She has four days left on the movie, scattered over the next twelve days, and then a three-week gap in her schedule her agent wants her to fill.  But she’s exhausted.  It’s Friday evening, after wrap, and, as she walks up to her rental house, she sees on the doorstep two script-sized couriered packages.  This is, in case you’re wondering, Samantha Robbins, movie star.  “Bright-eyed and glowing” were the character descriptions in the screenplays she was once sent.  Descriptions now, eleven years later, trend more towards “alluring district attorney” or “gorgeous forensic pathologist.”  If you happen to see her in person, like the driver who just dropped her off, you’d come away thinking Samantha Robbins was confident, preoccupied, and possessed by some unquantifiable charisma.  It’s a charisma on full display even as she stoops with vague restlessness to grab the two packages.  Holding them under her arm, along with Monday’s sides, a scribbled-on call sheet, and a bottle of Evian water, she unlocks the front door and strides in, tossing her chattels on a kitchen countertop. 

She moves to the refrigerator, pulls it open, and scans its contents: three more bottles of Evian, a bottle of California Chardonnay, and an unopened pack of Marlboro Ultra Lights.  Taking out the wine and cigarettes, Samantha sets them on a counter.  She grabs a wineglass from a cupboard and pours herself a full glass of wine.  She brings this wine into the living room, placing it on a glass-and-chrome coffee table.  From her jeans she removes two cell phones—a new iPhone and a vintage Blackberry—drops them on the coffee table, then lays down on the blue sofa.  She twitches in discomfort a few moments before finding within the sofa cushions a vibrating massage wand.  She yanks it out and examines it in a sort of oh-that’s-where-that-went way.  She’s still considering it when a nearby cordless phone begins to ring.  She does not move to answer it, however, and simply reclines again on the sofa, this time with the vibrating massage wand held to her chest.  No sooner does the cordless phone stop ringing than the iPhone jingles.  It is only when the iPhone goes quiet, and the Blackberry’s ringtone begins, that Samantha, like a pharaoh with a scepter, rises from the sofa and picks up the Blackberry. 

“This better be important,” she says.  “I’m in the middle of a very important decision.”

“Sam!  You all right?”  The voice was full of concern.  “You didn’t answer your phones.”

“I thought it was somebody else.”

“Who would have all your numbers?”

She puts the vibrating massage wand on the coffee table.  “What’s up, Bryan?”

“We need clarity on a few things—”

“Join the party.”

“You got a month-long hole in your schedule.  Want to fill it?  We need to decide now.”

“I thought it was three weeks.”

“I got them to move up your last day.  You’re picture-wrapped a week early.  Now you got a month.”

“You maybe want to tell me you’re doing this shit first?”

“They’re not big scenes, honey.  Shoe leather.”

“Hey, when I walk up to a crack house, that’s four years of Julliard walking up to a crack house.”

“Did you read the scripts I sent you?”

“I’ve been home forty-two seconds.  I haven’t even had a cigarette.”

“Please don’t smoke, Sam.  With these digital cameras they see every pore, every line.”

“It’s called video retouching, Bryan.”

“But you’re drinking water?  Promise me you’re drinking water.”

“I’m drinking.”  Samantha reaches for her wineglass.  “I promise you.  What are the scripts?”

“The first is Errol’s studio picture.  The one on red paper.”

Bending forward, Samantha pulls off her pumps.  “I hate these fucking red scripts.  I know it’s security and everything but why do we have to kill trees?  I can read this shit on my phone.  And the first draft sucked.”

“All first drafts suck.”

“I don’t want to do those roles anymore.  It’s basically ‘Look at my Tits in Monument Valley.’  What about Matthew’s project?  I loved it.”

“They didn’t get back to me.  I think we would’ve heard by now.  If you want, I can email.”

“Email,” says Samantha.  “Go for clarity.”

“Doing it—”  There is a sound of rapid typing.  “Did it.  Now what about the fundraiser for what’s-her-nuts?  What do I tell her?”

“She wants me to host for free?”

“They’ll send a car.”

“Fuck, Bryan, I don’t want to nickel-and-dime these idiots.  If they paid me something, I’d do it.  If it was a close friend, I’d do it.  But I don’t have any close friends.  So fuck it.”  She drinks from the wine.  “What about the indie movie?” 

