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A Man in the Way
by [?]

Pat Hobby could always get on the lot. He had worked there fifteen years on and off–chiefly off during the past five–and most of the studio police knew him. If tough customers on watch asked to see his studio card he could get in by phoning Lou, the bookie. For Lou also, the studio had been home for many years.

Pat was forty-nine. He was a writer but he had never written much, nor even read all the ‘originals’ he worked from, because it made his head bang to read much. But the good old silent days you got somebody’s plot and a smart secretary and gulped benzedrine ‘structure’ at her six or eight hours every week. The director took care of the gags. After talkies came he always teamed up with some man who wrote dialogue. Some young man who liked to work.

‘I’ve got a list of credits second to none,’ he told Jack Berners.’All I need is an idea and to work with somebody who isn’t all wet.’

He had buttonholed Jack outside the production office as Jack was going to lunch and they walked together in the direction of the commissary.

‘You bring me an idea,’ said Jack Berners.’Things are tight. We can’t put a man on salary unless he’s got an idea.’

‘How can you get ideas off salary?’ Pat demanded–then he added hastily: ‘Anyhow I got the germ of an idea that I could be telling you all about at lunch.’

Something might come to him at lunch. There was Baer’s notion about the boy scout. But Jack said cheerfully:

‘I’ve got a date for lunch, Pat. Write it out and send it around, eh?’

He felt cruel because he knew Pat couldn’t write anything out but he was having story trouble himself. The war had just broken out and every producer on the lot wanted to end their current stories with the hero going to war. And Jack Berners felt he had thought of that first for his production.

‘So write it out, eh?’

When Pat didn’t answer Jack looked at him–he saw a sort of whipped misery in Pat’s eye that reminded him of his own father. Pat had been in the money before Jack was out of college–with three cars and a chicken over every garage. Now his clothes looked as if he’d been standing at Hollywood and Vine for three years.

‘Scout around and talk to some of the writers on the lot,’ he said.’If you can get one of them interested in your idea, bring him up to see me.’

‘I hate to give an idea without money on the line,’ Pat brooded pessimistically, ‘These young squirts’ll lift the shirt off your back.’

They had reached the commissary door.

‘Good luck, Pat. Anyhow we’re not in Poland.’

–Good you’renot, said Pat under his breath. They’d slit your gizzard.

Now what to do? He went up and wandered along the cell block of writers. Almost everyone had gone to lunch and those who were in he didn’t know. Always there were more and more unfamiliar faces. And he had thirty credits; he had been in the business, publicity and script-writing, for twenty years.

The last door in the line belonged to a man he didn’t like. But he wanted a place to sit a minute so with a knock he pushed it open. The man wasn’t there–only a very pretty, frail-looking girl sat reading a book.

‘I think he’s left Hollywood,’ she said in answer to his question.’They gave me his office but they forgot to put up my name.’

‘You a writer?’ Pat asked in surprise.