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A Trace Story by Rodger Jacobs

Trace and the 12 Apostles

short fiction
by Rodger Jacobs

“I’m not really keen on Christianity,” Trace professed in carefully measured words.

“And yet you can’t deny the power of ‘The Passion of the Christ’.”

“Sure I can. I never saw it and I don’t intend to see it.”

“So you’re the one,” the young screenwriter said with a soft smile. “I’ll get a copy of it for you. We have several loaners up at the house.”

“The House” was a small gated home in the Hollywood Hills that the screenwriter, Casey Burrows, purchased with the proceeds of his first spec screenplay sale, a $1.5 million pre-emptive bid by one of the majors for “The Idiot Twins.” The script was a low-brow comedy that was rumored to be the movie that would put Jim Carrey solidly back on the block. For that reason alone Trace hated Burrows.

“You have to come up to the house for one of the meetings, Trace. You just might get something out of it, you know.”

This is like a bad joke, Trace thought. What’s worse than a room full of aspiring screenwriters? A room full of born-again Christian aspiring screenwriters who believe that the power of faith and prayer will elevate them from obscurity – where most of them probably deserved to remain – to pitch meetings with Mel Gibson.

“Look at it this way,” Casey persisted, “We can use you as a motivational speaker. Your career is very inspiring to other writers.”

“Me? You’re the one who sold a script for a million-five.”

“The power of prayer, Trace. But look at you. Heck, you’re almost Biblical in nature. You renounced the stability of a settled life to pursue a higher inner calling. And you succeeded by sheer force of will. I think the guys would love to hear anything you have to say.”

The guys that Casey referred to were younger than Trace imagined they would be. Many of them were still being courted by acne and they all had that dumb-struck, starry-eyed look that many creative types have when they still believe that the cream always rises to the top, that talent alone is all it takes to have their own home in the Hollywood Hills.

“This is Trace,” Casey announced to the twelve young men lounging in his living room.

Casey and his twelve apostles, Trace thought.

“Hello, Trace!” They spoke as one. Trace felt like he was at an AA meeting.

Trace nodded curtly and studied the spines of the DVDs that stood in for books in the oak-paneled living room bookshelf. “Silence of the Lambs” was sandwiched between “The Ten Commandments” and “Ben-Hur.” And there was David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” resting next to “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” Trace wondered where Casey hid the porno.

“Do you need a Bible, Trace?”

“Huh?” He turned to face the assembled group once more and they were all clutching Bibles in their hands.

“We do a small prayer service before we start the meeting,” Casey explained. “Would you like to join us?”

“A Bible? I’ve already read it, thanks though. The New Testament has a bummer of an ending but I won’t give it away. I’ll just go get some coffee.”

Casey instructed the young scribes to turn to the Book of James, Chapter Five, Verse Fourteen, to offer a prayer for the sick. Trace hiked his shoulders, thrust his hands deep into his pockets, and ambled into the kitchen.

Casey’s young wife, Donna, was tending to the Mr. Coffee in the dark brick-and-wood kitchen. Trace knew Donna when she was better known as porn star Raven DeLuxe. Trace introduced Casey to Raven on the set of a XXX film that he wrote. At the time, Casey was an eager production assistant who invoked the name Jesus Christ quite frequently but never in a holy context.

How’s tricks?” Trace asked with a grin.

“Be nice,” Donna warned.

“Jesus. That’s the thing about ex-porn stars. So sensitive.”

She was wearing a strapless dress that exposed the Horny Little Devil tattoo on her left shoulder.

“Shouldn’t you cover that up?” Trace said.

“They’ve all seen it before. We all make mistakes, Trace. The difference is that some of us are forgiven.”

“I see.”

When Trace returned to the living room he found that the group of doe-eyed wanna-be scribes had been silently awaiting his return.

“Prayer time over?” Trace said. He sipped his coffee. It was bitter, even with milk and sugar added. Starbucks blend, he thought, every damn coffee maker these days is trying their hand at replicating the Starbucks House Blend.

“Okay, you want my thoughts about the writing life, correct? That’s why I’m here?”

Casey nodded. The twelve remained silent, their eyes riveted on Trace.

“Okay. I’m 47-years old. I live in a nice residential hotel in a room about the size of your average studio apartment. When I don’t eat out I cook my meals in a microwave. I wash my dishes in the bathtub — that is, when my stress-induced psoriasis allows my hands to touch water.”

His stomach protested when he took another sip of the bitter coffee.

“This year I reached a milestone. I went from having bad credit due to IRS liens to having no credit whatsoever. None. All the bad debts fell off and I’m not sure which is worse, having bad credit or no credit at all.”

They were hanging on to his every word.

“I have a 12-year old kid I never see, though we do trade e-mails every now and then. My own father — my birth father — was an absentee parent so I guess I’m just following what I learned growing up. I’ve been a drinker most of my life but these days it’s just beer and wine — always remember that top shelf wine is better for you than anything that comes in a jug, write that down — and I pace my drinking in the evening with a little herbal remedy, if you know what I mean.”

He finished the coffee and placed the empty cup on the bookshelf next to a stack of screeners of “The Passion of the Christ.”

“About forty-percent of my monthly income goes to health maintenance — prescription meds for high blood pressure, the psoriasis, which I already mentioned, and a small host of other assorted maladies. I used to have good medical coverage through the Writer’s Guild but I became an inactive member — meaning no one reputable has hired me to write a screenplay in years — so I lost my benefits.”

Their faces were becoming slack.

“But here’s my advice to you: Write. If you want to be a writer, just write. Every day. Write. Accept no other work until that person comes along that recognizes you as a writer, hires you as a writer, and you’re on the road.”

He slipped the black leather gloves out of his coat pocket and pulled them onto his hands, peeling away layers of dead skin in the process. He watched as the skin flaked off and drifted down onto the Oriental carpet at his feet.

“I have to go,” he said quickly and quietly. “I have a meeting early in the morning and a looming deadline.”

“We’ll pray for you, Trace,” Casey called out as Trace started for the door.

“You do that.” He turned to face the room one last time. “And good luck to all of you. You’re going to need it.”

*****

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