The pat hobby stories, p.2
The Pat Hobby Stories, page 2
think I haven't got it?'
'Oh, you've got it all right,' Gooddorf howled. 'You've got it--
but it isn't what you think it is.'
He came back to the table, sat down and addressed Pat.
'Do you know what I thought that date meant? I thought maybe it
was the date Helen and I first fell for each other. That's what I
thought. And I thought she was going to raise Cain about it. I
thought she was nuts. She's been married twice since then, and so
'That doesn't explain the note,' said Pat sternly but with a sinky
feeling. 'You admit you killed Taylor.'
'I still think a lot of us did,' he said. 'We were a wild crowd--
Taylor and Bronson and me and half the boys in the big money. So a
bunch of us got together in an agreement to go slow. The country
was waiting for somebody to hang. We tried to get Taylor to watch
his step but he wouldn't. So instead of cracking down on him, we
let him "go the pace". And some rat shot him--who did it I don't
He stood up.
'Like somebody should have cracked down on YOU, Pat. But you were
an amusing guy in those days, and besides we were all too busy.'
Pat sniffled suddenly.
'I've BEEN cracked down on,' he said. 'Plenty.'
'But too late,' said Gooddorf, and added, 'you've probably got a
new Christmas wish by now, and I'll grant it to you. I won't say
anything about this afternoon.'
When he had gone, Pat and Helen sat in silence. Presently Pat took
out the note again and looked it over.
'"So why not shut up?"' he read aloud. 'He didn't explain that.'
'Why NOT shut up?' Helen said.
A MAN IN THE WAY
Esquire (February 1940)
Pat Hobby could always get on the lot. He had worked there fifteen
years on and off--chiefly off during the past five--and most of the
studio police knew him. If tough customers on watch asked to see
his studio card he could get in by phoning Lou, the bookie. For
Lou also, the studio had been home for many years.
Pat was forty-nine. He was a writer but he had never written much,
nor even read all the 'originals' he worked from, because it made
his head bang to read much. But the good old silent days you got
somebody's plot and a smart secretary and gulped benzedrine
'structure' at her six or eight hours every week. The director
took care of the gags. After talkies came he always teamed up with
some man who wrote dialogue. Some young man who liked to work.
'I've got a list of credits second to none,' he told Jack Berners.
'All I need is an idea and to work with somebody who isn't all
He had buttonholed Jack outside the production office as Jack was
going to lunch and they walked together in the direction of the
'You bring me an idea,' said Jack Berners. 'Things are tight. We
can't put a man on salary unless he's got an idea.'
'How can you get ideas off salary?' Pat demanded--then he added
hastily: 'Anyhow I got the germ of an idea that I could be telling
you all about at lunch.'
Something might come to him at lunch. There was Baer's notion
about the boy scout. But Jack said cheerfully:
'I've got a date for lunch, Pat. Write it out and send it around,
He felt cruel because he knew Pat couldn't write anything out but
he was having story trouble himself. The war had just broken out
and every producer on the lot wanted to end their current stories
with the hero going to war. And Jack Berners felt he had thought
of that first for his production.
'So write it out, eh?'
When Pat didn't answer Jack looked at him--he saw a sort of whipped
misery in Pat's eye that reminded him of his own father. Pat had
been in the money before Jack was out of college--with three cars
and a chicken over every garage. Now his clothes looked as if he'd
been standing at Hollywood and Vine for three years.
'Scout around and talk to some of the writers on the lot,' he said.
'If you can get one of them interested in your idea, bring him up
to see me.'
'I hate to give an idea without money on the line,' Pat brooded
pessimistically, 'These young squirts'll lift the shirt off your
They had reached the commissary door.
'Good luck, Pat. Anyhow we're not in Poland.'
--Good YOU'RE not, said Pat under his breath. They'd slit your
Now what to do? He went up and wandered along the cell block of
writers. Almost everyone had gone to lunch and those who were in
he didn't know. Always there were more and more unfamiliar faces.
And he had thirty credits; he had been in the business, publicity
and script-writing, for twenty years.
The last door in the line belonged to a man he didn't like. But he
wanted a place to sit a minute so with a knock he pushed it open.
The man wasn't there--only a very pretty, frail-looking girl sat
reading a book.
'I think he's left Hollywood,' she said in answer to his question.
'They gave me his office but they forgot to put up my name.'
'You a writer?' Pat asked in surprise.
'I work at it.'
'You ought to get 'em to give you a test.'
'No--I like writing.'
'What's that you're reading.'
She showed him.
'Let me give you a tip,' he said. 'That's not the way to get the
guts out of a book.'
'I've been here for years--I'm Pat Hobby--and I KNOW. Give the
book to four of your friends to read it. Get them to tell you what
stuck in their minds. Write it down and you've got a picture--
The girl smiled.
'Well, that's very--very original advice, Mr Hobby.'