“I sent that over, too.  It’s scale.  Three weeks.  They need to know by Monday.”

“It’s scale?  Can I bring Jean-Luc?”

“It’s all freebies and favours, Sam.  They have no money.  If you want your own hair and makeup, you’d have to pay for it.”

“For three weeks?  I’d lose money.”  She makes a vague frown.  “Who’s the DP?  Have you seen a reel?”

“I sent you the link.”

“Just tell me what’s up.”

“I honestly didn’t watch all of it.  It’s very spooky.  Upside-down bustiers and black eyeliner and, you know, tortured souls in love with the darkness.”

“And I’d be an alcoholic junkie vampire?”

“You’d be an alcoholic junkie vampire who dies on page sixty-three.”

“Do I want to go to New Orleans, though?”  Samantha sighs.  “I think I need something else.  I’ve just done three movies back-to-back, dude.  I don’t even know what city I’m waking up in anymore.”

“You’re in LA and you’re a genius.”

“There’s just so much stupidity in my life right now.  And I don’t see any indication it’s going away.  In fact, I think it’s getting worse.”

“Almost forgot.  I have another package here from your mother—”

“My mother?”  Samantha flinches.  “What is it this time?”

“Looks like vitamins.  You want me to send it over?  You told me not to forward anything.”

“If I have to come in to sign something, I’ll get it then.”



“Matthew’s people just emailed back.  They went another way with the part.”

“Those fucks,” says Samantha.  “Fuck, I hate this industry.  Why’d I go to his kid’s birthday party?”

“Because you’re a brilliant human being who inspires millions of people every day.”

“I don’t need this crap in my life, Bryan.” 

“When’s your call on Monday?” 

“I think pickup’s at seven.  Let me check.”  Standing up, and holding her Blackberry to her cheek, Samantha moves to the kitchen to look at her call sheet.  “Yup.  Seven.”

“I’ll call you at wrap.  Read those scripts.  You’re a genius!”

“Yeah?”  Samantha notices a scribbled note and phone number at the top of her call sheet.  “I think I know what I actually need.”

“What’s that?”

“Bye, Bryan!  Talk soon.”

Twenty minutes later and Samantha is on a third cigarette, a second glass of wine, and halfway through a first reading of Thunder Creek, the script printed on dark red pages.  More than a few times she has glanced at the scribbled note at the top of her call sheet and she is, in fact, reading it again, and reaching for her iPhone, when the iPhone starts to ring.  Recognizing the number on the call display, she answers with a smirk.  “Dear God,” she says, “finally.”

“Hello?”  The voice is male: distinct, comforting, with a suggestion of mischief.  “And how is Samantha Robbins tonight?”

“Waiting for you, freak,” says Samantha.  “Where are you?”

“Not sure.  Limbo somewhere.”

“Did your flight get out of London?”

“Just second.  I think I see a sign.  I’m somewhere called ‘Lookout Mountain Avenue.’”

With the iPhone to her cheek, Samantha walks barefoot to the front door and opens it.  There, nine steps below on the walkway, with an iPhone to his ear, is the actor, director, and producer Paul Bloom.  He wears a dark suit and white dress shirt.  Under his arm, he carries a sturdy brown paper bag from the Canyon Country Store.  It’s packed with tulips, take-out salads, and bottles of red and white wine.  He smiles—a smile familiar to moviegoers the world over—and is about to speak when Samantha scream-whispers, “Jesus, man.  Get in here before someone recognizes you.”

Inside, he puts the bag of groceries in the kitchen and surveys the room, taking note of the red script, the glass of white wine, and the vibrating massage wand on the coffee table.  “Sam,” he says, “if you’re in the middle of something, I can come back.”

She closes the front door, turns to look at him, and shakes her head at the absurdity of the situation.  “Come give me a kiss, you freak.” 

She moves to him on tippy-toe and fondly kisses him on the lips. 

Paul takes a step back, the better to look her in the eye, and nods at her wineglass.  “You started without me?”

“I never know if you’re going to show up.”

“Didn’t I tell you I was coming?”

“You drunk texted me from Heathrow.”  She moves to a cupboard and picks out a wineglass.  “White or red?”

