"TINA DELGADO IS ALIVE, ALIVE, ALIVE!" screamed an echo-chambered woman from the clock radio in the afternoon in the bachelor’s apartment. Crash Walker, aka Harold Szymczyk, spasmodically kicked his legs up in the air like some epileptic frog, then his arms reached up, and finally he lifted his head up but his eyes were still shut tight. He was holding on for dear life to his sleepy state, but time was running out.
"That’s right groovy guys and boss bunnies it's time for the Tina Delgado contest I’ll take the seventh caller and if you can tell me who the groovy singer in Herman’s Hermits is you’ll get two tickets to their outtasite show at the Carousel in Riverside this Saturday night. Don’t delay call today! Can you dig it, baby? Now here’s Paul Revere & The Raiders “Steppin’ Out”, and if you’re steppin’ out today you won’t need an umbrella, yeah…” A trebly screech burned into Szymczyk's ears, and he swiveled around to punch the alarm clock off.
He crawled from the bed to the bathroom, shed a tear for Lord Nelson and the entire Swiss Navy, then pelted his face with ice cold water and gagged a few times. Not only was he a bad early riser but a terrible riser, period. It was already three PM in the afternoon. Throwing on a striped t-shirt, some jeans and zip-up ankle boots, he picked up his phone and called his answering service.
"Hi", he mumbled, "Any messages for Crash Walker? No? How about Harold Szymzcyk, then? Nothing? Well, there's always dinner time, isn't there? Yeah, it's a date, call you later, babe".
Fluffing up his dyed black hair in the mirror and putting on his darkest sunglasses, he paused to analyze his face. He was twenty-nine, crawling towards his thirties - the death knell, and the television jobs were coming slowly and reluctantly, and everybody knew once you did television it was well near impossible getting movie work. All his claims to his friends about how he was going to get the Oscar by the time he was twenty-two was the stuff of much hilarity and derision. It was a recurring joke for awhile and he regretted opening his mouth with such a cocky threat. Appraising his face, there were not enough lines for him to freak out about just yet, but he felt himself getting tired more often than usual, cause for concern.
He climbed into his quickly dying Chevy Corvair and drove up to the Sunset Strip, pulling into the parking space between Pandora’s Box and Schwab’s Drug Store on Crescent Heights. Crash Walker ambled into the drug store with its endless counters of cosmetics, tobacco products, and medicines towards the smoke-filled coffee shop area in the back.
He approached the booth by the window with the rowdy guys loafing and barking like a human dog pack.
“There he is, the return of The Prodigal Son!” a dog-faced actor roared with pastrami and egg flying out of his mouth, punctuated by a guzzle of lukewarm coffee.
“Crash Walker! Get your unemployed ass over here!” a middle-aged man with a Julius Caesar hairstyle named Tony commanded. A young man with messy red hair and the tightest t-shirt worn in Hollywood merely gaped at Walker.
“Hello, ladies and gentlemen, no applause until the end of the third act, thank you, then I will take standing ovations but money is preferred”, Walker bowed.
“Sit down, Barrymore”, a fat waitress pushed a menu at him, “I take tips, not curtain calls”.
“Everybody’s a comedian”, Walker grumbled, sitting down.
“It gets funnier – wait’ll you eat the food”, she returned.
“Oh, and speaking of money”, the dog-faced actor, Albert, pulled a check out of his jacket, “Here’s your check I picked up at the agency”.
Walker spied the check closely. “God damn it! They misspelled my name again”.
“Yeah, how about that, somebody misspelled Szymzcyk, who woulda believed that?”
“Why can’t they just write it out to Crash Walker?”
The red-hired guy continued staring at Walker and finally asked Tony, “Crash Walker? Where’d he get a name like that?”
“He got his name from Henry Willson, the agent”.
“That’s not all I got from him”, Walker quipped, putting away his check.
“Just think, Walker, you could have been the next Rock, the next Tab, the next Troy, the next-“
“Not very likely. I tried to hide behind Natalie Wood, but that damn Raymond Burr followed me around like a shark”. Everybody laughed.
“So, Crash, you cheap polack”, Albert whined, “Mister Rich Actor, how about kicking in for the feed today?”
Walker ignored him, reading the menu like it was the newest edition of The Hollywood Reporter.
“Rich guy, ready to buy stereo albums instead of mono”.
Walker answered, “I’m still making payments on my black and white TV, I’ll be damned if I can afford a color TV until 1999”.
A fat guy with a crew cut walked by their table, and sneered. “Hey, Walker, still doing that stupid western?”
“Still doing that dumb war show?” Walker snapped back. The fat flat top waddled away.
“Look at that fat fuck, the war’s been over for over twenty years and they’re still doing fucking World War II shows. Jesus”.
“Well, shit, baby, Japs gotta eat, too y’know”, Tony joked. Everybody chuckled. “Crash, ahem, Har-old, ahem, Crash, meet Hollywood’s newest stunt man, Billy Bell”. He gently shoved the red-haired guy.
“Billy Bell? Sounds like a fuckin’ drum beat”, Crash quipped. “Stunt man, huh?”
“Yeah”, Bell said, “I worked carnivals with my dad for years but there wasn’t much money in it”.
“Well, welcome to Hollywood, there’s not much money here either”.
“If he’s gonna fall off buildings and trains maybe his name should be Crash instead”.
“Yeah, I’ll hook you up on a date with Henry Willson. He’ll come up with some cute little handle for you”.
“Are you gonna order or are you gonna show off?” the waitress whipped out her pen and pad, ready to take his order.
“I’m gonna leave, Love Handles. Be gentle with my pals, okay?” Walker got up and dashed away.
“Stunt man”, Walker mumbled under his breath, leaving Schwab’s, “Carnivals, war shows. Jesus Christ”. He walked up Sunset Boulevard past the Rocky and Bullwinkle sign and saw two young guys with hair down to their hips in striped pants selling papers. “Hippies, jeez”.
He walked two blocks down to the Orange Julius on the corner, and took a seat. The old bastard behind the counter pulled out a Variety Magazine in front of Walker.
“Orange Julius, sir?”
Walker gave him a look, which prompted the old codger to pour two fingers of scotch into two Orange Julius cups, handing one over to him.
“Now you’re talking. Shit, look at this: ‘Roadblock, the hit prime-time police show has been renewed for another season’. Jesus, I hate that sanctimonious son of a bitch Bill Flagg. Do people really watch that shit?”
The guy behind the counter took a slug of laced Orange Julius. “There’s a lot of scared grannies out there.”
Walker put down the Variety. “What do you think, Pops, what would you rather watch, a war show or a Cowboys and Indians show?”
“Are you kidding? I saw enough action in the war, I don’t need to turn on a TV and see more. Never get tired of the shoot-em-ups, though.”
“Yeah, I’ll be working for a long time, I guess”, Crash Walker mused, staring down the endless Hollywood street, “Folks’ll never get tired of a good cowboy show”.
"That’s was Billy Stewart singing ‘Summertime’, next up is ‘Tijuana Taxi’ by The Tijuana Brass, and we got some groovy Animals coming up in the next Boss Thirty, don’t go away now, you won’t wanna miss The Real Don Steele, 93 KHJ, this is your home for The Beatles”.
The complete edition of CRASH WALKER will be available in eBook form on August 2015 via Amazon Kindle, iTunes, Barnes & Noble Nook and other eReaders. Don't miss it!