Between a Rock and a Really, Really Hard Place
Lenny sits by the phone, waiting for a call from his agent. He nervously picks at his fingers. An orange cat sits next to him, grooming. Lenny checks the time on his phone. It’s 1:01p.
LENNY (to the cat): She said she’d call at 1:00p. What’s taking so long?
The cat briefly pauses and looks up and Lenny. It slowly lifts its hind leg and begins licking its butt.
LENNY: Do I call her? What if she’s in the middle of something? I shouldn’t call. But should I? No. Maybe?
The phone rings. The ID reads ‘unknown’.
LENNY: Is… is it her? It can’t be. I have her number. She’d call from that number. Right? But what if it is her and I miss it? No, it can’t be her.
The phone keeps ringing.
LENNY: God damnit.
Lenny picks up the phone and answers the call.
LENNY: Hello, this is Leonard.
CHARLES: Hello, Leonard! This is Charles from your bank. I’m calling with regards to some strange activity on your checking account. Do you have a few minutes.
LENNY: Uh, sure. What do you need?
CHARLES: Can you verify the last 3 charges on your account? The first I see is a $20 purchase from Target?
LENNY: Yeah, I think that was me.
CHARLES: Great! The next one’s a $45 charge from Amazon.com. Does that sound right?
LENNY: I think so, yeah.
CHARLES: Perfect! Alright, it looks like the last one is a $270 purchase from Dildos.com?
LENNY: …excuse me?
CHARLES: Ah, my apologies! It’s a $370 purchase from Dildos.com. Does that sound familiar?
LENNY: Why would I spent that much money on—
Lenny’s phone rings. The ID reads “Lit Agent”.
LENNY: I have to go. I’ve got a call on the other line, but that wasn’t my purchase.
CHARLES: No problem! I’ll go ahead and remove the $45 Amazon.com charge—
LENNY: No! The Amazon charge is correct. It’s the $370 charge from Dildos.com that definitely isn’t mine.
CHARLES: Are you sure? It looks like they confirmed your identity over the phone at the time of purchase.
LENNY: Yes! I’m sure.
CHARLES: Is it possible that you don’t remember submitting the order?
LENNY: Yes, Charles. I somehow forgot that I ordered $400 worth of dildos.
VOICE-A: …this is Lisa, your agent. I, well… I have a rep from Woodside Publishing here… Frank Smith.
Lenny’s asshole slams shut.
LENNY (to himself): …oh my god.
LISA: Can you introduce yourself, Len?
Lenny clears his throat.
LENNY: Ahem, well, I’m Leonard. I wrote the book you’re interested in, Between a Rock and Really, Really Hard Place.
FRANK: Hi Leonard. I read the first 25 pages and have to admit, I’m intrigued. Can you talk a little more about the rest of the book?
Lenny swallows. The lump in his throat grows.
LENNY (timidly): Sure. Well… a guy goes rock climbing. And he falls into a crevasse and gets stuck. The story is about his escape.
FRANK: Yeah, I got that much. But what’s different about it? I’ll be honest: it feels like a 127 Hours ripoff.
LENNY: Oh, well… to escape, he has to cut off his own penis.
FRANK: …his penis?
FRANK: …can I ask why?
LENNY: Well, he’s pinned between a rock and the crevasse by his fully-erect genitals.
FRANK: He’s pinned under a rock… by his dick?
FRANK: And for some reason he’s… aroused?
LENNY: Well, sometimes that’s a symptom of a severe injury. It’s called a ‘priapism’.
CHARLES: Ah, yeah. I’ve heard about that!
LISA: Who the fuck is that?
Lenny’s stomach twists.
LENNY: CHARLES. HANG UP. NOW.
CHARLES: No problem! I’ll call you back tomorrow about that Dildos.com order!
CHARLES: Bye, Leonard!
LENNY (panicked): I’m so, so sorry. There was this issue with my bank, I swear it’s a misund—
FRANK (sternly): Lenny. I need you to answer something.
LENNY (nervously): Okay.
FRANK: Is the only difference between your book and 127 Hours the part where he cuts off his own penis?
LENNY: I… I suppose it is.
There’s an uncomfortably long pause.
FRANK: That’s incredibly clever.
LENNY: …excuse me?
FRANK: I love it. You get all the action people already love, with a little kinky twist.
LENNY: Um… yeah, I guess that’s what I was going for.
FRANK: I mean, we’ll have to work on the title to avoid a lawsuit, but that’s an easy fix.
LENNY: Um… yeah, sure. It’s more of a working title anyway.
FRANK: But what really sold me is that Charles character. How can we work more of that into the book?
Lenny wipes the sweat from his brow.
LENNY: I… well…
FRANK: That peppy, off-kilter character you just did. I really liked that back-and-forth.
LENNY: Uh… sure. I’ll… figure something out…?
FRANK: Great. Well, tighten it up a bit and we’ll be in touch again soon. I think you’ve got a bright future ahead of you, kid. And remember: crank up the Charles.
Lenny doesn’t respond. He hears footsteps, followed by a door closing.
LISA: What’d I tell you?
LENNY: What the fuck just happened?
LISA: You just landed a big fucking book deal, that’s what happened.
LENNY: …but why?!
LISA: I think that “Charles” bit really sold it for him. Why am I just now hearing that? It’s great stuff.
LENNY: Because he’s not a character!
LISA: Look, call him whatever you want. You writers and your nuance…
LENNY: Look, that Charles guy wasn’t—
LISA: Len! Now is not the time to be humble! Just juice up the story with more of that Charles stuff and we’ll be golden.
LENNY: I… Uh, sure thing.
LISA: Alright, I’ll call you later this week to see how things are going. Keep it up!
Lisa hangs up. Lenny sits still for a few minutes, staring at his phone. When he comes to, he dials a number. The phone rings.
CHARLES: Leonard! Ready to get things sorted out?
LENNY: Yes, Charles. Let’s talk.