'Pat Hobby,' he said. 'Can I wait here a minute? Man I came to
see is at lunch.'
He sat down across from her and picked up a copy of a photo
'Oh, just let me mark that,' she said quickly.
He looked at the page which she checked. It showed paintings being
boxed and carted away to safety from an art gallery in Europe.
'How'll you use it?' he said.
'Well, I thought it would be dramatic if there was an old man
around while they were packing the pictures. A poor old man,
trying to get a job helping them. But they can't use him--he's in
the way--not even good cannon fodder. They want strong young
people in the world. And it turns out he's the man who painted the
pictures many years ago.'
'It's good but I don't get it,' he said.
'Oh, it's nothing, a short short maybe.'
'Got any good picture ideas? I'm in with all the markets here.'
'I'm under contract.'
'Use another name.'
Her phone rang.
'Yes, this is Pricilla Smith,' the girl said.
After a minute she turned to Pat.
'Will you excuse me? This is a private call.'
He got it and walked out, and along the corridor. Fi
office with no name on it he went in and fell asleep on the couch.
Late that afternoon he returned to Jack Berners' waiting rooms. He
had an idea about a man who meets a girl in an office and he thinks
she's a stenographer but she turns out to be a writer. He engages
her as a stenographer, though, and they start for the South Seas.
It was a beginning, it was something to tell Jack, he thought--and,
picturing Pricilla Smith, he refurbished some old business he
hadn't seen used for years.
He became quite excited about it--felt quite young for a moment and
walked up and down the waiting room mentally rehearsing the first
sequence. 'So here we have a situation like It Happened One Night--
only NEW. I see Hedy Lamarr--'
Oh, he knew how to talk to these boys if he could get to them, with
something to say.
'Mr Berners still busy?' he asked for the fifth time.
'Oh, yes, Mr Hobby. Mr Bill Costello and Mr Bach are in there.'
He thought quickly. It was half-past five. In the old days he had
just busted in sometimes and sold an idea, an idea good for a
couple of grand because it was just the moment when they were very
tired of what they were doing at present.
He walked innocently out and to another door in the hall. He knew
it led through a bathroom right in to Jack Berners' office.
Drawing a quick breath he plunged . . .
'. . . So that's the notion,' he concluded after five minutes.
'It's just a flash--nothing really worked out, but you could give
me an office and a girl and I could have something on paper for you
in three days.'
Berners, Costello and Bach did not even have to look at each other.
Berners spoke for them all as he said firmly and gently:
'That's no idea, Pat. I can't put you on salary for that.'
'Why don't you work it out further by yourself,' suggested Bill
Costello. 'And then let's see it. We're looking for ideas--
especially about the war.'
'A man can think better on salary,' said Pat.
There was silence. Costello and Bach had drunk with him, played
poker with him, gone to the races with him. They'd honestly be
glad to see him placed.
'The war, eh,' he said gloomily. 'Everything is war now, no matter
how many credits a man has. Do you know what it makes me think of?
It makes me think of a well-known painter in the discard. It's war
time and he's useless--just a man in the way.' He warmed to his
conception of himself, '--but all the time they're carting away his
OWN PAINTINGS as the most valuable thing worth saving. And they
won't even let me help. That's what it reminds me of.'
There was again silence for a moment.
'That isn't a bad idea,' said Bach thoughtfully. He turned to the
others. 'You know? In itself?'
Bill Costello nodded
'Not bad at all. And I know where we could spot it. Right at the
end of the fourth sequence. We just change old Ames to a painter.'
Presently they talked money.
'I'll give you two weeks on it,' said Berners to Pat. 'At two-
'Two-fifty!' objected Pat. 'Say there was one time you paid me ten
'That was ten years ago,' Jack reminded him. 'Sorry. Best we can
'You make me feel like that old painter--'
'Don't oversell it,' said Jack, rising and smiling. 'You're on the
Pat went out with a quick step and confidence in his eyes. Half a
grand--that would take the pressure off for a month and you could
often stretch two weeks into three--sometimes four. He left the
studio proudly through the front entrance, stopping at the liquor
store for a half-pint to take back to his room.
By seven o'clock things were even better. Santa Anita tomorrow, if
he could get an advance. And tonight--something festive ought to
be done tonight. With a sudden rush of pleasure he went down to
the phone in the lower hall, called the studio and asked for Miss
Pricilla Smith's number. He hadn't met anyone so pretty for
years . . .
In her apartment Pricilla Smith spoke rather firmly into the phone.
'I'm awfully sorry,' she said, 'but I couldn't possibly . . . No--
and I'm tied up all the rest of the week.'
As she hung up, Jack Berners spoke from the couch.
'Who was it?'
'Oh, some man who came in the office,' she laughed, 'and told me
never to read the story I was working on.'
'Shall I believe you?'
'You certainly shall. I'll even think of his name in a minute.
