Glory In The Golden Apple


Episode #16

The Other Woman.

Lana's words troubled me, but not so much that I was willing to spend a second longer in that office figuring out what she meant. I wanted to go home, where I was hoping I'd find Malley still asleep, and where I could crawl right in beside him and forget the past 14 hours. It had all started with that horrible dinner.

The subway was slow and my train moved like a goldfish in a bowl full of glue. I went to get a bagel, and when the bagel man dropped it on the floor he had to be persuaded to give me another one. The newsstand was nearly out of newspapers, and I had to take one with a funny crease on the front page. Then, after climbing the stairs to my apartment, I unlocked the door and found Malley with his arms around another woman.

"What?" I said.

Malley turned to look at me, but he didn't let go of the other girl.

"This is Lisette," he said.

To be honest, I'd never considered the idea that Malley might cheat on me. I mean, I'd never found lipstick on his collar, or anything. Then again, Malley wore lipstick himself onstage, so there was probably lipstick on most of his collars.

"Lisette is my partner at the ballet," he said.

I noticed that he did have his arms around her waist.

"Malley," said Lisette, "needs to come back. We don't have enough tall guys, and if I don't have a partner, I can't dance. I've come to get him."

I saw she'd repacked the duffel bag the black Crimson had brought up the stairs so many weeks ago. Some of my Glamour magazines were sticking out the top, including the latest issue.

"He can't go back," I said. "His leg is injured."

"He needs to start training again," said Lisette.

Lisette put the handles of the duffel bag over each shoulder, careful not to damage her posture.

"Malley," I said, "Don't go. You can stay here."

"I love you, but I love ballet more," he said.

They went out, and Lisette pulled the door closed behind her. I could hear Malley limping down the stairs.

I sat stunned in the middle of my apartment, which suddenly seemed huge. I was too enervated to sleep, too stunned to cry.


The phone rang. It was Alys. Thank God; here was my best friend, just as I needed her.

But Alys was more upset than I was.

"It's Jack!" she said.

I remembered, suddenly, where Jack had been last evening. "Has he been arrested?" I asked.

"No," said Alys. "He's been accused of plagiarism."

That was much worse. In fact, it was the worst thing possible. Journalism, to journalists, is like a priesthood. You have a higher calling, to tell the world the truth as you see it, barriers or bullets or advertisers be damned; otherwise, no one would believe anything you wrote, or anything anybody wrote, ever. Nothing was worse than being accused of putting your name to a false story.

"I just got a call from my news desk in Iowa," Alys was sobbing. "Last month, before Jack got his promotion, he was on assignment in Miami, and he filed this exclusive interview with the drug kingpin who supposedly supplied Iowa City."

"Wasn't it true?"

"No. It turns out he squandered all the company's money and spent the weekend with a hooker in a hotel. Then he took all the quotes for his interview out of that movie 'Scarface.'"

"Plagiarism," I said.

"Glory, should I stand by him?"

"Oh, no," I said. "Don't stand by him."

"I can't stand to be a single woman again!" said Alys. "I can't stand to be some kind of loser!"

"Alys, you must break up with him."

"I don't know," she said.

Looking around my empty apartment, I had an idea.

"Look, Alys, I'm your friend," I said. "I believe in solidarity. If you do this, I'll break up with Malley. We'll both be single!"

"You'd do that for me?"

"Of course!" I said. "We're friends!"


When we hung up, I stared into space for a long time, thinking. I still wasn't ready to go to sleep. It was the sunniest part of the day. I went to a churchyard garden by my house and lay down on the grass, where I could see big and small beetles and mosquitoes and other funny bugs buzzing above the clover like helicopters above a forest. I saw a Monarch butterfly that, like Malley, was utterly gorgeous and utterly witless. Lying on my stomach, I watched the butterfly for a long time, and when it flew away I cried.



Episode #17

The Vibrating Tie.

Three weeks later, I was sitting at my desk, reading a New York Post account of Lana's precipitous rise to fame. The Post had a lazy gossip columnist who only wrote things that celebrities wanted written, and today he had filled several column inches relating how Lana hoped someday to sing the news, which would give her a leg up on a singing career. I smelled her around the office sometimes, wearing a perfume Fabian had once given me.

It was the day before Roger's vacation, and the office was quiet. Edwell Unfun sat across from me, staring into space, saying nothing.

"This time they have her singing," I said.

Edwell pursed his lips, fishlike.

"She still can't DO anything," he said. "All she does is read whatever you put in the TelePrompTer. She has nothing to be proud of."

Roger sailed into the newsroom, already in a jovial mood before his vacation.

"Lana gave me a present, thanking me for all the help I've given her," he said, displaying a long box. "She gave me a tie."

He swept into his office, and I settled down to start writing the first update of the evening. I shortened Lana's sports update, just because I felt like it, and put in some footage of contestants arriving for the Miss American pageant, hoping she'd look bad next to some truly first-class bimbos.

