP, the store with food on the shelves and clothing on the racks, the car sales yard, the restaurant with the food, the bar with the drinks, the office block with desks and computers, the school, the hospital, everything. I want a real town here. Let’s move it because we have to have it full of bullet holes and burning before we lose the light.”
“Sorry boss,” says the director’s assistant, Tawny Latawny. “No can do.”
“What do you mean ‘no can do?’ What sort of talk is that?”
“It means we can’t do it. Everything we need is on the truck, and he couldn’t get through,” says Tawny, one of those cool, tall brunettes you just know one day is going to take off her glasses and let her hair down and become someone else. “So it’s real simple, boss, so simple you’ll understand it: We don’t have a town.”
“I need a town. And I need it now. How the hell can I make a movie when this stuff happens? Doesn’t this trucker know it’s me that needs this? Hasn’t he seen my movies? Its me, not some second-rate director!”
“The driver tells me there’s ice on the roads out of Spokane, and it isn’t safe to drive.”
“Isn’t safe? Can’t drive? Who cares? I have a picture to make. Tell the driver when I accept the Oscar I’ll thank him for risking his life, and he’ll be famous for a little while, and I’ll give him an autographed photo that you sign for me, but tell him he has to drive!”
“He won’t,” says Tawny.
“Why the hell not? Are you sure he knows it’s me?”
“Oh yes, he knows. But it’s not just his life – he’s responsible for the cargo and there are the lives of other people on the roads. He’s a professional.”
“He’s a professional? Oh no, oh no, I’m the professional,” says the director, stamping his feet and throwing his coffee at Tawny, missing. “I make movies. For God’s sake someone get me another latte. I am the professional; they just drive trucks. Any idiot could do that. People like me should make important decisions, not truckers. Get me my town, now!”
“He told me it wasn’t safe. I’m not asking him again.”
“Let’s get our priorities straight, little Miss Tawny. America wants what I deliver – not what truckers deliver.”
When the ice storm passes, Rex Wheelman rolls his dry van into Tinseltown and onto the lot. The director promises Rex he’ll thank him at the Academy Awards, but it is a lie. He isn’t nominated, anyhow. He finishes the movie without Tawny. She lets her hair down, takes off her glasses and leaves the movie business to drive team over-the-road with Rex.