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Take a break from the hectic news of Hollywood with our weekly look into the world of "what if". Fresh fan fiction happens weekly here at Cinema Blend on Short Story Saturday. This is our latest short story entry... "The Hammer".
Marshall Walker was a man of few words. For the purposes of his job, he was a man of eighty-three words, always spoken calmly and fatherly from just below the same resolute eyes.
"My name is Marshall Walker. I’m not here to threaten you. I’m here to level with you. Your behavior has crossed the line. Contrary to what you might think, you are the problem on this set. Not the _____. Not the _____. It’s you. You’re the one holding up production. You’re the one behaving selfishly, and we’ve had enough. You’re going to compose yourself, walk outside and do the incredible job we both know you’re capable of doing. Have I made myself clear?"
Fifteen years ago, he was working as a file clerk for studio president Big Jim Newsome when he overheard his boss and a few other executives talking about their inability to get a starlet out of her trailer. They tried threatening her. They tried bribing her. Nothing worked. So, Marshall seized his moment. Eighty-three words later, the actress walked out of her dressing room and a few hours later, twenty-two-year-old wunderkind Marshall walked into his first office.
In the years since, his office got higher and bigger. With each speech, his legend around Hollywood grew partly because, apart from the dozens he’d given that same lecture to, no one had any idea what the hell he said inside those dressing rooms. In truth, not many people had any idea what his actual job was. He just seemed to show up when problems arose, always departing after just a few minutes and leaving in his wake a difficult personality suddenly willing to be cooperative.
His official job title was "President Of Human Resources", but within the industry, he was dubbed "The Hammer" by his curious admirers. He was the type of guy production assistants would whisper to each other about on lazy Fridays in between coffee runs.
"I was working on a movie about two years ago with this director who wouldn’t stop freaking out on everyone. He would get so angry that he’d tell everyone to go fuck themselves and sit in his trailer. After a few weeks of that, the Hammer showed up and put the fear of God into him. He was so nice after that."
Marshall was always a strange mix of confident, bored and terrified. Buoyed by dozens of stars and starlets who followed his orders with little to no argument, he walked into dressing rooms with an assumption of victory and a strange hope that someday someone would surprise him and fight back.
This prospect terrified him too, of course. Deep down, he knew part of the reason for his success was his unbroken history of success. Any one failure would make others less likely to listen in the future, but these exchanges no longer felt like a thrilling game because the outcome was never in doubt. He needed to get surprised by a sucker punch.
It came from Jenna Hope.
Spoiled rotten by a stage mother who blamed others for all of her daughter’s rampant faults and betrayed by a father who left to marry a younger woman when she was just six, Hope grew up terrorizing movie sets, often with accusations about how production assistants or costume designers were trying to make her look stupid. She was routinely late, routinely bitchy and freshly eighteen, transitioning into her first grown-up feature about her budding sexuality. Two weeks in, Dance Marathon was already ten days behind schedule, and as per usual, she was refusing to come out of her trailer.
"My name is Marshall Walker. I’m not here to threaten you. I’m here to level with you. Your behavior has crossed the line. Contrary to what you might think, you are the problem on this set. Not the director. Not the grip. It’s you. You’re the one holding up production. You’re the one behaving selfishly, and we’ve had enough. You’re going to compose yourself, walk outside and do the incredible job we both know you’re capable of doing. Have I made myself clear?"
"No. Who the fuck are you?"
The words shot through Marshall’s system like a jolt of adrenaline. It was the moment he was waiting for or maybe terrified of having. He wasn’t really sure. A smile crept over his face and one droplet of sweat formed just beneath the hairline over his left eye. What did this girl need to hear? Most Hollywood stars just wanted to be talked to like a human being. They respected that after so many years of either being pampered or belligerently screamed at. The respectful, firm middle ground was refreshing.
Given her constant complaints about others trying to sabotage her, he knew she must be vain and paranoid. Given her track record of success as a child star, he knew she probably wasn’t driven by money. The wheels were turning now. A plan was coming into motion. It was risky, but after a decade and a half of the same shit, it was time for a change.
"I said, "Who the fuck are you?" she reiterated.
"My name is Marshall Walker, and I’m not the man you want to disrespect. Please pack up anything inside your trailer of a personal nature that you would like to keep. You’re fired."
The Hammer didn’t actually have the power to fire anyone. In fact, he didn’t even have a job description. He was just told by his bosses to go get people out of their trailers now and again. In return, they would periodically give him more money, make his title sound fancier and improve the view out his window. As far as he could tell, he didn’t even have the power to fire his secretary who, like him, spent most of her days playing Words With Friends and/ or Sporcle at her desk on the twenty-ninth floor.
"What do you mean, "I’m fired"? You can’t fire me. I have a contract," Jenna shot back.
"I just did, and let me tell you something else. The second you leave, my associates are going to call another eighteen-year-old girl, one who will actually be thankful for her opportunity, and she’s going to come in here and take your part. After that, I’m going to make it my personal mission to inform every single human being on Earth under the age of thirty-five that you had to be fired because you mistreated all the nice employees on this movie and spent hours in your dressing room every day crying. I hope it was worth it."
"Wait. Wait. Wait. I could do the movie. I want to do it. I’m ready to shoot right now."
"Take two minutes. Compose yourself and walk on set. There’s no need to explain what we talked about or why you were in here for so long. Just be as brilliant as we know you can be and treat everyone how you’d like to be treated."
Marshall waited as Jenna got herself together before following her down the stairs. He felt dozens of eyes on him. He knew, at that moment, they all wanted nothing more than for him to take them aside and explain how he got her out of the trailer, but that would have destroyed the legend. It was better they didn’t know how close he came to failing. Besides, what happened here today was for himself. He needed to know The Hammer was more than eighty-three words and a reputation.
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