“Red’s fine.”

Samantha peeks into the bag of groceries.  “Thanks you for bringing wine, you charming bastard.” 

“I love that general store.”  Paul watches Samantha open the red wine with a corkscrew.  “It’s always the last place to get wine before the canyon.”

She fills the wineglass.  “Are you exhausted?” 

“Not too bad.  A little jet-lagged.”

“But not so jet-lagged you’re going to fall asleep, right?”

“Why?  What’re you doing later?”

“It’s not what I’m doing later.  It’s who I’m doing later.”  She passes him the red wine.  “And I’m choosing you.”

“Hmm.  Bold choice.”

“So you can have one drink.  And then you’re fucking me.”

“Ah,” says Paul, “you can take the girl out of Pittsburgh—”

“Sewickley, yo.  Sewickley.”  Samantha grabs her wineglass and raises it.  “Cheers, Paul Bloom.”  She bumps her glass into his and gazes into his eyes.  “My God, I like seeing you.”

“And how about you?”  He drinks from the red wine.  “How was your day?”

“Oh, I like Fridays.  I’m a Good Samaritan on Fridays.”

“Who’d you save?”

“Because I’m not a resident anymore, they rent me this place—”

“Nice place.”

“And I get a per diem so at the end of the week I raffle away all my per diems so the crew has something to look forward to on Friday.”

“A free six hundred bucks?  I’m looking forward to it.  How do I get in on this?”

“Get an erection, I’ll consider it.  Get an erection, you’re in.”

He puckers his lips.  “Hard bargain.”

“If only.  Is it too much to bend a girl over for a little hard bargain?”

“So what about the raffle?  Who won today?”

“The key grip,” says Samantha.  “Trevor.  He’s two hundred and five pounds.  Lean.”

“Sounds like a choice cut.”

And he’s an ultimate fighter.”  Samantha finds the call sheet and brings it to Paul.  “He gave me his phone number and look what he wrote me.”

Paul takes the call sheet and reads aloud the scribbled note: “‘Want to help me spend it?’  Smooth.”

“Got to admire a man who goes for it.”

“Wait—Trevor?”  Paul flips over the call sheet and reads through a list of crew members by department.  “Trevor Haas?  I know Trevor Haas.  When I did my first series, Trevor Haas was the grip.  At lunch, we’d all smoke dope in the grip truck.  He fucking hit on everybody.  He fucking hit on me.  Not to burst your bubble, Sam.” 

“Hmm-mmm,” says Samantha, finishing her white wine.  “Two hundred and five pounds.”

“Now,” says Paul, “are you hungry?  I brought three kinds of salad—”

Grabbing the Marlboro Ultra Lights, Samantha twists her mouth, mock-annoyed.  “This is the worst affair in the history of this city.  What happened to all the sneaking around and crazy sex?”  She fingers out a cigarette.  “And motels in the afternoon and crazy sex?”  She places the cigarette in her mouth and feels her jeans for her lighter.  “And rose petals on the bed and crazy sex?”

“Didn’t I bring tulips?”

“Just for once— ”  Leaving the unlit cigarette in her mouth, Samantha slaps her hands on either side of her jeans-zipper.  “Put your two lips here and suck me.  Then fuck me.  For God’s sake, Paul.  Do I have to beg?”

“Hmm,” says Paul cautiously, “I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

“What about my pants?  Are you waiting for my pants to drop?  Here—”  Samantha undoes her jeans and lets them fall to the floor.  “Paul, I’m one of the hottest bitches in the city, I’m on Maxim’s Hot 100 List, and you’re talking about three kinds of salad?”

“Bullshit you’re on Maxim’s list.”

“Google me, Paul.  With or without lubricant.  I don’t care.”

“Cool.”  He sips from his red wine and, with his other hand, pulls out his iPhone.  “I got this.  I’m on it.”

“I just—seriously—”  Locating her lighter on the kitchen countertop, Samantha lights her cigarette.  “What kind of affair is this?  I’m the best fuck in Laurel Canyon.  You’re supposed to fuck me.  How do you not know this?  Go read ‘Adultery For Dummies’ and then come back.”

Paul glances up from his iPhone.  “Is there an audio book?”

