A Story by Mathew Klickstein

Doing my best simply wasn’t good enough.

I don’t know when this whole writing curse began, but I know that it was the cause of all my troubles as well as all of my joys. Suddenly, I was thrust into the world of trying to entertain others by my wits, my alleged talents. Thereafter, it was time not only to entertain them but to discover a way to sustain myself by entertaining them, by illuminating for them whatever it was I felt important to say.

I found myself in Los Angeles, going to school for it. I found myself working in television, traveling the Southwest and using it to document whatever it was we saw. I found myself on film sets, in production offices, working for papers and magazines, introducing myself to people twice my age but who could never be my parents, running amuck through the streets and worlds of Hollywood, the Industry.

I was telecommuting to New York, to France. And meanwhile, I’m at home watching The Adventures of Pete and Pete with Joe and doing coke off of our coffee table. I’m suddenly living with some violent alcoholic pixie with broken wings and writing a book about my friend’s family’s restaurant, the very place Phil Hartman and wife were seen last in public before their murder-suicide incident.

I’m running the oldest free-weekly paper in Los Angeles, owned now by some company in China that, by all accounts, probably thought they were buying Entertainment Weekly. Chasing my tail around the country, to Israel even. New York, New Jersey, a West Coast tour, now they’re interviewing us.

Sundance was a joke, celebrities are infuriatingly dull in person and all far shorter than one could ever imagine. I argue with collaborators and with the moneymen, who begin to look and talk the same and are starting to be the same age anyway. My work is re-written by Steven Seagal, I learn that all that matters is the one-sheet, the trailer, the star. Get asses into those seats. The publishing world is no better: middle-aged women running the show so that middle-aged women can buy books that are a fine supplement to television.

There’s suddenly an ever-thickening line between a film with substance and a film that is entertaining, as though to have a film with both qualities were impossible or possibly just too hard to develop. I’m told outright, “We don’t make good movies, we make movies that make money,” as though there were somehow now a difference.

The money dries up. Suddenly, it’s five years later. Five years into the muck, the mire. Point of no return is a real possibility. Everyone seems to be experiencing a similar Quarter-Life Crisis, and no one seems to know anything about how car insurance works with MedPay or how to cheat properly on one’s taxes. What do we do now? Where do we go from here?

We all begin to find it troubling, disquieting that none of us seems to be able to find sustainable work. We’re not looking in the creative realm anymore. We don’t have enough clerical experience or admin experience to find anything through the temp agencies. We haven’t worked in retail since high school, and so we can’t find anything at the local store or trendy fashion outlet. And the money keeps dwindling, it’s cold season, I need a new book to read.

Everything’s online now, and no one will meet with me face-to-face to see that I know how to work a phone, I know how to send a fax. I have to take personality tests that make less sense than an LSAT. I fail; perhaps I shouldn’t have suggested that “I strongly agree” with it being appropriate for an employee to steal from the register. All these questions referring to “marijuana cigarettes” befuddle me with the contradiction that such a new-age concept as online personality tests could still be based in such archaic terminology.

Maybe that could be my new job: updating antiquated verbiage in online personality tests that, like the SAT’s, ensure that only the best and brightest may gain admittance… or at least those who happen to be proficient at taking tests.

And now I’m here, at the bookstore, selling my books, just as I had sold all of my CD’s and DVD’s, my very mind, my very soul that took me 20 years to build, at Amoeba before leaving Los Angeles. I sell the last two books I have here, the hardest to part with being Flannery O’Connor’s letters; I don’t want to let go of her, she got me through the tough transition period of the last few months. She was my only friend throughout, always there for me, giving me advice and encouragement and honest candor with every word. Then nothing. I tap her spine and let her go for $4.50.

I’m sitting at a table in the bookstore, looking online for work, and though normally I’d be plopped down next to a bum or a gutter punk hogging the two outlets in here by playing Warcraft on his laptop, this drizzly morning, I’m sitting next to a guy with a book called Six-Figure Freelancer and peering at a random website. I hope he doesn’t see me emailing naked pictures of myself to a friend who can get me some money for the photos from his people in Germany.


(b. 1981) received his BFA from the University of Southern Calfornia's undergraduate screenwriting program in 2003. He is the co-creator of NATIONAL LAMPOON'S COLLEGETOWN USA, for which he was also head writer and producer during its first season. He has written for numerous national publications and is also the writer of Sony Pictures' recently-released AGAINST THE DARK (which happens to be, for good or ill, Steven Seagal's first horror film). His experimental novella DAISY GOES TO THE MOON will be released through Portland, OR-based publisher AtomSmashers Summer 2009.

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