But first I want to tell you about an idea I had this morning. I
was looking at a photo in a magazine where they were packing up
some works of art in the Tate Gallery in London. And I thought--'
"BOIL SOME WATER--LOTS OF IT"
Esquire (March 1940)
Pat Hobby sat in his office in the writers' building and looked at
his morning's work, just come back from the script department. He
was on a "polish job," about the only kind he ever got nowadays.
He was to repair a messy sequence in a hurry, but the word "hurry"
neither frightened nor inspired him for Pat had been in Hollywood
since he was thirty--now he was forty-nine. All the work he had
done this morning (except a little changing around of lines so he
could claim them as his own)--all he had actually invented was a
single imperative sentence, spoken by a doctor.
"Boil some water--lots of it."
It was a good line. It had sprung into his mind full grown as soon
as he had read the script. In the old silent days Pat would have
used it as a spoken title and ended his dialogue worries for a
space, but he needed some spoken words for other people in the
scene. Nothing came.
"Boil some water," he repeated to himself. "Lots of it."
The word boil brought a quick glad thought of the commissary. A
reverent thought too--for an old-timer like Pat, what people you
sat with at lunch was more important in getting along than what you
dictated in your office. This was no art, as he often said--this
was an industry.
"This is no art," he remarked to Max Learn who was leisurely
drinking at a corridor water cooler. "This is an industry."
Max had flung him this timely bone of three weeks at three-fifty.
"Say look, Pat! Have you got anything down on paper yet?"
"Say I've got some stuff already that'll make 'em--" He named a
familiar biological function with the somewhat startling assurance
that it would take place in the theater.
Max tried to gauge his sincerity.
"Want to read it to me now?" he asked.
"Not yet. But it's got the old guts if you know what I mean."
Max was full of doubts.
"Well, go to it. And if you run into any medical snags check with
the doctor over at the First Aid Station. It's got to be right."
The spirit of Pasteur shone firmly in Pat's eyes.
"It will be."
He felt good walking across the lot with Max--so good that he
the Big Table. But Max foiled his intention by cooing "See you
later" and slipping into the barber shop.
Once Pat had been a familiar figure at the Big Table; often in his
golden prime he had dined in the private canteens of executives.
Being of the older Hollywood he understood their jokes, their
vanities, their social system with its swift fluctuations. But
there were too many new faces at the Big Table now--faces that
looked at him with the universal Hollywood suspicion. And at the
little tables where the young writers sat they seemed to take work
so seriously. As for just sitting down anywhere, even with
secretaries or extras--Pat would rather catch a sandwich at the
Detouring to the Red Cross Station he asked for the doctor. A
girl, a nurse, answered from a wall mirror where she was hastily
drawing her lips, "He's out. What is it?"
"Oh. Then I'll come back."
She had finished, and now she turned--vivid and young and with a
bright consoling smile.
"Miss Stacey will help you. I'm about to go to lunch."
He was aware of an old, old feeling--left over from the time when
he had had wives--a feeling that to invite this little beauty to
lunch might cause trouble. But he remembered quickly that he
didn't have any wives now--they had both given up asking for
"I'm working on a medical," he said. "I need some help."
"Writing it--idea about a doc. Listen--let me buy you lunch. I
want to ask you some medical questions."
The nurse hesitated.
"I don't know. It's my first day out here."
"It's all right," he assured her, "studios are democratic;
everybody is just 'Joe' or 'Mary'--from the big shots right down to
the prop boys."
He proved it magnificently on their way to lunch by greeting a male
star and getting his own name back in return. And in the
commissary, where they were placed hard by the Big Table, his
producer, Max Leam, looked up, did a little "takem" and winked.
The nurse--her name was Helen Earle--peered about eagerly.
"I don't see anybody," she said. "Except oh, there's Ronald
Colman. I didn't know Ronald Colman looked like that."
Pat pointed suddenly to the floor.
"And there's Mickey Mouse!"
She jumped and Pat laughed at his joke--but Helen Earle was already
staring starry-eyed at the costume extras who filled the hall with
the colors of the First Empire. Pat was piqued to see her interest
go out to these nonentities.
"The big shots are at this next table," he said solemnly,
wistfully, "directors and all except the biggest executives. They
could have Ronald Colman pressing pants. I usually sit over there
but they don't want ladies. At lunch, that is, they don't want
"Oh," said Helen Earle, polite but unimpressed. "It must be
wonderful to be a writer too. It's so very interesting."
"It has its points," he said . . . he had thought for years it was
a dog's life.
"What is it you want to ask me about a doctor?"
Here was toil again. Something in Pat's mind snapped off when he
thought of the story.
"Well, Max Leam--that man facing us--Max Leam and I have a script
about a Doc. You know? Like a hospital picture?"
"I know." And she added after a moment, "That's the reason that I
went in training."
"And we've got to have it RIGHT because a hundred million people
would check on it. So this doctor in the script he tells them to
by F. Scott Fitzgerald / Fiction / Short Stories have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes