yearzerowriters

William Shatner Vs Thomas Pynchon [Issue 3]

William Shatner Vs Thomas Pynchon

                                                      Pursued by Richie Dowling

      As the applause died, the Shat lumbered over to his position at the podium. Damn corset, he cursed. His belly was squeezed so far back his diaphragm was lodged up between his lungs and he could breathe only in short gasps. He looked out at the auditorium and saw a mix of eager listeners and smirking professors. Go ahead, he thought. Laugh. Everyone does. He wiped a bead of sweat from his brow, making sure not to move his hair, and cleared his throat. A stab in his stomach made his fists clench. The girdle was just too tight. He would have to speak that way. The way everyone imitated like it was some big joke. Well, so much for gaining a little academic respect. He squared his shoulders and gave a practiced look of humility. This was it. Showtime.

      “Thank you for. Such. A wonderful welcome.”

      Cheers from the crowd. “Go Bill!” “We love you!” “Yeah!”

      The Shat smiled and waved a hand to quiet the fanboys. “It is an. Honor. To be here. Today. And listen to the.” This time the pause was not for breath. What in God’s name was the name of this thing? He glanced down at his notes. Okay.  “The lecture on De. . . construction. And the search. For Moby Dick in. Star Trek Two. The Wrath of. Khan.”

      More wild shouts and whistles.

      “Without further. Ado I hand over to. Professor. Dan Holloway.”

      He stepped away from the dais as the elegantly-dressed don glided in to take his place. A quick handshake as they passed, the professor saying, “Love your work, Mr Shatner.” The Shat nodding his head, no breath left to speak.

      He clambered down the steps to the front row where his seat had been reserved, sank into the plush leather and immediately fell asleep.

V

      He came to with a start, arms flailing. Looks of bewilderment from the people sitting on either side. Where the hell was he? He saw the bearded professor up on the stage and remembered. The lecture. He gave whispered apologies to those around him and lifted a sleeve to his mouth to clear off the drool.

      The professor seemed to have reached the climax of his speech. “And so in conclusion,” he said lifting an arm high, “The inevitable inference we can draw is that Khan is Captain Ahab, condemned by his own obsessive desire for revenge on the whale which is, of course, Captain Kirk.”

      Thunderous applause rocked the room.

      The Shat was motionless.

      Had he really just said that? Captain Kirk a whale? Captain James Tiberius Kirk? A big, fat whale? Was that how they saw him?

      He heaved himself up out of the seat and stormed his way through the standing ovation.

      A thin, old man reached out to grab his arm. “Where are you going? We haven’t finished.” It was the Dean of Studies. “There’s the thesis by Mr Skips on TJ Hooker and Paradise Lost.”

      Shatner shook himself free. “I’m going to the john.”

V

      Standing before the mirror, cold water dripping from his face, he realized things had indeed gone down the toilet. A life’s work summed up by comparison to a whale? He shook his head, banged a palm on the marble sink. Had they no respect? No idea of the sheer acting skill it all took? Had they not seen Boston Legal?

      Stop it, Bill, he ordered himself. Stop feeling sorry. Pull yourself together.

      But when he looked at the pudgy, wrinkled face in the mirror, the face that garnered respect only from geeks and nerds, he knew the time had finally come. Yes, it was time to pull his selves together.

      He yanked a paper towel from the dispenser and dried himself. Then he pulled out his cell phone and speed-dialed his agent.

      “Yo, Will,” came the answer. “How’s it hanging?”

      The Shat growled, “Quit it. You’re fifty years old.”

      “Sorry, Will. You know how it is in Hollywood.”

      The Shat knew all too well. “Listen. I want you to do something for me.”

      “How’s the university shtick going?”

      “Never mind. You’ve heard of Thomas Pynchon? Heard of V?”

      “Well sure I have, William.”

      “I want you to get in touch with his agent. I want you to option the film rights.”

      Laughter rasped through the speaker. “Film rights? William, everyone’s tried for film rights. Spielberg, Ridley, Miley Cyrus—no one gets diddly from Pynchon. The man’s a nut.”

      “No, he isn’t. Tell him it’s Shatner. Tell him it’s William Shatner.”

      The agent paused. “Sure, William. I’ll do what I can.” The disbelief in his voice was obvious.

      “Do it now. Get back to me when you’ve got approval.”

      The Shat cut the connection then made another call, this time speaking in a hushed voice. With a sigh he put the phone down on the side of the sink. Why hadn’t he done this earlier? He shrugged. The truth was he knew the world hadn’t been ready. And it never would, unless he made it ready.

      Minutes passed. Finally, the phone rang. His agent. He lifted the phone to his ear. “Good God, William! We got it! We got the film rights!”

      “I told you.”

      “And the guy wouldn’t even let me make an offer. Soon as I said your name, he just caved in. One dollar, Will! One freaking dollar! I’m going to call Variety. This’ll put you right back on the map, baby.”

      “No,” he said. “Wait until tomorrow. There’s something I have to do first.”

V

      Head held high, the Shat entered the hall. He ignored the well-wishers, ignored the patronizing looks from the professors and paraded slowly, majestically up to the stage. It felt good to do this. Should have done it long ago.

      Once again he cleared his throat and prepared to speak.

      “Ladies and. Gentleman. I’m not sure. You’re ready to hear. This. But I’m going to tell. You something. I should have. Told you. Before.”

      Whispers hissed through the room. Somebody called out, “Are you gay? Like Mr Sulu?”

      What the hell? What were these people thinking? “No. I’m not gay.”

      The guy moaned in disappointment.

      The Shat put on his serious look,  the one he’d used when outwitting God in The Final Frontier. “I’ve been. Keeping something. Secret. From you all. Hiding a part. Of me. A part I felt no one would. Take seriously. . .  I had. To work under. An assumed name. Who would take. An actor like me. Seriously?”

      “What are you saying Bill?” a man called out.

      The Shat pressed his hands together in a solemn gesture. “You all know. Me as William Shatner but. I also. Work under the name of. Thomas Pynchon.”

      The words echoed round the auditorium, fading into silence.

      And then a single handclap somewhere in the back. That was all it took to break the barrier of stunned amazement. A tidal wave of applause broke out, crashing through the room sweeping everyone up, and drenching them all in joy.

      William Shatner/Thomas Pynchon just stood there, bathing in the admiration of his peers. Fans and professors alike clapped their hands, united for the first time in pure and profound respect.

      There would be questions, of course. Doubts. After all, he’d faked photos and put a lot of effort into the false identity. But he would answer everything with the truth. Finally.

      And then he wondered, should he tell them about the other assumed name? The other secret life? Would they be able to withstand the shock? It was one thing to be told that Captain Kirk was responsible for some of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, but would they believe he had also. . .

      The Shat/Pynchon shook his head. No, that would have to wait for another time. He was already heading where no man had gone before.

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