Finished, I went into the control room. Julian was already there, playing with a long line of paper clips. Through the monitor screens, I could see Lana and Roger already in their places on the set. Roger was wearing his new tie. It was an undulating pattern of vertical black lines, precisely the type of tie that can't ever be worn on television, because it appears to vibrate.

The assistant director spoke into Roger's earpiece. "That tie vibrates," the assistant director said.

"Oh, come on. It's festive," said Roger. "I'm going on vacation."

The assistant director closed his mike.

"He won't take off the vibrating tie," he told rest of the control room. "Can we frame very closely on his face?"

"Just give the girl most of the copy," said the director over the intercom.

Through the silent screens, I saw Lana smile.

Could this be? Was the tie part of a scheme to make the camera focus on her at Roger's expense? Roger, who had done so much for her?

With a glance at Julian, who was hooking his paper clips into a little wire heart, I left the control room and crept into the studio. A make-up mirror was lying face-up on the anchor desk, creating, with the reflected lights, a little halo over Roger's head.

It was sixty seconds to air. I rushed onto the set, crouching down beside Lana.

"Why are you doing this today?" I whispered. "Roger will be gone tomorrow!"

Lana leaned over. "I have to show that the camera can't stop focusing on me even when Roger IS here, and that's why he doesn't need to be here at all," she whispered back. "Besides, the station manager is having his wife, the owner, watch this update."

"Ten seconds!" said the stage manager, and I scrambled off the set.

Roger did the opening story, but as the update continued, the red light over Lana's camera was on more and more often. I went back to the control room. On-air, Lana was confidently reading the financial news.

At the commercial break, Julian spoke in her ear piece.

"Lana, that Dow figure is wrong," he said. "It's the same number as yesterday."

"Does it change?" Lana asked.

"Does the weather?" said Julian.

The fault was mine. In my somnolence earlier, and excitement later, I'd forgotten to change the financial statistics template Roger usually read. But as I pulled the proper Dow figure out of the computer, I suddenly heard Edwell's voice in my head. "All she does," he'd said. "is read whatever you put in the TelePrompTer."

I didn't think twice about what happened next. I really didn't think it through. I spent the commercial break doing a little work on the computer that fed words into the TelePrompTer.

After a public service announcement, we were back on the air.

"Let's correct that figure for today's Dow Jones Industrial Average," read Lana.

"The Dow was down nearly 150 points, to 8218. I guess a few white male economic bloodsuckers lost money there, didn't they, Roger?" she read.

"And, for our lower-intelligence gamblers, the winning Lotto number for today is 2-4-7."

"What?" said Julian.

"I play the Lotto," said the assistant director.

Roger, on-air, looked a little perplexed, but he carried on like a professional.

"Looking towards tomorrow's news," Roger said, "we'll have the President welcoming the French leader to the United Nations. And we may have a verdict in the Cupcake Murder - the trial of a Bronx man who allegedly murdered two people and spent their money on cupcakes."

"That sounds tasty! I'm a little hungry myself," read Lana.

"What?" said the director.

Julian was leaning so far forward his nose nearly touched the monitor screen. The director, who could have cut to a commercial or even a blank screen if he'd thought of it, seemed frozen in his chair. The assistant director had to cue the Miss America video himself.

"Finally," Lana said, as the video rolled, "contestants are arriving in Atlantic City for this year's Miss America pageant. Oddsmakers there are putting their money on a close race between Miss New York and Miss Texas."

The video finished, and Lana smiled.

"Roger," she read, "wouldn't it have been nice if the South had won the Civil War? Then we could have had TWO pageants!"

Roger looked at her, dumfounded. It was too much even for him.

The door to the control room burst open. "What," cried the executive producer, "is going on here?"

It was the first coherent thing he had ever said.


Episode #18

Finally, I Am Famous.

It was a cold morning in New York City. It was almost November, now, and very early, and the streets were empty, except for a few dog-walkers in their new fall coats.

Walking down Tenth Street, I saw a familiar headline on a newspaper bundled into the recycling pile. I bent down to look at it. "News Starlet: TelePrompTer Tamperer Tripped Me Up," it said.

I was famous, now; I was known. I'd cut out all the articles about Lana's humiliation and my subsequent firing, and they were lying in a big curled mess in the corner of my apartment. But I couldn't cut out every article from every copy published, so a lot of them ended up in the trash, or in the recycling pile. I'd found one last week in a Laundromat.

So here it was, this fame, exactly what I'd thought I wanted. But from the moment when security guards had escorted me out of the newsroom, to point where everyone in town knew me by that odious New York Post nickname - the "TelePrompter Tamperer" - other people had been in charge, twisting my image to help themselves make a living. Besides, I wasn't famous for doing anything good or useful. I was like Lana; I'd done nothing to be proud of.

I stood up and started walking towards the subway again. I was up that morning because I'd resolved to go into the newsroom and clean out my desk. I wanted to do that when all my old night shift colleagues would still be there, and before the security guards reported for work.

Everyone was still there - everyone but Lana, who really was getting the chance to try out a singing career. At least, that's what a guy who called her up and said he was a producer had promised. Fabian told me that story when he called to say Lana had dumped him, and wondered if I might now need his services, professionally or otherwise. I said no.

I walked through the doors of what had once been my second home. In the trash by the elevator, I found a big cardboard moving box, and carried it into the newsroom, ready to say hello. But I saw only Julian.

"Hey," he said. "How are you?"

"Well, unemployed, and unemployable," I said. "I guess now I'll have time to read all the great books. I mean, bring on Candide."

"Don't worry," he said. "Everything will work out fine." He smiled. "Jill says that for every 100 jobs in TV, there are 150 TV people that fill them. You just have to wait until the circle comes around to you again."

"Julian," I said, "I don't think I'll every work in TV again." I looked around the office again. "Are you the only one here?" I asked.

"Roger is finally on vacation," Julian said. "He was pretty upset when Lana was fired and he had to postpone his trip, even though we tried to convince him that if the D-Day beach had been there since World War II, it would be there a couple more weeks. Anyway, now he's there, and they've brought over some anchorman from the day side to fill in."

"Have they said they'll give you a chance on-air?" I asked him.

"They probably will at some point," he said. "I figure if I just stay put and complain enough, sooner or later things will go my way."

"Yeah," I said, and picked up my moving box. Julian always had been a wimp.


I opened the drawers and emptied each one into the box. There were dozens of scripts, saved for reasons I couldn't remember; there was a yellow-chick marshmellow Peep, hardened since last Easter; there was an article Malley had cut out of Glamour about proper night-shift office attire.

I stood up, and saw Edwell Unfun seated across from me.

"Oh, so you're back," he said. "Television's prodigal daughter."

He was looking at me with absolutely no expression, pursing those big fishy lips.

"Edwell," I said, "I will probably never see you again, so I must ask you something." I put the box on the desk. "Why are you always so crabby?"

He turned his head away. For the first time ever, I saw him unnerved. When he finally spoke, his voice was low.

"I am sixty-eight years old," he said. "Forty-nine years ago, living in California, I was set up on a blind date by a friend. I knew nothing but her name."

He sighed.

"I was supposed to meet her at a drugstore soda fountain, in the days when those still existed," he said. "But I was young and careless, and I got there 30 minutes late. She was already gone."

He sighed again.

"That woman," he said, "was Marilyn Monroe." He shook his head. "A couple of years later she became a star, and I found out what I missed." He sighed. "I have been crabby ever since."

I looked at him, shook my head, and left with the box before he started crying fishy tears. I only hope the men who have stood me up for dates feel just as bad, now that I'm famous.

Walking out, I looked in the box. There was nothing but junk in it, and I left it with the trash by the elevator. I don't know why I came back to get it at all.

I walked out into the street, and the sunlight was stronger, now. I'd had nothing to eat all day. On the corner, in the ground floor of an office building, I found a fruit stand and went in.

I walked the aisles for a couple minutes. I had no idea what I was hungry for. Amid racks of dry packaged food, I found a large red fruit I had never seen before. I looked at it. It puzzled me.

I took it up front to the clerk, a blond guy in a huge Scandinavian-looking sweater.

"This is such an odd fruit," I said. "What is it?"

"Fruit," he said with an accent. He leaned over the counter to look at it. "I don't know the English name," he said. "I think, maybe, it is a cherry."

"A cherry?" I said, holding it up. "No, it's not a cherry. Cherries are small."

He considered the fruit again.

"I is a raspberry," he said.

There was a man behind me in line, now. "It's a pomegranate," he told me.

"Oh," I said.

I let him go in front of me and buy some cigarettes, while I inspected the pomegranate. It was a big lumpy thing. Looking up, I saw the clerk watching me. He had enormous blue eyes, like little California swimming pools.

"Tom," he said.

"It's not a tomato. It's a pomegranate," I said.

"No, Tom is me," he said.

I took a bite of the pomegranate. "I'm Glory," I said.

It occurred to me, then, that Tom probably had probably never heard of the TelePrompTer Tamperer. Not speaking a hell of a lot of English, he probably didn't read the New York Post.

"This building is where you work?" he asked.

"I don't work at all. I've lost my job," I said. "As a matter of fact, I may never be able to work again."

He nodded.

"Maybe you can do something in our garden," Tom said. "A girl used to cut and bundle flowers, but she quit this morning. You can sit in our greenhouse and bundle the flowers."


So that's how I came to where I am now, working in the garden out back of the fruit market, bundling flowers, and watching Tom's sweaters change with the days and weeks. It's nice work, it's good and useful work, but it is not famous work.

My only problem is the window. The window of the greenhouse looks out on the Empire State Building, with its spire pointing up up up, pointing to all the things I could be doing - striving, working hard, making a name for myself, creating something great in this greatest of all cities.

I'm going to have to move someplace where I can't see that damn building.




Library of Congress Copyright TXU 785-872