The Writers’ Strike

Victor doesn’t understand Paul’s choices

Originally published in our September 2015 newsletter


“How many days have you been on my couch now?” Victor asks, without looking up from the script he’s in the process of destroying — actually destroying — with a pencil. He’s not making notes, he’s punching the point through as many pages as he can at a time and ripping.

“Three?”

“You should probably spend your unexpected time off somewhere other than my couch.”

“You’re still paying me,” Paul says, shifting himself upright. If he’s going to use professionalism as an excuse for hanging around Victor’s house, he should probably look like has his shit at least slightly together.

“Mmmmmm. That’s an ethical choice. Not one that obligates you to be here while our hands are tied by the strike.” The pencil rips through more paper. “Why aren’t you on the picket line?”

Paul shrugs. He’s not even in the damn union yet. “Somebody’s got to write.”

It’s three weeks into the writers’ strike, with no sign of it ending anytime soon. When Paul moved out to L.A. a year ago and somehow got a gig as the legendary Victor Salcido Santillan’s writing assistant, he did not foresee this as a career trajectory. But as far as Paul is concerned, crashing on Victor’s couch while they both work on pilots for new shows that no one is paying them for is a far better use of his time than sitting home and being pathetic. Here, he’s at least being pathetic and productive. While Victor may be vicious in his anger at the television producers’ association in general and the studio execs who fired his writing and production assistants in particular, he’s not yelling at Paul. Just in his general vicinity. It’s not that bad, really.

Paul jumps when his phone rings, fumbling to answer. It’s Carly, his girlfriend, who he totally doesn’t deserve and is mildly scared of, even though they went to college together and have been friends forever. Well, as much as any forever people can have at their age. She knows more about Paul than Paul does, and it’s kind of a problem.

“Hey,” he says.

“Heeeyyyyyyy,” she croons into the phone. “What are you up to?”

“I’m at Victor’s.” Victor, eyebrows up, is clearly eavesdropping, but Paul doesn’t really care.

“That’s a location, not an activity,” she points out.

“Writing.”

“Do you want to be rescued?” she asks.

“Not really.”

Victor makes a noise that might almost be a laugh, and stabs at the script in his hands again.

Paul sighs. “Can we have dinner tonight?” he asks, following it, unfortunately, with “That’s a proactive and good boyfriend sort of thing to do, right?”

Carly, thankfully, laughs in a manner that doesn’t sound entirely judgmental.

When Paul eventually clicks off the call, Victor asks, “So, just to recap, are you here because of your ethical choices or are you avoiding that hot mess?”

“What? Carly is great. You’ve met Carly; you like Carly. Not that it matters, and I don’t understand why we’re discussing it.”

“I do like Carly. Her compassion for you, however, borders on lunacy, and you probably shouldn’t be dating her.”

“I don’t actually want to discuss this with you,” Paul says. “And since I’m technically fired –”

“– while I still pay your salary –”

“I don’t have to.”

Victor smiles what Carly calls his cuddly shark smile. “See? That’s good. You should do that more.”

“Do what?”

“What you want.”

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