“God, I hate you sometimes.”  Holding the lighter aloft, Samantha carelessly pitches it at his head.

Paul lifts his wineglass to shield his face and—though the lighter misses him completely—the abruptness of his motion slops red wine on the button placket of his white shirt.  “Whoa, lady,” he says, walking to the kitchen and removing his suitjacket.  “This is a four hundred dollar shirt.”  At the sink, he lays his suitjacket on the counter.  He unbuttons his shirt and takes it off, revealing a very well-defined physique. 

“Holy fuck,” says Samantha, staring at him.  “Hold up.  Don’t move.”  She sets her cigarette on the rim of a very full ashtray, steps out of her fallen jeans, and walks towards him.  “Would you look at you?”  She scratches a fingernail down the center of his chest.  “That is fucking ridiculous.”

“You like the superhero look, do you?  Two-a-day workouts.  You should see my carbs.”

“I’d love to see your carbs.  Show me your carbs.  I’ll get down on my knees if you show me your carbs.”

Paul runs cold water over the spot of red wine, squirts some dish soap on it, then rinses the stain clean.  He is pulling his shirt back on when Samantha, returning to take a drag of her cigarette, raises her hand. 

“Sweetie,” she says in a babyish voice, “please don’t put your clothes back on.  Please, please, please?”

“I don’t know,” says Paul, reaching for his suitjacket, “I just feel sort of naked without my clothes on.”

“Fine.  Done.”  Samantha squashes out her cigarette, sits on the sofa, and picks up her iPhone.  “Moving on.”  She leans forward and grabs the call sheet.  “Oh, Trevor.  You Ultimate Fighter, you.”

“We sexting Trevor?  I can help with that.”

“You’re going to help me sext Trevor, are you?”

“Sure.  I’m all about sexting.  And emojis.”

“Here— ”  She slides her iPhone along the coffee table.  “Send it from mine.  We’ll write it together.”

“Sweet.”  Paul picks up the iPhone.  “How flirty off the top?  Something simple?  ‘Sup Bae?’  That work for you?”

“I actually believe you would do this.”

“Oh, I’m willing to go pretty far.  But I draw the line at dick pics.  Let’s just say—”  He whistles.  “Lesson learned.”

“Are you serious?”  Samantha sits up, her eyes bright with interest.  “Did you?”  She stares at him.  “You can tell me.  I won’t tell.  Who’d you send it to?”

“It was just a misunderstanding between myself and another person.”

“You still have it?”

“The pic or the dick?  I think I have one of them?”  Paul touches at the pockets of his suitjacket.  “Somewhere.”

Giggling now, Samantha continues to stare at him.  “Fuck, you’re cute.  But my God you drive me crazy.  I want to smack you and bite you and fuck you and just—”  She shivers.  “Blech!  Too many feelings.”

“You want to talk about it?”

“My feelings?  Yeah.  That’s why I invited you here.  Why don’t you talk to my mother?  You’d be better off.”

“What’s her number?”

“Oh, Ida would be thrilled.  She doesn’t know I know you.  Give her something to talk about at bingo.”

Paul scrolls through the contacts on her iPhone.  “Wait.  Here it is—”

“Except for the fact that she loves your wife.  She tried to send me your wife’s fucking cook book.  Jesus, did that piss me off.”

“I’m guessing it’s ‘Mom?’”

“Wait—”  Realizing he’s already started a call, Samantha abruptly gets up.  “No, you don’t.  You do not.  Paul!”

She grabs at her iPhone but he sidesteps her so the coffee table is between them.

“Hello,” Paul says into the iPhone, “is that Ida?  It’s Paul Bloom—”

From the iPhone’s earpiece, Samantha hears the burble of her mother’s voice.  And with her mother’s voice are conjured images of her mother’s unchanging kitchen—the yellow push-button telephone with the long curling cord, the empty beer bottles on the checkered linoleum floor, the Formica table with the crooked dent in its chrome frame, a dent that matches the scar on Samantha’s forehead, a memento from the time she first ran away.

“I’m in a restaurant with Samantha and her pals,” Paul is saying, “and she was talking about calling you.  And Ida?  I’m just going to put you on speaker—” 

Paul puts the iPhone in the center of the coffee table.  From its speaker, Samantha now hears her mother switching to her politest voice: “Isn’t she in the middle of a filming?”

