He was concentrating, thinking of baseball, golf. It wasn’t working. He slowed down. Nope. It was going to happen. And it did. It was obvious to anyone who had been in the business for a while.
“Cut!” The director yelled. “What the fuck, man? You just blew the money shot. You get paid for the goddamned money shot, you know that, right?”
“Sorry, I got excited,” Hank said.
“You got excited? What is this, your senior fucking prom?”
“Fuck you. You can’t talk to me that way. I’m a star,” Hank said.
“A star? Do you believe the ego on this guy?” The director said to no one in particular. “You’re nothing but a dick in a gonzo. The people want to see the girl. They want to see the girl getting fucked. And they want to see the cum on her tits. They don’t care who you are. You’re just the dick. Your days of being a star are long gone. You need to get that through both heads.”
“Fuck this shit, I’m out of here,” Hank said.
“Go on and leave. You know how much you made today?” The director said. “Not a goddamn dime. You think you’re the only nine inch dick in town? There are guys waiting in line to take your place. And they’re a hell of a lot younger than you. The choices for old timers like you are few and far between and you just blew your chance of ever working with me again.”
“He came inside me.” The girl said. “Am I gonna be okay?”
“Yeah. He’s clean. He’s just a prima donna asshole.”
Hank stormed to the closet that was used as a dressing room.
No one talked to him like that. Anyone who had been in the business long enough, knew you treated the talent with respect. He was Hank Buttler. The name alone deserved respect. More than twenty years in the business. He had been featured in Porn Superstars Of The ‘90’s, goddammit!
After he dressed, he left through the back door and got into his ‘72 Camaro. Turned the key and stomped on the accelerator on his way out of the parking lot. Macho anger. He had been in the business since the eighties, when he left his home in Arkansas. He knew then if he made it out to California, he would be a star. He was right. And he was still a star, in his own mind. Time has a way of changing things. Stars fall.
He was pulled over less than a block from the parking lot. Speeding. It’s one thing to live a lifestyle, but it’s a whole other when reality slaps you in the face.
Hank handed his license to the officer. His license did not read, ‘Hank Buttler, Porn Superstar’. No. It read his real name. Harold Jarvis. Plain and simple. Just like any other work-a-day Joe. That’s reality. Harsh and to the point.
“You were doing seventy in a forty-five,” the officer said.
“Yeah. I was a little pissed off,” Hank said. “Do you know who I am?”
“Well, according to the name on your license, you’re Harold Jarvis.” The officer said. “Is that correct?”
“Legally, yes. That’s my real name, but I go by the name, Hank Buttler, two t’s,” Hank said. “Adult film star. I’m sure you’ve heard of me.”
“I don’t watch that shit. It it were up to me, they’d run all you people out of the valley. It gives us a bad name.” The officer said. “Sign here,” he said, handing the ticket back to Hank. “Be in court on the tenth.”
The officer handed his license back and turned and walked back to his car.
“I’m Hank Buttler,” Hank yelled out through his opened window, “you’ve never heard of me?”
The officer pulled back onto the street and drove away.
“I’m Hank Buttler, goddammit,” Hank whispered.
He drove back to his one bedroom apartment on Tulsa Street. How long would he still be living here? He tried to push the thought from his mind as he walked inside and saw the message light blinking on his phone. He smiled.
He closed the door with a swing of his hand and headed toward the phone. Yeah, he was being called back. He had been in the business long enough to know that they would always call the talent back once they knew what they had lost.
His smile faded as the automated voice told him his cable was being disconnected due to non-payment.
“Fuck everybody!” His voice echoed through the small apartment he had been living in for the last twenty years. Sometimes sharing it with women, but most times, not. Relationships in the business, usually didn’t last long. Unless you could come to an understanding with others who worked in the industry, you were more or less labeled a whore, male or female. You fucked for a living.
The phone rang again. Hank hesitated.
“Yeah?” He said as he grabbed up the receiver.
“Mr. Buttler?” The voice said.
“Are you a bill collector? I really don’t have time for your..”
“Mr. Buttler, please hear me out.” The voice said.
“Who is this? I don’t have time for any bullshit,” Hank said.
“Oh, I agree completely, Mr. Buttler. Or should I call you, Mr. Jarvis?” The voice said.
Hank waited. He didn’t know what to say. They had used his real name.
He finally answered, “Buttler is my name. Hank Buttler. Two t’s.”
“Yes, I know. I just want you to feel comfortable.”
“You need to tell me your name,” Hank said.
“For now, you can call me Pete,” the voice said. “And I’m offering you an opportunity, Mr. Buttler.”
“Hey, I’m always open for opportunities,” Hank said.
“This one is a little different than those you have been offered before,” Pete said.
“Okay, let’s get this straight, I don’t do gay stuff. Okay?”
“Oh, no. That would never be acceptable,” Pete said.
“Well, then, let’s talk,” Hank said.
“Mr. Buttler, what I’m offering will last an eternity,” Pete said.
“Not sure I understand,” Hank said. “Can we meet somewhere for drinks or something?”
“I can arrange that,” Pete said.
“Cool,” Hank said, “I’m free tomorrow at about…”
“How about now?” Pete said.
It suddenly grew dark in the apartment, except for one light shining at the end of the hallway, leading to the bedroom. No sunlight shone through the blinds. A shrouded figure appeared before Hank, floating in front of him. A long flowing beard on the face of a thousand and more years.
“You’re Pete?” Hank said.
“Yes, Mr. Jarvis, I’m Peter. Keeper of The Gate.”
“Wait. Why am I seeing you? This is a dream.”
“No dream, Mr. Jarvis. Or, Mr. Buttler, as you prefer. No dream,” Peter said.
“You’re telling me I’m dead?” Hank said.
“Yes. You died two hours ago. Not long after you came home. A mixture of pills and alcohol. It wasn’t intentional. You would never take your own life. You loved yourself too much for that,” Pete said. “You remind me of that song, what was it? ‘You’re so vain’? Yes, that’s it.”
“It’s your choice, Mr. Jarvis. Your time to choose.”
“What choice do I have? You never even listened to my side of the story. You didn’t give me a chance to explain.”
“Explanations are made by decisions. If one had the chance to explain life choices then it would take an eternity to listen. One decides ones fate day by day. The choices made decide their fate. That is only fair, is it not?”
“No,” Hank said, “it’s not fair. What has God ever done for me? A father who never had anything to do with me. A fucked up childhood. Stepfathers who treated me like shit. Relationships that never lasted. What has He done for me?”
“You, like so many others, ask for so much. But did you ever give?” Peter asked. “Did you ever give thanks for the times of warmth when you were cold? Did you ever give thanks for anything?”
“No, I didn’t,” Hank said. “I was angry for the things I never had. He wants so much but gives so little in return.”
“Last offer, Mr. Jarvis,” Peter said. “I would take it.”
“No. I’m good,” Hank said.
“Fair enough,” Peter said.
Hank hit the button on his alarm at eight a.m., showered and dressed. He drove to the set to start the same day over again. It would never end.