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Double Exposure

Chapter 1

Film Props Incorporated is a two-acre attic in West Hollywood stuffed with moose heads, spectacles, armor, space suits, and the lab equipment of half the mad scientists in movie history. Rummaging for props to rent, I once found a gun belt marked “Mr. Wayne” and a parlor lamp labeled “Tara.” That’s as close to the big time as I ever get: fondling saintly relics of my faith: finger bones and hanks of hair from movies long since canonized.

Today, I’d collected two surfboards and a volleyball set for Harry Hummel’s cola commercials (“Kids at the beach, okay? Lotsa tits and teeth”) when ancient Merv behind the counter called me to the phone. I walked through this sanctuary with honest reverence, threading past rubber swords, plowshares, plastic Tikis, and a flyblown gorilla, toward the front of the musty building.

The call was from Hummel: “Winston, get your ass over here.”

“Harry, you won’t believe this: I found a surfboard from Gidget Goes Hawaiian.”

“What?”

“I’d love to use it, but the design’s too dated.”

“What? What is this? Will you get your ass over here?”

“You said that.”

Click.

I sheathed the surfboards in the hatch of my ancient yellow Rabbit (1975 was not a vintage year for Volkswagen), flagged their protruding sterns to mollify the law, and struggled east on Santa Monica Boulevard toward Finart Studios, the ramshackle production lot on which Hummel rents an office.

As I rattled through the smog, the next few days unreeled before me, predictable as death: out to Malibu Beach with two trucks, a generator, and station wagons full of “talent” and wardrobe. Two days playing film director in sand-filled shoes, the sun broiling my dismaying new bald spot into a dime-sized plate of scrambled eggs. Two days more in my editor hat, faking the footage into some kind of sense. Then three weeks of unemployment while hustling another job.

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