“No, no.  She’s here in the restaurant.  Somewhere.  There she is.”


“Hi, Mom.”

“Samantha, you never told me you knew Paul Bloom!”

“Didn’t I?”

“Now, Ida—”  Paul takes the call sheet and rattles it above the iPhone.  “I’m looking at the dessert menu, so what do you think we should get?  Gâteau au Chocolate.  Can’t go wrong with chocolate cake.  Maybe Crème Brûlée?”

“You’re in the middle of dinner?”

“I don’t know if you like Crème Brûlée.”

“What is it?”

“It’s like custard with caramel.  Would you like one?”  Looking over his shoulder and, as if talking to an assistant, Paul says, “Bradley, can we send one of these to Sam’s mother?”

“Oh, you don’t have to do that!”

“You sure?”

“It’s too far to send a dessert.  From California?”

“Cancel that, Bradley.”  Paul turns to Samantha.  “And, Sam, you’re okay with just the latte?”


“Oh, she never gets dessert.”

“So, Ida, tell me,” says Paul warmly, “how was the day in Sewickley?”

“Well, we had a little rain this afternoon—”

“You have a chance to get out for a walk?”

“I’ve had a bit of a scratchy throat I’ve been trying to get rid of.  I’m supposed to see the doctor—I have an appointment next week—but I never know.”

“Have you tried tea with honey?”

“Lord, no.  Turns my stomach.  You’re not a tea-and-honey person, are you, Paul?”

“More of a red wine man.”

“I suppose I could try that.”

“Let me know how he turns out.”

There is a quick hoot of laughter from Samantha’s mother, a delighted tone Samantha has not heard in some time—years, really—and, as she reaches for her pack of cigarettes, for some reason she presses her lips together very, very tightly.

“Now, Ida,” says Paul, “I don’t know if Sam tells you about all the generous things she does for people.”

“Well, no, she doesn’t.  She doesn’t tell me, Paul.”

“She keeps things pretty quiet.  But she does a lot of good in the world.  She brightens a lot of people’s day.”  Paul flicks at the faded stain on his button placket.  “I know Sam’s in the middle of this dinner meeting so we should let her get back to that.”

“Well, Paul, I just thank you for taking time out of your day to call me.”

“You kidding?”  Paul turns with a smile to Samantha.  “What else would I be doing?”  He bends over the iPhone.  “You have a great night, Ida.”

“Well, I will now.  You just made an old woman very happy.  Is Samantha still there?  Are you still there, Sammy?”

“Yup,” says Samantha, “if you can believe it.”

“Did you do that?  Did you get Paul to call me?”

“Oh, Mom.  You know as well as I do.  You can never get a man to do anything.  They have to think it’s their idea.  Then they might get around to doing something.  No, they have minds of their own.  At least, they think they do.”

“Well, you’re being very sweet and thank you, Sammy.”  Her mother’s voice begins to quaver with emotion.  “It’s a lovely surprise.  You know, your father and I are so proud of you and everything you’ve accomplished.  We love you very much.  And did you get the Vitamin-E drops I sent you?”


“And you’re taking them?  Two drops underneath your tongue?”

“Two drops.  Underneath my tongue.  Love you, too.  Say hi to Dad.”

“I will.  Take care now.”

Paul leans over the iPhone.  “Bye, Ida!”

Samantha touches a button to end the call.  She is silent a moment.  Then, without taking out a cigarette, she puts the pack of cigarettes on the coffee table.

“Now,” says Paul, “that wasn’t so bad, was it?”

“If you do this,” says Samantha, her eyes moist with tears, “if you make me fall in love with you, I swear to God, Paul Bloom, I’ll never forgive you.”

“The other shoe.”

“You understand me?  I won’t.” 

“I see.”  He comes over and sits down beside her.  “Any plans for the weekend?”  Looking into her eyes, he takes her hand in his.  “What’re you doing later?”

Alex Pugsley is a writer and filmmaker in Toronto.  He published his first novel, Aubrey McKee, last year.  The attached story will be appearing in his first story collection, to be published in May 2022.