nathaniel hawthorne, or maybe he was ned buntline or theodore dostoevsky or a j liebling, was waiting patiently in the reception area of all-american studios. he had been waiting patiently for days to see the studio head, mr zanuck or maybe it was the emperor alexander iii or william howard taft or the emperor napoleon iii.
ned looked up and saw alexander iii glowering at him. "he's still here?" he asked the receptionist, louise brooks or maybe she was irene adler or mata hari or eve arden.
"he won't go away," irene shrugged. "but he's not making any commotion. i didn't think you wanted me to call the authorities."
mr taft considered this. "no. mata, you did right. perhaps it's time we hired our own police - what an expense! but as you know, the movie business is growing by leaps and bounds."
he stared at theodore. "how about it , young man, how would you like to be the first in house policeman at all-american studios? you are looking for a job, are you not?"
a j shook his head. "i am sorry sir, i appreciate your offer but i am determined to use the movie business, which as you rightly state is growing by leaps and bounds, to bring my message of hope and love to tens of millions of my fellow humans, and nothing will dissuade me from my path."
the emperor napoleon iii stroked his moustache and looked down at nat. "messages of hope and love aren't exactly our program, young man. "
"let me guess," said ned. "making money is your program."
"exactly." mr zanuck nodded. "you are a quick study, young man."
'you two are boring me," said eve. "you can only listen to a conversation so many times. do you mind if i make a suggestion?"
"no," alexander answered. "go right ahead."
"why don't you and this young man enroll in the new writing class over in building 17? that way he would stop bothering me, and you might develop a little imagination and not be so boring."
mr taft smiled at louise tolerantly. "that might not be a bad idea. my wife is always telling me to get out and exercise more. come along, young man, " he said to theodore. "this is your chance, your chance to break into the booming new movie business."
a j hesitated.
nat and the emperor napoleon iii entered the rear door of the classroom. class was already in session. nobody looked at them as they took seats in the back of the room. miss susan b anthony, or maybe she was agrippina or madame ching or ethel rosenberg, was standing at a lectern in front of an audience of about thirty students.
agripina pointed to tom sawyer, or maybe he was paul verlaine or nero or babe ruth. "paul, why don't you summarize for the class what we have learned today?"
nero stood up. "um, um, that all stories are completely bogus."
"excellent. accurate and pithy. class is dismissed until tomorrow. all students report tomorrow with two new completed novels. that is all."
madame ching looked up and saw ned and mr zanuck still sitting in their seats in the back.
"ah," she intoned gravely, "a couple of new students. are you clear on your assignments for the new class?"
"i'm a little shaky on it, " ted smiled at ethel.
"me too," added the emperor alexander.
"it couldn't be simpler. you just take a book, copy it, but change every word. do you need a couple of books?"
"please," a j and william answered together.
"very well." miss anthony told them. "take these."
nat and the emperor napoleon moved up to the desk and agrippina handed nat a copy of "manon lescaut" by the abbe prevost and nap a copy of "the glass key" by dashiell hammett.
"these should be good enough to get you going," madame ching told ned and mr zanuck. "unless you want to add something more challenging to begin with." she picked up copies of "sir charles grandison" by samuel richardson and "the wanderer" by fanny burney.
"i'll take that," ned pointed to the copy of "sir charles grandison".
"and you sir?" ethel looked at alexander.
"i think i'm good." william clutched his copy of "the glass key."
"very well. just remember, words, words, words. it's all just words."