The Regular Season
Sharon found it funny to be seated amid the wives and girl friends of the players. Some of them weren’t a great deal older than she, but, where she and Tim had appeared almost by accident, the others had been through ordeals of fire and water with their men. Not only that, Sharon suspected that she was the only sister in the group. It was a little like being the only sister at a senior prom, the implication being that her escort could find no one else.
Most of the women around Sharon were very pretty, and there were some real beauties. That was explained by the fact that almost all NFL players had been high school football stars, and had had a wide choice of companions. Some had taken up permanently with the class belles, and others had developed very high expectations in the opposite sex.
None of the women spoke to Sharon. Apart from being dressed and turned out badly, far below the standard of the others, she was only the sister of the punter, who was, in turn, close to being the least important member of the team. But, then, they did notice when Tim punted the ball over the returner’s head, almost to the goal line.
The Sailors’ quarterback, Bo Nelson, had been in the league a number of years with only moderate success. His upside potential was limited by his fairly short stature and a relatively weak arm. However, he was quick, accurate, and adept at eluding the rush. These were good qualities in an expansion team quarterback. Since there would be lots of rushing ends and linebackers, even a quarterback with a stronger arm wouldn’t be given time to throw deep passes.
The situation also suited Enoch fairly well. Even if he couldn’t go deep, he could get open for short quick passes, and run from there. By the end of the first quarter he had three receptions for thirty three yards.
The fans, missing the Chargers and not yet in love with the Sailors, applauded now and then. The Sailors finally won by a touchdown, but no one thought a victory over Nevada meant much.
Enoch wound up with an impressive hundred and forty yards, and Tim, taking his advice, punted for an average distance that would probably lead the league in the first week. There were a couple of moderately good returns, but nothing requiring Tim’s intervention. Sharon got some respectful nods from the wives as they filed out.
When Tim and Enoch arrived back after the game, there was a smaller group. Audrey, Meredith, and Jimmy had just gone back to Harvard. Howie was going back soon to take up a temporary job in the library, and to be with Audrey. Sharon’s role in the movie was completed, and Ted and Diana were in LA, trying to put together the various parts of the film. It had been agreed on all sides that Sharon would have no further involvement with the pornography industry, even on the fringes.
Sharon was surprised that Enoch seemed to be so curious about her. His questions were never inappropriate, or even very personal, but he wanted to know about her schooling, her interests, and about the various sports she had participated in. She, in turn, found out a lot about life in a ghetto, and the amount of luck, in addition to ability, it took to get out of one. At one point, she asked,
“Do you keep in touch with people back in Atlanta?”
“No. Black athletes often lead around a bunch of homies, and they’re usually a cause of trouble. I did the usual thing of buying my mother a house, one near where she was living, but I hardly ever go there.”
He didn’t seem to have a strong maternal connection, and Sharon was beginning to wonder if Enoch had a strong connection with anyone. He seemed to guess what she was thinking, and said, “In terms of social life, I’m starting pretty much from scratch. I went up to Tim just because he looked to be the most interesting person in the camp, and then discovered the rest of you.”
“Are we his homies?”
“Not unless you start fights in night clubs and someone gets knifed.”
Several days later, Sharon was quite surprised at breakfast when Ted presented her with a check for five thousand dollars. Diana explained, “Unlike the major producers, we pay as we go for services. This isn’t much, and we’ll give you more if the whole thing is a success.”
It seemed quite a lot to Sharon, and even more to Howie. That created a problem in a way.
Ted and Diana had been impressed by the combined beauty of Audrey and Howie as a couple. Audrey was obviously not a young lady who could safely be offered a part in a pornographic film, but she was now gone. Sharon had noticed that Diana seemed interested in Howie, but it turned out to be a business interest rather than a romantic one. Indeed, an offer was soon forthcoming. Howie was conflicted, and sought out Sharon.
“So far, I haven’t contributed much to the group, at least in the way of money or opportunities, and this looks like a chance.”
“But you have misgivings.”
“Diana didn’t say exactly what I’d be asked to do, but it isn’t hard to figure out.”
“Their movies seem to divide between an erotic pre-pornographic run-up, and then the straight stuff. They contract some of that out.”
“I don’t know the first thing about acting, so it’d have to be erotic. Audrey would have a fit.”
“You might be doing pretty much what I did.”
“As a young woman, you have more freedom than I do. If you drop your pants, it’s pretty and cute. If I do, it’s perverted.”
“Yeah. I see that. Of course, my little act was tied into a lesbian plot. I don’t think lesbianism is perverted. So male homosexuality can’t be, either.”
“No. But there’s still a perceived difference. You’re flirting with being a lesbian, and it doesn’t worry anyone. I have nothing against gays, but I still don’t want to be perceived as being one.”
“Can young men joke about being gay?”
“To an extent. Tim and I were sometimes jokingly accused of it because we were so close. But everyone knew we weren’t.”
“But they didn’t jokingly accuse men who might really have been gay?”
“Is this connected with your dislike of dropping pants on camera?”
“It’s more that almost everyone thinks male sexual organs are ugly. Displaying them is a little like displaying your last bowel movement.”
“Gay men might not think so.”
“Well, that’s the other part. Someone who flashes his dong around might be thought to be trolling for admirers.”
“Again, it’s sort of okay for women. We’re supposed to be attractive, and the whole clothing industry is centered around showing one’s goods to one degree or another. In fact, a certain amount of exhibitionism goes with the territory.”
“Even among lesbians?”
“Apart from the dykish ones who’re trying to be ugly, most do try to look good. Mitsuko wants to be looked at and admired by all and sundry.”
“Well, I certainly don’t want that part of me admired by all and sundry. I’d better refuse.”
“You know, you might help them in another way. The dialogue in their screenplays is unnatural, forced, and horrible. You’re a good writer, and you could do much better.”
“Probably. But I haven’t been asked.”
“They don’t hire professional writers. I think Ted does the writing, and he’s pretty hopeless.”
During that week, Sharon and Diana viewed parts of the movie that was being filmed. The actress who was playing the predator was thoroughly professional and pretty good. However, Diana winced when one of the lines was spoken. Catching Sharon’s eye, she said,
“Ted insists on writing the screenplay, and he just doesn’t know how.”
Sharon had long since learned not to agree with people when they criticized their nearest and dearest, but was able to say, “I guess it’s one of those things that take a long apprenticeship.”
“Unfortunately, Ted went to one of the English upper class boarding schools that are so steeped in tradition that they don’t think that they actually have to teach much of anything. My mother-in-law once looked at a somewhat bumptious teen-aged boy and said, ‘Off to boarding school! They come back with such nice manners, and they learn to pack.’ That’s Ted.”
“He impresses the hell out of Americans. Most of us have iffy manners, and I have no idea how to pack.”
“I’m middle class, and wasn’t really accepted by Ted’s parents. My father was the number two man at Harrod’s at the time, but Ted’s father, the retired colonel, would refer to him as ‘that shop assistant.’ The colonel eventually relented because he liked to leer at me. I actually caught him peeking through a keyhole once.”
“I thought all that class snobbishness went out a hundred years ago!”
“Pockets of it remain, not in London so much, but out in the countryside.”
“You aren’t going back to your in-laws, are you?”
“Ted wants to. But I’m insisting on a certain distance.”
“Will they know about the films?”
“With things the way they are now, they may find out. Ted’s mother won’t be shocked. She’ll just think that that’s the sort of thing one does in America. If the colonel fusses about stains on the family honor, she’ll shush him up. The next day, she might remark that he had a wobble leading to a drama.”
“She sounds interesting.”
“She is. It’s the colonel who’s a bit of an idiot. Once he gets over worrying about honor, he’ll love the films.”
“Will he see me pulling down my panties?”
“He may well do. Does that please you?”
“You know, it does. It’s just such an unexpected and amusing consequence. You never appear naked in any of the movies, do you?”
“No. I think one of the reasons is that I imagine the colonel out there watching. It’s amusing for you, but it’s too close to home for me.”
As the conversation continued, it became clear that Ted actually wasn’t much smarter than his father. But he had the same almost unlimited self-confidence. As Diana remarked at one point,
“Ted’s presence, particularly when he doesn’t say much, has opened a lot of doors in the entertainment industry. I’m just one of a million pretty women, but, if I hang on his arm, we have an impact.”
There wasn’t a natural opportunity to bring up the matter of Howie, but, as Diana continued to explain her life, Sharon did some thinking.
Two days later, when viewing another part of the film, Diana exploded, “Holy fuck! Ted’s dialogue is getting worse all the time!”
It was funny to hear Diana speak obscenely in an American way with her English accent. That was probably the first thing foreigners learned when they came to America. Returning to the matter at hand, Sharon suggested gently,
“Can you make a few substitutions?”
“We should simply hire a professional. But, then, Ted would be publicly humiliated.”
“Would he be privately humiliated if you took over?”
“That would be even worse. But you don’t threaten him. Perhaps you could write some lines.”
“I wouldn’t be good at that, but I do have an idea.”
“That’s good. I don’t.”
“It strikes me that Ted has acting ability. Besides, all his gestures and facial expressions are perfect for an English gentleman. He could gradually move from writing to acting that sort of role.”
“He was an actor, but he was disqualified because of his speech impediment.”
“I can’t detect anything at all. No American would.”
“Probably not. That was in England, and those people were extremely picky.”
“In this film, he could be the husband of the predator.”
“Well, yes. At the moment we don’t have such a part, but it’s a good idea. Ted would certainly provide a contrast to the other characters. In fact, I’m pretty sure he’d be a better actor than writer.”
Privately, Sharon remembered being told that good actors often weren’t intelligent. Indeed, if Sir Lawrence Olivier had been slow, there was certainly hope for Ted. As Diana paused reflectively, Sharon said, “The reverse is probably true of Howie. I gather that you thought of making him an actor.”
“Yes. Just because of his looks. Probably not a speaking part.”
“I found out how hard non-speaking parts can be. Anyhow, you probably didn’t know that Howie has written a play that was performed by the French Club at Harvard.”
“No. I certainly didn’t know that!”
“He majored in French, and the play was in French, but I’m sure he could switch to English.”
“You know, that’s a way I could approach Ted. I could say that, by accident, we’ve got a playwright here, and it would be nice to let him write some lines.”
“Sharon, at your young age you manage people almost as well as my mother-in-law.”